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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thoughts Become Things -- The Power of Thought

Thoughts Become Things -- The Power of Thought

The following story illustrates the power of thought, how our thoughts are like radio waves, going out and effecting people in ways we can't even imagine. This is why genuine Masters teach the principals of Ahimsa, Peace and the Golden Rule: nonviolence in thought and word, as well as deed.

This story is found in the book, "Tales of the Mystic East," RS Books.

Naam Bhakti,


Love Begets Love

When Akbar was once taking a walk, accompanied by Birbal, one of his ministers, they saw a peasant coming from a distance. King Akbar told Birbal that he would like to shoot this man and asked Birbal:

"When we meet the peasant, please find out what is passing through his mind."

When the peasant came near, Birbal, pointing to King Akbar, asked the peasant what he thought about him, saying:

"Please do not hesitate nor cheat, but speak out your mind

"I would like to pull out every single hair in his beard," the peasant told him, with some venom.

When Birbal repeated this to the King, he sighed, and said:

"Ah, Birbal, it is as the holy men who visit my court have so often told us. It is love alone that leads us to find a Saint and by him be taken to the mansion of the Lord. Hatred brings only hatred in return, and binds us still tighter to this world."

"Love is the key to the secrets of God." (Rumi)

"This is my commandment, that you love one another." (Christ)

"The Truth do I utter, let all hear:
Who loveth, he alone findeth the Lord." (Guru Gobind Singh)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Self Introspection to See Ourselves Clearly

Self Introspection to See Ourselves Clearly

"After warning his disciples to guard against opening any new account of bad deeds, the Master grants a general clemency in respect of bad deeds, part of which the disciple has already settled in this life up to the time of Initiation. He is enjoined to lead a clean life and to weed out all imperfections in him by self-introspection from day to day." (Kirpal Singh, Man! Know Thyself )

"Devotees are blessed souls as they always try to have self introspection to understand their interests and intentions perfectly and to see themselves clearly. Some devotees utilise religion, faith, their Master or God for their selfish interests, name, fame, profit or comfort. But there are some devotees who have dedicated themselves for the interest and establishment of their Ideal and to convey love, wisdom and the truth of the Holy Spirit to the lives of others to awaken them, as they have been awakened."

-- Sree Sree Mentu Maharaj,
The Truth Absolute
published by http://www.United-Satsang.org

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Mystic-Journey According to J.L. Chaudhari and Mata Ji

The Mystic-Journey According to J.L. Chaudhari and Mata Ji


Sant Mat Fellowship:
{"This mysterious path is described in the holy books,
but it cannot be found simply by the study of sacred texts.
It is found by the grace and guidance of an accomplished teacher."}
Sant Mat Fellowship

The guru-lineage of Yogani Mata Ji: Swami Ji Maharaj (Sant Radhaswami Sahab) of Agra to Huzur Maharaj (Rai Saligram) to Shiv Brat Lal to Baba Faqir Chand to Yogani Mata Ji

The Path of Inner Light & Sound According to J.L. Chaudhari

An email I received a few years back from J.L. Chaudhari, an assistant and spiritual successor of Yogani MataJi, sums up the Path of the Masters (Santmat mysticism) quite well:

"The real message of man's life is "Be Man". The question is how to follow this principle and what should we do to adopt this principle and formula for finding a way to God which is nothing but salvation.

"The only way is to surrender oneself in the Lotus feet of Spiritual Master. After this surrender the disciple and Master become one because a true surrender makes a man free from the bondage of senses, dilution, affection, etc, etc. So far we are under the control of worldly desires the surrender is not possible. So the first step is to be free from worldly desires. But that does not mean that the needs for worldly living should not be fulfilled. In fact needs should be fulfilled and not the desires. If we have taken birth as a human being some food (energy) is necessary for the body to work, but it is not necessary that we always aspire for multi cause meals, it is necessary to put on some cloths to cover the body but not necessary that silk linen is put on, it is necessary that there is a small shelter for living but not necessary that a marble fitted house is with us.

"As a human being we have to survive in this world without caring for ourselves much, without looking to the ills of others rather looking towards ills of ourselves purifying ourselves first and then do something for the purification of others. This is the living of a "lotus" in a pond and that is why the Goddess Saraswati the Goddess for knowledge, wisdom and intellect sits on the Lotus. The Lotus flower blossoms in muddy pond, but any one looking at the flower exclaims wow! How beautiful the flower is? The whole world is a muddy pond and we have to survive in the midst of mud like a lotus flower which does not care for mud but it blossoms for the pleasure and happiness of others. Every morning with sunrise the lotus blossoms. This is what we should also follow. The divine power and light emanated by the Spiritual Master makes us to blossom like the lotus flower provided we have full trust and faith in our spiritual master.

"Sant Mat does not look at the race, the cast, the sect or any other identification for a person rather it looks into the true sense of service, sacrifice surrender, devotion, determination, trust, belief of person towards the Master and those who have these characteristics they may be belonging to any cast, race, country, direction or of any identification can join this Yoga, but for that a true spiritual Master is a must. I don't know whether you have adopted some spiritual Master or your are under the shelter of someone as a spiritual Master. If so, please do surrender yourself to him or her for all what you desire to attain and achieve. The spiritual Master is not the body rather it is the Divine Light the Divine Sound and your own wisdom your own conscious and your own perception which is selfless and without any expectation from any one on this earth."

Yours in Him,

-- J.L. Chaudhari

THE MOTHER -------- Yogini Mataji
[from the book, Enchanted Land, published by the MSAC Philosophy Group]

Since Baba Faqir Chand's death in September of 1981 a number of his disciples serve as gurus. Outstanding among these is a middle-aged woman respectfully called Yogini Mataji who currently lives in a small room on the third floor of the Manavta Mandir ashram in Hoshiarpur.

On my second trip to India in the winter of 1981-82 I was not informed beforehand that Mataji was living within the temple compound. So it was a pleasant surprise when I arrived at Manavta Mandir to learn from Dr. J. L. Jaura, the present administrator of the ashram, that one of Faqir Chand's most advanced disciples was living only a few yards away across the courtyard. I could tell by Jaura's expression that he regarded her as a remarkable woman. Knowing that saints seldom talk about themselves, I asked Jaura to tell me her life story.

