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The Waiting Soul

In the Bible’s gospel according to St. Matthew, Christ tells the story of ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come.

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.1

Here he is setting up his story. Perhaps we all have that desire to meet the Lord, the bridegroom, the Master, and we go to see him and want to be with him. But we have to make preparations. It’s night. All is dark. We have to take a light. So the ten virgins take a lamp, but some take no fuel for the lamp. It’s like taking a flashlight without any batteries. Not very good preparation, even in the physical world, let alone on a spiritual quest. So Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh says:

He gives an example to explain to us how we should prepare ourselves, in order to make the best use of this life…The foolish virgins made no preparations to meet their beloved, and only left everything to the last minute, whereas the five wise virgins made all the proper arrangements in advance for their bridegroom’s coming.2

Saint Matthew continues:

And at midnight there was a cry made,
  “Behold, the bridegroom cometh:
  go ye out to meet him.”
Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said unto the wise,
  “Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.”
But the wise answered, saying,
  “Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you;
  but go ye rather to them that sell,
  and buy for yourselves.”
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came;
  and they who were ready went in with him to the marriage;
  and the door was shut.3

So, why couldn’t the wise virgins just loan some of their oil to the others? It’s not because they were stingy or unkind. To some extent it was just practical. If you and your friend go out into the night with flashlights, and your friend’s flashlight runs out of juice – his batteries have died – you can’t give him half of your batteries, because then neither of the flashlights would work. So the wise ones said, “You had better get some batteries of your own.”

Now, this story can be taken just from a worldly, practical level – of seeing the Master in the flesh. But if we take the story as a spiritual metaphor, it also emphasizes the need for us to prepare for the arrival of the inner form, the radiant form of the Master. And the story is as much about waiting as it is about preparation. The virgin represents the soul in all its purity, which is waiting to be carried home by her master, her Lord.

What do we do while we wait? Clearly, we need to have enough oil in our lamps to see him, to recognize him, when He comes. That oil is our meditation and way of life. And the blessings that come from doing our meditation cannot be shared, even if it’s just a calmness or composure in getting through our karmas. We might reflect his blessings through our behavior, but we cannot actually share them.

The Master wants us to be one-pointed at the eye center, at the door – the spiritual eye center. He wants our vigil to be constant while we wait. Hazur Maharaj Ji explains the waiting component of this vigil:

And the Master waits for that effort, which invokes his love and devotion that He gives us. It is all a gift from the Master, but we must be ready for it, we must be receptive to it. There is no dearth of his grace. It is always being showered in abundance. But we must put in our effort. We must show him we are truly grateful, that we have faith that he really is there within to give it to us. So when he appears to us in his inner Radiant Form, we are ready to go back with him.4

So that’s a hint about how we should wait – with effort to fill our lamps, with gratitude for all he gives us, and with faith that he really is there within us – where he gives us everything. We have to be ready to go with him when he appears at the door of our single eye. If we are not ready, if we are not receptive to him, how could we receive him? It would not be possible if we ourselves are not receptive. Then the door of the bridegroom would stay closed until we are ready.

So he said, “We must show him we are truly grateful,” for everything is a gift from the master, the Lord. How do we show him? The primary way, of course, is to be regular and punctual in doing our meditation. This is a must. It is what he’s looking for. Everything else can be corrected or molded if we stick to our meditation.

And truly, our love and gratitude should also be reflected in our day-to-day life. Where is the depth to our love if we do not follow the guidance he’s given, particularly the vows we’ve taken? Master Jagat Singh wrote:

It is also wrong to suppose that the Master does not care how we live or what we do if only we go on doing our meditation. To begin with, progress in spiritual meditation is, to a great extent, dependent on our life and thoughts.5

So, what we think and how we live have a direct impact on trying to train our mind to concentrate and to raise our consciousness out of the physical body. The mind keeps slipping back into its well-worn grooves, into those thought patterns we’ve molded over the course of many lifetimes. So if those thought patterns and actions are lower and coarser, then it would be more difficult to raise them and keep the mind focused at the eye center.

So, we like to think we’re grateful and love the Master, but how deep is that gratitude, that love? The saints tell us that we are not sufficiently grateful. And it is clear that we are not. Even so, the Great Master says, “Where is the room for feeling self-disgusted?” We are not meant to wallow in self-pity, negativity, or guilt. And guess what? Without his grace we will never be sufficiently grateful, for we are imperfect beings. Only the perfect one will be perfectly grateful.

