The Soul and the Divine Beloved
The spiritual purpose of life is to love God and to find him within ourselves, with the help and guidance of the Divine Beloved, our Master. The self-discipline required of us if we wish to tread the path of God-realization, is not to be underestimated. Few who walk this way will find it easy. Our souls long for union with the Divine, but due to our human nature, our spiritual practice may often feel like trying to climb a slippery rock face behind a waterfall. Our material tendencies have been built up over so many past lives that it has become second nature for the mind to attach itself to the physical panorama presented to the senses. We become distracted, and with just one lapse in concentration we are back at the bottom of the waterfall again, washed away by the downward effusions of the mind.
Material habits have been ingrained in us from the beginning of our life on earth. To still the mind and withdraw the soul from the body and pass through the gates of death, while still living a normal life in the world and fulfilling all our responsibilities and duties, is no small task. In some respects it is the complete reverse of what we have understood so far. The world says that physical existence is everything; spirituality says that it is only a mirage. The world fears death; spirituality advocates dying daily. The world says we should build up our sense of identity; spirituality says we should focus far less on our own identity. The world seeks material gain and sensory pleasure; spirituality considers these distractions that could easily retard spiritual progress.
What does this spirituality entail? We are told that the soul is a part of God, a drop of his ocean and a spark from his fire. No union is closer than a drop merging into an ocean or a flame into a fire. Our soul can be seen as a bride who, once kissed by the Lord her Beloved, is elevated above all things temporal and beholds only God’s countenance. His kiss is simply a dissolving of love with Love. By love they are bound, for all eternity. Is this not what spirituality entails, what all souls are seeking - a way to make contact with the Lord, to return to him and to merge into him?
This eternal love story between the soul and her Beloved, the Lord, is well illustrated by the following verses from the ancient mystical poem “Song of Songs” of the Bible. The poem can be interpreted as a description of the greatness of the Master who, as an emissary of the Lord, comes to the desert of this world as a guiding beacon and a protector, to escort souls on their homeward journey back to God.
The soul is a store of secret treasures.
Within herself, she is a fragrant garden
of colourful blossom and peaceful delight.
And although she may not know it,
the Living Water of the Word flows abundantly within her.
The Song of Songs: The Soul and the Divine Beloved
The Beloved praises the beauty and virtues of the soul, likening her to a garden full of the rarest fruit and sweet-smelling herbs, all fed from a fountain of living water. But the garden is enclosed; its fruit and flowers are out of sight; the fountainhead is sealed, so that no water flows. This depicts the human soul, who is unaware of her hidden spiritual potential and inner treasure. The perfume which abounds in her “fragrant garden” refers to the Beloved, the Master, and the sublime atmosphere of love and peace that emanate from him and surround him. Fragrance and perfume were terms used for the Word of God as his essence, his emanation or his breath. The Word is the divine breath and fragrance that breathes life into everything. Fragrant herbs and spices like myrrh and frankincense are known for their healing qualities, and there is no greater healer than the creative power, the eternal healer of the eternal soul.
Without water there can be no physical life. The Word is the living water that sustains all life. Without this living water there would be no creation. Without contact with the living water, the Word, there is no salvation for a soul sweltering in the heat of physical existence.
Masters, as the merchants of divine fragrance of living water – Shabd – sell it to their disciples. The only fee they charge is that of love – a commodity that is also their gift. Masters, who are intimately acquainted with the divine attributes of love, are dealers in this divine treasure. These masterly merchants of love come to remind each one of us that:
Your soul, dear one,
veiled as it may be by mind and body,
is nonetheless pure spirit, and always retains its beauty.
The soul in herself is perfect, but she fails to realize this. The Beloved therefore describes her hidden innate beauty to her, in order to awaken love and yearning in her heart. By reminding souls of their true beauty, Saints inspire them to seek the spiritual treasure within themselves; by expressing his love for his souls, the Beloved generates love for himself in their hearts. It is this love that draws the soul from the body towards him on the inner planes. The Beloved sees only the highest good in every soul and loves each soul unconditionally. Were it not for his deep and enduring love for his souls, he would not stay in this world to extricate them from the dilemma they are in. He urges the soul to make her way through the third eye - the narrow gateway - and out of the body, away from the physical creation, to find him within, and to escape from the world of the mind.
Inspired by the Beloved’s outpouring of love, the soul immediately sits in meditation, wishing to traverse the inner realms.
In the stillness of the night,
I will ascend in silent prayer to the blissful, healing,
heavenly regions of the soul to meet with my Beloved.
The soul now prays that Spirit may breathe life into the garden of her soul; she is begging to hear the sound of the spirit, the song of life. In the peace of the night she will spend her time in contemplation, intoxicated, lost in bliss, traversing the inner heavens of light in the company of her divine Beloved. The soul’s attention now revolves only around her Beloved, to the exclusion of all else, as it is only with one-pointed love that the soul can leave the body and meet the Beloved inside. The soul goes where her desire takes her. It is only when the mind has been purified of all worldliness and thoughts of self that the inner meeting with the Beloved can take place.
Sweet and intoxicating is your love,
bearing the incomparable fragrance of the Divine Word.
Within your heart, seen on your face
and expressed in your words is the treasure of pure love.
The essence of Eternity permeates your being.
The glories that await the soul when she begins to realize her own true heritage are beyond description. The most beautiful and enchanting sights and experiences of this world are only a dim reflection of what lies within. Ultimately the soul realizes that there is nothing other than this primal Word reverberating through everything. She is now intoxicated with bliss and the inner sweetness of conscious contact with the Word, the water of life. The experience is far superior to anything we can imagine. There is nothing more desirable than divine love, than “the essence of eternity” permeating one’s being. Once one has achieved this, one has fulfilled the spiritual purpose of life.
May your heart be full of divine love;
May you breathe the fragrance of the Breath of God;
May you be rapt in the ecstasy of the mystic Word.
It is not easy to understand love because its true nature and greatness cannot be described in words. It is a pure and delicate feeling or emotion which can be experienced only by one who is in love. It is beyond the capacity of the tongue or the pen to describe it in any human language. Actually love is another name for God.
And just as it is not possible to reduce God’s greatness to mortal dimensions, so also is it not possible to describe adequately in any words known to man, the grandeur and sublimity of love.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II