Since the beginning of Creation, when the first flicker of self-awakening dawned on Man, his attention has been more and more concerned with the problem of his own worldly existence and the investigation into the cause and source of all Creation. For ages, he has probed and queried in vain, but now, at last, his increasing thirst for knowledge is turning him to study the results achieved by others in the field.
Ancient and modern sages asked, "What is that, the knowledge of which makes everything else known ?" and in the same breath replied, "Knowledge of the Higher Self—the True Man." So the Supreme Knowledge is that which deals, both in theory and practice, with Man's true nature and his relation to God. It is, in fact, a Natural Science without a hypothesis, subject neither to change nor time.
In ancient India it was called 'Para-Vidya' (Science of Realized Truth or Science of the Beyond) and different denominations sprang up to interpret this knowledge. The term 'Apra-Vidya', standing for preparation for achieving the knowledge of 'Para-Vidya', was then introduced. This preparation consists of following an ethical and moral life, and the practice of concentration or meditation (in so many ways) both being indispensable for spiritual development.
Man is constantly changing or introducing new names and terminologies to describe this Science. The Masters were called Sants, and the nature of knowledge Mat, thus giving us the term 'Sant-Mat', which is at present mostly used to name the Path of the Masters. Other terms, such as Shabd Yoga, Surat Shabd Yoga, Sehaj Yoga, are also used to describe the same Science. In the Sanskrit language, the word 'Sant' means Master of the highest Order, and 'Mat' is a confirmed opinion or statement made by an adept after personal experience. The foundation of this Science, therefore, is the result of a critical study, minute investigation, and the lifelong personal verification of facts based on practical experience of the Self in man. This experience of the Self is something that a competent Master is prepared to give to each individual who approaches him. Sant Mat, therefore, is the teaching, system and path of the Saints.
The Masters do not attach any importance to names, designations, or the fact that many religious sects, groups and circles, have claimed this Science as their own and named it after their leaders or founders. They look upon these groups as schools where man—the noblest being in Creation—can study with other men as children of one and the same Almighty Father. A Master (also called Sant Satguru), has complete mastery of both the theory and practice, and is competent to impart both knowledge and experience to all sincere seekers after Truth, without any distinction whatsoever of colour, caste or creed. Any man or woman, whether rich or poor, young or old, sage or sinner, learned or unlearned, who is able to grasp the theory of the Science, has a right to acquire this knowledge.
To believe in a thing or fact without troubling to investigate it, does not in any way do credit to an intelligent man. On the contrary it reflects adversely on his ignorance or credulity. Any belief not based on personal experience and verification of the facts, has little value. The modern man wants a well-defined, clear-cut Science, capable of verification by his own experience and giving concrete results. We should, therefore, try to see and to hear with our own eyes and ears rather than with the eyes and ears of others.
Many doubts assail our minds at this stage. There is an Omnipotent Power called God, believed in, worshipped and talked about by most people. Can we know more about Him ? Can we see Him and talk to Him ? There is a definite and clear reply to each one of these questions, but the most convincing one comes from a Master, who in a few brief words exclaims, "Yes we can see and speak to Him, that is, if we become as exalted as He is said to be." Masters say "yes", and we do not have to wait until death comes, but we can experience it right now. This is in consonance with Laws of Nature of which we have as yet, no knowledge worth the name.
All around us, we see, we feel that everything from the tiny atom to the mighty Universe, is governed by a Law of Nature. So, to the profound thinker, there is nothing chaotic, haphazard or uncertain about this Universe and the laws which govern it. To gain any objective, there is a Law of Nature, a principle and method involved for checking, testing and weighing the result of our endeavours. So it is too in this Science of Nature, and similar methods can be traced in all religious scriptures by any careful student, though expressed in different words and various languages.
We wish to enter the Kingdom of God, "but how?" we ask ourselves. "With the help and guidance of one who has himself entered and can guide us there," is the simple reply from the Masters. "Is it possible?" "It is a knowledge which is as exact and as sure as two and two make four," is again their reply. It is not enough to be content with Holy Books and the singing of praises and hymns. We must strive for the same degree of advancement as the authors of the talks and knowledge recorded in these books achieved. Their experience must become our experience, for, 'what a man has done, a man can do', of course with proper help and guidance. We should stop at nothing short of this.
"We have hardly a dim spark of love for Him will it help to cherish a hope?" is another question asked, to which the Saints reply, "It is sufficient to make you eligible for the Highest Science of approach to Him." This is a pleasing ray of hope. Oh! if this small spark could be kindled into a flame. Again, we say, "Jesus and other great Masters spoke so lovingly of Him, but we are sinners and there may not be much hope for us in this age." The Masters' soothing reply is "No matter if you are the worst of sinners, stop where you are. There is hope for everybody, even in this crucial age." Ages ago, Nature provided for us materially and spiritually. Today, the same unchangeable Law is operating and will continue to do so in the future. There is food for the hungry and water for the thirsty. Nature's inexorable and eternal Law of demand and supply always works.
It is only through a Living Master that we can contact the Almighty God within us. In Sant-Mat, contemplation of objects or images is not advised, as this is harmful to progress. Photographs of the Masters are for remembrance and recognition only, and on no account should we become attached to such external practices.
In this Science, there is no secrecy or mystery. The objective is constructive and beneficial to all, and so the Saints have torn aside the curtain of secrecy which usually covers mystic teachings, to make them available to each and every one who calls. There is an Unseen Power working through the Saints. Why this Power prefers to remain concealed from the human eye is a question to be asked directly by contacting the human pole through whom this Power is working. This is the only medium of approach to this Power. If we wish to use electric energy we must go to a switch or pole which will put us in contact with the powerhouse. The Unseen Power may be called a 'Sea of love'. When we wish to bathe in the sea we go to the edge where the shadow waters begin and then say that we have bathed in the sea. Thus, to experience this Power and to derive benefit from it, we must go to the only source of contact—a Master Saint.
What then is the remedy ? There is only one way out of this abyss of despair, which is to adopt and accustom ourselves, during our lifetime, to Nature's process of the withdrawal of the spirit current from the body, while still in a conscious state. This may be done with the help of a Master, and may be accomplished without any suffering or trouble whatsoever. This is not only a possibility but is a remarkable fact. Our joy will know no bounds when we come into possession of the secret that has baffled man for so many centuries. We become Supermen, having possession of a key to peace and heaven, the life of which we had till then only read about in sacred scriptures. Arise, therefore, and awake ! before it is too late to put this Science into practice. If we observe closely the process of death in a dying man, we see the pupils of his eyes turn upwards a little (afterwards they may return to normal), and then he becomes senseless. But when they draw upwards too much, he dies. Life ebbs out via the root of the eyes and becomes disconnected from the ties of the physical body and the sense organs. Knowledge of this process and the method by which we may travel this Way during our very lifetime, is the solution to the problem of death. No physical exercises are necessary; there are no drugs to swallow and no blind faith to cultivate. The mystery of life and death is solved easily with the help of a Master-Saint, who will give you an experience of the process and put you on the highway to the inner realms. Even when acting indirectly through an authorized agent, he still remains the responsible power. Distance is immaterial to the Masters.
What is there to be gained by this process ? This cannot be described in words. At the time of Initiation, the aspirant sees the real Light within him, whereas normally the inner eye is covered by a thick veil of darkness. He then realizes that the tradition of the lighted candle found in churches and temples is to remind him of the Divine Light of Heaven within. This Light grows to the radiance of several suns put together as he advances on the Way. He understands that the unceasing internal Sound he contacts within is the Divine Link called 'Word' by Christ, 'Kalma' and 'Nida-i-Asmani' in the Quran, 'Nad' in the Vedas, 'Udgit' in the Upanishads, 'Sarosha' by the Zoroastrians and 'Naam and Shabd' by the Saints and Masters. In time, he meets the Master within, talks to him face to face and is henceforth certain of his grace, guidance and protection wherever he may go, even to the other end of the world. With such evident proofs before him, he is now confident of himself and of the Science. Only then can he be called a theist in the true sense of the word and can smile at those who talk of religion as a fool's paradise, a phantom conjured up by crafty priests, and the opium of the masses. He has found a sure ingress through the doorway of heaven in this life, and is on the threshold of viewing, both internally and externally, the secrets of Nature. He is verily 'knocking at the door of heaven' or 'tapping inside'. Words of opposition cannot shake his faith in the Science as the Master guides him onward. Death becomes a voluntary process. Past, present and future merge into one, and he grasps the incontestable Truth, the essence of Being, in the palm of his hand. Liberated from the body, which now appears as a husk without the kernel, he knows that he is 'Soul', an inseparable part of the Eternal Spirit, and so he presses onwards to his original source. The world appears as a dream to him, but under the instructions from his Master, he returns to his mundane life, wise and fearless in the discharge of his duties.
We can divide man's life into (i) diets and (ii) his dealings with others. With regard to diet, vegetarianism and teetotalism are essential. 'Thou shalt not kill', and 'Live and let live', should be our principles in life. The body is the temple of God and is a sacred place. We are not to neglect or abuse it, but should take the best possible care to properly maintain it. All intoxicants are also to be avoided as they make us morbid and of shaky consciousness. With regard to our dealings with others, we should sow the seed of kindness in order to reap its fruit. Love and humility are most necessary. 'Do unto others as you would wish they should do unto you'. 'Love, and all blessing shall be added unto you'. 'Love thine enemy and do good to them that despitefully use you'. God is immanent in every form and whoever loves God, must love God's Creation. To love God is to love all humanity. We should also earn our living by the sweat of our brow and share with others. These are not empty sayings, but very wise and sound advice.
Saints classify Karmas into three distinct groups, as follows:
Disturbed by these facts, Man seeks solace in deep pious doctrines, or when he comes to know that both good and bad deeds are fetters--one of gold, the other of iron—he turns to Renunciation. Different faiths promise relief but he soon finds out that this is only temporary. How then does a Master approach this problem ? At the time of Initiation, the Master begins the process of winding up all Karmas of the initiate. He gives him a contact with the Sound Current, by practising which the Sanchit account is burnt away. The process is similar to putting a handful of seeds in a pan and placing them on a fire, which then causes the seeds to puff up and lose their property of growing again. Then the Kriyaman account is dealt with. After warning his disciples to guard against opening any new account of bad deeds, the Master grants a general clemency in respect of past deeds, part of which the disciple has already settled in this life up to the time of Initiation. He is enjoined to lead a clean life and to weed out all imperfections in him by self-introspection from day to day. The Prarabdha Karma is not touched by Saints because this is the cause of the physical body, which would vanish due to the interference with Nature's Laws. Thus a very small amount of Karma now remains to be tolerated in the physical body for the remaining years of the disciple's life, but even this is softened bit the grace of the Master. The law of grace works wonders and a devotee, who out of loving devotion, reposes all his hopes in the Master, passes off unscathed from the pinching effects of the reactions of past Karmas. In moments of misery, worry and trouble, the Master is our refuge. He acts unperceived at any distance. Just as a mother of a sick child holds the child securely in her lap during an operation so that it does not feel any pain, so too the Master holds us in his loving embrace. Out of their abundance of sympathy, love and kindness, the Saints at times take upon their own shoulders some Karmic sufferings of their disciples through the Law of Sympathy. There is no court of trial after death for a devoted disciple. The Master is all in all for him.
Why does a Master-Saint take all this on himself? Because he inherits his merciful nature from God above, who commissions him to personally distribute this treasure of mercy. Thus, the Master is honoured like God. Sant-Mat has volumes of books written in praise of the Masters, and if just as many more books were to be written, it would hardly do justice to the vastness of their love and kindness.
Time casts its heavy shadow over man. He has to toil hard to keep pace with the changing times. So deeply is he absorbed in his external needs and desires that he forgets all about contentment, sympathy and love. Entangled and surrounded by the 'Deadly Five'—lust, anger, greed, attachment and vanity—he stumbles and cries out to the Unseen for help. Heaven's mercy is stirred and as times stiffen, the Almighty extends His help through the Masters more and more lavishly. Such is the case in this Kali Yuga—the Iron Age.
