translation and substance of a talk given in Hindi at Sawan Ashram (printed in Sat Sandesh Aug 1989)
The whole world is blind;
Tell me how can I make people understand higher values of life.
Common people do not see the world in its true colors. But One Who has liberated His soul from the clutches of mind and senses, known His Self and has realized God sees the same world from a different angle of vision. Such Persons observe that the spirit of worldly people, under the influence of mind, is completely identified with the body at the plane of senses, so much so that it (soul) is hardly able to distinguish itself from the material body or its director — the indweller of the house (body). Before the inner eye is opened, one sees the outside world from the level of physical senses. All external knowledge is visionary and superficial, purely concerned with sense-organs.
Unless and until we learn how to rise above the sensual level and transcend the physical body, the inner eye does not open. As a result, we are not in a position to withdraw our Self from the glamour of the outside world. When we tap inside, there is subtle body having subtle Indriyas (organs of perception) which are lying dormant as yet. Now, the question arises what should we do in such a predicament? Maulana Rumi says: “Learn thou to shut external doors of thy house and open the inner one.” He Who is able to tap inside would consequently develop cosmic awareness. He sees the world from a subtle level and in true colors. So Kabir says that as far as He can see, the entire world is blind. All those who have not developed an inner eye are said to be blind in the eyes of Awakened Persons. Although the atmosphere is full of microbes, nothing is visible to the naked eye. Does that mean that there is nothing in the air? There is. Either whatever is present in the air needs to be magnified so as to correspond to the visual level of our eyes, or our vision becomes so subtle as to see the tiny things clearly. Nanak, while defining blindness, says:
They are not blind who have no eyes of flesh.
A blind is one, O Nanak, who does not see the Lord.
All the scriptures proclaim that the Power of God is pervading everywhere in Its fullness. The Lord dwells in every human heart. There is no place where His Word does not exist. But He is highly subtle and indescribable. As such, our physical eye cannot see Him. Who then can see Him? Nanak says: “Unless one rises to the level of God, one cannot know Him.“
If we are to develop super-consciousness and subtlety of His level, we can have some experience of Him. Seeing the whole world shrouded in darkness, Kabir says how could one endeavor to reveal sublime Truths to anyone? The fact remains that all are sailing in the same boat — may be one is learned or unlettered, rich or poor, ruler or the ruled. Then how could a blind man lead the blind? If they do so, both would fall into the ditch.
Once a divine came to a village. Moved by compassion he forewarned the villagers, saying: “Tomorrow at such and such time a treacherous wind will blow. Whosoever is affected by it will go mad.” Some of the people who were wise enough believed the words of the sage. The next day at the appropriate time, they hid themselves in self-protection. All others who had exposed themselves to the tempest, contrary to the warning of the sage, turned mad. Those few who had taken shelter were saved. After the tempest was over they came out of their hideout. Surprisingly enough, they were called mad by the majority who were actually so.
Similar is the case with the worldly people. A Realized Soul, Who has risen above body-consciousness after freeing His Self from the impact of mind and senses and has developed the inner eye, is very, very rare. Only such Persons see that God is Omnipresent. All the rest are floating at the level of the mind and senses. In such a deplorable condition of the world, Kabir feels Himself in a bewildered condition and goes on to say:
If there are one or two, I may make them understand;
But alas! all are confronted with the problem of bread and butter.
Everywhere you find people awfully busy in making money by fair or foul means. One takes the material life as the be-all and end-all of human existence. Even those who claim to tread the spiritual path are doing business indirectly. Their object was man-making, but they are engaged in money-making. But, as the hour of death approaches, one comes to his senses. Kabir says: “A man awakens only when the angels of death strike at the head.” But, then it is too late. It is no use crying over spilt milk. This is the reason why Awakened Persons, whenever They came into the world, were referred to by the highly learned and worldly-wise people as those who perverted the intellect of others. Guru Nanak was condemned by the worldly people like that. He was not allowed to enter into the town of Qasur (now in Pakistan) lest He should misguide the people.
People take to the Epicurean way of life — eat, drink, and be merry. They do not perceive anything beyond material enjoyments. They live and die for them. Kabir, therefore, finds it difficult to bring home to such people the higher values of life.
What is the reality of human life? Kabir says that our body is like a horse on which the soul is the rider. It can be compared to a dewdrop containing air inside and covered by a layer of water. How long does a dewdrop last? It vanishes as soon as the wind blows or the sun shines. This is exactly the case with man. The body lives so long as its indweller — the soul — remains in it, and there is circulation of vital airs. The moment spirit departs, it becomes a corpse that is carried to the cremation ground by the near and dear ones. Every one of us has had such experiences of carrying dead bodies to the cremation or burial grounds. We may have even lit the funeral pyres with our own hands. Seeing all this, still we do not believe that we too will have to depart one day. We consider the material world as something real and permanent. None can escape the iron hand of death. When it comes, all the play of life comes to an end. It is, therefore, said:
Kings, warriors, subjects, prophets, incarnations — all came and went;
Likewise, every one of us has to depart one day according to our turn.
