Past Saints

A patient cannot take medicine from a past physician, however proficient he may have been. No one can get his case decided by a past judge. No woman can marry a dead person and beget children of him. Similarly, perfect Mahatmas came in their own time and redeemed those who came in contact with them then. After the expiration of their period they left the world and merged in the Lord. Before departing, they passed on their work to others. Only man can make another man understand. This is the law of nature. 

The Lord works in this world of matter through living persons.

Many believe that past Mahatmas are even now present in the spiritual regions and can help us. This matter should be considered calmly. 

Those Perfect Masters fulfilled their mission and merged in the Lord and left the remaining work to some other Mahatmas. One Mahatma finished his work and handed over the office of Guru to another, according to the direction of the Lord, so that the work of connecting the souls with the Lord and redeeming them could continue. Even if a past Mahatma wished to redeem a person, he would work in accordance with the law of nature and carry out his mission through a living Mahatma.

We can take the help of past Masters only after ascending to the regions where they are. We are, however, in this gross world, while they are in the world of the spirit. 

If we think that past Mahatmas can help us from the spiritual regions, we are acting on inner feelings, imagination and inferences. And unless our inner eyes are opened, we are unable to be certain whether our inner thoughts are from the Lord, from a past Mahatma, from some imperfect soul, or if they are only waves of our own subconscious mind. 

It is wrong to act on the waves of the subconscious mind, and one is likely to be misled by them. Moreover, when we have not seen a past Mahatma, the anti-power or any other soul can claim to be that Mahatma and deceive us. As we cannot positively recognise him, we are likely to be deceived.

Let us consider whether it is logical to think that past Mahatmas can act as Gurus and that it is not necessary to have a living Guru. If a past Mahatma can do so, surely the Lord Himself could give the necessary spiritual instructions. Then why did any Mahatma have to come here at all, as the Lord could always do so?

If, however, there was a necessity for a Mahatma at any time in the past, it follows that there is a necessity for one even now, just as there was before. If the Lord wishes to make people understand, He must take human form. This is the law of nature. He has to take the form of a Saint or a Holy man.

The Lord took the form of a Holy man.

Maru M5, 1005-8

The Lord showed great renunciation and took the form of a Saint.

Kabir, Asa 476-14

This does not mean that the past Mahatmas are dead. No, they are immortal and have crossed the gross, subtle and causal regions. They are united with the Lord and are indistinguishable from Him. 

If they are supposed to be wandering in the lower regions, what was the use of their perfecting the practice of listening to the Shabd?

It is no use getting entangled in long intellectual arguments. It does not help or carry us forward. Seek the guidance of a living Mahatma who can tell you the natural and easy method of uniting with the Lord. 

You need not wait for another life after you die here. If you try, you can succeed here and in this very life.

Complete and imperishable spiritual success can be had from a living Guru only. There is a dynamic power of higher consciousness in Him. His touch charges us and connects us with the current of the Shabd, and He helps us in the higher spiritual regions by accompanying us. That soul is indeed blessed which takes shelter with such a Mahatma.

It is obvious that if, for instance, we had to visit London, we would first consult a directory to find where it is situated and the route we should follow, where we would have to change and at which port we would have to embark, and to which company the ship belongs. We would have to obtain a passport, for if we did not have a passport we could not start our journey. 

Similarly, we have to obtain a 'permit' from a Saint, the Deputy of the Lord, to enter the realm of the Lord. This passport or permit is initiation. One has to have the permit stamped with the seal of the Satguru, this fact has been mentioned by various Mahatmas in their hymns. Their writ runs throughout all the universes and regions since they are the duly appointed Deputies of the Lord. When we get their passport, no one can obstruct us in any of the universes or regions. Saints say if the seed of Nam is sown in any heart, it will certainly sprout and the initiate will certainly reach his original Home.

In addition to obtaining the information and papers needed for the journey, the other necessary measure to adopt is to follow the right path leading to your destination. If the right road leads to the north and one walks towards the south, one cannot reach the destination, however enthusiastic he may be. He will only go further away from his destination. It is, therefore, necessary to follow the right path.

