The Broken Straw
Soami Ji Maharaj relates the following story:
Some people say to a Satguru, “Here I break a piece of straw. If you are a perfect Satguru, make it whole again.” The Satguru replies; “Ask him whom you believe to be Brahm to make whole the broken straw. If he makes it whole, I too shall do it.”
Sar Bachan Prose
The saints never allow themselves to be drawn into trivial discussions or proofs of the existence of God with insincere people. Christ demonstrates the same thing. When asked by Pontius Pilate “What is truth?” he offers no reply (Bible, John 18:38).
Soami Ji, in Sar Bachan Prose, goes on to explain the real miracle that is performed by a perfect Master. He says:
But if anyone loves the Satguru and believes in him, he will be brought back to life and the broken straw of his life will also be made whole.
Only the Master has the ability to accomplish this miracle: the mending of the broken connection between the soul and God. This is the only miracle worthy of the name. By comparison with this, so-called miracles that overpower the laws of nature are trivial. Miracles may excite the curiosity of the mind, but they do nothing to make the soul whole. They do nothing to solve the central problem of life, which is to reunite the soul with its source. Our main problem is to remove whatever stands between us and God. This is the work of which Maharaj Sawan Singh writes: “This done, all is done; this not done, all else done is as if nothing is done” (Spiritual Gems). This is the only work that gives us permanent satisfaction.
What then is it that stands between us and God? One is tempted to be glib and say, “we do”, and this would be quite right. Masters who have won their freedom from the net of the material creation have all said that it is our desires for the illusions of this creation that imprison us. This was the second of the four Noble Truths of the Buddha (The Connected Discourses of the Buddha). Christ says the same thing: “No man can serve two masters” (Bible, Matthew 6:24).
It is a certain fact that one cannot travel in two directions at the same time, and yet this is what we are attempting to do until we whole-heartedly apply ourselves to solving the problem of our scattered mind and desires. We are hoping to reap the benefits of spiritual life while maintaining a covert allegiance to the world. This can never give us what we really want. Spirituality is like any other endeavour: We will get out of it what we put into it. If our effort is shallow and intermittent, we will receive shallow and intermittent results. We cannot just forcibly detach ourselves from our involvement in physical life.
Sincerity, and how that sincerity is compromised by our deep-seated desires for worldly gratification, becomes the issue.
All God-realized masters and saints have said that our ego is the chief obstacle to enlightenment. Ego is that which blinds us to the wonders of God and traps us in a self-created prison cell. Ego is the seductive voice that tells us that in separation from God we will find happiness and come to the fullness of our powers. Ego is the noise that fills our ears even as we try to attune ourselves to the Word of God.
How is it possible to overcome a foe that seems so central to our identity? The fact is that it is impossible for us to overcome the affliction of ego without the grace of the true Guru. We are adrift in the fearsome sea of the material creation, far from our real home. Our typical means of surviving the waves and tides of that immensity is to cling to the life-ring of the ego or sense of self. It is beyond our ability to voluntarily give up our grip on that life-ring. We can only release that grip when we find something surer to replace it. The Master comes into this world as the embodiment of that surer reality. From his unshakeable anchorage in the permanent, he offers a firm hand of support to the imperilled soul. He brings illumination and indicates a way of escape. Through his unique power, he activates a dormant capacity within the soul to rise up and cast off the shackles of the mind.
There are certain seeds that may remain seemingly inert for centuries, and yet when exposed to the vivifying elements of heat and moisture, they awaken and begin to grow. So it is with the slumbering soul when it is sparked into wakefulness by the power of the Guru. It awakens and seeks the Father whom it has forgotten.
As the “force that through the green fuse drives the flower” (The Poems of Dylan Thomas) causes the manifestation of life in this creation, so this life-giving impulse from the Master begins the manifestation of a new inner life for a disciple. This inner renewal is characterized by a slow but profound reorientation of consciousness, from a preoccupation with the outer world to a growing awareness of an inner reality. Like the flower turning slowly to face the sun, the face of the disciple gradually turns inward, towards the source of this light that is within. Thus does the miracle of bhakti, or devotion, appear within the embodied soul.
This bhakti is the natural magnetic attraction of the soul towards its home. Just as the unbound iron filing must fly to the magnet, so must the soul fly to its source if it is freed from the ties that bind it. It is this reunification of the fragment with the whole that is the mission of the saints. The object of Surat Shabd Yoga is to fuse the limited individual awareness or surat with the power of the Shabd or Word of God.
This fusion is no mere metaphor but is, in fact, the most profound experience for the disciple. To give an analogy: In this world, arc-welding is a process whereby an arc of high-voltage electricity is used to permanently fuse two pieces of the same type of metal into one whole. There can be no impurities or gaps in the welded seam. In like manner, the spiritual path is a process whereby the impurities in the disciple are burned away, so that this perfect fusion can occur. Thus does the disciple once and forever give up lesser identifications to become one with the imperishable reality.
Maharaj Charan Singh frequently declared, “Love means losing your identity to become another being” (Legacy of Love). Through the application of the divine spark conveyed by the Master, the attention of the disciple is fused with the Word of God within and thus transformed into a divine being fit to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. In this way, the broken straw of life is made whole.