Based on The Odes of Solomon, Ode 301
Saints and mystics have come in all ages, in all cultures. They don’t come to form new religions nor to set one group against another. The words they speak may differ according to their different languages and cultures, but their message is always one. Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh explains to us: “Saints come with the sole purpose of awakening within us the desire to meet and love the Lord, and to explain the method by which we can find Him.”2
They speak to us of the mystery and beauty of that Power that brought the creation into being and sustains it even now. They often use analogies to describe what words cannot. They use metaphors to give us some inkling, some idea, of the divine and how we can realize this divinity in our very lifetimes.
For the ancient people who lived in dry, desert lands, water was of huge significance, essential for life and very precious, due to its scarcity. So when the mystics and prophets talked about the experience of the divine, what better metaphor was there than water?
To desert people, or to any who live in arid areas, the availability of water, springs and fountains is vital to existence. Hence, the Creative Word, as the divine Source of Life, was described as the eternal Well or Fountain, the Spring of Immortality, and the Living Water.3
This living water is the creative current that flows throughout the entire creation. It is called “living water” because water gives life and is something that we cannot live without. When the current is withdrawn, life cannot exist at all. It is living because of its quality – it is vibrant: it carries no death in it at all. It is the source and sustainer of life itself.
The whole universe was created by this current and is sustained by it even now. It is referred to in all our religious texts by many names: Shabd, Word, Name, Akash Bani (voice from heaven), Kalma (inner sound), Kun (Word or Shabd), Logos, and Holy Spirit. It is also known as the sound current. We say “current,” because it is always moving, always flowing. We also call it the audible life stream or the ringing radiance, because everything in this entire creation is constantly in motion; light and sound are the expression of creative power in all things.
What does water do?
Not only does water allow us to live and give us sustenance, but it cleanses, carries life, and provides power (produces electricity). Just as physical water has these capabilities, so too does the current of living water. As water can generate electricity, so the living water generates life. This current smoothens us, as water smoothens even the hardest rocks. It carries us back to our Source, just as the rivers flow back to the sea. It washes away our dross, our karmas, our impurities.
Whether we are Sikh, Hindu, Christian, Jew, or atheist – no matter which country we come from, whether we are rich or poor – we all need water. But the saints point us to that water that alleviates not just our physical thirst but also the thirst of the soul. This water is always flowing within us, but it is only when the master initiates us that we may have conscious contact with it. The living water, as described in the book The Holy Name, “does not water a physical land, but the parched desert of a heart void of love and devotion.”4
Mystics come to tell us about this current of divine water and how we can drink from it. So let us see how this divine story was told by a mystic of the first century CE, in the Odes of Solomon:
Draw for yourselves water from the Living Spring of the Lord,
Because it has been opened to you.
Where does this water spring from? What is meant by a Living Spring? Only in the human form can the Lord be realized. The third eye is the place from which the soul current descends into the human form and the place where we can ride that current back to our source. That Living Spring is within our very own selves.
How has it been opened to us? Is it open to everyone? Through the teachings of the Masters and saints we come to realize that the spiritual water that we need to survive does not come from books, no matter how holy and uplifting those books might be, nor from buildings made of bricks and mortar, nor from rituals and ceremonies. That water that we need to drink comes from the Living Spring right within us, and can be realized while we are alive. We need to come in contact with the Shabd, become aware of the Nam, that living water, so that we may drink.
Just as we can’t get drinking water from a stale well or a muddy puddle, we need to get water from a fresh spring, the Living Spring. Our religious scriptures only point the way or inspire us to find it. We need to get our water from the Living Spring, which saints tell us is the third eye, the tisra til, that point within, just above the eyes, where we concentrate. This is where the Nam, the living water, flows into us.
This water, the Shabd, is always flowing within, but it is only when the master initiates us that we come into conscious contact with it:
It is an infinite fountain flowing eternally at the third eye, the entrance to the house of the Lord. In fact, the Hebrew word for fountain, ma’ayan or ‘ayin, is the same as the word for “eye,” revealing how profound is the identification of the eye (the third eye) as the source of the divine waters of life.5
By receiving initiation from a true living Master, this spring is opened, meaning that we are able to draw upon that Word or Shabd. The water is always there, but without the help of the Master, we do not gain access to it. It is as if the Master shows us how to turn on the tap. In our homes, there is always water flowing in the pipes, but until we turn on the tap, we can’t get at the water or drink it. Water runs in pipes underground, but we have to register with a supplier and get connected to access it.
Masters are like water diviners – they have the special knowledge. Masters don’t have more of it than we do – it is a matter of awareness. Masters show us where to find it and give us the method to draw the water: They recommend that we follow a particular lifestyle and that we do meditation, which will enable us to experience the light and sound of that vibrating, radiant life current. It isn’t the light that we can see with these physical eyes – it isn’t the sound that we hear with these physical ears. Meditation attunes our spiritual perception and expands our awareness.
