We can truly understand the intensity of the struggle with the mind as soon as we make a serious attempt to meditate. It is when we practise concentration that we become acutely aware of our lack of unity and wholeness. In our quest for eternity, there are times when we feel we are making no progress at all. We blame our weaknesses, which may include our lack of strength to gather the attention at the eye centre or our inability to complete our two and a half hour session every day. We feel we cannot succeed, as we have yet to achieve a sufficient degree of perfection, whether in our meditation, moral standard of living, or even in our thoughts and actions.
Saints remind us that this world is not the place for perfection. In fact, we are here in this creation only because we are imperfect. However, there are times when we forget this and seek perfection in our spouses, jobs and even in our spiritual practice. If we think deeply, we are seeking perfection in all these things through the dictates of the mind. And we all know that the mind itself is the source of all imperfections. It commits mistakes, repents and commits the same mistake again – in the same life, life after life, for millions of ages. When we fail to control it through our meditation, it tries to justify our weaknesses. It deceives us into believing that we are ‘too hard’ on ourselves. After all, as human beings, we are allowed to make mistakes, aren’t we?
On the other hand, there are times when we dwell on our imperfections, which may leave us distressed. Although saints do not want us to brush these feelings aside and be unconcerned, they advise us that indulging in self-pity is not good for us either. Guilt and a sense of unworthiness are actually forms of self-absorption. They are distractions of the mind that keep us from devoting all our energy and attention to our meditation.
Though it is natural at times to entertain such feelings, it is not a positive step. Saints warn us against such a defeatist attitude. They encourage wearing strong boots rather than avoiding thorns. They want us to step forward, not look back; light a candle, not curse the darkness. So actually, it is not our imperfections but our attitude towards them that stands in the way of progress.
We should have a positive approach, which is to get rid of our weaknesses. And only by meditation can we help ourselves rise above our weaknesses. Just to feel guilty and not to do anything about it also doesn’t solve any problem. We have to repent by not repeating our mistakes, and then we have to try to rise above our weaknesses with the help of meditation.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
Saints advise us that it is through meditation that we will be able to overcome our weaknesses. Meditation is nothing but repenting and asking the Lord for forgiveness for all the sins we have committed. As time goes by, we begin to realize our weaknesses, which itself is a great step towards overcoming them. When we are conscious of our faults and weaknesses, half the battle is won. The next step would be to put in effort to correct them.
However, in spite of our best efforts, we may face dejection in our search for God-realization. We may feel inadequate and fall into the mind’s trap of focusing on our sins and shortcomings. We need to remember that no matter what kind of sins we may have committed in the past – even sins we have no recollection of – they are nothing compared to the Lord’s grace. Like a loving parent, the Master is always there to welcome us with open arms, however much we may have been rolling in the mud. Nothing is hidden from him. He sees every disciple as one would see the contents of a transparent jar. He knows what sins we have committed in the past and has still bestowed the gift of initiation upon us. He would not have initiated us if we did not have the potential to reach God.
As disciples, it is therefore necessary to continuously increase our effort in meditation. We need to perform our devotion dutifully and diligently and, at the same time, rely on the grace and mercy of the Lord. When we associate with a perfect living Master and surrender ourselves to him, we eventually come to realize that there is no need to dwell on our imperfections, as long as we continue to work hard on the path.
How long should I worry about my dark record
and ponder my actions in sadness?
I will rest in his grace and mercy
and be released from past, present and future.
Sarmad, Martyr to Love Divine