September’s month’s book was Prabhu Simran by Gyani Sant Singh Maskeen. A copy of the book can be found here.
The book club met for the ninth time to discuss Gyani Sant Singh Maskeen’s book ‘Prabhu Simran’. The majority of members agreed that the book was relatively easy to read due to it being divided into small chapters which allowed time for reflection on each subject. However sometimes books which flow in one smooth narration are more engaging. There were certain aspects of the book which were repetitive at times, but for the majority of chapters the title indicated one topic which Gyani Ji stuck to. The book read more like a collection of short essays than a book as a whole.
The members reflected on the fact that Gyani Ji mentioned many different concepts initially and it seemed that these were abstract rather than practical. However as the book went on, practical aspects of simran were introduced and the concepts were built upon very effectively. For example, Gyani Ji talked about how we all try to satisfy our minds intellectually, but for spiritual growth it is the heart which brings us closer to God. Initially there is a need for blind faith rather than a full understanding of the intricacies of simran. For example, we all breathe and eat, but un;ess we are qualified after extensive study, we don’t necessarily understand the minutiae of how the air and food is absorbed and converted within our bodies at a celullar level. In the same way the absolute understanding of meditation is only revealed to those who have started the journey and are studying it. It was emphasised in the book that the real methods and meanings of simran will only come once someone has started the journey of performing simran. It might have been expected that Sant Singh Maskeen would have approached the topic of simran from a purely intellectual perspective, but this was not the case and highlighted the deeper understanding that the book provided.
The book mentioned several people of other faiths which the members found interesting. For example a Sufi Iranian poet (Sheikh Saadi) was mentioned several times. General Ayub Khan was mentioned as having the Mool Mantar as a guiding force through his life to a significant extent. Bhagat Kabeer Ji was also mentioned as being the highest of saints within the book.
This led onto a discussion regarding the premise that one can’t truly meditate unless God blesses that individual. There was debate about this concept and its applicability to daily life. Is simran a way to become blessed or is simran a blessing that has to be given by the Divine? The members talked about karam philosophy and the way this influences our destiny, as well as the need to make the most of opportunities that are provided to us in this life. The role of parents was discussed as being a guiding force to ensure children lead spiritual lives, but the limitations of this role was also highlighted during our discussion. Parents can only do so much, and sometimes children follow a completely different path. A discussion on the concept of free will followed on from this later in the meeting. Does free will exist or is it a myth? There was lively debate about this during the meeting, with some members saying that there is free will to an extent, and others saying that everything is ultimately God.
Interestingly Gyani Ji highlighted Gurbani which reminds us to blame ourselves for our own actions rather than our surroundings, circumstances or parents. The members discussed how rare this is in reality. All over the world people are reluctant to take responsibility for their actions. It is one of the hardest things to do.
Gyani Ji mentioned the power of sangat as being one of the most important aspects of doing simran. The members reflected on whether there was a difference between good sangat and bad sangat, and how this can affect one’s spirituality. Is there a right way to meditate? The book indicates that there is no one correct way, but offers a multitude of stepwise suggestions on how to start on the path of meditation. The book emphasises the importance of saadhsangat (true saintly sangat). Meditation needs to be nurtured and developed over time, rather than coming instantly.
In a similar way Gyani Ji emphasised the need to nurture one’s personal relationship with God. There was parts of the book which highlighted the meaningless way in which one can recite God’s name, but conversely the book also mentioned that speaking out loud is one of the most important first steps in doing simran. Even if you are meditating and your mind is not focusing, the word of God’s name itself is being said and so the act is not futile. As Gyani Ji says, it is better for the mind to wander in only one direction than ten. The importance of routine was highlighted within the pages of the book, with Gyani Ji drawing comparison to the routine of birds, and emphasising that if you want to live like a king during the day, one must pray like a beggar at night. It is interesting that many spiritual traditions highlight the early hours of the morning as being the ideal time to meditate. This was also mentioned in the book as being important and Gyani Ji mentioned that as the word is itself being lit up, so is the soul at this time.
This led onto a discussion about the difference between the brain, soul and mind. Can the mind exist without the soul? Can the soul exist without the mind and brain? Or are the three inextricably interlinked?
The name of God was discussed. On one hand Gyani Ji states that the name used for recitation does not matter. On the other hand Gurbani says that Satnaam is the true name. Furthermore we use Waheguru as the name to be drawn upon in meditation. The members reflected on the fact that once an individual passes the starting point of using names, the names themselves become irrelevant. But the book highlighted that a transference takes place when an individual meditates on a name. The name itself can spark a current of love within the soul, if it means enough to that individual. On one hand God has no name (as indicated in Jaap Sahib) but on the other hand Waheguru Gur Mantar Hai.
In one chapter Gyani Ji discussed the spiritual spheres which exist beyond our comprehension. Despite this during the meeting an attempt was made to comprehend this. There was discussion as to whether these spheres were real, and whether they aligned with current scientific principles of today. Some members felt that the book and Gurbani references were declaring these spheres and domains of spirits as a reality, whereas others felt that Gyani Ji was fairly clear in using these as metaphors.
The crossover of many concepts amongst the eastern faith traditions was recognised e.g. Mukti and liberation. The difference between Sikhi and other western faiths is that liveration is not for after death, but is something to be attained within life. This was described as Sehaj avastha in the book I.e. a state of ultimate equipoise where the unstruck melodies are heard and true perception arrives. (This led onto a debate about what anhad shabad really is or means but it seemed clear that our meagre attempts to explain this indicated an overall lack of first hand experience.)
The members concluded by recognising that the power of this topic was immense and that the topic of simran was ultimately the true essence of Sikhi.