The Crown of Life
The Essence of Religion
In the preceding chapter, we sketched
the main outlines of the Surat Shabd Yoga and briefly examined its outstanding
features. We saw how it posits that God, when He projected himself into
manifestation, took form as the Word, Naam, Shabd, Udgit, Kalma, Saut
or Sraosha, and that these terms refer not to abstract concepts
of Divine Will or Reason but to something more; a spiritual stream of celestial
harmony radiant with effulgence. This stream is at the center of all creation,
bringing into being its various planes, vitalizing and sustaining them.
He, who under the guidance of one who has himself mastered the Way, can
contact this current within, can transcend the physical world and steadily
rise above all planes of relativity and, when he becomes one with It, reach
back into Its very source thus escaping from the realms of limitation to
that of Infinite Consciousness and Absolute Being.
To indicate that these teachings are not restricted to any one people or any one age but have a universal applicability, every important aspect was briefly illustrated from the sayings of mystics drawn from various religious traditions: Indian, Islamic and Christian. However, these sayings are only by way of illustrative references. If the tenets of the Surat Shabd Yoga are indeed universal, if they really point to absolute truth and are based not on dogma but on "facts," albeit of a supra-physical nature, but facts which can be verified by anyone who is ready to undergo the discipline demanded for their study, then the inquiring seeker would surely assert that these tenets should, in some form or the other, be at the heart of all great religions, and he would desire a more systematic demonstration of this than has been possible in the foregoing account of the Surat Shabd Yoga. A comprehensive and detailed treatment of this subject is beyond the scope of this book, and at best we can only suggest some fruitful lines of enquiry, which those desiring to go further may pursue. Besides, it is a recurrent theme of all great Masters, that though their teachings are universal in nature and may be verified from the extensive scriptural literature* (*For more details, the reader is invited to the book Naam or Word by the same author.) of the world, yet to confine oneself merely to learned interpretation is to miss completely the true import of their teachings. All that the seeker needs to do is to ascertain from past records that what he is being told is the most ancient of truths, so that he may take up the discipline required with full faith and without reservation. Final verification must be a matter of direct and first-hand inner experience and not one of bookish learning, which, when carried beyond its proper limit and made an end in itself, defeats its purpose and becomes a serious distraction from the goal.
I. ANCIENT RELIGIOUS
INDIAN, CHINESE AND IRANIAN
The Hindu religion is a vast ocean
of religious thought, springing as it does from the earliest times, long
before the dawn of history, and comprises in its multi-colored texture
shade after shade, an endless variety of design and pattern as it grew
in the human mind; from animism to Nature worship, from powers of Nature
in the abstract to personified and concretized natural forms, from gods
and goddesses to the one Supreme God, first personal, and then impersonal;
from form to formless. The Hindu Pantheon offers a view of a vast and mighty
host to the curious inquirer who pierces into the mists of the hoary past.
Heliolatry, the worship of Helios or the Sun, was a common practice with the people of the world. Sol or Sun has ever been an object of great veneration for man and has been adored and worshiped all the world over from time immemorial. The ancient Greeks and the Romans built temples to Apollo or Phoebus as they termed the Sun-god in their own time. In all their temples, the image or representation of the Sun-god occupied an important place in their hierarchy. There is a famous Sun-temple in Konark, in South India, and in the historic town of Mooltan or the land of the Sun, in the North. In addition, Jog-maya or Jot-maya temples dot the whole Indian subcontinent.
The ancient Greeks also spoke of Shabd. It is written of Socrates that he heard within him a peculiar sound which pulled him irresistibly into higher spiritual realms. Pythagoras also talked of Shabd, for he described God as "Supreme Music of the nature of Harmonies." God was to him, "Absolute Truth, clothed in light." When he commanded an eagle to fly down to him and a bear to stop ravaging Apulia, the wondering multitude inquired of him the source from where such powers came to him. He replied that he owed it all to the "Science of Light."
Again, in the Greek language we have the mystical word Logos. It comes from the root lego which means to speak and from it we have the common terms, monologue, dialogue, prologue, epilogue and so on. The Logos means and stands for the "Word" or "Reason." The term Logos also occurs in both Hebrew and Christian philosophy and theology and is used, in its mystic sense, by the Hellenistic and Neo-platonist philosophers. The Christians use it to denote the second person of the Trinity.
The ancients in the West inherited this concept from their ancestors who, thousands of years before the Christian era, had come to acquire a great love and adoration for Surya which they regarded as the be-all and the end-all of all human endeavors in their search for the mighty power of God, and as a visible representation to this earth. They carried this notion along with them wherever they went, Eastward or Westward, and composed hymns and chanted psalms in praise of the glorious orb, the source of all life on this solar planet. Those who settled in Iran (Persia) and came subsequently to be known as Parsees, still worship the great deity in yet another form--fire--which they keep burning all the time in their temples as symbolic of the sacred flame that burnt in the human heart and always sprang heavenward. Ratu Zoroaster, the Iranian prophet of life and light, sang in loving and living faith of the greatness of the God of Light and taught the people to do so.
Agni or fire was a hidden secret with the gods, who guarded this mysterious power very jealously. It was, as the Greek legend goes, stolen by Prometheus and given to man, for which Jupiter, the father god, bound him to eternal torture. In Chapter VI of the Chhandogya Upanishad, it is said to be "the prime element whose creation made possible that of other elements, water, earth," etc.
