If You Were to Experience
If you were to experience the supreme Lord
You would transcend all desire.
If with devotion you would constantly remember the Lord
You would be free from all care.
How will you ever cross the ocean of the world –
It is filled with poison.
Seeing this world of lies and illusion,
You have gone astray.
Regardless of my birth in a cloth printer’s house
I have been blessed with the Guru’s instruction.
Through the grace of the saints
Nama has been granted the gift of union with the Lord.
The writings of Saint Namdev are some of the earliest explanations of Sant Mat available to us. Although this poem is some eight hundred years old, it has a surprising relevance to our present condition. That’s because the human condition remains unchanged. Perfect mystics throughout history all identify the same route back to our Father – a route made accessible to us by the grace of a perfect living Master.
In the first verse Saint Namdev says that if we were to experience the Lord, it would be the sweetest, most wonderful of all experiences. We would realize that the Lord is the embodiment of pure love and compassion, the treasury of infinite goodness. Essentially, our experience would be so perfect, so sweet and blissful that no sensual or worldly desire could possibly remain. Our obsession with the trials and tribulations of daily life would vanish. These would become mere trifles in comparison to our union with the Lord.
In the second verse, using some fairly strong imagery, Saint Namdev explains what is preventing us from experiencing the Supreme Lord. He says that, having become lost in a world full of “poison”, “lies and illusion”, we have forgotten the Lord, our Father. Namdev paints a fairly harsh and miserable picture of our condition and several hundred years later, Maharaj Sawan Singh does the same in Spiritual Gems:
The world is a thick forest, thickly populated, where all have lost their way and are ceaselessly and aimlessly running about, life after life, harassed by the great dacoits: lust, greed, anger, attachment and pride. The remarkable thing about these dacoits is that people associate with them joyfully and, knowing that the result of their association is suffering, have not the courage to dissociate themselves from them. They eat the poison, cry, and eat the poison again.
Both saints are trying to explain that the worldly activities to which we devote so much of our energy will, eventually, all result in misery and sorrow. Whilst we derive some satisfaction from them, this is not only temporary and superficial, ultimately, such satisfaction becomes a source of our suffering. This is the great illusion that the mystics are trying so hard to shatter – the belief that through the fulfilment of worldly desires, we will find peace and contentment. They want to open our eyes to the suffering that we’re inflicting upon ourselves when our attention is geared towards satisfying the “great dacoits” – that of remaining entangled in the cycle of birth and death.
We, who are fortunate enough to be at least thinking about spirituality, may instinctively realize that the pleasure associated with securing wealth and fame, prestige and power is fairly shallow and, therefore, we may not be wholly consumed by such pursuits. But who amongst us does not turn to our family and friends for some form of fulfilment and meaning in life? In fact not doing so would contravene our nature. Given that our essence is Shabd, it is natural for us to want to give and receive as much love as possible. In the hope of satisfying a deep, underlying yearning, we devote the best part of our entire lives trying to give our best performances in the various roles that have been cast for us: mother, father, daughter, son, husband, wife and so on. Perhaps this is the greatest illusion of all.
As Maharaj Charan Singh used to explain in his satsangs, it is karma that binds our relationships together – nothing more and nothing less. Like logs of wood floating in a river that are brought together by currents and then parted by other currents, we meet our loved ones to pay our debts and then part when these are cleared. And yet, until the Lord showers his grace on us, we persist in trying to make them our own. In Divine Light, Maharaj Charan Singh explains our tendency of mind and its natural result.
We only try to deceive ourselves by thinking that such and such a person is ours…. In the life of every person there comes a time when Nature makes him realize that he is all alone in the world and there is no one whom he can call his own. Please take advantage of this blessed feeling and turn your mind to him who never leaves us.
The one “who never leaves us” is the Master. He is the one who is helping us cross the ocean of existence. He is our true friend. Soami Ji Maharaj makes this point clear in Sar Bachan:
Other than the Guru, no one really belongs to us
And no one else can tear open this trap.
So, with regard to our families and friends, the Masters advise us to discharge our obligations to them, but they emphasize that we should never forget the Lord in doing so. Clearly this is a difficult balancing act, but one that we will be able to better manage if we remember that the route to real happiness is through our meditation and that Shabd is our only real friend.
In the final verse, Saint Namdev draws attention to his good fortune. Despite taking birth in a humble family, he has received the priceless gift of initiation and attained union with the Lord. In a similar way, we should be joyous that as a result of the Lord’s grace, in Baba Ji we have a perfect living Master in our lives. We can meet him, ask him questions and he, in his infinite patience and love, continues to advise and guide us.
Our Master has also given us the priceless gift of initiation. This is a gift that nobody else can give us – no matter how rich they are or how much power they hold. Moreover, by initiating us, the Master makes us his own. It is now for us to try and make ourselves worthy of him. Rather than doing so through words and placing him on a pedestal, we need to live the life of a true satsangi by practising our meditation daily. This is also the best way that we can show our gratitude to the Lord for conferring upon us the highest of all privileges – the shelter of a perfect living Master.