The Crown of Life
Surat Shabd Yoga
The Yoga of the Celestial Sound Current
- continued -
A perfect science
Even the foregoing bird's-eye survey
of the nature and scope of the Surat Shabd Yoga conveys some of its unique
features. He who studies it in relation to the other forms of yoga cannot
but note the completeness of its solution of all the problems that confront
the seeker when pursuing other systems. On the plane of outer action, it
does not base itself on a dry
and rigid discipline that is often laden with the consequences of psychological repression. It holds that some discipline is necessary, but adds that it must ultimately be inspired by inner spiritual experience and be a matter of spontaneous living, and not of rigorous asceticism and a too deliberate self abnegation. The seeker must strive toward a state of equipoise and must therefore cultivate the virtue of moderation in thought and deed. The integration he thereby achieves enables him to gain greater concentration, and so higher inner experience, and this inner experience must in turn have repercussions on outer thoughts and action. The relationship of sadachar to inner sadhna is a reciprocal one; each enlivens and gives meaning to the other, and one without the other is like a bird with a single wing. How can the spirit be brought to perfect one-pointedness without the purity of mind and body, and how can the soul transcend all human attachments and imperfections without centering itself in the love of the Divine?
When the qualities of the Ancient of Days stood revealed,The Surat Shabd Yoga not only provides a means for achieving in practice the difficult ideal of sadachar, it also offers a mode of life that, while raising one above this physical world, does not enslave one to the realm of Name and Form. The Masters of this path know only too well that abstract speculations about the non-attributive aspect of the Absolute cannot lead one to It. How can man, conditioned by name and form, be drawn directly to that which is beyond name or form? Love seeks something which it can comprehend and to which it can attach itself, and God, if He is to meet man, must assume some shape or form. It is this recognition that inspires the devotion of the bhakta to Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, or Kali, the Divine Mother. But these divine beings represent fixed manifestations of God, and once the devotee has reached their plane, their very fixity, as we have seen already, prevents further progress. The Masters of the Surat Shabd Yoga wholly transcend this limitation by linking the seeker not to a fixed, but to an all-pervading manifestation of God; the Radiant Sound Current. It is this anhat and anhad Naam, this unstruck and unfathomable Word, that supports the various planes of creation ranging from pure spirit to gross matter. Its strains pervade every realm, every region, and it runs through them like a river that flows through the valleys which it has brought into being. And like the river, it exists in a fluid state, changing at every plane, yet ever remaining the same. The seeker who has been inspired by the love of the river of the Word is blessed indeed for he knows none of the limitations experienced by those who adore God in other forms. As he is drawn upward by Its beatific power, he finds It changing, modifying, becoming even stronger and purer, beckoning him on to higher and still higher effort, never allowing him to halt or to loiter, but leading him on from plane to plane, from valley to valley, until he arrives at the very source from where the Unmanifested comes into manifestation, the Formless assumes form, and the Nameless, name. It was this completeness of the inner journey made possible by the Yoga of the Sound Current that led Kabir to declare:
Then the qualities of earthly things did Moses burn away.
All holy ones are worthy of reverence,The Surat Shabd Yoga is not only the most perfect of the various yogas, but it is also comparatively easy to practice, and one accessible to all. Not only do those following this path reach the ultimate end, but they do so with greater economy of effort than is possible by the other methods. The transcendence of physical consciousness that the yogin pursuing the path of the pranas achieves only after a long and arduous discipline, is attained by practitioners of the Surat Shabd Yoga sometimes at the first sitting at the time of initiation. That this should be so is not a mere chance or accident. The fact is that the Surat Shabd Yoga adopts a more scientific and natural approach to man's spiritual problems. Why, it asserts, if the spiritual current reaches the bodily chakras not from below but from above, should it be necessary to master each of these chakras in turn? A man standing at the heart of a valley, if he wishes to reach the river's source, does not have to travel down to its mouth and then re-traverse the distance. It further holds that if prana and mind (even at their most refined) are not of the true essence of the spirit, then how can they be the best means of disengaging it from its encrustations? If it could be put in touch with that which is of its own essential nature, like would draw like, and with the minimum of effort the desired end would be achieved. It is from the point of the tisra-til, the third eye, that the spiritual current spreads itself into the body. All that is needed is to check its downward flow at this point by controlling one's senses and it would, of its own accord, collect itself and flow backwards toward its source.
But I adore only one who has mastered the Word.
