All Dressed Up and Ready to Dance
When the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic and governments around the world ordered nationwide lockdowns, schools were besieged with e-mails from panicked parents wanting to know how the education of their children would be affected.
Some students who were about to graduate from high school, however, had concerns beyond just exams and teaching arrangements. Many had been planning for months to celebrate their upcoming graduation through a dance party, or prom, a traditional rite of passage in many countries.
These graduating students were wondering what would come of their elaborate arrangements; limousines had already been hired, suits ordered, dresses carefully chosen. All these plans now seemed up in the air.
As disciples we may find ourselves in a similar situation: perhaps we had planned to see our Master at the Dera in the first half of the year, or at a satsang program in our country over the summer. We had probably booked our tickets, had our leave approved at work, and purchased our travel essentials. Suddenly, in a matter of a few short weeks, our plans came crashing down: we, too, were all dressed up and found ourselves with nowhere to dance.
The ongoing global pandemic has paused the present and caused us to look far into a murky future. We may feel that amidst this uncertainty, we are even more in need of the strength and solace that we derive from our master. But regardless of whether we are rich or poor, in India or overseas, young or old, employed or unemployed, we find ourselves helpless given the circumstances.
In such times, we must dig deep to understand our role as disciples on the path of the saints. For years we have heard the master tell us that real spirituality is found within us, not outside. At a time when satsang has been cancelled in numerous countries, when we are unable to see the master physically, and when we have this gnawing emptiness borne from having limited opportunities for physical seva, we are being forced to put the real teachings into practice in our daily lives.
But we should recall that when questioners expressed their sadness to Maharaj Charan Singh Ji for not being able to visit the Dera, he said:
The dera is not a place made of bricks … So don’t think that a few buildings or houses or a colony make a dera. The dera is just your love, your harmony, your affection, your understanding, and your cooperation with one another. That is a dera.1
In the midst of a world with hyperventilating media and constant coverage of the latest tragic story, it is easy to forget that everything that happens is the Lord’s will. The saints tell us that each of us have to go through our destiny and that happiness lies in adjusting to our karmas; if we do not prepare ourselves for the change of seasons, we will be the ones to suffer.
In the beginning of the Adi Granth, Guru Nanak proclaims that God is Truth because in this transitory world, it is only God that is changeless and permanent. He goes on to ask “How then to become true?” and answers his own question in the next line by saying:
Hukam rajaa'ee chalnaa, Nanak likhiaa naal.
By walking in his will, O Nanak,
in step with the writ of destiny.2
No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, Guru Sahib is explaining that we must remember to walk in the will of the Lord if we are to achieve union with him.
The reality is that the divine will, the hukam, is like a mighty river which will not change its direction just because the fish living in the water want it to. If the fish resist and decide to swim against the current, they will be the ones to suffer. The river loses nothing. So it would be wise to accept what comes before us, and surrender to the Lord’s will.
Elsewhere in the Adi Granth we read that those who recognize the will of the Lord never weep.3 As Maharaj Charan Singh Ji explains:
Well, brother, when we say that we have to live in the will of the Lord, actually it means we have to live with our destiny, smilingly taking it as assigned to us by the Father … But to live with our destiny happily and to accept our destiny cheerfully is to live in the will of the Father.4
How can we accept our destiny cheerfully? It is said that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
We can take social distancing to its logical conclusion and focus on inner introspection; if we cannot go out, let us go within.
During the lockdown we can draw inspiration from the publications, discourses, and videos available. Further, Baba Ji’s letter to the global sangat in March of this year urges us to fulfil our social responsibilities. This instruction involves standing by our families and being responsible and compassionate members of society.
The masters have always told us that no matter what circumstances we are placed in, meditation is our primary duty. As a sign of our sincere gratitude to our master, we can consider attending to our meditation with renewed zeal and vigor, thereby preparing ourselves for when we are next in his physical or spiritual presence. So, if before these unforeseen circumstances we were struggling to give our practice its full time, we can now strive to complete our two and a half hours or even aspire to sit for longer.
Perhaps we can be inspired by Bulleh Shah, who was separated from his master for twelve painful years. It is perhaps not coincidental that in one of his famous poems he speaks of his realization of love when he finally meets his beloved. He says:
O Beloved, on meeting You all my sorrows vanish!
I have now realized His mystery, O Bullah!
He is neither near nor far.5
Bulleh Shah is explaining that only when he met the Lord within did he realize that though the beloved may not be physically near him, neither was he far away because the beloved is always right within every one of his disciples.
And so, while at times we may feel like those high school teenagers who are all dressed up with no dance to attend, the reality for us as disciples could not be more different. The current circumstances are in fact an opportunity to allow us to remember how close the master truly is to us. So since we are now fully dressed up, all we have to do is show up within and commit ourselves, once again, to continuing our divine dance with the Beloved. As the mystic Eknath wrote:
Blessed are those that dance through life
loving God, singing his Name.
Merciful towards all, they feel
happiness and sadness as one.
Fountains of wisdom, love and devotion,
they’ve forgotten their senses,
forgotten ‘I’ and ‘You’ as two –
they live in contentment and certainty.6
- Spiritual Perspectives (RSSB), Vol. III, #143
- Jap Ji (RSSB), p. 19
- Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Arjan Dev, p. 523, Jinhi pachhata hukam, tin kadey na rovna, www.srigranth.org
- Spiritual Perspectives (RSSB), Vol III, #289
- Bulleh Shah (RSSB), p. 321
- One Song Many Voices (RSSB), p. 179