When making preparations for a journey, we consult various directories. But if someone tells us about a person who has already visited the place and the country to which we want to go, we would not only consult the directories but would also consult that person, because he has seen and known everything for himself. If, on contacting him, we learn that he is again visiting that country and is willing to take us along with him, we would gladly accompany him. We can, to some extent, check his facts with those given in the directories. If the facts and directions are corroborated by several directories, we are all the more satisfied. The souls of the Saints visit the spiritual universes and regions. They can therefore, give us the information needed for our own journey to those regions.

A Gurumukh comes and goes at will.

 Ramkali M1, 932-13

Religious books are like directories. They simply point out the way. The Saints-incarnate take us to the higher regions in the ship of Naam. We can obtain tickets or passports from them and cross in their ship of the Naam or Shabd. They are themselves the captains. We can thus reach the region of the Lord.

It is good to study religious books, but the power that takes us across is the Naam or the Shabd, without which it is not possible to reach the region of the Lord. If we simply make enquiries and take no step forward on that path, we cannot reach the country of the Beloved. 

Bhai Gurdas says:

The traveller enquires about the right path but walks not on it. How can he reach the land of the Beloved by mere talk?

Kabit 439

To try to walk on that path by oneself results in being led astray, and one has to repent for this mistake. If one has the Master by one's side, one can easily reach the home of the Lord and become intoxicated with its bliss. If it had been in our own power to go back, we would not have remained separated from the Lord.

If we could meet Him by our own effort, we would not linger here to grieve in separation. Let us then find the company of a holy man, oh Nanak, and rejoice in his royal glory.

Majh M5, 134-5

If something that we want is at one place and we search for it at another, how can we ever find it? But if we take with us someone who knows the secret, we can certainly find it. The path which would otherwise take innumerable lives to cover is then travelled over in a moment. 

Kabir Sahib says:

The thing you want is at one place, but you search for it at another; how can you ever find it? Oh Kabir, if you want to find it, take one with you who knows where it is. He will then show you the thing you want. It is a long, long way to go, but he will take you there in a moment.

In order to learn how to cook well, one has to work under an expert cook. When studying medicine or engineering, one has also to do practical work. One cannot become a doctor or an engineer by mere reading. One needs the help of a teacher in all the external sciences. How much more is a teacher needed in the case of the abstruse and difficult spiritual science? For without a teacher, when we shut the eyes, we see only darkness within us. A teacher is needed to show us how to see the inner light. One needs a teacher in every line. 

Some say that no spiritual teacher is necessary, and that they can acquire spiritual knowledge by themselves. They are like a person who refuses to drink water out of the well of someone who is willing to serve him, but insists upon digging a well of his own. This shows that he is not thirsty as yet. Those who do not need spirituality do not need the Master either.

Bhai Nand Lal says:

No one except a lover of rubies loves a ruby; he alone has the eye which can truly evaluate a ruby.

We can further illustrate the necessity of a Guru by another example. One wishes, let us say, to fly in an aeroplane. But the pilot has locked the door and engine of the plane so that no ignorant person can get in and possibly be injured. A person who does not know how to operate a plane does not even know how to board the plane. But even if he were to do so, the aeroplane would not start, since the engine is locked. Even if it were to start, the ignorant person does not know how to take it up or bring it down. Even if he were to take it up, he would not know the conditions in the upper regions. There would be nothing but certain destruction for him.

This human machine is wonderful. In the first place, the soul cannot concentrate itself at the proper place unless proper instructions have been given. Even if it should do so, however, it could not climb into the ship of the Shabd. Even if it should somehow be connected with the Shabd, it has no knowledge of the higher regions and does not know the direction to be followed in order to go up or to come down. If the pilot (Guru) takes a new man with him in the plane, unlocks it, and takes him up on a few flights, the new man might then be able to fly the plane by himself.

For travelling through the spiritual regions it is very necessary to have a pilot who knows those regions and who has often travelled through them. If he is with us, the journey becomes possible. If such a Mahatma were to invite us to accompany him and we should say, "No, thank you, we will fly our plane by ourselves," we would be very unfortunate. 

Maulana Rumi says that it is very dangerous to travel on this path without a Master.

Seek a Master for this journey; without a Master it is full of risks and dangers.

The Naam or Dhun-atmik Shabd is an unspoken language. It cannot, therefore, be learned from books and scriptures. We can only get this wealth from a Mahatma who gives initiation. He is the Shabd personified, and the Lord's Shabd will be manifest only through him.

Without a Master no one can attain the Shabd. The Lord has so ordained it.

