THE MYSTERY OF DEATH
THE LIGHT OF LIFE
We all have come down to the distant land called earth, like so many prodigal children of God, carrying with us the potential of our Father, which we are frittering away, day by day and moment by moment, in exploring the ephemeral beauties and glories of this region, losing all recollection of our divine origin and the blissful parental home, and of our ancestry together with the great heritage that is ours. 'Born of the flesh,' and living in the flesh we have lost our touch with the saving life-lines within, and as such are spiritually dead - dead in spite of the hectic life on physical and mental levels and the wondrous achievements in the fields of art, science and technology. With all the comforts of life that Dame Nature has provided to her foster-child, man, we yet live in a state of perpetual fear and distrust not only of others but of our own self for we find ourselves helplessly and hopelessly adrift on the sea of life without any moorings to hold on and keep our barque on a steady an d even keel on the tumultuous waters.
Man is a microcosm, a replica of the macrocosm (universe). The two - the individual and the universal - are intimately interrelated, part to part. All that is without is also within and the spirit in man despite the heavy load of physical and mental trammels has the capacity to break through the thick enshrouding veils and peep into what lies beyond - the perpetual sway of the Supreme God, the eternal self-existing Truth, perennially the same from the beginning of time.
We have, in this respect, the testimony of a number of mystics:
while living in space, hath thy roots out of space,
Learn thou to shutter down this side, and soar into fields infinite,
For so long as one does not rise above the world of senses,
One remains an utter stranger to the world of God,
Strive on and on, till thou art completely out of the cage,
And then shalt thou know the vanity of the realms below,
Once thou art above the body and the bodily adjuncts,
Thy spirit shall bear testimony to the glory of God;
Thy seat is verily the throne of God,
Fie on thee that thou chooseth to live in a hovel.
Thou hath a body even when out of the body,
Why then art thou afraid to get out of the body?
O friend! bypass the life of the flesh
That thou mayst experience the Light of Life,
Thou verily art the life of all that exists here,
Nay, both the worlds, here and hereafter art in thee,
It is from thee that all wisdom hath descended,
And it is to thee that God reveals His mysteries,
In short, though thou appeareth but so small,
And yet the entire universe resideth in thee.
Equipped as thou art with a human body and an angelic sprite,
Thou canst at will roam the world over or soar in the sky
What a great fun it would be to leave the body here below,
And wing thy way to the highest heaven above,
Quit thou thy elemental house of flesh and blood,
And take with thee thy mind and spirit far above.
If you could but come out of the tabernacle of the flesh;
It may enable you to go to the place where flesh is not;
The life of the flesh is from water and food alone -
For on earth you are clothed in the raiment of self-same stuff;
Why not go you nightly out of the charnel-house?
For you possess hands and feet that are not of of this earth;
It may suffice you to know,
That there is in you an ingress leading to thy Beloved.
When once you get out of the prison-house of the body,
You shall without any effort land into a new world.
The Perfect Master, time and again, tells us of our lost Kingdom lying within, neglected since long and altogether forgotten in the mighty swirl of the world of mind and matter in which we have been drifting all the time. This is the God-given opportunity for us to tread the untrodden path and to explore the unexplored, and to rediscover within us what is already our own, the real inner being in us. Human birth is a rare privilege indeed. It comes at the end of a long evolutionary process, beginning from rocks and minerals, then passing through vegetable kingdom, then the world of insects, reptiles and rodents, next the feathery fraternity of birds and fowls and penultimately beasts and quadrupeds. Man has in him an element which all other creatures lack or have just in infinitesimal measure - the skyey or ethereal element that gives him the power of ratiocination and discrimination, enabling him to distinguish right from wrong, virtue from vice, and to understand and to practise the higher and nobler values of life with freedom of will to choose and adopt the same for further progress, so as to be 'born of the spirit,' adding new dimensions to his consciousness by arising into supra-mental awareness - first cosmic and then of the Beyond. All this is a certain possibility, though we may not know of it at the moment.