I learned that Mataji had shown saintly qualities even as a young child. Although she was married at an early age, as is the custom in India, she did not consummate the relationship because of her singular devotion to God. Nevertheless, as befits a genuinely good person, Mataji personally chose another wife for her husband, who desired to raise a family. When the second wife died several years later, Mataji, not forgetting her responsibility, sought out another wife for her husband.

During all this time Mataji applied herself to intense devotion to God. Her spiritual quest came to fruition when she visited Baba Faqir Chand, the renowned shabd yoga master. At their first meeting Baba Faqir Chand declared that the young woman was already a saint. And on that very day Faqir also appointed her a guru for a number of his women disciples. She has since then been affectionately addressed as Mataji ("Mother dear").

On the night of my arrival at Manavta Mandir, Dr. Jaura invited me to visit Mataji. I readily agreed to the Doctor's kind invitation and was startled when I first saw Mataji as she opened the door to her cloister. I had met her before! Her face also bore an expression of surprised recognition. We had met three years earlier in the home of our mutual friend Swami Yogeshwar, an elderly Christian monk. At that time I had not been informed of Mataji's exalted status but I clearly remembered her exuberant smile and loving eyes. Mataji immediately gave me a strong hug, welcoming me as if I were one of her children.

Mataji exuded a sense of joy and happiness. We talked for more than three hours about a variety of subjects, but I was most intrigued with Mataji's experiences on the inner spiritual planes. I asked her what it was like to leave the body. Mataji responded with a beautiful description of how consciousness can be released from the mortal frame by attaching itself to the stream of celestial music radiating from the top of the head and beyond. To do this, she said, one first must be initiated by a genuine mystic who has gained access to the higher realms. The practice itself, although it may take years to master, sounds relatively simple. The body should be kept perfectly still with one particular posture held for at least three hours. One may choose a cross-legged position (like the yogis in the lotus pose) or a more comfortable, relaxed position in a chair. Keeping the back erect and the mind alert, one continuously repeats God's name as given by his/her guru. This simran, as Mataji termed it, should be done with one's attention centered behind closed eyes.

Coupled with this physical stillness and ceaseless repetition of God's name, the next step is to contemplate the light within. At first, Mataji pointed out, there will be only darkness but eventually light will appear in the form of either small flashes or small star-like points. In any case, one should focus on the radiance, keeping one's simran intact and allowing the light to draw the soul inward. The third and most important step, Mataji said, is to listen to the sound that issues forth from the light. It is this internal music which will numb the body and allow the consciousness to leave its ordinary dwelling. By riding this current of light and sound, like a fish going upstream, the soul will be able to go back to its original home. On the journey within, however, the soul must be guided by a true master so as not to be detained in any of the lower illusory regions. According to Mataji, what near-death patients experience is only the beginning of a vast sojourn into great universes of light, love and beauty.

Personally I was overcome with the profundity of Mataji's account. Although it seemed plausible, especially given the findings of near-death patients who have been resuscitated, the soul's journey in the beginning stages appeared too difficult. How can one sit so still, repeat only holy names and think of God constantly? "By falling in love," Mataji answered serenely. "Because when one is truly in love nothing but the beloved can enter one's mind. So the secret of surat shabd yoga and of mysticism," she goaded, "is not necessarily practice and more practice, but love. To be so devoted to one's Lord that nothing can stand in the way-this and nothing else is the truth of Sant Mat," Mataji stressed.

It was hard for me to leave Mataji that night after such a peaceful and delightful visit. I did, however, see the "dear mother" one more time before my departure. Early in the morning I was ushered into her room to pay my respects and also to thank her for the previous night's delightful conversation. However, I was a bit surprised when I saw Mataji. She was smoking a small Indian cigarette. Now I must confess that I didn't imagine that yogis, especially female yogis, smoked tobacco. But here was Mataji doing exactly that and puffing away nonchalantly, completely oblivious to my childlike notions of how gurus should behave. But, after a few moments I realized how stupid I was in being surprised by the simple act of Mataji's smoking. In the West we sometimes wrongly assume that masters and sages are non-human, as if they didn't get hungry, didn't get sleepy, or didn't urinate. This is not the case, of course, and every mystic I have met is thoroughly human. Each have their own peculiar tastes and dislikes. Each are very normal in their own way. What makes these individuals distinctive is their steadfast devotion to discover the truth within themselves. Instead of searching outside for peace, these mystics focus the majority of their energy to seek the truth within. Spend any time with such enlightened sages and you will automatically feel the pull to do the same.

I think this is perhaps what impressed me the most about Mataji. She put on absolutely no "airs" about her attainment. She was down to earth, personable, affectionate, and not self-conscious (in the bad sense of that term) in the least. She was simply delightful and I found myself won over by her graceful, natural charm. It was also at that moment when I realized the extent of Mataji's enlightenment. As I bowed my head to say good-bye to the "smoking" mother, Mataji said, with a smile, "You are my maharaj, my guru." At first I was a bit thrown off. I reflected to myself, "What could she possibly mean by that statement. I don't even know how to get train directions from Delhi to Hoshiarpur, much less know the inner secrets of the universe." Then it struck me and I understood her meaning. Instead of seeing God in only one form, Mataji sees God in every form, even in someone as completely ignorant as myself.

To Mataji, the beautiful saint of Manavta Mandir, there isn't just one God and many sinful creatures, or a God of Light and a World of Darkness; rather there is only one God manifesting throughout a myriad of forms.

Simran -- Repeating God's Name

Simran leads to happiness,
Through simran pain departs;
Says Kabir, do simran
And you will merge in the Lord. (Kabir)

Repeat the Name of your Beloved, day and night,
again and again. With care in thought, word and deed,
you will cross to the other shore. (Sant Dadu Sahib)

In the classic bhajans and banis of the classic Sants of India appear numerous names of God. One can read verses exhorting devotees to repeat many names of the Formless One:

"Repeat the Name of Raam".
"Repeat the Name of Radhaswami".
"Repeat the Name of Hari".
"Repeat the Name of Govinda".
"Repeat the Name of Vitthala".
"Repeat the Name of Allah".
"Repeat the Name of HOO (HU)".

Chanting the Name Radhasoami (RadhaSwami: "Ra-Dha-Swammmmm-e")

You have to walk with Me, with My spirit, with My radiation. Receive My radiation first, then you can enjoy every radiation with right understanding and without being submerged and drowned in the current of attraction and repulsion they call Maya [illusion].

