The silence was deafening. Even as the warm breeze blew its jasmine across the distressed mind, it did nothing to tame the piercing pain that consumed everyone. There was no respite, only tears – for just as suddenly as he had arrived earlier that week on his visit, the Master had now departed a few moments earlier, leaving us to treasure those events for a lifetime. Beautiful memories of seva, satsang, of questions, answers and discussions, and above all of course, the priceless time he spent with his disciples during his stay. Wonderful treasures that inspire happiness and joy. But at that precise moment, so very painful. What was that bittersweet feeling of agony mixed with happiness, that intensity of pain wrapped around the pleasure of tasting the sweetest honey? Something had happened – it was an arrow that pierced the heart that day. He had cut through the stone walls of our apathy and indifference, of lethargy and carelessness, with his arrow of love and compassion. And now, even as the rays of the sun danced a beautiful ballet with the leaves and branches all around us, all that could be felt was only that piercing sweet pain.
The strange thing, and perhaps the greatest hint towards trying to understand that anguish, was the fact that it had appeared almost immediately after the Master submitted his thanks with folded hands, and slowly left the venue. As those first pangs invariably dig deeper into the consciousness, it becomes clear that beneath the surface, the pain is already there – hiding from view, soothed by the balm that is the Master. The arrow simply opens the surface to reveal the wound, and release the pain within. And it is no ordinary pain. This is a pain of a different nature, one that the mystics have called the royal highway to spirituality. It is the pain of yearning – the agony of not being able to be with the one we love.
At the very moment of the Master’s departure after any period of time spent with him, there exists an opportunity to be struck with that special arrow of love, that leads to this bleeding of our soul. The pain of yearning goes deeper into the very core of a being than any other experience in life, because it consumes the victim continuously until the desire is fulfilled. And its sheer intensity is nature’s subtle yet powerful way of impelling us to strive harder, to apply more effort, in the only practice that can bring us back together with the Beloved.
The Master’s motive is transparent. We have always been told that physically, he can only take us as far as the grave, and it is his spiritual identity that truly matters, for that is eternal, while the physical is ephemeral. One day the physical Master will leave us, and the pain we feel at these temporary departures today will be nothing in comparison to the pain that we will endure at that epic moment in our lives. No matter how intense we feel now, the yearning that we experience today with each interim goodbye is in fact mild and short-lived, but let there be no mistake – it is a gift.
Each time we are temporarily separated physically from the Beloved, and every moment we feel that piercing pain, there is an opportunity for our love to be purified in the fire of yearning. The desire to be with the Lord strengthens, and consequently our resolve increases to meditate more diligently. And this is the Master’s gift to us, just as Jesus explained that it was expedient for his disciples that he leave them.
It begins with the relationship. The Master befriended us, and from that moment, he has nurtured the bond between our soul and his. And it is that relationship, fostered by his loving care, that pulls us to where he goes our source. Thus, as the longing to be with the Master blisters our heart with agony, it translates into something of unimaginable depth.
The silence was deafening. The arrow had found its target that day, and sitting in the aching stillness, the Master’s departure became his gift for each and every disciple. Pain was exceeded only by abundant sweetness, and amidst the haze of emotions, one thing was absolutely clear – that out of his love, the Master had gifted us the holy grail of spirituality – yearning for the Beloved.
The arrow of God’s love
Has smitten my heart, sayeth Ravidas,
I can be cured of this pain
Only when God, the elixir of life, is obtained.
Guru Ravidas -Life and Teachings