We think that the day we come into this world is our birth. In truth, it is a day of congratulations for those souls who have risen from the lower species to the human birth, but for those who come from a higher circle, birth into the world is like entering a prison. However, it is a good prison for the latter, as they rule over all the 8,400,000 species.
In this human form, a man can realize God. When the people gathered around Christ on the occasion, he said, "...except man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus, who was a learned lawyer and much respected for his knowledge, asked, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be reborn?" And Jesus answered, "...That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit, is spirit...Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" The soul has to take birth after freeing itself from the outer prison to enter the home of God. With great emphasis, Christ repeated, "Ye must be born again." So, to be born in what is called a body, a physical form, is like entering a prison. But, it is God's will that we come, and He knows best.
From the physical level, one can say that February 6 is my birthday, but I do not know about it. My parents told me this, so it might be possible. Does anyone remember when he was born? I think you will not find one man who remembers the event; all have just heard about it. A man is born every day. Sleep at night is the younger sister of death--this is what the Koran says. Every night man dies, and in the morning he is born. Ever since we entered this physical form, we daily go through birth and death. The only difference between this daily death and the final death is that, because of our prarabdh or destiny karmas, the silver cord cannot be broken until we have taken the allotted number of breaths.
So what is a true birth? It is to be born in a Guru's (Master's) home, which frees us from this wheel of birth and death in the world. When Guru Nanak was asked, "When did you finish your births and deaths?" he replied, "The day I took birth in my Guru's home, I ended my coming and going in this world." For most people, this cycle never finishes.
My true birth was in May 1917, the day that I left my body and traveled the heavens with Hazur (the Master's Master, Baba Sawan Singh Ji--the Master met his Master and was initiated by him in 1924, but seven years before this he started leaving his body and traversing the higher regions with the radiant form of his Master). When I met my Master physically and sat at his feet, the month was February; the day was Basant Panchmi (a religious festival day which opens the season of the sown fields starting to burst into bloom). I think, therefore, that this day you are celebrating is not really a day for celebration. It was just a day when the soul entered the world to perform some allotted work. A true birth is when the soul leaves the body and travels to higher planes, and is able to return at will.
Does celebrating a birthday mean merely to pay one's respects to a person? Or to show happiness? Or to light candles, or to eat and drink? No, brothers, it is not any of these. The true birthday is when you are born in your Guru's home. One kind of birth is to be born in the physical form, and the other, the true one, to be born above. We are confined in a prison with nine doors! Forgive me, but can you tell me if this is a birth or a prison? When we release ourselves from these nine doors, that is indeed a birth.
If you want to celebrate a spiritual Master's birthday, there is only one way, and that is to take up whatever He has learned. That would be a true celebration. Whenever Masters come, people should learn whatever They have learned.
When Masters come, what is Their work? They tell us to "Know God," "Create a love for God," "Reunite with God!", "Return to your true home from where you came." This is Their work. To celebrate a birthday in the true manner, one should revive the age-old teaching, which is still with us but has been forgotten. Masters come with as much knowledge as God has given Them, and They, in turn, give freely of whatever They have to lift the seekers to the same level as Themselves. They tell us, "There is a God, and you can have experience of Him." When? "You must be reborn. When you rise above the body and become a conscious co-worker of the Divine plan--then, there is something."
There was once a teacher who became an atheist. He wrote on his door, "God is nowhere." One day, the teacher became very ill and was on the point of dying. A child approached his house, and seeing the notice on the door, read aloud, "God is now here." The teacher heard this and replied, "Child, you are right." Why the sudden change of heart? Because when one is dying, the soul withdraws to the place between and behind the eyebrows. There, the knowledge comes that there is some great power existing. It is either reasoned intellectually, through inference, or, at the time of death, we become conscious of the power that is controlling everything. Added to this, we might discover that we are going along in life helplessly under the control of some power. The other way is to die while living at will. These are the only ways of knowing the truth.
What happens when one dies while living? At the actual time of this death, what happens? Plutarch says that those souls who are initiated into the mysteries of the Beyond have the same experience as at the time of death of the human body. So God can be experienced. At the time of death, a man goes helplessly without any choice. Unfortunately, those who go do not return to tell us what happened. Through inferences some conclusion can be reached, but it is better to have the actual experience. When? When one has learned how to leave the body at will. You must be reborn. Small, big, child or adult, learned or unlearned, rich or poor--all can realize this great Truth.
The words of the Masters assure us that they have seen God. It is true that there is also another statement which says that no one has seen God at any time. Still, Guru Nanak said, "Nanak's Emperor can be seen in all clarity." Christ said, "Behold the Lord." Kabir Sahib said, "God cannot be seen with physical eyes, nor apprehended by the senses. Kabir has seen Him through the grace of His Master, and all His doubts are dispelled." Guru Arjan Sahib Said, "I see the all-pervading Lord residing in the hearts of all creatures." When Swami Vivekananda went to Ramakrishna Paramhansa, he asked, "Oh Mahatma, have you seen God?" Ramakrishna replied, "Yes, my child, I see Him as I see you." So God can be seen. I have told about three ways of knowing this. One way is by inference--for example, there is a small seed, which also has the same controlling power in it. You may sow that seed in the soil, water it, and it will grow into a huge tree. That one seed will give fruit by the thousands, so there is obviously some power working there--the same Life which is working in everything. But when can you actually know this? Either at the time of death when you will feel that something is pulling you out of the body, that some great power is taking you away; or you may die while living. Learn how to leave the body at will. Then you will see and you will become a conscious co-worker of the Divine plan, thereby qualified to say in all truth, "Yes, there is something."
There is another aspect to the subject. You may have read about this power in books covering the study of energy. When we see a wrestler, who has controlled that energy in his body, we get a feeling of power just by watching him. He radiates strength. By the same principle, when we see a spiritual Master, we start to believe that there is a God just by watching him. "The yearning for the resplendent, overflowing love of God comes only in the company of a God-man."
"Only in this human life can you see God." He who has learned something in this life will remain learned after death. My Master used to say, "He who is without spiritual knowledge during this life will be without it, even after death." Now, the question arises--who can see? Who are we? We are embodied souls. Each individual is a soul, a conscious entity, and that soul must experience God. God cannot be known through the senses, the mind, or the pranas (vital airs); only the soul can know Him.
Ail Masters have said that we are, in true fact, the soul. Kabir Sahib says, "This is a particle of God--a drop of the ocean of All Consciousness." Tulsi Sahib says, "The Supreme Being resides in the fourth region." Man's form is made in the image of Brahmand (the three divisions of creation). "Whatever Brahmand is, so is this body; whosoever searches within will find it." In Brahmand there are three planes: physical, astral, and causal. This comprises Brahmand. It has been mentioned also that there is a Par Brahmand. So there is Brahm and a Par Brahm or fourth stage beyond Brahm. In all three regions below Par Brahm, action and reaction are working. One is sometimes rising, sometimes falling. We are indeed greatly blessed that we have this form in the image of the divisions of Brahmand, which Masters have described in Their own terms in various languages: in Persian, these divisions are called Kaseef, Lateef, and Lateef-ul-lateef; in Hindi, sthool, suksham, and karan; and in English, physical, astral, and causal. He who can take off these three coverings will realize the Truth, and, therefore, have true belief. Not only will he believe, but he will see that "I and my Father are one."
Though we are a part of God, of Sat Purush (Primal Cause), there is a difficulty. We have forgotten ourselves and have identified with the body. Tulsi Das says, "Soul, the indweller of the human body, is of the same essence as God; ever-existent, all wisdom, eternal bliss." It is Truth, the figure of wisdom and bliss; just like God who is permanent, unchangeable, and all wisdom. When people asked Guru Nanak about the soul, he said, "The soul is in the oversoul, and the oversoul is in the soul." So, God is residing in our soul, and our soul is residing in God--all consciousness.
How can we know Him? By sitting beside a true Master, and through practical self-analysis, learning how to rise above the body consciousness. Then we become the seer. We are meant to realize God in this human form. When spiritual or realized people come, they give the love of God to us. They make us enthusiastic for God-realization. They are drenched in God's color, and they distribute that color to the seeking souls. They see God and They teach others how to see Him. "In the company of Saints, I have seen God within." And They demonstrate the process by giving a practical experience. "A powerful Guru draws the soul up."
However, there are problems due to attachment and entanglement with illusion. This illusion all started with the body, for since we came into the world, we have been looking outward and filling ourselves with the whole world's impressions. When the heart's reservoir was filled up with outer impressions, we became the world itself, forgetting ourselves completely and forgetting God. The true owner of the physical house had come to rule but imagined that it was the body. With the soul in such a vulnerable position, it was easy for the powerful influence of the mind to take over. Unchangeable and permanent though it truly was in such a complicated condition, the soul had become jiva (encased in all three coverings--physical, astral, and causal), from then on subject to the experience of birth and death.
