Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 5: Balancing the Paths

Balancing the Paths

Their contrast and comparison

The Long Path is devoted to clearing away the obstructions in man's nature and to attacking the errors in his character. The Short Path is devoted to affirmatives, to the God-power as essence and in manifestation. It is mystical. It shows how the individual can come into harmonious relation with the Overself and the World-Idea. The first path shows seekers how to think rightly; the second gives power to those thoughts.

Most people who start the short path have usually had a glimpse of the Overself, because otherwise they find it too difficult to understand what the short path is about. The long path, through its studies and practices, is the period of preparation for the advanced quest. It is called the long path because there is much work to be done on it and much development of character and emotions to go through. After some measure of this preparation the aspirants enter the short path to complete this work. This takes a comparatively much shorter time and, as it has the possibility of yielding the full self-enlightenment at any moment, it ends suddenly. What they are trying to do on the long path continues by itself once they have entered fully on the short path. On the long path they are concerned with the personal ego and as a result give the negative thoughts their attention. On the short path they refuse to accept these negatives and instead look to the Overself. Thus the struggles will disappear. This change of attitude is called "voiding" them. The moment such negative ideas and feelings appear, then instead of using the long path method of concentrating on the opposite kind of thought, such as calmness instead of anger, the short path way simply drops the negative idea into the Void, the Nothingness, and forgets it. Now such a change can only be brought about by doing it quickly and firmly and turning to the Overself. Constant remembrance of the Overself has to be done all the way through the short path. The long path works on the ego; but the short path uses the result of that work, which prepared them to come into communion with the Overself and become receptive to its presence, which includes its grace. In order to understand the short path, it might be helpful to compare it to the long path which consists of a series of exercises and efforts which gradually develops concentration and character and knowledge. But the long path does not lead to the goal. On the long path you often measure your own progress. It is an endless path because there will always be new circumstances which bring new temptations and trials and confront the aspirant with new challenges. No matter how spiritual the ego becomes it does not enter the whitest light, but remains in the greyish light. On the long path you must deal with the urges of interference arising from the lower self and the negativity which enters from the surrounding environment. But the efforts on the long path will at last invoke the grace, which opens the perspective of the short path.

The short path is not an exercise but an inner standpoint to invoke, a state of consciousness where one comes closer or finds peace in the Overself. There are, however, two exercises which can be of help to lead to the short path, but they have quite a different character than the exercises on the long path. The short path takes less time because the aspirant turns around and faces the goal directly. The short path means that you begin to try to remember to live in the rarefied atmosphere of the Overself instead of worrying about the ego and measuring its spiritual development. You learn to trust more and more in the Higher Power. On the short path you ignore negativity and turn around 180 degrees, from the ego to the Overself. The visitations of the Overself are heralded through devotional feeling, but also through intuitive thought and action. Often the two paths can be treaded simultaneously, but not necessarily equally.

Often the aspirant is not ready to start these two exercises until after one or several glimpses of the Overself.

The "remembrance exercise" consists of trying to recall the glimpse of the Overself, not only during the set meditation periods but also in each moment during the whole working span of the day--in the same way as a mother who has lost her child can not let go of the thought of it no matter what she is doing outwardly, or as a lover who constantly holds the vivid image of the beloved in the back of his mind. In a similar way, you keep the memory of the Overself alive during this exercise and let it shine in the background while you go about your daily work. But the spirit of the exercise is not to be lost. It must not be mechanical and cold. The time may come later when the remembrance will cease as a consciously and deliberately willed exercise and pass by itself into a state which will be maintained without the help of the ego's will.

The remembrance is a necessary preparation for the second exercise, in which you try to obtain an immediate identification with the Overself. Just as an actor identifies with the role he plays on the stage, you act think and live during the daily life "as if" you were the Overself. This exercise is not merely intellectual but also includes feeling and intuitive action. It is an act of creative imagination in which by turning directly to playing the part of the Overself you make it possible for its grace to come more and more into your life.

The Long Path gives him the chance to destroy the mental and emotional effects of the ego's operation: the Short Path, to destroy the ego itself.

Whereas the aspirant on the Long Path believes that his nature is rooted in evil, the one on the Short Path believes that underneath the evil, his roots extend still deeper into goodness, God.

The demerits which the Long Path seeks to extirpate are small faults by contrast to the great sin of the ego which the Short Path seeks to cancel.

On the Long Path the man is preoccupied with techniques to be practised and disciplines to be undergone. On the Short Path he is preoccupied with the Overself, with the study of its meaning, the remembrance of its presence, and the reflection upon its nature and attributes.

The essential features of the Long Path are its concern with moral effort and its emphasis on character building; its injunctions to pray and meditate; its insistence on the constant striving for self-mastery through physical, emotional, and mental disciplines. The essential feature of the Short Path is its quest of the flash of enlightenment through intuitive feeling and metaphysical thinking. Some believe, and would be satisfied with, this flash to be brief. Others hope for its permanent abidance.

The Long Path is based on the beliefs of ordinary living, which start from the imagined reality of the person and therefore start with a fiction. The Short Path rejects this from the beginning and seeks to penetrate without delay to the unchanging and unchangeable Essence.

The difference in attitude and teaching between these two schools of thought is tremendous. One says that nothing else is needed than the finding of the real Self, for that will automatically wash out all faults and shortcomings. The other says that only by eliminating those faults and shortcomings can the real Self be found. Zen Buddhism and Ramana Maharshi belong to the first school, and Martinus to the second one.

Too much nonsense has been taught, written, and spoken in religious circles about the nature of man. One faction proclaims it to be originally sinful and unalterably evil. The only way to be "saved" from it is to accept the services of religion. Another faction, with a small following, asserts it to be originally divine and fixedly pure. Salvation is not needed, only recognition.

Saint Teresa seems to deny the possibility of reconciling the two ways of life when she writes, "To bring soul and body into agreement, walking according to justice and clinging to virtue, is the pace of a hen--it will never bring us freedom of the spirit."

The Long Path of earthly-animal man pursues and tries to deal with negative characteristics. The Short Path of higher developed man turns him towards a repeated confrontation with Overself; it deals with positive attributes and tries to identify with Overself.

The Long Path is concerned with relative matters, but the Short one is concerned with the Absolute alone.

The application of ethical teachings to the analytic study of experience is correct only for the Long Path. Since the Short Path teaches that there is no finite ego, there is no one to apply those teachings! Consequently there is no one to learn lessons from suffering and no one to commit the sins which create suffering.

The Short Path votaries ambitiously wish to soar too high; the Long Path adherents are content to advance little by little.

A contemporary guru told me that both sudden attainment and the long-time path theories are correct, but the former is rare in practice.

All rules for regulating social conduct and shaping moral character fulfil a proper purpose in making good men. But they do not directly lead to the discovery of the ego's unreality. Therefore they do not belong to the Short Path.

The Long Path is chiefly occupied with second stage work, with concentration and meditation, whereas the Short Path is chiefly occupied with contemplation.

If the Long Path seeks salvation chiefly through the building of character and the concentration of thought, the Short Path seeks it chiefly through worshipful meditation directly on the Overself.

Long Path=the ladder-climbing path. Short Path=the one-leap path.

In exaggerating the value of the ego's spiritual activity, the votary of the Long Path goes astray; but the votary of the Short Path who minimizes or denies that value altogether is also in error.

All that hatred of his sins and that struggle against his imperfections which teachers of the Long Path inculcate, is abandoned when he comes under the teachers of the Short Path.

Perhaps a good illustration of their actual relationship is the one given by a plowman's cutting up a field and his later sowing of the field. Plowing here corresponds to the Long Path, dropping the seed in furrows thus prepared to the Short Path.

