"How am I to start upon this process of true self-knowledge?" The answer begins with this: first adopt the right attitude. Believe in the divinity of your deeper self. Stop looking elsewhere for light, stop wandering hither and thither for power. Your intelligence has become falsified through excessive attention to external living, hence you are not even aware in which direction to look when you seek for the real Truth. You are not even aware that all you need can be obtained by the power within, by the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient Self. You have to change, first of all, the line of thought and faith which pleads helplessly: "I am a weak man; I am unlikely to rise any higher than my present level; I live in darkness and move amid opposing environments that overwhelm me." Rather should you engrave on your heart the high phrases: "I possess illimitable power within me; I can create a diviner life and truer vision than I now possess." Do this and then surrender your body, your heart and mind to the Infinite Power which sustains all. Strive to obey Its inward promptings and then declare your readiness to accept whatsoever lot it assigns you. This is your challenge to the gods and they will surely answer you. Your soul will be slowly or suddenly liberated; your body will be granted a freer pathway through conditions. You may have to be prepared for a few changes before the feet find rest, but always you shall find that the Power in which you have placed an abiding trust does not go into default.
Because he believes that self-improvement, the bettering of man's nature, is quite possible, he believes in the quest.
Each man should be himself, not represent and copy another man. But he should be his best self, not his worst, his lower, his lesser. This calls for growth, aspiration, effort, on his part. That is to say, it calls for a quest.
Who is willing to work upon himself? Who even feels that he has any duty to do so? Yet this simple acknowledgment could lead to the discovery of God.
The student of true philosophy is more intent on growth than on study.
He who learns the essence of spiritual questing and the basic need in practical living, learns that he must come into command of himself.
Out of his present self he is to evolve a better one and to actualize his higher possibilities.
The divine spirit is always there in man, has always been there; but until he cultivates his capacity to become aware of it, it might as well be non-existent for him.
The Overself is always there; it has never left us, but it has to be ardently, lovingly, and subtly searched for.
He must carry the idea of "I" to a deeper level of identification.
Why is it that despite all the visible and touchable counter-attractions, despite the innumerable failures and long years of fruitlessness, so many men have sought through so many ages in so many lands for God, for what is utterly intangible, unnameable, shapeless, unseen, and unheard? Because the simple but astonishing fact is that the Overself, which is the presence of God in them, is part of their nature as human beings! Mysticism is nothing more than the methodical attempt to wake up to this fact. The "soul" which metaphysics points to in reasoning, mysticism establishes in experience. We all need to feel the divine presence. Even the man who asserts that he does not is no exception. For he indirectly finds it just the same in spite of himself but under limited forms like aesthetic appreciation or Nature's inspiration. Even if all contemporary mystics were to die out, even if not a single living man were to be interested in mysticism, even if all mystical doctrines were to disappear from human memory and written record, the logic of evolution would bring back both the teaching and the practice. They are two of those historical necessities which are certain to be regained in the course of humanity's cultural progress.
Because the Overself is already there within him in all its immutable sublimity, man has not to develop it or perfect it. He has only to develop and perfect his ego until it becomes like a polished mirror, held up to and reflecting the sacred attributes of the Overself, and showing openly forth the divine qualities which had hitherto lain hidden behind itself.
The distinction between his lower self and his higher self will slowly become clear to him through inner experience and reflection thereon.
What, in a general way, is missing in his development as a human being moving on from animality to a higher Awareness must be supplied.
By such meditation and study the mind returns, like a circle, upon itself, with the result that when this movement is successfully completed, it knows itself in its deepest divinest phase.
That which appears as the spiritual seeker engaged on a Quest is itself the spiritual self that is being sought.
We have not to become divine for we are divine. We have, however, to think and do what is divine.
This identification with the best Self in us is the ideal set for all men, to be realized through long experience and much suffering or through accepting instruction, following revelation, unfolding intuition, practising meditation, and living wisely. And this best Self is not the most virtuous part of our character--though it may be one of the sources of that virtue--but the deepest part of our being, underneath the thoughts which buzz like bees and the emotions which express our egotism. A sublime stillness reigns in it. There in that stillness, is our truest identity.
Each human being has a specific work to do--to express the uniqueness that is himself. It can be delegated to no one else. In doing it, if he uses the opportunity aright, he may be led to the great Uniqueness which is super-personal, beyond his ego and behind all egos.
As he develops more intelligence and subtler perceptions, he will wake up from being merely a conventional puppet and become a real person at last.
Even while he travels on this quest he should habitually remind himself of an easily forgotten truth--that what he travels to is inside himself, is the very essence of himself.
Beneath your everyday self lies a giant--an unsuspected self of infinite possibilities.
Within is mastery, within is colossal power--but you have not yet touched it. However little you have so far accomplished you can still do big things.
Our inmost being is a world of light, of joy, of power. To find it, and to hold ourselves in it, is to become blessed by these things. That this is a scientific fact valid everywhere on earth and not a debatable assumption, can be ascertained and proven if we will achieve the required personal fitness. Without such fitness, we must be content with belief in the theoretical statement or with passing glimpses.
Because there is something of God in me as the Overself, godlike qualities and capacities are in me. I am essentially wise, powerful, loving; but to the extent that I identify myself with the little ego, I obscure these grand qualities. I have the power to work creatively on my environment as well as on the body in which I am housed, just as the World-Mind, the Creative Spirit, works on the universe.
A man who wants to pursue this quest will have to become a different man--different from what he was in the past because the old innate tendencies have to be replaced by new ones, and different from other men because he must refuse to be led unresistingly into the thoughtlessness, the irreverence, and the coarseness which pervade them.
It is not only a moral change that is called for but also a mental one, not only a physical but also a metaphysical one.
There is no need to let go of his humanness in order to find his divine essence, but only of its littleness, its satisfaction with trivial aims.
Such a man cannot rest satisfied with the littleness that sees nothing beyond its own greed and desire. He will be haunted by higher ideals than the ordinary; he will want to be finer, cleaner, better, and nobler human material than the common one.
If in the end we have to walk this earth on our own feet, why not begin to do so now? Why continue to cultivate our weakness when we could cultivate our strength?
Where there is no attempt at self-improvement there is inevitable deterioration. Nature does not let us stand still.
The application of these ideals is hard, but let no one deceive himself into thinking that their nonapplication is much easier. Those who live without such life-purposes are subject to troubles that could have been avoided and to afflictions of their own making.
It is easy to drift, as so many others do, through a life of self-indulgence. It is hard to try continually to practise a life of self-control. Yet the deferred penalties of the first course are painful, the consequent rewards of the second course are satisfying.
The gaining of such flashes has been accidental. It should stimulate us to know that if we want to make it deliberate, there is a detailed technique, ready at hand for the purpose. Sages who know how and why these flashes come have formulated the technique for the benefit of those who want to elevate themselves.
From the first day that he began to tread this path, he automatically assumed the responsibility of growth. Henceforth there had to be continuity of effort, an ever-extending line of self-improvement.
"The prize will not be sent to you. You win it," says Emerson.
No one except the man himself can develop the needed qualities and practise them.
If he wishes to enter the portal of philosophy he will most likely begin with others, with what philosophers have thought and taught; but in the end he must make a second beginning--with himself. He will have to re-examine his own psyche, his own personality, but from a detached position, standing far to one side. He will have to decide each hour of each day how to apply the truth, gathered from books and teachers, to the events, duties, occasions, and thoughts of that day.
Effort at self-improvement and self-development, consciously and deliberately made, is an indispensable requirement. All talk of dispensing with it because one has surrendered to a master is self-deceiving. All avoidance of it is self-disappointing in the end.
He cannot shift the burden of responsibility from off his shoulders so easily as that. It remains inalienably his own by virtue of his membership in the human race.
He must begin to cease living at second hand, to help himself, to try his own powers, or he will never grow.
The responsibility for his spiritual development lies squarely upon his own shoulders. In trying to evade it, either by getting a master to carry it or by making a Short Path leap into enlightenment, he indulges in an illusion.
The truth cannot be had by muttering a mantram ad infinitum although that may yield a curious kind of transient relief from thoughts which chase one another. Nor may it be had by paying one week's income to a guru.
If a man is determined to succeed in this enterprise and optimistically believes that he will succeed, his efforts will increase and be strengthened, chances will be taken from which he would otherwise shrink; and even if he falls short of his hopes, the going is likely to be farther. What Ramana Maharshi said to me at our first meeting is apposite: "That is the surest way to handicap oneself," he exclaimed, "this burdening of one's mind with the fear of failure and the thought of one's failings. The greatest error of a man is to think that he is weak by nature. . . . One can and must conquer."
This is the ideal, but to translate it into the actual, to assert it in the midst and against the opposition of a grossly materialistic environment, calls for firmness and determination.
Let him not be satisfied with the amount of true knowledge he has got, nor with the quality of personal character which he has developed. Let him press forward to the more and better.
If, instead of merely daydreaming about it, or else attempting to obtain help from outer sources, the student would listen to and be guided by the promptings of his inner self, he would vastly hasten his progress on the Quest.
Social betterment is a good thing but it is not a substitute for self-betterment. Love of one's neighbour is an excellent virtue but it cannot displace the best of all virtues, love of the divine soul.
The man who is discontented with the world as he finds it and sets out to improve it, must begin with himself. There is authority for this statement in the life-giving ideas of Jesus as well as in the light-giving words of Gautama.
He has enough to do with the discovery and correction of his own deficiencies or weaknesses, not to meddle in criticism of other people's.
He can best use his critical faculties by turning them on himself rather than on others.
Progress in self-evolvement on the Quest must be due to the individual's own efforts. It can be encouraged or fostered only in proportion to the same individual's wishes and needs. Other people, who are not interested in an inner search, are, at present, fulfilling their own karmic need for a particular variety of experience; it is neither advisable nor feasible to urge them to follow this path.
It is a worthwhile cause, this, and does not require us to interfere with others, to propagandize them or to reform them. Rather does it ask us to do these things to ourselves.
It is logical to assert that if every individual in a group is made better, the group of which he is a part will be made better. And what is human society but such a group? The best way to help it is to start with the individual who is under one's actual control--oneself--and better him. Do that, and it will then be possible to apply oneself to the task of bettering the other members of society, not only more easily but with less failure.
Few know where really to look for the truth. Most go for it to other men, to books, or to churches. But the few who know the proper direction turn around and look in that place where the truth is not only a living dynamic thing but is their own. And that is deep, deep within themselves.
The Holy Land, flowing with milk and honey, is within us but the wilderness that we have to cross before reaching it, is within us too.
The great sources of wisdom and truth, of virtue and serenity, are still within ourselves as they ever have been. Mysticism is simply the art of turning inwards in order to find them. Will, thought, and feeling are withdrawn from their habitual extroverted activities and directed inwards in this subtle search.
If you are looking for truth, it is not enough to look only at your own country's, your own religion's statement of it, nor just this century's. You need also to look elsewhere, to heed the wiser voices of other centuries and to feel free to move East and West or into b.c. as well as a.d. But above all these things you must look into the mystery of your own consciousness. Uncover its layer after layer until you meet the Overself. All this is included in the Quest.
Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus ask his followers to enter into a church but he does ask them, by implication, to enter within themselves.
To the extent that they stop looking outside themselves for the help and support and guidance they correctly feel they need, they will start looking inside and doing the needful inner work to come into conscious awareness of the power waiting there, the divine Overself. They themselves are inlets to it, never disconnected from it.
Why did Jesus warn men not to look for the Christ-self in the deserts or the mountain caves? It was for the same reasons that he constantly told them to look for it within themselves, and that he counselled them to be in the world but not of it.
Do not expect to find more truth and meaning in the world outside than you can find inside yourself.
Although the Infinite Spirit exists everywhere and anywhere, the paradox is that It cannot be found in that way before It has first been found in one's own heart. Yet it is also true that to find It in its fullness in the self inside, we have to understand the nature of the world outside.
He must start by believing that concealed somewhere within his mind there is the intuition of truth.
The only man you need for this great work is yourself. Stop looking outside and look within, for there is not only the material to work upon but also the god within to guide you.
We must find in our own inner resources the way to the blessed life.
The man of the world drinks and dances; the mystic thinks and trances.
