The three Parts of Surat Shabd Yoga
Innumerable Yogis, Incarnations, Saints, and others came into this world and taught the people of the time the methods by which souls could be taken up to the region of their own reach, and they were naturally recognized to be the leaders. Their teachings are preserved in their own writings. So long as the disciples followed their instructions and carried out inner practices they achieved spiritual progress. But in course of time they left the inner practices and took to rituals, rites and ceremonies. Then they gradually lost the spiritual essence and remained satisfied with superficiality.
Rishis obtained knowledge by inner practice. This fact is mentioned in the Vedas, Upanishads, and other Hindu Scriptures. Buddha also made mention of the Sonorous Light, that is, the Shabd within Light, and how he attained it. Moses too experienced Light, within himself through inner practice on Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai). Similarly, Mohammed, the great Muslim Prophet, practised for seven long years in a lonely corner of a cave. Thus he saw Light and heard the Kalma or Shabd within himself. Muslim scriptures make a pertinent reference to it.
Christ also used the method of inner practice and preached the same Truth. Amongst Parsees, Zoroaster preached about Saraosh, having attained it through inner practice.
The followers of Ganesh practise concentration at the rectal centre, those of Vishnu at the navel centre, of Shiva at the heart centre, and of Shakti at the throat center. Yogis were the followers or worshipers of Jot Niranjan, the deity at the Third Eye, the center between the two eyebrows. Yogishwars worshipped the sun (within), as one will find in the Gayatri Mantra of the Vedas. Christ, Saints John, Matthew and Peter have given a description of their teachings in the Bible. Parsees have done the same. Books, both of the East and West, are full of such references of the Saints in their respective countries.
There are indications, clear enough, of the attainment of spirituality in all such books. But now, in the twentieth century, many a pseudo method is being advocated for attaining spiritual progress. The difficulty is that the above-mentioned books were written in their own languages and their translations were made by learned people on the strength of their intellect alone, and not with the realization of actual experience. Such knowledge as is given in the scriptures of various religions and countries can be understood properly only by one who has himself attained this inner knowledge.
Otherwise, it remains a secret, for it can be explained only by one whose inner consciousness has been awakened.
We can divide the subject matter of the writings of these great men into two parts. One is objective or external, and is elementary for the beginner in Spirituality; and the other is subjective or internal, and directly concerns the progress of the soul.
The first part consists of rituals, worship, reading of scriptures, pilgrimages, fasts, charity, satsang, singing of hymns, etc.
The second part is concerned with spiritual practice, performed inwardly, and directly concerns our consciousness, which is known as soul or the individual soul, by the Vedantists and Sufis, and is a spark of God Himself.
There is a higher consciousness in each one of us, but we can be aware of it only after concentrating our attention at the eye centre. The Saints have called this conscious energy, the surat or soul. Surat is also another name for the attention, and if it is combined with consciousness it is the soul. It is within us and is the very life and essence of our whole being. We have to know it (i.e., to know ourselves), and understand it, and thus free ourselves from worldly ties. This is taught by all Saints and all religions.
The Upanishads state:
Christ exhorted us to do the same. The Persian Saints also preached this. And so did Socrates. Guru Nanak has emphasized this very Truth, saying that so long as we do not know ourselves we cannot be free from the deception of Maya (Illusion). The Saints gained this realization and taught people to turn their attention towards this goal.
So long as our attention is fixed on the world and worldly objects we are subject to pleasure and pain. But when the attention is directed towards the Lord, we cross the barriers of pleasure and pain. Then Godlike qualities, which had remained latent within us, become manifest. If one is a part of something, that something also must exist.
So the soul, which is a part of the Lord, merges in Him as soon as it turns its attention towards the Whole.
Soul is neither mind nor intellect. Mind and intellect are its instruments for functioning in this world. This is where some philosophers made a mistake.
Real knowledge is the merging of the soul in the Lord, and real devotion implies the efforts made in that direction. The object of internal practice is to free the soul from its bondage to the body and to the objects of the world.
This practice may be divided into three parts:
That which relates to the tongue of the soul (tongue of thought) and is called Simran, Repetition or Remembrance.
That which is to be done with the eye of the soul (the single eye) and is known as Dhyan or Contemplation.
That which is done with the ear of the soul (the inner ear) and is called Bhajan or listening to the Shabd, or Voice of God.