The Long Path creates anxiety, because one wants to make progress and finds it difficult. The Short Path has to counterbalance it, because one then realizes that there is nothing to be attained, that one is already there.

The laborious effort and painful discipline of the Long Path bring him to a certain degree of spirituality but the easier, pleasanter, and quicker way of the Short Path brings him to a higher one.

To depend upon oneself for the truth may draw one nearer to it or push it farther away. Which result will happen depends upon which path--the Short or Long--we are travelling.

The Short Path refuses to give the ego any importance at all whereas the Long one gives it too much importance. The first attitude looks at all life in the widest possible perspective whereas the second looks at its own life in a self-centered way, even though that self has been extended to include the ego's higher characteristics.

The Short Path does not deny anything taught on the Long one. It gives a greater truth.

On the Short Path he becomes aware of the fact of forgiveness. He leaves out the constant self-criticism and self-belittling, the painstaking self-improvement practices, of the other Path and begins to take full note of this saving fact.

If the immediate purpose of the Long Path is to train, discipline, and prepare the ego, the immediate purpose of the Short Path is to transcend it.

The basic idea is that the "lightning flash" simile belongs to the Long Path stage, hence its brevity and fitfulness, whereas "the leap over a deep narrow ravine" is the correct simile for the Short Path. If the seeker succeeds in reaching the other side of the ravine, he will be safely and permanently established in the truth. The ravine cannot be crossed by a series of gradual stages. If he does not succeed, then he merely stays in the darkness where he already was.

Although the two Paths are so sharply divided from one another in theory, they not seldom overlap in fact.

While the Long Path man is busy worrying about the evil in himself and in the world, the Short Path man is busy smiling at the good in the Overself and in the World-Idea.

The danger of becoming too self-centered exists on the Long Path but the danger of deifying the self exists on the Short one.

Moments which shame him into the miserable awareness of his shortcomings may appear plentifully on the Long Path but have no likelihood of existence on the Short one.

Confucius' injunction to acquire specific virtues is Long Path, whereas Lao Tzu's counsel to let the mind become empty so that Tao may enter it is Short Path.

He can identify himself with ego or with Overself.

While he is on the Long Path, his efforts are given to improving the ego and purifying his nature, whereas on the Short one they are given to forgetting the ego and looking beyond his nature.

The Long Path meditates on the ego, the Short Path on the Overself. This is the basic difference between them.

The Long Path wants to purify and perfect the ego but the Short Path wants to find God. The Long Path deals with the little pieces of a design but the Short Path deals with the pattern itself. The Long Path takes one minor theme after another but the Short one takes up the main underlying theme alone. It is also the difference, as well as distance, between the immediate goal and the ultimate one.

The Quest contains two parts. In the first, or Long Path, the aspirant is made into a new person. In the second, or Short Path, he is made into an illumined one.

On the Long Path he fought the defects in himself every day and every step of the way. They were not to be tolerated. On the Short Path, he accepts himself because he accepts all life.

If the Long Path is occupied with getting rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings, the Short Path is the very opposite, for it occupies itself only with those wanted thoughts and feelings. Thus the move is a transition from negativity to positivity.

The Long Path devotee is more interested in his personal progress whereas the Short Path devotee is more interested in impersonal principles. The first identifies himself with a caged-in sect, a limited group, a set of wordy dogmas and authority, whereas the second identifies himself with spacious freedom of attitude and independence of thought. The first is an occultist, the second a mystic.

The metaphysical background of the Short Path is the very opposite of the Long Path's. The former finds only Good in the universe and only One Real Existence. The latter finds good and evil in constant conflict and millions of egos whose separateness is very real to him. The former regards the goal as being already and always present, whereas the latter regards it as lying at the end of a long journey over the Quest's route.

If on the Long Path he may sometimes despise himself for his weaknesses, on the Short Path he will glorify himself through the identity exercise.

The Long Path offers a negative process whose end result is to disidentify the man from his body. The Short Path offers a positive process whose result is to identify him with his Overself.

He may take up either of two positions. Both are difficult. The first is to look upon the successive births in a physical body, with their vicissitudes of experience, as wearisome, perhaps even unendurable. He must then cut the series by rooting out the desires beneath, the very craving for physical and personal existence. The second is on an utterly different plane. It is to turn his attention away from his own person altogether and to direct it towards That which is the only Real, the Supreme Source, the Ultimate Being.

All spiritual paths--except the Short Path--have elements of artificiality about them.

The Short Path rejects duality, acknowledges only identity with Perfect Being, and tries to achieve its aim by recognizing this identity. The Long Path accepts duality and tries to achieve the same aim by mastering the ego.

On the Long Path the aspirant is careful to observe the various rules of right behaviour prescribed for him; while on the Short Path he finds that, the Overself being the essence of the Spirit of righteousness, he can achieve all these noble purposes by the single act of uniting consciously with it.

The Long Path represents a looking of the eyes upon a horizontal plane, the Short Path represents a turning movement of them in an upward direction.

The Short Path looks to the Overself and away from the ego. Its thoughts are directed to knowing the infinite being, not to improving the human being.

The Long Path strives to attain a higher state whereas the Short Path establishes its present identity with that state. This it can do only by denying appearances.

Should a change of character be diligently pursued as a natural preparation of oneself for enlightenment, and as a special duty to make it possible? Should the enlightenment itself be directly pursued on the supposition that after its achievement there must inevitably follow a repudiation of the old faulty self and a repentance for its acts?


You asked about the terms "Long Path" and "Short Path." I don't know who initiated them. They've existed since long ago and are paths to the attainment of spiritual realization. The Long Path means that it takes a long time and also that the path itself is difficult, and being difficult it takes a long time.

The term "Short Path" has the opposite meaning: it's short in time, and the amount of work is short. For example, in teachings like Zen they speak about sudden enlightenment. You can't get any shorter than that.

Of course, when people hear about sudden enlightenment, they want to join, to get enlightenment quickly. The Long Path is not very popular.

"Short Path" does not mean "sudden." It just means "shorter."

The Long Path is simply what is normally associated with yoga: the exercises to practise concentration, attention, relaxation of the body and the mind, ascetic self-discipline, self-control. These are taught in most of the schools; however, there is no set of rules that is studied. Basically it involves getting your thoughts under control and controlling your body, your thoughts, feelings, and will.

This is working on trying to improve yourself inside and your life outside also. The inner and the outer work is part of the Long Path. It's not so easy and may go on for a long time.

After years, people may get a bit tired and abandon the thing altogether, or withdraw and come back later.

Anyway, there comes a time to most--not to all--of those with special karma, those who have gone through the Long Path before, and they are plopped into realization. Examples are Ramana and Wei Wu Wei. They realize what is Truth, what is Real, what is the I. But these are exceptions.

The Long Path will be followed life after life with only some results, nothing dramatic.

But others get rather hopeless without results, and they reach a stage of pessimism or even despair over this impossible goal. This is where they abandon or turn against the quest. At this stage they are very ripe for a transition to the Short Path. (This is the method of the Koan, where the seeker is forced to reach a state of despair.) If he gives up in the proper way, he'll get a glimpse powerful enough to turn him around.

Others come to the Short Path in a very simple, natural way. They've done what they could on the Long Path, and they are brought into contact with the Short Path--either by a book, by a dream, or by their guru.

So the Short Path has begun. It makes life considerably pleasanter because you are supposed to make a 180 degree turn, putting your past behind you, looking first on the bright side, the sunny side, of your spiritual life. Very often a glimpse is given which starts you off on the Short Path, and you are shown what to do. You get new exercises, or no exercise at all. You see things which you missed before when you just saw the gloomy side. The exercises may be chosen by the seeker or by the guru. Each must find his own, but all are bright, cheerful, constructive.

