The Only Reality
In the book Mysticism, The Spiritual Path there’s a chapter that asks some difficult questions:
What is this world? Is it what it appears to be or has it a reality behind its appearance? It is changing every moment: everything here is undergoing perpetual, unceasing change. Is there anything that does not change? What is the reality behind phenomena?
The author concludes that we have no idea what it’s all about because, he says, we can see and experience only phenomena – reality is a sealed book to us.
This is something the Masters have always been telling us – that we’re all living in delusion. The only one who knows what reality is, is the saint, the enlightened one.
It’s quite a frightening thought that just about every human being who has ever walked this earth has lived his life in delusion, trapped in darkness and relative misery – and not even aware that he is imprisoned here by his own delusion. He doesn’t know that his existence could be one of eternal light, love and bliss, instead of one with some periods of happiness but far more times of suffering, fear, pain, illness or poverty. What pity the Masters must feel for us when they see our plight. No wonder they are moved with compassion to leave their own state of bliss to come down to this dark world to help us.
One of the Radha Soami Masters, Maharaj Jagat Singh, looked at our lives and the world we know. From his higher perspective he saw them as brief and meaningless, no more real than a stage performance in which we are all, unknowingly, acting out our various roles. In one of his discourses, he summed it up very well:
Life is like an empty dream. There is nothing real about it. Just as a blossom does not last for long, so does not life. As in a dramatic performance the various actors come to play their part as king, queen, villain, etc., and on its conclusion go their own way, forgetting all about the ephemeral relationships, so is the world a big stage where we come to perform the predestined roles and then depart. Like the dramatic performance, our attachments in life are unreal and only for the purpose of carrying out our allotted jobs.
The Science of the Soul
It is quite depressing to think that since the beginning of the creation we have been going through one life after another, our immortal souls caught up in one form after another, achieving nothing more than to keep this plane populated – providing the negative power known as Kal with a population of souls that he can rule over. And all the time he is luring them to commit endless karmas that bury them deeper and deeper in the mire.
At no time did we ever realize what was happening to us. Or rather, our suffering souls might have been aware of it, but there was nothing they could do about it. This is what Maharaj Jagat Singh said in another of his discourses:
All form, beauty and fascination of the world is nothing but illusion. It is a well-designed net which ensnares us all.… Impelled by desires, the soul gets caught like a bird that tries to pick inviting grains from a hidden snare. It is verily in a hostile land and is surrounded by passions which are never satisfied. One temptation follows another in quick succession, leaving behind a trail of insipidness. In such circumstances the soul is helpless. It can only sit back and watch the wreck, and suffer in silence.
The Science of the Soul
It is only when we come in contact with a living Master and he initiates us that we can find our way out of our sorry plight. And that is by following his instructions to practise meditation and to live in such a way that we create minimal karma. But we can feel sorry for the vast majority of souls who are caught on this wheel of eighty-four until the next dissolution. And who knows how many long ages it will take to come around again?
However, the idea that everything around us is unreal is difficult for us to grasp. So let us see whether we can shake off our mental confusion about it. The way Hazur Maharaj Ji explains it in the first volume of Spiritual Perspectives, it is not so hard to understand. When he says that life on this plane is all an illusion, it means simply that it is always changing and it does not last. Only that is true or real which never changes, which lasts forever. Therefore we should see our lives here as nothing but a passing dream. In his words:
What it means is that what we see has no reality – reality in the sense that nothing will exist, nothing will remain, everything is perishable, it’s not everlasting.… Only he is real whom we do not see, whom we do not know. What we see,…what we think we know, has no reality at all.
In that same book somebody also asks whether karma itself is an illusion, devised by Kal to delude our mind. And he replies:
That’s right. You see, karmas are accumulations of the mind.…
They are not something which stays. They come, they go.
Our karmas certainly feel very real to us, especially the ones that hurt, the ones that cause us fear or injury or illness or even just discomfort. But then, we can understand what Maharaj Ji means when he says our karmas are unreal if we think of our lives as having no more reality than a stage production. We endure the sufferings as dictated by the script of the play and then in time they are over. In the time span of eternity, our lives are over in the blink of an eye. According to Maharaj Ji’s definition, karmas simply come – and then they go. How real are they then in the greater scheme of things?
As far as we can see with our limited vision, in this world only the Master is real. But then we should bear in mind when we look at him that it’s that form of him that’s eternal that’s real, not the body. The body will get sick, grow old and eventually die. It cannot last forever. Even the body of the Master cannot last.
It is this fact of mortality that causes us tremendous pain every time we lose anyone who is dear to us. We go through that pain because of our attachments. And we all have attachments. This is simply because we do not see our lives as a stage show and the people close to us as part of the cast, who will leave the stage and go away when their performance is over. If only we could see this illusion for what it is and let them go easily, how much pain we would be spared.
In Spiritual Gems Great Master points out that the number of mothers, fathers and other near relations that we have had during our many lifetimes is countless. He advises us:
Do not set your affections on things of this world for it is to be dissolved. This world is not durable. What is the value of loving that which must perish?
Great Master warns us that it is our love for “that which must perish” that brings us back here lifetime after lifetime. He tells us that because we give so much of our love to the people and things of the world, we are dragged back here again and again. But if we give our love to the Lord, he says, that will pull us out of here.
This is the very crux of this path that we follow. Somehow we have to free ourselves from our intense love for those we are attached to and give our love to what is real – real and everlasting. Great Master tells us that if we give our love to the Lord we will attain salvation. But how can we do that? Only by giving our love to that form of the Lord that we can see, who is at our level. In other words, by loving a Master.
And truth to tell, deep inside ourselves we do know that. We recognize with some sort of mysterious inner knowing that there is nothing worldly about the Master. We do sense an aura of light and love and power about him. And something inside us relates to the power that he brings with him, the power which he is. We have known it before. And it attracts us and draws us to him.
The saints tell us that power is Shabd, the sound current, the creative power of God. And once we were consciously part of that stream of all-sustaining power, before we came down into the creation. Now a small spark of consciousness inside us remembers its source and yearns to get back to it. But it is blocked – by layers of mind, of karma and worldly attachments and desires. And yet, because it once knew a blissful oneness with Shabd and has a subconscious memory of that, it suffers now in its separation from its source.
There is no hope for us to free ourselves from this world of illusion unless the Lord himself starts pulling us to return to him. Only then, and with the help of our meditation, can we start to see this world for what it is: a perishable place, a temporary stopover en route to our real destination. And with his help, and through our meditation, we will start to see ourselves for what we are. Our meditation will eventually bring us to the point where we will see we are really spiritual beings who do not belong here – who are longing to return to our real home.
So let us pay attention now when the Master pleads with us to do our meditation. It is urgent, he says, and our time is running out. He can see more clearly than we can. So let us try harder to do what he asks – because he desperately wants to take us all out of here. Let us show him that we also want that.
The body goes in a moment,
but we don’t believe it.
A ripple on water – this is the world.
A mirage of water is not water,
the shadow of a cloud gives no rain.
A statue of salt dissolves in water –
this body is dying while you look at it,
Eknath, in Many Voices, One Song