Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 24: The Peace within You > Chapter 3: Practise Detachment

Practise Detachment

Even while you share in the life, the work, and the pleasures of this world, learn also to stand aside as a witness of them all. Learn how to be a spectator as well as a participator; in short, let detachment accompany your involvement, or rather let it hide secretly behind the other. You may say that this is an impossible task, a contradictory one, a pulling in two opposite directions at one and the same time. Yes, it seems so in theory; but in practice you will find that, given enough time, enough understanding, and enough work at it, it can be fulfilled. For you do not stand alone with it; behind is your own higher Self. From its resources and by its grace, the way to this wonderful attainment may be found. Learn how to pass into mental quiet, inward stillness, and you may intuit this higher Self.

What has been called "purgation of the intellect, memory, and will" actually happens in the deep contemplative state. The faculty of thinking temporarily ceases to function, the awareness of personal identity vanishes for a time, and the ability to direct the muscular movements of the body stops as in a paralysed man. These changes last only for the hour of his meditation practice and are responsible for much interior growth in the shifting of consciousness from the lower nature to the higher self. But there is a more enduring state wherein the "purgation" reappears in another form, better suited to the aspirant's active everyday existence. He finds that the more he inclines to detach himself from worldly things, the less firmly do they lodge themselves in his memory. In this way, and little by little, neither the dead past nor the active present can overcome him and make his mind their prisoner. So, too, the unrealized future does not do the same in the form of fears or anticipations, anxieties or desires. Thus he "purges" memory, he loosens himself from immersion in time and begins to live in the blessedly liberated and liberating Eternal Now. The purgation of intellect shows itself in this active form throughout the day as a perfect tranquillity of the mind which instantly comes into logical thinking activities as and when needed but otherwise remains at peace in the Eternal Stillness. The purgation of the will manifests in a continuous freedom from enslaving passions, from bodily directives and egoistic impulses.

There are two different ways of being detached: the ascetic's, which dissociates itself from the world and tries to live outside the world's activities; and the philosopher's, which accepts those activities but not the dependence which usually comes with them.

In that once locked-up land of Tibet there dwelt a spiritual teacher named Marpa. He wrote a text for his disciples. Therein is the piece "Be Content":

"My son, as a monastery be content with the body, for the bodily substance is the palace of divinity. As a teacher, be content with the mind, for knowledge of the Truth is the beginning of holiness. As a book be content without things, for their number is a symbol of the way of deliverance. As food be content to feed on ecstasy, for stillness is the perfect likeness of divinity. Companions, be content to forsake, for solitude is president of the divine assembly. Raging enemies be content to shun for enmity is a traveller upon the wrong path. With demons be content to meditate upon the void, for magic apparitions are creations of the mind."

How trifling all his earthly successes must seem to a dying man! Such is the state of mind which may be called inner detachment and which the aspirant needs to cultivate.

Only he is able to think his own thought, uninfluenced by others, who has trained himself to enter the Stillness, where alone he is able to transcend all thought.

He cultivates detachment, for this is a means to becoming a truly free man.

Is detachment a condition of mummified or half-tranced living? If wisely practised, with balance and common sense, it need not be anything of the sort.

What man can live entirely immune from troubles? Where is he? I have never met him and know no one who has.

"Independent of" seems a better term than "detached from" (outside things).

In this matter I must take my attitude from Epictetus when he asked, "Who, then, is the invincible man?" He himself answered it thus: "He whom nothing that is outside the sphere of his spiritual purpose can dismay."

Not everyone can reach such heights of complete detachment. Most usually feel it to be far beyond their capacities . . . yet it often comes by itself when they are old dotards. But then the credit is hardly theirs, neither karmically nor personally.

The term fana is associated in origin with the Sufi Abu Yazid (or, Bayazid) Tayfur ibn Isa ibn Sharushan al-Bastami (ninth century). It first came into prominence in eastern Persia. The person who practises it becomes, in Inayat Khan's words, "independent of all earthly sources and lives in the Being of God by the denial of his individual self."

Loneliness vanishes completely in the Stillness. He is then with the power behind the entire universe, with the Mind behind all human consciousness. He returns from the Stillness welcoming the condition of being free, unattached, unjoined--this is no longer the condition of being lonely.

When this equanimity becomes of itself--for it is in the end a grace--a deeply settled state, he finds that detachment is a part of it.

By detachment I mean something less in the Hindu sense and more in the Taoist. Do not ask me to define this with more sharpness.

He is always himself, undetracted by the worldly turns, undeterred by the worldly difficulties.

As for the detached man, happenings pass him by. He knows them for what they are: transitory, coming and going, ever moving. And to what are they moving? They are moving until they are finally gone into death.

The detachment which comes to the old through weariness and fatigue is in some ways similar to the detachment which comes to much younger people through the study of philosophy and the work upon themselves. However, in the latter case it is a positive quality whereas in the case of the old it is merely a passive one.

He will live leisurely in the moment yet not aimlessly for the moment. He will take things as they come, yet a steady purpose will underlie this calm detachment. He will establish within himself a retreat from the furor and rush of modern existence yet not be apart from it.

That mind is truly free which has emerged from the common state of being conditioned, distorted, unbalanced, and physically sense-Bound.

Although there are some points where they touch one another, there is a fundamental difference between philosophic detachment and the unassailable insensibility cultivated by the lower order of Hindu yogis or the invulnerable unfeelingness sought by the ancient Stoics. Some part of the philosopher remains an untouched, independent, and impartial observer. It notes the nature of things but does not allow itself to be swept away by the repulsiveness of unpleasant things or lost in the attractiveness of pleasant ones. But this does not prevent him from removing himself from the neighbourhood of the first kind, or from finding pleasure in the second kind. It is the same with his experience of persons. He is well aware of their characteristics; but however undesirable, faulty, or evil they may be, he makes no attempt to judge them. Indeed, he accepts them just as they are. This is inevitable since, being aware of his and their common origin in God, he practises goodwill towards everyone unremittingly.

Until you arrive at the stage of development where you can be content to let others find their own heaven or make their own hell, you will not be able to find your own peace. Until you learn not to mind what they say or how they behave, you show that you have yet to reach philosophic maturity.

Philosophy does not ask you, nor ought it ask you, to become perfectly indifferent towards your personal concerns. It is not wildly idealistic. Attend properly to them, it enjoins, but do so in a transformed spirit.

He has been brought by experiences of life and studies in philosophy to a point where the personal life has become much of a dream. He sees everything as the Buddhists say, as subject to change, coming, and going, and he sees no exception to this universal law. Consequently he attaches himself to nothing, but accepts everything that is worth accepting, without, however, so tying himself to the need of it as to suffer too grievously should destiny remove it again.

He will mentally be in control of every situation, yielding no reaction to it which is not in accord with philosophical principles.

There is a difference between the watchful patience which philosophy inculcates when adversity falls and the mute resignation which fatalism commands.

For a sensitive person, living in the world is difficult: he is tempted to renounce, desert, or hide from it and go his own way. But if he gains this inward peace and is practised enough to stay in his centre, then worldly life turns into a sacrament, is known for the passing spiritual drama that it is, and is borne philosophically.

The notion that the fortunes and misfortunes of life should be of little importance to a philosopher is not a correct one. To practise a calm detachment is not to ignore worldly values.

He will find, with time, that this increasing detachment from his own person will reflect itself back in an increasing detachment from other persons. Consequently, irritation with their faults, quarrels with their views, and interference with their lives will show themselves less and less. It is pertinent to note, however, the difference between the ordinary mystic's detachment from personalities and the philosophical mystic's. The first tends finally to become mere indifference, whereas the second always becomes compassionate.

Will this atmosphere of impersonality have a chilling effect on him? It might be thought so and in some cases it does happen so. But in a well-controlled, well-balanced person it need not be so. There is no real need to withdraw from the more affectionate or more intimate human relationships. They can be taken into the larger circle.

To be detached from the world does not mean to be uninterested in the world.

Do not confuse inner detachment with callous indifference. Do not search after impossible results. A worthy goal for human beings cannot be devoid of human feelings, however elevated they may be: it cannot be a glacial one.

He may become detached without becoming dehumanized. He may live inwardly apart from the rest of the world without lessening his goodwill and good feeling for others.

Does this practice of detachment chill a man's nature to an inhuman degree? It sets him free from enslavements--a freedom which he comes to enjoy, which enjoyment makes him happier, with the result that he shows a happier front to others. He does not become frozen.

A person who has brought his feelings under control with a view to detachment is likely to be an undemonstrative person. That is true but it is also likely to lead others to misjudge him.

The world is told of the inner detachment which philosophy bestows, the deeper calm which it puts into a man's existence. Too often this is misread to mean a chilling remoteness from life's inescapable concerns, a feeble response to the personal demands which duty lays upon him.

It might be thought that at such an inner distance from most of mankind he is in danger of becoming a misanthrope. But the presence of a positive quality of goodwill is inalienably associated with awareness of Overself.

This emotional detachment seems unnatural and frigid, if not suicidal, yet it is really a capacity to see things as they unromantically are.

The practice of detachment need not destroy, perhaps not even weaken, our enjoyment of the arts, the entertainments, the comforts, and the gadgets which human genius creates.

Whoever comes close to this uncovered goodness within his heart--can he have any other feeling towards others than that of goodwill?

Calmness and detachment should not be practised to the point of fanaticism, so that they become cold, unfeeling. To prevent this imbalance, the practice of cheeriness and the cultivation of goodwill are to be called in.

Philosophic serenity in the midst of civic commotion is not the same as, and therefore is not to be confused with, religious fatalism or sceptical rashness.

That such profound detachment can coexist with normal human feelings of liking or disliking may seem impossible, yet experience proves it--for some persons.

Anger cannot upset his peace, nor can hate be projected towards someone else; virtue comes of itself and kindness is an inevitable attribute.

The kind of emotional neutrality where there is no more aversion to pain or attraction to pleasure is not quite the detachment sought by philosophy.

It is an error to believe that being detached is equivalent to being callous, that the change of values and the control of thoughts leads to an icy, emotionless composure.

Whoever lives in the spirit lives in its perennial peace. It is a happy peace, a smiling peace, but he is not lost in it. He is aware also of the suffering which exists around him and in the world at large. In just the same way, if he is responsive to the beauty which nature offers and man creates, he is also aware of the ugliness which exists.

None of those humanist qualities which are really worthwhile need be discarded. They ought indeed to be preserved. But they are put into their proper place by philosophy, evaluated at their correct price. For they, as everything else, must be subordinated to, and coordinated with, the life divine.

When detachment is overdone it becomes a cold bloodlessness. The man then moves and acts like a marionette.

In a sense he becomes depersonalized but he need not become dehumanized.

Turn inward

He who attains this inner equilibrium is neutral to all the ideas thrown at him by books and men, unresponsive to all the suggestions dumped on him by social trends and institutions. His mind dwells in vacuity--free, happy in itself and with itself. His is the centered life.

To turn one's mind instantly towards the divinity within, when in the presence of discordant people, is to silence harsh thoughts and to banish hurtful feelings. This frequent turning inward is necessary not only for spiritual growth, but for self-protection. Everything and everyone around us plays a potent influence upon our minds, and this is the best means of detaching oneself from this ceaseless flow of suggestions.

By expecting nothing, he avoids disappointment. By refraining from effort, he avoids defeat. By clinging to inner calm, he avoids anxiety.

If he is to keep this wonderful inner calm, he must be vigilant that he does not accept from others the pressures they would put upon him. That is, he must be true to himself, his higher self.

One form of self-training to help acquire this inner detachment is to practise seeing and hearing no more of what is happening around one than is absolutely necessary for one's immediate purpose, duty, or activity.

If such a man is to live in untroubled inner peace, he can do so only if he no longer worries--not only about himself but also about others.

Like Liu Ling, third-century philosophic Taoist and poet, who "dwelt without having any domicile," he is detached even in his activities and not detained even in close friendships.

The happiness he finds in certain persons, events, things, or places may pass away with time or with them, and leave him feeling so empty that it is as if they had never been in his life, or as if they had appeared only in a dream. This is because he left them, where he found them--in the world of illusion--instead of bringing them where they become transformed--in the world of Reality.

This is an art, indeed, to live alone in the midst of the multitude.

It is not that he takes a neutral position in all controversies--he sees only too well for that--but rather that he prefers to be disinvolved and detached by attending to his own business, where alone he can do the most good!

He tries to put himself beyond the power of other persons to suggest thoughts, wishes, actions, or feelings to him, even when they do it unawares. A detached attitude is of much help for this purpose.

When a man needs nobody and possesses nobody, he is much closer to peace and strength.

Song--author unknown: Look not thou on beauty's charming/ Sit thou still when kings are arming/ Vacant heart and hand and eye/ Easy live and quiet die.

The itch of curiosity which wants to know other people's private lives, the urge to meddle in their affairs or tamper with their lives, must be suppressed if one's own peace is ever to be found.

Whoever accepts praise must also accept blame. Whoever is inwardly unaffected by the first will likewise be inwardly unaffected by the second. What action he may then take outwardly depends on his individual circumstances.

When we arrive at such a state of impersonal understanding, we begin to see friends in our enemies and sometimes even enemies in our friends. For we begin to seek without emotion the causes in ourself which arouse antagonism in others. Thus we learn more about our weaknesses, our incapacities, and our faults, even though we have to sift many falsehoods, many exaggerations, distortions, and even wickednesses to get at this knowledge.

The serenity which possesses his heart permits him to regard the shabbiness, the injustice, or the meanness of the treatment which he may receive from others with lofty indifference--with resignation, too, it ought to be added, for he realizes that nothing better need be expected from such characters and such perceptions as theirs.

He must train himself to become so accustomed to bearing the injustice of surface judgements that he will expect few of the other kind.

How much better to live in dignified silence, ignoring the petty printed sniping and the jealous vocal yapping of those who incarnate the dog, the reptile, or the flea!

Nothing that his enemies say will ever have the power to wound him if he listens to it with the ear of inward detachment.

While outwardly and resolutely doing all he can to foil the evil designs of his opponents, he must inwardly and resignedly detach himself from his troubles.

Human frailty being what it is, human conduct should never surprise us and never amaze us. By not expecting too much from it, we save ourselves unnecessary bitterness or disappointment.

He will get a lot of fun out of life when he can sit indifferent to its ups and downs, when he can pity his enemies and laugh at their libels.

He will look for no approbation from others and no reward from society. How could he if he is really detached?

He will see the faults in those he has to deal with just as before, but now they will not seem to matter and will not be able to irritate or upset him.

When a campaign of invective grew, Ananda suggested to the Buddha that they should go elsewhere. But the Buddha refused to do so, saying, "I am like the elephant that has entered the fray: I must endure the darts that fall upon me."

Not for him should be the vanity which demands to have its ego built up by others, by their praise or flattery.

Jesus did not answer when malignment and malediction were hurled upon him. Buddha kept silence when vilification and abuse were uttered against him. These great souls did not live in the ego and therefore did not care to defend it.

It is part of the price that may have to be given by the aspirant to separate himself from friends who are constantly critical of his quest, social groups that are time-wasting hindrances to it, or relatives who are virulently antagonistic to it. This is not to say that he must always do so, for each case is individual and needs to be carefully judged. Sometimes he will be better advised to bear sneers in patience and bear mockery of clacking tongues in resignation.

Thank heavens we do not have to carry with us to the Divine Arbiter any certificate of character drawn up by the mob that does not know our hearts: He, and He alone, can read our true worth and reckon our human faults with accuracy and with mercy.

