Two Faces of Creation
What is our relationship to this world, the physical world around us? Saints and mystics over many centuries have described this world as a place of misery for us. The saints tell us that we will always be miserable here, regardless of whatever charms and attractions worldly life offers. This is because we can never be happy in separation from God. Saints tell us that our true self is neither this body nor our mind, but our soul. And this soul is, as Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh says:
… that divine spark of that creator, that divine light which is giving us life… Potentially, every soul is God, because its origin is the Creator.1
So, because God is our origin, Hazur says:
Without meeting him [the Lord], without merging back into him, we will never find eternal peace. … But for that, nobody would search for him; and that is why we seek him, our source.2
While this is the ultimate reason we can never be happy in this world – that our soul belongs somewhere else – saints go further and give other strong reasons why we can never be happy. First, they point out that everything here passes. It is subject first to change, then to death or destruction. So if we attach ourselves to this world, to whatever attracts us – pleasure, power and status, wealth, relationships with others – we must always be disappointed. Hazur says:
… whatever our pleasures are in this creation, there’s always a fear at the bottom of that pleasure. When you get married, you’re always worried: What if my wife leaves me, becomes unfaithful, deserts me, or I annoy her? You see, there’s always a fear, and wherever there is a fear at the base of a pleasure, it can never be a pleasure. It’s only a question of time before it is converted to misery.3
Then, going even further, saints remind us of the horrors and evils all around us:
Read the history of the world of the past and you will find that this killing and slaughter has been the rule. …how much suffering we find in this world in the form of mental and physical ills, cruelty, murder and other crimes.4
We hardly need this reminder, since every day our newspapers are full of such horrors. We ask then: why is the world this way, if God is all powerful and all-loving? In answer, saints reveal that the state of the world is God’s will; it’s not that some other power has perverted the creation. Hazur says:
Everything is happening as the Lord wants it to happen. Not a leaf can stir without his command.5
I think he has created this world as imperfect. You see, nothing existed before the creation. Only he existed. All that we see is nothing but his own projection. He has projected himself in an imperfect way, so to say, because otherwise this creation cannot continue at all. …. Why has he created it? He knows best.6
All these lessons about the world just reinforce the essential truth – that we in our essence, our soul, will never be happy here. But saints and mystics also offer another – very different – vision of this world. This vision of the world starts from the truth just revealed by Hazur above: “All that we see is nothing but his own projection.” Then, all mystics and scriptures tell us that God is love – as Hazur says:
It is said that God is love and love is God, because the characteristic of God is love.7
Can’t we conclude from this that, if God is love, and the creation is his projection, then the creation must be a projection, expression, of love? So this is a second vision of the world – as an outpouring of God’s love. Great Master confirms this:
All living beings are of the same essence as the Lord. They are His children. … A mother is never neglectful of her child. Because of her genuine love, she cannot be indifferent to him. … The Lord is never unmindful of us even for a moment. He is always looking after us. We have never been separated from Him. He is always with us and always pervades our entire being.8
Hazur says, “His grace is always there… his grace is always flowing.”9
Guru Arjan Dev says:
He is the Lord of myriads of universes,
the Sustainer of all life.
He takes care of all and supports all.
But the universe does not acknowledge
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings,
and not one of them is forgotten before God?
But even the very hairs of your head
are all numbered.11
We are told that God is love – but what is love? Let’s remember the unique definition of love given by Hazur. He defines love as “becoming another being.” He says:
Love is losing your own identity and becoming another being. To lose your individuality and merge into another being – that is love.12
If, as Hazur just said “the characteristic of God is love,” and if the creation is God’s projection, then this suggests that God is always giving himself to, and becoming, all that exists. God, having created the universe out of love, pervades it out of love, and merges himself into it. He has and is giving himself infinitely to it, to its every particle.
Mystics tell us that as we become lovers of God, we start to perceive this around us – to see glimpses of God’s love even in this lowly creation. In the Quran we read:
Surely in the heavens and the earth there are signs for the believers; and in your creation, and the crawling things He scatters abroad, there are signs for a people having sure faith, and in the alteration of night and day, and the provision God sends down from heaven, and therewith revives the earth after it is dead, and the turning about of the winds, there are signs for a people who understand.13
Additionally, the Quran says: “Whithersoever you turn, there is the face of God.”14 So, given all this, can we seriously think that the creation is evil? How do we reconcile these two visions of the world? As we see, great saints have revealed both – and therefore we accept both as true. But they seem totally in contradiction. However we know from experience that when truths are contradictory in Sant Mat, this is because they apply at two different levels of realization.
