English version of a talk given in Hindi at Sawan Ashram
What a rich mine of precious Name is within thee!
Why hankereth thou after shells instead of pearls?
Thou hath forgotten thy demesne and seeketh burial grounds and crematoriums,
And wandereth like evil spirits ignorant of the God of love.
Like a bloodhound thou tracketh blood,
unmindful of the ambrosia in thee, for
Thou careth not for the elixir of divine knowledge and uselessly grindeth the husks.
In the end thou shalt repent when thy pranas shall take leave of thee;
0 Shahansha! Those who know how to sit within themselves,
they are freed from all doubts and delusions.
If we want to gain proficiency in any branch of knowledge, we have to go to a school or a college. If, for instance, we wish to learn physiology, we shall have to sit at the feet of physicians competent to teach us anatomy by the process of dissection and practical demonstration of the various parts of the body. By the same analogy, if we are seekers of God, we shall have to go to One Who has realized God for Himself in His own Self. The company or association of such a Person is technically known as Satsang. Satsang literally means an association with Sat or Truth — an Unchangeable Permanence. God is Truth. Those Who have attained Truth can impart to us knowledge of Truth and give us an experience of Truth just in the same way as we get a practical demonstration in a science laboratory. Similarly, it is in Satsang that we learn for ourselves as to how to work for Truth in the laboratory of the human body. As teachers impart knowledge to the students, the Master-souls give us divine knowledge and show us in a practical way something of the Spirit and Power of God. Such Master-souls are qualified in divine wisdom and hold a commission from above to link the aspiring beings with the strands of life. One Who is so qualified and has been so authorized is known as a Sant-Satguru or a Sadh-Guru. Such a living Master emphatically exclaims that God is within us and can be experienced within with the active aid and guidance of One Who has realized God. Man is the highest rung in the ladder of creation. It is in the flesh that one can know the true God and gain life everlasting.
Listen ye to the testimony of Saints;
They speak of that what They actually see.
Herein lies the difference between the teachers of the world and Doctors of Divinity. Whereas the former give us only a book-knowledge on the level of the senses and appeal to our feelings and emotions or at the most to our intellect, the latter give us a direct and immediate revelation of the God Power in us.
What an ill luck! How can we be blessed
when we have not met the Lord within us?
Those who have not themselves seen God, how can they make us see Him?
One may wander all the world over
but cannot meet God without the help of a Satguru.
Unless we meet such a competent Master, we cannot have an experience of Divinity.
When Mira, a Rajput princess, and a seeker after God, came to Ravi Das, the cobbler Saint, and experienced the Spirit and Power of God in her own person, she involuntarily exclaimed:
Mira Bai is perpetually in a blissful union with the Lord.
Satsang is the only way whereby we can have the knowledge and experience of the Divine in us. It is a panacea for all ills of life. Most of us are swayed by feelings, emotions, or inferential knowledge on the level of intellect. But we have no firsthand inner experience of God. The Masters tell us that They
have seen Him. There is also another side of the picture. Some great Saints have declared that no one has seen God nor can one see Him. It is true that God-in-absolute cannot be seen by the eyes of flesh nor can we hear Him. But God-in-action or His Power-in-expression can certainly be seen as well as heard, for Light and Sound characterize that Power. The Masters term this Power as Naam, the Holy Word or Kalma. Being one with this Power, They have the authority to grant us a conscious contact with It. When that Absolute Power wished to come into being, there was a commotion, a vibration; and with it Light and Sound came as natural concomitants. It is this Light and this Sound that can be communed with. Satsang, strictly speaking, is association with such perfect Masters Who are Word-personified.
Nanak speaks of Him as:
The Lord of Nanak is visible like a noonday sun.
Christ when asked about God replied:
Behold the Lord.
Kabir in much the same strain said,
I have now no misgivings about God as I have seen
the ineffable Light – immaculate within me.
Guru Arjan said:
He Who in His fullness is immanent in waters and lands
is palpably visible in the entire creation.
In similar words Parmahansa Ramakrishna replied to His celebrated disciple Vivekananda when questioned about God’s existence,
Yes, my child, I see God just as I see you —
nay with more clarity than this.