While others avidly seek publicity, he is indifferent both to popular acclaim and to popular criticism.

The more successfully he can keep himself free from worldly ties, the more extensively he will be able to serve mankind.

As I was studying him one wintry evening in the snow-covered streets of St. Albans where I first met him, strange thoughts filled my head. Under those tattered rags dwelled a spirit of purest sapphire. The inscrutable writ of destiny had put him upon this path. But as he spoke to me, in calm happy tones, of diverse spiritual matters, I felt my mind being steadily raised by the tremendous power of his dynamic thoughts to a sublimer state. I sensed his amazing peace, his godlike realization, his cosmic outlook, his profoundly impersonal feeling, and I knew that the man before me would not willingly change his lot for that of any millionaire on earth. Hard to understand, this, but there are a few who will grasp my meaning. I do not preach poverty as a path to peace. But I do say that unless you have found inner wealth, unless your success exists within your heart and thoughts and conscience also, the external symbol of an all-powerful checkbook is a mockery and may even prove a curse as well.

He who has attuned himself to the egoless life and pledged himself to the altruistic life will find that in abandoning the selfish motives which prompt men he has lost nothing after all. For whatever he really needs and whenever he really needs it, it will come to his hands. And this will be equally true whether it be something for himself or for fulfilment of that service to which he is dedicated. Hence a Persian scripture says: "When thou reachest this station [the abandonment of all mortal attachments], all that is thy highest wish shall be realized."

Out of the continued practice of this inward detachment from his own actions and their results, there develops within him a sense of strength and mastery, a feeling of happy peace and being at ease.

The cool detachment which he feels in the presence of temptations is a very satisfying feeling, a worthwhile reward for the struggles to attain it.

No man can try to hold this detached attitude toward his own activities without getting a continuous and excellent training in self-control. Mental equanimity, emotional stability, and a better knowledge of his self are also among the fruits of success.

Such cool detachment has its uses at a time when passions are violent, emotions are explosive, and destructive ideas or persons run wild among us.

The Gita enjoins unconcern about the results of activity not only because this leads to calm detached feelings as the large general result, but also because it leads to better ability to keep meditation continuously going on in the background of attention as the special result.

If you want to enjoy inner peace, you must practise inner detachment.

Those who can bring themselves to give up all, will receive all. Those who can dare to lift themselves out of emotional oscillation will find "the peace which passeth understanding." Those who can perceive that they are their own obstacles in the way will in no long time perceive the truth.

The man who practises this spirit of detachment is no longer the victim of conflicting emotional states. He feels free inside himself.

Temptation as such disappears at this advanced stage and becomes a means of increasing his strength of will.

Whatever you really need inheres in, and may be drawn from, that stillness.

The man who knows how to live in his centre and not stray away from it, frequently finds that he need not make any move towards satisfying a need. It will often come by itself at the right moment drawn by the magnetic central power.

The results of this inner freedom are many. Thus he who feels this inward peace which he has won through deep renunciation is likely to feel a cynical dislike for politics, for the sharp debates it fosters, the personal abuse it suggests, the selfish conflicts it engenders, and the harsh polemics it creates.

Just as the leaves of a sapless tree dry up and fall off, so the desires of such a man wither away of themselves.

If he establishes himself first in this vital creative centre, all else will be added unto him inevitably and inescapably.

Because he can see straight through it, because he can penetrate its true nature, reaching Reality through the Appearance that it merely is, he can deal with the world, negotiate its transactions, and experience its ups and downs all the better now that he is detached and nonchalant.

Ananda Coomaraswamy on the doctrine of the Tao, the path of non-pursuit: "All that is best for us comes of itself into our hands but if we strive to overtake it, it eludes us."

When in the end the ego gives up its struggle because it sees that the better way is the higher way, however much that may involve resignation and renunciation, the reward comes quickly in the peace that falls upon the soul.

If a man understands that life is like a dream and is mental at bottom, and if as a result he practises a certain kind of detachment, there will descend upon his character a calmness and a serenity for which he will not even have to work, given sufficient time.

If he can transcend himself, can rise to independence from the ego's attachments and desires and emotions, utter peace awaits him.

Solving difficulties

It is a quality not easily come by, this detachment, and moreover one which is too often falsely assumed. He will have to test himself from time to time, or co-operate with life's own testing of him, to find out how authentic his detachment really is.

There is a materialistic serenity and a spiritual serenity. The first comes from the possession of money, property, position, or affection. The other comes from no outward possessions but from inward ones. The first can be shattered at a single blow; the other soon recovers.

Can he keep his mind unruffled amid bad times as well as good ones, under catastrophe as well as victory? The capacity to sustain such indifference is the ideal; the circumstances are the test of what he is, as well as the opportunity to become better than he is.

Nor is it a question of choosing between being self-important and being humble, for the ego can be strong in both cases. It happens in the second case if accompanied by exhibitionism, and in the first case if accompanied by total concentration upon itself. The practice of detachment avoids both errors.

If he has truly attained this peace, he will also have died to the flesh, and its unruly urges, at the same time. This is one of the tests for him to know just where he is.

If his inner peace is only a spurious one, it will crumple at the first thorough test. And be sure life will provide this test.

These professionals of spirituality make it such a self-conscious affair that the constantly reiterated references to "giving up the ego" or "standing aside from the personal self" seem like a kind of play-acting, not to be taken seriously, not real, not authentic, only make-believe, a pretense.

His unruffled calmness and dispassionate outlook will show itself not only in the day-by-day events of ordinary life but also when tested in the rigorous crises of fate. He will be as detached towards them as if they had happened a half-century before and he was viewing them from afar.

Can he detach himself from the personal aspects of the situation? Can he refuse to be guided by them or influenced by the feelings of the moment? This is his test.

To live and work in the world as it is today, strenuous, materialistic, and sensual, and still keep vivid an intuitive feeling of its own dreamlike mentalistic nature, is a balance quite hard to find.

People get uneasy when they are asked to practise detachment, as if it would take the joy out of life if they followed this rule.

It is a difficult art, this, to live in one's Spirit-centre simultaneously with existence in the Body-circumference.

This question is often asked: How is it possible to keep the mind constantly engaged in the inner life when it has also to give attention, and, quite often, unswerving attention, to the necessary tasks involved in earning a livelihood?

It is not easy, this twofold attitude, which lives alertly in what is taking place around it, yet as detached from the present as from the future.

It is easy to look at the past with detachment and to judge it with calm, but to do both during the flow of current events is very much harder.

It is not easy where there are duties and commitments to adopt an attitude of renunciation.

It is perhaps not true to write that the man must become utterly detached. No one who is yet embodied, yet compelled to deal with the world without him and traffic with it for his necessities, can be called that--however free he has made his heart and however firm he has made his mind.

The attitude required of him is a detachment from his emotions as impartial and as disinterested as that of the mathematician from his figures. This attitude may seem not only too impossible to attain, but also too frightening, too bleakly abstinent to retain. It would seem that no human creature could deliver himself up to it, or would want to do so.

Whether it is possible for anyone to achieve a total impersonality may be questioned; but if the ideal of it is set up, at least right direction will be gained and some progress will be made.

Detachment as ordinarily proposed seems virtually impossible except in smooth talk about it or glib writing of it. What is possible and indeed preferable is a commonsense indifference or a better balanced detachment.

Is it at all possible that a human being, with flesh blood and nerves, living in a world and time like ours with all the inflamed discussions, the tensions and frictions, the sufferings and violence, can keep an inner aloofness?

Desire only to be desireless. Be detached even from efforts to be detached. It does not seem humanly possible to follow such rules.

Training mind and heart

The mind must be hardened until it can rise, to whatever extent its endurance allows, above circumstances. It can do this only by habitually cultivating equanimity, indifference, detachment.

Whatever mental-emotional clouds the day may bring, he does not detain them but lets them pass over him. This would seem a superhuman feat, but it becomes possible when he turns them over to the higher power.

