Journey into the Unknown
Sant Mat is a journey of the soul in search of self- and God-realization. Yet, because the soul has been trapped in this creation for aeons, we languish in a state of spiritual ignorance while attempting this journey into the unknown. No matter what we learn about this path through our intellects – by reading books and listening to satsangs – ultimately only our own experience, under the guidance of a living Master, can light our way forward.
We can’t base our faith on another person’s experience. We must conduct this experiment with the truth for ourselves. As with any journey, we may encounter obstacles. If we can’t remove them, we must navigate around or through them with the help of a living Master. Only saints can lead us back to the Father. As Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh tells us, saints “give us strength and support and drag us towards the Father.”
We may think we have sought and found the Master, but apparently neither he nor we have any choice in the matter. Hazur explains in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
Nobody is initiated unless he has to be initiated. Neither the disciple has any choice, nor the master has any choice. All souls belong to the Father, and the master is engaged only to collect those souls, to bring them back to the Father.… They belong to him who has marked them for a particular shepherd. So when the shepherd whistles, all who are marked for him automatically flock around him. He has no right to refuse any, and they have no option but to go to him.
The Master pulls his disciples under his protection; he becomes our designated driver on our cosmic bus ride home, so to speak. In an ideal world, we would just need to fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride. Intellectually, we may accept that the Master is our designated driver and that all we need to do is follow his instructions and all will be well. But sometimes our cosmic bus feels out of control – as if we’re careening down a mountain road with no guard rails, or stuck in the mud in the middle of the night in a fog so dense we can’t see our hand in front of us.
But our journey only feels as if it’s out of our control, because we’re not running the show. Like the Yiddish proverb says: We plan; God laughs. The Lord has arranged our destiny so that we experience only what is in our spiritual interest. We may want pizza and ice cream, but we may get tofu and spinach.
Our feelings of helplessness often terrify us. But resisting our helplessness only makes everything worse. We have to find the courage to face our fears and embrace our experience, which may feel at times overwhelming and unacceptable. So how do we navigate the mud and the fog, the silence and the darkness – our discomfort – if that’s our experience? How do we find our way through our loneliness, emptiness, despair or fear? Through trust, patience, courage and persistence.
One condition we might experience along the way is what Hazur used to call “the void and vacuum.” Someone asked Hazur, as recounted in Die to Live: “What advice would you give to … a satsangi who all of a sudden finds himself in a dry period where he just can’t seem to meditate? What should he do?”
Definitely sometimes we feel that vacuum, that dryness, that loneliness. That often happens with satsangis because the things in life which once interested them no longer interest them. Before they were satsangis they were attached to worldly things. In the morning they would get up and think about their wife and children, their daily work, their wealth and position, and their mind would be happy in all those things. But now those worldly things don’t attract them any more, and inside they’re not getting what they want, so they feel as though they’re stagnating in a vacuum.
That vacuum period definitely comes in everybody’s life, and it is to our advantage.
Even during such dry periods, Hazur tells us, we are making progress within. We all have to pass through what feels like stormy weather: “The sun is shining, and then a thick, dark layer of cloud comes and you cannot see the sun, but the sun is always there.”
Hazur tells us those thick, dark clouds will pass. He advises us to “just continue” our meditation, no matter what we may be feeling, or how impossible meditation may seem to us. In Die to Live, when someone asks Hazur, “What is the remedy when the mind rebels too much against meditation?” Hazur replies, “The remedy is only one: to attend to meditation again, to persist and not to give up.”
During this time of void and vacuum, as we try to live the Sant Mat way of life and attend to our meditation, it’s natural to lose interest in worldly affairs. Things that used to engage and absorb us no longer attract us. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, “We have to pass through that stage sooner or later because nothing in the world attracts us anymore and we find nothing else within to hold our attention. So, we start feeling very lonely, and we feel a void in our life.” And then he says: “There is nothing to feel frightened about.” Hazur explains that sooner or later we all realize that we’re alone in life; “to think otherwise is just a self-deception.” He tells us that loneliness is the Lord’s way of pulling us towards him. If we didn’t feel that loneliness, maybe we would never think about the Father. But, he says, “We react back, we rebound back from all this, and then we turn to the Father to seek that bliss and peace and happiness within.”
We need to remember that our experiment with the truth is a long journey and a gradual process, during which both patience and trust are required. Knowledge and “book learning” won’t help us merge with God, the formless Shabd – rather, we must cultivate love for the journey and faith in the Lord and Master. We can do this only through meditation. Meditation awakens the dormant love of the soul for its source. It is an act of trust. We hand ourselves over to the Master. We open ourselves to the darkness, the emptiness, the silence – whatever we experience, even if it’s just the chattering of our own minds. We have to trust the mystery of this path, the mystery of all that we cannot know until we finally let go of our minds.
In letting go, only our personal inner experience matters. Only our meditation –– regardless of how feeble we may judge it to be – can fan the flickering flame of love within us into the bonfire that will incinerate our karmas that keep us ignorant of the Lord’s inner presence. Only our meditation can support us through the painful and disorienting experience of being alive on this worldly plane.
Our trust is tentative until we’ve risen above the mind. In the meantime, we can try to keep our minds open and not come to premature conclusions about our experiences, in our meditation and our life. In the book The Face Before I Was Born, a Sufi teacher wrote: “There is great freedom in not knowing, and trusting that if one needs to know, that knowledge will be present. Emptiness is central to the path. Sometimes understanding or knowledge will come into the emptiness; at other times one remains happily unknowing.”
Persisting on this path requires a certain strength of will –– but not will in the sense of willpower; more in the sense of loving intention. Paul McCartney beautifully expresses this in the Beatles song “I Will”:
Who knows how long I’ve loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime
If you want me to, I will
Our soul has always been in love with its Creator. At initiation, we set our intention to live in God’s will and cultivate his love, no matter how long it takes. When the soul reunites with its source, it awakens to the fact that it has never really been separate. Until that time, during our journey into the unknown, we might echo the song’s conclusion:
And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me
You know I will
Yes, I will follow the vows I took at initiation as best I can. Yes, I will attend to my meditation. I will open myself to experience the teachings and your loving presence in my life, even when I don’t understand them. I will embrace and surrender to the mystery of all that I don’t know. I will wait until your song fills the air and brings me near you. If you want me to wait a lonely lifetime, I will.