Devotion and Love
What is our situation in life? Are we not like a water boatman, a little insect that can run across water without penetrating the surface – walking across a lake of reality without any chance of knowing the depth or extent of it? The water boatman can only know what is on the surface; what lies beneath will remain a mystery until the surface is penetrated.
Within all of our hearts sounds an echo from our real home. But we don’t comprehend the depth and intention of that call, so our response is just to dive into the next experience that comes along, hoping that the void can be filled.We truly are ‘strangers in a strange land’ and are essentially living life as ‘sensation seekers,’ hoping that the next sensation will bring us peace, reality or even bliss. Even in our meditation many of us hold on to a desire for some sort of sensation, some sort of result to prove that we have made progress.
We have no idea why we are who we are – why we are born into the family we are in, why we speak the language we speak, why we are the colour we are, and, possibly most important, why we believe what we believe.
In the film Little Big Man a Native American chief observes: “I believe what I was given to believe.” Fate has decided his outlook on and understanding of life, and he, like us, is just a being going through a predetermined drama he can do nothing to change. He can only go through it thinking and reacting according to his nature, beliefs and karmas.
We all know that there is an emptiness in our life that we seek to fill, but no resolution of our quest can be achieved by going to the world for answers. Before coming to the path, we all probably felt that we were dissatisfied with ourselves and life in general; but with no alternative we just carried on plugging away, trying to get peace and bliss from the world. This habit doesn’t suddenly stop when we come to the path; it leaks into our time, and we have to work to go in the other direction – within ourselves – to know true love and reality, the Shabd or Word.
Hazur Maharaj Ji once explained that at our level we cannot know our soul, and this reality will only become apparent once our attention collects at the eye centre. At our present level we live life almost as automatons. We know we exist but do not know what we truly are. So, until we realize the reality of soul, we are effectively living in an arid desert of understanding, endlessly seeking reality where there can be nothing to find.
Kabir Sahib discussed the challenge of knowing the inner reality:
The moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes
cannot see it:
The moon is within me, and so is the sun.
The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded
within me; but my deaf ears cannot hear it.1
Kabir is saying that our external senses are useless in comprehending the inner reality. Our external eyes cannot see the moon and sun inside. Our external ears cannot hear the inner sound. We have to develop our inner eye and inner hearing, through meditation, in order to comprehend the inner reality. The Shabd cannot be accessed by our superficial faculties.
Kabir goes on to say:
So long as man clamours for the I and the Mine,
his works are as naught:
When all love of the I and the Mine is dead,
then the work of the Lord is done.2
If we chase after the things of the world and direct all of our efforts towards that end, then our life will be wasted. Only when the love of the world, of ‘I and mine’ is dead, will the work of the Lord, and our own spiritual work, be completed.
Count Leo Tolstoy observed that when there is a vacuum in life, something must come in to fill it. We can fill that vacuum with worldly knowledge and possessions, or with true inner knowledge and spiritual understanding. That choice is with us every moment.
Now, for some unknown reason, the Lord has decided to bring us into the company of a true living Master to fill the vacuum in our lives. He wants us to know the moon and the sun within and to hear the drumbeat of eternity.
In the Bible it is written that Jesus explained the pivotal role of the Master in taking the soul home:
All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.3
So, only the Master is the gateway to inner reality, and through him we have to become the “Son.” In John 3:35 it states:
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hands.4
In the Bhagavad Gita it is written that Lord Krishna said:
Give me your whole heart,
devote yourself to me,
worship me and surrender to me.
Thus having made your heart steadfast in me,
with me as your supreme goal,
you shall come to me.5
This is the message of all Masters. However, it is our nature to worship the world instead and to love the beings and things in it, and so we have to be dragged to the path of devotion. When someone is lost it may often be the case that to reach his intended destination he will need a guide to take him through territory alien to him. In our case we do not know the way to our inner destination, or indeed how remote from it we are. Our own particular road to our true home may be strewn with obstacles and difficulties that are impossible to predict. But if our guide knows the way and also what is required for us to reach the final destination, then it is his duty to assess us before we embark on the trek to make sure that we are fit for the journey.
