Finding the Light in This Dark Age
According to Hindu cosmology, this period of the physical universe in which we are living is kaliyug, the dark age. Also called the Iron Age, this is a time, as described in A Treasury of Mystic Terms, Vol. V, when man
measures his achievements not by the quality of his inner spirituality, his humanity, his self-control, his true inward happiness, and his peacefulness, but by his ability to create external witnesses to his existence: his buildings, his apparent control over nature and his fellow creatures, and by the creation of organizational structures in which he is in fact imprisoned.
We are imprisoned by the structures and the organizations that we ourselves create. We think that our achievements will bring us happiness and contentment, but it’s not long before some problem or challenge or loss arises. There may indeed be lovely interludes when we are happy, but we know they will never last. Life is often difficult. We have only to give our attention to the news of the day – is there anything much other than violence, war, disaster, confrontation, disagreement, disrespect, abuse, and just plain meanness that gets reported? Maharaj Charan Singh says in Quest for Light, “The problems of the world will never end and have never ended. No man in this world can say that he has no problems in life.”
The human mind perceives itself as being separate from God. And it is that sense of separation that results in the mind becoming attached to the senses and drawn out into the world of experiences in search of happiness or satisfaction. We use the mind to try to understand the nature of the universe, but we fail to understand the very nature of that mind. We try to study the mind with the mind – a losing proposition. The mind searches for happiness, but gets lost in this realm of duality. Duality is intrinsic to the physical creation in which we live; everything has an opposite. The gnostic writer of the Gospel of Philip is quoted in The Treasury of Mystic Terms, Vol. V, as saying:
Light and darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this, neither are the good good, nor the evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason, each one will dissolve into its immediate source. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal.
The Supreme Being who is “exalted above the world” knows exactly what he is doing. The apparent suffering of this age has a divine purpose. Mystics say that, in reality, this is all an illusion. Nothing lasts, whether pleasure or pain. Eventually it’s all just a memory, no longer “real.” Mystics say that the suffering we experience in the physical world during this kaliyug has a positive aspect. Because the suffering is so intense, souls are more willing to accept the guidance of the saints and Masters who incarnate in this world with the mission of returning us to God. These Masters tell us that the spiritual purpose of human life is to reunite with the One, return to our origin – for it is only through the human form that the soul can find the path that leads back to God. We could say that this is even the purpose of kaliyug, this dark age, for without the suffering, souls would be content to remain in the creation and not think about how they are actually part and parcel of the Creator. They wouldn’t think about the light. According to the same volume of A Treasury of Mystic Terms, it says:
Even amid the sufferings and vicissitudes of physical existence, most souls accept their lot and cling tenaciously to physical life. However, when the pain of separation becomes too much, then their impetus and desire to go back to him are sharpened. It is the darkness which makes a soul appreciate the light.
So here in this age of darkness, we have been given the Light and the Sound, the keys that will unlock this prison we find ourselves in. We find that living a life with the goal of leaving this world can be challenging, when we’re in the midst of this dark age. But once we meet a Master we have nothing to fear. There is no challenge we cannot overcome as long as we do our meditation and never, ever, ever give up! That’s what mystics have told us for centuries. Chola Mela, a thirteenth-century saint, says:
You’ve built mountains of misdeeds,
but happiness will be yours
in this age of darkness
if you repeat the Name.
Many Voices, One Song
In this dark age, Masters don’t even ask us to succeed but only to make the effort. We need not attach ourselves to the results, only the effort. The results come from him; the effort itself can be our reward. Remember, the Masters tell us that no meditation, no matter how poor it seems, is ever wasted. We have no idea what our meditation is doing. We have no idea what’s happening when we try to keep our mind in simran. But it must be important to the Master, or he wouldn’t ask us to do it. It doesn’t matter if we sit in the darkness or see light; remember, the darkness makes us appreciate the light. It doesn’t matter whether we hear the Sound or just sit in silence. Eventually, when we learn to enjoy our practice of meditation – when we “learn to love repeating the Name” – our perceptions of this material realm will begin to change. Namdev says in Many Voices, One Song:
If you learn to love repeating the Name,
the web of illusion will be torn away,
the ocean of the world will evaporate….
God has given me his promise, says Namdev,
no other method is needed.
In this age of darkness, we have the precious opportunity to focus on the light and find lasting happiness and bliss.
Love is not premeditated. It is spontaneous. It bursts up in extraordinary ways. There is nothing of mathematical certainty in love. Love is not thrust upon us from without. It is born within. Love is a rare commodity. It knows of no bargain and is free from the limitations of time, space and circumstances.
Khwaja Chishti, as quoted in Sheikh Farid