It is indeed very hard to believe that anyone can be above the five passions mentioned above, and that he can enter the Kingdom of Heaven during his lifetime. All mankind is under the control of these five and only a Master can save a man from their clutches. We all demand reliable proof before committing ourselves, and this is given by a Master in the shape of an experience of the life impulse, or Naam (the Word), and some inner vision. Contact with a Master is essential. Those who keep aloof and depend on themselves or rely on tradition and priests—equally ignorant as themselves—are deprived of contact with this Power, and as the saying goes, 'When the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch'.
Indifference, non-acceptance or disbelief will not be to our advantage when Nature enforces its Universal Ordinance--Death. Our position will be that of a pigeon who, on seeing a cat approaching, shuts its eyes and believes that the cat cannot then molest it, but in a few seconds, the poor bird is in the powerful jaws of the cat. It is then too late to think of escape. So be alert while there is yet time!
For an understanding of the Science of the Masters, we attend Satsang, where the majority of our doubts are cleared. Direct answers from the Master will help to remove any remaining doubts. All questions receive the same calm consideration and no arguments are offered. Rich or poor, high or low, all receive equal attention in the same manner as a doctor should attend to the sick. A true Master views a man's rights and wrongs as clearly as one sees the contents of a glass jar, but he reveals nothing. Sitting before him, even those who do not understand his language are benefited, just as one in a perfumer's shop enjoys the smell of sweet scents. The Master showers blessings through his looks, which the eager ones catch. His eyes are a wonderful spray of love.
Spirituality is a science simpler and easier than other sciences. Man has not to exert except in moulding himself ethically and morally to the climax of love, sincerity and humility, which will produce the necessary state of receptivity in him. Everything else is in the hands of the Master. Again, a movement, no matter how spiritual it may appear to be on the surface, should not be judged by the number of followers that it has. A good speaker can attract crowds anywhere, yet there may not be anything material or convincing in his speech. Spirituality is not the exclusive possession of any family or place, but it is like a scented flower that grows wherever Nature has ordained, around which the bees gather from far and wide to sip its nectar. Masters do not rush after glory of self, although they certainly deserve such glory. Even in ordinary talks, they will be heard to say, "Oh, it is all the grace of my Master. It is none of my doing. My Master deserves all the praise and credit." This humility places them far above the low level of egoism found in this world.
Masters have come in all ages to offer this Natural Science to man. Only those who are discontented with this world rush to them. Others to whom worldly attractions, pleasures and luxuries are dear, turn their backs. Those in whose hearts all noble sentiments are dead, not only put all possible obstacles in the way of the Saints, but also subject them to various kinds of tortures, as a study of the lives of Jesus, Guru Nanak, Kabir and others will show. Masters have come in the past, are existing today, and will continue to come in the future for the spiritual benefit of man. To suppose and accept that Spirituality has become the sole prerogative of any religion after the passing of the Master, on whose teachings it is based, and that sacred books are the only guide, shows the thoughtlessness of man.
How can we distinguish between a genuine and a false Master ? There is in fact no such testing stone or magical formula except that of self-experience, for discriminating right from wrong, truth from falsehood, and reality from unreality. Even in the time of Emperor Janak (the father of Sita of the Ramayana), who was prepared to pay a big fee for the theoretical knowledge of this Science, only one, Yagyavalkya, out of all the Rishis, Yogis and Munis in India, was able to do so and won the prize. Yagyavalkya, however, had the moral courage to admit, "Gargi, I know the theory only but have no personal experience of it." On a second occasion, Emperor Janak proclaimed that he wanted a practical experience of this Science on a certain date, and that in a very short time too, not exceeding the time taken to straddle a horse and put each foot in its stirrup. Great Yogis and Rishis throughout the length and breadth of India were invited, but at the appointed time only one person stepped forward to accept the challenge. This was a hunchback named Ashtavakra, who had eight humps in his body. The audience, taking him for a maniac, laughed aloud at his appearance. Ashtavakra said, "How can you expect to get a spiritual experience from these cobblers you have collected, who have eyes only for the skin of the body but cannot see within ?" The experience was duly given to the Emperor within the allotted time. The point to consider is that at the time when Spirituality was thriving, only one person came forward to accept the challenge. In these times then, when materialism is on the increase, we do not find competent Masters growing like mushrooms. So search we must, not allowing false propaganda, the testimony of others, blind faith, the promise of future happiness, and our regard for position, wealth and pleasure, to lead us astray. When such personalities come, they are competent to give life to millions of people who go to them. They are the children of Light, and give Light to all humanity.
