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Wondrous Sound

Shams-e Tabriz wrote:

Be silent and listen to the five sounds from Heaven,
The Heaven which is beyond all senses and directions.
Every moment of life this wondrous Sound
Reaches down from the courts of Heaven.
Fortunate above all the children of men
Is he who hears its enchanting melodies.1

All the true Masters have taught their disciples how to listen to this wondrous Sound that is always reaching down to us from the courts of Heaven. Their mission is to connect those who come to them with that Sound. They teach, they encourage, and they inspire their disciples to live a pure life and to do the work of withdrawing their attention to that place where they can come into contact with this heavenly Sound. They create within the disciple a love and a yearning to go back to the Lord.

These Masters may have lived thousands of years and thousands of miles apart. They may come from any religion or any culture, yet what they have taught is exactly the same: that this great spiritual current of Sound is the essence of life and of all things.

They describe this creation as having emanated from the Creator through the dynamic of this creative power. This power, this current of Sound, is always present in the creation. It sustains it and all that lives within it. It is related to the Lord in the same way as a wave is related to the ocean.

In Sant Mat we use the word Shabd to refer to God’s creative power. It is just one of thousands of words that have been used throughout time to attempt to describe this one, singular creative power.

Saints explain that listening to this holy Sound is the only way of obtaining release from the cycle of birth and death. It makes the soul fit to rise from the finite towards the infinite.

References to the Shabd are ubiquitous throughout the world and throughout time. They’re everywhere, in all of the writings of mystics and in all of the scriptures. They are found in poems and songs – for example, the well-known song, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!”

The Shabd rings within every one of us, yet hardly anybody knows what it is. It is the core of spirituality, the cornerstone, the lynchpin. When the Shabd is forgotten the life has gone out of the teachings and they devolve into religion.

Many references to Shabd point to its quality as a sound, such as Name, Word, Sound Current, Audible Lifestream, Celestial Music, Divine Melody, Call from the Skies, or the Voice of God. But other names refer to different qualities that can be experienced.

In the Gurbani the word amrit is used as a metaphor for the Shabd. When translated it becomes immortalizing Nectar or Divine Ambrosia or the Nectar that confers immortality, implying that when one hears that Shabd within he is drinking that Nectar which makes him immortal.

So by referring to the Shabd as Nectar the Gurus are implying the experience of listening to the Sound Current is sweet, satisfying, delicious, and nourishing to the soul. In fact it is so satisfying that one loses interest in all the pleasures experienced through the body.

The term Bread or Bread of Life was also used because bread was the main source of nutrition and it sustained the body, so people could understand that the Shabd or the Word would feed the soul in a similar way. As Christ said:

I am the Bread of Life;
  he that cometh to me shall never hunger.2

In this life we are never satisfied. We always hunger for more, whether it’s worldly possessions or power, but Christ is saying that when the Master attaches us to the Word, then we have no worldly desires left. We are never hungry again.

The metaphor of water is used in the same way. Spiritually we are all very thirsty and since all of our attention runs outward into the world we seek to quench that thirst in the relationships and pleasures of the world. When we experience the futility of each attempt, we rotate to the next one, only to be disappointed again. Furthermore, the karmas we create in this seeking bind us more to the wheel of reincarnation. Drinking water will quench our thirst for the moment, but we will get thirsty again – however the saints say that when we drink that spiritual Water that they give us within we will never thirst again. As Christ said:

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.3

Again here, he is making the connection between drinking that water and finding everlasting life – immortality.

The transition from mortal to immortal is really a transition from identifying with the physical body and the mind to identifying with the soul. It’s realizing who we really are. Our death is certain. The body will perish and there is no way to avoid death. The soul, on the other hand, is immortal. It will not perish. Unfortunately our consciousness is in the body and the soul is forgotten.

Baba Ji often reminds us that we are not human beings seeking a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings going through a human experience.

In other words, it’s all backwards. We are not the body nor are we the mind. Our true identity, our true self, is soul. Yet because our attention goes so much into the external world and we are so preoccupied with our human experience, we fail to notice that there is a soul within us that is our essence – the very source of our life.

Just as our physical body is not who we really are, this physical world is not our real home. Hazur used to tell us that what we see is not real and what we don’t see is real. The famous English poet William Shakespeare wrote:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.4

We are actors in a play and the script has been written by our karmas. We came here to play a certain role as husband or wife, as son or daughter, as creditor or debtor, and when our scene is over we depart. We step off of the stage and enter a higher reality. Then we see that it was all a dream and we spent our life caught up in nothing but an illusion. As Soami Ji wrote in his Sar Bachan Poetry: “This whole play is but a one-night dream.”5

The problem is that all we can perceive through this mind and body is transient and impermanent. Because of that, everybody and everything we are attached to is also transient. Ultimately we will be separated from everyone we love and everything we believe we possess. We love our children and parents and spouses so much that being separated from them breaks our hearts. In previous lives we had children and parents and spouses, yet where are they now and where is that love we had for them? These loves serve as an obstacle to realizing our true purpose in life.

Hazur Maharaj Ji wrote to a western disciple: “All unhappiness in life is the result of our attachment for people and things of this world. Where there is no attachment, there is no misery.”6 The fact that our attachments keep us bound here is what makes us mortal. When we have to take birth we have to die and when we take birth again we have to die again, and the reason we have to keep taking birth is because we go where our attachments are. We go where our heart is.

The time of death is the critical moment when the direction that the soul will take is determined. If throughout our lives we have indulged ourselves in the love and desires of the world, then the end of life will soon be followed by a return into a physical body.

