from self to Shabd
By Hector Esponda Dubin
Publisher: Beas, India: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 2018.
Written in an engaging and conversational style, this short book presents the basic teachings of the Shabd masters in three chapters: “The Spiritual Dimension,” “The Realm of the Mind,” and “The World of Matter.” Core spiritual truths are presented in a contemporary way using modern-day examples and analogies from computer programming and quantum physics. Each chapter ends with a story called a “Cosmic Tale from Café Maya,” illustrating certain concepts through a fictional interaction between Murshid (the master) and Jiva (his disciple) as they meet over a cup of tea at Café Maya.
The focus of the first section of the book, “The Spiritual Dimension,” is the Shabd as the true formless reality. The author explains that the only difference between the master and the disciple is that the master identifies with the Shabd, while the disciple identifies with the body and personality. In reality we are not body and personality, and identifying with them is an illusion we need to transcend.
Most of us are imprisoned by our own concepts about who we are, what spirituality means, who the master is, and what the spiritual path is. What if those concepts that we hold dear are precisely the ones that stall our spiritual progress? What if those concepts are preventing us from moving from the limited self to the unlimited Shabd?
The author sums up Baba Ji’s explanation of our human experience: “Baba Ji says we are born in illusion, live in illusion, and die in illusion. By keeping our attention glued to the human experience, we have perceived reality in a very limited and delusional way. Our task now is to realize who we really are.” The author gives an example of how different reality can seem at different levels of existence:
Quantum physicists say that our human experience is taking place in energy fields arranged in such a way that they give the illusion that ‘things are here,’ when in reality, at a quantum/subatomic level, there are only energy fields with no solidity in them. These scientists say everything that we see is nothing but a huge quantum mirage blinking in and out of existence all the time.
In the first “Cosmic Tale from Café Maya,” Jiva asks Murshid to explain the teachings in a nutshell, to which Murshid replies, “The teachings say: My guru initiated me in the knowledge of my true nature. I am not my body, feelings, or thoughts. I’m the conscious, formless, ringing radiance of Shabd. That is what I am and that’s what the teachings say.”
In the second chapter, “The Realm of the Mind,” the author stresses the need to make the mind motionless. The real “spiritual breakthrough,” he says, comes through stilling the mind. He likens our uncontrolled thinking to a vortex, or to a rushing river:
The main reason we don’t have conscious access to the Shabd is that between us and Shabd consciousness is a rushing river of thoughts with a very strong current, always ready to carry our attention downstream. If we jump into the river of our thoughts and try to swim across, we will be swept away every time. If instead we raise our attention to the inner sound above the rushing current of thoughts, we will be able to enjoy the Shabd.
The author explains that we can’t blame Kal or the devil for our own uncontrolled thinking. “There is no devil or negative power forcing us to entertain certain thoughts. We are the ones who give life to thoughts by giving them our attention. If we don’t give them attention, they cease to exist. The more attention we give them, the stronger they become.” He describes the gift of simran:
When a disciple is initiated in the teachings of the Shabd, the master gives a welcoming gift to the new initiate. That gift is simran. But the gift he gives has to be unwrapped and then used every day. Placing our attention in simran is like downloading a new program in our life that will modify and improve our human experience.
Regarding the importance and function of simran, the author explains,
Baba Ji says that doing simran is for the soul like untying a balloon from the string that holds it down. Once the balloon is untied, it naturally starts to rise up. We cannot force our consciousness to go up to higher levels. All we can do is untie whatever holds the balloon down. The consciousness will go up on its own as a natural result of being freed from its absorption with the world. Once the attention starts to rise up, Baba Ji advises us to just let ourselves go.
In the “Cosmic Tale” that ends this chapter, Murshid stresses that the physical form isn’t the real guru. Our physical eyes see the world of duality; they can’t see the real guru, which is the Shabd, the formless higher consciousness. Shabd is also “the real you.” He says, “Your real guru is your higher consciousness.” Jiva is confused and asks why, then, does he need Murshid: what is the role of the physical form of the master? Murshid explains: “My role is to initiate you into the knowledge of your true self, so that you can realize that the Shabd is within you. I’m merely a friend who’s introducing you to another friend. That friend is Shabd.”
In the third chapter, “The World of Matter,” the author discusses the “karma program” that creates our destiny.
The perspective that true spiritual masters have on destiny, karma, fate, and the will of God is one of their most radical and challenging teachings. These spiritual masters tell us that whatever we are facing in this life is the result of a combination of the millions of good and bad actions (karmas) we performed in former lives. Once an action is done, it is imprinted and stored in a kind of cyber-file that could be called the sinchit-cloud (sinchit means storage in Sanskrit). A portion of the data contained in the sinchit-cloud is downloaded into the present life, and that forms the karma program for our present life.
Hearing about the “karma program,” a disciple may ask questions like, “Am I free to do meditation?” Or “Am I free to keep my attention wherever I want, or is that also predestined?” The author writes:
Baba Ji says that although our karmic conditions (education, environment, parents, friends, school, society, and so forth) can heavily influence how we react to what happens to us, we do have the freedom to keep our attention wherever we want. Baba Ji says we have the freedom to do meditation, to do simran, and to be receptive to the inner sound.
In the last “Cosmic Tale,” Jiva wants to know why he can’t hear any sound, and Murshid explains that it’s simply because he isn’t paying attention to it. Jiva says that all he hears is a “buzz,” and Murshid encourages him to pay attention to that. He says that in reality the “inner music is the manifestation of all love, knowledge and life.” And, he says, “Everyone paying attention during meditation can hear it.”
Book Reviews express the opinions of the reviewers and not the publisher.