There is a story about a teacher who asked her class of youngsters to talk about the great wonders of the world. Most started to talk about the Pyramids and other such things. But one child said: “My eyes, my ears, my nose, my mouth, my hands and my feet.” She was talking about the human body, truly the greatest wonder of all – but not necessarily for the reasons she was listing.
All the great mystics tell us that the pathway that can lead the soul back to its original home is to be found only within the human body. Most people spend their lives unaware of their potential. And they have no understanding of what their true purpose as human beings should be. In Thus Saith the Master Maharaj Charan Singh explains:
The main purpose of life is to realize God. This privilege the Lord has bestowed only on human beings. The human body is the top rung of the ladder of creation. From here we can either drop down to lower species or we can go back to the Father and escape from the cycle of birth and death. … The privilege of going back to the Father can be achieved only in the human life. So we should always be mindful of our destination and try to follow the spiritual path which leads us back to Him.
All true Masters are very clear about this: If we do not achieve God-realization, or start on the process of doing so, then we have wasted the privilege of the human body. We are told that even gods and goddesses pine for a human birth in order to achieve release and reunion with the Supreme Lord.
But until we actually come to the path, what do we really understand about reunion with the Lord, or God-realization? Until we’ve travelled a lot further on this path this will remain no more than a concept for us. What to say then about the many people who have never heard anything about this, or would in any case feel no need to pursue this? So think how incredibly privileged we are to be amongst the tiny percentage of this world’s population who not only know of the concept of God-realization, but also how to go about achieving it.
What do the Masters tell us about the route to becoming one with God? If we are to tread the spiritual path back to God, then someone is going to have to point that path out to us. This person must be the living Master of our time.
The whole process of going home can be boiled down into a few steps. First of all comes the grace of God who sends such a Master into this world. Then the Master initiates certain souls on to the path that leads home. And then those souls practise techniques taught by their Master at the time of initiation, and within a certain time frame those souls will be reunited with God.
It sounds quite simple… until one starts actually trying to practise the techniques. The reality of this discipline has, for most of us, proved very different from anything else we have ever undertaken, and much more difficult. Happily for us, we are not left floundering, having to rely only on our own limited strength. The first obvious source of help is our very own Master, and it is indeed his God-given task to help us on this journey.
The Master is the mainstay of our spiritual journey, but there are tools that have been provided to help us. Often these tools seem more like impediments, but viewed in a positive light, we will see how much we need them. First, this level of creation provides us with time. And second, we’ve been given a mind. It is our use of time that determines whether we use this human body productively or whether we waste it. Every day has just so many hours. Every disciple needs to decide if those waking hours are being put to good use. And it is our second tool, the mind, that will help us use our time efficiently.
We are told that Sant Mat is a journey of the soul, but at our level of spiritual unawareness, for the time being, this is all about our minds. It is our mind that sets our daily programme and chooses how we will fill our time and mind-space. The mind is the vehicle that will take us to the eye centre, from where the real spiritual journey of the soul starts. It is the mind that gives us the faculties we need for the initial stage of the journey: discrimination, persistance, concentration, attention.
There are of course those wonderfully lucky souls who go within immediately at the time of initiation. But for the rest of us ours is a journey dominated by the mind. In general we tend to view the mind very negatively. But perhaps, if we viewed it more positively, seeing its attributes as necessary, then the journey in its company might be just a little easier.
Maharaj Charan Singh famously said: “Mind is the deadliest of foes, but the most useful of servants. When properly awakened and controlled, there is no limit to what the mind can do.” If we think of how the mind has in fact already helped us on this journey, we might be surprised and encouraged.
At the time of initiation we are asked to make four promises: to be strict vegetarians; to avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco products, to live honest, moral lives, and to do daily meditation. And what is it that helps us to follow these principles? None other than the much-maligned mind! It is the mind that examines food labels carefully and says Yes or No, making good path-oriented choices for us. It is the mind that allows us to turn down the offer of a gorgeous-looking piece of cake at our neighbour’s house. It is the mind that says, “I will reveal my full income to the tax authorities.” And it is the mind that at least tries to repeat those five holy words. These are big steps forward on our path, and we should give the mind credit for them. Perhaps it is more of an ally than we might think.
At this level of our journey, we seem to have a choice about how we use this tool with all of its faculties. The mind has two main abilities we should try to cultivate – discrimination and concentration. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Maharaj Charan Singh says about discrimination:
Discrimination is a development of the mind. …Thinking is mind, discrimination is mind, and analyzing is with the mind. The mind projects in many ways, but we have to utilize this faculty of mind in a better direction, not downward to the senses, but upwards in the love and devotion of the Father.
From childhood onwards we start to develop this aspect of discrimination. We need to allow it to help us move forward on the spiritual path. We must believe we can choose our thoughts and words and act accordingly. And then, having used the mind to make a choice, we have to make the most of our choice. We have to access our powers of concentration, our ability to focus our attention, and put them to the best spiritual use. What our Masters want is for us to apply our natural powers of discrimination and concentration to our efforts on the path. They want us to focus them on our spiritual goal.
Grace, concentration and focused attention are the key. Masters tell us that at the time of initiation we receive all the grace we need to do our meditation. The rest is up to us. And actually, it is not even about reaching the eye centre in this lifetime. What matters is our best effort. That’s all that the Master asks of us. And this requires focus, concentration and discrimination.
Even here we have been given a tool which can help us achieve, or at least aim towards, concentration. That tool is of course simran. We need to remember that the mind enjoys focused activity. Little by little we must turn it away from the mud pies of this world and towards simran – the vehicle for achieving our first spiritual goal, namely the eye centre. We must persevere with this because the mind really is on our side in this struggle – it just doesn’t know it yet!
The Masters tell us that the mind would also like to return to its true home, but it has forgotten about it and been seduced by this world of sense pleasures. So it seems to be our enemy – constantly rushing to its old comfortable haunts. But to deal with it we have the power of God-given simran and Master’s grace – an unstoppable combination.
Masters tell us that the object of simran is just concentration, and that through concentration we will be able to get in touch with the Shabd – that power of God that will draw our souls back to Sach Khand. Simran is a mind-tool, but it comes endowed with a power and strength we cannot possibly comprehend. Here and now we should try and grasp this tool which can eventually help us still the mind, using it as often as possible throughout the day.
In all our many lives the mind has been madly running around in the world of sense pleasures. That’s become its habit. So now, every time it repeats our simran, it is a huge achievement. Be positive. New habits can be forged, even if very slowly. Every minute of simran is a gift.
Every bit of effort we put in during the day to follow the path, cultivate obedience and choose our thoughts will be to our credit when we sit down for our daily meditation. If we haven’t been employing the mind-tools of simran, discrimination and concentration during the day, then what a battle we will face when we sit! Until we have penetrated beyond the eye-centre, this is a journey of mind. We have to pay attention to its habits during the day, because we will bring those same habits into our meditation.
We have the gifts, the tools to tackle this greatest of all tasks, and move, albeit slowly, towards our goal. Who knows how much time remains for us to put in our effort? And that’s all that Master asks of us: our best effort.
Mind is not our enemy; it is our best friend. It is an enemy as long as it pulls us towards the senses. When it comes back to the eye centre and is attached to the spirit within, and starts enjoying the bliss of Shabd and Nam within, and takes us back to our own destination, then it becomes our best friend. Without the help of the mind, the soul would never be able to go back to the Father at all.
All your emotion, your devotion, your love to begin with are nothing but the outcome of mind. Mind is creating that love and devotion in you, and soul is taking advantage of it. So we have to win the friendship of the mind.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I