The senses are like windows from which the soul looks out to take the impressions from outside; and so wherever the senses drag its attention, it goes without any control. This is how, from birth through our whole life, we go on filling the heart's reservoir. We dream of the world by day, and when we sleep we even talk about the world in our dreams. So when can we realize God? When the soul forsakes the companionship of the mind. It is actually a servant of the mind. It goes wherever the senses drag it--the senses, in turn, being dragged by the various outer enjoyments. All this amounts to the reason why we have not returned to the lap of the Lord since we came here. If we had not succumbed to these influences, we would be something other than what we are.
The Masters repeatedly impress upon us Their invaluable advice. There is a story of a shepherd who found a lion cub and brought him up with the sheep. He started eating grass and bleating "baa baa" like a sheep. One day a lion passed nearby and was amazed to see the young lion amidst the sheep behaving as one of them. He called him over and told him, "You are the son of a lion." The cub replied, "No, no, I am a sheep." With great concern, the lion took the cub to a pond of still water, and pointing to the reflection, asked, "Do we not resemble each other? Now roar like me." When the cub roared loudly, the shepherd and sheep ran away in fear, leaving the lions alone--lords of the countryside. The God-realized men say, "You are the children of God--you are soul--all consciousness, but are under the control of the mind (the shepherd) and outgoing faculties (the sheep). You are the giver of strength to the mind and outgoing faculties but are being controlled by them." We are all brothers and sisters in God but are in deep forgetfulness, as if we are trapped in a well and cannot get out, going wherever the attention goes, falling again and again.
Why do the Masters continue to come to this world? To awaken the souls and take them back to their true home, because the soul belongs in God. When the soul, realizing its imprisonment in the body, becomes greatly afflicted and grieved with the separation from the Lord, then its anguished cry rings out, "Where is God?" Ironically it resides in that very form which is the temple of God.
"The man body flourisheth as long as its companion is with it. When the companion leaves, unto dust it doth return." The body can retain its glory only as long as we, the soul, are in it. It was the very first companion we had when we came into the world, but forgetting the Truth, we followed the illusion, and so mistook it for our true identity. Now we have to suffer for our actions because we are attached to the mind. Only by getting untied from this association can we become free from the results of the karmas (reactions of the past actions). Rishis and munis (holy men), have called the human birth karm bhumi (the land of actions). In the Koran it is written that this is the field of tomorrow. "Oh Tulsi, one tastes the fruit of whatever one has sown."
We are at the mercy of our actions and whatever we do sets up an action-reaction. Good actions bring good reactions; bad actions, bad reactions. In the Gurbani (sayings of the Sikh Gurus) it is written, "Do not blame others, but blame your own past actions." Brothers, do not blame anyone. You got this human form as a result of your prarabdh karmas (destiny, governing this life's pattern); it is the good fruit of your past. Whatever you have to give and take from the past lives must be accounted for now. You have to take from some people and give to others. Sometimes when giving something to a certain person, such warmth of love swells up from within the heart, and yet on another occasion, one gives with hatred and reluctance. This is reaction from the past. Someone is rich, another poor. Some are masters, others servants. In all, there are six things over which man has no control: life, death, poverty, riches, honor, and dishonor. These are all beyond or control.
When I was working in my office, there was a typist who, during the 1914-18 war, went to Persia. They wanted to create a new accountant-general's post there, but because of the war, there was a shortage of qualified accountants. So the typist, who had just arrived there with little knowledge of accounts, was given the office of the new accountant-general. This clearly shows that there was some impetus from past actions behind the event. We have no control over this kind of thing--if one puts one's hand into clay, it can turn into gold, and put into gold, it can turn into clay. For another example, it sometimes happens that one very clever and experienced man and an illiterate inexperienced man both start businesses, and the inexperienced man succeeds where the experienced man goes bankrupt. This indicates that the reactions of the past are making people go helplessly along in life, with very little control over what happens. In Guru Nanak's Jap Ji, it is written, "You have no power to ask or to give. No power over wealth or state." Christ told us, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." However, in this human form, we can do that through which we shall not return to the world again.
