Seeking Divine Presence
During these times of Covid-19 we are asked to socially distance, wear a mask, wash our hands, and self-isolate as much as possible. Many of us experience fear, isolation, uncertainty, and confusion. And we miss having the Master’s darshan, either from not being able to visit the Dera or from not having the Master visit us. So let us look at this from a different perspective and see if we can have a deeper understanding of our real situation.
Are we not already distant from everyone? How many ways do we remain separated, and what separates us? Are not our very thoughts a separation? We divide everything. Good and bad, right and wrong, pretty and ugly, smart and dumb. Have we not always worn a mask? Do we not put forth what we are not? Are not our personality, desires, and opinions a mask? Do we live an honest, pure life? Or do we hide many things from others? Would we be embarrassed if others could see our thoughts? Are we not a mask personified? We are told to wash our hands to prevent infection. But have we washed our minds to purify what already is infected? We have the most virulent virus already within us: ego. Is there a way to wash the mind? We feel isolated now – have we not been isolated our whole lives? Separation has been our condition from our first breath. We are isolated from our true self! We do not know who we are. How isolated can one become?
All veils are nothing but one veil. There is none but that one, and that veil is this existence.1
The saints tell us that from the highest perspective, from the Lord’s perspective, all is good. Whatever the Lord does is for our good. We are told by the Master that we humans are the most destructive creatures on the planet. The world needs a reset, a slowdown, a pause. We are forced to turn inwards, examine ourselves, and hopefully reset our values, our perspectives, and our purpose.
Goethe said, “Noble be man, helpful and good.”2 Baba Ji has said: Be a good human being and spirituality will naturally follow. This should mean not just in our interactions with others, but in our interactions on every level with the entire creation; from the soil on the ground to the sky above, and everything and everyone between. What brings us to this condition as we now live? Perhaps it can be summed up like this: we seek our happiness where it can never be found.
Oh, while you seek resolution
Of your difficulties, you die.
Oh, you are born in union,
Yet, in separation, you die.
Oh, you sit by the lip of the sea,
Yet thirsty, you fall asleep.
Oh, you sit on a treasure,
Yet in poverty, you die!3
Our attention is outward. Our seeking is outward. Our love is outward. Why? Because we believe our happiness will be found outward. We also seek spirituality outside of ourselves. We are deaf and blind with the veil of worldly love. We miss the world as it was before Covid. But do we miss the Beloved? For a lover, is not separation what enhances the longing? And in longing, does not everything else weaken?
Only thinking of the Beloved attracts the heart so that the world feels weak and insipid.4
If we believe that happiness is found in our relations, our jobs, our country, then we are placing our hopes in self-created illusions! Our loves and desires are not born from our intellect. They are born over ages of numberless forms and lives. Just in this single lifetime we have been so colored by the parents who gave us birth, the country in which we were born, the schools we attend, the friends we associate with, and so many other factors. And add to that the impressions left on the mind from so many past lives – we are seeking the false from the false. Like thinking that the desert mirage will abate our thirst, we chase the illusion, thinking it will give us happiness. By being absorbed in the world and all its allurements, we have lost all awareness of who we truly are. We have become the veil! We are the obstacle. We live in maya and are enslaved servants of the mind. How can anyone, of themselves, free themselves from such ignorance and servitude to the world?
Until such a one who knows the way home, knows the ins and outs of the world and its illusions, and has the power that transcends the world comes to rescue us, there is no way out. Only the Satguru has the power to rescue us. Guru Nanak says:
Of the million aspects of your wisdom,
Not one will accompany you in the hereafter.
How then to become true?
How then to rend the veil of falsehood?
By walking in his will, O Nanak,
In step with the writ of destiny.5
The veil the saints refer to is a wall of illusion separating us from the soul. If we are born in illusion, live in illusion, and are separated from Truth, how can we know what or how to tear down this wall? Our very thinking is all illusion. We are utterly, completely immersed in illusion. So, Guru Nanak asks the important question, “How then to become true? How then to rend the veil of falsehood?” So the only way a follower of falsehood can remove the wall of illusion is to follow the One who is Truth. In other words, change your loyalty from the mind to the Lord. But we don’t know the Lord. He is behind the veil.
How does one become a devotee of the Lord? By the grace of the Lord, he is personified in the form of the Guru who comes to us personifying the qualities of the Lord at the human level, to give us the method by which we can rend the veil of falsehood. The command and answer to the question of how to rend the veil is “By walking in his will…in step with the writ of destiny.”
