We say the goal of this path is God-realization – to realize God within ourselves. However, as much as we like the idea of merging back into God, if we’re honest, we don’t know what we’re asking for. This is because we don’t understand what God is. Each of us has his own inner concept of God, and that concept evolves as we evolve. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh asks, “What are we? Have we ever thought about ourselves?” And then he answers by saying, “We have no concept of the soul, and that means we have no concept of ourselves. Then how can we have a concept of the Lord?”
This is a very important point. We want to know God but we don’t even know what we are. Masters tell us that we are a particle of God, but even this is something we take on faith. When we think, we work through our mind; when we feel, we feel through our emotions which are also a quality of the mind. How do we know what soul is? Working our way through the confusion and lack of understanding about ourselves is part of the process of spiritually maturing.
Perhaps we should think about what it means to be mature in the world. In one of her most requested articles, Ann Landers, an advice columnist in many American newspapers, outlines maturity in a very understandable way, as a bundle of characteristics and traits. Let’s look at some of these traits that show worldly maturity to see how they also apply to spiritual maturity.
Addressing patience, she says, “Maturity means being able to resist the urge for immediate gratification and opt for the course of action that will pay off later.” This is exactly what we do when we follow the instructions of the Master. We follow the course of action that pays off in the long term. We may wait years to see the fruit of what we’re doing right now, but the mature disciple is not bothered by results, but rather is interested in putting in the effort to please his Master.
Next, Landers says that “maturity is perseverance – the ability to sweat out a project or a situation in spite of heavy opposition and discouraging setbacks.” Our mind is the heaviest opposition we will ever face. If we can stick with meditation in spite of, or perhaps because of the doubts it presents to us, we will find that we have grown more spiritually mature. Daily meditation presents the ultimate test for perseverance! Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Discourses, Vol II:
Whether the mind enjoys it or not, we should sit in meditation, looking on it as our duty. Little by little, the mind will turn itself towards devotion to the Lord, although in the beginning we have to keep up a constant fight with it.
Perseverance is closely related to patience because it often takes patience to persevere. But perseverance also implies continuing on our course of action – even when it’s not easy to do so. If we don’t constantly and patiently make the effort to remember our purpose in having this human birth, we can get caught up in worldly problems and concerns, which can preoccupy us until we reach the end of our lives wondering why we have devoted so much time and attention to them. If we replace our thoughts of worry and concern with simran, then when we look back over our lives, we will see that we’ve accomplished something amazing. In the book Essential Sufism, a Persian mystic explains how we know God is with us: “At first you act as if you’re doing the Repetition. Then you do the Repetition. Then finally the Repetition does you.”
Next, Ann Landers says the mature person can “control anger” and “can face unpleasantness, frustration, discomfort, and defeat without collapsing or complaining.” This is a really tough one! In a way it means controlling all the passions. Anger is just one of the five passions we are cautioned about. How can we think of being in control of our temper, or of any other passion, in the inner regions if we can’t control it out in the physical world? Great Master, Maharaj Sawan Singh, writes about this in Spiritual Gems:
Regarding lust, anger, pride, and so forth your view is correct. Purity of character is the fundamental basis on which the edifice of spiritual progress is to be built. These five passions will become weaker and weaker as the bliss of the Sound Current increases. In the end, all these as well as the mind will come under the control of the soul. Now the soul is under the control of mind and passions.
Control of the passions under all circumstances is difficult, and yet, this control forms the basis for spiritual progress.
Next comes one of the most compelling and significant points of maturity: Landers says that “maturity is humility.” Humility is the cornerstone of how we should try to behave. It means controlling the last and most difficult of the five passions, that of pride or ego. Maharaj Jagat Singh writes about ego in The Science of the Soul:
Pride or egotism is a malignant kind of selfishness and is the most sturdy and masterful of the baneful five. It has also the greatest longevity. It is the last to surrender. Its fundamental assumption is its own infallibility.
Real humility is not forcing the mind down; it comes from a true knowledge of our unimportance. Seen in the context of the whole creation, we are so small and insignificant. When we really know how unimportant we are, humility comes naturally, but first, we have to start by being humble in our dealings in the world.
Humility comes before we lose our ego. Eliminating ego comes before surrender to the Master, and surrender comes before we can merge into God. This is the sequence of steps that starts with humility. If we don’t have it, we can practise it; we can pretend to have it.
Also, Landers writes, “Maturity is the ability to live up to your responsibilities, and this means being dependable. It means keeping your word.”
This responsibility can clearly be related to keeping the vows we take at initiation. How often have we heard the Masters say that we must fulfil our responsibilities in this life. We must not run away from our obligations. Part of being responsible means putting in effort when we would rather be lazy. Nobody achieves great things by being lazy. Working hard is part of being an adult and it is part of spiritual maturity.
The next point she makes is about having the courage to make decisions and act on them. “Action requires courage.… Without courage, little is accomplished.” One of the most vivid images in spiritual literature is that of the spiritual warrior – one who is brave enough to face enemies bigger and stronger without question, using the weapon of simran and the shield of meditation. A word that jumps out here is “action.” Masters constantly urge us to take action because without personal experience, we will never have the necessary faith in our Master to make inner progress. Great Master, in Spiritual Gems, writes:
An individual is endowed with intelligence and does every action knowingly. It is, therefore, incumbent on him to find a way of escape from this entanglement. To raise his spirit, he must struggle against the mind, for he lives by struggle. And where there is a will, there is a way. He cannot say that this is no part of his duty.
Landers then talks about setting high goals in life: “The mature person refuses to settle for mediocrity. He would rather aim high and miss the mark than aim low – and make it.” Even though this is referring to taking risks in the world, it applies to the spiritual path also. Aiming for God-realization means we are aiming for the highest target there is. The risk-taking for us is that we push ourselves to attain a goal that we have little or no experience of. As Master points out to us, when we want something in the world we don’t expect someone to give it to us. We put in the effort to get it. The same thing goes for spiritual goals. In Sar Bachan, Soami Ji writes about our spiritual goal:
The aim and object of all religions and of all ancient seers has been to take the soul, by one means or another, back to its source. Perfect is he who, by practice and meditation, lifts his soul to its real abode, freeing it from all bonds, both internal and external, gross, subtle and causal, and thus detaches his mind from the world and its phenomena.
We have the ultimate goal in Sant Mat – God-realization. Do we make our most fervent attempt to reach this goal?
Finally, Landers sums up her article by stating, “Maturity is the art of living in peace with that which we cannot change, the courage to change that which should be changed, no matter what it takes, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is a version of the Serenity Prayer, recited at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It can be understood as “surrender” to the will of God. It means trying to do what we think is right and accepting what happens as his will – a very difficult thing to do. In fact, surrendering to the will of the Lord is much harder than the path of meditation!
These attributes of worldly maturity are a reflection of a higher, inner, and spiritual maturity. Viewed in this way, all our obstacles and frustrations in life are really opportunities to learn and practise maturity.
By keeping our Master in mind and by cultivating the desire to please him, so that this desire becomes our first priority in life, we can never go wrong. Like a child who continues to grow and mature even if he wants to remain a child, we too will grow and mature spiritually by following our vows and doing our meditation faithfully. His help and support are always there, even if we’re not at the level where we can see it.
The open reward of the Father is that he will shower his grace in great abundance upon the soul. If someone keeps their love for God a secret, saying nothing about it to others, then God realizes their spiritual maturity and fills them with his love. He does not keep his love a secret from them.
The Gospel of Jesus