The second branch of the Aryans which turned eastward into the Indo-Gangetic plain also referred lovingly to Aditya; and we have hymns in the Vedas addressed to Hiranyagarbha, Savitar and Usha, all of which stand for the One life-sustaining power, the Sun. The worshipful Masters of the Vedic age were, one and all, admirers of the purifying and healing attributes of the Sun-god, and so no wonder that we see many hymns in the Vedic literature deifying the sun. In Book X, 121, we find:
In the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha, born as the only lord of all created beings;In another hymn, he is referred to as "the self-radiant wise Aditya."
He fixed and holdeth up this earth and heaven;
What god shall we adore with our oblation? . . .
What time the mighty water came, containing the Universal germ, producing Agni,
Thence sprang the God's One Spirit into being:
What god shall we adore with our oblation?
This light is come, amid all lights the fairest; born is the brilliant,All this could be taken on the literal plane as little more than Nature-worship, an adoration of the sun, understandable among a people dependent upon agriculture for their existence. But ancient Indian literature has an elusive quality. It seems to teach us at one level, and when we have adjusted ourselves to it, it suddenly shifts us to another. He who can follow its subtleties finds in it a richness rarely to be met elsewhere. There is multiplicity of meanings, ranging from the physical to the cosmic and the spiritual, and from the literal to the symbolic and esoteric, which challenge us at multiple levels of experience and offer us worthwhile rewards. Thus, when we begin studying these frequent references to the sun, we begin to see that the "sun" referred to is not always the center of our physical Universe, which we initially took it to be. Thus, in the Isha Upanishad, we are told:
Night, sent away for Savitar's uprising, hath yielded up a birthplace,
for the morning . . .
Arise! the breath, the life, again hath reached us: darkness hath passed away,
and light approacheth.
She for the sun hath left a path to travel; we have arrived where men
The door of the True One is covered with a golden disk.After recounting such statements, when we read of Brahman or the Supreme One, as being Jyotisvat, full of light, and Prakashvat, endowed with splendor, we begin to discover in such terms an esoteric significance we earlier overlooked. This comes to a head when we read the Gayatri, the tenth mantra of the sixteenth sutra in the third mandala of the Rig Veda:
Open that, O Pushan, that we may see the nature of the True One.
Muttering the sacred syllable "Aum" rise above the three regions,This mantra is considered the most sacred, the mool mantra among the Vedic texts, and is taught for recitation among Hindus from an early age. Here, the inner spiritual meaning of the "Sun" becomes abundantly clear. The object of veneration is not that which provides us with light in the outside world but it is a principle that transcends the three planes of existence, the physical, the astral and the causal, and is the source of inner illumination. This principle is referred to as Aum, a term whose three letters suggest the three phases of human experience: "A" referring to the waking state (jagrat), "U" the dream state (swapna) and "M" the deep sleep state (sushupti). The ultimate reality includes all three planes, and the three phases of human experience, yet goes beyond them. The silence that follows each recitation of the word Aum suggests the state of Turiya or Absolute Being, which is the indescribable source and end of everything. It is the Brahman, the All-transcending One, whose prime attribute is effulgence, but who is in himself even beyond this effulgence. Hence the mantra in its original Rig Veda form has another line added to it, which is given out only to sanyasins and chosen disciples--Paro Raj-asal Savad Aum: He who transcends the effulgence is this Aum.
And turn thy attention to the All-Absorbing Sun within.
Accepting its influence be thou absorbed in the Sun,
And it shall in its own likeness make thee All-Luminous.
Prajapati vai idam agref aseet("In the beginning was Prajapati, the Brahman, with whom was the Word and the Word was verily the Supreme Brahman.") This text remarkably parallels the opening of the Gospel according to St. John:
Tasya vag dvitya aseet,
Vag vai parmam Brahma.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.Thus Aum becomes Brahman as manifesting Itself in the Word, and in the Taittriya Upanishad, It is referred to as the "Sheath of Brahman," as something which takes Its life from Brahman and contains Him. This aspect is made even clearer in the Sam Veda:
Brahman is at once Shabd and Ashabd both,In other words, the Absolute One is not only inner effulgence but also beyond it, as suggested in the Gayatri. He is with the Word, the Shabd or Aum, yet beyond It. Both Sound and Light are in fact referred to as His prime manifestations. The Gayatri recommends that while concentrating on the Divine Word Aum, we fix our attention upon the inner Sun, while in the Chhandogya Upanishad, we are told that Naad, or the divine music, springs from the Universal Sun (of Brahmand), a secret that was given by Angris Rishi to Krishna, the darling son of Devki (III:17-6 and 93). It was this mystic insight to be found in the srutis, the scriptures revealed through inner hearing, that led to the development of what came to be called the Sphota-vada or the philosophy of the Word. The teachers of this path preached that the Absolute was Wordless, imageless, indescribable and unconditioned. When He came into manifestation, He projected Himself as the Sphota or the Word, radiant with Light and vibrating with indescribable Music. The seeker wishing to transcend the relative plane to the Eternal and Unchanging must contact the Sphota or the Word Power through which he can rise to the Brahman who is beyond Shabd or Sphota. The Path of God-realization is certainly not easy. It is difficult to have access to, difficult to cognize, difficult to abide by and difficult to cross; yet it is the only possible Way, for one who is true to his Guru and His cause.
