The 19th century saint Tulsi Sahib commented:
In this world, says Tulsi, there are but five gems:
company of the saints, refuge in the Satguru,
compassion, humility, and benevolence.1
Here Tulsi Sahib is describing the qualities of a perfect disciple, a saint. And recently, Baba Ji described the one who completely submits himself to his own Master as one who becomes a Master, that is, a fully God-realized soul, whether he is a teaching and initiating saint, or not. Every God-realized soul does his work in the spirit and service of his own Master. In Hazur Maharaj Ji’s desk diary, written in Urdu on the last day in his office, he had written, “In the service of my Guru, the perfect Master, Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji.”2
The relationship of love between Master and disciple becomes so intense that the disciple loses his own identity and becomes another being, merging completely into the Shabd. To become a ‘guru’ – literally ‘a doorway into light’ – one who gives initiation, teaching, divine light, and understanding, depends on the Lord’s hukam. He is the one who can take that responsibility. It is unlikely that we will become teaching saints, but our love will become so intense, ultimately, that with patience and repeated practice, we will merge into the Shabd, the creative power of God manifesting as melodious light, which is of itself conscious, blissful, intensely loving, and purposeful. It is life itself. We talk about life and death, but the situation here is one of birth and death. Life – the Shabd – goes on forever. Our essence is immortal. Baba Ji has stated that everyone potentially can hear the Shabd whether initiated or not. But until we meet a teacher who can explain to us what it is, we might understand Sound in our ears or emanating from our forehead as a form of tinnitus or migraine or just ignore it. If we ignore it, to paraphrase Baba Ji, “it just moves on…”
The Shabd cannot be accessed by the physical senses or be spoken. It is very subtle, and in order to have access to it, we have to become subtle ourselves.
The 17th century philosopher-mystic Baruch Spinoza taught and wrote that everything is in God. We are all in the Oneness of God. He disputed Descartes, who said, “I think therefore I am” – a statement that embodied the fracturing of the self into body, mind, and spirit. Time, thought, emotion, nature, reasoning – all are in God. There is nothing that is not the Lord. It is we who dissect and analyze. Spinoza’s realization chimes in with Guru Nanak Sahib:
From Shabd is the earth, from Shabd is the sky,
from Shabd emanateth all light.
The whole creation resteth on Shabd
and this Shabd, O Nanak, abideth in us all.3
We can’t see it, can’t hear it, can’t touch it through the senses. Only the power of the Lord himself can connect us to it. The Lord draws us back to himself through incarnating as a human being. Maharaj Ji used to refer to saints as waves rising from the ocean of God – which we already are in – but because our attention is turned out into the world, we don’t realize that we are spiritual beings. We watch waves roll into the shore, and they come in one after the other and merge together, both on the shore and out at sea. This is a visual metaphor of the saints’ essence that we can understand. We are exposed to the light and love of the Lord through the presence and teachings of these magnetic God-realized souls, the saints, the true Masters and, ultimately, to the reality of Shabd through meditation.
We are very willing to believe in the mind but not in the soul. The saints teach that mind is a powerful entity which is very busy – constructing, sustaining and destroying; measuring and analyzing; like a great computer, drawing its power from Shabd. Hazur Maharaj Ji stated:
“The soul cannot help but love its own origin.”4 It is not busy, but it is knotted with the mind at the eye centre, weighed down by the centrifugal senses, the mental and physical consequences of former actions (karmas) and the mind’s desires. Yet, he said, “there is such a great load on the soul that its love is just crushed under that weight.”5
So we have to become subtle to permeate through all this, the sieve of karmas and desires. The four vows are about transformation from the gross to the subtle. Our strict vegetarian diet is compassionate – why let creatures die in fear and pain just to satisfy our palates, especially when mammals, in particular, gaze at us with such trust? We know that we have been in an animal form many times. The diet is also practical as it reduces further consequences that arise from taking life.