Always carry My reflection. My aura or reflection is the sum total energy and My spirit of the universe. I am all strength and courage. I am all love and mercy. I am the potential of all talents. I am the source of all riches. I am the light of all wisdom. I am that truth of all truths.

All exist in Me as they are part of Me and I exist in all of them. They are nothing but Me. You will see that I am vibrating everywhere, not only as light waves but also as sound waves, as the creative force, as the procreative force, as the force of all expansion.

I am the creative force, 'Raaa'.

I am the expanding force, 'Dhaaa'.

I come back with all the vibrations, 'Swammm'.

I become again one with you all and you feel one with Me as 'EEEE'.

Ra Dha Swam i.

(Radhaswami, Ra-Dha-Swam-i, Radhasoami).









Chant this Name, this is Me in sound form.

Enjoy Me in sound form, as the magnetic field of love.

(Discourses of Sree Mentu Maharaj, Volume One)

Prem Bani Radhasoami of Huzur Maharaj

The Supreme Father Radhasoami Dayal [Merciful Lord of the Soul] loves you dearly.

He will redeem you in a moment.
Believe what I say is true.

Know that Radhasoami is your True Beloved.
His heart is overflowing with compassion for souls.
He imparts them his own strength and redeems them.

Have no anxiety or worry in your mind now.



........ every moment.

Always utter 'RADHASOAMI',
the Name of the Merciful Supreme Being.
Then only will mind and Kal become powerless against you.

Radhasoami is my most Beloved Lord.
None other than Him comes to mind.

I sing praises of Radhasoami again and again
and shall remain at His holy feet ever alert and vigilant.

I discard all the evil tendencies of the mind
and enshrine RADHASOAMI Nam in my heart.

I sing 'RADHASOAMI', 'RADHASOAMI',......every moment.

(Huzur Maharaj, Prem Bani Radhasoami, Volume One)

The Sar Bachan of Swami Ji Maharaj

Radhaswami has imparted a unique message.
The moment I utter the Holy Word 'RADHASOAMI',
all my doubts and misgivings are dispelled.
Radhasoami has taken me in His lap.
Radhasoami will also redeem you.
Repeat the Holy Word 'RADHASOAMI' all the time.
Recite 'RADHASOAMI' all the twenty four hours.
Radhasoami dwells in my heart every moment.

(Swami Ji Maharaj, Sar Bachan Radhasoami Poetry, Volume One)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Space is not the final frontier: The Path of the Masters

Space is not the final frontier

The Path of the Masters: KEY TEACHINGS of Sant Mat Mysticism

By James Bean

Copyright September 2006

1. A strong feeling of love for God, the Ocean of Love and Compassion: Sant Mat is a God-based path in the bhakti tradition (love and devotion).

2. The need for living Saints and Mystics: Only living mystics teach mysticism. Guidance about meditation practice and mystical states are the first thing to disappear in a religion when the Satgurus-Apostles -Mystics die off. Each surviving branch of Sant Mat is a living spiritual community headed by a Satguru, a living teacher. If there could be Essene teachers, Mahavera, Jesus and the Apostles, Rumi, Hafiz, Nanak, Kabir, Meister Eckhart in the past, then we can have living teachers now as well.

3.Our True Identity: We do not have a soul, we ARE a soul that has a body. The soul is a being above time. Truth be told, we are free from time, and the "cruel hand of fate." The soul is already in heaven (Sat Lok) but does not know it, is not aware of itself. It thinks the five-sense virtual reality movie it is watching is the only reality. The soul is above the stars and need not be oppressed by negative forces of the physical universe, astral or mental regions that always seek to keep us tethered and tell us we don't have enough "time" for spiritual pursuits.

Human beings can directly access the spiritual realm (i.e. "Kingdom of God within") right now in the present moment. We need not wait for "prophecies" to be fulfilled years into the future, dates on calendars to come round, second comings, or the end of the world to happen first. Rumi says, "Many have waited for years around that door, but tomorrow never comes. The Sufi is the Child of the Present Moment."

If illusion (time, kal, demiurge, false beliefs or lower mental creations of universal mind) can no longer talk us out of our spiritual quest, saying "we are not worthy," it is not possible", "only in another lifetime" or "after this prophecy gets fulfilled", "only after I get old", etc... -- if all the self-limiting beliefs fall away, then we are ready to begin.

Space is not the final frontier

The soul has eyes (nirat) and ears (surat). We can see and hear spiritually, access the inner regions. It's only a matter of proper guidance by a teacher who is already experiencing these states and can communicate this to others. It's also a matter of concentration in meditation practice, reaching the third eye center, which is the beginning of the Inward Journey. The term soul travel is a bit of a misnomer. It is really our attention or awareness that travels, temporarily during meditation practice, as it learns to explore Inner Space, the other "rooms of the Interior Castle", inner regions connected to the various levels or heavens/planes of creation.

God, though described as "Unseen", set in motion this great multiverse of dimensions of consciousness by projecting "the Word", also called: AUM, TAO, Shabda, Nada, Song of the Creator, Christ, Logos, Saunt-e Sarmad, Harmony of All Harmonies, Music of the Spheres, Anhad Shabd, Naam, etc.... Each world religion has a name for this Positive Power that vibrated all things into existence "In the Beginning."

This Life-stream/Light-stream/Sound-stream of creation is a river or current of energy that can be seen as inner Light, and heard as inner Sound. It can carry us back to the Source, the Ocean of Love. The axiom is, "We become what we see" (quote from the Gita) What we focus our attention (surat) upon, we become one with that. If we focus the attention (surat) of our soul upon the inner Light and Sound (Shabd) of God, we can experience union (yoga) with God (Surat Shabd Yoga) The Greek mystics have called this "Theosis" and "Divinization", being united to God by contemplating It's divine Light. Initiates of Sant Mat meditation practice union with God by becoming one with the inner Light, as well as the mystic Sound. Masters and yogis have always reported that Sound is much more effective than Light at taming the serpent-mind, making it possible for advanced levels of meditation to become attainable.

Sant Mat Meditation has several steps:

1. Manas japa: simran, mantra, zikhr -- repeating names of God to still the mind and begin the process of going within -- meditation.

