Sometimes things are lost in translation. This can happen among native speakers of the same language – perhaps if the speaker uses a word he didn’t mean. It can certainly also happen while literally translating words of one language into their equivalents in another. I think, too, that culture sometimes plays a major role is things getting lost in translation. Sometimes, even when someone is fully capable from a linguistic perspective there can be things lost due to cultural differences which might otherwise be significant. In the quote below, I wonder if this isn’t happening. Take a look…
“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.” –Ram Chandra, Complete Works of Ram Chandra, Vol. 1 (1st Indian edn., 1989), p. 342
The short sentence of, “Treat your thoughts and ideas as uninvited guests” carries with it room for misunderstanding, although this very sentence is something Heartfulness / Sahaj Marg abhyasis quote often. While I’m more familiar with Indian culture than the average Westerner, I can only to a small degree speak about it – let alone Indian culture from a century ago. From a Western point of view, and more specifically an American point of view, this wording gives pause. The rest of the quote shared here feels contradictory to us – if we’re paying attention. We’re told not to mind extraneous ideas and to let thoughts come and go as they will, and think of them as God’s thoughts (aka The Master’s) instead of our own. Almost none of this is how uninvited guests are treated!
Here in the West, uninvited guests are noticed – sometimes with responses like surprise or disgust or contempt. A lot of that will hinge on what you’re interrupting and the relationship you have to what is being interrupted. Birthday parties, weddings / receptions, and maybe even more public things like church services… I dare you to walk into a church you don’t regularly attend and just see if no one notices you.
Maybe your personality is like mine and your default is automatically and purposefully to take care of business when it presents (regardless of the kind of business being handled). Or maybe you’re someone with just enough self-awareness to realize you have little control over your own internal mental and emotional processes. Either way – total control freak or out of control – you are likely to pay a lot of attention to these “uninvited guests.”
And so, I think – though Babuji was speaking plain English – that something was miscommunicated here. Something has been lost? To many Western minds, I’d say, treating one’s thoughts as uninvited quests means the opposite of “ignore and move on.”
A great twist here, I’ll say, is that there is immense benefit and maybe even some necessity to treating our thoughts while meditating as uninvited guests. In order for something – a person or thought or whatever – to be treated as uninvited, it must necessarily first be identified as such. Regardless of how we tackle things uninvited, we have to be able to see them as uninvited first. When this happens, fantastic potential opens up for the meditator.
In every form of meditation which I’ve ever studied, the meditator can potentially, eventually enter a state that isn’t usual in one’s waking hours. Of course, those for whom this becomes usual even while moving about their day we call yogis. But for most people this isn’t usual and when it happens it’s really something. It presents the meditator with the experience of seeing their thoughts happening just as automatically as they normally would – but almost as if from a distance.
In the same way you can sit next to a stream or river and watch things float by in it, you can watch your own river of awareness and similarly see things passing by. When the meditator becomes familiar with this experience it becomes a real blessing and more than just rest or relaxation can be derived from it. When you are able to successfully recognize and experience the gap of infinity that sits between “you” and your thoughts, many doors are opened for you the benefits of which have mundane and mystical applications.
To go back to the idea of thoughts as uninvited guests, I’ll mention something relating to Indian / Hindu culture. In Hinduism we say, “Pitru devo bhavaha” meaning “The guest is God.” When you are expecting God as a guest or to treat your guests as God, then you will of course dedicate lots of attention (aka energy) to that end. Perhaps then, if you have an uninvited guest you are able to say, “I refuse to dedicate energy in that direction” and if that’s the case, then treating your thoughts as uninvited guests while meditating would indeed be helpful. Still, if the guest is God then – invited or uninvited – why not afford that God / guest your attention? Dear reader, maybe you can answer that for me? If you’re a more experienced abhyasi than I am, then I would certainly value your insight into what Babuji was intending to communicate.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti