Die While Living
The Great Master, Maharaj Sawan Singh, once described Sant Mat as “a school of practical training in the right way of living.”1 Another apt description of the path might be the anonymous stanza:
There is more to life than living,
There is more to death than dying,
There is to die while living.
Those two descriptions, however, do not explain the details. They don’t explain the importance of a living Master whose function is to instruct, guide, inspire and be an example of how to follow the philosophy. They don’t explain the key element of karma, the so-called law of cause and effect – the mechanism that keeps us all in the cycle of birth and death and rebirth among the 8,400,000 species on this planet.They don’t explain the details of right living or stress the importance of daily meditation, of contacting the sound current or Shabd, the life-force or God-force animating all living things. They don’t explain the way out of this creation or the positive steps to salvation.
But they do convey the concept and the importance of the teachings of the Masters, who explain that we are here for a purpose, and that there is more to being here than what appears on the surface. We should reflect on this and do a little investigation.
There is more to life than living. Are we born simply to mature, marry, have children, work to feed and comfort our families, grow old and then die? If that is the case, all the animals do this. What makes us so special? We are told by the saints and mystics that we are the top of creation, that we are made in God’s image, that this human form is Hari Mandir – the temple of the living God. We have that extra faculty of discrimination that makes us stand out from the rest of life on this planet. As Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh explains:
While we are alive, we should gather what is our own here and will remain ours hereafter. This wealth is devotion to Nam; attaching the mind and the soul currents to the Audible Life Stream, the Word or Logos. If we fail to do this, we must again enter again the dark dungeon of the world, where we do not know what pain and privation may await us. Our colossal ignorance of the Reality keeps us forever chained to the wheel of transmigration.2
Hazur tells us that we have a purpose other than just to live from day to day and then die. He tells us that we are in the only form which can take that next evolutionary step, which can understand that grand reality; it is only in human form that we can return to the Lord – through love kindled by meditation.
The author Mikhail Naimy has his character Mirdad explain:
You live that you may learn to love. You love that you may learn to live. No other lesson is required of man. And what is it to love but for the lover to absorb forever the beloved so that the twain be one.3
How many times have we heard the Masters tell us that? To merge into the Beloved, as the drop merges back into the ocean and becomes the ocean: that is our heritage, that is our right – that should be our destiny. But this is an ambitious goal, not to be taken lightly. This is not a task that we will start and expect to have completed in a few weeks, months or even years. Let’s try to appreciate the size of our problem. We have been in this creation for many, many lifetimes, and we cannot change our long-established habits overnight, pay off all these long-owed debts in a short time. This is the task of a lifetime.
Several years ago, during evening meetings at the Dera, Professor Bhatnager used to tell us the story of the blind man in a maze. This maze had 8,400,000 walls and only one exit. Because he was blind, the man had to feel for the exit by sliding his hand along the wall as he walked. When he finally came to the exit, he got an itch on his head and removed his hand from the wall to scratch that itch. When he put his hand back on the wall, the exit was behind him, and he had no choice but to go around all the 8.4 million walls again.
Professor used to say that we are all like that blind man. We come to this one exit from the creation – this human form – and then we get an itch, and we scratch it. For some people, that itch is family. For some, it’s religion. For some, money. For some, politics, business, art, self-importance, or sports. Whatever the itch, scratching it stops us from taking the single exit from the wheel of transmigration, and so we are doomed to go around again.
This form is bestowed upon us for the sole purpose of attaining God-realization. It is the only exit with which the Lord has provided us to escape from this vast prison house of the phenomenal world. But we get so deeply engrossed in worldly activities and sensual pleasures that we completely ignore the purpose of our incarnation; we chase the shadow but lose the substance.4
Nobody ever achieves anything in life if they do things by half, if there is no commitment. This applies to all areas of our worldly as well as spiritual interests. We can’t achieve anything in sports, for example, without a serious attitude, a whole-hearted enthusiasm and determination to succeed, plus a lot of hard work on our fitness, mental concentration, tactics, technique, and a total commitment to the goal. Exactly the same goes for commercial aims. If we want to make a lot of money and be influential, we need all the same attributes plus perhaps a little hardness of heart. Then we can and will achieve our goal.
Do we think that this path of spirituality is so easy that we do not need those same positive attributes? The path to spiritual enlightenment requires the same serious attitude and whole-hearted commitment and determination to succeed if we want to understand reality. We must also develop and apply compassion, discipline, love, and devotion to the Master.
To attain the love that is everlasting, the love in which we lose ourselves, we have to control our mind and attain the necessary concentration at the eye focus. This takes enormous commitment. It takes time and attention. The Master tells us that it is our job to reach the eye focus. This third eye, the stepping-off point to the inner worlds, is our first goal in our quest to contact that Shabd through simran and dhyan – repetition and contemplation. We must gradually achieve total concentration at the eye centre. To reach this goal, we must begin to control our mind instead of allowing the mind to control us. Do we want to continue in this cycle of birth, death, and rebirth in the cycle of 84? If we don’t want to go around that maze of creation again, we must follow the method given to us at initiation in order to free ourselves.
But first, we have to convince ourself that controlling the mind and reaching the eye centre are worth attaining; if we do not have a goal, we can never achieve anything.
