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The more time you devote to meditation, the more distinctly you will hear the sound current, which makes for peace of mind or, as you put it, helps us in chaining the monkey. I am glad to read that your meditation is improving. For ages the mind has been developing an intense longing for the things of this world which ostensibly satisfy it for some time but cease to do so after a while. The best way to divert the mind from the mundane baubles is to give it a taste of the inner bliss which far transcends any earthly joy. This inner bliss can be attained by going in and listening to the inner Sound constantly or at least for as long as is possible every day. This is how the monkey can be effectively chained. I am glad that you consider meditation the most important business in life.
You should increase your time for meditation. It should not be for less than two and a half hours at a stretch, whether the mind takes interest in meditation or not. Sometimes the mind avoids it on petty excuses. When it behaves like this, it should be punished by increasing the time that day by another half-hour. With the increase in time, the concentration will be complete, the attention will go in, and the sound current will be your constant companion, giving you joy and peace.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems
The Best Plan
Many of us like to make plans. We make plans for the future and set goals we want to achieve at certain times of our life, such as getting a degree, getting that first pay cheque or getting married. Some of us may have our year planned out by January every year. Only after making bookings, schedules and timetables do we feel comfortable that everything is organized in our lives.
Plans are important because they help us define what we need to accomplish. They become the mental to-do list of our life. And when everything goes smoothly, according to plan, we feel a sense of relief and accomplishment.
Numerous books on business and strategy emphasize the importance of an ‘action plan’ – steps we need to take to reach that all important goal. Numerous motivational talks also highlight the need for a plan as a key ingredient to success.
But things don’t always go according to plan. Life throws us many curveballs. Sometimes there is an unexpected pleasant surprise, like a promotion at work or an award from our peers. Or the best surprise – when the Master comes to visit our centre and all our well-laid plans for the day are thrown out the window.
Other times it may not be such a positive surprise. It may be an unforeseen illness, or a sudden tragedy. When this happens, we can be thrown completely off track and lose our sense of balance. Books and talks may teach us how to plan, but they do not teach us what to do when things do not go as intended. In Legacy of Love, Maharaj Charan Singh says:
The best plan you can make is to live in his will and accept his commands and be receptive to his grace – that’s the best plan we can make.
The Master in this sentence explains two key aspects of the path we need to follow: accept his will and be receptive to his grace. That is our best plan.
There is a famous saying: “Man proposes and God disposes.” It means that man does his job and tries his best, but at the end of the day, the results are in the Lord’s hands.
Many things in life do not go according to our plan. But we can weather these storms as long as we have the right attitude. We can see these as opportunities for us to grow and learn.
You will not be able to collect the thorns of the world, but you can definitely put strong shoes on your own feet so that you are not affected by these thorns. We will not be able to solve the problems of the world, but we can rise above these problems so they don’t affect us at all.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Thus Saith the Master
There is a story of a Master and disciple who were walking through barren land. They reached the foothills of a rocky mountain and in the distance they could hear the echo of a gushing waterfall. The disciple felt very thirsty and kept trying to find a way to get through the rocks. Finally, in defeat, he turned to his teacher and cried that it was impossible to get through. The teacher smiled and said, “Of course there is a way, you need to climb up over the rocks. What you perceive as an obstacle, is in fact your stepping-stone.” So the disciple climbed over the rocks, and the higher he went the more beautiful the view and the louder the sound of the gushing waters. He finally reached the other side and was able to quench his thirst.
Similarly, the Lord’s grace is all around us, and many times what we perceive as difficulties are actually stepping-stones towards our happiness.
I fully realize your difficulties and the situation through which you are passing but you know we cannot avoid the results of our karmas, whether they stem from this life or previous lives. Satsangis should cheerfully and patiently go through them, following the Satguru’s instructions and relying on his mercy. He minimizes most of our troubles. We see only what we have to pass through but not what we have been spared.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat
So even though the plans we make for ourselves do not always work out, we can take comfort in the fact that everything is going according to his plan – the Master plan – which is actually the best plan.
Something to Think About
The Master always keeps an eye on us and never lets us go so astray that he cannot pull us back to the path again. Sometimes the winds of karmas do blow very strong, and we stagger and become lame and can’t walk straight; but again we get a push and strength to walk straight again. When a child starts learning to walk, he falls, but he gets up again; he falls again, but ultimately he learns to walk.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
The Master and the path should always be kept in view, and meditation must become our primary concern in this life. Our every action should reflect the teachings and build that holy atmosphere in which we attend to meditation and become receptive to his bounty and grace. To this end, we must adjust our entire life, for success requires a complete transformation of the disciple. We should keep a balance, and meet our worldly duties and responsibilities, but our spiritual duty to the Master is foremost. We learn to live on the edge of this world as spectators, and do not allow ourselves to be drowned in its sensual pleasures. We learn to be in this world, but not of it, by vigilantly keeping our attention directed towards our goal.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live
Every time you repeat a Name attentively, you are trying to rise up, and sooner or later the eye focus will become the headquarters of your attention. Patiently persevere, avoid hurry, and with a calm mind sit in the spiritual exercises.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, The Dawn of Light
One of the biggest challenges for disciples is maintaining our intensity and constancy in devotion. Maharaj Charan Singh explains the reason for this. He says that above the eye centre we are filled with devotion, and below the eye centre we are filled with emotion.
Nevertheless, we should not be discouraged or disappointed by what we assume to be our lagging efforts on the path. Once the seed of devotion has been sown in us, it will grow provided we tend to it.
You never miss an aim, if what you aim at aims at you. An aim missed is always an aim attained. Let your hearts be disappointment-proof.
Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad
We do not miss the mark, provided we aim. Because the Lord has marked us to seek him, even if our efforts seem futile, we do not actually miss our target. Our love is never rejected by the Lord. As Mikhail Naimy also writes:
To a God-seeking heart all roads lead to God.
A disciple once asked whether one experiences a ‘stepping backward’ on the path. Hazur Maharaj Ji replied:
On the path, we are always going ahead and ahead. But we have to pass through so many phases; so many human failings are there. But we ultimately overcome them. The Lord doesn’t commit any mistakes. If he has marked someone, he has got to pull him to his own level. We commit mistakes, but not the One who has marked us, who is pulling us from within.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
Since we are always ‘falling up’ or ‘bouncing forwards,’ the benefit of reaching the eye centre is a stimulus to our devotion. Most of us feel devotion only when we are in the physical presence of the Master. But the saints explain that separation from the Master has its own part to play, and no union is complete without it. We can maintain intensity simply by persevering in our meditation practice. When we cannot find the Master outside we seek him within, so that separation definitely helps.
Most of us have an emotional or intellectual inclination towards the teachings, which needs to be nurtured so that it can be transformed into true devotion. Unfortunately, we are mostly longing for worldly possessions and achievements. Our spiritual longing will intensify when we reach the eye centre, where our emotions will convert to true devotion.
The catch-22 is that the fervour to seek him inside comes from seeking him inside. Our mind says that we will meditate when we feel like meditating. But to feel like meditating, we have to meditate. Hazur Maharaj Ji explains that without meditation, longing and devotion do not develop. It is only through regularity, punctuality and sincerity in meditation that we can graduate from intention to intensity, and from love for the form to love for the formless.
We are like the group of seekers who knocked on the door of their Master. They were asked to remain outdoors for a while. Growing impatient, the seekers looked around for something to do. They noticed a basket containing rubber balls and decided to play some ball games. This entertained them for a while, but eventually they became bored again. Some began to lose patience, but they were reluctant to knock again. A few of them even realized that they no longer remembered why they had come. One by one, they wandered away until only one seeker was left. While waiting, the last seeker picked up one of the rubber balls again and noticed a message on the ball. After reading the message, the seeker smiled to himself and headed towards the door. The message read, “When you are tired of playing games, please come inside.”
We have set out to seek the Lord. But because of our impatience with the process, we allow ourselves to be distracted by the creation. We need to persist in our search by entering into a realm that has already been opened to us at the time of initiation. Our love for the Lord is not perfect, but the Lord will gradually make it so as long as we stop ‘playing games’ and go inside. He is waiting for our devotion to intensify. We need to grow in our longing, to tune in by tuning in.
The more time we devote to meditation, the more we strengthen our love, grow our love, become rich in devotion. I personally think the more time given to meditation, the more pain of separation you feel. And the more pain of separation you feel, the more progress you make within because ultimately this pain of separation will make you one with the Being, with the Lord.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
Respond - Don’t React
In one of his satsangs, the Master explained that our life has become one big reaction. When we react, we lose our freedom; we lose our power to discern. The limited freedom or free will that we have is the choice we can make about how to respond to what happens to us. Our present destiny comprises of a long chain of reactions. We are always reacting to everything – people, circumstances, desires and thoughts. Sometimes our reactions leave us in an emotional mess which takes days, years, or even lifetimes to clean up
In The Book of Mirdad, the master of a monastery, Mirdad, gives some potent advice to his disciples in the art of responding to people rather than reacting. He says:
The world, not knowing you, cannot contain you. Therefore shall it receive you with a snarl. But you, knowing the world, can contain it. Therefore must you allay its wrath with kindliness, and drown its calumny in loving understanding. And understanding shall carry the day.
Mirdad is explaining to his disciples that in this world you are going to face bitterness, but you must not react in the same manner. Walking a spiritual path requires us to get into the habit of reflecting on our actions in the light of spiritual understanding. We have often heard in satsang that there is a difference between knowledge and understanding. Knowledge is just information, but the application of that knowledge can lead us to real understanding.
We should not let the ignorance of others ruffle our understanding. Maharaj Charan Singh often used to say: “If there is one fool under a roof, why have two? One is enough.” When we react with the intention to get back at someone, we are ignoring the fact that an eye for an eye would make the whole world blind. It is our ego that makes us react. If someone criticizes us, we often take it to heart and retaliate with unkind and harsh words, which we regret later. Speech can be our biggest downfall.
Maharaj Charan Singh tells us how we can best handle criticism and anger:
At times, silence is golden. Most of our problems in this creation come from our tongue. If we can control it, I think we have solved 80 percent or 90 percent of our problems – if we know how to control our tongue or how to use it. Controlling our speech is very good, and then to use it rightly is even better. If we can’t use it rightly, at least we should try to control it.
Critics are the best guides in our lives, for our improvement. Without our critics, we would never be conscious of our shortcomings, our weaknesses.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
We should try not to develop ill-feelings towards those who offend us. The habit of nurturing grievances is highly injurious to one’s own self. We grow in humility when we learn to put up with insult and injury.
We see events only in the present, isolated from the past and the future. That is why we see discord where God sees harmony. Expecting circumstances to go our way is unrealistic.
Hazur Maharaj Ji clearly explains to us why we need to accept life as it comes rather than expect it to go how we think it should:
It is only our attitude which keeps us tense and our attitude which makes us relax. We must accept the events of life. You cannot change the course of the events of life, but you can always adjust to them. Adjusting to the events of life will always make you happy and relaxed. If you swim against the waves, you will drown. If you swim along with the waves, you will get to the shore easily.
Destiny is interconnected with that of others. It’s not that one man’s destiny is an individual item; he is connected to so many people in this creation. Changing one man’s destiny means changing the destiny of the whole chain, which is. impossible.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
Spiritual masters and saints always advise us to accept our preordained fate – which is a combination of good and bad karmas. To remain in the will of the Lord means to face both our good and bad karmas with equanimity; neither being too elated during happy times nor drowning in self-pity during sad times. And while facing both polarities of our destiny, we should always keep our real objective in mind.
Being a witness
It has been said: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” It is amazing how a simple thought can turn into our destiny. We attract what we think. A T-shirt seen at a junk sale read, “Don’t believe everything you think.” We should not give too much weight to our thoughts, especially the ones that are negative. Sometimes seemingly innocent thoughts turn into forest fires. A simple craving turns into a ravenous hunger and we become restless till we satisfy that hunger. We impulsively act on our thoughts. When we act on our thoughts, we create karma. What is the cause of the karma? Just a passing thought. All judgments, analyses, expectations, worrying and obsessions are also reactions to our own thoughts.