Many men cannot find the higher truth because they insist on looking for it where it is not. They will not look within, hence they get someone else's idea of the truth. The other person may be correct but since this is to be known only by being it, the discovery must be made inside themselves.
He cannot know anyone else so well as himself. Why then try to know so many people so superficially when he can know only himself so deeply and truly?
The goal can be reached by using the resources in his own soul.
He should create from within himself and by his own efforts the strength, the wisdom, and the inspiration he needs.
The student must remember that success does not only come to him, it also comes from him. The plan of the road to achievement and the driving power to propel him along it must be found within himself.
Turning inward upon himself might be retiring to a fool's paradise or into a real one.
The truth will be given us: we shall not be left to starve for it. But it will be given according to our capacity to receive it.
Ideally, we learn the wisdom of life best, easiest, and most from teachers, from instruction by those who know the Way in its beginning and end. Actually, we have to learn it by ourselves, by our own experience, by self-expression, all necessary and valuable, suffering as well as joy.
Only when all of the mind--unconsciously evolved through the mineral, plant, animal, and lower human kingdoms--enters on the quest, does it consciously enter upon the development of its own consciousness.
This intellectual preparation and emotional purification is a task that strains man's faculties to the extreme. Nobody therefore need expect it to be other than a lifetime's task. Few even succeed in finishing it in a single lifetime--a whole series is required in most cases. Nature has taken a very long time to bring man to his present state, so she is in no hurry to complete his development in any particular reincarnation. Yet such is the mystery of grace, that this is always a grand possibility, always the sublime X-factor in every case. But the individual aspirant cannot afford to gamble with this chance, which, after all, is a rare one. He must rely on his personal efforts, on his own strivings, more than anything else, to bring him nearer to the desired goal.
The egoism which falsifies our true sense of being and the materialism which distorts our true sense of reality are maladies which can hardly be cured by our own efforts. Only by calling, in trust and love, on a higher power, whether it be embodied in another man or in ourself, can their mesmeric spell ultimately be broken. Yet it is our own efforts which first must initiate the cure.
Usually, it is by one's own efforts alone--but not excluding the possibility of Grace, however--that one develops the needed objectivity with which to correctly study himself and cultivate awareness.
To make progress inwardly is ultimately all that matters, everything else passes except the fruit of our spiritual efforts.
Mysticism is the theory and practice of a technique whereby man seeks to establish direct personal contact with spiritual being.
What exactly is the goal?
The ideal here is not set at becoming a sinless saint but at becoming an enlightened and balanced human being.
The ultimate point to be attained is full humanity. He alone who has developed on all sides in this way is fully human.
The aspirant's decision to aim for the highest Goal is the governing factor: if he sticks to this decision, he is bound to succeed sooner or later.
The question now arises: What is this Goal? It is the fulfilment of the Real Purpose of life, as apart from the lower purposes of earning a livelihood, rearing a family, and so forth. The aspirant will become fully Self-conscious--as aware of the divine Overself as he now is of his earthly body. And this achievement will be perpetual, not just a matter of occasional glimpses or fleeting intuitions. Even though the Quest has become more difficult under modern conditions, it has not become impossible. The timeworn means to this end must simply be brought up to date.
What are the means? They are thought, feeling, will, and intuition used in a special way. This constitutes the fourfold path, or Quest.
He has chosen a path to which he has been led both by instinct and by experience. As he tries to follow it, he will meet with all kinds of difficulties but he should not turn back. Because the interrelation of outward karma to inner character is so close, he should understand that these difficulties are linked up with his inner state, and that he begins to solve them by removing the imperfection of that inner state. He must understand that, although this goal is not easy to obtain, he must refuse to give up hope. The path is right by itself, and in allying himself with it, he is allying himself with what is, after all, the greatest force in the world.
How often have I heard, in talk or writing, that the philosophic requirements are set too high and are beyond average human compliance. My answer is that time and patience and work keep on pushing back the measure of what is possible to a man, that grace may fitfully bless him if he sustains effort and aspiration or recognizes opportunity and inspiration, and that these requirements are not set for immediate attainment but as an ultimate goal to be striven for little by little and to give correct direction to his life. "Hope on and hold on," I told Rom Landau at an outwardly dark and mentally depressed moment of his life. He did!--and later found himself, his own peace, and became in turn through his lectures and books a help to many fellow Christians.
The achievements of such personal self-sufficiency, of such detachment from the world of agitations and desires, is, he will say, something entirely superhuman. "Why ask frail mortals to look at such unclimbable peaks, such unattainable summits?" Philosophy answers, "Yes, the peaks are high, the summits do cause us to strain our necks upwards. But it is wrong to say that they are unclimbable. There is a way of climbing them, little by little, under competent guidance, and that way is called the Quest. True, it involves certain disciplines, but then, what is there in life worth getting which can be got without paying some price in self-discipline for it? The aim of these disciplines is to secure a better-controlled mind, a more virtuous life, and a more reverent fundamental mood."
Why is it that on the path we seem to meet students and aspirants only, not real teachers or genuine adepts? Why is it that so few ever seem to realize their spiritual selves? The answer is that the way is long and the game is hard, that the animal self is too strong and the human ego too foolish, and that the struggle against our innate bestiality and ignorance is too long-drawn and too beset with failures. This is what observation tells us. It may be saddening but by being realistic we at least know what to expect, what is the nature of the path we are undertaking, and what a tremendous patience we must bring to it.
He has come to a clearer knowledge of what the Quest means and what it will demand of him. The Quest of the divine soul has become his pole star. It was natural for him to feel repelled at first by the idea of overcoming the ego but now he sees its desirability. This will not mean giving it up in practical life however; for while he is in the flesh the ideal is to find a proper balance between egoism and altruism because he needs both. But because the individual's egoism is apt to be too big already and his altruism too small, religious teachers have usually deliberately over-emphasized subduing the ego. That is the moral side. On the philosophical side it is simply a matter of finding the Overself and letting it rule the ego thenceforth. Thus the ego is not killed but put back in its lower place. But first he has to become conscious of the Overself, he has to feel it as a living presence, and he has to do this throughout the day and night, awake or asleep. That is the goal. It is not really as hard as it sounds. For the divine self is always there within him, it is never absent from him, not even for a second. It is the unfailing witness of all his efforts and aspirations. When he has tried hard enough and long enough it will suddenly shed all its Grace upon him.
It is not wrong to aspire toward happiness but, on the contrary, our human duty. Those who, in the name of Spirituality, would turn life into a gloomy affair are entitled to their opinion but they cannot justly be called philosophers.
Every man will be forced to realize his own sacredness in the end: then only will his search for happiness find fulfilment.
Swami Vivekananda's works can be recommended as being authentic fruits of realization that come close to the doctrine here discussed, albeit his path was not the same. The Quest follows a double line of development: mind-stilling plus mind-stimulating, each in its proper place. And the ultimate goal is to discover that there is but one reality, of which all are but a part, that the separateness of the personal ego is but superficial, and that Truth is evidenced by the consciousness of unity. The first fruit of such discovery is necessarily the dedication of life to the service of all creatures, to incessant service for universal welfare. Hence, in this light, the yogi who has withdrawn into cave or forest is on a lower plane--good for him as a phase of his personal development but useless to those who must live truth, the truth of unity.
To forget self but to remember Overself--it is as simple as that, and also as hard as that.
Not to find the Energy of the Spirit but the Spirit itself is the ultimate goal. Not its powers or effects or qualities or attributes but the actuality of pure being. The aspirant is not to stop short with any of these but to push on.
That which few men value and few men find is nevertheless the most worthwhile thing for which to search. What is it? It is what once found cannot be lost, once seen must be loved, and once felt awakens all that is best in a man.
It is not the knowing of the Overself that he is to get so much as the knowing that is the Overself.
He comes at last to full consciousness of his inner being, his soul--in the correct sense of a word that is not often understood and which is used by people without knowing what they really mean.
If the distant goal of this quest is the discovery of true being, this does not exclude and ought not to exclude the fullest growth of the human being, the widest realization of his best capacities, making patent what is latent.
It is a prime purpose of the Quest to create a true individuality where, at present, there is only a pseudo one. For those who are at the mercy of their automatic responses of attraction or repulsion by environment, whose minds are molded by external influences and educational suggestions, are not individuals in any real sense.
The lotus, that lovely Oriental flower, is much used as a symbol of the goal we have to gain. It grows in mud but is not even spotted by it. It rests on water but is never even stained by it. Its colour is pure white in striking contrast to the dirty surroundings which are its home. So the disciple's inner life must be undefiled, unstained, and pure even though his outer life is perforce carried on under the most materialistic surroundings or among the most sensual people.
He has to seek for the mysterious essence of himself, which is something he touches at rare, blessed, and unforgettable moments. It allures because it is also the Perfect, ever sought but never found in the world outside.
The thirst for perfection is certainly present within us. This thirst is a pointer to its eventual slaking. But there is no necessary implication that this will be attained whilst we are in the flesh and on a level of existence where everything is doomed, as Buddha points out, to decay and death. It is more likely to be done on a higher level where such limitations could not exist. The perfection we seek and the immortality we hope for are more likely to be mental rather than physical achievements. For all mystics are at least agreed that there is such a level of untainted, purely spiritual being.
The fundamental task of man is first to free himself of animalist and egotist tyrannies, and second, to evolve into awareness of his spiritual self.
The goal is to free himself from meshes and fetters, to bring all the forces of his being under mastery.
The aim is to emancipate himself from earthly bondage, to redeem himself from animal enslavement.
His quest can come to an end only when the unveiled Truth is seen, not in momentary glimpses, but for the rest of his lifetime without a break.
We have to bring this awareness of the Overself as a permanent and perpetual feature into active life.
It is perpetual abidance in the divine that is to be sought.
Many are satisfied if they can attain just a glimpse of the Overself. But a few are not. They seek permanent abidance in the Overself, and that in the greatest possible degree.
But the main object of the quest is, after all, not these secondary betterments in bodily health, nerve, character, self-control--welcome as they are--but the discovery of truth and the living within the presence of the divine.
There is no such thing as an ever-receding goal on the Ultimate Path because there are not ten or twenty ultimate truths. There is only a single, final truth. This is the objective on this path and once he knows it he has attained the goal.
We must reflect in mind and act the true being of man.
If they think the goal of all this endeavour is merely to become frozen into a passivity which never expresses itself and a contentment which never sees the miseries, the disasters, or the tragedies of life, they are mistaken.
He seeks to fulfil a steady purpose which remains and is not an emotional froth which abates and later vanishes.
There are two paths laid out for the attainment, according to the teaching of Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. The first path is union with the Higher Self--not, as some believe, with the Logos. But because the Higher Self is a ray from the Logos, it is as near as a human being can get to it anyway. The second path has its ultimate goal in the Absolute, or as I have named it in my last book, the Great Void. But neither path contradicts the other, for the way to the second path lies through the first one. Therefore, there is no cleavage in the practices. Both goals are equally desirable because both bring man into touch with Reality. It would be quite proper for anyone to stop with the first one if he wishes; but for those who appreciate the philosophic point of view, the second goal, because it includes the first, is more desirable.
What he chooses at the beginning of his quest will predetermine what he will become at its end. And the choice is between self-centered escape and selfless activity. Both paths will give him a great peace. Both will permit him to remain true to his inner call. But the harder one will give something to suffering humanity also. A merely personal salvation will not satisfy the philosophical aspirant.
Spiritual experiences that occur during adolescence are indications that he has possibilities of travelling on the spiritual quest. But he must decide whether he prefers abnormal occult experiences or the less dramatic, slower growth in the cultivation of his divine soul. A beginner cannot mix the two goals safely. And he can expect to have the help of an advanced mystic only if he seeks the higher goal.
He would be a rash man who promised everyone who embarked upon this quest definite experiences of a mystical, occult, extraordinary, ecstatic, supernatural, or any such kind. Such results sometimes come, sometimes not; but the persons who follow the regimes or endure the disciplines chiefly in expectation of them may well be disappointed, may even end in distrust in their teachers and teachings. A wiser type of aspirant will not insist on such experiences but will understand that there are more important and more lasting things.
