She looks beautiful. With blue eyes and dark lashes and long wavy hair, Rachel is an attractive woman of 37 years, although it’s difficult to guess her age looking at her body. A combination of running, yoga and meditation is the key to having a healthy mind and body. Is she happy?, she asks herself often. Most of the times the answer comes from within is positive. Rest of the times, she enquires inside what’s wrong and she tries to mend it, that is to say, she is conscious about her thoughts and actions. By profession, Rachel is an architect, and, with sheer hard work, she climbed the ladder swiftly and is now a top executive in her company. Although having a hefty-salary in her account every month, she doesn’t really live a luxury life as compared to her peers. She doesn’t drink, nor she smokes, but once upon a time, making smoke rings was her favourite past time. On weekends, Rachel and her boyfriend and their common friends visited pubs and talked, drank, danced to the morning. That was ages back, Rachel feels. Now, on weekends, she travels, sometimes on her own, and she loves to lose herself in the quiet Dutch countryside. Rachel regularly visits Church and talks with Father. Once a month, she visits her old parents. She is happy that even after forty years their bond still remains strong. So much to learn, she feels.
That’s how her life flows in Netherlands. But there is another significant part of her life. Every year Rachel takes two months of leave and travels half of the world to unite with her Guru and his followers in a remote place in the northern part of India, beside the ever-giggling Beas river in Punjab.
Mangal Singh Bisht
Mangal Singh has been living a retired life for a long time. When he walks alone to the bus stand, every Sunday, he recalls how his life was twenty years back. He went to the Indian Army at the age of 19. He didn’t study much and always played, ran and flew kites with his friends. Once there was a recruitment going on in the neighbouring district of Pithoragarh. Some of his friends were going to test their endurance during the recruitment and Mangal, a bony looking young man, just tagged along with them. Surprisingly, none of his friends was recruited; they failed in the first test of running 5 km. Mangal, running since he came to know his name, passed the running test and then medical test too. He laughed at himself when he qualified – he never imagined he would be enrolled in Indian Army. He was supposed to be just a clerk in the government office. That’s even what his parents expected. Mangal came back home and told his parents. They weren’t proud; they were concerned if Mangal goes to the Army, who will work in their fields? Who will sow the seeds? Nonetheless, Mangal left home and was employed in the Kumaon regiment of Indian Army. He fought 1971 war against Pakistan. His parents were concerned for his life; but when he came back home after six months of the war, his whole village gathered together and carried him on their shoulders.
Mangal recollects insignificant moments of his life on his way to the bus stand. The bus stops around 11 in the morning and takes him to his guru’s ashram in Someshwar, a hilly village in north India. Every Sunday a group of ten people including a few women, gather in the community hall and pray, sing songs and meditate in front of their guru’s photograph.
Gurpreet likes playing cricket and football with his friends in the ashram. To him, that’s the best time of the day. He also likes singing bhajans in the morning, but not everyday. His routine in the ashram compels him to wake up at 4 in the morning. In the beginning of his ashram life, it was very difficult for him to wake up so early. But waking up with friends was fun and that’s how it became less effortless for him to wake up early. Sitting for meditation, singing bhajans and reading and writing were also not difficult as long as he is with his friends. Eleven-year old Gurpreet is a Sikh and has a small yellow turban on his head. His parents are followers of one Guru in western India, and dedicated their youngest son to their Guru four years back. Since then, unlike his elder siblings who are studying in college, Gurpreet has been living not an ordinary boy’s life. Adults in the ashram call him and his friends as Bal Sant (child saint). Gurpreet feels happy staying in the ashram. Sometimes, the boys tease each other and often they laugh their hearts out. Gurpreet misses his parents when he takes bath early morning. At home, his mother used to rub soap and clean his body with a scrub; here he does it alone; Gurpreet misses his mother’s aloo-paratha in breakfast.
Is Gurpreet happy being a Bal Sant? He is not sure, but he loves his friends here in the ashram. He also likes listening to his teacher when he talks on existence and being one with our consciousness. Sometimes he felt very powerful from inside – he felt as if he can achieve anything in this world. That feeling makes him feel superior to his siblings and he wishes to feel that power inside him regularly, everyday. His teacher asks him to meditate for three hours, which will help to be aware of his consciousness and the power inside him.
It has been ten years that she is married to Nikhil. It was an arranged marriage. Jyoti was doing her Master’s degree in Geography when she was married. She was a good student but her parents never forced her to bring home excellent marks. After being in marriage, and living with in-laws, and taking care of the family from morning to night, she kind of left behind thoughts of pursuing further studies long back. Meanwhile, Jyoti brought up two cute little children in these many years and she sends them to school every morning. For the last one year she has been nurturing possibilities of studying towards gaining a Ph.D degree in her subject; but she is not sure if her husband and in-laws would allow her to do so. She feels they will not reject her proposal outright. She hopes she would be able to make them agree to it – it’s a matter of one semester that she has to go for classes. Once her coursework is complete, she would work on her thesis gradually.
Jyoti is now 32. Nikhil works as a manager in the neighbourhood cotton factory and earns enough to comfortably sustain his family. Nikhil’s father retired from government electric supply office a couple of years back. It was a peaceful family life for Jyoti. Before Nikhil and his family were initiated on Guru’s path years back, Jyoti was told, his parents used to argue and fight over every little thing. Now, although they do not agree on many things, Nikhil’s parents have learnt to respect each other’s views, that is to say, they have become calm. The family’s Sunday ritual is to visit their guru’s ashram in Nagpur and participate in Satsang. Hundreds of people and their families arrive by ten in the morning on Sundays and take part in Satsang in front of their Guru’s photograph. By one o’clock, they finish their Satsang and proceed towards the langar for lunch.
The four paths meet
All the four people belong to different regions, religions and races. Moreover they awakened to enlightenment by the guidance of different gurus. Interestingly, none of the four people here knows each other. Yet one noteworthy fact underlined their lives – all of them practiced the tradition of Sant Mat, or in other words, Path of Truth.
The practice of Sant Mat
Sant Mat is a meditation on inner light and sound, devoid of any religion and race. The tradition believes in simran, which is meditating the Nam, the god. Simran is practiced in two ways – dhyan and bhajan. Dhyan is repetition of mantra given by master during initiation, and bhajan is listening to inner sound, sabd dhun. It is believed that if one practices simran, her soul would be united with the Supreme Being through inner light and sound.
For any person to start meditation in Sant Mat tradition, she has to be initiated, which should be done by the master or guru. The tradition emerged around 13th century from a necessity of equality for all, in spite of many differences that people faced through their religions, castes and races. Sant Mat believes in no religious rituals and focuses on god present within everyone. The tradition requires existence of a human master who initiates followers on the path of Sant Mat.
It is important to note here that there are many human masters in India but their paths remain similar, although there are a few startling differences. In the beginning of the tradition, some of the notable gurus were Kabir, Nanak, Namdev, Mira Bai, Surdas, Tulsi Das, Rumi and Tukaram. In the 20th century, Radhasoami movement propagated the tradition most, and similarly, other groups like Divine Light Mission, Manavkendra, Prem Rawat, Eckankar and Kabir Panthis emerged on the same path but in different corners of the country.