No disappointment in expectations can lead to embitterment in heart. His own tranquillity is worth more to him than that.

He will little by little adjust himself to his handicaps and live in emotional peace despite them.

It is true that he can quickly recover his serenity and steadiness. But he is able to do so only by sheer force of habit and by deliberately returning in reflection and meditation to the universal and eternal truths which blot out the temporal and particular grief.

No man can get out of his own sorrows unless he can get out of his own thoughts.

When he can smile at his disappointments and forget his desires, he is learning detachment.

"Now what can harm me who, even while living, shall be as dead?" Thus sang Lalla, a fourteenth-century Kashmiri yogini.

It is not only that he must remove the impurities, the faults and the weaknesses, which obstruct the divine entry or prevent the divine settlement, but also that he must, by continually training himself to remain undisturbed by troubles and unexcited by good fortune, keep mind and heart always calm so that the divine guest may be able to remain permanently.

He will know inner calmness, true peace, when he knows nevermore any emotional agitation. And this is true of its pleasurable as well as its painful forms. Both have to be risen above. Both the attraction which attaches him to a thing or person and the repugnance which prevents him from seeking it, are to be felt without any movement of the emotions, much less of the passions.

To cultivate equanimity when life is full of splendours is as necessary and as much our duty as when it is full of miseries.

If you will take care not to become too depressed when things go wrong, nor too elated when they go right, you will gradually achieve an equilibrium which later will assist you to remain always in touch with Reality.

The inner security and ineffable peace of this state cannot be got for the asking. They have to be fought for by refusing to be unduly elated by good fortune or unduly depressed by misfortune, by allowing no attachments to touch the heart and no entanglements to hold the mind.

If good fortune comes he may rejoice at it, but he should not either optimistically count upon it or pessimistically discount it.

He tries to recall the experiences he underwent during a period of great difficulty, danger, calamity, or illness, and to do so calmly, impersonally.

This way of looking at all experiences for their inner meaning, of learning from all alike, causes him to reject nothing and to express tolerance. For all are valuable--even if not equally valuable--in serving his higher purpose and fulfilling his spiritual quest. The tension between good and evil disappears, and it is no longer necessary to favour one above the other since he puts himself on a level where the One rules.

The Overself is never hurt.

It is better to be above moods which spread over an ultrasensitive man and either light up the day with joy for him or darken it with dejection.

When the frustration of past privation turns into the elation of present fortune, he needs to be careful--to cultivate as much detachment now as he should have cultivated then.

There are disagreeable elements in our experience of life as well as pleasurable ones; but if we are ever to find peace of mind we must learn to put a reserve behind these feelings, to stand aside and scrutinize them, even in the midst of the events which produce them.

He will not be led astray from this deliberate cultivation of inner tranquillity. He will take worldly failure with recognition of its true causes and worldly success with utter humility.

A man is not necessarily unspiritual if he lives fully in the world, engaging in its activities and appreciating its satisfactions. Only, he must remember constantly who and what he really is and never forget his ultimate purpose.

Although he should give his best to external life, he should not give the whole of himself to it. Somewhere within his heart he must keep a certain reserve, a spiritual independence. It is here, in this secret place, that the supreme value of the Overself is to be cherished, loved, and surrendered to.

Those activities which belong to a human existence in the world may still go on, and need not be renounced, although they may be modified or altered in certain ways as intuition directs. His business, professional, family, and social interests need not be given up. His appreciations or creations of art need not be abandoned. His intellectual and cultural life can remain. It is only demanded of him that none of these should be a self-sufficient thing, existing in total disregard of the Whole, of the ultimate and higher purpose which is behind reincarnation.

However busily active he may have to be to fulfil his worldly duties, inwardly his mind will repose in perfect placidity. It is this ideal state that enables him to remain secretly detached from and emotionally uninvolved with the world. Without it, he would be caught up by temptations and tribulations, and affected by them as most men are affected.

He will carry on the busiest daily work with such profound composure as can arise only from the realization that it does not exhaust the whole area of living.

He need not despise the perishable and ephemeral, for he needs must live with them. In that sense they surely are important. And insofar as he has to work with his body and take part in earthly activities, there is no spiritual reason why he should do his worst. They, too, deserve his best effort. What he should really guard against is their demands' becoming excessive and consequently encroaching upon time that ought to be reserved for higher things.

Practical activity must run side by side with inner detachment.

Is isolation from every physical expression of nonphysical experience, thought, and feeling a proper goal? Is being entirely shut up within one's inner self without actualizing its revelation to be the last state of one's aspiration?

He has to live inside the world with worldly people, as most of us have to do, and yet be able to keep alive the awareness of its divine background, not losing the feeling of godliness deep within his heart. He has to function as a physical being while sensitive to underlying transcendental nature.

Finding the Overself's stillness does not necessarily mean withdrawing from the world's bustle.

Whatever happens he is to stay centered.

He is not asked to abandon his social aspirations, for instance, in favour of his spiritual aspirations, but to balance them sanely. He is asked not to seek the one at the cost of the other, not to desert worthy ideals at important moments. The major decisions of his life must be grounded on a reconciliation of being in the world with not being of the world.

Let the body be there, let the worldly life go on; there is no need either to deny their existence or to neglect their requirements; but do not let either dominate you.

The sense of being inwardly detached from all his daily activities, the consciousness of deep power kept in reserve, will be present.

We must plunge into the life of the world but we need not be drowned in it.

There is nothing wrong in the daily contact with the world, attending to duties, being practical, effective, even successful in profession, business, or other work, and rearing a family, provided all this is done within the remembrance of the higher power.

True asceticism

We must use the material things, yes, and not abandon them; but we must do so without attachment. We may love the good things of life like other men, but we ought not to be in bondage to this love. We should be ready to abandon them at a moment's notice, if need be. It is not things that bind us, not marriage, wealth, or home, but our craving for marriage, wealth, or home. And what is such craving in the end but a line of thinking, a series of mental images?

Where others get caught in this whirlpool and spend themselves, their energies, and their years in the piling-up of earthly possessions or the exhausting of earthly pleasures, he says to his instincts: "Thus far, and no farther." For him there is satisfaction in a restrained enjoyment of this world, with enough time and thought and strength for study of the great gospels and the practice of going into the Silence.

The detachment to be practised is not a denial of necessary things or a refusal of beautiful things, but a rejection of superfluous life-burdening things. I suggest that this statement be compared with what was taught and done in India.

He will appreciate the comforts and conveniences which money provides, he will enjoy the aesthetic pleasures and physical satisfactions of life, but he will not be dependent on them. They are becoming to his developed human status and needs, but inessential to his real welfare. He can let them go at any time, if circumstances demand it.

The first price which he who would cultivate serenity has to pay is inward detachment. He must bring himself to the right answer of an age-old question: Do I want to possess things or to be possessed by them?

It is a reasonable act to reject whatever hinders the attainment of one's ideal. The rejection of personal possessions, of physical goods and worldly powers which become such hindrances, is therefore not wrong. But we ought to distinguish between the mere external symbol of possession and the real internal attachment to it. The latter is solely mental. True asceticism must be practised inside the heart. A publicly advertised asceticism has no intrinsic value.

Our relation to possessions, and even to persons, should be one which does not put dependence upon them to such an extent that any change will rob us of inner tranquillity.

If he takes care to own nothing in his deepest heart, he cannot experience the mortification of losing anything.

It is true that a number of men find peace of mind in abundance of wealth, but it is also true that they do not find the greatest peace of mind. This comes from, and can only come from, the abiding tranquillity of the Overself.

He can achieve this state by secretly standing aside from every possession which he has acquired, every honour he has won, every relationship he has entered into or has inherited by Nature. In this way, he casts off what is outside himself and is made free to receive what is inside himself.

