No one can be said to have been born for himself alone, for none can be an island unto himself. To serve the needy, sick and starving, is also a sideline, more effective than mere preaching. "Service before self" stirs and kindles the embers of sympathy, kindness and love. These virtues have a great purifying effect, and clean a person of all his dross, and entitle him to the highest knowledge of divinity. "Pleasure tastes well after service," is a well known adage.
Ahimsa or non-injury refers to man's abstaining not merely from killing, violence and injury but includes also evil thought and ill word. While it may not be so with brutes and beasts, ahimsa infuses strength in man which not only excels many virtues but is the highest virtue above all others. Service done to sincere seekers of the divine path is of far greater value than any other service. Helpful ways include, inter alia, distribution of alms to the really indigent and the needy, giving sweets to those engaged in extraordinarily arduous pursuits in inaccessible places, nursing the sick, and helping the afflicted ones. All these qualities are great aids in the Path and should be encouraged and cultivated by assiduous practice by all means possible. One should not, however, rest content with them alone, but one must push ahead with the help of these purificatory processes, on the way to freedom as enjoined by the Master.
Love is the panacea for most of the ills of the world. It is the core of all other virtues. Where there is love, there is peace. Love, and all the blessings shall be added unto thee, is the central idea of the teachings of Christ. The entire edifice of Christianity is founded on the twin principles of "Love thy God with all thy soul, with all thy mind and with all thy might," and "Love thy neighbour as thyself." God is love and so is the human soul, being a spark from the same essence. St. John says: "He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love," and he who loveth God loveth his brothers also. Guru Gobind Singh likewise laid emphasis on the prime need of love: "Verily I say unto thee that God reveals Himself only to those who love." A Muslim Saint says:
To crown all these virtues, comes truth and good living [see Appendix I]. One should in the first instance be true to one's self. The trouble with most of us is that our mind, tongue, and actions do not move in unison. We have one thing in the mind, another on our tongue and still another on our hands. "To thine own self be true, and it must follow as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man" (Shakespeare). You are in the body; God, the controlling power, is also in the body. If you are true to your own self, you have to fear none. Before you attempt to deceive any one, you first deceive your own self. "Rama cannot cheat Rama" were the words of Swami Ram Tirath when someone tried to warn him of the deceptive ways of the world. Truth is the greatest of all virtues; true living is greater still. We must try to lead a neat and clean life in the temple of the Holy Ghost and not defile it by falsehood and lusts of the flesh thus turning it into a money changer's den of the devil.
It is commonly believed that prosperity is the source of peace, but it deceives the fools like a will-o'-the-wisp and endangers the rich. It lets go the bridle from off the mind. When once the mind gets off the right track, it recklessly contracts sins which entail dire consequences. To absorb the "self" whole-heartedly in the soil of worldly uncleanliness in mind, word or deed is a heinous sin and death is the reward thereof. The paths leading to worldly enrichment and to God lie far apart. One can take either of the two, as one may like. The mind is a single entity the body linking the body with the soul at one end an with the world and worldly riches at the other. Thus one has of necessity to choose between the two alternatives. Once the die is cast, one has perforce to apply oneself steadily to reach the goal whatever it be. Riches per se are no obstacle in the way of "spirituality," for it is the common heritage of all, the rich and the poor alike, and neither of them can claim it as a special gift for himself. All that is required for success on the Path is genuine desire, honesty of purpose, a pure living, and a steadfast devotion to the cause. A rich man has, of course, to see that he does not use unfair means in amassing his wealth and that he uses his honestly acquired treasures in fruitful pursuits and not on wasteful and ephemeral gains. He should always look upon his riches as a sacred trust from God, wherewith to help the needy and the poor, the hungry and the thirsty, the sick and the ailing, for all such people have a claim on him as human beings and children of the same Father. This was the advice given by the sage Ashtavakra to Raja Janak, when after granting him a practical experience in the Science of Soul, be returned to him his kingdom which the king had dedicated to his Master preceptor before initiation into the sacred path of practical spiritual experience. He was advised to consider it as a gift from Him (the Rishi or God-man) and to use it for ameliorating the condition of his people and his country which were consigned to his care by God. Unless the riches secured by fair means are utilized wisely and well, one is likely to go astray and become egocentric and a slave to his ill-gotten wealth and is unknowingly caught in the golden chains that keep him in bondage. To warn against this, Christ in no uncertain terms declared that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. T. S. Eliot, a Nobel prize winner, says, "Take no thought of the harvest; but only of proper sowing."
The sowing then is of prime importance for quality of the harvest depends on the quality of the seeds sown. Next comes the proper tending, the humanizing process which usually takes quite a long time covering a few incarnations depending upon the past make-up of each individual. But with the right type of steadfast devotion and the grace of the Master-power, one can easily traverse the otherwise hard and tortuous path. "A perfect Master, conversant with the turns and twists of the road," says Kabir, "can, however, take the disciple through in no time." The pilgrim-soul with a competent Guide and honest endeavor, can easily swim over the ocean of the world even in the midst of worldly life.
