Life and Love
Imagine you are sitting in a lovely garden. It’s summer, in the late afternoon. You are relaxing in a comfortable chair. Gentle sunlight, clear blue sky, a refreshing breeze. It’s quiet – everything is perfect.
Well, almost perfect. Your mind is still restless, as always. It won’t stop uselessly arguing a point to someone who is only in your head. The voice in your head is justifying something and trying to make you right and someone else wrong. The beauty of the moment is lost by your attention being somewhere else. You pause in a rare moment when there is a ceasefire between the thoughts. If only my mind would be still and give me some peace, you think.
In the turbulence of your mind and the beauty of your garden, your end suddenly comes. In an unexpected moment you are dead – gone!
Your body is disposed off. The chair remains – empty, covered with fallen leaves. Someone carelessly roars off in your car that you never let anyone else drive. They did it without even asking! Your Dylan and Moody Blues CDs are dropped off at the charity shop, replaced by some strident hip hop, blasting the speakers to shreds.
The reading of your will was better attended than your funeral. What you put in the bank by stress, sacrifice and hard work has been shared out. The beneficiaries had hoped to get more. In less than a week your erstwhile colleagues gather in your office, congratulating the person sitting at your desk on his promotion. Your name plate is in the waste paper basket. Now that the Grim Reaper has done his job, his assistant the taxman, like a vulture, picks at the remains. His claim on all your lifetime’s hard work has caused a For Sale sign to be put up outside the house you sweated blood for, for twenty years. Somebody helps themselves to your garden chair too.
So what was really worthwhile in your life? Now that it is all over, what did you do that has benefited you? What would you do differently if you could rewind?
Fortunately, there is no need to rewind. You are still alive. With 20–20 hindsight you have an opportunity to live life more profitably. But not for long.
In the past hour, close on sixteen thousand people on the planet will have gone through the experience of death. By the end of today the number may have risen to three hundred thousand. When will they have this rare human birth again? And will they use it properly?
When the Masters say a human birth is rare, they mean it is rare beyond comprehension. Rare beyond our ability to grasp. And how many of those rare human births are used for their true purpose?
What a piece of good fortune for us to be here now. We are still alive in this precious human form. We have 20–20 hindsight. And we still have the garden chair in which to sit and consider our options. What is important now? What is this span of time in the human form really about?
Human life has a practical purpose. It is not a sensual holiday to be indulged in between birth and death. It is an opportunity. And the opportunity that is grasped with both hands has changeless true love and bliss as its reward. Let it slip – and then what?
With the fog of mindless inner talk obscuring our journey – and time relentlessly gaining on us – we should ask ourselves: What is the prime essential of our life? The answer is love. L-O-V-E. Without it there is nothing. Love is the purpose of our life. It is the life stream and also the source.
God is love, we are told. If that is so, the best way to become one with God is to become love. Love is the great mystery and goal of life. How can the mystery of life be grasped without love? All our practices must be for the purpose of awakening this love.
If we are graced with clear insight into this truth, then spiritual practice easily becomes our focus. But in the absence of clarity we stumble in darkness, trying to get worldly fame, power, wealth, and esteem from our fellow man. To expend our precious energy in such pursuits is to throw our precious opportunity away.
We are on a journey, and all journeys have a starting point. Our starting point on this journey is a point of confusion and blindness. This journey we are on is a process of resolving the confusion and regaining our sight. This is done by gradually removing the layers of ignorance that cover the core of our being.
Most people are trying to modify the outer layer of ignorance to make life comfortable. They try to decorate it with power, prestige, fame and wealth, and spice it up with sensual pleasure. In that state they pass their days and waste the precious human form. How can we let go of all of this and gain a different focus?
When one’s mind is free from all desires and longs to meet the Master, this gives rise to detachment. Detachment is a wonderful state. A detached person is indifferent to every non-essential object of this world. Detachment means accepting the material comforts as well as the necessities of life insofar as they are useful – realizing they are only a means to an end. They are used for living in the world. They are not the goal.
A detached person is not entangled in the world. He enters its activities in name only and keeps his attention on Nam, on the Master, on God. It is a wonderfully uncomplicated state. His love for the world fades away as his love for God grows.
It is attachment that holds us here. As Marahaj Charan Singh used to say, pain comes from attachment. Attachment is the conduit for pain.
Detachment, on the other hand, is a state of being. It is not an act of will or of deprivation, like renunciation. It is a state of being in the world but not of it.
But how do we develop this vital detachment, so absolutely necessary to achieve spirituality? By grace! We become eligible for this by meeting a true Master and becoming devoted to him.
Devotion is a magnetic power by which the attention is drawn away from everything else and becomes focused on the beloved. Devotion, along with intense longing, is the route to love. When we love someone, we absorb his qualities and become like him. Real devotion is to be prepared to sacrifice all for the object of our devotion. In other words, we don’t consider ourselves; we are not even aware of ourselves. Our separate identity, the biggest obstacle on the path, is not there. For the devotee, devotion is love in practice.
Anyone who has experienced love knows longing. It is both painful and sweet. It focuses your attention. It ripens your love. A lover always wishes to go to the place of his beloved. Nothing else occupies his mind. All other thoughts are washed away by the longing that’s part of love. Things you had longed for in the past have no attraction. Things you once valued become worthless. It is only the beloved you want. You are restless. Nothing can comfort you. It is agony, yet at the same time it is sweet. It is a kind of madness. Only someone who has experienced it can know what it is.
Love is not easy to understand, because its nature is beyond words. With love there is everything. Without it there is nothing. It is a current that keeps the world going. Love is the essence of life. God in the form of love is within each of us. Love gives and demands nothing in return. Love inspires generosity. It obliterates selfishness. Love will triumph where reason fails.
How is this love awakened? How do we receive this wonderful gift? By following the instructions of the Master. The Master instructs us to follow a vegetarian diet and to avoid intoxicants like alcohol and drugs, which weaken our judgement and will. Closely related to sobriety is morality – don’t lose your moral compass. Following these basic instructions, taking these most basic steps, creates a state conducive to reversing the flow of our attention and starting the inward journey.
To start the inward journey, the Master instructs us to do simran. Simran is remembrance – a natural function of the mind. Take advantage of that. When the mind is not doing some legitimate practical function, fetter it with simran. It is in the silence of the still mind that the Radiant Form of the Master appears and the sound current is heard. With remembrance and contemplation we have a great aid on our journey, for we become what we contemplate.
Contemplate on the Master. This is his instruction. By following the instructions of the Master we will become love – we will become him.
How is it that Shabd draws us up? In essence, Shabd is the same thing as our soul; there is a mutual attraction between the two. Both are made of the same material, if we may call it so, the same stuff. Birds of a feather flock together; like attracts like. Everything has a natural affinity and attraction for its fountainhead or source.… Our soul is a drop of Shabd, which draws it up as a magnet attracts a needle.
Mysticism, The Spiritual Path