The word used by Nanak for will is hukam. This word hukam firstly means will. It is the Lord’s law, process, plan, and method. It is his Command. Secondly, it means the dynamic power of God which creates and enlivens and sustains the creation. It is the power through which the soul returns to the Creator. Thirdly, the saints use the words hukam, Shabd, Nam, Name, and God synonymously. Thus the seeker – soiled, ignorant, lost, blind and deaf to the Lord’s will or hukam directly – follows the command or will of the Guru, the one who is one with the Shabd or hukam. It is the Guru’s will that the devotee follow “in step with the writ of destiny.” While going through one’s destiny, fulfilling all the devotee’s obligations, duties, debits, and credits, he walks the path of life in the command of the Master. By following the instructions, by turning his mind from the world and absorbing his mind in the Guru and eventually in the Shabd, or Sound Current, he slowly awakens, and what was always within him – he begins to realize it within himself.
How can we achieve our objective? We come to the Master filled with so many concepts of the teachings. We are all at different stages along the way. We have different backgrounds and bring all our baggage with us. Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes is adjusting the teachings to our way of thinking. As one saint said, by trying to take a shortcut, we miss the goal, which was in our sights, by a thousand miles.
Because we have become used to the world, comfortable in our suffering, we are like a frog put in water that is being slowly heated, but the frog does not know it will die from the hot water – so we, too, do not realize how short life is and what a treasure we have within reach! For a bird to fly, it needs two wings. On this path, the two wings are the Master and the disciple. The Master will do his part. But the second wing is the effort of the disciple. We are asked to sit quietly, repeat the Names, listen to the Sound, and hold our attention at the eye center. For ages upon ages we have done the opposite. Our attention has run down and out into the world.
To change course, at first, appears hard. And it may be hard. We want to rely on the Master entirely. But that means that we don’t want to do anything and instead wait for the Master to do everything. His command, our seva, is to do what the Master asks of us. We take his command as the most important task in life. Don’t follow the mind! Follow the Master. It is that simple, no matter what. If the mind puts up a fight, strike back. We follow the Guru, not the mind. As the saint Tulsi Sahib of Hathras in the Ratan Sagar said:
Enter this battlefield with the grace of the Satguru.
With this grace that descends from your original home,
Charge forward and attack, O friend.
Do not retreat or move away till you have achieved
victory in the battlefield, O friend!6
As Tulsi says: Capture your mind and all its companions – in other words – control your thoughts and senses. At initiation, every satsangi is taught how to do just that. The result will be that a mind filled with vices and passions becomes transformed into a mind filled with virtues like refined discrimination, discipline, truth, and contentment. Follow the orders of the Guru and you will be freed from everything connected to the body and mind. Then you will be attached to the inner sky and you will begin to hear the melody of Shabd. Tulsi says beautifully in another shabd:
When this majestic mind becomes absorbed in the Divine,
the soul will merge into the Lord.
When the attention is fixed on the Sound
emanating from the inner sky,
the soul will arrive at the door to Satlok,
adorned in bridal finery.
Tulsi says: With great fervour did I make this journey –
My soul merged into Shabd.7
We have seen the suffering of the world. The Master says the panacea of all ills is Nam-bhakti. There is no pleasure equal to devotion and love for the Lord. Only in the face of the Guru do we get a glimpse of the divine in this world. Till we awaken the spirituality within us, we cannot find spirituality outside of us. When we make the effort, we experience the closeness of the divine.
The Master never changes his message. He always says through meditation we will fulfill the purpose of our life. As Baba Jaimal Singh wrote to his future successor, Great Master Sawan Singh Ji:
At work or moving about or sitting around, keep your thoughts fixed in simran all the time; always from everyone, and from you, at all times simran is accepted at the court of Hazur. Listen to the Shabd-dhun and remember that whether or not your mind is in it, or scarcely feels for it, your effort at all times will be acceptable.8
There will always be trouble in the world. Whether in this time or in past times, the world may physically change, but the mind is always the same. Until we accept the Guru’s teaching, surrender our body and mind to the Master, and make an effort to be good disciples to the best of our ability and circumstances, we will not achieve our goal of happiness. Whether we call it happiness, peace, or contentment, we will only find it within ourselves with the grace of the Lord. Do not get lost in the chaos or falsehood of the world. Mirdad said, “Speech is at best an honest lie.”9 Whatever the world has to offer, it will not give us what we really seek.
There are two paths before us: the path of the mind and the path of love, which is the path of the Masters. There is no joy comparable to surrendering and following sincerely with all our heart the path of the Master. No matter how weak we feel, or how little we have done in the past, or how far we have strayed, or how we fail, always remember, we may be zero, but with Master being One, we are always a Ten as He is always with us!
Try it. Try being with him as you walk, as you work, as you cook. Be with him when you are happy, when you are sad, when you are lonely, and when you are inspired. He is never absent. We are absent. Do the work as if the Master is right there with you, watching you do your simran or listening to the Sound. Watch over the mind as an observer and not as a participant. Watch how it reacts, watch how it behaves, watch how it is attracted to the world, or to the Master. Watch how it feels when you are kind, when you are angry, when you are scared. Watch the mind, knowing that Master is also watching your mind. He does not judge. He only wants the best for you. It is your actions that bring more and more grace upon you.