But most important of all, now you are in the area of Grace. Now Grace is coming openly to work, and you can see it working, a power higher than your own, higher than your guru.

When you are in the area of Grace, anything can happen--anything--because you are not doing it. A higher power is doing it. It is really being done within you, in the heart, not in the head.

The heart is the centre. Here is the consummation, the union with God. It is here that you feel it most in the beginning. We have to end up in the heart, which means we have to meet Truth, Reality, in the heart with feeling. But it has to be understood in the head. There has to be discrimination between what appears and what is really there.

This Reality is what you are really seeking. What appears seems to be what you are seeking, but it is not.

You can't be a fool to understand the meaning of the world and of life. We must feel and think. The two together fuse in realization.

You both feel and know at the same time what you are, what God is, and what the world is.

Realization cannot be achieved on the Long Path. It cannot. It is a gift, and that means grace, the Short Path.

But you must work for it. There has to be the Long Path and the Short Path, but you must not make the mistake of thinking you must mechanically stick to the Long Path. You may start with both, work the two together, and it becomes a sort of balance.

If you start the Short Path before you are ready for it, you may become unbalanced. But the Long Path may become dry.

There has to be life, feeling. The amount of Long Path and Short Path depends on the individual. If you don't know, you must ask your guru.

It seems complicated, and in a way it is. But in a way, it is very simple.

In the end you will reject both. There is no Long Path or Short Path. We have constructed them to conform to what we think. Buddha says in the Dhammapada that you yourself made up this picture you have of yourself, the picture you think is real. It is made by thought and can be undone by thought.

You could also say there is nothing to the whole thing: simply surrender yourself to God. This is true if you can do it.

We get over-educated, have to rationalize everything and spend time writing books and reading books which are not altogether worthwhile.--January 1979

It is an error to believe that men can separate themselves permanently from normal human life, and themselves exist as if they were ghosts. They may succeed in doing so for a time, a period, sometimes even a lifetime, but in the end the bipolar forces which control development will draw them back. No such separation is desired or sought on the Short Path--as it often is on the Long one--and those who follow it can appreciate physical or cultural possessions and satisfactions. But because they are spiritually mature, there is always inner detachment behind this appreciation.

The Long Path is concerned with the human struggle to approach the divine, the Short Path with intuition of the divine presence in the human.

The Short Path is content with exercises done for their own sake, not for the sake of the results they bring. In this it is the opposite of the Long Path, which does them for results, and is attached to those results.

There is a harsh asceticism at one extreme, and an easy self-indulgence at the other. On the Long Path the seeker wars wearily between the two and lives in a state of unceasing tension. But on the Short Path, the tension ends as he rises above the plane of opposition upon which they exist.

The Long Path brings the self to a growing awareness of its own strength, whereas the Short Path brings it to a growing awareness of its own unreality. This higher stage leads inevitably to a turnaboutface, where the energies are directed toward identification with the One Infinite Mind. The more this is done, the more Grace flows by reaction into the Self.

Does truth come as a slow growth or as a sudden awakening? Does it take the ant's long path or the bird's swifter one, the second category or the twenty-third?

The Long Path follower, with his strenuous concern for self-improvement, his compelling anxiety for self-advancement to fulfil the inner purposes of life, may make life more difficult than it need be and himself become more humourless. The Short Path follower can afford to forget his past struggles, and begin to enjoy life.

The Long Path devotee is concerned with learning how to concentrate his thoughts in the practice of meditation, and later even with meditation itself, to some degree, so far as it is an activity among ideas and images. The Short Path devotee is not. He is concerned with direct union with the object of all these efforts, that is, with the Overself. So he substitutes contemplation for meditation, the picture-free, idea-free purity of the mind's original state for the image- and thought-filled density of its ordinary state.

The Long Path is more easily practised while engaged in the world, the Short Path while in retreat from it. The experiences which the vicissitudes of worldly life bring him also develop him, provided he is a Quester. But the lofty themes of his meditations on the Short Path require solitary places and unhurried leisurely periods.

It might be said with some truth that the various Long Path processes are based upon the use of willpower whereas the Short Path ones are based upon auto-suggestion. The former employ the conscious mind in directed effort, whereas the latter implant ideas in the subconscious mind while it is in a relaxed state.

The Short Path offers a swifter unfoldment of the intuitional consciousness. It is not so bound to the limitation of time as the Long Path is. It seeks to identify the man now with his higher self.

The first path yields an iconoclastic self-enlightenment and one as swift as a bird's flight. The second yields a gradual self-improvement but one as slow as an ant's crawl.

Even the mere feeling of being alive brings content, satisfaction, and reconciliation. How far this is from later stages of the Long Path, with their exaggerated idea of his worthlessness.

The spiral path takes you out and round and upward--slowly. The paradox takes you straight to the top into pure truth and thus breaks with the crippling past. It is revolutionary, moving from one extreme (ignorance and illusion) to the other extreme (knowledge and reality, the very heart of the Overself).

Whereas the widely varied exercises in meditation of the Long Path evoke mental images and use the creative imagination in most cases, but empty consciousness of them only in some cases, the exercises of the Short Path evoke no images at all.

The Long Path votary works from systems, rules, plans, and techniques put down by its guides but the Short Path votary has no path chalked out for him. He is forever "waiting on the Lord."

The Long way is also called the Earth Path. The Short way is also called the Sun Path. This is because the earth is subject to gloomy seasonal changes but the sun never varies in its radiance. If the Long Path is somewhat austere, the Short one is notably joyous.

The Long Path cuts a clearing in a night-dark forest whereas the Short one comes out into open noonday-lit space.

The Long Path doctrine teaches that man makes his destiny, forms his character, and attains his spiritual goal by his individual efforts. No God and no Grace can help him. Conscience is as prominent here as it is absent on the Short Path.

The memory of regrettable judgements, the self-reproach of hindsight have no place on the Short Path.

The man who is trying to find his way out of the cave's darkness by retreating backwards represents the Long Path. The man who reverses this attitude and walks straight towards the opening, where he sees a chink of light, represents the Short one.

On the Long Path we search for truth, reality, the Overself. That is, we use the ego's forces and faculties. On the Short one we keep still and let truth, reality, the Overself's Grace search for us instead. The ego is then no longer in the picture.

Pessimism can only appear on the Long Path, for it must disappear on the Short Path. Here the emphasis is on positive values; the declarations are affirmative ones. The Short Path inculcates joyousness and advocates contentment.

Whether the truth grows slowly in his mind or explodes suddenly in his feelings is less important than that it shall be the truth.

On the Long Path he identifies himself with the personal ego, even though it be the higher part of the ego, whereas on the Short Path he is only the observer of the ego. This shows up clearly in his attitudes. "What have I to do with my personal past?" he asks himself on the second path. "That belongs to a dead self, which is now rejected and with which I refuse to identify."

If the Long Path is too often, too largely an anguished one--because of the self-scrutiny to find the shortcomings in oneself which block the way--then the Short Path is a compensatory one, a joyful quest.

The man who enters the Long Path is too often seeking compensation for disappointment, whereas the man who enters the Short one usually is attracted to the joy of fulfilment in the Overself.

If the Long Path is based on belief in man's power to attain the Good, the Short Path is based on the contrary belief that all such efforts end in futility and failure. It is then that a higher power than his little ego must be called on. For although the ego is willing to do everything to spiritualize and improve itself, it is stubbornly unwilling to "lose its life" for God's sake.

Although it is quite correct to say that we grow through experience, that suffering has valuable lessons, and so on, we must also remember that these are only half-truths. The other half is that by Short Path identifications, we can so totally change our outlook that adverse experience becomes unnecessary.

