About Reaching Upward

When we recite the prayer Salat, the words focus our minds upon a manifestation of the Ideal which has been seen again and again throughout history: the prophet, the messenger who comes to help humanity onward through the difficulties of life, or through the ‘darkness of human ignorance’ as it is said in the Universal Worship service.  The prayer reminds us that the Spirit of Guidance is seen in all names and forms–in a loving mother, a kind father, an innocent child, and so on–but it finds its fulfilment in the light of the realised* souls who transmit, so far as human speech allows, the Divine Word–the word of warning, of consolation, and of encouragement.

After naming a number of recognised messengers, the prayer addresses the Ideal which all these forms represent:
O Messenger, Christ, Nabi, the Rasul of God,
Thou whose heart constantly reaches upward!
But if we think for a moment about this line, we might ask ourselves, what need could there be for a God-realised soul to reach upward?  The prayer itself seems to suggest that such beings are the pinnacle of spiritual evolution – why reach upward, then?  What other mountain is there left to climb?

There are several subtle lessons folded into this line of the prayer.  One is that ‘perfection’ is not static.  The Invocation does not say, ‘In the One…’ or ‘At the One…’ but ‘Toward the One…’, meaning that there is a constant journey, all through life, no matter what our condition; even the illuminated souls are journeying, for in the Invocation we seek to unite ourselves with them.  That un-ending voyage is what is referred to in the Gayan, when it says, ‘Failure in life does not matter; the greatest misfortune is standing still.

Another lesson we could find here is that the truly great souls are the embodiment of humility.  In those fountains of love and light there is no place for pride, self-congratulation or complacency, for what they witness is far beyond the reach of any human spirit.  This is quite the opposite of the worldly point of view; sometimes we may see a marketing campaign urging us to indulge in some luxury or other ‘because we deserve it,’ or perhaps because ‘we’ve earned it,’ but an illuminated soul can see nothing in their limited human self that merits the vision of the Infinite which they have been granted.  What they experience fills them with astonishment, with humility and with gratitude.  Therefore they reach upward, and when the hearts of devotees reflect the light they radiate, they are also inspired to rise above all limitations. 

*The English word ‘realise’ generally carries one of two meanings, either ‘to become aware of’, as in ‘When he got to the station, he realised he had missed the train,’ or ‘to make a reality of’, as in ‘By finding a cure for the disease, she realised a life-long dream.’  In spirituality, the two meanings converge: when one becomes aware of the Truth, the Truth becomes a reality, and the seeker becomes the Truth.  As it says in the Gayan, “Make God a reality, and God will make you the truth.” 

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