The Role of the Master
On this path of Sant Mat we turn our eyes towards two great beings: the Lord Radha Soami and our own Master. But what do we ordinary mortals know of either? When we talk of God, do we really know what we are talking about?
We turn to God, typically, when we are in trouble, and we don’t know what to do. We want God to extricate us from whatever difficult situation we find ourselves in, and we hope that he can do something extraordinary to make our suffering come to an end. It seems, though, that for us God is someone whom we have no way of approaching, nor do we have any means by which we can communicate with him.
The Master, on the other hand, appears to be a normal human being, just like us. But what do we mean when we refer to someone as a Master? We say that he is someone who, through rigorous spiritual practice, has raised his consciousness to the highest possible level, and merged his being into that great light we call God. In this respect, at this level we can hardly distinguish where the Master ends and God begins.
Yet, the great advantage that we get from the Master is that he also exists at our level, can speak our language, and understands what challenges we face in this world. He can talk to us, and we can talk to him. The Master explains to us how to reverse the downward and outward tendencies of the mind and travel back to the Lord. Not only does he teach us the path that leads us to our true home, but he guides and assists us at every step of the way.
The sad truth is that, unless we have the guidance of a spiritually advanced soul, one who has made the journey to the seat of the living God, we have no guarantee that we are getting the Truth. All the other information that we have access to has been filtered through the limited understanding of people who are themselves ignorant of the truth and are merely exercising their intellect and ego.
This is not a good basis on which to make the critical decisions of our life. So we need a perfect living Master. God is completely beyond our understanding, and remains a mystery for us, but the Master is real for us in the sense that he comes before us in a human body, just like ours, and he can speak to us and show us the way in a manner that we can grasp. He speaks to us in terms that make sense in the modern world, in the climate and culture that we live in.
What is our actual situation? The sad truth is that so far we have lived our lives immersed in this world, believing it to be real and acting accordingly. In the process we have, in our ignorance, considered things to be important which are actually temporary and thus unreal in nature. We commit ourselves to things like family, job or country in the firm belief that these things are real and important and will provide us with the security and happiness in life which we so passionately seek. In fact they do exactly the opposite!
By our attachment to these things we bind ourselves to return again and again to this world in order to continue relationships to which we have given ourselves so completely. In addition, in the pursuit of these worldly desires we have committed many acts, not all of them entirely noble and selfless. In this manner we have bound ourselves to the faces, places and things of this world and the often painful reactions that follow from our actions.
It is the nature of the mind to be taken in by the deceptive nature of this apparent reality. Left to our own devices, we would have absolutely no chance whatsoever of escaping it. Many have tried. Sincere and devoted souls have done their utmost, but ultimately all were defeated, exhausted and crushed under the wheel of birth and death; still bound to the cycle of coming and going. The bottom line is that we need help, and we need it in the form of a perfect living Master, the embodiment of truth on earth, without whom our best efforts would merely further entrench us in the endless cycle of misery in which we have been trapped for untold ages.
So what does the Master tell us to do? He tells us that our attention is our one true resource, and that currently our entire attention is focused and directed downwards and outwards into the material world. We need the Master to help us to change our whole way of thinking – to change our perceptions of what is real and what is not. To start turning our attention away from the things of this world, to become aware of a higher reality, the Master asks us to follow a different lifestyle. The Master also tells us that there are certain facts which, pending the experiential proof that we will eventually have of a higher reality, we should take on faith in the meantime.
So what are these facts? First, that there is a God. He created all of this and sustains it even now. Second, we are neither this body nor this mind; what we really are is soul, which is divine in nature, a drop from the divine ocean of the Lord. Third, our true home is not in this world, but with the Lord in his own home, which we call Sach Khand. Using these as postulates, the Master asks us to do the spiritual practice in order to raise our consciousness out of the morass of this world and up to that level where we can witness the truth and experience reality for ourselves.
The Masters of all ages have advised their disciples to practise meditation. The purpose of this meditation is to overcome the downward pull of the negative tendencies of the mind and to cultivate its finer or higher aspects. The Master gives us three techniques to achieve this. First he gives us simran, the repetition of the names that he reveals to us at initiation. By doing simran we withdraw our attention from this world and focus it inside at the eye centre. By doing this we are gathering our consciousness and directing it to a point beyond the domain of the physical. This is the method by which we can detach ourselves from the concerns of this world and shift the centre of our attention to the domain of our Master.
Along with our simran we’re asked to do dhyan – to try to visualize the face of our Master and then fix our attention on that form. In time, when our simran has been perfected, our attention will rise up to the point where we encounter the Radiant Form of our Master inside. This landmark event cannot be described in words. The soul is so entranced by the luminous vision of the Master that it is helpless to do anything but gaze in helpless wonder at this incredible spectacle.
The third part of our meditation practice is to try to listen to inner sound, probably quite indistinct at first. But in time, as our concentration grows, we will begin to hear the glorious sound of the Shabd – that power by means of which the Creator caused the universe to come into existence and by which he sustains it. Listening to the Shabd then becomes the main method of the soul’s further progress towards its ultimate union with the Lord.
So what is our situation now? We need to always bear in mind why we are on this path: we realized that nothing in this world could fill that emptiness that we felt inside, or could give us lasting happiness and peace. We need to continuously keep this in mind, because the downward tendencies of the mind will constantly try to lure us into giving our attention to the false glamour and glitz of materiality, and in so doing, pull us back into the domain of mind and maya, the grand illusion of the material world.
We also need to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and our attitudes. We are accountable only to ourselves and to our Master. The regard and approval of the entire planet will not help us progress one iota on the spiritual path, nor will its disapproval hold us back. We need to be true to ourselves and look only for our Master’s approval, no one else’s.
At the end of the day, our only resource is our attention, and our only friend is our Master. Only he is deserving of our undivided attention and loyalty. Only he will help us to achieve the dream of spiritual liberation and convert it into an eternal reality.
Thanks to my Master’s blessings
My heart is overflowing with joy.
My Master knew what my heart longed for
And he spoke to me fondly and cheerfully.
When my Master spoke to me in his infinite grace,
My mind and my heart were filled with bliss, says Tuka.
Tukaram, The Ceaseless Song of Devotion