Swimming with the Waves
The poet Hafiz writes:
When I became a lover,
I thought I would secure the pearl
that was my aim.
I did not know how immense
the waves of the ocean were.
Hafiz, as quoted in Sultan Bahu
Although Hafiz assures us that the treasure is within, the ocean or the waves of the mind prevent us from securing this pearl there. For the devotee, navigating the waves of the ocean to secure this treasure is life’s challenge.
The Sant Mat way of life – the vegetarian diet, abstinence from drugs and alcohol, the moral code, and daily meditation – works directly to still the waves of the mind. In place of devotional rituals, this way of life and the vows to which we commit ourselves provide the means by which we achieve the concentration necessary to seek the pearl within.
Guru bhakti, love and devotion for the Master, is the heart of the path. The relationship with the Master, though, is not intended to meet our emotional needs or the needs of our mind. It is not man-worship. The purpose of Guru bhakti is entirely spiritual: the true Master, the true Guru, is to be sought within in the form of the Shabd, not outside in the form of a man or a woman. The relationship with our Master is unique and inward, unlike any worldly love affair.
Although we are advised not to focus on the outcome of our practice, we cannot help but be driven by a desire to secure the pearl within. But what does the Master tell us is the objective of our devotion? Saints emphasize that meditation is to open our inner eye, making self-realization possible. Self-realization makes us better able to face our life and our destiny, while accepting that we cannot change our circumstances. Meditation is the way to go home. We cannot get there by imagination, wishful thinking, demanding, or weeping.
The separation we experience while riding the waves of the mind is the complement to love and devotion. When we are not experiencing love and devotion we are experiencing separation. The pain of separation is a gift, reminding us of what we are missing. Maharaj Charan Singh says that the pain of restlessness that rankles in the heart cannot stop because the soul and the Lord live in the same house, and they must eventually meet. Our mind programs us to run away from pain and toward pleasure. The Master uses this natural tendency to the soul’s advantage. He instructs us to turn away from our worldly pain and turn toward that inner pleasure that is permanent and transformative. This is the dance of love and devotion.
Yet why do we have so much trouble loving God, loving ourselves, and loving one another? It would seem that love should be the simplest and most universal of human experiences. Maybe what we think of as love really is not. And maybe love is right before our eyes, and we fail to recognize it. In spite of the fact that we may believe that God is love, and it is from this love that all his other qualities spring forth, cold logic does not aid us in our quest for love. We must experience love and devotion to go beyond logic and reach our inner potential.
So what comes from our love and devotion for the Lord? It allows us to merge and become one. To merge we need full concentration, brought about through deeper and deeper simran, so that all our other faculties are absorbed and focused. Simran – the remembrance of the Lord’s name while sitting, standing, coming and going – brings about our total surrender to him. Without the annihilation of the ego through concentrated devotion, the mind will continue to drift and turn outward. But the destruction of “I-ness,” which is the fruit of devotion, brings freedom from birth and death by severing our attachment to this world permanently.
Paraphrasing Shakespeare, Maharaj Jagat Singh says in Science of the Soul that, “The path of true love is never smooth.” He continues:
The truer the love, the rougher the road. This is also true in the case of love for the Lord. The more you love him, the more difficulties and trials he puts in your way. Gold, to be pure, must be put in the fire.
We all heave a collective sigh when we read these words of the Master. Because of our ego, experiencing the love and contentment we seek is a struggle. The ego permeates all our relationships and endeavours.
Hazur says in Legacy of Love:
There can be no ego before a person who you love because love creates that humility in us. We try to become another being, we try to lose our own identity, our individuality and we try to become another being. That is love. So, automatically we are filled with humility.
What distinguishes the Master from us is that he emanates the Father’s love all the time, thereby providing us with one of the few direct experiences we have of love in this world. He changes us, if only in the moment, because in his physical presence we are humbled. We get a break from our minds, from our personalities. Yet the Master does not encourage adulation of his outer self. He turns our attention instead to the practice by which we will gain direct experience of the divine. This is the Master’s service to his own Master – to be a living example of what it is possible for his disciples to become in this life.
The Master’s example gives us a glimpse into the power and nature of love. Romantic love teaches us that love is spontaneous and may develop in lovers without their understanding of how it came to pass. This, too, is an aspect of spiritual love and reminds us that we cannot make love happen. Love is a gift that may come to us even when we are not seeking it.
Hazur says in Legacy of Love:
Love means that which lasts forever. It doesn’t diminish. It always grows and grows and grows and grows. That is not love that today we feel, and tomorrow we feel “I don’t love them anymore.” If love comes, it never goes. If it goes, it is not love.
We have all experienced “love” that did not last. The Masters understand the fickleness of the mind. So they put a high value on service as a school of love. Hazur continues in Legacy of Love: “It is through love, forgiveness, and the serving of humanity that one’s life becomes a single vision of the sublime beauty of God.”
Love, like forgiveness and seva, is an action; it is both a practice and a state of mind. If we have attempted to forgive or to serve another we know how impossible it is without love. Like the rising and the falling of the waves, we forgive one moment and the next we remember the injustice perpetrated against us or against another, and we are back in the cycle. We serve one moment and the next we are computing what we are owed for our gesture of kindness. So love has to inform all that we do so that we can be released from all these calculations. We have to forget ourselves in this service. Through love and service we will become god-like – with Master’s example and assistance within.
As love grows in us, we learn to swim along with the waves of the mind and life’s circumstances. If we have ever gone for a swim in the ocean, we know that our strokes and our kicks can take us only so far. In a strong current we have to relax and literally go with the flow. Similarly, we can learn to float on the tides of love if we let go of our resistance and our dependence upon our own efforts and cling instead to the Master for support. We do this through daily meditation, through simran and listening to the Sound within. Hazur reminds us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
We have to swim along with the waves; we cannot swim across the waves. So we have to accept the facts of life as they come. The very fact that we have to go along with the waves automatically makes us happy – there is no other way.
Our every action should reflect the teachings and build that holy atmosphere in which we attend to meditation, and become receptive to his bounty and grace. To this end, we must adjust our entire life, for success requires a complete transformation of the disciple. We should keep a balance, and meet our worldly duties and responsibilities, but our spiritual duty to the Master is foremost.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live