Shutter your lip, your ear, your eyeThe seeker has no need to begin from the very bottom, all he has to do is to turn in the direction of the spiritual stream and the rest will follow.
And if you do not Truth descry,
Then let your scorn upon me fly.
What is there in reaching the Lord?It is this simplicity of approach coupled with economy of effort that has induced many to call the Surat Shabd Yoga the Sehaj Marg or the Easy Way. It begins at the point where other yogas normally tend to end. Sahasrar, the region of the thousand-petaled lights, which marks the end of the normal yogin's journey after traversing the various bodily chakras, is well-nigh the first step to be taken by the follower of the Surat Shabd Yoga. Further, by refusing to disturb the pranic or kundalinic energies, this yoga greatly reduces the strain of physical transcendence. By contacting the Sound-principle, the sensory currents are automatically drawn upward without the practitioner consciously striving to achieve this end, and the motor currents are left untouched. Not only does this simplify the process of entry into the state of samadhi, but that of returning from it as well. The adept in this path needs no outer assistance for coming back into physical consciousness, as is the case with some other yogic forms; spiritual ascension and descent are entirely voluntary and can be achieved by him with the rapidity of thought.
One needs only to transplant the heart.
He that has found a True Master and pursues the perfect wayAgain,
of the Holy Word shall,
laughing and living in this world, find full freedom and emancipation.
Like the lotus shall he rise immaculate above the mire of the world
and like the swan shall he shoot forth from its murky waters untouched
Apart from its scientific approach,
its comparatively easy accessibility, its quality of naturalness and its
freedom from the drawbacks of other yogic forms, another distinctive feature
of the Yoga of the Sound Current is the unique and pervasive emphasis it
lays on the need at every step for a Satguru, Pir-e-rah or Murshid-i-Kamil
competent, living Master). Though something on this theme has already been
mentioned under "The cornerstones," much remains to be elaborated.
The Guru-shish or Guru-sikh relationship is important in all forms of practical yoga, but it is pivotal here in a unique sense. For the Guru in the Surat Shabd Yoga is not only a being who explains to us the real nature of existence, instructs us in the true values of life and tells us of the sadhnas to be practiced for inner attainment, he is all this and more. He is the inner guide as well, leading the soul from plane to plane to its ultimate destination, a guide without whose aid the soul would mistake the intermediate stages for the final goal and would encounter barriers which it would be unable to surmount.
The role of the Master being what it is, it is little wonder that all mystics who have pursued this way should have sung of him with superlative reverence and adoration. From Kabir, we read:
I wish and long for the dust of his feet--the dust that has created the universe;And the Sikh scriptures sing:
His lotus feet are the true wealth and a haven of peace.
They grant ineffable wisdom and lead one on the path Godward.
Sweet are the lotus feet of the Master;From the Sufis, we have:
With God's writ one sees them;
And myriad are the blessings that follow upon such a vision.
If I were to sing praises of his countless blessings till eternity,Some mystics even go to the extent of raising his position above that of God:
I could hardly say anything of them.
The Master is greater than God.All this may lead the skeptic to suspect human idolatry. He may ask: "Why this deification of a human being? Why such praise heaped upon one who is mortal?" Mystics at times have responded to this question with holy indifference:
The Guru and God both stand manifested, whom may I adore
and render obeisance?
Wonderful indeed is the Guru who has revealed the God-power within.
People decry that Khusro has turned idolator;But sometimes, they have themselves answered it fully:
Indeed I have, but what has the world to do with me?
Without the munificence of the Master one gets naught,All great spiritual teachers have maintained that without the help of a living Master, the spiritual journey is difficult and impossible to traverse to the very end. Jalalud-din Rumi, the Persian mystic, suggests this forcefully when he says:
Even if one engages in a million meritorious deeds.
Devotion to God keeps one entangled in this (physical) life- just consider gravely,
But devotion to the Master carries one back unto God.
Enter within and verify for yourself,
Who is greater of the two: God or the Guru.
God drove me into the wilderness of the world, but the Master
has snapped for me the ceaseless chain of transmigration.
Veiled from this was MosesAnd makes his meaning still clearer elsewhere:
Though all strength and light,
Then thou who hast no wings at all,
Attempt not flight.
Find a Master spirit, for without his active help and guidance,In the Gospels it is the same strain that vibrates through the sayings of Jesus:
this journey is beset with dangers, perils and fears.
No man cometh unto the Father but by me.While conferring apostleship on the twelve disciples, Jesus said unto them:
No man knoweth who the Father is, but the Son; and he to whom the Son
will reveal Him.
