From the book "The crown of life", written by Sant Kirpal Singh
Apart from its scientific approach, its comparatively easy accessibility, its quality of naturalness and its freedom from the drawbacks of other yogic forms, another distinctive feature of the Yoga of the Sound Current is the unique and pervasive emphasis it lays on the need at every step for a Satguru, Pire-rah or Murshid-i- Kamil (a competent, living Master). Though something on this theme has already been mentioned under "The cornerstones", much remains to be elaborated.
The Guru-shish or Guru-sikh relationship is important in all forms of practical yoga, but it is pivotal here in a unique sense. For the Guru in the Surat Shabd Yoga is not only a being who explains to us the real nature of existence, instructs us in the true values of life and tells us of the sadhnas to be practised for inner attainment, he is all this and more. He is the inner guide as well, leading the soul from plane to plane to its ultimate destination, a guide without whose aid the soul would mistake the intermediate stages for the final goal and would encounter barriers which it would be unable to surmount.
The role of the Master being what it is, it is little wonder that all mystics who have pursued this way should have sung of him with superlative reverence and adoration.From Kabir, we read:
I wish and long for the dust of his feet – the dust that has created the universe;
His lotus feet are the true wealth and a haven of peace.
They grant ineffable wisdom and lead one on the path Godward.
And the Sikh scriptures sing:
Sweet are the lotus feet of the Master;
With God's writ one sees them;
And myriad are the blessings that follow upon such a vision.
From the Sufis, we have:
If I were to sing praises of his countless blessings
till eternity, I could hardly say anything of them.
Some mystics even go to the extent of raising his position above that of God:
The Master is greater than God.
The Guru and God both stand manifested,
whom may I adore and render obeisance?
Wonderful indeed is the Guru
who has revealed the God-power within.
All this may lead the sceptic to suspect human idolatry. He may ask: "Why this deification of a human being? Why such praise heaped upon one who is mortal?" Mystics at times have responded to this question with holy indifference:
People decry that Khusro has turned idolator;
Indeed I have, but what has the world to do with me?
But sometimes, they have themselves answered it fully:
Without the munificence of the Master one gets naught,
Even if one engages in a million meritorious deeds.
Devotion to God keeps one entangled in this (physical) life – just consider gravely,
But devotion to the Master carries one back unto God.
Enter within and verify for yourself,
Who is greater of the two: God or the Guru.
God drove me into the wilderness of the world,
but the Master has snapped for me the ceaseless chain of transmigration.
All great spiritual teachers have maintained that without the help of a living Master, the spiritual journey is difficult and impossible to traverse to the very end. Jalalud-din Rumi, the Persian mystic, suggests this forcefully when he says:
Veiled from this was Moses
Though all strength and light,
Then thou who hast no wings at all,
Attempt not flight.
And makes his meaning still clearer elsewhere: Find a Master spirit, for without his active help and guidance, this journey is beset with dangers, perils and fears. In the Gospels it is the same strain that vibrates through the sayings of Jesus:
No man cometh unto the Father but by me.
No man knoweth who the Father is, but the Son;
and he to whom the Son will reveal Him.
ST. LUKE AND ST. MATTHEW
No man can come to me, except the Father
which hath sent me draw him;
and I will raise him up at the last day.
While conferring apostleship on the twelve disciples, Jesus said unto them:
He that receiveth you receiveth me,
and he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent me.
Wherefore he was able to save them to the uttermost that came unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
The Master is indeed the "Intercessor" or Rasul, who moves between us and God, linking us to the holy Word, and without him there could be but little hope of salvation. No friendship could be greater than his friendship, no love truer than his love, no gift greater than his grace. Chance winds may blow others apart and death may come to part the most faithful lovers; he alone is unfailing in life as well as in death:
I have commanded you; and, lo!
I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
He alone is a friend who accompanies me on my last journey,
And shields me before the judgement seat of God.
Other gifts may decay and perish, but his gift, the gift of God's Word, is imperishable, indestructible, ever shining, ever fresh, ever new, a boon in life, a greater boon in death.
From where does the Master derive this unique and super-human power that makes him almost equal to God and, in the eyes of his disciples, places him even above God? Can mortal flesh compete with the Immortal and the finite out-distance the Infinite? This may well seem a paradox to the world, but those who have crossed with opened eyes to the inner Kingdom, see in this no contradiction, only the mystery of God's greatness. The true Master is one who under instruction and guidance from his own teacher has learned to analyse the soul from the body, has traversed the inner path to its very end, and has beheld the source of all light and life and merged with the Nameless One. After merging with the Nameless One, he becomes one with Him and one with all that is. On the human plane he may appear as limited as any one of us, but on the spiritual, he is Limitless and Infinite even as God Himself:
Oh my servant obey Me, and I shall make thee like unto Myself.
