Advice from Kabir
When one asks a Master what attribute he values most in the disciple, the answer is love. We can live without everything else, but not without love. On this path our goal is not wealth or achievements or recognition, but only to be immersed and lost in love. The saints want us to dive so deeply into our meditation that we ultimately drown in that ocean of love. That is our destiny, to merge into his love until there is nothing left of our mind, our ego, our weaknesses or our doubts.
We want that kind of love, but when it comes to drowning in it, losing ourselves in it – there is hesitation on the part of the mind. The mind is attached to its individual identity; to the body, health, wealth, and relationships; to possessions, plans, desires, and ambitions. It wants to experience that supreme love without drowning in it, while retaining its own identity. But saints say this is impossible. Hence, the spiritual path involves a struggle between the higher mind that longs to merge into something transcendent and pure, and the lower mind that wants to retain its own identity and that is addicted to sensual pleasures and worldly pursuits.
We constantly need to remind ourselves of our true purpose, to prepare ourselves for that day when the Master will drown us in his love until there is nothing left of us. In Kabir, Weaver of God’s Name, Sant Kabir offers us some practical advice on how to accomplish this:
If you earn devotion
Through service to the Master,
Only then consider yourself
A human being.
A life focused only on the needs of the body and the pleasures of the mind leaves one short of the real potential of human birth. The prize of devotion is not obtained but must be earned through service to a living Master. What is the nature of this service? Hazur Maharaj Ji explains in Die to Live, “Seva of the soul, or connecting your soul with the Sound within.… That is the real seva. Seva means that service which is done to please the Master, and what pleases the Master most is when we attend to our meditation.”
So Kabir tells us that performing this type of service, our meditation, will begin the growth of devotion for the Lord within us, and will end in our becoming a true human being. Becoming a true human being by the Master’s standard is not so easy. We desire union with the Master, yet we continue to cling to our worldly desires. Worldly desires are the primary obstacle on the path to spiritual realization. All saints, as well as many philosophers and traditional religions, agree that desire is a primary force that motivates all living beings. Desire begins in the mind with a passing thought, but with continued contemplation on an object of desire, it leads to attachment to that object. Eventually, action will be undertaken to fulfil that desire, thus forging new chains of karmic debt. Kabir describes the nature of desire when he tells us:
The raging fire of desire
Consumes one and all; …
Ponder and act with wisdom
That all your troubles may end:
Give up your infatuation
For what is fleeting and false.
Swayed by cravings, you are wasting
This precious chance of human birth.
If we honestly look within ourselves, we must admit that we harbour legions of worldly desires that continually move through the mind, disrupting our attempts to lead a spiritual life. These thoughts are the result of dwelling on material objects, both in this life and from the subconscious impressions of incalculable previous births.
When an attempt is made to still the mind in meditation, these thoughts appear like ripples on the surface of a pond. Because of the ingrained habit of looking outward for pleasure, the mind refuses to grasp that this short span of human life is our chance to reverse this outward flow and learn to conquer desires by turning inward. Kabir emphasizes what a rare opportunity it is to obtain the human birth. He continues:
Even gods crave a human form;
You’ve obtained this precious body,
Now keep yourself engaged
In devotion for the Lord.
Worship him, forget him not,
For realization of God
Is the profit to be reaped
From this human form.
Saints say that desires start out as small seedlings, which may be plucked out easily at this stage; but if cultivated and watered and fertilized, they grow into a strong, entangling, thorny vine. Sufi mystics also use this analogy when warning against spiritual sloth and indifference. They say that the thorny shrub of worldly desires continues to grow stronger and more deeply rooted, while the one whose job it is to dig it up grows older and weaker.
Mystics, philosophers, prophets, and saints of every religion and school of thought have tried to shake off the complacency of spiritual seekers by repeatedly pointing out that we all have to face death. They say that this life is transitory. Saints come to point out to us that we need to give up our mental attachment to this world and attach it to something higher, to look for that which is true and eternal if we want true and lasting happiness. Mystics tell us that our lack of interest and intensity in meditation is due to our failure to truly realize what a short time we have on this earth, and that only in this precious human birth do we have the opportunity to realize God within ourselves. Kabir describes the characteristics of a true devotee:
He is a true devotee who is absorbed in devotion for the Lord;
He alone will obtain the Immaculate One.
One-pointed absorption in contemplation of the Lord is the key to successful meditation. To achieve this, all thoughts except the repetition of the Beloved’s name must cease, so that one’s spiritual practice becomes the highest priority. However, this can never be achieved by effort alone. The grace of the Master is supreme on the path of devotion. Kabir gives very practical advice on how to conquer the mind and remain in a state of spiritual balance and equipoise. He says:
With arms raised Kabir calls:
Repeat the Lord’s Name
Each day, with each breath,
For Nam alone will be your saviour
At the perilous hour of death.
The prevailing atmosphere in which we live our daily life is very important, and the right atmosphere can only be created through living a Sant Mat way of life, continual repetition of simran, and carrying out our daily meditation. With constant contemplation on the Satguru we will cease feeling that he and we are different. Living in the atmosphere of meditation all day long brings us closer to the Lord.
Through simran we rise above, and are not affected by, the affairs of the world. Constant simran will develop such willpower that we can remain on the edge of life without slipping into the sticky cup of honey. It will create calmness in the mind where love of the Master will flourish, the senses will come under control, and meditation will become much easier. This is the initial step on the path and nothing can be accomplished until it is mastered. However, because of the nature and power of the mind, the depths of our attachments, and our heavy burden of karmas, this may take a very long time. Patience and perseverance are required. We can work slowly and steadily toward the ideal.
It is not surprising that the Masters tell us they want to drown us in love until there is nothing left of us, nothing left of our separate identity. It is ultimately love that transforms us. Kabir says in Kabir, The Weaver of God’s Name:
I tried many alchemic recipes
But found not one like the Lord’s love;
If even one drop enters the body,
Your entire being turns to gold.