Being at Dera with Our Master
What does it mean for us to be at Dera? To be in the atmosphere of satsang and seva, day after day? To have this unique opportunity to be in the presence of Baba Ji, listening to his teachings? What does it mean for us to become immersed in the indescribable love that is emanating from him? Doctor Julian Johnson tried to describe what being with Great Master meant for him. He wrote:
…there is no place so sacred as at the feet of a living saint. He who is privileged to sit there is blessed above all others. To look into the eyes of divine love, to listen to his voice full of resonance of the highest spiritual culture, to feel in the depths of one’s own soul the warm glow of his holy light – that is something never to be forgotten when once experienced. How precious the moments.1
How precious it is to receive the master’s teachings, to look into the eyes of divine love, to listen to his voice full of resonance of the highest spiritual culture, and to feel in the depths of our own soul the warm glow of his holy light. It is indeed something never to be forgotten.
To get a sense of how precious and rare these moments of being with a living saint are, the following Buddhist text could be helpful.
The embodiment of all the Buddhas of the past, present and future is your root guru, the one who has all qualities and shows you the threefold kindness of giving you material support, dharma teachings and enlightenment….To meet such a Guru is as hard as for flowers to appear in the sky. To receive his teaching is as rare as the appearance of stars in the daytime.2
When we are with the master in person, we are sitting at the feet of a living saint, our root guru, and receiving his teachings in satsang. It’s really not something we should take for granted. It is an incredible blessing to be with the master in person. To have this opportunity is a divine gift that has been given to us with a purpose.
Great Master has written in his book My Submission, that these moments of being with the master in satsang are essential for our progress in spiritual endeavours.
The spiritual currents emanating from him strongly influence those who have the privilege of being in his company. He acts as our true guide because he himself is the master of spirituality. He fills our hearts with the bounty of his spiritual wisdom. He enlivens and elevates the souls of the congregation with his spiritual radiance. He gives us his life essence, which helps reunite with God the souls long separated from him….Satsang is a spiritual university that provides practical instruction in the process of uniting the soul with Nam. It is an extraordinary workshop where a person is hewn, dressed, trimmed and made fit for his union with the Lord.3
Patrul Rinpoche, a well-known Tibetan Buddhist teacher, urges us never to be tired of being with our master.
Like a swan swimming on a perfect lake,
or a bee tasting the nectar of flowers,
never be tired of being with your teacher,
but be inspired, and always receptive to him.
Through such devotion you will experience
all his qualities.4
There is such beauty in Patrul Rinpoche’s message. He encourages us to be with the master whenever we have been invited to be with him – at Dera or in another country. He also encourages us to always be open and receptive to him. He encourages us to listen with a completely open mind and heart to his teachings without judgement, opinion, prejudice or any other interfering thought even if we don’t understand what he says or does. We listen with a completely open mind and heart so his teachings can sink deeply into our being, over and over again. That’s what we need because we are absolutely ignorant. We really don’t know anything. We don’t know what the real meaning of life is, what exactly death means, or who we really are.
Another merit of Patrul Rinpoche’s message is that he makes it clear that being in the presence of the physical form of the master, our root guru, is a means. Like Great Master, he points out that this opportunity of being together has been given to us to inspire and support us in our quest for enlightenment; in our quest for realizing God. It is to encourage us in our spiritual practice as we put the teachings into practice in our day-to-day life. Practising the teachings is the way to realize God. It is the way to become more and more receptive to divine love, the essence of our being, the essence of all that lives, that One Being. Patrul Rinpoche’s implicit message is: never be tired of practicing your meditation. Never be tired of doing your simran and bhajan. Never be tired of being receptive to the master, the Shabd within, every moment of the day. Accept the invitation to be in his presence wherever you are, whenever you have the opportunity, through ceaseless remembrance of the five holy names during simran, and being receptive with a completely open mind and heart during bhajan.
Many times, Baba Ji has shared with us that God, the divine loving source of life, is something to be felt, to be experienced. He emphasizes that following this spiritual path, practicing our meditation, doesn’t mean that we are heading for a particular destination. We don’t have to reach a particular place where we will find this divine love. We just have to become aware of that which is already within us. We just have to become conscious step by step that we are divine love, we are One Being.
Most of us are like the two little fish swimming in the ocean, enjoying each other’s company and playing, jumping, and tumbling in the rolling waves. They find their way in dark and light places, sometimes diving deep. One day they meet an old wise fish, who says while passing by, “Good morning, dear friends, how is the water?” The two fish continue on their journey silently until one dares to say, “What is water? Do you know what he is talking about?”
It is hard to imagine that these two little fish are not conscious of the water that is omnipresent in the ocean. It’s around them, in them, in every cell of their body, it sustains them. They are not conscious of its presence and don’t know what water is. But this is exactly our situation, with regard to God. Being in Shabd, in the omnipresence of God, we are not conscious of the divine presence. We don’t know that divine love is within us, in every cell of our body, sustaining us. We get a glimpse of this when we are with the master.
Baba Ji teaches us, like saints and mystics in the past, that we will become aware of the presence of God when we become completely still. This is what the process of meditation is all about – slowly and steadily becoming completely receptive at the eye centre through simran and bhajan. Through such devotion we will gradually realize that we are Divine. Have faith in this process. Have faith in Him, is his message. Have faith in the One who has brought us here.
When we have received the precious gift of staying at the Dera, of being with our teacher, our root guru, for several days or weeks, we have been given the precious and unique opportunity to devote our attention completely to our spiritual work. Let’s make the best use of what the master has given us during these times and remember that he is always with us, wherever we are, whatever may happen, at the eye centre. It is there where we can be with him any moment of the day. It is there where he is waiting for us. The only thing we have to do is to put in the effort to be with him, and that means to sit down, close our eyes, start repeating the five holy names, and let go. This is expressed in a beautiful rendition of one of Hafiz’s poems:
Just sit there right now
Don’t do a thing
For your separation from God,
Is the hardest work
Let me bring you trays of food
That you like to
You can use my soft words
As a cushion
To summarize, if these rare moments of being with our master in satsang are so precious to us and have been given to us as inspiration; if we really long for “looking into the eyes of divine love, listening to this voice full of resonance of the highest spiritual culture, and feeling in the depths of one’s own soul the warm glow of his holy light,” let’s not be forgetful when we leave his physical presence. Let’s show our appreciation and gratitude wholeheartedly and give him our all. Let’s implement the master’s teachings into our day-to-day life even more than before, and put in our best, our maximum effort to be with him every moment of the day.
- With a Great Master in India, p. 99.
- Being Right Here: A Dzogchen Treasure Text of Nuden Dorje Entitled The Mirror of Clear Meaning, Verse 10, p. 58-59.
- My Submission, p. 145-148.
- Buddhism, Path to Nirvana, p. 215.
- Ladinsky, Daniel, The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master, p. 183.