Being vegetarian – not consuming meat, fish, or eggs, nor alcoholic drinks or mind-affecting drugs, and living a pure and honest lifestyle – all this makes our cup clean. Attending to daily meditation wipes away our conceptions, our limited view and understanding, and prepares us to be filled. But the cup won’t provide us with water. The cup is one thing – the water another.
Come, all you who thirst, and take a draught,
And rest beside the Spring of the Lord.
For fair it is and pure and gives rest to the soul.
The writer beautifully says: If you are thirsty, come and take a drink.
We are all born into this world thirsty. We come into this creation needing to drink to survive. A human being will not survive very long without water. Nature has given us thirst so that we may feel the craving to imbibe the vital fluid that we need to flourish in this creation. Without that thirst we wouldn’t want to drink.
Just as our bodies have been given thirst in order to be able to survive, our souls also have been given a thirst, so that we will seek that which will enable us to survive spiritually. We know that we need far more than physical sustenance in life. We need love, we need nurturing – from our parents, our families, our communities, our friends. But even those who have worldly love in abundance often feel a thirst that is hard to understand. This thirst is for something higher, something purer, something divine – something which, no matter how hard we try, cannot be found in the world around us.
We try to quench this thirst by every possible means known to us: through relationships, through our activities, through work, hobbies, social and political deeds. Yet our spiritual thirst is not quenched. And the thirst of the devotee of the Lord is unique. A terrible dryness can come in life, when nothing satisfies and nothing sustains us in this world.
This spiritual thirst is given to us so that we might seek our true Nature and our source, that living water, to keep our soul alive. That thirst is actually a blessing.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted… Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.6
Why don’t we drink?
Why don’t we just drink automatically if we are thirsty? We’re so busy trying to satisfy our thirst in the world through the senses. And then, there is so much noise in the world. We have heard the story of the horse that is led to the well, but when the wheel is turning to raise the bucket of water, it creates a noise, and he won’t drink because of the noise. When the wheel stops it is quiet, but there is no water. When the wheel turns, there is water but noise. Again and again, he is led but he won’t drink. Eventually the horse has to be whipped, so that despite the noise he drinks. This is like the mind and meditation.
We have to take charge of our horses, whip the mind to attend to our bhajan and simran despite the noise of the world, despite all of our problems, all of our worries! The living Master helps us learn how to take charge of our minds in the midst of the noise of the world, so that right here in the middle of it all, we can attend to our meditation and drink.
Yes, we realize the true power of the mind and just how difficult it is to control it when we sit face to face with it in the silence and stillness of meditation – but without our effort, without that struggle, we won’t be able to get the water.
The Masters call to us, and they say, “If you are thirsty, drink!” The saints invite those who are thirsty, those whose thirst cannot be quenched by any worldly water, or any worldly activity, or any worldly love, to drink. They invite those whose souls are weary and seek rest. As it says in the Bible:
Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.7
It is only man who has the ability to become aware of his situation – that there is no rest to be found in this creation. The soul goes from form to form, from life to life, seeking to return to its source. Try as we may, nothing gives us any peace at all.
Baba Ji often reminds us that what we need is peace of mind. It’s just that we’re looking in the wrong direction! The Master tells us where to look to find that permanent peace.
In the Adi Granth we read:
The ambrosial Nectar, the Unstruck Melody,
rains down continually.
Deep within my mind and body,
peace and tranquillity have come.8
Similarly the author of this Ode says:
Come, all you who thirst, and take a draught,
And rest beside the Spring of the Lord.
Even in the world we seek rest near bodies of water: by the seaside, by rivers, and by fountains in our gardens. How many thousands of pounds (or dollars, or rupees) we spend to go on holiday and find places of refuge! But when we get there, do we really enjoy it, do we find any rest at all?
Just as we can’t enjoy ourselves and find any rest if our minds are totally restless and fraught with worldly anxieties, or if people are always chattering and perhaps distressing us, so too we can’t enjoy our time by the Fountain of living water. When we go on holiday and try to find some rest, we distract our mind with activities that engage its active nature: maybe we read, play games, swim, or do some other sport. So too in spirituality, when we seek to find rest, the Master gives us satsang, seva, and ultimately the technique of repetition and contemplation, which lead to concentration and enjoyment of the sound current, to engage and still the mind.
Sweeter by far than honey are its waters,
And the honeycomb of bees cannot be compared with it …
The mystics try to describe a sweetness that we cannot even imagine. Sheikh Farid is quoted:
Sugar, honey, and buffalo’s milk are all sweet,
but incomparable is the sweetness of the Lord.9
How can we describe love? Words fail us … How many words have been written about love, but no words can ever describe it! How can the mystics possibly describe that river of light and sound, that vibrating luminescence? How can they describe the bliss that comes when we taste it? We describe the thirst of the rainbird, but how can we describe the joy he feels when that rain finally falls and he can drink! So mystics choose the sweetest things and say, “sweeter than that...”
Why is it sweeter?
Because it flows forth from the lips of the Lord,
And from the heart of the Lord is its Name.