Dadu Sahib says:
All speak of God from hearsay,
but I bear testimony of Him
from personal experience within myself.
So if you are keen to have the vision of God, you will naturally have to go to some adept Who has seen Him and can make you do likewise. There are people who meditate on astral colors or space without having been initiated by any competent Master. How can they contemplate One Who is beyond all space and spatial adjuncts, forms, and colors?
I am speaking in a very frank language. He who his not seen God cannot make you see God. It is a question of inner revelation. Christ says:
Son knows the Father and others to whom the Son may reveal.
A living Master is truly the Son of God and comes to give us the knowledge and experience of God. You shall appreciate that revelation means to bring into manifestation that which is already there but is hidden in the folds of the mind. He is within all of us. We live, move, and have our very being in Him. The living Master, in a practical way, brings home to us this Divine Truth. He does not put into us anything from without.
All things have been made by Him (the Word),
and without Him is not anything made that has been made.
So long as the life current is in us we live. This very Life Principle is sustaining and keeping us, as well as the entire universe, well under Its control. If it were not so, we could easily escape from the prison-house of flesh with so many open doors and windows in it. But can we do so? No. Why? There is the Divine Power controlling all our out-breathings through the sense-organs. To have a practical experience of this Controlling Power is known as Spirituality or the science of soul.
The Psalm you have just heard tells us that we are endowed with the treasure of Naam, and yet we are wandering without in search of peace. Spirituality is neither spiritism nor spiritualism. Spiritism is just a belief in the existence of disembodied spirits who roam about in the lower strata of the astral world. Spiritualism is to establish a contact with such spirit by means of mind-force and press them into service of one form or another just to make a show or to earn a livelihood. Spirituality, on the other hand, means to realize the “Self” and then to establish a conscious contact with the Overself or God Power which, too, is in us. All this is done by a practical process of self-analysis whereby one rises above body-consciousness and begins to commune with that Power. Without a direct and immediate experience of It through the active aid and guidance of some Godman, one cannot do it on one’s own howsoever hard one may try.
Kabir, therefore, says:
O brother, a Satguru who claims himself to be a Sant
must be competent enough to reveal to us
what is hidden in us (the Spirit and Power of God).
This experience once gained can be developed to any extent by daily practice under the direction and control of a Godman. Kabir has thrown a challenge to one and all so that those who claim to be Saints or Satgurus must be competent enough to make us rise above body-consciousness and give us a direct conscious contact with the Light and Sound of God within. If you apply this touchstone, you will know how many real Satgurus there are — very rare indeed. You may come across so many who may be able to give you elementary lessons as aids to spiritual progress and make you feel at home on the level of senses and intellect.
All practices of Apravidya — like the study of scriptures, worship of images and idols, visit to places of pilgrimages, performance of rites and rituals, etc.— and inferential knowledge, though good in themselves, are not enough. These things can be learned from anybody and from anywhere, but it is not Spirituality or knowledge and experience of “Self” by separating it from the clutches of mind and matter, and to witness the Divine Glory within. Spirituality, be it known, cannot be taught but may be caught from one who is himself affected with It. One who really catches It is in a position to testify to It and say that he has seen the Light of God and heard the Voice of God and thus has actually come into contact with God-into-expression Power. An association with a perfect Being then is a real Satsang. Such sacred Satsangs are very rare. These were rare in ages gone by and so are They in the present age, but the world is not without Them. The eternal law of supply and demand operates at all times and all levels of existence. There is food for the hungry and water for the thirsty.
A continued and sustained search by earnest and sincere seekers after God is bound to bear, sooner or later, the much coveted fruit. All that you might be doing is just a preparation of the ground; and when the inner yearning grows truly, you will not fail to find a real teacher — nay He will find you out. Just as clouds precede rain, so are good and pious deeds. But unless you do not become a seer of God, there is no salvation, because all actions on the sense-level serve to feed the ego. Good as well as bad actions bind the doer, the one with chains of gold and the other with those of steel:
So long as one feels that one is the doer,
One cannot escape from the cycle of births.