The Great Master wrote that meat-eating “hardens the heart and makes the soul dull and heavy.”6 In other words, it has a damaging effect, physically and mentally. The same applies to taking alcohol and mind-affecting drugs. We simply become the animals we once were through losing our discrimination. A clean, moral life means no cheating, lying, thieving. Immoral behaviour makes us more calculating than we already are. Being calculating is the opposite of our intrinsic, original Oneness, as it means we are always looking to our own advantage.
The fourth vow is that of daily, punctual regular meditation for 2½ hours. In this time of the pandemic, perhaps we can do even more meditation than usual. Baba Ji made a statement to the effect that corona has become karuna (compassionate action). Indeed, the virus has released waves of compassion in human society, as we are all in this together, and as initiates we can be more compassionate to ourselves by sitting more in meditation. Another boon of this period is that life has become physically quieter and therefore maybe mentally quieter too.
We have a habit of mistaking religious activity for spiritual activity, with external sounds – chanting, singing with musical instruments; sermons and speeches. However if we look into all the yogic traditions, silencing the body and mind are prerequisites for contacting the Lord. The Great Master is quoted in Call of the Great Master: “To stop these constantly surging waves on the surface of the mind is the function of yoga; that is, to suspend the working of the mind and to stop all thinking.”7
There is very little worldly activity that is not associated with sound. We can say that this is not a ‘worshipful’, contemplative world according to this account, because however we feel about this creation, whether we regard it as beautiful, sad or ugly, we can all agree that it’s certainly noisy. We all have different attitudes about what we regard as intrusive ‘noise’ as opposed to tolerable ‘sounds’– to some, noise is loud music; for others the noisy cawing of crows, barking of dogs, or loud chatter. What all the sounds of the world have in common, whether we like them or not, is that they are all external – either outside or within the body (tummy rumbles, creaking bones). They are all part of the play of this world of the mind. Living is noisy; birth and death are noisy. We oppose life with silence by talking about “dead quiet.” And “dead quiet” is exactly where we want to be – dead to the world and quiet in mind and body.
Even before birth, while we are still floating in the womb, unless we are profoundly deaf, our attention can be attracted externally. We can respond to external music and voices. And, of course we are programmed for speech right from the start. Babies can reproduce the key sounds of all the languages before they are diverted into the language of their culture. The Great Master used to say that most of our attention goes out through the eyes and ears. They are the dominant senses.
The Masters teach that the natural resting place for the attention is at the eye centre, where the mind and soul are knotted together. The Great Master stated: “The five tattwas (earth, fire, air, water, and ether), the three gunas (qualities of matter), the sense organs, mind and matter – are all inanimate.”8 Only our attention, our soul current, our consciousness, is alive; hence for the mind to experience anything it has to take the conscious soul with it through the nine gates of the body.
We could say that all external sounds are a reflection of that inner creative energy, Shabd. We could say that all sounds are gross manifestations or distortions of that Shabd played through matter, that all external sounds are an effect. When we are initiated by a true Master, we have the opportunity through spiritual practice to reach the ultimate cause, the source of all sound – the real Sound – Sound we would never wish to stop listening to, the voice of God, with which we can merge.
The Lord will never be found amidst the sounds of this world, even though He has been described with beautiful words and music since the beginning of creation. Even if we were to spend a whole lifetime listening to the Masters’ words in satsang, we would never find the Lord within, although a great desire to do so might be generated by those satsangs. No, we have to seek the Lord in silence! The preaching, noisy good works, heavenly singing of sacred poems and hymns, must ultimately cease, for only within a profound and deep silence will we be able to hear the voice of God.
All the Masters have taught about the type of silence we need to practice in order to turn our attention from the will and world of the mind to the eternity of the soul. We can impress upon ourselves the import of Maharaj Ji’s oft-repeated words that the soul is always yearning to go back to the Father and has no interest in this world at all – so the essential us, our true identity, has no interest in this world at all. So the only part of us left to be interested in this world is the mind – all our interests, whatever they may be – nature, science, arts, philosophy, politics, philanthropy, money, fashion – are all the mind’s interests. Whether higher or lower mind, it’s all the mind being pulled out through the nine gates of the body by the senses, dragging the soul energy with it.
