III / I
The Kingdom of God
Whenever we read religious books or study any subject, there is a certain terminology peculiar to each of them. For instance, in law books, certain terms have a specialised meaning or connotation. If we are conversant with the definitions of the terms used, we are able to understand the law properly, and will be able to apply it. If a layman reads the text of the same law, he will not be able to grasp or to apply the true meaning of the law.
We have scriptures, Holy Scriptures, at hand. Therein we find a certain specialised terminology. Unless we are conversant with it, we may not be able to understand the true import of the scriptures. For instance, there are certain words used in the scriptures, such as Kingdom of God which is within you. There is the Light of God.
If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light.
These are certain terms peculiar to the English Bible.
Because of the special use of words like these, persons not conversant with them are not able to understand the scriptures correctly. They simply interpret them from the intellectual level; and many phrases like Light within you or God is Light are interpreted by the intellectual people as meaning intellectual light. But the scriptures tell us:
If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light.
What is the difference?
Whenever the Masters came, They gave out the truths in a very simple way, so that even the unsophisticated could understand. But, unfortunately, people with no practical Inner Experience have interpreted them in a way that makes it difficult for others to understand. If we take up the scriptures ourselves and read them, we will find their language always very simple. But the task is rendered difficult if we study them in the light of the controversies raised by different intellectual interpreters who have no knowledge of the practical side of things. Working from the intellectual plane, they complicate matters. Those who read the conflicting commentaries on the scriptures become confused and are spiritually unrewarded.
So the task would become easier if you would read the scriptures directly yourselves. I think the best way to understand any scripture is always to read it in the original language in which it was written. If you know the language, you will probably be able to understand better than by reading how somebody else has translated it in the language which you know. A single error in interpretation may alter much of the essence.
The majority of our scriptures were written in a language different from that in which we read them now. When I was in search of Truth, I wanted to read the Persian literature of Maulana Rumi, Shamas-i-Tabrez, and other Saints of the Middle East. I read the commentaries of highly renowned interpreters and each gave a different version of the same thing. A commentator tends to give the viewpoint he holds, not what the scriptures – the real texts of the scriptures – convey. And so the persons who depend on these commentaries are liable to be misled. For this reason, I had to study the Persian language thoroughly so that I might be able to read those scriptures in their original form. And I found them different from what the commentators had said.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew. Later it was translated into different languages. The translators found here and there something which they could not understand correctly and so those who only read these translations run the risk of going astray.
I have had occasion to meet very intellectually advanced people, who were leaders of thousands of men. When I questioned them about something from the scriptures, just for interpretation’s sake, they kept quiet or gave some quaint interpretation of their own, on an intellectual level. Their conception of God, soul and scriptures answered to the level of their intellect and interests.
Wherever I speak, I always ask the heads of various sects what they understand by scriptural quotes like God is Light and Ye are the temple of the Living God, etc. But they, not having gone within, interpret the Light of God as the light of reason and intellect.
The other day I met the head of a large religious society and questioned him about the significance of words like: If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light; and The Kingdom of God is within you. It cannot be had by observation. ‘Well, does it mean anything?’ No reply to that.
The point is, the Truths are there in the Holy Scriptures. The pity is, that not being conversant with what lies within, we cannot interpret correctly.
I have had a series of talks in a church in Louisville. The clergyman in charge was very open-minded and admitted that though what I said was borne out by the Bible and other scriptures, yet he had no practical knowledge of the Truths mentioned therein.
What I am telling you is not anything new. It is all there in the scriptures. I simply had the good fortune to sit at the feet of a Master in India Who was a practical and Perfect Saint. At His feet I learned not only the theory but also the practice – seeing the Truth for myself.
When you see things for yourself, you are fully convinced. Generally, what do you find? We take God as a matter of something in the way of feeling or something emotional, or just as a matter of inference arrived at by intellectual striving. All these are subject to error. But the scriptures tell us that we have eyes and yet see not.
Blessed are your eyes for they see […] many prophets and righteous men have desired to see these things which ye see and have not seen them and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them.
Our scriptures say so.
Well, what did they see and what did they hear? That is the point. The scriptures tell us God is Light. They saw the Light of God. But where and how?
