Day by Day
Seven hundred years ago a Christian bishop in England wrote a short prayer which is still remembered by Christians today:
Day by day, Lord, for three things I pray:
To see Thee more clearly
To follow Thee more nearly
To love Thee more dearly.
Richard of Chichester
This prayer was addressed to Jesus Christ, whom Christians take as their model and their Master or Lord. Christ in fact lived 2,000 years ago but Christians pray to see him, to follow him and to love him because in doing so they are seeing, following and loving God, whom Christ mirrored in his earthly life.
The followers of other religions similarly pray to be able to model themselves on the founder of those religions, so Buddhists try to live according to Buddha’s teachings and to be like the Buddha, Muslims respect and love the prophet Mohammed and Hindus tell stories about and listen to and love the teachings of Lord Krishna.
We are fortunate to have a living, contemporary saint amongst us. There is someone living for us to see, to follow and to love. This is one of the important messages of Sant Mat: that God is indeed a power, and that power is within us and can be contacted within. Yet because we’re human we need to take the help of another human, the help of that “mirror” which is the living Master.
The purpose of seeing, following and loving the physical form of the Master, is to lead us, through meditation, to his inner form, which waits for us at the eye centre. If we try our very best to reach that inner form through simran and bhajan, we are making the best use both of our own human body and of the opportunity we have been given to see the Master’s outer form.
If we want to create the right atmosphere around us for concentrating the mind, then we can’t do better than to cultivate the attitude which “sees” God or our Master in everything in life. Carrying that attitude with us in daily life puts us in the mood for meditation and practising meditation will then lead us to seeing the real Master within us. Then we will understand that everything that takes place is God’s will. So why fret and frown and worry?
If we get into the habit of seeing the hand of the Master in everything, whether good or bad, then we save ourselves a lot of heartache. There’s no longer the possibility of blaming other people for what happens - for example, “He has hurt me, now I’m going to pay him back”. Instead we know that this is karma which our Master would like us to go through and finish and our mind remains calm.
When, with the help of this attitude, we are able to develop that inner seeing, by closing these physical eyes and concentrating inside, we perceive this world quite differently from the way we saw it before we came to the spiritual path.
However, to be able to carry this out and control our mind, we do need help. We need the help of the very person we’re trying to reach - the help of the living Master who has himself achieved everything that we aspire to. A perfect Master is more than just a good contemporary teacher.
An important difference between the Master and an ordinary proponent of religion or philosophy is that the Master has inner experience and inner wealth - the wealth of Shabd, Holy Spirit or Word, given him by God. That is why he has the authority to initiate us, which means not only giving us outer instructions on how to meditate and control our attention, but actually connecting us, internally, with the Shabd.
Only Shabd, that divine, magnetic, audible power, can ever satisfy and quieten the mind. Only listening to Shabd can burn away - eradicate - the store of karmas which would otherwise cause us to be reborn here again and again. It’s not just a question of obtaining peace of mind and learning to see God’s hand in the creation; it’s a question of being forgiven for our karmas, of getting out of this cycle of life and death in the physical creation altogether, so that we need not return. By teaching us how to control our mind and so become ‘tuned in’ to Shabd, the Masters offer us a unique opportunity to obtain liberation.
Once we have gained an intellectual understanding of Sant Mat, theoretically at least, it should be easy for us to follow the Master. But is it? You would think that if we dimly began to see someone in front of us, holding out his hand, encouraging us forward, that we would follow. But the same mind that creates the fog around us in the first place also makes it hard for us to surrender our will to someone else, even when the question of our salvation is at stake. Baba Ji has pointed out how hard it is for us to let go and simply follow the Master’s guidance. He has given the example of following a guide down a steep mountain. The guide may tell us to relax, hold on to him and tread in his footsteps. But do we have the faith? This is where meditation comes in, by gradually building the confidence in our mentor.
We will only gain the faith to really follow him by doing meditation. That is, we will only gain the faith to meditate, by meditating! However, even when we meditate with little faith and experience, we are showing a kind of faith, a very valuable faith, in just being obedient. We are invoking our Master’s grace and also giving ourselves the chance to develop a taste for meditation.
So “following” means keeping going, sticking with it, not giving up. Following “more nearly” means taking a lot of trouble to follow properly: taking trouble to really keep the vows, not just ‘sort-of’ keep them; taking trouble to really understand what the Master is saying in satsang and to take his advice as completely as possible; taking trouble to notice what the Master is like because, after all, he comes to set us an example.
We begin by following the Master out of determined obedience, because we’ve decided it’s the right thing to do. And if we do our best, we will end up by following because our obedience and duty has turned into love. Love always wants to give, and Baba Ji, when asked what gift the Master would most like to receive, has sometimes made the surprising reply that we should give him our ego. Obviously this isn’t because ego is something desirable but because when it has gone from us, the barrier between lover and beloved disappears. By being obedient and hardworking, we are shedding ego. When we shed ego, more love comes.
We are told that God worships himself through us. He creates us, sends us away from himself, and then a love story is enacted through us as we are found and return to him. It is his game, his play. This strange and wonderful thing called love is the purpose of our whole existence. It’s the reason we want to see the Master and the reason we follow the Master. He has come to find us because he loves us, and through his love we also learn to love.
Going back to the prayer quoted in the beginning - to see, to follow and to love - the writer says that he prays for these things “day by day”, and this is how we are taught by our Master to help ourselves and to take his help towards this new undivided life: Day by day, in daily practice, in daily meditation, because every day is a new beginning. Every hour, every minute is a new beginning.
The time for simran is now, the time for remembrance is now and the time to meditate is now - day by day! Whatever is past is past. We should not worry about it or feel guilty about it. And we don’t have to concern ourselves with big plans for the future because it will all happen as it is meant to. It will be built day by day from our efforts to do the right thing in the present, today.
Seeing, following and loving, with the resultant joy as we draw closer and closer to our beloved Master, are entirely bound up in our practising “day by day”.
When we put our spiritual goal first, we find that our happiness and contentment increase. When our lives are clear, harmonious and balanced, we sleep well at night because we are at peace with ourselves. We discover for ourselves, through our own experience, that it is through the natural order of the Lord’s creation and not through our efforts that we receive whatever we have.