2. Dhyan: visualizing the form of one's Ideal (isht), a form of God or one's SatGuru.

Those first two techniques are steps that prepare one, make one receptive to, inner Light and Sound...

3. The Yoga of Light: When we reach the third eye center we will begin to see Light in the darkness, lights of various colors, inner stars, suns, moons, or other visions of Light. "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light." This is the beginning of Gnosis, inner Knowing.

4. The Yoga of Sound: A inner astral bell sound, a reverberation that keeps on reverberating or tone, humming, ocean waves, flute-like sound, sitar-like sound, veena-like sound, or other mystic sounds, can be heard. This is the Heavenly Voice of the Creator speaking softly in the center of our being calling us Home.

Up the tunnel beyond the portal of the third eye and the crown chakra of the thousand petaled lotus are several stages one passes through, crooked tunnel, dark voids, Whirlpool Cave or vortex, other realms as well, eventually reaching bright light like a million noonday suns, a realm or stage where the soul knows itself. Beyond that is a realm where the soul can try out the experience of merging back into God and then reverting back to individuality again. The drop tries out merging into the Ocean at the level known as Agam Lok, the Seventh Heaven. There is free will and choice even at that level, what some mystics have called "Nearness", meaning nearness to God. And finally......

5. There is a State beyond Light and Sound in the Eighth Plane known as Anadi (Soundless) Anami (Nameless), Radhaswami (Lord of the Soul), and the Ocean of Love and All-consciousness (Anurag Sagar). This is God, Nonduality, Ultimate Reality, without any coverings of illusion.

All of these holy spiritual practices are to be done with an attitude of love and devotion for the Supreme Being, the Ocean of Love and Compassion -- the Lord of All Souls.

Sant Radhaswami Sahib, the great Saint of Agra once said: "The Supreme Being Sat Purush Radhaswami is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent. His attributes are Grace, Mercy, Love, Light, Bliss and Peace."

"From one step to another the soul beholds strange things which cannot be described in human language. Every region and everything is utterly beyond words. What beauty and glory! How can I describe them? There is nothing here to convey the idea. I am helpless...."

"Love plays the supreme part. It is all love."

"So says Radhaswami."

Sant Mat Fellowship:
{"This mysterious path is described in the holy books,
but it cannot be found simply by the study of sacred texts. It is found by the grace and guidance of an accomplished teacher."}

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Book Review: The Harmony of All Religions (Sant Mat Book)

Book Review: The Harmony of All Religions (Sant Mat Book)

Mixed Media: Book Reviews, Website Reviews, Music Reviews

By James Bean

Copyright October 2006

The Harmony of All Religions

The Author: Swami Sant Sevi Ji Maharaj

Publisher: The Way of Sages
( TheWayOfSages.com )

*JPG IMAGE of the Book Cover:

Veena Howard translated the English edition of this book from India. In the Editor's Note at the beginning she writes: "From this day onward our whole world has changed. The "shock and awe" witnessed by the destruction of the towers has sent shock waves through all the established value systems. The feelings of fear and distrust have numbed the hearts of people worldwide and have paralyzed the sense of clear vision. But time of despair must be taken as an opportunity, an opening to search for new horizons, to re-assess our values, and to understand other cultures and religions. This is exactly what the great Sant, Maharishi Shri Santsevi Ji, has sought to accomplish by his book, The Harmony of All Religions. Shri Santsevi Ji Maharaj has been teaching the path of mysticism for many decades and believes in the underlying principles of all prominent world religions."

One of the most impressive books I've ever read on comparative religion and comparative mysticism is, The Harmony of All Religions, taking this study to a whole new level. This newly translated book contains chapters on the Vedic Tradition (Krishna, Gita, Hinduism, bhakti, yoga), Jainism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam-Sufism, Sikhism, and Santmat: the Way of Sages, also known as The Path of the Masters. There is also a biography of the author, as well as an editor's note, which affirms the need for a greater, more in-depth understanding of the great world religions and mysticism in an age of increased global travel and communication.

'Depth' is a word I find myself often using to describe the writings of Swami Sant Sevi Ji Maharaj, who resides at the Maharishi Mehi Ashram in Bhagalpur, Bihar District, India. His spiritual discourses on each of the world religions are very scholarly, accurately and eloquently communicating all these "gospels": beautiful and charming accounts of the childhood of Jesus, the enlightenment of Guru Nanak hearing the voice of the One God (Ek Ong Kaar Saat Naam) as he was bathing in the river Bein, Siddhartha leaving the palace, Muhammad's experiences with Allah in the cave of Ghar-e Hira, etc.... providing an in-depth analysis of the sacred texts of these above-mentioned faith-communities, brimming with quotes and footnotes, from not only the well-known world scriptures but lesser-known sacred texts and spiritual classics of the mystics and saints at the heart of these traditions. The chapter on Lord Mahavira and Jainism for instance breaks new ground in the study of a major world religion that has received very little attention in the West. The same can really be said for each of the chapters of this new book on inter-faith studies. The author displays an intimate knowledge of the history, terminology, esoteric writings, and meditation practices used by the various schools of mystics within each of the world religions, often pointing out the shared vision, the common goals and common threads along the way, such as similar ethical principals of ahimsa or non-violence in thought, word, and deed (like the Golden Rule), Dharma, the Eight Limbs of Yoga, Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, chakras, subtle bodies, meditation techniques including the use of mantras, mystical stages of transcendence, Sound-mysticism (Nada Yoga or Yoga of Sound), Light-mysticism (Dristi Yoga or Yoga of Light), the inward journey or ascension to other realms/heavens, jivan mukti or moksha (salvation, liberation of the soul), self (atma) and God (Paramatma) realisation.

The final paragraph of the book summarises the universalist spirit of peace and harmony (as in the harmony of all religions) in the following way: "In different times and different places Saints appear and their followers name their religion according to the Sage or Saint who propounded that tradition. The appearance of differences can be attributed to time, place, and language. This gives rise to various labels for the common views held by all religions. Likewise, due to excessively zealous followers, these seeming differences are often amplified. When all sectarianism and the temporal and linguistic aspects are removed, the basic principles of all the Saints are in accord and the voices of the Saints are in harmony."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Meditation is the soul's Portal to the Divine

Meditation is the soul's Portal to the Divine

Following the spiritual principle that "as a man thinketh, so is he," or, "we become what we see and hear" -- we become what we focus our attention upon, spiritual teachers guide their students to meditate upon this God or Holy Spirit Power and become one with it.

