Leaving Ourselves Behind
The pop star Lady Gaga once observed, “We have to leave ourselves behind.”1 She was talking about celebrity – not being trapped by her fame, so that she could try new things – but the idea applies to all of us. To grow, we have to let go of the past, because everything – including ourselves – is changing all the time. We think, I’m like this; I’m like that, so I’m going to act this way, or that way. But we’re not anything solid; we’re constantly in flux. If we’re initiated, we’re engaged in losing our identity – dying while living, the masters call it – every moment of our lives.
Maharaj Charan Singh has said that “the purpose of this human birth is nothing but to fill ourselves with love and devotion for the Father, nothing else.” What is the purpose of meditation? he asks. “To detach ourselves from the creation and attach ourselves to the Creator. To turn our back to the creation and to face the Creator – that is the whole purpose of meditation.”2
Losing our identities is what detaching ourselves from the creation and attaching ourselves to the Creator is all about. We start out as “Kamal” or “Mary,” but with meditation, with following the principles of Sant Mat, we slowly lose all that is Kamal or Mary and become one with our Creator.
According to the saints, going beyond the mind and intellect and reaching the state of direct perception by the soul is what it means for us to leave ourselves behind, as Lady Gaga put it. That’s what we are told can happen through initiation by a true master and then following his instructions: doing our meditation and living according to the principles of Sant Mat. Through those two things, our little personalities gradually merge into the Shabd, and then all our hang-ups and complaints, our aches and pains, our mistakes and miseries become meaningless – they just fall away, as the drop of our soul merges into the ocean of its Creator.
There is nothing to fear from this process. Hazur has told us: “The bliss of merging into the supreme being cannot be expressed in mortal language. There is no thought of individuality, consciousness, or anything else. It is all love, all bliss, for in merging we become the supreme being, and he is all, he is everything.”3
After all, we’re in agony here – satsang has been called a haven for the agonized – but we seem to be trapped, associated as we are with the mind, the senses, the ego, and all the karmas we’ve accrued over who knows how many lifetimes. All these things are weighing down the soul, which by its nature just wants to fly back to its source – fly home.
We can begin to disentangle ourselves from this cosmic conundrum by at least recognizing, to start with, that we are not our minds; our true selves, our true identity, is divine. The book Living Meditation breaks down the problem and the solution. The author writes:
“Through the practice of meditation, we can gradually reclaim for ourselves a higher state of being. By turning inwards, by exploring and experiencing the spiritual reality of inner life, we can gain the strength of character to remain sane even if the entire world were to go crazy around us.”4
The author goes on: “Through meditation we realize that our downward tendencies are superficial and temporary. As we stop identifying ourselves with our passions and attachments, we let go of them. Once we let go of them, we are free to identify with our Shabd Self.… Meditation helps us to gain increasing clarity as to who really are…. We are able to let life go its own way.”5
In other words, we are able to leave ourselves behind: our opinions about how our life should be, how we should be – that is, leave behind our desires, thoughts, and emotions, which we thought were “us,” when really, they’re not “us” at all.
Baba Ji talks about this from a slightly different angle. He recently told someone that we shouldn’t give priority to our own way of thinking – that this should happen, or that shouldn’t happen. Our problem is that we ask for things that bring us suffering – we think we know what we need, but really, all we know is what we want. We think we know what will make us happy, but we have no clue: our thoughts and feelings are like passing clouds, with no underlying reality.
Anyway, we’re not here to “be happy”: as satsangis, we’re here to work through our karma and return to the Lord. Trying to be happy is like trying to grab water – water isn’t solid, so we can’t grasp it or hold on to it, just like we can’t hold on to the temporary pleasures of this world.
Even if we still look for happiness here, and most of us do, in one way or another, we are slowly learning our lesson. We forget so easily, so quickly, because we’re enslaved by our mind and egos. Plus, we are pulled down by the weight of karmas over the soul, layers of mind, and we feel helpless. The deck seems stacked against us.
Saints explain that the purpose of meditation is to lift all that weight from the soul, to make it light so that it automatically goes back to its source. Sure, we can seek happiness in this world, but we won’t find it; but if we seek happiness through even attempting to attach ourselves to the Creator, we’re golden.
Sometimes it seems as if there’s a huge gap between detaching ourselves from the world on the one hand and attaching ourselves to the Lord on the other. That’s because we’re a work in progress – we’re not able to leave ourselves behind with the snap of our fingers, just like that. It’s a process. But saints tell us if we just put more weight on the Lord end of the scale, we’ll get there eventually. Hazur tells us that we can feel the effect of meditation before we see any actual progress within. He says: “Your attitude towards the events of the world is … changing. You are developing a detached outlook on everything by meditation, though you may not have experienced any progress within at all.”6
Here’s our saving grace, and our battle comes down to this. Even if we’re weak, even if we fall, Hazur tells us: “That doesn’t mean that we have to submit to the mind, that we have to lose the battle. We have to carry on. Ultimately, success is ours if we just struggle, just carry on.”7
We have no idea what success on this path even is, from our limited perspective, but we have to carry on anyway. We have to put in effort; we have to do our best. In the end, we will get what the Lord wants to give us, and that should be good enough for us. In Spiritual Letters, Baba Jaimal Singh writes to the Great Master that “if our good lies in suffering he sends us suffering, if it lies in happiness he sends us happiness.”8 In the end, as initiates of a true master, we can’t evaluate our lives according to how we feel at any particular time. This game is so much bigger than what we experience at any given moment. We can trust our master, that he will fold us into himself. Here’s how Baba Jaimal Singh describes what the master does for us: “When the perfect Satguru met the disciple and gave him Nam-dhun – everything happened at that very moment. The Shabd-dhun may sound loud or low, … or the disciple may not even hear it, but it remains the same.… So, what is left now for you to worry about? You reached Sach Khand the very day you were initiated – that is the place for which you are destined.… Because the karmic account of worldly give-and-take is still to be finished, he cannot take you there. Once it is fully settled, he will take you there at once.”9
- “Five Foot Two,” documentary, Netflix
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #171
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, #234
- Living Meditation, p.13
- Living Meditation, p.22-23
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #161
- Ibid., #543
- Letter 9
- Spiritual Letters, Letter 14