It is not necessary to disown all one's property and material possessions in order to qualify for the "poverty" to which monks vow themselves or to enlist oneself in the ranks of "the poor" whom Jesus described as being blessed. Correctly understood, the state of poverty is a spiritual one, and means inner detachment from outer things. It is the state of being free at heart from materialism and worldliness, ambition and egoism.

He must begin by mentally surrendering all personal claims on all things and all persons.

I once knew a man who followed Jesus literally. What he received with his right hand he gave away with his left--such was his utter indifference to possessions or his complete charitableness to the needy, call it as you wish.

Desirelessness is the last test of the mystic's moral strength and practical sincerity. Can he give up without undue bitterness this thing which he most treasures because he seeks a higher value? Can he cut the last attachment to the world for the sake of reaching that state which is beyond the world? If his thinking and behaving can survive this test, great will be his reward.

What is it that injures your Mind? It is Desire. When desires are many, what we can preserve of our Original Mind is inevitably little; and when they are few, it is much. If desires were eliminated, the Mind would automatically be preserved. If scholars could refuse to follow passions and desires, they would be successors to the ancient sages.

In the end, man has to arrive at this conclusion: that there is no resting place for him in any earthly desire, and that the satisfying and enduring peace of desirelessness is immensely superior to the always partial and transient fulfilment of such desire.

He must learn to keep the equable detachment of his mind undisturbed and the clear sight of his intuition unclouded.

He must achieve a disinterestedness in motive and a dispassionateness in mentality.

There comes a moment in the life of the earnest disciple when he will be impelled to draw the sword of Detachment from the sheath of Aspiration, and with it cut the last hankerings for the alluring things of sensual life.

When Christ taught that he who would find his life must first lose it, he meant simply that one must first lose his attachments.

Jesus declared clearly that those who could not forsake their earthly attachments could not become his disciples.

Jesus' saying "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" means: "Cast aside your burden of attachments, desires, thoughts; then the real I-nature will alone be left, and you will have true peace, rest from the ego's heaviness."

His mind is to achieve a complete poise and his heart a complete placidity which no passion can ruffle and no desire excite.

A man may fall into the sin of vanity because of the facility with which he is able to work up the devotional feelings or excite the spiritually rapturous ones. But those who enter into the Void because they are able to enter into the innermost part of themselves cannot fall into this sin. They are detached not only from the emotions but also from themselves. This is why they live in so great and so constant a peace.

If you try to hold to the thought that all this turmoil is after all an idea and to be valued accordingly, it will be easier to find and retain your inner calm. If you can look upon the present era with the detachment with which you look upon the Napoleonic era, the trick will be done; but of course, humanly speaking, it is impossible to do this except by minute-to-minute effort and day-to-day practice carried out over a period of years to discriminate what is real and what is merely an idea. It is this long-continued striving which really constitutes gnana yoga, and it eventually brings success in the form of a settled and unshakeable understanding of the truth behind life.

He becomes detached when he frees himself from the universally prevalent tendency to connect every experience with the personal ego. Detachment takes him out of himself and saves him from getting emotionally involved in his environment.

He is able to hold himself up to the light, as it were, able to remain impartial and detached even in dealing with matters which greatly concern him.

He has reached a point where contact with the Stillness is now possible, where its glorious blessing is now available. But he soon finds that on returning to the everyday world, as return he must, the contact swiftly vanishes. Is there anything he can do here to reduce and delay the loss? The real obstacle is, as always, his ego. If he cannot remove it, he can practise temporarily suspending it.

Turn away from your self. Leave your ego behind. Do this in thought and deed and in emotion and mood. Change your attitude--and thus change your life.

He must bring the whole edifice of ego-built attachments to the ground: either abruptly and courageously with a crash or slowly and fragmentarily with time.

He will learn to see the acts of others from this impersonal angle. In this way he instructs himself by their experience.

The way forward from here is travelled by cultivating the quality of being impersonal in his reactions to outer experiences, contacts, and surroundings. He must recognize and accept the truth that the Spirit is utterly impersonal and unegoistic.

More and more the World-Idea becomes a background for the ego-idea in habitual thinking. Thus he gets more and more out of the attachment to the personal "I."

He is beginning to detach himself from his own ego when he is experiencing a strong self-distrust and a great doubt about the value of his own judgement.

What he has to learn is to extend this indifference to the world--which he professes--to his own personal affairs in the world.

Those who try to grasp Tao, lose it, declared Lao Tzu. Why? Because they are using willpower, personal willpower, instead of becoming passive and letting the Tao use them, their minds and bodies, as if they were its instruments. This elimination of the self-will is what Jesus meant when he counselled his followers to lose their life in order to find life.

As he advances in the idea of being detached from results and possessions, he will inevitably have to advance in the idea of being detached from concern about his own spiritual development. If he is to relinquish the ego, he will also have to relinquish his attempts to improve it. This applies just as much to its character as to its ideas.

The aspirant who does his best at self-improvement, however poor it may be, may leave the results to the higher power.

To wish to get rid of desires is itself a desire. Therefore the superior way would be not merely to change the desire alone, but to cease desiring in every way, and that is only possible by entering the inner stillness, and staying there.

Some Tibetan sage has said that the best course is to be neither enlightened nor non-enlightened, and thus to rise above this pair of opposites. A Hindu sage advised the Brahmin to let go of his scholarship first, then of his meditativeness, and finally of his non-meditativeness; then only would enlightenment appear.

Don't occupy yourself with things or thoughts, not even with the search for inner experiences, but be quiet and desireless.

Becoming the Witness

To witness what is happening around him without being influenced by it, or what is happening to him without being concerned about it--this is part of the practice of inward detachment.

He becomes not only a spectator of others, but also of himself. If such detachment is seldom seen, it may be because it is seldom sought.

To practise living in the world and yet not being of it involves becoming a spectator not only of the world but also of oneself. To the extent that he gets lost in the world-experience, to that extent he loses this deeper self-awareness.

To say that he becomes a detached spectator of the world is not wholly true, for a part remains there but he keeps a certain distance from it. This is not possible for the materialistic man, as his personal involvement with the world is complete. I use the term "materialistic" here as referring to one who has not awakened to the truth or once experienced a glimpse. The situation is plainly to be seen in most theatrical actors. They become the part they play during the time of a performance but they do not wholly forget who they really are.

Men who are too close to themselves cannot really understand themselves.

One part of him must remain untouched by the outer happenings--calm, watching observer, emotionally distant and secretly unreachable.

It is a strange feeling, a sensation of being away from himself, something deeper than and different from being away from his body.

When he can mentally withdraw at will from a situation where he is involved with others, so as to regard all the parties, including himself, with calm impartiality, he will have travelled far.

Dissociate yourself from the person who has to go through with the dream-drama of life. He is forced to act, but you can inwardly practise this dissociation.

He feels as if he were a mere spectator at a theatrical play, with the whole world for a stage. More, he feels himself to be a ghostly spectator.

He may come in time to feel a certain amusement at watching his own performance on the stage of life.

He sees his personality playing its role on the world stage and, although he recognizes its connection with him, it is felt as an object, as an "other."

Again and again he will have the extraordinary sensation of looking down at the game of human life as from a peak-like mental elevation. He will see the players--millions of them--vehemently struggling for trivial aims and painfully striving for futile ones. He sees how paltry is the sum-total of each individual life-activity, how bereft of mental greatness and moral grandeur it is. And, seeing, aspiration will re-dedicate itself to unfaltering devotion to the Quest within his own mind.

Whether he evokes the past or dreams the future, he will stand aside from his own ego and judge the one or plan the other with impersonal, detached wisdom.

From this higher level of existence, it is immeasurably easier for him to solve all problems of conduct and settle all questions of appraisal.

The mind rests on the summit of this Olympus wherefrom it gazes on the sorrows and cares of this burdened existence and wonders why they were ever permitted to disturb it. For on this mountaintop, life seems so clear, so right, so tranquil.