"Our self," says Jung, the philosopher, "as the container of our whole living system, includes not only all the deposits and the sum of all that has been lived in the past, but is also the starting point, the pregnant mother-earth from which all future life will spring; the presentiment of things to come is known to our inner feeling as clearly as is the historical past. The idea of immortality which arises from these psychological fundamentals is quite legitimate."
Imprisoned in the clayey mould and domineered by the mind, man is yet a puny child of clay in the vast creation, insignificant in stature and strength. But he is limitless and all-pervading in soul; the seemingly individualised spirit in him is a priceless crest-jewel of inestimable value. So says Bheek, a mystic sage:
O Bheek I none in the world is poor for each
one has tucked in his girdle a precious ruby;
But alas! he knows not how to untie the knot to
get at the ruby and hence goes abegging.
"God," says the sage of Dakshneshwar (Ramakrishna Paramhans), "is in all, but all are not in Him." Guru Nanak tells us of the way out - way to unravel the great mystery and to acquire mastery over everything else - "By conquering the mind, you conquer the world" is his simple device. The mind as at present is torn between countless desires of diverse nature, pulling in different directions. It has, by degrees, to be reintegrated and made whole - an undivided whole - with the love of God surging in every fibre of its being; for then alone it would become a willing instrument to serve the spirit instead of dragging It down and without, as it does now, into tight bottleneck corners, here, there and everywhere and at all times. Unless this hydra-headed monster is trained and tamed it, like the sea-god Proteus, continues playing wild antics, under different guises and various shapes, putting on, chameleon-like, the varying ground-colours of its own choosing. So long as it keeps attached to the earth and all that is earthly, it keeps waxing in power and strength derived from the mother-earth. It has, therefore, to be lifted high into the air and held aloft, as Hercules did with Antaeus, to get rid of the giant, who was invincible as long as he maintained his contact with the mother-earth from whom he derived his strength. Once the mind gets in touch with the Divine Melody that comes wafting from above, it is lifted up, losing for good all interest in the down-pulling sense-pleasures of the world. This gradually leads to a virtual death of the body that is now left far below as well as of the mind that goes up some way to merge in chit-akash - its native habitat, the great storehouse of memories from times immemorial and from where it descended with the blowing down of the vital airs (pranas) on the pure consciousness, wrapping it with a two-fold covering (mano-mai and pran-mai koshas), constituting the mental apparatus befitting the soul for functioning on the earth-plane, through yet another covering - the physical covering (ann-mai kosh) of the body fitted with gross sense-organs, so very necessary in the world of sensations.
While confined, cabined and cramped in the magic box of the body, we are not chained to it though all the time we think and act as fettered prisoners, for we do not know how to unhook the indwelling spirit in the body and how to rise above it. All the Masters from ages past have been telling us with one voice 'to go within and look inwards' for the beacon light, the 'Light of Life' uncreated and shadowless, All-luminous in Its own luminosity, the only ray of hope and deliverance in the enveloping darkness of the murky prison-house in which we dwell. Of this it is said:
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
Take heed that the light which is in thee be not darkness.
It is this light which is acclaimed as the 'day- star' that serves as 'a lamp unto the feet' of the faithful, enrapturing both the mind and the spirit which alike are unwittingly attracted and begin drifting upward into realms of higher consciousness, super-consciousness, along the lighted current of life, the Audible Life Stream (Shabd), carried as it were on the wings of the Divine Music springing from the holy Light, metaphorically described as pegasus, the white winged horse of the gods or barq (the lightning) that is said to have carried the Prophet to heaven (almiraj).
The great Masters in all times, and in all climes, speak of this unique and wonderful house, the human body, the veritable temple of God in which dwell the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Unless the Son (the human spirit) is, by the grace of some God-man, baptised with the Holy Ghost (the Power-of-God made manifest in the flesh by a God-man), the prodigal Son, wandering among the wonders of the wondrous world without, cannot by himself find his way out of the labyrinth, to the Home of his Father (God), for the eternal and fundamental law is: "It is in flesh (clayey mould) and through flesh (Word-made-flesh) that we come to Him who is beyond the flesh." (St. Augustine). Within us is the Light of Life. Day and night burneth eternally this celestial lamp in the dome of the bodily shrine. 'Whosoever comes by this Light of lights, to higher realms, he soars unfettered.' This is the truth and leads unto Truth. "He that knows the Truth knows where that light is and he who knows that light, knows eternity, (St. Augustine) knowing which (Truth) shall make you free" (free from all the impregnable bondages, regrets of the past, fears of the present and terrors of death in which we constantly live). (John 8: 12). The Word or the Holy Ghost is the great Truth at the bottom of all creation: "All things were made by him (the Word), and without him was not anything made that was made," says St. John. "The entire world sprang from Shabd," is what Nanak tells us. Again, "With one Word of His, this vast creation blossomed into being; and a thousand streams of life sprang into existence." In Upnishads, it is said, 'Eko-aham, Bahu syaam' meaning, 'I am one and wish to become many.' The Mohammedans speak of the Word as 'Kun-fia-kun' - He willed, and lo, all the universe sprang up. Thus it is God-in-action Power (Light and Life - The Melody of God), All-pervading and All-powerful, immanent in all that is visible and invisible, creating and sustaining countless creations. Speaking of creation, Nanak tells us: "And countless Thy planes; unapproachable and inaccessible Thy innumerable heavenly plateux." Even by the word countless, we fail to describe Him. The words count and countless are indeed of little consequence for the Almighty. He who is immanent in everything and is the very life of the creation itself, knows every particle thereof.
To come to a better understanding of the higher life, the life of the spirit, one has to actually cross the trans-frontiers of the earth life and pass through the gates of what is called death, and be reborn in the ethereal unearthly world beyond. "That which is born of the spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." (John 3: 6-7). It is this contact with the 'Light of Life' as manifested within by a God-man that brings to an end the peregrinations of the soul in the ever-revolving wheel of births and rebirths. The entire creation is believed to be divided into eight million and four hundred thousand species (84 lakhs); (i) water creatures - 900,000 (9 lakhs), (ii) air creatures - 1,400,000 (14 lakhs), (iii) insects, rodents and reptiles etc.- 2,700,000 (27 lakhs), (iv) trees, shrubs, herbs and other vegetables and creepers etc. - 3,000,000 (30 lakhs), and (v) all kinds of quadrupeds and animals, human beings including gods and goddesses, demi-gods and godly powers, demons and wandering spirits etc. - 400,000 (4 lakhs). A jiva-atman or an individual soul unless liberated (becomes an atman), keeps revolving in one or other material body by the compulsive force of karmas and impressions gathered from life to life. This then is a prelude to real life and life eternal, coming, as it does from contact with the 'Voice of the Son of God (i.e. inner Music made manifest by Him) and they that hear (though dead to It now) shall live (and live eternally by us)' - John 5: 25 - for it is said: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness (of the human heart) shall waters (of life) break out and streams in the desert." (Isiah 35: 5-6). "For now we see through a glass; darkly but then face to face: Now I see part; but then shall I know even as I am known." (I Cor. 13-12). "The spirit, when attuned to the Sound Current" says Nanak likewise, "begins to see (the Light of God) without eyes (of flesh), to hear (the Voice of God) without ears, clings on (to the Divine Music) without hands and moves forward (Godwards) without feet." Again, the great teacher goes on to explain: "The seeing eye, see not (the reality) but by the grace of the Guru, one begins to discern (the Power of God) face to face. It is why a worthy and worshipful disciple can perceive God everywhere." Our sense-organs are so formed as may help us in the physical world alone and that too imperfectly, but they fail us when we come to the supra-physical level. 'By seeing we see but do not perceive, by hearing we hear but do not understand, and we have a heart that has neither feeling nor understanding.' But a complete change, a marvellous change comes about only when one learns how to invert and undergo practically a process of voluntary death while living. So the exhortation: Learn how to die (die to the earth life) that you begin to live (live freely and fearlessly in the living spirit, free from the limiting adjuncts of the bodily sheaths). One has, therefore, to 'forsake the flesh for the spirit.' Love not the flesh more than the spirit, is the age-old advice of the Prophet of Galilee.