ST. LUKE AND ST. MATTHEW
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him;
and I will raise him up at the last day.
He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth HimWherefore he was able to save them to the uttermost that came unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
that sent me.
I have commanded you; and, lo! I am with you always,Other gifts may decay and perish, but his gift, the gift of God's Word, is imperishable, indestructible, ever shining, ever fresh, ever new, a boon in life, a greater boon in death.
even unto the end of the world.
He alone is a friend who accompanies me on my last journey,
And shields me before the judgment seat of God.
O my servant obey Me, and I shall make thee like unto Myself. I say, "Be," and it is, and thou shalt say "Be," and it shall be.
BAHA'U'LLAH -- THE FOUR VALLEYS
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.
The Word is the Master and the Prophet, lull of wisdom deep and profound.
When I churned the sea of body, a strange truth came to light,
God was identified in the Master and no distinction could Nanak find.
GURU RAM DAS
Guru is Brahma, Guru is Vishnu, Guru is Shiva and Guru is the veritable Par-Brahm, and we offer our salutation to Him.
The Guru-shish relationship has very often been describe, as below:
Who is the true Guru for a disciple?
Shabd indeed is the Guru and Surat the disciple of the Dhun (Sound).
The Shabd-Guru is too deep and unfathomable,
Without (the Controlling Power of) the Shabd the world would be
but a wilderness.
The Word of the Master is Master indeed, full of life-giving water,
He who follows His Word doth verily cross the strands of time.
GURU RAM DAS
The disciple-Surat can traverse the Path only with the Shabd-Guru,
Exploring the heavenly mysteries, it doth find rest in the inverted well
(of the head).
Know it for certain that Shabd-Guru is the veritable Guru,
Surat can truly become the disciple of the Dhun by being a Gur-mukh
(receptacle for the Word).
Guru resides in the gagan (spiritual realm above) and the disciple in the ghat
(between the two eyebrows)
When the two, the Surat and the Shabd, do meet, they get united eternally.
There is an essential and indivisible relationship between God and the God-man, for he serves as a human pole at which the God-power plays its part and helps in the regeneration of the jivas. It is needless to distinguish between the magnet and the magnetized field and it is therefore said:
Devotion to the Satguru is devotion to the Lord,Uncovetous of worldly riches, he may seem poor, but he is rich in God's Infinitude and, once the mortal coils have been cast off, he is reabsorbed into the still center, subject to no limitations. What gives him his unique preeminence is precisely this spiritual at-one-ment with the Absolute, and to judge him on the human level is to fail to understand him. Rumi has well said, "Never take a God-man to be human; for though appearing so, he is yet much more." It is by virtue of the extra-human potential that he becomes the Master. Having merged into Divine Consciousness he, in his human state, becomes Its agent and speaks not in his individual capacity but as the mouthpiece of God:
Satguru secures salvation by giving contact with Naam (the God-power).
His hand is the hand of GodThe Master being what he is, it is not surprising that he should be held so high. Being an instrument of the Divine, to praise him is only another way of praising God, and to extol him above God is not to set up an opposition between the finite and the Infinite but to assert that from the human standpoint, the aspect of God which bends down toward man to raise him to Itself (i.e., the centripetal), is higher than that which merely allows him to run his ways in the world of relativity from birth to birth (i.e., the centrifugal), even though both at the supra-human level are seen to be one and indivisible.
And the power of the Lord works through him.
O! my friend, I speak nothing from myself,
I only utter what the Beloved puts into my mouth.
I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me,
I speak these things.
We may seem beggars, but our actions are more than royal.He is unattached to worldly objects and is never covetous. He gives his teachings and instructions as a free gift of nature, never seeking anything in return, maintaining himself by his own labors and never living on the offerings of others:
Bow not before one who calls himself a Master,
yet lives on the charity of others.
He alone is of the true path who earns his own livelihood
and befriends the needy.
GURU RAM DAS
Further, a genuine Master-soul never sets up any contradictions in our minds; all the distinctions between faith and faith, creed and creed, vanish at his touch, and the unity of inner experience embodied in the various scriptures stands clearly revealed:
It is only the jeweller's eye that at a glance can tell the ruby.The one recurrent theme of such a Master's teaching is that in spite of all the outward distinctions that confuse and confound us, the inner spiritual essence of all religious teachings is the same. Hence the Masters come not to propagate new creeds or dogmas but to fulfill the existing Law:
BHAI NAND LAL
O Nanak, know him to be a perfect Master who unites all in one fold.If he tries to convert, it is not the outward name and form that he seeks, but the baptism of the spirit within. For him, the inner life is a science that is open to men of all creeds and nations, and whosoever shall take up its discipline, to him shall all things be added.
