Infinity and Beyond!
Baba Ji has explained that the meaning of the term ‘Puran Guru’, which we have usually translated into English as perfect Master, is more accurately translated as “complete” or “whole” Master.
The most well-known use of this Sanskrit term occurs in the “Shanthi Mantra,” the invocation that precedes the famous Isavasya Upanishad. In it, Pūrṇa (wholeness) is described as the Reality behind every single entity we perceive – whether a human being, an animal, an insect, a plant, a stone, a dust particle – whatever. And what is this reality that is described as ‘Pūrṇa’ or whole? It is a state of completeness, of undifferentiated infinity. It cannot be reduced. One can call it God. If you take away the Whole from the Whole, you are still left with the Whole. This of course defies logic – if you take away everything from anything, how can you be left with anything?
However, there is one entity that does follow this rule – infinity. If we take away infinity from infinity, we are still left with infinity! What the “Shanthi Mantra” is telling us is that each one of us is actually infinite, not the finite being confined to space and time that we perceive ourselves as, but that our true essence or reality is infinite. We could say that this is the Shabd. This is not an unscientific assertion. Albert Einstein conveyed the same thought in a powerful way:
A human being is part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in space and time. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. …Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.1
Through the above definition of a “human being,” Einstein is grappling with the question that Baba Ji has called central to all our quests – the answer to the all-important question, “Who am I?” Einstein echoes what Sant Mat, the Upanishads and other spiritual texts convey to us – we are not just a part of the universe, but actually the whole, the entire. The critical thing is to realize it. As Baba Ji has pointed out, as long as ‘self’ dominates and we focus on ‘what about me?’ to the exclusion of others, we have not taken even the first step towards realizing our wholeness. We need to broaden our outlook to include more and more of the others – and finally identify ourselves with the totality, the whole One who includes all within himself. It is in that sense that Baba Ji has stressed that we are all potential ‘Puran Gurus’ – for the ‘Puran’ factor is already present in each one of us. The playwright and philosopher George Bernard Shaw put the same thing this way:
When you are asked, ‘Where is God? Who is God?’, stand up and say, ‘I am God and here is God, not as yet completed, but still advancing towards completion, just in so much as I am working for the purpose of the universe, working for the good of the whole society and the whole world, instead of merely looking after my personal ends’.2
But ultimately, however hard we may try to accomplish the above goal, we can never really achieve it on our own. It is good to set it up as an ideal worth striving for, but it falls in the same category as humility and nishkama karma. As Baba Ji has explained, states such as humility, nishkama or complete selflessness cannot really be achieved. When they come, they come – purely as a gift from the Lord. The route to getting this gift lies through meditation. As Hazur Maharaj Ji said, our meditation provokes the grace of the Master.3 ‘Provoke’ is a word normally used in a somewhat negative sense – e.g., we are provoked, or goaded into losing our temper. We need not have lost our temper, but the weakness called ‘anger’ present in us forced us to lose our temper. Maharaj Ji uses the same word in a positive sense. The Master, too, has a weakness – love. When we stick to our meditation despite getting no results, his love cannot help but reward us with his grace. Our effort does not make us deserving of the grace, and yet results in it because of the Master being all love.
Therefore, a Puran Guru plays a critical role in converting our failures into success. Baba Ji has often reminded us not to translate this phrase as ‘perfect’ Master, because we then confuse spiritual completeness with physical perfection. For example, when he falls ill, we have doubts and wonder how could the master become ill? When he makes mundane mistakes, we are surprised. By doing so, we are confusing the body guru with the real guru, which is shabd, and shabd alone.
When a Puran Guru functions at the level of body and/or mind, he does so just like any of us. He can get tired while travelling, he could trip and fall, he can fall ill. He is setting an example for all of us – how to function in this imperfect world using an imperfect body and an imperfect mind. We often look up to him for ‘perfect’ answers. The important thing to notice is his reaction – how different it is when compared to how we react when we feel things have gone ‘wrong’. He never regards anything as having gone wrong, and so it doesn’t affect him in the least. Why? Because he lives in the Lord’s Will. He doesn’t brood or dwell over the ups and downs of life. In other words, he doesn’t get affected by the so-called failures or human imperfections of life as we do. That is because he identifies himself with the whole, not the parts. What happens to the ‘parts’ – the body and the ego – does not bother him in the least. This is a consequence of the completeness he feels within himself – he is at one with the shabd within. Therefore, it is better to call such a person a complete or whole Master, rather than a perfect Master.
- The New York Times, 29 March 1972
- George Bernard Shaw, “The New Theology” in The Religious Speeches of Bernard Shaw, ed. Warren S. Smith (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1963; Vol. 43, p. 192
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, # 466