Those who do not daily engage in Bhajan and Simran are always in trouble. They float endlessly on the stream of lustful pleasures. Practice of vairagya does help one in the process of self-purification and gradually a disciple is enabled to cut the Upas tree of multitudinous desires first by cutting the branches and then striking at the root.
No one is faultless. Man is the child of error; and error is always his creed. Though to fall in sin is human, yet to persist in it is villainous. It is not profitable to stock bad merchandise. It is good to be born in a temple but to die in it is a sin, for we have gradually to rise above all forms and formalities of the kindergarten class which all social religions provide and to grow into the sunshine of spirituality. We must study the path, if we wish to divine the future and awaken in the Reality beyond. One who takes no thought of the future will soon have to rue the present. The sins and sorrows are our constant companions and go cheek by jowl. The small foibles gradually let in greater ones, while those confessed are half-redressed. True repentance followed by good actions goes a long way in assuaging suffering. Man would do little for God if the devil were dead. A man living under the shadow of an impending calamity lives at his best for he strives the hardest. To find faults in others is quite easy but to reform one's self is the most difficult, for we see not the beam in our own eyes. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and a danger foreseen is half-avoided. One who is fore-warned, is fore-armed.
Persons who are bound to the physical plane, must obey the commandments of some "Freed" Master-Saint, if they want to free themselves from the delusion of mind and matter. Cast off the burden of your entire responsibilities at the feet of your spiritual Master and the deadly grip of sins will gradually but surely loosen its hold on you. "Leave all else and follow Me," was the exhortation of Lord Krishna. "Come unto Me all ye that labor and I shall give you peace," said Christ. The devoted disciple actually feels that even the chamber of sickness is a temple of devotion for him. A Master who is Himself well-versed in the practice of the Holy Word and is competent to initiate others into it, is the real Master and a perfect Guide (Murshid-i-Kamil). He would, like an able and efficient administrator, wind up all deeds and square the account and Jesus-like advises: "Sin no more." Similarly Hazur Sawan Singh Ji would, when a disciple in open congregation confessed a lapse on his part and craved indulgence, gently raise His right hand and say - "Thus far and no further."
Should we then do nothing? How can that be? The reply is simple. So long as the mind rules, a person cannot but act and must act though he may restrain himself in his acts, according to the behest of his Master, and side by side cultivate the highest virtues. By doing nothing, man gradually learns to do ill and Pandora-like unlocks the evils lying buried in him. If one wishes to lie upon roses, he must strive to cultivate and grow roses for himself. But we always act haphazardly and for selfish ends. We do not know what we should do and what we should abstain from. The Master-Saint is the Divine Imperator of His time. By love, guidance, instruction, and example, He leads men to acts of devotion and reverence and love for the Divine Links (Naam, Word, the Inner Voice of God, Kalma or Kalm-i-Qadim,Akashbani, or Bang-i-Asmani) which He makes manifest in him.
A Master cannot be respected by reason of His mansion but His mansion because of Him. So the Holy One is the most respectable, lovable, and worthy of all reverence. He gives the Divine contact and an experience of forgetting for the moment our physical self. Then we have visible glimpses of the Divine Links within us and by degrees gain more and more of the mystic experience. In His Satsangs or spiritual discourses, many past sins are given a quick shrift. In His company, maybe in thought, in correspondence, or in meditation, much benefit is derived so far as the Karmas and the sinful associations are concerned. Though there is no end to man's sins, yet at the same time there is no end to the immeasurable mercy in the vast treasure-house of God. In the journey of life, in whatever place, sect, country or society one may find himself, one's chief bag and baggage consists of Naam (the Holy Word); a contact with the living life-lines within; the Light of God and the Voice of God. The various names of God, that we usually know and frequently repeat, are mere words of our own mintage for the Nameless Reality which is one indivisible whole, indescribable, and ineffable.
Sant Satguru or the Master Saint is the Holy Father. He comes from afar and for the benefit of all, the sinners and the virtuous alike, for both are equally bound in the worldly fetters, may be of steel or of gold. He loves all and love leads to forgiveness. Never fear to approach Him simply because you are a sinner. He would not allow or hand over any of His children to the reformatory or the prison-house for correction nor submit him to any of the third-degree methods. A loving and kindly father would never do this. The Master would Himself scold or give a little of bodily suffering to correct his erring child and would yet ever remain with him, although unseen, upholding him from within until the short period of trouble is over. He acts just like a master-potter who while gently striking the pitcher-on-the-wheel from without with a mallet to give proper shape to it, keeps the other hand inside to save it from breaking. The Master's love is unbounded. The kingdom of a Darvesh is one of grace.
