Take Refuge in the Master
Take refuge in the Master, O yearning soul!
You have no friends in this world –
make Nam the mainstay of your life.
Sar Bachan Poetry
To take refuge means to flee from danger to a place of safety. It is related to the word “refugee”, and we are all spiritual refugees. We now realize that through the mysterious grace of the Lord we have an opportunity for a better life – a spiritual life. But to embrace that life and to reach its shores of truth, bliss and love we have to leave our bodies behind and board the often rickety boat of our meditation and devotion. We need to cross the stormy seas of sense pleasures, obsessions, distractions, addictions, attachments, laziness and other bad habits.
This perilous journey is impossible without the Master. He lives in the land of truth, bliss and love, and is a master of the voyage we need to make. He provides the map, tells us how to keep our boat seaworthy, and although we are mostly not aware of it, he watches over and protects us as we make the hazardous journey.
What does Soami Ji mean when he says we have no friends in this world? On one level it seems untrue – we do have friends, people we care about and people who care for us. However, on a much deeper level none of these lovely friendships last forever. Sooner or later our karma whisks our friends and family away. Maharaj Charan Singh gives us some practical guidelines on how to live in the understanding that we have no true friends:
We should think that nothing belongs to us in this creation. Everything belongs to the Father, and we have been allocated certain responsibilities and duties which we have to discharge. So as a matter of duty, we must discharge those responsibilities and duties truthfully and honestly.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
If we ponder on the idea that nothing belongs to us and everything belongs to our spiritual Father, this means that my friend is the Lord’s daughter or son, who is on a temporary loan to me. My body is the Lord’s temple given for a limited time only. My house and my car and even my food are not mine, but are gifts from the Father. In the same way that a worldly father provides for us and looks after us, the Master – our spiritual father – takes care of us. We do not have to worry about anything. If we remember that we are being cared for by one who knows more, loves more and is infinitely more powerful than we are, we will live a happier and more relaxed life. This is not to say that we can be lazy in any way. We have to do our very best to appreciate and take care of what we have been given by the Master.
Great Master repeats the same theme in The Dawn of Light:
Try to live this short span of life in a manner which best pleases God, that your wanderings in this world may cease and you may reach your eternal home where it is all bliss unalloyed.
The Master is our perfect example, for he has seen through the illusion and taken his soul back to its true home. As a result, the Master can teach us how to do the same. In a very real sense the path is the Master.
Bhai Gurdas, a mystic of sixteenth-century India, tells us:
If you take one step to take refuge in the Master,
The Master meets you on the way
By taking hundreds of steps.
If you remember the Master just once,
The Master remembers you again and again. …
I bow again and again
To the one and incomprehensible Master.
As quoted in Living Meditation
Sardar Bahadur Ji tells us that our fort is our Guru and we should stay within the four walls of his teachings, which are the four promises we make at the time of our initiation. If we are struggling with our meditation and feel that we are getting nowhere, we are most likely to find that one or more of these walls is in need of repair – or even total rebuilding. There is no time like the present for doing the necessary spiritual maintenance to aid our precious souls on their journey home.
Soami Ji’s poem continues:
Tie the thread of your consciousness to Shabd
so the door to the Lord’s court is opened to you.
Here we are introduced to three subtle concepts: the thread of consciousness, the Shabd, and the door to the Lord’s court. Modern science associates consciousness with the waking state and with awareness. But Soami Ji is much more specific, and explains in Sar Bachan Prose that the soul is subtle and conscious, while the mind, the senses, the body, worldly actions, enjoyments and the like, constitute the unconscious. The conscious is connected to the unconscious with a knot, which has to be unravelled if the soul is to be released from the mind’s grip.
This is pretty mind-blowing information. It means that from a spiritual perspective, almost everything we do in our daily lives is from a state of unconsciousness. No matter how wide awake and aware we think we are, on a spiritual level this world is an illusion, and we are spiritual zombies going from one drama to the next. Soul is consciousness. So when Soami Ji tells us to tie the thread of consciousness to the Shabd, he means we have to connect our soul to the holy Sound. This is no easy task when we don’t know much about soul or the Shabd.
“Shabd” means song in Hindi, but Soami Ji is not telling us to tie our soul to any old worldly song. If that were the case musicians would all be saints! Soami Ji means the spiritual song, the divine creative power that Great Master calls the holy Sound.
These concepts may seem wonderful, but most of us have to admit that we know even less about Shabd than we know about soul. Therefore, it’s not going to be easy for us to tie our consciousness to the Shabd. We are going to need a guide, a living Master, who connects fortunate souls to the Shabd through initiation.
The door to the Lord’s court is a subtle point within us called the eye centre. Behind this door the Radiant Form of our Master waits for us to join him, so that he can guide us from the eye centre to the true home of the divine soul. In Spiritual Discourses, Vol. I, Maharaj Charan Singh gives us some powerful insights, saying:
This is the pivotal point that holds the mystery of life. It is from here that our attention continually descends and spreads into the world through the nine outlets of the body.… The ageless secret, the ancient wisdom, the path of the saints lies in drawing the attention back to this point.
Our all-important spiritual journey takes us to this point where we find the Master’s Radiant Form. If we have not yet reached our Master, it’s because our driver – our mind – is still not under control. In spite of the slow progress we make, the Masters endlessly encourage us. They tell us that if we have been initiated we can do it. The present Master asks us to question deeply why we are on the path, so that we can reprioritize and recalibrate our lives to make the journey quicker and less convoluted.
For most of us, the experience of soul and Shabd is impossible without a God-realized mystic who has reached the highest spiritual region within himself and is immersed in Shabd. The translator of Soami Ji’s poems uses these delightful words to describe a saint:
The Guru is a river that flows in whichever direction he likes. He is free, he has no limitations or boundaries. … Everything the mystics do… is like a bird in flight enjoying its freedom, riding the wind.
It is very difficult to understand anything about a Master. Only once we have met the Radiant Form of our Master will we know more of his glory, majesty and tremendous power. These great spiritual Masters and saints who live among us are incredibly kind-hearted. They truly have our very best spiritual interests at heart. Everything they ask us to do is for our own highest good.
A visit to Dera demonstrates how extremely gracious these great Masters are on an earthly level. Only once we have succeeded in tying our soul to Shabd and have immersed our self in the holy Sound, will we know how great the gift of initiation by a Master truly is. And it is then that we will truly take refuge in our Master.