Dost thou reckon thyself a puny form,Inviting and persuading him to undertake the discipline that unlocks this treasure he says:
When within thee the Universe is folded?
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation,
The kingdom of God is within you.
Cleanse thou the rheum from thy headAnd this discipline, if he be indeed a perfect teacher, will focus itself not on Hatha Yoga or other such extreme practices, but on transcendental hearing and seeing accompanied by a steady outer purification of one's thoughts and deeds by means of moderation and introspective self-criticism, rather than by torture, austerity or asceticism. But the most important and least fallible sign of the Satguru is that his teachings will not only always be centered on this inner science but at the time of initiation, he will be able to give the disciple a definite experience--be it ever so rudimentary---of the Light and Sound within and, when the disciple has learned to rise above body-consciousness, his Radiant Form will appear un-sought to guide him onward on the long journey.
And breathe the light of God instead.
The wondrous and luminous form of the MasterHe is a Guru in vain who cannot turn the darkness (gu) into light (ruh). And Nanak has said, "I will not take my Master at his word until I see with mine own eyes." If he is a genuine teacher, he will never promise salvation that comes only after death. Accordingly, to him it is always a matter of now and here. One who has not attained liberation in life, cannot hope to achieve it after death. Jesus too always urged his disciples to master the art of dying daily. A Master will further maintain that spirituality is a science, albeit a subjective one, and that every individual can and must verify its truth in the laboratory of his own body, provided he can create the requisite condition, which is one-pointed concentration. Life is one continuous process which knows no end, though it may assume different aspects at different levels of existence. As one passes helplessly from one plane to another, he is supposed to have died at the plane quitted by the soul; for we have yet no knowledge and much less experience of the life on other planes, where one is led by the propelling force of karmic vibrations. It is from this bondage and forced comings and goings that the Master prepares the way to liberation in this very life, by connecting a jiva to the eternal lifelines pervading endlessly through the creation, and gives one an actual foretaste of the higher spiritual regions, provided one is prepared to forsake the flesh for the spirit. "Learn to die, that you may begin to live," exhorted the Master Christian. Blessed is the man who daily prepares himself to die.
only a true Master can make manifest to the spirit.
O Nanak! snap all the ties of the world,He who has such a teacher is blessed indeed, for he has verily made friends with God Himself and found a companion who shall not forsake him even to the end of the earth, in this life or after death, and who shall not cease to guide him until he reaches his final destination and becomes as great and infinite as himself.
Serve the true Master and He shall bestow on thee true riches.
A philosopher's stone at best may turn base metal into gold,Whatever one's problems, there is peace and solace in his company, and association with him gives strength and stimulates inner effort; hence the pressing need for Satsang (association with the True One), for those who have not yet learned to commune with him on the inner planes.
But glory to the Master who can transform the disciple
into his own celestial mould.
If the beautiful One were to take my wandering soul under his wing,He will never question the actions of his Master, even if he fails to understand them, for he knows that even:
I would sacrifice all empires for the lovely mole on his face.
If Khizr did wreck the vessel on the seaHe will have to develop the faith of a child who, having trusted himself to a loving hand, moves as directed, never questioning anything:
Yet in this wrong there are a thousand rights.
. . . whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little childThe cryptic words of the God-man very often baffle human understanding. His behests, at times, may apparently sound contrary to the scriptural texts or ethical injunctions, but in reality they are not. One should follow them in full faith, and in due time their true significance will be revealed.
shall in no wise enter therein.
Even if he asks thee to dye the seat of worship with wine,
be not scandalized, but do it,
For He who is thy Guide knows well the journey and its stages.
Kindle the fire of love and burn all things,Weld into one the vessel, which is now fragmented into a thousand parts, so that it may be fit to contain the light of God. It is the link between the seeker and his Friend and through Him, between the seeker and the Absolute. How can one love the Nameless and Formless but through Him, who is His true embodiment, for as the Lord revealed to Mohammed:
Then set thy foot unto the land of the lovers.
