Being Born Again
How seriously are we taking this path? If we’ve been on the path for some years, can we look back and say in all honesty: “I have lived the Sant Mat way of life in every respect”? Probably most of us will have to admit that we have not.
We must ask ourselves whether we have become a bit lukewarm in our approach. Over the years have we become a bit lackadaisical, a bit casual, and a bit lazy in our spiritual practice? Perhaps we do it because we consider it our duty, but we do it without enthusiasm, without any passion. We cannot wait until the two and a half hours are up, so that we can get on with our daily activities. Have we become distracted by external affairs, by our family, by our business, by the attractions and distractions of the world around us?
When we were initiated, we entered into a contract and we made a commitment. In terms of that commitment, we undertook to pay the price. We agreed to begin our spiritual life in earnest. We agreed to change our lifestyle, our behaviour, irrespective of the obstacles which came our way. We undertook to change the direction of our life, to set a new course.
We should be aware that initiation is the most important event in our entire existence. In fact, at this level of consciousness we cannot fully appreciate the significance of this event. No matter what successes we have achieved in this life or our previous lives – whether in the scientific, academic or corporate world; no matter whether we have been kings or emperors in past lives ruling vast kingdoms; no matter how famous we may have been or how much wealth we may have accumulated, all these achievements pale into insignificance when compared to the gift of initiation.
Just consider for a moment how many life forms we have been through. We have been plants, insects, birds, animals, and now humans. We can’t conceive of how long we have been here. And now we are finally on the path out of here. After countless lifetimes, we are on the threshold of departure from this physical environment. Initiation is the defining moment in our existence. The cycle of birth and death, with its untold misery, its suffering, its adversity, its tribulation, is now coming to an end.
Many satsangis regard the date of initiation as their real birthday and, in fact, this is true. Being born into the spirit entails a complete metamorphosis, a complete change in our lifestyle. It is indeed a new birth.
By implication, being born again means that something has to die. Something has to give way before a new entity can be born. So what has got to die? What has got to make way for the emergence of the new being?
For a moment let us take a step backwards and look at our lives up to now. What is our history – our autobiography? What form or shape did it take? Are we not an emotional bellows, sometimes on a high, the next day down in the dumps? One day it is calm, the next day a storm arises. There are moments of happiness, followed by periods of unhappiness; periods of success followed by periods of failure.
Except for God-realized souls, most of us live in the domain of the mind. We live in a dream world of our mental projections. The mind never leaves us alone. It is in constant motion. We would like to switch it off, but we just forget we have the key, the method to do so.
Let us look at how the mind entrapped us in its prison. Each of us was given a name by our parents. A name is just a label, but we have built a colossal edifice around this label. We all reflect our society. We repeat what we have been taught.
We are massively influenced by the customs, habits, traditions and practices of the society we live in. Society will tell us what to eat, what to wear, what car we should drive. Society will provide us with role models: become a film star, a celebrity, a brilliant scientist. And it sets our goals, such as: win the war, win the peace, get a man, get a home, get a better job; become beautiful, strong, or educated; strive for fame, for power, for wealth, for status. Such are the objectives that society sets before us. And millions will indeed strive for these, with the greatest dedication and courage.
And the tragedy is that we are not aware of this conditioning. We just let it happen. All these outside influences, negative or positive, shape who we think we are. But this is not our real self. This false self that has been created is a social byproduct. It is a product of living with others, and is in fact the ego.
It is of paramount importance for the spiritual seeker to know and observe how the ego operates in our daily life. Watch the ego, become a spectator. We will quickly realize that the ego, in collaboration with the intellect, is running our life. This is what has to die in order for us to be reborn. The false self has to die for the new self to take its place.
We may well ask ourselves: “How do I stop being who I am?” The solution is quite simple, but it is not easy to put into practice. First of all we must stop believing that we are who we have always thought we are. Because we are not that.
This ego will assert itself in hundreds of our daily actions. Every time we desire, or fear, or hate – every time we boast or indulge our vanity, every time we struggle to get something for ourselves, we are really asserting that “I am a separate, unique individual; I stand apart from everything else in this universe. I am an island in this sea of humanity.” This is the situation we have got ourselves into. And we don’t even realize it. What a delusion!
It is our ego that gives rise to our recurring suffering and misery. Once we get rid of this ego, which stands as a separating wall between us and the Lord, we go beyond the domain of matter and mind; we enter into the refulgence of the Lord. The drop merges into the ocean and becomes the ocean.
So the seeker may then say: “Okay, now I realize that I am not who I think I am. What is the next step?”
Mystics often use the analogy of becoming like a little child. We have to become humble. Young children have no hidden agendas, no prejudices. At their young age the ego has not yet become dominant. They tend to love unconditionally and act without guile.
How then do we become humble like a child? We cannot simply decide that from tomorrow I am going to be humble – just watch me! That is just the ego kicking in once again. What happens is that as we progress on the path, humility grows; it develops of its own accord. It comes naturally. And along with it comes a growing desire to surrender to our Master.
Deep down in every one of us there is a desire to put ourselves in the hands of the Master, but the mind holds us back. It fears letting go. But surrendering to the Master is the key to losing the ego, becoming one with his light.
A guru and his disciple were walking one night through a small village in India. Their conversation revolved around finding the real self. The disciple asked his guru: “Master, how can I find out who I really am?”
The guru thought for a moment and then said: “You see that street lamp ahead? Let’s approach it, and as we do, I want you to observe what happens to your shadow. Then, when you get to the light, stand directly under it.” The disciple did as he was told.
“Now,” explained the guru, “when you were some distance from the light, you cast a long shadow behind you. As you approached the light, the shadow gradually diminished, it decreased. Now that you are standing directly under the light, the shadow has disappeared. It has merged into the light.”
“Your shadow represented your false self. Your ego and the length of your shadow determined to what degree you were involved in the world. As you approached the light, the shadow decreased. That means your involvement, your attachment to the world, your bondage to the world lessened. When you reached the light, the shadow merged with the light.”
“To find the real self, you must detach yourself from the world. The light is your real self, your soul. Your ego, or false self, is indeed a shadow. It has never really existed. It is an illusion.”
The only process of driving out ego from within us is to attach ourselves to that sound, attach ourselves to that light. Unless we are attached to that Shabd or Nam, we can never detach ourselves from this world, from nations, friends, relatives, possessions, gold, dollars. Only attachment can create detachment. When the mind is attached to something better than the senses, then we do not have ego in us. Ego is in us only as long as the love of the Lord is not in us. When the love of the Lord takes its place, there is no place left for ego.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I