Meditation is the soul's Portal to the Divine, a Doorway to God and the Heavens that are within.
Place your mind before the mirror of eternity.
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory.
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance and transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead itself through contemplation. Meditate upon the Love, Light and Sound of the Positive Power within you.

--- James Bean

Meditation Sangat:
{"Do not live even a single day without inner
meditation." -- Baba Devi Sahab}

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Key Practices in Sant Mat

Key Practices in Sant Mat

Radhasoami Reality:
{Radhaswami Dayal ki Daya Radhaswami Sahai:
"Grant Merciful Radhasoami Thy Grace and Protection"}

Key Practices in Sant Mat Mysticism, the Path of the Masters

Huzur Baba Sawan Singh, in, "My Submission--A Perspective For Your Consideration"

The Outer Master Guides Us to the Inner Master --
The Inner Master-Power Escorts the Soul Back to God

Until and unless we are spiritually evolved to a point where we can worship God in his Nam or Shabd form, we must devote ourselves to the master, who is God in human form, and manifest his Radiant Form within through the practice of Surat Shabd Yoga. The Shabd-dhun [inner Sound Current] will be heard when our heart is attuned to the master's heart. The master and the Lord are one. Therefore devotion to the master is devotion to God. If we lovingly devote mind and body, the guru will carry our soul across the ocean of existence.

Key Practices in Sant Mat

A human being is a combination of body, which is gross material; mind, which is subtle material; and soul, which sustains them both and provides us with the gift of life. The first two components are time bound and perishable, while the third one, the soul, is beyond the sphere of death. The soul sustains the body in much the same way as God sustains the entire universe. Not only that, whatever is in the universe can also be discovered in the body. In other words the soul bears the same relationship to God as does the part to the whole. Muslim mystics have described the human body---aalam-e sagheer (microcosm)----as the model of the entire universe---aalam-e kabeer (macrocosm). Guru Nanak says that the macrocosm is the same as the microcosm, and we understand the Lord by the guru's grace and recognize him through his Shabd. Anyone who seeks God must search for him within himself, for that is where his real abode is.

jo brahmande so'i pinde jo khojai so pavai ("He who is in the universe, that also abides in the body, and whoever seeks, he finds Him there." -- Pipa)

Saints speak of the soul as being a particle of God; in other words it has the qualities of God. It is the primary objective of all human beings to strive for the full development of their body, mind and soul. As far as spiritual development is concerned, saints advise us to go to a perfect being who hasn't merely learnt from books, but has, through spiritual practice, attained union with God.

The food we eat, the company we keep, the lifestyle we adopt and the environment we live in all influence the development of our bodies and minds. We are therefore advised to eat satvik food, [satvik qualities of peace and tranquility --- vegetarian food: vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, milk products] forgo what is not essential in life and avoid activities that destroy our concentration and dissipate our energies. Seekers who follow these principles are taught certain practices that help to unfold their consciousness and develop them spiritually. These are:

. Simran (repetition of God's name(s)
--- remembrance)
. Dhyan (contemplation)
. Bhajan (listening to the Shabd)

Our mind is always engrossed in the remembrance and contemplation of worldly things, and thoughts concerning friends and worldly objects keep hindering our concentration within. In order to eliminate these worldly thoughts and images and fix our mind on God, devotees are given certain sublime names of God to repeat and advised to contemplate on the beautiful face of the master. Saints teach us to repeat these names with the 'tongue' of the soul and to contemplate on the form of the master with the 'eye' of the soul.

These two practices help bring about stillness of the mind and prepare it to listen to the melody of Shabd, which is heard with the 'ear' of the soul and which reverberates within everyone regardless of religion or nationality. The soul and the current of Shabd, being of the same essence, have a natural affinity for each other. Through the three practices mentioned above, the wave of Shabd attracts the drop of the soul and merges it into the ocean that is God. The mind can no longer receive energy from the soul and so it becomes motionless.

The master explains these three steps to his disciples in detail. With the help of simran and dhyan the scattered attention is concentrated at its natural seat at the eye centre. By stages the Shabd then elevates the soul to salvation in its true home, which is the very Source of Shabd.

The Supreme Being, a Boundless Ocean of Spirit and Love

The Supreme Being, a Boundless Ocean of Spirit and Love

Radhasoami Reality:
{Radhaswami Dayal ki Daya Radhaswami Sahai:
"Grant Merciful Radhasoami Thy Grace and Protection"}

48. Love for Supreme Being

108. This practice can be conducted easily and comfortably if the devotee has a little love for the Supreme Being. Without love it will be too hard and difficult to practice Surat-Shabd-Yoga [Yoga of the Audible Life Stream, Inner Sound] with any good result to be obtained within a short time.

1. The Supreme Being, being a boundless ocean of spirit or love; and, human being, being a drop or current of spirit or love from this ocean; and, love being the very essence and means of existence of the whole creation, it follows that no effort in any direction, temporal or spiritual, unless actuated by love or affectionate regard, can be crowned with success, and, the work or labour rendered easy, sweet and harmonious.

2. Love is most sublime, having its origin in the highest region, the abode of the Supreme Being. In whatever heart it sprang up, it will gradually raise and carry the fortunate possessor of this lofty and noble passion to the highest region.

3. All good qualities and goodness itself will gradually find their home in the heart in which love dwells and all bad qualities will be rooted out by and by.

4. Whatever a human being, full of pure love thinks or does, is all wisdom; while the thoughts and works of worldly wise persons are full of selfishness and folly.

5. Knowledge without love for the Supreme Being is futile and tends towards untruth or darkness or materialism, while love turns everything to good use and leads to enlightenment and truth. Even worldly love, such as filial and conjugal, is attended with goodness, happiness and comfort to all concerned. How much more good would then result to mankind in general if the same loves become spiritual, and be directed towards the Supreme Being, the merciful and Kind Parent of the whole creation.

6. Self-love brings on egotism or pride, and sows the seed of hatred, jealousy and disregard in the minds of kindred, associates and neighbours; while pure and sacred love for the Supreme Being creates in the heart humility, meekness and an affectionate regard for kindred, neighbours and humanity in general.

