Side by Side
Not too long ago at the Dera the Master was discussing the relationship between the disciple and the Guru. He referred to the tendency of disciples to put the Master on a pedestal, and he made it clear that this is not the kind of relationship we should be cultivating. The Master can’t work with us successfully, he said, if he is higher than us and out of reach. This creates a barrier between him and his disciples, and is not conducive to an open and loving relationship. He commented that to successfully work with the Master we need to walk with him side by side, as friends.
Although we know that our Master is so much more than a mere human being, we need to relate and interact with him as we would with other people and not put him on a pedestal, above us and out of reach. He is our role model, and he is living proof that we too have the capacity to reach the spiritual goals he has attained.
We also need to understand that regarding the Master as our friend is not disrespectful. His spiritual or Shabd form is beyond our capacity to fully comprehend, so we need someone at our level to help and guide us.
It’s interesting that when reading the writings of many mystics, particularly the Sufi mystics such as Shams of Tabriz, Rumi and Hafiz, we often find them referring to their Master as ‘the Friend’. It is likely that every one of us has found enough discontent and dissatisfaction during our lives at this level of existence to long for our release from it. Thanks to our ‘Friend’, our Master, we have now begun to see through the illusion of this world that we once believed was our only reality, our ‘home’.
This discontented, restless state opens us up to change – but in most cases we are not conscious of what we are looking for. How many of us can honestly say we were searching for a friend in the form of the true Master of our time? Many of us were not even aware of the existence of such Masters. And yet, when we became aware of our Master’s existence, our attraction to him was often immediate -and in most cases somewhat irrational, or at the very least, confusing. But this messy existence, this endless source of suffering and discontent is, in fact, the perfect background from which souls can be collected and brought to the feet of the Friend, the Master.
Let us start by looking at the gist of what we were told about the Guru–disciple relationship. The Master does not expect us to walk beside him literally. The point is that we should not distance ourselves from him by putting him on a pedestal. He clearly wants us to be closer to him. After all, how many times do we have to be told that ‘he is closer to us than our very breath’? But unless we tune in to him he will remain at a distance – at least from our perspective.
So how do we tune in to him? We must include our Master more in our lives. If we could imagine walking together with a close friend, what would that entail? It would mean communicating: talking, taking the friend into our confidence, sharing our thoughts and concerns with him.
But our first reaction to that idea might be: “But we don’t need to voice these things. The universal consciousness knows everything.” Even before we could voice them, he would know them – so putting these thoughts into words might be superfluous, even ludicrous. Because the Master is all-knowing he doesn’t need our words – he doesn’t even need to hear our current thoughts, as he is aware of every one of them and more, even those thoughts which are not yet in the foreground of our consciousness.
The Master has provided us with a complete vocabulary for communicating with him, and that is our simran. These five precious words, repeated with focused concentration, constitute all the communication we need with our Master.
The purpose of simran is to still the mind and reach the eye centre. With the use of focused simran we bypass the limitations of our vocabulary; we eventually negate the stranglehold of the mind and, via the third eye, step straight into universal consciousness, the Shabd and, most importantly, the presence of our Master in his radiant splendour.
This simran is the only communication the Master requires of us. This is where working side by side with our Master is most beneficial, as every step we have to take in our journey needs to be with him – aware of every moment at his side – using our simran to maintain a constant connection with him.
Simran is incredibly powerful – we are told this continually in the teachings. So if the use of simran will shield us from the shenanigans of the mind and the ego, then we need to embrace this power and begin depending on it more seriously and use it at every opportunity. As soon as we engage in focused simran, we are immediately side by side with our Master.
The Masters tell us that because of the pivotal role of simran in our meditation, its practice should become our most important focus, in addition to bhajan or listening to the Sound.
There are many considerations which we have to be aware of to ensure that our meditation is fruitful and enjoyable. The mind’s shrewd scheming will readily sabotage our efforts if we do not raise our level of awareness. In order to do this, we need to think clearly – we need to be aware of all the possible perversions which can distract us, and be on our guard against them.
We are often reminded of the importance of constantly evaluating every aspect of our behaviour. Self-analysis or introspection is essential if we are to avoid accumulating more karma. We are advised not to react to situations, but rather to respond only after thinking about possible consequences. This process sounds cumbersome, but we only need to choose between what is helpful on the path and that which is detrimental. It is as easy as that. In other words we need to evaluate all our actions and attitudes in terms of what will bring us closer to ‘the Friend’ and what will take us farther from him.
We have to learn to be more discerning, and once this becomes entrenched in our behaviour, we will have achieved the automatic and unconscious skill of discrimination. We are constantly required to make decisions, to discriminate between spiritually favourable or unfavourable actions.
In The Path of the Masters Julian Johnson strongly emphasizes the importance of including the Master in everything we do; that is, recognizing his presence so as to increase our awareness of the importance of our relationship with him. This awareness will also help us reinforce the understanding that he is the real doer.
The Master’s love for us is indisputable – but do we reciprocate his love? We are told it’s not up to us to love our Master – love is a gift from him and is therefore dependent on his grace. Only our honest effort at doing our meditation and living in his will can make this possible.
So we need to conduct some very thorough introspection. Do we have what it takes to be a friend to our Master? When we are being his friend he will more easily achieve his sole purpose for us, and that is to deliver us back to our original home in Sach Khand. But this cannot happen without us playing our part: following the vows, living in his will and attending to our meditation.
Mastering our repetition is the start of our spiritual journey and paves the way for our final revelation: that we are him and he is us – we are one. That is our final milestone and marks our return to our original home with the Father.
We have been assured by the Masters that they see us only as our true essence, namely our pure spiritual nature or soul. They are not concerned with our imperfections. So once the Master has initiated a seeker, he is already a totally trusting and non-judgemental friend. In fact, all of the above-listed qualities are already fully manifested in a true living Master – it only remains for us to ensure that we demonstrate them in our relationship with him.
Wherever you may find yourself,
do simran – no other practice exists.
This I know for sure:
the One who helps devotees will set me free.
He ignores our weaknesses, strengths and status,
he always runs to our help.
Don’t allow a moment to pass, says Sena,
without remembering and repeating
the Name of the Supreme Being.
Sena Nhavi as included in Many Voices, One Song