Great personages entered the world, lived a while, and then left for the heavenly abode. History bears testimony to this fact. Our own eyes stand a witness to it. Before physical death, if we develop the inner eye, we can traverse into higher regions at will. It will give us double benefit. Firstly, we would be able to withdraw the sensory currents from the living body and thus escape from the dire agony that attends the death process. Secondly, our soul could fly into higher spiritual planes or work at the physical plane at will. This is known as life eternal. One gets convinced about its reality only after experiencing it. Those who do not see anything beyond the life of flesh have to shed tears on the doomsday.
As such, all Great Souls have stressed that so long as you are after the life of flesh, you would remain deprived of the life of spirit. In the Bible it is stated: “Whosoever shall save this life shall lose it.” Christ said: “Except you be reborn, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Again He says: “Is not body more than the raiment and life more than the meat?” Death keeps no calendar. The silver chord may break at any time. As such, we should lose no time in getting an out-of-body experience and thus eliminate the fear of death.
We are afloat rudderless on the stormy sea of life
and might get lost in its whirlpools.
Kabir says, that tossed on the seas of sense-pleasures, we have lost our moorings and are drifting rudderless on the sea of life. Each one of us tries to catch a floating straw to save himself. The natural result is that after a brief struggle with chance winds and waters, we sink into the great oblivion without solving the riddle of life.
Mind is the ocean untamable
in which endless tides spring up.
This mind is like an ocean in which unending waves of animal passions, anger, greed, attachment, and egotism are constantly emanating. Everyone is tossing about under the impact of these waves. Unless mind is stilled, the goal cannot be achieved. “Without a competent Master, who can ferry us across the mighty sea of mind?” Only the association of an Adept Who has controlled the mind and transcended its limitations can help an aspirant to do likewise. Otherwise, there is no way out.
Reality lies within
but the blind search for it
in the world without.
Kabir says that the thing we are in search of dwells within our body. But, unfortunately, we search for the Truth either in the Holy scriptures or on the riverbanks or on hilltops. All our efforts in this direction are at the sensual level. Then, how can we find Him? Mind is enthralled by the powerful steeds of senses and is thus driven helplessly into the mire of sense gratification. So far we have not learned how to introvert. The result is that we are far away from Reality that resides in every human heart and is the very soul of our soul.
I met a gentleman in Kanpur. He told me that he had traveled on foot from Gangotri (source of the river Ganges) to Kanya Kumari (Cape Comorin, the southernmost point of Indian Mainland). But still he could not find the Truth of which he was in search. How could he?
When Reality lies elsewhere
and we search for it at a wrong place,
how could one get to it?
Kabir saith, we can get to it
only when One Who knows the secret
of it assists us.
Once we take the knower of the secret with us, He manifests Reality within. Thus, the experience which we could not have gained in myriads of lives is granted within in no time.
Tulsi Sahib says: “The Lord dwells within, but we remain ignorant. Cursed is such a life.” Even after getting human life, if He is not manifested within, it is a great curse. “O Tulsi! the whole world is suffering from cataract.” Cataract is a disease in which a thin membrane covers the pupil of the eye, affecting the eyesight. An eye surgeon can remove this membrane to restore the vision, which is already there but is covered by a water layer. Similarly, the God Power shines in full effulgence in each one of us, but we cannot see Him because of our attachment to the external world. All Saints proclaim that God resides in every human heart. When He dwells within, how can we reach Him in the world without? Once Swami Ram Tirath, who lived in Lahore, saw an old woman in the street searching for something with the help of an earthen lamp. He inquired of her as to for what she was searching. The old woman replied that she had lost a needle. Swami Ram Tirath also assisted her, but the needle could not be found. Ultimately he asked her: “Mother, where have you lost it?” — “In the house,” was the answer. At this Swami Ji said: “My dear mother, what you have lost at home cannot be found outside.” This may seem to be ridiculous, but that is exactly what we are doing. Soul is with the body as long as God Power controls it. A Divine link is present in all of us. But we search for Him outside at the level of senses. How is it possible? So Kabir asks: “Is not the world blind?“
The whole world is ablaze with the fires of lust;
But for the Guru gyan (practical inner experience by a Perfect Master),
mankind would remain immersed in ignorance.
