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Through the Eyes of Animals

We so-called humans are a species of animal, distinguished by – and burdened with – self-awareness. But animals none the less. However much we regard ourselves as rational beings, we are driven by, slaves of, our instincts, habits, and passions.

We humans, unlike a lion say, are burdened with self-awareness because it is the source of abstraction, thought, patterns, talk, money, fear, lust, greed, anger – everything that has led us uniquely as a species to nearly destroy our own habitat. But we are distinguished and blessed by self-awareness when it leads to our spirituality.

With little self-awareness, a lion is king of the jungle – he is no more and no less than a lion. You and I are both less than human and potentially more than animal. In his 1928 poem “Sailing to Byzantium,” the Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote:

We are sick with desire,
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.1

We are immortal souls tied to the bodies of dying animals. In trying to clarify what is a human being, René Descartes, the seventeenth-century French philosopher, expressed the bleakness of the rational view of our humanity when he deduced: “Cogito ergo sum, or I am thinking therefore I exist.”2 He was saying we are no more than thinking machines, and that the language of our thinking defines who and what we seem to be.

The mystics would say: “I repeat the five names, therefore I am.” The language of simran enables us to be what we really are – Shabd. It is the language of love.

We sit here, looking through the eyes of animals, but the ‘we’ that looks is a constant murmur trying to make sense of itself in the past, future, and somewhere else.

We are at sea in the ship of relation, defined by the language of our worldly simran, the constant chatter in our heads about family, ideas, work, country, ambitions, money, love, friends, poems, frustrations, breakfast, the stuff and the froth of life. We are becoming, always becoming, never arriving, always retelling the stories that make up these selves of ours.

The Great Master wrote that

[in man’s] long wandering he has almost lost his capital and is bankrupt now, too weak to stand unaided on his legs. He was soul at one time when he was in intimate touch with the Word. That was long, long ago when he was in the spiritual regions. When the soul lost touch with the Word and associated with the mind in the mental planes, the jewel was thrown away and the imitation grasped.3

This imitation is the self as it strives to be a hero, to invent the impossible myth of our success. We want to be noble, to know exactly what is going on, to rise above the petty struggles of being who, and what, we are not.

Simran is nothing but the practice of the art of dying. Nothing else exists but the word being repeated at that moment. Literally nothing. This is death. When nothing else exists but the name of the Lord being repeated in that moment, then the self does not exist.

Hazur Maharaj Ji said:

It is very strange. Every day we sit in meditation and prepare ourselves for death, but when that particular time comes, those who have not died while living start crying and protesting and weeping, and say they don’t want to die. The purpose of meditating every day is to prepare for that time, to meet that eventuality, to go back home. It is all a preparation, nothing else. When the Lord gives the opportunity now to leave the body and to materialize the effect of meditation, then we should make use of it.4

I am my attention. I am nothing else. I am not my history, nor my possessions, nor my family, nor my job, nor my qualities or defects. I am just this attention that flits about like a demented butterfly. It flits so furiously that it cannot know itself, cannot stop to see itself, dare not be calm to understand its nature.

Rumi wrote:

Your fear of death is really fear of yourself:
see what it is from which you are fleeing!5

Winston Churchill said that success is the enthusiasm we find between failures. From our animal point of view we’re in dire straits, failing every day. As William Law, the eighteenth-century English divine (cleric), put it:

Only let your present and past distress make you feel and acknowledge this twofold great truth: first, that in and of yourself you are nothing but darkness, vanity, and misery; secondly that of yourself you can no more help yourself to light and comfort than you can create an angel.6

When you are dreaming a dream, however surreal it is in hindsight, it’s as real as this apparent reality. Dreams within dreams within dreams. Baba Jaimal Singh wrote:

Always look upon this world as if it is a dream, and believe it firmly. Our relatives also are part of the dream-world and are therefore unreal. Take the ego out of yourself and remember only the Satguru and the words of the Satguru…. When everything—body, mind, wealth—everything belongs to Satguru, then all the worldly goods as well as relations also belong to Satguru. I am nothing. Always remember these words.7

We are hot air balloons, held up in the blue sky of our lives by nothing but hot air, unable to steer a course as the winds of karma blow us hither and thither. When the burner runs out of gas, when the story comes to an end, the balloon crashes to earth with a horrible crunch.

We sit here, looking through the eyes of animals, but the ‘we’ that looks is a constant murmur trying to make sense of itself in the past, future, and somewhere else.

What to do? We must merge the murmur and let go of the froth. And to do that we need someone who has done it before. We need love. We need to speak the language of the love that we have inside ourselves.

We need to be real, in the here and now, right in the middle of the drama of our own personal soap operas. Not to act spiritual, but to be here now. Love is the key to the lock of our cages.

Hazur wrote:

The relationship of the soul and the Father is that of love, and there’s no higher relationship than that. Since you can’t see the Father and have no opportunity to be with Him so that you can get attached to Him and fall in love with Him, you must love His sons. Thus we are attached to His sons and this is actually our attachment, love and devotion to the Father. Because we go where our attachments are, so along with the Father’s sons we merge back into the Father. So there’s no higher relationship than between the disciple and his Master.8

Love evades all sensible talk and description and yet is the subject of most poetry and songs. E. E. cummings, the American poet, wrote:

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail9

The Great Master wrote:

Love is an innate quality of the heart. It is only through love that the sublimity of the truth is known, because without it man would be in anguish.10

He also wrote:

Every person cannot be called a human being in the strict sense of the term. Only those persons are human beings who have the spark of love developed in them.11

One of the qualities of love is the delicious way it dissolves the self. Love merges the murmur with the subject of the murmuring, the beloved. There are no limits to the soul in love – it is the ocean.