As long as we are 'at home in the body, we are absent from God.' And, 'the more one withdraws from himself, the nearer one gets to God.' Nothing in creation compares with the Creator, for what is not God is nothing. With the transference of consciousness from the earth-plane (death as is commonly known) to the spiritual plane (rebirth or second birth-birth of the spirit, as it is called), through contact with the Master-power flowing in the body, one never perishes. 'When all others desert (you), I will not abandon you, nor allow you to perish the last.' "He that overcometh (transcendeth the physical in him by transhumanising the human), shall not be hurt of the second death" because 'if ye are led by the spirit ye are not under the law (the law of action and reaction or cause and effect leading to repeated incarnations).'
All this is not a mere theory but a fact - the 'fact of life' for 'the flame of life' cometh with every individual from the moment of one's birth, and it is given unto every man to know the secret of the flaming Sound and "the mysteries of heaven (the Kingdom of God)." (Matt. 13:11). In this science of the Beyond, logic and reasoning have no place. Actual seeing alone brings in faith and belief. The Light of light, the Father of lights 'swayom jyoti swarup Parmatma' (self-effulgent God), 'nooran-ala noor' (the great celestial Light), and the spirit in man (the spark from the divine light of the universal spirit, a drop of consciousness from the ocean of consciousness, appearing as individualised spirit clothed in various mantles), are all within the human body (nar-naraini deb); but strange as it may seem that though living in so close proximity to each other, one has not seen the face of the other; because we have mistaken the arid wilderness of the world as our real abode. The Master-souls not only apprise us of the reality and the rich heritage to which we are entitled, but Christ-like proclaim: "I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 16:9). Nanak also tells us: "The Master has the key for the mobile house of soul chained to the body and the mind; O Nanak! without a Perfect Master, there is no way of escape from the prison-house." But how many of us have put faith in their solemn assurances, and how many of us are prepared to take and accept the keys of the Kingdom and more so to unlock the steely portals, behind the eyes? And much less to hear the Word (the Holy Word) of which Christ says: "He that heareth my Word ... is passed from death unto life," (John 5:24) in spite of our vehement daily prayers for being led from untruth to Truth, from darkness to Light and from death to Immortality. It is indeed a strange paradox, more paradoxical than the riddles ever propounded by Sphinx, the monster of Thebe to the Thebans or the enigmas of life put by Yaksha, the demon-guardian of the pool of refreshing water, to the Pandva princes who went, one by one, to slake their thirst but could not do so (except Yudhishtra, the prince of dharma) and were turned into stones for their inability to solve the same. Are we not, in fact, leading a stark and stiff life, stiff in death as it were, like many insensate things, awaiting the advent of the Prince of Peace, to raise us once more into life (life everlasting) by conquering the Sphinx and the Yaksha of old - keeping a dragon-like strict watch over us lest we, lured by the legendry Golden Fleece, escape, Jason-like, with the much coveted prize, from his domineering sway. This then is the great enigma of life which has got to be solved, for without solving it our brief existence here is dwarfed and stunted.
The majority of us simply lead an animal existence - living like them a blind life in the brain. We have never risen above the emotional and mental worlds which we ourselves have cast around us and which now hold us in their iron grip. The 'heaven's light,' is to most of us a figment of human imagination and not a reality:
While with us in the body, we see Him not,
Fie on a lifeless life like this,
O Tulsi! everyone is stark blind.
Kabir tells us:
The entire world is groping in darkness,
If it were a question of one or two, they could be set right.
Nanak also speaks likewise:
To the Enlightened One all are purblind,
For none knows the inner secret.