The Master tells us that we wouldn’t have been pulled to the path unless he knew that we could reach the final goal and become one with him. Often this statement will fly against our own assessment of our capabilities and experience. However, the Master will stick with us through thick and thin. The Master wants us to give our whole heart to him – to devote ourselves to him, because devotion to him is the only action that is needed. Hazur once wrote:
Slow internal progress is always best; therefore, one should not be impatient. Go on doing your bhajan and simran with love and faith. The inward progress is naturally slow. The work of withdrawing the consciousness from the lower centers on which it has been dwelling for millions of ages is not an easy job and requires time and constant effort. Of course, love and faith are wonderful accelerators, but the process is essentially a slow one.
One should not feel disheartened if one does not see any outward sign of progress, because progress is surely there. Such a person should give more time to meditation and keep the mind in simran at all times. One should not worry. The Master will see to the rest.6
In the recent Indian film Jodhaa Akbar, a Sufi tells the following tale to Emperor Akbar:
The Angels were asked:
What is heaven?
And they answered:
Every heart where love dwells is love itself.
They then were asked:
And what is Hell?
A heart without love is hell itself.
So we are living in a kind of hell when our consciousness is focused on the world, but when love is in our heart we are in heaven. There can be no ifs or buts in this matter – we are in heaven or we are in hell; we have love in our heart or we do not; we are one with our Master or we are not.
We don’t just want to know what love is; we want to actually be in love. And all true teachings indicate the one way to achieve this love. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna said:
One who serves me with the unfailing
devotion of love
is fit to attain the supreme God.7
So, love means to follow the Master’s instructions faithfully, with unfailing devotion, and to attend to our meditation. Automatically love for the physical Master develops. If we live the Sant Mat way of life and attend to our meditation, we strengthen love and faith for the Master. Our love and faith grow with our meditation and ultimately lead us to become one with the Master, and ultimately the Lord.
I have heard over 2,000 satsangs since I came to the path, and yet the sea of words and concepts I have reflected on during all these years appears, at least to my conscious mind, to have changed little in me. However, Baba Ji recently made the point that not being aware that anything is happening as a result of our efforts at meditation does not mean that nothing is happening.
Our problem is that we are lost in a trackless desert; we are blind to the reality of our progress because we still focus primarily on the physical, so how on earth can we know anything about inner progress? And intellectual questions can never resolve our sense of being lost – the answers to these questions may merely put a flimsy patch over our lostness for a little while, enabling us to continue the struggle to experience inner reality.
Hazur once offered encouragement, however:
Once the disciple has been accepted, he must go back to the Father. The Master will not leave the disciple. He is responsible to take that soul back to the Father.8
In the Book of Mirdad, the mystic Mirdad says to his disciples:
Man shall be so weary of change that everything in him shall yearn, and yearn with unabating passion, for that which is mightier than change, and surely shall find it within himself.9
I would venture to suggest that we are all weary of change – we know that a new car, a new house, a new spouse does not alleviate our craving for bliss and contentment. We have to look inside. Mirdad goes on to say:
Happy are they that yearn, for they are already upon the threshold of Freedom. Them do I seek, and for them do I preach. Have I not chosen you because I heard your yearnings?10
So, the Master has heard our yearning – our cries of exasperation and desperation, our calls from the desert of our existence. And he is bringing us to him.
Arithmetic in the mystic tradition is different from that of the world: One and one equals one, and also, one and a million also equals one – when the one is a true living Master. Devotion to carrying out the instructions of our Master automatically gives us a heart that is filled with love, and so we will become the Son and thus will automatically come to know the Father.
Bhai Gurdas revealed a heart full of love for his own Master:
The Master is all merciful;
His praise is beyond understanding.
I bow again and again
To the one and incomprehensible Master.11
- One Hundred Poems of Kabir, tr. Rabindranth Tagore, p.5
- Bible (King James Version), Matthew 11:27
- Bible (New King James Version), John 3:35
- Bhagavd Gita, 9.34, in Pathways to Liberation, p.238
- Divine Light, #19
- Bhagavad Gita, 14.26
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, #2
- Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad, p.95
- Bhai Gurdas, Kabitt Svaiyye, quoted in Hector Esponda Dubin, Living Meditation, p.52