On the second to last page of Legacy of Love there is a final image of Hazur Maharaj Ji. His back is to us in the photo. He is standing in a shadowed doorway of the satsang ghar built by his master – he’s facing outside the building where the air seems lit with a delicate golden radiance.
Opposite this photo on the final page of the book is one of Maharaj Ji’s last messages: “May your love of the form culminate in the love of the formless.”1 He’s turned away, we can’t see that face. We might imagine that he is reminding us to keep going with our practice of love, to love that face, that being, but not to stop there – to go where he has gone, to see what he sees, to love beyond all limit. This he wishes for us.
Soami Ji Maharaj also speaks about going beyond all limit. He describes in rich detail the sights and sounds of the inner spiritual regions. But when he comes to the destination of the soul in the Nameless One, words and descriptions fail. He simply says:
What more can I say? No one was there …
What there was I tell you now:
Wondrous wonder it was all in himself –
Wonder, wonder, wonder!
But then something happens:
Wonder then took on a form.…
In the form of saints He comes into the world,
And He himself reveals his secret.2
And this is the key to the whole story. Wonder takes on a form. In the form of saints he comes to the world to return us to the formless.
Even now, right down here in our strange little lives where we’re running around like ants in a hurricane – even with all the noise and distractions, people have always experienced moments touched with the awareness of some vast presence, moments filled with awe and joy at a beauty we can’t fully see.
Infants and little children seem to be in touch with this state; they seem to live there for a little while before life in the body fills them up with the debris of desires and fears, of ego, and makes them forget that place. The Gospel according to Matthew tells us:
Some disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.3
Traveling the inner way means to change, to become like a child again – pure, empty, open to give and receive love. This, Jesus says, means a second birth, a birth into spirit, and this time around it’s for keeps: it means to escape being dragged back to the world again and again to meet and love and then leave an endless procession of fathers and mothers. It means to come to rest in the formless Father.
But the question for every seeker is, How will I ever experience this wonder, how will it ever be more than brief hints from the beyond? Maharaj Ji gave us the simple diagram of return:
Deeply engrossed in wife and children, in friends and relatives, in wealth and possessions, you become a part of the ever-moving wheel. By deep devotion to Nam, you step out of the perpetual motion of the wheel and regain the axis with its equilibrium, its stillness, its ineffable bliss. Nay, you become one with the Lord.
Here is is a striking image: it is either life at the outer periphery of the wheel, or life at the radiant centre. Every day of our lives we wake up and we get moving – we wake up and doggedly get moving out and out onto the path of our mind. This path of the mind leads away from the sacred axis. We live and move and have our very being not in the Divine, but deeply engrossed in this fragile bubble of the body that we mistake for our real self.
We know nothing of stepping away from perpetual motion on the periphery, nothing of the way to the centre. We’re just out here flailing on the vast ocean of illusion, constant waves, no landmarks, sometimes sunny and calm so we feel happy, sometimes thunder and lightning and huge waves – no direction known. It’s everyone for himself or herself, trying to stay above water and piece together a tiny, fragile life with bits of debris that float our way. We build flimsy little rafts for ourselves, and then we invite others to climb on for company and warmth. Life on the high seas of existence. It’s exhausting. It’s frightening. It’s lonely.
And then… out of nowhere over the high seas suddenly appears a being like none we’ve seen before. He is so vast, so radiant, so present, so sweet, we can hardly believe our eyes. With one glance he touches that core of our being – he awakens a love like none other. And it’s all over. We sigh a sigh of relief that was a million eons coming. Then he calls from his beautiful, strong, seaworthy boat, Come with me! We’re going home. You just catch hold of this rope I’m throwing out to you, this rope of five words, and hold on to it for dear life. I myself will pull you into the boat of the Word, and we’ll ride that celestial Sound to that other ocean – the ocean of truth, of consciousness, of bliss.
This merciful boatman would then explain that our aloneness is a fiction of the mind. Soami Ji Maharaj says:
In the beginning there was only One, then there were two, and then three, then many, then thousands and lakhs, and finally there were countless beings. Now he who finds a perfect Sat Guru, who is one with the One and is the form of that One, will succeed through his grace in extricating himself from the illusion of the many and reach his Real Home.4
It is our supreme privilege to escape the illusion of the many and come to experience Oneness. Now this is a beautiful idea, but it is just an idea. Where does experience begin?
We really know nothing – about ourselves or life or God – but we do know without question when we have experienced something from the guide, the messenger from the formless. In the life of every disciple there is the turning point, the moment we understand that we have one true Friend. It may be love at first sight for some; it may take years for others to reach that critical mass of recognition. We could never describe this experience or prove it to anyone else, but this experience gives us the kernel of faith that lays the foundation for all our efforts to discover and love the Formless.
