It is most difficult to forget what one has once learned.
Learning is one thing; and unlearning is another. The process
of spiritual attainment is through unlearning. People consider
their belief to be their religion. In reality belief is a steppingstone
to religion. Besides, if I were to picture belief, it is just
like a staircase that leads on to a higher realization. But
instead of going up the staircase people stand on it. It is
just like running water that does not flow anymore. People have
made their belief rigid, and therefore instead of being benefited
by their belief they are going backwards. If it were not so
one would have thought that all the believers in God, in truth,
and the hereafter would be better than the unbelievers. But
what happens is that they are worse, because they have nailed
their own feet to their belief.
Very often I am in a position where I can say very little,
especially when a person comes to me with his preconceived ideas
and wants to take my direction, my guidance on the spiritual
path. Yet at the same time his first intention is to see if
his thoughts fit in with mine and if my thoughts fit in with
his thoughts. He cannot make himself empty for the direction
given. He has not come to follow my thoughts, but wants to confirm
to himself that his idea is right. Among a hundred persons who
come for spiritual guidance, ninety come out of that tap. What
does it show? That they do not want to give up their own idea,
but they want to have it confirmed that the idea they have is
Spiritual attainment, from beginning to end, is unlearning
what one has learnt. But how does one unlearn? What one has
learnt is in oneself. One can do it by becoming wiser. The more
wise one becomes, the more one is able to contradict one's own
ideas. The less wisdom one has, the more one holds to one's
own ideas. In the wisest person there is willingness to submit
to others. And the most foolish person is always ready to stand
firm to support his own ideas. The reason is that the wise person
can easily give up his thought; the foolish holds on to it.
That is why he does not become wise because he sticks to his
own ideas. That is why he does not progress.
Mental purification therefore is the only method by which
one can reach the spiritual goal. In order to accomplish this
one has to look at another person's point of view. For in reality
every point of view is one's own point of view. The vaster one
becomes, the greater the realization that comes to one, the
more one sees that every point of view is all right. If one
is able to expand oneself to the consciousness of another person,
one's consciousness becomes as large as two persons. And so
it can be as large as a thousand persons when one accustoms
oneself to try and see what others think.
The next step in mental purification is to be able to see
the right of the wrong and the wrong of the right, and the evil
of the good and the good of the evil. It is a difficult task,
but once one has accomplished this, one rises above good and
One must be able to see the pain in pleasure and the pleasure
in pain; the gain in the loss and the loss in the gain. What
generally happens is that one is blunted to one thing and that
one's eyes are open to another thing; that one does not see
the loss or that one does not see the gain. If one recognizes
the right, one does not recognize the wrong.
Mental purification means that impressions such as good and
bad, wrong and right, gain and loss, and pleasure and pain,
these opposites which block the mind, must be cleared out by
seeing the opposite of these things. Then one can see the enemy
in the friend and the friend in the enemy. When one can recognize
poison in nectar and nectar in poison, that is the time when
death and life become one too. Opposites no more remain opposites
before one. That is called mental purification. And those who
come to this stage are the living sages.
The third field of mental purification is to identify oneself
with what one is not. By this one purifies one's mind from impressions
of one's own false identity.
I will give as an example the story of a sage in India. The
story begins by saying that a young man in his youth asked his
mother, who was a peasant-woman living in a village, 'What is
the best occupation, mother?' And the mother said, 'I do not
know son, except that those who searched after the highest in
life went in search of God.' 'Then where must
I go, mother?' he asked. She answered,
'I do not know whether it is practical or not, but they say
in the solitude, in the forest.' So he went there for a long
time and lived a life of patience and solitude. And once or
twice in between he came to see his mother. Sometimes his patience
was exhausted, his heart broken. Sometimes he was disappointed
in not finding God. And each time the mother sent him back with
stronger advice. At the third visit he said 'Now I have been
there a long time.' 'Yes,' said the mother, 'Now I think you
are ready to go to a teacher.' So he went to see a teacher.
And there were many pupils learning under that teacher. Every
pupil had a little room to himself for meditation, and this
pupil also was told to go into a certain room to meditate. The
teacher asked, 'Is there anything you love in the world?' This
young man having been away from home since childhood, having
not seen anything of the world, could think of no one he knew,
except of the little cow that was in his house. He said, 'I
love the cow in our house.' The teacher said, 'Then think of
the cow in your meditation.'
