The Broken Jar
Amidst the cocktail of smells I had become accustomed to, I sat and watched the white coats rushing around the sterile white hallways of the hospital. A few moments before, the doctor had delivered my sentence: “I’m sorry. The results came back. The cancer has spread. At your age, surgery is not advisable. You should prepare yourself, here or back home with your loved ones.” With that he gave me an involuntary smile, an awkward pat on my back, and left me to my thoughts. I looked out the window and realized what a beautiful day it was. It felt ironic that the things most people never appreciate are so obvious in the last days of life. The reflection in the window was a wrinkly face with a balding head. Vanity over my smooth complexion and black hair had vaporized over the years. I looked around the room. In the corner was a small suitcase filled with my belongings. Not much considering it was a lifetime’s worth. My eye caught the picture frame next to the bed – my family. In this lifetime – but not forever.
I asked myself, “Am I ready to go?”
At that moment, I recalled a parable from Jesus, in the Gospel of Thomas, about a woman carrying a cracked jar on her head, not realizing it was damaged. As she walked on the road, the contents inside it trickled out. She was not aware of this until she reached home and set down the broken and now empty jar.
The parable reminded me how I too had become distracted by my journey not realizing my own jar was broken and leaking its contents. I spent my life fulfilling a hierarchy of needs. I was hungry so I ate. I was cold so I put on clothes. I was lonely so I made friends. As I satisfied the basic needs, I became aware of still further needs. I got married. I expanded my business. I had cats, then a dog, then children came and I needed a bigger house and a car. Restlessly and relentlessly, I tried to experience and enjoy everything, without realizing that nothing in this world could give me any lasting satisfaction. Until I was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
It was then that I saw the broken jar, its spilled contents and the end of my journey. Alas, old age had crept in. Neither the body nor the mind cooperates and both had become unfit for meditation. It was difficult to hold the body motionless for long in one posture and to keep the mind still at the eye centre. Helpless and hopeless I approached my Master with my broken jar, which once had been filled with spiritual potential. I vowed to change. Meditation would no longer be a hobby, Sant Mat no longer something to decorate my shelves with and seva no longer something done to impress others.
With open arms, he welcomed me and together we fixed the jar. Two and a half hours each day, every single day, we sat, and he taught me how to harvest the spiritual wealth I had been given. There were days it became dry and tedious, but he was by my side throughout. He never gave up on me until the jar became my only focus.
The pain, fear, anger, loss and dread associated with death are never easy to deal with. However, everyone must die, be it today, tomorrow or sixty years from now. And the only way to prepare for it is to rehearse it to perfection, to die daily through the practice of meditation. As meditation became a habit, I learned to look beyond appearances and sought out that which survives death: the reality of love, the permanence of the inner radiance and the Lord’s infinite grace.
The Irish poet, W. B. Yeats, wrote:
I am an immortal soul tied to the body of a dying animal.
My body is ill but I am not. I am an eternal being living in this temporary play we call life. And I have come to learn that through dying while living.
So, again I asked myself, “Am I ready to go?”
I smiled and thought, “Yes, I am ready to leave this play called life and return home … and my Master is waiting for me.”
You have already overcome much and the inner Master is always with you, eagerly waiting for your arrival at the gates within, to receive and welcome you. When you meet him inside and talk to him face to face, as man to man, then he will be always ready to answer all your questions and to guide you all along the path. He is there now, but you cannot see him until you remove the intervening curtains. But you can easily do that. Go ahead and do it. Great will be your reward.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems