DHYANAM • CONTEMPLATION
BY: SADHU SUNDAR SINGH
From: Wisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh.
Seeker: Sadhu-ji, some say that to encounter God we must fulfill some special devotional exercise of contemplation. What does contemplation really mean?
Sadhu: The wonderful peace and calm we experience in prayer does not come from our own thoughts or imaginations, but from the presence of God in our souls. The vapor rising from one small pond is not enough to form large rain clouds and drench the thirsty land. Such large clouds can only come from the mighty ocean. Peace cannot be found in our own subconscious minds, our own concentration, but only in the boundless ocean of God’s love.
God is love and freely gives everything we need, both for our material and for our spiritual existence. But because the blessings of God’s spirit are so freely given, we often take them for granted. If all people had open and receptive hearts, they could see and hear God’s voice at all times and in all places. But we have lost this awareness. Through prayer, we learn to appreciate spiritual gifts, gifts that are at least as important for life as air and water, heat and light. Those who are focused on this material world foolishly waste the spiritual blessings offered to them, while those with a focused prayer life obtain true wisdom.
Dolphins can live in the deepest water without danger because they regularly come to the surface and take in the air that sustains them. We, too, must rise in prayer into the spiritual realm. To pray is to breathe in God’s life-giving spirit that gives life and peace, even in this world.
The new-born child needs no instruction in drinking, but instinctively turns to its mother’s breast for nourishment. For her part, the mother withholds no good gift from her child, but still the child cannot receive the mother’s milk without effort. In the same way, we are carried at God’s breast, but we must turn to God in prayer for the spiritual milk that sustains our souls.
The root tips of trees are so sensitive and responsive that they instinctively turn away from places where there is no nourishment and spread themselves instead in places where they can drink in moisture and life. I have seen green and fruitful trees standing in the middle of a dry and barren desert. These trees survive and flourish because their roots have driven down and discovered hidden streams of flowing water.
Some people live in the midst of evil and misery but still radiate joy and lead fruitful lives. Through prayer, the hidden roots of their faith have reached down to the source of living water. They draw from it energy and life to bear spiritual fruit. If we lead active lives of prayer, we will also gain the spiritual discernment to turn away from illusion and evil and to find the truth we need for life.
Seeker: You speak of discernment. Can you explain further what you mean?
Sadhu: Human consciousness is very subtle and sensitive. We can receive impressions from the unseen, spiritual world that express themselves in ideas and concepts familiar to us. Poets, artists, and musicians may experience these impressions in the form of rich colors, beautiful music, or other wonderful sights and sounds that come to expression in their artwork. Some people experience such things through dreams, some through visions, others during wakeful mediation. In prayer, light streams out from God, illuminating and guiding our innermost conscience. The discerning power of prayer enables us to distinguish the useful from the useless among such experiences. If we spend more time in meditation, we can recognize the relationship between the visible and invisible world ever more distinctly and clearly.
No thought, word, or deed is ever extinguished. They are forever imprinted on our souls – recorded in the book of life. Meditation provides the atmosphere for us to grow in fear and love of God so that these impressions are refined to contribute to our spiritual bliss. In meditation, the true condition of the soul is exposed, and God can reveal our failings in order to heal and bless us.
Seeker: Why doesn’t everyone readily embrace this truth?
Sadhu: Once a woman was traveling along a mountain path carrying her child in her arms. The child caught sight of a pretty flower and lunged forward so unexpectedly from its mother’s arms that it fell to its death on the rocks below. Isn’t it clear that life and security were to be found at its mother’s breast, not in the fascinating flowers? Many who set out seeking truth do the same thing. Catching sight of some fleeting and fascinating pleasure, they forget the spiritual milk God provides, an offering that comes with greater love than any mother can give, and they leap out into the world and are lost.
If we do not tend and care for a tree or a bush that bears good fruits or beautiful flowers, then it will grow wild and in the end it will be neither beautiful nor useful. It is the same with people of faith: if we neglect prayer and allow our spirits to grow sleepy, we will wither, fall back into our old evil ways, and die.
Once ten bridesmaids went out to meet the groom and lead the wedding procession. Five of them were wise and took extra oil in case he might be delayed. The others were foolish and took only their lamps. The groom was delayed in arriving, so the lamps burned low and the bridesmaids fell asleep. In the middle of the night they were awakened by the cry that the groom had arrived. They all rose, trimmed their lamps, and prepared to begin the procession, but the foolish ones noticed their oil was used up. They asked the wise ones for oil, but these knew there was not enough oil in their flasks to keep all ten lamps burning all the way to the banquet hall, so they told the foolish maids to go, awaken a merchant, and buy their own oil. They frantically tried to find someone to sell them some oil, but by that time the procession had arrived at the hall and the wedding feast had begun. The doors were locked, so the foolish bridesmaids missed the feast as well as the procession. Let us now follow the example of the wise maidens and fill the vessels of our hearts with oil of the Spirit. Otherwise, nothing will be left for us but grief and despair.
Seeker: What is this oil of the Spirit and how can I obtain it?
Sadhu: To obtain the blessings of a spiritual life, we must be ready to believe and obey without doubts and questions. Once the Master was in a temple where people were gathered for worship. Among the people was a man with a crippled and withered hand. The Master called to the man, “Stand up and come here to me.” There the man stood in front of all the people, and the Master looked at him and said, “Stretch out your hand!” Without hesitating, the man held out his hand, and it was completely healed in that instant.
Imagine if the man had said: “If you are a prophet then you know my hand is withered and that I cannot lift it. First heal my hand and then I will be able to stretch it out.” Or he might well have been embarrassed to put his hand on show in front of so many people and quickly run away in humiliation. Such reactions would have been reasonable and understandable, but the man’s hand would not have been healed. Whoever wants to encounter God must be obedient. We must lift up in prayer our weak and withered hands, and then we will receive complete healing and new life – all our needs and longings will be fulfilled.
There was once a woman caught in adultery and brought by an angry crowd before the Master. Now, the law prescribed that she be stoned to death. Instead of addressing the crowd, the Master wrote quietly in the sand with his finger. Finally he lifted his head, looked at the crowd and said, “Let the one who has no guilt throw the first stone.” Then he continued to write quietly in the sand. One by one the crowd dispersed – oldest to youngest – until only the accused woman was left. Then the Master lifted his head again, spoke to the woman and said: “If none of these people accuse you, then neither do I. Go, then, and lead a life pleasing to God.”
With his finger, the Master had quietly written on the ground the sins and failings of each of those in the crowd who stood ready to condemn the woman, until each one left in shame and humility. With the same finger, he points to the secret wounds of sin in each person who seeks the truth. Then, with that same finger, he heals our wounds. As children hold a parent’s finger to walk without falling, we, too, can grasp the Master’s finger and walk securely the road to spiritual peace.
As the earth moves, we experience the changes of day to night and summer to winter. But with the sun, there is perpetual noon and perpetual summer. Likewise, the sun of righteousness is the same yesterday and today and forever. If we experience the exuberance of joy or the gloom of despair, it is only because our position shifts in relation to God. If we open our hearts in prayer and meditation, the warming rays of the sun are always there to heal the wounds of our sins and give us perfect spiritual health.
CONTEMPLATION [Sadhu Sundar Singh] 1