Contrarily, when one begins to see the Spirit and Power of God, he at once becomes an agent, a mere cog or an insignificant instrument in the Divine set up. Then he is a Neh-karma and all his seeming acts are acts of the invisible Power, and he is only a sakshi or a witness thereof. This is figuratively called becoming a conscious coworker of the Divine Plan. Once this delusion of doership is dispelled, there remains nothing to bind the individual.
Guru Nanak says:
I do not wish anything on my own.
Whatever pleaseth Thee, comes to pass.
When one ceases to be the “doer,” the sanchit karmas (karmas stored up through the ages) become infructuous like popcorn. When the Master grants this inner conscious contact of Divinity and helps us to see the Divine Light by imparting His own personal life-impulse, He provides us with “stock-in-trade” for future development. “In the company of a Saint, one sees the Lord within.” When you once see His splendor, you will begin to relish His Spirit and Power in you and feel really blessed. Dadu likewise says:
Dadu speaks of Him after having seen Him,
while all others speak from hearsay.
Just find out for yourselves as to how many persons have actually seen God. Everybody quotes the scriptures on the existence of God or speaks of Him on the authority of ancient Masters Who are no more with us and, as such, cannot instruct us and guide us on the God-Path. Dadu says that He has actually seen Him, whereas all others speak of what they have heard of Him from others.
Now let us take a Psalm of Kabir: Kabir says that you cannot become a devotee by merely talking of devotion. Give up all idle talk. Arguments will not take you nearer God. God has to be practiced and lived through. Learn to revel in God and bask in the sunshine of His glory. Herein lies the summun bonum of life on the earth plane. Be ye a flute in the hands of the Divine Musician. Let Him work through you.
Guru Arjan says:
What does the poor wooden doll know?
It is the player who makes it play.
An intellectual giant will give you a very learned talk and may even offer to link up heaven and earth, but all this by tall and loud harangues only. What does he know of God but as a figment of his own imagination and a spark of his heated brain? A Muslim divine says:
The seekers of God lose sight of God.
They drown God in the ocean of their talk.
Mind has a vast power over us. We are swayed by the why and wherefore of God, and He fails to take roots in us. Without a personal conviction at the level of the spirit, we keep vegetating on the surface of the sea far from the center of our being. Satsang means a congregation presided over by a seer of God. It is in His company that we can have some firsthand inner experience. Dadu was not a literary person, but a God-realized Saint. What He has stated is on the basis of His own personal experience. His forceful words inspire us with hope, and we can follow in His footsteps. Similarly, Jesus, Kabir, Nanak, and Mohammed never joined any school or college, and yet They were the Seers of Truth and have left behind Them precious treasures of divine wisdom for our guidance.
Hear ye the true testimony of the Saints.
They speak from personal experience.
You may have heard of Sarbjeet, a learned Pandit in Kabir’s times. He was called Sarbjeet because he had conquered all the learned people of his age in polemics. He was proficient in dialectics. His mother was a great devotee of Kabir and, consequently, was gifted with right understanding of the Holy Path. She wanted to bring her son to the right course. One day she told her son that he could not boast of being a Sarbjeet unless he vanquished Kabir in argument. It is said that in a fit of egotism he carried a cartload of his scriptures and went to Kabir for a discussion. Kabir greeted the young man and inquired of him the purpose of his visit. When he heard the story of the vainglorious braggart, Kabir, to satisfy Sarbjeet’s vanity, told him that He could gladly accept defeat without entering into any discussion. The young man wanted affirmation in writing so as to show to his mother. Kabir asked him to write out whatever he liked and offered to sign on it. Sarbjeet hastily wrote a line affirming defeat and got it signed. Upon reaching home, his dismay knew no bounds when he placed before his mother the roll of honor wherein he had admitted his own failure at the hands of Kabir. He was greatly puzzled at his own folly and once again rushed back to Kabir. Kabir smiled naively at the man and asked him to be careful this time. Again, in his confusion he wrote as before, and upon returning home felt humiliated and lost. This gave a big blow to Sarbjeet’s vanity, and he penitently went to Kabir to understand the mystery. Kabir took pity on the young man and explained to him Divine Truths in simple and easy terms. When an able surgeon undertakes a big operation, he does not allow the least infection to remain in the body. Kabir then said:
O Pandit! how can we two agree?