There is no wish in the Short Path man to be better than he is, no desire to improve his character or purify his mind, no sense of being obliged to rectify the distortions brought about by the ego in both thought and feeling.

The work of the Long Path consists of the voluntary actions of human effort; but that of Grace, as manifested on the Short Path, has no direct connection with the self-conscious will.

The Long Path calls for a continued effort of the will, the Short one for a continued loving attention.

The Long Path sets up an attitude of yearning whereas the Short Path considers the Spirit an ever-present fact and consequently there is no need to yearn for it!

The Long Path practitioner looks upon illumination as something to be attained in the future when all requirements have been fully met, whereas the Short Path devotee looks upon it as attainable here and now.

How like a labyrinth is the seemingly endless, twisting Long Path! How straight and direct is the Short Path!

If the Long Path sets responsibility for a man's growth and salvation squarely on his own shoulders, the Short Path sets it on God.

On the Long Path his actions follow, or try--however badly--to follow, the rules. They are imitative actions. But on the Short Path he becomes an individual, living from the inside out.

The basic idea of the Long Path votary is that the goal must be reached in stages by constant striving through many lives to purify his character and perfect his wisdom. The basic idea of the Short Path is that it can be reached suddenly by constant meditation alone.

The outstanding characteristic of the Long Path is a feeling that he has to strive to be a quester. This feeling is absent on the Short Path.

It is only on the Long Path that a man seeks so desperately for truth and insight. All that feverish ambition fades away on the Short Path, where he learns to hold himself in peace and patience.

Whereas the Long Path brings its results by systematic advance, the Short Path brings them by chancing suddenly on them.

The Long Path is arranged in progressive stages, whereas the Short Path is not; it points to direct, immediate, and final enlightenment.

Whereas the Long Path man strives for growth, the Short Path man lets it come naturally without the interference of his egoic consciousness.

The Long Path is suited to those monks who live in community, in ashrams or monasteries. But the Short Path is suited to the individualist and to the layman-householder living in the world.

On the Long Path we analyse the past and study the present so as to learn the basic lessons of the ego's experience. On the Short Path we discard analysis and dispense with study; instead we contemplate the God in us. If the first path brings us unhappy reflections, the second one brings joyous intuitions.

The Long Path is an intermittent fight against the animal nature and the human ego. The Short Path is a continuous quest of the attention for the Overself.

If he begins with the Short Path he may feel that whatever is accomplished is self-accomplished and thus, subtly, insidiously, his ego will triumphantly reassert, or keep, its supremacy. But if he begins with the Long Path and, after all his efforts, reaches an inconclusive result, the consequent despair may crush his ego and point up his dependence on, and need of, Grace.

All the more elementary and religious and occult forms of meditation, including those used on the Long Path--all that lead to what the Hindu yogis call savikalpa samadhi--usually have to be passed through; but one ought not to remain with them. The pure philosophic meditation as ultimately sought and reached on the Short Path is to put the attention directly on the Overself and on nothing else.

The attempt to get rid of the faults and evils in oneself by using the powers of concentration and meditation belongs to the Long Path. But it is still occupied with the ego. For those who have turned to the Short Path, the object of meditation is entirely changed. It is no longer occupied with purifying, improving, or bettering the ego--it is occupied only with the transcendent self, and the thought of the ego, the remembrance of it, is left behind altogether.

The Long Path provides the aspirant with a task unfulfilled, waiting, and sometimes burdensome. The Short Path on the contrary is just something to be understood and lived; it is not a burden but a quiet, peaceful, ever pleasant and ever present consciousness.

The Long Path requires the aspirant to work on himself, make various reforms, practise certain exercises, and contribute his own personal efforts in various ways. But the Short Path is less concerned with what he does than with what is done to him. Why? Because it is the path of grace. He is to be passive, to receive.

Time, growth, and development, with their circles and spirals, belong to the Long Path. They must not be permitted to usurp the place of the Short Path, with its supremacy at the top of everything.

Whereas the Short Path is to be practised at all times and in all places, by continuous remembrance and constant self-recollectedness, the Long Path is to be practised at set times and in special places, by formal exercises.

The Long Path man is aware of many or most of his weaknesses and faults, and is tormented by this knowledge. The Short Path man blissfully ignores them or, if he fails to reach this formulated goal, is sure they will fade away and dissolve under the higher self's grace.

If the Long Path creates despair about oneself, about the frustration of one's spiritual hopes, the Short Path creates joy about one's close relationship with the Overself and the feeling of its acceptance of one.

The Long Path is based on the inevitability of gradualness, the Short Path on the inevitability of suddenness.

It is the personal ego which operates the will and tries to bring about the result. This is quite proper and pertinent on the Long Path practice. But when attention is turned away from it to the Short Path, it is no longer the will but the higher power which should be looked to for the result.

The work of the Long Path is to loathe and remove the ego's sins; that of the Short Path is to love and receive the Overself's grace.

If the Long Path followers tend to have little sense of humour in matters relating to the quest, the Short Path ones tend to have much of it.

The achievement by the Long Path method is a forced one, the result of doing some exercise, working on character, following some technique. But it is all an ego-fabricated thing.

The Short Path way leads to the opposite, to a new birth, a new transformed man, salvation itself. But this comes about quite naturally, without the ego's participation, for it comes about by the Overself's grace.

The pettiness of ashram favouritism and sectarian politics is no fit atmosphere for the Short Path votary.

The follower of the Long Path constantly or intermittently feels the urge to improve himself but the follower of the Short one rests untroubled. He has surrendered himself to the higher power, which necessarily means that he has abandoned or denied every kind of urge in himself too, including the self-improvement urge.

The key to holding the Glimpse has been given by Lao Tzu: "When the superior man hears of Tao he does his best to practise it. When the intermediate man hears of Tao, he sometimes keeps it, and sometimes loses it." This means that practising the Short Path is the way to permanent result, for it is the way to win grace.

What the Japanese Zenists call "The Sudden Path" and the Tibetan Sages "The Short Path" are closely similar in important points. Both prescribe that the work be done in a joyful attitude. Both teach that the goal is also the means. Both claim to offer a rocket flight to Reality.

Emerson is an excellent example of the Short Path man.

According to Mahayana there are three requirements for the aspirant: (1) moral discipline of greed, anger, and lust; (2) meditation; (3) wisdom--cultivation of intuition and discrimination. The first two constitute, in our division, the Long Path, and the last one is the Short Path.

The Rumanian mystic Emilio Carrer, who has a Krishnamurtian outlook and arrived at his own original thought and experience, summed up his views to me in the following words: "(a) In ideas and beliefs form no conclusions and allow no fixations. (b) We have to be conscious of consciousness. (c) In contacts with other persons have no intentions, as this will introduce the ego."

Monseigneur Zamet, a spiritual director of the Abbess Mère Angélique of Port Royal, wrote her: "I beseech you to occupy yourself less with virtue than you do, for you are too much attached to it, and more concerned with it than God asks you to be. It will never be by your cares or your attention to yourself that you will be virtuous. It is a gift from on high, for which more than your industry is needed." This wise man also wrote: "If her angers displease her, let her endure them in that they are very excellent for ruining her self-love." He also told her that it was madness to be so much obsessed with one's own unworthiness that one refused grace.

Buddha found his way to Enlightenment within six years and with no guru. This is to note that the depth of concentration he used was such that he would not let go until he kept his oath and reached Nirvana. This meant not only determination but also faith that there was such a truth as Nirvana.

Light on the Path: "It is useless for the disciple to strive by checking himself. The soul must be unfettered, the desires free. But until they are fixed on that state wherein there is neither reward nor punishment, good nor evil, it is in vain that he endeavours."