There are three types of actions: first, those which we do every day; second, those through which we got a human form and present circumstances; third, those which are in store and have not yet borne fruit. During this human life we should make sure that we do not sow any new seeds. Whatever was done in the past will have to be harvested. There is no escape from that. Tulsi Sahib says, "Whatever has been made, is already made; you cannot change it into something different. When Tulsi thinks of this, his mind is at peace." Masters are never worried, for they can see the laws working.
Now that our fate has brought us here, how can we make the best of the human life? We should not sow any more seeds. Whatever happens in life due to past actions should be borne with cheerfulness. Happiness and unhappiness will come, but one should never be disheartened. The great spiritual leaders also go through similar experiences, but without suffering the pinching effects. My Master used to say, "You cannot clear up all the thorns which you yourself have spread in your path, but you can wear heavy boots for protection." The task of saving ourselves from the reactions in store for us should be seriously considered, for only in the human form do we have any chance of rendering them inactive. The Saints who come--forgive me, but they also leave the body at death. They also get riches or poverty, but they always avoid those actions which will cause reactions.
One great spiritual Master, Ravi Das, was a poor cobbler who lived on whatever he earned from his work. Mira Bai was a princess and also a queen by marriage, but she accepted him as her Guru. One day she was very sad thinking of her Master making shoes and living in such a simple manner. So she offered him a very valuable ruby saying, "Master, have a good house made with this, and live comfortably." The Master refused to accept it, but on her insistence agreed, and told her to put it somewhere. Finding no better place, she put it in a hole in the wall which served as a shelf. On returning to him after about one year for his holy darshan (the blessed glance from a Saint), she saw that he was still mending and making shoes in the same small hut. She said, "Master, I left a valuable ruby here for your use, what happened?" He replied, "It must be where you left it."
God-realized people do not live on gifts from others, but from their own earnings. If donations are given, they are used for the benefit of the followers and the needy. Another great Saint, Kabir Sahib, was a poor weaver although he had kings among his disciples. King Abraham-Adham was one of his followers. Nevertheless, Kabir Sahib earned his living by his loom. Great Masters like Kabir Sahib, Ravi Das, and others, not only feed the soul with the Bread of Life, but will make the seeker a conscious co-worker of the Divine plan. They release the soul from the mind and senses and make it powerful.
On the spiritual health depends the life of mind and body both. If the soul is fed with spiritual food, one becomes unaffected by the reactions of life. How do the Masters give food to the soul? By pulling it above its casing of mind and senses and connecting it with God. Where is this God? He is the very soul of our soul. At present the soul is completely identified with the body and the world and is scattered outwardly in many directions. It has to withdraw from outer things and rise above the senses. We have taken birth in this body which has two parts: one up to the eyes, the other above the eyes. Although we have wandered very far from our true home, if we leave the lower body and go to the upper part, we get nearer the Truth. So a true Master raises the soul up from the body and opens the inner eye to see the Light of God, which is the Bread and Water of Life. The soul then starts seeing in truth that he is not the doer, that the Lord within is doing everything; and he gains great strength.
Guru Nanak says, "I can do nothing of my own; but only whatever are God's wishes. When Nanak starts obeying His orders, the I-hood does not remain." By coming across a true Master, the accounts are wound up in this way. Masters themselves ask, "Why do we have to go to a spiritual Master?" and then reply, "Because he will wind up the actions." The whole of creation is throbbing and resounding under the beat of action. How does the Guru free the soul? How can we be saved from the outer impressions when all the windows in the body are open to receive greedily from outside? Masters sometimes give small examples to help us to understand the facts. One Master said that if one is pushed into a room full of black mascara, no matter how careful one may be, one cannot escape from getting some black stains somewhere. Another Master says, "It is a very peculiar situation--you have thrown a plank of wood in the river and have made me sit on it, and now you tell me not to get my clothes wet!"
Oh brothers, how is it possible to stay dry? The senses are permitting the outer impressions to flood through them every day to settle inside. How can one save oneself? The Masters say, "Make a hole in the top and escape from there." This is the only way. You must be reborn. One birth has been taken in this body, and now another must be taken above the body where the Bread and Water of Life are available. When one has become the conscious co-worker of the Divine plan, all past actions, sanchit karmas (those in store), are erased--finished. If the person who was tasting the actions is not there, then who is there to taste them and be responsible? When there is I-hood, one must receive the results of one's actions. A man may state, "I am not the doer," but within the folds of his heart he cannot believe this, and continues to consider he is doing everything, thereby holding responsibility for his actions and the reactions to follow. If he becomes the conscious co-worker of the Divine plan and knows that he does only that which God wills, how can he be burdened by any action?