But what choice do we have if everything and everyone in our field of awareness is also bound to this impermanent world? The mind must attach itself to something. That is its nature. So unless we can find something permanent to attach ourselves to we cannot escape the cycle of birth and death.

The Master comes from the Father and is above it all. He is not attached to anything of this creation. He is attached only to the Creator. He is a wave of that Ocean of Divinity. If we want to return to the Creator it will only be through love, and that love for the eternal Lord begins when we meet a Master.

When the Master initiates us, he teaches us how to shift our attachment from the world of phenomena to the divine power or Shabd through meditation. The disciple has to lead an honest and pure life, to work hard and apply great discipline before being able to contact the Shabd within, which is the real form of the Master.

As we sit for meditation, we appreciate how powerful the mind is. Until we tried to concentrate our attention within we probably never realized that the mind is not in our control. The mind is running the show and we are forced to go wherever it takes us. It’s constantly running out and it never stops thinking! If somehow it were to stop, the attention would rise in the body and we would immediately become conscious of the light and sound within.

The Master has given us the tools to make this happen. We gradually develop the habit of concentrating the mind by sitting regularly and punctually for meditation. We should not be under the illusion that this is easy. As Hazur said to a disciple: “It's a struggle for a whole lifetime, not just for a day or two. It's a constant struggle with the mind – but it's worth it!”7

Our meditation, our simran and bhajan, is all about making the mind still and bringing it to the eye center. This is the seat of the mind and the soul. Hazur describes it as the “pivotal point that holds the mystery of life.”8

The Radiant form of the Master or the Shabd does not descend below the eye center. So our objective is to get to that point. This is really the most important work of our lives. To achieve it we will have to give it all of our attention and our love and devotion. The eye center is our spiritual goal and our purpose in life. This is where our spiritual journey begins. It’s also where we will experience for ourselves that the Master and his teachings are for real.

And what happens when we enter the eye center and we hear the Sound of the Shabd? Hearing the Shabd, drinking the Nectar, eating the Bread or Water of Life, turns the mind away from the transient pleasures of the world and attaches it to the sweet and transcendent bliss of the Shabd. This is monumental because this is exactly how one achieves immortality.

This effect that the Shabd has on the mind and soul is often illustrated by another metaphor for the Sound Current – Wine Divine!

The word “wine” was used by the Sufi mystics to convey the intoxication or ecstasy that one experiences when hearing the Shabd. The Wine-bearer, the one who serves the wine, is the Master. The cup is this body that holds the wine and the tavern is that place within the eye center where one can enjoy the wine. The Masters talk about being drunk on wine. The intoxication that comes from hearing the Shabd renders all other pleasures insipid.

The Indian mystic Kabir explains how sweet and powerful is this elixir of Nam:

All the elixirs of immortality have I tried,
But none of them compares with Nam.
If only a tiny particle of it is absorbed,
The whole of one’s being
Is transmuted into gold.9

Hazur Maharaj Ji explained to a western disciple:

The taste of the inner pleasure is so intoxicatingly blissful that it rises above, and hence kills all desire for outer pleasures. The heart is then filled with the love of the Lord, which is the only true means for attaining God-realization.10

This is how the transformation takes place. The mind becomes so enthralled in the Shabd that it wants nothing else but to be in that blissful experience. Instead of resisting the focus it wants to spend more and more time in that place. Instead of the attention always running down and out it enjoys going in and up. The mind is now our friend and wants to travel in the same direction as the soul.

Previously, it employed so many tactics to keep us scattered and away from the focus. All of our worrying, anxieties, and fears have kept us away. All of our desires and obsessions, our planning, analyzing, calculating, living in the past or the future instead of the present moment made it impossible to concentrate. Now the mind doesn’t want to play its games anymore. The frustration and struggle that we experience in the initial stages is over.

The disciple is at peace and he happily accepts whatever his destiny brings. He has no burden, no worries. Death has lost its dreaded sting as he has already stepped through the door to the other side. His heart is filled with gratitude. He is kind, loving, and compassionate to others. He is now enjoying his meditation and looks forward to it like an infatuated lover. His myriad desires have been replaced with only one desire, to be with his beloved Master.

When he meets the Radiant form of the Master within he experiences true unadulterated love for the first time. It is a meeting between the soul and the Shabd, the true form of the disciple and the true form of the Master.

When Baba Ji is giving satsang in Punjabi, he often says, “Shabd guru, surat dhun chela.” It means that the true form of the Guru is Shabd and the true form of the disciple is the soul that is attuned to the Shabd. It is a relationship of pure love and that love will grow and grow until there is no difference between them.

Hazur Maharaj Ji said:

Meditation creates love. It strengthens love. It deepens love. It grows love. Ultimately, it illuminates you and makes you God. That’s all meditation.11

So in the end, this experience of listening to the Sound Current is what leads to our salvation, to our escape from the cycle of birth and death and the world of impermanence and misery. It leads to the return to our true home – to immortality.

That is why Shams-i Tabriz wrote:

Every moment of life, this wondrous Sound
Reaches down from the courts of Heaven.
Fortunate above all the children of men
Is he who hears its enchanting melodies.12

  1. Julian Johnson, The Path of the Masters, 17th ed. 2012, p. 398
  2. Bible, John 6:35; Light on St. John, p. 86
  3. Bible, John 4:14; Light on St John, p. 55
  4. William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
  5. Sar Bachan Poetry, p. 117
  6. Quest for Light, Letter #231
  7. Die to Live, Q #311
  8. Spiritual Discourses, vol. 1, p. 180
  9. Quoted in Divine Light, p. 117
  10. Divine Light, Letter 426, p. 367
  11. Spiritual Perspectives, vol. 2, Q 146
  12. Path of the Masters, 17th ed. 2012, p. 398