Can the Indian yoga systems be brought under this classification? The Way of Knowledge [gnana] culminates the Short Path; the Royal Way of Concentration [raja] culminates the Long Path. The Ways of Religious Devotion [bhakti] and Muttered Affirmation [mantra] belong, in their simple elementary forms, to the Long Path, but in their subtler advanced forms to the Short Path. The Way of Physical Control [hatha] is obviously a Long Path one.

Some mystical sects, like the Quietists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in France and Spain, sought to achieve all through meditation alone but believed the achieving agent was Grace alone, or the Holy Ghost, as they called it. They were more than humble in this matter and thought that they were quite incapable of doing anything by themselves: spiritual growth had to be left entirely to the Spirit.

The Short Path position is supported by such Mahayana texts as the Vajra-Samadhi Sutra, where Buddha says: "Be it only as little as a single thought, the five components of ego are born at the same time. Let beings but repose their minds in a condition of calm. They will not have a single thought. This Absolute, this suchness, contains all the dharmas."

In theological language the Long Path stands for repentance from sin, the Short Path for faith in the Overself.

Swami Premananda: "I say to people, Don't give up anything: they will give you up. Do you have to give up darkness? No, you have only to bring in the light. So long as you are trying to resist something, you are having it constantly with you."

When Krishna says, "Relinquishing all individual (personal?--P.B.) efforts, take refuge in Me alone," he summarizes the Short Path in a few words.

Kabir: "I close not my eyes, nor torment my body. But every path I then traverse becomes a path of pilgrimage to the Divine."

Hindu script: "He alone grasps Him who does not grasp Him. Anyone who understands Him does not know Him."

HMS in Theosophist: "There is no true practice of Zen as long as it has an end in view, for then there is one eye on the practice and the other on the end, thus leading to lack of concentration and lack of sincerity."

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras tell us that reality may be sought along two paths: (a) Discrimination, which would be an obstacle on the other path; but leading only to a limited relative insight tethering consciousness to a seed or "kernel of bondage"; (b) the other path on which, as A.J. Van Leeuwen says, "No-seed samadhi leads to perfect freedom." Van Leeuwen significantly adds: "Then the search is at an end, because the seer has discerned its uselessness. He comes to rest and finds nirvanic peace between the wings of the mystic swan Kalahamsa. When he brings his I-thought to rest by destroying his attachment to the I-ness (which is something else than ceasing to think as is tried to achieve in contemplation, and entirely different from petrifaction of the mind by concentration), then the opposites melt together. Be-ness has been attained, freewill has become the same as fate, freedom and law have become identical, drop and ocean enter each other, thesis and antithesis are cancelled out and sublimated into synthesis."

Yuan-chiao Ching--this book states that the Buddhist phrase "obscuration by Principle" means not knowing that the mind itself is principle, but seeking it in the mind, so that principle itself becomes an obstacle. (The reference here is to the Principle of Nature, Spirit.)

The whole course of Christian practice has been affected by misunderstanding the call to repentance issued by John the Baptist and later by Jesus himself as being only a call to ascetic penance. It included that but the emphasis was in no way there. Far more did it mean not only a change of mind, as Melanchton proved to Luther, but also to "experience a new consciousness." It looked forward to entry into a higher state, not backward to the past sinfulness.

Jesus put more emphasis on the Short Path than on the Long one, on the kingdom of heaven within man than on the animalistic urges and earthly shortcomings that afflict him.

Shen Tsan Zen school: ". . . radiant is the wondrous Light, Free it is from bondage of matter and senses. . . . Never defiled is Mind-nature. . . . By merely casting away your delusions the Suchness of Buddhahood is realized."

P.G. Bowen said that, following his master, "AE," he taught no special exercises in concentration or meditation. He wrote: "The outstanding error of learners, in whom it is excusable, and of many teachers, who teach without wisdom, is that they associate Occultism with practices rather than with PRACTICE. I teach the LIFE of concentration and meditation, a Way of Life wherein consciousness becomes concentrated."

The Patanjali Long-Path yoga school tells us we are weaklings, whereas the Vedanta Short-Path school tells us of our potential divine strength.

Kongo Kyo (Zen Buddhist): "Awaken the mind without fixing it anywhere."

When Jesus counselled, "Cast thy burden . . ." he was phrasing a perfect invitation to travel the Short Path.

The Master Dogen: "The path of Ignorance and the path of Enlightenment--we walk in dream!"

Eckhart: "I already possess all that is granted me in eternity."

Kabir on the Short Path:
O Sadhu! have done with your good and bad,
Yoga and counting the rosary, virtue and vice, these are nothing to Him.
One day your eyes shall suddenly be opened, and you shall see . . .

Kabir also says, "Dive into that Ocean of Sweetness; thus let all errors of life and death flee away."

This idea of the existence of a double path is not new although it is unfamiliar. Nor is it specifically Indian. As long ago as the fifth centuries the Buddhist monk Seng-Chao, a disciple of that Kumara Jiva who translated so many Indian texts for the Chinese, taught that all the effort and study and practice of exercises were not enough to attain enlightenment but were only a necessary preparation for it.

Their combination and transcendence

It is a matter that comes to the careful observer's attention that in groups or societies, in ashrams or institutions, where what is practised corresponds to the Short Path--however roughly and imperfectly--the results are very mixed and often saddening to the leaders. Where no attempt is made to bring in the Long Path's corrective work, where there is no striving for self-improvement, the end is a confused one--some satisfactions but more disappointments.

The Vedantins, Zen Buddhists, Christian Scientists, and even to a certain extent Ramana Maharshi and Sri Krishna Menon said that self-identification with the Reality, thinking of this identification constantly, would be enough to attain the spiritual goal. This is called the Short Path. The opposite schools of Patanjali's Yoga, the Roman Stoics, and the Southern Buddhists reject this claim and say that it is necessary to thin down the ego and purify the mind by degrees through disciplines, exercises, and practices. This is called the Long Path. The Philosophic Method is to combine both of these schools of thought synthetically, with the explanation that both are necessary to complete each through the other--and that it depends upon the stage where the aspirant is as to which school is necessary for him or her to emphasize personally. Beginners need to give more weight to the hard effort of the Yoga school; but advanced persons need to give it to the Vedanta viewpoint, because in their case much of the ego-thinning and mental-emotional cleansing has already been done.

It is quite true, as the extremist advocates of the Short Path, like Zen, say, that this is all that is really needed, that no meditation (in the ordinary sense), no discipline, no moral striving, and no study are required to gain enlightenment. We are now as divine as we ever shall be. There is nothing to be added to us; no evolution or development of our real self is possible. But what these advocates overlook is that, in the absence of the labours listed, the Short Path can succeed only if certain essential conditions are available. First, a teaching master must be found. It will not be enough to find an illumined man. We will feel peace and uplift in his presence, but these will fade away after leaving his presence. Such a man will be a phenomenon to admire and an inspiration to remember, not a guide to instruct, to warn, and to lead from step to step. Second, we must be able to live continuously with the teaching master until we have finished the course and reached the goal. Few aspirants have the freedom to fulfil the second condition, for circumstances are hard to control, and fewer still have the good fortune to fulfil the first one, for a competent, willing, and suitably circumstanced teaching master is a rarity. These are two of the reasons why philosophy asserts that a combination of both the Long and Short Paths is the only practical means for a modern Western aspirant to adopt. If, lured by the promise of sudden attainment or easy travelling, he neglects the Long Path, the passage of time will bring him to self-deception or frustration or disappointment or moral decline. For his negative characteristics will rise and overpower him, the lack of preparation and development will prevent him from realizing in experience the high-level teachings he is trying to make his own, while the impossibility of balancing himself under such circumstances will upset or rob him of whatever gains he may still make.