Kabir says, that all are consumed by the passionate desires for worldly things. Every house, every social religion, every city, every country is afflicted with this malady. We are also one of them. A man is known by the company he keeps. If you happen to associate with someone completely engrossed in the worldly affairs, you would find that he invariably speaks in terms of the world. Accordingly, you would be dyed in the same color. Who can read the inner condition of the people? Only Those Whose inner eye is open. They see the world from the level of subtlety. Others cannot do it. Through a peep inside, everyone can feel that he is haunted by desires. This is a secret fire engulfing the entire world. Is there any escape from this? Yes, through a conscious contact from a Perfect Master. In this lies our salvation. The Gurbani says:
The wildfire (of lusts) has burned down all trees;
Only a rare green is left unaffected.
There is a mad race for worldly possessions. Only a rare Awakened Soul or a man of intuition is immune from this. Maulana Rumi says in this context: “O mind! seek thou the nearness of Someone Who is fully conversant with the condition of mind.” By this He means that we should seek the company of a Realized Soul with inner awakening. The proximity of such a One could alone save us from the inner cravings and impulses. People who go to the feet of a spiritual Adept feel a soothing effect through concentrated attention because of the highly charged atmosphere around Him. So the company of a Satguru is the sole remedy for all ills of the world. Now, Who is a Satguru? One Who is established in Truth. “Satguru is Truth Incarnate.” He has realized His Self by liberating it from the impact of mind and senses, and attained atonement with the ultimate Reality. The nearness of such a One gives us a cooling bliss. He also gives us a practical experience into the mysteries of the Beyond, which is true Jnana. Reading of the scriptures or learned disputations constitutes Jnana in the eyes of a layman. But it is not considered true knowledge in the terminology of Saints. They define it:
Know ye the true knowledge and meditation as Dhuni (Sound) divine,
for it is indescribable.
The Sound Current, Shruti or Udgit as you may call, is the real Jnana which is All-Pervading and It is sustaining the entire creation. To commune with It or experience It is called Naam (the Word) which one gets through the grace of a Perfect Master. Even now It (Naam) is within us, but we are ignorant about Its presence. The reason being that our attention, under the impact of mind, is flowing outside at the plane of the senses. Kabir says in this context:
The soul which is getting lost
in the nine portals of the body
can never realize the eternal bliss.
The soul that is flowing out through the nine channels of the body is consequently deprived of the unique bliss within. What are the nine channels? Two eyes, two ears, two nasals, mouth, rectum, and generative organ. One who has not transcended the senses through self-analysis and inversion and has had no contact with Reality cannot escape from the mighty maze of mind and matter. All learning, knowledge, study of scriptures, or such other methods at the level of intellect are not of much avail in this regard. One may be able to control the mind for a while, but ultimately one is likely to fall. The delusion of the world affects us through the outgoing faculties of senses. When you start transcending the sensuous level, you would experience higher bliss on the inner planes. Then you will no longer be troubled by the lusts of the flesh and will be like an air-conditioned room that remains cool irrespective of the external temperature. If you are able to collect your sensory currents between and behind the two eyebrows, you would not feel the effect of atmospheric heat. You can try it out. Because of our ignorance about this natural science (esoteric), we are suffering in the world.
When we meet a Perfect Master, He bestows upon us the gift of Naam or real Jnana. Who can see the malady afflicting the common man? Only an Awakened Soul. When Guru Nanak was about to leave His home on a divine mission, His family members produced His two sons before Him. Then His mother-in-law, named Moloji, said: “Look Nanak! if You were to act like this, why did You produce these children?” Sometimes worldly people are very harsh towards Master-souls. But Nanak replied in a polite tone: “Mother, I have come to liberate mankind from the bondage in which you want to chain me. The world is ablaze with the fires of lust, and I want to rescue them.” He then prayed:
O Lord! save this world from the mighty maze of mind and matter.
But how? Nanak then appealed to the Lord to show compassion and mercy: “O Lord God! employ any means which pleaseth Thee for the redemption of suffering humanity.” It is quite evident from the recorded experiences of Enlightened Souls that life at the plane of senses, purely concerned with the material body, is the root cause of all our miseries and sufferings. Kabir says:
He had not seen a man who was happy, for each one He happened
to come across was in misery.
When you leave the plane of senses and rise above body-consciousness, you would experience a life full of bliss. When you transcend the astral body and enter the causal plane, you would feel something more exhilarating. But life is not at all smooth in all the three planes — physical, astral, and causal. Unless you transcend all the three stages, you cannot have eternal bliss. This can be achieved only through the association and grace of a Master-soul.
Having obtained practical inner experience from a Perfect Master, one should enhance it through regular spiritual practices. If you do so, you would develop inner perception. Consequently, all sensual gratifications would cease to have their hold on the mind. Great Souls carry on Their mission of initiating the aspirants against all sorts of hazards. They hate sins but love sinners. They say that there is hope for everybody whether one is a sinner or virtuous. Those who follow Their instructions, their lives are transformed. It is our duty to develop loving devotion towards Enlightened Souls and leave the rest unto Them. It is, therefore, said: “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is Love.” Our soul, too, is a particle of divine love. If it could be set free from the outer sheaths, love for God within will of itself sprout forth. Only then would one be able to realize Him.
