The Nature of Illusion
Beings come to the world
in a sad state, knowing nothing,
and they leave in the same condition.
They keep their grip on the world,
and still they leave with nothing.
Many Voices, One Song
This is an observation of a sad truth by the mystic Samarth Ramdas. It highlights a problem that pervades the entire world. We arrive here in a state of ignorance. We grow up learning the ways of the world and believing in them. And, following the example set by our parents and our peers, we engage with this world and become enmeshed in all its comings and goings.
We strive for name and fame, we work hard to accumulate wealth and property, and we search desperately for happiness. But lasting happiness eludes us. Even when we seem to succeed in our endeavours, nagging dissatisfaction gnaws at us. We find that, in proportion to the measure of worldly success we achieve, there is a price to pay, and that price always involves suffering. There seems to be no end to suffering.
When we finally realize our utter helplessness and inability to find happiness, we come into the aura of the spiritual Master of our time. Initially we have no idea of his lofty status, but are drawn intuitively by his personal magnetism. It is then that we discover a path that can lead us out of the hall of mirrors that is this material world. Let us consider what this path is, in the light of what Soami Ji has to say:
Why not submit to the Master?
You have spent this human life in delusion.
Your spouse, your children,
indeed your entire family are cheats,
so why waste time and energy on them?
Why don’t you seriously consider the fact
that this world is just an illusion?
Sar Bachan Poetry
In what way is this world an illusion? We generally relate to the world as it appears to us via our senses. But actually, our senses are unreliable. In truth, all that exists is a sea of light – a great ocean of superconscious energy from which the universe has manifested as a devolved form of that energy.
Modern-day physicists are only now coming to terms with this astounding fact. They do not relate to the ‘superconscious’ part – the idea of conscious energy eludes them completely – but they have discovered that when you get down to the very smallest fragments of matter, at one moment they manifest all the properties and behaviour of matter and the next moment they demonstrate the properties and behaviour of pure energy.
Quantum physicists are starting to say that all matter is oscillating at a very high frequency, between form and that state of pure energy. So, if we bear in mind that the world that we see, and think we know, is not what it appears to be, we can re-evaluate our relationship with it. If it is all so evanescent, how can we form binding and lasting relationships with anyone? How can we call anything or anyone our own? Perversely though, it would seem that we can become possessed by virtue of our investment in these things and our attachment to them. As Soami Ji says:
The mind is so utterly foolish,
so in love with its own attachments -
how can it free itself from this web of deception?
Because we see the material world as real and true, and because we have become slaves to the desires of our mind, we become involved with and attached to all these things. As long as we believe all of this to be real, it is not possible for us to find our way out of this hall of mirrors alone. Our consciousness shapes our reality, so when we direct our attention into the material world, we are identifying with the degraded forms of energy that manifest there and establish that as our reality. The mystics say that to escape this domain of illusion we are going to need help.
It is when we realize this – that on our own we have no hope of escaping the trap of karmas which drives the endless wheel of transmigration – that we become restless. When we reach the point in our spiritual evolution where the burden of worldliness becomes unbearable, the soul within us cries for help.
That cry does not go unheard. The Supreme Father hears and responds. In his love and mercy he sends his “light bearer” to seek us out and rescue us. And this, says Soami Ji, is his message:
Attach yourself to Nam, dear friend,
and patiently hold still within yourself.
Understand the will of the Beloved -
whatever he does is entirely for your good.
The mystics tell us that our perception of the world and our place in it is all wrong. We think that this is all there is, and that this is where we belong. So, we believe that if we want happiness and peace, then we think that this is where we’ll find it. However, we now learn there are worlds beyond worlds and universes beyond imagination. The mystics tell us that there are regions of light above this shadowed domain of pain and sorrow. They assure us that these regions exist, and the pathway to them can be revealed by the Satguru.
In this vein the Master explains to us that the key to the whole thing is consciousness. To this end he teaches us how we can extract our attention from the gross elements of the material world and collect it at the eye centre. The Master explains that we need to become still within ourselves. For aeons we’ve been rushing around in the world, generating more and more karmas, which in turn tie us to the wheel of coming and going.
Now the Satguru has taken over the administration of our karmas, and whatever needs to be done, he will make sure that it gets done. He asks us only to direct our attention inwards and perform the simple meditation techniques that he has taught us: simran and bhajan. This alone will prevent us from getting further ensnared by the pitfalls of worldly life. When this is accomplished, we will have completed the first major step towards our spiritual liberation. And so Soami Ji tells us:
Have faith that no one other than the
Guru belongs to you.
Go to the Master’s harbour
and tie your soul to the primal Shabd.
Only the Shabd, and nothing else,
can liberate you from this web.
What Soami Ji is saying here is that all our worldly associations are temporary and are a function of our karmas and our past associations. Repeatedly we are born and grow up in the environment of a family and friends with whom we naturally form strong bonds. However, not one of these relationships will last. Every single one of them will come to an end. Only our Master is our permanent friend.
The bond between Master and disciple is forever. There is no relationship in this world or the next to compare with this. He is the one who is the key to our future. And he tells us there is only one way out of our situation and that is to devote ourselves to our spiritual practice: simran, which extracts our consciousness from the mire of the material world, and bhajan or Shabd practice, which has the effect of merging our consciousness in the divine sound. The Shabd alone can raise our soul from the worlds of shadow to the domain of light.
By attending the satsang of a true Master, and putting what he says into practice to the best of our ability, we will progress spiritually. Our consciousness will rise up, and the shackles and chains that bind us here will be steadily loosened and eventually broken. Every step in the right direction is taking us towards our goal.
We have had endless numbers of lives in the great cycles of incarnation, in all the eight million four hundred thousand species into which a soul may incarnate. We have surely had enough of that! Now we have been blessed by the initiation of a true Master of our time, together with the incredible gift of a human birth. Now at last we have the road beneath our feet that leads to the court of the Supreme Lord.