Are We Desperados?
Recently, I attended a concert where a small group of people sang a song called ‘Desperado’ by the 1970s American rock band, The Eagles. In the song, the narrator speaks to the character Desperado and encourages him to abandon his empty, shallow lifestyle, otherwise a lonely, bleak future lies ahead of him. As I listened, the poignancy of the situation in which the Desperado finds himself made me compare it with our own; I noticed the similarities between the advice given to him and the advice the Masters give to us. Here are a couple of the verses that I found particularly apt.
Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
You’ve been out ridin’ fences for so long now …
[And] I know that you got your reasons.
These things that are pleasin’ you,
Can hurt you somehow …
Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Some fine things have been laid upon your table …
Come down from your fences, open the gate.
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you,
before it’s too late.
Living life as outlaws
Often romanticized in films, a desperado is an outlaw. Alone, wild, rebellious and living on the edge, he is disconnected from society. Likewise, inhabiting a foreign land and separated from the divine as a result of our wild and wayward mind, we too are outlaws. A key feature of outlaws, especially those depicted in cowboy and Indian films, is that they knowingly break the law, choose to be outcasts and live life in exile. Unlike them, however, because we’ve been roaming the material plane for countless epochs, moving from one incarnation to the next, we’ve forgotten that we are living the life of an outlaw. In the same way that Desperado in the song needs the narrator to rouse him, we too need our own guide, a perfect Master, and it is only when we find him that we have any hope of coming to our senses.
The Masters awaken us from our dream-like state, and entreat us to take a good look around and see the world as it really is. Their greatest gift is shattering the illusion under which we have spent our innumerable incarnations. They help us realize that we are not who we think we are, that what we believe to be real is a mere mirage, a false reality; even our carefully constructed identity is not real. Indeed, the Masters help us understand that we vastly underestimate ourselves. Our sense of self is associated with our physical body but our true identity is spiritual; we just happen to be undergoing a human experience. Taking account of our whole being – both our human and spiritual needs – the Masters encourage us to adopt an optimistic and balanced lifestyle, to be independent and to use our talents to realize our aspirations. But most importantly, they urge us not to become engrossed by these material goals because their fulfilment is shallow and our existence in each physical incarnation is transitory.
Going back to our friend Desperado, there is a sense in which his life is driven by impulse, hedonism and recklessness. Towards the end of the first verse, the narrator warns him that such a lifestyle, which seems to give him some pleasure, will eventually become a source of pain. Essentially, this is the same as the core message of the Masters. They too emphasize the dissatisfaction and disappointment inherent in all material pursuits together with the very heavy price we pay for them. In the song, the narrator does not reveal why the Desperado pursues such a detrimental lifestyle, although no doubt confusion, arrogance and fear play a part.
But what of us? In the light of our awakening to spirituality, why do we continue to adopt lifestyles that make Sant Mat difficult to follow? It seems probable that by inhabiting a foreign land and living as outlaws for aeons, it is now extremely difficult to reverse ideas, habits and behaviours that are deeply entrenched within our psyche. On top of this, we find ourselves entrapped by an intricately woven web of karma that limits our freedom and makes it impossible to escape the material plane. Perpetual desires and powerful attachments have so entangled us that we continue to take birth after birth to fulfil them.
From this perspective, our situation appears as desperate as the Desperado’s – or is it?
A rainbow above us
In the second verse, the narrator implores the Desperado to cease the foolish, wayward actions that are damaging him (physically, emotionally, spiritually), and to embrace the love and companionship that are right there before him. As for us, there are times when we may benefit from thinking about the “fine things” that have been laid upon our table. In particular, when feeling disappointed with life’s turn of events, we might remember the distressing circumstances of fellow humans. Many of us are fortunate enough to have our basic requirements for food, clothing and shelter met way beyond our needs. However, there are millions of people around the globe who are denied these essential requirements or who find themselves fearing for their safety in the midst of political turmoil. With sheer survival the focus of their existence, there is little room for spirituality. By contrast, our good fortune gives us the opportunity to end our existence as outlaws, and even the busiest amongst us has ample time to devote to spiritual practice, if we choose to do so.
The perfect Masters have taken us into their fold and given us the key to the gate that will take us home. The meditation technique revealed to us is the only way we can escape the misery of the world and return to Sach Khand – our true home. In the meantime, there will be times when, as the narrator observes, it will rain and we will experience tough times. During these periods, we may take immense comfort from being told that “there’s a rainbow above you” and that we have been enveloped in the love and protection of the Master from the very moment our relationship began.
However, believing this to be true on the basis of faith is different from actual experience. For us to progress to realization, we need to be receptive to the currents of love that sustain the universe – the love that has sought us out and put us in touch with a perfect Master. In this sense, we are much like the Desperado. He needs to let somebody love him before he finds himself alone, old, and fed up with his partying; otherwise, he faces a future of loneliness and unhappiness. If we fall into the same trap and stop ourselves from experiencing absolute, truthful love, the future that faces us is one of despondency, discontentment, disappointment, and death – not just once, but ad infinitum. So, like the Desperado, we must come down from our fence and practise our meditation to open the gate to Sach Khand, where love and bliss awaits us and we are desperados no more.