Listen ye, O seekers after Truth, saith Kabir;
One day man has to depart empty-handed.
Kabir at last serves a warning to the world at large to take it for granted that everyone would have to quit one day. All worldly possessions would be left behind. What to speak of them, even the body we take at the time of birth would not accompany us. Death does not spare anybody and death keeps no calendar. There is absolutely no exception to this rule. If only we may understand this, our angle of vision towards life would definitely change. Guru Arjan, therefore, says:
Once we slip from the top rung of the ladder,
we cannot get to it again;
And the human birth goes in vain.
To fall from the top rung of the creation is indeed a very sad fall. Once we miss this opportunity, we have wasted our present life. Who knows when we may get to it again? Only then would we be able to liberate our soul from the clutches of mind and senses and attain self-realization and God-realization. If we remain engrossed with sense-pleasures and do not accomplish this task while living in the body, what would be the result? “As you think, so you become.” We will have to come into the world again and again. Soul goes where the mind goes. As such, Great Souls exhort us not to forget the day of judgment. Death is not something frightful. The only thing is that we should act with wisdom. We should do this job (of developing cosmic awareness) right here and now so that we may feel at ease while leaving the world. In this context, there is a story of a wise king:
Once there was a country in which, according to the prevailing tradition, people used to select a king for the full term of five years. During this period he was vested with full powers. After the completion of his tenure, people would get together and leave the king in a nearby forest which was inhabited by ferocious animals like tigers, panthers and poisonous snakes. When the king ascended the throne, he used to feel very happy. But at the time of leaving, he wept bitterly because of the calamity that would befall him. So many kings came and met the same fate. At last, there was a king who acted with foresight and wisdom. As soon as he occupied the throne, he started thinking of life after he had completed five years as king. At last he hit upon a wonderful plan. Secretly, he summoned a team of workers, and in good faith ordered them to clear off the jungle. There he erected beautiful palaces with gardens and provided all sorts of amenities.
One can work wonders within a period of five years. After the completion of his term, he was very happy and cheerfully accompanied his subjects to the
jungle. People were surprised to see the king in this condition, as hitherto all his predecessors had departed in tears. They wanted to know the reason for this. The king replied that he had made necessary arrangements for his stay and had nothing to fear in the jungle. Rather, he would lead a peaceful and quiet life free from all responsibilities.
Human birth is a rare privilege to which one comes by an immense fortune. We should make the most of it. Sooner or later, we have to wish good-bye to this mortal world. But before that, if we are able to solve the riddle of life, we can know what is beyond this body or life after death. Only then would we get everlasting life or Kingdom of God where there is all bliss, peace, and ecstasy. If we can experience life in the Beyond right here and now, all fear of death would be eliminated. “He who can, by the grace of the Master, learn to die while living can know the Divine Will.”
One who becomes a conscious coworker of the Divine Plan visibly sees the invisible hand of God working at the back of all creation. What do the Saints enjoin upon us? “O Nanak! a death like this is a gateway to life eternal.“
Soami Ji says: “This (human life) is a golden opportunity given to us.” In this we have to accomplish the task of self-realization and God-realization. Our sole aim here is not to remain busy with body and create bodily relations, but something higher towards which we do not pay any attention. Suppose there is a pigeon who closes his eyes at the sight of a cat. That does not mean that the cat has vanished. He comes to know of it only when he is caught in the cat’s trap. Similarly, death is a must for everybody. It is, therefore, imperative that we should prepare ourselves for this eventuality. How can this be done? For this, we have to know our Self. We are not the body but its indweller or the Power enlivening it. We can know this secret only when we rise above body-consciousness. Then our angle of vision would change.
At present, we see the world from the level of the body. But both the world and the body are changing at the same rate. Mathematicians have calculated that our body cells get totally renewed every seven years. When two things are moving at the same speed, they appear stationary with respect to each other. Suppose there is a boat flowing in the river in the direction of the water. If the speed of the boat and water is the same, to the occupants of the boat it would appear at a standstill. But one who is standing outside can very well see that the boat and the river are flowing at the same speed.
An Enlightened Soul sees that all are rudderless on the mighty sea of life. They try to awaken the humanity from the deep slumber (of mind and senses). But alas! worldly people pay scant attention to Their clarion call. This is a grand delusion in which every one of us is being carried away. Unless one rises above the physical level, one cannot come into his own and know Reality.
Right understanding comes only with inner awakening. From the soul level one can see the changing panorama of the world. We consider our body and bodily relations as the be-all and end-all of our life. But, when we develop the inner vision, the entire system of the creation appears in a different form. If we can experience life in the Beyond while alive, we would escape the painful effects of the ups and downs of life. Secondly, the fear of death would no longer haunt us. Through the higher spiritual contact, all external lusts would lose their charm and become insipid. Only then would we begin to see things in their true perspective. As a result, we would achieve success in every walk of life. When attention is controlled, we can direct it at will. All Great Souls draw our attention to the basic factor that we are human beings first. Maulana Rumi says: “An animal with his head downward may well think of eating and drinking all the time, but fie on man, with his head erect, if he were to look downward.“
Man occupies a place at the top rung of the creation. He should always look upwards (for higher values of life) and try to know his greatness. Further, man has been blessed with Naraini-Deh or abode of man and God. We should realize God while living in the body. If we accomplish this task, we have derived full benefit from the human existence. Once a drop of sand becomes a pearl by entering into the shellfish (soul has realized God), the shell may break at any moment. There is nothing about which to worry. Contrarily, if one shakes off the mortal coil before attaining God-hood, it proves to be fatal. In the Gospels, it is called death of the soul. This is the reason why the horror of demise haunts the entire world. But those who have solved the mystery of life are least afraid of it. Kabir states:
Death from which the whole world shrinks is welcome unto me;
I rejoice as it is a harbinger of perfect peace and joy.
The very name of death makes Him (Kabir) happy because the veil of matter (body) would be rent asunder, and consequently He would merge in the Lord once and for all. It is mentioned about Maulana Rumi that in His last days He was seriously ill. So many Muslim Faqirs came to see Him and started praying for Him. Maulana Rumi Who was in a state of trance, woke up and said: “O brothers! may this prayer bless you. Do you not want that this body which constitutes a veil between myself and God may vanish forever? And thus I may rest in Him?” This is the expression of an Awakened Person Who had realized God in the living body. The Lord is not separate from us, and we are not separate from Him. But because of extroversion at the plane of senses, we have lost our identity. What is required is that we should disengage our attention from worldly pursuits and “tap inside,” as Emerson calls it. This is the act of receding back. This does not mean that we should suppress our senses. But they should be channelized in such a way so as to assist the spirit on the physical plane as well as on the inner.
Our physical eye can see only physical things. The moment we close our eyes, there is no inner vision. Are we not spiritually blind? Likewise, our ears are open only to external music and cannot hear Sat Bani (True Word) or Udgit (Music of the Beyond) reverberating in each one of us. Are we not deaf? If not, then what else? While the Elixir of Naam is within, we are running amuck after external objects. What a pitiable condition! Enlightened Souls, therefore, tell us that every individual has Divine Light within. See It with your own eyes, but presently we cannot. This is because our attention is engaged elsewhere.
Shamas-e-Tabrez says: “I have granted inner vision to thousands who were born blind by which they can see the Lord omnipresent.” Even now so many (blind) people are being initiated. They feel very happy and are overjoyed to see the Light within. When you have developed inner vision, your purpose is served. It does not matter whether you have eyes of flesh or not. We are ignorant about this science. This is ancient wisdom that we have forgotten. Great Souls have always appeared from time to time and revived this science spiritual. After a Saint ends His earthly sojourn, another Mahatma comes to do His divine work. Master-souls are very, very rare; but the world has never been without one. The law of demand and supply is eternal. There is food for the hungry and water for the thirsty. A Guru appears when the disciple is ready.
This world is like a dream;
Understand, O mind! nothing here is our own.
God created man. He is an ensouled body. Soul is the essence of God. The same soul is enlivening each one of us. It is a drop of the Ocean of All-Consciousness. But, unfortunately, our spirit is identified with the body at the sensual plane, so much so that we have lost our identity. The life we have spent so far looks like a dream. At the time of death, when soul leaves the body, our past actions would be like a sleeping vision. So Kabir says that the whole world is like a dream. Whatever we see around us appears to be something true or unchangeable. What is the reason for this? This is because we are living in the realm of relativity where everything is constantly changing. When two things are changing at the same speed, they appear to be stationary with respect to each other. From the body level, we cannot apprehend this change. What a grand delusion! But, one who has developed inner vision by transcending the body limitations can clearly see that matter is changing every moment. This world is like a mirage in the desert. Whatever we see in the dream may seem to be true at that moment. But when the eye opens, all is gone. One feels the same when the hour of death approaches. But awakening at that time is absolutely of no avail, as the time has run out. Secondly, we have to see that nothing shall accompany us from here. By the term ‘us’ we do not mean the material body but our very Self which is a conscious entity. So Awakened Souls always draw our attention to the fact that we are being deceived. If at all there is anything true or eternal, it is either soul or the Oversoul.
