Let’s look today at two aspects of a disciple’s life on this path. Both should be part of our daily life, part of who we are and how we live in the world. They are key components of Sant Mat as Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh used to describe it – an attitude of mind to be developed and a way of life to be lived. Both must be built on the foundation of our daily meditation practice. These two aspects or tasks are: watching our mind, and keeping our simran going throughout the day.
1. Watching the Mind
The saints tell us that our mind is the greatest barrier in our efforts on the path. They tell us that we need to keep constant watch on our mind if we are to succeed, as its tendency is towards the darkness, while our goal is toward the light. Our mind looks downward, the path leads upward. If we give in to our mind, we can slide slowly, or fall quickly, toward the pit of this world. If we keep our mind busy in positive things and hold it back from the negative, we begin to ascend toward the light.
Maharaj Jagat Singh says:
All the actions the mind tells us to do in this world bury us in layer after layer of filth. When we look with desire, filth accumulates.… And when we ourselves gossip, filth and more filth accumulates.1
One could add endless other examples of inappropriate ways in which our mind behaves: negative, judgmental thoughts about others; angry reactions to someone else’s actions; indulging in self-pity; or thinking with pride, “I did a pretty good job with that project,” and so forth.
In a commentary to the Chinese classic, the Tao Te Ching,we read:
It is not easy to learn to rectify the mind and make the intent sincere. It is necessary to make a genuine effort in order to accomplish this. Genuine effort involves being careful of yourself, wary of what is unseen and unheard, consciously aware at all times, examining yourself again and again, not letting the stubborn mind or its arbitrary intentions stir at all, even in secret. This is like chaining a wild monkey or bridling a stubborn horse, not letting them indulge in their natures.2
Hazur used exactly the same example: “The mind does not like to be imprisoned or channelled. It is like training a wild colt – but it can be trained.”3 And he said:
This means gaining control of the lower mind. But you know it never ceases playing pranks and we should always be ready to control and curb it if it shows any sign of revolt. The essence of Sant Mat is to control the mind and to put it under the discipline of the Satguru.4
Mystics advise us to deal with the mind’s negative tendencies while they are still small, before they take root. It has been said that when a negative thought or tendency first comes into our mind, it is called a ‘passer-by.’ If it continues to come into the mind, it is then known as a ‘guest.’ Finally, if it becomes a habit or established pattern, it is called ‘one who occupies the house.’ In other words, a permanent resident.
Imagine that your boss hires his nephew for a position that you had hoped to get. The first thought to come into your mind will be, “He got that job only because he’s the boss’s nephew.” That’s natural. The thought is now just a passer-by. The next time the thought comes, we can let it go and move on, saying, “It’s the boss’s decision.” Or we can let it fester in our mind, getting angry and feeling mistreated: “That job should have been mine.” Now the thought is a guest. Finally, if it comes again, we can ignore it, do our simran, and move on. Or we can let it get us really upset, so that we begin to hate the nephew. The thought now ‘occupies the house’ – it lives with us and can lead to angry words and actions, all with karmic repercussions.
It’s so much easier to let a passer-by go on his way than it is to throw out someone who has moved into your house. But this choice requires awareness. The Tao Te Ching:
The excellent masters of old …
Like men crossing streams in winter,
As if all around there were danger,
As if they were guests on every occasion.5
So we should be as awake and aware of our mind as a person is when crossing a stream in winter, where one misstep can mean death. We should live as if we were guests here – which we really are! – always on our best behaviour and careful that we don’t offend our host, the Lord, by thoughtless behaviour.
In all of this we have to remember that the Masters always encourage us to be positive. So, rather than saying, “NO! I shouldn’t be thinking this,” we should replace the negative thought with something positive, either the Master’s words on a topic or our simran. A marvellous sentence that Hazur wrote is useful to remember whenever someone has done something we don’t like – which, of course, happens almost every day. He said, “Nobody ever does us any good or bad thing.” That sentence is a bit of magic that transforms a situation instantly, if we can remember it. Here’s the full quote from Hazur:
Nobody ever does us any good or bad thing. Nor can any person offer us insult or bestow honour on us. The Master moves the strings from inside and makes people behave towards us according to our karmas. So do not take too much to heart the behaviour of other people towards us.6
If we pulled out that card and read it each time our mind said, “I don’t like what that person just did to me,” what a difference it would make!
The story goes that a Sufi was asked, “What have you brought and what have you been doing?” He replied, “I have brought this dog of an ego, which I have been watching for a lifetime, so it doesn’t fall on myself or someone else, and I have brought this mind full of filth, which I have spent my life trying to purify.” That’s the kind of sustained attention to our mind that we need to develop.
