Satguru, the Perfect Polisher
Maharaj Sawan Singh, affectionately remembered as the Great Master, served as the Satguru at Beas from 1903 to 1948. For close on half a century he gave satsang, and his discourses revealed his great love for the poetry of many Indian and Persian sages. The following is based on a discourse he gave on a poem by Saint Paltu, published in the book Discourses on Sant Mat, Vol. 1.
Hail to Thee, Great Polisher, all hail!
Remover of my stains, all hail!
In this poem Saint Paltu pays tribute to his Master for helping him scrub off the karmic stains accumulated over lifetimes. These karmic stains, or debts, have settled like a coating on the soul, dulling its refulgence. In paying tribute to his Master, he not only recognizes the perfect Saint’s role, but acknowledges his own helplessness.
The karmic account, owed by the soul, binds it to the creation and separates it from the Lord. This separation is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, of the suffering of the soul. This, in essence, is the plight of man.
Like an ill-used vessel whose stains
are getting ever faster,
the soul sin-soiled its shine regains
polished by the Master.
If a cook is too lazy to wash the pots after using them and then keeps using the same dirty pots, they’ll eventually have to be discarded. If the previous day’s remains are never cleaned out, they’ll harden into a crust, making the pots useless for cooking. And not only will the meals taste terrible, but they could poison the whole family.
The soul has reincarnated and transmigrated through millions of lives and countless species over aeons of time. This journey has not been a free ride, for under the dictates of the mind and the sway of the passions, the soul has accumulated layers of karmic rust. In every life the soul pays back some debts but creates many more. The net result is a steady build-up of karmas. If the soul could keep cleaning up its dirt, all the karmas from one lifetime would be settled in the next, but this is not the case.
Eventually, exhausted by this struggle and weighed down hopelessly by karmic debt, the soul recognizes that some intervention is required.
This intervention comes in the form of a God-man, a son of God, or a perfect mystic. It does not matter what name we give him, what country he is born in, his family history, education or profession. He has one task and one task alone: to free suffering souls from the chains or the cycle of reincarnation and transmigration.
When the soul is at its lowest ebb, when it is drowning in the ocean of maya or illusion, it cries out for help. This is an important step in the recovery phase, for it is at this time that the soul, weak and helpless, is ready to submit to the ministrations of the Master. In India it is often said, “When the chela is ready, the Guru appears!” That has now been our good fortune.
The rust rubbed off – that age-old stain –
the mind defaced now looks so plain.
Hail to Thee, O unique Polisher.
How is the rust rubbed off? Just as in any worldly contract, the agreement is made between two parties – the Master and the disciple. Each has his or her own role to play in this emancipatory drama. Each has a duty, an obligation, a commitment. They commit themselves to each other.
This massive task they undertake with all the weapons in their armoury. For, if one should turn back, they would both fail in their mission. After the ceremony of initiation, in which the secret instructions are imparted, the Master and disciple are linked in a relationship closer than lovers, closer than mother and child.
The disciple, guided by the Guru, begins his course of meditation – patiently, doggedly, humbly. The Master now plays the role of guide and counsellor.
There will come a time in this meditation when the disciple’s mind, polished and purified, begins to enjoy the inner bliss. At last the radiance of his beloved Master’s face and the celestial sound current become his daily companions. He turns from the world and his attention becomes inward.
This is merely the beginning of this magnum opus, or great work. The defaced mind, as Paltu puts it, now finds itself pure and clean and takes no further pleasure in its erstwhile pursuits.
The soul, free and unfettered, will, in the company of the perfect Master, ride waves of pure Shabd to return to the Father. The prodigal son returns; the separation has ended as the soul merges back into its origin.
And this grateful spark of the divine flame, recognizing its true state, cries “I am, That I am!”