Introduction - Living Meditation


As long as you do not die while living
How will you obtain true benefit?
Therefore, die and come out of your body.
You have died many times,
Yet still you remain behind the veil
For the method of true dying
You did not learn.

There is a method to conquer death. From Masters of spirituality we understand that there is a way to experience the life that exists beyond the death of the body, and a method or technique we can learn to experience it. These spiritual Masters teach the way to leave our body at will and return to it when we decide to do so. From them we learn that by practising the method, by applying it to our daily lives, we can embark on a journey beyond body and mind, and in the process, develop clear thinking, peace of mind and inner joy. The Masters tell us that by perfecting their method we gain liberation from the cycle of death and birth and experience eternal bliss.

The spiritual Masters teach us that in the body the soul is knotted together with the mind at the spiritual eye centre located in our forehead. From this point, our attention spreads out into the material creation where it constantly absorbs worldly impressions. The continuous, outward-directed activity of the mind, fuelled most often by our desires, forms deep impressions in our consciousness. These impressions act like complex, many-layered blankets, concealing from us the brilliance, power and vitality of our life force, our soul.

When the light of the soul becomes obscured by the mind, we begin to perceive the things of the world as if they were permanent and capable of giving us true happiness. Deceived by a distorted view of reality, we fail to realize that the events, people and things in our lives bring us a happiness that, by its very nature, is only superficial and short-lived. We fail to see that chasing happiness through whatever we are attached to in the perishable world has to lead, sooner or later, to frustration and sorrow while at the same time increasing our karmic debt. Tempted and driven by our senses, we keep doing things that sow the seeds for future incarnations in the physical plane. Mistakenly, we direct our attention to the objects of our affection because we believe the reason for our joy or pain lies in them. In this way, our distorted view of reality leads to actions that drive the roots of our consciousness ever deeper into lower planes of existence. This strengthens the downward tendencies of our mind and keeps us from seeing the light of our soul. The sad result of this downward spiral – a spiral of cause and effect – is that the soul becomes so trapped and hidden in the lower physical realms that the time soon comes when the soul’s very existence is no longer even acknowledged.

I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations …
Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure,
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel.

The way to break free from the limitations we have imposed on ourselves, to regain the clarity that reflects our highest potential, is to empower our soul consciousness through meditation. Once we begin to practise meditation, we soon realize that the method of the Masters is a path, journey or way for us to live. It is the path of becoming masters of our mind and senses. To follow the path to its destination means nothing less than the journey of a lifetime. As we travel along it and our mind becomes steadier through the practice of meditation, we will experience the soul gaining control while the undisciplined and ever-troublesome aspects of our mind are progressively weakened. Life becomes more carefree, we are controlled less by our desires, and we find ourselves more balanced and content. As the soul gains the upper hand, the benefits of meditation are increasingly felt and our spiritual resolve becomes deeper and firmer. We are no longer as easily deceived by a distorted perspective, and when we face hard times it is easier to deal with them and recover our balance.

Constantly mastering his mind,
The spiritual man grows peaceful,
Attains supreme bliss,
And returns to the Absolute One.
Bhagavad Gita

Many Masters of spirituality throughout the ages stand witness, through their lives and writings, to the success of the method of Shabd meditation, and this book is about its practice.

Shabd, a Sanskrit name for the divine power, is known in different cultures by many different names: Tao, Holy Ghost, Word, Cosmic Energy, Buddha Nature, Kalma, Holy Sound, Sound Current, Truth and many others. The names themselves are not important. What matters is where they point. Shabd, as we use the term in this book, is the eternal reality underlying all forms of life. Shabd is beyond but also within every life form. This means that it is within everyone, within every form of life. It is accessible to each one of us as our deepest Self. Some might think of this reality as God, but while neither ‘Shabd’ nor ‘God’ can do justice to the transcendental reality they refer to, in this book the word ‘Shabd’ has been preferred to the word ‘God’.

The word God carries for most people the connotation of someone or something outside of oneself, whereas the word Shabd as power or energy – a word that is unfamiliar to many people – allows for an open concept that does not connote a being out there, apart from and outside of what and who we are. The word Shabd, as used in this book, refers to the eternal reality of both the inner and outer worlds. The concept does not reduce the limitless to a limited finite entity. Shabd is every thing. It is in every body. It is our own essence. It is our reality.