Sakhsi is a Hindi word that means witness. Witnessing our thoughts is a technique in Buddhist meditation that involves being a neutral observer of the mind. As the mind runs after our relentless thoughts – from mundane activity to deep-seated unconscious attachments – the witness just observes this habitual pattern of the mind without participating or even identifying with it. Like a pedestrian who pauses at a railroad crossing to watch a train roll by, the witness watches the mind from a distance, as a detached observer.
Let’s bring this practice into our daily meditation, where the object of our focus is simran. As we start the simran, we can just step back, disengage our self from our mind and become a silent observer. In reality, this is actually who we are; our soul is the inner witness. As our awareness of who we are grows, our willpower grows stronger too, enabling us to remain steady even while outer events keep changing in our lives.
Finally the only answer
Ultimately meditation teaches us to respond rather than react to our lives; to adopt a more positive approach; to replace anger with compassion, greed with contentment, expectation with acceptance, restlessness with stillness, impulsiveness with mindfulness.
We are in the realm of mind and maya. This realm is based on the cycle of cause and effect, action and reaction and cannot be escaped. However, we can certainly rise above it. That is the whole purpose of our meditation. It will bring us to that level of purity and understanding where we can perform better on this stage called life.
In this light of spiritual understanding, we should consider the following lines by Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh as our benchmark before we think or act on anything that comes our way:
So do your best, thinking of every action as sowing a seed. Because at this stage you do not know – you cannot say whether you are sowing a seed or whether you have sown the seed in the past and are reaping the harvest now. So do your best.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
A wise man was invited to speak to a group of students. He arrived and asked the assembled students whether they knew what he was going to talk about. They all said, “Yes.” And the wise man said, “Well, if you already know what I’m going to talk about, then there’s no point in my saying it.” And he left.
The students again invited him to speak. Before starting his talk he asked, “Do you know what I’m going to talk about?” They all said, “No.” And he responded, “If you don’t know what I’m going to talk about, then why am I here?” And he left.
The students invited him to speak yet again. This time when he asked whether they knew what he was going to talk about, they were prepared. Half of them said, “Yes,” and half of them said, “No.” The wise man said, “Then those who know can explain it to those who don’t know, and there’s no point in my staying here.” And he left.
One more time the students invited the wise man to speak to them. This time when he asked whether they knew what he was going to talk about they were all silent. This was the moment he was waiting for, and he stayed and began to share his teachings with them.
A Wake Up Call
A Certain Kind of Selfishness
Life in modern times can be hectic. The world has become smaller and people more interconnected because of technology. So the pace of life is faster and more intense. There are likewise more of us sharing the planet’s resources, making the atmosphere around us more competitive. Most people have their attention fixed on working hard to stay afloat in this fast-paced, stressful environment.
Thus, living in today’s world poses a challenge as the pressures of daily life make coping with our spiritual duties a daily struggle. There are so many things to do, so many distractions, so many options to every facet of life. For many, it seems that everything on the schedule is far more important than meditation, as though there is all the time in the world to make up for the shortfall in meditation. Our jobs, household duties, family responsibilities, television shows, video games, and hobbies take up so much of our time.
We always try to give that time to the Father which is of no use to us at all. When we are rejected by society, by our children, by our friends, then we want to devote our time to the Father. But we have to give the best time of our life to the Father. Mostly our time is spent in growing up. Then we start getting education and training, and then we give ourselves to family life and the senses and pleasures of the world. And then we become old and everybody rejects us. Our senses don’t go along with us. Even our eyes refuse to cooperate, our ears refuse to cooperate, our limbs refuse to cooperate with us. Then we want to worship the Father. We lose the best opportunity, and the time which is of no use to anybody is what we want to devote to the Father. Then we want to be a lover of the Father. The main purpose of this human birth is to go back to the Father, so that should always be kept in view. Keeping that view, other things should fall in line.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
Will meditation ever be the primary item on our agenda when even on our rest days there is always one thing or another vying for our time? How do we develop the strength and discipline to make meditation our first priority?
We should definitely fulfil our worldly duties but Master must come first, and our commitment to meditate must never be compromised. We have to be selfish enough to want this for ourselves. We have to do our part so that the purpose of this human birth is realized and not wasted. We have to put in the effort to meditate so that we can achieve our goal – merging with the Father. Everything else can wait. We can find time to do these things after our meditation.
Nobody can live in this world without being selfish. Everybody is selfish. So we also should be selfish to find our goal in life. Why are we not selfish in that regard? We have so many considerations: family ties, relations, friends, fellow citizens. If we say otherwise, we are marked as selfish. But we should also have that instinct of being selfish to find our goal, yet we ignore that aspect. Being selfish means looking to your own personal interest. When this human birth is given to us to go back to the Father, and it is a rare opportunity which we don’t get so easily, we should also have that selfish instinct to realize that goal during this span of life.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
So, we have to be selfish enough for ourselves; selfish enough with our time to be able to give time to meditation. We must think of our spiritual growth and take full advantage of all our blessings – the gift of the human form, meeting a Master, of Nam and the opportunity to attain true liberation.
We have to develop that sense of urgency, that discipline that allows us to do the right thing and prioritize our meditation. We should have the strength of will to say “no” to all distractions and attend to them only after we have fulfilled our spiritual duty.
However, we also need to fulfil our worldly responsibilities. We should bear in mind that Sant Mat path is a path of balance, where we patiently work towards our spiritual liberation while fulfilling the obligations of worldly life. No one is advised to live a life of seclusion in order to meditate. This defeats the purpose of facing one’s destiny and clearing one’s karmic account.
So what is required is a certain type of selfishness that will allow us to adjust our lifestyle to accommodate the four Sant Mat vows, especially the vow of meditation. If we can do this, then we will have achieved the goal of human life and consequently, the liberation of our soul.
Floodgates of His Grace and Mercy
A selection from Heaven on Earth
The anniversary of Sardar Bahadur Maharaj Ji’s death was celebrated at a bhandara on Sunday, 25 October 1953, with an unusually large number of people in attendance. After Maharaj Ji’s forceful, one-and-a-half hour discourse, Babu Gulab Singh, a highly venerated satsangi of Baba Ji Maharaj, rose and asked permission to speak. He said: “Several times I have begged Maharaj Ji to start giving initiation to the many souls thirsting for Nam. The entire sangat is eagerly awaiting that great day. The last time I was in Delhi, some devoted satsangis and seekers pressed me to appeal to you to begin initiations. Once again, Maharaj Ji, on behalf of the sangat and seekers, I humbly and respectfully implore you to open your treasure house and begin to bless seekers with initiation.”