7. Pure and holy love is always ready to spend (regardlessly) whatever it has for the sake of its beloved, the Supreme Father, and the benefit of mankind without any distinction; whereas self-love or love of world always tries to appropriate everything to itself, even at the risk and loss of others.

8. Pure and holy love is always ready to sacrifice anything whatever to gain admission into the presence of the beloved, the Supreme Being; whereas, self-love will never part with anything except for the sake of its own aggrandizement and indulgence in sensual pleasures.

9. The noble passion of love is most powerful and strong. It removes all obstacles and thorns in its way and discards all superstitions, doubts and skepticism.

10. Where pure love dwells there sheds the light of Grace, as it forms a link with the spirit or love current from its source, the Supreme Being.

11. Such is the strength and effect of affection and kind treatment that it subdues ferocity and other injurious and dangerous characteristics in beasts and other animals, that is to say, they begin to love and have an affectionate regard for their keepers and trainers.

12. A heart devoid of love or affection is as hard as stone, and does not form a suitable receptacle for light of Heavenly Grace and Mercy.

13. Sincere love is reciprocal, so if one has a heart full of love for the Supreme Being, one is sure to be attracted towards Him by Grace, Mercy and Holy Light which will gradually illumine his inner-self, and then all menial and worldly affections and desires will gradually disappear.

14. Love or the power of attraction is the basis of the whole creation and the cause of its sustenance and preservation.

15. The Supreme Being loves and takes special care of those who love Him with all their heart and soul, and gradually draws them towards Himself, the Grand Centre of Pure Light and Attraction; while those whose hearts are imbued with worldly love and passions recede from this centre, or in other words, they of themselves fly away towards the circumference or darkness and untruth.

16. Every wave of love rising in a lover's heart brings tidings of goodness and joy from the beloved, and every thought springing up in such a heart is a harbinger of good works and good services for the sake of the beloved.

17. Love has no bounds, knows no restrictions, and is not limited by conditions, and like its source is extensive and far reaching in its beneficial results.

--- RADHASOAMI MAT PRAKASH - A Brief View of Radhasoami Faith ---
Being a message of Eternal Peace and Joy to all nations ---
Originally written by Hazur Maharaj in english and published in the year 1897A.D.

Emphasis on Love and Devotion. Reviving the bhakti traditions of Medieval India, the founders of Radhasoami faith emphasize the devotional aspect of religion. According to them bhakti alone would bring salvation to the suffering humanity. One should engender true love for the formless Supreme Being and take shelter (saran) in his divine will (mauj). Hazur Maharaj says that "a heart devoid of love or affection is as hard as stone and does not form a suitable receptacle for the light of Heavenly Grace and Mercy…The Supreme Being loves and takes special care of those who love Him with all their heart and soul and gradually draws them towards Himself – the Centre of Pure Light and Attraction." Love, therefore, is the keynote of Radhasoami faith.

A practical Religion – Blending of Bhakti and Yoga. The founders of the faith have essentially made it a faith of actual practice and behaviour. The philosophical moorings and thought-processes are subsidiary elements in it. It is through practice alone that teachings would prove efficacious. The founders of the faith set the motto: "Practice and observe the results yourself." They introduces a mode of spiritual exercise – surat-shabd-yoga – and claimed to have based it on scientific lines. The practitioner of this yoga would derive practical benefits in the world and feel no pain at the time of death. An abhyasi [meditation practitioner] dies while living. He gets absorbed in the bliss and ecstasy of higher and spiritual life and attains the status of a sthitpragya [state of stabilized cognition, tranquility, peace]. Hardly does he feel the joys and sorrows of the world. The founders assert that surat-shabd-yoga is the easiest and best of all modes of yoga ever practiced in the country in the past or present. It can be practiced by all alike – men, women, old, young, rich and poor. A person leading a family life with all his temporal preoccupation can practise it as effectively as a recluse.

The faith also presents a harmonious blending of yoga and bhakti. The key to surat-shabd-yoga lies with the guru of the time. A practitioner must, therefore, practise bhakti of the guru as a prerequisite to successful performance of yoga. When the practitioner serves the guru with body, mind and soul and with all love and humanity dissolves his ego, he himself witnesses a transformation of his life within and without, and achieves remarkable progress in spiritual pursuit. The founders have, thus, delivered the message of love on practical grounds. They have affirmed that the path of love excels everything. True and selfless love is itself the yoga. Surat-shabd-yoga is the devotional mode of self-realization.

by Prof. A.P. Mathur
M.A., PhD, F.I.H.S., F.R.A.S. (London)
Former Vice-Chancellor, Agra University, Agra, India

Friday, September 07, 2007

Making Spirituality More Real in Our Lives Through the Power of Satsang

Making Spirituality More Real in Our Lives Through the Power of Satsang
By James Bean

The term "Satsang" is used by various spiritual paths from India including Sant Mat: The Way of the Saints -- Path of the Masters of the East. It literally means "Association" (Sang) with the "Eternal Truth" or God (Sat, Haq, Anami, Great Invisible Spirit). It is used to refer to spiritual gatherings, but it goes much deeper then that. It is more than about attending meetings. One is encouraged to ponder, ruminate upon, and internalise the teachings one hears during satsang or reads in the writings of Sants one contemplates during one's own private satsang-time at home just before going into meditation practice. Satsang is an influence in one's life, a series of opportunities for spirituality to not only be taught, but caught.

Satsang is not Maya's Place

Satsangs are a time and place where the Mysteries of the Beyond are disclosed openly, where the Secrets are spoken freely. If a satsang is facilitated according to the principals of the genuine Sant tradition, one will only hear teachings of scriptures and Sants (Saints, Masters, Sant Satgurus) during such a meeting. Done correctly, there are no lost teachings, forgotten saints or censored writings. One may hear chanted, recited or quoted, verses from the Bijak or Anurag Sagar of Guru Kabir, Adi Granth, Banis and Bhajans of: Dariya Sahib, Mirabai, Dadu, Param Sant Tulsi Sahib, Sant Radhaswami Sahib, countless other Sant mystic-poets, or more recent Sants. The true "template" of satsang consists of the words of past, and present or living, Sant Satgurus. The teaching of all Sants IS the template of satsang, and may consist of readings from the writings of any past or present Sant, along with commentary in contemporary language. Better still if we have the great fortune to attend a talk directly given by a living Master in person, or a recording of such a talk.

