Feeding the Flame of Love
Guru Arjan Dev Ji begins one of his shabds saying, “How shall I meet the Lord, O Master? Only a saint who has achieved union can show the path.”1 His question is one that we have all asked at some point in our lives. I doubt we would be disciples if we hadn’t asked that fundamental question. At a crucial moment we realized that to find true meaning in life we needed to experience the divine. Meeting the Lord would be the only thing that would answer our questions and soothe our troubled minds. From that moment on our quest to meet the Lord has been the foundation on which we have built our lives.
Yes, there have been ups and downs. Sometimes we have screamed in despair at the feebleness of our ability to experience him. Many of us have even decided that it is impossible for us to meet the Lord so we have given up trying. At other times we have had a glimpse of contentment, moments of joy. But somehow through it all we have persisted. Is that because of the grace of the master? Is it because of our continuing weak efforts? Or is it, possibly, because we haven’t found anything better than our path? Through the best of times and the worst of times Guru Arjan Dev’s question has continued to percolate in our minds, even if buried under the weight of everyday life. We know that nothing else but realization of the Lord will give us peace of mind and meaning to life. But through all our ups and downs one thing stood firm that we have a guru who never gives up on us.
Great Master wrote, “All true devotees get shabd, which is real life, from the pure guru. He is life in himself, and since he is free from ego, the shabd speaks through him. He has transcended the valley of death. He has realized the life of the Lord which works through the shabd and he himself can give life or spiritual awakening to his disciples.”2 What luck that we have been given this opportunity. A relationship with the guru is the greatest gift the Lord can give to anyone. Though we haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it, we have it. If we begin to take steps, baby steps or giant steps, we will definitely experience meaning in our lives and we will also experience the Lord. It doesn’t seem possible that we have this gift. We are ordinary people living ordinary lives. But the satguru saw something in us that we don’t see. He saw our soul ready for liberation. After thousands of lives we have reached the extraordinary moment when we begin our journey home. It is vital that we remember and cherish the gift of Nam that is ours. After lifetimes of struggle our direction has changed. From coming and going, we now stand on the threshold of eternal freedom, ready to merge in the ocean of Shabd, the ocean of love. Is it possible that it is we who have this honour and privilege, we with our anxious minds and our doubts and worries? Can it be we who stand upon the threshold of eternal freedom? It sounds so dramatic, so much bigger and grander than we are. But it is you and I who are at this supreme turning point. We have the gift of Nam and the opportunity to experience the divine. Now it is time to accept his gift, say thank you to him for it, and realize its potential.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji continues by saying, “The unseen is within, and remains invisible because of the veil of ego. Infatuated by maya the whole creation is asleep. How shall we awake from this delusion?” Our minds are so noisy with desires and worries, expectations and disappointments, that we have limited our ability to experience our own divinity. Our every thought is based around our needs and our desires. It is so crowded inside our mind that there is no room for him. This constant mental chatter is ego. But right behind the chatter is the unseen. Behind the veil is peace and contentment. Behind the noise is the sweet sound of the shabd. But Guru Arjan Dev tells us we need to wake up to experience the unseen or the unheard.
Hazur wrote, “The greatest miracle of the mystics is that they change the very attitude of our life, the way of our life. They turn everything upside down in our life.” We have been turned upside down so that everything is being shaken out of us. Our Guru is emptying our mind and leaving us ready and able to wake up from the delusion that happiness comes from me and mine. It doesn’t. Happiness comes from stillness and simran. If we are searching for our divinity, then we can’t look for it in friends and family, or wealth and fame. But if we change our attitude and create an atmosphere where gratitude for nam and a positive life style are strengthened then the possibility of self- discovery will blossom. It is inevitable. Nothing is more powerful than the guru’s nam.