He does not shrink from problems but rather rises to a higher level where he can see them in truer perspective.

By adopting a witness attitude he puts a distance between the day's activities and himself. This helps him bring them under control, prevents them from submerging his quest altogether, and preserves whatever inner peace he attains.

In refusing to identify himself with the surrounding scene, but remaining its spectator, he saves himself from emotional involvement and retains a mastery of himself which would otherwise be hard to secure.


The peace in such a man's heart is as measureless as his trust in Infinite Mind. Indeed the peace is there because of the trust. He has no need to open the door of the future. The experience he needs or the thing he must have will, he knows, emerge from its obscurity before his eyes at the proper time. So he is patient enough to let circumstances ripen of themselves, when patience is necessary.

Partly because Life is a perpetual transition, we do not know how we shall behave the day after tomorrow. Let us not give pledges, then, but rather honour the law of life instead, and be free.

So far as past errors are concerned, forget them and start afresh, as if it were your first day in this body; but so far as your present contacts are concerned, be kind to them, as if it were your last day in this body.

The personal history which has gone before--let it really go and be free of the past, which can become a mental prison for unwary persons; learn to abide in the timeless, coming out of it as duties call but holding on to it as the background.

Do not give a single glance backward to the error-filled past, for the education given by it and the suffering from its consequences have led to the strength and wisdom of the Present.

The past has furnished its lessons, so why need there be regrets? Drink, sex, ambition, money, travel--they were all stations on the way to understanding. If they robbed, they also gave. If they disappointed, they also trained you. If the past showed weaknesses, it also showed you could tear them out.

It is useful to look at the past by this new and clearer light, to review it from this impersonal angle.

Every animal except man is mentally free from anxieties, fears, and worries about its future. No animal except man makes itself miserable with regrets and laments over the past.

How can he have fears for his future who knows that he is related to God, and that God is the same yesterday, and today, and forever?

Both anxiety about the future and regret about the past are inconsistent with the state of serene detachment. It is uplifted beyond them, and free even from being affected by the day's changes and pressures.

Don't let the past suffocate you. Try to be in complete control of thought and mood and bring both into the sacred peace of the Eternal Now.

To put anxiety aside, which follows naturally when our personal attachment to results and the eager desire for ends are laid aside, is to have the fullest faith that the higher power will take care of our true needs.

If men refuse to see the transiency of person and possessions or acknowledge the inevitableness of change in mind and body or recognize the duality of pleasure and pain in all things, then Life itself will come and teach these lessons directly and definitely in some way or other. Sickness may invade their flesh, bereavement their families, loss their fortunes, or darkness their minds. Is it not better, prudent and wise, to remember the eternal in this present moment, to understand the mentalistic nature of their world-experience, to hold all things as "idea" and thus, freed from inner conflicts and false hopes, attain an unruffled tranquillity?

Kenshin, a great general of the eighteenth century and a Zen adherent, wrote the following verses in both Chinese and Japanese: "Even a lifelong prosperity is but one cup of wine. A life of forty-nine years is passed in a dream; I know not what life is, nor death. Year in, year out--all but a dream. Both Heaven and Hell are left behind: I stand in the moonlight dawn, free from clouds of attachment."

The wise man lives secretly in the even, sorrow-soothing knowledge of the Oneness, and remains undisturbed by the inevitable and incessant changes in life.

From this lofty standpoint, the tenet of rebirth sinks to secondary place in the scale of importance. What does it matter whether one descends or not into the flesh if one always keeps resolute hold of the timeless Now? It can matter only to the little "I," to the ignorant victim of ephemeral hopes and ephemeral fears, not to the larger "I Am" which smiles down upon it.

Past, present, future become mere dreams when considered against the background of THAT. If man could switch his thought of self over to the Source, and keep on identifying it with that, his consciousness would be transformed.

We finish off particular desires or ambitions as we get wiser, or older in reincarnatory experience. We dissolve certain attachments to possessions, places, persons.

Finally, he may remember those lines by Ernest Dowson: "They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,/ Love, desire and hate." And he cannot forget those other versed lines of Dowson: "They are not long, the days of wine and roses;/ Out of a misty dream,/ Our path emerges for a while, then closes,/ Within a dream."

What is the use of getting attached to a particular form when all forms are transient?

The more you can succeed in detaching yourself from things, from individuals, and from time's content of past, present, and future, the more will you feel peace.

Time progresses but the pure spirit stands still, motionless.

Time itself is erased by the mysterious power of the mind's stillness.

Here is a serenity so deep that it draws him out of time.

He feels that time has utterly ceased, that the whole world and its movement has become the mere shadow of a thought, that he has entered an untellable and unstrained silence.

Who is the visionary, anyway? Is it the worldling who worries himself through the years hoping to find calm in a settled but problematical old age, or is it the philosopher who gains his inner calm here and now?

A man without the sense of time is a man with the feeling of peace.

Thinking can only approach but cannot enter this timeless condition.

Living in measured time as he does is the consequence of living in the movement of thought. But when this vanishes into the still centre of his being, he finds timelessness as its attribute. If there is any surprise, it is a flash only, for in the new consciousness he feels at home.

The stillness is beyond conflicts and unbroken by emotions. It is aware and even alert, authoritative and even timeless. For it does not measure the passage of moments, the seconds or the minutes.

The actual situation in which he is now becomes a point where this transcendence is possible.

When this turning inwards completes itself in the final state of contemplation so that thought is stilled and breath is quiet, the sense of succession is dispelled, a kind of continuous now takes its place, and a stillness of the body corresponds with a stillness of the mind.

In this moment here and now, letting go of past and future, seeking the pure consciousness in itself, and not the identifications it gets mixed up with and eventually has to free itself from--in this moment he may affirm his true being and ascertain his true enlightenment without referring it to some future date.

If he can penetrate deep enough into the stillness he reaches a state of consciousness that is actually timeless. That must be the reference in the New Testament declaration that there shall be no more time.

He tries to transcend both future and past, to live in the immediacy of the present. But it will not be the "ever-moving present." It will be the still Eternal Now.

He must cultivate a great patience and see through the illusions bred by the time-sense.

The Mahabharata: "Let man fix his mind on the reality and, having done this, he will transcend time."

Do not be anxious about making provision for the future, if you are in a state of surrender to the Overself; but if you are not, then indeed you need to be anxious. The first relies on a superior power, the second on an inferior. If you will trust the Overself today, it will provide for you tomorrow. If you repose trust in the Overself, it will never let you down and you may go forward in surety. It is indeed the "Father who gives us each day our daily bread."

To be at peace means to be empty of all desires--a state the ordinary man often ridicules as inhuman or dismisses as impossible. The spiritual seeker goes farther and understands better, so he desires to be without desire--but only to a limited extent. Moreover, some of his desires may be hidden from consciousness. Only the sage, by which I do not mean the saint, is completely free from desires because the empty void thus created is completely filled by the Overself.

He can find the Overself even if he is caught up in the work of earning a livelihood. But his participation in the world's activity and pleasure will have to be a limited one. Not other men's voices but his own inner voice should say how far he should go along with the world.

The complete happiness which people look forward to as the objective of their life on earth can never be attained. For it is mostly based on things and persons, on what is outside the seeker, and on what is perishing. The happiness which they can truly attain is not of this kind, although it may include and does not exclude this kind. It is mostly based on thoughts and feelings, on what is inside the seeker, and on what is abiding.

The disciple's serenity must remain unbroken whether he succeeds in any enterprise or not, and whether he is able to do so soon or late. For it must not depend on these outward things; it must depend on inward realization of truth. He should do all that is humanly possible to succeed. But, this done, he should follow the Gita counsel and leave the results in the hands of God or fate. Thus, whatever the results may be, whether they are favourable or not, he can then accept them and keep his peace of mind.

Even if he is doubtful about a favourable result, he must resign himself to the situation as being truly the Overself's will for him just now. By this acceptance, the sting is removed, and patient resignation to the divine will is practised. He will then have no feeling of frustration but will retain his inner peace unshattered. He should remember, too, that he is not alone. He is under divine protection, for if he is a true disciple he has surrendered himself to his higher self. Therefore let him cast out all worry in connection with the matter, placing it in higher hands and leaving the issues to It. Let him refuse to accept the depression and anxiety. They belong to the ego which he has given up. They have no place in the quest's life of faith, trust, and obedience. Let him resort to prayer to express this humble resignation and trust in superior guidance, this belief in the Overself's manipulation of the results of this matter for what will be really the best in the end.

Fate provides him with difficulties from which it is often not possible to escape. But what must be borne may be borne in either of two ways. He may adjust his thinking so that the lessons of the experience are well learnt. Or he may drop it, for he need not carry the burden of anxiety, and remember the story of the man in the railway carriage who kept his trunk on his shoulders instead of putting it down and letting the train carry it. So let him put his "trunk" of trouble down and let the Overself carry it.

"Diogenes could surrender anything with equanimity because he knew the source from which he had received them."--from a journal of philosophy.

The Jivanmuktaviveka teaches that only after the adept has attained the knowledge of his true being, of his identity with Atman, does he become free of the fleshly desires and worldly attachments.

It is not easy to know a peace undisturbed by anxiety, unbroken by fear; but whoever finds and stays in the timelessness of the Overself as his inner background will be able to know it. Not only that, but it will protect him against the self-made miseries of impatient unsatisfied desire.

The presence of any other thing or being, emotion or even thought, between a man and his Overself represents an obstruction to it.

Those who know how to work internally in the deep ground of the Overself may trust all to its kindly care.

He should dismiss fears and anxieties concerning the present state or future destiny of anyone he loves. Let him do what he reasonably can to protect the other, then place him or her trustingly in the care and keeping of the higher power.

He does not need to support a shaky ego by taking stimulants, talking loudly, or drawing attention to his past achievements. He has no need, and feels no need, to impress others, whether they be single persons or whole groups of persons, nor to ingratiate himself with them, nor to prop up their egos by pretending to agree with their opinions or to accept their actions. He cannot let them live off his integrity, and thus be a traitor to himself. His confidence in the higher laws and the Overself's power is complete.

If a higher power can be trusted to arrange my affairs for me, it is unnecessary to be constantly thinking about them, much more so to be often worrying about them. A little thought may still be required of me, a little planning of details, but in the main the affairs will be taken care of, and that better than I could do alone.

He cannot depend upon outward circumstances alone for his security, though he will not fail to give them their proper value and place. He knows that for total security he must also have, or at the very least have, the certitude of the Overself's protective presence.

As his interest in the Overself increases in depth, so his attachment to the things of this world decreases in passion and his interest in them becomes more serene.

However anxious or worried, turn aside to the Overself. Ask first that your fears be forgiven and then that you be helped.

The belief that perfect security exists is certainly a vain one so far as worldly life is concerned. But so far as the inner life is concerned, there is a full basis for it.

"The Power that made the world will mend it. . . . Why should you upbear the world? Are you Atlas?"--Israel Zangwill

Whatever the trouble be which distresses any man--be it physical or mental, personal or public, worldly or spiritual--there is one sure refuge to which he can always turn and return. If he has learnt the art of being still, he can carry his trouble to the mind's outer threshold and leave it there, passing himself into its innermost recess of utter serenity and carefree tranquillity. This is not a cowardly escapism or a foolish self-deception, although with the unphilosophical mystic it could be and often is. For when he emerges from the inner silence and picks up his trouble again, he will pick up also the strength to endure it bravely and the wisdom to deal with it rightly. This will always be the case if his approach is through philosophical mysticism, which makes inspired action and not inspired dreaming its goal. Furthermore, his contact with the inner Mind will set mysterious forces working on his behalf to solve the problem quite independently of his conscious effort and knowledge.

From the moment that a man begins to look less to his changeful outer possessions and more to his controllable internal ones, he begins to gain the chance for real happiness. When this truth breaks upon the intelligence, he learns to keep his final reserves hidden in his heart. Then whatever happens, whatever course fortune takes, no one and nothing can take it from him. So long as he can carry the knowledge of truth in his head and the peace of God in his heart, he can carry the best of all his possessions with him wherever he may go. Not having lodged his possessions--whether material things or human affections, capitalized wealth or social honours--in his heart but having kept them outside it where they belong, he can remain calm and unmoved when Fortune's caprice disturbs or even destroys them. He has learnt to keep within his heart only inalienable possessions like wisdom and virtue, only what renders him serenely independent of her revolutions.

He who depends on externals plays dice with his happiness. He who depends on his own Overself attains unfailing serenity.

Free activity

Whoever acts by becoming so pliable as to let the Overself hold his personal will, must necessarily become inwardly detached from the personal consequences of his deeds. This will be true whether those consequences be pleasant or unpleasant. Such detachment liberates him from the power of karma, which can no longer catch him in its web, for "he" is not there. His emotional consciousness preceding an action is always enlightened and characterized by sublime composure, whereas the unenlightened man's may be characterized by motivations of self-centered desire, ambition, fear, hope, greed, passion, dislike, or even hate--all of which are karma-making.

If he can act attentively and yet stand aside from the results of his actions; if he can discharge his responsibilities or carry out his duties without being swept into elation by success or into misery by failure; if he can move in the world, enjoy its pleasures and endure its pains, and yet hold unwaveringly to the quest of what transcends the world, then he has become what the Indians call a "karma yogi" and what the Greeks call a "man."

Life in the busy world should be a continuation of life in the meditation sanctum and not an interruption of it.

Even when the period itself has come to an end, even when he perforce returns to the world's turmoil, something of its precious joy still lingers on, inspiring him to greet others with goodwill and events with detachment.

"The fifth paramita `dhyana' [meditation] means retaining one's tranquil state of mind in any circumstance, even when adverse situations present themselves. This requires a great deal of training."--D.T. Suzuki

Go out into the world, act and do your duty. So long as you are the impersonal Witness of them, your actions will not add to your karma.

He has to learn to carry something of this consciousness from the world within to the world without. He left the stage to find the secret of meditation: now he must return and rejoin the ego's play.

He is not yet perfect in his development at this stage--"Application" is still being practised--but enlightenment is a very real thing to him. It results in this, that although his first reactive feelings toward a person, an event, or a situation may be negative or passionate, he is not carried away by them and they are swiftly checked.

Desires die of themselves without struggle, karma comes to an end, the stillness of the Overself settles in him.

When all action comes to an end, when the body is immobile and the consciousness stilled, there is achieved what the Chinese have called Wu Wei, meaning non-doing. This brings a wonderful peace, for tied up with it is non-desiring and non-aspiring. The quester has then come close to the end, but until this peace is thoroughly and permanently established in him, the quest must go on. Let go of all negative thoughts, especially those which concern others. Cease from condemnation and criticism except where it is a necessary part of one's obligation, duty, or position in the world, such as a magistrate's.

Do not strain yourself unduly; let the ego be passive to the intuitive influences so that actions are dictated by them without interference from it, rather than by aggressive desires, and hence become karma-free. This is the meaning of the Chinese expression Wu Wei, associated with the teaching of Taoism.

The man who is so detached from his own actions is detached also from the making of any karma that could darken his future.

Wu Wei, no-doing, is free activity, done for its own sake and not for that of a reward. This is possible to creative minds intent on bringing the needed new into existence, or to inspired artists working for pure love of beauty and not for glory, or to saints obeying a higher will.

The power to gain what we really need, subject to the operation of God's laws, is within us. Why run hither and thither for what we already embody? We have only to take our need into the Silence--and wait. We have nothing further to do unless the Inner Voice directs us to do it.

