Look into the Darkness
In 1948, when Maharaj Jagat Singh Ji became the master, many people were surprised by his way of giving satsang. For forty-five years the Great Master had given very long satsangs, full of stories and anecdotes. Now, Maharaj Jagat Singh Ji gave very short, very precise satsangs, getting right to the point. No frills. No extraneous matter. In his diary, Rai Sahib Munshi Ram, the secretary to the masters, comments again and again on how Maharaj Jagat Singh’s satsangs focus on only the absolutely most essential teachings.
So we might think, if we were going to boil down all of Sant Mat to only the essential teachings, what would that be? We might say that there is one power that permeates everything, and that the One is Love. Or we might say that our own true self is the same as that One who is Love. Or we might say that Shabd is the power that creates and sustains the whole creation, and that we can follow that Shabd back to its source. Rai Sahib Munshi Ram writes:
He [Maharaj Jagat Singh Ji] is precise, to the point, and does not tell stories or narrate anecdotes. Emphasizing only meditation, he says: “Keep your attention between the eyes and do simran. While doing simran, do not try to listen to the Sound. As far as possible, do not let your attention wander. If you cannot see the light, keep looking into the darkness. Even looking into the darkness with the seeing faculty of the soul, the nirat, is difficult. As the mind becomes focused through simran, the nirat stops wavering.… During simran we should not attempt to listen to the Shabd. If it comes of its own, well and good, but we must not abandon simran and run after it. The attention must not stray away from the point between the eyes. Even if you see beautiful sights inside, continue with simran and keep the nirat fixed.”1
So it’s about action. What Maharaj Jagat Singh focuses on is just this: what do we need to do? He gives instructions for meditation. Why? Because if we actually follow these instructions we will find out for ourselves whether or not there is one power, one Lord, and whether He is Love. We will find out for ourselves whether or not our own essence is the same at that Lord. We will find out whether or not Shabd is the power the brought the creation into being.
Otherwise, it’s just theory. And theory, without personal realization, is just dogma.
In this quote from Maharaj Jagat Singh’s satsang, there are three themes that particularly stand out about meditation:
- First is about attention. He lays great emphasis on where we keep our attention. We have to hold the attention at the eye center.
- Second, he says that for those of us who do not yet see light, we have to keep looking into the darkness at the eye center. Just placing the attention at the eye center won’t keep it there. We have to actively use the seeing aspect of attention to look into the darkness.
- And third, he tells us that just looking into the darkness is difficult. And it is a little surprising, because it seems like such a simple instruction, why should it be so difficult?
Interestingly, these three same themes come up again and again in the satsangs in the first year after Maharaj Jagat Singh becoming the master. Perhaps this was the message that the sangat particularly needed to hear at that time. But it is probably relevant for some of us now too.
So, first: Attention – Attention is key
Maharaj Jagat Singh tells us: “Keep your attention between the two eyes.” And he repeats: “The attention must not stray away from the point between the eyes.”
We are so used to our attention going instantaneously and automatically to whatever the mind directs it to. Eyes see something – attention goes right to it. Ears hear something – attention goes right to it. Mind generates some stream of memories, worries, old grudges, whatever – attention goes right along for the ride. Rai Sahib Munshi Ram quotes from one of the satsangs in 1948:
The mind is weak. It cannot move without the help of surat [or attention] and cannot activate any of the senses unless the attention is focused on the sense it wants to activate.2
Mind is weak? Of course, this is exactly what Baba Ji keeps telling us also. He tells us that the mind has no power of its own; he says we give it power. How do we give it power? Attention. The idea that the mind has no power – that it can’t even activate any of the senses unless we agree and put the attention there – this is revolutionary! In the above quote it says that mind can’t even move at all without the help of the attention!
So Maharaj Jagat Singh is telling us that, in meditation, remaining aware of where we are keeping our attention is key. Regardless of what distractions the mind cooks up, our job is to hold our attention at the eye center.
We have to face the fact that mind is not going to stop generating thoughts, images, memories, fears, and all sorts of other stuff. Saints say that our minds carry the impressions from millions of lifetimes – in so many forms. It’s not just this one lifetime, but millions of lifetimes have left impressions. With all those impressions stored in there, obviously mind is going to go on and on generating images, thoughts, memories, imaginations, desires, feelings. That’s going to happen. This is its nature and to think it is going to stop is kidding ourselves.
Do we have to give our attention to all that activity in the mind? Can we actually just detach our attention, just put it somewhere else? And if we don’t give our attention to this activity of the mind, is it true that mind really helpless, unable to do anything, unable even to move?
But, we have to ask: If our attention is such a powerful thing, then why does our attention seem like a helpless victim, dragged here and there, wherever the mind wants to take it? Saints tell us that is because it is scattered. It is diffuse, all spread out.