 Maru M3, 1046-11

The Shabd of the Guru is controlled by the Lord; It cannot be manifested by anyone else.

Sarang Var M4, 1249-8

The Master knows all the inner secrets. What He says is based upon His own experience. His testimony, therefore, carries great conviction.

Listen to the testimony of the Saints; They say what They have seen with Their own eyes.

Ramkali M5, 894-8

The Gurbani attaches great importance to the necessity of having a Guru. In the hymn called 'Asa-di-var ' it is said that man has been sleeping for many lives. It may be taken as an axiom that no one, unless he has a True Guru, has ever reached the Truth, or will ever reach it.

No one ever found Him; no one ever will find Him. He Himself dwells in the Master. He manifests Himself in, and speaks thru him.

 Asa Var M1, 466-7

When the Lord is kind, the Master is kind. Man wanders in many births; the Master then attunes him to the Shabd. The Master is most bountiful; let all the world know it. Meet the Master, realise the Truth by giving up egotism.

 Asa Var M1, 465-2

All the Saints say that no one can meet the Lord without a Master. The Lord Himself has made this irrevocable law.

It has been ordained by the Lord since the beginning; no one can know Him without a Master.

Bihagara Var M3, 556-2

The Gurus say that God has given them to understand that no one can gain release without a Master.

Oh Nanak, the Lord has so ordained; no one can gain release without a Master.

 Gond M5, 864-9

The Master is the physician who gives us sight. The Lord is inside us. All the world is blind and works in darkness. If one meets a Master, he can then see the Lord inside himself with his own eyes.

This world is blind; all work in darkness. No one knows the path without a Perfect Master. On meeting a Master, one sees with one's own eyes. One realises the Truth within oneself.

 Sorath M3, 603-16

Who are the really blind? Not those whose outer eyes are without sight, but those who are far from the Lord.

They are not blind who have no sight. Oh Nanak, blind are those who are separated from the Lord.

 Ramkali Var M2, 954-15

Guru Arjan Sahib also says that a man with eyes is blind since he cannot see the Lord who is so close to him, and fearlessly commits sins oblivious of His presence.

He sees, tastes and speaks in ignorance; he hears and yet hears not. He considers that which is near to be far; he, a confirmed sinner, continues to sin.

 Suhi M5, 741-3

We see the gross world with gross eyes but our Third Eye or Shiv Netra (Eye of Shiva) is closed. It is only when the Third Eye opens that we can see the subtle, causal and other regions of consciousness, which are beyond the reach of the mind and intellect.

He is blind and acts blindly. The Third Eye has not opened in him.

 Malar Var M1, 1289-18

We are deceived by Maya and are blinded. We cannot see beyond the gross world.

Deluded by Maya man does not remember the Lord; he suffers in this death-afflicted land. He is blind and deaf and sees nothing; he is self-centred and is consumed by his sins.

 Majh M3, 111-10

It is impossible to enter and pass through the subtle regions by oneself. It is necessary to have the guidance of those who have already travelled there. Maulvi Rum says that if you wish to go on a pilgrimage, you should go with one who has already made the journey. The worries and difficulties of the journey will be reduced. It does not matter whether such a guide is a Hindu or a Turk or an Arab.

If you wish to go on a pilgrimage, go with one who has already made it. Whether he be a Hindu, a Turk or an Arab.

Maulana Rumi

Masters are spiritual physicians and open one's spiritual eyes. 

Shamas-i-Tabriz says:

If you wish to see the manifestation of the Lord, put the dust of the feet of the Saints in your eyes as collyrium, for they can grant sight even to the born-blind.

If you wish to see the Lord, use the dust of the Saints' feet as collyrium. They have the power to make the born-blind see.

That collyrium is the Naam or Shabd. By applying it one can see the spiritual regions. Unless one applies it, he remains blind, and his coming to, and going from this world are of no use.

Those who know not the Shabd are blind and deaf. Their coming here serves no useful purpose.

Sorath M3, 601-7

Guru Nanak tells us that the Shabd enlightens us and enables us to see and realise the Lord.

Learn this from Nanak; enlighten yourself and realise Him.

 Basant M1, 1190-2

The Lord is in every heart, but we are, as it were, suffering from cataract.

He is in the heart, but we see Him not; such a life is a curse; oh Tulsi, we suffer from cataract.