This is not to say we shouldn’t try to be more conscious of these gifts from the Divine and develop a greater sense of gratitude. We should. It is part of spiritual development. But in the end, we have to have faith that he is helping us, despite what we think we are. He is looking both more broadly and deeply. He is seeing our true self, our soul, which wants to be free of this realm of negativity, which wants to experience the innate love that we are.

In our daily life, all the Master wants is to walk with us, to be with us, to be our companion in all that we do. This implies, of course, that we need to keep him in our thoughts, in our memory, and keep ourselves in his simran throughout the day. Baba Ji has often said he doesn’t want to walk in front of us or behind us; he just wants to be alongside of us, to be our friend and guide. He’s trying to win our confidence. Otherwise, it is hard for us to open ourselves to him, to trust him, to be receptive to him.

Henry Suso, a 14th century Christian mystic, tells a story of a spiritual man who wanted to live perfectly. He went to a group of diligent practitioners and asked what their school of thought was. One replied that it was nothing more than a thorough abandoning of self in all things. The elated seeker said that he wished to stay there even if he had to die a thousand deaths to do so. There he would build his cell where he could live as a hermit. But the brother replied, “No, continue your life calmly and without frenzy. The less you accomplish, the more you have accomplished.” Suso explains this story:

People are terribly blind and want to do great feats, undertake something, as though they wanted to take God by storm, doing everything themselves according to their own will, and self-confident in their own nature. No, not by fighting but by abandoning, by dying, by decreasing and abandoning!6

Sometimes in our efforts, we allow too much ego. Fancy that! Let us not take on great feats, always being the doer. The idea is to let go, abandon the self, even in our everyday life. As he says, live “calmly and without frenzy.”

Maharaj Charan Singh puts it another way:

A clean cloth will take on any colour in which you dye it. Our mind is like this cloth. Good company and honest effort will turn it in the direction of God. It is for this reason that every saint has enjoined holy company on his disciples. It is a fact of human nature that it becomes inevitably like that which it loves. And the deeper, that is to say, the more adoring, the more worshipping, the more self-effacing this love is, the more rapidly and surely does the transformation take place.7

The saints enjoin us not to forget the Lord throughout the day at any cost or at any time. And that is one aspect of gratitude – to remember him. That is also love, practice and persistence.

There is a story by C. S. Lewis, a 20th-century Christian writer and lay theologian. His book, Till We Have Faces, is a retelling of the Greek myth of Psyche and Cupid. Here the story is told from the perspective of Psyche’s eldest sister, Orual, who has a complaint against the gods, because they never answer humanity’s pleas and yet they expect humanity to make decisions anyway; and that causes actions and reactions, many unexpected. Orual also complains that the gods strip one of all that one holds dear. It isn’t fair, especially if we lose the love of another person. So Orual gets finally a hearing in the court of the gods, and she goes through an entire rant of what the gods have done to her – which was really a pretty self-centered argument. She testifies:

You’ll leave us nothing … the son turning his back on the mother and the bride on her groom, stolen away by this everlasting calling, calling, calling of the gods. Taken where we can’t follow… We want to be our own. I was my own and Psyche was mine and no one else had any right to her.8

Quite possessive, isn’t she? But Orual realizes when she’s finished with the rant that she never really had a selfless love for Psyche. The ego was always present. The ego even thought it owned Psyche, which actually means the soul. That is, our minds think they own and possess our souls, rather than the other way around – that the soul owns or uses the mind and body as needed. Then it was the god’s turn to judge Orual; as part of the judging she was cleansed, and through that cleansing she became her soul. The book ends shortly thereafter with Orual writing:

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face, questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words.9

Ultimately, the only answer is to meet the Lord, the bridegroom, face-to-face. Then there will be no questions. Then we will know. Everything else is mental gibberish.