Babu Gulab Singh’s words touched all of us deeply, especially the seekers, who were overjoyed to hear their feelings expressed so clearly. In the silence that followed, the atmosphere was heavy with anticipation. Finally, Maharaj Ji took the microphone and said:
As Babu Ji has said, he and other satsangis have been urging me to start giving Nam. Hazur Sardar Bahadur Ji also left instructions to that effect. I am a slave of the Master and his sangat.
Then, his voice choked with emotion, Maharaj Ji paused for a few moments. With tears in his eyes he tried again to speak, but overpowered by his feelings, he got up and left.
The next day, 26 October 1953, Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh Ji opened the floodgates of his grace and mercy and began to give initiation. At 9:00 a.m. he left his house, wearing the shawl that Sardar Bahadur Maharaj Ji had given him, and went into Baba Ji’s room in the Great Master’s house before proceeding to the satsang hall to initiate the seekers. The sangat stood on each side of the road waiting to have his darshan. When Maharaj Ji emerged from the Great Master’s house, his face literally seemed to shine with radiance. He proceeded to the satsang hall and gave initiation to the seekers there. Initiations abroad, which had been suspended after Sardar Bahadur Ji’s departure, were also resumed.
An Explanation by Maharaj Sawan Singh in Spiritual Gems
Simran of worldly things to which man is accustomed is to be changed into simran of the names in the focus. This must narrow down the mind and this is what is called concentration. And there is no reason, if the mind sticks to the focus and is engaged therein in simran or hearing the current, that the extremities of the body – the hands, feet, arms, legs – and finally the trunk of the body – should not go numb.
There is nothing to feel disheartened about. We are up against mind, the mind that keeps all souls out of the focus. Kings, dictators, presidents, the commoners, and all are running outside the focus. Yogis, sanyasis, ascetics, and philosophers fail to catch it. War is the outcome of the mind running wild. It prevents the soul from rising up. It is the veil that hangs between our soul and our Creator. Now we have found it out, its true nature. It is our enemy. We are at war with it and we are to capture it. Guru, the experienced warrior and veteran, is guiding and supporting us. He has armed us with Nam – the sound current, the current that is finer than the mind current. So long as our attention holds the sound current, the mind is still; and as our hold on it gets firmer, the soul gets stronger and gains supremacy over the mind. In time the position is reversed – the mind becomes a faithful servant of the soul.
In our ignorance and weakness, we strengthen the lower mind. The Master awakens the slumbering soul, develops in us our latent strength, through the practice of simran and Nam current, and makes us fight our weaknesses and overcome them here, thereby making us fit to enter the eye focus and go beyond. Step by step he brings us to the pitch that with the exception of the Guru and the Nam, everything else becomes a superficiality and ceases to have a hold on us.
When we are away from the Master and the satsang, the world imperceptibly impresses itself on us so much that, in spite of our regularly giving time to simran and Nam, we often begin to feel discouraged, dry, and desolate. In such a state faith and love are our support; and if faith is firm, the Master responds. He is always with us – within us – watches as a mother watches her child. So long as we are on this side of the focus, we do not see him working. But he is doing his duty.
Your worries and cares are Master’s worries and cares. Leave them to him to deal with. Having become carefree, your business is to cultivate his love. He is not going to let you drift. You will go up.
Examine your mind – the thoughts it secretes and the things it runs after. When in bhajan, the mind must do bhajan and nothing else. The door of the tenth gate opens automatically when mind and soul go in that direction and knock at it. If they run in another direction, the door remains shut. Nam is the rendezvous for all beings. It cures all sorts of ills. Guru Nanak says, “The whole world is miserable. Only he is happy who has taken to Nam.”
The Master Answers
A selection of question and answers with Maharaj Charan Singh
Q: What’s the best attitude for the disciple?
A: You have to have preliminary faith in order to practise. In order to do research in the laboratory, preliminary faith is required. Otherwise you will refuse to do research. But actual faith comes only when you are able to get satisfaction from that research. Then your faith comes, not before that. On the outside, we feel that we have a lot of faith. This is just a self-deception, I would say. We have no faith at all. Christ said that if you have even as much faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can move mountains. That faith we develop only from within, by practice, by testing within. Not outside.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
Q: Master, when we have a strong thought about a situation, is there any way to eradicate that or to lessen its effect?
A: I can tell you a positive thing. Instead of worrying about eliminating that thought, attach yourself to the sound within and you will automatically rise above the thought. It’s very difficult to eliminate thoughts one by one. It’s impossible. But when we attach ourselves to the Shabd and Nam within, all these thoughts are automatically eliminated. Instead of cursing the darkness, we should light a candle.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
Q: Since masters or saints always give their grace, where does the value of effort come on the path?
A: The grace forces you to put in effort, unless you want to resist the grace. You see, you will feel the pull from within to sit in meditation, to achieve something within. That is the grace. Now grace is pushing you to make the effort, making you sit in meditation, making you awake early in the morning, and making you feel guilty the whole day if you don’t attend to your meditation. That is all grace. That is forcing you to put in effort. So saints have their own way of giving grace.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
Q: Master, there are times when the Master seems withdrawn, when he seems very distant. Is he making us run after him, as it were?
A: Well, brother, if you’re nearer to him within yourself, he will be nearer to you anywhere in the world. If you’re far away from him within yourself, he will be far away from you even if he is living next door to you. You see, nearness you will only feel from within if you are attending to your meditation. If you are in love with him within, then wherever you may be living, you’ll find him always near you. And if you are not able to build that love and devotion within yourself by meditation, then even if he’s living next door to you, he’s far away from you.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
Q: Has the Master the power to help the disciple open the inner eye while the disciple is meditating, or is it just that we have to be purified so much until it automatically opens of its own accord and then the Master helps us to open it?
