In our human journey we have to interact with the physical world. This vast web of illusion moves us along in a powerful river of time and space. This relentless current drags us along through the whole of our lives. Sometimes the current seems to move us rapidly, sometimes slowly, but always, always, we are being hurtled towards the great abyss that everyone knows about but which few will speak of. Those who dare speak of this impending descent are the Masters. They offer instructions on how to escape the abyss. And for this they are labelled by some as dangerous. And those who listen to the Masters are labelled by some as crazy fools because they follow these instructions and swim against the great current of the world – or try.
But most of the time, heavy with desire, weighed down with our lust and anger and greed, we seem to be carried farther and farther downstream and it is hard to turn around and swim in the opposite direction, towards the source. Our attachment to the illusion is so strong that at times we cannot see or remember the purpose of swimming upstream, and our struggle becomes that much more difficult. Sometimes we ask ourselves why we are doing this. It would be so much easier to float downstream and just go with the flow. Yes, the river of time and space is powerful, but the Masters have told us the secret: right within the tumultuous flow of that mighty river there lies an awesome and dynamic current, the river of love – the audible life stream – and it flows in the opposite direction, the direction of endless peace and happiness. When we begin to resist the river of the world we find that we begin to submit to the river of love, the audible life stream.
Sometimes we find ourselves filled with Master’s presence and the effort is joyous. Surrounded with satsang and seva and the community these afford, we can easily fend off the dangerous currents and eddies. At other times we feel vacant of spiritual inspiration, for whatever reason – immersed in the world up to our eyeballs. It is when this river of time seems to pull with extra strength that the swimmer is put to the test, thrashing around in the waters of illusion and trying not to drown.
As satsangis we pursue a direction against the current, almost inviting ridicule from some we pass going another way. Some shake their fist at us, “Hey buddy you’re going the wrong way!” We seek the quiet refuge of simran while others are turning up the volume. We shun drugs and alcohol when many struggling souls are indulging to kill the fear of the abyss. We go to bed when the world is awake and meditate when the world is asleep. We are the vegetarians at the buffet, holding up the line, staring at a plate of beans and asking, “What are the ingredients in this dish?”
There is no judgment of any of our brothers and sisters on the planet. Everyone is looking for happiness, and perhaps we are the crazy ones. We are like salmon swimming upstream. It is an inner compulsion to find the source of our being. So we find ourselves going against the flow, living a life that is a little bit different, and raising a glass of juice to toast the perfectly insane idea of swimming upstream.
Now one must admit it is tempting to say that when living in a Western society we find it more difficult to live a spiritual life, but that’s a bunch of hooey, a lame excuse propagated by people in the West like me who experience no apparent inner progress and look for excuses. The river of the world is just as powerful East or West, North or South. What is difficult is finding the blend between the inner spiritual life and the outer worldly life. Sometimes the two seem to be incompatible.
When drawn by the spiritual life, we find ourselves simply happy. For whatever crazy reason, the path makes sense to us. But we might not feel worthy of it because however hard we try to swim upstream, we’re still susceptible to the downstream currents.
When engrossed in the world, we feel like a fish out of water: like a phony, an imposter, someone taking pictures in a foreign country, developing snapshots and grasping for moments of happiness to hold on to later. We feel separated from our real purpose, being pulled in one direction, yet making great effort to swim in another.
The key here is the effort, because effort requires commitment and devotion. It requires resistance and submission to powerful currents – like the dynamic flow of a great river, or the most powerful current we could ever experience – the audible life stream.
The living Master represents the wellspring of the audible life stream; the river of love seems to pour right out from his eyes, and we just want to get close enough to see where the water comes from. He is our beacon to the inner experience, our expert river guide who will hold our hand so we will not be dragged down into the whirlpool of this world. He will point us inward, towards the source of the sound and light and into the fountain of love.