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Let Us Turn Homeward

Today we shall discuss the first stanzas of a beautiful and inspiring poem by Soami Ji Maharaj:

Let us turn homewards friend –
  why linger in this alien land?
Get busy with your own real work,
  do not get caught up in other people’s affairs.
Hold on to the Guru’s Nam,
  as Nam is the only currency
  for your voyage beyond.
The colours of this world are soiled.
Take my advice – have them washed clean.
The pleasures of this world are short-lived,
  discard them one by one, entering the stage of sahaj.
Take refuge in the Master with all your heart.1

Soami Ji begins by offering us a startling invitation:

Let us turn homewards friend –
  why linger in this alien land?2

The master invites the disciple into our true spiritual home. This is an invitation from someone who may be physically distant from us, but it is also an invitation from within our own heart. How can that be? The Shabd is at once a living master and also the essence of our own life. The master is the embodiment of Shabd and through him, Shabd is broadcast to all his disciples. He has the ability to connect the souls of seekers with the Shabd. That is his seva, given freely and without any selfish motive.

We might ask, why would we accept this invitation? Don’t we have all the teachings of the great saints of the past? Their words are beautiful and powerful, no doubt, but words are all created by people and understood by the intellect. If written words were sufficient for spiritual liberation, then intellectuals would easily attain enlightenment. Shabd is not created, it already exists, and it is not understood by the intellect. So scriptures are not enough; we need a living Master.

Living saints don’t need words; they communicate through Shabd. Imagine if the master was in town sitting quietly in a public venue. In another venue, someone was reading the scriptures of the saints. Where would we choose to go? We would, of course, want to sit with the master, in the hopes that our hearts would be receptive to his nonverbal spiritual communication.

We need a master who is alive and who can connect our soul to the Shabd in this life. A master is someone who is spiritually complete, who is the master of his thoughts, emotions and behaviour. He is someone who has completed his journey and who then offers to guide his disciples.

We put the master first because he is the Shabd incarnate and Shabd is the primary power. Why would we put the primary power in an inferior position? Why would we put our meditation in second place to something else? It is possible for us to join the master on a voyage to happiness with confidence because we observe his peace of mind, positive attitude and generous seva. Each day we decide whether he is worthy of our devotion.

We understand that the living master is sending this invitation, but who is receiving it? Our soul, which has been asleep for lifetimes, is receiving it. When we first feel the master’s invitation, perhaps we are surprised, but these invitations are not new or confined to any place. Masters have been contacting seekers forever. In the Middle East over two thousand years ago, a mystic noted,

The Voice of Life calls;
  and the ears of the chosen hear it.3

When we are seeking, we suddenly become interested in the master. We don’t know why. Perhaps just seeing a photograph of the master or hearing a sentence spoken in a discourse spurs us to learn more. We may want to go to satsang or travel to see the master in person. Our friends and family may not understand, and we may not be able to explain what’s happening. But, to us, this pull or invitation is a big deal and we want to accept it.

Soami Ji said, “Why linger in this alien land?” The master invites us home because we are living in a strange and forbidding land, and he is a compassionate sevadar, a humble giver. He knows we have various kinds of misery and worries and tensions. We want to escape.

And yet, we may sometimes think that the master’s words are extreme. This world is not really an alien place. Surely, we can find a way to be happy and free. Really? This doesn’t feel like home should feel. If this was really our home, wouldn’t we be relaxed, unworried, at peace? But this isn’t the case. Tragedies can happen any day without warning. We worry about things large and small. We get upset about how people treat us and how good our reputation is. We aren’t happy and the master knows it. Guru Ravidas wrote,

My mind remains not steady;
  it plays millions of tricks
  and runs here and there in the world.4

In fact we have created a false self, which we use to succeed in this alien land. We want to be accepted or loved by other people, whether they are friends or strangers. We change who we are, all the time. While at work, we act one way trying to sell a product and another way during our lunch break. We act one way with our family and another way at a satsang weekend. We change all the time trying to fit in with the ways of this world and other people’s expectations of us. That self is not real – we just make it up, trying to fit in. However, the masters say that we can’t completely fit in – this world is alien to who we really are.

