Surat Shabd Yoga
The two things that emerge from an examination of the popular forms of yoga that were evolved after Patanjali are:
First, that the soul can rise above physical consciousness, given means whereby it can focus its energies, without recourse to the arduous control of pranas, and second that full Spiritual Realisation or True Samadhi is not merely a matter of physical transcension – though that is necessary as a first step –, but is the end of a complex Inner Journey in which there are many intermediate stages whose attainment under certain conditions may be mistaken for the final goal and may thus debar further progress. The problem that arises before the True Seeker in the face of such a situation is to discover means, other than that of pranas, jnana or bhakti of an Isht-deva, as not only to enable the spirit-currents to be released from their present physical bondage, but also to enable the soul to be drawn upwards unhindered from one Spiritual Plane to another until it transcends completely all the realms of relativity of naam and rup, of kala and mahakala, and reaches its goal: at-one-ment with the Nameless and Formless One.1
It is in the context of this problem that Surat Shabd Yoga, or the yoga of the celestial Sound Current, assumes its unique importance. Those Who have mastered this yoga teach that the Absolute, though free of attributes in Its primal state, projects Itself into form and assumes two primary attributes: Light and Sound. It is no mere accident, They point out, that in the revelatory literature of all major religions there are frequent references to the Word which occupies a central position in Their pattern.
In the Gospels we have:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
[St] John 1:1
In ancient Indian scriptures we read repeatedly of Aum, the Sacred Word pervading the three realms of bhur, bhuva and swah – i.e., the physical, astral and causal.
Again, Nanak says:
The earth and sky are of naught but Shabd (Word). From Shabd alone the Light was born, from Shabd alone creation came, Shabd is the essential core in all.
Shabd is the directive agent of God, the cause of all creation.
Muslim Sufis declare :
Creation came into being from Saut – Sound or Word – and from Saut spread all Light.
The Great Name is the very essence and life of all names and forms. Its manifest form sustains creation; It is the Great Ocean of which we are merely the waves, He alone can comprehend this Who has mastered our discipline.
Abdul Razaq Kashi
Moses heard the commandments of God amidst thunder and flame, while in Zoroastrian and Taoist thought alike there are references to the Creative Verbum, the Divine Light, and to the Wordless Word: the silent Word.
Some learned scholars and theologians in subsequent times, because of their own limited experience, have interpreted these descriptions as metaphoric references to intuitive or intellectual enlightenment. On closer examination such a position will be found to be untenable.
The terms Word or Logos as used by the Greeks, Hebrews and Europeans may be distorted to mean ‘reason’ or ‘order,’ and ‘light,’ may even be made to mean no more than mental illumination, but their equivalents in other religious literature – Nad, Udgit, Akash Bani, Shabd, Naam, Saut, Bang-i-Ilahi, Nida-i-Asmani, Sraosha, Tao, and Jyoti, Prakash, Tajalli, Nur-i-Yazdani, ect., refuse to bear such a travesty of their original mystic meaning.
What is more, some seers have stated their real connotation in such a way that there can be no scope for equivocation, or room for doubt that what is involved is not figurative expression of ordinary mental experience, but transcendent Inner Perception.
Thus in the Revelations we have:
His eyes were as a flame of fire […] His Voice as the sound of many waters […] His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength […]
And I heard a Voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers, harping with their harps […]
In the Upanishads we are told:
First the murmuring sounds resembling those of the waves of the ocean, the fall of rain and then running rivulets and then bhervi will be heard, intermingled with the sounds of bell and conch.
[Nad Bind Upanishad]
The Prophet Mohammed heard Celestial Music which gradually assumed the shape of Gabriel and formed itself into words; while in Baha U’llah, we have:
Myriads of mystic tongues find utterance in one speech, and myriads of His hidden mysteries are revealed in a single melody; yet alas! there is no ear to hear nor heart to understand!
Blind thine eyes, that thou mayest behold my beauty, and stop thine ears that thou mayest hearken unto the sweet melody of my voice.
These references to Light and Sound, say the Masters of the Surat Shabd Yoga, are not figurative but literal, referring not to the outer illuminations or sounds of this world, but to Inner Transcendent Ones. This transcendent Sound and this transcendent Light, they teach, are the primal manifestations of God when He projects Himself into creation. In His nameless state, He is neither Light nor darkness, neither Sound nor silence, but when He assumes shape and form, Light and Sound emerge as His primary attributes.
This Spirit Force – Word, Naam, Kalma – or God-in-action, is responsible for all that is. But the physical universes that we know are not the only ones that It has created.
