The Human Form
Thirty-seven years ago the Voyager One space probe was launched to expand our knowledge of the solar system and now even of interstellar space. During its mission it has been sending back to earth incredible photographs of some of the planets and their moons. And in 1990 it sent back a photograph of the earth itself – showing it as a tiny blue dot, insignificant compared to other stars and planets whirling through space. At the time the American astronomer Carl Sagan had this to say:
We succeeded in taking this picture from deep space, and if you look at it, you will see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you’ve ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives:… Every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there, on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.
That photo of our planet, astonishing enough in the history of the earth, is more than matched by something that Guru Nanak said: that this pale blue dot – this theatre of life for all humankind’s achievements and all its follies – was created by the Lord as a home for his devotees. And the rest of human history, momentous though it might be, is nothing but a sideshow. Guru Nanak says in the Adi Granth:
To nurture the Guru’s devotees
The true Lord has created the earth –
the drama of birth and death is only a sideshow.
Gurbani Selections I
If we think again about what Carl Sagan had to say about humankind, then it’s hard to believe what so many Masters have said: that man is the top of creation. It’s hard to comprehend that all the atrocities perpetrated by humans on other humans are nothing but a sideshow. And yet, in the greater scheme of things, they are. They are all part of the karmic play. They’re all part of the illusion, something we find so very difficult to understand. And against the backdrop of all this bloodshed and brutality, man still stands out as the top of creation. Why? Because he alone has the potential to become more than man. He alone, in all the creation, has the potential to reach God-realization.
Great Master tells us in one of his letters:
God made man in His own image.… It is only in human form that man is endowed with superior faculties and is better off than the lower creation.… It is only man – and not even gods and angels – who has been endowed by the Almighty with faculties, by developing which he can attain the highest spiritual region, provided he is initiated by a perfect Master and works hard to elevate his soul to the higher regions.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems
And if we don’t take advantage of being in this human form, then we’ll have wasted this precious opportunity. Each of us here came into this life with a fixed destiny, with a parcel of karma which we have to go through. But while all this is going on, we have to always remember our primary purpose: to realize God.
What is the essential factor enabling us to take advantage of this opportunity? We have to find a Master and be accepted by him for initiation. Or rather, a Master has to contact us – the privileged souls marked to be rescued from the endlessly revolving wheel of birth and death. The Masters, perfect God-realized beings, come here to show us the way to go back to our original glorious home and oneness with the Creator that once we knew.
How stupid it would be not to grab at this chance! How grateful we should be to the Masters for finding us and teaching us that we don’t belong here. Most importantly, the Masters teach us how to meditate, to contact the Shabd, the stream of divine power that will eventually carry us back to where we really belong.
We are here in this human form first and foremost to meditate.
Great Master wrote to a disciple:
Human life is very precious and is due to past good karma. It was not granted to us for rearing children, or for enjoying ourselves. All these functions are performed even by the lowest animals. The only difference between man and the lower creation is that man’s life here was meant for seeing the Lord and reaching the highest spiritual plane, in this life.
The trouble is that we so often forget that the main reason we as satsangis have been given this body is to meditate. We forget because we’re still under the control of our minds. It’s our minds that keep us unconscious of our purpose in this human form. And the only reminder is that niggling ache inside us that tells us that, even though we may have everything we need for our physical comfort, even though we may have loving families, still we’re not really happy here.
Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
Unless the soul merges back into the Lord, we can never have that sense of security or happiness; we can never get release from birth and death.… That is the only duty of the human form because only in the human body can we travel on that path to reach our destination.
The Lord has designed things so that we can only come back to him if a perfect Master accepts responsibility for us. It’s thanks to the Lord’s grace that we’ve been placed in the hands of our Master. And we need to learn the lesson of absolute obedience to him.
Let’s face up to our situation here. We are like lost, bewildered children in a dark, dense and dangerous jungle. We long to get out into the light, but we can’t, unless we obey his instructions to the letter. Let’s face up to the fact that we are utterly dependent on him, that we are helpless to find our way without his support and help and guidance.
What is the reality of our situation? We live here in utter ignorance. What do we know about anything? We talk about God-realization, but what do we understand about God? We read and we talk about the Shabd, but how many of us know what the Shabd is? We talk about the Master being a projection of the Shabd. What does this mean to us? We don’t even comprehend what the Master is when he is sitting right there in front of us in his body form. We don’t even understand ourselves. We understand nothing and we know nothing. All that we know is that there’s a mysterious hunger inside us crying out to be satisfied. And it will be satisfied – thanks to the grace of the Lord who is calling us home.
It is all his grace. The Lord is within us and he is pulling us towards him. But still, he wants our effort. This too is part of the divine design for our return journey. We have to have a Master, and we have to do what he tells us. But he’s not demanding any great achievements from us. All he asks is that we try, that we at least sit and give him a tenth of our time.
And we never need to feel distressed that our meditation is too poor to meet the challenge of becoming God-realized. Of course it’s too poor. But our reaching our final destination doesn’t depend just on our efforts. It can’t. Look at what we are. Can anybody really think we could make this quantum leap from pathetic human frailty to spiritual perfection without a great deal of help? That’s what we have a Master for. It’s his job to guide our baby steps, teach us and guide us all the way, nurture our inadequate efforts until we can eventually cross the great divide between our flawed humanity and divinity.
And we will cross that great divide because that is what has been ordained for us. That will happen, with our Master’s grace.