Are We Dead or Alive?
Are we living to die, or dying to live?
We probably think we’re alive, and in the usual sense of the word we are. We’re alive to our day to day life, and often this means we become so absorbed with everything we see and do in this world that we’re dead to the spirit within. For most, life is an existence of a purely earthly nature; we’re aware only of the mind and body. In turning to this world, we’ve turned away from the truth.
And this is why the spiritual Masters come, for those who genuinely seek the truth. Having complete knowledge of the spiritual truth they can help us. They are experts in their field. They teach us how we may die to live whilst still in this world – how to conquer death to live in the Word of God, which is within all living things. In the human form this becomes apparent at the eye centre as sound and light. Referring to this the Bible says, “If thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light.” In coming to the single eye, as Christ put it, we close the two eyes, and detaching from the world, focus the attention within – then there is nothing but light in the body.
This focused attention must be steady, because if our focus is not steady, our attention scattered – drifting with the thoughts and attachments of the mind – we will find only darkness in the body. Scattered attention results from our living under the veil of maya (illusion), which is projecting all that changes and is unreal, thus covering the eternal truth. This truth, a never-ending divine love, has many names – Shabd, the Word, Logos or the Holy Spirit; all these names describe the same creative power, a divine energy emanating from the Supreme Lord and taking us back to him.
It seems as though we lost our way and, in turning to the world, we looked away from the Lord. Our awareness of Shabd’s light gradually faded; the darkness then further increased over many lifetimes owing to our excessive indulgence in the passions. And whilst we remain in darkness we cannot see this truth. This truth, the Masters tell us, is so close it’s like holding treasure in the palm of our hand and not knowing it’s there! Their experience of this truth means they can help us realize this treasure too – a higher, finer awareness, from human flesh to spiritual being. It’ll come as we die to the limitations of our earthly nature – our existence no longer confined to mind and body.
To die to these limitations requires balance. Kahlil Gibran says: “Now you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty, are you at standstill and balanced.” And this is why the Masters advise a life of high principles and daily meditation, so we may empty ourselves and come to balance. However, even in an unbalanced darkness, meditation helps us go through this life of ups and downs with composure; helps us keep a level-headedness in even the most difficult situations; helps us to be on our guard against earthly temptations. As our balance develops, we slowly edge our way toward the realization of that hidden treasure.
The spiritual journey
Life’s ups and downs will remain because, as Tulsi Das says, “As is the action, so is the reward”. Likewise, in the Bible, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” In this world karmic law governs us. This law is meticulous and just and shows that a man’s destiny is the result of his own actions. If we sow seeds of love, kindness and generosity, we’ll reap this treatment from others, and if we sow seeds of anger, jealousy and selfishness this treatment will come back to us. After many lifetimes of sowing these seeds, spreading outwards in many directions, our karma will have pulled us away from the Lord within.
Clearly, we don’t want to sow any new seeds and to this end the Masters say it’s essential we follow specific lifetime promises. We must be lacto-vegetarian – ensuring we’re not part of the chain of cruelty and killing created by the desires of the palate. No alcohol, mind-altering drugs or tobacco products are to be used – these befuddle our mind and we need to keep our sense of discrimination intact to avoid behaving inappropriately. And we must lead an upright moral life; this principle encompasses all decent and good behaviour. All the Masters emphasize how we must exemplify all that makes us good human beings.
These promises set a clear strategy and build a solid foundation for keeping our promise to give at least one tenth of every day to meditation. Meditation is a daily spiritual journey and, as with any journey, if we keep stopping, it simply takes longer. And this journey is a journey intimately known to our heart. By turning to the Lord, we travel deep within ourselves, leaving this world of appearances for the world of reality. The mind stills, as the consciousness withdraws from the body, and rising to the eye centre comes into contact with Shabd.
In contrast to this we often hear it said that progress seems slow; this is merely our perception, because with every effort we make in turning to our Lord, we grow spiritually. To illustrate: we can think back to ourselves physically as babies, as children – we can see we’ve changed, we bear no resemblance to that baby or child we once were, although on a daily basis that change was imperceptible. It’s the same with our spiritual growth; every time we sit in meditation we’re changing, even if on a daily basis that change is also imperceptible. We’ve no idea what’s going on at a different level, we’ve no idea how far or how close we are to lifting the veil of maya. Our part is to do exactly as we’ve been instructed – live within the confines of our promises, put in our effort and still more effort; do our very best, and leave the rest to him.
We need to wake up!
If we carry on looking in the wrong direction, how will we see him? It’s rather like looking everywhere for our spectacles until we realize, they’re on our nose and they were there all of the time! Shabd has been there within us, all of the time, even closer than those spectacles on our nose – we just don’t see it! And because we don’t see it, this meditation may seem nothing more than two and a half hours of daily life. Yet slowly and subtly, meditation seeps into every aspect of our day. We begin to find joy, peace and contentment growing as we turn within. Our days reflect an expanding need, the need to know the inward way of truth. Longing begins to grow, fed by the increasing heat of love burning within.
Every day, every moment, by accepting the Master’s help, we have a choice – to go inward to the Shabd or outward to the world. We can choose to die to self or to live to self. We begin to see that the real purpose of life here is to die to live and realize that true love that lasts forever.
The saints and mystics say we need to wake up! To rise to the single eye before death overtakes us; to come alive to that everlasting peace and bliss. We may feel that this is way beyond us, we may feel trapped by our problems and weaknesses, but keeping within the bounds of the four vows, and living our daily lives in the atmosphere of meditation is the remedy, our essential healer.
The crucial, most noteworthy thing in this fleeting life is the realization of Shabd, the Word of God. We need to seize this opportunity of dying to live before it slips away. Life is short and the Masters urge us to act now and not waste our lives on the perishable things of this earth. Rather to die to such things and live in that everlasting love, a love eloquently expressed by Rumi:
A true lover is proved such, by his pain of heart;
No sickness is there, like sickness of heart.…
A lover may hanker after this love or that love,
But at last he is drawn to the KING of love.
However much we describe and explain love,
When we fall in love we are ashamed of our words.
Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear,
But love unexplained is clearer.
Just as a twig, when grafted to a tree, becomes one with the tree and the life and energy of the tree become a part of the twig – in the same manner, those who have connected themselves with the Lord are completely one with him.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol II