Our Purpose in Life
Inspired by a talk given by Baba Ji at Dera on July 1, 2012
The Master addressed the sangat as he does each year when he is about to leave the Dera for his annual summer tour outside India – seated on a chair on the dais, without a pathi or scriptural text for structure, like a father talking to the family before he leaves to travel far away on work. As a father he reminds his children of what is important – of their hopes, aspirations and values as a family, and of what they stand for. In sweltering heat, heat way beyond anyone’s comfort level, several hundred thousand people had gathered for the satsang.
Baba Ji started by asking us to reflect on why we have all come together – what has brought us together? Everyone lives their life with some objective or aim, some wishes or desires that make them act in a particular way. Dependent on their objectives, people identify specific values or principles to live by, principles that shape a journey that leads them where they want to go. Spirituality is our objective. With spirituality as our aim, what principles do we live by?
The first principle we observe is that we try not to hurt anyone. Not only do we not hurt any human being, we seek to live a life where we cause no suffering at all – not only to people but also to all the other life forms: animals, birds, insects, all living beings. We choose to live a life that causes the minimum suffering to any living being in the creation. When the entire creation has come into existence from the one spirit, the one Shabd – when all are parts of the divine One – is it logical to consider that some parts are of no value, some of less value, and some of more value? When living creatures are killed for food, do we really think they don’t suffer? When we violently extinguish their spirit just to please our taste buds, how can we imagine that this uncaring way of living can support our spiritual development? If spirituality is our objective, how can traumatizing the spirit force in another life form be compatible with nurturing our spirit? Imagine that a knife is put to a creature’s throat: do we not think the creature experiences terror? Would we choose to be part of the demand for that supply chain? This is why we choose a vegetarian diet. In addition to embracing the ideal of compassion for all living beings through our lifestyle, there is the health consideration as well. Many scientists are now putting forward the concept that a vegetarian diet is a preferable option for health-conscious individuals living responsibly in today’s world.
The second value or principle supporting spirituality is clarity of mind. It is the human capacity to reflect and discriminate between right and wrong that enables a person, as compared with all other living creatures, to choose to live by specific principles. We are what Baba Ji calls “karam jooni”. We create karma. We have the element of akash, the power of discrimination. Thus we are responsible for our actions. This implies that we can make a conscious effort to align our willpower and actions for the purpose of attaining higher consciousness. The human form alone is a karam jooni, the only life form with choice, as compared with “bhog joonian”, which describe all other life forms. Life forms that are bhog joonian merely undergo, endure, and live out their karmic allocation for each life. As long as they are in that life form, they have no choice. To exercise our God-given birthright as a karam jooni, and to support the future we have consciously chosen for ourselves, we need a clear mind. Indeed, this unique capacity for discrimination is reflected even in the legal sphere when we wish to make a formal will. A clause is inserted that a person of sound mind has made the will. A document of such importance is not considered valid if, due to ill health or other circumstances, the author’s mind is no longer under his or her control.
To grow in spirituality, we have to walk the straight path in everything we choose to do or not to do. We have to make countless decisions on a daily basis about what will serve our real interests and what will not. For this we need a clear mind at every step of the journey. As Maharaj Charan Singh used to explain, we are now at the topmost step of the ladder and one more step can take us to the roof of our house. If we slip now, who knows how far we might fall? Just one wrong foot, one wrong action, can cause a person to slip all the way down the ladder of life forms and necessitate rebirth at a reduced level of consciousness to square the account. As you sow, you reap. Therefore, a person with spirituality as his or her objective avoids taking any substance that would cloud the mind or affect the power of discrimination. This means not using intoxicants of any kind, in any measure or at any time, to make one feel good, or happy, or high – to drown out suffering and sorrows or soften life’s hard edges – because drugs and alcohol change one’s perceptions in a manner that is outside one’s control. We may say things and do things that otherwise we would choose not to do.
With clear vision, we are in a position to keep our spiritual objective before us at all times. We ourselves are temples of the living God. We are at the top of the creation. We ourselves are the body, the physical form, in which the Lord can be found. The structures we have made over the centuries, our diverse places of worship, enable the lovers of the spirit to come together in remembrance of the One. Were we to truly understand the One, their differences would not be considered significant. “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God” gives the message of the One from the perspective of Christianity. “Shabd guru, surat dhun chela” – from the Adi Granth – means the Word is the true teacher or Guru, and a consciousness attuned to the melodious sound of Shabd is the true disciple.
But do we hear the saints’ message about what is true? No, we don’t! Instead of working to find the One, we worship those who carry the message. We create rituals and religions around the teachings and personalities of the teachers, in ways suited to our diverse cultures. We limit the limitless; we divide up the universal; we reduce the irreducible to concepts we can grasp.
Saints come again and again to remind us of Spirit, of Nam, Shabd, the Word, the Name. And how do they tell us that this indefinable, limitless, and unchanging spirit may be known? By walking straight in the direction of our objective, by being obedient to the Guru’s instructions, living the life of a disciple and joining ourselves to the spirit within us.
We get confused between outer realities and the inner reality. Baba Ji spoke of our body — which is our physical and mental reality — as a rented house given to us for a fixed period of time. If we were to rent a house, how much of our time and resources would we invest in a building that does not belong to us? We spend our lives serving this outer shell, but what of the being that lives in it, the very life of this rented property? How do we serve our consciousness, the reality of soul that is our eternal reality? Do we do anything to meet its needs and empower it? Satsang, Seva and Shabd – each has its parallel in the world of matter and the world of spirit. The outer is a means to the inner, but it is the inner reality that bears fruit.
Our objective is to be consciously in touch with Shabd, to awaken and strengthen our consciousness or surat – till it can actively hear the melody of Shabd, of the spirit. This is our real work. Gathered together to hear the teachings, we are in satsang – but real satsang will be when we are in the presence of the spirit, of Shabd within ourselves.
Who is the true sevadar? The person who serves the Satguru. And what does it mean to serve the Guru? It means “Thy will is sweet, O Lord; “Thy will be done,” as is said in the Christian “Lord’s Prayer”. It means walking in the way of the Satguru, abandoning the ego self – letting go of this me, my, and mine. The Guru’s pleasure lies in our doing our meditation no matter what our circumstances and responsibilities, for they are our karmic allocation for this lifetime and we cannot avoid them. The noise, demands, and other activities of the world will never cease in order to allow us a peaceful environment for meditation – we will never get ideal conditions – so we have to concentrate our attention despite adverse conditions. We can make our lives easier by keeping our spiritual focus, so that life’s hammer blows feel no more than pinpricks – by meditating in spite of our circumstances and responsibilities.
This is the real seva – doing our meditation. Outer service cleans the vessel of the heart so it can hold the Shabd. The Guru’s will is one thing only; the Guru has only one order and his pleasure is one alone. His pleasure is Shabd and Nam; bhajan and simran; awakening the surat and raising the consciousness. Pleasing our Master means sitting in meditation – every day.
The Master was full of praise for all the sevadars who work so lovingly and selflessly to look after his sangat. He said that we give ourselves to seva to become real disciples. But if we do not fulfil the real seva as well, we will never know peace.
Peace and bliss will come when we are in contact with the Shabd, when we reach the fourth stage beyond the three worlds that are driven by action and reaction. It is the Shabd that has the power and purity to carry us across these worlds. And we will only find the Shabd when we enter within. So be the “doers of the Word,” as Christ said, the Master told his sangat, his family. This was his message. This is the way. Keep your spiritual objective before you and engage in spiritual practice. It is the Guru’s one request.