Not only does the world outside us seem alien but our own behaviour sometimes feels alien as well. We plan to do one thing and end up doing another. We plan to visit a friend but never get around to it. We plan to obey the vows we committed to at initiation, but we sometimes fall short. We plan to repeat our simran when we sit quietly without any distraction at all, and what happens? Our attention flies immediately to the past or the future or somebody upstairs or somebody who is thousands of miles away! This is who we are. This is the human condition. We need the refuge offered by the master, as described by Guru Ravidas,

It is only the guidance of the Master
  and the discipline of his love,
  which removes evil thought and conduct.
The mind then becomes still,
  taking refuge under the Guru.5

The passions of lust, anger, greed, attachment and egoism run rampant in this world, leaving pain and destruction in their wake, but even the most destructive passions can be alleviated and removed by the master. We see examples of the ways in which the masters deal with people who are angry with them. They are calm and loving even when attacked. Often the person eventually breaks down weeping, and thanks the master for being supportive. The disciple feels heard, benefits from the positivity of the master, and gains a sense of peace. Anger is one of the passions of the world and needs to be purified – that happens in the presence of the Master, either in person or in meditation. Over time, if we are sincere in our meditation, these passions which burden us and undermine our discipline will be purified.

The world is strange. Some people have no money and others have more money than they can spend in a lifetime. Some people are born with a crippling disability, others live to be eighty without ever stepping inside a hospital. Some people are desperately lonely, others are caught up in crowds of people.

We often disagree on what is best and what makes us happy. Maharaj Charan Singh used to give the example of a noisy factory at night. The neighbour who is not involved with the factory is upset because he can’t sleep. The owner who also hears it, is delighted the machines are working and falls asleep with a smile on his face.

Then, to make matters even more alarming, we can die any day. Hazur used to explain that when we step off a bus, we can’t even be sure we will be alive when our foot hits the pavement. The world is that unpredictable. What kind of world is this? Consequently, Soami Ji suggests we prepare for our voyage beyond:

Get busy with your own real work,
  do not get caught up in other people’s affairs.
Hold on to the Guru’s Nam,
  as Nam is the only currency for your voyage beyond.6

Our real work is meditation. It is positive, and it lasts. As Hazur said, “If we wish to detach ourselves from family ties, worldly affairs and cravings of our senses, then we must find a perfect Master, keep his company and take refuge with him.”7

Our families and friends, whom we love so much, cannot connect our soul to the Shabd. Our real work is to take our attention away from ‘other people’s affairs’ and place it in simran. Our mind can be in simran wherever we are, no matter what we’re doing. We can stay in the refuge our master provides within our body, at the third eye. It is a great challenge for most of us.

The masters have jobs and families themselves. We can be sure they have lots of people trying to get their attention, but they are a good example to us of how to live in the world while fulfilling our spiritual vows. We must meditate and meet our obligations, without being attached. This is a very difficult life to lead, but we can try our best.

We are responsible for our elders and children when they are helpless. At age three, a daughter is dependent on her mother, can’t live without her – forty or fifty years later, her mother is dependent on her daughter and can’t live without her. We are in a circle of life, but that is not our real work, because those relationships end at death. Who will meet us when we die? Our master, because he is merged with the eternal Shabd.

Our real work is to put our attention in simran. Our mind can be in simran wherever we go, no matter what we’re doing. Then we can meet our family obligations and enjoy our friendships. Meditation can help us so we can love others without losing our balance. The master shows us that an attitude of seva is always possible. Soami Ji says,

The pleasures of this world are short-lived,
  discard them one by one, entering the stage of sahaj.
Take refuge in the Master with all your heart.8

We take refuge in the master by concentrating on simran and bhajan. We take refuge in our Master because the Shabd has created everything and the Shabd lasts forever.

  1. Soami Ji, Sar Bachan Poetry,p. 219.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Treasure of Mystic Terms, Part 1, Vol 3, p. 66.
  4. Guru Ravidas: The Philosopher’s Stone, p. 153.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Sar Bachan Poetry, p. 219.
  7. Spiritual Discourses II, p. 290.
  8. Sar Bachan Poetry, p. 219.