Now, in middle-age, the errors of my published work have become discernible. Among others, I have made the quest's goal far too near, its achievement far too easy, and the quest itself far too short. The conception of that goal which I have formulated is true enough, the reminder of a divine existence which I have given humanity is something to flatter oneself about, but the way of realization calls for efforts so superhuman that few people would ever have turned to it if my literary picture had been more faithfully drawn.
In The Secret Path I presented the quest as shorter and easier than most people found it to be; in The Spiritual Crisis of Man I presented it as harder and longer, in an effort to redress the balance.
To improve and purify the ordinary self, to reach and realize the higher self, are clearly the most difficult of tasks. To govern passions, quieten feelings, control thoughts and develop intuitions, to direct tendencies, to remove complexes, and to remain steadfast in sticking to the chosen path--is not all this a Herculean task?
The Art of Self-Revelation is no tea-table philosophy, shaped and polished to beguile the tedium of the idle. Not many have attempted this path and fewer have completed it. For few find the going easy. The fleshly world with its snares waits for us all, and the escape is only for the starred ones.
It is to grow slowly into the discovery and realization of what he really is deep, deep inside. Coming to know it is hard enough but impregnating the moment-to-moment daily life with this knowledge is harder still.
The aspirant of today may be the adept of tomorrow, but the course is interminably long, the goal reached only through innumerable experiences and efforts.
After the optimists have had their say and the Advaitins have preached, the hard fact will be echoed back by experience: the goal is set so far, his powers so limited, that he has to call on the quality of patience and make it his own.
So far as history tells us, full enlightenment cannot be got in the span of a single lifetime, except among the notable few. Yet history has too many undiscovered secrets, and enlightenment is too subtle a matter to pass correct judgement upon.
The attainment of realization of the Overself is extremely rare, and the aspirant should not expect to do so in one limited lifetime. However, since its Grace is unpredictable, no one can say that it is impossible in a particular case.
If the recent scientific computation of the earth's age as four thousand million years be correct, we get some idea how long it takes to make a man. How much longer then to make a superman?
That which is cheaply bought is often lightly esteemed. We shall rate Truth more highly when we pay a high price for it.
Even a lifetime is not too long a period to devote toward gaining such a great objective. What we give must be commensurate with what we want to receive. Moreover the effort required, being worthy in itself and necessary to attain the full development of manhood, is its own reward whether there is any other or not. Why then should anyone relax his efforts or fall into despair because he has been able to make only little or limited progress toward the goal?
The illumination is possible for all men because they are incarnate in human and not animal forms. But all men are not willing to pay its price in mental control and emotional subjugation.
If the reader finds such a task too fatiguing he should remember that the reward is nothing less than enlightenment.
How few are those who have realized their aspiration to merge into the higher self. How rare an event it is.
It is obvious from the rarity of its historic realization that this ideal was always too ice-mantled a peak of perfection to be climbable by most men. Nevertheless we gain nothing by ignoring it, and it is at least well to know towards what goal mankind is so slowly and so unconsciously moving.
This truth may seem unsympathetic to natural human feelings, far too impersonal. It is not for the multitude who demand from religion satisfaction of desires, consolation and comfort, answers to prayers.
These adepts seems so immeasurably aloof from us, their attainments so superhuman, that we may well ask of what use to most men is the offering of such a quest.
He feels intuitively that there is, or ought to be, some elusive element, principle, purpose, or Deity behind all life and all Nature--but is it possible for a human being to become acquainted with IT?
Such a goal may be unappealing to many, held by their attachments as they are; but it is fascinating and alluring to a few, "old souls," much experienced after a long series of earthly lives, whose values have been altered, whose glamours and illusions have been eliminated. They feel like wanderers returning home.
The goal set up by this teaching may seem too foolish and perhaps even too fatuous for persons who pride themselves on their reasonability and practicality. This judgement may be the result of a slight acquaintance with the subject; it could not be the result of a full and satisfactory knowledge of it.
If men tell you that the path is a mere figment of the imagination, they are welcome to their belief. I, who have seen many men enter it and a few finish it, declare that the difference between the beginning and the end of the path is the difference between a slave and a master.
If the quest is presented as too difficult for everyone but the superman, an inferiority complex is created and those who could get some help from some of its practices are frightened away.
Jesus said that the way to eternal life is straight and narrow. He could have added that it is also long and difficult. Yet the beginner should not let these things discourage him. There is help within and without.
If the standard is set too high, love for it may not be strong enough to assist its attainment.
If the ideal is too rigorous, its would-be followers will be too few.
The achievement may seem too hard but it is not impossible. The best guarantee of that is the ever-presence within him of the divine soul itself.
We must take care not to fall into the depressing belief that this is to be attained by masters only and that we cannot attain it.
It is unhelpful to put this goal on some Everest-like peak far beyond human climbing. If many are called but few are chosen, it is their own weakness which defers the time of being chosen. In the end, and with much patience, they too will find the way beyond the struggle into peace.
It is not enough to find an ideal to help one's course in life: it should also be based on truth, not fancy or falsity.
The aspiration must not only be a desirable one, it must also be attainable.
There is always a valid reason for disparity between the sought-for objective and the actual performance. Those who begin hopefully and enthusiastically but find themselves disappointed and without result, ought to look first to their understanding of the Quest and correct it, to their picture of the Goal and redraw it.
If you want to find out why so many fail to reach the Quest's objective and so few succeed in doing so, first find out what the Quest really is. Then you will understand that the failures are not failures at all; that so large a project to change human nature and human consciousness cannot be finished in a little time.
It is only of limited help to the modern man, living under very different conditions as he is, to offer him the saint as a type to imitate or to quote the yogi as an example to follow.
He will not waste time in seeking the unattainable or striving for the impossible. For truth, not self-deception, is his goal; humility, not arrogance, is his guide.
That the Overself not only is, but is attainable, is the premise and promise of true philosophy.
If the goal is really unattainable, then the Quest is futile. If it is no more than approachable then surely the Quest is well worthwhile. But in fact the goal is both attainable and approachable.
Every man may awaken to the presence of Christ-consciousness within himself and thus step out of the merely animal and nominally human existence. It will then be a divinely human one.
That wonderful time when he can look straight into himself, through ego to Overself, awaits his endeavours.
The goal is far-off, it is true; but nevertheless it is reachable by those who will make the requisite effort to overcome self.
Despite all setbacks, the outcome of this endeavour can be only the fulfilment of hope. For that is God's will.
Even if the goal seems too far off, the attainment too high up for their limited capacities, even if it seems that one would have to be far better than ordinary to have any chance at all, that does not mean they should not embark on this quest. For even if they are able to travel only a modest part of the way the efforts involved are still well worthwhile.
What if the goal seems too distant or the climb too steep? Do as much or as little as you can to advance. If you lack the strength to go all the way, then go some of the way. Your spiritual longings and labours will influence the nature of your next body and the conditions of your next incarnation. Nothing will be lost. Higher capacities and more favourable circumstances will then be yours if you have deserved them. Every virtue deliberately cultivated leads to a pleasanter rebirth. Every weakness remedied leads to the cancellation of an unpleasant one.
If the fullest degree of perfection seems so far off as to depress him, the first degree is often so near that it should cheer him.
Few imagine their capacity extends to such a lofty attainment and so few seek it. Most of those who engage on this quest have a modest desire--to get somewhere along the way where they have more control over their mind and life than their unsatisfactory present condition affords.
Let us not pretend to the Perfect or the hope of its attainment. But we can have the Ideal and follow it.
What man will set out on a task which he can never hope to accomplish? It is too much to expect the average seeker to become a mahatma. We portray the nature of this quest not because we hold such a vain expectation but because we believe in the value of right direction and in the creative power of the Ideal. The general direction of his thoughts and deeds--rather than those thoughts and deeds themselves--as well as the ideal he most habitually contemplates, is what is most important and most significant in his life.
His first need is to choose a general goal, not necessarily an exact point but enough to orient himself, to give him a direction.
An ideal helps to hold a man back from his weaknesses, a standard gives him indirectly a kind of support as well as, directly, guidance.
If he knew at the beginning that it was so far and so long, and so troubled a journey, would he have embarked on the quest at all? That depends on the nature of the man himself, on the nature of his impelling motive, and on the strength behind it.
It is a truth which he must bring to life by his own personal experience.
If there were no possibility of finding one's way from this body-prisoned, time-encased condition, then no one would ever have become self-realized, and all preaching of religion and teaching of philosophy would have been futile. But we know from history and biography that such achievement has been experienced in all parts of the world and in all centuries, so that no one should give up hope.
Are the quest's goals worth what he has to pay for them? Is it even worth embarking on if he remembers how few seem to reach those goals? Time alone can show him that no price is too high and that right direction is itself sufficient reward.
Different terms can be used to label this unique attainment. It is insight, awakening, enlightenment. It is Being, Truth, Consciousness. It is Discrimination between the Seer and the Seen. It is awareness of That Which Is. It is the Practice of the Presence of God. It is the Discovery of Timelessness. All these words tell us something but they all fall short and do not tell us enough. In fact they are only hints for farther they cannot go: it is not on their level at all since it is the Touch of the Untouchable. But never mind; just play with such ideas if you care too. Ruminate and move among them. Put your heart as well as head into the game. Who knows one day what may happen? Perhaps if you become still enough you too may know--as the Bible suggests.
Thinking which is fact-grounded, experience-based, and correct; living which is wise, balanced, and good; meditation which goes deeper and deeper--these are some of our basic needs.
Peace of mind can be enjoyed in this world: there is no need to wait for passage to the next one.
The ultimate goal is for us to live from the Overself not from the ego.
The impossibility of realizing the Bodhisattva ideal alone shows it was not meant to be taken literally. For not only would the Bodhisattva have to wait until the two billion inhabitants presently occupying this planet had been saved, but what of the others who would have been added to this number by that time? The Bodhisattva ideal is supposedly set up in contrast with that of the Pratyeka Buddha, who is alleged to seek his own welfare alone.
That life will reach some higher end and thus justify all the fret and toil is more than a comforting belief: it is also an offering of the highest Reason, the revelation of highest experience.
A surgeon we know once wrote to us that the goal seemed so distant, the way so long, the labour so arduous, that he felt inclined to abandon the quest altogether as something beyond ordinary human reach. Our reply to him was that because a position could not be captured in its entirety that was no reason for hesitating to make a start to capture some of it.
Unique person: unique path
In every individual there is an original, mysterious, and incalculable element, because his past history and his prenatal ancestry in other lives on earth have inevitably been different at certain points from those of other individuals. His world-outlook may seem the same as theirs, but there will always be subtle variations. There is no single path which can be presented to suit the multitudinous members of the human species. There is no one unalterable approach to this experience for all men. Each has to find his own way, to travel forward by the guidance of his own present understanding and past experience--and each in the end really does so despite all appearances to the contrary. For each man passes through a different set of life-experiences. His past history and present circumstances have constituted an individual being who is unique, who possesses something entirely his own. It is partly through the lessons, reflections, intuitions, traits, characteristics, and capacities engendered by such experiences that he is able to find his way to truth. Therefore he is forced not only to work out his own salvation but also to work it out in his own unique way. Every description of a mystical path must consequently be understood in a general sense. If its expounder delimits it to constitute a precise path for all alike, he exaggerates. Although there is so much in life which the aspirant shares with other beings, there is always a residue which imparts a stamp of individuality that is different from and unshareable with the individualities of all others. Consequently, the inner path which he must follow cannot be precisely the same as theirs. In the end, after profiting by all the help which he may gain from advanced guides and fellow-pilgrims, after all his attempts to imitate or follow them, he is forced to find or make a way for himself, a way which will be peculiarly his own. In the end he must work out his own unique means to salvation and depend on himself for further enlightenment and strength. Taught by his own intelligence and instructed by his own intuition, he must find his own unique path toward enlightenment.
Each case is different, because each person has a different heredity, temperament, character, environment, and living habits. Therefore these general principles must be adapted to, and fitted in with, that person's particular condition.
Just as there is not a single radius only from the centre of a circle to its circumference but countless ones, so there is not a single path only from man to God but as many paths as there are men. Each has to find the way most appropriate to him, to the meaning and experience of truth.
