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Role of the Abhyasi in Sahaj Marg

- by Shri Ram Chandraji (Shahjahanpur, U.P., India)


1. Cultivation of Non-Attachment


We can never be free from maya unless we cultivate non-attachment.

It is true that we can never be free from maya unless we cultivate non-attachment. But it does not mean severing our connection from home, family and all worldly concerns and taking up the life of a religious mendicant. I do not agree with those who hold the view that the only means of cultivating non-attachment is to get away from home and family and retire to a solitary corner discarding all worldly ties. Renunciation effected by such forced means is seldom found to be genuine, for it is just possible that in spite of their apparent forced detachment from the world, they may still inwardly be clinging to it. No doubt, as a householders we have to look after many things; we have to support our family; we have to provide for the education of our children; we have to look to their wants and necessities; we have to protect them from heat and cold; and so on. For these necessities we earn and possess money and property. The real evil is only our undue attachment to the things which we are associated with. This is the main cause of our suffering. But if we are able to do everything in life thinking it to be our duty without any feeling of attraction or repulsion, we are in a way free from worldly ties and have renounced the world in the true sense, although we possess and make use of many things. Everything we possess shall then seem to be a sacred trust from the Supreme Master, for the discharge of the duties entrusted to us. Renunciation truly means non-attachment with worldly objects and not the non-possession of things. Thus, a householder's life in which possession of things and worldly ties are indispensable is no impediment in the way of renunciation and consequently of realisation, only if one is not unduly attached to the objects he is connected with. There are numerous examples of saints having attained the highest degree of perfection leading a householder's life all through. Renunciation is, in fact, a condition or an inner state of mind which brings to view the transitory and changing character of things and creates a feeling of non-attachment to such objects. His eyes are fixed every moment on Reality which is unchanging and eternal and he is free from the feeling of attraction and repulsion. This is vairagya (renunciation) in the true sense of the term. When we have achieved this state of mind, we are free from desires. We feel contented with what is available to us. The end of desire means stopping of the formation of samskaras (impressions). What remains now is only to undergo the effect (bhog) of the previously formed samskaras (impressions) which are to be worn out during the course of our life. Nature too helps us in the process by creating a field for bhog in order to remove the impressions of our thoughts and actions from the causal body. When these coverings melt away we begin to assume finer forms of existence.

The man who is born in this world is sure to taste miseries. One cannot escape these. When I see the world, I find it very troublesome. Some are groaning with pain, a few are suffering from the loss of their dear ones and a great number are anxious to achieve success at each step. We try to get rid of these by going into penance, and rishis (sages) have devoted themselves thoroughly to it. All that is born of attachment is misery. Pleasure and pain both contribute to misery. There is no remedy for overcoming these miseries except devoting ourselves towards Godly thought of the purest nature.

We need not renounce the world and go for penance in the forest. Let the material world and spiritual world go side by side, glittering equally. One cannot be a loser in any way, if doing his household duties, he brings himself up to the realisation of God as well. We should soar with both wings if we want to succeed. It is a vague idea of the people in general that God is to be searched for in the forests. My idea is that He should be searched for in the heart. One is performing the household duties and at the same time is equally busy with Godly devotion. You may say that these two things are incompatible and are contradictory to each other, but it is not the case. In the long run, Godly wisdom begins to work and one does his duty from the mind beyond.

Thus, vairagya (renunciation or non-attachment) can be attained only when one is wholly diverted towards the Divine. When it is so, one naturally becomes disinterested in his own self including everything connected with it. Thus he loses not only the body-consciousness but subsequently the soul-consciousness as well. What remains then is nothing but the "being in dead form or a living dead".


