Nothing Else Matters
This discourse is about the idea that nothing else matters. It’s a theme that we see throughout the writings, satsangs and questions and answers of the Masters. They are giving us a spiritual perspective from the highest level of consciousness, and this opens our eyes to a whole new world of spirituality – a world that we could never know on our own. And for those who want to live in that spiritual reality, the Masters are very clear about what matters and what doesn’t matter.
Compared to the Masters, our vision is very limited, but there are a few things that we can know from simple observation. For example, we know that we are human beings, we know that we were born and we know that we will die, and that right now we are somewhere in between – for many of us here, probably closer to the end. What we don’t know is what happened before we were born, if anything, and what will happen after we die, if anything. Many people believe that there was nothing before we were born and there will be nothing after our death. This is because we identify with the body.
But the saints tell us something very different. They tell us that we are not this body; we are the consciousness that resides in the body, and we can experience this difference through our meditation. They say we have lived countless lifetimes in the bodies of many different species. But this period of time in the human form is very special because only humans have the opportunity to attain union with the Lord, which means that after millions of lifetimes of suffering we can finally achieve liberation. In fact this is the sole purpose of human life.
All saints stress that this highest state of attainment, God-realization, is obtained only through a true Master. And it's only through the Lord's grace that we are fortunate enough to come across a true Master and receive initiation from him in this life.
The soul has never been interested in anything in this world. It has only one desire, and through initiation by a true Master its only desire – to return to its true home – is about to be become a reality. So from the point of view of the soul nothing else matters.
The responsibility for returning the soul to its home has been given to the Master, and he will see that it gets done. But in this process we also have a responsibility, a part to play, so it is essential that we understand what is required from us. This is why Baba Ji asks us to think carefully about what our objective is in this life, so that our decision to follow this path – or to keep following it – is a conscious decision.
Yogi Berra, a great American baseball player, coach and manager, said, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”1 The clearer we are about our objective, the more committed we will be to seek the ways and means to achieve it. This type of reflection is rare, but without it how can we make decisions about what really matters, and what doesn’t matter? How can we make the very deep commitment that is required to travel on the path? This is no small commitment – the spiritual journey within the human body extends all the way from this material plane to the highest plane of pure spirit.
The journey begins at the toes of the feet and ends at the top of head. The first part of the journey, to the eye center, is what we must cover in this life. It consists of concentrating the mind and making the attention stay at the eye center. This is a process in which the attention currents are withdrawn from the entire lower portion of the body and focused completely in the eye center. It is here that the inner path begins, and when we arrive at this point a great transformation takes place: the light that we will see is so blissful and the melody that we will hear is so enchanting that the balance of our attention that weighed heavily toward the world now shifts from the outside to the inside.
Think of a balancing scale. The weight on one side represents how much of our attention we put into the world through all of our desires and attachments. And on the other side, the weight represents the amount of interest we have for our spiritual practice. In the beginning the scale weighs heavily to the worldly side. Our thoughts and our loves are in the world. But through our meditation, by coming to satsang, by doing seva and by living the Sant Mat way of life, little by little, as we get some concentration our interest begins to shift. We experience some peace and bliss and happiness in our meditation even before we have any progress, and that gives us a detached outlook on everything in the world.
At some point in our lives the inner eye will open and we will enter within, whether it’s during our lifetime or as we near the end – and we will meet our Master there. It is here that our perspective will take a gigantic shift. When Hafiz went inside and saw his Master this is what he had to say:
I have little interest in that holy stone or in the arch thereof. For me, my Master's forehead is the Ka'aba shrine, and his eyebrows are the sacred arch. Within the length and breadth of these is my world confined. For the rest I have no care. Whether the world survives or perishes, whether the ship of the world sails on or flounders, whether the fortunes of the world wax or wane, I remain wedded to Thee, I prize Thee alone. I am enamored of thy alluring face. I am intoxicated by thy resplendent beauty.2
When devotees meet their Master within they lose interest in everything else. For them the Master becomes everything – nothing else matters. To reach this state we must go through the same process in our meditation that one goes through at the time of death, when all the soul currents are withdrawn from the lower part of body and brought to the eye center. This is referred to as dying while living. This is the object of our meditation and it is this state that is exalted by all saints and mystics. Hazur Maharaj Ji said:
By withdrawing our consciousness to the third eye and listening to the Music of the Sound Current, the Audible Life Stream, our mind and soul together rise out of the tomb of this body and become free from it. By the grace of the Master, we cut asunder our attachments with the world and forget its troubles and miseries. Daily, through the practice of meditation, we die. We die to live, to enjoy the eternal bliss and peace of our True Home, and live forever.3
So this act of dying before our death, or reaching the eye center before the clock runs out, becomes our objective. And the only means to achieve this objective is through our meditation. Since we don't know when this life will come to an end, we need to approach this goal with a sense of urgency, and the understanding that nothing else matters makes us more focused on this goal.
Think about a person who is deep under water and is trying to get to the surface. He only has a limited amount of oxygen in his lungs and if he doesn't get to the surface before the air runs out he drowns. The air in his lungs is the time we have left in this life, and his effort to get to the surface is our meditation – working to bring our attention to the eye center. If he gets to the surface he will finally be able to breathe. He will find life. He will live.