This path of the Masters, this science of the soul, is more than a concept. It is a path of repeatable experience, a path of becoming. We must go beyond our usual state of mind, as captured in the old proverb, “After all is said and done, more is often said than done.”
It doesn't matter if we cannot read or write or cannot debate the reason for anything. If we have experienced even a momentary glimpse of the inner light or the faintest echo of the inner music, we know more about religion, life, death, the mind and soul than all the educated, intellectual, rich and successful people of the world put together.
If you know the One,
Then know that you know all;
If you know not the One,
Then all your knowledge is nothing but fraud.5
In the realm of God-realization, intellectual thinking has no relevance. Book knowledge is of the mind, while realization of the true reality is of the soul. Kabir also asked:
What is there to read? What is there to ponder upon? Of what avail is the learning of Vedas and scriptures? And of what is the use of reading and hearing if they lead not to the state of Sahaj (God-realization)?6
How can we gain that direct experience, that love which surpasses all knowledge and intellect and makes life really worthwhile? We must start by listening to the instructions of the Master; we must live according to his advice. He tells us that, as in all facets of life, there are basic rules that we must follow. But note that these rules are really only guidelines – progressing on this path is an individual choice. But the four guidelines explained at our initiation are absolutely necessary if we do wish to achieve God-realization, fulfil the purpose of our human birth and leave our lives of pain and misery behind. We must follow the guidelines religiously, so to speak: without deviation, without compromise, 365 days a year for the rest of our lives. These guidelines include eating a lacto-vegetarian diet; living a clean, moral life; abstaining from mind-altering substances, including alcohol, tobacco and marijuana products; and practicing meditation as taught by the Masters for at least two and a half hours each day.
As Maharaj Charan Singh used to emphasize, this path is not to be followed as a novelty or because someone you know is on it. You must understand the science thoroughly – what it expects of you and what it has to offer. It is a serious subject and should not be taken lightly.
The Masters explain that this path is simple, but not necessarily easy. We get nothing for free in this life, and we must pay for what we get. We also have to keep going, never resting on our laurels. We know what we are supposed to be doing and where we are going. We have a guide; we are on the right road; eventually we will get to our destination. But remember, as Will Rogers reportedly said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.” We must sustain our efforts and never give up. A quote attributed to the American president Calvin Coolidge goes something like this:
Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men of talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.7
We can benefit only from the teachings of the saints. Once our restless mind is satisfied, our soul will be able to shed its karmic load and return to its divine source.
As quoted earlier, there is more to life than living and more to death than dying. From the moment of our conception, we are in a queue – hopefully a long one – for death. The question is, when will our number be called? We must start on this path before death catches up with us. We will never start if we put off meditation until we have some free time, are settled in our career, launch our children into adulthood, or are financially secure or retired. That meditation switch that we think we can flick on when we choose might get stuck or broken, or we might never reach that stage in this life at all. If we procrastinate, our death may come before we begin meditating. So, we can’t put it off; we must begin.
We make our own future. If we have improved the spiritual aspect of our lives through practiSing meditation and living according the three other guidelines, then we should have no worries about death.
There is more to death than dying; there is to die while living. And in The Book of Mirdad we read: “Die to live or live to die.”8 Hazur explains:
You must withdraw to the eye center, and then you will live forever. Otherwise, you are just living to die. Every time you live, you have to die, so die to live. Learn to die so that you may begin to live, and live forever.9
To ability to die while living is the the result of living life with the purpose of attaining self- and God-realization. The Master tells us this is the main object of our life, what we work for, what we hope for. If we have kept up our side of the bargain we made with our Master, this is what he will give to us.
Great Master said:
This life is for working out that fate. If in this life we give ourselves to devotion, we will not come again, but will go back to our Home. This life is for the purpose of ending our coming back into this world.10
And to further encourage us, Great Master promises:
You will get everything you wish – things more wonderful and remarkable than you ever dreamed of. He who has to give you all is sitting inside, in the Third Eye. He is simply waiting for the cleanliness of your mind and is watching your every action.11
We clean and calm our mind by regular, constant devotion to the Shabd – daily meditation by which we contact the Audible Life Stream within. Through the grace of the Master and hard work, we can progress to the level which the saints talk about in their scriptures and satsangs and “die through Shabd to live forever.” Master Charan Singh Ji quotes Guru Amar Das:
Through Guru’s grace alone, one dies while living,
And having thus died, becomes alive
through the practice of Shabd:
Such a one attains the gates of salvation
and rids himself of ego.
Die through the Shabd
To live forever,
And never again face death;
With the nectar of Nam
Mind is sweetened forever –
By Shabd alone can one attain it.12
- Quoted in Daryai Lal Kapur, Call of the Great Master, 11th ed., p.193
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses, Vol. I, p.181
- Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad, p.62
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Die To Live, p.7
- V.K. Sethi, Kabir, The Weaver of God’s Name, p.158
- Ibid., p.59
- Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad, p.20
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Die To Live, p.164
- Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems, Letter 205
- Ibid., Letter 171
- Maharaj Charan Singh quoting Guru Amar Das, Die To Live, p.32