A: Brother, it takes both. We have to put in the effort, and the grace of the Master is always there. My Master used to tell us that if a disciple goes one step forward, the Master comes ten steps to receive him. If we go ten steps, he comes a hundred steps to receive us. If we are sincere and honest in our devotion, in our efforts, he never withholds his grace. It is always there.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
The Quest for Excellence
We are all aware of the changes we need to bring about in our lives and in ourselves in order to strengthen spiritually and make headway towards the eye centre. Humility, faith and obedience, for example, are among the many qualities that are assets to any practitioner on this path.
It is not easy to act humble if we feel that we are better than others, or to have faith when doubts assail us. This means that in order to imbibe any virtue we need to feel it from within.
Hazur Maharaj Ji used to say that with meditation all these qualities rise within us “like cream over milk.” So why is it that we are asked to develop these qualities? Why are we reminded to have faith, to keep a check on our egos and to surrender to the will of the Lord?
Yes, it is true that these virtues or this spiritual strengthening will automatically come from within, through daily meditation. But it is also true that we can learn to practise these virtues and in this way train the mind.
When someone asked Hazur Maharaj Ji how one becomes humble, Hazur answered, “Brother, what is there to be proud of?”
If we think about it, we will realize that nothing we possess is going to be with us forever. The house we live in today belonged to someone else before us and maybe even while we are still alive, it could be transferred to someone else. The limelight we enjoy today was once someone else’s, and sooner or later, the focus will shift to another.
Realizing that we possess things that are transient, or that we are vulnerable to disease, old age and death can easily puncture our inflated egos. It is thus useful to get a reality check every so often; it helps keep us grounded.
It is the same with all other virtues. When we consider the fact that we can sleep in only one bed or wear one set of clothes at a time; when we consider the fact that to avoid traffic jams, we might need to take public transport despite having many cars, we realize that we can actually be content with much less.
When we have a hard time accepting the events of life, we can instead try to accept that we are helpless before our destiny. How many times have we tried and struggled to acquire something that was just not meant for us?
We have to face situations at every step in this life, and at every step in this life we have to explain to our mind, “You have to accept whatever comes in your fate and accept it smilingly, cheerfully. Why grumble?” It’s a constant training of the mind.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live
Meditation will provide us with the ultimate experience that will make us aware of the greater truth and open our eyes to our false sense of self. But we must also use our sense of discrimination and logic to develop these virtues that can help lift the dense fog of our ego.
Did You Know?
It is wrong to hate or dislike a person simply because he does not worship God as we do. God sees only our love for him and that love can be expressed in several ways.
Maharaj Jagat Singh, The Science of the Soul
Man is half angel and half devil. If he overcomes lust and other beastly qualities, he rises higher than the angels; if lust overcomes him, he falls below the level of the beasts. In this human life you can, if you will, become God or fall to the level of the devil.
Maharaj Jagat Singh, The Science of the Soul
When a person has made contact with a perfect Master, whether in person, in writing or through his representative, with the object of getting initiated by him (whether in person or by proxy as directed by him), the Master takes all responsibility for that person even if he passes away before initiation. From the time of his desire for initiation from the living Master whom he has contacted as mentioned above, he is under the protection and guidance of the Master.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Quest for Light
O Master, you are the Creator and we are your souls.
I am a sinner even to the tiniest pore of my being –
please forgive me, O Lord!
Sant Charandas was a well-known 18th-century saint. He taught that the path of true happiness and knowledge is acquired by detachment from this creation and attachment to the love of the everlasting Creator. Thousands would gather to hear his satsangs and have his darshan, and his sangat included great rulers of Delhi and Jaipur.
Given that Sant Charandas was deemed a revered teacher and an elevated soul, one might wonder why he would submit himself to his Guru and call himself a lowly sinner. At the end of the poem, he appeals to his Guru, asking him to accept him, a lowly slave, and liberate him from this world. Nearly every hymn of Sant Charandas begins or ends with a reference to his Master’s grace. In fact, all great saints do the same thing. Why?
The virtue which makes all great saints surrender to their Masters and the Lord, is humility. Maharaj Sawan Singh expresses the importance of humility this way:
Water does not gather at the top of hills but flows down and accumulates there. He who bends drinks water but he who holds his head high remains thirsty.
The Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. III
Like Sant Charandas, all true saints know that the Lord is the only truth that is ever-present and everlasting; the truth that permeates and illuminates all realms. He is the beginning and the end of all. He is beyond all beginnings and endings. When nothing existed, only he existed; when nothing else remains, he alone will remain.
It is wrong to hate or dislike a person simply because he does not worship God as we do. We all want a personal connection with the Lord. However, on this physical plane, we inadvertently commit countless sins. When the time comes for us to face the Lord, we will have to answer for them. At that moment, we receive what we deserve according to our karmas, and we cannot be sure what the fruits of our good and bad actions will be.
Sant Charandas explains that the Lord is the beneficent Father who ferries lost souls across the ocean of existence. The soul is burdened with countless karmas, and the forgiving and merciful Lord is our only true support. If we humbly approach the Lord and seek his forgiveness and shelter, he will shower us with his grace and mercy. Hence, the importance of the words of Great Master: “He who bends drinks water but he who holds his head high remains thirsty.”
Another reason why Sant Charandas submitted to his Guru and no one else is because we, as individuals, may read and hear that the Lord is eternal, all-powerful and omnipresent, but this is just a concept in our mind until the soul actually realizes its own divinity. It is only a true living Master, a Satguru, who can lead us through and beyond scriptures towards true understanding because he has successfully travelled the inner path and is one with the Lord. Without him, spiritual progress would not be possible. How can we imbibe the virtue of humility? Maharaj Sawan Singh wrote:
Of course, as truly civilized and civil persons we should address others with respect and in accordance with good manners. We should behave humbly, and to show regard for the guest, utter words in humility. This befits us as human beings. There can be no doubt that we should utter words which come from our heart to our guests. A truly humble heart desires that instead of his saying so, others should say of him that he is the most inconsequential and unimportant person.
Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. III
A truly humble person produces sweetness in his heart, and that sweetness would be for everyone and everything. We cannot simply act or pretend to be humble – the Lord knows the difference – and true humility does not appear overnight. We imbibe this virtue gradually, through seva, satsang, doing our meditation, and by following the teachings of the saints.
