Choose Wisely, Choose Well!
There comes a time in every seeker’s life when he becomes dissatisfied with the road he has travelled so far. And it’s then that a mystic comes with a new way to approach life. He makes us aware that our obsession with feeding our egos is the very thing that stands between us and the experience of truth and reality. In order to discover the truth we need to let go of our obsessions and our egos.
But we have become slaves to our habits and have lost all perspective. Without the constant flow of sensory input and our endless activities, we become miserable and dissatisfied. But what is at the heart of the dissatisfaction that we’ve begun to feel? And what is it that we are avoiding? What exactly are we so afraid of?
Stillness and silence: this is our dread. To be still and silent is to be alone with ourself. It’s a little like being locked in a small room with a complete stranger. We feel uncomfortable, we fidget, we twitch, we reach for our smartphone or the TV remote…
But why? What is so bad about that still and silent solitude? We are so used to using our activities as a reference point that we define ourselves by them. Take them away, and suddenly we are faced with our real self. And the reality of our true self is not the person we like to think we are. The reality of our inner self includes all our weaknesses and shortcomings, not just the idealized “good guy” image that we like to project to the world around us. So to be alone with this stranger is uncomfortable for us.
But there is another reason that solitude and silence is so hard for us to bear. When we are quiet, when the mad whirl of our mind’s obsessions starts to slow down, our inner heart begins to remember its source and starts to ache with an awakening sense of separation from our true home and our true Father.
For many reasons over so many ages, we have run from the reality of our inner condition. Without any understanding of what it really is, we associated silence and solitude with the experience of pain and suffering, so we immersed ourselves in the pursuit of ephemeral pleasures, which we thought would be an antidote for the pain we felt within. But not only did we not succeed in curing the apparent problem, but in fact, by running out into the world and indulging in the sensual pleasures, we actually created more problems for ourselves – by invoking karmic reactions and by developing attachments to the faces, places and things of the material world.
Now, if we had understood all of this from the beginning and attempted to deal with it instead of running away from it, we would have been so much better off. Instead, we continue to find ourselves in this state of painful separation. In addition, we are burdened by a massive load of karmas and tied down with multiple attachments, all of which combine to bind us to a continuing cycle of birth and rebirth into this material world.
If we look at the world around us, we see its many problems: war, greed, corruption, poverty and starvation – and all of these have their roots in the ego. So if we wish to pursue a spiritual life, we have somehow to deal with this ego. We have to work towards eliminating it in ourselves so that we can rise above the limitations of mind and body and into the light of pure spirit.
The Master has given us guidance in the form of four principles. The first three cover our lifestyle, and by following them we are able to improve our lot dramatically with respect to our situation in the world. But since our objective is to rise above the material realm and enter the domain of pure spirit, we need to do a lot more than merely adopting a good lifestyle. Therefore, as the fourth principle the Master gives us meditation. It is the key to our liberation.
Without committing ourselves to these spiritual exercises, our objective continues to remain as distant and elusive as ever. It is folly to think that just by living a good lifestyle and by trying to be a good person we will one day enter the Lord’s domain. And no amount of intellectual gymnastics can replace our meditation.
The path of the Masters is not an intellectual path. It is simple; so simple that a child could practise it. Why is it then that intelligent, mature adults have such difficulty doing it? The practice of Sant Mat is to get us to still this mind and be silent in our inner solitude. Our problem is that the mind is driven by all the attachments and desires that it has been entertaining for all these years, and it never stops generating thoughts, fantasies and illusions.
In order to cure this mad monkey-mind of all its bad habits, the Master has given us simran. By doing simran with one-pointed attention at the eye centre, we start to gather our concentration, and in so doing, we weaken the bonds of our attachments.
In the beginning we find it difficult to sit still and keep our mind focused. As already mentioned, the mind does not like to sit still and continues to jump around from one thing to another. But all this activity is generated by our own attachment and addiction to the things of the world. We must continue to bring our attention back to the focus and to keep on with our simran. Slowly and slowly the mind will get the idea. By constant simran, discipline and conviction we will progress, we will improve, and one day we will succeed in getting this mind to submit and remain motionless at the eye centre.
As the mind starts becoming motionless, we begin to get an idea of the immanence of the Divine. We can take advantage of this by attending to the other practice that the Master has given us to do, namely bhajan, or listening to the inner Sound, which is constantly ringing within. The Masters say that by attuning our consciousness to it through intense listening, we can merge into it and rise up into higher consciousness.
We can do this. It may seem difficult or even impossible at times, but that is just because we have not yet started getting the results that we were expecting. The fact is that with every effort, we are getting some result, and with the accumulation of many efforts, our attention will focus at the eye centre, and our mind will start adjusting to being inside.
By constant practice we will withdraw our attention from the world outside and, in the process, weaken the grip of our attachments, until one day we find that when we meditate, we become aware of the Shabd ringing loudly within. At this point we will realize that our long years of practice have brought us to the very threshold of achieving our spiritual ambitions.
As we come into the influence of that Shabd or Nam, we start to wash off the stain of untold incarnations in the material world and karmas that we have accumulated over aeons. Slowly and slowly the action of the Shabd practice removes the burdensome effects of our past lives, and makes us increasingly fit to enter into the realm of pure spirit.
In Sant Mat there is nobody standing with a gun to our heads, saying “You must do this” or “You must not do that.” There are no rules and regulations; there are no dogmas and doctrines. What we do have is choice.
The Master has explained so clearly and logically that there are two basic paths we can follow. On the one hand is a set of actions that have negative consequences. We are well acquainted with this path, because it is this option that has dominated our lives till now. The alternative path is a different set of actions that lead to spiritual evolution and, if we persist, to the conscious realization of the Divine.
When we choose the negative, we persist in our old habits which have bound us to the cycle of coming and going in this world. This means we will continue coming back to this world, bound by karmas and attachments and driven by our egos further and further into darkness.
When we choose the positive, however, we immediately start to improve our situation. Although initially this might not be obvious, nevertheless the moment we choose the positive and commit to it, our lives start heading in a better direction. With time this starts to become evident: we feel lighter, our consciousness evolves, and we start realizing that there is so much more to life than what we see on TV or read in magazines. Slowly and slowly love dawns in us, and it is this that characterizes our progress towards the light.
The Masters don’t come to us to force us to do anything at all. They simply present to us our choices so that we can make an informed decision, based on what kind of future we would like for ourselves.
In the end it comes down to choice, so there is really only one thing left to say: Choose wisely! Choose well!