Satsang is not run like a board meeting of a multinational cooperation or like other approaches to meetings. Satsang also never digresses into discussions about lower levels of the supernatural or astral plane, politics, or other matters of mind and matter that are off-topic. Satsangs do not even consist of warm/fuzzy talks or cute stories, as harmless as those appear to be. Rather, satsang discourses are dedicated to guiding souls into the Timeless Eternal Truth, are focused on how we as souls, as spiritual beings, may experience/associate ourselves with/become one with that Eternal Truth (Sat) for ourselves during our own spiritual practice. Satsang discourses also inspire us to develop, more and more with each passing day, thoughts, words, and deeds in harmony with that Eternal Formless Reality, the Ocean of Love.

Group Meditation

"Where two or three gather in My Name, I Am in their midst." There is a wonderful group energy that is an indispensable helping factor on the spiritual journey. When a group of seekers-after-Truth meditates together, one can notice significant improvements, an acceleration in inner progress, more experiences of inner Vision, Lights and inner Sounds. This, in turn, will help deepen one's own regular daily meditation practice at home.

Below is from a spiritual discourse by Swami Sant Sevi Ji Paramahansa from the book, The Harmony of All Religions, from Chapter Seven titled, Santmat. This is a new book translated into English that has recently become available in the West. It serves as one of the best introductions to Sant Mat mysticism you could ever hope to find, exploring several meditation techniques as well as many important guiding principals on the journey back to God. It is also a great book about comparative religion and comparative mysticism, pointing out the universal truths and common threads present in the esoteric traditions of the major world religions: Hinduism, the Essene-Judaeo-Christian tradition, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikh.

The Blessings of Satsang, by Swami Sant Sevi Ji Paramahansa

Param Sant Tulsidas Ji says: "Without the association of great saints, there is neither discourse of the Divine nor the understanding of the scriptures. Without these two, selfish attachment does not loosen its grip. And without dispelling attachment to the world one cannot attain the realm of the Divine and the true devotion that is essential to realize the Divine."

Guru Kabir Sahib says: "Discord and delusion can be removed by the power of the association of saints [satsang]. For those who associate with saints, suffering dissolves and they will remain immersed in joy. Joy arises from noble company and pain arises from association with the wicked", says Kabir, "go to a place where saints dwell and their association is possible."

On the Three Levels of Satsang, by Swami Sant Sevi Ji Paramahansa

The word satsang is comprised of two words: 'sat' and 'sang'. What is sat?

Sat is that which can never be destroyed. It is the essential element which is indestructible and beyond the limitations of time. And it is Truth. Sang means association or contact. Thus association or coming in contact with Sat or Truth is satsang.

In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says:

"Whatever is Truth always exists and is never non-existent. That which is non-Truth has no existence whatsoever."

* The First Kind of Satsang (Association with God)

What is this element which is indestructible, has always been constant and will forever remain as such? That element is the Supreme Being of the universe. Association with this Being, in reality, is association with Truth (satsang). But, what is it that would associate with this Supreme Being? Is it the body or the senses? The answer is that it is neither of these two. It is only apart from the body and senses that we will be able to associate with the Supreme Being. This is because it is only our soul that is an inseparable part of the Divine. It is only we (our soul) that is capable of merging with the Divine. Our individual soul is truth, and also, the Supreme is Truth. True satsang is the unity of the soul with the Supreme Truth. This is the highest kind of sat-sang. However, this highest kind of satsang, unity with the Divine, does not occur all of a sudden. This category of satsang requires many lifetimes of good actions and spiritual imprints (samskaras).

* The Second Kind of Sat-sang (Association with the Saints)

Sant Tulsidas says:

"The association of the saints brings association with the Divine, and alliance with people who are engrossed in the world leads the way back to this world again and again."

To attain Ultimate Liberation it is essential to have association with the saints. Saints, having realized the true form of God, become that True Form. The accomplished great beings who have attained unity with the Divine, and who have experienced the Supreme Being even while living in this body, have become the Supreme Being [They become one with their true Divine Form]. Association with these saints is this second category of satsang. However, finding such a saint is not an easy task. A true saint is rare and difficult to find.

Sant Tulsidas says:

"Without accumulation of many good deeds one will be unable to gain the association of a great saint."

When our good karmas permit, we are able to come to experience the association of these sentient beings. A more important point is that even if we have a direct encounter with such a saint, we often do not have the wisdom to be able to recognize a genuine sage.

A great Sant, Tulsidas, says:

"If someone says 'I have recognized a saint,' then I put my hands on my ears in astonishment. [It is not an easy task.]"

If ordinary people could recognize saints, then why, since antiquity, have so many great saints, sages, and prophets been tortured, maimed and killed? Many saints have had to face horrible atrocities. This simply would not have happened if we were able to recognize the genuine great saints.

* The Third Kind of Satsang (Association with the Writings of Saints: Sant Satgurus)

In daily life we need the guidance of a great sage or saint. Even though we might encounter many so called mahatmas or sadhus, the task of finding and identifying an accomplished guide is difficult. So, in consideration of this, how would satsang (association with a true saint) be possible? The answer is that we can study the teachings of the great saints of the past, because in their teaching we will find the elaboration of the Truth. This then is the third category of sat-sang. Generally, when we speak of satsang, it is this third category that is meant. This kind of satsang includes the study of scriptures and the words and writings of the saints and prophets of the past.

As we continue diligently in this third type of satsang we accumulate the meritorious karmas which will lead to the meeting with a true saint. Then we will be able to do the second category of satsang. As we continue in association with a great saint, and with the saint's blessings, we will gradually begin to meditate and undertake the prescribed spiritual disciplines. By diligently practicing these disciplines, we will one day, experience the first category of sat-sang -- the association with the Supreme. When we have thus accomplished the highest category of satsang, our life's purpose will be fulfilled.