The masters repeated assure us that simran is the easiest and quickest way to collect the attention at the point between the eyes, at the eye centre. And, they assure us, once our attention is collected to one point, it will begin to know its own power.
But if simran is the quickest and easiest way to collect the attention at the eye center--- we might wonder why, if we’ve been practicing for many, many years, why is the attention still scattered? Rai Sahib Munshi Ram paraphrased another of Maharaj Jagat Singh’s satsangs:
While explaining [the shabd] Maharaj Ji said that only a few people really know how to do simran, so that even though many practice it, their inner eye is not opened. If the mind does not go out during simran and the attention remains fixed between the eyes, there is no reason why the mind and the soul should not gradually collect there.3
He is saying that if we practice simran but don’t also keep the attention fixed at the point between the eyes, then we might practice for many years without the inner eye opening.
Look into the Darkness
So that brings us to the second theme – that we need to keep looking into the darkness at the eye center. As Maharaj Jagat Singh said, “If you cannot see the light, keep looking into the darkness.”
Saints tells us that there are two aspects to our attention; the hearing aspect of attention, or surat, and the seeing aspect of attention, or nirat. If we want to hold the attention at the eye center, we have to occupy both the hearing aspect of attention and the seeing aspect of attention – the surat and the nirat.
The surat is occupied with repeating simran – we hear the words repeating. But we also have to occupy the seeing aspect of attention, the nirat, by keeping on looking and looking and looking into the darkness at the eye center. As Maharaj Jagat Singh said, “Keep the nirat fixed.” Fixed means focusing our attention and looking into the darkness. Rai Sahib Munshi Ram wrote:
Maharaj Ji gives satsang like a professor; he is to the point, stresses devotion to the Guru and Nam, and asks satsangis to concentrate between the eyes during simran and while doing simran to not try to visualize the Satguru’s form. He advises them to look into the darkness, saying the Five Names, concentrating on any light that might appear.4
Of course, Baba Ji gives the same advice: He says the dhyan of the Satguru’s form will come naturally once a certain level of focus is there; and it will come naturally as a result of an intensity of love. But we should not make an effort to visualize his form, or that very effort will distract us from the focus on simran. As Maharaj Jagat Singh Ji says: If we are not seeing the light, we just have to “look into the darkness, saying the Five Names, concentrating on any light that might appear.”
In another of his satsangs, Maharaj Jagat Singh says that the nirat is asleep and needs to be awakened:
Until the light appears within one can assume that the nirat has not awakened. Once the nirat is awakened, the mind becomes fixed on the light. This is dhyan of the Satguru. The path to the higher regions will be closed until the nirat awakens.5
There’s so much depth in this short quote:
- He says: Once we see the light within, then the nirat will easily stay fixed, gazing at the light.
- Then he also says: Seeing the light within is dhyan of the Satguru. The Satguru is a power within. That light is Satguru. As Baba Ji stresses so often, Satguru does not mean a person. Satguru is a power, an inner reality.
- Then Maharaj Jagat Singh says: the path to the higher regions will be closed until nirat awakens, that is, until that eye opens, until we see something other than darkness.
At one of the Hostel 6 sessions last year, someone asked Baba Ji, “It’s obvious that the door is wide open. Why don’t we go through?” And his answer was something like this: “Because your eyes are closed.” Great Master points to this same truth when he says:
There are two currents of the soul: Surat, which knows and hears, and Nirat, which sees. The Nirat goes ahead of the Surat in the spiritual journey, just as a person on a journey first looks at the path ahead and then follows it.6
Rai Sahib Munshi Ram paraphrased another satsang, saying:
Surat is blind, and unless led by nirat, it cannot make any headway. Nirat is the seeing faculty of the soul. Devotees who do not use their nirat remain blind inside.
Like the flame of a lamp in the breeze, nirat is always flickering. How can the soul go inside before it becomes steady? The object of meditation is to hold the nirat at the eye center.7
But we might wonder why – if nirat isn’t even awake yet as long as we don’t see light – then why is it so important to look into the darkness at the eye center? Maybe there’s a clue to why it is so important when he said: “Devotees who do not use their nirat remain blind inside.” Maybe looking steadily into the darkness is ‘using’ the nirat? Even though it is not awakened yet, not seeing any light, but maybe we are using it, exercising it?
This seems to be confirmed by Hazur, Maharaj Charan Singh Ji, when he writes in Light on Sant Mat: “Make your nirat strong by fixing your attention between the two eyebrows, all the while repeating the five Holy Names with the attention of the mind.”8 Interestingly, the context is a letter to a woman who is hearing the sound of the bells, but he tells her, “Make your nirat strong by fixing your attention between the two eyebrows.”
