Monday, 28 December 2015

The Ultimate Preparation...

We lament the death of others but rarely think constructively of our own. Actually, we would be wise to be concerned with our own end and prepare ourselves for what will then happen to us.
Where will we go as we pass through death's doors?
Whom are we going to meet there?
Would it not be prudent to consider these questions?

Religious books talk of this subject, but we rarely pay attention to them for we may believe them to be either fantasies or fairy tales, or efforts to wean people away from sin, or to persuade them to perform good deeds. The fact is that we all have to cross the gates of death. No one is an exception. Why then shut our eyes to the subject?

The time of death is clearly not the best time to begin preparing ourselves for death. It is easier to do it with time on our side, or as Lao Tzu, the Chinese mystic, says in the Tao Te Ching:

"Manage the difficult while it is easy, manage the great while it is small. All difficult things start from the easy, all great things in the world start from the small. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

That first step, the mystics advise us, is to become aware of our attachments. It is our attachments that make us suffer and it is they, we are told, that can bring us back into this world. To paraphrase a saying from the Bible: Where your treasure is, that is where you make your home. Our treasure is whatever we care about most. If, at the time of death, we are greatly attached to people or things in the world, we will not be able to rise above these attachments. Like a magnet they will drag us back to this world: it is the mind that gives direction to our soul.

There is a lot of misunderstanding concerning attachment and detachment. Detachment does not mean renunciation. A person can renounce wealth and still be thinking about money all day, or renounce sex and be having lustful thoughts all day. Detachment means to rise above obsession and the desire to possess or own a person or thing. To become detached certainly doesn't mean that we stop loving. When a person is associated with another for some time, it is normal that a bond may develop. Attachment is the preoccupation with someone or something to the extent that one becomes restless and loses one's balance at the thought of losing that person or that object. It includes the most common obsession – the obsession of me and mine. When we die, these attachments project themselves and fill our attention, making it very hard for us to embark on the journey beyond.

Most people would agree that it is normal practice to make preparations if one is going to travel to another country. One at least considers and makes arrangements for the means of transport and decides where one is going to stay. We are so careful in these worldly matters that we rarely undertake a big journey without making all sorts of arrangements beforehand. Yet for the one journey which everyone has to make, few people do anything. Who really considers even where that journey through death leads, or how one should prepare oneself to make it smooth?

To solve the riddle of death, philosophers through the centuries have spared no effort. But the fact is that the intellect fails. Learned and illiterate alike are helpless to find the answers. How many people must have had the same thought: How satisfying it would be if someone returned to narrate his actual experiences! We guess at what death means, but our musings are only figments of our imagination-wishful thinking to comfort us in this one dark certainty at the end of each person's life.

The saints or true spiritual teachers have solved the mystery of death. Through the work they do on themselves and the control they have of their consciousness, they can leave the human body every day and travel into other realms of existence. By learning from them we too can acquire the means to triumph over death.

They teach us that death is not to be feared. It is only the name given to the phenomenon of the soul leaving the body. Death is merely the withdrawal of the soul from the gross senses and its entrance into finer regions. It is merely giving up the present garment, namely, the body. It does not mean annihilation. There is life after death.

The saints have dealt with this subject at length. They have described the method of passing from one level of existence to another. By following the method of meditation prescribed by them, a disciple can learn to pass through the gates of death and return to the body at will. Only a person whose soul has travelled through the finer realms before death can understand this reality. Only experience can convey to a person what it is. Intellect is helpless to comprehend it.

For the moment we need to concentrate on the immediate issue of what one is to do first. If someone is in a house that is on fire, he will be well advised to think first of the quickest way of getting out of it before asking such questions as who set it on fire, and when and why it was set on fire. The answers to these questions can be determined after one has escaped.

Meditation…

Real spiritual growth can be achieved only through the practice of meditation. There are many ways to meditate, and each method varies in its results and purposes. The meditation described here is the technique of uniting the soul with the primordial power, the audible life stream, the divine Wordor ‘Shabd (in HINDI). It is simply and solely concerned with uniting us with our source.

To be able to make contact with this power that manifests within us as inner light and sound, we need to follow the technique of meditation prescribed and taught by a spiritual teacher who is himself in contact with it. If we have a radio that is disconnected from its source of energy, then obviously we would not be able to hear any music from it. To tune it to a broadcasting frequency, we would have to find a way to connect the radio to a source of power. In the same way a true, living spiritual teacher, being tuned in to the source of energy that created the universe, is able to show us how to reconnect ourselves to the inner spiritual music that is resounding within each and every one of us.

The inward journey

Life may be considered a journey. The first plane of this journey is the one we are travelling on now in which we associate ourselves with the world through the senses. Though we may experience many moments of happiness in this plane, there is also plenty of frustration and suffering. The so-called pleasures we can enjoy at this level will always be transformed into pain or disillusionment with time. Limited by our senses and worldly attachments that hold us captive, we remain confined to this world and oblivious to all else. We have no idea of the second plane of the journey – the journey inward.

Lasting happiness is attained by beginning the second plane of the journey. We ascend to this plane through meditation. It starts to happen the moment we begin to raise our consciousness through the body and concentrate it at the spiritual eye focus. This focus is the natural seat of the mind and soul in the physical body - a point about midway between, and slightly above, the two eyes. It is a subtle spiritual point and cannot be found by physically dissecting the body. It is at this subtle point that the mind and the soul are knotted together, the resting point of our consciousness in the waking state. And it is here, if we raise our consciousness to this level, that we contact the Shabd, or the enrapturing music of God.

When, through the practice of meditation, we come in contact with the bliss of the divine melody, the same mind that is constantly running after sensual pleasures becomes completely subdued. The pleasures of the world become utterly insipid. When we mould our life towards the aim of contacting the divine melody, our life will become more meaningful and worth living.

Dying while living

It is true that the treasure of the Shabd lies within us. It is our wealth. It is there for us. But we will discover it only when we practise the technique of meditation taught by a living teacher - a perfect master of the spirit.

Only a true living mystic can teach the technique of meditation by which we withdraw our consciousness from the entire body, up to the spiritual eye centre, where we come in contact with the
Sound Current. The mystics refer to this process of meditation as 'dying while living'.

As explained before, when death comes, our soul withdraws upwards from the soles of the feet and comes to the spiritual eye centre. First the feet become cold; then the legs become cold; then the whole body becomes numb and the organs of the body cease to function. When the soul goes through the spiritual eye centre, then the body, lacking the soul, cannot survive and we die.

By the same process in meditation we die while living. According to the teachings of the saints, meditation is the process by which the entire life consciousness leaves the lower body and the soul current is concentrated at the spiritual eye. We are then able to break through the physical plane and the soul's real journey homeward begins.

The essential difference between ordinary death and dying while living is that in meditation the soul's link with the body is not broken. The organs of the body continue to function, and the soul returns to the body at the end of meditation.

When the attention is functioning below the eyes, we are dead as far as the real and everlasting life is concerned. When the attention is withdrawn and concentrated at the spiritual eye centre, we become truly alive and are dead as far as the world is concerned.

Conquering death

One of the benefits of the teachings of the saints is that a disciple crosses the gates of death in a conscious state of happiness. This is the experience of the disciples who have diligently followed the instructions of a true spiritual teacher. It is not merely talk or a fable taken from scriptures. Those who strictly follow the instructions of a true spiritual teacher can reach the state of dying daily while living.
Once they achieve this exalted condition, they can go into the regions above, and then come back into the same physical body at will. For them God is a living reality. They have conquered death.

To die while living is the chief motivation in spirituality because it is only after such death that the soul comes really alive. Dying while living has nothing to do with committing suicide or being cremated, or buried. Rather, if one learns this art, one can end the cycle of birth and rebirth and live forever. Being able to cross the gates of death, the disciple loses all fear of dying.

We can never realize true life until we go beyond the domain of death, or, in other words, until we are reborn into the subtle higher regions. That is why Christ says:
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God"
-John 3:3

If one masters this technique, one need never return to the suffering of this world again.

Instant results?

Dying while living is not accomplished easily. Only they who have subdued the mind, dissolved all desires and cravings and annihilated the ego can gain this experience. It is not as easy to obtain as it is to read or to talk about, for one can achieve it only by letting go of the world. So long as worldly desires control the body, the soul cannot leave it. It is only by detaching oneself from the body and mind that one can die while living.

Some people mistakenly believe that one can merge into God consciousness in the twinkling of an eye. But there are no shortcuts in spirituality. Real alchemy is the process of transmuting base metals (this mortal life) into gold (immortality) and that takes time and effort. Don't be under any illusions! Achieving this condition doesn't happen overnight. It is a steady process of transformation, not of information.

When we undertake any task, we are often anxious to get quick results. Being result-oriented may work in the business world, but, in spirituality, things are different and they often seem contradictory. The first thing -if we want results -is to forget about results.

In the beginning we need to give less attention to the result, and more to effort. This attitude helps us to be more skilful in our work and to solve the problems as they emerge on our path. If we take care of the moment, automatically we take care of the future. The attitude needed in spirituality is different from what is needed in the material world. Spirituality demands that we modify our worldview, become more humble in our approach to life – with no great expectations - just like a child learning to write. The child is absorbed in learning, practising, just doing it - with no expectations. The transformation from novice to expert takes time. It takes patience, the will to put in the effort, and the will to struggle as long as necessary.

The warrior within

Our higher mind and our downward tendencies engage in a lifelong battle and the struggle continues until one side is victorious. To win this fight for our higher mind, we must rely on endurance, proper effort and the guidance and support of the living teacher. If we see the world as it is, if we are tired of running from ourselves and the anguish of loneliness, if we see that we are simply looking everywhere for substitutes for love, then we have no other option but to be bold enough to struggle.

This inner struggle will be difficult. Do we want to go through the hardships of letting our attachments go? If so, are we ready to make the sacrifices that are necessary to acquire a new way of seeing and doing things? Think about it. There are many spiritual paths. This one is not meant for everybody. It requires a lot of courage, patience and persistence.

There is an anecdote taken from the life of the famous painter Picasso that illustrates this point. Once, while visiting one of his last exhibitions, a lady approached him: "Maestro, your paintings are very beautiful," she said, "but tell me, couldn't a child paint the same way you do?" "Si, you are absolutely right," said Picasso, "the only difference is that it took me ninety years to paint like a child."

It took Picasso a lot of time, hard work, and patience to acquire the simplicity of a child again. Likewise, we have to work hard, but we can bring that innocence, that simplicity and that purity back to our lives. By relying on the five pillars of spirituality, our whole worldview will become different. It will become more relaxed, more loving and more fruitful.

Picasso had to unlearn everything he had learned to become child-like again. That is the approach we need in our life. When we are established in spirituality, we live in the here-and-now, and the question of result doesn't arise. We become result-oriented when we don't want to be where we are; when we want to arrive at the result without putting in the effort; when we miss the opportunity to enjoy the effort itself. Meditation is the effortless effort that brings simplicity and purity back to our lives.

Letting go of our attachments

Meditation is the medicine that will cure us from the suffering that we have brought upon ourselves. If we want this medicine to work, we have to let go of many attachments and meaningless pursuits that further complicate the illusion in which we live. Through meditation alone can we learn to let go of our attachments before we die.

Our lives should not revolve around any attachments whether they are people, pets, objects, jobs, roles or projects. By quietening the mind, meditation helps us to think more clearly and to put things in their proper perspective. By the practice of meditation we become aware that we will be here in this world for only a certain time. Nothing belongs to us, nor do we belong to anyone. We are all just passing through. There is nothing to get hung-up on. We can let go of our attachments. We can let go of everything that doesn't last.

Meditation makes us aware that everything in life is transitory. No matter how much time we devote to something, be it our own body, another person, work or anything else, eventually, at the time of death, we will have to let it go. Whether we want to or not, we will have to let go of everything. So what the mystics are telling us is to let go, in our hearts, of all these attachments before we die; and the sooner we let go of them in our hearts, the happier we will be.

As stated before, in meditation we learn to quieten the mind. When the mind becomes settled, we begin to see that we are apart from our mind. Meditation helps us to become free from the habit of judging, which strengthens our ego, and from the thinking processes which create our illusions. When the mind becomes free from judging and when the current of thoughts settles down, we begin to see where we really stand. We might not like it. But the only way to make any progress is to accept our secret devils and to recognize our weaknesses, and then to work on them. An alcoholic, a drug addict or an obsessed person cannot begin to cure himself or herself until he or she acknowledges and accepts the basic problem. It is essential to know ourselves as we are before we can change.

The attachments and obsessions that we so ardently cling to only make us suffer. They delay our spiritual journey and make it harder for us to begin to live fully. They perpetuate the illusion that we belong here. But we don't belong here. This is not our real home. Here everything is changing and will not last. The only thing that exists here permanently is our true self, the Shabd, which is awareness eternal, existence eternal, and bliss eternal. The only way to get in contact with this eternal self, to realize what we really are, is through meditation.

Only meditation goes deep enough to uproot our problems. Wishful thinking, mental affirmations and various types of therapies just scratch at the surface. They may work for a while, but after some time their power evaporates and we go back to our habitual ways of behaviour. These methods are like taking aspirin for cancer. Meditation on the Word or Shabd strikes at the root of our problems by dissolving our attachments; and by putting us in contact with the primordial source of power and joy.

Meditation helps us develop our latent positive qualities. It dissolves the blocks that prevent them from coming to the fore. By the correct practice of meditation, we get closer to the core of our being, and then, automatically, our positive qualities begin to show themselves. They come up to the surface of our being just like cream rises naturally in milk. Through meditation our downward tendencies turn around. Anger becomes tranquillity, lust becomes indifference, greed becomes contentment, ego becomes humility, and attachment becomes real love.

As we become aware of the Shabd in us, we experience a radical change in our approach to life. We quite naturally adjust our priorities and make the effort to behave in a way that is in harmony with who we are and with the world. Our problems don't go away, but we are stronger and better equipped to deal with them. We don't lose our balance and we maintain our inner peace.

The peace we find through meditation is independent of any external factor. In that peace we are aware of reality. Meditation makes us more focused, more skilful and more productive in everything we do. With meditation we give direction to our life, and we purify ourselves. It removes the tensions and the junk that clutter our mind. Meditation stills the mind and resurrects our soul. Meditation makes us aware of the deep love present inside us. It is the only means to know, experience, and go back to God.

Source – “Spiritual Primer” @ http://www.scienceofthesoul.org/product_p/en-182-0.htm

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