Describing the Indescribable
From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it.
Today I have seen the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace of the face that I was looking for.
Today I have found you.
I am bewildered by the magnificence of your beauty
and wish to see you with a hundred eyes.
My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty that I now behold.
I am ashamed to call this love human
and afraid of God to call it divine.
Your fragrant breath like the morning breeze
has come to the stillness of the garden.
You have breathed new life into me.
Every fibre of my being is in love with you.
Your effulgence has lit a fire in my heart
and you have made radiant for me the earth and sky.
Love Poems of Rumi, ed. Deepak Chopra
The words of the poem by Rumi serve to remind us of the strength of our spiritual longing to come face to face with our Master inside.
It takes a long time, much dedication, and the Master’s grace to reach this stage. Yet we are told that those initiates who do daily battle with the mind and withdraw mind and soul from all outside phenomena, concentrating at the eye centre, will reach the inner stars, sun and moon. Beyond them will appear the Radiant Form of the Master. We are wonder-struck to hear descriptions of the beautiful physical form of the Master but, if we manifest him within, we will find him a thousand times more beautiful. The mystic poetry of Rumi is nothing more than an attempt to describe the indescribable – the surprising, intimate, and ultimately dazzling nature of his experience. Another Persian mystic, Qajar Hafiz writes:
O Beloved, I have heard many a tale about your wondrous beauty; but now that I have beheld you within, I see that you are really a thousand times more wonderful than the tales depict you. The whole night his refulgence filled my heart with light. What a bold thief he is to come in the darkness but with what an aura of radiance he comes!
As quoted in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I
Maharaj Sawan Singh talks about the same experience in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V:
When the inner eye is opened, one realizes that the Master is the one before whom all should prostrate themselves. He is the life of the universe. He is Truth personified, or Reality in human form.… There is no one better than he.
Rumi attempts to describe the greatness of his Master, Shams-e-Tabriz, in the following words, using in parallel with the beautiful epithets of sun and moon some unexpected everyday imagery:
You who are sun and moon, you who are honey and sugar, you who are mother and father, no lineage have I seen but you. O infinite love, O divine manifestation, you are both stay and refuge; an epithet equal to you I have not heard. We are iron filings and your love is the magnet; you are the source of all questing.… Be silent, brother, dismiss learning and culture … Shams-e Haqq-e Tabriz, source of the source of souls, without the Basra of your being, no date have I ever known.
Mystical Poems of Rumi Vol 2, tr. by A.J. Arberry
In medieval times, Basra in Iraq was famous for its excellent dates, so what Rumi is in effect saying is that if he had not met his Master he would not have enjoyed the sweet taste of spiritual experience. Surely we can all relate to this sentiment.
Yet most of us shut our eyes and find nothing but darkness within, more pronounced than a completely moonless night. Why is this? It is because the soul currents, tangled with mind, are spread out through the universe. Rather than burning with passion for spirituality, we have fallen in love with the tempting illusions of the world. If we want to emulate Hafiz by becoming intoxicated with the beautiful face of Truth, we must be prepared to recognize the world for what it really is, and turn away from it.
Note how Rumi, in the piece quoted above, puts learning and culture into perspective. In this world they are held in high esteem but for the seeker on a spiritual path they can be obstacles. The problem with adding more and more to our store of knowledge and experience is that none of it adds up to spiritual understanding. Instead, as we strengthen our attachment to our so-called learning and culture, we neglect our spiritual effort.
There is no doubt about it: it is not easy to live in this world. There is enormous pressure on us to relish its delights. It takes a mystic to see through it and reveal the reality. Rumi says:
The world was no festival for me;
I beheld its ugliness, that yellow wanton puts rouge on her face.
Go; wash your hands of her, Sufi of well-washed face;
Shave your heart of her, man of the shaven head!
Unlucky and heavy of soul is he who seeks fortune from her;
Come to our aid, Beloved, amongst the heavy-hearted,
You who brought us into this wheel out of non-existence.
Rumi depicts the world as unclean. It is a lurid courtesan who appears attractive only thanks to the deceptive effects of cosmetics. Without the Master’s help our mind cannot see through the apparent charms of the world, so we find ourselves spinning on the wheel of chaurasi (living, dying, and being born again according to our karmas). We are functioning on the mind’s autopilot and that pulls us back to the creation over and over again. That is why only our Creator –“You who brought us into this wheel” – can help us. Knowing that we need his help, he sends his beloved Sons into the world to come to our aid.
Rumi says, “We are iron filings and your love is the magnet.” He is telling us that the pull of the Master becomes irresistible to true seekers. We meet a Master, connect with him emotionally, and this sense of connection inspires us to put his teachings into practice. Doing the practice equates to the iron filing being held within the radius of the magnet. At this point we are flicking the switch to the soul’s autopilot – longing for the Lord – and our journey to the eye centre begins.
If we want the real bliss that Sant Mat offers, we must flick that switch rather than remain satisfied with the tawdry pleasures of the material world.
Difficulties will not disappear but they will become bearable when we keep the Lord and our purpose central to our lives. In Spiritual Gems Maharaj Sawan Singh writes:
We are lucky that we are human beings and have the opportunity to go in now, in this life. Why leave it to uncertain future? So with love and faith in the Master, keep on with your repetition and listening to the sound current.
Although the experience is ultimately indescribable, it is achievable.
The human form of the Master is “the Word made flesh.” It is the same Word that was in the beginning, was with God, and was God, and created all things, as is also mentioned in the Bible (John 1:1, 2, 3).When we see him within, we see him in the form of the Master who initiated us. Inside, you will see his form as you saw him in the human body outside, but that form will have a peculiar brilliance and radiance that cannot be seen with the physical eye, nor can one even imagine the effulgence of the Radiant Form within.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Divine Light