There are as many ways to union with the Overself as there are human beings. The orthodox, the conventional, and the traditional ways can claim exclusiveness or monopoly only by imperilling truth.
It is an unnecessary self-limitation to believe that there is only a single path to enlightenment, only a single teaching worth following. Persons who believe or feel themselves to be unable to understand subtle metaphysics can turn to a simple devotional path.
There is no one particular type of aspirant to mystical or philosophical enlightenment. Taken as a whole, aspirants are a mixed and varied lot in their starting points, personalities, motives, and allegiances. They vary in individuality very widely, have different needs, circumstances, opportunities, outlooks, and possibilities.
We are all built by Nature in different ways: no two palms, no two thumbprints, no two persons are exactly alike.
The seekers are to be found at different levels and are attracted by different approaches according to their different intellectual development, emotional temperaments, moral capacities, and intuitional sensitivity.
The uniqueness of each person is emphasized by the differences which separate him from his fellows.
In one's search for Truth he may have progressed through orthodox Christianity, Christian Science, and Spiritualism--but, eventually, the Quest will lead him away from limited, organized public approaches, and bring him to the unrestricted freedom of the Presence of the Overself. Other movements, such as those mentioned, may be useful to beginners; but when some progress has been made, the path necessarily opens onto the Quest where it becomes unlimited, individual, and private.
All of us have to travel in the same broad direction if we would rise from the lower to the higher grades of being. But the way in which we shall travel the Way is essentially a personal one. All of us must obey its general rules, but no two seekers can apply them precisely alike.
The philosophic approach does not limit the seeker rigidly to a single specific technique. While it asks him to follow the basic path and fulfil the fundamental requirements which all beginners must follow, it also points out that this is only a general preparation. A point will be reached when he is ready for more advanced work, and when the personal characteristics and circumstances which are particularly his own must be brought in for adjustment if he is to receive the greatest benefit. No two seekers and the surrounding conditions are ever exactly alike and, at a certain stage, what is helpful to one will be time-wasting to another.
Each man is unique so each quest must be unique too. Everyone must find, in the end, his own path through his own life. All attempts to copy someone else, however reputed, will fail to lead him to self-realization although they may advance him to a certain point.
Each seeker must find out his own path, his own technique for himself. Who else has the right or the capacity to do it for him?
We prefer to follow the creative rather than the compulsive way, to help men find their own way rather than force them to travel our way. And this can only be done by starting with the roots, with the ideas they hold, and the attitudes which dominate them.
There are too many differences in individual aspirants to allow a broad general technique to suit them all. A guide who can give a personal prescription is helpful, but even in his absence the aspirant can intelligently put together the fragments which will best help him.
Let him walk forward slowly or quickly, as suits him best, and also in his own way, again as suits his individuality which he has fashioned through the reincarnations to its present image and from which he has to begin and proceed farther.
There are not only widely different stages of evolutionary growth for every human being but also widely different types of human beings within each stage. Hence a single technique cannot possibly cover the spiritual needs of all humanity. The seeker should find the one that suits his natural aptitude as he should find the teacher who is most in inward affinity with him.
Let him take up whatever path is most convenient to his personal circumstances and individual character and not force himself into one utterly unsuited to both, merely because it has proven right for other people.
There is no single universal rule for all men: their outer circumstances and inner conditions, their historical background and geographical locality, their karmic destiny and evolutionary need, their differences in competence, render it unwise, unfair, and impracticable to write a single prescription for them.
Again and again one observes that the technique, exercise, method, or rule which brings good results for one person fails to do so for another. It is absurd to make a single uniform prescription and expect all persons to get a single uniform result from it. What has been done here is to give some of the best ones and let each reader find out what suits him most, not what suits his friend or another reader most.
It is a common error, among the pious and even among the mystics, to believe that one path alone--theirs--is the best. This may be quite correct in the case of each person, but it may not necessarily be correct for others, and even then it is only correct for a period or at most a number of lifetimes. How often have men outgrown their former selves and taken to new paths? And how different are the intellectual moral and temperamental equipments of different persons? It is in practice, as in theory, not possible to tie everyone down to a single specific path and certainly not advisable.
Men are differently constituted. There are a dozen main types and innumerable subdivisions within each type. It is not possible for a single spiritual approach to suit them all.
No one reaches the world of truth through any other path than his own, the one which his individual nature fits him for. Someone else's help can at best improve his condition and prepare his mind but cannot take him into truth. Those cases which seem to contradict this statement are cases either of self-deception or of illusion. Too often time spent on these chalked-out paths is time wasted.
It would be an error to try to make his own any spiritual path which, or teacher who, was not so in fact. Such an attempt might maintain itself for a time but could not escape being brought to an end when the false position to which it would lead became intolerable.
The human being will bring about its own redemption, if only we would allow it to do so. But instead we hypnotize the mind with ideas that may suit other persons but are unsuited to us, we practise techniques that warp our proper development, we follow leaders who know only the way they have themselves walked and who insist on crowding all seekers on it regardless of suitability, and we join groups which obstruct our special line of natural growth.
Each man's path is his own unique one, with its own experiences. Some are shared in common with all other seekers but others are not; they remain peculiar to himself. Therefore a part--whether large or small--of what he has to do cannot be prescribed by another person, be he guru or not. In the groups, organizations, schools, there is too much rigidity in the instruction, the rules, and the expectancy aroused of what should happen at each stage. This is too tight a program. It brings confusion and frustration and does not correspond to the actual situation which an independent observer finds among these circles.
The individual uniqueness of each aspirant cries out to have its special needs attended to, but suggestion from outside or mesmerism from authority causes him to approach the Quest with fixed opinions as to what should be done. Others are being allowed to mold him instead of letting the inner voice do so, using their contributions solely to carry out or to supplement its guidance.
Every man's individual life-path is unique. It may not be to his best interests to conform to a technique imposed upon him by another man or to confine his efforts to a pattern which has suited others. What may be right for another man who is at a different stage of development may be wrong for the aspirant.
To deny his individuality is to destroy his creative mind.
The Bhagavad Gita not only emphasizes the need of solitude for practising yoga but also warns us that the duty, the path, the way of life of other men may be full of danger to us. Thus it also preaches the need of individualism.
There is no single path to enlightenment. Yoga has no monopoly. Life itself is the great enlightener. I met a man once who, after the shock of hearing his wife tell him that she had ceased to love him, that she had for some time had a secret lover, and that she requested a divorce so as to be able to marry him, felt a collapse of all his hitherto confidently held values and beliefs. For some days he was so affected that he could not eat. But his mind by then had become so extraordinarily lucid concerning these matters and himself, that he experienced moments of truth. Through them he came into a great peace and understanding, an inner change. What was the morning sun which awakened him? He did no yogic exercises, entered no churches, was too intent on his worldly business to read spiritual books. This brings me back to the theme: do not submit to the pressure of those who say there is only a single way to salvation (the way they follow or teach), do not let the mind be trammelled or narrowed. The truth is that the ways are many, are spread out in all directions, are individual.
From the clues, hints, and indications which search and experience give us, we learn in the end what is the true way to the God within us.
The quest is too individual a matter to fit everyone in the same way, like a ready-made suit of clothes. Each man has his own life-problems to consider and surmount. In trying to do so wisely nobly and honestly he does precisely what the quest calls for from him at the time.
Each quest thus has its own character and its own personality. This it shapes by the act of dedicating itself to the incorruptible integrity of the higher life.
Arnold Toynbee found his spiritual path in his study and work in history. It revealed to him, he says, the presence of God as others have found it through prayer and religion. The inner characteristics of men are various and so are the forms which the quest takes for them.
The course of each quester is not necessarily invariable nor are his experiences always inevitable.
The journey from anticipation to realization is a long one. On this Quest the curiosity to know what lies ahead can never be satisfied with perfect correctness because it must necessarily differ with different individuals.
Changes of circumstances which bring uncertainty of the future will not frighten him. They will interest him. He will seek to discover if they point the way to an incoming of new forces of experience necessary for his further development.
All human beings differ in some respects and in mind as well as in body. Each is unique. Each needs to find his own individual path. For in each aspirant there exists a certain direction, tendency, capacity, attribute, or gift along which line the possibility of his spiritual development can open up more quickly, freely, and easily than along any other. It is on this line that he should concentrate more effort and so take advantage of what Nature has given him. But to detect and recognize what is his best potentiality requires exploration and search, not only by his ordinary faculties but also and especially by his more sensitive and intuitive ones. It will not be found all at once but only after much groping around and feeling his way. Time is needed because this hidden possibility does not exist at the surface level. The earth which surrounds this gem obscures its whereabouts. If he is in a hurry and insists on a premature discovery instead of keeping up the search, he will identify the wrong stone. Once having found it let him stay with it as often and as long as he can.
There is a way suited to the particular individuality of each separate person, which will bring out all his spiritual possibilities as no other way could.
The purpose of all paths being to bring the traveller to the same single destination--union with God--any path which either fulfils this purpose or partially helps to do so, is acceptable.
He may work toward enlightenment and inner freedom, to the aspiration which draws him most.
Whatever helps consciousness come nearer to high moods is a useful spiritual path to someone.
He should take any approach which appeals to him, if it is morally worthy, and try to use what he can of it.
The claims that these simpler paths like devotion or repeating a declaration can lead to the goal, are neither true nor untrue. For they lead to the philosophic path which, in its own turn, leads directly to the goal.
It is misleading to pick out any one way to the Overself and label it the best, or worse still, the only way. It is unfair to compare the merits of different ways. For the truth is that firstly each has a contribution to make, and finally each individual aspirant has his own special way.
Several different methods of spiritual development have been offered to humanity. Some have more merit than others and some are more effective than others. But so much depends on the particular needs and status of each person, that the value of a method cannot be generalized with fairness.
Is there a single teacher, prophet, messenger, or saint who has been universally acclaimed and universally followed? For that to be, all mankind would need the same outer background and inner status.
Great or small there are certain differences between all persons. They cannot all pursue the same ways, therefore we should let others take a different view in religion from ourselves. They vary so widely that it is an adventure for society if there exists as great a diversity of approaches as possible--they are thus better able to suit particular needs. Why should anyone be afraid of diversity in religious views, of variety in religious practices? Let heresies multiply! Let the sects flourish! For out of all this free competition, the seeker has a better chance to find truth.
The modern seeker is fortunate in this: that he has a wealth of teachings to choose from--or by which to be bewildered.
We must not only acknowledge the differences between men but respect them. Consequently we must accept the fact of variations in responsive capacity and not demand that all should think alike, believe alike, behave alike.
What is too much for one individual is too little for another. No universally applicable prescription can be given to suit everyone alike.
All these paths should converge towards one another, as all must merge in the central point in the end.
However different personal reactions will necessarily be with every individual seeker, there will still remain certain experiences, requirements, and conditions--and these are the most important ones--along his path which must be the same for every other seeker too.
Each man's approach must inevitably be individualistic yet each will also share in common all the essentials which constitute the Quest.
Whether a man is a Zionist or a Zennist, whether he seeks the Christian Salvation or the Japanese Satori, the fundamental approach is more or less the same.
There is no cut and dried system or method which can be guaranteed to work successfully in every case. But there are suggestions, hints, ideas, which have been culled from the personal experiences of a widely varied, world-spread number of masters and aspirants.
Since each man's path is peculiarly an individual one, no book can guide all his steps. A book may help him through some situations, inform him about the general course of inner development, and warn him against the probable mistakes and chief pitfalls.
Each man has to strive for this higher consciousness in his own way. Each path to it is unique. But at the same time he may profitably avail himself of the general instruction contained in writings like the present one.
Knowing and working within one's limitations
One responds to the inner call according to one's capacity and history, one's circumstances and perspective.
It is fair for him to ask himself,"What do I bring to the quest: what equipment, qualities, and virtues to entitle me to ask for the results I seek?"
When the sublime light of the Ideal shines down upon him and he has the courage to look at his own image by it, he will doubtless make some humiliating discoveries about himself. He will find that he is worse than he believed and not so wise as he thought himself to be. But such discoveries are all to the good. For only then can he know what he is called upon to do and set to work following their pointers in self-improvement.
However deep his commitment to the quest may be, he will have to reckon with his own frailties and his environmental pressures.
