The Golden Age
According to Hindu Scriptures the passage of time is divided into four yugas or ages, each lasting an indescribably long time. They call the first age the Golden Age and describe it as a time when truth and contemplation are dominant. People live very long lives in harmony and tranquility. This age is followed by the Silver Age, when lives are shorter, and charity and sacrifice play the dominant role. Then comes the Copper Age when human lives are even shorter still and characterised by idol worship and acts of piety. Lastly comes the Iron Age. This is a time characterised by discord and strife and people live very short lives, generally filled with negative emotion and aggression.
The Masters tell us that we are now in an Iron Age and, no doubt, we would agree with that as a description of the world in which we find ourselves. True, there is some beauty, kindness, love and compassion to be found all around us – in our own lives, in the lives of people we know and in our environment. However, we would probably have to agree that strife, discord, hunger, enmity, poverty, misery and disease seem to characterise our world more accurately than love and harmony.
Therefore it might come as something of a surprise to be told: Now is the Golden Age. For us, this is the truth.
Soami Ji, the first of the Radha Soami line of Masters, has this to say:
The three ages of gold, silver and copper have passed
without any of us knowing the method of Shabd practice.
In the Iron Age, Radha Soami, in His mercy,
has openly made known the secret of Shabd.
Sar Bachan Poetry.
Soami Ji tells us that even though the three happier ages have passed, our souls are still here because we did not know the method of Shabd practice. The Masters tell us that release from the cycle of transmigration can only come about through Shabd practice. A soul must be accepted for initiation by the perfect living Master of his time and then, by following the Master’s instructions, he will gain emancipation from birth and rebirth and enter his own personal Golden Age, an age that precedes reunion with the Creator in Sach Khand.
In previous ages the Masters were very selective when accepting disciples. There were rigorous tests disciples had to pass before being deemed fit for initiation. The conditions of life may have been more harmonious and peaceful, but the soul was as trapped as it is now in the Iron Age.
Fortunately for us, things have now changed. Now, in the Iron Age when existence itself is often a trial and an ordeal, the rules have been relaxed and most people who apply for initiation, after meeting certain basic and relatively simple criteria, are accepted. The ills and miseries of the Iron Age are deemed to be so great that the Masters have taken pity on souls and lowered the requirements for initiation. This is a boon beyond our comprehension.
The Masters have never been as active, as visible or as accessible as they are today. Their teachings have been published and distributed throughout the world in dozens of different languages. This is a great boon to mankind.
Still, people will say, the Iron Age is a time of ugliness, brutish behaviour and misery. How can anything about it be described as golden? Perhaps it is a question of perspective and attitude. How can we appreciate beauty if we have never seen ugliness? How would we understand the value of good if we could not compare it with bad? What would light mean without darkness?
This is a world of duality. And it is this very state of the world that makes us yearn to leave and find something better. We have been given glimpses of beauty, peace and love, and long for more. Who knows how hungry for this ideal state we would be, were it not for the negativity that we see all around us. It is possible that we would not have searched for, nor as eagerly embraced, the path of Sant Mat with its promise of a true Golden Age, were it not for our dissatisfaction with the Iron Age.
Within our personal lives the same principles of duality apply. Our soul longs to return home to Sach Khand, to perfect peace, joy and love. This, however, is a state of utter purity, cleanliness and beauty. Who of us fit that description in our present state? We need some serious cleaning up! Perhaps we need darkness to seek light, perhaps pain is the scrubbing brush required to cleanse us of impurities. Our Master wants to get the job done now, so any scrubbing that may be going on in our lives should be gratefully welcomed.
Turning within, to the world of spirit, can only be done with the help of a perfect living Master. Anybody who has met a Master and heard his teachings knows of this escape route. The only questions that remain to be asked are: What are we doing with this gift? As satsangis stepping out of the darkness of the Iron Age into the splendour of our own Golden Age, how are we saying ‘thank you’? Are we living the lives of true satsangis, or are we resting on our laurels?
Soami Ji offers us these words:
Anyone who sings Radha Soami’s Name
will swim across the ocean of existence.
All conflict will end,
all pain and agony will cease
and they will find peace.
Rarely does anyone know the secret
of that boundless Name.
But the ones who do
reach the far shore,
never to be reborn into this world.
Sar Bachan Poetry
In other words, we’re promised permanent exit from the Dark Age and entry into the Golden Age. There are no ‘maybe’s’ here. He says: “will swim”. “will end”, “will cease” and “will find”. This end result is not open to speculation. The Master guarantees that his disciples will “reach the far shore, never to be reborn into this world.”
However, he does not say, “I’ll initiate you and take you home. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!” He says, “Work with me. Cooperate fully on the journey.”
Are we doing that? What have we got to do in order to cooperate fully? In short, we have to adapt our lives in order to make the path our priority.
It all starts with meditation, of course, and the Master’s grace. It means planning one’s day in such a way that there are two and a half hours available for meditation. The present Master is often heard to say that disciples don’t have a time problem, we have a focus problem. We will happily prioritise and focus on worldly issues; set time aside for family and worldly concerns, but not give our meditation the same focus.
We all too easily allow worldly activities to compromise those meditation hours. We watch television or read until too late, or eat a heavy meal too late at night. Our whole day must be structured in such a way that we find ourselves in tip-top condition for our meditation sessions. They are not a chore; they are the privileged hours we share consciously with Master. Meditation is our own personal haven in the midst of the Iron Age. It is time out with our Master where, with practice, we can access peace, tranquility and profound joy.
Once the meditation is done, then the rest of the day looms like a wild horse needing to be tamed. Let’s say we spend six hours asleep and two or three hours sitting. That leaves about fifteen hours to live for our Master in a way that is a credit to him.
The pattern of our daily lives is shaped by the karmas allotted for us for this lifetime. But now we have to ensure that we don’t add more to our karmic debt. We have to be strict vegetarians and avoid meat, fish, chicken, eggs, alcohol and drugs. We must never relax our vigilance. Leading a pure, clean, moral life in thought, word and deed is where things can go haywire. It means we must earn our living honestly, declare our income honestly to the taxman, never try to wriggle out of paying our dues at all times. It means we must keep our very thoughts clean and pure. It means we have to strive every day to follow the example the Master holds up before us.
However, he knows we are not yet perfect and he understands our limitations. What he wants from us is constant effort at meditation, at improvement of attitude. He wants us to discriminate between good and bad and choose the good.
And we have to learn to accept his will cheerfully and gratefully. He is now in charge of our destiny and every single thing that happens to us, happens with his love and approval. Everything that comes to us is an opportunity for acceptance, gratitude and submission to his will. In this way worries, fears and problems of all sorts fade away and are transmuted into gifts from him; iron is turned into gold.