Sant Mat is a path of practical mysticism – something very different from other belief systems and religions in that it does not involve theories or prayers or various forms of worship. Mysticism is the science of actually experiencing other levels of consciousness.
Scriptures, prayers, rituals, devotional songs and special buildings -all outer forms of worship – are non-essential to a mystic. Some of these may be helpful in that they may help create an atmosphere for mystic practice, but that is all.
Mystic practice is something unfamiliar to most of us, and we need to be willing to do everything necessary in order to succeed. Success requires focus – our attention has to be focused on our goal. We also need to refrain from thoughts, actions and activities that stand in the way of our success.
Thoughts are a key aspect of living life as a human being, and they become doubly important when we embark on a mystic path. When we spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about something or someone, we create invisible but very real bonds between us and the object of our attention. This creates attachment. We can be attached to people, places, things, situations and outcomes. It makes no difference whether we view them in a positive or a negative light – the attachment is still there. Attachment is such a normal part of everyday human life that we mostly take it for granted.
The way we perceive life is determined by our thoughts. Two people can live under the same roof, in the same circumstances, yet view their lives quite differently. It is all in what they each choose to focus on. As a simple example, one may feel quite well-off and be grateful for all the blessings received, while the other may continually feel deprived. Is this to do with their different personalities? No, it’s to do with the way that each one thinks and the level of attachment they consequently have to people or things.
So, if attachment is such a normal part of life as a human being, what is so bad about it? For an answer, let us turn to the venerable Buddha. He tells us that attachment is the cause of all suffering. It is our attachment to particular people, objects or outcomes that causes us pain when we don’t have them. Furthermore, the Masters tell us that in addition to being the cause of suffering, attachment is the cause of rebirth. The corollary of this is: if we are detached, we will not suffer, and we can also avoid being reborn.
In fact, there is actually nothing particularly wrong with attachment per se. Attachment is a part of the human experience. The real issue revolves around precisely who and what we choose to focus it on. Used in a positive way, it is our greatest gift; used in a negative way, it is a curse.
We need to focus on the positive. We see that the strongest forms of positive attachment that are natural to human beings are longing, love and worship. These are the very tools we can use to facilitate our inward journey to realize God. Longing and love are powerful aids to us on the spiritual path; in truth we won’t get far without them.Unfortunately there is no switch we can throw to turn them on – these qualities are not within our control. We can safely say these are gifts with which we are blessed if God decides to bless us with them.
Of these forms of attachment, the only one we can consciously use is worship. Most people are taught to worship one divine incarnation or concept of God. But this worship serves a useful purpose only if it helps us to realize our own divinity. But it can be a subtle trap, and a very easy one to fall into, if we idolize the divinity in another without trying to realize it within. In order for our consciousness to ascend within, we need to take our devotion for the outer Guru to the next level – the inner master, the Shabd -through meditation.
The Masters tell us this very thing over and over and over, but maybe we think they are just being humble or modest. True Masters don’t play at being humble; they do not put on a modest front for our benefit. When a Master speaks, he speaks from his truth. We need to listen carefully to what he is saying and not try to interpret his words in the light of our theoretical knowledge of the path. A true Master’s words carry deep meaning and should be considered carefully.
If we want to know the truth, we have to be willing to question everything we have been taught. There are no sacred cows in mysticism, because mysticism is not a path of knowledge or belief; it is a path of experience. In spite of our saying that we believe God is omnipresent, we may feel distant, cut off and frustrated in our efforts to find him. The reason is simple. We don’t yet believe the truth that God is everywhere at all times.
So, if God is everywhere, yet still remains invisible to us, what can we do about it? Is it a case of looking at the world or life differently? Well, it is a case of looking differently, but not at the world or at life. We have to learn to look within our own selves. When we learn to do this, we will understand the illusory play of life in this world for what it really is. More than that, we will perceive higher truths directly for ourselves.
But it is no simple matter to reverse the direction of our perception. What we need is help from someone who has done it and can teach us how to do it. On this path we accept the help of the living Master.
The purpose of turning the attention within is to make contact with the primordial energy stream, which is the creator and sustainer of everything. This is God in action. When we see this light and hear this sound, we are seeing and listening to God’s dynamic energy. This is true worship – worshipping in spirit.
Of course, it stands to reason that we need to give our full and undivided attention to this practice whenever we do it – and therein lies the rub! We are not used to holding our attention on any one thing for any length of time. When we sit down and try to accomplish this, we discover just how out of control our minds are. We may also discover what it is that keeps us entangled in life and creates difficulties in our meditation practice.
If we are familiar with the Master’s teachings, we will know what we should avoid and what we should embrace in order to facilitate our practice. If we accept and remain within his guidelines, our lives will be more tranquil and our meditation will be easier. If we choose to step outside of them, we will soon discover precisely why they were given to us by the Master.
The primary purpose of the Master is to teach the method of contacting the sound current within ourselves. Once we know how to do that, he has to wait for us to take that step before he can give us further assistance. If you want to climb a mountain and you employ an experienced guide, he can tell you how to get to the mountain, but then he has to wait for you to actually reach the mountain and meet him at the base camp before he can guide you further. It is the same on the mystic path.
The path begins from the eye centre. The Master’s instructions are for us to reach this point and step on to the path from there. Only when we have completed this part of the journey will we be able to consciously meet him and travel under his guidance. This is our part of the bargain. His part is to take us from there all the way back to God. We get to do the boring bit on our own and he gets to do the interesting bit with us – that’s the way it works.
The method we use to get to this point of departure is the way of simran. By the assiduous practice of simran, we can withdraw our attention from the world and even from our entire body and concentrate it at the eye centre. When this process is complete, we can break through the veil into the worlds beyond. How long does this stage last? There is no way to know. Suffice it to say that there are no shortcuts.
Kabir tells us that it’s simran that will bring us to the gateway of liberation and to the divine realms within. There’s no avoiding it. Do that simran, because without it you will not find true freedom.
The ship of your life is sinking;
invoke now the Name of the Lord!
Invoke now the Name of the Lord,
for your life is fast slipping from your hands.
Your boat is sinking midstream,
yet you are clutching your measly possessions;
Only the foolish waste their lives on a treasure they will lose.
You are taking your last breath;
even now you are bound by your attachments.
Though the breath is leaving your body,
even now you don’t remember his Name.
The human frame is a priceless treasure, O Paltu!
You have traded it for empty shells.
The ship of your life is sinking;
invoke now the Name of the Lord!