Mind is restless because it’s not at home either. It wants to merge in the peace and tranquillity of that layer of subtle matter termed “universal mind.” However, it does not want to lose its energy source – the soul. The second layer of subterfuge worked by the wily mind to keep our precious attention flowing outwards is the law of karma and reincarnation. We are actually helpless to try and avoid our destiny. We can’t avoid our destiny, as Maharaj Ji used to say: “Whatever happens has already happened.”
The soul cannot realize its true identity until our karmic account is cleared. Maharaj Ji stated clearly that everybody has to account for his karmas before he can go beyond the realm of Kal. He emphasized that whether we clear our karmas by going through them, or through our meditation, or through his grace – by whatever the means – they must be accounted for and cleared. He said: “Unless all types of karmas are cleared, our soul cannot merge back into the Lord. So we have to face this destiny as the will of the Lord.”9
And our soul has no interest in our karmic relations or activities either. So indeed we are puppets. The only way to leave puppet-hood and the mind as puppet-master is to reverse the negative flow of attention from outward and downward to inward and upward. The Great Master gave a very positive description of this process:
When the water of a reservoir that has been leaking through a large number of holes and pipes is made to pass through a single pipe after shutting all other apertures, what a great force and velocity it acquires! In the same manner, our soul current – passing out through the eyes, ears, nose, and other apertures – has become attached to wife, sons, daughters, parents, other relatives, friends, and other objects of the material world – animate and inanimate. When all this love is concentrated singly on the Master, you can hardly imagine what power and energy it generates and what wonders it performs.10Self-realization, God- realization! What greater wonder for our souls which have been languishing here for immeasurable periods of time to reach the yearned-for goal. To begin this process, we need to turn from the noises of the world to a mental silence within, to become one-pointed devotees of our Master. This means initially imposing both an internal and an external discipline. We can’t imagine or emote our way into devotion for the Master. There is a clear process of developing or growing our love and devotion for the Lord. The Great Master was asked, “What is true love and devotion?” He responded by quoting a poem by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev:
“Whatever order the Master gives, to obey it implicitly is to love the Master.”… To love the Guru is to love God. Perfect your love for the Master. As the Master is saturated with love of God, when we love the Master, we will automatically become filled with the love of God. This is the only way to merge in the Lord. Love of the Master, so to say, is a condition precedent to God-realization.11
As Hazur Maharaj Ji wrote as his last message to us, “May the love of the form culminate in the love of the formless.”12 Guru-bhakti leads to Nam-bhakti, but it’s not a progression – it’s a realization, and we don’t lose Guru-bhakti when we achieve Nam-bhakti.
Following a spiritual path means developing an aptitude for outer and inner silence. All movement generates sound, even the motion of the atoms in our body, so part of the road to developing inner mental silence is discipline of our outer routine, of outer movement in obedience to the Master’s wishes.
Baba Jaimal Singh Ji wrote many letters to the Great Master about discipleship. And this of course is our destiny too. We can’t be overawed by the advice, thinking – well, that advice is for a Master in preparation. The principles laid out in the letters apply to us too. What we can do is try to emulate what Baba Jaimal Singh Ji was giving the Great Master – a structure, a routine, a discipline to live by, permeated with daily meditation. This is so we live with an awareness and a focus – we don’t go blindly through the day in careless fashion. In the following passage, Baba Jaimal Singh Ji lays out our responsibilities very clearly:
Do your bhajan and simran every day, my son. If you say that you are occupied with too much work, that is no excuse, because the mind, surat and nirat still continue to be unoccupied.