And Brahman alone vibrates in space.
The teachings of Buddha represent in
many ways a reaction against the religious traditions, some distorted,
of the Vedas, and yet they confirm many of the basic tenets that we have
already examined. The life of Buddha himself has become a legend embodying
in a vivid and striking way, man's need to turn from the phenomenal, outer
world, to the noumenal, inner one. With his royal lineage and with everything
that could make life happy at home, Buddha's going out of the palace into
the wilderness as a mendicant in quest of Truth was an unprecedented sacrifice.
It indeed was a heroic endeavor on his part to wander for six long years,
and to resort to all sorts of austerities and physical sufferings, reducing
himself to a bare skeleton, and this compels deep and abiding admiration
and adoration. But neither the life of luxury at home nor of tapas in the
jungles could help him solve the problem of the misery, distress, sickness
and death, which he had witnessed as the common lot of man's life in the
physical world. It was a momentous decision of his to forsake the ascetic
life as he had done the one of luxury before. Seated under the Bodhi tree
in Gaya, in calm contemplation, he gave himself up to the divine influence
that operates of itself and by itself when one resigns his self completely
to the holiest and the highest in Nature, when suddenly there flashed upon
his inward eye the much sought solution to the most baffling problem of
life, in a seriated chain of cause and effect: (1) the undeniable fact
of suffering, (2) the cause of suffering, (3) the possibility of removing
suffering, and lastly, (4) the path that leads to freedom from suffering.
This was the Path of the Golden Mean, between self-indulgence and self-mortification,
both of which were equally painful and unprofitable in the search after
truth. Hence it was given the name of the Middle Path, consisting of righteousness
in the eightfold aspects of life, which have already been described in
the earlier part of this book.
This, in brief, was the purport of the Master's first sermon at Sarnath, delivered to the first five Bhikkus. The simple and direct teachings, free from sophistications of the priestly order --the Brahmins--who had made rites and rituals as the be-all and end-all of man's salvation, had a tremendous influence on the people as a whole. No wonder then that the new faith had a large number of converts from the ruling chiefs down to the laymen, who eagerly took to the yellow robe.
This is the outer aspect as in all other religions of the world before and after Buddha's time, and it worked well with the masses, for it gave them a clear perspective of life and life's way. The intricate Vedic problems, the Vedic Pantheon and the Vedic mode of worship were bypassed in a single sweep, and the people were asked to evolve and elevate their conduct and everything else would follow of itself. This was, in a way, the strict observance of yamas and niyamas that go to make for Sadachar (right conduct), the first and foremost step in the right direction.
It does not mean that Buddha denied the existence either of God, or of the steps leading up to Him on the spiritual path. A mere public non-affirmation of something of higher value and vital interest far ahead of his time and which the common man was not yet prepared and ready to accept does not mean the negation of the same. The higher Path was of course left for the chosen few and kept for the elect, who were worthy of the mystical teaching relating to transcendental hearing, as we read in the Surangama Sutra, wherein are described the spiritual experiences of the highest Bodhisatvas and Mahasatvas and great Arhats, like Maha Kasyapa, Sariputra, Samant Bhadra, Metaluniputra, Maudgalyana, Akshobya, Vejuria, Maitreya, Mahasthema-Prapta and others. All of them in their accounts testify, in one form or another, to the purple-golden brightness, the infinitude of pure mind-essence, the transcendental perception, the transcendental and intrinsic hearing experienced by the inner mind, leading to the indescribable and mysterious Sound of Dharma like the roar of a lion or the beating of drums; the penetrating power of the element of fire, making the intuitive insight luminously clear and enabling them to view all the Deva realms and finally the Buddha-land of Immovability, laying bare to the core the very heart of balanced and rhythmic ethereal vibrations. They also speak of the "Supreme, wonderful and perfect Samadhi of Transcendental Consciousness" called the "Diamond Samadhi," that is attainable by means of "Intrinsic Hearing," when the mind, freed from mental contaminations, loses itself into the "Divine Stream."
After listening to the various personages, Manjusri, the prince of Dharma, laid great stress on attaining "the supreme purity of mind-essence and its intrinsic brightness shining spontaneously in all directions," and exhorted the Great Assembly "to reverse the outward perception of hearing and to listen inwardly to the perfectly unified and intrinsic Sound of the mind-essence." He then summed up the subject in the following memorable words:
This is the only way to Nirvana, and it has been followed by all the Tathagatas of the past. Moreover, it is for all the Bodhisatvas and Mahasatvas of the present and for all in the future if they are to hope for perfect enlightenment. Not only did Avalokiteswara attain perfect enlightenment in long ages past by this Golden Way, but in the present, I also, am one of them . . . I bear testimony that the means employed by Avalokiteswara is the most expedient means for all.* (* For a fuller account in this connection, see the section "Evidence from Various Religions" in Naam or Word by the same author.)Again, the contemplators in the Hinayana school of Buddhism were also called Shravaks which means "hearers," i.e., hearers of the inner Sound-principle.
Turning to China, we find the best
in Buddhist thought passing into the religious traditions of the Chinese.
But along with this, we may note the message taught on his own by Lao Tze,
the father of Chinese Mysticism (Hsuanchiao) or Taoism. The term
meaning "road" or way, denotes the hidden "principle of the universe."
Lao Tze speaks of Tao as "Absolute Tao" Which is the "Essence" and "Quintessence" (the spiritual truth) quite apart from and yet immanent in its manifestations. Just as Indian mystics had distinguished between the Aum that we chant and the Aum that is the Indescribable, Inexpressible, Wordless Word, so too Lao Tze tells us:
The Tao that can be told ofOf the character of Tao, it is further said:
Is not the Absolute Tao;
The names that can be given
Are not Absolute Names.
Tao is all-pervadingAgain:
And Its use is inexhaustible!
Like the fountainhead of all things.
The Great Tao flows everywhere,And again:
(Like a flood) It may go left or right.
The myriad things derive their life from It,
And It does not deny them.
The Tao never does,In Book II, dealing with the application of Tao, is given the Principle of Reversion:
Yet through It everything is done.
Reversion is the action of Tao,Tao is the source of all knowledge:
Gentleness is the function of Tao,
The things of this world come from Being,
And Being comes from Non-Being.
Without stepping outside one's door,The Grand Harmony of Tao, the mysterious secret of the universe, becomes manifest when:
One knows what is happening in the world.
Without looking out of one's window,
One can see the Tao of Heaven.
The further one possesses knowledge,
The less one knows.
Therefore the sage knows without running about,
Understands without seeing,
Accomplishes without doing.
When the mystic virtue becomes clear, far-reaching,
And things revert back (to their source),
Then and then only emerges the Grand Harmony.
Of his own teachings (as of the great sages), he said:
My teachings are very easy to understand and very easy to practice,And finally, speaking of the Way to Heaven, he says:
But no one can understand them and none can practice them.
In my words there is a principle,
In the affairs of man there is system,
Because they know not these
They also know me not.
Since there are few that know me,
Therefore I am distinguished.
Therefore the sage wears a coarse cloth,
But carries jade within his bosom.
True words are not fine sounding,From the above, it would be clear that Tao is the Way; the Way to Reality, the ineffable and transcendent, the very ground of all existence, the womb from which all life comes into being. It comes only through the cultivation of stillness, or ridding the mind of the mind-stuff, a stillness which but a few can practice, enjoy and radiate to others. The process of approach to inwardness lies through reversion and purification of the spirit by putting the "self" aside. "Bide in silence, and the radiance of the spirit shall come and make its home." It is by the alert watch-and-wait method that the mind becomes blank and still. It is to such a mind, that Nature yields her secret. We Wei or "Creative Quietude," which comprises and connotes at once "supreme activity" and "supreme relaxation,'' is vitally necessary for the realization of Tao. It is "life lived beyond tension," that acts as a magic spell. Tao works without working and can never be learned and so "a sensible man prefers the inner to the outer eye." The Way to Tao is ever in concord with nature and comes by a drive toward simplicity. It is a way of life to be lived that brings in the all-embracing continuity of Tao.
Fine-sounding words are not true.
A good man does not argue;
He who argues is not a good man.
The wise one does not know many things;
He who knows many things is not wise.
The sage does not accumulate (for himself).
He lives for other people,
And grows richer in himself;
He gives to other people,
And has greater abundance.
The Tao of Heaven
Blesses, but does not harm.
The way of the sage
Accomplishes, but does not contend.
What the Hindus refer to as Aum,
Naad, Shabd, the Buddhists describe as the Lion roar of Dharma, and
Lao Tze as Tao, Ratu Zarathustra, the ancient Persian sage, speaks of as
or that which is heard:
I cause to invoke that Divine Sraosha (i.e. the Word) which is the greatest of all divine gifts for spiritual succour. Ha 33:35In Gatha Ushtavaiti, Zoroaster proclaims:
The Creative Verbum;
Assimilating one's unfolding self with
His all-pervading Reality,
The Omniscient, Self-existent Life-giver has framed
this mystic Verbum and its melodious rhythm,
With the Divine Order of personal self-sacrifice for
the Universe, unto the self-sublimating souls.
He is that person who, with the Enlightened Superb Mind can give
both these (Mystic Verbum and Divine Order) through his gracious mouth
unto the mortals. Ha 29:7
Thus I reveal the Word which the Most Unfolded One has taught me,But today we see only the symbolic fire burning all the time in the Parsi temples and the Parsi households and the chanting of psalms and hymns regardless of the living Sraosha or the Creative Verbum, which the noble Iranian himself had practiced for a number of years on Mt. Alburz and of which he taught the people, as opposed to the worship of the ancient gods of Babylon and Nineveh. Bound however to the fiery symbol of the original Sraosha, it is no wonder that the Parsis are now known as "fire-worshipers."
The Word which is the best for mortals to listen.
Whosoever shall render obedience and steadfast attention unto Me,
will attain for one's own self the All-Embracing Whole Being and immortality;
And through the service of the Holy Divine Spirit
Will realize Mazda Ahura (Godhead). Ha 35:8
Jesus Christ was essentially a man
of the East, and his teachings are imbued with oriental mysticism. It is
even speculated that he spent many of his early years (on which the Gospels
are silent) in India, and learned much from the Yogins and the Buddhist
monks, in his travels from place to place. He perhaps even started his
teachings right in India and may have had a foretaste of persecution from
the Brahminical order and the so-called high class social circles for his
catholicity of vision, for he did not believe in class barriers and preached
the equality of man. (Cf. Nicholas Notovitch The Unknown Life
of Christ, Chicago: Indo-American Book Co., 1894.)