What I say is from personal experience,
while you talk from what is written in books.
The scriptures provide us with essential knowledge and help us in understanding the subject but cannot deliver the goods. Even for right and correct interpretation of the scriptures, we have to come to an adept Who has Himself experienced the Divine Truths recorded in the books. All the seers tend to converge toward the center, whereas the intellectuals differ variously. Maulana Rumi frankly told the learned Kazis:
I know not what is rhyme and rhythm,
but my verses are all honeyed sweet.
The words of the Master-saints come from the depth of Their being and spring spontaneously at the Lord’s bidding and, as such, are artistically perfect.
Kabir further explained:
I try to make you understand in simple and plain words,
while you talk in riddles and are enmeshed in them.
I tell you to rise into higher consciousness,
while you prefer to remain in stark blindness.
Kabir lays emphasis on the life of spirit, free from entanglements of mind and matter. This physical body of ours in which we are so much lost is in a state of continuous flux, although apparently it looks to be static. We have, therefore, to wake up to the reality and know a spade as a spade. All rites and rituals we perform according to our own beliefs and dogmas are not sufficient in themselves for our spiritual awakening — hence, the stress is on personal knowledge and experience of God by introversion, by rising above body-consciousness. We must be the seers of God and the hearers of God in our own right and within us.
The Vedas exclaim:
Awake, arise, and stop not till the goal is reached!
Unless we actually come to understand and bask in the sunshine of God, we are yet far from Him. Again, Kabir says:
O dear soul! why doth thou slumber on?
The night hath passed away;
why waste the live-long day?
All great Masters speak in much the same strain. Guru Arjan says:
O wake ye up! why pass away in a coma.
One must depart from this world in full consciousness. We must know beforehand as to when we have to go and whereto. The performance of good deeds in accordance with our religious doctrines is just the first step, but not an end in itself. Formerly, the social structure was based on the pattern of work in which the people were engaged. The knowers of Brahm were called Brahmins. Those who took to the sword in defense of the country became Kshtriyas, while those who engaged themselves in any trade, business, or vocation like tillage and husbandry came to be known as Vaish. The rest of the people who undertook to serve others were termed as Sudras. But now those days are gone. Kabir, therefore, stresses the importance of inner awakening for all. One can have this awakening in the company of Awakened Souls and not from book-learning like Sarbjeet, who believed in intellectual wranglings and disputations which go to add more to our ignorance rather than enlightenment.
Kabir goes on to explain:
I tell you to develop inner detachment,
while you are drifting helplessly into the world.
I tell you human birth is something rare. It has come to us through good past karmas (pralabdha). Why not make the most of it while there is yet time? Take care of proper sowing in season, and the harvest will come on its own. If we become cutthroats, we shall have to pay in the like coin. It is simply a matter of give and take. We must happily score out old accounts and pay off all the debts incurred, but be careful not to add any more load to the heavy burden on our heads. The invisible pen of the Lord moves according to our deeds. God is a stern judge and He judges sternly. I had an occasion to be present in the court where a murder trial was on. After hearing the prosecution and defense arguments and the verdict of the jury, the Sessions Judge declared: “In view of the facts and the law placed before me, I find the accused guilty of murder and sentence him to be hanged by the neck till he is dead.” You must understand the basic concepts of life. All the worldly relations like those of husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers are the result of karmic reactions to past actions. We have to run through the gamut of them all as best as possible and also work for the highest aim of life — self-realization and God-realization. If we fail to achieve this aim, our life goes in vain, and we remain steadily in the cycle of births and deaths according to our deeds.
From age to age, I have tried to make thee realize this:
I wonder why doth not the truth come home to thee?
Here Kabir is referring to His advent in all the four cycles of time for the spiritual regeneration of man and affirms that, by and large, the people did not pay heed to His sage counsel. The Masters offer Their sublime teachings to the suffering humanity; and when they fail to find a happy response, they revolt against the dogmatic beliefs and superstitions. “The same good old custom corrupts itself.” The outer modes of worshipping the Light and Sound in shrines and temples, churches and synagogues, were introduced to make people understand the importance of tapping inside the human body — a temple of God. God dwells in every heart. He is within us and in the rest of His creation. If (as conscious entities) we start worshipping the less conscious, what spiritual benefit would it bring to us?