Let’s look now at our simran practice during the day. Simran is, or course, a critical part of our daily meditation period. But simran during the day is also an essential part of our spiritual work. It is not just something nice to do if convenient, but a required aspect of our work if we are to advance from square one. Hazur wrote to someone:
Repetition should be our constant companion while walking, talking, at meals, awake or asleep … We should get so used to simran that even if we are talking to others its course should continue mentally. It should be practised at all times for this is the only way to collect consciousness from the body. Success in this is the first essential before any contact whatsoever is possible with the Sound Current.7
Basically, if we let our mind run out for twenty-one and a half hours, it won’t be possible to pull it back in just two and a half hours. We have to keep the mind busy in simran whenever it’s free, if we are to have any hope of withdrawing the consciousness from the body during our meditation.
Master tells us that we first have to get into the habit of doing simran whenever our mind is free, and that eventually it will develop into simran that continues without a break, day and night. Hazur explained:
One ought to cultivate the habit of doing simran at odd hours of the day; in fact, at any time when one is not particularly occupied. This would in due course develop into subconscious simran or what you call automatic simran at the back of the mind.8
How can we learn to do our simran during the day? Baba Ji was asked this and replied that it was like any habit – it just has to be repeated enough until the habit is formed. He also mentioned that when we are at a discotheque in the evening and hear a song over and over, that song jumps into our head first thing in the morning when we wake up. This suggests that simran before going to sleep would be a good place to start in trying to bring it more into our day. In fact, the Masters do recommend that we do fifteen minutes of simran before going to sleep. So that’s one tangible step we can take.
The easiest times to bring the repetition into our day are probably when we are doing common and repetitive tasks, like showering, cooking, washing dishes, or walking. If we make a conscious effort to link simran to each of these tasks, one by one, it can begin to expand through our day. Hazur wrote: “There are moments in the working day which offer a good opportunity for simran – for instance when travelling to or from work, or when not particularly concentrating upon any task, whatever it may be.”9
To these we could add: while waiting for the computer to start, making copies at the Xerox machine, waiting for the bus, waiting in line at the grocery store, or exercising – all times when our minds are unoccupied. If we look at our day, we’ll find that large portions of it provide great opportunities to let the names flow through our mind.
And as our simran begins to be active during more periods of our day, let us remember to thank the Master, for it comes only from him.
When we have, with the Master’s grace, worked simran into all the free time in our day, it will continue to spread into all parts of our life and our time. As we quoted Hazur earlier: “This would in due course develop into subconscious simran or what you call automatic simran at the back of the mind.” It will become, he said, “our constant companion while walking, talking, at meals, awake or asleep.”10 Hazur discussed this at length in a question and answer session:
Question: Master, when a person is unconsciously saying simran – like if you’ve spent two or three hours saying simran and then you have your duties to perform, and you get up and you may have to go to the grocery market or down the street or something, and suddenly you realize that at the back of your head somewhere simran is going on automatically – is that of any real value to you?
Master: Sister, the stage will come when it will go on automatically. Even if you are talking to people, you will feel that you’re doing simran, and we should get into that habit, because only then are we able to concentrate at the eye centre. Only that will help us to become unconscious of the world, of what is going on around us. Then we will just move as actors move on a stage.
In this state we will feel that there is no reality. Sometimes you will be talking to a person and you will feel that you are not you, someone else is walking and talking with the other person. Simran helps to separate your individuality from yourself.… Then the whole day you will see the world as a stage, as if somebody else is acting, talking, doing a husband’s duty, a wife’s duty, a child’s duty, and you are someone different from yourself. And that helps. That is the effect of simran, and that is ultimately what we want to achieve. We want to separate our real self from this world.11
So we’ve talked about watching our mind and doing simran throughout the day. Both are critical aspects of our lives as disciples, essential prerequisites for becoming conscious, mindful humans. But are we able to do them? If not, do we still bring our full attention to these tasks, do we still make them a priority in our lives? Or have we given up on them as too difficult? We tend, as time goes on, to do our meditation as a matter of routine or as a ritual, without any real intensity, and to live as sort of half-baked disciples, going through the motions without any real zeal or devotion.
In The Imitation of Christ, Thomas á Kempis, a fifteenth-century German monk, wrote:
We ought every day to renew our purpose in God, and to stir our heart to fervour and devotion, as though it were the first day of our conversion. And we ought daily to pray and say: "Help me, my Lord [Jesus], that I may persevere in good purpose and in Your holy service unto my death, and that I may now today perfectly begin, for I have done nothing in time past."12
He’s saying that we need to constantly renew our sense of commitment and devotion. That no matter how good our intentions are, we have to bring to our spiritual work a firm sense of purpose and some passion.
What motivates us to work hard on this path? What is it that gives us the fire inside that prompts us to get up when the alarm rings, to go the extra mile on a seva project, to continue to try to do our simran through the day even when we continue to forget, to apologize when we’ve lost our temper and still think the other person was wrong, to approach our meditation every morning with energy and a commitment to do our best? Here’s a quote that embodies the attitude we should have:
Some disciples, caught up in a whirl of activity, were neglecting their meditation. The Master cautioned them: “Do not say: ‘Tomorrow I will meditate longer.’ You will suddenly find that a year has passed without fulfilment of your good intentions. Instead say: ‘This can wait and that can wait, but my search for God cannot wait.’”13
That sense of single-minded focus that puts the path first in our lives is critical to any success in our spiritual work. How does that develop? Can we help it to grow? Let’s look at some possibilities.
