I wonder if you are familiar with the story of Pinocchio, or perhaps the Disney movie of that name? For those who may not know it, it’s the story of a string puppet aspiring to become a real boy. The technical name for this kind of puppet is a marionette, and marionettes are used to delight audiences in theatre and television. Basically the marionette is a three-dimensional figure moved by strings or wires attached to its hands and legs. These strings are controlled from above by a puppeteer who, with the help of a wooden cross-piece, stages the marionette’s movements.
By now you’ve probably guessed where we’re heading! Through this metaphor we’re going to illustrate our situation as humans in God’s vast play of life. The entertainment venue, be it theatre or opera house, represents life itself and we living creatures are the marionettes, activated from above by the Lord.
The puppet appears to have a life of its own, but of course we know that it is the puppeteer who activates it. We understand this so clearly when we’re talking about a puppet, but somehow when it comes to our situation in the human body, we fail to accept it. The saints emphasize the reality, reminding us that our real self is part and parcel of the Lord and warning us not to confuse this temporary body with that true identity. We’ve often heard the present Master say that the reality is that we’re spiritual beings going through a human experience – not human beings going through a spiritual experience. However, we spend so many hours in close contact with the world that we find it extremely hard not to believe in this illusionary creation and our own supposed ability to manipulate it. We get so easily immersed in our day-to-day issues that we fail to remember that we’re simply part of a show. The saints look over the whole show from a much higher level; they observe us getting lost in the play of life and come to remind us of the need to put things into perspective.
Let’s accept, then, that we’re part of a colourful illusion, playing our roles as puppets on the stage of the world. Then let’s look a bit further: the most important feature of string-puppets is precisely the strings they’re hanging from. These strings run up to the control rods which – unless we have a perfect Master who has promised to take us home – are in the hands of the power that rules the lower part of creation. Here’s where the big ‘but’ comes in. As followers of a spiritual path, from the moment we are initiated, our Master claims these strings back from Kal, the negative power, and personally takes them over. In Call of the Great Master we read of Maharaj Sawan Singh who tells a group of seekers:
“Listen: Initiation by a true Master means something more than merely teaching the method of repeating the holy names or of hearing the holy Sound. At the time of the initiation the Master unties the dori (the cord or string) of the disciple’s soul, which binds it to Kal, and attaches it to the Satguru inside.”
What amazing grace! Billions of God’s ‘marionettes’ perform in the play of life and we’re amongst the few whose strings have been released from the dance of the world. Just like Pinocchio, we’re amongst those very fortunate beings who can aspire to realize our true identity.
Once we understand that the marionette’s part is being guided by the Master, we can rest assured that everything, every detail of our lives, is managed from above according to his divine plan. How then can we doubt any circumstance of our lives, be it poverty, ill health or family troubles? Every movement we make is known to the Master, so we can be sure that his will prevails. Let’s do our best to stand up straight, but if we fall, let’s patiently wait for him to pick us up. He’ll only give us as much as he knows we can handle. Sometimes, as marionettes, we get ourselves tangled up and in a mess, but if this happens we can trust that he will gently lift us and disentangle our strings.
Let us always remember that the more strings a marionette has, the wider the range of movements a puppeteer can achieve. We have strings that prompt us to physical action and ensure that we work, rest and play on this stage of the world. But as satsangis we also have strings – those vital connections – that help us remember the Lord, meditate, do seva, be helpful to our companions. The more we are responsive to these strings, the better we perform. The best thing we can do as God’s dancing puppets is to leave the strings of our life in his care – dance but leave them loose for him to handle. Tugging at them will only make his job harder. Let us not forget that our skilled puppeteer master is seeing the big picture from above, which we can’t hope to understand from our level. All we have to do for our part is to place absolute faith in our Master and just let go.
When the perfect Master I met
All my worries were driven away;
He made my soul immaculate,
Now he is ever at my side.
Kabir, The Weaver of God’s Name