2. Observance of Preliminaries to Meditation
A natural posture (asan) paves our way to the Ultimate.

When the thought of going back to the original was stirred up in man, it became essential for him to bring activity, which had sprung up in him, into a latent state as far as it was possible. He began to seek out means for it. At last it came to his understanding that just as the latent motion was grosser in comparison to the Absolute with which it was connected, even so he must take up something grosser for the purpose, to enable him to attain the desired ideal of Reality. This led him to the conclusion that he must create in him a form of contraction or withdrawal similar to that at the time of pralaya. Now Self is all pervading in man just as it is in the whole universe, taking the universe in a collective sense. The state of pralaya comes in when contraction begins to take place. Similar contraction in man leads to his individual pralaya. That means that he begins to proceed from his state of grossness to the real state. The contraction always starts from below and proceeds gradually upwards because of its upward tendency. Therefore, in order to go upwards he must start contracting from below. The form of contraction could be only to bring his legs and allied parts to one pose and to keep them steady. In whatever way it might be done, the form will finally be that of the asan. It is essential because it paves our way to the Ultimate. This posture must always be the same. The reason is that in this way he gets himself associated with the great power, the very thing he takes up in the beginning for the attainment of his particular objective. Thus the form which is associated with Reality helps him a good deal in his primary initiation.

The upright position of the back-bone, neck and head in an erect straight line during meditation has been thought to be most advantageous from very ancient times, because the flow of Divine grace is believed to descend straight upon the abhyasi in that posture. In our way of practice, however, this is not insisted upon. I advise the abhyasis generally to sit in a natural easy posture. Moreover, even those who assume a tight straight pose, are found to give way automatically to a suppliant, slightly forward drooping posture, as the state of blissful absorbancy sets in. As such, it may be considered to be more natural even for the purpose of an ascent into higher states of consciousness. In fact, a controversy over a point of comparatively lesser significance seems irrelevant.

It is better to sit in the grey of the morning for meditation, or when that is not possible, at any fixed hour convenient to the abhyasi. Do not feel disturbed with the outer things but remain engaged with your own work thinking that they are in a way helping you to feel the necessity for greater absorption in your practice.



3. Meditation


When we meditate, the Central Power we have remains in force.

Under the Sahaj Marg system of training we start from dhyan, the seventh step of Patanjali yoga, fixing our mind on one point in order to practise meditation. The previous steps are not taken up separately but they automatically come into practice as we proceed on with meditation. Thus much of our time and labour are saved. In certain sansthas the usual routine followed for practice is often kept confidential. It is released and revealed only to those who undertake to join them formally. What their purpose at the bottom may be, is not quite understandable. Nature has no secrets and I think that one professing to follow the divine path must also have none.

The practice followed in our Mission is meditation on the heart. The same method has been recommended by Patanjali. There is a great philosophy underlying it. We find ourselves all the time busy with worldly things. If we are not doing anything, our thoughts seem to have wings in the leisure hours. We are always in tumult and disorder. Our individual mind has become used to such a characteristic activity, and thus we have made every thing topsy-turvy. Our actions and thoughts count much in our wrong doing. When we remain in contact with ideas and thoughts of different kinds, they leave impressions upon our emotive feelings and senses. All the senses are spoiled and adopt a wrong course. The marks we thus make upon the senses and indriyas turn them solid like rock, having no bodh or wisdom. Soul is, no doubt, not acted upon, but we create such obstacles and coverings as to keep it enwrapped all round like a cocoon. We cannot even peep into the soul, let alone realising it. By the effect of our vicious thoughts and actions we spoil our sense of discrimination and right cognition. Those who have reached this state of solidity do not like to come under the training course of raja yoga. This is why people turn a deaf ear to what we say. No practice of hatha yoga can bring out true realisation as it fails after the ajna chakra and there still remain very many states still to pass after it. Therefore raja yoga is the only thing that can lead to the end. There is no other means of approaching the Centre. We have got within us the same central force, though marred by our wrong doings. We take work from the same force during meditation. This is how we proceed naturally with nature's force, so to say. When we meditate, the central power we have, remains in force. It disperses the overwhelming clouds which are greatly fried up by its force. It cannot be expressed in words, only an abhyasi can feel it. This can only be known practically. You will soon find yourself swimming in everlasting peace and happiness. Everything ends here. There remains no attachment with the world. The mind is disciplined, it is regulated automatically. Senses begin to come under control and you gain mastery over them. To master yourself means to master Nature. When the passage becomes clear you find Nature's work within your bounds and limits: rather you begin to work yourself.

In our system the abhyasi is advised to meditate on the heart thinking of the Divine Light there. But he is directed not to view light in any form or shape like that of an electric bulb or a candle, etc. In that case the light appearing therein will not be real, but one projected by his own creative speculation. An abhyasi is advised to proceed with a mere supposition of light with the thought of Divinity at the bottom. What happens then is that we meditate upon the subtlest which is to be attained.

The method of meditation on the heart is to think of Godly light within it. When you begin meditating in this way please think only that Godly light within is attracting you. Do not mind if extraneous ideas haunt you during meditation. Let them come but go on with your own work. Treat your thoughts and ideas as uninvited guests. If even then they trouble you think they are Master's, not yours. This process of meditation is very effective, and can never fail in bringing about the desired result. Sit in an easy posture for an hour in the morning in quite a natural way. You should only meditate. You should not struggle with your ideas which generally come during meditation. Concentration is the automatic and natural result of meditation. Those who insist on concentration in place of meditation, and force their mind to it, generally meet with failure.

Every saint has used the word 'light' and I too cannot avoid it because that is the best expression for Reality. But that creates some complications, because, when we talk of light the idea of luminosity becomes prominent and we begin to take it as glittering. The real light carries with it no such idea. Under our system, the abhyasi, no doubt, sometimes sees light. But the glittering light appears only in the beginning, when matter comes into contact with energy. In other words it is only a clue that energy has begun to work. The real light has the dawn colour or a faint reflection of colourlessness. Although light is not the exact translation of the thing (because light is really far more heavy a thing than what that actually is) it has been expressed so merely for the sake of understanding. If the abhyasi begins to feel himself lighter and lighter, it means he is progressing, because in that case he is going into the state that God is in. Light means the loss of the weight of one's own thoughts. Thus the real Light refers only to the real substance, or more appropriately, substanceless substance.

All artificiality and misdirected emphasis guided by the abhyasi's own desires and preconceived notions prove injurious, very often irrevocably. As such the visions of light, etc., are not to be artificially created or insisted upon. These may only be noted, when they do arise, without any feeling of personal attachment to any of them. The only object of personal attachment should be the Ultimate goal, viz., realisation, which is to be firmly held in view throughout; and this is to constitute the most reliable guarantee against any and every irrelevant diversion. One example of harmful misdirected emphasis, as already pointed out, is the insistence on concentration of consciousness, expected anxiously during every session of meditational practice by most raja yogic abhyasis. This has played havoc in the history of yogic sadhana in India and elsewhere. Methods of ascetic austerities, penances and physical mortification usually applied for keeping the mind under control, do not relieve it of its misdirected trends. On the other hand, they only serve to keep the evil subdued within and it might at any time burst forth, when, by chance, the control is somehow relaxed. The real solution of the problem lies, not in controlling the mind artificially by suppression, restraint or mortification, but in its gradual moulding which is to relieve it of its misdirected trends. In this, and every other matter therefore, having the attitude of a sincere student, grasping and allowing everything to work and develop in a natural way, is to ensure the most speedy progress.

Generally I advise meditation on the heart at the point where you feel its beats. Meditation on other points can also be undertaken such as fixing the attention on the point of the nose or between the eye-brows, etc., but in my opinion, meditation on the heart is the easiest and most beneficial. There is a great philosophy underlying meditation on the heart. The heart is the pumping station of blood. It sends out purified blood to all parts of the body and to the smallest cells. Now we have taken the heart as the centre for meditation. The blood that runs through our system is affected. The solidity due to our own thoughts and actions begins to melt away. This is the first thing that we begin to gain from the first day by this method of meditation on the heart. It is the nucleus and creates the vibrant motion, wherever it is directed. This is the field for the mind to work and this is the instrument by which we develop the discriminating faculty. The subtle force works in this place for the descent of divine energy. If somehow our thinking conjoins with it, or we train it so that it may percolate the right thing and direct it towards Reality, the problem is solved. People may ask why it is necessary to proceed with meditation. The answer is quite plain and simple, that by meditation we gather ourselves at one point so that our individual mind may leave its habit of wandering about, which it has formed. By this practice we set our individual mind on the right path because it is now metamorphosing its habits. When this is done, our thoughts naturally do not go astray. The heart is the only point at which the connecting link between the animate and the inanimate is most clearly felt. This is the reason why meditation on the heart is very useful. Further, heart is the field for the action of mind. Mind is always as it is. It is the heart which, as the field of action of the mind, is to be set right. Hence the most appropriate point for meditation can be only that wherefrom the current flows on, either upwards or downwards. It can only be the heart and nothing else. Trikuti (centre of the eye-brows) can also be taken for the purpose but that is not an easy job for common people as it requires more labour from the abhyasi. It may also give birth to many complications in due course if the meditation is not properly practised by the abhyasi. Meditation on the navel point has no spiritual value except that it causes a tickling sensation which finally makes the mind and passions all the more powerful.

