Finding the Truth
In the Bible Jesus says, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” From the spiritual perspective, this is one of Jesus’ most important utterances. This verse has profound spiritual meaning. In fact, it is the key to liberation.
Truth these days is a much-abused word. What you perceive as the truth can be the opposite to the meaning of truth to another person. In wartime, for instance, the first casualty is the truth. The combatants in any conflict are never going to give correct figures or statistics in regard to the conduct of the war. They will diminish their own losses and inflate their successes. Can we be sure that when we read about the history of a particular country that we have an accurate account of what transpired? It is said that history is written by the winners.
The Milky Way galaxy consists of over 400 billion stars with innumerable planets revolving around them. How often have scientists, physicists or astronomers had to revise their theories, conclusions and assumptions as fresh evidence has come to light? For centuries it was believed the earth was the centre of the universe. Then along came Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus who believed that the planets revolved around the sun. Fearing that his theory would be judged heretical by the Church at that time, he delayed announcing his findings until shortly before his death in 1543. Later scientists were punished for similar beliefs, including the Italian astronomer Galileo, who was forced to renounce his own theories in 1633.
And now we know that in comparison to the rest of the universe we are as insignificant as a single grain of sand on a beach. Our most sophisticated telescopes have not yet reached the outer extremities of this physical universe.
Let us return to the utterance of Jesus: “The truth shall set you free.” By implication he meant that some component of the human being is being held captive. So let’s look at the nature of our imprisonment here. What are the chains that keep us shackled to this physical realm?
Many mystics have referred to this world as a vast prison in which our souls are prisoners. Our freedom is restricted by the inexorable law of cause and effect, resulting in our karma. The physical bodies into which we are placed, whether human, animal, or plant, are the individual cells where we work out our karmic obligations.
A factor that keeps us trapped here is our destiny. In Spiritual Gems we read:
When a baby is born into this world, the number of breaths he is to breathe, till his death, is already fixed, and nobody can increase or decrease it.
Suffering and poverty are also pre-ordained for everyone before his birth, according to the karma of his past birth. They have to be undergone, yet a Master’s disciple who raises his soul becomes indifferent to external surroundings.
The mystics tell us our fate karma is fixed. The only real flexibility we have is how we approach the events of life.
A major factor contributing to our imprisonment here is the dominance of our mind. The mind is our travelling companion on our journey here and on higher planes. Every action that we take originates in the mind. We think of something, and sooner or later that thought manifests in external action. The chaos, the dysfunctional nature of the world we see around us, is an outward manifestation of what is going on in our mind. So we live in the dream world of our mental projections.
The mind never leaves us alone. It is always active. The mind is in constant motion. If only we could slow it down and bring it to a standstill, we could enjoy the present moment. For in reality that’s all we have. In fact, making the mind motionless is what is required in meditation.
The mind has created the ego, and the two are so intricately woven that they cannot be separated. They work in tandem. The major obstacle that stands between us and merging with the Lord is our identification with a false self, the ego. We don’t really know who we are. We define our self by the name we are given, our age, family, what we have achieved, our wealth, profession, nationality, religion and so on.
The products of this ego are our desires and attachments – direct causes of our suffering and of our return over and over again to the physical realm. Soami Ji, the first of the Radha Soami Masters, says that the major impediments to spiritual advancement are: the body, spouse, children, grandsons, wealth and possessions, vanity and self-righteousness, social customs, rites and rituals. We can safely say that the suffering we experience is directly proportional to the degree of our involvement in the world. But how to escape? How do we get out of this prison house?
The path that we follow is a mystic path. Most dictionaries define mysticism as a spiritual discipline by means of which the individual soul can make contact with the divine. When this occurs we realize our true nature. With this will come a sense of unity or totality, a sense of timelessness, a sense of having encountered ultimate reality. The mystics tell us, however, that no words are adequate to describe mystical experience.
The essence of mysticism is a transcendental experience in the sphere of consciousness. In other words, we have to expand our current level of consciousness to a higher, more sublime, more subtle realm. It is an awakening beyond normal reasoning and mental activity. The Bible gives a beautiful description of such a state: “the peace that passeth all understanding”. The culmination of mysticism is union with the Divine. And this is not some goal to be reached after we die. We can attain self-realization and God-realization while still in the human form. Ultimately, truth can be experienced or realized only by our soul. Nothing in this physical realm, the astral region, or the causal region can be regarded as Truth, because everything here is subject to change. In mysticism, what is changeable and perishable is false, a mere illusion.
Everything here has a shelf life: human beings and all living creatures. The sun, moon and stars, the whole universe will at some stage come to an end. What will remain is the Lord, the Supreme Being who is unchangeable, and the Shabd which sustains and maintains the entire universe. The Lord and the Truth are one and the same.
In Sant Mat we refer to Truth as Shabd. Jesus said that we can be purified only by this Word. This purification entails eliminating our karmic debts. We cannot enter the court of the Lord unless, and until, all our karmic debts have been settled.
Every moment we devote to simran and bhajan takes us nearer to our destination and goes a long way to liquidating the debt of karma that stands against us. So the more time we spend in concentrated devotion, the sooner our karmic debts will be cleared. Thus, we will become free to ultimately merge into the Supreme Being, into peace and bliss. Let us not lose this opportunity.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar