Maharaj Charan Singh often quoted the ancient Greek saying, “Know thyself.” Other saints have also told us about the importance of knowing who we really are. Baba Ji reminds us, paraphrasing Teilhard de Chardin that we are spiritual beings having a human experience rather than human beings seeking a spiritual experience. That statement has profound significance in terms of how we think about ourselves, and one another, and what we consider to be our goals in life and our spiritual practice.
What does it mean to be a spiritual being? According to Sant Mat, the aim of our devotional practice is the attainment of two successive levels of consciousness: first is self-realization, then God-realization. Hazur says about these in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
Self-realization is essential before God-realization. What is self-realization? Going beyond the realm of mind and maya; trying to bring the mind to the eye-centre and to its own destination, so the soul can get release from the clutches of mind. Separating the soul from the mind – that is self-realization, that is knowing ourselves.
He continues to explain why it’s so important to separate the soul from the mind.
Soul has forgotten its home, … and its identity, after taking the association of the mind. Mind, too, doesn’t know itself. It has become a slave of the senses. So we have to withdraw our mind from the senses by attaching it to the Shabd and Nam within. And then, with the help of Shabd and Nam, mind becomes pure and comes back to its own source. Then soul automatically gets release from the clutches of the mind. That is self-realization.
At this level, the mind calculates who we are but has no idea of the grandeur of the soul, our real self. Jesus said, “Is it not written in your law? Have I not told you? Ye are gods!” Referring to Psalms 82:6, he states, “I have said, ye are Gods. Sons of the Most High. All of you.” These are the same teachings that have been repeated by the mystics throughout time.
Experiencing our true selves is the direction our meditation points us to, but this is only possible under the guidance of a living Master. The Masters, on a mission of mercy, appear in this world to bring us the truth. Still, we carry on with our ego selves as if that is who we are.
Mind and maya are the powers that have created this illusory self, and the soul is helpless to overcome its enslavement to this grand falsehood. Great Master says in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol.III:
Man considers himself to be limited and feeble, and it is indeed true that one becomes what he thinks himself to be. But the soul is a particle of the Lord, and the Lord is infinite. If the particle thinks of the infinite for some time, it finds itself to be infinite.
Great Master advises us to dwell on the infinite. Through our meditation, we can begin to become aware that we are part of him. God and the soul are both comprised of Shabd. So the illusion that we are separate from God acts as a prison in which we limit ourselves to a finite perspective. When we think of worldly concerns day and night, we take them to be real and define ourselves by them. Thus, we are imprisoned by our thinking and trapped in the prison of our limited self. We are so caught up in all of the illusory preoccupations which pertain only to our outward needs, desires, survival, pleasures, security, ambitions, daydreams, and fantasies, that we neglect our real work. Hazur says in Light on Sant Mat, “We are too much engrossed with our little struggles, desires, and disappointments to think of the grand purpose of our coming here.” We have been given the human form, a rare and special gift. It is in this human form alone that we can find our true self, realize the Creator, and merge back into the source, free from death and rebirth. Merging back into the source is our grand purpose.
The mystic Chokha Mela, in Many Voices, One Song, writes:
The Divine has no form, no name.
Within everyone, he is bound to no one.
The inner eye – there my eyes have seen him,
shining from the beginning to the end of time.
I am dazzled – the universe is filled
with him from beginning to end.
God has appeared within me, says Chokha,
now all my doubts have dissolved.
We can see our true selves only in the human form and with our third eye. The great secret that it holds is that when we realize our self as the soul, then we are able realize God. We merge the drop of our spirit with the vast spiritual ocean of love and bliss that is the Holy Father and Supreme Lord. We then know who we truly are – one with God.