His contribution to the religious thought of the world may be seen in the emphasis he laid on the need for Universal love, and the Kingdom of God within man; the two cardinal principles known to the ancients long before, but forgotten and ignored in practice.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the Prophets;Let us examine some of the pertinent sayings which reveal that Jesus was conversant with the ancient religious thought and practiced the Path of the Masters of the Audible Life Current, sayings which are often ignored or misconstrued by those studying his teachings today:
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness. MATTHEW 6: 22-23Obviously, "the eye" refers to "the single eye" and the words "if thine eye be single," mean concentrated awareness within at the center between and at the back of the eyes. Again, the words "if thine eye be evil" refer to a state of mental dispersion without, as opposed to concentration within, and the result will certainly be "darkness"--darkness born of ignorance about the true and real values of life, for this is the greatest ill of the soul.
Take heed therefore, that the light which is within thee be not darkness.Here are the words of advice from Jesus to his elect, the chosen few, viz., to carry to the people openly (in light) the significance of what they heard in "darkness," that is in secret meditation, and to tell of the divine melody that they heard in the ear by means of transcendental hearing.
What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear,
that preach ye upon the housetops.
But hearing, ye shall hear, and shall not understand;The idea conveyed is of the esoteric nature of the spiritual science which can be experienced in the depths of the soul in the human laboratory of the body, and cannot be understood on the intellectual level or the level of the senses.
and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive.
For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear; and have not heard them.In clear and unambiguous words, we have a reference to the inner spiritual experience, a realization of the Kingdom of Light and Harmony, which a real Master like Jesus could make manifest to his disciples.
MATTHEW 13:17; LUKE 10:24
Then Jesus said unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.It means one has to sacrifice the outer man, consisting of the flesh and the carnal mind, for the sake of the Inner man or soul. In other words, he has to exchange the life of the senses for the life of the spirit.
For whosoever will save his tile shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,St. Mark goes further and adds, "and with all thy strength" (Mark 12:30).
and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.The principle of love is still further amplified as follows:
MATTHEW 22:37-40; MARK 12:30-31; LUKE 10:27
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,And why all this?--in order to gain perfection in the likeness of God:
and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.
Be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.In St. Luke, Chapter Three, we are told that "the Word of God came to John son of Zacharias in the wilderness," and John while preaching the baptism of repentance for remission of sins, told the wondering crowd, "I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire" (Luke 3:2-3, 16).
O ye blind, ye know not the gate.About this gate, St. Matthew tells us:
Enter ye in at the strait gate . . . Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.It is essentially a path of conversion, for no one can enter into the Kingdom of God unless he is converted and becomes as a little child (Matthew 18:3), i.e., leaves off his vanities, becomes meek, pure, simple and innocent like a little child. St. Luke elaborates on this theme in Chapter 18:15-17, for when the disciples rebuked them that had brought infants along, Jesus called them unto him and said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such (like-minded) is the Kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,In the above statement of St. John, there cannot be any doubts about the nature of the Word. It is clearly the light and life of the world, the Creative Life-principle in which we live, move, and have our being. It is the Spirit of God, the very essence of the soul but now lost in the mighty swirl of the world and all that is worldly. It is only the contact with the Spirit that shows the way back to God and thus is the true religion. This contact is termed variously as the second birth, the resurrection, or the coming into life again. Addressing Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, Jesus said:
and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not
anything made that was made.
In Him was Life; and the life was the light of men.
And the Light shineth in darkness;
and the darkness comprehended it not ....
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man
that cometh into the world.
He was in the world and the world was made by Him,
and the world knew Him not ....
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God .... (Mark the word "see.")Jesus compares the one born of the spirit with the wind which "bloweth where it listeth, for thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell where it cometh, and whither it goeth" (John 3:8).
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God .... (Mark the word "enter.")
Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.
JOHN 3:3, 5, 7
I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD: he that followeth meTo speak of oneself as the "light of life" can have no reference to the light of the sun, even though the solar light may in the physical world be a source of life-giving energy. In Matthew 13:14, Jesus goes on to clarify the position and warns against literal interpretation of his words, when he draws the distinction between "hearing" and "understanding" and between "seeing" and "perception." It is only the awakened souls, the Masters of Truth, in living touch with the Reality, who hold the key to the Kingdom of the spirit and can draw forth an individual, now completely lost in the life of the senses, and rediscover for him the great heritage of All-life and All-light, for then it is said that, "The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and then the tongue of the dumb sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert" (Isaiah 35:5-6).
shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
As the name indicates, Islam is the
religion of peace and good will for all who believe in the Prophet and
follow his behests. Every religion that comes into being fulfills the purpose
of God, the need of the hour, and fills a gap in the religious history
of man. Prophet Mohammed too came at a time and in a place which was stinking
with rank superstition, idolatry, social degradation and moral bankruptcy
of the virile Arab race, debased as their brethren, the Jews, and other
races had sometimes been. Both Arabs and Jews are Semitic in origin and
are the descendants of Abraham: the one from Ishmael, banished eastward,
and the other from his brother Isaac, who remained in the general area
of Palestine. The rough and sturdy Bedouin tribes of the desert, owing
allegiance to none but Mammon and Bacchus, were steeped in utter ignorance
and given over heart and soul to warring against one another. It was to
save such people that Mohammed, a deeply religious shepherd-boy, was chosen
by the most High as His Elect, to carry out the fiat of the most Merciful
among His creatures. The call to the Ministry of God came to him only after
he had practiced intense spiritual discipline for several years in the
rough and barren cave--Ghar-i-Hira--in the suburbs of Mecca.