All the other pupils came and went, and sat in their room
for fifteen minutes for a little meditation. Then they got tired
and went away; but this young man remained sitting there from
the time the teacher had told him. After some time the teacher
asked, 'Where is he?' The other pupils answered, 'We don't know.
He must be in his room.' They went to look for him; the door
was closed and there was no answer. The teacher went himself
and opened the door and there he saw the pupil sitting in meditation,
fully absorbed in it. And when the teacher called him by name,
he answered in the sound of a cow. The teacher said, 'Come out.'
He answered, 'My horns are too large to pass through the door.'
Then the teacher said to his pupils, 'Look, this is the living
example of meditation. You are meditating on God and you do
not know where God is, but he is meditating on the cow and he
has become the cow; he has lost his identity. He has identified
himself with the object on which he meditates.' All the difficulty
in our life is that we cannot come out of a false conception.
I will give another example. Once I was trying to help a
person who was ill, who had had rheumatism for twenty years.
This woman was in bed. She could not move her joints. I came
to her and told her, 'Now you will do this and I will come again
in two weeks' time.' And when after two weeks I came, she had
already begun to move her joints. And I said, 'In six weeks
I will come back.' And in six weeks she got up from bed and
had still greater hope of being cured. Nevertheless her patience
was not so great as it ought to have been. One day she was lying
in bed and thought, 'Can I ever be cured?' The moment she had
that thought she went back to the same condition; because her
soul had identified itself with a sick person. For her to see
her own well being was impossible. She could not imagine that
she would ever be quite well. She could not believe her eyes
that her joints were moving. She could not believe it.
People can be well in their bodies but not in their minds.
Very often they hold on to an illness which they could get rid
of. And the same thing happens with misery. People who are conscious
of misery attract miseries. They are their own misery. It is
not that misfortune is interested in them, but that they are
interested in misfortune. Misfortune does not choose people.
People choose misfortune. They hold that thought and that thought
becomes their own. When a person is convinced that he is going
downward, he goes downward. His thought is helping him to sink.
Therefore the third aspect of mental purification is to be
able to identify oneself with something else. The Sufis have
their own way of teaching it. Very often one holds the idea
of one's spiritual teacher; and with that idea one gains the
knowledge and inspiration and power that the spiritual teacher
has. It is just like a heritage.
The man who cannot concentrate so much as to forget himself,
and go deep into the subject on which he concentrates, will
not succeed in mastering concentration.
The fourth mental purification is to free oneself from a
form and have the sense of the abstract. Everything suggests
to the eye a form, everything; even so much that if the name
of a person whom one has never seen is mentioned, one makes
a form of him. Even such things as fairies and spirits and angels,
as soon as they are mentioned, are always pictured in a certain
form. This is a hindrance to attaining the presence of the formless;
and therefore this mental purification is of very great importance.
Its purpose is to be able to think of an idea without form.
No doubt this is only attained by great concentration and meditation,
but once it is attained it is most satisfactory.
And the fifth way is to be able to repose one's mind. In
other words to relax the mind. Imagine, after having toiled
for the whole day, how much the body stands in need of rest;
how much more then must the mind stand in need of rest!
The mind works much faster than the body. Naturally the mind
is much more tired than the body. And not every person knows
how to rest his mind and therefore the mind never has a rest.
And then what happens after a while is that the mind becomes
feeble. It loses memory, the power of action. It loses reason.
The worst effects are mostly brought about by not giving the
mind proper repose. If such infirmities as doubt and fear happen
to enter the mind, then a person becomes restless, he can never
find rest. For at night the mind continues on the track
of the same impressions. Simple as it seems to be, very
few know the resting of the mind and how wonderful it is in
itself. And what power, what inspiration, comes as a reaction
from it, and what peace one experiences by it, and how it helps
the body and mind! The spirit is renewed once the mind has had
The first step towards the resting of the mind is the relaxation
of the body. If one is able to relax one's muscular and nervous
system at will, then the mind is automatically refreshed. Besides
that, one must be able to cast away anxiety, worries, doubts,
and fears by the power of will, putting oneself in a restful
state. This will be accomplished by the help of proper breathing.
Great magnetism is produced by having stilled and purified
the mind. And the lack of it causes lack of magnetism. The presence
of those whose mind is not purified and stilled becomes a source
of unrest for others as well as for themselves. And they attract
little because the power of attraction is lost. Everyone is
tired by their presence, and their atmosphere causes uneasiness
and discomfort. They are a burden to themselves and to others.
Once the mind is purified, the next step is the cultivation
of the heart quality, which culminates in spiritual attainment.