Oh heart, why art thou a captive in the earth that is passing away?
Fly forth from this enclosure, since thou art a bird of a spiritual world.
Rumi, Divan-e-Shams-e Tabrizi
In this couplet Rumi gives us the message that is at the core of the teachings of all true saints: Soul, you are in a terrible prison. Escape and return to your true home.
Rumi suggests a poignant picture of a caged bird. Take a great wild bird the size of an eagle and lock it up in a cage. What is its condition? It huddles there cramped in a space too small to allow it to spread its wings, sitting amidst its own droppings and depending for its sustenance on scraps of stale food pushed through the bars. Soon the mighty eagle, the very symbol of freedom, begins to decline; it loses its beautiful feathers and becomes scruffy and bald. The bird’s eyes begin to grow dim and it pines away, remembering the blue skies that used to be its home. Its plight is dreadful.
Our plight is somewhat like that of the bird. Our souls are incarcerated in the gloomy dungeon of this material plane. We, who once traversed the brilliant inner skies, are helpless prisoners in a foreign land. We have become trapped in the merciless cycle of cause and effect, and are chained to the floor of our existence by the actions of our past lives. We are pushed around from body to body, from cage to cage, in the cycle of transmigration. Not only is our consciousness trapped in the worlds below the eye focus, but we believe that this material world is real.
Fortunately, saints are filled with compassion when they see our terrible condition, and they too descend to this dungeon of a world to give us this message: “Fly forth from this enclosure, since thou art a bird of the spiritual world.”
This one line is so profound. Rumi is telling us who we really are. We are birds of a spiritual world, not birds of the material world. He continues:
Thou art a darling bosom-friend, thou art always behind the secret veil:
Why dost thou make thy dwelling-place in this perishable abode?
God is an ocean of spiritual light and sound and love. Mystics explain the relationship of God to his creation as that of an ocean to its drops. Is the ocean one body of water, or is it made up of millions of separate little drops? Souls who are conscious only of the ocean and nothing else, who have no sense of any separate identity, are one with the ocean. They are one with God. Those souls who have the consciousness that they are individual drops and have a sense of separate identity, or ego, are of the creation. But this sense of separation is an illusion.
We are told by the Masters that when we change the level of our consciousness from self-consciousness to God-consciousness, we will realize that we are one with the ocean, one with God. He has never left us and we have never really been without him. As Rumi says, he is “always behind the secret veil.” This reflects the true and abiding nature of our relationship with the Lord. But, unfortunately, we are often content to remain standing on the sandy shores of our life looking out at the ocean.
How does piercing through the veil begin? How does remembering that we are really “birds of a spiritual world” start? It begins by going beyond thinking to experiencing. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Divine Light:
God gave us intellect to carry on the works of this world of phenomena. Beyond that our wisdom cannot reach…. One who relies on reason alone cannot attain true knowledge [knowledge of the Lord]. Reasoning is the function of our physical brain….
God and things spiritual can be realized only by the direct perception of the soul, through contact with Shabd. The soul can perceive clearly without going through the process of reasoning. Our mind is too feeble and limited to comprehend the unlimited and incomprehensible One.
Rumi gives us further clues in his poem:
Every morning a voice comes to thee from heaven: ‘When thou lay’st the dust of the way, thou win’st thy way to the goal.’
In a marvellous way Rumi condenses the whole method of travelling on the inner path. “Every morning a voice comes to thee from heaven.” This voice is the sound current or the voice of God emanating from the ocean of Godhood, which is calling us back home. Of course this Shabd resounds within us all twenty-four hours - it is our very life - but we do not experience this. How might we experience this current so that we become attached to it and let it pull us back to our destination, where we will merge once more into the ocean of our origin? “When thou lay’st the dust of the way, thou win’st thy way to the goal.” The whole secret of the path lies in stilling the mind or laying the dust of the way. When there is not one speck of dust, not one twitching of thought, the soul or the consciousness will automatically rise up, and we will be immersed in God’s sound and light. The prison door or tenth gate will open, and we will pass through the secret veil of illusion into the realms of super-consciousness.
Guru Ram Das, as quoted in Jap Ji: A Perspective, says:
Every moment the mind rushes about in delusion
and does not, even for an instant, stay in its home.
When the Guru applies the goad of Shabd on its head,
it comes back to inhabit its own mansion.
Guru Ram Das says that the powerful mind, which is always running after material objects, beauty, and sensual pleasures, can be subdued through the “goad of Shabd on its head”. This suggests that we can convert the mind that we use to operate in the illusory world into a mind that pulls us inward and upward, towards the unlimited and incomprehensible.
Rumi continues in the Divan-e-Shams-e Tabrizi:
In memory of the banquet of union, in yearning for his beauty,
They are fallen bewildered by the wine thou knowest.
How sweet, in the hope of him, on the threshold of his abode,
For the sake of seeing his face, to bring night round to day!
This is the entire reason for our being. To remember what we have forgotten, that union with him. We are bringing to our consciousness that sweet hope of living on the “threshold of his abode” for the “sake of seeing his face”. We sit in our meditation day after day, year after year, bringing night round to day for this purpose. Every meditation brings us closer to piercing the secret veil that stands between us and him. Every meditation brings us closer to being freed from the cages that have been created throughout our many lifetimes. The Master keeps encouraging us to do this and to awaken and experience God first hand, to fly forth from the enclosure of this material world to our true home in the spiritual world, and to become “his darling bosom-friend”.
Any moment when we think about the Father, when we think about the Master, when we think about the Lord, that is a blessed moment. That makes it worth living in this creation. All others are useless moments. Whatever time we devote to our meditation, whatever thoughts we devote to the Father, they are blessed moments; that is the blessed time…. So that moment becomes blessed, that time becomes blessed, those things become blessed which remind you of the Lord and of your love and devotion for the Father.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol.III