Sight is a great blessing to us. A sightless person longing for sight, cannot see and wanders about in the dark. If he recovers his sight by an operation, he feels greatly indebted to the surgeon. The inner eyes are millions of times more useful. Without them one cannot see beyond this world. One cannot see the Lord. Without Him we have been wandering from birth to birth. The Master opens the inner eye or the knowledge-centre. This inner vision is most essential, but it is highly regrettable that we, engulfed in Maya, do not experience it.

Not only men, but even gods, long for the Third Eye. They cannot make spiritual progress without it. Not to speak of their inability to see the Lord, they cannot even see their own mother, Shakti (primal force).

Mother Nature conceived, oh wonder! And gave birth to three deities; one who creates the world, the other who sustains the world, the third who destroys the world. The Lord sees them all, but they see Him not; how strange!

Gosain Tulsi Das says that no one can cross the ocean of the universe without a Master.

No one can cross the ocean without a Master, even if he is an ascetic like Shankara.

Tulsi Ramayana

If persons of such high status require a Guru, what about the common man? He may try in millions of ways, but he can achieve nothing. 

Hence the Guru says:

No one can find the Lord without a Master, even though he goes on making millions of efforts.

Maru M3, 1057-8

Tulsi Sahib further says that release cannot be gained without the Grace of the Master.

Oh Tulsi, without the Grace of a Master, it is difficult to see the path of release, far off, beyond the physical bounds.

The Gurus, in their hymns, have placed great emphasis on the need for a Saint or a Master, saying that no one need have any doubt that anyone has ever crossed the ocean of existence without a Master.

Let no one remain in doubt; no one has crossed over without a Master.

 Gond M5, 864-5

This universe is an ocean. The Master is a ship and He Himself is its captain. No one can cross over without the Master. It is only through His Grace that we can meet the Lord. No one gets release without this.

Guru is the ship, Guru is the captain. No one has crossed over without a Guru. One meets the Lord through the Guru's Grace. One cannot get release without a Guru.

 Sawayye M4, 1401-11

In the religious scriptures of the Hindus the necessity of having a Guru is also strongly emphasized. 

In the Katha Upanishad I-ii, it is said:

People cannot know Him simply by hearing about Him. The Mahatma who says anything about Him is a wonderful person. He is worthy and wise who gains access to Him. No one can realise God without a Guru.

It is again said in the Katha Upanishad I-ii:

God cannot be realised without initiation, however much one may meditate on Him. Unless you are initiated by a true Guru, you cannot realise Him because He is so subtle that He is beyond the reach of imagination.

In the Chhandogya Upanishad IV, 9-3, it is said:

It has been said by revered persons such as Gurus that without initiation we cannot comprehend our reality.

In the Mundaka Upanishad, 1st Mundaka, 2nd part, Salok 7-12, it is said:

Let a Brahmin, after he has experienced all these worlds which are gained by actions, acquire freedom from all desires. That which is eternal (which has never been made) cannot be attained by means of the transitory (which has been made). Let him, in order to understand this, take faggots (a sign of discipleship) in his hand and approach a Guru who is learned and who dwells eternally in Brahm.

Without a Guru one cannot follow the directions given in the scriptures. 

The Svetasvatra Upanishad, 6th Chapter, Salok 23 says:

He who is firmly devoted to the Lord and is also as greatly devoted to the Master as to the Lord will understand the hints given in this Upanishad.

In the Manu Smriti, 2nd Chapter, it is said:

A disciple should, both before the beginning and at the close of a lesson, touch with both hands the feet of his Master and obey his preceptor.

Shaloka 71

Those who, without a Guru, learn the Vedas by hearing from others, are really thieves of the Vedas since their real meaning cannot be understood without a Guru, and one who wrongly interprets the Vedas goes to hell.

Shaloka 116

Bow to him from whom you wish to gain worldly knowledge or divine knowledge.

Shaloka 117

He should stand with folded hands, having controlled his body, tongue, intellect, desires and heart.

Shaloka 192

In the Bhagvad Gita, Chapter 4, verse 34, it is said:

You should prostrate yourself before a perfect Master and carry out spiritual practices and serve Him. Only a Guru who knows the reality can impart this knowledge to you.

We cannot gain knowledge of the Spiritual Path without a Master. It is very necessary to know a Master.

