Two Feet in the Grave
Many of us are familiar with the phrase ‘one foot in the grave’. It’s a humorous way of saying that we are approaching the end of life.
Recently at a Q&A session, an elderly lady, well-known in the sangat, asked Baba Ji if he would give her good notice before she died. Baba Ji laughed and asked her why she needed any notice since she already had two feet in the grave!
Baba Ji’s answer made everybody laugh, but it was delivered in such a very warm and loving way that the elderly lady laughed along with him. As the saying goes, Baba Ji laughed with her and not at her.
Let us put that exchange into perspective. In Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V, Maharaj Sawan Singh explains:
The Master is that form of the Lord which can be seen…. The Master is a realized God-in-man, a God-man or man-in-God. All the qualities from Sat Lok (the True Region) to Bhu Lok (the created world) are to be found in him. He helps the disciple in every region. He reigns over every region with a glory and a splendour that is unique. He sustains the devotion of the disciple. He is the Supreme Lord in the human form…. Although the Lord, like electricity, pervades everywhere, the Master is the point where he shines out as light.
So we can understand that even an apparent throwaway remark by a Master has a deep significance and meaning, because although he speaks to us at our level, his perspective is from eternity, from the throne of God. And if we think about it, don’t we have two feet in the grave as soon as we are born, so transient and vulnerable is human life?
If we consider the great scales of time even in this physical world – 13.8 billion years since the ‘big bang’ of physical creation, 4.54 billion years since planet earth emerged from a gaseous state – what is the average human life-span in comparison? In fact the scriptures tell us that this physical world is just a minute part of the astral world, the astral a tiny part of Brahmand, and so on up to Sat Lok. Cosmically speaking, our lifetimes are over in a split second.
The Venerable Bede, a Christian monk (d.735 CE), in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, gives a profound metaphor for the short human lifespan when he explains to a local ruler:
Such, O King, seems to me the present life of men on earth … as if, when on a winter’s night you sit feasting with your ealdormen and thegns[noblemen and retainers], a single sparrow should fly swiftly into the hall, and coming in at one door, instantly fly out through another. In that time in which it is indoors it is indeed not touched by the fury of the winter, but yet this smallest space of calmness being passed almost in a flash – from winter going into winter again – it is lost to your eyes. Somewhat like this appears the life of man; but of what follows or what went before, we are utterly ignorant.
Life passes in a flash, explains Bede, and we are completely ignorant of where we have come from and where we go.
Not only is the human lifespan very short, but the Masters explain that this human body is just a dream:
Since the human body is unreal like a dream, always be apprehensive that we won’t stay in the world forever. As the body itself is unreal, everything else in the world is unreal too. Nam-dhun alone is real, so hold fast to it.
Baba Jaimal Singh, Spiritual Letters
The human body is unreal because it exists for such a brief time. The whole world too is unreal. The perfect Masters realize this and encourage us to do something worthwhile in this life that fades away so rapidly. If we don’t, we could be trapped in this dream world forever. Baba Jaimal Singh advises, “Nam-dhun alone is real, so hold fast to it.”
When we find out about the perfect Master – that is, when he finds us – we must take his advice: If we live by his four principles he will makes us conscious of the Shabd-dhun. This alone is real, and when we experience this reality, we will see that though we have two feet in the grave, the amazing truth is that beyond the grave lies eternal life.
Meditation is the only way to follow the path. And love will definitely push us and pull us towards our destination. That is very essential. But love without meditation is just emotion – sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don’t feel it. Sometimes you feel you’re full of devotion; other times you feel you’re absolutely blank. By meditation you develop love that comes with experience, with conviction. Meditation takes our roots very deep in love; nobody can shake us then.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III