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Sticking to God's Plan

There’s a Jewish proverb: If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

We think that we have to plan everything, and we are incessantly planning. We all make plans. Some are small, like what to get at the grocery store, when to meet a friend, or plans for the day. Some plans are big, like starting a business or buying a house. And what’s the plan for our children’s education? Our retirement?

We all planned our trip to Dera.

So many plans! Business plans, family plans, financial plans, lesson plans, contingency plans, architectural plans, wedding plans. Five-year plans, ten-year plans, life plans.

Let’s look at what the Masters say about planning. The following is from a series of questions in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III.

Q: How much capacity do we have to plan our future, Master? Is it set for us when we are born?
Master: We have only one future: to go back to the Father. There’s no other future.1

This is the future of every satsangi. The Master plan for our souls.We can show our thanks by doing our daily meditation and doing simran continuously. We are the lucky sons and daughters of the Masters, and we are returning home with them.

Q: But we have to live in this world also.
Master: In better hands, you will live much better. If you keep the planning in your own hands, you will live miserably.

As in the tragic story Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, we may have the best of intentions, but things don’t always go according to plan and we end up making a mess: As the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Planning is the process of thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve a desired goal. The Masters have a specific plan of action for our desired goal of self- and God-realization. That plan consists of the four vows. The most important vow is the two and a half hours of daily meditation. When we follow the plan laid out for us by the Master, we are living in his will.

What is the master’s will? Just to be firm on the principles on which we have to build our meditation and attend to our meditation – that is his will, that is his teaching, those are his instructions. That is the base on which we have to start.2

What’s the rationale of the Master’s plan for us? The Saints tell us that this is not our true home. They explain that we have been caught in this illusion, this play of maya, for countless lifetimes. We think that we are making plans and that we are free to choose our destiny. In reality we are not free. We are slaves of the mind and the mind is a slave of the senses. We keep making plans as if our life in this world is permanent and we will live here forever.

There was a satsangi woman who was dying of cancer; she knew that she was to die that evening. In her early-morning meditation her husband heard her laughing. “What’s the matter, dear? Are you OK?” he asked. She replied, “Yes. I’m laughing because my mind is still making plans even though it knows that I am leaving tonight!” That’s how strong this habit of the mind is.

When we go beyond mind and maya and we merge ourselves into the Master, then we are living in his will. Then we can really working his plan; then we become truly free.

Planning complex scenarios is unique to humans, and it requires executive function in the frontal lobe of the brain. We humans are avid scenario builders and project what the future might bring. There are even futures-studies departments at universities whose graduates are hired to do strategic planning in government and corporate positions. The field is a sort of forecasting or projecting into the future. And so many questions to the Masters are about what will happen in the future.

In the early 1990s, when Baba Ji first came to the United States, a man asked him a pointed question during a question-and-answer session. He started by describing a prevalent idea of the time, that the earth would go through rapid geographical changes as the polar ice caps melted. The oceans would rise, cataclysmic earthquakes would occur, and California will fall into the ocean and become an island. Then he asked Baba Ji if he had a prediction. Baba Ji said something like: Yes, I do have a prediction. We are all going to die someday, and we should prepare for that.

The Saints all say the same thing over and over because we really don’t believe we will die. We see our friends leaving (and as we get older, more and more are leaving!), yet we don’t believe that our own time is coming.

We are like those young soldiers in the briefing room. Their captain tells them: “Gentlemen, I’ll be frank. This is a very difficult assignment. Not many of you are coming home. We estimate that 90 percent of you will die on the battlefield.” Like those men, we think, “I sure am going to miss these guys when they’re gone.” We never think we will be in that 90 percent.

Saints tell us we should take a practical approach to the inevitability of our own death, as in the following anecdote:

There was a man shipwrecked on a remote island. It was inhabited by people who had the tradition of making any shipwrecked person the king of the island for exactly one year. Then what? The person was placed on a nearby deserted island where there was no food, water, shelter or transportation. The shipwrecked man noted that the previous king had enjoyed a wonderful year as king. Then he he had been taken to the deserted island, where he died. The current king-for-a-year thought: “I am the king now and have full authority. So I will plan for the day when my year is up.” He told the people to build a shelter, plant gardens, dig wells and make all necessary arrangements for living on that deserted island so that he could survive when his year as king ended.3

Saints say we should be like this man: we should prepare for our death. They say that meditation is nothing but preparing for death, dying while living. We must practise for that day when we will leave our family, our possessions and our home here. Great Master says if we have died before our death in meditation we will look forward to the day of our death as if it were our wedding day.