Now the question for us is, which world would we rather inhabit? Of course, the second.
Then how do we gain that level of awareness so we can see this world not as a place of horror, but as full of God’s presence, grace and beauty? We can find the answer to this question in Great Master’s treatise on bhakti or devotion in Philosophy of the Masters, Volume 2. Near the beginning of that treatise, he lays out what he calls “five principles” of devotion to guide us in developing true devotion to God. These principles make clear that it is devotees of God who come to see the world according to the second vision, as abounding with God’s love, mercy and grace. Let’s go through these five principles, one by one. Great Master says:
The first principle underlying devotion is that God is the Creator of all and is omniscient. He is pure, flawless and whole. He is omnipresent. Human beings, the lower species of life, and in fact the entire universe are a sign of His existence. We are all His children.15
As did Maharaj Charan Singh above, Great Master tells us that this world – the entire creation – is a projection of God. Nothing exists but Him. Seen in the right perspective, the creation reveals His presence. The entire creation is – and must be – “pure, flawless, and whole.” The divine is omnipresent, infinitely present around us, and omniscient, infinitely aware of each living thing, indeed of every particle. Each of us is not merely His creation, or even His child – we are infinitely pervaded by Him. Our imagination has to expand to take in such infinities.
While we are still far from realizing all this, Great Master is putting it forward as a principle to live by if we aspire to be God’s lovers. If we remember it and make our faith in it our touchstone, it will help us see the world in a new light. Great Master continues:
The second principle is that this universe is His creation, and it is all beautiful and full of happiness. Each one, of course, looks at this world according to the state or condition of his own mind.16
Here the Great Master strikingly, emphatically, confirms what we described above as the second way of seeing and relating to the world around us. Even though, as saints remind us, this world is no doubt a horror, yet, Great Master tells us, it truly – really – is “all beautiful and full of happiness.”
How can both be true? Great Master explains – how we see the world depends on the “state or condition of our own mind.” It seems that this world is a horror when we see it through the distorting lens of maya or illusion – of desires for pleasure, possessions, power and worldly relationships. It becomes a place of beauty and happiness for those who practice true devotion. Great Master further explains:
The third principle is that one should be happy in the Will of God, and should always remain contented and grateful for whatever happens to him. Whatever is being done is for our own good. This is beyond any shadow of doubt. What we may consider as trouble, has actually come in order to elevate the condition of our mind.17
We saw previously how God is omniscient and omnipresent. With this principle, we learn that he is also omnipotent – in fact, nothing happens unless he wills it. If everything is his projection, then how can it be otherwise? Is what he wills good in our eyes? How can it be good when things like automobile accidents, deaths of relatives and illnesses happen to us? But Great Master says that – “beyond any shadow of doubt” – everything that happens is “for our own good.” And not only for the good of initiates of a spiritual master, or of just human beings, but of the entire creation. Once again, we confront the concept of infinity: for every being in creation, from the origins of this creation until its dissolution, everything has been for the good of all. How can this be?
Hazur would tell us that we must return to God to understand this. Again, while we are far from seeing this truth with our own eyes, Great Master is giving it to us as a principle to live by. He says there is no room whatever for us to doubt it. Without question this truth will be difficult to live up to when we face tragedy – but what is our choice? Reminding ourselves of it will give us some comfort and release. Again, it can become a touchstone to keep us stable on the path of devotion. To the extent we become aware of this truth, we at once feel gratitude to God for his infinite mercy and grace, and we gain a degree of contentment with whatever he has decreed as our lot. As Hazur says:
We must have faith in him. Whatever he gives, that is for our advantage, and we should accept it. We shouldn’t desire anything at all.18
We all know that this principle – that everything that happens is for our good – in no way excuses us from exerting all possible effort, or from bearing the consequences of our actions. As we know effort and grace go hand in hand, though they operate at very different levels of reality.
Great Master continues speaking about the principles of devotion by saying:
The fourth principle is that one should consider it to be the greatest sin to hurt the feelings of others. To provide comfort and happiness to others, should be considered the highest obligation….19
Saints enjoin on us as seekers of God that we must live moral lives on this plane. This includes fulfilling all responsibilities to others. Hazur explains:
… we have to fulfil all our obligations. You have to just do your duty. Your attitude should be to help [others] in every way, to discharge your obligations in every sphere of life. This applies not just to your wife and children but to everyone. You have to be a good citizen, good friend, good brother, good father, good husband – kind, loving to everybody, helpful to society.20
As Hazur suggests here, and as Great Master confirmed, we must act toward others not just according to bare moral obligations, but, beyond that, with a loving urge to help others, everyone, however we can. It seems we are to act toward others essentially as God does toward us. God is love, and in his infinity, gives infinitely of himself to each living being, compassionately caring for us and sustaining us in every way. If only in gratitude for this, as a reflection of our faith in it, we too, in our infinitesimal way, should do the same toward the world all around us.
