Search for the Life Force
Mystics turn up in the most unlikely places. One night, by chance, I happened to catch the following poem on a radio programme that was being transmitted to just about every corner of the world:
There is a Life Force in your daily life.
Search for that Life Force,
Search for that hidden gem in the earthly mound that is your body
O Friend, search for it with all your might
Search for what you’re looking for within your heart.
These lines are attributed to Rumi, a Sufi mystic who lived about eight hundred years ago, and they were introduced by the radio presenter as a “five-line formula for following the Sufi way”. However, since they convey a simple and universal approach to God-realization, they may also be viewed as capturing the essence of mysticism. A sense of urgency is evident in Rumi’s short poem and we might consider the reasons behind this as well as how we may attain the spirituality that he urges us to seek.
Rumi, the nickname of Mawlana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad, is widely considered to be one of the finest Persian poets. He was born in thirteenth-century Afghanistan but migrated to Turkey at the age of eleven, shortly before his home city was destroyed by the Mongols in 1221. An outstanding Islamic scholar, teacher and Sufi, Rumi’s life took a different path when, at the age of about thirty-five, he met his Master – an enigmatic wandering dervish called Shams (or Shams-i-Tabrizi), who inspired him to search within himself to find the answers to his questions about spirituality. From that time onwards, Rumi began to write mystical poetry, much of it about his love for Shams, whom he often referred to as “the friend”.
A precious gem within
In the poem above, Rumi’s opening line directly fuses the infinite with the daily life of his audience. Affirming that there is more to life than our daily grind, he identifies this ‘something else’ as being right here, right now – a reality that is both an intrinsic part of our daily life and the core of our existence. And yet, somehow, we miss it. So caught up are we in our daily merry-go-round of work, food and sleep that we remain oblivious to the force that lies within us. This is why we need spiritual masters like Rumi to remind us about the essence of both our own life and that of the entire creation.
Having reminded us of the life force, Rumi not only urges us to look for it, he tells us exactly where to look – within ourselves – and very aptly, uses the gemstone as a metaphor for our search. Almost all gems are formed below the earth’s surface, and in their raw form are embedded in the earth’s rocky layer. It is only after they have been brought to the surface, extracted from the rock, scrubbed, washed, cleaned and polished that the brilliance of the gem becomes apparent. Likewise, the light that gives life to us is buried deep within ourselves, so deep that we remain unaware of its existence. Jesus referred to the same phenomenon when he described our inner light being buried under a bushel. As a result, we live our lives in ignorance of the full meaning of everything we see and do, unable to benefit from the illuminating light which could show us all that there is. Accordingly, Rumi urges us to start searching for the light within right now. Every moment is precious because we can count on having only this life in which to realize the truth. As the spiritual teachers point out, since we only have a limited number of breaths allotted to us, it is in our interest to use each and every one of them in a spiritually fruitful way.
Use all your power
In the fourth and fifth lines of the poem, Rumi beseeches us to use every iota of our being, all our energy, determination and fortitude to find the hidden gem. He understands our condition and the strength required to overturn lifetimes of ingrained habit. The mind, upon learning of the gemstone, has a desire to release the soul which the mind is holding captive. As a slave of the senses, the mind seeks short-term gratification and perpetuates the cycle of karma. Consequently, Rumi urges us to draw upon all our strength to reverse this relationship so that our thoughts and actions are no longer determined by the senses, and the mind no longer controls our soul. If we obtained such liberation, imagine what a difference it would make to the way we approach life. As the eighteenth-century poet William Blake wrote:
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
In other words, since we currently interpret the world through our ego and physical senses, we fail to see that all is infinite – that everything partakes of the divine and is part of the divine. It is meditation that will enable us to go beyond the physical realm.
Use the tools the Master gave to you
To reach such a high level of understanding, we need to use the tools the Master gave to us at the time of initiation. These are simran and bhajan – repetition and listening in silence. The repetition of five holy names may not seem like a very powerful tool for the task at hand, but let us not underestimate the authority and effectiveness of the names. Indeed such is the strength of simran that it is the only means through which we can defeat our perennial enemies – the mind and senses. Simran enables us to focus; stops the constant chattering of the mind; closes off its interminable questions and answers, its worries and concerns, its desires and regrets. Simran enables us to collect our consciousness at a single point – the tenth door – and as we pass through, our spiritual faculties are kindled and we begin to see the light and to hear the sound that will enable us to find the treasure within.
The task is simple but not easy, although constantly at our side is a great friend who never fails to provide love, support and advice. For example, Maharaj Charan Singh advises us to read some Sant Mat literature every day to help us concentrate. When thoughts disturb us during simran, he suggests that we should tell our mind that these will be dealt with after meditation. Inevitably we will experience ups and downs, but even the downs are valuable since they often invoke an intense sense of separation, a state which Maharaj Charan Singh has called the painful plight of the lover and one which no lover would be without. In Light on Sant Mat, he states:
If we have so much longing and desire for the darshan of the Master, we are having its benefit. Where will that desire and longing lead us? To meditation, where the Master always is. When you won’t be able to find the Master outside, what will you do to find him? You will try to find him within. That love and desire for darshan should lead us on the path within and bring us to that level of consciousness where our Master is always with us.
For countless lives we have been searching for something. Now a friend has pointed out what this is (the life force), told us how we may find it, and given us the means to do so. Like Rumi, the Master urges us to find our inner gemstone by using our God-given attributes: prem, bireh and abhyas – love, longing and spiritual practice.
Strive, struggle, grapple and wrestle,
None won the battle by weak-kneed submission.
Go on scratching, scraping, and cutting
The stone wall that bars your way.
Cut, hew, gash, break, shatter, demolish, smash,
Rest not for a second, till your very last breath arrives.
Even a worthless effort is better than sleeping,
For the Lord loves our effort, anxiety and struggle.
First put in full effort, then accept what he sends.
Have faith in him and trust his will.
Not putting in effort is like sleeping among robbers.
A bird found napping is sure to be killed.
Giving up is like sleeping, sleep not on your way.
March on until you reach his gate.
When the Master has put a sword in your hands,
He has clearly expressed his wish.
Rumi, as quoted in Living Meditation