At a certain stage of the development of faith in an abhyasi, we generally lay stress upon meditation apparently on human form. Critics may perhaps consider it suicidal to spiritual advancement. The case is not so, provided the man meditated upon is one of special calibre, who has come down from the Immaterial Absolute for spiritual training, or has attained the spiritual standard of evolution required for the purpose by supreme self-exertion.


4. Cleaning


The process of cleaning uses the original power of thought in the form of human will for the refinement of the individual soul to enable it to ascend the steep and slippery path of realisation of the subtlest essence of identity.

In the evening again sit in the same posture, at least for half an hour and think that the complexities, the network of your previous thoughts and grossness or solidity in your constitution are all melting away, or evaporating in the form of smoke, from your back. It will help you in purging your mind and will make you receptive of the efficacious influence of our great Master. As soon as I find that you are free from foreign matter I will either change it in some other way or ask you to stop, as the case may be. In this way, we soar up high by awakening and cleaning the chakras and the sub-points thereof, taking up kundalini at the end, with which the abhyasi has nothing to do himself. It is exclusively the outlook of the Master. But it must be remembered that while practising these methods one should not force his mind too much but only sit in a normal way. This process of cleaning is to be repeated for about five minutes before meditational practice in the morning as well. Other ways of cleaning may also be advised according to the needs of individual abhyasis, and need not be mentioned here in detail. Suffice it to say, that the process of cleaning uses the original power of thought in the form of human will for the refinement of the individual soul to enable it to ascend the steep and slippery path of realisation of the subtlest Essence of Identity.


5. Prayer


Prayer remains the most important and unfailing means of success.

Thou are the real goal of human life.
We are yet but slaves of wishes
Putting bar to our advancement.
Thou art the only God and Power
To bring us up to that stage.

One thing more by way of practice is to offer daily the brief prayer at bed time in the most suppliant mood with a heart overflowing with divine love. Repeat the prayer in your mind once or twice and begin to meditate over it for a few moments. The prayer must be offered in a way as if some most miserable man is laying down his miseries with a deeply afflicted heart before the Supreme Master imploring for his mercy and grace, with tearful eyes. Then alone can he become a deserving aspirant. There are many methods of loving God and many 'bhavas' are resorted to, e.g., paternal sentiment (pitr bhava), friendly sentiment (sakhya bhava), etc. In my opinion there can be no relation better than that of the lover and the beloved. If an abhyasi thinks himself to be lover and takes God to be beloved and proceeds with the same sentiment the result will be that God himself will become the lover and the abhyasi the beloved in the long run. But if one thinks that one has realised the goal at this stage it will be a serious blunder. What remains further cannot be stated, for it is related to practice only.

Prayer remains the most important and unfailing means of success. Through it we have established our link with the Holy Divine. The reason why prayer should be offered with a heart full of love and devotion, is that one should create within oneself a state of vacuity so that the flow of Divine grace may be diverted towards him. When the world emerged into the present form, the central point was already rooted deep in all the beings. This central point rooted in us being a part of the Supreme, turns our attention towards the source. In prayer we try to reach up to the same central point. This is possible only when we create a similar state within. This requires practice. It can be attained by resigning ourselves to the Divine Will, which is absolutely simple and tranquil. Apparently it seems to be very difficult, but in fact it is not so, though only for those who aspire for it. When a man creates in him a strong craving for the Absolute, he is indeed in a state of prayer, and it is for every one to strive for. Whenever a man enters into that state even for a moment, his prayer is granted. But it requires continued practise to accomplish it. People should be exhorted to offer such a type of prayer. If one achieves and settles down in it, what else remains for him to do except remembrance; and that too in a way that it never comes into consciousness even.



6. Constant Remembrance


We must remain in touch with the idea of God in all phases of our mental and physical activities.

Constant remembrance of God is of course, a special feature in spirituality. The method for cultivating constant remembrance is to think with firm conviction during your leisure hours whether in office or at home, in the street or in the market that God is pervading all over and everywhere and you are thinking of Him. Try to remain in the same thought as long as you can.

The minds of people are absorbed every moment in thinking about the various problems of their material life and their attention is seldom diverted towards God except when they are in deep distress and misery. The reason is that they attach primary importance to their worldly interests alone which constantly remain in their view. Thus they remain entangled within maya without ever thinking of getting out of it at any stage.

Frequent remembrance of God, though greatly helpful, is not all that we need for our final success in realisation. We generally begin an important thing in the name of God and it is customary almost in every religion to do so. But that is only a matter of formality and has no significance. We never dedicate the thing to God in the real sense and at heart we are in fact quite away from the idea of God. Remembrance of God thus is of no avail. The real significance of the custom is that we must remain in touch with the idea of God in all phases of our mental and physical activities. We must feel ourselves connected with the Supreme Power every moment with an unbroken chain of thought during all our activities. It can be easily accomplished if we treat all our actions and work to be a part of divine duty, entrusted to us by the Great Master whom we are to serve as best as we can. Some people think that constant remembrance or even frequent remembrance of God is not practicable when a man in life is surrounded by numerous worries and anxieties caused by worldly attachments and responsibilities. But practice and experience will prove to them that it is a very easy process and can be followed by any and every one in spite of all worries and engagements only if they learn to divert their attention towards God in the real sense.

The idea of guru as the Supreme Divine force is very helpful in spiritual pursuit, if the guru himself happens to be merged in the Ultimate State of realisation. You depend upon his guidance thinking him to be a super-human being. If you go on with your busy routine of life dedicating everything to your Master, imagine what good will it bring to you in the long run. While doing a thing think that you are not doing it for yourself but for your Master, rather think that Master himself is doing it for himself. While at the breakfast table, you must think that your master is breaking his fast. When you go to the office, think that your Master is doing it all. While returning from the office, suppose you see an attractive dance on the way. Your eyes are caught by the charming appearance of the dancer. Then also think that your Master, and not you, is seeing the dance. You will at once lose curiosity for it because your Master's power will begin to flow in to relieve you of the temptation. When you come back from office, your children rejoice to see you after so many hours. You too enjoy the merriment and it is but natural. Your attention for a while is diverted towards them, and you feel a bit away from the sacred thought. What you are to do then is to think that your Master within is himself enjoying and you shall be in touch with the same sacred thought again. If you are chatting with your friend, think that your Master, not you, is talking to him. While walking, think that your Master himself is walking. Even during your meditation, if you entertain the idea that not you but your Master himself is meditating on his own form, it shall bring about excellent results. Similarly you can adjust yourself in all your routine of work. If you cultivate this feeling and maintain the outlook that your Master is doing every thing in your place, you shall not only be in constant remembrance all the while, but your actions will cause no impression whatsoever, and so you will cease making further samskaras.


7. Devotion


Constant remembrance acquires efficiency when the abhyasi has become devoted to the object of meditation or constant remembrance.

Constant remembrance, in fact, is a natural development of meditational practice and it acquires efficiency when the abhyasi has become devoted to the object of meditation or constant remembrance. It then ceases to be dry abhyas and becomes a luscious all-absorbing engagement. The fire of love and devotion alone burns down trivial trash, and wins the gold from the dross. The burning of love may, however, have three stages. The first is the suppressed smouldering giving out thick smoke. The second has occasional sparks in it; and the last one gives the bright burning flame, capable of reducing everything to ashes in a moment's time. The first two states are subject to their exposure to the combustible matter in the air. When the solidity which hampers combustion is removed by the effect of inner heating, the final action starts with full force. But then there is the electric fire as well, which bypasses the first two stages, and appears only in the final state, free from smoke and vapour. If you can light up such a fire within you, your progress shall be by leaps and bounds.