Jalaluddin Rumi, the Persian Sufi, wrote: Love is the astrolabe of the mysteries of God.12 An astrolabe was a medieval instrument for demonstrating how the planets revolved around the sun. Love is the best exponent of the mysteries of God.

We sit here, looking through the eyes of animals, but the ‘we’ that looks is a constant murmur trying to make sense of itself in the past, future and somewhere else.

What to do? We must merge the murmur and let go of the froth. And to do that we need someone who has done it before. We need love. We need to speak the language of the love we have inside ourselves.

The something of our animal nature becomes the nothing of the lover human which merges with the beloved to become everything. He gives us the longing, the hunger, the desperation to lift us from our animal unconsciousness to the realization of our true God-nature.

As Fakhruddin Iraqi, the thirteenth-century Persian mystic, put it:

You are nothing when you wed the One;
but, when you truly become nothing,
  you are everything.13

We need to become real human beings to have good relationships with who we are now, in reality. It’s not tea at auntie’s house, however.

The Great Master said:

Love is another name for attaching the heart to the Beloved. It is not child’s play. Only those of sterling worth, who are free from the ties of the world, and who are fearless, can become lovers. It is the work of one who is free from all worldly desires and who is able to keep his mind clear of the dirt of duality. When the leaven of love begins to act then a lover cannot turn his attention toward any object except the Beloved.14

But Baba Ji has said that we keep a “house full” sign over our hearts. We’re too busy trying to be rational human beings.

Again, to quote the Great Master:

It is difficult to swim across the ocean of the world or to bathe in it at all. Bathing is always done on the beach. The perfect man is like the beach of the ocean of life.15

Meditation is the only answer, meditation is where we bathe on the beach of his ocean of love. To let go of self we must, ironically, exercise self-discipline through the purposeful utterance of the language of our spirituality – simran. One word after another, building that association, brick by verbal brick.

As Great Master wrote:

Ordinary people are in utter darkness. On closing the eyes there is nothing but darkness. In addition, the darkness of ignorance pervades everywhere. The person who can dispel this darkness is the Guru. ‘Gu’ means darkness and ‘ru’ means light: one who can light up the darkness, one who can take us from utter darkness to the light of the truth.16

We sit here, looking through the eyes of animals, but the ‘we’ that looks is a constant murmur trying to make sense of itself in the past, future and somewhere else.

What to do? We must merge the murmur and let go of the froth. And to do that we need someone who has done it before. We need love. We need to speak the language of the love we have inside ourselves.

The paradox is that our mystical apprenticeship can only be worked while we live, work, dream, breathe, worry, fail, fail again and fail better in the world of time and space, bearing the grief, frustration, stress, and disappointment that goes with our worldly animal selves.

Mechthild of Magdeburg, the thirteenth-century German mystic, wrote:

Whoever at some point
is seriously wounded by true love
will never become healthy again
unless he kisses that same mouth
by which his soul was wounded.17

Hermes Trismegistus, to whom ancient Egyptian mystical writings are attributed, wrote:

It is hard for us to forsake the familiar things around us, and turn back to the old home whence we came. Things seen delight us, and things unseen give rise to disbelief.18

We sit here, looking through the eyes of animals, but the ‘we’ that looks is a constant murmur trying to make sense of itself in the past, future and somewhere else.

What to do? We must merge the murmur and let go of the froth. And to do that we need someone who has done it before. We need love. We need to speak the language of the love we have inside ourselves.

The Great Master wrote:

It is difficult to swim across the ocean of the world or to bathe in it at all. Bathing is always done on the beach. The perfect man is like the beach of the ocean of life.19

The Master is the beach, safe from sharks and drowning, from which we can learn to swim through the deeps of karma to the end of the story, to that moment when he sweeps us up in his arms.


  1. W. B. Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium” in The Tower (1928); Scribner, 2004; p. 2
  2. René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 1986
  3. Spiritual Gems, letter 105
  4. Die to Live, #137
  5. The Selected Poems of Rumi, “The Beauty of Death,” tr. R.A. Nicholson, Dover, 1998, p. 19
  6. William Law, A Serious Call to the Devout and Holy Life, 1729, p. XXIII
  7. Baba Jaimal Singh, Spiritual Letters, ed.3, 1976, Letter 93, p.97
  8. Maharaj Charan Singh, Audio recording of questions & answers, March 12, 1986
  9. E. E. Cummings, 100 Selected Poems, Grove Press, 1954
  10. Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II, 6th ed. p. 118
  11. Ibid, p. 119
  12. Jalaluddin Rumi, The Masnavi, Oxford University Press, 2004
  13. Fakhsruddin Iraqi, Luma’at or Divine Flashes, tr. Chittick & Wilson; Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press, 1982
  14. Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II, 2009; p.197
  15. Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V, 2010, p. 240
  16. Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V, 2010, p. 227
  17. Mechthild of Magdeburg, The Flowing Light of the Godhead, Paulist Press, 2008; 79–80.
  18. The Divine Pymander: The Hermetica of Hermes Trismegistus, Create Space 2008
  19. Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V, 2010, p. 240