O seekers after Truth, know ye that this body is false and perishable;
And recognize ye alone the Ram (All-pervading Spirit) dwelling therein as true.
Kabir here advises us that in the changing panorama of life, we should seek a true companion of the soul: “The whole world is being carried away by waves of blind infatuation.” As we are identified with the body, we see the external world from the body level. So attachment is the natural outcome. Kabir, therefore, says that the entire world is in the grip of infatuation irrespective of the fact whether one is learned or illiterate. So long as the mind-driven spirit identifies with the body at the sensual plane, both (learned and unlearned) are sailing in the same boat. Only by rising above body-consciousness one gets to Truth. Reality is one thing but it appears to be another. All are chained in the bondage of matter. There is a story of a great devout named Chhajju. It was customary with him that whenever death took place in his neighborhood he used to dance before the funeral, singing praises of the Lord. His own son died. As usual, he started dancing before the dead body. The people were not too late to point out that the old tune was missing in him.
Unless we learn to transcend the mind and senses as a matter of routine, we cannot get rid of the waves of infatuation. We must come to our own and be able to see the world from a higher level as distinguished from the physical level. Those who do are least affected by ups and downs of life. They behave alike under all circumstances.
Once my Master, Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji, went to meet His Master, Baba Jaimal Singh. He was accompanied by His ailing son whose condition was a bit serious. Unfortunately, the son expired before they reached Dera Beas in Punjab. Hazur used to say that He looked at the dead body and then searched His heart to know the reaction of this calamity. As described by Him, this death had practically no effect on His mind. This is the state of Perfect Beings.
Just as a pitcher of water once broken cannot be reassembled,
Likewise, a leaf fallen from a tree cannot be reunited.
Now the Great Teacher elucidates this allegory. Suppose there is a pitcher containing water: sooner or later it will become empty. Similarly, our body contains a definite stock of vital airs according to Pralabdha Karmas.
Every breath and food are fixed for everybody. When their stock is exhausted, we have to vacate this house (body). But, by the restricted use of vital airs, we can prolong the allotted span of our life. For instance, you will experience that normally we breathe 14-15 times a minute. But if we lead a life full of passion or indulgence or anger, our breathing is accelerated to the extent of 28-30 times per minute. Consequently, life would be reduced by one-half. You must have heard a universal proverb that vices shorten a person’s life.
Through a life of continence and meditation, one respires only three to four times a minute. With the result, that life is increased three times. A yogin, by proper control and regulation of vital airs, can remain in a state of trance for years. Likewise, one can prolong his life span by thousands of years. In 1930, I met a Sikh gentleman named Kishan Singh. He was about 125 or 130 then. He told me that he used to remain in trance for two years through Kumbhak (a yogic exercise involving pranas). His vision was so sharp that he could even read in moonlight. Also, he had all his teeth intact. Kabir, therefore, says that every day, every hour, nay every minute our stock of vital airs is being thinned out. This is bringing us nearer to the ultimate end known as death.
A person came to a Mahatma (Great Soul) and informed Him that a particular man was breathing his last. The Mahatma asked that person: “How old is he?” “Seventy years,” replied the stranger. Thereupon, the Mahatma said: “The dying man has been exhausting his store of vital airs for the last 70 years. Now it is only a question of his last breath.“
Time and tide wait for no man. Human life is a golden opportunity for us. We should make the most of it. How can we do it? For this, we should get up at the ambrosial hour of the early dawn, rise above body-consciousness and know our Self. Further, Kabir says that just as a leaf fallen from a tree cannot get to it again. In exactly the same way, once we miss the opportunity of human life, who knows when we may come to it again? It is only in this garb that one can come by Truth and not in lower births. Man is a rational being and can discriminate right from wrong. As such, he can hold on to Truth and reach to It by and through untruth (body and bodily adjuncts). Great Souls always have been awakening mankind, are awakening even now, and will be doing so in the future. They invariably stress upon the importance of human birth.
Thy human life is going in vain;
Awaken thou, O proud man! from the deep slumber.
The Great Teacher says that everyone of us is frittering away this golden opportunity (of human life) in useless pursuits of the world. All are immersed in ignorance. We have neither known our Self nor the God Power in us. We have not seen the reality of the world from a higher level. What a great deception! Enlightened Souls, therefore, exhort us to awaken to Reality and thus make a fair use of the limited time at our disposal.
Further, we should seek the active guidance of a spiritual Adept Who may assist us in self-realization. If we look at our present plight, we would find that from dawn to dusk we are either busy in feeding the body or concerned with bodily affairs. We are simply an indweller in the body and not the body. Sooner or later we will have to vacate this house under His will. Take a worldly example. When an eviction order is issued by a court, all belongings of the house are immediately thrown out. Likewise, we have no alternative but to carry out the Divine injunction and quit the tabernacle of flesh. Now a question arises: “Are we prepared for this eventuality known as death?” Peep inside and see what we really aim at. Soul is the driving force behind the body. It is, therefore, said:
The body lives so long as the God Power is in it;
The moment the God Power departs, the body becomes a heap of dust.