It has brought into being myriad regions and myriad creations over and above the physical. Indeed the whole is a grand, unfathomable, illimitable pattern in which the Positive Pole – Sach Khand or Sat Lok – is a plane of pure, unalloyed spirit, while the Negative – Pind – is of gross physical matter with which we in this world are familiar. In between are countless regions which those who have journeyed from one end to the other often divide into three distinct planes in accordance with their own peculiar balance of Positive-Spiritual and negative-material forces.
The Masters teach that the one constant Principle that links all these planes from pure spirit to gross matter is the Principle of the Flaming Sound or the Sounding Flame.
The Word or Shabd as It descends downwards, may assume varying density of spirituo-material forces. Mystics speak of the purple Light, and the Light of the noonday or of the setting sun, and refer to the Sounds of flutes, harps, violins, conches, thunder, bells, running water, etc., but though manifesting differently at different levels, it yet remains constant in itself.
A river springing from the snowy peaks of towering mountains undergoes many changes as it flows towards the sea, changes of setting, shape, motion and appearance, and yet its waters remain the same.
If one could discover this audible Life-Stream within oneself, if one could discover its lower reaches, one could use It as a pathway leading inevitably to its source. The currents might at certain points enter gorges and rapids, but nevertheless they are the surest way on the upward journey. Be a range howsoever unscalable, the waters will have cut a pass and carved a passage, and he who will avail himself of their guidance would never fail to find a way. And since this Naam or Word Current springs from the Anaam or the Wordless, he who holds firmly to It will inevitably reach the starting point, transcending plane after plane of varying relativity until he arrives at the very source of name and form; hence to merge into That Which has no name or form.2
The Sound Current undoubtedly offers the surest way to man for reaching from form to the Formless, but the question that arises is how can man get access to It and thus accomplish his Inner Journey? Those proficient in the Path always maintain that there are three conditions that must be fulfilled before success in this truest of all yogas can be attained:3
The first condition is that of finding a Satguru or True Teacher Who is an Adept in this mystic science. The subject is one of practical self-realisation, not of philosophic disquisition or intuitive feeling. If it were one of mere theory, then books and scriptures would be enough for our purpose; and if it were one of mere feeling then each could trust the promptings of his own mind. But the question before us is that of unlocking a sixth sense, that of direct transcendental perception, of Inner Hearing and Seeing. This cannot come simply from the reading of books. One born deaf and blind may, with the help of Braille, learn the most detailed expositions of man’s rich and varied audio-visual experiences, but his study can never give him direct experience: the most that he can get from books is the realisation of an extensive plane of experience wholly beyond him, and this can generate in him the urge to discover means whereby he can overcome his physical limitations. It is the expert surgeon or doctor who alone can bring him cure – provided his ailment is curable. And should he fall into the hands of a charlatan, his condition will only become worse and more complicated.
In like manner, the aspirant who seeks Inner Spiritual Mastery must seek the aid of One Who has already mastered the Way. All his readings of scriptures, all his thinking, can at best lead him – provided he is sensitive to the point involved – to a single conclusion: the need for a Living Master. Without such a Master he cannot even understand the True Import of the revelatory scriptures. They speak of experiences beyond his level of experience, and even in his own language, they can only speak in metaphors and parables, for how can the discourses of the blind be made to express directly that of the seeing. To attempt to interpret the rich Spiritual Heritage in our religious literature wholly in terms of our own limited experience might lead to a distortion of their true meaning.
We might gather a great deal of psychological wisdom, but the Inner Significance would be lost on us, and all of our intellectual theorising would only land us in unending theological contradictions with which the various institutionalised religions are encumbered today.
Only One Who has Himself experienced what the Great Scriptures describe can guide us to their Real Significance. But the task of a Spiritual Teacher does not end there. The elucidation of the true meaning of religion is no more than a first step. After the aspirant has understood the nature of his goal, he must pursue it practically and rationally. To know is one thing, and to do is quite another. It is only after He has explained to the aspirant the end to be attained that the Master’s Real Task begins. It is not enough that the doctor diagnoses the cause of the blind man’s ailment, he must perform the operation as well. So,too, the Spiritual Guide at the time of initiation gives the disciple a first-hand experience of the Inner Light and Sound.
He puts him into touch with the Divine Stream, be it at its lowest level, and instructs him in the sadhans to be followed for consolidating and developing this Inner Experience to its full extent.
