The River of Existence
A man who doesn’t know how to swim falls into a river. He looks around for some means to remain afloat and not be washed away by the strong current. In his desperate attempt to stay alive, he catches hold of anything that comes his way – a log of wood, floating straw, twigs – anything at all. Holding tightly onto these supports he survives, but the strong current is carrying him swiftly, along with his ‘supports’, towards an unforeseen danger – the great waterfall.
He doesn’t know that a waterfall lies ahead. Will he survive this hazard or will he get trapped in the underwater weeds, or hit his head against a rock and drown? What if some unseen danger is lurking in the deep waters far below: a crocodile or something just as menacing? It would be wise for him to try to get out of the river before reaching the waterfall instead of complacently accepting his present situation. He needs to look around now for a rock or an overhanging branch to get hold of so he can haul himself to the safety of the river bank and go home.
We, like that unfortunate man, have fallen into this great river of existence. The laws of karma and transmigration are the strong influences that help this river flow onwards. We cannot swim against their forces and are being carried swiftly and surely towards the great waterfall by their strong currents. The waterfall is the great wheel of 8,400,000 species through which we could be taken before we again qualify for a precious human birth.
Like the poor adventurer in the water, we too are only partly aware of our situation. We might know that we must be saved but how and from what? Do we still cling onto our relations, possessions and achievements, positions in society, the rites and rituals of our respective religions and so on, hoping they will help us? These supports are helpless against the strong currents that are carrying us. If we do not try to find a way out now, while we still have time, we shall soon reach the end of our existence in the human form. All chances of grabbing that strong sturdy rock, or overhanging branch could be lost for a long time. Will we surface in the human form again, or will we become trapped in some lower form of existence?
But look! There is a guide on the river bank – someone who knows the river and its currents well, and who will reach out and catch the unfortunate man in his strong grip. He will call out that there is danger ahead and tell him just what to do to save himself.
In just the same way, God, in his immense grace, sends his saints into this world to rescue souls who have been swept away in the currents of materialism.
All we need to do is to trust and obey them.
Many mighty men, scholars and thinkers too,
Have been swept away by the strong currents of attachment;
But the purified soul like a tiny fish
Swims against the current and climbs to its goal.
Kabir, the Weaver of God’s Name
We must dive within our own selves in order to come in touch with Nam, for whatever is in the macrocosm is also in the microcosm.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat