The Broken Heart
My dilemma is that after spending half my life following the path of Sant Mat, I do not think that I am anywhere close to being the still, focused, and peaceful disciple I once thought I would be. A Sufi poet, Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir in Nobody, Son of Nobody, asks this central question in a poem that perfectly sums up our plight:
One moment, You are all I know, Friend.
Next moment, eat, drink and be merry!
Another moment, I put every beast to shame.
O’ Friend, how will this scatteredness that is me
find its way to You?
The poets understand the human condition. Perhaps the question Abil-Kheir asks is on behalf of everyone who has not yet realized the true form of the Master within. There have been moments, most often felt when I am in the presence of my Master, where I do say, yes, you are my ultimate friend, the one I want to give all my time and attention to. But then, as the poets note, the next moment I am out frolicking in the creation, pursuing the sense pleasures, seeking to delight my taste buds with a savory new dessert or entice my mind with the latest high-tech distraction, and wondering why the world isn’t providing me with more happiness and satisfaction.
That question has also been asked by others. Sarmad, a seventeenth-century saint, observes the same dilemma when he writes:
And this heart is so unsteady -
Sometimes it pines for the world,
sometimes for the world beyond….
I am drowning in the sea of shame and regret.
My only wish is that even for one breath
I may not forget You,
but alas! with every breath I am negligent.
Sarmad: Martyr to Love Divine
Sarmad, speaking on behalf of every struggling soul, says he would like to focus upon God with even one breath. I, too, try to focus my attention, try to listen for advice in satsang about how to have a more disciplined life and better attitude, and to discover new ways to trick my mind into doing more simran. And the results are not very impressive. So this question is haunting - how will this “scatteredness that is me” ever find its way to God?
Someone asked the Master a very simple and direct question. She asked something like: “What is it that we are supposed to be doing in meditation? Should we be focusing our attention, disciplining the mind, and working hard? Or should we be letting go and surrendering?” In reply the Master suggested that, since we can’t focus, the only thing we can do is to let go.
Now one might conclude that this was an individual answer for a particular person - a poor soul who couldn’t concentrate no matter how hard she tried. But I am no different than she is. I can’t focus. I remain scattered. And this prolonged separation from God is heart-breaking, challenging, and bewildering.
Hafez, a fourteenth-century Persian mystic and poet, maintains that all sorrow, pain, and dissatisfaction is a gift from God. He tells the struggling disciple in The Poems of Hafez,“the hut [house] of sorrow turns to a rose garden - do not grieve.” He does not suggest that we consult a doctor to see if our broken heart can be mended. He writes:
Better my pain hidden from the counterfeit healers;…
The wise will understand the story of a broken heart.
The Poems of Hafez
A great treasure lies in the story of the broken heart. Outside our heart is where we experience our separation from God, the anguish of our scatteredness and distraction, and our inability to find our own way, but inside is where we find the “medicine” for our broken hearts. We need to trust that in this place, our Master will find us.
Hafez continues in the same volume:
The Eternal King gifted us the treasure of the sorrows of love ever since we arrived at this tattered mansion of woes… only sinners find their way to the monastery.
The sinners, those of us who fall short of our ideals, we who know sorrow and anguish, are the ones who cry out for help. As Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
The longing within us to go back to the Father, the tears we shed in separation ultimately will lead us back to the Father…. What else can the child do … who has lost his Father, except cry?
We might have assumed that our sins and our sorrows are terrible obstacles between ourselves and the Lord. We don’t yet know that there are no barriers to the power of love. Nothing in us, or around us, or any shortcomings of our heart or mind, can prevent our divine Master from taking us into his arms.
The Masters know just how foolish we are. But still they tell us that the disciple cannot disappoint his Master. They see our foolishness, our scatteredness, and with the power of God’s love, what was rigid thaws, and what was heavy becomes light. With their love, a breath of joy, a breath of gentleness sweeps over us. This love reaches us and tells us that all of us who fall short of the mark are forgiven. Our Father is coming to find us, to take us home. Our cries and anguish over our separation from our Beloved is only a sign of his grace.
Sarmad puts it beautifully in the following poem from Sarmad: Martyr to Love Divine:
My feet have worn these chains for a lifetime.
But even if I’m imprisoned by countless sins,
I have hope for a thousand salvations
in a single act of his grace.
Ultimately, we may discover that the house of sorrow is a blessing. God’s grace is the cornerstone of everything. Maharaj Charan Singh in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, says:
His grace is what pulls you back to him, and that may be a very bitter pill…. His grace is what attaches you to him.
The Master has promised he will bring us into God’s kingdom of perfect love. And that is exactly how our scatteredness will someday become focused and he will bring us home.