In the scriptural texts, we have an apt story of Raja Prikshat who had heard that whosoever heard the Bhagwat recited by a Pandit became jivan mukat - a man freed from all bondage. One day he called his court-priest and asked him to recite to him the elevating text of the Bhagwat so that he might escape from the bondage of mind and matter, and commanded that if his recitation did not prove the truth of the sacred teachings, the priest would be put to the gallows. The priest was no better than any one of us. He felt dismayed for he saw death staring him in the face, as he knew full well that he could not help the king in attaining salvation. When he reached his home, he was down cast and extremely worried over his impending doom. On the eve of the day fixed for the recitation of the Bhagwat, the priest was half-dead with fear. Fortunately for him he had a talented daughter. On her solicitations, he revealed to her the cause of his miserable plight. The daughter consoled him and assured him that she would save him from the gallows, if he permitted her to accompany him on the following day to the king's presence. The next day she went to the royal court along with her father. She enquired if the king wanted freedom from bondage of the world and the king replied in the affirmative. She told the king that she could help him in his much-cherished desire if he followed her a advice and permitted her to do what she liked. She took the king and her father to the jungle with two stout ropes, and she tightly tied each one of them to a separate tree. She then asked the king to untie and free his priest. The king expressed his helplessness to do so as he was tied down himself. Thereupon the girl explained to him that one who was himself in the bondage of maya (illusion), could not take another out of the similar bondage. The recitation of the Bhagwat could certainly break the magic shell of delusion if it were done by a freed person, who had for himself broken through the delusion, and as such the king should not expect salvation from his royal priest who was as much in fetters as the king himself. It is only Neh-Karma or one not in the cobweb of Karmas, who is competent to make others like himself and extricate them from the deadly Karmic cycle.
This in a way also illustrates that mere study of scriptures does not help much in giving Moksha or salvation; which is purely a practical theme and can be learned correctly from and perfected by practice under the able guidance of an adept in the line. The Murshid-i-Kamal or the perfect Master has first of all to piece together the broken tablet of the mind torn by countless desires and aspirations, and make it into a perfect whole and then to burnish it clean through and through so as to make it capable of reflecting the light and glory of God which no amount of book-learning would do.
One cannot, of course, know and understand the true import of the scriptures unless the same are explained by some Master-soul who has Himself experienced within the laboratory of his own mind what the scriptures say. Thus, He can, from personal experience of His own, teach and guide the disciple in the highly esoteric teachings contained in terse epigrams which baffle the intellect, limited as it is in its scope and instruments of learning. This is why it is said: "God comes handy in the company of a Sadh" (or a disciplined soul). One who is a freed soul can free another and none else can. In this context it is said:
A practical man of realization is at once all the scriptures combined besides something much more than the scriptures, which, at best, contain the theory side in subtle language but are incapable of explaining the theory itself by word of mouth, and cannot vouchsafe an actual experience of the same as the Master does.
Everyone these days tries to put the blame or fault for his ills on the "times" and this complaint is the greatest complaint of all times. The present time as well as the time to come is no more ours than the time past. This world is a huge magnetic field and the more we strive to get out of it, the more are we caught and entangled in its meshes. Man dances in the net and thinks that nobody sees him. The wise feel the net but do not know where to sit easy. Thus, silently and ceaselessly revolves the huge fly-wheel of the Karmic mill, the giant Wheel of Life slowly but unmistakably pounding to pieces all alike. This mill of Nature grinds all slowly but surely. Some feel and say: "It appears that Nature made man and then broke the mould."
No one, however, tries to peer through the why and wherefore of things, happenings and events for we take everything complacently as it comes along the current of time. We do not try to delve deep into them in order to trace out the links of the chain leading up to what we see and experience. Everyone in his dealings with others forgets that he has to pay for everything in this world. Even nature's gifts like space, light, air, etc. are not free to all alike to any appreciable extent. But each man thinks himself the sole custodian of the free gifts of God. He attempts to be as liberal as possible, comes across several ill-set diamonds (men) and is affected by the "Law of give and take." It is after hard buffeting that we learn that scales make no distinction between gold and lead but are concerned with the dead weight only. Every man knows that fog cannot be dispelled with a fan, and yet tries to do so and thereby makes the confusion worse confounded. A person bound hand and foot in the endless chain of cause and effect, cannot free others. When every one in the world is fast asleep, who is there to waken and whom? It is only a freed man who can free others if he so chooses, for the sins of commission and omission are of the very essence of the law of Nature and sooner or later visit the doer in one form or another.