The Nam, the Word, the unstruck Music, Logos – give it any name – flows from the lips of the Lord. The Shabd flows into the creation, giving life and sustenance. It is the energy of life itself. The Master is the mouthpiece of the Lord, the lips of the Lord.
In Eastern literature the eye centre is often referred to as the heart. The Master and our connection to him at the third eye is the point from where this water, this Nam, this Shabd, flows. We receive knowledge of that Nam, that Word, from the Master; we are connected to the Nam at the eye centre by the Master through initiation. We’re taught how to meditate, how to merge our heart into his heart.
If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
He who believes in me…
out of his heart will flow
rivers of Living Water.10
Out of his breast, out of his infinite love, we drink in his Presence; his love flows into us, his Grace descends upon us. We say they pour their love into us – “it flows from the lips of the Lord.”
The mystics, our spiritual guides, don’t come only to talk about these things. They speak about that which they have experienced. If they spoke through book knowledge alone, they would be professors instead of saints. We flock to the mystics because they are powerhouses of living spirituality. They themselves are bearers of this living water; they themselves have drunk their fill and show us where to find this water.
If someone were to start preaching about the wonders of water but looked withered, parched, and thirsty, we would know that there is nothing we could learn from that person. He might say, “This is where to find water.” But if he really knew, then he would have had a drink himself, and we would be able to see that freshness in his face! Rumi is quoted:
The sign is in the face.
You can look at an orchard
and tell if it rained last night.
That freshness is the sign.11
So the saints come to help us because we are thirsty, and they tell us where to find this water to alleviate our intolerable thirst, so that we may drink. They know through their experience of water, not just because they have heard about it. We see, we feel that they aren’t thirsty!
And it came unhindered and unseen,
But until it sprang up within them, men knew it not.
It came unhindered and unseen – it is ever present and yet we are unaware of it. That current lies latent in human beings, but we go around absolutely ignorant of its existence. We are standing in the river, water flowing all around us, mad with thirst, saying, “Where’s the water?” As Rumi describes our state, “like a pearl on the deep bottom, wondering, inside his shell: where is the Ocean?”12
Until we are connected to the Shabd, until we practice devotion to the Word, the current, until our consciousness rises up to the Living Spring through concentration, we cannot realize it, we cannot imagine it. We can read about it, we can hear about it, but until we experience it, we cannot know it.
If we have seen the ocean, it doesn’t matter if the people who live in the desert tell us that we are delusional – we know that the ocean exists. When we have the experience, then nothing can shake us. This is why the Masters ask us to put the teachings into practice, so that we may experience this water for ourselves – the peace, the safety, the love. In the beginning we do need to go on with a bit of faith and trust that we are going in the right direction.
With his grace
The Master’s grace is always flowing, but we do not always perceive it. How does his grace come to us? Unhindered and unseen. It flows abundantly, although we don’t know it, we don’t see it, we may not recognize it. Grace isn’t always what we think it should be. Grace is what brings us closer to the Lord. When we are thirstiest, that is when we turn toward the Lord. And yet, as Hazur used to say, when our cups are not turned upward, they can’t receive that grace. We have to do our best to turn our cups rightside up, so that we may receive that living water. Grace and effort go hand in hand.
Blessed are they who have drunk from it,
And have found rest thereby. Hallelujah.
Blessed – because it is through the Lord’s grace we come to understand the teachings, we are put under the Lord’s guidance and protection, and we put the teachings into practice. We are able to live that pure lifestyle; we are able to drink of that meditation, of that Love, of that current, that Nam, that Shabd, the living water. Then alone can we truly find rest and repose. Then alone can we return to our source and the drop will merge back into the ocean. The biblical psalmist sang:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.13
And in the gospel of John:
Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.
But the water that I shall give him
will become in him a fountain of water
springing up into everlasting life.14
To conclude –
Talking about water, praising water, thinking about water, is not the same as drinking water.
- First, we feel thirst, without which we would never seek the water.
- Reading the Sant Mat books or scriptures is like reading about water.
- Coming to satsang is like hearing about water.
- Sitting in the Master’s presence is like swimming in water.
- But it is only through attending to our meditation that we can drink that water.
Draw for yourselves water
From the Living Spring of the Lord,
Because it has been opened to you.
- John Davidson, The Odes of Solomon, Ode 30, p. 134
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II, p. 7
- John Davidson, The Song of Songs, p. 38
- Miriam Caravella, The Holy Name, 4th ed., 2003, p. 113
- Bible, Matthew 5:4, 5:6
- Matthew 8:20
- Adi Granth, p. 105
- Adi Granth, p. 1379; quoted in The Path, 1976 ed., p. 1
- Bible, John 7:37-38
- Jelaluddin Rumi, This Longing: Poetry, Teaching Stories, and Letters of Rumi, ed. Coleman Barks & John Moyne; Threshold Books, 1988, p. 13
- Ibid, p. 71
- Bible, Psalm 23
- Bible, John 4:13