So Far Away
As the days come and go and through the prism of my varied life experiences, I find myself asking: Is the Master really here with me? How will I know he is if I don’t feel his presence?
Amid the ‘usual’ happenings of the world – the pandemics, wars, and personal suffering – maybe we are hoping for a brief respite, some relief from the uncertainty and inevitable pain that comes with being human. I know I crave something familiar, a place where I can find some safety, peace and quiet – a soft spot to land.
It is not a running away from reality, but rather desire for a deep grounding and leaning into truth and unconditional love. It is reassuring that no matter where we find ourselves, we are held. So, I naturally find myself turning to the Master.
But even though the spiritual teachings and meditation are my anchors and the Master my saviour, most of the time he feels so far away from me.
It would be easy to assume that if you follow a spiritual path, you have automatic and unfailing access to a constant feeling of being near the Divine, with the Divine. But during our journey through life, it seems as if the relationship we are trying to build with our Master ebbs and flows like the waves of an ocean. At times we have strong feelings of love and devotion, and then other times there is a kind of void, a darkness where we can’t seem to feel his presence anymore.
“Far away” is usually defined as being at a great distance in both space and time. I understand that I cannot be physically close to my Master all the time. But maybe that is not even what we desire; maybe what we really crave is to feel a connection that transcends space and time.
And this is exactly what the Master teaches us: that our relationship with him is not physical, not bound by the fetters of the body, mind and senses. Our connection with him is mysterious, completely different from our worldly ties to family and friends. He is unlike anyone we have ever loved before. This love is unique and unexplainable, impossible to fathom with the mind. His love is unconditional: he wants only what is best for our ultimate liberation. All he expects from us is that we give our deepest attention and utmost effort to the practice of simran and bhajan. He does not expect perfection; he simply sees our potential and pushes, cajoles and gently leads us out of the world and into his embrace.
We have heard Baba Ji say that the Master never turns away from us, that he is right here in front of us. It is we who have turned our gaze away from him. “Far away” is also defined as a state of being absent-minded, distracted, absorbed. I wonder, as I search for his love and presence in my own life, if I am the one who is far away, distracted by and absorbed in my own preoccupations and attachments. It is my mind that is distracted, marveling at the seductive illusions around every corner. Caught up in the current of daily life and all its emotional ups and downs, I am the one who lets go of his hand, not the other way around.
But again and again, he pulls us back, and then we slowly begin to understand a little bit about why we practise simran and bhajan. Our connection to him is not some effusive emotional state, which we often mistakenly believe is real love. Every day and in every moment, we can choose to come back to him. We can choose to love him, through the actions of our simran and bhajan. We can choose him over the worthless fool’s gold of the world.
In the poem “In the Stream of the Friend,” Rumi offers us some comfort:
Because he is the Soul of our soul,
we cannot escape him….
Sitting with the friend we keep asking,
“O friend, where is the friend?”
Drunken with pride we ask, “Where? Where?”
Even though we are in the lane of the friend.
Jalal al-Din Rumi: Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi (Selections)
I see that it is my love that wavers – my words shallow and meaningless – while my Friend’s love for me is steadfast and deep, beyond my understanding. In the end, all we can offer is our actions, consistent and faithful. Sustaining a relationship with the Master, like anything of great value, requires our time and effort. It is through this effort of sitting daily for meditation that we grow in love and faith that there is no distance between us and him.
Even through the darkness and distractions of the world, he draws us to him. Through the process of meditation, he moulds us so that eventually, gradually, we realize that, as Rumi says, we are already in the lane of the Friend. As we walk this life and travel through the web of our karmas, we can only hold fast to him when we remember him.
So, is he far away or as close as our own breath?
I guess that’s up to us.