God made man in His own image, and man made places of worship after the image of man. Churches are nose-shaped. All temples of other religious sects are dome-shaped, like the head, and the places of worship in Mohammedan mosques are forehead-shaped. All these are made after the image of man. What do we keep in them? First, the symbol of Light and second, the symbol of the Sound Principle. This is only to show to the seekers after Truth that in this temple of the body that you are carrying, you will find the Light of God. This Light you can see if your Inner Eye is opened. You will also hear the sweet symphony of the Music of the Spheres, as Plato puts it, that is reverberating throughout all creation.
So the physical body is the True Temple of God, and after this image of man the outer places of worship were made, in which you find the symbol of Light and Sound.
When I was in service, I had a Roman Catholic office superintendent working under me. I asked him to go to the Bishop of Lahore, in Punjab, to ask him about the symbolism of the big bell that is rung in churches. This symbol you also find in all other places of worship, whether they are Hindu or Sikh temples or Jain or Buddhist. – We also find the symbol of Light in the churches in the form of lighted candles, which is also a common symbol in all other places of worship.
I just explained all this to him and asked him to inquire of the Bishop who was considered to be the most advanced in India, what the ringing of the bells stood for. He did go to the Bishop, who replied that it was meant simply to call people to church. But if that were correct, how can we explain this custom in the temples of other religions where every visitor when he enters, tolls the bell? Among the Hindus it is a common practice to light earthen lamps and ring bells at prayer-time. These symbols stand for something about which we are ignorant.
When you look within this temple of God – the human body you find the Light of God. Where to find God? Does He reside in the Holy Scriptures? The Holy Scriptures merely contain a very good account of the valuable experiences that the Masters had themselves, within this temple of the body. They saw the Light of God within, and heard the Voice of God within. The reading of the scriptures will inspire in us a desire to know Truth.
Does God reside in the holy temples? We have respect for all temples because there we all sing the praises of the Lord. These holy temples are made after the image of man to remind us that God is to be realised within the human body and not outside it.
Where then does God reside? In the True Temple of the body.
We find in 1 Corinthians:
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
All is holy where devotion kneels. The True Temples are these bodies we are carrying. The whole world is the True Temple of God, the earth below and the sky above. There is no place where God is not present.
These temples were made to enable us to sit together and join our hands in prayer to the Almighty. For that reason, we get together in temples. But God does not reside in the temples made by human hands. He resides in this human frame which truly is the temple of God. We must keep it clean and chaste. How clean we keep the temples of brick and mortar, both without and within! But what about the True Temple of God – the human body? It must above everything else be kept pure and chaste.
In 2 Corinthians we have:
[...] Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
But we only defile this temple of God. Again I refer to Corinthians:
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
These scriptures are all ours. They were produced by the Holy Masters Who found God within themselves. Whatever experience They had,They recorded for our guidance and help.
Again we find in the Bible:
Now, this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.
The phrase flesh and blood signifies the life of the senses. Until we know how to rise above the physical body, we cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.
Saint Paul wrote:
Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Neither doth the corruptible inherit the incorruptible. The Lord of Heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands.
That is what all scriptures say. This does not in any way mean that we have no respect for the places of worship; we have respect for them because these are the places meant for singing the praises of the Lord, Whom we are enjoined to love, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. Because we love God, wherever we sit together and chant His praises, the atmosphere of that place gets charged with the loving devotion of the devotees. But God resides in us; that is the point I am bringing out.
A Mohammedan Saint says:
Whom you worship, Whom you are alter, He resides in you and you are seeking Him elsewhere, in the outer things; how will you find Him?
That is what the scriptures and all the Saints tell us.
The body is the True Temple of God, wherein God resides. How can we worship Him?
The scriptures tell us:
God is spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
The elementary steps that we have in all the religions begin with the body. These lead or pave the road to True Spirituality, and are helping factors. They are means to the end; they help us, just like a nurse helps in bringing up a child. We have to make the best use of them, and, with due deference to all the social religions and their immense importance to man’s social life, we must go beyond them. It is a blessing to be born in a temple but not necessarily to die in one.
