Life’s Multiple Journeys
You may have seen those sets of nesting Russian dolls that are sold both as intriguing toys for children and as beautiful ornaments. The smallest doll is enclosed by a slightly larger one, which in turn is enclosed by a larger one still and so on. Likewise, our day-to-day physical journeys with which we are so familiar – the journey to work and back again, the journey to meet up with friends, the journey to the shopping mall – are very much like the smallest doll. These journeys fit inside a much larger one – the journey of our life, which begins at birth and ends with death. A single lifespan, in turn, fits into the greatest journey of all, the journey of our soul, the enduring part of us that existed even before time began.
Thinking about this greatest journey of all raises all sorts of questions. Specifically, who are we, where did we come from, where are we going, and how do we get there? Although Sant Mat presents us with a logical philosophy, the saints suggest that we simply take it as a hypothesis, imparting a method so that we can test it and find answers for ourselves. As many teachers know, learning through experience is far more effective than knowledge gained passively.
The Sant Mat hypothesis and method
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘hypothesis’ as a proposition put forward for reasoning, without any assumption of its truth, and as a starting point for further investigation. In common with the ideas of the major religions, the hypothesis proposed by Sant Mat is that there is a God who made the creation; he is a loving Father, and the true and enduring part of us, the soul, is of his essence. Separated from him within the creation, the soul longs to return to him.
If we accept this hypothesis – that the soul has originated with God and is on a journey through creation back towards him – the crucial question becomes how it can do this. Meditation is the method proposed by Sant Mat, as explained by Maharaj Charan Singh in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol II:
Meditation is very simple. We all know there is one God, and that he is within every one of us. And God has made us all alike. If he is within every one of us, and if there is only one God who can be found within ourselves, there cannot be more than one path leading back to the Father. It has got to be the same path in a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu, a Sikh or any other person because the Lord has made us all alike.
To find “the path leading back to the Father” as described by Maharaj Charan Singh, we must collect our consciousness and focus it between the eyes, where we can make contact with the divine within. However, as Maharaj Charan Singh goes on to explain, whilst the soul is the activating power that keeps us alive, within the realms of the material plane it is inextricably linked with mind. And as we know all too well from personal experience, mind is highly distracted, fickle and inconsistent. Indeed, its highly scattered nature remains the key difficulty we encounter in trying to find the inner path. Even if we locked ourselves away in the darkest and quietest of rooms, we would fail to stop the hundreds of random thoughts whizzing through our consciousness. The very nature of the mind means that it never ceases to be active; even when we are at rest, it projects backwards through memory and forwards through worry, which is precisely why Maharaj Charan Singh emphasizes that meditation is critical. It is the only method through which we can gain control over the mind, allowing it first to focus, then concentrate and eventually, become still so that the soul can awaken and begin its ultimate journey.
Testing the hypothesis: from reflection to reality
The super conscious state that we reach through concentrated meditation makes us aware of the audible life stream that exists within us all. This divine energy, which is forever present and never diminishes, is a part of the Creator. As our concentration improves and we start to hear the sound current, this Shabd, which is God’s creative energy, will automatically gather our consciousness to itself and allow us, bit by bit, to experience deeper and deeper levels of reality.
We may ask, “What deep reality? Isn’t what we see and hear before us real?” The mystics (drawing upon their personal experience) say “No” They explain that the physical world in which we find ourselves is just a reflection of a reflection of a reflection of the truth. In many ways, this explains the nub of our problem. Since a small bit of reflected glory – in the form of love, compassion, kindness and all the other noble virtues – exists on the material plane, we cling to these reflections because we are unable to recall their pure form. Put another way, we mistake reflections of truth to be real even though they are no more than pale imitations. If there was ever a reason why we need a living Master so that we can discover reality and embrace the spiritual life, this certainly is it.
As highly evolved spiritual beings, the mystics personify pure love. In them we observe the best and noblest of human qualities brought to perfection. Exuding love and positivity, their intrinsic magnetism stirs our soul and we feel a strange mixture of love, happiness, and contentment when thinking about them or in their physical presence. The experience of their love convinces us more than any number of spiritual books or discourses that there is a higher reality and truth. On this basis, we take a leap of faith and ask the Master to impart the method through which we can realize this for ourselves. We call this occasion ‘initiation’ because as the Master instructs us on the three aspects of meditation – simran, dhyan and listening to the sound current – we begin a new way of life.
The purpose of simran and dhyan is to focus the mind and withdraw our consciousness to the eye centre. In that stillness, we do bhajan – listen to the Word of God. This process of “dying while living,” as Maharaj Charan Singh calls it in Die to Live, is the key to a joyful life, not least because the most important relationship of our life has begun. The Master is an unfailing friend who constantly seeks our good. Even when we are physically thousands of miles apart from him, whenever we turn our attention towards him, he always responds in one way or another. In this way, slowly and surely, our love and faith in him develops and provides the fuel to carry us all the way to our spiritual destination.
To sum up, the teachings of the saints provide us with a method by which we can discover truth for ourselves. On this spiritual journey we are not alone but receive help, guidance and inspiration from the Master who initiates us and awakens the latent power of love that exists within us all. What appeared to be out of our comfort zone becomes comfortable, what was difficult becomes straightforward. The seemingly impossible becomes possible.