Guru Arjan Dev then continues the shabd saying, “Dwelling in the same house, living together, we know not each other. For lack of the one, the five torment us but that one is not easily reached.” He tells us that the Lord, in the form of the shabd guru, lives inside us. How lovely but terrifying also. It is comforting to be assured that the guru is inside. From the inside he supports our positive efforts and helps us through countless miseries. But it also means he experiences the passions that rumble through us. He hears the noise of our mind. Because of these passions and the discontentment they breed we are left without the experience of the one. If we love him as we say we do then it is crucial that we quiet the noise in our mind so that he does not need to experience it. The effort in stilling our mind is a way of saying thank you to him for his generous gift.
But Guru Arjan Dev is also clear that it is a challenge to experience the shabd. It takes dedication and perseverance. But let’s remember that if we persevere he will do all he can to help us. On the outside we have his satsangs, his darshan and his seva. And it is impossible for us to imagine or understand how he helps us from the inside. Our path stays a mystery to us until we have an inner relationship with him. Until then all we can do is show our gratitude for his continuing gift, both the gift of nam and the gift of his physical presence in our lives.
Guru Arjan Dev continues saying, “Having built the house, he locked himself within and entrusted the key to the guru. Try as one may, never will this treasure be obtained without taking refuge in him.” The Lord is inside us. Every atom of our being is charged with shabd. The guru in his shabd form radiates inside us. He is our very essence. Hidden away, locked away, but there. Our centre is not me and mine but him. But how do we take refuge in him? The saints tell us meditation is a challenge but surrendering to him is even more difficult. But with both challenges we must put in effort. When we accept our destiny without complaint we are taking a baby step towards living in his will. What aspect of the creation isn’t his will? Shabd is in every leaf, every insect, every man. If shabd is the core of all then everything happens by the force of shabd. The shabd is the doer of all things. And in his shabd form he is the doer of all things in our lives. As Baba Jaimal Singh Ji put it, “Believe it firmly, my son: he is himself carrying out the affairs of the world by being in it. Everything he does is for our good.”3 We can accept destiny or cry against our fate. We can take refuge in him or we can fight our destiny. But each time we accept things as his will we deepen our commitment to him. It would be false to say that this is an easy task, it’s not. But what else is worth our time and effort. The sculptor Henry Moore wrote, “The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of your day for your whole life. And the most important thing is – it must be something that you cannot possibly do!” So we persevere even if it seems like there are no results to our efforts. We begin to understand that we cannot do it, this stilling of our mind. But if we relax, close our eyes and enjoy the journey then we might find that he will shine through and help simran to flow inside us. The contradiction is that we cannot do it but at the same time we have to put in effort as if we can. What a lovely and mysterious life we lead as disciples of our guru.
Then Guru Arjan Dev Ji writes, “When the Lord wishes to cut away our shackles he grants us the love and company of saints. When in their company, one sings the praises of nam. From then on one is united with the Lord and no difference remains between the two, says Nanak.” Let’s remember that as the guru is inside us there is not a single moment that we aren’t in his company. Yes, it is a pleasure and a joy to be in his physical presence. But if we believe in his teachings then it is clear we are united with him now, at this moment and in all moments.
We don’t often experience that oneness because of the veil of ego. But we can experience that joy the moment we begin to take refuge in him. It’s a journey and often a rocky one with detours and obstacles but there is nothing else in life with the same value. Nothing else will give us the joy and contentment that comes with our persistent effort on to live the path fully. Nothing else will answer our question of how to meet the Lord.
Finally Guru Arjan Dev writes, “Thus is the Lord met, union achieved, delusion dispelled, and the flame merges in the light.” The shabd ends with this grand crescendo, a symphony of joy, an ode to love. And we are the lucky ones who can experience this love and joy now. Let’s feed the flame inside us by our love and dedication to our beloved.
- Guru Arjun Dev, Kin bidh mile Gusain, mere Ram Rai, AG p.204; in Light On Sant Mat, 9th ed., 1997, p.204
- Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. 5, 6th ed. 2010, p. 192
- Spiritual Letters, 7th ed., 1998; Letter 20, p. 35