The Yellow-Eyed Hawk
Observe how the whole world is going adrift
in this ocean of existence.
Seeing the world in such a plight,
I have cautioned you time and time again
that you have suffered the pain of birth and death,
even the tortures of hell,
in all the four ages. …
Through virtue and vice
you have endured great adversities,
But you never sought refuge
at the feet of a true Guru.
Sar Bachan Poetry
In no uncertain terms Soami Ji tells us in this poem that the world is in a mess. For many ages souls have been suffering in the cycle of birth and death because they did not seek the refuge of a Guru. But now our opportunity has come, and we can’t afford to miss it.
Now that you have been blessed with a human form,
devote yourself to bhakti and burn away your karmas.
Your negligence will not be forgiven this time …
Be on your guard against the mind
and serve your Master.
Radha Soami has revealed to you the sublime mystery.
Sar Bachan Poetry
We have been given the huge privilege of the human form. In this life we need to devote ourselves to shedding our load of karmas. We have to subdue the mind and step out of the world. Now that we have been told the truth of the sublime mystery, we have to give up our apathy. We have been given the key to enable us to get out of the cycle of birth and death, and to connect with the all-powerful, universal consciousness called Shabd. When we understand this, it is pure idiocy not to serve our Master by living in his will.
But all too often the mind does get its way with us and apathy starts to creep in. We sometimes need a wake-up call. The following story is told by the American spiritual teacher Richard Slavin, known as Radhanath Swami:
I remember once I was sitting here on the banks of the river Ganga, and up above me I looked into a cloudless sky. And soaring, was a hawk. … It circled lower and lower and lower – until it was just a few metres above my head. And I looked up at this hawk and saw its yellow eyes intensely gazing into the river, looking for something.… Suddenly, the hawk dove head first, right into the River Ganga. Then there was a skirmish with lots of splashing. A few seconds later it came out with a flapping fish in its claws. …
That fish was just swimming along like any other day with its friends and family, looking for food, having fun, swishing around. It didn’t expect anything dramatic to happen. But suddenly that fish was ripped right out of its reality, away from everything it identified with. It was about to die.
Isn’t that situation potentially everyone’s situation? We just go about our lives like any other day when the hawk, our fate or destiny, strikes. There’s a death in the family, there’s a traumatic experience, disease – and in a flash our calm, comfortable existence is turned on its head.
Radhanath also comments that we can’t be complacent. And we have to take the opportunities that come to us in our spiritual life very seriously. The greatest enemy of the seeker after truth, he says, is procrastination. Catastrophe can strike at any moment, and the older we get, the greater the likelihood that a visit from the yellow-eyed hawk is imminent.
He offers a practical suggestion for how to soften the impact of adversity: ‘dive deeper’. If the fish had not been swimming so close to the surface of the river, it would not so easily have been singled out by the hawk. So he is saying that we need to dive deeper into our spiritual practices, as this will prepare us for our reunion with the Lord. Our departing will then become an occasion for celebration.
In The Path of the Masters Julian Johnson tells us:
To every disciple of a living Master, death is an occasion of rejoicing, for the liberated spirit simply steps out of the body as one would put off an old garment. Death utterly vanishes. It is finally conquered during the normal course of his development when the disciple learns to leave his body voluntarily to travel abroad in the higher regions. Thus, by entering the regions of so-called death while in full consciousness, with great joy, the fear of death disappears.
Johnson describes the means the Master provides for us to minimize the impact of the action of the yellow-eyed hawk – a method which will enable us to experience dying while still living. This is possible by following the meditation techniques, our simran and bhajan, taught to us during our initiation. The object of this meditation is to bring our consciousness up from the soles of our feet to the eye centre and to hold our attention there. At this point our awareness will have withdrawn from the body, and we will be able to attach ourselves to the Shabd, the Sound Current. Once we are consciously attached to Shabd we are detached permanently from the lower senses.
This journey to the eye centre can be a long, tedious process while we wrestle with the mind and try to achieve that all-important stillness at the eye centre. Becoming more aware of our rich spiritual legacy, of the immense power of simran and bhajan, of the access we have to the Lord, is the kind of depth we need to aspire to in our spiritual practice.
Stillness at the eye centre can be achieved only when we are living in the will of the Lord. Once we have attained this state of obedience, faith and devotion, we will have little interest in the physical world and so will be equipped to accept, and be totally unaffected by, all the ‘slings and arrows’ of our karma. In fact, we could even be grateful for every hardship we have to endure, and regard it as a gift from the Lord.
We are all living our lives according to a script, written by ourselves and meticulously recorded in our karmic accounts. Each of our scripts is unique, and everyone must follow their own course. The events outlined in the script are seldom predictable and normally take us by surprise. We are like the free-swimming fish, enjoying life with its friends and family in one moment and thrashing about in the claws of the yellow-eyed hawk in the next. Our destiny dictates the events of our lives down to the tiniest detail. But as disciples of a true Master, the control of our fate lies entirely in the hands of the Master, who will manage our soul’s return to the Father.