Why Linger in This Alien Land?
In one of his last satsangs, Maharaj Charan Singh used one of Soami Ji’s poems to remind us that we do not belong here. This begins with the lines:
Let us turn homewards, friend –
why linger in this alien land?
Why indeed are we lingering in an alien land, in a world that is not our home, when we have the means to return to the Lord in whom we had our origin? We have available to us everything we need to start our journey back: as our guide we have a perfect living Master, and as our map we have a set of instructions. And yet we linger on foreign soil, collecting more and more unnecessary baggage to drag along, delaying our return.
We are all of God, that name we give to the love and life force from which we have sprung and to which we want to return. There is a legend that at the time of creation, some souls were ready to go into the creation,while others wanted to remain in their heavenly abode. However, all souls were sent forth into the creation: both those who wanted to go and those who were reluctant to leave. At any one time now a certain number of these souls who unwillingly left their heavenly home and who have never stopped longing for it, are ready to return. They have had their fill of the transient pleasures and pains of the creation and are ready to start their journey back .
The first step on this mystic path is coming into contact with a perfect living Master. We find, or rather we are found by, one who leads the way and shows us how to reach a level of consciousness where we can transcend mind and matter, go beyond pain and pleasure and the endless cycle of transmigration from one life to the next. We joyfully pay heed when he teaches us that an all-knowing supreme God exists and that our soul is part of that God, in the same way that a drop is part of the ocean or a flame part of the fire. He teaches us that the Holy Spirit, the Shabd or Word, is the true transcendental essence or Name of God. In the Bible, in John 1:1, we read about this concept of the Word when we’re told that: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
We read further that all things were made by him and nothing that was created came into being without the agency of the Word. The Word is therefore nothing but the current of divine energy, the eternal power of the Creator through which the universe was created, is sustained, and will eventually be destroyed at the time of dissolution.
Our Master also teaches us to be aware of the law of karma, the universal law of action and reaction or cause and effect, which makes the soul face the consequences of all its actions, whether performed in this life or in previous lives. It is the law of karma that keeps the soul imprisoned in this creation, as the soul has to continue taking birth after birth in different life forms to account for its actions. Under this law all our actions have good or bad consequences. By our choices and actions we therefore create our own reality – we are not mere victims of fate or circumstance and we cannot blame others for what we are going through today.
Through the Lord’s grace and our good karma we have been given the means of creating a new conscious awareness for ourselves. We are indeed fortunate if we have been born into circumstances in which we are able to come into contact with the Word and the bearer of the Word, to whom we can extend our love. It is from him and through his love for us that we are able to receive guidance and support on our path of spiritual realization.
How do we allow the pure love-energy of the Shabd to take over our lives and displace the mind or ego – which is keeping us in recurring patterns of failure on the path to self- and God-realization? We do this by becoming still and trying to learn who God is – by practising our meditation, by focusing for a predetermined time each day on being in his presence. In order to turn our attention inward, one has to work to stop one’s mind from wandering out and direct it towards the Shabd, the Holy Spirit. “Sit still and you reach your destination,” says Soami Ji in one of his poems. It is up to us to arrange our lives indeed, each day in such a way that we make time for the single most important task of our lives.
Acceptance of our lot and contentment are fundamental to the teachings of the Masters. This cannot be achieved through wishful thinking but is the natural outcome of a tranquil mind that is grounded in meditation. It can only be attained through meditation, by doing the Lord’s work and placing our focus where it should be – in the presence of the all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful Lord.
In order to live with love and have compassion for ourselves and for others, we need to practise calm acceptance of our karma as being of our own making. We need to align our focus with the knowledge that divine grace is always present to help us overcome these difficulties of our own making. Unless we meditate, our minds will forever be thrashing around, caught up in worldly thoughts, worries and anxieties, in power struggles and control issues – unaware of the quiet blissful space of meditation where it can enjoy peace and bliss and prepare for its onward journey home.
We need to examine our lives and ask ourselves some difficult questions: How often and how regularly do we sit in meditation? How often during the day do we push away all worldly thoughts in order to attend to the only One worthy of our time and attention? How disciplined are we in doing what our Master requests of us? Do we waste our emotional energy on greed, anger, lust, pride or attachment – and on things that are transient and which take us away from the Lord instead of taking closer to him?
If we are not satisfied with our answers to these questions, we should make some changes now while we can and invest our energy where the dividends are assured.
What else is required of us if we no longer want to linger in this ‘alien land’? After finding a true living Master, sitting at his feet, imbibing his wisdom and serving him with all our heart, body and mind by doing our meditation, we also need to serve our fellow human beings, our fellow travellers on the mystic path, by being good human beings, as so often requested by our Master in his satsangs.
To have our souls unite with the Shabd we need not only to turn our lives around – facing our attention upwards and inwards – but also inside out and back to front. By turning inside out we mean showing the world our soft, inner, God-loving self, and by turning our lives around we mean turning our backs on the world and facing the Lord. We need to make a 180 degree turn, turning about-face and no longer tarrying in a foreign land – moving steadily and swiftly Godward. Let us pay serious attention to the words of Soami Ji when he asks, in another of his poems in Sar Bachan Poetry:
Why do you tarry in this world, brother!
What will you gain stumbling around here?
Nurture longing in your heart
and seek God in the company of the Saints.