IV / I
The most natural Way
In continuation of my talk of last evening, I proceed further. Yesterday I told you that we were here to understand and to have a wider and more purposeful knowledge of the teachings of Christ and other Masters Who came in the past. They taught the Truth in a simple and unvarnished way which is possible for everyone to understand.
This subject relates to the practical science of the soul which is to be practised and experienced by all. Even a child, if he is put on the Way, can see things for himself. It is not a matter of intellectual unravelling but of first-hand experience; for seeing is believing, and Blessed are they who see. True Religion begins with the opening of the Inner Eye to see the Light of God, and of the Inner Ear to hear the Voice of God. This was the conclusion we arrived at last evening. As to how to open the Inner Eye and the Inner Ear, quotations were given from the Bible and from other scriptures. Truth is One, and the Way leading to it is also one. You will find these parallel thoughts in almost all the scriptures that we have with us today.
For the opening of the Inner Eye and Ear, ethical culture is of paramount importance. Ethical life is a stepping-stone to Spirituality. Right conduct is a prerequisite for Spiritual Progress.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Purity of heart is very necessary for a pilgrim on the Path, for without it one cannot see the Light of God and hear the Voice of God. All scriptures speak of it. The Sermon on the Mount is clear enough on this point. In it Jesus deals with the realities of life. References to the Single Eye and the Kingdom of God within, etc., pertain to the Inner Life. The inner and the outer are interdependent. Jesus has dealt with both the aspects of life: outer as well as inner. We have therefore to go step by step.
Buddha also laid great stress on right living and enunciated the Eightfold Path of righteous living for his followers. In fact, he never uttered a word about God as he knew that the God experience would follow of necessity when the ground was prepared. The Hindu scriptures too say the same thing.
I came across a book the other day which a Buddhist scholar brought to me. The author tried to show that Jesus Christ was not unacquainted with the teachings of Buddha. This is a matter for research and not for discussion. Nevertheless, the Christian teachings are almost parallel to the teachings of Buddha, so much so that the two seem to be almost identical.
Ethical life, as said before, precedes Spiritual Life. It consists of righteous living with life dedicated to the highest ideals: to wit,
- Chastity or purity in thought, word and deed, for chastity is life and indulgence is death;
- Universal Love or Love for all living creatures – in this way the self expands and tries to embrace the totality in one single sweep;
- Selfless service, or service before self, which stems from the great reservoir of Love for God, the very source and fountainhead of life;
- Love and service naturally lead to ahimsa or non-violence, even in thoughts and words, what to speak of deeds;
- Truthfulness – It comes in as a natural efflorescence from the above, for then one begins to be true to one’s self. Of truthfulness or True Living, Guru Nanak says, Truth is higher than everything but higher still is True Living.
These, then, are the five cardinal virtues or the five aspects of ethical life and these above all else pave the Way God-ward. Christ emphatically speaks of these in His beatitudes for He Himself was an embodiment of purity and Love and Truth.
Suppose you said that you had reached the higher Spiritual Planes, that you were the mouthpiece of God, but you were having the qualities of an ordinary man, then how could anyone believe you?
That is why Nanak says,
True Living is higher still.
True Living is the stepping-stone to having the Spiritual Experiences which are recorded in the scriptures.
All Masters Who came in the past were the children of Light. Whenever They came, They gave Light to all the world. They came not for one nation, for one country, for one social religion or another, but for all mankind, to lead them back to their Father’s home. Whatever They found helpful on the God-way, They recorded in Their scriptures.
I am the Light of the world, and he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of life,
All these scriptures are with us. They are all true and contain the experiences with Truth which these Masters had in Their lives. When you look into them, you will see that Their thoughts are all parallel and at places even the wording is similar. Of course, They used different languages; but the import is the same.
These scriptures or Holy Books we have to understand. But how? We can do so only at the feet of Those Who have had the same experiences described in the scriptures. Suppose some people come to visit Philadelphia from abroad. When they return to their different countries, they record in their own particular language what they have seen. If you were to read their accounts, you would find that they agree on the salient features, but in certain matters there may be differences in details – one giving a full description of one particular thing and another omitting the details altogether. If you have seen Philadelphia yourself, you would find no contradictions at all in the various accounts, but if you have not, you may be confused and bewildered and be unable to reconcile the differences in the different accounts.
Similarly, the scriptures we have with us are travelogues of those who trod the Inner Way, describing how They rose above body consciousness, what They experienced on the Way, what helped Them in Their journey, and what retarded Their progress. The description of all these things is given in the Holy Scriptures. Now the man who has himself travelled on the God-way knows what the scriptures are speaking about and can explain them to us, logically reconciling what may appear to be inconsistencies to the novices on the Path who have not yet learned to delve deep beneath the surface.