All great saints express their humility towards their own Master, not only through their interaction with them, but also through their hymns and poetry. The Great Master says that to many persons, humility is natural while some learn humility from the sufferings of the world. But true humility can be learnt only in the company of saints.They are the epitome of this virtue and by following their example and teachings, we too can learn to bend our heads and partake of that divine nectar.
Enshrined in Blessings
Consider these two heartrending situations:
There was once a poor farmer who was about to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. A mystic saw him and stopped him just in time. He asked the farmer why he would want to commit such an act, and the farmer replied that he was so poor that he could not bear to continue living.
The second incident is about a disciple who ran to his Master crying and in desperate need of help. He said that his whole family lived in a single room – wife, children and in-laws. He complained that he could not continue living this way. “Everyone’s nerves are on edge and they all yell and scream at each other all the time. Our room is not a home, it is hell!” he cried.
Both stories reveal circumstances in life that can lead people to terrible extremes. We can become disturbed to the extent of not being able to bear it any more, and thus, lose our balance. In such circumstances, we turn in anguish towards the Lord and blame him for our misery. Overcome by anger and emotion, we fail to hear the inner voice of reason that reminds us that there is an unbreakable link between us and the Lord and he is aware of everything we are going through.
That link is our soul – a particle of God, which is present in every living thing. The soul is as eternal as God himself. Since the soul was knotted to the mind when it entered creation, whatever actions one performed at the bidding of the mind entangled the soul into the world of karma and suffering. Therefore, whatever circumstances one goes through in life is just a result of one’s own actions. It cannot be changed. One simply has to go through it. What we have the power to change is the attitude and the way that we perceive our situation.
So, what happened to the farmer who wanted to commit suicide because he was poor? He was saved by the mystic who promised to help him. The mystic told the farmer to wait, while he made arrangements to get him as much money as he wanted. Soon, some disciples of the mystic arrived. One of the disciples had only one eye. The mystic asked him how much money he would pay to get one eye from the farmer. The disciple replied that he would pay 500,000 rupees. The mystic asked another disciple with a bad arm how much he would pay to the farmer to replace his bad arm for the farmer’s good one. The disciple replied that he would pay 200,000 rupees for the farmer’s good arm. The mystic asked the farmer if 700,000 rupees would be sufficient, or if more body parts should be sold. Appalled, the farmer replied that he was not ready to sell any of his body parts for any price. The mystic then asked the farmer how he could possibly be poor if each of his body parts had such a high value. Recognizing the wisdom of his words, the farmer fell at the feet of the mystic and thanked the Lord for the precious gift of a whole and healthy body.
In the case of the disciple who was terribly disturbed about his whole family living in a single room, his Master proposed an exercise for him. “Do you promise to do whatever I tell you?” the Master asked him. The man said, “I swear, I shall do anything.” “Very well. How many animals do you have?” The man replied, “A cow, a goat and six chickens.” So the Master advised him to take all the animals into the room with him and then come back after one week. The disciple was appalled. But he had promised to obey so he did as he was told and a week later came back a pitiable figure, moaning, “I’m a nervous wreck. The dirt! The stench! The noise! We are all on the verge of madness!” This time the Master said, “Okay, now go back and take the animals out.” The man ran all the way home and came back the following day, his eyes sparkling with joy. “How sweet life is! The animals are out and now our home is a paradise – it is so quiet, clean, and spacious!”
The underlying message in both stories is undeniable. Even in life’s worse case scenarios, we are surrounded by blessings in ways we do not realize. The farmer may have been poor, but he was blessed with a healthy body. Through the mystic, he learned to appreciate what he had, rather than complain about what he didn’t have. While the second man learned that happiness is relative. His tiny room could have been both hell or paradise depending on how he looked at it.
Saints explain that happiness and suffering are emotions that emerge from our involvement with the creation and its elements. The focus of the human experience is the soul and not the body. The Lord has sent souls to the world for a specific purpose, and that is for the soul to merge back into the Lord and unite with him. Without the fulfillment of this purpose, one cannot attain true and permanent happiness.
The Lord has showered his grace upon all of us in more ways than we can absorb. Were it not for his grace, we would never even think of our separation from him, nor would we desire to return home. But for his grace, we would never have met the Master nor followed the path. He creates the desire within us to meet him and he pulls us from within. With his grace, we develop faith in the Master and put forth the effort to practice, and attend to meditation with love and devotion.
We need only to recognize the blessings that he not only surrounds us with, but also enshrines us with, to fully appreciate our situation in life. So, if we were to ask for anything, we should ask that he bestow his love on us and dye us in the hue of Nam so that we can have the wisdom to accept everything that comes our way with a grateful heart and submit to his divine will.
The Call of Love
Sometimes in life, we get this inexpressible feeling. When we try to put it into words, we call it loneliness, unhappiness or some kind of lovelessness. Like a vacuum in the heart, this feeling presents itself from time to time for no apparent reason. Sometimes it comes when we are by ourselves, alone and contemplative. For instance, a walk in the park, surrounded by nature, could kindle this feeling. Sometimes it is triggered by an unexpected event, like an illness, a broken relationship, a financial setback or the loss of someone dear to us. And at other times, it comes when everything is going perfectly well. There is no explanation for it. It just comes and goes throughout our life, and since there is no word for it, we call it that empty feeling.
On the other hand, there are many who do not address this feeling at all or who perhaps have not thought about it. Infatuated with the world, they are busy shopping, travelling, changing jobs, entering new relationships – not realizing that much of this frenzy stems from the desire to fill that inner void. These days, we are living in a world where human beings have a constant need to fill every silent moment with some kind of social stimuli just to escape from that empty feeling.
Sometimes it works. When we are distracted, we think we are happy and life is good; but it does not last long. Eventually, things change and that empty feeling comes back, stronger than ever. Then it becomes clear that no amount of distractions or visits to the therapist can help.
Saints and mystics tell us that this indescribable feeling exists for a reason. They say that the Lord himself plants it in the hearts of those beloved souls whom he wants to call back to him. It is this feeling that prompts us to search for the true meaning of our existence.
