Dera Baba Jaimal Singh, Beas, a small township situated almost equidistant between the cities of Jalandhar and Amritsar in north India, has been home to a line of five spiritual Masters now for more than a century. No more than a wilderness of sandy ravines and thorny shrubs at the edge of the river Beas when Baba jaimal Singh, after whom the colony was named, first settled there in 1891, it is now an orderly and well-developed settlement. With a permanent population of some five thousand people, and a constant flow of visitors to the colony, it has no purpose or function other than to serve the individual's longing to find God.
People attend the discourses of a Master to learn from him the meaning and purpose of life. That a living teacher of spirituality is needed to make sense of life is in itself an idea that is strange to many. Deep-seated in Western philosophy is a distrust of the idea that one person might need the wisdom of another to discover truth. The individual is considered preeminent, and to depend on another's understanding is seen as weakness or as a failure.
In the East, the vital role of the Master is more easily acknowledged. Few there question the need for a living Master if one's aim is spiritual understanding. And if one's goal is happiness, it is accepted by many that one should search first for spiritual wisdom. The Master's role is to awaken the individual to the seed of truth that lies hidden within him. One has to discover it, then learn how to nurture it so that it grows, flowers and bears fruit. The Master is the gardener. The question for a seeker of truth is not whether one needs a Master, but where he can be found.
The Masters of Beas teach a practical path of self-development and God-realization known as surat shabd yoga, or the practice of uniting the individual soul with the Word, the divine creative power. It is an inner path, involving no outward rituals or observances, that has been taught by mystics throughout the ages, in all parts of the world, under a host of different names. To follow this path the disciple has first to establish himself or herself in a supportive lifestyle by being vegetarian, not using or taking any mind-altering substances such as alcohol or drugs, and leading an honest moral life. They then have to apply themselves to a daily practice of private meditation.
This is the essence of the practice. Like all great mystics, the Masters of Beas teach that there is only one supreme reality, one loving Father for all. It makes no difference how a person refers to that power; it makes no difference who the person is. The purpose of human life is to realize that each is part and parcel of that loving reality and this is done by making contact within oneself with the Word, that seed of truth. Through spiritual practice, the seeker contacts God's voice. By contacting this power-the very life force within each person-one ultimately experiences union with our divine source.
The teachings and the practice are both very simple, but a Master is needed to reveal them. Only a true Master can cut through the complex web of misconceptions and illusions we build around ourselves; only a true Master can put a seeker in touch with the Word, the only thing in life that is true.
Spiritual Heritage, first published in 1983, consists of audio-tape transcriptions recorded between the years 1968 to 1971. The tapes are of conversations between Master Charan Singh and disciples, which took place during the regular evening meetings in the guest house for overseas visitors. Questions and answers relating particularly to the growth of the Dera and to the Beas Masters, their teachings, and the common ground of their message with that of earlier saints like Christ, Kabir and Guru Nanak, were selected for this volume. In this third edition, footnotes have been adjusted and added to reflect some of the changes that have taken place in the Dera in the intervening years.
In preparing the book, no attempt was made to change the style and spontaneity of the Master's spoken words, although the text was edited and certain portions expanded under Master Charan Singh's direction. Given the quality of spoken language, the book feels like a record of a close and personal friendship between the reader and the Master. As he speaks of this universal path to God, the history of the Dera and of the lives of his predecessors, whom he credits with building this thriving hub of spirituality, we also learn something of the exemplary quality of the Master's love, his deep respect for others, his affection, humility and practical wisdom.
Speaking with great humour and affection of the different characters and personalities who are remembered in the development of the colony, he shows how spiritual growth is not a matter of any specific external behaviour, but of setting spiritual priorities and then being natural to who we are. While remaining constant to our spiritual practice and true to the supportive principles, we have to be open-minded and adjust to the reality of life.
Besides countless gems of practical wisdom, the book is interspersed with accounts and anecdotes of the Masters that give the reader a glimpse of the relationship of one Master with another-a relationship so profound and subtle, it can only be suggested, not expressed.
Through the Master's words we come to understand that spirituality is not the heritage of anyone particular time, place or people. It is there constantly, to be found by the true seeker wherever a true Master gives his teachings-a legacy available to all.
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