In the meantime, Hazur Maharaj Ji’s other guidance on how to wait was: “We must show him…we have faith that he really is there within to give [his grace] to us.” We might intellectually accept or believe he is really there within us – but how much more difficult might it be to accept or believe that he is actively working within us! The Great Master wrote:

How could such a benefactor as the Master…be a silent observer of what is happening with his disciple in life? He is giving necessary guidance and help as he thinks proper…[W]hat ordinarily is called a misfortune is a blessing in disguise. It is a way of clearing an old account. It lightens the karmic load, and the Master is not unaware of it.10

The Master is always with us, encouraging and helping us in our attempts to shift our attention from the world to the Lord, whether or not we are aware of him. In Light on Saint John, a letter from Maharaj Charan Singh is quoted:

The Master within is continually attracting the disciple upward, and the purer the soul, the sooner it contacts the inner Master, the Word. As long as we are caught by the attachments and pleasures of this world, we are not even aware of that attraction. But when we do the spiritual practice as instructed, we are gradually cleansed of our sins and become pure and receptive to his grace. It is his grace, in other words, the Shabd, or Holy Ghost, that draws us up to his Radiant Form, so that we may live in Him, and He in us.11

So this is an interesting definition of grace. He says, “It is his grace, in other words, the Shabd, or Holy Ghost, that draws us up.” Shabd is that divine essence, the Word of the Bible, the Tao, the Nam, which permeates everything and gives life. It is the holy spirit within us, our soul. It is this Shabd that will draw us up to the Radiant form, the Shabd form of the Master, “so that we may live in Him, and He in us.” That is his grace. Hazur Maharaj Ji wrote:

Masters are completely absorbed in Shabd, so by loving them we also merge into the Shabd. Love for and faith in the Master will, therefore, connect our thought currents with Shabd.12

Hazur Maharaj Ji also answered several questions about feeling love and closeness to the inner Master. For example:

Whatever you do in this world to keep your Master within you or keep yourself with the Master is meditation, is a part of meditation. Whether you are properly sitting or just sitting quietly, full of love and devotion for the Master, or hearing the Sound, seeing the Light – whatever you are doing, even worldly work – if your Master is with you in your mind, in your heart – if all your dealings conform to the teachings, to the commands of the Master, then you are with the Master. That is why we say that Sant Mat is not only meditation; it is a way of life. We have to mold ourselves to that way of life so that we are always with our Master, in all the activities of our life, so that we don’t forget him anytime, anywhere.13


Is there any place the Lord doesn’t walk? You’ll get everything from within yourself… You have to build your own atmosphere of meditation within yourself, and you have to live in that.14

He is saying that this sense of nearness, of closeness, of intimacy with the Master is developed and experienced inside. It is love, the Lord’s love, which lies within us because our soul, our real self, is nothing but love, nothing but Shabd. We create an atmosphere, perhaps unconsciously, within us and around us, in which we are related to the Divine, and we live our outward and inner lives within that. This is part of meditation.

The alternative that we face is common but tougher. Maharaj Jagat Singh wrote:

When a man presumes that he can subdue the mind by his own labor and powers, the Lord makes all his efforts fruitless in order to kill his ego. When he falls into despair and realizes his utter weakness, then the Lord’s grace and gifts are beheld by him.15

Ego, ego – it always comes back to the ego, that barrier between our real self and the Lord, that sense of self. We need to surrender the ego, and the only way to do so is not by fighting it but, as the mystic Suso said, “by abandoning, by dying, by decreasing and abandoning!” The Masters tell us how. We need to become selfless through meditation and merging with the inner Shabd Master – so that we may live in him, and he in us. Then we realize we are Shabd and return to the Lord.

And all this takes devotion (some call it effort) – devotion to do our meditation conscientiously, devotion to remembering his Name throughout the day, devotion and love for our Master with the faith that he and the Lord are really there within us, and that he knows best when to bestow his gifts and when to take us unto himself.

We will reach the Master within. It is assured. We will reach the Lord. The soul will be more than satisfied.

So may our midnight vigils, waiting for the Bridegroom, be as sincere as that of the five wise virgins who waited. But it is not just we who wait. He is also waiting for us.

  1. Bible, Gospel of Matthew, 25:1-5
  2. Light on Saint Matthew, 2003 ed., p. 265
  3. Bible, Gospel of Matthew, 25:6-10
  4. Ibid, p. 270
  5. Science of the Soul, p. 139
  6. Henry Suso, The Exemplar (Sermon 4), p. 373
  7. Spiritual Discourses, Vol. I, p. 11
  8. C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, p. 292
  9. Ibid, p. 308
  10. Spiritual Gems, letter 28
  11. Light on Saint John, 2019 ed., p. 237
  12. Divine Light, letter 379
  13. Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, Q #125
  14. Ibid, Q #136
  15. Science of the Soul, “Spiritual Bouquet” #89