He understands that nothing else matters except getting to surface. If he uses his precious oxygen for anything else he may be jeopardizing his chances of getting to the surface. As the German philosopher Goethe points out:
Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.4
So this understanding that nothing else matters makes us question all the things in this world that take our attention. It is the mind's love of the world that is keeping us back. Our attachments, our desires, our thoughts and our loves are all firmly in the world, and they keep us from rising up.
We should ask ourselves if anything in this world has ever brought us happiness. There is a very insightful line in Ecclesiastes, which was attributed to King Solomon about 1,000 years before Christ. He says:
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.5
Another word for “vanity” is meaningless, and “under the sun” means in this world. So he is saying that everything we do in this world is meaningless. We have been running after all these things for so long, and we have never found what we are looking for. It is just like grasping for the wind. And when we open our hand, there's nothing there.
So Soami Ji Maharaj advises:
Now you have this human body,
do something for yourself.
Don't toil vainly in this world –
it is only a passing dream.
Both body and home are unreal;
why exhaust yourself over an illusion?6
If we want to be successful, if we want to achieve our objective before the clock runs out – and we are in a race against time – we cannot treat this path as a hobby. It cannot be only a part of our life. It has to become our whole life. It has to be the focus of everything we do. Everything we do has to be done in relation to the path and our practice.
We have heard that meditation is a twenty-four-hour affair. What does that mean? It means that every moment we are living with the remembrance of our Master, our only friend. It means that he is our constant companion, that we are thinking about him. We are doing simran or hearing the sound. That we are obeying him and living according to his principles. That we are always doing what he wants us to do – what is pleasing to him. That every decision we make and every choice we make is done from the point of view as to whether it will help us in our meditation. Will it bring me closer to my Master? Will it please him? Will it serve him?
We have to go through each day and earn a living and do our duty to those to whom we are responsible. We have to take care of our bodies, our homes and so many other things. But while we are doing all these things we are remembering him. We should remember that all these things have been given to us by him. He has written the story of our lives and it is for us to play our part well. To do our dharma. To do everything the best we can, especially our meditation, which requires our full concentration.
Concentration is defined as the act of giving one’s attention to a single object or activity, to the exclusion of all else. When we have deep concentration on something, everything else seems to disappear from our awareness. The mind is constantly thinking in words, and all these thoughts keep us from concentrating at the eye center, so the Master has given us simran. The purpose of simran is to replace all other thoughts that may come into the mind, so that it can retreat to its place of origin behind the eyes. This will only happen if the simran is constant and uninterrupted.
Simran is the means of remembering the Master, and of communing with him. Simran is acknowledging his presence with us. It is speaking to him in the language he wants to hear. It is our prayer to him. It is asking for his help and relying on it. And simran will bring us closer and closer to him.
So to keep our mind in simran without allowing other thoughts to intrude is our real work. But it is difficult. It’s a struggle – many think it’s impossible. And some may find it so hard that they just give up, which is unfortunate.
You’ve heard the expression that we need to pick our battles. Of all the battles one can choose to engage in, this is the one that’s most worthy of our effort. This is the one that the Master wants us to fight, and when we really try he is very pleased with us. If we really want to please the Master this is the place to start. It will require confidence, resolve and strength of will in order to succeed. But he is always right behind us, encouraging us and telling us in so many ways that we can do it.
He also helps us in so many ways. For example, our lives are filled with problems, responsibilities and worries that burden our minds, but the Master tells us that if we are attending to our spiritual work he will take care of all those things. We can let go and unload all of our burdens and worries, and they become his problems. If we have faith in him we can empty our minds and engage ourselves in the repetition of the five precious names. Tulsi Sahib said:
From your attention discard all that is other
so He may be seated there.7
The object of simran is to bring us within the magnetic orbit of the Shabd, so that we can hear the sound and it can begin to pull us upwards. And it is the Shabd that will eventually lift us above mind and maya and take us back to our source.
As it says in the Adi Granth: shabad guroo surat dhun chelaa.8 The Word is the guru, and the soul attuned to the Word is the disciple. The true form of the Master is the Shabd and the true form of the disciple is the soul. This path is Surat Shabd Yoga, which means uniting the soul with the Shabd. And what is it that truly binds us together? It is only love in its highest and purest form, because God is love and the soul is a particle of him.
It is the Master who shows us how to love. He teaches us how to love. He fills us with his love and – miracle of miracles, the greatest of all miracles – we become lovers of the Lord. This is all his grace and this is why we are here. It's the only reason we are here.
Mirdad makes this same point:
Love is the Law of God.
You live that you may learn to love. You love that you may learn to live.
No other lesson is required of Man.
And what is it to love but for the lover to absorb forever the beloved
so that the twain be one?9
In conclusion, when we finally enter within and meet the radiant form of the Master there, we are so filled with love and we become so engrossed in his beauty that the mind loses interest in everything else. For the lover nothing else exists. There is a desire to lose our identity so that we are not separate from him – we want to remove anything and everything that stands between us and him. We realize that only the Satguru is deserving of our love and nothing else matters.
- Ken McFarland, I Don't See it that Way: It Looks a Little Different from Up Here, p.81
- Maharaj Sawan Singh, Discourses on Sant Mat, 2nd ed., p.287
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live, 7th ed., pp.110–111
- Living Meditation, p.43
- The Bible (New King James Version), Ecclesiastes 1:14
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II, p.193
- Ibid., p.140
- Adi Granth, M1, p.943
- Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad, p.62