Devotion and love, of course, remain so easy and yet so difficult of achievement at once. Real devotion has no tinge of affection in it and goes hand in glove with enlightenment. In the initial stages the devotee may be conscious of his feeling towards the object of his love; but at higher stages the foam and fury is dimmed to the extent of an almost total loss of its awareness at the Ultimate stage. The superfine level of devotion may be spoken of as total self-surrender, from which the awareness of surrender has entirely been withdrawn by the grace of the Supreme Master Himself.

The problem of practising devotion, surrender, etc., in a natural way is there. For this purpose it is said that one can love another person of his own species best. So the guru is taken into account as the personification of the Supreme. In my case my Master was the only object of my love. I was not a lover of freedom or peace or perfection or any thing, but only of Him and Him alone. My Master was no doubt worthy of it, being the fittest man to be meditated upon and be devoted to. He was altogether free from egoistic feelings, desires and worldly entanglements, and devoted wholly to his 'own self'. This phrase refers to a spiritual state of a high order not commonly bestowed upon man. That was the reason why I loved him as best as I could. I tried heart and soul to get myself merged in him in toto, and this had been the life pursuit for me. It was because I got a Master who was unparalleled and matchless. For the results achieved therefrom, I have no words to express. In a word He is the infinite ocean of Grace in which we have all to merge. May it be accessible to all earnest seekers!


8. Surrender


Self-surrender has great importance for an abhyasi in his pursuit.

The easiest and surest means to achieve the goal is to surrender yourself to the great Master and become a 'living dead' yourself. This feeling of surrender, if cultivated by forced or mechanical means, seldom proves to be genuine. It must develop automatically within you without least strain or pressure upon the mind. If the knowledge of self is retained, even then it is not true surrender. What remains to be done when you have surrendered yourself in the true sense? Nothing. I believe that in this state an abhyasi will be in close touch with Reality all the time and the current of divine effulgence will continue its flow to him without any break. In this way you can solve your problem of life in the easiest and most efficacious way in the shortest possible time. Therefore, if one can give away his heart, i.e., make a gift of it to the Divine Master, hardly anything more remains to be done. This shall naturally bring him to the state of absorption in Absolute Reality. The adoption of this simple and easy technique makes the very beginning to be the end of it. What except a tiny heart can be the fittest offering for the achievement of the dearest object of life?

One thing more. To effect the surrender of heart in the easiest way, only an act of will is required. Besides, the lighter and finer the will, the more effective shall be its working. The adoption of this method is sure to bring in an attitude of renunciation from the very first day. A courageous start is all that is needed for the purpose.

Self-surrender is nothing but a state of complete resignation to the will of the Master, with total disregard of self. A permanent stay in this condition leads to the beginning of the state of negation. When we surrender ourselves to the great Master we begin to attract a constant flow of highest divine force from Him. In this state a man thinks or does only that which his Master's will ordains. He feels nothing in the world to be his belonging, but everything as a sacred trust from the Master and he does everything thinking it to be his Master's bidding. His will becomes completely subservient to the will of the Master. Surrender is not an ordinary thing to be achieved easily. It begins after complete negation of all senses and faculties for which we proceed by elementary rules of devotion. We submit to our Master, thinking him to be a super-human being. We love him with devotion and faith and reverence trying by all means to attract his attention and favour.

Sages have classified disciples under two main heads: the manmat and the gurumat. The former are those who approach the guru with some particular worldly end in view such as relief from misery, desire for wealth, etc. They submit to him only so long as they are hopeful of satisfaction of their desires. When they meet disappointment in this respect they are off. For such disciples the question of obedience or submission does not arise, what to say of surrender. Gurumat disciples are those who obey the commands of the Master in all matters and try to submit to his will in all possible ways. Submission begins with obedience. When we are deeply impressed by the great powers of a Master of higher attainments in spirituality we feel inwardly inclined to follow his biddings.

A beautiful example of surrender is presented to us by Bharat, the son of Dasharath when he went to the forest along with the people of Ayodhya to induce his brother Ram to return. In reply to the entreaties of the people Ram gravely replied that he would be quite willing to return to the capital provided Bharat asked him to do so. All eyes were turned towards Bharat, who was himself there to induce him to return. But he calmly replied, "It is not for me to command but only to follow". Therefore self-surrender has great importance for an abhyasi in his pursuit.