I say, "Be," and it is, and thou shalt say "Be," and it shall be.
BAHA'U'LLAH – THE FOUR VALLEYS
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.
The Word is the Master and the Prophet, full of wisdom deep and profound.
When I churned the sea of body, a strange truth came to light,
God was identified in the Master and no distinction could Nanak find.
GURU RAM DAS
Guru is Brahma, Guru is Vishnu, Guru is Shiva
and Guru is the veritable Par-Brahm, and we offer our salutation to Him.
The Guru-shish relationship has very often been described as below:
Who is the true Guru for a disciple?
Shabd indeed is the Guru and Surat the disciple of the Dhun (Sound).
The Shabd-Guru is too deep and unfathomable,
Without (the controlling Power of) the Shabd
The world would be but a wilderness.
The Word of the Master is Master indeed, full of life-giving water,
He who follows His Word doth verily cross the strands of time.
GURU RAM DAS
The disciple-Surat can traverse the Path only with the Shabd-Guru,
Exploring the heavenly mysteries, it doth find rest in the inverted well (of the head).
Know it for certain that Shabd-Guru is the veritable Guru,
Surat can truly become the disciple of the Dhun
by being a Gurmukh (receptacle for the Word).
Guru resides in the gagan (spiritual realm above) and the disciple in the ghat (between the two eyebrows).
When the two, the Surat and the Shabd, do meet, they get united eternally.
There is an essential and indivisible relationship between God and the God-man, for he serves as a human pole at which the Godpower plays its part and helps in the regeneration of the jivas. It is needless to distinguish between the magnet and the magnetized field and it is therefore said:
Devotion to the Satguru is devotion to the Lord,
Satguru secures salvation by giving contact with Naam (the God-power).
Uncovetous of worldly riches, he may seem poor, but he is rich in God's Infinitude and, once the mortal coils have been cast off, he is reabsorbed into the still centre, subject to no limitations. What gives him his unique pre-eminence is precisely this spiritual at-onement with the Absolute, and to judge him on the human level is to fail to understand him. Rumi has well said, "Never take a God-man to be human; for though appearing so, he is yet much more." It is by virtue of the extra-human potential that he becomes the Master. Having merged into Divine Consciousness he, in his human state, becomes Its agent and speaks not in his individual capacity but as the mouthpiece of God:
His hand is the hand of God
And the power of the Lord works through him.
O! my friend, I speak nothing from myself,
I only utter what the Beloved puts into my mouth.
I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
The Master being what he is, it is not surprising that he should be held so high. Being an instrument of the Divine, to praise him is only another way of praising God, and to extol him above God is not to set up an opposition between the finite and the Infinite but to assert that from the human standpoint, the aspect of God which bends down toward man to raise him to Itself (i.e., the centripetal), is higher than that which merely allows him to run his ways in the world of relativity from birth to birth (i.e., the centrifugal), even though both at the supra-human level are seen to be one and indivisible.
A system in which the teacher is so central to every aspect of the student's outer and inner discipline and progress and without whose instruction and guidance nothing could be done, must lay great emphasis on the principle of Grace, and mystic literature is not wanting in stressing and underlining this aspect. But if from one angle it is the Master who bestows everything upon the disciple, it must not be forgotten that in doing this he is only repaying a debt he owes to his own Guru, for the gift he bestows is the gift he himself received when he was at the stage of a disciple, and so he usually never claims anything for himself but attributes his power to the grace of his own teacher. Besides, from another angle, everything is in the disciple himself and the Master does not add anything from outside. It is only when the gardener waters and tends the seed that it bursts into life, yet the secret of life is in the seed itself and the gardener can do no more than provide the conditions for its fructification. Such indeed is the function of the Guru.
An ancient Indian parable vividly brings out this aspect of Master – disciple relationship. It relates that once a shepherd trapped a lion's cub and reared him with the rest of his flock. The cub, judging himself by those he saw around him, lived and moved like the sheep and lambs, content with the grass they nibbled and with the weak bleats they emitted. And so time sped on until, one day, another lion saw the growing cub grazing with the rest of the flock. He guessed what had happened and pitying the cub's plight, he went up to him, drew him to the side of a quiet stream, made him behold his reflection and the lion's own and, turning back, let forth a mighty roar. The cub, now understanding his true nature, did likewise and his erstwhile companions fled before him. He was at last free to enjoy his rightful place and thenceforward roamed about as a king of the forest.
The Master is indeed such a lion. He comes to stir up the soul from its slumber and, presenting it with a mirror, makes it behold its own innate glory of which, without his touch, it would continue unaware. However, were it not itself of the essence of life, nothing could raise it to spiritual consciousness. The Guru is but a lighted candle that lights the unlit ones. The fuel is there, the wick is there, he only gives the gift of flame without any loss to himself. Like touches like, the spark passes between and that which lay dark is illumined and that which was dead springs into life.As with the lighted candle, whose privilege lies not in its being an individual candle but in its being the seat of the unindividual flame that is neither of this candle nor of that but of the very essence of all fire, so too with the true Master. He is a Master not by virtue of his being an individual master like anyone else, but he is a Master carrying in him the Universal Light of God. Again, just as only a candle that is still burning can light other candles – not one that is already burnt out – so only a living Master can give the quickening touch that is needed, not one who has already departed from this world. Those that are gone were great indeed and worthy of all respect, but they were pre-eminently for their own time, and the task they accomplished for those around them must, for us, be performed by one who lives and moves in our midst. Their memory is a sacred treasure, a perennial source of inspiration, but the one thing their remembrance teaches is to seek for ourselves in the world of the living that which they themselves were. Only the kiss of a living Prince (Master) could bring the slumbering Princess (Soul) back to life and only the touch of a breathing Beauty could restore the Beast to his native pristine glory.
Where the guidance of a competent living Master is such a prime necessity, the task of finding and recognizing such a genuine soul assumes paramount importance. There is no dearth of false prophets and of wolves in sheep's clothing. The very term Satguru, or true Master, implies the existence of its opposite, and it is the false that meet our gaze at every turn. However difficult it may be to find a God-man (for such beings are rare, unobtrusive in their humility and reluctant to declare themselves by spectacular miracles or court the public limelight), it is nevertheless not impossible to single him out from the rest. He is a living embodiment of what he teaches, and though appearing poor, he is rich in his poverty:
We may seem beggars, but our actions are more than royal.
He is unattached to worldly objects and is never covetous. He gives his teachings and instructions as a free gift of nature, never seeking anything in return, maintaining himself by his own labours and never living on the offerings of others:
Bow not before one who calls himself a Master, yet lives on the charity of others.
He alone is of the true path who earns his own livelihood and befriends the needy.
GURU RAM DAS
Further, a genuine Master-soul never sets up any contradictions in our minds; all the distinctions between faith and faith, creed and creed, vanish at his touch, and the unity of inner experience embodied in the various scriptures stands clearly revealed:
It is only the jeweller's eye that at a glance can tell the ruby.
BHAI NANS LAL
The one recurrent theme of such a Master's teaching is that in spite of all the outward distinctions that confuse and confound us, the inner spiritual essence of all religious teachings is the same. Hence the Masters come not to propagate new creeds or dogmas but to fulfill the existing Law:
O Nanak, know him to be a perfect Master who unites all in one fold.
If he tries to convert, it is not the outward name and form that he seeks, but the baptism of the spirit within. For him, the inner life is a science that is open to men of all creeds and nations, and whosoever shall take up its discipline, to him shall all things be added.
Thus it is the inner message that is ever paramount in the teachings of a real Master. He can best interpret the true import of the scriptures but he speaks not as one who is learned in such matters but as one who has himself experienced what such writings record. He may use the scriptures to convince his listeners that what he teaches is the most ancient truth, yet he himself is never subject to them and his message moves above the merely intellectual level; it is inspired by the vividness and intensity of direct first-hand experience. "How can we agree," said Kabir to the theoretical pandits, "when I speak from inner experience and you only from bookish learning." He makes the seeker turn always inward telling him of the rich treasures within:
Dost thou reckon thyself a puny form,
When within thee the Universe is folded?
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation,
The kingdom of God is within you.
Inviting and persuading him to undertake the discipline that unlocks this treasure he says:
Cleanse thou the rheum from thy head
And breathe the light of God instead.
And this discipline, if he be indeed a perfect teacher, will focus itself not on Hatha Yoga or other such extreme practices, but on transcendental hearing and seeing accompanied by a steady outer purification of one's thoughts and deeds by means of moderation and introspective self-criticism, rather than by torture, austerity or asceticism. But the most important and least fallible sign of the Satguru is that his teachings will not only always be centred on this inner science, but at the time of initiation, he will be able to give the disciple a definite experience – be it ever so rudimentary – of the Light and Sound within and, when the disciple has learned to rise above body-consciousness, his Radiant Form will appear unsought to guide him onward on the long journey.
The wondrous and luminous form of the Master
Only a true Master can make manifest to the spirit.
He is a Guru in vain who cannot turn the darkness (gu) into light (ruh). And Nanak has said, "I will not take my Master at his word until I see with mine own eyes." If he is a genuine teacher, he will never promise salvation that comes only after death. Accordingly, to him it is always a matter of now and here.One who has not attained liberation in life, cannot hope to achieve it after death. Jesus too always urged his disciples to master the art of dying daily.A Master will further maintain that spirituality is a science, albeit a subjective one, and that every individual can and must verify its truth in the laboratory of his own body, provided he can create the requisite condition, which is one-pointed concentration. Life is one continuous process which knows no end, though it may assume different aspects at different levels of existence. As one passes helplessly from one plane to another, he is supposed to have died at the plane quitted by the soul; for we have yet no knowledge and much less experience of the life on other planes, where one is led by the propelling force of karmic vibrations. It is from this bondage and forced comings and goings that the Master prepares the way to liberation in this very life, by connecting a jiva to the eternal lifelines pervading endlessly through the creation, and gives one an actual foretaste of the higher spiritual regions, provided one is prepared to forsake the flesh for the spirit."Learn to die, that you may begin to live," exhorted the Master Christian. Blessed is the man who daily prepares himself to die.
Those in whom the eternal Word speaks are delivered from uncertainty, and it is indeed the Master's job to make this Word audible in man.
Oh Nanak! snap all the ties of the world,
Serve the true Master and He shall bestow on thee true riches.
He who has such a teacher is blessed indeed, for he has verily made friends with God Himself and found a companion who shall not forsake him even to the end of the earth, in this life or after death, and who shall not cease to guide him until he reaches his final destination and becomes as great and infinite as himself.
A philosopher's stone at best may turn base metal into gold,
But glory to the Master who can transform the disciple into his own celestial mould.
Whatever one's problems, there is peace and solace in his company, and association with him gives strength and stimulates inner effort; hence the pressing need for Satsang (association with the True One), for those who have not yet learned to commune with him on the inner planes.
A seeker must certainly be critical and discriminating in his search for a perfect Master, but having succeeded in finding one (and he who is a genuine seeker will never fail, such is the Divine decree), what will be the nature of his relationship to him? Will he continue to be critical of what he is told and observes? Will he continue to test every act of his teacher with the microscope of his discrimination? To maintain such an attitude even after having initially ascertained the genuineness of the Perfect One is to fail to appreciate his greatness and rightly respond to it. To meet such a soul is to meet one infinitely greater than oneself, and to know him to be one with God is to be humbled and full of awe. To judge him by one's limited faculties is to attempt to hold the ocean in a test-tube, for he is moved by reasons that we can never comprehend.
He who can appreciate the blessing of being taken into the fold of the Satguru or the murshid-i-kamil, will forever sing of his Grace, beauty and perfect love:
If the beautiful One were to take my wandering soul under his wing,
I would sacrifice all empires for the lovely mole on his face.
He will never question the actions of his Master, even if he fails to understand them, for he knows that even:
If Khizr did wreck the vessel on the sea
Yet in this wrong there are a thousand rights.
RUMI SURAT SHABD YOGA
He will have to develop the faith of a child who, having trusted himself to a loving hand, moves as directed, never questioning anything:
… whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God
as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
Even if he asks thee to dye the seat of worship with wine, be not scandalized, but do it,
For He who is thy Guide knows well the journey and its stages.
The cryptic words of the God-man very often baffle human understanding. His behests, at times, may apparently sound contrary to the scriptural texts or ethical injunctions, but in reality they are not. One should follow them in full faith, and in due time their true significance will be revealed.
And like the child's should be the devotee's love, full of humility and simplicity. The purity of its flame alone shall burn away the dross of the world:
Kindle the fire of love and burn all things,
Then set thy foot unto the land of the lovers.
Weld into one the vessel, which is now fragmented into a thousand parts, so that it may be fit to contain the light of God. It is the link between the seeker and his Friend and through Him, between the seeker and the Absolute. How can one love the Nameless and Formless but through Him, who is His true embodiment, for as the Lord revealed to Mohammed:
I dwell neither high nor low, neither in the sky nor on the earth, nor even in paradise,
Oh beloved, believe me, strange as it may seem,
I dwell in the heart of the faithful and it is there that I may be found.