Hazur was asked whether a devotee should practice indifference toward the suffering all around, to avoid becoming attached to this world:
If that had been our attitude, I would not have opened the eye camp at the Dera every year or taken on the very big hospital project. We are very much concerned with the suffering of humanity, and we want to do whatever we can. Our attitude should always be to help and to be a source of strength to people, and to be loving and kind to everybody.21
And in response to a questioner asking if we can love in a detached way, he says:
To have a sympathetic heart is very different from attachment. If you are driving and see a dog that has been hit by a car, you just stop the car. You take so much pity on the dog that you even shed tears, seeing him in such a pitiable condition. That doesn’t mean you are attached to the dog. … You must have a kind and loving heart, a sympathetic and helpful heart.22
As does God with us, this loving kindness toward others is done selflessly, without thought of reward. It is the fundamental inspiration behind outward seva. But to love and help others is not done in hopes of changing the world, because if the world is to change, God himself will do it. Again, from Great Master:
The fifth principle is that one should become a devotee by taking support from his Guru or Master, so that by being in contact with such a higher being one may also eventually attain the same stage.23
Here Great Master answers a further question: how do we “become” such a devotee, such a lover of God, and not just take on faith but actually realize these five principles? For that, he says, we need to seek support from a true lover of God in our own time, the living master.
And, who is the living master? As saints teach, everything we have heard so far about God and the creation can now be said about the master. The master manifests God on this plane and on every plane within. Great Master writes,
Although the Lord, like electricity, pervades everywhere, the Master is the point where He shines out as light.24
As we are with God, we are surrounded by the infinite presence, knowledge, and protection of the master. But being on this plane with us, the master also can show us the path back to God and instruct us on how to follow it. He tells us that we need to break our attachments to this world, to maya. He reveals to us the secret way to do this. Hazur says:
[we can become detached from this world] only when we are attached to something better than the sensual pleasures, the worldly faces, the worldly objects. When we are attached to something better, we automatically become detached from everybody. … when we get that taste of nectar within, that living water within, we automatically withdraw from the senses.25
What is that nectar, that living water? It is the Shabd or Nam, the creative power of God resounding within us, that the master reveals to us within. Shabd or Nam is God’s voice calling us back to our origin. As we become attached to it, it purifies us and leads us back to God. And even before we reach our destination, it gives us a degree of communion with God, that progressively grows and grows.
How do we make contact with this inner power? Through meditation – simran and bhajan. It is only through meditation that we can gain awareness of the divine. And as we do so, we can begin to see the world in the second way. As Hazur says:
So meditation gives you that bliss, that peace, that happiness, that contentment within you.26
Then one day, as Great Master tells us, following the master’s instructions, and learning from his example, we will one day reach his level. But this does make us wonder – how do saints see this world? Let’s close with some of their writings to give us a glimpse. Huzur explains Paltu’s outlook by saying:
He [Paltu] says that the lovers of the Lord find the Lord everywhere, in everyone. … He is in the guru; he is in the disciple. He is the Creator; he is in the creation. … The lover sees none but the Lord in this creation.27
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 1, Beas: RSSB, 2010, #223, #227.
- Ibid, #256.
- Ibid, #423.
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Quest for Light, Beas: RSSB, 2002, #233.
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 1, #62.
- Ibid, Vol 2., #597.
- Huzur Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV, Beas: RSSB, 1989, p. 11.
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 2, #443.
- Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV, cf. p. 16.
- Holy Bible, KJV, Luke 12:6-7.
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 2, #338.
- Arberry, Arthur John. The Koran Interpreted: A Translation. Reprinted by Touchstone (1996). First published 1955. 45:3-5.
- Ibid, 2:115.
- Huzur Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II, Beas: RSSB, 2009, p. 25
- Ibid, p. 26.
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 1, #339.
- Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II, p. 26.
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 3, #366.
- Ibid, #210.
- Ibid, #366.
- Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II, p. 26.
- Huzur Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V, Beas: RSSB, 2010, p. 27.
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 3, #367.
- Ibid, Vol. 1, #424.
- Ibid, Vol. 3, #494.