The Qualities of a Master
We use the word ‘master’ to mean someone who has mastered his subject – for instance we can have a Master of Arts, a Master of Science, or be a master craftsman. A further meaning is someone with authority, who guides and instructs others. When the subject is spirituality, both these meanings are relevant. Some saints, who have achieved all that is achievable in the field of spirituality, come into the world to show others how to do the same. These rare beings are known as Masters and they are possessed of wonderful qualities. Here are some of them:
In this world, almost everything comes with a price. But like the air we breathe, Shabd, the creative life force, is entirely free, and Masters come to give us the secret of how to attach our consciousness with Shabd so that, with its help, we may return to our eternal home.
A true Master doesn’t charge money for the teachings he imparts. They are given freely to those who ask for them and are willing to commit themselves to a spiritual way of life. If anyone is charging money for spiritual teachings, then he is not a true Master. If money were charged, then only those who could afford it would be able to develop spiritually. But the Masters are quite clear that everyone is equal before God. It is not wealth, position, or material goods that recommend us to him. Paltu Sahib says, “In the court of the Lord there is only love and devotion.” So everyone has an equal opportunity.
Furthermore, the Master has no personal desire for material benefits for himself. He has no interest in wealth or any of the things that money can buy. The story is told of Guru Ravidas that his disciple Mirabai, a princess, tried to give him a precious jewel. When he refused, she stuck it in the thatch of his cottage roof, thinking that he could then use it when the need arose. But Ravidas ignored it, and she found it there months later. The Master uses the things of this world only for our sake. He lives modestly, and he encourages us to live that way, too.
The Master has controlled his mind and senses and is detached. The pleasures of the senses have no hold on him, and because of this, and his love for the Lord and for the duty that the Lord has placed upon him, he is able to live a life of great self-sacrifice. Everything he does is done for the sake of God and for the good of the souls whom God has ordained that he should rescue.
Sometimes strong swimmers take a life-saving course and become qualified life- savers. The Master is an extraordinary life-saver. It’s not our physical lives that he saves, but our souls. We are drowning in deep water, the water of the sea of chaurasi – birth and re-birth. He jumps in and saves us. It’s as if he is saying, “Hold onto me and do what I tell you to do.” If we cling to him and follow his instructions, his strength will carry us to safety.
In spite of the fact that the Master does everything for us, he has no pride. Masters don’t want to be worshipped or fawned over. The Master praises God, his own Master, and the teachings. He asks us not to put him on a pedestal or to make extravagant claims about him. A famous passage from the Bible describing love says, “Love suffereth long and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” In other words, love is humble. The Masters are all love, and they are examples of true humility.
The Master is a good teacher. He knows exactly what each one of his disciples needs. Sometimes he is stern and will stand for no nonsense. Sometimes he shows that he is love itself. He is extremely tender-hearted. He is fully aware of our feelings. Every disciple receives the right help and encouragement at the right time.
However kind he is when listening to our supplications, his true purpose is not to indulge our craving for worldly blessings but to take us out of this world and lead us to spiritual emancipation. In The Path, Maharaj Charan Singh writes: “We can recognize a true and perfect Master by his power to join our consciousness with the Shabd. One who finds such a Master begins to hear the transcendent sweet melody within himself.”
He doesn’t clothe himself in mystery and hide away in a remote place. He makes himself absolutely available by holding satsang in a multitude of places across the world and by allowing us, his disciples, to travel to visit him at almost any time we please. He takes every opportunity he can to get in touch with us at our level. During the limitations brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, Baba Ji immediately responded by holding videotaped question-and-answer sessions which have supported followers all over the world.
It is our duty to do whatever we can to invoke his grace. We don’t do this by asking him for help with our personal matters. We must try to work out our own family problems and the like, but of course we can always ask for his help in our spiritual life. We can do this by attending to meditation, practising simran and dhyan throughout the day, sticking firmly to our other vows, attending satsang, helping each other, and doing seva.
When we do this, it’s as if we are setting up our shop. We set everything out, we make our wares look nice, we sweep the doorstep, we put an “Open” sign on the door, and we wait, alert, with all our attention, for the customer to come. The customer is our Master, who will come only when we make ourselves ready. To the Master, we are like little children playing at shop-keeping. Our wonderful sweets are probably just pebbles to him, our gorgeous cloth for sale, just scraps of cotton. But when he sees that we are earnest in our efforts, like a loving mother or father he kindly comes and plays the game of love with us. It’s as if, like a mother, he is saying, “Oh, what have you got here? Sweets? Yes, I’ll have some.” In this way he brings us up. He plays with us, he teaches us.
The perfect exemplar
The Master is our perfect example. The way he is, so should we try to be – focussed, in control of the mind, loving, selfless – thinking of others not ourselves.
The Master is brave. He is the warrior who has conquered the mind. All the inner kingdoms from the physical plane to Sach Khand and beyond lie at his feet. On our behalf, he will see that our karmas are settled, and he will stand by us when we die. For our part, we have to be brave enough to fight the daily small battles against temptations and be strong for his sake. He has become the Master for our sake; we must be real disciples for his sake. We are very lucky to be pulled by a true Master. God realizes our condition. He knows that we can relate only to another human being. So when he wants to awaken us to him, he makes his knowledge available to us through the person of the Master.
The True Lord
Although appearing as a human, sharing our human experiences and emotions, Masters remain, at the same time, above and beyond physical limitation. At all times their consciousness is within that great ocean which is the Lord. We read in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
Q: I have heard it said in the books, and it is stated repeatedly, that all Masters are one. Would you comment on that?
A: You have seen the waves in the ocean. They all arise from the ocean. They merge back into the ocean. Every wave is different from one another, and yet they are part of the same ocean, so they are all one…. We submit ourselves to the Masters, and they carry us to that ocean.
From our perspective, we could think of the Master as being like the lord of a castle, to whom the household of servants owe allegiance. It is to our benefit if we see him in this light, dedicating everything that we do to him. By being our lord and master in this sense, the Master makes it possible for us to practise losing our ego. When the ego is overcome, the soul is able to travel home.