This house (body) remains beautiful so long as that Power (soul) is in it. The moment it is withdrawn, who cares for the body?
Nobody likes to keep the dead body at home even for a short while;
Everyone is in a hurry to dispose it of at the earliest.
This then is the value of this mortal frame. Alas! we are totally ignorant of the Life-Principle in us or the Power enlivening the body. If at all we know a little, our knowledge is purely theoretical and confined to what is written in the scriptures. Practically, we have not seen that Power nor experienced It. If we are unable to withdraw our spirit from the body at will, what is the hope for us? That means we have not yet developed the Single Eye by which we can see Reality. Consequently, this realm of relativity appears to be something eternal and unchangeable.
O man! don’t be deceived by the beautiful faces;
Thy stay in this world is very brief.
The Great Teacher says that we should not confine our attention to the glamour and beauty of the outside world. Whether one has fair complexion or dark, all are subject to death and decay. It is just like a display of fireworks in which there are various types of crackers, which may be models of horses with deformed noses and houses with bent walls. But the moment a burning splinter is shown to the crackers, all are reduced to ashes after a momentary show. This exactly is the case with our clayey moulds. Death is a great leveler. It does not discriminate between the rich and poor, white and black, high and low. All mundane things are connected with the physical body. Everything on the material plane, including our body, is subject to destruction and dissolution. What then is everlasting or eternal? It is our own Self or individual soul. We should know and experience it. One who has gained self-knowledge would permanently escape the cycle of births and deaths. In this context, Soami Ji says:
O Soul! sky is thy dwelling place;
But alas thou are trapped by the bondage of matter.
Soul’s true home is where there is complete absence of matter. But strange as it may seem, it has been caught up in the mud of the world — mighty maze of mind and matter. Unless we come to our own, our spirit cannot enter the Lord’s Mansion. Only by attaining the Kingdom of God can we have life eternal.
Thy mind is attached to the house (body)
which ultimately has to be abandoned;
Thou carest least about thy True Home
where thou shalt dwell permanently.
One considers the body and the worldly things that have to be left behind as the be-all and end-all of human existence. But, we feel least concerned about the place (Kingdom of God) where we have to live forever. How can we regard such a one as wise? The Vedas say: “Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached.” This evidently means that our attention is engaged elsewhere. In other words, we have lost our Self in the attachment and delusion of the world. This is because we treat our spirit on par with the material body. Guru Arjan says:
Awake thou, O traveler! of the way;
Thou art late for thy destination.
The pilgrim soul after transcending the physical has to traverse the regions of And (astral), Brahmand (causal) and Par Brahm. Beyond all these lies our True Home in Sach Khand or Sat Lok. The journey is long and arduous. But alas! we are asleep in the mire of sense-gratification. The true preceptor, therefore, warns us that the world is not a permanent abode for us. While here one should engage oneself in those pursuits that may benefit our soul. It is, therefore, said:
By great good fortune thou has got a human birth;
This is the only opportunity for thee
to contact the Lord;
All else of worth avail thee naught;
Seek ye the association of Saints
and learn to commune with the Holy Word.
Human birth is a rare privilege to which one comes by in the fullness of karmas. In this, we can accomplish the task of self-realization and God-realization. The Gospels say: “It is thy turn to meet God.” We should avail this opportunity to our utmost advantage. But it is distressing to note that we are only engaged in useless pursuits (of the world). They are least connected with our soul. All our time is being consumed in the affairs of the body. Man is a three-fold entity, comprising body, intellect, and soul. We have achieved tremendous progress in different spheres of life — physical, social, political, and intellectual. We have made wonderful inventions. Man can swim across the mighty oceans and fly in the skies. We have also manufactured disastrous weapons like the atom bomb. One atom bomb can destroy millions of precious human lives. While we have achieved all this and much more, we have sadly neglected the most important aspect of our life — spiritual. Body and intellect derive their power from the soul about which we have no knowledge. Man should develop in all respects. One who attains perfection from the levels of body, intellect, and soul could alone be called a Perfect Being.
Having been blessed with a human life, we should conduct ourselves in the business of the world in such a way that we can get to the crest jewel of our life. How can we do that? We should sit in the company of an Awakened Soul Who has liberated His spirit from the shackles of mind and senses and analyzed His Self by transcending the body consciousness. Then He should have the firsthand experience of God Power within and be able to impart the same to others. In the association of such Persons alone can we gain self-awareness and then rise into cosmic awareness. What do the evolved souls enjoin upon us? We should commune with Naam or the Holy Word. This Power is sustaining the entire creation. Naam has two aspects. One is just a syllable. The other is the Power that this syllable denotes. One is the name and the other the named. Mere knowledge of name is of little significance unless we know its attribute. Naam is the Power with which we have to establish contact. Mere repetition of names or holy words constitutes an elementary step. Starting from this we would unite with the Naam Power. In other words, when our soul transcends the body after freeing from the impact of mind and senses, it would contact the Word and then reach its very source. The Naam Power has originated from the Nameless.