In our last meeting, I told you something about the Light of God and the Voice of God, both of which reside in the temple of God which we are. This is what the man of realisation would say, for He has actually experienced these within Himself. But it would be quite different with the man of intellect, with no face-to-face realisation of the Reality. He, with all his learning and knowledge only of outer forms and formalities, rites and rituals, knows next to nothing of Spiritual Matters and talks of things empirically on the human level. The man of Inner Attainment, on the other hand, besides ironing out apparent differences, grants us an experience of the Reality, dispelling all doubts; for when one actually see things for himself, one gets a deep-rooted conviction born of practical experience.
Christ tells us,
If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light.
The Light of God is within each one of us and so is the Single Eye. But how to develop the Single Eye and how to witness the Light of God is the problem within us, and none can solve these problems for us but a Living Competent Master Who, like Christ, has had an actual living experience of them in His own person and makes it manifest to us by means of actual experience.
All the scriptures at the most relate to us the Spiritual Experiences of the Masters: what They have seen within and how. Those who have not had the same experiences cannot even correctly interpret the scriptures to us. They would simply ramble and miss the most important part, for it is not a matter of intellectual grasp. The intellectuals often gather round the Masters, put silly questions to them, but what does the Master tell them?
Once some learned people came to Shamas-i-Tabrez, a Persian Saint. He plainly told them,
My friends, if you see the Midnight Sun, you are most welcome. If not, do not waste your time and mine.
The people were bewildered. What could He mean by Midnight Sun? They said,
The sun is only seen at daytime, not at night!
The Sage replied,
The sun I speak of never sets, and they alone behold its glory whose hearts are pure.
A very similar anecdote is recorded in the life of Guru Nanak, the Indian mystic. One night He declared that the sun was ablaze in the heavens. His family thought that He had gone crazy. When His beloved disciple, Bhai Lehna – Who was to succeed Him as Guru Angad –, came to Him, Guru Nanak repeated what He had said earlier:
The sun is ablaze in the heavens.
And Bhai Lehna at once said,
Yes, my Master it is so.
– How far has it risen?
was the next question, and he promptly replied,
As far as You make it.
These instances I have quoted from the Holy Books. Now I will tell you a similar incident that occurred before my very eyes.
My Master, Baba Sawan Singh Ji, once during His last illness asked those around Him if people in the neighbouring towns could see the sun that He beheld. Everyone thought that He had lost His reason and the doctor in attendance, an eminent Swiss homoeopath, declared that the Master was suffering from uraemia, i.e., urine poison was affecting His brain.
When I visited Him in the evening, He laughed heartily and asked me the same question:
Look here, the sun is ablaze in the heavens. Do the people living in other stations see that?
I told Him:
Master, distance is immaterial. A man may be living in America or in Europe. If he were to turn within, he will see the Light of God.
– That is right,
said my beloved Master.
References to the same Light may be found in the most sacred of the Vedic hymns, the Gayatri Mantra. It speaks of the savitar or the sun shining within, and exhorts the religious-minded to attend to the all-absorbing influence of that glorious orb, but how many of us who daily recite this mantra ever know its significance and practise what the Vedas speak of?
God is Light, more brilliant than the Light of countless suns put together, a Light that is at once uncreate and shadowless, very sweet, very soothing, a Light that never was on sea or land. It is always there. But externalised as we are on the plane of the senses, we cannot see It. To see It, we must invert and rise above the body consciousness. This is a practical subject.
An incident in the life of Kabir brings out the difference between a merely intellectual and a practical man very clearly. Once a learned pundit came to Him for the sake of pointless argument.
The Sage put him off, saying,
My learned friend, why argue when we can never hope to agree? You speak of something you have not seen, of something you have only read; while I speak only of that which I have seen.
Jesus Christ once said,
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.
One of the Sikh Masters also said the same thing:
Listen ye to the true testimony of the Saints, for They speak of that which They have seen.
Of course the man who has seen the Reality himself will say,
I have seen it and I know what it is!
He speaks with confidence and conviction. There is force and weight in what he says. When one has experienced what he describes, the words spring from the abundance of the heart and they carry their own testimony. They have about them an air of certainty and definiteness that does not admit of any doubt and suspicion.
Kabir further says,
I tell the people to wake up from their slumber.