The mind stays intoxicated with the world like a person drunk with alcohol; all inebriated, the mind does not engage in bhajan and simran, and offers excuses that there is no free time for meditation. This is all false; it is a deception of the mind. Our breaths, our eating, sitting, walking, and sleeping are all accountable. Except for the Satguru, no one is going to get the individual liberated. Even now, try to understand! Keep your attention in the Shabd-dhun and think how much of your time has been wasted in idle talk. This time will never come again. Think! Remember your own death. We are not going to live here forever. Our days, time, hours, seconds, breaths are all numbered. Pull your mind out of worldly desires and fix the attention in the Shabd.13
This doesn’t mean we become strict, stand-offish, and miserable. Even the Great Master was given time to chat and socialize with others. We are social beings by nature; we like to get together and chit-chat. If we don’t want to talk much, we can always smile. There are also many things in the world we have to do; we can’t escape or run away from the ‘give and take’ of our karmas.
Note Baba Jaimal Singh Ji’s comment that if we miss out on our spiritual practice, the mind, surat (soul’s power of hearing) and nirat (soul’s power of seeing), “still continue to be unoccupied.” The faculties are “wasted,” so to say.
If we cannot access the Shabd, then we can occupy the surat by repetition of simran during the day, and whenever possible, occupy the power of nirat by picturing the Master’s form before us. We have heard Baba Ji say frequently – “bhajan simran karo”– Do your simran and bhajan.” The saints do not command us to do dhyan (contemplation on the form of the Master) because dhyan, the facility to picture the Master, is not in our hands. It is an outcome of love, which emerges gradually through doing our simran with the Master in mind. But they do say dhyan is a great help, and anything which is a great help in meditation is very welcome. Hazur Maharaj Ji elaborated on this point:
The purpose of simran is to withdraw your consciousness to the eye centre. The purpose of dhyan is to hold your attention there. It is difficult to hold the attention in a vacuum. It becomes a little easier if you contemplate on someone’s form. So that is why we advise you to contemplate on the form of the Master, because His ultimate form is the Shabd, with which we want to merge. Dhyan is only an additional help, it’s not a must. Simran is a must. Shabd is a must. Naturally, only those people who have seen the Master can do dhyan’….14
So since we do simran on the name of the Lord, we also have to contemplate on him to hold our attention in the vacuum, because we get attached to whomever we contemplate, unconsciously or consciously. We fall in love with them, so to say. We get so attached to them that we even start dreaming about them, and at the time of death their forms appear before us like on a cinema screen. And those attachments often pull us down to the level of this creation. So we have to analyze on whom we should contemplate, since we do not know the form of the Father.
Saints advise us to contemplate on the form of the Master because his real form is Shabd. As you have read in the Bible, Masters are the word made flesh, Shabd incarnate. There is nobody else in this creation worth our contemplation….15
Maharaj Ji explained further about dhyan:
Actually, real dhyan comes when we see the radiant form of the Master within, because when we see the light, then something is there to hold our attention…. Once you start seeing the light and other visions, you don’t have to try to contemplate on the form of the Master if it becomes a problem or an effort for you. Then, when you see the radiant form of the Master, automatically dhyan will be there. That is real dhyan, when we see the Master within and contemplate on his form or are absorbed in his radiance there. That real dhyan doesn’t let our attention fall down.
So dhyan is not a must in meditation, but it is a great help. Even otherwise, by keeping our attention at the eye centre or in the darkness, we are able to hold our attention there, but we have to put in a little effort. With dhyan it becomes very easy to hold the attention there. And once you see the radiant form of the Master, then automatically that form absorbs your attention and will not let your attention drop down.16
Thus the mind, our nirat and surat (seeing and hearing faculties), become inwardly inclined. It’s like exercising a muscle. If we don’t exercise our legs by walking, they become weak and useless – we need to exercise the muscles of spirituality. Our inner attention can be occupied in this way while we are working or socializing. If we are trying to do this, we will be less likely to talk ourselves into the ground or worse, indulge in idle gossip, slander or hurtful comments.
Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh Ji observed that much physical and spiritual energy is dissipated by talking, because in talk, the mind receives so many impressions and images. Too much chatter excites these waves of the mind. We want to still and focus the mind, to stop all thinking. So Sardur Bahadur Ji advised that we should speak as little as possible and when we do speak, “do so in the most kind and gentle manner.”17
This is why we are very lucky if we have a certain amount of solitude in our lives. We never have any need to feel lonely – being on our own is an absolute blessing and a gift to enable us to focus on our spiritual practice. And even if we are living in a crowd as the Masters have to do, we can practice inner solitude by speaking as little as possible (without being unfriendly), visualizing the form of the Master, listening to the Shabd, repeating the simran. This does no harm to anyone – in fact it makes us more calm and positive. Most importantly, it is the work of chiselling away at our ego-centricity, which is the major veil between us and realizing that our Master has been within us all along.
Silence is golden. Outer silence leads to inner silence and vice versa. In order for our attention to be withdrawn from the body, the body needs to be still and silent. When our mind is stilled and silent and we contact the Shabd within, then we begin to see the Creator in the creation. Inner silence transforms our outer life.
So we want to work towards a companionable silence with the Lord, that is to say, by trying to be constantly aware of His presence, listening for Him. We don’t have to shout about it or tell anyone, but like two dear old friends we will be able to sit together without the need for speech, for questions, for demands that our desires be met. In that way we can understand Baba Ji’s frequent advice that “silence is the beginning of wisdom.”
The Radiant Form of our Master is awaiting us. The Great Master wrote:
When you reach the tisra til behind your eyes you will find the Master waiting for you there…. Then He will never leave you. He will always be with you at all times and at all places. You are sitting in your room, with all the doors closed, you remember the Master and lo! He is there before you. Ask Him any question, he will answer. He will help you out of every difficulty. In every pain and trouble he will guide you. In the mountains, hills, forests and oceans, he will guide and protect you. This is the real way to devotion, all else is maya. Only the wealth of Nam will avail us in this world and beyond.18
The Master is not promising the end to pain and troubles. He is saying his guidance is there even if we aren’t aware of the Radiant Form. And this is just the start. Ultimately we will merge in our Master – we will lose our own identity and become that other being. No need for conversation then! Soami Ji has written that in the very highest region of spirituality there is only silence and wonder.
The final silence enjoined upon us is about digesting any spiritual experiences and not discussing them – firstly, because if we do, they will be taken away from us, as such talk swells our ego and stops that inner progress, and secondly, because such experiences are very personal and special. The Great Master wrote about seeing the Radiant Form:
There is nothing in this world to which that Form could be compared or likened. Like the bride returning from her husband, when questioned by her sister (companion) as to the pleasure of meeting the Beloved, the disciple expresses himself in silence and a smile. That is his greatest eloquence.19
The Shabd is ringing and calling inside every one of us; it is resounding throughout creation forming and re-forming worlds, galaxies, universes. Any silence is pregnant, full of Shabd, full of Love – we just need that microscopic shift of attention from outwards to inwards to hear it, with the physical form of the Master helping us on this earth and the inner Master pulling us from within. Through practising silence in its various forms, we come to spiritual love, our own heritage.
- Santbani Sangrah, Part 1, p. 214
- Legacy of Love, frontispiece
- Puratan Janamsakhi, p.137
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, Q # 506
- Spiritual Gems, Letter 170
- Daryai Lal Kapur, Call of the Great Master, 11th ed., 2005, p. 12
- The Dawn of Light, Letter #5
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, Q # 67
- Call of the Great Master, p. 42
- Call of the Great Master, p.45
- Legacy of Love
- Baba Jaimal Singh, Spiritual Letters, p.152
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Q # 250
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Q #244
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Q # 245
- Science of the Soul, “Spiritual Bouquet, #10,” p.185
- Call of the Great Master, p.46
- Spiritual Gems, Letter 25