Man is a God in Ruins
Every now and then, we find a quote that reminds us of the teachings of the Saints even though the quote is not from Sant Mat Literature. One such quote is from the 19th-century writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had had a degree in Divinity from Harvard, was a Unitarian minister at one time, studied the Vedas, and translated the poetry of Hafiz.
A man is a God in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.1
The ideas contained in this quote remind us of the teachings of the early Christian mystics, the Sikh gurus and the modern perfect Masters including Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh and the present master, Baba Ji. They tell us that the soul is part and particle of the Lord. The Lord is within us. In Guru Granth Sahib of the Sikh writings we are told, the body is the living temple of the Lord. But we have let this temple fill with dirt, a place not fit for the Lord to enter.
The singer Lady Gaga was asked, “What was it like to become famous?” Her response was, “I was always famous; people just didn’t realize it yet.”
Likewise, Lord is within us but we just have not realized it yet. The divine presence is within us, and when we scrub away the coverings of this soul, all that is left is divinity – we are gods. The soul is like a diamond trapped in a seam of coal and buried beneath the ground. The diamond does not know that it is not coal. Our soul is trapped in the coverings of mind and body; it is covered in the dirt of ego, pride, anger, attachment, and lust. Our true nature is the same nature as the Lord but we think we are coal; we think that we are our personality, our race, our caste, our education, our job and our family.
Let us think of a great palace, or a wonderful home that has been left to decay for centuries. The walls are crumbling; the ceilings have fallen in; rats, mice, spiders, snakes, and alligators are wandering around. Such a place needs a restorer, a craftsman who can restore the property to its full glory.
Just as a palace in ruins has a restorer, just as a body in ruins needs a doctor, a soul in ruins needs a true living Master or Sant Satguru. In order to restore our soul to its full glory we need to take instruction from one who has achieved this – someone who, in fact, has been sent by the Lord to rescue us from this decrepit condition.
And what is the wood and paint needed to restore these ruins? It is Shabd and Nam.
The Saints teach the practice of Surat Shabd Yoga, or the science of the Sound Current, as a practice that will fully restore the soul to its original glory. They teach a technique of meditation that consists of simran, which is the repetition of five holy names given at the time of initiation, and bhajan, which is the practice of listening to the inner sound, the audible life stream, known as Nam, Shabd or Logos, as it is referred to in the Bible. Simran and bhajan are the soap and water of the cleaning and restoration process.
By following the teachings of the Master we are transformed. The broken-down house full of filth and mold becomes a shining palace. The wreckage of lust, anger, greed, attachment, and pride is replaced by chastity, charity, forgiveness, detachment, contentment, and humility.
Emerson describes in Volume VII of his journals the manner in which the Sufi mystic Hafiz tended to his disciples:
Here was a man who occupied himself in nobler chemistry of extracting honor from scamps, temperance from sots (drunkards), energy from beggars, justice from thieves, benevolence from misers. He knew there was sunshine under those moping churlish brows, elegance of manners hidden in the peasant, heart-warming expansion, grand surprises of sentiment in these unchallenged, uncultivated men, and he persevered against all repulses until he drew it forth. Now his orphans are educated, his boors are polished, his palaces are built, his pictures, statues, conservatories, chapels adorn them: he stands the prince among his peers and the prince among princes.
We are scamps, sots, beggars, thieves, boors, and misers and uncultivated people, but the saints know of the sunshine that is under our churlish brows. The saints see us in our ruined state, full of dirt and sin, but they are not repulsed. The doctor does not run from the diseased patient but rather cures him. The saint does not judge us, for he knows our condition and its causes. Rather, the saint has come to restore us to our true destiny.
Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh describes the process of restoration:
The saints who impart the divine knowledge make us humble and meek by enjoining service with the body, wealth, mind, and soul. The service of the body rids us of our ego and we cease to trample our fellow beings under our feet. The service with the mind, which consists of taking a vegetarian diet and abstaining from alcoholic drinks and leading a chaste life, weans us from carnal appetites, weakens our worldly attachments, and transforms our tamogun qualities of darkness, ignorance, and inertia; and rajogun qualities of activity and restlessness, into the satogun qualities of rhythm, harmony, and truth.2
The Master is the Master craftsman for the restoration of souls, restoring the God in ruins to its full refulgence. But as we can see from Hazur’s quote, we are called into the Master’s service, in this effort. There is an organization called Habitat for Humanity that builds and restores homes for the very poor. But to participate in this program, the resident must put in many hours of labor to assist in the building process. Likewise, Hazur tells us that we must serve with our body, mind, and soul. We have to put into practice the instructions of our Master. What good is the cure if we keep taking the poison. What is the best service we can give? It is to practice our meditation every day for the full two and a half hours. By making this effort, we are sanding the dirt and grime off the walls and floors of our ruin.
The saint works to make us innocent – to free us from our habits, ego and attachments. When we follow their teachings, we will awaken as from a dream.
Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh, in the same 1964 satsang quoted above, tells us:
It behooves us, therefore, to avail ourselves of this human body to reach our long forgotten destination, to wake up from this deep slumber which night and day keeps us engulfed in this illusory world, to break this magic spell, to come out of this long-laid swoon, to remove our rose-colored glasses and see the reality.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature,” publ.1836
- Quoted from a 1964 satsang published in R.S. Greetings magazine, June 1973