He started his mission in the true spirit of humility, not to work wonders and offer miracles, which he always decried and desisted from, but as a simple preacher of God's words, a common man like anyone else. His message was essentially that of One God, for he emphatically declared:
There is no God but God and Allah is His Name.On this fundamental basis of monotheism, he built his system of ethical teachings and democratic brotherhood. This was, indeed, the need of the time, and he admirably fulfilled it. To the barbarous, crude and intellectually semi-developed race, he could hardly offer metaphysical postulates for their consideration, specially when even his simple teachings evoked derision and ridicule from the people, and fierce vilification, leading in time to open hostility, that forced him and his followers to flee to Medina for safety. It was in the year 622 A.D. when the band of the faithful migrated from Mecca, and was followed by a period of hard struggle for the newly born faith, for the preservation and propagation of which, the Prophet had to unsheath the sword in self-defense. The process of consolidation took about a hundred years of relentless fighting, during which was carved a mighty empire from East to West, the Indian Ocean on the one hand and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
Mohammed is but His messenger, or message-bearer.
All space, he says, is filled with Saut-i-Sarmad or the Abstract Sound. The vibrations of this Sound are too fine to be either audible or visible to the material ears or eyes, since it is even difficult for the eyes to see the form or color of the ether vibrations on the external plane. It was Saut-i-Sarmad, which Mohammed heard in the cave of Hira, when he became lost in his ideal. The Koran refers to it as Kun-feu-kun---Be and all became. Moses heard this very Sound on Koh-i-Toor or Mount Sinai, when in communion with God. The same Word was audible to Christ when absorbed in his heavenly Father in the wilderness. Siva heard the same Anhad-Naad in the Himalayas. The flute of Krishna is allegorically symbolic of the same Sound. This Sound is the source of all revelation to the Masters to whom it is revealed from within and, therefore, they know and teach the one and the same Truth for it is in this abstract reality that all the blessed ones of God unite.In one of his addresses, Abdu'l-Baha said:
This Sound of the Abstract is always going on within, around and about man. Those who are able to hear it and meditate on it are relieved from all worries, anxieties, sorrows, fears and diseases, and the soul is freed from the captivity of the senses and the physical body, and becomes part of the All-pervading Consciousness.
This Sound develops through and into ten different aspects, because of Its manifestation through the different tubes of the body (Nadis), and sounds like thunder, the roaring of the sea, the jingling of bells, the buzzing of bees, the twittering of sparrows, the vina, the flute, the sound of Shankha (conch) are heard, until It finally becomes Hu, the most sacred of all sounds, be they from man, bird, beast or thing.
We must thank God that he has created for us both material blessings and spiritual bestowals. He has given us material gifts and spiritual graces; outer sight to view the light of the sun and inner vision by which we may perceive the Glory of God. He has designed the outer ear to enjoy the melodies of sound, and the inner hearing wherewith we may hear the Voice of our Creator.In the Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah, a mystic saint of Persia, we have:
0 Son of dust! hearken unto the mystic voice calling from the realmMany other Sufi mystics have sung likewise:
of the Invisible . . . up from thy prison, ascend unto the glorious meadows above
and from thy mortal cage wing thy flight unto the paradise of the Placeless.
From the heavenly turret, God bids thee home,In Tazkra-i-Ghausia (p. 332), Amir Khusro, a great mystic poet and a scholar of repute, has given an account of the ten types of sounds that one hears within, and he beautifully concludes with the following lines:
Alas! thou listeneth not to the divine call,
None knows the mansion of the Beloved,
But sure enough the chiming of the bells comes from there.
Rising above the horizon, hearken to the melody divine,
The prophet would attend to It as to any other task.
O God, lead me to the place from where flows
the ineffable Kalma without words.
All repeat the Kalma by word of mouth,
A rare soul may do it with the tongue of thought,
He who communes with it mentally,
He can hardly describe it in words.
Such indeed is the Heavenly Orchestra, O Khusro,From the above, it is abundantly clear that the inner spiritual experience of the Sound Current is within the reach of an individual provided there is a competent Master who is capable of imparting his own life-impulse, and who can bring the consciousness in man to the center of his being and then into contact with the Light and Sound of God by opening the inner eye and by unsealing the inner ear.
It is in these ten melodies that a yogin gets absorbed.
With senses stilled and the mind at rest, so saith Khusro;
With the flourish of the limitless blast within,
All the lusts of the flesh and the deadly sins fly off,
The Master too has a wonderful world of His own,
And Khusro is now deeply engrossed within his self.
Sikhism is the youngest of the world
religions, tracing its origin from Guru Nanak, the first of the succession
of ten great Gurus. Like other faiths, it assumed the character of a distinct
religion only in subsequent times. Its Masters never claimed any novelty
for their teachings. In fact, they laid great emphasis upon them as being
the truths taught from time immemorial. To underline the universality of
the spiritual message, Guru Arjan Dev (the fifth Guru), when compiling
the Sri Adi Granth, the holy scripture of the Sikhs, drew the hymns
and devotional pieces from the mystical writings of saints of all castes
and creeds, including Kabir the Muslim weaver, Dhanna the jat, Ravi
Das the cobbler and Sadna the butcher, etc.