He who can find such a teacher is blessed indeed. But to discover such a One and be initiated by Him is not enough. The germinal Spiritual Experience that He gives must be nurtured and developed to the point of full Spiritual Efflorescence. And to be able to do this, one must accept whatever one learns and attempt to put it into practice. To know such a man is to love Him, and to love Him is to follow His commandments. Until one can love, obey and transform one’s life, the gift of the Guru remains as a seed locked away in a steel vault that cannot sprout, and grow to fruition.4
It is the necessity for self-discipline that makes sadachar the second cornerstone of the pattern. The word sadachar is not easy to translate: One can find many literal equivalents, but none of them really expresses its extensive and many-sided significance. In brief, it stands for the good life. It does not imply any rigid code or set moral formulae, but suggests purity and simplicity which radiate from within and spread outwards, permeating every action, every word, every thought. It is as much concerned with one’s personal habits, good and hygienic, as with one’s individual and social ethics. And on its ethical side, it is concerned not merely with one’s relation to one’s fellow men but to all living things, i.e. harmony which is the result of recognition that all things are from the same Essence, and so a worm is as much a part of Brahman as the mightiest of gods, Indra.
The first lesson taught by a True Guru is that of the identity of substance; and he who has grasped this Truth will discipline his life accordingly. He will not be a prey to inordinate desires: his one aim will be to reach the still point which holds in itself all actions, the point where to have nothing is to possess everything. He will know that the One Path to fulfilment is through renunciation, and the One Way to reach the Almighty is through freeing himself from all other attachments:
In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, desire to have pleasure in nothing. In order to arrive at possessing everything, desire to possess nothing. In order to arrive at being everything, desire to be nothing.
St John of the Cross
Cleanse the chamber of thy heart that thy Beloved may enter.
Where there is nothing, there is God.
Freed from the demon of desire, kama, he will be freed from the demon of wrath, krodh, which follows upon frustration of desire. Liberated from these, he would be freed also from greed, lobh, attachment, moh, and pride, ahankar, which are but the extensions of desire.
His would be a life of detachment or of nishkama. But detachment would not be for him a life of indifference or of ascetic renunciation. To know all life is to discover a new bond between oneself and the rest of creation. He who knows this cannot be merely ‘indifferent.’ He must perforce be filled to overflowing with sympathy for all that he confronts, and sympathy towards the whole must imply a certain Holy Indifference to the part. He will no longer be tied to his own narrow individual interests but will share his Love and resources with all. He will develop slowly but surely something of the compassion of the Buddha and the Love of Christ. Nor will he feel himself called upon to leave the world for the solitude of the forest or the mountain and desert cave.
The detachment must be an Inner One, and one who cannot achieve it at home will not achieve it in the forest. He will recognise the great use of occasional retreats from worldly affairs and cares to the silence of solitary meditation and concentration, but he will not seek to escape from life and its responsibilities. He will be a loving husband and a good father; but while being these he will never forget the Ultimate Purpose of life, always knowing how to give unto Caesar that what is Caesar’s and preserving for God that what is God’s. The way for transcending desire, he will know, is not through repressing it but meeting it squarely and overcoming it. To him, sanyasa is not a matter of outer evasion or escapism, but of Inner Freedom, an idea that is well expressed by Nanak thus:
Let contentment be your ear-rings, and endeavour for the Divine and respect for the Higher Self your wallet; and constant meditation on Him your ashes. Let preparedness for death be your mendicant's cloak, and let your body be as a chaste virgin. Let your Master’s teachings be your supporting staff. […]
The Jap Ji, [Stanza 28]
The two cardinal virtues that such man will cultivate will be charity and chastity. He will be large of heart and bounteous, caring more for the sufferings of others than for his own, and easily forgiving those that injure him. He will be simple and restrained in his habits. His wants will be few and easily satisfied; for one who has too many desires and too many attachments cannot be pure of heart. For him chastity will extend even to giving up meat and drink. When all life is one, to live upon the flesh of other living beings would be to defile oneself. And when one’s goal is to attain even higher realms of consciousness, to resort to narcotics and intoxicants is only to court regression. It is not an idiosyncrasy of Indian seers that they should have made abstinence from meat and drink a necessary part of the Spiritual Disciple. We have similar injunctions in the Alkoran and the Holy Bible.
[…] He who adds drunkenness to thirst: […] the Lord will not spare him […] and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
Meats for the belly, and belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
1. Corinthians 6:13
In the Essene Gospel of John – direct Translation from the Aramaic of the pure original words of Jesus –, we have:
But they answered Him: “Whither should we go, Master […] for with You are the words of Eternal Life? Tell us, what are the sins we must shun, that we may nevermore see disease?”
