The Mystery and the Miracle
“I’m on a boat sailing to some island where I don’t know anybody. A boat someone is operating, and we aren’t in touch.” With those words, an American television writer in the early stages of dementia introduces his memoir, Life’s Work.
Our situation on the path is much the same. We’re on a boat – our spiritual teachings – that is taking us to a destination most of us may have read about but do not understand. That destination, that island, is a state of consciousness – call it awakening, enlightenment, a merging with the divine. We’ve read so much about it in our books and heard about it in satsang, but many of us, most of the time, don’t really know where we’re going. Our soul knows, because it remembers its true home, but our minds have no memory of our true self.
We’re taking Sant Mat on faith. We’re choosing to believe what the saints tell us – that the Master is guiding us, on the outside and the inside. We’re told that someone or something – the Master, God, the Shabd – is operating our boat, though we may not be in conscious contact with that power. Like the TV writer, we’re not in touch with it. We may feel that some power is directing our lives, and we can look back and see a guiding current, like a tide, pushing us one way or another. We have faith, however slight it may seem, that we’re headed in the right direction, that our soul is a particle of the divine. And we want to experience the bliss and the love that saints tell us is our birthright. We can even sense that divine love sometimes – delicate yet overpowering – the way we catch the scent of roses as we walk by a neighbour’s garden on a summer night.
But no matter how many of the Masters’ answers to our questions we’ve heard, no matter how many books we’ve read, how many Dera sessions we’ve attended, or how much seva we’ve done, we’re ignorant of the power operating our little boat until we experience it directly for ourselves – until we come in conscious contact with the creative power of the Shabd.
Until we awaken from this dream we call life, we’re just telling ourselves a story. Until we experience the truth of the path for ourselves it will remain a story – a lovely fairytale.
Mystics and masters come to teach us how to make the teachings more than a story: how to climb out of our ignorance and realize that we are one with God.
In the meantime, we’re in that metaphorical boat, sailing to a metaphorical island. We know we’re moving, that something is powering our boat, but we’re not yet in touch with it. We’re in flux. About this state, the writer said in an interview with The New York Times: “When you’re in transition, there’s a sense that life lives you. You’re holding on and trying to accommodate all the impositions and uncertainties.”
This is certainly true for us. We don’t feel in control; we may feel that we are walking around in a dream or in a play, and we are just playing a part. Our plans don’t work out, we feel dissatisfied, and we struggle to accommodate life’s impositions and uncertainties.
It’s no wonder. Maharaj Charan Singh tells us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, that the Lord “is doing everything.” He explains:
We’re all puppets, and our greatest realization is that we are puppets…. By meditation we learn that we are puppets, that we are helpless. The ego goes, and we begin to learn that whatever is being done is being done by him.
The trick for us is to let go and let God, as the saying goes. We need to get over our fear of not being in control. That fear can paralyze us and prevent us from thinking clearly. The saints tell us that this feeling of not being in control is nothing to be frightened about.
In the book Learning to Fall, the author reminds us that to know God is to enter in the “cloud of unknowing,” a term coined by an anonymous medieval mystic. The author writes:
Life is not a problem, but a mystery…. Problems are to be solved; true mysteries are not…. And what does mystery ask of us? Only that we be in its presence, that we fully, consciously, hand ourselves over…. We can participate in mystery only by letting go of solutions.
This is what we do when we sit down to meditate. We hand ourselves over to a higher power and let go of trying to figure anything out. We need to trust the mystery of all that we do not know until we finally let go of our minds and realize the truth for ourselves.
While it may seem impossible, we don’t have to worry about that – the Master will get it done. It will happen not through magic but through the alchemy of our effort and his grace. This gets back to the idea of life living us. We are going through our destiny – reaping the seeds we’ve sown, paying down our karmic debt. But the Master is doling out that karma; he’s in control of it. As Hazur explains in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I: “Master has placed himself in the disciple when he initiates him, and he becomes responsible for taking the soul back to the Father. He has to account to Kal whatever is due to Kal, and then take the soul out of that.”
Our meditation is the currency that the Masters use to help us pay off our karmas and ultimately rise above them – accommodating the impositions and uncertainties of life along the way. Hazur tells us that with meditation, our willpower becomes strong and gives us resilience, allowing us to go through our destiny with minimal fuss. With our effort comes his grace.
The role of the Master is crucial. Hazur explains:
There are so many karmas which are keeping us in this world. Many karmas are cleared in the company of a mystic because we are influenced by the aura or by the company of that saint. That company, the association with that saint creates such a deep impression on our heart and mind that ultimately we come back to that saint. So naturally all karmas are washed, when, with the help of a saint, we start following the path.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
It is we who must start following the path. And when we do, he says, “we are at once detached from the world. Now it’s only a question of karmic adjustment. But our permanent relation with the world ceases to exist when we come to the path.”
Hazur’s words bring us to one more observation from our television writer. He described his present relationship to life with dementia this way: “I’m estranged. I can kid myself, but I ain’t a regular.”
We’re estranged from the world now, too – we ain’t regulars. We’re not better than anyone else; we’re just different, because we want to go home. We’re facing the impositions and uncertainties of life, supported by the Master and our meditation. But we’re headed out – we’ve left the shore.
That is why we often feel so estranged. We begin to lose interest in the people, places, and things that used to capture our attention. We may try to hold on to them for something to do – some distraction or pleasure – but their hold on us is weakening, till sometimes we feel as if we’re just going through the motions, as if life is living us rather than the other way around.
In this story of our lives that is Sant Mat, we have every opportunity to “accentuate the positive,” as the old song goes, or, in more modern language, “control the narrative.” We have to take a positive approach. Hazur said: “We have to light our own candle and not worry about the darkness. Why curse the darkness? Light your own candle. We have to light our own candle within rather than be frightened of the darkness unnecessarily.” We light our own candle by following the Master’s instructions to meditate and live a moral life.
Baba Ji keeps telling us to stop analyzing and calculating. And Hazur told someone:
Whether you concentrate or not is immaterial, but you definitely should sit in meditation because we have to pass through so many phases before we are able to concentrate and enjoy that pull within, its bliss and peace within…. Every phase is important for our spiritual development. So, we have to continue.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
There’s no looking back. We’re in our boat, our little ship of Nam, and we’ve been pushed away from the shore. We can be confident that despite whatever fog and turbulence we encounter, we are being looked after. We can’t know the future; we can know only the moment we’re in, only our own experience.
Our experience is the process of unraveling the mystery of life and bearing witness to the spiritual miracle the mystics perform. As Hazur explains in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, this miracle is “to change our very attitude of life, to detach us from this creation and attach us to the Creator…. We are awakened from deep slumber by the mystics – that is the miracle they perform…. And this miracle is individual with every disciple. He feels that miracle within himself.” In fact, Hazur reminds us: “At every step in a disciple’s life, there is a miracle.”