Chapter I

Simran – What it is

I will now speak on Simran.

Everyone in the world is doing Simran of one kind or another. In fact none can do without it. A housewife, for instance, is thinking all the while of the kitchen requirements like flour, pulses, spices and pepper, lest any of these things run short. She is thinking of recipes for new dishes and delicacies. Similarly a farmer is always thinking of ploughing the land, furrowing the fields, sowing the seeds and harvesting and the like, besides his cattle and fodder. A shopkeeper is preoccupied with his stock-in-trade and keenly alive to rise and fall in the prices of commodities he deals in, and how he can make huge profits in his business. A school-master likewise dreams of his school, classes, pupils and lessons, on all of which his attention is closely riveted. Again a contractor is engrossed in problems of labour, material and various building processes.

Thus every one of us is constantly dwelling on one thing or another. This close association leaves an imprint in the human mind which in course of time becomes indelible enough and leads to complete identification of the subject with the object – and hence it is said, As you think so you become, or Where the mind is there you are also, no matter where the physical self is. This being the case, Saints take hold of a person from the line of least resistance.

As no one can do without Simran, the Saints try to set one type of Simran for another type. They substitute for Simran of the world and worldly relations and objects, a Simran of God’s Name, or Word. As the former leads to distraction of the mind, the latter pulls heavenward, leading to peace of mind and liberation of the soul. Three to four hours in a day has been enjoined as the minimum for Simran, and it may be gradually increased. The Mahatmas are never without Simran even for a single moment. As it is altogether a mental process – for it is to be done by the tongue of thought –, no amount of physical and manual labour can interfere with it. In course of time, like the tick of a clock, it becomes automatic and ceaseless for all the twenty-four hours. While the hands are engaged in work, the mind rests in the Lord.

I now give you some details of recipes prescribed for doing Simran or repetition of the name of God.

  • All persons are engaged in the doing of Simran in one form or another. Some do Simran by means of a beaded string called a rosary. In this type of Simran one cannot maintain undivided attention, for while doing it one has to roll off the beads with his fingers and reverse the head-knot on completion of each round of the rosary. In this way one cannot have single-minded devotion, without which there can be no gain. By constant practice the fingers automatically roll over the beads while the unbridled mind keeps wandering astray.

    This is why Master Souls always lay emphasis on mental Simran or one that is done with the tongue of thought. For Simran done with concentrated attention alone is beneficial.
  • Again, there are persons who do Simran with their tongue. This type of Simran too is no better than that done with the help of the rosary. In this type also the tongue wags on in the mouth, while the mind runs riot all the time.
  • Some do Simran at the seat of the thyroid gland. This as well does not count for much unless it is done with the attention fully riveted to it.
  • Still others do Simran at the seat of the heart in unison with the constant heart beat, but here again the sine qua non is whole-hearted attention before one can expect any benefit from it.

  • Another type of Simran is one that is done with the breath vibration of the vital air as it goes in and comes out; it gives just temporary stillness and is of little value.

Each of the above sadhans, practices, has more efficacy in ascending order than the one preceding, but none of them per se is efficacious enough unless it is done with undivided attention. A person may experience a little calm for a while but it cannot help the spirit in withdrawal and concentration at the seat of the soul just behind the centre of the two eyebrows.

The Master-Souls in all times and in all climes have therefore gone to the very root of the thing – the discovery of the Self called Atma Siddhi, the experience of the Changeless One, beyond time, space and causation – something subtler, higher, nobler, purer and more powerful in the entire creation, and have enjoined Simran of the Highest Order: one done mentally on the Divine Ground, before the Threshold of God’s own door, about which Christ says,

Knock and it shall be opened unto thee.

Again the gospel says with regard to single-minded attention,

If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be filled with Light.

This eye is called in Sanskrit as Shiv-Netra or Dev-drishti. The Muslims describe it as Nukta-i-Sweda. William Wordsworth, a great romantic poet, refers to it as an Inward Eye.

Muslim Saints classify Simran or Zikr into five categories:

  1. Zikr-i-Lassani or Zikr done with the tongue. It is also called Kalma-e-Shariet or Nasut.

  2. Zikr-i-Qalbi, done with Qalb or at the seat of the heart by the process of Habas-i-dam – Pranayam or control of the breath. It is technically called Kalma- i-Tariqat or Malqut.

  3. Zikr-i-Ruhi, done with full attention and known as Kalma-i-Marefat or Jabrut.

  4. Zikr-i-Siri, that leads to the inner secret of reality. It is named Kalma-i-Haqiqat or Lahut.

  5. Lastly Zikr-i-Khaffi, or one that unlocks the secret door. It is called Hahut.

Maulana Rumi, a Muslim Saint, while speaking of Zikr or Simran, therefore considers such Zikr alone of the highest type as helps in manifesting the Reality within, viz., Zikr-i-Ruhi as opposed to Zikr-i-Lassani.

Similarly Rishi Sandilya in his Upanishad tells us that Bekhri Simran – done with the tongue – is quite good, but Upasu – done with the breath slowly – is better still, while Manski – done mentally with the tongue of thought – is the best and tops all the rest.