Maybe, possibly, also there’s a clue to why it is so important in something that Baba Jaimal Singh Ji wrote to the Great Master in Spiritual Letters. In this letter Baba Jaimal Singh Ji is giving Great Master (before he became the master) a message he should pass along to all the satsangis who live in his area. He writes that they should: “…slowly and gently fix the inner hearing and seeing faculties, surat and nirat” and then he says “– the inclination of the inner mind towards love is called nirat…”9
We have often heard nirat defined as the inner faculty of seeing, but here Baba Jaimal Singh Ji says that nirat is “the inclination of the inner mind towards love.” Probably we have never thought of it that way.
Hazur always used to repeat over and over: Do your meditation with love and devotion. And as he often explained, the love and devotion he was talking about did not mean the fleeting, temporary swell of emotions that we generally associate with ‘love.’ The love he referred to is something much deeper, something permanent and unchanging. How do we do this daily practice of meditation with that love? Well, possibly, if nirat is somehow intimately connected to love – if nirat is, an inner faculty of seeing, but it is also “the inclination of the inner mind towards love” – then maybe looking into the darkness really is a way of doing our meditation with love and devotion.
Looking into the darkness is difficult
Then that brings us to the third theme in Maharaj Jagat Singh’s satsang: that looking into the darkness is difficult. Rai Sahib quotes from another of the satsangs in 1948:
It is easy to hear the Sound, but it is difficult to fix the nirat. Success is achieved when the nirat becomes fixed. This happens after many years of effort and honest and virtuous living. …When doing simran, rather than trying to listen to the sound, devotees should concentrate on fixing their attention between the eyes. 10
He says it’s easy to hear the Sound, but difficult to fix the nirat. Great Master lays emphasis on the same point in Spiritual Gems when he writes: “If the nirat is not developed, the veil will not be rent, even if you go on listening to the Sound all your life.” 11
So looking into the darkness is important, but as Maharaj Jagat Singh reminds us, this simple looking is difficult. He said, “Even looking into the darkness with the seeing faculty of the soul, the nirat, is difficult.”12 We might wonder why this seemingly simple task should it be so difficult.
- Maybe we don’t like darkness?
- Maybe it’s like looking at nothing – and we don’t like to look at nothing?
- Is it fear of the dark? Or fear of the unknown?
- Are we afraid of the unknown in that darkness, so we run away from the unknown, circling back to the familiar – taking comfort in the very familiar chattering of the mind?
Well, whatever the reason that it is difficult to hold the attention looking into the darkness at the eye center, the more important question is how do we change ‘difficult’ into ‘easy’?
Baba Ji has given two answers about how we can make ‘difficult’ melt away into ‘easy.’ First he tells us that it is our frame of mind that makes it difficult or easy. If we remember that our only job is the effort, and the results are really irrelevant to us – then when we try to hold the attention at the eye center, the question is not – what am I seeing? – but only – am I looking? If it’s only a matter of ‘am I looking into the darkness?’ Then how can it possibly not become easy?
Baba Ji has also given us another way to turn ‘difficult’ into ‘easy’. We only have to remember that we are doing nothing…. He reminds us to be glad we don’t have to crawl on our knees to some holy altar. All we have to do is nothing.
Well, doing nothing ought to be easy. But, probably the day we actually are able to do nothing, that day we will also be nothing – and it’s game over. Once we can be nothing, then only the Lord is.
Well, we might not be at that place just yet. So we’ll have to take Maharaj Jagat Singh’s solution. He assures us that simran – just continuing simran -- will eventually make the nirat strong and steady. He said: “As the mind becomes focused through simran, the nirat stops wavering.” 13
So, as always in Sant Mat, simran is the key. If our nirat is like a flimsy flame that is blown right and left by every breeze that comes along, we just have to keep on looking unflinchingly into the darkness…all the while doing simran. And through simran the nirat will stop wavering, and we’ll step through that wide open door.
- Rai Sahib Munshi Ram, With the Three Masters, RSSB, ed. 2018, vol. 3, pp. 6-7
- With the Three Masters, vol. 3, p. 59
- With the Three Masters, vol. 3, p. 26
- With the Three Masters, vol. 3, p.18
- With the Three Masters, vol. 3, p.48
- Spiritual Gems, Letter 198
- With the Three Masters, vol. 3, p. 59
- Light on Sant Mat, ed. 1985 letter 41
- Spiritual Letters, ed. 1998, p. 153, letter 100
- With the Three Masters, vol. 3, p.48
- Spiritual Gems, Letter 9
- With the Three Masters, vol. 3, p. 6
- With the Three Masters, vol. 3, p. 6