Ask Nothing of God but God
If you had the opportunity, what would you ask of God? When Shams of Tabriz was a child, this very question was put to him by his own Master, Sheikh Abu Bakr. At the time all he could do was to nod towards his Master, indicating that all he wanted was his Master. Shams said that although he could not talk at that moment, he was “entirely full of words, talk and meaning”. At that moment all Shams wanted of God was his Master. And, of course, he later became a Master himself – the Master of the well-known and well-loved Sufi poet, Rumi. Surely if Rumi had ever been asked what he wanted of God, he would have replied in the same vein.
Shams is further quoted as having said: “Having had God’s inspiration since childhood, I can train a man with words so that he becomes free of himself (his ego) and can advance on the path.” To train with words – is that not what we do daily when we are engaged in our meditation, when we are repeating words in order to make contact with the Word?
We meditate with the purpose of becoming free of ourselves, of ridding ourselves of our ego and of advancing on our chosen spiritual path. Not unlike athletes who train for the Olympics, we put in hours of training daily, a tenth of our day in fact, to achieve spiritual fitness. As spiritual athletes we train conscientiously with our inner eye always on the ultimate trophy, as we desperately want to make our dreams of glory come true. There is nothing that we want more than to step up on to the podium of Sach Khand and receive the gold medal of God-realization.
An expert coach can enhance an athlete’s performance greatly. As spiritual athletes we have the best coach available: one who knows exactly what the preparation entails. We have access to the one who has completed the race successfully – and who has already won the ultimate prize. How fortunate we are to be able to rely on a Master who has already gone through the trials and tribulations himself, a Master who knows the hidden dangers and who can confidently share with us the secret of his success and guide us on our way. We as satsangis should count ourselves blessed – able to refine our spiritual technique through training with the help of one who is completely familiar with the only way to reach the top.
We call ourselves satsangis: people who associate with truth, seekers after truth. Knowing what it is we seek, what it is we want from God, we make a daily appointment with destiny. We enter a quiet space, shut our eyes and our minds to the world and spend time connecting with the Shabd, the life force, the love, the Lord from whom we originated and to whom we owe our very existence. In order to still our busy minds, we do simran, repetition of the Lord’s names, in remembrance of the Supreme Lord. We do dhyan, visualizing our Master, and we do bhajan, listening for the Shabd, the divine sound, the primal creative force that reverberates through our bodies, minds and souls.
It is in these quiet moments, when we have left the world of coarse matter behind, that we prepare to enter the subtle spheres of consciousness. It is here on the inner planes that we want to become fully aware of that Shabd, the life and love force that keeps us connected with our origin, our source – the creative Word of God. So, like Shams, we train with words to attain the Word.
To support our training, our meditation practice – the tenth of our day that we dedicate exclusively to the Lord – we need to lead lives conducive to meditation. We should not harm others or ourselves, we should not incur karma, we need to show loving kindness to all and conduct our lives with honesty and integrity. If our sole concern in this life is the reality of spirit, connecting with the Divine, then the principles that support our quest are not hard to follow. We no longer want to have anything to do with that which stands in our way to self-realization; we need to push away everything that may hinder us in our sincere quest to attain God-realization.
We have to make leading a spiritual life our main concern, and meditation our first priority. And we should do this now, while we have our health and sanity (or some measure of it!) for there is no way to tell the time, place or the circumstances of the destined demise of our bodies.
Shams also tells us about a perfect adept who, before he died, joyfully leaving his body for the eternal union with his Beloved, exclaimed: “Stop, O my camel, joy is complete! It is time, the journey fulfilled.” We will all reach the end. For everyone the journey will some day be over, sooner for some than for others. The time will come for us to leave our bodies, alight from our camel, the beast of burden that carried us across the desert that is our life on this plane of phenomena. Will we have fulfilled the purpose of our journey? Will we rejoice, like the adept, when death comes, or will we mourn our lost chances?
We all seek the promised land where the One who is Sought resides, and we know that we cannot reach it by ourselves. We need to be spiritually fit, and we need help. We need someone to offer us guidance, sustenance and support. We want to find one who can help us. We want the one who is at one with the One, so that we too may become One. Who do we turn to for this? Who can possibly be better qualified than our beloved Master?
Shams tells us more about the Sought, stating that there is no doubt that there is a Sought in this world, and that the world was created for him and for the benefit of his followers. This world, this edifice or royal tent, as he calls it, was erected “for Him, not He for it.” He tells us clearly that “No seeker, on his own, can attain Him unless ‘the Sought’ reveals Himself to him.”
After having floundered around by ourselves for countless centuries, in different life forms, having tried every other route in the book, we come across the Sant Mat path one blessed day: on the day that the Sought chooses to reveal himself. By his Master-plan we come into contact with the Master of the plan. By divine design, on the day and hour specified, we hear of the Shabd, and of the one who can initiate us into its wonders and set us off on our way. We find, or are found, and we establish a relationship with our Master – or rather he establishes one with us. We are immensely blessed to have a perfect living Master, who can reveal the mysteries of the mystical path to us.
It is by the grace of the Supreme Lord that we become recipients of the grace of the Master of our times. It is, after all, the Supreme Lord who sends Masters to our plane of existence to reveal to us, in words that we can understand and in images that we can follow, our spiritual origin, which is our spiritual birthright and the heritage that awaits us – once we declare ourselves willing to return. And we are more than just willing; we are keen, we are so very eager to look into the face of Love again.
A true seeker, says Shams, is one who hangs around other seekers in the hope of finding the one who is sought. Rumi, Shams’ disciple, later mirrored this in a poem when he said that he is looking for anyone who knows of anyone who knows Him.
Everyone who seeks God and who wants nothing from God except God, will surely find what he is seeking. Now, have you made it very clear in your own heart and mind what your soul’s reply will be if you are asked: “What is it that you ask of God?”