MASTER of the time
is a living Master who is imparting spiritual instructions to his following.
But all Masters of bygone times are past Masters or Masters out of date.
Each of these Masters had his own role to perform. The accounts of the
ancient and outdated Masters and their teachings do a kind of spade
work by cutting the untrodden soil and by creating a interest in us in
esoteric matters of the spirit. Each of them lays emphasis on the need
of the living Master and records his own spiritual experiences. It is from
their exhortations that we are moved to begin the search. The innate urge
in us is quickened and we are impelled to go in quest of one who can lead
The work of imparting actual spiritual instruction and guidance is, however, done by a living Master. Highly charged as he is with higher consciousness, he injects the jivas with his life impulse. Spirituality can neither be bought nor taught, but it may be caught like an infection from one highly infected himself. As Light comes from Light, so Life comes from Life, and a spirit that is bodily ridden can only be moved by Spirit that is untrammeled by body and mind. This is the only way and there is no other way for spiritual training.
Without a living Master there can be no escape from bondage for the spirit.
Maulana Rumi, therefore, emphatically declares:
Trust not thy learning, cunning, and craft;
Do not break away from the sheet anchor of the Living Prophet.
Prophet Mohammed, too, says:
He who has not sincerely approached the Immam of the Time
(living Master), the Vice-Regent of Allah, the Perfect Guide,
cannot get anything.
Again, the Great Maulana said:
Hie to thy God through the Godman:
Float not uselessly on the treacherous waters of egoism.
In the absence of a living Master,
one cannot develop the devotional attitude so very necessary on the spiritual
path. There cannot be any devoted attachment for a person or thing which
we have never seen and of which we have no idea. The very term "attachment"
signifies that there is an object of attachment.
Some persons feel that this need for an approach to a living Master so emphatically stressed in Gurbani related to the time of the ten Gurus alone, but that is not the case. The teachings of the Masters were addressed to man in general and were for all times. Their appeal was universal and not restricted to any particular sect or any specific period:
The teachings of the Masters are common for all.
Bani (Word or Sound Principle) is the Guru, and Guru is the
Bani personified, and the Elixir of Life gushes out of the Bani.*
Whoever accepts what the Gurbani says, he can be freed through
the grace of the living Master.
Bhai Gurdas in this context says:
The Vedas and scriptures are the wares
of the Masters
and help in crossing the ocean of life; but without the Master of Truth
coming down and living among us, we cannot apprehend the Reality.
The esoteric mysteries cannot be
fully explained in writing, as the inner process has its own difficulties
and handicaps. In various ways the Master in his Subtle Form helps the
spirit in the journey from plane to Plane. This work of guidance both within
and without cannot be performed by past Masters.
The nameless and formless Shabd becomes a form and assumes a name and dwells among us. In the Holy Gospel we have:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Unless God comes down in the garb
of man, we cannot know the Unknowable. The teachings of scriptures remain
scaled to us under the heavy weight of ancient and archaic verbiage, unless
a Master Soul who has actual experience of the Science of the Spirit explains
to us the truth of these scriptures.
Even the apparently simple teachings of the late Masters fail to yield the right import unless some living adept in the line tells us their true significance, and makes us experience the same experiences mentioned in the scriptures.
By transmitting his own life impulse, he enlivens the spirit lying helplessly shriveled in the body under the dead weight of mind and matter. Like a clever guide, he, in an inimitable way of his own, quietly gives her a new lead.
Next, he lays bare to the spirit's view new heavens full of wondrous sights, charters her a plane (Shabd) and pilots her Godward himself. From day to day the spirit is wheeled around sharp corners, touches new spots, experiences unknown thrills, and enjoys exhilarating experiences too subtle to be described.
All this and much more is the work that a living Master has to do.
In the history of Sikhism, we find that the Holy Granth was compiled for the first time by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan. In spite of the well-known and oft-quoted dictum that Bani is the Guru, implying thereby that there was no need of Gurus thereafter, the Gurus carried on the work of initiating people; and even today the Khalsa (Pure One) with perfect, resplendent Light within is authorized to carry on the work of spiritual instruction and guidance to seekers after Truth.
Guru Gobind Singh says: We are the worshipers of the Great Conscious Light and defines the word Khalsa as: The pure Khalsa is one in whom the Light of God is fully manifested. He further goes on to say:
Khalsa is my true form; I reside in Khalsa,
He is the life of my life, and my very prana (vital airs);
Khalsa is my valiant friend, Khalsa is my Satguru Pura
(fully competent Master);
I have told no untruth.
I tell this in the presence of Par Brahm and Guru Nanak.
* There is a vast difference between Gurbani and Bani. The former refers to the sayings of the Gurus as recorded in the holy scriptures (especially the Granth Sahib), whereas the latter refers to the eternal Sound Current, sometimes called Gur-ki-Bani, reverberating in all creation. It emanates from God Himself and He alone can manifest it. Moreover, this Bani (Naam or Word) is sounding throughout the four Yugas (ages) and gives its message of Truth.