Just as a flat-surfaced mirror will correctly give back an image of whatever is presented before it, so a properly quieted mind will register objects, creatures, and persons such as they are and will not disturb them by distortions, prejudices, or expectations. One whose inner being is purified, controlled, and concentrated is able to live in the world and yet not be of the world, is able to go through worldly experiences and happenings and yet not be pulled out of his tranquil centre by them.

Somewhere within his interior self he must keep a circle fenced and reserved against the exterior world. No desire may cross it, no attachment may enter it. For it is his Holy of Holies, his surest guarantee of peace and happiness, his sole certitude in an uncertain life.

Chinese Poet, T'ao Yuan-Ming (365-427 a.d.):
I have built my cottage within men's borders,
But there is no noise of carriage or horses.
Do you know how this is possible?
When the heart is remote, the place becomes like it.

This is what he has to learn--and it can be learned only by personal practice, not from any book--how to keep in beautiful equipoise receptivity to his sacred Centre and efficiency in attending to the world's demands. This is answering Jesus' call to be in the world but not of it. This is the union of busy actuality with central tranquillity.

In the foreground of his thought he deals with practical affairs in a practical way; in the background he remembers always that they are only transitory manifestations of an Element beyond all transitoriness, an Element to which he gives his deepest self. But only when his power of yogic concentration is complete and his knowledge of philosophic truth mature, does the possibility of achieving such harmony arrive--not before.

If he is to keep his inner peace he must always keep the innermost part of himself aloof and deny the world any intimacy with it.

To find the correct equilibrium, through knowledge and practice, which enables one to deal with the affairs at hand but never deviate from staying in the Presence--that is the art of life. That also is to become "natural" in the best sense, to possess an unself-conscious unadvertised spirituality.

Thus he builds a mental cloister out of which no work, however pressing it be, can drive him. It will be superior to and safer than any physical cloister or earthly ashram.

The ability to keep established in the Consciousness while engaged in the world's affairs is acquired by practice. It is a form of skilfulness acquired as bicycle-riding is acquired.

If the peace and enlightenment are to persist at all times so that they become a natural state, they must be philosophically induced.

The shrill voices of the vulgar break into the peace as if in opposition to one's spiritual well-being, but to the established philosopher the interruption passes away with the sound.

With mind absorbed inside itself, the noisy sounds of the world seem to come from a far distance.

Han Shan, Chinese Tang Period: ". . . My mind at peace, undusty and undeluded: It is pleasant to need no outer support. To be as quiet as the autumn waters of the river."

Though he may never put on the brown robe of the Yogi, he may consider himself every whit as real a Yogi in the thick of London's activity as that Indian prototype who sits in seclusion by the Ganges.

There is a fixed centre deep within every man. He may live in it, if he can find and keep to it, so tranquilly that all else in his thoughts and feelings and actions will be affected by its magic without being able to affect it.

The agitations of the emotional and passional nature prevent a man from attaining this mental quiet. If he has not built up its power by practice, or got it by grace, they cause him to lose it. These include both the pleasant and the unpleasant feelings, the desires and the cravings as well as the sorrows and anxieties and lusts, excessive pleasure and excessive pain. The art of mental quiet can be pushed to a deep inner stillness and by practice can be inwardly maintained in the midst of outward activity. This is why the value placed on keeping calm is very high in both yoga and philosophy.

The Real can't be merely static, actionless; this aspect is one of its faces, but there are two faces. The other is dynamic, ever-active. On the path, the discovery of its quiescent aspect is the first stage; this is mysticism. But the world is always confronting him and its activity has to be harmonized with inner peace. This harmonization can only be established by returning to the deserted world (while still retaining the peace) and making the second discovery--that it, too, is God active. Only then can he have unbroken peace, as before it will be intermittent. He then understands things in a different way.

If the One Reality alone is, if even the world-illusion vanishes in deepest contemplation, how is he to deal with the world, since it awaits his attention whatever its status be? The answer is that he is to act in the world AS IF it were real: this is to be his working rule to enable him to carry on with everyday existence and perform all duties. This same practical rule was stated by Jesus in his succinct sentence: Be in the world but not of it.

How to put his knowledge into practice, how to be able to cope with the world, its pressures, strains, trials, temptations, while inwardly centered upon the Overself is a feat for which man must train himself. This requires periods of withdrawal during which he works upon himself, his character and concentration, renews his aims and strengthens his will, and, especially, restores his balance. The periods may be brief or long, as his circumstances allow: a few hours or days or weeks.

When everything within, when thoughts, emotions, and desires are silenced, it is inevitable that the personal will shall also be silenced. What then has to be done will be done, but it will be done through him.

The student should always remember that just as the World-Mind does not lose or alter its own nature even in the midst of world-making, so he also should hold reverently and unalterably to the thought of his own true mystical identity even in the midst of worldly activity. What he does outwardly must not for a moment detract from what he has to do inwardly. It is a matter of self-training.

He has gone far when he can live in this remembrance and this presence without constraint even while occupied in the affairs of this world; when it all becomes a settled, easy, and especially natural attitude entirely free from superior airs, from a holier-than-thou or even a wiser-than-thou attitude. For humility grows side by side with his growth, of itself, unbidden. (How different from the arrogant egoistic pride of the self-conscious intellectual whose real worship is only himself!) By "natural" I mean not a self-conscious thing and certainly not a forced one. It is no supernatural experience either, but human consciousness put at a better level where it has harmony with World-Idea. It is easier to withdraw from the world, where people portray so widely and so often all their inadequacies, than to return to it and apply positively what is learned during withdrawal. It is more possible for the spectator to appraise the passing show and evaluate its offerings than to come back, walk with it, keep sagehood, remain human, yet find the point of sane equilibrium between both conditions.

He will maintain a proper equilibrium between being aware of what is happening in the world, remaining in touch with it, and being imperturbable towards it, inwardly unaffected and inwardly detached from it.

It is that perfect unconsciousness of self which confers complete naturalness, ease in relationships with others, and which radiates or, better, emanates peacefulness.

Sahaja is the final phase and, in striking contrast to the first phase, the Glimpse, lasts as long as corporeal life lasts. In this he brings the light into every day's thought, speech, and behaviour. It is the phase of Application. So, little by little, disjointedly and at intervals, he gets established in a calm awareness of his connection with, and relation to, the Overself.

In deepest contemplation, the Nirvikalpa Samadhi of the Indian yogis, both egolessness and blissful peace can be experienced. But it is a temporary state; return to the world must follow, so the quest is not finished. The next step or stage is application, putting into the active everyday life this egoless detachment and this satisfying calmness.

When he lives in this godlike being with the background of his mind and in the world's activity with the foreground of it, he lives in the fullest sense.

You have to feel the rich peace of suddenly letting go of everything, of all your cares and tasks, all the knot of affairs which has tied itself around your ego, and then sinking back to where there is seemingly nothing.

It is not enough to become detached from the world, not even enough to meditate intermittently on the Overself. A man must remain every hour, every day, established in the fundamental attitude produced by the other two.

Mahadevan himself admitted to us that meditation is not essential if gnana is sought and properly followed. Therefore we are entitled to comment that Nirvikalpa Samadhi is not enough. The qualities needed for gnana practice, including detachment, must still be developed.

He has to work his way farther into Sahaja, and then settle down in it.

He who can stay in the world and keep his calmness in all conditions--whether they are attractive or repulsive--who can move in society without falling victim to the desires, attachments, or greeds which afflict it, who never lets go of the still divine centre within himself whether alone and quiet or with others and active, he is the real yogi and is experiencing the true samadhi.

He attends to his daily affairs with an awareness that the long-familiar ego is absent, that the divine Void is always present.

In sahaja we'll possess an imperturbable temperament; we'll possess human feeling but not be subject to the vicissitudes, excitements, and oscillations of human feeling. The mind will always be composed, because it will be held by the divine presence.

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