We are all born into this world thirsty: we come into this creation needing to drink in order to survive. All living things need water, and the earth is unique in our known universe because it has that water which enables life to survive here. A human being cannot exist very long at all without water, so nature has given us a craving to take in the vital fluid we need. Without that thirst we wouldn’t want to drink.
We can try to quench our thirst with other forms of liquid, such as milk, fruit and vegetable juice, and man-made concoctions like fizzy or fermented drinks. But it is the water contained in them that provides their main benefit. And although we have grown to enjoy these other drinks, we know it would be bad for our health to rely on these alone.
In the same way that our bodies have been given thirst in order to make them seek the water they need to survive and flourish in this creation, our souls have been given a kind of thirst too. We all need love and nurturing, and receive it to varying degrees, from our parents, our families, our communities, our friends. But even those who have love in abundance often feel a thirst for something higher. This thirst is for something which, no matter how hard we try, we cannot satisfy in the world around us.
We try to quench our soul’s thirst by every possible means known to us: through people, through our families and friends, boyfriends or girlfriends and spouses; through our activities, whether work, hobbies, social or political deeds. But still our spiritual thirst is not quenched. We plan, we work, and we keep ourselves busy, going from one activity to the next, one person to the next, trying to quench this powerful thirst within us. What we are thirsting for is the realization of our true nature and the rediscovery of our original source.
Why do you drink water, O swan soul? There is an ocean of nectar within you, which you can drink just by withdrawing your consciousness inside.
Soami Ji Maharaj, Sar Bachan Poetry
The soul’s thirst cannot be quenched by any water of the world. Perhaps here Soami Ji is equating water with the things of this world: bodily considerations, concerns of the mind, and outer observances such as rites and rituals. We can never hope to quench our spiritual thirst through any of these. Even the observances of religion are meant only to point us in the direction of this inner nectar. They are there to provide us with inspiration to find it, and all of our holy scriptures sing its praises. Maulana Rum says: “Young lovers like to drink wine and sing love songs. There is another wine, another song, another tavern.”
The divine nectar
Soami Ji lovingly tells us that there is a divine nectar for the soul to drink, an ocean of nectar – a limitless supply that is just there inside us, which will quench the thirst of the soul. This is the divine nectar, the elixir of life, The Name of God, the Anahad Bani, the living water, which all saints and mystics tell us about, using different languages. This is a nectar that not only satisfies the soul’s thirst but also intoxicates our whole being. Kabir tells us that, “Those who drink the elixir of the Lord’s Name do not suffer the pangs of thirst again.”
And Guru Ravidas, in the same vein, writes:
I drank, indeed, I drank the nectar of God’s love … drinking this nectar, ‘me’ and the world are forgotten, and I get intoxicated with the divine elixir.
Quoted in Guru Ravidas, The Philosopher’s Stone
It is virtually impossible to describe this nectar, this Anahad Shabd, this Nam – just as it is impossible adequately to describe being in love. Despite the attempts of poets through the ages, true love can never be explained in words.
Just what the sound current is may not be so easy to tell. It is the Creator himself reaching down into the realms of mind and matter in a perpetual stream of his own divine spirituality.
Introduction to Sar Bachan
The waves of the ocean of Shabd are surging in each one of us. Those who drink of its waters are no longer troubled by thirst or hunger and gain eternal life. This was the water of life that Christ offered to the woman of Sychar at the well so that by drinking it she might quench her thirst forever.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol IV
We have to force the mind to drink
In the beginning stages of meditation, when we attend to our bhajan, we have to force our minds to drink of the nectar. This is because the mind has great difficulty in letting go of the world, as it is tied to the senses. It is like the horse whose rider is trying to bring him to the watering hole to drink: the water wheel makes such a noise that the horse refuses to go near. When the water wheel stops, there is no noise but the water too stops flowing. When the wheel turns, the noise is there and so the horse is afraid and won’t drink. Finally, the rider has to whip the horse and make him go despite the noise of the wheel.
So too we have to force the mind to drink from that well within us, surrounded by the noise of the world and our minds. The world will go on, the mind will go on – still we want to drink, we need to drink. That Shabd, that living water, is vibrating and shining every second of every day. The Master has led us to the watering hole. It is up to us to make the effort, to whip the mind, with our love and devotion, and attend to our meditation.
Becoming a receptacle
To take in that nectar that will quench our spiritual thirst, we first need to become receptive. We cannot just reach out and grasp water – if we try, it runs through our fingers. We have to make our hands into a cup shape. Similarly, we ourselves have to become receptacles – we have to stop grasping and reshape ourselves so that we can receive the divine nectar.
Philo Judaeus writes in On Dreams:
And when the happy soul stretches forth its own inner being as a most holy drinking vessel – who is it that pours forth the sacred measures of true joy but the Logos, the cup-bearer of God and Master of the feast – he who differs not from the draught he pours – his own self free from all dilution, who is the delight, the sweetness, the forth pouring, the good cheer, the ambrosial drug… whose medicine gives joy and happiness.
We are the cup, the vessel. And we must choose what we would prefer to be filled with – poisons of the world or the nectar of Nam. At present we are drinking the wrong things. Maharaj Charan Singh often used the example of an upside-down cup – we can never expect it to be filled with rain water, no matter how much rain falls. That nectar is always raining down within, but so long as the cup of our mind is facing downwards it cannot be filled.
What we are looking for is right here
That ocean of nectar is right here within us, and the Master is ready to help us quench our longing, yet we are wandering around in the world mad with thirst.
Water is everywhere around you, but you only see barriers that keep you from water. The horse is beneath the rider’s thighs, and still he asks, Where’s my horse? “Right there under you!” Yes, this is a horse, but where’s the horse? “Can’t you see?” Yes, I can see, but whoever saw such a horse. Mad with thirst, he can’t drink from the stream running so close to his face. He’s like a pearl on the deep bottom, wondering, inside the shell, “Where’s the Ocean?”
Rumi, This Longing, translated Barks & Moyne
Maybe now we have not yet heard the highest Shabd; maybe we are still at the beginning. But we definitely feel that living stream resounding within us. It manifests as love in our hearts, as forgiveness towards each other. When we love unselfishly, that is Shabd; when we forgive each other, that is Shabd. That nectar streams through us as devotion, as determination to reach our goal, as love for the teachings: this is all the Shabd. In the Master’s presence we often feel this powerfully.
Nam courses through our veins; it is our blood, our life-force. That spiritual thirst we feel drives us towards our goal, parched and often desperate as we stumble through the desert of the world. Meditation is the action we take that will finally begin to alleviate our thirst.