Saints also say that the divine sound and light are so fine and pleasurable that they cannot be compared to anything here in this world. Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh often said that we can detach from this world only if we attach ourselves to something more pleasurable and attractive. For us, that something is the Shabd or Nam.

The Saints have come here to guide us home. The love play between Master and disciple is all part of a divine plan. Someone asked Hazur, “Is it coincidence when we meet a master?” He answered:

There is no coincidence in Sant Mat. Everything happens according to a divine plan. You don’t meet a master as a coincidence; you don’t come to the path as a coincidence. You don’t select your parents just by coincidence; you don’t select your brother and sister by coincidence. There is some karmic relationship which brings you to that. There is some string at the back which is being pulled – why you are being asked to play that part on the stage. There is no coincidence here.4

It is no accident that we have been drawn to the path or that we visit the Dera and other venues around the world to be with the Master. It’s all part of his plan, though we don’t always allow ourselves to feel the love and care that the Master gives us. There’s that famous line popularized by John Lennon: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Hazur continues his answer on planning:

If you leave it to him to plan your life and go on accepting what comes to you, you will be happy. Because planning is in his hands, and you just have to adjust to the events of life.”5

This aligns with the Taoist concept of wu wei, or effortless effort, which roughly means going with the flow. We humbly yield, and by yielding we become strong.

Master wants us to live a happy, relaxed life. Hazur continues:

You are just adjusting, going along with the waves. You can never change the events of life, no matter how much you plan, no matter how much you pray. But you can always adjust to the events of life.6

Master tells us we have to let go in our meditation, and when we do, we become receptive and more able to adjust to the events of our life.

Anthony de Mello, who was an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, tells a story in his book The Prayer of the Frog how the mind can keep us from living a simple and relaxed life.

A guru was so impressed by the spiritual progress of his disciple that, judging he needed no further guidance, he left him on his own in a little hut on the bank of a river

Each morning after his ablutions the disciple would hang his loincloth out to dry. It was his only possession!

One day he was dismayed to find it torn to shreds by rats. So he had to beg for another from the villagers. When the rats nibbled holes in this one too, he got himself a kitten. He had no more trouble with the rats, but now, in addition to begging for his own food, he had to beg for milk as well. “Too much trouble begging,” he thought, “and too much of a burden on the villagers. I shall keep a cow.”

When he got the cow, he had to beg for fodder: “Easier to till the land around my hut,” he thought. But that proved troublesome too, for it left him little time for meditation. So he employed labourers to till the land for him.

Now overseeing the labourers became a chore, so he married a wife who would share the task with him. Before long, of course, he was one of the wealthiest men in the village.

Years later his guru happened to drop by and was surprised to see a palatial mansion where once a hut had stood. He said to one of the servants, “Isn’t this where a disciple of mine used to live?”

Before he got a reply, the disciple himself emerged. “What’s the meaning of all this, my son?” asked the guru.

“You’re not going to believe this, sir,” said the man, “but there was no other way I could keep my loincloth!”7

In other words, the mind keeps our lives complicated. But the Masters say we are bigger than this mind. They say we can still the roving mind and meet the radiant form of our Master inside. Would a businessman start a business if he thought it would fail? Does a farmer plant crops thinking they will not grow? We can do this!

The Saints tell us to make our best effort and leave the results to the Master; to live a simple, happy and relaxed life; to take care of our responsibilities in the world but not get so involved that we forget our Number One priority, our meditation.

The plan that the Masters have for us is really quite simple. It addresses our biggest obstacle of the mind and its many worries.

Q: How do you stop yourself from worrying?
Master: What makes you worry? Uncertainty about the future and repentance for the past. … So attend to meditation. When your mind is attached to the shabd and nam within, then you don’t think about the past or worry about the future. … And you are training yourself. Meditation trains you to accept what is in your destiny, if not cheerfully then at least with a smile. That is the purpose of meditation.8

And then Hazur concludes by saying, “So, we should plan for a day and then live it thoroughly and happily, and attend to meditation. That is the only way one can get out of these worldly worries and worldly problems. And learn to accept rather than to demand.”

The mind is powerful. Let’s follow the plan that our Master has laid out for us. Plans are meaningless unless we act on them. This is a path of action. Let’s please our Master and do our meditation.

  1. Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, #260
  2. Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, #284
  3. Folktale; source unknown
  4. Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, #452
  5. Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, #260
  6. Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, #260
  7. Anthony de Mello, Prayer of the Frog (Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1995), p. 38
  8. Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, #254