The Soul Unmasked
Living in this world is no “walk in the park” as the saying goes. In fact, if we were to conduct an informal survey on what people think of the world as a place to live in, we might be surprised at how few positive responses we would receive.
Much of this is due to the changing values in our societies, as the moral fabric that sustains them slowly decays. We are constantly bombarded with change, which often leads to the unacceptable becoming acceptable. Kindness and compassion appear to be diminishing as many people become overly egotistical. It is also disturbing to note how the important value of respect has deteriorated in many societies. This has taken place in all aspects of life, including respect for one another, and even respect for ourselves.
In the late nineteenth century, Soami Ji wrote about the condition of the world he knew:
Heavy, intense darkness prevails in the world,
and the body is a storehouse of shadows.
Whether they are awake or asleep, I see people
helplessly caught in the maze of the creation.
Sar Bachan Poetry
Although he described the state of the world at that time, it equally applies today. It is obvious that humanity does not learn. We are still caught in the clutches of the creation, trapped by our endless desires. The soul, helpless against the influences of the world, is totally ignorant of its true value and its real home. The Master has come to this dark world to escort our soul back to our Father – in our original home.
Soami Ji describes the plight of the soul:
Through ignorance of its own real home,
the soul is living here like a homeless wanderer,
stumbling through different life forms,
tossed about in the cycle of birth and death.
Moment by moment she lives her days in utter misery,
defeated, demoralized and crying in pain,
but who is there to listen to her cries?
Here, Soami Ji confronts us with a tragic truth. He makes it clear that we are the souls he is talking about, the souls that are living in misery.
The world is happening according to the Lord’s plan, and there is nothing we can do to change it. However, we can definitely avoid some of the impact the world has on us if we focus our attention on the discovery of our own true identity – our soul. The Master’s role is to make us aware of the influence the world has on us by guiding us away from the world to the inner realization of our true essence. His teachings motivate us to seek this realization. Having accepted initiation, we are morally obliged to move from the false view of who we are to the spiritually accurate view of our true reality as spiritual beings. Only he can lead us to this understanding. By holding on to his hand and following his teachings, we will come to understand our true reality, which till now has been clouded by the confusion which surrounds us. But until the Master’s teachings become real for us, we will continue to believe that we are separate, individual beings.
As we read in From Self to Shabd:
The misconception that we exist as a separate individual is a big hurdle on the path of spirituality. Soami Ji Maharaj says, ‟Man does not know who he is, whose essence he is, nor where He (the Source) is.” Not knowing that in reality we are the formless, deathless Shabd, we remain stuck in the identity we have created as we go through our human experience.
The Masters promise us that the process of discovery of the true value of the self will be most gratifying. This is substantiated by the author of The Path of the Masters when he writes:
When a man gets but a glimpse of what he really is now, and especially of what he may yet become by a little effort, that knowledge will give him the greatest possible inspiration.
But what is the true nature of the soul? The Masters tell us that the soul is Shabd. In fact, Shabd is the essence of every being, every creature – of everything that constitutes the world we live in. But what does this mean? Many mystics, ancient philosophers and even some quantum physicists agree that the essence of the creative energy in the universe – the Shabd – is love. Therefore, the soul is love.
True living mystics are the embodiment of love. Studying how the Masters conduct themselves gives us some idea of what we have to do to clean up our act. By using the Master as a role model, we can examine our own conduct and evaluate how we handle ourselves. This should give us some insight into our spiritual status.
Closely observing ourselves and our behaviour will assist us in realizing how much of a hindrance our inflated ego is. After all, the real purpose of the ego was to enable us to survive in this material existence. But it has subsequently become a major barrier to realizing the true nature of our own selves. Simply put, how can we love the Master when we are so besotted with ourselves? The spiritual love for the Master that we seek cannot grow while we are slaves to our own physical existence. We need to remove the ‘I’ in this love affair.
Baba Ji suggests that we regularly ask ourselves why are we on the path; why we meditate; and where our spiritual practice is taking us? In other words, we need to understand the importance of our spiritual objective and keep it in mind at all times. We can’t afford to ignore this advice. It is easy to become sidetracked and lose focus on the goal. We must not allow anything to detract from our purpose, particularly if we keep in mind the divine grandeur that awaits us within.
The meditation technique we have been given is not difficult to practise – what is difficult, however, is staying with the practice every day. This is why it is so important to keep our destination in mind. We cannot afford to let our spiritual intent slip from our focus.
By prioritizing our simran and bhajan, our spiritual practice will become a natural part of us. As the Greek philosopher Aristotle pointed out:
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Making the habit of focusing on our objective is exactly what our Master requires of us, and what better experience can we have than that of pleasing him? With this approach, the divine love we yearn for will present itself, and we will realize our true identity. We can’t go wrong if we focus on pleasing our Master.