The great man knows he has limitations, he knows his defects and faults--but he is not afraid of them. "Paint me as I am, warts and all," said Oliver Cromwell to the artist who had, thinking to please him, omitted a mole on his face.
All do not start with equal capacities for the quest. Each is qualified to go only a certain distance upon it. Those who exaggerate their capacities harm themselves by their presumption. Those who underrate them practise a false modesty. It is an error either to deceive oneself about one's aspirations or to deter oneself unduly.
Hope is good for man: it confers endurance, spurs positive attitudes, and urges endeavour upon him. But if its base is ungrounded fancy and extravagant wishes, he is hurt rather than benefited by it.
Begin by admitting that you know really little or nothing about your deeper mind. That is better than learned tall talk.
It is much easier to set himself a discipline than to keep it.
We cannot all be Buddhas. We may not all have the strength to live like Christ. Only one in a million may be even a Himalayan yogi living alone and above us in his cave high up on the rugged mountain. But something worthwhile is within reach of all of us. Let us therefore aim at the immediately practicable, which in its turn will lead to something more. It is foolish to waste time and strength unavailingly grasping for what is out of reach.
There is a point at which man's mind must fall back baffled by the great mystery which surrounds him. Reflect and reason, search and probe as much as he can, he can go no farther. But this does not mean that his life is meaningless or that the universe is meaningless. Only a being superior to man might possibly penetrate this mystery. Therefore let him work within his own inescapable limits. It is futile to nurture wild ambitions which he is not qualified to realize. In short, let him know himself. He may then have a key to better knowledge of other things, especially of the meaning of his own life.
It is only the few, after all, who have the inborn inclination to sacrifice everything if needs be in the hope of attaining truth. What of the lesser souls who have no such passport, whose temperament, environment, family, or position forbids them from aspiring heroically to the highest goal? Can we hold no hope for them? Is it to be a case of all or nothing?
The answer is that nobody is asked to undertake more than lies within his strength or circumstances. There is room here for those with humble aims who do not feel equal to more than the slightest philosophic effort. Let them study these doctrines just a little where possible, but where even this is not possible let them accept these teachings on simple faith alone. Let them absorb a few leading tenets which make special appeal to them or which are more easily understandable by them than others. Let them practise a few minutes' meditation only once or twice weekly, if they do not find the time or tendency to practise more. Let them keep in only occasional touch by letter or otherwise with someone who represents in himself a definite personal attainment which, although beyond their own reach, is not beyond their own veneration. Thus they take the first step to establish right tendencies. If however they are unable to do any of these things, let them not despair. There still remains the path of occasional service. Let them give from time to time, as suits their capacity or convenience, a little help in kind or toil or coin to those who are themselves struggling against great odds to enlighten a world sorrow-struck through ignorance. For thus they will earn a gift of glad remembrance and internal notice whose unique value will be out of all proportion to what is offered. The karmic benefit of such offering will return to them, and even if it be long deferred they will have the intangible satisfaction which comes from all service placed on the Overself's altar.
If he is unable to gather enough strength to seek the Truth, then let him seek it for the sake of the services it can render to him.
Although hardly any seeker can perfect himself in the quest's varied requirements, all seekers can develop something of each needed quality.
The change in thinking and living habits must theoretically be a total one if the regeneration sought is to be that also. But the compulsions of earning a livelihood, fitting into the local community, and adjusting to family opposition make this impossible in all but exceptional cases. Men who have to take these actualities into their consideration in practice attempt to compromise with hard necessity and present environment. This does not mean that they discard the truth--they must indeed keep it loyally as the Ideal--but that they relate it to the prevailing conditions and somehow arrive at some kind of a reconciliation between the two. Nor does it mean that the teaching is impractical, for the few exceptions already mentioned are able to put it into practice a hundred percent simply because they are willing and able to pay the heavy price of isolation for doing so. It means that although the teaching is adequate to all circumstances, its devotees are unwilling to court the extra suffering and struggle involved in fighting the insanity and tension of those existing circumstances. The latter tend to promote materialism and are best suited to a materialistic way of thinking and living. Those who, while reading its true character aright, submit to it and refuse to withdraw from it, are entitled to do so--if at the same time they have the clear understanding that the higher illuminations, as well as the permanent one, will have to remain inaccessible to them. Is there not enough to do in climbing to the lesser ones, and are they not sufficiently glorious and rewarding?
There are many who are not seeking for the quickest attainment of the highest goal. They feel, quite pardonably, that the demands of training for it are too great for their modest equipment. But they are seeking for occasional inspiration and they would be content with just a few glimpses during their lifetime. Although these people are not fully committed to the Quest, they are in general sympathetic with it.
If he feels that rising to a higher level of consciousness would be too much for him, then he could simply try to become a better man.
It is some kind of a victory over self for a man to be willing to live without distress if he has to live within his limitations.
Those who feel that there are too many evils in the contemporary ways of living and of earning a livelihood, who sincerely deplore these evils, nevertheless often feel also that there is little or nothing they can do about it until society as a whole develops new and better ways. But this is only a first look at their situation; it reveals the appearance of it but not the reality. Do they really need to wait until the unlikely event of a wholesale and voluntary amendment takes place all around them? For the challenge today, as will be made clear in this book's later course, is not a social but an individual one. More men are free to take the first steps towards their own liberation from these evils than they usually realize. When their caution becomes excessive, it also becomes a vice. It may prevent them from making mistakes, but it also prevents them from doing anything at all--leading, in fact, to a kind of inertia. Even if they cannot do more, they can make a start to apply new ideals and then see what happens.
Is the Quest nothing but an endless adventure and never to become a final achievement? Are its goals too high for frail humans, its exercises too difficult for feeble ones? The historic fact that men have lived who have turned its adventure into its achievement puts an end to such pessimism. If, knowing and accepting our limitations, we object that this cannot possibly be done in a single lifetime, the answer is, "Then do what you can in the present lifetime, and there will be that much less to be done in the next lifetime."
When a man has the right stuff in him, all he needs is just opportunity, and nothing else. If he possesses a sufficient degree of talent plus the determination to succeed, there is no stage so humble that it cannot be made a jumping-off ground to better things.
The disciple's quest must begin with his own simple specific needs, not with complicated generalities.
He must begin with what he is and where he is: that's the starting point. After looking at the goal, and the direction leading to it, he looks for the next step.
Do not let the past hold you down. Do not let dust-laden memories keep you down. Make today a fresh day, a new beginning.
He can begin this inner work with whatever capacities he has now, from wherever he is now on life's road. There is no time that is not the right time, no place that is not the right place, no circumstances which cannot be put to use in some way. For there are lessons to be learnt everywhere, meanings to be gleaned in all experiences; spiritual tests and opportunities of the most varied kinds can be found in the most unlikely situations, the most unspiritual environments.
Time is needed to bring maturity to his development; the years must pass before his understanding is complete enough to stand on its own supports.
We must recognize what is not always recognized, that the growth of mind and character takes time, just as the growth of trunk and limb takes time. A man does not begin to mature and become what he is likely to be until he is past thirty.
The young man who has the wisdom to devote some of his abundant energies to this quest will one day be the envy of the old man who would devote only his slackened forces and shortened days to it.
It is entirely for the seeker to set his own rate of progress. Even the man who is interested only in theoretical discussion thereby, and to that extent, promotes his own good. If through inclination or circumstances he prefers to let his aspirations remain only at the level of reading and discussion, that at least is better than being entirely uninterested in them. It will be for him to decide whether to endeavour to obtain the fullest realization of his aspirations in practical life. There is room for both classes on this Quest.
He should not be discouraged because others have gone ahead on the path more quickly than he, any more than he should be gratified because some have gone ahead more slowly than he, for the fact is that the goal he seeks is already within his grasp. He is the Overself that he seeks to unite with, and the time it seems to take to realize this is itself an illusion of the mind. Let him, therefore, go forward at his own rate and within the limits of his own strength, leaving the result in the hands of God.
If they impose on themselves an impossible ideal, an unattainable standard, they must expect the sense of frustration that will overtake them later.
It is better that an aspirant should know his limitations now than that, failing to do so, he should know tragic disappointments and unutterable despair later. It is better in such a case that he should realize that he is engaged on a long search whose end he cannot reach in this incarnation.
How can the naïve inexperienced beginner fail to commit errors and neglect precautions; how can he not be deceived by his own imaginations or puzzled by the contradictions and paradoxes which beset this path?
The newly awakened aspirant should search for clues without losing his balance or overreaching new enthusiasm.
Of what use is it to reproach himself again and again for being what he is? How could he have been otherwise, given his heredity, environment, and history?
The quest says he is not so helpless as he thinks he is. Why give himself up so unresistingly to the tendencies he finds in his heart, to the thoughts he finds in his mind, to the inward dominion of his possessions and passions? Why be so soft-willed as to refrain from making any effort at all on the plea that he must accept himself as he finds himself?
What he cannot do in the beginning, he may be able to do in the middle of his journey. He should not let misgivings about his capacity to travel far stop him from travelling at all.
Those who already possess a flair for mysticism will naturally advance more easily and more quickly than those who do not. But that is no reason for the unmystical to adopt a defeatist attitude and negate the quest altogether.
His weaknesses may come in the way of his seeking, yet he still remains an authentic seeker.
The quest would have to be entered with a realization of all its complexity and with a comprehension that his good intentions could be frustrated by adverse circumstances if he lets his thoughts about them become negative.
A man needs to know his limitations and to accept them. But he need not accept them as absolutes. There is always the mysterious X-factor, the second wind, the untapped unpredictable resources.
He should fit his aspiration to his estimated capacity but, in order not to miss unknown possibilities which might yet emerge to the surface, he should do so loosely and not rigidly.
From a long-range point of view, is anyone really "lost"? It is sometimes consoling to remember that we have Eternity before us, and we can only do what we are capable of at a given time.
No matter what the personal circumstances of a man may be, no matter whether he be rich or poor, well or ill, old or young, educated or illiterate, there is no point in his life where some part at least of the quest may not be introduced.
Would they have done better to have stayed at home, rather than to have gone off looking for gurus in the East? The answer must vary from seeker to seeker.
It is true that enlightenment is to be found wherever it is earnestly sought, and not in any special place such as India. However, one's own desires and needs will provide him with a source of direction; and it may be that these will indicate that one's individual progress may be hastened or better served by a journey to some particular location.
Why do seeking souls run off to India, and now to Japan, as they ran off to Europe in Emerson's time? If they had a less confused conception of the Overself, a clearer idea of what they sought, none of them would feel that he had to go to this or that country, place, person. But the tendencies inherited from former births and pushing him one way or pulling him toward somewhere else, set up this urge to move away and meet new experience, new people, perhaps new masters. In particular, they draw him back to the scene of previous lives which powerfully affected his spiritual seeking. This is attractive to him, perhaps even emotionally romantic, but it gives him nothing really that he has not in fact had before.
For many years I was enthralled with the spiritual glamour of India. The need to go there became a strong one, and in the end I surrendered to it. I learnt what the grasshopping tourist never learns; saw what the professional observer rarely sees; for both tourist and journalist usually lack the aspiration, the patience, and the preparations required to search for and discover what is really the best in any Oriental country.
I found much in that country that was of great interest and greater value, but I did not find the fulfilment of my Quest. That did not come to me until I was back again in the other hemisphere. Indeed, the Cosmic Vision, which revealed the Presence of Infinite Intelligence throughout life, throughout the universe and throughout history, which explained so many of the Higher Laws to me, came incongruously enough while I was sitting in a hotel room in Chicago. With this humbling insight, the need to go to India disappeared. And I then saw that it was really an ancient complex--a kind of auto-suggestion--inherited from my own far, reincarnatory past. Indeed, I found out that if I had remained loyal to the inward direction I had originally travelled, I need never have gone to India at all, nor to those other Asiatic countries where I sought for Truth. What I needed could be very well found within myself. But, I had accepted the suggestions out of my past as well as out of the lips and writings of other persons. And so I deviated from the inward way. The shortcut, which the journeys to Asia offered, turned out to be a long way, for I wandered over other men's roads, and, in the end, had to return, as we all have, to my own road. Indeed, there was nowhere else to go, and my Quest ended there.
The other ways were not without their usefulness and helpfulness, of course, but they lost that value the moment they were turned into substitutes for the interior way, which is unique and without a second because each one of us is unique. Each gets his own special experience of life, makes his own special set of contacts with other persons, and meets his own particular destiny. In his reactions to and dealings with all this, he is really reacting to and dealing with himself. He is showing quarrelsomeness, or trying to conquer it; he is losing himself in the day's activity, or saving himself from it in a half-hour retreat. He is letting negative thoughts or feelings stay in his heart, or trying to drive them out of it. He is practising a larger relationship and a kindlier attitude toward those he encounters in his day-to-day business, or he is failing to recognize why they--and not others who are quite different--have been put into his path by the Infinite Intelligence. His environment is really a testing-place and a disciplinary school.
And so I come back to the statement that going to India, or going to any other place, in quest of spiritual enlightenment is not so important as going inside one's self, and discovering Who one is. Moreover, if some have gone to India to look for an incarnate Master, others have gone to Palestine to look for a disincarnate one. There they lingered at the holy places, the sacred monuments, the historic ground where Jesus walked and talked. But, the attempts of both kinds of seekers bear real fruit only as and when they lead to the Seeking Within, for the indwelling Master, in the one case, or the indwelling Christ in the other. Yet, this final search the seeker could have begun anyway without leaving home. Indeed, Ramana Maharshi himself once said aloud: "Had I known how easy it was, I would never have gone away from home."
The question of how far he would be prepared to travel in this quest has no geographical reference. It is a metaphorical one and refers only to the time he can give each day to the exercises, studies, and devotions, as well as to the moral ideals he can bring himself to pursue. He is not asked for more than he feels he can humanly give under his present circumstances and responsibilities. As for going to India or elsewhere, that is unnecessary and even inadvisable. One of the greatest Western mystics I ever knew spent every day in the city of London, where he had a business to manage. He did his job and made a success of it, stuck to his ideals and became spiritually "aware." He was indeed an adept at meditation but he had never set foot in the Orient. The seeker has indeed not very far to travel. Four hundred years ago Sebastian Franck, a German who had attained the full spiritual realization, wrote: "We do not need to cross the sea to find Him--the Word is nigh thee, is in thy heart."
The belief that we have to travel to far places for the light of Truth is not really true but our own feebleness may have to make it true. As soon as we settle down in hope and confidence to discover the deeper forces within ourselves they begin to become active.
We delude ourselves with the dream that we are travelling to Italy or to Austria; it is not we who are travelling, but the ship and the train. We only travel when our souls move out of their narrow encasements and seek a larger life. And that can happen anywhere: it might be at our own familiar fireside at the bidding of an illumined book; it might come, of course, with our first view of the Himalaya Mountains. But merely to move our bodies from one place to a distant one, without a corresponding movement of the soul, is not travel; it is dissipation.
How many, of late years, have travelled on "the ashram circuit"! How much have I, and some friends, contributed toward this result! Yet in the end, to what does it all add up? Let an earlier president of the respected Ramakrishna Mission, head of the Ramakrishna Order of Monks, and abbot of Belur Monastery answer, in the warning which he gave an American lady who was enthusiastically going from one Hindu ashram to another, spending a few days at each during a six-week visit to India. Said Swami Saradananda with a large smile: "Remember, what is within you is everywhere. What is not, is nowhere." Do not these words admonish his visitor that there is nothing free in the universe, that she cannot get something for nothing, that no "guru" can give her what she herself must work for and provide, and that no seeker will be able to bring into close inner relationship with himself any spiritual master who is too far from, or too high above, his own range of development? When an Indian of such authority and experience makes this statement to such seekers, his words ought to be well weighed against those which have been written, pronounced, or circulated by those who do not know better.
Where should a man go in order to start on this Quest? Should he travel to the Orient? Can it be followed only in the Near East, the Middle East, or the Far East? The answer is that such a journey is quite unnecessary. Let him start in the land where he is living, where destiny has put him. But if he need not move from one country to another for the purposes of the Quest he may find it helpful to move for the purposes of a single department of the Quest--that is, meditation--from the noise and bustle of city life to the quiet and calmness of country life.
To those who want to travel to India or elsewhere in search of salvation, or of a master who shall lead them to it, the question must be asked, "Can you not see that if you take yourself there you will still have to cope with your ego there as here? Look deeper into your own heart, for that is where what you seek really is."
If a man has to go to India to find peace of mind, then he may lose it again when he leaves India. The same is just as true if he has to stay around a guru for the same purpose.
There is nothing wrong with the urge to visit India, for then he may learn more about this world of ours and the people in it, and especially about Indian spiritual traditions. The wrong sets in when he believes that just by displacing himself in space in this way he is likely to have enlightenment handed over to him by some other man, called a guru, on a platter. This cannot be, whatever wishful thinking on the one side and fanatical narrowness on the other may say. At the moment the fad is more Indonesia than India but the point of the matter is still the same. For enlightenment involves liberation from his ego, its captivity and deceitfulness.
The hidden teaching is unknown to almost all the yogis and swamis in India. It exists, however, and can be got without going to these people.
One man may go to the Orient and gain nothing. It is not emotional exuberance which produces a high spiritual result, nor visits to many ashrams, but the depth and concentration with which the truth is seen.
Stages of development
Many an old fable is a perfect allegory of this quest. The temptations and perils, the toils and adventures of its hero are faithful references to what the aspirant has always encountered in the past and will encounter in our own day.
The stages of the Quest pass by degrees from the disciplining of the ego to the opening of consciousness to the Overself.
On this journey there are stages of ascent, stations of understanding, lights of peace, and shadows of despair.
The Quest must traverse the three levels of body, mind, and spirit.
There is an Indian formula covering three progressive stages of the quest: Hearing, Reflection, Enlightenment. It means: Receiving instruction (from guru or text), Thinking constantly over the teachings until they are thoroughly assimilated, Experiencing glimpses of a mystical nature. With the end of this third phase, the aspirant has not only to repeat and prolong the glimpses until his whole life is permeated by the wisdom and peace which is their fruit, but also to receive and apply the highest and final philosophic doctrine. With this, his enlightenment becomes "natural," effortless, unbroken. It is unified with his activity, established whether he is busy in the world or seated in meditation.
According to the Hindu teaching, man passes through three stages of development from the Inert through the Passional to the Harmonious.
In the course of his life the student will pass from one phase of development to another, thus gradually enriching and expanding his whole character.
To start on the quest is the first step. To continue on it is the second, and possibly harder. Thoroughly to finish the quest is the hardest step of all.
It is true that he is only at the beginning of his quest, that its fulfilment may be far far away, but everything must have a beginning.
It is a progressive training which continues throughout one's lifetime.
There are times to intensify the quest, to hasten its tempo and stiffen its disciplines.
With growth of outlook, development of mind, correct instruction from text or teacher, correct interpretation of his own and others' experiences, he moves out of narrow sectarianism into a new universal level.
The attitude of faith in another person is undoubtedly helpful to beginners, provided the faith is justified. But it is a stage necessarily inferior to the attitude of faith in one's own soul. To turn inwards rather than outwards, to overcome the tendency towards externality, is to ascend to a higher stage.
Negative transference, positive transference, balanced orientation, all are stages of external adjustment and deserve no higher evaluation than that. On the internal level alone is the surest equilibrium attainable.
This creative changing of circumstances is a twofold process, practised both in the outer world where those circumstances belong and in the inner world of the spirit, where they are absent.
If he continues the inner work he will pass through various stages of development. It would be a mistake to believe that he has reached a final attitude or a fixed set of values.
Between the beginner and the adept is this difference: that the state of being which the one looks up to with awe-struck wonder seems entirely natural to the other.
The last lap necessarily brings him into the Silence of THAT which transcends intellect, but it is a silence that is rich with freedom and serenity. Here alone he may hear the wordless voice of God and, once heard, he can well afford to disregard all other voices.
Although the movement towards enlightenment goes forward by stages, the actual moment of enlightenment comes abruptly with a sudden transcendence of the darkness in which men ordinarily live.
The time will come, if he perseveres, when his mind will naturally orient itself toward the spiritual pole of being. And this will happen by itself, without any urging on his part. No outer activity will be able to stop the process, for to make it possible his mind will apparently double its activity. In the foreground, it will attend to the outer world, but in the background it will attend to the Overself.
He may stop in one or other of these cults for a time but, if he is seeking truth, he will not remain there. In the end, and after sufficient sampling and discarding over a number of years, his search will lead him to philosophy.
The ascending degrees of initiation into higher understanding of truth and large capacity to receive contemplative awareness open themselves to him one by one as he passes each successive test leading to it. These tests consist, in the lower grades, of willingness to submit physical habits, passions, and desires to discipline and, in higher grades, willingness to submit thoughts and feelings to it. In all, they lead to a progressive detachment from the animal and the ego.
When the disciple reaches the end of the phase through which he is travelling, his attention is diverted towards a new one. Uncertainty and chaos descend upon him with reference to it. He cannot clearly see his further way into it or easily get right direction through it.
There are tests, dangers, and pitfalls at various stages of this Quest.
This momentary glimpse of the Overself provides the real beginning of his quest. The uninterrupted realization of it provides the final ending.
When he begins to sense the inner peace and exaltation which is a perfume, as it were, upon the threshold of the Overself, he may understand how real this inner life is and paradoxically how unintelligible, indescribable, and immaterial from the ordinary standpoint. It is something, and yet not something which can be put into shape or form graspable by the five senses. Anyway it is there and it is the Immortal Soul.
The personal man needs to grow and develop adequately as man. Only after this does he reach the stage when it is safe, and not premature, to undo the ego, and destroy its rule. For after this point the latter becomes a tyranny when the task now is to make it a subserviency.
It is inevitable that a seeking mind--as differentiated from a stodgy one--should pass through various progressive phases of thinking.
From error at one end to truth at the other, the journey is long and tedious.
Let him take from different teachings what suits his mind and purpose: the study of comparative religion and mysticism may assist him here. But this is for a beginning; later he will need to specialize each period to its needed idea.
It is good as a beginning to believe in God. It is admirable as the next step to try to come closer to God by worship--but it is not enough. It is a fulfilment of a still higher duty to try to know that in us which is the link with God, which in contrast to man is of a godlike nature.
The order of progress is from belief to knowledge, and thence to love of that which is known.
If a man comes to this quest by thought or by suffering or by fate, he will end by love if he remains with it, love of that which shines forth during his first glimpse, love of the Overself. It is like the child losing, then finding, its parent.
First, he has a vague feeling of being attracted towards the Overself. Then he bestows more attention upon it, thinks of it frequently; at length attention grows into concentration and this, in turn, culminates in absorption. In the end, he can say, with al Hallaj: "I live not in myself, only in Thee. Last night I loved. This morning I am Love."
The stages in philosophic training usually begin with gaining a theoretical knowledge of the teachings. When this is well established, it grows in time into an aspiration for self-improvement and into an effort to mold character and conduct in conformity with the philosophic ideal. Such a maturation period is often a long and difficult one. In the third stage the "glimpse" of enlightenment begins to be experienced. The first glimpse has a far-reaching effect and is likely to be associated with the first contact with an inspired spiritual guide, or with the writings of such a man. In the case of some persons there is a different series of steps. The glimpse comes first, the theoretical study next, striving to express through living comes last.
The seeker will pass through three periods successively before he can enter the sublime land of realization. First he must experiment with and exhaust the external possibilities of religion; then he must practise the internal rite of meditation; lastly he must, with sharpened intelligence, pursue the subtlest of all philosophies.
That a higher existence is possible for mankind may be a strong intuitive feeling or a strong religious belief. It can develop through experience of a mystical glimpse into personal realization or more lastingly, more truthfully, through experience of philosophic insight.
The aspiration or yearning comes first on the Quest, the repentance and cleansing come next; study, prayer, and meditation will then naturally follow these preparations. He must first make himself ready for the illumination, then only will he get it. As a consequence of all these efforts and aspirations, he will begin to grow out of himself. Wisdom comes with the end of a long probation.
The third part of the quest is a moral and social praxis.
