The Human Face of the Divine
What do we ordinary mortals know of God or the Master? When we talk of God, do we really know what we are talking about? More than likely, we have an unclear, abstract idea of God as some being who lies beyond our understanding.
Typically, we turn to God when we are in trouble. We hope that God can extricate us from whatever difficult situation we find ourselves in, and we hope that he can make our suffering come to an end. Our simplistic view of his nature is that of a kindly old man with a white beard whose main purpose in life is to see to our needs. Our prayers are essentially one-way traffic, and we have no way of knowing if he is even listening.
The Master, on the other hand, appears to all intents and purposes to be a human being in a normal human body, just like the rest of us. But what do we mean when we refer to someone as a Master? We say that he is someone who, through rigorous spiritual practice, has raised his consciousness to the highest level, and merged his being into that great light which we call God. At our level we can no longer distinguish where the Master ends and God begins. At the highest level of consciousness they are one. Yet the great advantage that we get from having a Master is that he also exists at our level, speaks our language, and understands the challenges we face in this world. He can talk to us and we can talk to him.
The Master explains to us how to reverse the downward and outward and fundamentally negative tendencies of the mind, and how to journey back to the Lord. Not only does he teach us about the path that leads us home, but he also guides and assists us every step of the way.
The truth is that unless we have the guidance of a spiritually advanced soul, one who has completed his spiritual journey to become one with the Supreme Lord himself, we have no guarentee that we are getting the real truth. Any other information that we have access to has been filtered through the limited understanding of people who are themselves ignorant of this truth.
We need the guidance of one who knows; we need a perfect living Master. We say that the Master is one who has merged his consciousness into the Lord, and in so doing has become one with him. So we might say that, in a sense, the living Master is the human face of the divine. God is completely beyond our understanding and remains a concept to us, but the Master is real for us in the sense that he comes before us in a human body; he speaks to us in terms that make sense in the modern world, in the climate and culture in which we live.
Before we came into contact with a Master we lived our lives immersed in this world. In the process, and out of ignorance, we have considered things to be important which are only temporary and thus unreal. We commit ourselves to family, job or country in the firm belief that these things are real and important and will provide us with the security and happiness that we so passionately seek in life. In fact they do exactly the opposite. By our attachment to these things we bind ourselves to return again and again to this world in order to continue these relationships.
In addition, in the pursuit of worldly desires we have committed many acts, not all of them noble and selfless. In this manner we have bound ourselves to the consequences of our actions. All in all, in our ignorance, we have forged for ourselves bonds of steel, which bind us tightly to the faces, places and objects of this world.
The fact of the matter is that none of these things ever live up to their promises. The very best that the world has to offer may please us for a short while, may provide some short-lived respite from pain and suffering, from solitude and loneliness, but sooner or later they all - without exception - leave us feeling empty. Absolutely nothing in this world lasts. We devote ourselves to the pursuit of worldly desires, we pay a heavy price to attain them, and then we end up disappointed and alone, with an additional burden of karmic debt that must be repaid. The bottom line is that we need help, and we need it in the person of a perfect living Master - the very embodiment of truth. Without a Master our best efforts merely enmesh us further in an endless cycle of misery.
Soami Ji gives us the following advice, as quoted in Discourses on Sant Mat, Vol. II:
Attach yourself to Nam, dear friend,
and patiently hold still within yourself.
Understand the will of the Beloved -
whatever he does is entirely for your good.
Your thinking is corrupted,
your restless mind has a downward tendency.
Not knowing the mystery of life,
you get more and more entangled
in the web of illusion.
Currently our attention is focused and directed downward and outward into the material world. As a consequence our entire mode of thinking is based on our experience here. We say that seeing is believing, illustrating our need to perceive things through our senses before we believe that they are real. In contrast, Maharaj Charan Singh used to say: “The pity is that what we see, what we feel, what we touch is not real; what we don’t see, that is real”. (Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I)
We have therefore started off at a huge disadvantage. The Master has the difficult task of convincing us that our thinking is corrupted, that we have put the cart before the horse. But how is he going to convince us, since we are so entrenched in this delusion of materiality?
The Master knows that there is only one way of changing our thinking, of changing our perception of what is real and what is not, and that is by giving us the actual experience of what he is talking about. With this in mind, he directs us to change our lifestyle and habits in such a way that we will move towards this experience - which is the only thing that will really convince us. He tells us that there are certain assumptions that, pending the experiential proof that we will eventually have, we should take on faith in the meantime.
So what are these assumptions? Firstly, that there is a God. He is the one who created all of this and who sustains it even now. Secondly, he tells us that we are neither this body nor this mind; what we really are is soul, which is also divine in nature, and is in fact a drop from the divine ocean of the Lord. Thirdly, the Master tells us that our true home is not in this world but with the Lord in his home, which we call Sach Khand.
Using these as postulates, the Master asks us to do the spiritual practice in order to raise our consciousness out of the morass of this world and up to that level where we can witness the ultimate truth and experience the true reality for ourselves.
It is only by following the teachings of one who is the human face of the divine, and who has made the journey to God and merged with him, that we too will come face to face with the divine.