The world is unfathomable, its other side is invisible;
How shall I ever cross it ?
Is there no friendly boatman to ferry me across?
Is there no-one to reveal my Beloved’s dwelling place?
I long to see the minaret of his palace
And I yearn to have my say to him:
“Why did you abandon me in alien lands?”
Tulsi Sahib, Saint of Hathras
Abandoned – is that how we feel in this creation? Abandoned by the Father? Sometimes it may seem so, but the Master tells us that actually the Shabd, our lifeline, is always there. The divine sound and light within us never lessen; it is we who turn away from it. We’re rather like wilful children who pull away from a mother’s hand in a crowd, then feel fearful and weep when we no longer sense her presence.
Our true happiness and well-being depend on the level of our contact with the divine within us, and to achieve this contact we must throw ourselves wholeheartedly into our spiritual practice. We read in Teachings of the Gurus:
For getting the highest thing in the world, Nam, we have to pay the highest price. Unless we offer our all to the saints, we cannot find God. To them we have to give our heart and soul.
It’s sometimes said that God is a jealous lover. He wants our all, not just a tiny part of our attention. If we were to use the word ‘abandon’ in quite a different way, we could say that to develop spiritually we should ‘abandon’ ourselves to love.
In a novel, there is an amusing incident in which a young woman tells her mother-in-law that she is going to a party that evening where there will be “a band and dancing”. The suspicious mother-in-law mishears and repeats in consternation, “abandoned dancing!” To be ‘abandoned’, in that sense, means to give way to natural impulse – in other words to abandon all constraint. This can be bad if one is surrendering to downward impulses, as the mother-in-law suspects. However, if we are able to surrender or abandon ourselves in an upward direction, responding to a spiritual pull, it can only be good.
In Sufi literature there are many examples of the mast faqir, the one intoxicated by God, who surrenders or abandons himself to joy. The book Tales of the Mystic East relates a story from the time of Soami Ji Maharaj in which a devoted disciple completely forgot herself in his love. Bibi Shibbo, on hearing a beautiful hymn recited in the street outside the room where she was having a bath, ran out of her house quite oblivious to the fact that she was naked. “Good! At least I have one devoted disciple,” said Soami Ji. The story then reassures us: “Now look at the coincidence! When Bibi Shibbo was running through the streets without her clothes, by his grace no one saw her. This is how the Lord looks after his devotees.”
Maharaj Sawan Singh, in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I, explains that it is through intense application to spiritual practice, the first stage of which is simran or repetition of holy names, that one achieves self-forgetfulness. He writes:
A devotee … should remember God and become so absorbed in simran that he becomes utterly oblivious of his body. By doing so the soul ascends to higher spiritual regions.
Having access to a source of such joy makes meditation a delight rather than something to struggle over. The disciple longs for the time of day when he or she can be in touch with the sound inside. But to get to this point requires a lot of courage. It means really throwing oneself into the daily practice, no holds barred.
In a recent question and answer session, someone confessed to the Master that she felt she simply wasn’t “giving enough”. She felt a constant pain of loving but did not reach any fulfilment. In reply, Baba Ji said that this was the natural yearning of the soul to be with its Creator. Then, at one point further into the conversation, he acknowledged that perhaps we hold ourselves back; we are always conscious of other people and what they will think of us.
The truth of this struck me forcibly. We probably understand the need to keep a balance in life, to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s’ – but don’t we sometimes overdo the whole idea of balance, so that ‘Caesar’ (the world) gets a much better deal than God? We are so fearful of appearing unworldly that we daren’t take risks. We daren’t get up in the beautiful pre-dawn hours and give genuinely good time to meditation in case the backlash is that we feel tired later in the day, unable to cope. But would it really matter if we dozed as we watched TV with the family in the evening? Or if we tumbled into bed and fell asleep the moment our head hit the pillow?
It seems that we daren’t abandon ourselves to that force nine gale of true love and do what real lovers do – constantly think of the beloved, day and night – because we’re always looking over our shoulder, wondering if somebody will find us odd, dismiss us from our job, seek a divorce, or just raise their eyebrows and consign us to oblivion. In Honest Living we are advised:
On our journey through life, if we weigh ourselves down with a cargo of stones, we will be unable to reach our destination. If, like the mystics, we accumulate no cargo, then the winds of God’s love in the form of Shabd will power our ship. To make the journey, we need enthusiasm, fortitude and stamina.
Perhaps, just for a change, we could try saying: “I have faith in my Master; I’m going to do what he’s advised and it’s going to work out. I’m going to practise simran when I can, put in the hours of meditation, and not worry!” Maybe it wouldn’t be as hard as we think; maybe our family and colleagues would accept us, maybe they would even join us. And maybe, eventually, after some ups and downs, we would feel so refreshed by our meditation that we would get over any feelings of tiredness. Maybe the joy we found as we abandoned ourselves to the spiritual discipline – the discipline that leads to perfect freedom – would carry us easily through those situations that we unnecessarily worry about. Sultan Bahu says:
People howl and cry over the slightest of discomforts,
while lovers gladly embrace a million torments.
Who would risk his life boarding a ship
if the waves were hitting it hard
and the shore collapsing?
Lovers joyously board the ship of God’s love –
even though their souls are pitched
against the vortices of life.
Unsurpassed is the joy of lovers in the court of the Lord.