The beginning and end of all things is Shabd. All gross matter, the sky and so forth, subtle matter, sound, form, taste and scent are all Shabd. Whatever exists is Shabd. Whatever is manifested from Shabd cannot be anything but Shabd. Shabd is our creator. Shabd is our sustainer. We are of Shabd and Shabd is ours.
Maharaj Sawan Singh

By practising Shabd meditation we learn how to contact and merge with Shabd, the divine and primal power, in full consciousness. We learn how to ‘die’ to our limited self so that we can become alive forever. Freed from identification with our body selves, we gain freedom from personal obsessions, suffering and attachments. We learn how to access the positive creative energy or power that is already within us. The method of Shabd meditation comes recommended to us by Masters of spirituality, called here Shabd Masters, who have lived by its principles and experienced the truth of the practice. That, for us, is its guarantee. To know that what they say is true, we must put their method into practice and experience it for ourselves. Only through action can we know that it is true. Only through action will we experience how the integral system of the Shabd Masters can help us become complete human beings, attain knowledge of the deathless Self and realize the divine. The Shabd Masters assure us that if we apply their method in full, we will move from a world of concepts to one of spiritual experience. Through practice, we will be personally transformed.

There is a difference between knowing the path and walking it.
Morpheus to Neo in The Matrix

True Masters of spirituality always impart their method and teachings free of charge. Their method rests on a foundation of four fundamental principles: following a vegetarian diet, not taking alcohol or mind-altering substances, living a moral and honest life, and giving at least one tenth of one’s time daily to the practice of meditation. The first three principles support the fourth, which is the key to self-transformation. It is an interdependent and interlinking system: all four principles have to be put into practice rigorously, for otherwise, the integral system cannot work.

A vegetarian diet is necessary to minimize the consequences resulting from the violence and cruelty of killing for food. Unless the burden we bear as the consequence of doing such actions (our karmas) is kept to the minimum, we cannot hope to rise spiritually. Concentration is the key to gaining conscious access to Shabd. Since blowing the mind with drugs or dulling it with alcohol sabotages all serious concentration, it is essential to abstain from drugs and alcohol. It is also important that we lead a moral and honest life, for unless we are able to control our emotions at the level of physical actions, how can we hope to direct them constructively at the more subtle level within ourselves? If we give free rein to our passions and desires, we will soon find ourselves driven by them. Our attention will remain trapped in lower, physical centres, and it will be impossible to raise it to the level where concentration begins. If meditation is the means whereby we transform our consciousness, then giving just one tenth of our daily time to its practice is the least we must do. How can we succeed in a profession if we don’t give time to it? How can we enjoy a destination if we don’t make the time needed to travel there?

Through these four principles, the Masters set clear guidelines for a way of life that supports our spiritual goal. The guidelines serve as painted lines on a road. The moment we cross a line, we know we have deviated from our course and are in danger. The Masters, however, impress upon us the importance of using our personal sense of discrimination. Within the four broad parameters, it is up to each one of us to find out which actions or thoughts will strengthen or weaken our spiritual life, which actions and thoughts will take us towards our destination and which will take us further away.

Other tools that help us support our meditation practice are listening to spiritual discourses (satsang), reading spiritual literature, and service (seva) to the Master. Seva can be done through service to our spiritual community (sangat) or to our community in general. The advantage of serving our spiritual community is that it puts us under the direct orders of our Master. Such service develops the relationship of disciple and Master – a discipline that is key to the transformative process of the spiritual path.

We can further support our spiritual objective by being selective about the things we choose to see, hear, talk or think about, and the company we keep. In addition, it is easier to practise meditation with a fit and healthy body, so it is desirable to care for our body by taking steps to promote its health and well-being. All these practices will support our efforts to bring our attention to the spiritual eye centre and begin the journey to reach our source.

The ways of reaching our source are many, but all the paths at some point merge into the universal path of travelling within oneself through Shabd, through spiritual Light and Sound. Most of us are at the very early stages of the journey. Few have had actual experience of the truth that is our goal. This book, therefore, has been prepared to inspire us to move from concepts to experience. Since we aspire to reach that point where we actually experience the Shabd, this book highlights the irreplaceable importance, value and practical impact of meditation, and how, without meditation, we will reach nowhere.

The book looks at our personal responsibilities as disciples on the spiritual path and explains how a clear understanding of the teachings can lead us to the daily practice of meditation, without shirking our responsibilities. Clear thinking, a positive attitude and sincere effort support spiritual priorities and help us focus on daily meditation. Through the practice of meditation we become clear, we become positive and we gain mastery over our mind. Ultimately, through the practice of meditation, we obtain the supreme peace and joy that result from being spiritually transformed and freed of all limitations.

To emphasize the universality of the path of Shabd meditation, the book includes quotations not only from Sant Mat (the path of the Shabd Masters), but also from different traditions, times and places. The simple method of Shabd meditation, the method of dying to the world and awakening to the divine, arises naturally from fundamentals of human nature common to all humanity. It is a universal method or mystic way, common to all true Masters of spirituality, whatever their language, religion, culture or the context in which they taught.

All rivers merge in the Ocean.
The Ocean refuses no river.
Indian proverb