Business and Spirituality
SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It refers to a strategic planning tool used by managers to assess (as suggested by the acronym) the strengths and weaknesses of their organizations and to identify the opportunities and threats firms face. The technique emerged during the 1960s following a research project commissioned by America’s most prominent businesses who could not understand why, despite extensive investment, their Corporate Planning teams failed to achieve the goals that would propel their business higher up the rankings of the ‘Fortune 500’ list. Turning to ourselves, performing a SWOT analysis may enhance our understanding of the factors impeding and enabling our spiritual journey and thus strengthen our determination to make greater effort. The individual components of a SWOT analysis can be undertaken in any order, so let us begin by taking the letter ‘o’ to assess our opportunities.
The mystics tell us that below the highest spiritual region, the universe is made up of three planes (causal, astral and material) where a myriad of different forms and beings exist. We are blessed with two of the greatest opportunities available to all the entities across the three planes, although we often take for granted the first of these – human life. The mystics remind us that the human form is a precious gift obtained after millions of lives spent working our way through the evolutionary lifecycle and that it presents a unique opportunity to liberate ourselves from the cycle of transmigration.
Attaining a human form though, whilst necessary, is not enough to accomplish life’s true purpose – God-realization. Realizing this objective is possible only if, upon the direct orders of the Lord, a perfect mystic teaches us the method through which we can attain salvation. Such a mystic, our Master from that time onwards, takes full responsibility for guiding us until we reach our destination. Our second momentous opportunity therefore, is being accepted by a Master.
We face many economic, social and environmental threats daily, but from a spiritual perspective, the failure to take advantage of the opportunity for God-realization is by far the biggest. This, in turn, produces two further perils: the prospect of experiencing death alone and the strong possibility of returning to the material plane. With regard to the former, Rai Sahib Munshi Ram summarizes a satsang given by the Great Master who describes what happens at the time of death. The Great Master makes clear that whilst a Master will protect all disciples when they die, there is no guarantee that he will give darshan to those who failed to practise their meditation:
Those satsangis who do no meditation after taking Nam from the Satguru do receive protection, though they do not get the Satguru’s darshan before death. How is this done? When the soul leaves the body, there are three ways for it to go … on the left the agents of Kal are waiting, while the Satguru is on the right. The agents of Kal call, “Come this way. The way is here.” At that moment, the Satguru catches the soul, and does not allow it to go towards the left.
With the Three Masters, Vol. II
The Master will not relinquish his duty just because we have failed to undertake ours but, equally, he may choose not to reveal himself during the very moment when we are the most vulnerable, scared and lonely. Nor will a single one of our material or familial loves offer us a shred of comfort despite having consumed our attention at the expense of meditation. As Rai Sahib Munshi Ram goes on to reiterate, the Master will save our soul from being crushed by the “jaws of Kal,” but our failure to practise meditation will result in another birth in order to complete the work we did not undertake in this lifetime.
Human nature is intrinsically frail and it is not until we start following the path of Sant Mat that we realize the full extent of our flaws. The source of these is the mind, which compels us to take one action after another, all of which have consequences that lead to further actions and which ultimately become the cause of additional births. This relentless cycle of action, reaction, cause and effect explains our journey on the evolutionary road since time began. As long as the mind is in control, we cannot escape the law of transmigration – but once tamed, it ceases to be our greatest weakness and becomes a source of great strength.
Nam is the only power through which we can control the mind, and Nam is realized through meditation. Herein lies both our greatest challenge and the source of our deepest insight. More than anything else, the practice of meditation reveals the power and obstinacy of the mind and, therefore, the difficulty of the battle we are fighting. Given that the mind assumed control from the moment of our descent from the spiritual plane, it should come as no surprise that making it motionless at the third eye is a lifelong struggle. The task, however, is not impossible, even though it may often feel that way. The Masters emphasize that each of us has the strength and capability to overcome what is, essentially, a deeply ingrained habit. It just needs considerable effort and determination on our part, the like of which we have not made for anything else ever before.
Our greatest strength is that we have the unwavering support of the Master, which will enable us to transcend all our weaknesses and threats. Our relationship with him began before we were even born; in fact our entire life has been planned to take us to his door. Greeting us with open arms, he conveys the urgent message from our Father to go home; he answers our questions and removes all doubts but, most importantly, he makes us fall in love with him. He gives us the gift of initiation, which in the words of the Great Master, “means more than if you had inherited a million dollars, or many millions.” Having connected us to the Shabd, he then works ceaselessly to honour his duty to the Lord and ensure that our soul reaches its spiritual home.
To this end, the Master seeks to reform our bad habits, using different approaches depending on our receptivity to his advice. He begins with a gentle approach but may apply more dramatic measures if we persist with our wayward behaviour. Yet, even though the welfare of the soul is the Master’s primary concern, that does not mean he disregards our material worries. A recurring theme in the letters reproduced in Spiritual Gems is that the Master’s protection and support are constant; it is we who remain unaware of how much he helps us. Thus, it behoves us to follow the Great Master’s advice and to leave all our worries, cares, and anxieties to the Master to deal with and, having become carefree, cultivate his love.
It is encouraging to learn that the more effort we put in, the greater the grace of the Lord. In fact, the love that we think we feel for the Master is a precious gift from the Lord. It is he who makes us think about him. And, as Maharaj Charan Singh explains in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, the more receptive we are to his love, “the more it grows. The more effort we put in, the more love we feel and the greater his grace, these will always go side by side.”
SWOT completed – what next?
In the commercial world, a SWOT analysis is followed by a strategic action-plan that sets out what actions need to be undertaken, who will be responsible for implementing them, over what time period, and how progress will be monitored. Whilst this approach may support organizations in their efforts to achieve their goals, it is less relevant to us because we already have the action plan graciously prepared for us by our Master. All we need to do is to act upon the Masters’ very simple message: practise meditation with as much effort and determination as possible, right here, right now. We can see that the purpose of a review is just to enthuse the mind and get it to take this necessary action. In the words of Maharaj Charan Singh in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
We should all attempt to sit in meditation every day, regularly and punctually, because this human form is given to us for that very purpose…. If you miss it some day due to unavoidable circumstances or for any reason, try to make up this deficiency at some other time.
There is very little to add to Hazur’s advice, except perhaps, the counsel of Baba Ji, who makes it clear that meditation is non-negotiable and that it is as easy as we make it.
I have no particular message to give you except the classical one that Christ left behind for all humanity, which is “Love one another.” For the greater the love we have for one another, the closer we are together, to me and the Lord. It is my hope that the group meetings … have brought about a deeper understanding of Sant Mat philosophy. It is my wish that you will devote yourself to meditation with this renewed knowledge, love and perseverance.
Legacy of Love