I dwell neither high nor low, neither in the sky norOn this mystic path reasoning is the help, but reasoning is also the hindrance. Love alone can bridge the gulf, span the chasm, and knit the finite to the Infinite, the mortal to the Immortal, the relative to the Absolute. Such love is not of this world or of this flesh. It is the call of soul unto soul, of like unto like, the purgatory and the paradise. Who shall describe its ecstasy?
on the earth, nor even in paradise,
O beloved, believe me, strange as it may seem,
I dwell in the heart of the faithful and it is there that I may be found.
Speak not of Leila's or of Majnun's woeIndeed, it is the quality of ceaseless remembrance that is of the essence of love. He who remembers in such fashion must needs to live in perpetual remembrance of his Beloved's commandments and in perpetual obedience. Such love burns in its fire the dross of the ego; the little self is forgotten and the lover surrenders his individuality at the altar of his Beloved:
Thy love hath put to naught the loves of long ago.
Live free of love for its very peace is anguish.
A million speak of love, yet how few know,
True love is not to lose remembrance even for an instant.
If thou wouldst journey on the road of love,Again:
First learn to humble thyself unto dust.
ANSARI OF HERAT
Love grows not in the field and is not sold in the market,
Whosoever would have it, whether king or beggar,
must pay with his life.
Carry your head upon your palm as an offering,
If you would step into the Wonderland of love.
Accursed be the life wherein one finds not love for the Lord;Such self-surrender is only a prelude to the inheriting of a larger and purer Self than we otherwise know, for such is the potency of its magic that whosoever shall knock at its door shall be transformed into its own color:
Give your heart to His servant for He shall take you to Him.
A lover becomes the Beloved--such is the alchemy of his love;It is of such a love that Lord Krishna spoke in the Gita, and of such a love that St. Paul preached to his listeners:
God Himself is jealous of such a Beloved.
Calling on Ranjha, I myself become one with him.
I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:It is of this that the Sufis speak when they talk of fana-fil-sheikh (annihilation in the Master):
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me.
The vast expanse of myself is so filled to overflowing with the fragranceIt is of this that the Christian mystics declare when they stress the necessity of "Death in Christ." Without such self-surrender, learning by itself can be of little avail:
of the Lord that the very thought of myself has completely vanished.
Learning is only a child of the scriptures,Such love alone is the key to the inner kingdom:
It is love that is their mother.
The world is lost in reading scriptures, yet never comes to knowledge,
But one who knows a jot of love, to him all is revealed.
He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.
The secret of God's mysteries is love.
By love may He be gotten and holden, but by thought never.
THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING
Verily, verily I say unto thee, that only they that have loved
have reached the Lord.
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love;
and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
We love him, because he first loved us.
This relationship of love between the Satguru and his shishya, the Godman and his disciple, covers many phases and many developments. It begins with respect for one knowing more than oneself. As the disciple begins to appreciate the Master's disinterested solicitude for his welfare and progress, his feelings begin to soften with the dew of love and he begins to develop faith, obedience and reverence. With greater obedience and faith comes greater effort, and with greater effort comes greater affection from the Master. Effort and grace go hand in hand and each in turn helps in development of the other. Like the mother's love for her children is the love of the divine shepherd for his flock. It does not discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving but like the mother, the depths and treasures of his love are unlocked only to those who respond and return his love:
He is with all alike, yet each gets his share according to his own deserts.With his greater effort and the greater grace from the Master, the disciple makes increased headway in his inner sadhnas, leading finally to complete transcendence of bodily consciousness. When this transcendence has been achieved, he beholds his Guru waiting in his Radiant Form to receive and guide his spirit on the inner planes. Now, for the first time, he beholds him in his true glory, and realizes the unfathomable dimensions of his greatness. Henceforth he knows him to be more than human and his heart overflows with songs of praise and humble devotion. The higher he ascends in his spiritual journey, the more insistent is he in his praise, for the more intensely does he realize that he whom he once took to be a friend, is not merely a friend but God Himself come down to raise him up to Himself. This bond of love, with its development by degrees, becomes the mirror of his inward progress, moving as it does, from the finite to the Infinite:
GURU AMAR DAS
Love begins in the flesh and ends in the spirit.At its initial phase, it may find analogies in earthly love, that between the parent and the child, friend and friend, lover and beloved, teacher and pupil, but once it has reached the point where the disciple discovers his teacher in his luminous glory within himself, all analogies are shattered and all comparisons forever left behind; all that remains is a gesture, and then silence:
Let us write some other way
Love's secrets--better so.
Leave blood and noise and all of these
And speak no more of Shamas Tabrez.