A dense fog of forgetfulness covers the land. This fog sets the scene for the grand game of life to be played in this world, on this field of karma and reincarnation. There are four main kinds of forgetfulness that keep the game going on and on through the ages.
The first big forgetfulness occurs as we enter our next human birth. On the way into our baby body, our memory is wiped clean of all recollection of our prior existence, inner regions and our divine origin. We surface into consciousness and grow into believing that we began at birth.
The second amnesia occurs immediately after death. As soon as we leave this world, our memory of all the relationships with our near and dear ones evaporates. The memory of all those people who gave our life its meaning and filled us with feelings of love and belonging just fades away like a bubble in sunlight. The saints say repeatedly that we should not forget that all our friends and relations are transient and fleeting. Neither our own body nor anything else will accompany us when we leave this world.
These two “forgettings,” before birth and after death, prove that we have been set up for a staged drama, a game. The Masters all say that this world is like an immense dream: there is nothing real about it. However, it is a game that we cannot refuse to play. It is the Lord’s game, and he has commanded that we take the field. Once the game begins, then there are two further major aspects of forgetfulness which occur during our lives.
We forget the main purpose of life, and, as a corollary to this, we forget that we are going to die. In one of the first quotes by Baba Ji from a Q&A session at Dera in 1991 and published in the South Africa magazine Science of the Soul, he said:
Do we not forget our lives are short? That life is only a matter of a number of breaths and heartbeats? Be in haste because we don’t know how much time we have. When we take in a breath, we don’t know if we will live for the exhalation. The time for the Lord is now – if we do not have time for Him now, how do we expect that He will have time for us later on?
The saints therefore say that we should not hesitate to make the best use of this wonderful opportunity of having a human body in which we can practice devotion to the Lord. This is the sole purpose of human life. This is our true work. Sadly, when we are born as human beings, we completely forget the purpose of human life. That is why the role of the Master is to remind us, repeatedly. His whole mission is to encourage remembrance, which is the antidote, the cure, for forgetfulness.
Forgetfulness is not a mere irritation, a distraction, a weakness or a side issue. No! It is the entire game, the whole challenge, the real force we have to overcome. If we forget between one round of simran and the next, we should not become irritated or frustrated. We should recognize that this is precisely the force we are fighting to overcome. The masters teach that we achieve liberation by remembrance in the face of this downward pull of forgetfulness. This is why we have satsang every week – by Friday, the message has faded.
The fourth big forgetting is that we forget the consequences of our actions. Now, it may be understandable that we repeat mistakes from previous lives because we cannot remember them. We assume that if we could remember those mistakes, we would not repeat them. But when we consider what happens during this life, that turns out to be a false assumption. We get angry. We see what harm that causes. We feel ashamed; we regret it and resolve never to get angry again – and then we forget. We gossip. We see the harm that causes. We feel ashamed; we regret it and resolve never to gossip again – and then we forget. We overeat and feel uncomfortable, and we resolve never to overeat again – until the next buffet!
The true challenge for anyone on the spiritual path is to remember. Remembrance is the key to liberation. But aren’t people from all walks of life remembering the Lord every day? Isn’t everyone praying to the Lord? They are, but this is not the kind of remembrance that delivers spiritual awakening. This kind of praying really is just a form of begging. Everyone wants God to be on their side. Some even claim that God is on their side. Mothers pray to God to keep their sons safe in war. Those sons are trying to kill the sons of mothers on the other side, who are also praying to God to keep their sons safe. Parents pray to God to heal their sick child. People pray for guidance on worldly decisions.
Satsangis in the question-and-answer sessions with Baba Ji specialize in begging for his help. They want guidance on marriage, careers, health, and they want blessings. Basically everyone wants God or the Master to join their team, become part of their support crew, get with their program. They want God or the Master to use his superpowers to deliver the desires, plans and intentions of their own minds. We want God on our side.
Consider the roles we assign to Baba Ji. We get the job we hoped for, so we say: “Thank you Baba Ji.” We have made the Master our employment agent. We take a journey and reach our destination safely, so we say: “Thank you Baba Ji.” Now the Master has become our travel agent. We find a parking spot right outside the clinic on a busy day and we say: “Thank you Baba Ji.” So the master is our parking attendant. This kind of remembrance is like the son who calls home only when he needs money. That is not a relationship of love and devotion.
The simple truth is that all this praying for goods and services is a waste of time and energy. God does not take sides. This region is governed by God’s law, and his law is absolute. Everyone reaps what he sows, and there are no exceptions to the law of karma.
Instead of this begging for God to serve our minds, we should ask ourselves: “Am I on God’s side?” The mission of the saints is to get us to switch over from the side of the mind and the world to God’s side – “Thy will be done!” Instead of praying for goods and services, we should pray for submission to his will and acceptance of his plans. That is the remembrance which will deliver us from this cycle of birth and death.
The worship which pleases the Lord is the form of remembrance that tunes the mind to the Shabd and brings our soul consciousness into contact with the divine sound current. For this we need to make the mind numb to this world. We cannot get intensely involved in and passionate about worldly issues and campaigns without harming our ability to withdraw the mind from this world. We must give up worldly desires, even the desire to improve the world or “make a difference.”
Perhaps some perspective can help. For example, each generation thinks that theirs is the most critical period in history and that things have never been so bad. In fact, the social historian Michael McCormick of Harvard University nominates the year 536 as the worst year to have been alive – that is 15 centuries ago. Apparently, in 536 volcanic ash clouded the earth like an eclipse of the sun lasting 18 months. Temperatures in midsummer were only 1.5 degrees centigrade. Crops failed, and the earth was truly dark. Life was utterly miserable for the next four years.
Another example is the Covid pandemic. As of this writing, more than 3 million people have died. Yes, that is an appalling tragedy, but the Spanish flu, which began in 1918, killed approximately 100 million people. As a percentage of the global population, Covid would have to kill 480 million to be as bad as the Spanish flu.
The point is, wars, disease and calamities have always been part of life on this earth and always will be. Our job is to get out of here, not fix things up.
How much remembrance will it take? How much does Baba Ji want from us? Sometimes we feel that we have given enough. It is like one of those days when a charity is having a big collection drive. In the morning we are approached by a collector, and we give some money. Later that day, we are approached by another collector, and we say: “I already gave this morning.” In the same way, after doing our meditation in the morning, we may feel we have “already given,” and the Master should leave us alone and let us get on with our lives for the rest of the day. But he wants so much more. In the Dera session held in February 1991, and later published in an issue of Science of the Soul magazine, Baba Ji is quoted as saying: “You have to live Sant Mat, you have to imbibe Sant Mat with every breath. Living and walking Sant Mat with every breath – that is the right spirit.”
There is a familiar religious greeting “May God be with you.” But actually, we don’t want God to join us, we want to join God. So perhaps a better greeting is “May you be with God.”