I told you earlier that we in the twentieth century are fortunate in possessing the records of the Spiritual Experience of all the Masters Who came in the past. We are fortunate that we have all these words of wisdom, the invaluable records of Their teachings, of the experiences They had with themselves and with God. Had we lived before those Masters came, we would have been without them. The only thing that now remains is that we have to view these scriptures in their right perspective; and to begin with we have to learn the terminology of the scriptures. If you read the scriptures under the guidance of one who has had no experience with the Light within, who has not known God as a first-hand experience, it becomes almost impossible to understand the otherwise simple and accessible Truths taught by the Masters.
In Revelation it is said:
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men [...] and he dwelleth with them [...]
Some people will ask: ‘Where should we find God?’ For that purpose, we shall have to look within our own self, which, the seers say, is the True Temple of God. We have to make the best use of the scriptures and of the places of worship. We must understand the True Import of the scriptures we have, but we cannot do so until we sit at the feet of One Who has Himself experienced what they describe and is capable of giving us that experience. Only a True Master is competent to give us all that.
What do the scriptures say? Again they speak of the True Home of our Father and pray –
Thy Kingdom come.
I am not going to give you examples from all the scriptures; I have simply laid before you the gist of what they say within the short time I have at my disposal in order to bring home to you the Truth as it is given in them.
What do we find in our Bible?
The Kingdom of God cometh not by observation [...] the Kingdom of God is within you.
If we have to enter the Kingdom of God, we have to enter the Kingdom of God within us and not go outside in search of it.
Other scriptures say:
The Word is beyond all physical perception and limitations.
The Word, the source of all blessings, dwells within the human frame.
If you ascend within, then alone you will experience the Word.
In the Bible we find:
Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it.
Those who are just leading the life of the physical senses and do not know how to transcend body consciousness will not have Everlasting Life.
But whosoever shall lose his life shall save it.
Losing one’s life does not mean committing suicide; it means coming above body consciousness while alive. Let me relate to you a sad incident that took place in India due to an ignorance of the real meaning of the scriptures. We read in the Bible, that the Kingdom of God is within us. It can be gained by death-in-life or in other words by taking a new birth for we have in the scriptures:
Whosoever loses this life shall have Life Everlasting.
This is what a certain man had read in the scriptures. The ministers had given him to understand that by just dying he would enter the Kingdom of God, for the ministers had no practical experience of the Truth given in the scriptures. So what did the poor fellow do? He took a glass of wine and put in it a big lump of opium. He placed it on the table before him and said: Oh God, I am now coming to you. With these words he drank the deadly potion, killed himself and thus brought ruin on himself and his family.
This was the result of blind faith in the teachings of blind priests. The scriptures never meant this. Of course, they tell us: Unless you lose this life, you cannot have Everlasting Life. But losing this life means just rising above body consciousness at will. It is a practical subject that we can learn at the feet of Someone Who has had that experience and is a Real Adept in the theory and practice of the science of Spirituality.
Further, it is said:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
The scriptures explain the whole thing precisely; provided there is a real teacher to expound it from personal knowledge and practice and be a guide on the God-way.
‘Baptism’ or initiation at the hands of one competent enough to impart the Life-Impulse and grant an experience of the beyond is an absolute necessity on the Path of the Masters. By personal attention, the Master can make one rise above body consciousness and give a first-hand experience of the Kingdom of God within.
Again, you will find:
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God does not come by observation. It is just a question of being born again of the incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
Again, we have in scriptures:
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.
‘Seek ye the Kingdom of God’ is the first and foremost thing – the rest will follow. Unfortunately, we have been seeking the Kingdom of God without.
For entering the Kingdom of God, and for seeing the Kingdom of God, we have to invert, enter within the temple of the body. We have to tap inside and peep within. It is a regular process of inversion. Our body has been likened to a mansion with ten doors. The outer organs of sense constitute nine of them: two eyes, two ears, mouth, two nostrils, the rectum and the genital organ. These are the outlets of the body. These are the doors with which we live all the time. Besides, there is a tenth door. It is within and latent. It leads to the Kingdom of God. But very few find this out about which it is written:
Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto Life, and few there be that find it.
About this, it is said:
Knock and it shall be opened unto you.
But we do not know where and how to knock. This is something practical. The tenth door in the body is the entrance into the beyond. Until you know all about it, you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
How can you find your way to the Kingdom of God within you and not without? You can enter into it and see it only when you are able to rise above the physical body at will. So the scriptures say:
Learn how to die so that you may begin to live.
