In the Seekers’ Guide on the RSSB website (www.rssb.org), we read:
At the time of Initiation, the seeker is asked to take four vows, promising to abide by them for life. The first three vows must be adhered to for a certain period of time before applying for Initiation.
The four vows are:
- To adhere to a lacto-vegetarian diet.
- To abstain from alcohol, tobacco products, habit-forming and mind-altering drugs.
- To lead a pure moral life while performing one’s duties in the world.
- To practise meditation with sincerity and dedication for two and a half hours daily, as taught at the time of Initiation.
What exactly does it mean to vow to do something? Is it the same as to promise? Yes. When we vow to do something, we have given our word, we are making a firm commitment to do it. There is an old saying, “My word is my honour.” I will not break this promise; you can believe me because I am giving you my word, my vow, as an honourable, trustworthy person.
Doesn’t the Master give his “word” to us – in the same sense – when he promises that if we do our best to reach him at the eye centre in our daily meditation practice, he will take us home to God to be with God forever?
The Master gives us his word (with a small “w”) in the form of a promise, a vow, a commitment that he will take us home with him. And, he gives us the means to make that journey by giving us his Word (with a capital “W”) by connecting us – our souls – to the Shabd, the Word, that inner creative power that is Sound and Light and that created and sustains all that we see and all that we do not see.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V, explains something about this Word, this Shabd:
The Shabd or divine music is the perfect Master. The Shabd is indistinguishable from the Supreme Lord. It is a conscious current of that great power which created the universe and which fully pervades it. All the universe emanated from this Shabd.
The Shabd is the true form of the Master. The physical form of the Master is the physical emanation of that power; he gives us the teachings; he encourages us on the path; he initiates us. But it is his inner Shabd form that connects our souls to his Word, his Nam. The Master promises us the liberation of our soul. He gives us his Word. And in turn, we promise to meditate. We give him our word.
Our word is our bond, our promise, our commitment. By signing the “Application for Initiation” form, we are entering into the most important “contract” of our lives. The Seekers’ Guide explains:
These four vows, taken at the time of Initiation, are the most serious commitments you will ever make. They are an internal commitment and not a verbal or outward promise.
So this commitment is much more than saying aloud, “Yes, I will follow the four vows.” Commitment involves dedicating ourselves to the Master and the path, wholeheartedly, single-mindedly, and with enthusiasm, diligence, resolve, persistence, tenacity, and drive.
When we commit to the Master and the path, we are all in and we don’t give up ever – no matter what. We march on with resilience and perseverance through our karmas, never forgetting for a second why we are here and what our goal is. We keep on going, doing our simran and bhajan every day, every day, every day.
Until one day, we don’t.
What happens if, after Initiation, we don’t honour our commitment, we don’t keep our word; we break our vows? In the context of a worldly contract, there are tangible and often painful consequences if we break our word: we lose money, a job, our home; we may even be sued. Not so with the Master’s contract: if we break our internal contract with him, we waste the opportunity to liberate our souls from bondage to eternal freedom.
We lose the opportunity to return to our source. Instead, we may be reborn again into another life – another set of karmas, ups and downs, pains and sorrows. A life that could be more of what we have right now, or perhaps even worse. There are no guarantees that our next life will be better.
Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh in Divine Light points out:
The one thing not attainable in any other form of life is God-realization. This privilege and capacity has been given exclusively to the human species. If once we let this opportunity slip by, there is no knowing when again we shall get it or whether we shall get it at all.
The Masters tell us that not everyone is given this opportunity; not everyone is meant to find this path in this lifetime. It is extremely good karma that the Master has found us and offered this deal to us. He says, don’t let this opportunity pass you by; for what are you waiting?
Maharaj Charan Singh says:
If you want to live out the brief span of your life in this body in peace and happiness, if you want to return to the Lord, there is only one way: engage in the practice of the Word. Apart from meditation on the Word, there is no other method or technique.
Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II
The Master is saying: Engage in the practice of the Word; do your meditation. This meditation will enable us to be happy now in this very lifetime and to free our soul so that it can fly home with the Master.
Maharaj Charan Singh explains in Light on Sant Mat:
We only have to do our duty and may thoroughly rest assured that the Master will do his duty; that is, he will take us at the proper time. All that is necessary is that we turn our back to the world and face the Master. He is always there to receive and welcome us with open arms.
Master says to leave the world behind, meaning, try to detach your focus from the world. It will never give permanent happiness. Turn your back on the world and follow me, practise the Word, do your meditation, and be happy, not just now but forever.
The Seekers’ Guide clearly states:
You are strongly advised to search your heart sincerely before applying for Initiation to make sure that you thoroughly understand these commitments, and that you are willing and able to live up to them.