In This Storm
Although it was mid-September, the last few days in the Dera had experienced stifling heat and humidity. So the dark clouds that greeted us in the horizon as we emerged from the satsang shed that Sunday afternoon prompted optimistic murmurs of ‘maybe the temperature will cool down tonight’. Barely twenty minutes later, just as we entered our room, we heard thunder in the distance.
Within minutes, the wind was howling ferociously and dust was blowing into our room. We quickly bolted down the doors and windows and soon it started to rain. This was not just typical monsoon rain; it was incessant and unrelenting, accompanied by lightning and thunder and an unforgiving wind that seemed determined to tear past anything that stood in its wake.
Without electricity in the room and given the inhospitable climate outside, we decided in the fading light to just sit for meditation, a continuation of our feeble attempts from the morning. Even while sitting, we could hear the savagery of the storm, with the constant rattling of doors and windows, even when shut. The storm went on for a full hour and a half, not abating in its intensity.
The morning walk to satsang the next day revealed the true power and ferocity of the previous night’s storm. The normally pristine and spotless Dera streets were strewn with branches that were severed from the trees. There were trees that had snapped in half, like twigs, and we heard that over 200 trees were knocked down, resulting in many power lines being cut. We saw the sanitation sevadars patiently and lovingly clearing the debris, one tree at a time. Many Dera residents commented they had not witnessed a storm like this before.
As we reflected upon the devastation, we came to realize that in many ways, this storm was an apt metaphor for the storms we weather in life. Indeed this ‘little Dera experience’ carried many a lesson for us in our everyday lives.
First, even in idyllic moments in life, when we feel things are going perfectly and we feel Master’s loving protection, storms do come and shake us to our roots. They are a part of life as we go through our karmas. We never know what is around the corner and should never get trapped into a false sense of security.
Second, we noticed that it was the weaker trees that suffered the most damage. The mature trees with deeper roots stood undisturbed and proud, shining beacons having stood firm in the face of inclement weather. Similarly, we need to continually strengthen our roots through the power of seva, satsang and simran. As our roots in Sant Mat deepen through our focus on the teachings, we will be able to withstand what our destiny has in store for us and stand calmly while we are buffeted by the day to day challenges and vagaries of modern life.
Third, we were reminded that the environment matters. The trees that were in open spaces fared much worse than those that were sheltered from the elements. Similarly, even though at times it may feel dreary to hold steadfast to our four vows, week after week, month after month, year after year, they nevertheless protect us. Hazur Maharaj Ji used to tell us that a pebble in the river is still better off than a pebble on the road because at least it benefits from the cooling effect of the water. Putting the teachings we know so well into practice allows us to have that cooling effect in our lives.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, we came to realize that attending to our meditation in times of difficulty and seeking the Lord’s refuge was the best protection in difficult times. Seeking our Master inside, within the stillness, while the storm raged around us gave us the protection and security that a child needs when confronted with danger.
Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh often used the metaphor of the palla, a loose end of an unstructured garment like a shawl or a sari. The metaphor evokes love, protection, security and safety. His explanation, connotes taking refuge with the Master and devoting oneself to spiritual practice.
Hold on to the Master’s palla, learn the lesson and go inside – that is the Nam practice.
Maharaj Jagat Singh, Discourses on Sant Mat, Vol. II
Similarly, we should all remember that during the storms of this life, if we hold steadfast to our Master’s palla, by attending to seva, satsang and meditation with love and devotion, then we too will be able to put on a brave face in the midst of the storm of life.
Listen to my supplication, O merciful Lord!
I am drifting in the ocean of existence;
if it be your will, pull me out.
In this world no one belongs to me;
only you, dear Lord are truly mine.
Mother, father, family and clan –
all of them stay around for selfish ends.
Listen to Mira’s plea, O Lord;
if it be your will, grant me refuge at your feet!
Voice of the Heart