Before it (the soul) is wholly one with Him, He fills it with fervent desire, by means so delicate that the soul itself does not understand them, nor do I think I shall succeed in describing them in such a way as to be understood, except by those who have experienced it; for these are influences so delicate and subtle that they proceed from the very depth of the heart and I know no comparison that I can make which will fit the case.
Saint Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle
When we reach a point in our life when material things and worldly pursuits no longer fulfil us, we turn to spirituality. And through the teachings of the saints we are given the opportunity to channelize this feeling of loneliness towards our meditation. The feeling of not belonging anywhere and not being satisfied by anything in this world is conducive to the spiritual life. Hazur Maharaj Ji calls it the Lord’s grace.
That is a God-given gift, I would say. That’s his grace, if we are able to realize that fact and live with it and then try to overcome that loneliness by meditation. This feeling of loneliness may pull us to the senses or may pull us to the Father. To overcome this feeling of loneliness we become a victim of the senses or bad company. And to overcome this loneliness, we become saints. This instinct has been kept by the Father within every one of us.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
This feeling is a precious gift that leads us to the doorstep of a living Master. It is actually a clear sign that the soul is weary and wants to return home. It is for those souls that the Lord sends his beloved sons to this earth on a mission: to bring them back home. So when we embark upon the path of Sant Mat, the Master is our unfailing guide; he takes charge of our lives, delegates our karmic load as he deems fit, and places us in an environment that allows the soul to be cleansed and fit to be taken back home. It is through meditation and living the Sant Mat way of life that our empty feeling is converted to yearning and love for the Lord.
When we read about lives of the saints, we can see how the same feeling of emptiness led them towards union with the Lord. They channelized this feeling towards their devotion, and as their love grew so did their yearning. And they found happiness in this feeling.
The saint Mirabai was once asked, “Why don’t you forget him? You are so miserable and unhappy in separation.” Her response was “Don’t take this love from me. Take anything from me, but don’t take my love for my Guru. I appreciate this separation more than giving it up.”
As a matter of fact, this feeling is the outcome of the thirst of the soul for its Lord, and should be welcomed. If correctly employed, it will lead our footsteps to the palace of the Lord. The Lord’s gate is open to all. He loves to meet us even more than we can possibly long to meet him. It is He who creates in our hearts the desire to meet him.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Quest for Light
In retrospect, that empty feeling is actually a call of love – a call from the beloved Lord to look inward and upward. By placing this feeling in our hearts, he offers us the opportunity to get to know him and experience the wonder of his ways. It is a game of love that he plays where he keeps himself hidden in our hearts, and that empty feeling is him calling out to us so that we might seek him. And when we meditate, we seek him and respond to his call.
There is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?
You feel the separation
from the Beloved.
Hush, Don’t Say Anything to God:
Passionate Poems of Rumi
The choice of turning life’s bitterest moments into positive ones, responding instead of reacting, and using difficult situations as an opportunity to learn are all a result of clear thinking. Clear thinking is a positive quality to have in life, and even more on the path of God-realization.
Satsangis should form the habit of ‘thinking’ – clear thinking. Very few people ‘think’. Why do we lose our temper? Because we do not reflect. Why do people fall prey to the attack of lust? Because they do not think. Vichar (clear thinking) is ninety percent abhyas (spiritual practice). Clear thinking is a blessing. It can easily be attained by a little practice.
Maharaj Jagat Singh, Science of the Soul
Clear thinking is important because it allows the disciple to maintain focus and remain steadfast on the path of God-realization. We know from experience that life is not a bed of roses. Everyone wants to live in perfect circumstances and have smooth relationships. But sadly, this is not possible.
The Master constantly reminds us that this creation is imperfect, and looking for perfection in a realm of imperfection is futile. The spiritual adept opens our eyes and teaches us the Truth – what remains is for us to experience it and become perfect within ourselves while going through the imperfections of human life.
Meditation develops clear thinking. It helps us maintain a balance in life regardless of how seemingly impossible or difficult our situation may be.
Sant Mat teaches us that the drama of life unfolds according to our karmas. The highs and lows of our life are driven by karma – the universal law that governs this creation.
Clear thinking allows us to respond rather than react, separating us from the heat of the moment, giving us space to digest the situation and think of a reasonable solution and course of action. A studied response is acting in faith, while reacting is fear in action. When we respond rather than react, it means we trust that the Lord has a solution to our situation already in place.
Think about this for a second:
God (being God), having infinite knowledge,
Not only knew your every thought and action
Your life would ever experience
(Even before you were born)
But he also, being the divine Creator,
Has etched every moment of your existence
With his own hand
With the precision and care
No artist ever could.
The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master
Similarly in the Bible it is written: “But even the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” Clearly, the reality is that our existence, our destiny and our life are on autopilot. Everything is going according to the will of the Lord. We need to realize and understand that our free will is limited.
As human beings, we have the ability to discriminate right from wrong and this is what separates us from the lower species. This creation is based on a system of duality, of action and reaction, the law of karma. Animals cannot discriminate and are driven by their survival instinct, therefore they react rather than respond.
Our limited free will allows us to choose between coffee or tea, formal or casual dress, apple pie or chocolate cake and so on, but the template of our decision-making is based on our mental conditioning, which in turn is programmed by our gender, ethnicity, cultural background, upbringing and so forth – all of which we had no part in creating.
Actors in a play perform the roles assigned by the director. We have been given roles to play in this life. If we accept this, as hard as it is for our egos to digest, we must be grateful to the Lord that we have reached the top of creation (the human form) and make best use of this opportunity by applying ourselves to self- and God-realization. Only through spiritual practice taught by the Master can we experience absolute reality and go beyond mental understanding.
First comes the grace of God, then the company of saints and then the acquisition of the secret of Nam. Then, by constant application and unceasing devotion, comes the actual realization of Nam.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat
We therefore, need to develop a sense of urgency, for we are living on borrowed time. Every second that passes will never come back. Our life is a diminishing balance of time, and the clock is relentless. Like the prepaid load on a mobile phone, we are living on a prepaid load of life, and our card does not have the option to reload.
Applying ourselves diligently to our meditation creates clear thinking and spiritual clarity. That is the long and the short of it.
Heart to Heart
In these intimate gatherings with the foreigners, Hazur Maharaj Ji revealed his human face – his compassion, his humility and, to the delight of the sangat, his down-to-earth and wonderful sense of humour.