The higher stage is pure philosophy, for it re-educates his outlook and hence his consciousness. It demands close, concentrated study, however, and therefore few care for it. It is based on reasoning, not on mystic intuitions, and will be the logical development of modern science if it keeps on probing as men like Eddington, Planck, and others like them have done. Unfortunately the West has not carried reasoning to the bitter end, as the ancient Rishees did, for it has omitted consideration of the dream and deep sleep states from its data, as well as other important matters. Reason is not to be confused with logic, either; the latter is limited and cannot yield truth.
But the mystical experience is not sufficiently common to be made the foundation for popular instruction in the modes of obtaining it. Humanity in its present stage is not even mystical by nature, let alone philosophical, but it could become so by education and training. For mysticism always follows religion as a further stage in the individual's journey. The mystical consciousness is an inevitable stage of human evolution. Every man will attain it with the efflux of time. But he will not do so by a smooth mechanical clocklike progress. His ascent will be uneven erratic and zigzag. Yet he will necessarily attain it. The few who want to anticipate the human evolutionary process must take to mysticism or philosophy.
First stage: This is attained by those who study metaphysics alone or practise mysticism alone. It is the withdrawal from the senses and their objects. It is negative. It leads to a perception that the external world is unsatisfactory. It is the great turning away from things of sense. It is an ascetic stage; it is accompanied by thoughts; it is a recognition that matter is not ultimately real. It is marked by moral change. It is the discovery through a glimpse of his spiritual nature which is an ecstatic sense of union with a superior immaterial being. He feels on occasions that he is divine.
Second stage: It affirms the unique positive ultimate reality. It yields the vision of mystic light of the Logos; it is attained by mysticism alone. It is entry into the Void; it is the discovery of Spirit; it is trance. It is thought-free, delights in solitude. This realization of God in the heart marks the Witness-stage of ultramystic experience. The man feels utterly detached from his own or the world's activities, so much so that he is ascetically tempted to withdraw into a retreat from life. If, however, fate forces him to continue in the world he will feel all the time curiously like a spectator at a cinema show; but this cannot constitute an ultimate human goal.
Third stage: It is in the world, but not of it. It is the return to the external sense-world and the discovery that it too is God-born. It never loses sight of its unity with life, but insists on its connection with action. Instead of becoming a refuge for dreamers, talkers, and escapists, it becomes an inspiring dynamic. It is the realization of All in himself and himself in All. With this attainment he throws himself incessantly into the service of mankind.
Only whole person finds whole truth
Whilst there are parts of our nature which remain still undeveloped, we are not complete men.
It is the wholeness of his bodily, mental, and spiritual being that man must develop.
Results will best prove the soundness of the integrated path, the effectiveness of the integrated personality. Man is a many-sided being. His development must accordingly be correlated with this fact.
The whole psyche of man must get into this task of self-spiritualization. Feeling alone cannot do it, will alone cannot do it, thinking alone cannot do it, and intuiting alone cannot do it. Every element must contribute to it and be shaped by it.
Can these competing tendencies, the extroverting and the introverting, be brought together in a single life? Philosophy not only answers that they can, but also that they must be integrated if the mystical life is to reach its fullest bloom. It wisely mingles the two ideals without despoiling either. Here, it not only co-operates with human nature but also imitates the rhythmic pattern of Nature. It is in harmony with Tao, "the way the universe goes."
It is not enough to develop any one of these parts of our being alone. It is a much more stupendous task to develop all three at the same time. Yet this is what philosophy asks for.
Work completely done, the body effectively used, the mind capably directed--such a roundly developed personality is the ideal.
If the whole truth is to be discovered, the whole being must be brought to its quest. If this is done, philosophy will be lived as well as known, felt as well as understood, experienced as well as intuited.
Man as a whole must enter on the Quest and then the complete organism will benefit when truth is found. If isolated functions alone enter on it then they alone will benefit by the truth.
So long as he is an incomplete person, so long will he never be able to find more than an incomplete truth.
It is not just one part of man which is to follow the quest but all parts of him. The whole truth can come only to the whole man.
Other experiences and other goals demand the strength and activity of only a part of his being from him but this search for a higher life demands his all.
He follows the quest somewhat hesitantly, discontinuously and cautiously, wary lest it demands more from him than he is prepared to give. There is no objection: he may set his own pace but in the end, of course, he must come into this quest with all of himself.
Why should he not be a human being as well as a yogi? Why should he not bring all of his nature to this co-operative venture that is Life?
The quest may become his central interest but this is no excuse for him to become unbalanced or disequilibriated.
If he comes to the quest with his whole being, turning every side of it to the quest's light and discipline, he may confidently expect the full insight, the full transformation and not a partial, incomplete result.
The first reward is truth realized in every part of his being, the lower self becoming the instrument of the Soul. The second reward is peace, intensely satisfying and joyous. A keen and constant longing after the Soul's consciousness, a willingness to surrender all to it inwardly, are however necessary prerequisites.
The acceptance of these ideas can only benefit, and not harm, humanity.
If he will consciously put himself into line with this higher purpose of human living, he will not only become a better and wiser man but also a happier one.
The pursuit of Mammon is an uncertain adventure, but the pursuit of Truth is full of certainty. It rewards its own, even in apparent defeat.
With every year of growing experience and continued application, he will find more and more the truth of these teachings. He will in consequence be unable not to love them more and more.
Out of the Quest will come a yearning for what is the best in life and the highest in Truth.
Out of the medley of mystical researches and peculiar experiments, religious studies and metaphysical contemplations which have taken up so large a part of the Quest, there will emerge a few irrefragable certitudes.
When this truth is at last seen, that heaven is not a place in space but a condition of being, and that therefore it can to a certain extent be realized even before death, a feeling of joy and a sense of adventure are felt. The joy arises because we are no longer restricted by time, and the adventuresomeness arises because a vista of the quest's possibilities opens up.
A serenity which never leaves him and an integrity which always stamps him, are only two of the fruits of matured philosophic discipline.
If there were nothing more--no exciting or dramatic inner experience--possible than this ameliorating peace, this extra-deep feeling of stillness, it would be enough to make the time and care given to it worthwhile. But there is more for those who want also to know something of its source, its workings and connections. Beyond that little measure of knowledge, be content, for the Great Mystery swallows all who find it. Yet there is nothing to fear.
He whose resort is solely the personal ego is constantly subject to its limitations and narrowness and, consequently, is afflicted with strains and anxieties. He who lets it go and opens himself up, whose resort is to his Higher Self, finds it infinite and boundless and, consequently, is filled with inward peace.
The quest often begins with a great sadness but always ends with a great happiness. Its course may flow through both dark and bright moods at times, but its terminus will be unbelievably serene.
When he has brought the host of conflicting emotions to rest, when he has trained the thoughts to obedience, when he has fought and beaten the ego itself, he comes to a state of peace.
Therefore it is that, grey with wandering from his ancient goal, the aspirant turns tired feet across the threshold of immortal thought and dwells for a soft white hour upon the couch of unutterable peace. The words he has heard with his mortal ears have proved only of momentary worth to him, but the words he hears when he turns away from the world and listens with the inner ear will walk by his side until the end of Time.
The Quest gives him the chance to achieve inner peace and find inner happiness; it does not give peace and happiness. If this does not seem to justify its labours and disciplines, remember that ordinary man lacks even this chance.
To enter into the presence of a high inspiration, feel its ennoblement, and understand its message, brings a deeply satisfying joy.
The man who fails to find joy in his Quest has not understood the Quest.
There is no need for aspirants to engage in the cult of morbid suffering. There is no reason why they should not be happy. If the Quest is to bring them nearer to their essential self, it will also bring them nearer to its happiness.
When a man feels the presence of a diviner self within his breast, when he believes that its power protects and provides for him, when he views past errors and future troubles alike with perfect equanimity, he has a better capacity to enjoy life and a truer expression of happiness than those who delight only in ephemeral pleasures and sense satisfactions. For it will endure into times of adversity and last through hours of calamity, where the other will crumble and vanish.
Wisdom may or may not come with the years of old age: it is more likely to come with the labours in self-rule and the deepenings of study, concentration, and reflection, with the humbling religious veneration of the higher Power. It is, they say, its own reward but it is a bringer of gifts, of which inner peace is the most prominent and a kindly smile the most permanent.
The student who has diligently applied himself to the primary tasks of self-improvement, and who has accompanied his efforts with honest and rigid self-analysis, will discover that many questions which formerly baffled him have been solved by the workings of his own intuition.
He who has won wisdom as the reward of his quest wins virtue as its natural accompaniment too.
Nobody can earnestly work through a course in the higher philosophy without finding himself a better and wiser man at the end than he was at the beginning. And this result will come to him almost unconsciously, little by little, through the creative power of right thinking.
His judgements turn out to be misjudgements, and his caution to be indecision. Often this may be so, alas! But this is the kind of wisdom which comes with failure or defeat; it embodies the hindsight which, too late to be of possible use except in the future, is the consequence after the event. How precious then would be the acquirement of two values to which the Quest may lead a man--calmness and intuition.
Here on the quest, it is not only possible for him to meet the profoundest thoughts of the human mind but also its highest experiences.
He who finds the Overself, loses the burdens, the miseries, and the fears of the ego.
How does the quest remove his fears? By providing him sooner or later with firm assurance that the Overself's gracious power is not only illuminative but also protective.
Slowly, as he strives onward with this inner work, his faults and frailties will fall away and this ever-shining better self hidden behind them will begin to be revealed.
Even if his quest ends in total failure (which it cannot do) the ideals and ideas it involves will have left some impress on his character, for they are faint reverberations of whispers from his higher being.
When this inner work is sufficiently advanced, certain traits of character will either advance in strength or appear for the first time. Among them are patience, goodwill, stability, self-control, peacefulness, and equableness.
His meditations tend to make him sensitive and his studies sympathetic; the two qualities combine well so that others notice how kindly he is in personal relations.
It is essential to make clear that none should take to this Quest in order to follow or depend on some particular man, or to gain certain mystic experiences, for if he is disappointed in the man or frustrated in reaching the experiences, he will be inclined to abandon the Quest. No!--he should take to it for its own sake, because it is immeasurably worthwhile and because its rewards in improved character and developed understanding are sufficient in themselves to pay for his effort. If the Quest helps him to become aware of, and to eradicate, bad faults in himself, in his outlook on life and in his approach to others, it has justified itself. Even if the mystical consciousness fails to show itself, or to show itself often enough to please him, he has still had his money's worth.
The time will come when values will change, when ambitions, powers, possessions, and acquisitions will all be put back into their proper places, when their tyranny over the will and the feelings will be put to an end.
He who seeks his inner being, and finds it, finds also his inner good.
Those who will take the trouble to comprehend what all this means, and who will do what they can to practise the requisite exercises, will find with increasing joy that new life opening up to them.
The aspirant is not unreasonable in asking that some reward, if not an adequate reward, should become visible in time for all his struggles. If he is told to acquire the virtue of patience, he is not told to acquire the quality of hopelessness. There are signs and tokens, experiences and glimpses to hearten him on the way.
Those who are willing to practise the philosophic discipline may realize their spiritual nature for themselves and not have to depend upon hearsay for the knowledge of its existence.
It can be shown that the disciplines of philosophy offer much in return, that to the person who seriously feels his life needs not mere amendment but raising to a finer level there are encouraging experiences and beautiful intuitions awaiting him.
It is a new and different, a superior and fuller, a self-fulfilling kind of experience.
A life so full of exalted purpose, so inspired by a tremendous ideal, cannot be a dull or unhappy one.
The toil of the quest is hard and long. If it deters anyone from starting on it, let him remember that the rewards along the way, even apart from the grand one at the end, are sufficiently worthwhile to repay him for all he is likely to do.
The reward of all the years of long arduous striving will be their happy justification; the rich blessing of an infinite strength within him will pay off the failures and weaknesses of a past self which had to be fought and conquered.
During times of war and suffering, the spiritual Quest demonstrates its value by the inner support which it gives and the unquenchable faith it bestows. The forces of evil will be checked; the good will triumph in the end, as always. God's love for all remains what it ever shall be--the best thing in life.
No man may free himself from every form of outward suffering but all men may free themselves from inward suffering.
How weak, how helpless is the man who is himself alone. How strong, how supported is the man who is both himself and more than himself. In the one, there is only the petty little ego as the motor force; in the other there is also the infinite universal being.
