Surat Shabd Yoga technique of meditation practiced by Sant Mat followers involves withdrawal of the attention from the body and collecting it at the eye center – immediately behind and above the two eyes. This eye center is also called as the Single Eye in the Gospels and this is where the headquarters of the mind and soul in the body lie.
As the experienced meditators would be aware, when one begins to meditate and the attention begins to collect, at first, the extremities of the body – the hands, feet, arms and legs start to get numb with the withdrawal of attention. As one continues to meditate and concentration develops, the numbness extends to the torso, then up to the neck and finally the entire body goes numb. The attention of the meditator is fully focused at the Single Eye and they are completely unaware of the physical body. This process is similar to that of death, only difference being the vital functions of the body are maintained during meditation.
Saints and Mystics sometimes explain the Truth with the help of analogies and parables. These analogies have deeper meanings and are not be taken literally. Jesus used the expression “Taking Up the Cross” to describe the withdrawal of attention to the eye center. It must be noted, that Jesus used this expression long before he was crucified. So any relation to the death of Jesus on the cross would not be apt. The daily practice of meditation was referred to through the expression ‘take up his cross daily’ by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke –
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.Luke 9:23
We know the importance of our daily meditation. Sant Mat Masters have all been advising us for the same. It helps us stay on track. Gospel of Matthew also says that one cannot claim to be a disciple if one does not practice daily meditation.
He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, not worthy of me.Matthew 10:38
How did we conclude that Jesus is referring to daily meditation when he talks about the cross? We are aware for a fact that crucifixion was a common form of punishment for the criminals in those days and the wooden cross was the most common technique employed for it. It was designed to be a slow lingering death, one which would suffocate and exhaust the criminal and ultimately lead to death. As we know, meditation is also sometimes referred to as ‘dying while living’ because it is the slow process of emulating death while living. So we can safely assume that the cross was a symbolic representation of the slow process of withdrawal of attention from the body during meditation.
In some of the Christian texts, the cross is also depicted as the symbol of Spiritual Tree of Life. Following text from the Acts of Peter puts forward more deeper meaning –
What else is Christ, but the Word, the Sound of God?Acts of Peter
For the Word is the upright beam whereon I am crucified.
And the Sound is that which crosses it, the nature of man.
And the nail which holds the cross tree to the upright,
in the midst thereof, is the conversion and repentance of man
The cross and its different parts have deep and symbolic meanings. Peter says the real Christ is the Word, the Sound of God. He then goes on to say that Word is the main trunk of the cross, which is depicted as the vertical axis of the human body on the cross. It is the Spiritual tree of life. Meditator is crucified, means loses his sense of individuality by dying while living and merging with the sound within. Branch of this tree of life which crosses it, is the soul. Its reality is the divine sound. The nail represents the single eye where our attention collects. Taking up your daily cross thus means, repenting through our daily meditation and die while living.
Modern Saints do not hesitate to present the teachings of the meditational practice in a simple manner. But in those days, Saints were not willing to divulge the secret meditational practice openly and so they used analogies and symbols to convey their message. They were not looking for numbers, all they wanted was their small set of disciples to be sincere seekers. But it is quite clear that like other Masters, Jesus also gave out the message of Going Within through meditation to his disciples. He advised his disciples to devote time to daily meditation to build their treasure in heaven.