There is a famous parable titled The Cave written by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato in which people are confined in a cave. They have been there for a long time chained to a wall that faces another wall. These prisoners spend their lives interpreting their own shadowy reflections cast on the wall by the fire burning behind them. Their lives are projections on a cave wall, but are construed by them as real. It’s not until someone from the outside comes into the cave and has them turn around to face the sunlight from the outside world that they see and experience the brightness and warmth of the sun.
This is the human condition. We too live a distorted reality under our own veil of darkness, the veil of ego. What we are actually experiencing is a shadow play but we endow it with false value and meaning and take it to be real. Then we act accordingly upon our false impressions. It is said that we see the world through tinted glasses that colour our perceptions of reality. And what are the results of our misperceptions? We only perceive the superficial, external aspects of this creation that we experience with our physical eyes, ears, and other senses. And, since we humans tend to be satisfied that we know everything, we can easily interpret the world according to our own limited, subjective perspectives. If we haven’t had our spiritual eyes opened, we can’t accurately see the world from the Lord’s point of view.
Perhaps this is why Master says that a dark veil of ignorance covers us. Even though we think we have knowledge of the world, what we are really lacking is true understanding about the most important aspect of the creation – the Creator. We may have the best degrees from the best schools and the best job, but what have we accomplished in life if we have no knowledge or experience of God?
Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
You see, this ego, this intellect, makes us think we know everything. When we eliminate that ego, we realize we know nothing.…
It is absolutely useless to have all the knowledge of the world if we do not know the Creator, who is within every part of his creation. When we know the Creator, then we realize that we know absolutely nothing. It is the Creator who knows everything.…
If you’re full of ego or intellect, this will keep you from the real wisdom, from the spiritual experience and spiritual truth, which the Lord has put within every one of us.
So our ego, our instinct of “I-ness”, is the dark veil of ignorance which keeps us from seeing the greatness of the Father and his creation. We can’t help but see everything in our life from our subjective point of view in which we are focused on what the Master says is me and mine. And we don’t even see how deluded we are in believing that our way of seeing the world is all that exists so, of course, our view must be right, and everyone else must be wrong.
It is only the Masters who can open our spiritual eyes and broaden our perspective. Masters are spiritual physicians who come to open our spiritual eyes. When we realize the enormity of our ignorance, it humbles us, and we grow to understand that there really is someone in the creation who can see us and the entire creation from a perspective of truth. He or she may not even be educated in the worldly sense, but they have experienced the inner sound and light, the inner truth. The intellectual may have knowledge, but the Master has true wisdom, experience.
Recently, the Master made a distinction between spiritual teachers and Masters. He pointed out, using an example of the Shabd, that a teacher can talk about a subject. The teacher can explain it to us and describe its attributes. He can do this through thoroughly studying the scriptures and writings of various mystics or spiritual Masters, and he can do it without speaking from direct experience. However, a true Master may not even be able to read the scriptures or write down his experience with the Shabd, but he can speak directly with conviction and credibility from personal experience. A Master knows of what he speaks, while a teacher is simply describing what other Masters have said.
So, the benefit of coming into contact with a living Master is that he or she can show us how to gain wisdom through spiritual experience. They can be an example to us that we can see with our physical eyes, but we grow to understand more deeply as we put into practice their instructions. In our spiritual ignorance, we need someone who is awake in this world, who knows about God and the mysteries of death. And this is what the Master does for us. He shows us how to see through the dark veil of ignorance and understand this creation from the Lord’s point of view. He tells us that we are more than a body, an intellect, emotions, ego; that our real, inner self is of the same essence as the Lord, and that we are connected to him through the holy spirit or sound current. Our Master says that we are all rays of light emanating from the same sun.
It’s by following Master’s instructions and turning our attention towards him that we finally leave the shadow play of this world behind us. This is accomplished through meditation.
Attend satsang, seek your true destination
and lose yourself in your Master’s love.
The Master will help you find
the jewel of Nam within yourself
and retrace your way through the inner skies.
Just do this now, in this very life,
and the Master will take care of the rest.
Act on Radha Soami’s advice
to end your pains
and find your way to peace.
Soami Ji Maharaj, Sar Bachan Poetry