Nanak then goes on to define blindness:
They who lack eyes are not blind,
Blind are such as see not the Lord.
And eyes that see the Lord are quite different.
Again, it is said:
The eyes of flesh see Him not, but when the Master illumines the eyes within,
A worthy disciple begins to witness the Power and glory of God within himself.
How is it that we do not see Him with all our earnest and well-meant endeavours?
in darkness we strive darkly for God by deeds not less dark;
Without a Perfect Master none has found the way nor can one do so;
But when one comes across a Perfect Master, one begins to see Him
with an eye opened in the closet of his heart.
It is only by direct Communion with the Name (the Holy Word) that one comes to know that by knowing It nothing else remains to be known. In Jap Ji, the great teacher recounts the innumerable benefits which spontaneously begin to flow and one becomes the abode of all virtues:
By Communion with the Word, one can attain the status of a Siddha
(1), a Pir (2),
a Sura (3), or a Nath (4);
By Communion with the Word, one can understand the mysteries of the earth,
the supporting bull (5) and the heavens;
By Communion with the Word, the earthly regions, the heavenly plateaux
and the nether worlds stand revealed;
By Communion with the Word, we can escape unscathed through
the portals of death;
O Nanak! His devotees live in perpetual ecstasy, for the Word
washes away all sin and sorrow.
By Communion with the Word, one can attain the powers
of Siva, Brahma and Indra;
By Communion with the Word, one can win esteem from all
irrespective of one's past;
By Communion with the Word, one can have yogic insight
with the mysteries of life and self all revealed;
By Communion with the Word, one can acquire the true import
of the Sastras (6), Smritis (7) and Vedas (8);
O Nanak ! His devotees live in perpetual ecstasy, for the Word
washes away all sin and sorrow.
By Communion with the Word, one becomes the abode of Truth,
contentment and true knowledge;
By communion with the Word, one gets the fruit of ablution
at sixty-eight pilgrimages (9);
By Communion with the Word, one wins the honour of the learned;
By Communion with the Word, one attains the stage of Sehaj (10);
O Nanak! His devotees live in perpetual ecstasy, for the Word
washes away all sin and sorrow.
By Communion with the Word, one becomes the abode of all virtues;
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 Realisation;
By Communion with the Word, one crosses beyond
the Limitless Ocean of illusory matter;
O Nanak! His devotees live in perpetual ecstasy, for the Word
washes away all sin and sorrow.
1. Sidha: A man endowed with supernatural powers.
2. Pir: A Muslim divine or a spiritual teacher.
3. Sura: A god.
4. Nath: Yogin, an adept in yoga.
5. Dhaul: It is the fabled bull, supposed to be supporting the earths and heavens.
6. Sastras: The philosophical treatises of the Hindus.
7. Smritis: The ancient scriptures of the Hindus.
8. Vedas: The earliest books of human and divine.
9. Ath-sath: Literally, these two words mean eight and sixty, i.e. sixty-eight. Nanak is
once again making use of the Hindu belief that ablutions at 68 places of pilgrimage purify all sinful acts.
10. Sehaj: This term refers to the state when the turmoil of the physical, astral and causal worlds
with all their enchanted panorama, are transcended and the great principle of life is seen within.
Thus we see that the secret of success both here and hereafter lies in attuning the 'self' within to the Overself or the Sound Current which is the be-all and end-all of all existence. Nanak, therefore, exhorts:
It is by a great good fortune that one takes a human birth
and one must make the most of it,
But one goes down in the scale of creation by deliberately
breaking away from the saving life-lines in him.
It is, indeed, a sad plight for one who gains the possessions of the whole world but loses his own soul. Far from having any profit, he incurs a dead loss, irreparable and irretrievable, whereby he suffers for ages before he comes again to the human level. Once the opportunity is allowed to slip through the fingers, the gains made so far go overboard and one hopelessly flounders on the shoals and sand-banks of the stream of life. The fall from the top rung of the ladder of life is a terrible fall indeed !