Now come the instructions. Sheikh Taqi, a Muslim seeker, has been awakened by the touch of Tulsi Sahib’s love, and Tulsi now gives him his part to play:
Listen, O Taqi, keep your gaze fixed on your Master
who has offered you his hand.
Leave it not through negligence, if you long to see
the splendor of your Beloved.
His grace will lead you to his very presence,
without any fear or danger on the way.5
He tells Taqi, If you really long to escape the ocean of existence and experience the Beloved, just keep your inner gaze fixed on me. Always. He says, I will hold your hand the entire way, but you have to keep holding my hand. This is meditation. And the foundation is simran: repeat my names at the eye focus, and like a child just be open, curious and receptive to whatever I show you within. Darkness or light, silence or sound.
We just follow. He does everything. This is grace. All true spiritual teachers have told their disciples how much they want them to experience what they themselves have experienced. Great Master says:
Your friend or Master is within you, nearer than anything else, and watches you. Whenever your attention is directed towards the eye center, He hears you and responds, but his response is missed by you because your attention wavers and runs outwards. If you could hear inside, you would be in tune. I wish you may come up to him and see him inside, face to face, instead of merely sensing his presence.6
The Master is with us – at a depth we can’t yet know or imagine; and now our life work is to be with him.
So he says, Repeat my names, remembering me until you forget yourself. In an evening meeting someone asked Hazur Maharaj Ji, “What do you remember about your Master?” He answered, “I am only remembering my Master.”
Our work is to fix our attention in those five names – in that presence – until we forget everything else; slowly, slowly over the years to bring our attention to a pinpoint focus at the eye centre, the place Dadu Dayal calls the door of eternity. Our work is to bring every ray of attention to the focus, in stillness and silence. Great Master said:
Unless we have complete silence within ourselves,
our soul cannot experience that Silence
out of which arises the Voice of Silence or the Shabd,
by contacting which our soul becomes merged in Silence.
This is the reality of Silence.7
Silence of the mind is the destination of simran. The glossary of Spiritual Letters notes that simran “is designed to focus the mind at the eye centre.” Someone designed simran. Who designed simran with this power? We certainly didn’t. Simran is a great wonder. Maharaj Ji quoted an old Indian proverb: “The elephant’s footprint covers all.” Then he continued:
All the benefits of prayer, penances, austerities, ritual worship, reading or reciting the scriptures, or good deeds and giving in charity, [all] are included within what we receive through meditating on the Word.
What greater prayer can there be than to have the Name of the Lord on our lips day and night through constant simran?8
The elephant’s footprint. Everything we could ever pray or say to the Master is to be channeled into simran. These five holy names are the way we thank him for finding us and bringing us back to life, the way we try to please him, the way we beg his forgiveness for turning away from him so often, the way we beg to feel his presence, the way we cry for help, the way we cry for refuge from our own mind, the way we show our obedience. Of all the countless names we could ever think or speak, these five names are the only names that lead to the Nameless, to Nam.
And yes, Tulsi acknowledges the challenge. He says: “Arduous is the way to the destination of love.”9 It is arduous to bring the mind again and again and ever again back to simran and bhajan, because our mind is the one thing we don’t want to give him. It’s just the mind’s nature. It doesn’t want to go still – if it goes still, what becomes of our self, what happens to our identity? So of course the mind puts up a fight!
And we constantly lose our fight with the mind. And yet … somehow it is through all our failures that we come to discover his grace.
Tulsi reminds of us of the Master’s grace, the circle that encloses our entire life. He says:
The one who dissolves difficulties is with you
and has given you his hand.10
No matter how forgetful or rebellious we are, no matter how ignorant or arrogant we are, the Friend within never withdraws his hand – he holds us in mercy and compassion, grace and forgiveness. Our only job is to persist with the practice of becoming present to him. Sarmad says:
The ocean of his generosity has no shore.
The tongue is powerless to thank,
the heart too bewildered to understand.
Though my sins are many
his compassion is greater still –
I swim in the seas of disobedience
but I do not drown.11
- Legacy of Love, p.547
- Soami Ji Maharaj, Sar Bachan 38:12, in Radha Soami Teachings, 7th ed., p.168
- Bible (NIV), Matthew 18:1–5
- Soami Ji Maharaj, Sar Bachan Prose, #171
- Tulsi Sahib: Saint of Hathras, 2nd ed., p.92
- Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems, #105
- Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV, 4th ed., p.25
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II, 3rd ed, p.70
- Tulsi Sahib: Saint of Hathras, 2nd ed., p.92
- Isaac Ezekiel, Sarmad: Martyr to Love Divine, 5th ed., p.289