There is a verse in the Bible, 'It is the spirit that quickeneth,
the flesh profiteth nothing.' So what we call living is subtle,
what is dead is coarse. In other words, what is dense is coarse,
and what is fine is subtle.
It is true as the Hindus say that there was a golden age,
then a silver age, a copper age, and an iron age. Certainly,
we are in the iron age. Never before in any period of history
was there such grossness and denseness as mankind shows today.
And it has come about by the law of gravitation. When the consciousness
is absorbed in the gross matter then a person gravitates towards
the earth. When the consciousness is released from the gross
matter then it soars towards heaven.
I do not mean to say that people were not gross 2,000 or
3,000 years ago. But when we study traditions we find that they
were also very fine and subtle in perception, more than we are
today. Our contact with the earth and earthly things has made
us more rigid. They were more placid. And if we want proof of
this we have only to study ancient languages such as Sanskrit,
Zend, Persian, Hebrew, and see the manuscripts of ancient times
and the way they explain things. Maybe they are quite strange
to our present day mentality and perception, yet their fineness
is beyond words. And it seems we are going from bad to worse
and are becoming coarser every day. If we only realized how
far we are removed from what may be called fine perception!
When a person tries to understand subtle things by mathematical
calculations alone, he has come into the dense sphere. He does
not want to become fine, and he wants to make the spirit, which
is the finest thing, gross and intelligible. Therefore it is
of the greatest importance for spiritual attainment to develop
fine perception. I have seen people go into a trance or dive
into a deep meditation and yet lack fine perception. And then
it is of no value. They are not really spiritual. A really spiritual
person must have a mentality like liquid, not like a rock; a
mentality that is moving, not crude and dense.
This question has also a metaphysical side to it. There are
two experiences in life. One realm of experience is sensation,
the other realm is exaltation; and it is by these two experiences
that one tries to experience happiness. But what is experienced
by sensation or in the form of sensation is not necessarily
happiness; that is pleasure. It might give the appearance of
happiness for a moment, but it is only a suggestion of happiness.
Exaltation is something, which the mystic experiences. And
those who are not mystics experience it also, but they do not
know what it is. They cannot distinguish between sensation and
exaltation. Sometimes exaltation may be the outcome of sensation.
It is possible; but at the same time exaltation, which depends
upon sensation, is not an independent exaltation.
There are different grades of exaltation. To the Sufi, the
soul is a current that joins the physical body to the source.
And the art of repose naturally makes it easier for the soul
to experience freedom, inspiration, power, because it is then
loosened from the grip of the physical body. As Rumi says in
the Masnavi, 'Man is a captive on earth. His body and his mind
are his prison bars. And the soul is unconsciously craving to
experience once again the freedom which originally belonged
to it.' The Platonic idea about reaching the higher source is
the same: that by exaltation, the soul, so to speak, rises above
the fast hold of the physical body. It may be only for a few
moments, but it experiences in those moments a freedom which
man has never experienced before.
A moment of exaltation is a different experience at every
level. The supreme exaltation is hinted at in the Bible: 'Be
ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.' Many religious
people will say that it is impossible for man to be perfect;
but it is said in the Bible just the same. At all times the
knowers and seers have understood that there is a stage at which,
by touching a particular phase of existence, one feels raised
above the limitations of life, and is given that power and peace
and freedom, that light and life, which belong to the source
of all beings. In other words, in that moment of supreme exaltation
one is not only united with the source of all beings, but dissolved
in it; for the source is one's self.
The source is greater than we can put into words. We can
try to conceive it by comparing it with a seed, which is the
source of the flower, the leaves, the stem, the branches, and
the fragrance. While if we take the seed alone we do not see
all those in the seed; yet they were there all the time. On
the other hand we cannot really compare even the seed with the
source, for the seed depends upon the sun and water and earth
for its growth. Whereas, the ultimate source does not depend
upon anything. It is all that is strong and powerful. It is
beyond words and beyond our limited conception even to think
of the source except that when we get greater inspiration, peace,
joy, and magnetism, we appreciate things much better. In this
way we may understand a little how great the source must be.
The greater we are the closer we reach to that source. As the
great Indian poet Khusrau says, 'When I become Thou and
Thou becomest me, neither canst Thou say that I am different
nor canst Thou say that Thou are different.'
The different grades of exaltation are as the different notes
in music. As we distinguish lower and higher notes, so it is
with the different grades of the experience of exaltation. Even
reading a beautiful poem can produce exaltation. Good music
gives exaltation, and a feeling of great joy does so too. It
all breaks up congestion. There are fine cells of the nerves,
which become free, and the body experiences relaxation.
There is a difference between sensation and exaltation, but
when we come to words, there is always confusion. One can say
that exaltation is the fusion of all sensation; but if one says
that through sensation is exaltation, it is true also.
As much as we need sensation in life to make our experience
of life concrete, so much or even more do we need exaltation
in order to live life fully. The lower creation such as birds
and beasts also has glimpses of exaltation. They do not only
rejoice in grazing and in finding seeds, in making nests or
in playing in the air, in singing and in running about in the
forest. There are moments when even birds and beasts feel exaltation.
And if we go into the subject more deeply, we shall understand
what we read in a most wonderful verse of Islamic tradition:
'There are moments when even rocks become exalted and trees
fall into ecstasy.' If that be true, then man, who is created
to complete the experience that any living being can have, must
experience exaltation as much as he experiences sensation.
What I mean by sensation is the impression one has of line
and color; the preference one has for softness in structure.
