Seeker of Lost Souls
Recently I watched a film called The Water Diviner, starring Russell Crowe. Set in the immediate aftermath of World War I, the film centres on the character he plays – an Australian farmer and water diviner called Joshua Connor – and follows his journey across Turkey in search of his three missing sons who were reported missing in action and are presumed dead. As I watched the drama unfold, I was struck by the similarities between Connor’s story and what we are told of the mission of the Masters.
The soul diviner
The hero’s journey to the other side of the world reminded me of how the Master comes in human form to awaken us. The gulf between the region of pure spirit – Shabd – and this physical world is difficult to imagine but I gained a flicker of insight as I watched Connor leave outback Australia, a vast, remote wilderness, impervious to time, for the blood-soaked battle fields of Gallipoli that historians describe as “one of the worst fronts of the First World War.”
Connor’s journey is prompted by a promise to his dying wife that, whatever happens, he will bring his sons’ bodies back to Australia and bury them beside her. Like Connor, the mystics leave their abode only under direct orders from the Lord. Guru Gobind Singh, for instance, states: “I had no desire to come into this world, but the Lord so willed it and sent me here.”
Why does a mystic obey this call and, leaving the region of pure spirit, travel to its polar opposite? The answer is love. Just as it is love that compels Connor to honour his vow, the Master seeks us out of love for the Lord. The ‘us’, however, is not the outer, transitory self, but the soul. The Master relentlessly travels the length and breadth of the world in search of those under his charge. Connor is an expert water diviner (someone who is able to locate sources of water). The Master is something more – he is able to locate thirsty souls.
It’s important to remember that the Master looks not only for his own ‘flock’ but for those entrusted to him by his Master. In Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V, Maharaj Sawan Singh informs us that, just before their demise, mystics “hand over the office of the Guru to another… so that the work of connecting the souls with the Lord and redeeming them should continue.” The present Master once reminded a group of satsangis that Maharaj Charan Singh had loved roses, telling the group that they were all his roses and he had been given the seva of gardener to look after them.
Water is an essential sustenance for all forms of life, down to the tiniest organism. Connor’s ability to find water in the Australian outback (semi-arid bush where temperatures can reach more than fifty degrees centigrade and rain is infrequent) ensures the survival of his community. Since water is so critical to life, perhaps it’s unsurprising that ‘living water’ is one of the oldest and most commonly used metaphors to describe God’s creative power (the Shabd or Word), and also the gift of initiation. The earliest evidence of this metaphor is in scriptures found in the Middle East, dating as far back as 4,000 BCE. For a largely dry, agrarian society, the presence of water is paramount. As noted in A Treasury of Mystic Terms, Vol. III:
Without water, there is no physical life. Without the Living Water, there is no creation. Without conscious contact with the Living Water there is no salvation for a soul caught in the entanglements of physical existence.
As the quotation indicates, the soul is entangled in the inertness of illusion. To attain freedom, it must drink the Living Water to awaken that which is inert. The Master alone is able to locate this. As the Great Master explains:
All true devotees get the Shabd, which is real life, from the perfect Guru. He is life in himself, and since he is free from the ego, the Shabd speaks through him. He has transcended the valley of death. He has realized the life of the Lord, which works through the Sound, and he himself can give that life or spiritual awakening to his disciples.
As spiritual seekers, we often think that the Master’s only role is to mend our broken souls and unite them with the divine. But as the Great Master reminds us, “The duties of the Guru are infinite,” including, for instance, looking after the entire universe. That a mystic’s care and protection is not confined to his ‘sheep’, but is all-encompassing is illustrated by the actions of the present Master during the coronavirus pandemic, by providing food and shelter to thousands of stranded migrants, donating funds to the Indian government’s Relief Fund, and distributing packed lunches to those in need.
A water diviner, (meaning ‘to foresee, foretell, predict or to prophesy’), is deemed to be endowed with an innate ability to locate water beneath the ground’s surface by using different types of instruments, including electro-magnetic rods. Divination remains a controversial topic, but it reminds me how the mystics find the souls for whom they are responsible. Relevant here are the Great Master’s observations about the “rays of purity” mystics constantly radiate and their “magnetic attraction.” He states: “Whenever a Master appears in the world, seekers for the real truth are attracted to him like moths, and like bees they hover round that living flower of spirituality and enjoy its taste.”
Before we commit to Sant Mat, we are encouraged to read widely about the philosophy, to reflect upon the teachings, and to reach a decision based on our assessment. Although this is an essential step and cannot be bypassed, ultimately it is not the words on the page which support our decision but how we feel in the presence of the Master. As explained in The Spiritual Guide, Vol. I:
[An] individual knows when he has found his guru. It is not just an intellectual belief, but deep down, in the inner recesses of the soul, there is a sense of acceptance, contentment, and peace because one has come to one’s teacher. Vivekananda says: “When the sun rises, we ultimately become aware of the fact, and when a teacher of men comes to help us, the soul will instinctively know that truth has already begun to shine upon it.”
You might think it strange that these thoughts came into my mind as I watched the film. It seemed a miracle that the Master came to mind when I was doing something mundane. There are so many opportunities in our daily life to think of him that we’re often not even conscious of them. Whenever we see or hear anything that reminds us of the Master, we could think of it as a personal message from him; it’s one of the ways in which he reminds us of his presence. The Master is a part of our lives. He is always with us, whether we’re sitting in meditation or engaged in the world, and we should not for one moment think we’re separate from him. Even in our moments of deepest sorrow, he is with us. All we need is to be grateful for the moments when we feel his presence and try to extend this as much as we can. To me, this is the miracle and magic of our life: the constant opportunity to remember and, thus, be with him.