In caging birds and keeping pets collared, chained and imprisoned, one wrongly takes it for granted that these poor dumb creatures have no court of law where they can lodge their complaint. He thinks that he has a right to deal with them as he pleases. He neither dreads to kill nor pays any heed to the common Truth: "As you sow, so shall you reap." Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Every wrong has to be avenged. He that slays, shall be slain. He who lives by the sword, perishes by the sword. One has to pay with "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" which is as true today as it was in the time of Moses. Merry, no doubt, is the feast-making until comes the dreadful reckoning. We may shut our eyes to the laws of Nature, may repose trust in the efficacy of the priest-craft, but it will never do any good. One has to pay a very heavy toll for killing, blood-sucking, and the like. Those who live and thrive on the blood of others cannot have a pure heart, much less access to the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."
Saints say that man occupies the highest place in God's creation and is endowed with superb intellect and must not, therefore, pass his limited span of time blindfolded like other creatures. The golden opportunity thus provided of returning and reverting to God's embrace and to his original Home should not be lost. Such a sublime opportunity comes only after one has completely seen through the "World Exhibition" and has successfully concluded his part in the Grand Drama of life. Man is usually lost in the attractions here below. In doing so, he loses the solitary chance given to him under the overbearing influence of Karmic reaction, after myriads of incarnations, for his return to the abiding region of the pure spirit. He is given one body after another in an endless series. He begins to feel the weight of all kinds of laws - social, physical, natural - which like heavy blocks bar his way at every step. He has no alternative left but to wait for his next turn as man, and who knows when it may come?
Saints give a very simple definition of sin as "forgetting one's origin" (or God-head). Every thought, word or deed that keeps a man away from God is a veritable sin, and on the other hand whatever brings man nearer to Him, is pious and holy. A Persian divine while self-commenting on the nature of the world said, "World comes into play only when one forgets the Lord. By constant remembrance of God, one while living in the world among friends and relations is yet not of the world."
Most of the sins, whether coarse or fine, are purely the invention of man under the sway of the mind. Finer ones are regarded as "pardonable weaknesses" by Saints Who are the living and moving images of God's law of love and mercy on this earth. So long as a person acts as a self-willed creature, he subjects himself to all the laws and their rigors. But when he surrenders his self-will to that of a God-man, he comes under the sway of God's mercy and love. This is the true aspect of sin in every day life. ( For details, refer to Appendix II at the end.)
Karmas are the most contagious form of invisible diseases to which a man is ever exposed. They are even more galloping, wasting and destructive than the deadliest and most poisonous germs transmitted into the innermost cells of the human system and worm their way most surreptitiously into the blood-system. In society, Karmas take a firm hold first in the shape of a change in view and thought of the so-called moulders of public opinion. Then they affect the disposition and temper, and afterwards take deep roots in the shape of habits which become "second nature" in man. The ancients and the elders were, therefore, always on the alert to advise us to refrain from bad company. "A good company breeds goodness, while the bad one breeds ill." A man is certainly known by the company he keeps.
To crown all such difficulties, one has to share unwittingly the Karmic reactions, even in his own family where he is born and brought up. Thus virtues and vices play an integral role in the formation of culture. In this way, we daily and hourly contract Karmas from our surroundings. The only way to escape the Karmic influence is to stick to the path of God through godly Saints Who being embedded in the Most High, are far above the reach of Karmas and are in fact Neh-Karma and Jivan-Mukat. It is said that in the kingdom of a real Darvesh (God-man), one has not to render account of one's Karmas. A person takes a turn for the better when he takes to the company of a sadhu. However, man is naturally prone to accept evil easily rather than the illimitable goodness of Saints. The company of a Saint has marvelous effect in removing all traces of evil. The atmospheric range of a Master-Saint is a vast immensity which man can hardly imagine. The Saints come not for the good of human beings only but for the benefit of all active and inactive creation in the world at all levels, visible and invisible as well. The poor creature called man has no true friend. Even the mind with the three gunas (qualities of Satva or purity, Rajas or activity, and Tamas or inertia) ever working as man's accomplice, looks on him just as a cat casts a restless glance over a rat. Those who follow the dictates of the mind are invariably caught in its wiles, and are subjected to untold misery and harrowing terrors. "Mind," however, fears those to whom God is kind through His medium, the Satguru (God-man). Mind dares not intrude on the privileges and rights accorded to His Own loved ones and rather helps them as an obedient assistant does under orders from his superior. Like fire, it is a good servant but a bad master:
This is why Guru Nanak emphatically declared:
While all shall forsake thee in thy life-time, the True One shall accompany thee even up to the beyond.
In Gurbani, we have:
Every man is tied physically and mentally in the invisible bonds of Karmas. So long as one is under the sway of mind and matter, and has not sought the protection of a Saint, he is governed by all the laws of the various planes and is meted out justice pure and simple, untempered with mercy. He is liable to punishment for all his sins - unheeded, unnamed, and subtle. A friend, in a court of law, may be able to curtail the long and tortuous legal process, but before the judgment seat of the Most High, a Master-Saint alone is the true friend at the time of trial. In Jap Ji, Guru Nanak declares, -
The Saint adorns the threshold of God and is honoured even by Kings.