It is the appreciation one has of fragrance and perfume; the
enjoyment one gains by tasting sweet and sour and pungent; the
joy one experiences in hearing poetry, singing, and music. All
these experiences are manifest in the realm of sensation. The
world of sensation is one world. The world of exaltation is
another; and these two worlds are made for man to experience
in order to live life on earth fully. And yet, with this possibility
and this opportunity in life, man continues to live a life of
sensation, forgetting that there is another life as well, a
life that can be experienced here on earth, and something that
completes life's experience.
There is a physical aspect of exaltation which comes as a
reaction or a result of having seen the immensity of space,
having looked at the wide horizon, or having seen the clear
sky, the moonlit night and nature at dawn. Looking at the rising
sun, watching the setting sun, looking at the horizon from the
sea, being in the midst of nature, looking at the world from
the top of a mountain, all these experiences, even such an experience
as watching the little smiles of an innocent infant, these experiences
lift one up and give one a feeling which one cannot call sensation.
It is exaltation.
A higher aspect of exaltation is a moral exaltation – when
we are sorry for having said or done something unpleasant; when
we have asked forgiveness, and humbled ourselves before someone
towards whom we were inconsiderate. We have humbled our pride
then. Or when we felt a deep gratitude to someone who had done
something for us; when we have felt love, sympathy, devotion,
which seems endless and which seems so great that our heart
cannot accommodate it; when we have felt so much pity for someone
that we have forgotten ourselves; when we have found a profound
happiness in rendering a humble service to someone in need;
when we have said a prayer which has come from the bottom of
our heart; when we have realized our own limitation and smallness
in comparison with the greatness of God; all these experiences
lift men up.
The moment we have these experiences, we are not living on
earth but in another world. The joy of such experiences is very
great, and yet they can be gained without paying anything, whereas
sensations cost something. We have to go to the theater, to
go to all kinds of entertainment. All these cost something.
They cost more than they are worth; but exaltation, which is
beyond price, comes of itself as soon as we have shown an inclination
towards it. It is only a matter of changing our attitude.
Once I visited a great sage in Bengal. I said to him, ' What
a blessed life is yours, which gives pleasure and happiness
to so many souls.' but he answered, ' How privileged I am myself
that a thousand times more pleasure and happiness come to me.'
Exaltation is a purifying process. A moment's exaltation
can purify the evil of many years, because it is like bathing
in the Ganges, as Hindus say. It is symbolical. Exaltation is
the Ganges, and if we bathe in it we are purified from all sins.
It does not take much to make us exalted. A kind attitude, a
sympathetic trend of mind, and it is already there. If we were
to notice it, we would find that our eyes shed tears in sympathy
with another. We were already exalted. Our soul has bathed in
the spiritual Ganges. It comes by forgetting self and by destroying
selfishness. But remember we can never claim to be unselfish.
However unselfish we may be, we are selfish just the same. But
we can be wisely selfish, and if we are to be selfish, it is
just as well to be wisely selfish. It is the same thing as what
we call unselfishness and it is profitable to be that instead
of being foolishly selfish; because the former gains and the
The third aspect of exaltation comes by touching the reason
of reasons, by realizing the essence of wisdom; by feeling the
depth, the profound depth of one's heart, by widening one's
outlook on life; by broadening one's conception, by deepening
one's sympathies, and by soaring upwards to those spheres where
spiritual exaltation manifests. Today a man of common sense
or a person who is called a practical man is in the habit of
laughing at the idea that someone has visions or experiences
of ecstasy, that someone goes into what is called a trance.
But there is nothing to be surprised at, nothing to laugh at.
All these things are laughable, however, when done by the undeserving;
and it is mostly such who make these claims and look for approbation
from others for their experiences. Those who really experience
these things do not need to tell people that they had this or
that experience. Their own joy is their reward. No one else
should recognize it. The less others know about it the better.
Why must we show ourselves to be different from others? It
is only vanity. And the more vanity the less progress we make
along the spiritual path. It is the worst thing on the spiritual
path to try and show oneself to be different from others. Those,
who are really evolved, are glad to act as everyone else acts.
To novelists it seems beautiful to describe masters as living
in caves of the Himalayas or moving about in the forest somewhere
where one cannot go and find them, always keeping aloof and
apart so that no one can reach them. But every soul has a divine
spark, and therefore if there is any higher stage of human evolution
it is for human beings, not for those outside the human world.
If they are outside the human world, there is no relation between
us and them. The great spiritual souls have lived in the world,
in the midst of the world, and proved to be the greatest masters.
Imagine the life of Abraham, of Moses, the life of Jesus
Christ; and again the life of Muhammad in war and battles, and
yet as exclusive and remote, as spiritual as anyone could be.
And Krishna, picture him in Kurukshetra fighting in the battle,
giving a world-scripture. If they had all lived in mountain
caves we would not have been benefited by them. What is the
use of those holy ones who never see, never experience from
morning till evening the tests and trials of the dense world,
where at every move there are a thousand temptations and difficulties,
a thousand problems? What can they do, those who are outside
the world, for us who are exposed to a thousand difficulties
at every moment of our life? And these difficulties are increasing.
With the evolution of the world life is becoming heavier, more
difficult. No, the mastery, the holiness, the evolution must
be shown here on earth. It is very easy to be evolved in the
seventh heaven. But exaltation experienced and imparted to others
here on the earth is exaltation, which is more worthwhile.
As to the grossness and subtlety of human nature, the heroes,
kings, masters, prophets, those who have won the heart of humanity,
have been fine in perception and in character. They have not
been gross. Their fineness was simple. There was always a simple
side to it, but at the same time it was subtle, which made it
beautiful. A person who can say without saying and one who can
do without doing is a subtle person and that subtlety is worth
appreciating. The one who sees and does not see, knows and does
not know; the one who experiences and does not experience at
the same time, the one who is living and yet dead, that is the
soul who experiences life fully.