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Lovers of Leaving

Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.

These lines – attributed to Rumi – call the seekers to gather together. The poet addresses them as people who wander – perhaps physically, perhaps spiritually – and as people who worship. He also used a slightly baffling phrase. He labeled each of them as a lover of leaving. What does that mean? Could satsangis possibly be lovers of leaving? Is this a positive thing – something that makes us feel closer to our Master? Or is it a negative thing – something that makes us feel separate from him?

Well, maybe it’s both. We often declare – whether we’re being fully honest or not – that we’d love to leave this world behind. We’d love to just surrender to the Master and leave all our worries with him. And sometimes we can even do that with a minor worry or two – just let go of it and decide that the Master will smooth it out however he wants, or not! Sometimes we give up and love to leave things in his hands. In that way, being a lover of leaving is a very good thing for any satsangi or seeker.

In another way, we seem to “love” to leave the focus of our meditation and roam around the world in our minds. Certainly, we often do just that. This mental roaming makes our meditation restless and inner peace even more elusive. In this sense, being a lover of leaving doesn’t serve us well.

Another kind of leaving involves the physical presence of the Master. Every time we see him, he eventually leaves us. How can we be lovers of leaving as we watch Baba Ji get up from satsang? That doesn’t quite make sense; how can we love for him to leave us?

But if we think for a moment, if he never left, we’d never long for him to return. That longing is spiritual gold, much more valuable than a bulging bank account. Such yearning increases our awareness of the Master’s inner presence.

A question was once put to Hazur Maharaj Ji about the devastating loss that disciples expected to feel when he left their country after an official visit. Hazur answered, “Brother, are you sure I am leaving?” and then added, “The more we miss anyone, the nearer we are to the one we are missing. We only depart to meet. We are never separated.”1

Satsangis are very attached to the Master’s beautiful physical form. However, Baba Ji often reminds us that the Master is not the body – that his body is aging, his hair is going grey, and he can even get seriously ill. Yet we never cease wanting to be near him, wanting the Master to look at us, to come to our sangat.

But we live within this physical world with its physical laws, and so do the Masters. They choose to obey the natural laws of the universe. They leave us physically. Sometimes they simply exit the satsang hall. Sometimes they leave the Dera. Sometimes they visit our country and then say goodbye after a few days.

And, of course, if we visit Dera, we eventually have to go home. We pack our bags, settle ourselves into a van, taxi or car, and give the beautiful streets of Dera a last look as we say goodbye. We may leave reluctantly or eagerly, perhaps anxious to see family again, yet missing the Master already.

This missing him is a gift, delivered as we depart. It’s a feeling to hold close and to cherish.

An old story illustrates the value of this gift.

A lover of the Lord was in the habit of rising for prayers at dawn every morning before her work day began. Every day, the angel Gabriel joyfully watched over this worship.

However, one morning, the disciple, tired from her many family duties, failed to awake before sunrise. Suddenly, the devil himself appeared and shook the woman’s shoulder, saying loudly, “Wake up! Wake up!”

Angel Gabriel was astonished. Why would the devil want anyone to arise for prayer? Surely that’s exactly what he wouldn’t want.

When Gabriel asked the devil to explain his actions, the devil replied, “If I hadn’t awakened her and she had slept through her time of prayer, the woman would have felt a terrible longing for what she had missed. That longing is worth a thousand prayers.

When we leave the Master’s physical presence, the longing to be with him again can propel us inside, where we never feel separation. Like the devotee in the story, our longing is invaluable, worth a thousand pious prayers or offerings.

Thus, the mystic poet’s declaration that we are “lover(s) of leaving” begins to have a very sweet ring, doesn’t it?

  1. Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, #84