Bear the cross and the cross will bear you. Though the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day.
Christ, in unmistakable terms speaks:
Take up your cross daily and follow me.
The life which can be saved, the Everlasting Life, can be had only when we learn to die while alive.
Dadu, a Hindu Saint, says:
Dadu, learn to die before death comes, for in the end everyone has to die.
What is death? Death is not something terrible; it is a mere change, a transference from one plane to another. What happens when you leave the physical body at the time of death? This physical body is knocked down. We shake off this mortal coil. As we do not know how to shake it off, it eventually overtakes us and we are overtaken unawares.
We think ourselves to be just the body, and we are attached to its environments. But death comes and we must leave all this behind, and therefore, we are frightened and confused. What is more, we do not know where we have to go or who is going. And as we do not know how to leave the body, we have to pass through the agony of death.
I quoted from Plutarch to you the other day:
The experiences that the soul has at the time of leaving the body at death, the same experiences one has who has been initiated into the mysteries of the beyond.
This is the meaning of Learn to die so that you may begin to live. And unfortunately this we have not known yet.
Again it is said:
Forsake the flesh for the spirit.
Mark the word forsake. We live in the physical body all the twenty four hours of the day. We have the physical body, the intellect, and the soul. We know a lot about the physical body and its environments, our families, our social connections and political affiliation and the like. We have also advanced much on the intellectual side. But we know little or nothing about our soul – the Real Inner Self in us. There are values and higher values of life. Each thing has its own value.
Is not life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?
I told you the other day that in our daily life we unwillingly act wisely. When a man meets with an accident, and his very costly apparel is spoiled and torn, he says: ‘Never mind, I am saved.’ Again, when he is in the grip of a deadly malady and the doctors declare his case hopeless, what does he do? He says: ‘All right, spend all the money I have so that I may be saved.’ If there is no money in the house, he says, ‘Well, sell all my possessions so that I may be saved.’ Thus the body is to us more than all the possessions we have. Again, if he accidentally breaks his leg or arm, he cries out: ‘Well, never mind, I am saved.’ This shows that there is something even more valuable than the physical body. This something is the actual life in him – the active Life-Principle of which he is not yet actively aware, though he feels its presence in him.
In worldly affairs, we act like this. But in Spiritual Matters we behave quite the other way. We act like little children with all our care for the physical body and its environments, for attaining intellectual advancement. We pay no heed whatsoever to our Inner Self – the Real One in us. Isn’t it most strange? This is the grand delusion in which we live through all our life.
The most important aspect of a man’s life is his own self, and he does little or nothing in that direction. Whomsoever you meet, you may say:
My dear fellow, have you ever considered this? You have to leave the body some day.
But that is no terror. It is just leaving this body and entering into the beyond, about which we know nothing so far. And who is it that leaves? That is what I was explaining to you in my previous talk. ‘Know thyself’ has been the theme of all the scriptures. Even the old Greeks and Egyptians inscribed on their temples Know thyself.
You go to temples so that you may know yourself – not others; not books, religions, social forms, rituals. But they said: Know thyself. You go to churches only for that very purpose – to know yourselves and to know God.
The human life is the golden opportunity that you have. The Highest Mission of man’s life is to know himself and to know God. If he has not done that he has not achieved the object for which man’s life was meant. You may be an excellent engineer, you may be a great astronomer, you may be a famous doctor, you may be anything, but unless you know something about your own self, you have done precious little. Why? Because, after all, you have to leave the body. All your intellectual attainments and all your outer possessions cannot help you towards self-knowledge, which alone shall make easy the passage from this world to the beyond.
This is the desideratum of all religions. Kabir tells us that this is the only True Devotion, the only True Religion that you may know how to die while living. And this you will learn at the feet of some Living Master Who is a practical adept in the line. He will be able to give you a first-hand experience of how to go beyond the body consciousness – how to die while living. Once He gives you some experience, you can develop that from day to day by regular practice, with proper guidance and help which shall be readily given.
This is the most important subject, and unfortunately we have ignored it too long.
Seek ye, therefore, first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.
All these things to which we are devoting the major portion of our daily lives will be added, when we seek first of all our own selves.