Guru Arjan, therefore, says:
By a mighty good fortune one comes to the human level.
What a shame! if one does not commune with the Word.
Is it not a matter of great regret if the conscious spirit in man bows down before images made by human hands and worships birds, trees, and reptiles — all on lower rungs of the ladder of life? It naturally means going down into the scale of creation. To fall from a mountain top is a sad fall indeed. Christ calls it the “death of the soul.” Now the times have considerably changed. The Masters come again and again to awaken us. And we again and again fall into the pit as soon as They depart from the scene of life. They come to revive the same age-old Truth and offer old wine in new bottles in conformity with the needs of modern times in a language, simple and lucid, so as to be intelligible to the common man.
Finally, Kabir cannot but use the strongest possible terms in condemning the so-called teachers who profess to teach Spirituality without any knowledge of Spirituality itself:
You wander about like a profligate who has never known
the pleasures of true love, and your having lost all self-respect
are now in dire distress.
One who has not known true God and truly witnessed His glory is no better than a prostitute making with all who come in one’s way. The words used are no doubt harsh and yet are very true. The learned intellectuals have mere bookish knowledge; and when they are overtaken by the vicissitudes of life, they exhibit in themselves but very poor specimen of humanity with no roots in the divine wisdom which they profess so enthusiastically to teach the world. One who has no conscious contact with the Lord within has no right to teach others. One who has verily wasted his own precious human existence should not attempt to lead others. If a blind man leads the blind, both are sure to fall into the ditch. Those who simply pose and act like masters are a danger to society. They are like ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing. They have no vision of the Divine in them nor do they care to have It. You may do your best to put them on the right track, but they will not come the right way. The greatness of a perfect Master, an adept in Spirituality, lies in the fact that He can grant an inner conscious contact with the saving-lifelines (Naam or the Word) at the very first sitting. Without this initial experience, you cannot be convinced of Reality in you. Even if engaged all the time in worshipful acts and deeds on the sensual level, one can never, on his own, rise above the realm of intellect. It is only by grace that we are saved and not by our own merit. God in the garb of a Godman may come to our rescue and save us out of sheer compassion. His voice is the voice of God, and His hand is the hand of God.
So long as you do not see with your own inner eye — the Single Eye — of God, you must not go by mere hearsay. Do not take anybody on his face value. I am obliged to speak frankly, lest you be overtaken unawares. Do not mortgage your precious soul. The entire world is caught up in this delusion. Excuse me if I say, though I do so with much regret, that there is a lot of black-marketing in the domain of religion. Outwardly, in the mundane affairs of life, you may be duped to a certain extent and yet be able to get something in return for your hard earned money. But alas! in the realm of religious preaching, there is one hundred percent loss of your precious time, money, and energy when in your quest for God you offer your all to the so-called teachers out of loving devotion and in a spirit of dedication. Of what avail this will be when, in course of time, it transpires that they are as much a prey to sensual pleasures as are you. In such moments of dire distress, you involuntarily exclaim: “O, it is all Gurudom. God save us from Gurudom.“
Satguru, be it undulated, is the chosen human-pole in and through which the Lord’s divine grace works in the world for the spiritual welfare and guidance of the suffering humanity. He is the Word-made-flesh, a manifested God-in-man. The same Divine Principle is working in us as well; but without holy initiation from a perfect Master, this remains a sealed mystery. He is the moving God on earth, living amongst us, sharing in our joys and sorrows. He is out and out engaged in ameliorating our painful condition, and out of sheer compassion grants a conscious contact with the saving lifelines (the Holy Naam). If we scrupulously act up to His instructions, He will make us a Saint like Himself in due course. So we must realize the great value of spiritual riches that a Sant Satguru bestows on us.
Finally, Kabir tells us:
Kabir saith, listen all ye to what I say and follow it,
For then alone ye shall turn out like unto me.
We have, therefore, to search for a Sant Satguru wherever He may be and in whatever garb He may be if we are really in need of God for God’s sake. He is a spring of the Water of Life, and we can have from Him the Elixir to our fill.