A Divine Invitation
Hakim Sanai, an early Sufi poet, says:
Whoever is caught up in the bonds of this world stands only to gain if he flees its might; for this world is the source of pain and sorrow: the wise have called it a transit camp…. It is surely the height of folly for you to linger on this bridge.
The Walled Garden Of Truth – Hakim Sanai,translated by D. L. Pendlebury
This is a very good description of the situation of satsangis and seekers alike: we are on a “bridge” between two worlds. Through the grace of the Lord we have, in spirit at least, left the material world. Sometimes we are confused and bewildered, many times we only see obstacles, but our heart wants more than anything to move forward. We are tired of our part in this play and want to go home. The Lord is moved by our plight and our real longing, and sends the Master, the Satguru, with his divine invitation to come back to his court. Hafiz says:
You have been invited to meet
No one can resist a Divine Invitation.
That narrows down all our choices
To just two:
We can come to God
Dressed for Dancing,
Be carried on a stretcher
To God’s Ward.
I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz,Daniel Ladinsky
You see, when the Master asks us to come to his court, we cannot refuse – we must go. Maharaj Charan Singh used to jokingly say something similar. To paraphrase: When God calls, you can go willingly or be dragged by a bulldozer.
The point the saints are making here is that we only get that invitation when God wants us back, which means that in our soul we are ready to go back whether we think so or not. Think about all the satsangs that the Master has given, think about all the poetry and bachans (teachings) of the saints – aren’t they always just an invitation for us to leave this place and return home? Isn’t that the most singular message of the saints? So once we receive that invitation, isn’t it the height of folly to linger here?
Rumi almost commands us to leave here, to move on:
Lovers of truth – rise up!
Let us go toward heaven.
We have seen enough of this world,
It’s time to see another….
Rumi – In the Arms of the Beloved, translated by Jonathon Star
Soami Ji Maharaj, in a similar way, also exhorts us to leave here:
My mind, abandon this abode of pleasure and pain,
rise above it and attach yourself to Satnam, the true Lord.
Sar Bachan Poetry
He goes on to explain to us why we should abandon this place and tells us of one of the great obstacles in our way. He says:
Your stay in this body is short-lived,
it is a city you will have to abandon one day.
Neither your wealth, nor your wife,
nor your children and grandchildren
will be of help to you then.
How easy it is to forget that we too must die. We see or hear about death all around us, but we don’t want to believe that it will happen to us. The obstacle that he is referring to is our attachment to the people and things of this world.
In another poem Soami Ji refers to the attachment to wife, children, grandchildren and our own bodies as a four-stranded cord that can expand into five, six, seven, or more strands that tether us to a stake. He is not saying that we should not love our wife, children, grand-children, etc.; love is very different from attachment. Love, as saints define it, is giving compassion and understanding, without expectations of anything in return. Attachment is always taking or having expectations. The saints say that to put our faith in a relationship built on attachment is foolish. These relationships are only for a short time; they will not last, and when we die none will go with us. Maharaj Sawan Singh, the Great Master, says the following about attachments:
Do not give to the world and the people of the world a value equal to that of your own ideal. Wherever your desire is, there must your residence be. Because our love is all for this world, that is the very reason why we must come back into this world again and again. But if we give our love to the Lord, we attain salvation. The Lord and the world are in the scales, and that side to which you give your love will go down (outweigh the other). The world is to be dissolved and her people also. When the gurmukh detaches his love from this world and its people, and has taken the path from the Master, he should give his love to the Lord. If we give to him our true love, then no one can ever bring us back into this world.
Besides attachment to family, another cord of attachment that tethers us to this world is the attachment to our own body and personality. Now we are so attached to the body that we have forgotten all about death. If we really did understand that we are drowning in the ocean of this world, and if we realized it is the Master that throws us a lifeline, then truly we would hang on to it for dear life. The Master has thrown us a lifeline, which is the path of Sant Mat. This lifeline is the rope of Shabd, which comes from its source in the Lord through the hands of the Master. When we grasp on to this lifeline, slowly but surely the Master pulls us out of the current of this world back to his arms.
Our problem is that we don’t believe that we are drowning, so we can hardly realize that someone is saving us. One reason for this is the fact that we believe we have the luxury of time. So the saints are constantly trying to shake us out of this lethargy and urging us to take action now. Maharaj Charan Singh interprets John 4:35 in the Bible by saying:
When you have raised your consciousness to the eye centre, you have, as it were, the crop of your meditation ripe and ready for harvesting, and you can begin to gather it. He [Christ] says: The Lord is always waiting for you there…. waiting to pull you to your own destination, your eternal home of peace and bliss…. Do not put off your meditation on one excuse or another…. The harvest is ready for you; the Lord is waiting for you there.
Light on Saint John
How do we overcome these obstacles that our attachments present? How do we break free from these attachments that hold us so firmly to this earth? The answer of course is to have faith in the Master and our meditation. This is no simple matter, but it is the only remedy. Ultimately, we must surrender the ego entirely. So don’t hesitate, “don’t linger on this bridge”. Grab hold of the Master; he is patiently waiting. Once again, Soami Ji sums up all of these thoughts and words so beautifully:
Love your Master
as a lover adores his sweetheart.
Stay in his company with a heart filled with longing
and hold on to his feet with all your mind.
Be open with him – no cunning or deceit
and try to grasp his message.
Sar Bachan Poetry