You cannot imagine how your world changes as your mind changes. You be the commander. You control the mind. Never say “I can’t.” You can – for one simple reason: the Master is within you. That means unlimited strength to follow him and not the mind. It just takes a little practice to get some results. Then you will have experience – step by step. This is the most rewarding path to follow. Make your life worthy of the grace you have received by having been given the highest form in the creation, the human form. Everything is now possible. The Guru has come from the highest region and has given you Nam. He is protecting you, pulling you, teaching you, and loving you. Be still and be receptive. You will feel His presence. Baba Ji has said numerous times:
Spirituality is the awareness of the constant presence of the Divine.
This is our Treasure. Claim it now. He has given us the greatest gift and every one of us now has the capacity to achieve our highest aspirations. Don’t let the mind get in the way.
Shams-e Tabrizi said:
You must be so zealous and so hot in your seeking that, if your ardour reaches anyone, he too will join you…10
The path we are on is simple. Keep it simple. Don’t get lost in the machinations of the mind. The Master says the path can be followed by a five-year old or an eighty-year old! This means it is very simple. Our questions, our analyses won’t take us far. What can a five-year old understand? But a five-year old can put into practice the orders of the Master! We can repeat the sacred words. We can listen to or for the Sound. What makes it difficult? Our habits, our attachments, our desires, our mind! A child doesn’t discriminate like we do. The Master says, give a child a diamond or a plain piece of glass and he will accept it as the same. The gift is precious because of who is giving it, not what the gift is made of. Take your “self” out of the way, says the Master. Tulsi Sahib says:
In satsang the unfathomable secret is revealed;
the soul cleans its binoculars in preparation
for its journey.
Renouncing the ways of the mind it gazes within;
when this practice matures,
the soul is brought up to the (inner) shore, the third eye.
It longs to soar high in the sky
and yearns to behold him night and day –
in this way the soul remains connected within,
amassing the wealth needed to reach
the Beloved’s abode.
Tulsi says: It is only through personal experience
that I have gained this insight – the soul
that truly loves her beloved Husband
attains her goal.11
This poem reveals the essence of our association with the Master and our detached effort in meditation. We meditate in accordance with the instructions of the Master. But we should not assume we are succeeding or failing based upon our efforts (such as, by putting in five hours I should see results). There is no scale we can use to determine our progress. That is entirely in the hands of the Master. And Tulsi is saying the meditation creates a deep yearning, a longing that becomes love. Our practice creates the connection within, which matures into experience. Whatever we do to remember the Master and the Lord – whatever meditation we do, seva we do, reading we do, satsangs we attend – these are amassing the wealth needed to reach the Beloved’s abode.
Maharaj Charan Singh Ji used to say everything happens automatically. Make the effort, do the work, and everything happens automatically. Let go of all your thinking, all your planning, and trust the Lord and the Master. If you fail at every step, it means you are trying, making the effort. Trust Him! He knows what he is doing. Become like a child in matters of the path.
Let us turn to Tulsi again.
When the soul toils to attune itself to the Shabd,
surat and nirat are awakened,
and the true Shabd manifests.12
Listen to his message. He says what Baba Ji says today. It is our effort that is in our hands. It is our effort that counts. It is our effort that makes the bird fly with two wings. We cannot awaken the seeing and hearing capacity of the Light and Sound. But by our effort, our practice, something happens beyond our understanding. Automatically, when the time is ripe, the soul’s power of seeing and hearing is awakened. Without the effort, nothing ripens, nothing is awakened. Therefore, our effort is a key that we should never neglect.
Let us go to Tulsi one more time:
When the mind, this restless bee, attends satsang,
all its vices and passions are eliminated.
When a sweet-maker makes jalebi (a sweet), he dips it in syrup –
It absorbs and soaks up the syrup.
So also when the nectar of the saint’s company
is absorbed by the mind,
its negative tendencies are dispelled.13
In the time of Covid, when we miss the physical company of the Master, always remember that Soami Ji said there is no difference between the inner and outer Master. We are always in the company of the Master in meditation, whether we see him or not. As a commentator of Tulsi Sahib said succinctly: “Spiritual knowledge begins through external satsang, and one achieves the true realization of that knowledge though internal satsang.”
You are never alone, and being initiated, it is within your reach. To repeat Baba Ji’s statement:
Spirituality is the awareness of the constant presence of the Divine.
- Shams-e Tabrizi, p. 142
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Das Göttliche (The Divine)
- Shams-e Tabrizi, p. 130 (quoting Attar)
- Shams-e Tabrizi, p. 131
- Jap Ji: A Perspective, pp. 99–100
- Tulsi Sahib, p. 163
- Maharaj Jaimal Singh, Spiritual Letters, p. 35
- The Book of Mirdad, p. 68
- Shams-e Tabrizi, p. 303
- Tulsi Sahib, p. 120
- Ibid, p. 121
- Ibid, p. 121