At the heart of the Sant Mat meditation practice lies the principle known as Shabd. In fact, the technique taught by Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj at holy initiation into the Sant Mat teachings is called Shabd Meditation. In India the path he teaches has historically been known as Surat Shabd Yoga. What do these terms mean?
“Surat” is simple; it means “attention,” as in focusing within during meditation. “Shabd” is more esoteric. Sant Darshan Singh Ji Maharaj explains it this way:
Shabd is the Current that came into being when God had the thought of being many from One. That thought produced a vibration, which resulted in a Current of Light and Sound. This is a stream that brought all regions of creation into being, created this world, all forms of life, and sustains all life. It is a stream that exists within each of us. When our soul, a particle of God, connects with the Light and Sound, it can swim on that divine current back to the source, God.
Imagine the will or energy of unmanifested God flowing outward like a great river, and along the way manifesting into existence the various realms of creation. That expressed power of God is Shabd. Masters often equate Shabd to the Word in the New Testament. The thing about this great power is that it flows in both directions. As Sant Darshan Singh Ji says in his beautiful quote, Shabd emanates from God to create existence, but Shabd also returns to God, carrying with it any souls fortunate to immerse themselves in it.
In the Sant Mat traditions, this “swimming in Shabd,” to use his poetic language, is the essence of meditation. Sure, meditation reduces stress, improves our physical and mental health, enhances our powers of concentration, and provides other benefits. But these are all side-benefits of regular practice. Meditation’s real purpose is to return to God, and Shabd provides the means.
How do we recognize Shabd? What are its attributes? Scriptures tell us that Absolute God has no form. But when expressed in creation as Shabd, God has two attributes–light and sound. The scriptures of the world overflow with references to divine light and sound. We may interpret light as intellectual understanding and sound as outer phenomena, such as singing or ringing bells. But mystic literature makes it clear that the inner journey is marked by revelations of rapturous mystical light and music unlike any we experience in the physical world.
Many of you have been through introductory Jyoti Meditation training with Science of Spirituality. “Jyoti” means light—the same light that is an attribute of Shabd. Next time you sit for Jyoti Meditation and are blessed to behold inner light, know that in that light is the power of God extending into the lower reaches of creation. It’s there within us, blazing and resounding constantly. When we withdraw our surat or attention from the world and direct it within, the light becomes apparent.
Shabd has two other important dimensions. First, because God is love, God’s expression through Shabd is also love. As we become more attuned with the light and sound within ourselves, we realize in them the love of God. As we advance in meditation, we know bliss not only during our practice, but our hearts expand through contact with that love-laden light and sound, and our daily lives become imbued with love. We see this in countless records of near death experiences, in which people’s lives are entirely transformed by even brief contact with divine light.
Another aspect of Shabd is this: for spiritual Masters who have fully merged their consciousness into Shabd and traveled that current back to God, they become embodiments of, and indistinguishable from, divine love. We see this in the statement that opens the gospel of John: the holy trinity—God and Word and Word made flesh—are one and the same. That same love and unity awaits each of us as souls, as drops of the Ocean of God.
Here is how Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj describes this remarkable phenomenon. He uses the term “Naam,” a synonym for Shabd.
What is Naam, or the Light and Sound? It is not a principle of physics. It is love itself. It is the love flowing out of the heart of God in the form of Light and Sound that created all. It is the God power or the Master that is actually love itself. The Master is one with that power and exudes that love in all directions. It is the soul that is a drop of that love.
When we strip away the world and the mind, we find ourselves as a drop of love. We are soul, and as such we, too, are made of love. When the love of the soul meets the love of God, there is no duality. Two become one. It is love meeting love. When the disciple meets the Master, it is recognizing the love within us is the same love that is within the Master, and all separateness is gone. Love meets love and there is nothing but love.