What Am I?
“What am I?” the mind asks, unsettled
Our mind has been collecting and collating information for numerous lifetimes, all these lifetimes bringing with them a multitude of different complexities. These are stored and catalogued by our mind, thus ensuring that we remain in the dream state of each new identity. We do really believe that we are ‘this’ person or ‘that’ person and whilst, life after life, we’re busy identifying with these many varied forms, we’re also creating attachments with other identities. These attachments pull us back to the creation again and again, so prolonging an elaborate and convoluted dream. It’s a dream which is intricately entwined with the other elaborate and convoluted dreams of all those individuals that we’ve become attached to. Sant Charandas tells us:
In a dream, one’s family and relations all appear wonderful;
but when one wakes up, they all dissolve
and nothing remains in form and substance.
Therefore always remember to contemplate on the Lord,
do not let your mind get engrossed here.
When, in the middle of the dream of life, the mind comes to the conundrum, “What am I?” the realization may dawn that this question has brought us to the brink of a pause between thoughts. However, the mind has become accustomed to its dream. It will do all it can to prevent our catching that infinitesimally small pause of quietness. Why? Because if we should drop into that imperceptible gap, stop acting out our familiar ‘self’– we find we’re nobody. The mind doesn’t like this loss of the familiar self, even for a millisecond, and in point of fact, it’s usually so baffled and confounded that it starts filling the gap instantly.
“How can I be nobody?” the mind insists
To automatically fill the gap is the mind’s natural reaction. It generally fills it with its own persona – in other words, with memories and stories designed to reinforce the sense of self. But its frantic efforts are meaningless. If we really want to know who or what we are, we must experience this blessed and infinitesimally small gap and pass into our nothingness, which is actually our every-thingness.
“That’s ridiculous” – the mind, perplexed, can’t accept it
To comfort itself, the mind returns to its dream, spreading out again into this world with its familiar scattering of thoughts, restoring ‘normality’.
In no time at all, the mind’s back into its customary habits, running with the influence and fancy of the often wild and wayward senses. However, the mind may now have just an inkling that there’s something rather wonderful about the gap it’s just discovered – something that can seem far out of reach but that is enticing. Once there was no notion of anything other than life here in this creation but now, intrigued, the mind is questioning, “Is there more to life, something hidden in the stillness?”
“Is there more to life, something hidden in the stillness?”
For us to awaken from all our programmed ideas, beliefs and impulses – all these complexities that the mind has built up life after life – we must turn inward. If we are fortunate enough to come across a true Master, he will teach us how to turn inward and begin our spiritual journey. It is meditation, as taught at initiation, that will help us to turn inside. The Masters tell us there is no other way.
“But there’s nothing but blackness” – the mind is horrified
The mind at first is horrified by the darkness it encounters in meditation. But it will not be there forever. We have to make ourselves receptive to the Lord’s grace. It’s only his grace that helps us become free from this elaborate, convoluted dream world.
In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol II, Maharaj Charan Singh talks about meditation and the wayward nature of the mind:
Meditation may be dry, but if you leave your mind alone, it will have other, worldly thoughts. It won’t be still. It will always think something or other. So why not give it something better? Why let it go astray, why not pull it back? We are helping it not to run astray and go wild. The more it runs astray and wild, the more difficult it becomes to pull it back. That is why whenever we get time or we are mentally free, we do simran.
Becoming absorbed in our meditation, merging into our simran, so much so that there is nothing but simran, helps us enter the stillness of that gap between thoughts. In the Bible we read that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Trying to hold on to one’s identity (whether rich, poor, spiritual, worldly, man, or woman) whilst doing our meditation is like trying to push the camel forcibly through the eye of the needle. The only thing that can get through even the tiniest needle is our own nothingness – no shred of self-centred identity can pass through.
“That’s just too hard!” says the mind
But the mind rebels. Wanting to soothe its discomfort in some way, the mind may now look to past experiences, thinking that there must be an easier way than meditation. These experiences may have formed the way one thinks and they may even have been great emotional or religious experiences, or grand intellectual insights. But to indulge in them now is of no help.
So, as it always does, it comes back to meditation. Sant Mat teaches that we must be rigorous in our practice, stringently abide by our principles and always do our daily meditation. If we are to encourage the mind to turn inward, we must give it something better to attach itself to. Eventually and naturally the mind will turn within, as we begin to enjoy the light and sound emanating from Shabd. It is then that we start withdrawing from our attachments, as the growing heat of yearning melts the mind’s noisy voice.
The mind quietens and begins to feel at peace
Shabd, the Word, is realized only when we have passed into our own nothingness. We recognize that Shabd is that formless essence and ultimate truth that gives life and form to everything. There is in reality, nothing but Shabd. Sant Charandas says:
Ever since I heard the resounding ceaseless melody,
my senses have become weary, my mind has dissolved,
and all hopes and desires have burned away.
These roving eyes have turned inwards;
the body has become still and the soul has become intoxicated.
When the illusion of this elaborate and convoluted dream of life here is shattered and our receptivity is awakened to Shabd, the Masters tell us that our real spiritual journey will begin.