The angel of death can do unto me no more wrong when the very account of my deeds has been blotted out.
No one is in more bondage than the one who wrongly thinks himself to be free. The trap of the high-born spirit is ambition. Those who are well-to-do, in the worldly sense of the word, appear to us in comfort. They may have sown some good seeds in the past and are apparently reaping a rich harvest in the present; or they may now be acting upon the policy of "snatch, grab and hoard" and are thus building for themselves a hornet's nest for the future. All such people in affluence, unfortunately, forget that they in either case are wearing the "unseen fetters of gold," and are unknowingly heading for trouble.
The common saying goes: "The walls and mansions of the mighty are built with the sweat and tears of the poor." Unless one has sown good in the past, be cannot reap a rich harvest in the living present. He may also be carrying imperceptibly the burden of some guilt right under his sleeves. If he does not sow good seeds now, how can he expect to enjoy seemingly good fruits in the future and for how long?
Moreover, good deeds by themselves cannot absolve a person from the reaction of bad deeds, just as dirty water cannot and does not wash clean. With all our righteousnesses we are but filthy rags, says a Christian saint. None is clean, no, not one. Man is always subject to the law of give and take or compensation and retribution. Following the path of good works is decidedly something desirable and better than the path of evil deeds, but it is not all. A high ethical living may secure a paradise for a person for a lengthy sojourn, where he may comfortably enjoy heavenly bliss; but he is still interned therein in the astral or causal body and he has not freed himself from the cycle of births and deaths. So long as one feels that he is the doer, he cannot escape from the wheel of births and has to bear the fruit of seeds. It is the contact with the Holy Ghost, sacred Naam or Word that alone helps a person in his upward ascent to higher spiritual regions, far removed from the shadows of repeated births and deaths that ceaselessly move up and down in endless gyres with no way of escape therefrom.
Hell and Heaven are the regions where the disincarnate spirits have to remain for a relatively long period according to their actions on earth, bad or good, as the case may be. The stay here, however long, is not ever-lasting and it does not take them out of the inexorable cycle of births and deaths. Paradise (Heaven or Eden) is the El Dorado of certain faiths. It is also termed salvation by many. But the fact of the matter is that after enjoying the paradisiacal bounties for as long as is determined by good deeds, one is given a human body once again for it alone provides an opportunity to gain merit leading ultimately to liberation. Even the ministering angels of God aspire to human birth when they feel that they have done their job. Thus, in following the almost universally acknowledged, widely believed and generally accepted path of good deeds, one ultimately finds himself, once more, caught in the web of insatiable desires and ambitions and with this glittering and ever-elusive firefly in front of him, he still remains an unwitting captive in the iron grip of Karmas. To achieve his objective, be performs Tapas (various kinds of ascetic austerities) which may bring him better lives. Even when he attains the sovereignty of a kingdom, his mind runs riot, he gives himself free reins and commits mighty deeds of valour and prowess, most of which are evil enough to earn him Hell. Again, after taking a bitter lesson from the hell-fires in which he is plunged, he tries to seek solace in Tapas. Thus he is ever caught and moves entangled in the vicious circle of temptations and lures from Hell to contrition and from contrition to sovereignty and from sovereignty to Hell again - one after the other - in an endless cyclic order, up and down the Wheel of Life. Thus, everyone for himself makes his own Heaven and Hell and remains through his own volitional deeds entangled in the gossamer web of life prepared by him.
These regions of Hell and Paradise do not come in the way of one who follows the path of the Saints, the middle course, right between the two eye-brows, for be bypasses the path of a Karma Yogi. Even if a soul under the protection of a Master Saint may, for a while, go astray, it is sure to be rescued. Though Saints are living models of humility and do not speak of the great authority that is Theirs, yet at times They do indirectly refer to the saving power of the Saints gone before them. The scriptures reveal that Sant Satguru Nanak rescued one of His disciples who somehow wandered astray hell-ward. The Holy One had to visit hell for a lost sheep, and dip His thumb in the molten fires of hell, thereby cooling down the entire hell-furnace, giving relief not only to one but to many sinner souls howling piteously in great distress. Similar instances occurred in the time of Raja Janak and others as well. Once Hazur, my Master, too, had to pull out one of His disciples who was straying downwards. How then can there be redemption from Hell for the common man?
Another region, named Eraf (or purgatory) by the Muslim Saints, exists and has both joys and terrors in varying degrees. Experiences of various kinds of fears and agonies of hell have been described by various Masters of different grades. This subject is not an imaginary mapped-out scheme but a serious one for reflection. Whether one believes it or not, the disciple of a Saint is not concerned with any of them. And so long as one is true to his Master Saint (Sant Satguru), no power on earth can injure a single hair of his head. A true disciple of a Sant Satguru verily says:
Again, it is said:
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