-- Swami Sant Sevi Ji Paramahansa

Monday, September 03, 2007

O Traveller! Seek the Path that lies Within You

O Traveller! Seek the Path that lies Within You


O traveller! Seek the path that lies within you,
You and your Beloved are in the same body;
Your Beloved is pervading everywhere, but is not being perceived.
Those initiated by Guru are able to recognize Him within their bodies.
O traveller! If you wish to go alone on the path of the Lord,
Look for the path within and do not delay;
The four spheres of darkness, Light, Sound and Soundlessness ---
They all lie within the temple of your body.
You stepped down to the darkness, but your Beloved is in the Sphere of Soundlessness;
Now you again go back to the Sphere of Soundlessness through the Tenth Door.
Pursuing the inner Light and practising the Yoga of Sound,
Listen to the orchestration of Sounds and closely watch the dazzling Light,
And go along the path where the five Sounds resonate;
Ascend up as you get drawn towards them.
Never imagine that there are other means of going to the Sphere of Soundlessness,
Without the Yoga of vision and the Yoga of Sound.
Says Mehi, going along this path alone
Is the secret path to Divinity, as revealed by the Saints.
Catching the most subtle one amidst different Sounds,
Go along the solitary path lying within your body.

--- Maharishi Mehi

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Role of the Master is to Bring Us Into the Experience of God

The Role of the Master is to Bring Us Into the Experience of God

Those part of fundamentalist sects, competing new age or secularist ideologies, or those perhaps not fully acquainted with the nuances of Indian spirituality may have all sorts of misunderstandings about the role of the Living Master or Sant Satguru, imagining him or her to be seeking to divert attention away from God or eclipsing God by placing themselves between the soul and God. However, the reality is quite the opposite. The classic definition of the guru is "Light-giver". The Sant Satguru guides souls into a direct and personal experience of the Divine here and now by teaching students to adopt the necessary methods of meditation practice, ethical values, and by cultivating a receptive attitude of God-bhakti (love and devotion).

The Sants of India have produced some of the most eloquent, ecstatic, God-devoted poetry, prayers and hymns the world has ever known. Below are selections from the Adi Granth (Sikh scriptures) as well as the mystic-poetry of Guru Kabir.



The Role of the Satguru According to the Adi Granth

Adi Granth: By the Guru's instruction the mind of the disciple is rendered immaculate and she keeps God clasped to her heart. She keeps God enshrined in her mind, arranges her affairs, and by the Master's instruction knows her Lord.

"My Beloved has fascinated my soul
and I have obtained the Lord,
the scribe of destiny."

Serving the Satguru she attains eternal peace and God, the enemy of ego and pride, abides in her mind.

By the Master's instruction the name of God is contemplated. By the guru's grace, soul and body are saturated with the Lord and the Lord's name seems sweet to the mortal. The Lord's name seems sweet to them. He liberates all their families. With their mouths they utter the Lord's name. Their comings and goings cease. They obtain bliss, and their attention remains absorbed the Home of Celestial Music.

The Lord's name is the Song of Joy. It is by the Guru's instruction that the name is contemplated.

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib, English and Punjabi Translation, Volume 5, Manmohan Singh, Publisher: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar)

The Sat-Guru-given Gnosis [direct experience] is lit up in the heart, with whose Light is dispelled the darkness of spiritual ignorance.

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib, English and Punjabi Translation, Manmohan Singh, Volume 3, Publisher: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar)

Kabir's Ocean of God-Bhakti

Here the translator has preserved the numerous names for God that Kabir used in his mystic-verses. Guru Kabir:

The Remote, the Inaccessible
makes a fort for His dwelling,
which He illumines with His Light.
Lightning flashes---there is bliss
where the child Prabhu-Gobind plays.

My soul loves Ram's name:
Old age, death, doubt flee. (Rest)

They who care about castes
are forever singing praises about themselves.
But sweet melodies play unstruck
where the Lord Prabhu-Gopal dwells.

The remote, unknowable One,
who established the earth, the spheres,
the three worlds, and the three virtues,
lives in every heart: None knows Dharnidhar's secrets.

He reveals Himself in the blossom's fragrance.
He dwells in the nectar of a mud-flower.
His mantra is in the twelve-petalled heart,
where the Lord Kamlakant dwells.

His Light is visible above and below;
He illumines the infinite sphere of silence:
Neither sun nor moon are found there;
the primal Niranjan enjoys Himself.

He knows the universe and each heart.
He bathes in Lake Mansarowar.
His mantra is, "I am He";
He is not concerned with good deeds or bad.

He has no caste, nor is he casteless;
He knows neither pain nor solace. He is in
the guru's house. He cannot be avoided.
He knows, not birth or death: He is infinite silence.

Those who search for Him in their hearts,
and speak His words, will become Him.
They who place His mantra of Light in their hearts,
Kabir, say, "Those mortals will certainly swim across."

(Songs of Kabir from the Adi Granth, Nirmal Dass, SUNY Press, NY)

IT is the mercy of my true Guru that has made me to know the unknown;
I have learned from Him how to walk without feet, to see without eyes, to hear without ears, to drink without mouth, to fly without wings;
I have brought my love and my meditation into the land where there is no sun and moon, nor day and night.
Without eating, I have tasted of the sweetness of nectar; and without water, I have quenched my thirst.
Where there is the response of delight, there is the fullness of joy. Before whom can that joy be uttered?
Kabîr says: "The Guru is great beyond words, and great is the good fortune of the disciple."

To Thee Thou hast drawn my love, O Fakir!
I was sleeping in my own chamber, and Thou didst awaken me; striking me with Thy voice, O Fakir!
I was drowning in the deeps of the ocean of this world, and Thou didst save me: upholding me with Thine arm, O Fakir!
Only one word and no second--and Thou hast made me tear off all my bonds, O Fakir!
Kabîr says, "Thou hast united Thy heart to my heart, O Fakir!"

MY Lord hides Himself, and my Lord wonderfully reveals Himself:
My Lord has encompassed me with hardness, and my Lord has cast down my limitations.
My Lord brings to me words of sorrow and words of joy, and He Himself heals their strife.
I will offer my body and mind to my Lord: I will give up my life, but never can I forget my Lord!

HOW could the love between Thee and me sever?
As the leaf of the lotus abides on the water: so thou art my Lord, and I am Thy servant.
As the night-bird Chakor gazes all night at the moon: so Thou art my Lord and I am Thy servant.
From the beginning until the ending of time, there is love between Thee and me; and how shall such love be extinguished?
Kabîr says: "As the river enters into the ocean, so my heart touches Thee."

(Songs of Kabir, Rabrinath Tagore: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/sok )