I am restless; mad in love, I pine for my beloved,
A stream of tears constantly flows from my eyes,
Every moment the pain of love throbs in my heart,
And I have lost awareness of my very existence.
My body has been denuded of sentience and sensibility,
And I am oblivious to all my surroundings,
I am impervious to the varied surroundings,
I am impervious to the varied currents,
And my mind is now dead.
The physician knows not my malady
Of what avail are his remedies?
My wound is deep inside my heart,
How shall I describe my pain to him?
My Master, the physician alone knows my agony,
And he has the ‘herb’ to cure me of my ailment.
My malady alone he knows
Who suffers from it, O Tulsi;
He alone feels this pain
Who goes through its pangs.
Tulsi Sahib: Saint of Hathras
The mystics often write of their pain, their spiritual misery. In this poem, Tulsi Sahib’s adoration for his Master is so strong that he feels it as a physical pain, and he weeps constantly. He has become disturbed and is hardly aware of his physical existence; he is lost; he can’t even think clearly. Should he try to have a physician help him overcome his sickness, he asks? He discards this idea; it wouldn’t work – he would not be able to describe his symptoms for an adequate diagnosis. Only the Master can understand his malady; only the Master can cure him through his presence, his love, his darshan, his Shabd.
Many of us sometimes suffer spiritual pain and anguish. We may feel desperately alone, cut off even from the Master, even abandoned by the path. Here, in this verse, Tulsi Sahib, madly in love with his Master, suffers all the pain that this causes him. But why the pain? This might puzzle us. One might think that his great love for his Master would be completely fulfilling, leaving none of the emptiness that he feels.
To reach that conclusion is to misunderstand the relationship between Master and disciple. In some ways this spiritual love may initially feel like the love between a man and a woman. Sometimes one of the couple, deeply in love, feels that the other one is indifferent, no longer loving, or even angry and cold. And, often, this conclusion is faulty. The other may just be distracted, stretched too thin in work or other duties, or mildly irritated at the partner’s lack of understanding, jealousy, or demands.
While this comparison may work for human affection, it does not work for spiritual love and devotion. Yes, the Master pulls us towards him, tells us about true love, describes it and its manifestation – the Shabd – and initiates us into techniques that we must follow if we are to experience the supreme happiness of this spiritual love. Then, he causes us to love him, because that is ultimately what will encourage us to try to get closer to him through meditation.
But we are complex entities – a mix of strengths and weaknesses, trust and mistrust, convictions and confusion, and many other dualities. We are like this because our fundamental spiritual nature is cloaked by our karmic past. We are karmic beings with inherited traits and sanskaras brought about through an infinite variety of past lives. It is unlikely that early on our initial spiritual journey we are ready to travel within. Similarly, the Master is a conundrum that we cannot expect to understand, try as we may, until we merge with him. In his human form, we may have the opportunity to talk with him, or communicate with him. And it is easy to think that this communication is carried on to some extent using the same conventions that we use in everyday life. We say something, and he replies. It seems logical, but nonetheless such conversations may baffle us! We have to learn to accept this curious circumstance and recognize that he has his own design to follow, it’s not a game or a strategy. It’s just his work, which will carry us back to the Creator.
Even if the Master’s statements seem to be contrary to all that we know, or at least what experience has taught us, we have to accept that he sees life by looking down with perfect clarity and understanding on the creation, while we try to see life by peering upwards with little lucidity, “as through a glass darkly”. He understands us thoroughly; we cannot understand him or his ways. This sort of situation might be easy for us to understand if we were attempting to negotiate with, say, a lost tribe. The language and knowledge base might be quite beyond us – the same barriers separate us from a true Master even if we are not aware of it.
Sometimes in the question and answer sessions at Dera, a satsangi in desperation says to the Master, “Now I am totally confused.” We should understand that it is only our ego that expects and demands to understand the Master. So, perhaps our confusion forces us to simply accept our mental limitations. Only the Master can fully understand us and our spiritual situation. We don’t have to understand; in fact, we cannot understand our spiritual struggles. We just have to carry out what he has taught us and accept that we are in his hands and that he knows at all times what is best for us – even if this may be done sometimes by denying us his presence and the clarity of his understanding.
Great Master explains in Spiritual Gems:
Pain and pleasure of the devotee are in the hands of the Master. He arranges them as he sees fit. The devotee should take delight in pain, for that is also a gift from him…. A real devotee makes no distinction in pain and delight; his business is devotion.
So, at those times when we suffer in despair over our confusion, depressed at our apparent lack of progress, our dry periods (as they are sometimes called), our urgent need to feel his presence and comfort, then we must just leave ourselves completely in his hands without question and concentrate even more on our spiritual exercises. If
we can simply accept the Master’s words without analysis, without question, without argument, but with gratitude, affection and acceptance, then this surrender always works to our advantage.
In singing about your love for the Lord,
You may do so in any language you know.
Hafiz, in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV