The Fire of Separation
Dadu is thirsty for love, O Lord, give me a drink.
Filling the cup, give it to me in person,
and bring the dead to life.
Dadu, the Compassionate Mystic
This is the start of a poem by Dadu called “Results of True Love”. Let us look at some verses of the poem, in which Dadu tells of the state of the seeker who is thirsty for God. The seeker instinctively knows that God is pure love, and he craves that divine love which will bring him to life, bring him back from his state of ignorance about his true identity and his real home.
Many of us have known this thirst for divine love. Maybe in the beginning we knew only that we were lacking something. In our deepest being we felt dead and wanted to experience the love of God to bring us back to life. And we wanted this from him directly. We no longer wanted to hear about it from others who might in fact be just as lost and ignorant as we were.
This is the thirst that Dadu is talking about. But he knows that there’s a price to pay. And the price is pain. As Dadu puts it:
One who is intoxicated with love and devotion,
whose body is writhing in pain,
whose mind is always in agony;
God dwells with him.
It actually sounds quite frightening. We know we want to grow spiritually, but do we want this agony? Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the choice is not ours to make – because by the time a soul becomes thirsty for God, it has passed the point of no return. Its thirst has become so great that it will pay any price to get what it wants.
For a disciple to learn anything at all about divine love, it seems that separation from the Beloved has to come first. Maharaj Sawan Singh, the Great Master, who has a lot to say in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II about the pain of longing or bireh, puts it this way:
In order to meet the Beloved, intense longing comes first, in the same manner as flowers bud and bloom on a fruit tree before it can bear fruit.… Similarly, where there is no bireh there can be no meeting with the Beloved.
Briefly, it seems this is what generally happens. The disciple is initiated by a Master, falls in love with him, and is then sent away from his presence. Or the Master removes himself physically from his disciple. The result of this separation is that a longing is created in the disciple to find his Master inside. And when he fails to see that form inside, he starts to feel a great restlessness and even anguish over his loss.
At an objective level we can see why separation from our Beloved and the longing it produces are so effective a device to spur a disciple to try to find his Master within. This longing can become something quite obsessive. From a worldly point of view it can even seem quite irrational. But it is certainly effective – because it blocks out a lot of distraction. As Great Master tells us:
Intense longing has a very deep influence because of its powerful current of energy. Once it is established, no other impressions can enter the mind.
Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II
And Dadu tells us exactly the same – that in the grip of longing which results from separation, the mind forgets everything else and becomes still. In the words of Dadu:
The mind becomes motionless in the wave of love
arising from the pang of separation.
It is dissolved in God’s Name;
rarely does anybody understand, O Dadu.
Well, that is certainly true. When we set foot on this path we understand very little. And we certainly do not understand that it’s going to cost us everything – that we’re going to lose our entire identity by dissolving in God’s Name. Initially we may feel a bit uncertain about that. And then, suddenly, one day it dawns on us that that’s all we want: to merge into the Shabd, or into the Beloved, more than we have ever wanted anything else in our entire existence. And that will be accomplished: through love. This merging becomes possible because the lover wants nothing but the Beloved. Only this intensity of love makes the two become one.
Dadu tells us that, in fact, God is as obsessed with love as the soul who’s yearning for him:
The lover is converted into the Beloved.
That indeed is called true love.
Of that Beloved, God himself becomes the lover, O Dadu.
God has become the anguished lover,
and the anguished lover has become God.
Such a deed has the torturous pang
of separation performed, O Dadu.
This is something very powerful. We are so intent on how we feel in this striving for union that we forget that the pull comes from the Beloved also. In fact, he set up this whole process of drawing souls to him. He devised this whole terrible game of separation because he wanted to make us love him the way he loves us. This is the Lord’s play. It is the way he has devised to unite souls with him in conscious oneness.
It is hard sometimes to understand that this whole path is designed around his great love for us – and that even though we may be more conscious of our pain than his love, still we are completely in his hand. We are living totally within his grace and care. Dadu says:
When the true Lord stands over your head
for protection, no hot wind can affect you.
You live under the shade of the lotus feet;
a great grace has been bestowed upon you, O Dadu.
One sits fearlessly by repeating God’s Name;
the Negative Power can never consume him.
When you ride the elephant, O Dadu,
then dogs bark in vain.
What a lovely image! We are riding on an elephant and we do not need to concern ourselves with any yapping nuisances in our lives. We do not have to worry about a single thing. Great Master tells us in The Dawn of Light:
Master is always with you and watching you and helping you in every action. Go on increasing your love and faith in him by regularly attending to the spiritual exercises; he will himself look after our worldly affairs.
He will himself look after our worldly affairs. We don’t realize how close a bond we have with him. But we will come to know it eventually, through our meditation.
There is a mysterious and wondrous process that is set in motion by our sitting down to meditate. We have no idea of what is going on, but through the devotion that we try to show through our faltering efforts, all kinds of obstacles are being removed – not by our efforts, but through his grace. Dadu tells us:
By being dedicated to the Lord,
millions of obstacles are removed.
A tiny spark the size of a mustard seed,
burns a huge amount of wood, O Dadu.
Whenever love of God appears, O Dadu,
then all coverings of mind, body and heart
which separate the soul, are burnt up.
Separation plays a part in this whole momentous process. The Masters tell us that through the fire of our longing, millions of karmas are burnt to ashes. We are the ones who may feel the longing. We may even sometimes feel we are burning with it. But this comes from him. In Die to Live we read:
The disciple only thinks that he loves the Master. Actually, it is the Master who creates that love in him.… He makes us dance in his love and devotion, and we are just puppets.
And while this is certainly a dance of love, it’s not entirely a dance of joy. True, along with the pain there is joy. The lover is enraptured by the beautiful form of his Master, and there is great joy in that. But then comes the separation, and for a long time the lover knows only sadness and the pain of separation. In Die to Live Maharaj Ji explains why this necessarily must be so:
In separation, the disciple will direct all his devotion and longing within to find the Master, and ultimately he will find the Comforter.… When the Master leaves the disciples and they want to be with the Master, they have no option but to turn within to find him. The purpose of the physical presence of the Master is to create that love and devotion in us and ultimately to convert it into the real inner darshan, which is the end, which is the real love, the real devotion.
For so long the soul has struggled to find the route back to him. By living the path, and through our spiritual practice, we have tried long and hard to get ahead. But, thankfully, the whole long process doesn’t depend just on our efforts. He is bringing us back to him. In Die to Live Maharaj Ji tells us:
Everything the Lord is doing himself. What are we doing? Leaving all these things to one’s own effort, one could never go back to the Father.… It is not the meditation which is taking us back to the Father. It is the Father himself, through the Master, who is taking us back to the Father.