Take some seeds and roast them, then sow them in the soil--will they bear any fruit? Similarly, all the kriyaman (present action) karmas are erased for the future. Masters do not touch the prarabdh karmas, for if they did, at the time of initiation the initiate would die. "He who is afraid of life and death should sit at the feet of a Godman."
Tulsi Sahib says, "Some are unhappy through the mind and the body, and some are perpetually unhappy. One way or another, everyone has some kind of sorrow. Only a true disciple of a Sant is happy." Who is called a Sant? "My Lord is fully awakened, for He Himself manifests in a body and proclaims that He is a Sant." Our Lord is truly awakened because to whichever house (body) He goes, He appears in there (in radiant form). He who is the manifested God in man is called a Sadhu, Mahatma, or Sant. To be clever or intellectual is not the criterion of a Master, and even one who has mastered all the holy scriptures is not entitled to be called either Sant, Sadhu, or Mahatma. Those who teach outer subjects, likewise, are not necessarily true Masters. Then who is a Master? He who has freed Himself from the mind and the senses, has realized Himself and realized God, and has become one with God. He is the mouthpiece of God. He truly sees the Reality, and He makes whoever is truly seeking see it also.
The soul, as I have said before, is eternal, all wisdom, and bliss. If it is all wisdom and full of bliss, then how is it possible for it to have any unhappiness in this world? For how long will it enjoy the outer tastes? We think that we are enjoying the enjoyments, but, in fact, the enjoyments are enjoying us. The God of Food once went to Lord Vishnu (part of the triune Lord of Creations Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva--the Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer, respectively) and complained. "The people are eating me up brutally without any sympathy for me!" Lord Vishnu said, "All right, if anyone eats you beyond his needs, then you eat him up." Just think; what is the cause of all disease? Indigestion. We enjoy, and enjoy, and enjoy until we are no longer capable of enjoying anything. Then the enjoyments start enjoying us.
Because bliss is the quality of the soul, happiness lasts as long as our attention is attached with a particular thing of interest, but if we are taken away from that thing, then unhappiness results. So where should we put our attention? "He who has a strong desire for the heart's own never-ending happiness should get re-connected back to God, who has ever been in existence. God is not in either birth or death. How can sorrow come when He never dies?" One will get that everlasting life, for Masters do not just use empty words, but actually make the connection spiritually and scientifically.
The power that is called God is known by different names for easier understanding by the different peoples. "No matter what words are used to describe Him, I rejoice in them all." It might be Ram, Ram; Allah; Waheguru; Khuda; one might read a whole hymn praising Him, or only use Onkar, Sat Naam; one might go on reading books upon books. To truly know God, however, we have to know Him for whom all these words were created. "Everyone says God, God, but by just saying it you will not become it. only by the Guru's grace can God manifest in you--only that will bear fruit." If the all-pervading God manifests Himself in you, then by just taking His name you will get intoxicated. That which we believe is giving us satisfaction is not true; it is merely that our attention is there and the enjoyment comes from that; so happiness is not in the thing, but in ourselves. How can pure consciousness (the soul), get any happiness out of matter? When a dog chews a bone, is there any sweetness in it? But he cuts his tongue or gums on the sharp bone and tastes his own blood.
Only when a man has become free from the mind and senses can he truly understand all these things--when he starts realizing them practically. Now, in our condition, what should we do? For instance, a child leaves the shelter of the homestead to visit a fair for a day with his parents. There is such a huge crowd of people there, but as long as the child is holding his mother's hand he cannot be separated from her. Masters have said, "I do not ask you to renounce the world; I only ask you to remember the Lord in all you do." By quoting this, I am not saying that you should leave life in the world and take the road to the lonely forests. I mean that no matter where you are or what you are doing, you should not forget God. It is possible that the child might be inclined to leave his mother's hand if he could, but if the mother is holding him firmly, how is it possible? You should dedicate your hand--surrender it. If you have not seen God, then you can surrender yourself to one in whom God is manifested--a God-in-man. With such surrender to the God in him, His hand will always be holding you. You understand what I am saying?