It means that we are asleep. But how? The fact is that we are asleep as regards the Reality that is within, because our Inner Eye has not yet been opened and we have not witnessed the Light of God. We have never risen above the body consciousness, never developed the Single Eye that alone pierces into the beyond. We are, as it were, asleep from within, and are identified with our bodies and the bodily impressions. We are leading a superficial life on the sensual plane. It is because of this that Kabir asks us to wake up from the deadly spell of the senses.
The Vedas also say the same thing:
Awake, arise and stop not until the goal is reached,
meaning thereby that our goal is elsewhere and we are not even aware of it; and that it is high time for us to know of it and strive for it.
Thus we see that even the rishis of old used the very same words as Kabir.
Again the fifth Master of the Sikhs stresses the same thing:
Awake, oh Traveller! and hasten towards thy destination which is a long way off.
What a long journey we have before us! And yet we have no knowledge of it.
We are all the time confined to and concerned with the physical bodies. But we have to reach the True Home – the home of our Father. We must first come above the physical consciousness. It is from there that the long journey homeward begins.
Strait is the way,
but when once you are put on it you have to traverse further and further.
My father’s house has many mansions.
There are many planes and subplanes in the Kingdom of God, which you have to pass through, one by one, before you reach your Home. That indeed is the Ultimate Goal of human life, and all our endeavours must be directed to that end. It does not mean that we should neglect our duties of daily life. It only means that we must wake up from our self-complacency and gradually try to rise to the reality of things and devote some time to knowing the Self within us. This can be done, no matter where we are, what we are, what religion we profess; provided of course we have right direction and proper guidance from a Real Adept in the line.
This is the point that Kabir raised in His discussion with the pundits:
My friends, you think that just by being a Hindu you will reach God. But that is not enough.
No doubt, allegiance to a particular religion is no bar to entering the Kingdom of God. All social religions are good in themselves and serve a useful purpose in their own way, yet each will have to work out his own salvation by himself and nobody else can do this for him by proxy. The Ultimate Aim towards which all religions converge is salvation; but the means to salvation lie within, and we shall have to traverse the Way back to God, and that Way back is one and one only for all mankind – the way of death in life.
All the Masters Who came in the past spoke of this way – the way of inversion or entering within. If we traverse on this way, and learn to die at will – as Kabir puts it, hundred times a day – or as a Christian Saint tells us that He died daily, then death can have no terror for us and we will not be taken unaware when it comes and will not get lost at the last moment, but smilingly kick off the mortal coil and march ahead as a matter of routine.
Sant Kabir further told the pundit:
I tell the people to remain in the world and go to the wilderness. I only tell them to face life and to fight the battle. I only say: Maintain your bodies well, for they are the True Temples of God. Maintain your families, for they have been given to you by Gods Grace. Maintain them. God resides in every heart. Have Love for your family, for all the social religions, nay, for all mankind as a whole. This is what I mean when I say: ʻRemain in the world and yet out of it.ʼ
From where do our attachments arise? They originate with the body. We are attached so much to it that we cannot distinguish our True Self. When we have to leave it all of a sudden, we feel lost.
Therefore, Kabir says:
Remain in the world; but enter into the Kingdom of God, see the Light of God by opening the Third Eye or the Single Eye within. When you rise above body consciousness, you will find this physical frame to be mere dust, a clod of clay.
Dust thou art, and unto dust returneth. You are then cut off from the body from within, and consequently from the outer environments. You will be in the world, yet out of it.
Sant Kabir compares such a life to that of the stately swan that, living in the water, takes to its wings, soaring high and dry.
Nanak speaks of it thus:
So we should live in the world and yet out of it.
But we are simply attached to the body itself. We know nothing beyond this life. We say: ʻRight here now and forever, eat, drink, be merry, for this life is all in all.ʼ
At times the Masters have to tell the Truth, bitter as it may sound, in very clear terms, because They have Love for humanity and They wish all to reach the goal.
When Christ entered the temple, do you remember what He said to the money changers there?
Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise!
Similarly, Kabir said to the pundit:
Oh learned man! You are like a maid that has no husband of her own and yet goes about telling other people that she can give them what she has not known all her life. You just try to work upon their emotions by high-sounding words and hypocrisy. But how can you show them the Reality when you have not seen it yourself? If you want to see God, come and follow me.
The truth of the matter is that those who have not seen God themselves cannot make others see. When their own Inner Eye is not yet opened and They do not see the Light of God within, how can They open the eyes of others or make manifest the Light of God?