The Long Path of the Yoga discipline is occupied with the cleansing and correction of his sins but the Short Path's affirmation brings their forgiveness. The first way is self-reproachful and sadly repentant. The second is self-relaxing and cheerfully untroubled. The philosophic student must learn to combine these two parts in his mental outlook and to use this double method in his practical approach.

The Long Path expresses a partial truth. The Short Path expresses another--although higher--partial truth. Bring the two parts together and the result will be that whole truth which man must have for the adequate guidance of his life.

The Long Path is needed to make a man or woman ripe for receiving truth, but only the Short Path can lead to it. This is the answer to the dilemma created by the claims of the Wu Wei school. Its practical application is: act as the Long Path requires by working on and improving the self, but think as the Short Path enjoins by holding the attitude "There is nothing to be attained. Realization is already here and now!"

When the Overself is present in a man's consciousness, it is present in all his thoughts and actions. They are then under Its rule, they proceed from It. The man does not have to seek for any particular virtues, for all can and will then come of themselves as needed. Only then is any virtue solidly established. But until this presence is permanently secured, it would be foolish to cease working upon oneself, correcting oneself, improving oneself. A merely intellectual and theoretical acquaintance with this doctrine is inadequate. It is necessary until then to practise a coexistence of Short and Long Paths.

The yogi--especially the yogi of the Southern Buddhist sect--who refuses to accept this Vedantic view, refuses unconsciously to accept the forgiveness of his karma. For if he were to practise identifying himself with the infinite being, the resultant inundation and dissolution of his ego would wash his sins away. The attitude of guilt and the feeling of being a miserable sinner, the mood of repentance and remorse, are useful and necessary at certain times and stages but are obstructive and harmful at the wrong time or the wrong stage. It is also sinful to reject forgiveness when it is available. The fact is that the Long Path is incomplete without the Short one.

There is no compulsive necessity, as most advocates of one or the other side seem to believe there is, to choose fully and finally between them, no real need to reject the one because the other is accepted. We may go along with the Vedantins and say that the One alone is real. But we may also go along with the dualists and say that the world around us and the human being are, in another sense, also real! It is quite fruitless to bring the two views into fanatical controversy with one another, far more useful to bring them into amicable relation. Why divide them when they serve us so well when reconciled?

Every time there is an attempt to communicate these truths by speech or in writing--let alone teach them to disciples--there is a falsification of the Vedantic tenet that there are no others! Then why do the Vedantists preach, teach, lecture, and write? Does this not show the utter impracticality of their position, true though it is as an ultimate metaphysical one?

The bliss that meditation practice at its deepest brings to a developed yogi does not annihilate the pain that the same yogi may feel when he resumes his ordinary active condition. Ramana Maharshi himself mentioned this quite a few times.

Iso Upanishad: "They enter the region of the dark who are occupied solely with the finite. But they fall into a region of still greater darkness who are occupied solely with the Infinite."

Nonduality in its extreme form is not to the taste of the masses. Instinctively they shy away from it. Let the two views accommodate each other. While these levels of reference ought not to be mixed together when theory and principles are concerned, there is one way in which there is considerable profit to be gained if the timeless eternal and universal atmosphere of Vedanta is kept at the back of the mind when the worldly problems have to be met. They can be met with this remembrance that one's true being is, and will be, safe and unaffected, and that whatever decision or action we are called to make, the first thing is to keep calm.

Each side--dualist and nondualist--is quite correct when they apply their teaching in its proper place, but quite wrong when they misapply. Thus, dualists who offer dualism as ultimate are wrong, but then nondualist Vedantists are also misconceiving the proper application of their tenets when they insist on applying their "no world exists, no ego exists" doctrine to human life generally.

The short path-long path, once understood, becomes a key to the solution of many problems and to the answer of many questions of Questers.

Those who depend solely on the Short Path without being totally ready for it take too much for granted and make too much of a demand. This is arrogance. Instead of opening the door, such an attitude can only close it tighter. Those who depend solely on the Long Path take too much on their shoulders and burden themselves with a purificatory work which not even an entire lifetime can bring to an end. This is futility. It causes them to evolve at a slower rate. The wiser and philosophic procedure is to couple together the work on both paths in a regularly alternating rhythm, so that during the course of a year two totally different kinds of results begin to appear in the character and the behaviour, in the consciousness and the understanding. After all, we see this cycle everywhere in Nature, and in every other activity she compels us to conform to it. We see the alternation of sleep with waking, work with rest, and day with night.

The danger in both cases is in limiting one's efforts to the single path. It may invite disaster to give up trying to improve character just because one has taken to the Short Path. Yet it may invite frustration to limit one's efforts to such improvement. The wise balance which philosophy suggests is not to stop with either the Short or the Long Path but to use both together.

This balanced objective which philosophy seeks calls for a balanced approach to it. The mind's dwelling on personal weaknesses and shortcomings in the ego must be compensated by its remembrance of the strength and harmony in the Overself. It is as needful for the aspirant to practise disidentifying himself from the ego as it is to practise identifying himself with the Overself.

If the Short Path is not to end in fanaticism, extremism, self-delusion, or paranoia, the cultivation of balance is essential. This is why it is called the razor-edge path. The balance here required is to couple it sufficiently with the Long Path.

Such a double practice of the Short and Long Paths will not only lead to a fuller and better balanced progress but also to a quicker one. For these two opposite activities will work upon him in a reciprocal way. His faults will be ground to powder between them, as if they were millstones.

On the Long Path he has used various forms of practice. Now at the portals of the Short Path, he may intermittently and temporarily discard them and then just as intermittently and temporarily practise them. In this manner he can unite the two paths.

Although the Short Path offers quicker results to the seeker, he dare not withdraw from the Long one without suffering the penalty for his unwisdom.

The advocates of the Long Path claim that the mind must be trained and the heart must be cleansed before enlightenment is possible. The advocates of the Short Path claim that it is sufficient to deny the ego and affirm the higher self. The philosopher studies the facts revealed by observation and research and concludes that the methods of both schools must be united if enlightenment is not only to be lastingly attained but also not to fall short of its perfect state.

Just as we have two viewpoints in philosophy--the immediate and the ultimate--so we have two paths to the philosophic goal--the Long and the Short. This double emphasis is not peculiar to philosophy for it may be found in Nature too.

It is true that the Long Path is only a preliminary one and that the Short Path is certainly a more advanced one. But it is also true that each is incomplete without the other. The best plan is to adopt as much of both paths as the aspirant can.

When one line of spiritual development is overemphasized, the need for the other line becomes existent but not often apparent.

The Long Path is splattered with discouragements. Only those who have sought to change themselves, to remold their characters, to deny their weaknesses, know what it is to weep in dissatisfaction over their failures. This is why the Short Path of God-remembrance is also needed. For with this second path to fulfil and complete the first one, Grace may enter into the battle at any moment and with it victory will suddenly end the struggles of many years, forgiveness will suddenly wipe out their mistakes.

Without this conquest of the lower nature no enlightenment can remain either a lasting or an unmixed one. And without suitable disciplines, no such conquest is possible. This is one reason why it is not enough to travel the Short Path.

People who think they have a number of faults may use that as an excuse to become passive and not try. But the combination is necessary. The danger of the Short Path is that he comes to think: "I am enlightened and have nothing more to do." It is another form of the ego. This happens often on the Short Path. So a balance between the Long and Short paths is most important.

The path of dealing with his shortcomings one by one is not only too long, too slow, but also incomplete and negative. It is concerned with what not to be and not to do. This is good, but it is not enough. It pertains to the little ego. He must add to it the path of remembering his higher all-self. This is a positive thing. More, it brings the Grace which finishes the work he has already started. It carries him from the ego's past into the Overself's Eternal New.