The Sikh scriptures occupy a unique position in religious history. They represent not only the first deliberate attempt to present the oneness of all religions, but are composed in a language that is still alive and not a thing of the past. Hence they have lost none of their pristine freshness and have not been wholly buried under the debris of theological interpretation. Being mainly in the form of devotional lyrics, their appeal is not merely expositional. They speak of the whole man, singing of his problems, his weaknesses, the vanity of the world and the eternity of the Absolute, beckoning him on to greater and ever greater effort, toward his divine home. The language they employ lends itself to condensation--conjunctions being freely dispensed with--thus enabling its poetic and musical elements to be used with great effect. A searching philosophy and profound metaphysic are implicit in every statement, yet their writings speak directly to men's hearts in the language that they use, whose meanings are inexhaustible and which leave an imprint on all.
Moreover, the Sikh faith springing from the teachings not of one, but of a succession of great Masters, covers almost every major aspect of man's spiritual quest. If Buddha emphasized the need for moderation and non-attachment, Christ for love, the Sikh teachings succeed in stressing all facets. Besides, being of comparatively recent origin, the records of the personal lives of the ten great Gurus have been preserved, and we know much of their travels and actions. Nothing in a like manner is known of the Master-souls who gave to Hinduism its Upanishads. They speak as distant voices, reaching out to us from the remote past of mythology. The inner path is a practical one, and man needs not only philosophy but the demonstration of some life that illustrates it. Whether we read of the humility of Nanak as he passed on foot from place to place, bearing the spiritual torch, or of Gobind Singh, the last of the ten Gurus, riding from one end of the country to the other, organizing his followers into a brotherhood that could meet force with force and successfully resist the threat of physical extermination posed by the fanatical emperor Aurangzeb, we realize again and again that the life of God is inner perfection, a mode of being, a self-fulfillment, not to be confused with intellectual philosophy or metaphysical conundrums. He who had won this spiritual liberation could not be touched or tarnished by outer action, for he had made God's Will his own and did nothing of himself. And so, while leading his warriors to war against the Moguls, Guru Gobind Singh could yet sing:
Sach Kahun, sun leyo sabhayTo attempt to outline the mystical message of the great Sikh Gurus would be to repeat most of what we have already said in the preceding chapter. For the teachings of Nanak and of Kabir (his contemporary), represent the final development of the mysticism of inner seeing and hearing into the Path of the Surat Shabd Yoga. Both great Masters--one the first of the line of Sikh Gurus and the second a weaver of Varanasi (formerly Benares), were indefatigable in emphasizing the inefficacy of outer ritual, intellectual sophistication and yogic austerities:
Jin prem kiyo, tin he Prabh payo.
Verily, verily I say unto you
They that loved, found the Lord.
Sant mata kuchh aur hai Chhado chaturai
The path of the Masters is distinct;Both saints decried caste distinctions, and they were alike in stressing the unity of all life, the oneness of the spirit that sustained everything, and both declared repeatedly that the highest and most feasible way to at-one-ment with God lay through the path of Naam or Shabd. Indeed, no other scriptures are so insistent on the all-pervasiveness of the Word as are those of the Sikhs or the writings of Kabir, a selection of which, as has already been mentioned, was included by Guru Arjan Dev in the Sri Adi Granth. The inner light--antar jot--and the inner music--panch shabd, or the five-melodied Word, whose music is limitless (anhad bani), are a recurring theme in nearly all of the compositions contained in the Granth Sahib.
Let go thy intellectual subtleties.
One cannot comprehend Him through reason,
even if one reasoned for ages;
One cannot achieve inner peace by outward silence,
not though one sat dumb for ages;
One cannot buy contentment with all the riches o! the world,
nor reach Him with all mental ingenuity.
There is one Reality, the Unmanifest Manifested;This Reality is beyond human reason and comprehension:
Ever-existent, He is Naam (Conscious Spirit);
The Creator pervading all;
Without fear, without enmity;
The Timeless, the Unborn and the Self-existent, Complete within Itself.
One cannot comprehend Him through reason,And yet, It may be reached, and the path leading to It is single:
even if one reasoned for ages.
There is a Way, O Nanak: to make His Will our own,It is not something outside of us, but within; it is a part of our being, our very essence, and all that is needed is to attune ourselves to It, for to be attuned to It is to be freed from the bondage of the ego and therefore of maya:
His Will which is already wrought in our existence.
All exist under His Will,How may one attune oneself to the divine Will? The answer is hinted at in the very opening itself:
And nothing stands outside,
One attuned with His Will, O Nanak,
is wholly freed from ego.
Through the favor of His true servant the Guru,This subject is taken up in Stanza XVI in greater detail:
He may, be realized.
The saint (the Word-personified) is acceptable at His CourtThe gift of the true Master is a gift of Naam, in which he himself is an adept. This Word is the manifestation of God's Will and Command and is at the heart of all His creations:
and is the chief elect therein;
The saint adorns the threshold of God and is honored even by kings;
The saint lives by and meditates on the One Word.
With one Word of His, this vast creation blossomed into being,The way to at-one-ment with God's Will is through attunement with the Word:
And a thousand streams of life sprang into existence.