Any man may detect the presence of divinity within himself, if he will patiently work through the course prescribed by authoritative books or a competent guide. It is not the prerogative of spiritual genius alone to detect it.
Is all this too good to be true, too beautiful to be factual? Is it only a theory without grounds, a personal belief without evidence? No!--it is quite demonstrable to anyone who will undertake the work upon himself.
If the quest does nothing more than save him in his darkest hours from total submergence in the all-prevalent worldliness, it will have done enough.
The quest can give stability to the feelings, support to the mind, defense against the pettiness and the evil in the world.
The transformations effected by this inner work seem, when stabilized, to be a natural maturity.
It is only in the rational balanced growth of the mind and the sympathetic heart, the disciplined body and the tranquillized nerves, the philosophic reflectiveness, mystic peace, and ultramystic insight, that a man arrives at last at maturity and normality and thus becomes really sane.
The rewards of this quest are not primarily material ones, although these may come. The only reward that can be guaranteed to the successful aspirant is that he will emerge out of the unregenerate state and come closer to the Overself's consciousness, that is to say, to the kingdom of heaven. Whoever looks for more may be disappointed. But to the man who through reflection or suffering, intuition or instruction, has got his values right, this will be enough.
From the first momentary glimpse of the soul till the final rest in it, he is being led to accept the truth that the love which he wants and hopes to find outside himself must be found within himself. The true beloved is not a person but a presence. When genuine love in its most intense form utterly overwhelms him, he will find that its physical form is a mere caricature of it and that its human form is a pale reflection from it. Instead of having to beg some woman or some man for crumbs of affection from their table, he will find a veritable fountain of everflowing love deep within his heart, and therefore ever available to him in the fullest measure. This is the one beloved who can never desert him, the unique soul-mate who will forever remain with him, the only twin soul he can seek with the absolute certainty that it is truly his own.
At the least there will be more outer harmony and less outer friction in day-to-day living, more inner peace and less inner anxiety.
It leads to amity in human relationships and dissolves enmity.
The more a man becomes acquainted with the true sources of his inner life--both in its good and bad sides--the better it will be for his outer life.
He will expand the meaning of his own habitual life-experience as he expands the awareness of the divine in himself.
Practical wisdom in overcoming the most difficult situations and perfect skill in managing the most delicate ones, are qualities which should emerge from the balanced training given by this quest.
It becomes the background, unknown to other persons, of all his activities. This is a considerable achievement, a consequence of applying to them what he perceived in meditation, learnt in study, and understood in reflection.
It is a teaching whose conceptions give the mind a reasonable understanding of life and whose practice gives the heart repose.
It is a gross mistake to believe that this is a path to worldly misery and material destitution. Says an ancient Sanskrit text, Ratna Karanda Sravakachara: "Whoever turns himself into a jewel-case of philosophic wisdom, perfect devotion, and faultless conduct, to him comes success in all his enterprises, like a woman eager to return to her husband." Note particularly that the promise is made to those who have travelled the threefold path and have also travelled it to its end.
Although its promises and experiences may not appear glamorous in a worldly sense, the Quest reveals itself to be the best of all possible ways of living.
No one who feels that his inner weakness or outer circumstances prevent him from applying this teaching should therefore refrain from studying it. That would not only be a mistake but also a loss on his part. For as the Bhagavad Gita truly says, "A little of this knowledge saves from much danger." Even a few years' study of philosophy will bring definite benefit into the life of a student. It will help him in all sorts of ways, unconsciously, here on earth and it will help him very definitely after death during his life in the next world of being.
He who is sufficiently ready to recognize the Higher Purpose of Life, and who has the courage to change and improve his way of thinking, thereby replacing negative thoughts by positive ones, will certainly be rewarded by improved circumstances and greater happiness than he may already enjoy.
If it exacts the highest possible price in human satisfactions it gives in return the highest possible spiritual satisfactions.
The aspirant may have already discovered for himself some of the inner benefits of the Quest. Once the Overself has been experienced as a felt, living presence in the heart, it loosens the grip of egoistic desires--together with their emotional changes of mood--on one's consciousness and lifts it to a higher level, where he will soon become aware of a wonderful inner satisfaction which remains calm and unruffled despite outward circumstances to the contrary.
Ultimately, the aspirant has to rise into that pure atmosphere whence he can survey his personal life as a thing apart. Still more difficult is it for one to live on that level while expressing the wisdom and goodness known to him. It is, however, almost beyond human strength to achieve the second part of such a program. Therefore, he has first to establish the connection with the Overself so that its strength and understanding will then rule him effortlessly. The moment this connection is established, the aspirant will become aware of results from the descent of Divine Grace upon his personality. Such a moment is unpredictable, but, for the individual who sticks to the Quest, its arrival is sure.
Out of these intense struggles with his thoughts and emotions, these repeated meditations and altruistic actions, these constant self-analyses and ardent yearnings, he will eventually get something which words can hardly describe. It will be a new sense of sacredness, an enlightened awareness of a deeper self, a blessed loving serenity.
Intelligence exercised constantly in musing upon the nature of life, the movements of the universe, the psychology of man, and the mystery of God--if exercised in calmness, intuitive balance, and depth--leads to the opening up of the soul.
In meditation practice, metaphysical study, and right conduct we have the triune path which brings satisfaction, peace, wisdom, and true prosperity. Jesus taught us all this long ago but unfortunately his message has been largely misunderstood, distorted, and even falsified. However he also taught that we are all the children of God. It is a Father's business to look after his children. Despite the tragedy and horror of our times, those who have eyes to see can still see the divine arms enfolding us. Despite the presence of monstrosities in the world, there is also the presence of the Overself--beautiful, radiant, benign, and indestructible.
If he lets this purpose penetrate his entire life, he will soon joyously feel that he is part of the eternal structure of the universe, that he fits into the Idea of it at some point, and that with such a high relationship all things must work together for his ultimate good.
Those who are frightened away from the Quest by these notes of its dangers are better separated from it.
The aspirant who lacks balance is liable to take a misstep at more than one point of his path.
If an unbalanced dreamer is not brought to actuality and reality by experience, he had better leave the quest alone. This is not to say that he cannot get mystical experiences in plenty, but that they will have little true worth for insight.
The uncertainties of the Quest may lead, especially in the neurotic temperament, to a variety of unhappy moods and unhealthy emotions as the years pass by. The student may at such times turn against himself in morbid masochism, or against the teaching he has been following, or against the personal instructor if he has one.
The novice too often lives under the delusion that he is following the Quest when he has yet to find the entrance to it.
The importance of right direction is such that if the angle of deflection covers a long period, the area of error stretches a wide distance.
A self-protective need of the quester is to find and keep both an apparent and a real sanity. The first is needed in defense against the world, the second against himself.
When yoga is improperly or over-practised, one of the harmful results will be a gradual slackening of interest in the common activities of mankind. The unfortunate practitioner develops a blurred and vague character. He becomes increasingly unfit to fulfil social obligations or business duties, and tends to become bored with responsibilities. He treats the fate of others with indifference. He does what is inescapable, but he does it in a casual, detached, and uninterested manner. In short, he becomes unfit for everyday practical life.
Keep away from psychic practices and occult explorations. They are filled with dangers and pitfalls. First devote your energies to the foundational work of learning philosophy, improving character, disciplining emotion, and cultivating calmness. Only after this work has been well advanced will it ever be safe for you to take up occultism, for only then will you be properly equipped to do so.
Once again must a warning be given against the dangers of falling into mere psychism and seeking for phenomena, visions, miracles, and other things which are still in the realm of a kind of subtle materialism and are always connected with the personal ego. The true spiritual experience is higher than that, purer than that, and will leave him absolutely calm, whereas the psychical phenomena leave him excited. Every kind of such phenomena involves thought or emotion, whereas the deepest spiritual experience goes beneath thought and emotion and especially beneath the personal ego. Only then does one come in contact with the Infinite life-power which is behind everything and which is the true goal of this Quest.
Those who imagine the Quest to be a spiritual joyride know only a limited phase of it. For along with the joys there are glooms, difficulties, struggles, conflicts, and vacillations.
That a proportion of those who are attracted to these subjects are psychopaths, is unfortunately true. They would be far better employed in getting proper treatment for their disordered minds, imaginations, and feelings. Mystical studies may easily exaggerate their condition and increase their imbalance. It is the serious duty of every responsible expounder to warn them off this field and to bid them engage in the quest of psychic and bodily health before attempting that of spiritual light!
When a man pays no heed to the warnings of prophets and the counsel of sages, and is still too ungrown to pick his steps correctly, he inevitably loses his way.
The awakening of inner forces ought not be attempted without an accompanying attempt to fortify character and guard against weakness.
In the case of mentally disturbed or emotionally unbalanced persons, trust in their own ego may easily be misread as trust in the Overself--with correspondingly lamentable results.
The danger is that he may get lost in the mazes of his own mind. Those who suffer from such psychic maladjustments cannot find truth but only its distortions. They have fallen into a mental quagmire.
Let him not deceive himself. Few have ever really entered that exquisite awareness and remained there. Others seem to have done so but the fact is that they merely touched its outermost fringe for a few moments and then passed into an egoistic conceited state which has trapped them.
Certain psychic experiences may arise, the pattern of which is familiar, having been observed in both the writer's own experience and numerous other cases. Between the ordinary state of undeveloped humanity and the truly spiritual state attained by highly advanced individuals, there is a psychic region conducive to mediumship and other pitfalls and dangers which has to be crossed. One is indeed fortunate to come through this safely.
From several different sources a variety of suggestive influences play upon the student's mind and habits, influences which may be all very well for others but which may be harmful to his own individuality at his particular stage of spiritual progress. This is true not only of the trivial affairs of everyday living but also of the loftier affairs of aspirational living. White truths and black falsehoods, cleverly combined half-truths and half-falsehoods are continually being presented to his consciousness. Not only his physical life, but also his mental life must become a process of careful acceptance and vigilant rejection. At a certain stage of this quest the seeker must be particularly careful to be on his guard against the skilfully suggested "truths" of others who mistake their own candle-glimmer for the sun's glory and the prejudices born of their own narrow experience for the wisdom born of insight. This caution is especially necessary in the sphere of mystical experience.
The wary seeker should be on his guard against those who offer pseudo-knowledge as well as those extremists who would lead him off balance.
Those who take to this quest for the sake of satisfying personal ambition, will do better in the end to leave it alone.
Travelling on this quest can be only another way of inflating their egos, increasing their pride, and renewing their sectarianism.
It is not easy, this quest. Some stumble along it and somehow manage to advance a little way, but others give up.
A longtime personal disciple of Professor Jung told P.B., "My friend and teacher Jung was not opposed to yoga: it was only that most of the people who came to see him were patients who suffered from psychosis. He thought this should be cured first, or yoga would be perilous."
Teachers have sometimes tried to discourage people from entering on the Quest, for, by their own experience, they know what a long and painful road it is.
Beginners come to this quest with little knowledge and much indoctrination, so that sectarian attitudes soon appear again, although clothed in a different jargon.
Too many beginners form too many misconceptions about this subject, too often got from miscellaneous cursory reading of mixed quality.
There is not only danger in dabbling in meditation but also in experimenting in it too long without adequate safeguards or qualified supervision.
Seductive activities, phenomena, ideas, or "guides" may try to lure him from this straight course into time-wasting sideshows or dangerous directions. Reform, psychism, politics, perverted teachings or counterfeit ones may call but must not be heeded. He has a long way to go yet and must take care to keep on the right road.
Good intent or sincere motive cannot by itself be enough to protect the fool against his own gullibility, the uncritical against his own stupidity, and the uninformed against his own ignorance. All this is as true of the quest itself as of that part of its practice called meditation.
Extravagant assertions and erroneous ideas constitute another peril which besets the developing beginner.
There is an evil quest too, whose disciples seek to serve their lower nature rather than to conquer it, and whose masters show themselves by action or teaching to be monsters.
Warnings must be given against possible pitfalls on the quester's way. Yes, meditation may lead to hallucinations, spiritual self-development may lead to spiritual vanity, and self-purification may lead to ascetic crankiness.