4. Having a clear objective
Why do we get up every morning to meditate? (Assuming we do!) It may be because we promised the Master that we would. That’s a good reason, but it may lose its force over time. We may get up, but only out of routine and without any real sense of purpose. That’s why Baba Ji encourages us to remember what motivated us to ask for initiation and to remember what our goals are on the path so we can sustain our enthusiasm.
If we keep in front of us our key objective – to reach the eye center, to see the radiant form inside, to please the Master – whatever it is that reaches our heart, that awakens something at our core – we are more likely to be able to use it to inspire us to action and to bring to that action an enthusiasm and energy that this highest and noblest task deserves.
This is one possible way to increase our motivation – to have a clear objective before us.
5. Pain of Life
Some of us have a strong understanding of the pain that is built into being alive in this world. The Masters describe this world as a place of considerable suffering. It isn’t uniformly painful; there can be a good deal of pleasure as well. But on balance, and especially in contrast to higher realms, the Masters say this world is dark and painful.
Maharaj Jagat Singh, in a discourse entitled “The World Suffers Pain,” talks about the pain inherent in being in this world of duality and ego and maya (illusion):
Anyone who enters the sphere of ego enters the sphere of suffering. If we had never left Nam and entered duality, we would never have come into the land of suffering. It’s like a border – it’s just a line, a frontier. Stand on one side – it’s your country and you’re comfortable and happy; stand on the other side – you’re in hostile territory.… There is no pain like that of maya. A person who has left Nam and come into maya, who has left oneness and come into duality, has entered delusion and worry. In worry lies suffering.14
Understanding the certainty of pain in life – whether mental or physical illness, poverty, divorce, or war – can be a powerful motivator to work hard to escape that suffering.
6. Awareness of death
Another motivator can be the certainty of our own death, and the uncertainty of its timing. Hazur used to say that when we pick up a cup to take a drink, we don’t know if we’ll still be alive for it to reach our lips. Or when we open the door to get out of our car, we may not live until our foot touches the ground. We may have forty years or forty seconds remaining. We have the opportunity now, while alive, to work toward our permanent salvation under the guidance of a living Master. The uncertainty of the length of our life may motivate some of us to greater effort.
7. Gratitude to Master
Another motivator for some of us might be gratitude. If we really understand and appreciate what we have been given, we will take full advantage of it. Out of all the billions of people in the world, what are the chances of us hearing about this path, and being receptive enough to be open to it? What are the chances of us still being on the path after ten, or twenty, or fifty years, if left on our own? Zero. It is the Master who finds us, who plants the seed of devotion in us, and who nurtures that seed and keeps it alive, in the face of all the pressures of the world and all the downward forces of the mind. If we feel the wonder of what he has done for us – and what he continues to do for us every day – we can use our gratitude for these gifts to push us to give all that we have on the path.
For those of us with a more devotional bent, tapping into the love we feel for the Master can be a powerful source of inspiration to work harder on the path. What better way to express our love for him than by trying our hardest to be a good disciple, digging deeply into our reserves to do whatever it takes to please him?
And a final motivator can be a sense of surrender. Maybe we come to the point where we begin to understand – really understand – how little we can really do, and how much he is asking of us, and we continue anyway, because he has asked us to and because we have nowhere else to go, nowhere else we want to go. Maybe we find more strength in obedience and surrender than in striving.
Let’s end with some thoughts from Baba Ji – my best recollection from the February 2011 session in Dera. He said that we can all do more than we think we can. We have so much more capacity than we know. We don’t know our potential. We just have to keep working. Baba Ji said that we all can do more – even five more minutes of meditation – that we should make him proud of us, and we’ll see the difference it makes in each of us.
- Maharaj Jagat Singh, Discourses on Sant Mat, Vol. II, p.52
- Liu I-Ming, Awakening to the Tao, ed. Thomas Cleary, p.54
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat, letter 51
- Light on Sant Mat, letter 83
- Lao-Tzu, The Way of Life (Tao Te Ching), tr. R.B. Blakney, chapter 15
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Quest for Light, letter 259
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Science of the Soul Newsletter, Jan–Feb 2004
- Light on Sant Mat, letter 49
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Science of the Soul Newsletter, January–Feb 2004
- Science of the Soul Newsletter, Jan–Feb 2004
- Die to Live, #177
- Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, p.53
- Paramahansa Yogananda in Spiritual Link, August 2009, p.18
- Maharaj Jagat Singh, Discourses on Sant Mat, Vol. II, pp.53,61