Sharan is a Hindi word that means shelter or refuge. To seek sharan means to seek protection, safety, and support. It also means to seek a place that is strong, hidden away and well protected, such as a fortress where someone can go to find peace and comfort.
In Sant Mat to seek sharan means to seek all of this with a perfect Master. We look to him for refuge, strength and comfort when we have had enough of the sorrow, the suffering and the insecurity that life in this world has to offer us. We look to him when we want to find the source of true peace and happiness.
Sharan is realized when we turn our attention away from the world and give ourselves over in loving surrender to the Master, or the Lord, within. For in seeking our own depths, we find perfect peace resting in the Master’s loving presence.
There is a sweet story that is told about an incident in the life of the sixteenth century Spanish mystic, Saint John of the Cross. As Saint John was a spiritual teacher to a particular group of Carmelite nuns in the hills north of Granada, he would go there regularly to visit them.
One day the cook, a simple soul called Sister Catalina, asked him this question: “Padre, why is it that the bullfrogs, which are in the garden near the water, throw themselves into the stream whenever I come near?”
“Because,” he said, “it is in the water’s depths that they feel safe. There they feel secure and protected; and, it is in this manner that we too should behave: We must turn away from created things and plunge into the depths, into the centre of all things, which is God – hiding ourselves in Him.”
And so, if we are to find what we are truly seeking with the Master within, we must be like the frog that jumps into the water’s depths. We have to turn away from the world and dive into the very depths of our souls, into the very depths of love and life itself.
When we turn our attention within and focus our whole being at the eye centre, we are taking refuge with the Master. We are taking refuge in his love. We are quietly and secretly hiding ourselves with him who is the centre of all things. As love is the true being of the Master, it is by means of his love that he carries us to him.
If we are to be with the Master in this way, we must give ourselves over to him. We cannot experience the Master’s love within us as long as the ego is present. Real surrender, true sharan, requires total self-sacrifice. Over time, everything that is false is gradually shed from the soul, until the soul itself, the last thing to be given away, is merged into the very heart of the Master. This is real sharan. Maharaj Charan Singh says:
We have to surrender our self to the Master. It means that we have to take our ego out of us and blend our whole heart with his heart. He is already merged into the Lord, and by merging our self into him, we are automatically merged into the Lord. That can be done only by meditation.
The Master Answers
We surrender our ego to the Master. Through surrender, we become that divine being. Mystics tell us that our true reality is spirit, part and parcel of the essential being of God. This, our very life, is the final sacrifice, the ultimate gift to our Master in the final act of letting go. Consequently, we surrender simply to give up that part of ourselves which is false and to grow into the beauty of our own true divine nature. We, the ego-self, will not exist then. We will simply become God.
At one time or another we may have been stuck in thinking that we are actually our “little selves”. We actually think that we are the sum total of everything that makes up our bodies, such as the color of our skin, the length of our hair or the shape of our nose. We also think that we are the sum total of everything contained in our minds – our accumulated knowledge, our particular talents and abilities and our desires and tendencies to believe or act in a certain way. But the truth is, we are not the sum total of all the things that make up our external selves. This is not what we can really call “I”. We are something much more. In fact, we have become so identified with this “I”, this ego, we actually feel that we cannot exist consciously without it.
Some years ago a lady asked Master a question about the ego. She didn’t quite understand how a person, whose soul had merged in God, could still be conscious if the ego no longer existed. She was very worried that she might fall into some strange state of unconscious oblivion while sitting in meditation. He very sweetly answered her by saying something like: Sister, your consciousness doesn’t disappear, you just become God.
So there is no oblivion. There is only God. When we merge with the Master within, we realize our true nature. Through meditation our soul is joined with the Shabd. In this way, our awareness moves beyond the limitations of the ego and becomes expanded into God. We become fully conscious human beings. This is the case with the Master. His own surrender in the Lord’s love is complete. The Master has found everything that we are seeking.
Humility is the result of self-surrender. It happens automatically when we come into the presence of divine love. We suddenly realize that we are nothing. Because the false cannot exist when faced with the truth, the ego must disappear in the presence of the Master. Surrender is nothing but a spontaneous condition of helplessness when facing our Beloved. Love compels us to give ourselves entirely to him.
We accept everything in life – no matter what it is – because our love for the Master is so great that it is impossible for us to do otherwise. When we live in his love, then it is easy to accept everything. Maharaj Sawan Singh says:
We should live happily in accordance with the Will of the Lord in whatever state He keeps us .
Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV
There is no greater example of true humility than the Master. Because his surrender is complete, the Master is both the greatest and the least all in the same moment. Years ago someone asked Maharaj Charan Singh, “How can Master be the Lord and also the servant?”
In a very soft voice, he replied: “The one who is the most high is the servant of everyone.” Repeating these words again, he said: “The one who is the most high is the servant of everyone.”
The perfect Master is the highest being in creation, yet he is the most humble. He has no personal desires, as his desires are solely the Lord’s desires. Having reached the absolute state of helplessness in the Lord’s love, he has also reached the absolute state of surrender. Nothing is left in him but God.
Describing this state of being, Rumi says:
The Beloved has infused all my cells.
Of me only a name remains,
All the rest is Him.
Jalaluddin Rumi as translated by Muriel Maufro
Taking refuge in the Lord is the ultimate satisfaction of all desire. There is nothing left to desire as there is no one left who can desire. The soul has achieved the end of all desires by becoming transformed into the very being of God. An entirely new consciousness has arisen in which the soul has become a perfect channel for the Lord’s love, grace and will.
Looking again to Saint John of the Cross, we find the following passage in which he writes of the beauty, joy and intimacy that we experience when we take refuge with the Master in meditation. It begins with the following question:
Padre, since the Lord, whom my soul loves, is within me, why don’t I find him or experience him?
Saint John replies:
The reason is that he remains concealed and you do not also conceal yourself in order to find him and experience him. If you want to find a hidden treasure you must enter the hiding place secretly and, once you have discovered it, you will also be hidden just as the treasure is hidden. Your beloved Bridegroom is the treasure and the hiding place is your soul. Therefore, if you are to find him, you should forget every worldly thing and hide in the secret inner chamber of your spirit. Closing the door behind you, pray to your Father in secret. Remaining hidden with him, you will experience him in hiding, love and enjoy him in hiding, that is, in a way that goes far beyond all language and feeling.
The Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 1.9
We don’t meet the Master, because our attention is focused outside and he is inside. But if we turn our attention in his direction, he will no longer be hidden from our awareness and we will be with him.
This is meditation. This is where we find ourselves concealed with our Beloved – concealed and held by love within the “secret inner chamber” of our soul. The eye centre is the secret chamber where we come to perfect rest. Closing the door behind us and taking all of our attention within, we call to him by repeating the five holy names with love. “Remaining hidden with him”, we experience the exquisite beauty of the Master’s loving presence.
He is the treasure that we are seeking, that we are longing to love and to enjoy. He is the treasure that will be found in all of its fullness when our surrender is complete.
The reality of life is the soul.
Baba Jaimal Singh, Spiritual Letters