Blind faith is one of the main obstacles to overcome. What we simply listen to, read or follow without investigating as to what and where it will lead to, is blind faith. If one is careless to forget the end while following the means, and does not see whether he is nearing the end or not, it is still blind faith. When one goes to a Master and listens attentively to the explanations given by Him on the subject of gaining Self-knowledge by self-analysis, duly supported by one or more quotations from the valuable sayings of various Saints, he is intellectually convinced to tread the path as an experimental measure and act up to what the Master says with faith for the time being. This is the first stepping-stone to learn about Reality. When he has the first-hand experience, of whatever degree it may be, he is convinced and progresses from day to day. Today, man listens to talks, lectures and sermons, accepts and believes these all his life and takes for granted that he has been placed firmly on the way to salvation. But when death comes with all its sufferings, pangs of separation and fears of the unknown, he realizes his mistake. Man's life-long habit of attachment to the body, occupies all his thoughts, while friends, doctors, relatives and priests stand by helpless and despairing.
It is here that the Science of Para-Vidya is of great help to us. The soul's withdrawal from the body is greatly eased and the Master appears to receive and guide it further in the Beyond. Death is to such a one the happiest of events, and like marriage, it is the union with the Beloved. He has already visited and convinced himself of the superiority of the higher regions and traverses the familiar territory without fear. My Master, Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji, when impressing the need of spiritual practices on his disciples, used to say to them, "Go to see a disciple dying to become convinced." Saints believe in salvation during one's lifetime and not in salvation after death. This is indeed a simple and easy science, and the disciple should never rest content with his Initiation without spiritual experience. He should then devote regular time to the spiritual practices and the Master must be regularly informed of his progress. He should constantly seek the guidance of his Master personally or by letter, without entertaining thoughts that he is bothering him. The Master knows by intuition how each disciple is faring and can remove most of his difficulties by thought transference or other means, but he wishes any difficulties in progress to be brought to his notice in writing.
The ancient path of Surat Shabd Yoga or Para Vidya, is one that can be followed by men, women and children of all ages without any difficulty, unlike other ways, which involve complicated, strenuous exercises, and control of the breath. These, at the most, lead to a slight control over the self and a few paltry powers. The latter methods also require a strong physique and a rich diet. As such, they are condemned by the Masters as unsuited to this age, and as involving physical dangers to the body.
Initiation commences with the explanation and description of the inner spiritual regions and the way in which the path is to be pursued. The opening of the inner vision to see the inner regions, with their distinct heavenly lights, together with the contact with the Divine Link or Sound Principle, constitutes the practical side of Initiation. Daily practice of these combined with Simran, is meditation. In addition to this, the Master gives instructions on pure and simple living, the need of devoting regular time to the practices, and other words of sound advice. The whole ceremony takes from two to three hours. Diaries of one's spiritual progress must be kept and the mistakes of old and new disciples are corrected from time to time to ensure progress.
Guru precedes God. Such a person was Master Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji Maharaj who remained with his disciples for a great number of years and now, even after He has left the body, still watches over his loved ones and also those who contacted Him once with love and sincerity in their hearts. Love knows no law and He is still appearing in His radiant form, even on lower spiritual planes, for their sake. Not one, but hundreds can testify to what ignorant people would call an illusion. On the physical plane, He is still showering His blessings through His medium at Ruhani Satsang, Sawan Ashram, who now in turn guides men in all spiritual matters. One bulb is fused and is replaced by another. The same Power works and the same Light now shines from a new bulb. All who approach the Master get positive experiences and anybody who wishes to avail himself of such a golden opportunity has only to contact the Master and his wishes will be fulfilled, his heart will overflow with happiness, and his weary shoulders will be relieved of their burden of cares and worries.
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