Master and Disciple
As we travel down the path of Sant Mat, we begin to realize that it is something like a play – a play with two central characters and a host of people in supporting roles. The two central characters are, of course, Master and disciple, and each one has a specific role to play.
What is the nature of the role that Master plays? First, he must act as intermediary between the disciple and God. We cannot love or follow an abstraction, and so God sends the living Masters to interact with human beings – in particular with those souls he wishes to return to him. As Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I: “You see, Master is a medium between the soul and the Lord, and he is concerned with the soul – to help it to develop, to reach to the level of the Father”.
The Master’s real form is Shabd, God’s creative power, but we cannot respond directly to that either. So he must assume a human form and begin a process of interaction with every prospective disciple that includes the pivotal gift of initiation. From that very moment of initiation, Master and disciple are bound inextricably together, as the disciples work their way through what remains of their earthly life and even beyond till there is a final reunion with God.
The Master, in his Shabd form, is always with each of his disciples, overseeing their progress and accompanying them on their journey, physically here and now, and spiritually now and forever. Maharaj Charan Singh says:
We definitely need initiation by a Master to put us on the path. Initiation is not a ritual; it is a guiding factor in our life. The Master is always there. He does not just forget about us after initiation. He is always there to guide us and lead us .… Ultimately the initiation and the Master and the audible life stream and devotion and the Lord and the soul become one.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
Not only does our Master promise to be with us constantly on our physical and spiritual journey, not only will he take us to God, he also offers us his divine protection. According to the laws of reincarnation and karma we have accumulated an enormous warehouse full of karmic debts which must be repaid in full before we can be allowed to leave mind and maya and return home.
What a problem! What a devastating situation. It would seem hopeless. But it isn’t. As Hazur Maharaj Ji explained:
He gives protection to the soul. Master takes care of that soul so that it may not be condemned again to this creation. He has his own ways and means of protecting it.… For that, Master stands as a ransom to Kal. He takes charge of the soul and sees that all karmas of the soul are cleared, so that it can shine and go back to the Father.
Spiritual Perspectives,Vol. I
God appointed the Master to fulfil these tasks, and he does so with loving patience and good humour. He is the greatest love and the greatest mystery in our lives.
Now, what is the disciple’s role in the play? Our part seems to revolve around three main aspects, namely effort, attitude and faith. And although one can list them separately, in fact they are all part of one thing – discipleship. To be a good disciple, to play our part to the very best of our ability, we need to be putting in maximum effort all the time, and we need to have absolute faith in our Master.
The Master does not want us to sit back and expect him to do all the work. He wants us to put in honest effort and make responsible choices that will lead us towards our goal of spiritual improvement. We must follow the Sant Mat way of life with as much energy, discipline and consistency as we possibly can.
Our Master is here in the flesh not just to initiate us and support us, but also to stand before us as an example of how we should live as human beings. He is the ultimate role model. Everything he does is about fulfilling his own Master’s wishes and commands. He is the perfect embodiment of the word ‘sevadar’. He is also the epitome of every good and noble characteristic. But this should not daunt us in trying to follow his example. To follow it on this level requires effort and attention.
One of our main problems is that we bring the same expectations to our spiritual work as we do to our normal daily endeavours. And so we are conditioned to pursue our spiritual goals with normal human expectations and emotional responses. Maharaj Charan Singh says:
We should never sit in meditation with any excitement, with any expectation.… If every day you sit with certain expectations – I am going to see this and I am going to see that – naturally you will be disappointed and you will not be able to concentrate at all.… Try to concentrate as much as you can, and when it comes it just comes.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol II
‘Try’ is the crucial word. All the Master wants is that we keep on trying.
Everything about our worldly efforts has led us to believe that results and rewards are both natural and necessary. If we practise long and hard enough at any discipline we can see the progress, feel the results, and often get rewarded for the effort. The mind might ask: Why should meditation not be the same?
The answer may be twofold. First, how do we know we are not making progress and not being rewarded? And second, meditation is not a worldly activity – it is a spiritual activity, and we cannot judge a spiritual activity by worldly criteria.
There may be only two reasons that should prompt us to meditate: obedience and love. He asked, we promised. Now, out of love for him and a desire to please him through simple effort and obedience, we should meditate. Have we any idea of just what a privilege it is to even try to meditate? This is monumental. Maharaj Charan Singh says:
If we really love him, we will want to do what he wants us to do. And he wants us to meditate; therefore, we should also try to meditate.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
The Masters tell us that every effort at meditation counts and every effort pleases him. Whether we can see the results or not, whether we think it successful or not, we cannot judge. And surely we can all begin to see changes for the better within ourselves, even if it is only recognition of our own faults and weaknesses. This is his grace, his reward for our effort as we strive to follow his example.
A sister asked Maharaj Charan Singh: “If I sit in meditation without being able to concentrate at all, do I gain anything? Even if we don’t see the light in meditation, should we try to do it anyway?” He replied:
Sister, whether you concentrate or not is immaterial, but you definitely should sit in meditation because we have to pass through so many phases before we are able to concentrate and enjoy that pull within, its bliss and peace within. You can’t straightaway concentrate by simran, but if we don’t start, then how will we ever concentrate? … Our efforts should continue.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
We don’t know where we are on the path and we don’t know what our Master is doing with our efforts. He knows best how to make those puny efforts grow. The results are his business, not ours. So let us leave that to him. We are not alone in our struggles. The trick is to stay positive and grateful, no matter how difficult the process, or how long or seemingly fruitless.
The Master promises to take his initiates home. Every day he is building our treasure in heaven, even if we cannot see it. He and his grace are always there. He plays his role perfectly. Let us also try to play our role to the very best of our ability.
My only wish is that you try to contact the Radiant Form of the Master within you, so that you may become sure by actual experience of the great truth taught by the Master. This is the greatest service that a disciple can render to his Master.
Maharaj Jagat Singh, Science of the Soul