By communion with the Word one becomes the abode of all virtues;Hence it is that Nanak declares:
By communion with the Word, one becomes a Sheikh,
a Pir and a true spiritual king;
By communion with the Word, the spiritually blind
find their way to Realization;
By communion with the Word, one crosses beyond
the Limitless Ocean of illusionary matter;
O Nanak! His devotees live in perpetual ecstasy,
for the Word washes away all sin and sorrow.
Exalted is the Lord, and exalted His abode;Having outlined the nature of the Absolute and the way leading to mergence with It, Nanak goes on to tell us of what is required to successfully pursue the journey. It is not necessary, he implies, to turn an outward sanyasin; what one must do is to be a sanyasin in spirit, dispensing with external forms, and instead to inculcate the inner virtues:
More exalted still His Holy Word.
Let contentment be your ear-rings;Finally, in the closing sections of the Jap Ji, Guru Nanak gives us a bird's-eye view of the spirit's pilgrimage. The first realm to be transcended is the plane of Dharm Khand--the Realm of Action, or the world of good and evil deeds as we know it. Next comes Gyan Khand or the Realm of Knowledge, the first of the inner heavens, full of gods and demi-gods:
Endeavor for the Divine and respect for the Higher Self be your wallet;
And constant meditation on Him your ashes;
Let preparedness for death be your cloak,
And your body be like unto a chaste virgin;
Let your Master's teachings be your supporting staff.
The highest Religion is to rise to Universal Brotherhood,
Aye, to consider all creatures your equals.
Conquer your mind, for victory over self is victory over the world.
Hail, Hail, to Him alone,
The Primal, Pure, Eternal, Immortal and Immutable in all ages.
Countless its elements, air, water and fire,If knowledge is the reigning virtue of this region, ecstasy is that of the next, which is Sarm Khand, the Realm of Bliss. This plane is beyond description and whoever tries to describe it must repent his folly. Herein at last, the soul is freed from its mental adjuncts and finally comes into its own:
And countless Krishnas and Sivas,
And countless the Brahmas fashioning various creations of countless forms and countless hues.
Countless the Fields of Action, countless the golden mountains . . .
Countless the sources of creation, countless the harmonies, countless those
that listen unto them.
And countless the devotees of the Word,
Endless and unending, 0 Nanak! this Realm.
Herein the mind, reason and understanding are etherealized, the self comesBut "higher still" stands Karm Khand, the Realm of Grace--grace earned through right action and meditation.
to its own, and develops the penetration of the gods and the sages.
Here the Word is all in all, and nothing else prevails,This is the realm where the soul finally escapes the coils of relativity; the bonds of time, death and change, no longer affect it. But though it dwells in the constant presence of the Lord, it may move still further to merge into His Formless State:
Here dwell the bravest of the brave, the conquerors of the mind,
imbued with the love Divine . . .
All hearts filled with God, they live beyond the reach of death and of delusion.
Sach Khand, or the Realm of Truth, is the seat of the Formless One,The world shall go on along the rails of good and evil deeds, caught in the limits of Karma, but:
Here He creates all creations, rejoicing in creating.
Here are many regions, heavenly systems and universes,
To count which were to count the countless.
Here, out of the Formless,
The heavenly plateaux and all else come into form,
All destined to move according to His Will.
He who is blessed with this vision, rejoices in its contemplation.
But, O Nanak, such is its beauty that to try to describe it
is to attempt the impossible.
Those who have communed with the Word, their toils shall end,Such was the lofty message not only of Guru Nanak, but also of his successors. Their word blazed like a summer fire through the plains of the Punjab, sweeping away all the false distinctions of caste that a decadent Brahminism had created. At a time when religious bigotry between the Hindus and the ruling Muslims was growing, it demonstrated the unity of all true religions, purifying Hinduism of its servility to outer ritual and setting up before Islam the higher inner ideal it was forgetting in outer names and forms. It is no accident that the Sufi tradition and the Sikh religious movement should have flowered at the same time. Indeed, history at many points, suggests an active cooperation between the two. Some of the Sikh Gurus, especially Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, and their followers like Bhai Nand Lal, were masters of Persian and have left some exquisite compositions in that language. Guru Nanak is said to have journeyed to Mecca and, like his successors, had many Muslim disciples, while Sufi mystics like Hazrat Mian Mir were on intimate terms with Guru Arjan. Both the Sufi and the Sikh Masters were not tied to dogma, and taught the lesson of universal brotherhood. They acted and reacted upon each other, and it is significant that the Surat Shabd Yoga, or the Yoga of the Sound Current, should find equal stress in the writings of the greatest Sufis and in the Sikh scriptures, a fact summed up by Inayat Khan in the passage already quoted from his book The Mysticism of Sound.
And their faces shall flame with glory.
Not only shall they have salvation,
O Nanak, but many more shall find freedom with them.
All knowledge and meditation sprang from Dhun (the Sound Principle),And yet these verses are chanted without heeding or understanding the deep spiritual meaning hidden in them.
But what That is, defies definition.
The true Bani (Word) is given by the Guru,
And is reverberating in the Sukhmana.
The Unstruck Music is heard through the Grace of a Godman,
But few there be who commune with it.
Perfect is the Anhad Bani (Limitless Song),
And Its key is with the Saints.