Sant Kabir further told the man of learning:
You have frittered away your life and lost life’s purpose. The human body occupies the highest place in all creation. It was given to you to know yourself and to know God. That opportunity you have frittered away. You are not only deceiving your own self but deceiving all those who come to you. Had you kept to yourself, it would have been much better; for then you would have lost life’s game only for yourself, and not made others lose theirs. You have never married – how can you tell others what marriage is? You have lost your opportunity; why waste that of others? Why are you making others lose their golden opportunity?
In the Upanishads, a story is told of King Janaka, a seeker of Truth.
He gathered together all the sages of the time and said, My dear friends, I want to know the Way back to God. Can you teach me its theory, since theory precedes practice?
It is said that one Yagyavalkya, a rishi, satisfied the king on this account. He got the price fixed for the purpose. But then another sage, Gargi, who had realised the truth, questioned Yagyavalkya: Look here, oh Rishi! Have you seen the Reality that you have spoken of, and expounded so well, with your own eyes, just as you see those cattle grazing in the meadow? And what did he say? Yagyavalkya, true to his own self, unhesitatingly admitted, No. I have only understood the theory; I am not a man of realisation myself. Naturally, Janaka had to search elsewhere for the practical solution to the problem.
We must be sincere. If you have seen the Truth, only then ask the people to follow you.
Dear friend, come and see and have it!
But if you have not seen the Truth yourself, then why, like the proverbial blind man, lead others into the pit along with you? We must be sincere to our own selves and to our fellow men and women. If you only know the scriptures in theory, say so. If you have seen the Light and can rise above body consciousness, and are also competent to give others some experience of it, well and good. Go and tell the people so.
You see, that is the difficulty. People speak so much about the scriptures. You must have heard so many speakers holding forth on the subject. But how many of them are there who have had the first-hand experience of Truth, and are competent to give you also that experience? To talk of Spirituality is just like giving a learned discourse on the principles of business without having any capital or practical capability to start the business.
While here, each morning people sit for meditation and get some experience of the Inner Truth. When you get experience inside, however elementary it may be, you are convinced of the Reality and can develop it to any length you may like, by regular practice.
Preaching was meant to be done only by those who had the first-hand experience of Truth. But preaching has become a source of income; and paid service in all social religions has made matters worse. I am not talking of any particular religion, but what I say is true of all religions. People have made a business of religion and so many have taken to it just as a means of livelihood.
But God’s gifts are all free. They pretend to serve Him, but at bottom it is all mercenary. The world is full of them and that is why we are fed up with the very word ʻmaster.ʼ But a Real Master does not seek worldly gain. He gives God’s gift – Spirituality – freely and free of cost. He has realised God. He is the perfect man. He has transcended the physical consciousness and has seen the Light within.
What did Kabir tell the pundit?
Oh learned pundit, if you want an experience of the Reality, go to some Competent Living Master.
ʻWhat sort of Master?ʼ asked the pundit. Then Kabir went on to define Master as One through Whom God speaks. This is what all the Saints, including Kabir, have said.
Thus we have in the Bible:
[…] Holy men of God spoke as They were moved by the Holy Ghost
2 Peter 1:21
Guru Nanak says,
Poor Nanak only speaks what he is bidden,
Oh Lalo! I only say that which my Lord speaks through me.
A Muslim Divine also says the same thing:
The records of the Prophet are the records of God, though they may seemingly appear to drop from a human tongue.
You too have the same possibility in you. But you have not yet come in contact with the Power working in you, because you are still bound to the physical body. As long as you do not lose this body consciousness, you cannot enter into the beyond.
The Bible says,
[…] flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.
You must seek out One Who has risen into cosmic awareness and is a Conscious Co-Worker of the Divine Plan. He will no doubt be a man like any of you. But He has realised His own Self and experienced God within. When you sit with Him, you will find Him quite a different being, full of Love and compassion for all: a radiating centre of the Divinity in Him. The very atmosphere around Him is charged with the radioactive rays of Spiritual Bliss.
A man who has attained the highest degree of mastery in any field of activity will at first appear like an ordinary man. He is essentially a man first and last. But he has developed in his own particular way. When you sit with him, you will find him a giant in his own field. This is exactly the case with a Master-Soul. When you meet Him, you will find Him just like any other man at first sight.
He Himself will tell you:
I come to you as a man to man. I am a man just like you. I had the good fortune to sit at the feet of my Master and progressed in the Spiritual Way. Those who are in search of the God-way are most welcome.
A doctor is a man first and then a doctor. An engineer is a man first and then an engineer. Similarly, a Spiritual Man, a Master, is a man first and then a Spiritual Guide.