On this mystic path reasoning is the help, but reasoning is also the hindrance. Love alone can bridge the gulf, span the chasm, and knit the finite to the Infinite, the mortal to the Immortal, the relative to the Absolute. Such love is not of this world or of this flesh. It is the call of soul unto soul, of like unto like, the purgatory and the paradise. Who shall describe its ecstasy?
Speak not of Leila's or of Majnun's woe
Thy love hath put to naught the loves of long ago.
Live free of love for its very peace is anguish.
A million speak of love, yet how few know,
True love is not to lose remembrance even for an instant.
Indeed, it is the quality of ceaseless remembrance that is of the essence of love. He who remembers in such fashion must need to live in perpetual remembrance of his Beloved's commandments and in perpetual obedience. Such love burns in its fire the dross of the ego; the little self is forgotten and the lover surrenders his individuality at the altar of his Beloved:
If thou wouldst journey on the road of love,
First learn to humble thyself unto dust.
ANSARI OF HERAT
Love grows not in the field and is not sold in the market,
Whosoever would have it, whether king or beggar, must pay with his life.
Carry your head upon your palm as an offering,
If you would step into the Wonderland of love.
Accursed be the life wherein one finds not love for the Lord;
Give your heart to His servant for He shall take you to Him.
Such self-surrender is only a prelude to the inheriting of a larger and purer Self than we otherwise know, for such is the potency of its magic that whosoever shall knock at its door shall be transformed into its own colour:
A lover becomes the Beloved – such is the alchemy of his love;
God Himself is jealous of such a Beloved.
Calling on Ranjha, I myself become one with him.
It is of such a love that Lord Krishna spoke in the Gita, and of such a love that St. Paul preached to his listeners:
I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I,
but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
It is of this that the Sufis speak when they talk of fana-fdsheikh (annihilation in the Master) :
The vast expanse of myself is so filled to overflowing with the fragrance of the Lord
that the very thought of myself has completely vanished.
It is of this that the Christian mystics declare when they stress the necessity of "Death in Christ." Without such self-surrender, learning by itself can be of little avail:
Learning is only a child of the scriptures,
It is love that is their mother.
The world is lost in reading scriptures,
yet never comes to knowledge,
But one who knows a jot of love, to him all is revealed.
Such love alone is the key to the inner kingdom:
He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.
The secret of God's mysteries is love.
By love may He be gotten and holden, but by thought never.
THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING
Verily, verily I say unto thee, that only they that have loved have reached the Lord.
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.
God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
We love him, because he first loved us.
This relationship of love between the Satguru and his shishya, the Godman and his disciple, covers many phases and many developments. It begins with respect for one knowing more than oneself.As the disciple begins to appreciate the Master's disinterested solicitude for his welfare and progress, his feelings begin to soften with the dew of love and he begins to develop faith, obedience and reverence. With greater obedience and faith comes greater effort, and with greater effort comes greater affection from the Master. Effort and grace go hand in hand and each in turn helps in development of the other. Like the mother's love for her children is the love of the divine shepherd for his flock. It does not discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving but like the mother, the depths and treasures of his love are unlocked only to those who respond and return his love:
He is with all alike, yet each gets his share according to his own deserts.
GURU AMAR DAS
With his greater effort and the greater grace from the Master, the disciple makes increased headway in his inner sadhnas, leading finally to complete transcendence of bodily consciousness. When this transcendence has been achieved, he beholds his Guru waiting in his Radiant Form to receive and guide his spirit on the inner planes. Now, for the first time, he beholds him in his true glory, and realizes the unfathomable dimensions of his greatness. Henceforth he knows him to be more than human and his heart overflows with songs of praise and humble devotion. The higher he ascends in his spiritual journey, the more insistent is he in his praise, for the more intensely does he realize that he whom he once took to be a friend, is not merely a friend but God Himself come down to raise him up to Himself. This bond of love, with its development by degrees, becomes the mirror of his inward progress, moving as it does, from the finite to the Infinite:
Love begins in the flesh and ends in the spirit.
At its initial phase, it may find analogies in earthly love, that between the parent and the child, friend and friend, lover and beloved, teacher and pupil, but once it has reached the point where the disciple discovers his teacher in his luminous glory within himself, all analogies are shattered and all comparisons forever left behind; all that remains is a gesture, and then silence:
Let us write some other way
Love's secrets – better so.
Leave blood and noise and all of these
And speak no more of Shamas Tabrez.