Once a lady got up in the meeting and said she would like to marry him. He replied that he was already married. In that case, she said, she would like to have an affair with him. “Sister,” he replied, “we are already having an affair. A spiritual affair.”
Legacy of Love
We hear that days before his own death, Baba Jaimal Singh said, “Would not a person who wants to return home from a foreign country after amassing considerable wealth be unhappy if he is prevented from doing so? I have collected my fortune of simran and bhajan and am ready to return to my homeland. No one should ask me to stay here any longer.”
With the Three Masters, Vol. I
from self to Shabd
By Hector Esponda Dubin
Publisher: Beas, India: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 2018.
Written in an engaging and conversational style, this short book presents the basic teachings of the Shabd masters in three chapters: “The Spiritual Dimension,” “The Realm of the Mind,” and “The World of Matter.” Core spiritual truths are presented in a contemporary way using modern-day examples and analogies from computer programming and quantum physics. Each chapter ends with a story called a “Cosmic Tale from Café Maya,” illustrating certain concepts through a fictional interaction between Murshid (the master) and Jiva (his disciple) as they meet over a cup of tea at Café Maya.
The focus of the first section of the book, “The Spiritual Dimension,” is the Shabd as the true formless reality. The author explains that the only difference between the master and the disciple is that the master identifies with the Shabd, while the disciple identifies with the body and personality. In reality we are not body and personality, and identifying with them is an illusion we need to transcend.
Most of us are imprisoned by our own concepts about who we are, what spirituality means, who the master is, and what the spiritual path is. What if those concepts that we hold dear are precisely the ones that stall our spiritual progress? What if those concepts are preventing us from moving from the limited self to the unlimited Shabd?
The author sums up Baba Ji’s explanation of our human experience: “Baba Ji says we are born in illusion, live in illusion, and die in illusion. By keeping our attention glued to the human experience, we have perceived reality in a very limited and delusional way. Our task now is to realize who we really are.” The author gives an example of how different reality can seem at different levels of existence:
Quantum physicists say that our human experience is taking place in energy fields arranged in such a way that they give the illusion that ‘things are here,’ when in reality, at a quantum/subatomic level, there are only energy fields with no solidity in them. These scientists say everything that we see is nothing but a huge quantum mirage blinking in and out of existence all the time.
In the first “Cosmic Tale from Café Maya,” Jiva asks Murshid to explain the teachings in a nutshell, to which Murshid replies, “The teachings say: My guru initiated me in the knowledge of my true nature. I am not my body, feelings, or thoughts. I’m the conscious, formless, ringing radiance of Shabd. That is what I am and that’s what the teachings say.”
In the second chapter, “The Realm of the Mind,” the author stresses the need to make the mind motionless. The real “spiritual breakthrough,” he says, comes through stilling the mind. He likens our uncontrolled thinking to a vortex, or to a rushing river:
The main reason we don’t have conscious access to the Shabd is that between us and Shabd consciousness is a rushing river of thoughts with a very strong current, always ready to carry our attention downstream. If we jump into the river of our thoughts and try to swim across, we will be swept away every time. If instead we raise our attention to the inner sound above the rushing current of thoughts, we will be able to enjoy the Shabd.
The author explains that we can’t blame Kal or the devil for our own uncontrolled thinking. “There is no devil or negative power forcing us to entertain certain thoughts. We are the ones who give life to thoughts by giving them our attention. If we don’t give them attention, they cease to exist. The more attention we give them, the stronger they become.” He describes the gift of simran:
When a disciple is initiated in the teachings of the Shabd, the master gives a welcoming gift to the new initiate. That gift is simran. But the gift he gives has to be unwrapped and then used every day. Placing our attention in simran is like downloading a new program in our life that will modify and improve our human experience.
Regarding the importance and function of simran, the author explains,
Baba Ji says that doing simran is for the soul like untying a balloon from the string that holds it down. Once the balloon is untied, it naturally starts to rise up. We cannot force our consciousness to go up to higher levels. All we can do is untie whatever holds the balloon down. The consciousness will go up on its own as a natural result of being freed from its absorption with the world. Once the attention starts to rise up, Baba Ji advises us to just let ourselves go.
In the “Cosmic Tale” that ends this chapter, Murshid stresses that the physical form isn’t the real guru. Our physical eyes see the world of duality; they can’t see the real guru, which is the Shabd, the formless higher consciousness. Shabd is also “the real you.” He says, “Your real guru is your higher consciousness.” Jiva is confused and asks why, then, does he need Murshid: what is the role of the physical form of the master? Murshid explains: “My role is to initiate you into the knowledge of your true self, so that you can realize that the Shabd is within you. I’m merely a friend who’s introducing you to another friend. That friend is Shabd.”
In the third chapter, “The World of Matter,” the author discusses the “karma program” that creates our destiny.
The perspective that true spiritual masters have on destiny, karma, fate, and the will of God is one of their most radical and challenging teachings. These spiritual masters tell us that whatever we are facing in this life is the result of a combination of the millions of good and bad actions (karmas) we performed in former lives. Once an action is done, it is imprinted and stored in a kind of cyber-file that could be called the sinchit-cloud (sinchit means storage in Sanskrit). A portion of the data contained in the sinchit-cloud is downloaded into the present life, and that forms the karma program for our present life.
Hearing about the “karma program,” a disciple may ask questions like, “Am I free to do meditation?” Or “Am I free to keep my attention wherever I want, or is that also predestined?” The author writes:
Baba Ji says that although our karmic conditions (education, environment, parents, friends, school, society, and so forth) can heavily influence how we react to what happens to us, we do have the freedom to keep our attention wherever we want. Baba Ji says we have the freedom to do meditation, to do simran, and to be receptive to the inner sound.
In the last “Cosmic Tale,” Jiva wants to know why he can’t hear any sound, and Murshid explains that it’s simply because he isn’t paying attention to it. Jiva says that all he hears is a “buzz,” and Murshid encourages him to pay attention to that. He says that in reality the “inner music is the manifestation of all love, knowledge and life.” And, he says, “Everyone paying attention during meditation can hear it.”
Book Reviews express the opinions of the reviewers and not the publisher.