Jesus Christ said:

No man cometh to the Father but through me.


He who does not know the Son, does not know the Father.


He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent me.


A search through the scriptures of all the religions shows that all lay emphasis on the point that no one can gain release without a Guru.

The Shastras, Vedas and Smritis all say the same; hold fast to the belief that there is no release without a Master.

 Gujri M5, 495-12

The method of taking shelter with the Guru is the best method of realising the Lord. 

Hazrat Mohammed said to Hazrat Ali:

Oh Ali! you are the lion of truth, a hero and a brave man; but do not rely on your own strength alone. Come under the shade of the fruit-bearing tree. From among the various methods of meeting the Lord choose the best: find out the loved one of the Lord. He will hold your hand, for he is beloved of the Lord. He takes the seekers to the Court of the Lord.

The Prophet said, Oh Ali! you are a brave-hearted lion. But do not depend on your bravery. Take shelter under the tree of hope. Oh Ali! Of all the directions, turn to the 'Shelter of the Lord.' He takes His servant by the hand. He leads the seekers to His Court.

Maulana Rumi says that the mind cannot be controlled except by taking shelter with a Master. You should, therefore, firmly clutch the garment of a Master who has controlled the mind. Go and sleep under His protection, so that He will release you from this bondage. Sing His praises day and night. Search for this hidden treasure with the Saints. You should wander from door to door; roam in the streets and bazaars, and search for Him over and over again. As far as possible, do not turn your back on the Saints. Make an effort to know Them as They are.

Nothing except the Grace of the Master can kill the ego; hold fast to the garment of the Redeemer. Go and sleep under His protection; it may be that He will then grant you release; go on cooing like the cuckoo day and night; seek the secret of the hidden treasure from the Master. Go from door to door and street to street; search for Him time and again; do not turn your face away from the Saints; then leave the rest to God.

Spirituality is a difficult path and cannot be trodden without the company of a Master.

The soul is covered with three sheaths, namely, the gross, subtle and causal bodies. One can, with the Master's help, reach the subtle and causal regions. His original home, however, is beyond the three regions, in the fourth region. There are many entanglements and obstructions in the gross region. If we reach the subtle region, there are numerous misleading and distracting devices there, and it is difficult to escape them. And beyond that region it is impossible to enter the region of pure consciousness all alone. To walk on this path is to tread on a razor's edge. There is danger at every step. He who wishes to know the reality or to get true knowledge and to meet the Lord should seek a perfect Master who knows the way. 

It is said in the Katha Upanishad (I, iii, 14):

Arise, awake, learn the true knowledge quickly. Seek a Master who has knowledge of what is beyond, since the Mahatmas say that the path is sharper than the edge of a sword and it is very difficult to tread it.

It is impossible to realise the Lord without a Master. A disciple needs the help of the Master at every step. 

Maulana Rumi says:

Search for a Master, because to tread this path without him is full of risks and dangers. If you tread this path without a Master, Satan leads you astray and throws you in a well. If the protecting hand of the Master is not on your head, then the voice of Satan will worry and lead you astray. Many wise men trod this path, but were led astray by the Negative Power (Kal). There are Shabds (Sounds) of Kal inside us, which are imitations of the Lord's Divine Sounds. They lead you to destruction.

Follow the Master, since without Him the journey is full of sufferings, risks and dangers; whoever went this way without a Master, was misled by the evil ones and thrown in a pit. Oh fool! If you have no Master, the voice of evil will keep you confused; the evil ones will lead you astray and cause you suffering. Many wiser than you have tried this path before. The voice of evil conies as the voice of a friend; it's a friend who leads but to destruction.

We can cross this gross darkness through the merciful Grace of the Master only. When the soul leaves the gross region the Master accompanies it and helps it in overcoming all difficulties and pitfalls.

The Master helps in overcoming all the difficulties. One reaches home safely and attains bliss.

 Basant M5, 1185-15

The subtle and causal regions are like wastelands. Maulana Rumi says that you should not tread this path alone. Take a companion with you on the way. Do not enter this jungle relying on your own strength.

You should not journey without a friend; do not enter this desert relying on your own self.

Hafiz has also stated with great firmness that you should not go on this way without a Master, for without a Master it is dark and there is danger of your going astray.

Do not tread this path without a guide; there is utter darkness. Beware of going astray.