Jesus answered: “Be it so according to your faith,” and He sat down them, saying:
“It was said to them of olden time, ‘Honour thy Heavenly Father and thy Earthly Mother, and do their commandments, that thy days may be long upon the earth.’ And next was given this commandment: ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ for life is given to all by God, and that which God has given, let not man take away. For I tell you truly from one Mother proceeds all that lives upon the earth. Therefore, he who kills, kills his brother. And from him will the Earthly Mother turn away, and will pluck from him her quickening breasts. And will be shunned by her angels, and Satan will have his dwelling in his body. And the flesh of slain beasts in his body will become his own tomb. For I tell you truly, he who kills, kills himself, and whosoever eats the flesh of slain beasts, eats of the body of death. And their death will become his death. For the wages of sin is death. Kill not, neither eat the flesh of your innocent prey, lest you become the slaves of Satan. For that is the path of sufferings, and it leads unto death. But do the Will of God, that His angels may serve you on the way of life. Obey, therefore, the words of God: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth wherein there is breath of life, I give ever-green herb for meat. Also the milk of everything that moveth and that liveth upon each shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given unto them, so I give their milk unto you. But flesh, and the blood which quickens it, shall ye not eat.’ ”
And Jesus continued: “God commanded your forefathers: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ But their heart was hardened and they killed. Then Moses desired that at least they should not kill men, and he suffered them to kill beasts. And then the heart of your forefathers was hardened yet more, and they killed men and beasts likewise. But I say to you: Kill neither men, nor beasts, nor yet the food which goes into your mouth. For if you eat living food the same will quicken you, but if you kill your food, the dead food will kill you also. For life comes only from life, and from death comes always death. For everything which kills your foods, kills your bodies also. And everything which kills your bodies, kills your souls also. And your bodies become what your foods are, even as your spirits, likewise, become what your thoughts are.”
With the chastity in food and drink will go another kind of chastity, the one that pertains to sex. He will not suppress all sexual desire, for repression can only breed neurosis and prepare the way for a downfall, but he will be ever seeking to sublimate it. He will understand that nature’s purpose in this instinct is to preserve the race and will channelise it so as to fulfil that purpose, never making it an end in itself, a source of physical pleasure, for when it becomes that, it turns into a drug that anaesthetises the spirit and begins to defeat nature’s purpose of procreation by encouraging the invention and use of contraceptives.
In short, the sincere and conscientious aspirant will reorient his entire mode of life: in eating and drinking, thinking, acting, feeling, etc. He will gradually weed out of his mind all irrelevant and unhealthy desires, until he gradually attains the state of purity and simplicity that marks the child.
Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of God.
[St] Matthew 18:3
All religious teachers the world over, laid great stress on higher moral values, and these in fact, constitute the groundwork for their teachings. A True Master always insists on maintaining record of daily lapses in thought, word and deed, from non-injury, truth, chastity, Universal Love and selfless service of all, the five cardinal virtues that pave the way for Spirituality. It is only the knowledge of our faults that can make us weed them out and strive in the right direction.
Through all this process of reintegration, his inspiration will be the example of his Master and the Inner Experience he gives. His Master’s life will be a living testament beckoning him towards the ideal of sadachar, and the experience he has of the Word within will stand as a proof of the Truth of what his Master teaches. Sadachar is no dry discipline that can be attained by following certain set formulae. It is a way of life, and in such matters only heart to heart can speak.
It is this that makes Satsang, or association with a True Master, so important. It not only serves as a constant reminder of the goal before the seeker but through the magic touch of personal contact, gradually transforms his entire mode of thinking and feeling.
As his heart and mind under this benign influence grow gradually purer, his life more fully centres in the Divine. In short, as he increasingly realises in practice the ideal of sadachar – his thoughts, now scattered and dissipated, will gain equipoise and integration till they arrive at so fine a focus that the veils of Inner Darkness are burnt to cinders and the Inner Glory stands revealed.5
(Extract from ‘The Crown of Life.’ – To be continued.)
Weapons do not cleave the Self, fire does not burn Him; waters do not make Him wet; nor does the wind make Him dry. He is uncleavable. He cannot be burnt. He can neither be wetted nor dried. He ist eternal, all pervading, unchanging and immovable. He is the same for ever.
Footnotes as well as [references in square brackets] are additions by the editor.
Source: The corresponding chapters from the ‘Crown of Life’ are the following (Editor’s Note, 2011): 1) Part II: Chapter I ‘Surat Shabd Yoga / The Yoga of the Celestial Sound Current.’ 2) Part II: Chapter I / I ‘The Sound Current.’ 3) Part II: Chapter I / II ‘The Cornerstones.’ 4) Part II: Chapter I / II – (i) ‘Satguru.’ 5) Part II: Chapter I / II – (ii) ‘Sadachar.’
The texts hosted under the Button ‚Sat Sandesh‘ are transcripts of the texts published in the original, official Sat Sandesh booklets.
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