So two things are very essential. Firstly, the association of an Enlightened Soul and loving devotion towards Him. Secondly, communion with Naam. It is also known as Shabd. The Vedas call It Shruti. The Upanishads refer to It as Udgit (Music of the Beyond). Muslim divines call It Kalma and declare that 14 Tabaks or divisions were created by It. Hindus term It as Naad and ascribe to It the manifestation of 14 Bhavans or regions. Both speak of the same thing. That Kalma or Naad is wordless. At one place Maulana Rumi has mentioned:
O God! show me that place
from where the Kalma proceedeth
The Gurbani says in this context:
Naam or the Holy Word is sustaining
the various planes and sub-planes
in the creation.
Again it is stated: “The whole creation sprang from Naam.“
It is the primal manifestation of God that is responsible for the entire creation. Naam is the Controlling Power behind all that exists. We should commune with It. All other pursuits in which we are presently engaged are of no avail on the Path Godwards. We are to make a fair use of the things at our disposal and not get lost in their enjoyment. The supreme ideal of human life is to attune our Self with the Word through the active guidance of a Word-personified Saint. How can we achieve this?
Leave off egotism, avarice, and cunningness;
And then live like a free and fearless man in the world.
Who can comprehend Reality? Kabir says that one who has rid himself of all the above three vices would then see everything in its true color. First, egotism. Some are swayed by the intoxication of power. Some are proud of their learning and knowledge. Some take pride in their wealth and think that they can do anything. So the Great Teacher says that such people cannot get to Reality at any cost. Further, they never seek the nearness of a man of intuition or realization because of their vanity. As such, elimination of egotism is a must. Only then would you develop right understanding and correct vision. Secondly, whenever you do something, be free from avarice. A greedy man views everything from a selfish end. He is least bothered about the reality of a thing. Keep a servant. Just pay him fifty rupees and get any type of statement in your favor. If the same man is paid one hundred rupees by another person, he would readily speak against the first man. How could such a person know Truth? Thirdly, refrain from cunningness. Knowing full well that a thing is wrong, one tries his best to hide the fact through cunning talks and hypocrisy. If you speak one lie, you have to speak fifty more lies to conceal the truth. This is what most people do.
The result is that we are far from Reality. Only by discarding the three evils — egotism, avarice, and cunningness — can one witness the Divine Glory and see things in their true perspective. Such a person has nothing to fear in the world.
All friends, all relatives, wife, and children must part one day.
Kabir says that all the worldly connections are of ephemeral nature and are severed at the time of death. Our earthly relationship takes place strictly according to the Pralabdha Karmas. We come over here simply to settle our past accounts with each other. When this is over everyone of us must depart. We should, therefore, seek a true companion Who will not leave nor forsake us until the end. Now the question arises as to who can be such a friend?
O Nanak! snap all the ephemeral ties of worldly relations
and find the company of a true Saint;
The former shall break away in this very life, while the latter
shall abide with thee even after death.
Nanak exhorts us to sever all connections with the people of the world and search the eternal friendship of some theo-centric Saint. The term “Saint” here has been used for a really Awakened Soul well versed with the theory and practice of Spirituality and not for any particular guise or external label. The friends and relations in the world, howsoever near and dear they may be, do not stand by through thick and thin. All have selfish ends. Some of them leave off in poverty, some in prolonged illness and disease, and some in adverse circumstances and misfortune. At the most, a few may help you to the funeral pyre and that is all. Even the most sincere stand by helplessly when one is at death’s door and gasping for breath. None can come to our rescue at that moment save the Master-soul. He is ever with us and protects us, no matter where we may be, in the forests, on the snowy mountain tops, in the burning deserts, or in the wilderness. And again, on doomsday when all the worldly connections are broken, He appears in the radiant form of the Master to escort the departed soul into the Beyond. It is, therefore, said:
Serve the true Master and develop the Holy Word;
The Master receives them on death,
those who have done their best to follow Him.
The Master remains steadfast with the initiate unto the last. If we rise above body-consciousness, He leads our spirit gradually from plane to plane as a true guide. He abides forever and forever and even stands by to help us before the judgement-seat of God. But my beloved Master, Baba Sawan Singh Ji Maharaj, used to say: “If after death one has to accompany the Angel of Death, then one should wish good-bye to such a ‘master’ and his word.“