Wisdom counsels us to begin the Quest with the Long Path. When we have gone some distance on it, we may add the Short Path, changing the emphasis from one to the other by turns. This intermittent approach sets up a kind of reciprocal rhythm. The improvement of character opens the door of sensitivity a little wider to intuition, and the improved intuition helps to exalt character.

To all those who come to such a teacher for lessons in philosophy, he makes it plain that unless they are willing to discipline themselves on all three levels--physical, emotional, mental--he cannot teach them; that is, unless they are willing to follow the Long Path also.

The Long Path is paradoxically both a complement to the Short one and a preparation for it. It must first be practised alone. Only after some advance has been made can the time come for them to be practised conjointly.

A man cannot look in two directions at one and the same time. He may look at himself, his ego, or he may turn away and look above, at his Overself. In the latter case, if he has sufficiently thinned away the obstructions to it, grace may descend and lift his ego up to unite with his Overself. Then, and then alone, he will be able to live in both.

Both the austerity of the Long Path and the gaiety of the Short Path are needed: the first, if we are to endure life; the second, if we are to enjoy it.

The Long Path makes us look into ourselves and into our past for several of the sources of our present conditions. But in doing so, its revelations may discourage us, quenching hope and effort for self-improvement. Yet this would be to misuse them, so the Short Path corrects our attitude.

Let it be clear that the attempt to try the Short Path alone is not being decried. What is being said is that the likelihood of failure is great and that even if success is won, it will be a one-sided, ill-balanced, narrow thing.

The situation here is much the same as that which attends artistic creation. There are those who say that technique is everything and inspiration is illusory. There are others who say that inspiration is everything and technique is nothing. Is this not similar to the situation in spiritual circles, where the yoga school makes individual virtue and effort the price of enlightenment, and the opposing school makes waiting for inspiration and grace the price?

Whichever course he takes, let him not despise the other one. That is a mistake that only beginners make.

Ramana Maharshi was quite right. Pruning the ego of some faults will only be followed by the appearance and growth of new faults! Of what use is it so long as the ego remains alive? Hence the failure of mankind's moral history to show any real progress over the past three thousand years, despite the work of Buddha, Jesus, and other Messiahs. The correct course, which has always been valid for the individual, is just as valid for all mankind--get at the root, the source, the ego itself. But although Maharshi was right, his teaching gives only part of Truth's picture. Presented by itself, and without the other part, it is not only incomplete but may even become misleading. By itself it seems to indicate that there is no need to work on our specific weaknesses, that they can be left untouched while we concentrate on the essential thing--rooting out the ego. But where are the seekers who can straightaway and successfully root it out? For the very strength of purpose and power of concentration needed for this uprooting will be sapped by their faults.

There is a curious statement in Tao Teh Ching (49:I) that the Tao proceeds by contraries or by what it elsewhere calls rhythm. How does this affect the aspirant who is trying to attain harmony with it? The explanation is to be found in the need of including both the Long and Short paths, in the concentration upon opposites that the full and complete Quest requires.

There is this difference when the Long Path is entered alone and when it is entered with the accompaniment of the Short one, that in the second case there is added the light of guidance, the protection of peace, the acceleration of progress, and the harmony of equilibrium.

They are not really opposed to each other, but are in fact complementary. If the Long Path is a steep uphill climb, the Short Path is its sunny side.

He has to keep this inner stability and peace through times of public disaster or private distress. Long Path practices will help him attain it, but only intermittently. It is the Short Path which alone can establish it durably.

When concern with the ego-correcting requirements of the Long Path overrides concern with the ego-transcending requirements of the Short Path, it is time to take a fresh look at one's position.

The Middle Way is to synthesize the two teachings, to find a standpoint midway between them, to take from both what is needful for this attainment and what is appropriate to the circumstances.

Must he work through the Long Path's full cycle of study, discipline, self-betterment, and exercises before he tries the Short Path? No--not necessarily. It was the opinion of Govindandana Bharati, the sage who died in Nepal in 1963, that both could and should be followed simultaneously.

It is better, and brings life more into right balance, if both are followed simultaneously. But even so, in most cases it will be found necessary to emphasize the Long Path's practice of disciplines and cultivation of virtues.

There is a danger of becoming too preoccupied with concentration on self-improvement. A balance must be kept. To achieve this, he should also concentrate on the Self and the Non-Dual Impersonal Void-All. And he should do so joyously, happily. This is why the Short Path must balance the Long one.

The twofold way is indispensable: on the one hand the way of self-effort, working to overcome the ego, and on the other the way of Grace, through constantly seeking to remember your true identity in the Overself.

The Long and Short paths can no more be separated from one another than the two sides of a coin or the two poles of a magnet. Each would be meaningless without the other and therefore belongs to the other.

The two paths must not be kept separate in practice, whatever they are in theory. The beginner will naturally put his emphasis on the Long Path, the proficient on the Short Path, but neither can afford to neglect one or the other path without perils and dangers or futilities and disappointments marking his way.

In theory the long path ought to precede the short path, but in actual practice such precedent endures for a limited time only, and then both paths are to be followed simultaneously.

If these two aspects of the Quest are followed properly and sufficiently, the Overself awareness will emerge in the very centre of his being quite naturally, if briefly, and with increasing repetition.

The question of conduct cannot arise where consideration is given to the ultimate nonduality alone; but on the practical plane, in the sphere of I and Thou, ethics must inevitably enter into considerations.

The self-power of the Long Path must be balanced by the other-power of the Short Path.

The following of both paths can be done either together, with the Long one subordinated to the Short one, or alternating in periods of a duration decided at the time according to the urge within himself.

It is neither wholly a self-salvational teaching nor a vicarious God-salvational one but a balanced union of both by insight.

"Be still and know that I am God" is the key to the enigma of truth, for it sums up the whole of the Short Path. Paradox is the final revelation. For this is "non-doing." Rather is it a "letting-be," a non-interference by your egoistic will, a silencing of all the mental agitation and effort.

If he begins by testing philosophy as a way of life, he must end by establishing it as such. But this settling down needs time, until he realizes that time itself is illusory. He may then assert the "Now-Here" attitude.

Once we become conscious of this truth the scales fall from our eyes. We give up our bondage to the erroneous belief in limitation. We refuse to entertain this false thought that there is some lofty condition to be attained in the far future. We are resolute that the Self shall recognize itself now. For what shall we wait? Let us stack all our thoughts upon the Reality, and hold them there as with a spike; it will not elude us, and the thoughts will dissolve and vanish into air, leaving us alone with the beauty and sublimity of the Self.

Just as a child has to learn the art of writing by slow degrees, so the student has to free his mind from erroneous views and to train his habitual thought to hold to the remembrance of the True and the Real little by little. But just as the single manipulation of an electric light switch instantly reveals all the objects in a room, so suddenly the maturation of insight reveals the here-and-now actuality of the True and the Real.

The limitation of the Long Path is that it is concerned only with thinning down, weakening, and reducing the ego's strength. It is not concerned with totally deflating the ego. Since this can be done only by studying the ego's nature metaphysically, seeing its falsity, and recognizing its illusoriness, which is not even done by the Short Path, then all the endeavours of the Short Path to practise self-identification with the Overself are merely using imagination and suggestion to create a new mental state that, while imitating the Overself's state, does not actually transcend the ego-mind but exists within it still. So a third phase becomes necessary, the phase of getting rid of the ego altogether; this can be done only by the final dissolving operation of Grace, which the man has to request and to which he has to give his consent. To summarize the entire process, the Long Path leads to the Short Path, and the Short Path leads to the Grace of an unbroken egoless consciousness.

The sun's warmth and beauty brings out the flower's growth. It does not strive, struggle, or push. This is a good simile of the Short Path's final phase, taught also in the Chinese doctrine of wu-wei (inaction) and the Indian doctrine of asparsa yoga (without-effort method).

To live neither in the present nor in the future but in the eternal calls for a power of self-mastery that is extremely rare and for a perseverance in self-reform that is truly heroic.

The end of the quest is the end of the quester. No longer does he identify Being with the little routine self, awareness with the ordinary ego.

Lao Tzu teaches that Tao will do it all--so let be, let Tao act in its own way and its own time and without your fretting anxiously trying everything--it's not necessary.

He gives each moment the best that is in him, and so living from moment to moment becomes a glorious adventure.

Do not lament the difficulty of bringing about this basic change in thinking. The Overself is there. Believe in it.

The voice of the Overself is as clear as the voice of Jesus: "Go and sin no more, thy sins are forgiven thee." Do not weigh yourself down with perpetual self-reproach and recurring feelings of guilt.

Whereas the yogas of the East and the occultisms of the West were communicated according to the capability of the others to receive, or to their qualifications and development, these things do not enter the picture here. What is given out is given freely to all. Jesus is not a teacher assigning marks at an examination, he is a benevolent philanthropist! Salvation is taken out of the ego's hands altogether; the only requirement is "Do Nothing, for that will be ego-doing."

With the withdrawal from all outward-directed attachments, he becomes aware of his own inner self. With the awareness of his own real Self, all outgoing attachments drop away from him. Thus by whichever of these two paths he approaches the goal, it merges in the end with the other one.

The notion that the truth will be gained, that happiness will be achieved, that the Overself will be realized at the end of a long attempt must be seen as an illusory one. Truth, happiness, and the Overself must be seen in the Present, not the future, at the very beginning of his quest, not the end, here and now. It is not a matter of time. This is because time is a trick the mind plays on itself; because the past, the present, and the future are all rolled into one eternal NOW; because what is to happen has already happened.

The more he practises identifying himself with the timeless Now (not the passing "now"), the more he works for true freedom from besetting passions and dragging attachments. This is the Short Path, more heroic perhaps but in the end much pleasanter than the Long Path.

Why all this effort to be wiser than you are, little man? Why not savour the Oriental contentment of accepting what Nature has given you? Why disturb yourself with such strivings and broodings?

These are perilous questions to put to young ardent souls, eager to prepare themselves for the life that stretches ahead of them. But they are questions which the quester of many years must come to in the end.

It was said in Palestine that those who seek shall find. But it was also said in India that those who do not seek shall find.

He who finds that the Path has vanished, that he can say, "I am neither seeking truth, nor finding it," has reached the Short Path even though he does not know it.

Why wait for a realization always deferred to an ever-receding future? Bless the present hour, and thus every hour of your life!

Those who look for advancement by looking for inner experiences or for discoveries of new truth do well. But they need to understand that all this is still personal, still something that concerns the ego even if it be the highest and best part of the ego. Their greatest advance will be made when they cease holding the wish to make any advance at all, cease this continual looking at themselves, and instead come to a quiet rest in the simple fact that God is, until they live in this fact alone. That will transfer their attention from self to Overself and keep them seeing its presence in everyone's life and its action in every event. The more they succeed in holding to this insight, the less will they ever be troubled or afraid or perplexed again; the more they recognize and rest in the divine character, the less will they be feverishly concerned about their own spiritual future.

The real Short Path is really the discovery that there is no path at all: only a being still and thus letting the Overself do the work needed. This is the meaning of grace.

The sense of time's pressure which spurs the Long Path follower disappears from the Short Path follower. He becomes careless of time and squanders it shamelessly, as if he has INFINITE LEISURE.

He no longer feels any desire to reform the world or to improve himself. He accepts both just as they are.

The last phase of the Short Path has no special procedure, no specialized method. Life is its Way, or, as the Chinese sage said, "Usual life is very Tao."

Let even the Short Path go, at the proper moment, and sit loosely to life.

Wu Wei has a double meaning: first, letting Life, Mind, act through you by yourself, becoming still, thought-free, and empty of ego--you are then not doing anything, but being done to, being used; second, pursuing truth impersonally. The usual ways seek personal attainment, achievement, salvation. The aspirant thinks or speaks of "my mind" or "my purification" or "my progress"; hence such ways are self-enclosed, egoistic. Whatever repression of ego that there is occurs only on the surface and merely drives it down to hide in the subconscious, whence it will re-emerge later. These methods are Long Path ones, hence are destined to end in futility and despair. The deeper way of Wu Wei is to lose the ego by doing nothing to seek truth or to improve oneself; adopting no practice; following no path. The Short Path turns realization over to Overself so that it is not your concern any longer. This does not mean that you do not care whether you find truth or not, but that whereas ordinary care for it arises out of desire of the ego or anxiety of the ego or egoistic need of comfort, escape, or relief, Short Path care arises out of the stillness of mind, the serenity of faith, and the acceptance of the universe.

Chuang Tzu's assertion that the self must be shaped quite undeliberately "like Tao itself" is the Short Path's "naturalness" advocated here.

"The kingdom of God is within you." We may rightly take the simple meaning of this sentence, its pointer towards the place and the practice of meditation. But there is a second meaning, seldom understood, its pointer towards time and immediacy: the kingdom is here and now.

For the practitioner of the Short Path, sahaja, the quest is no longer for something remote from everyday life, nor for something wrapped around with mystery. When André Gide wrote, "People ought to talk about God only naturally," he, the non-mystical humanist, wrote more wisely than he knew.

Why create needless frustrations by an overeager attitude, by overdoing spiritual activity? You are in the Overself's hands even now and if the fundamental aspiration is present, your development will go on without your having to be anxious about it. Let the burden go. Do not become a victim of too much suggestion got from reading too much spiritual literature creating an artificial conception of enlightenment, just as too much reading of medical literature by a layman may make him the victim of hypochondriac tendencies. Do not be satisfied with the self-conscious spirituality which comes from forced growth and harsh unnatural asceticisms, or from egocentrically watching personal progress. That is a better and truer spirituality which is natural, as natural as waking from sleep; which is unforced, because not the result of following technique and practising exercises; which is unconscious, growing and blooming as the flower does; which is drawn by the Overself's beauty and warmth and peace.

It is an error, although a reasonable one, to believe that attainment comes only when the whole distance of this path has been travelled. This is to make it depend on measurement, calculation--that is, on the ego's own effort, management, and control. On the contrary, attainment depends on relinquishment of the ego, and hence of the idea of progress which accompanies it. It is then that a man can be still; then that he can, as the Bible promises, "know that I am God."

"Make tomorrow today"--this is the injunction of the Short Path teaching.

None of us can do more for our spiritual growth than to get out of its way! This business of trying to do something with the mind or practise some exercise with the body in order to come closer to the Overself is based on the Long Path belief that it is we who have the power to attain that desire and desirable state. But instead of trying to reach the Overself, why not let the Overself reach us? This can be done only if we will get out of its way.

Bodhidharma was asked, "How can one get into Tao?" The answer was: "Outwardly all activities cease, inwardly the mind stops its panting."

We need the spiritual assurance which looks for enlightenment not in some long-drawn-out future but today.

The world is carried in the mind and, ultimately, is the mind. But in trying to extend this knowledge of what the world is, to what the mind is, we make it into a second thing, an object apart, and fail to find it, for this it is not. So if looking for it cannot lead to awareness of it, ceasing to look for it is the first step. This is the same as taking to the Short Path.

It may properly be said that no man ever comes to the end of this Search. But that is because he one day comes to know that the seeking attitude is itself one of the last obstacles, and must be dropped.

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.