The duty of a superintendent in a jail is to keep the prisoners in prison, to chasten, and to reform them. Similarly, the aim of the deities and divine incarnates (Avtaras) has always been to keep men tied to themselves by showering the gifts of various ridhis and sidhis on them. (This refers to the granting of gifts, boons, favors, wealth, ease, and comfort in worldly vocations and giving super-human powers for doing good or ill.) These limited salvations and comforts they grant to their devotees are only up to the stage which they themselves have attained and they may ever permit nearness of sojourn in the various regions wherein they preside. They cannot help in the bringing about of union with the Almighty because these subordinate powers are themselves deprived of this highest privilege.
The sidhis, or extraordinary powers referred to above, are yogic powers which of themselves come to aspirants after Truth with a little sadhan (practice) but these are positive hindrances in the way to God-realisation, for one is generally tempted to indulge in miracles like thought-reading, fore-telling, trans-visions, trans-penetrations, wish-fulfilling, spiritual healing, hypnotic trances, magnetic influences and the like. These sidhis are of eight kinds:
A practical Mahatma, on the other hand, having access to the highest domain, forgives, liberates, and grants admittance to the Kingdom of God during one's lifetime, provided, of course, one is completely determined to surrender one's self to Him and do His bidding with a loving and a sincere heart [see Appendix II]. This is rather a difficult task for those who are in the habit of obeying the dictates of their own minds. It is the fluctuating nature of the uncultured and uncontrolled mind to accept one thing at one time and to revolt against the same at another time. The Saints like Maulana Rumi even go so far as to say:
Once you have become Master's own, He will never abandon you although you may succumb to weakness in a moment of trial and tribulation and leave Him or go astray from the Path. The Christ-power has declared: "I shall never leave thee nor forsake thee till the ends of the world." He has His own law of love and mercy to deal with every one at every moment, even though one may prolong one's course of self-discipline by spurning the Master's love. The source of all peace and glory lies above the physical body and inside man. One who has no inner peace, should give proper nourishment to the self, the mind and the soul. The Word or Naam is the true "Comforter," the peace-giver and the bestower of tranquility and salvation. The common dictionary meaning of the word "salvation" may not be taken as mere release from sin. It is freeing oneself from the cycle of births and deaths and union of the spirit with the Lord, and spiritual life in Eternity.
The average man makes a hoax of salvation. So also do various sectarian circles. The founders of the various religious orders have related their own spiritual experiences of the inner regions to which they had had an access, and described them as the climax or the ultimate goal of salvation and life-everlasting. The Master-Saint is a visitor of all the heavenly regions and describes His actual position sometimes in the form of parables. He, in no ambiguous words, declares: "I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me, shall not walk in darkness but shall have the Light of Life." The Saints, then, stand for eternal salvation during one's present life, and not after death, for who knows what may happen then. Salvation after death may prove a mere mirage in the long run, and it is no good living one's life in a state of perpetual and continuous suspense. If death is a pre-condition, then salvation is but a figment of one's imagination. A real Saint releases the soul from all bondage of births and deaths right here and now. He trusts in the "death-in-life" or liberation in one's lifetime, which is technically called "Jivan-Mukti." The soul then can commune with the Ineffable One while in the body and ultimately merges in the Almighty God at the time of final snapping of the chords within.
It is generally thought that one gets salvation after physical death. The term "death," however, means and includes temporary and volitional withdrawal of spirit-current from the physical body and not only final disintegration and decomposition of the component parts of the physical body as is accepted in common parlance. It is absurd to think that one who has been worldly-minded during his lifetime, will instantly become a freed soul at death. The morally disciplined spiritual devotees do attain to salvation while alive and thus conquer death, the last enemy of mankind, in life. "Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," declared St. Paul. A Pandit in life remains a Pandit after death also, my Master used to say.
To wind up Karmas and to relieve the soul of all its shackles, is not the portfolio of any politician, diplomat, statesman or minister or even of any government. Even the Avtaras (incarnations of the higher power) are helpless in this behalf. The gods and goddesses representing the lower powers of the Supreme Being also have, as stated before, to wait for human birth before they can attain to the highest.
Those souls which have not come under the protection of a genuine Master or a Sant-Satguru, still carry the heavy load of the Sanchit, Kriyaman and Pralabdha Karmas on them. As for the destiny or the Pralabdha, the uninitiated into the Science of the Beyond get but a scant relief, for they have to tolerate these in full intensity with no relieving feature. As for the Kriyaman or deeds done during one's present lifetime by following the dictates of the mind, they will, without fail, have to reap in full measure the fruit thereof. This is a stringent and inexorable law, whether you believe in it or not. There is no exception to the law of Karma and relentlessly it works, grinding all alike in the treadmill of time.
It is, therefore, of paramount importance that we should seek a Master competent to wind up the otherwise endless cycle of Karmas, and seek refuge at His Lotus Feet and free ourselves of the bewitching influence of our deeds.
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