Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
The Intoxication of Life (1)
There are many things in life which are intoxicating, but if we considered the nature of life we would realize that there is nothing more intoxicating than our life itself. We can see the truth of this idea when we think of what we were yesterday and compare it with our condition today. Our unhappiness or happiness, our riches or poverty of yesterday are like a dream to us; it is only today's condition that counts.
This life of continual rise and fall and of continual changes is like running water, and man identifies himself with this running water, although in reality he does not know what he is. For instance, if a man goes from poverty to riches and then those riches are taken away from him, he laments; and he laments because he does not remember that before having those riches he was poor, and that from that poverty he came to riches. If one considers what one's fancies through life have been, one will find that at every stage of development one had a particular fancy; sometimes one longed for certain things and at other times one did not care for them. If one can look as a spectator at one's own life, one will find that it was nothing but an intoxication. What at one time gives man great satisfaction and pride, at another time humiliates him; what a person enjoys at one time, troubles him at another time; what at one time he values greatly, at another time he does not value at all.
If a man can observe his actions in everyday life, and if he has an awakened sense of justice and understanding, he will often find himself doing something which he had not intended to do, or saying something that he did not wish to say, or behaving in such a way that he asks himself, 'Why was I such a fool!' Sometimes he allows himself to love someone, to admire someone; it may go on for days, for weeks, for months, even years, although years may be very long; and then perhaps he feels that he was wrong, or something more attractive comes along; then he is on another road and does not know where he is any more, nor whom he loves. In the action and reaction of his life a man sometimes does things on impulse, not considering what he is doing, and at other times he has, so to speak, a spell of goodness, and he goes on doing what he thinks is good. At other times a reaction sets in and all his goodness is gone. Then in his business or profession he gets an impulse: he must do this, or he must do that, and he seems to be full of strength and courage; sometimes he perseveres and sometimes it lasts only a day or two and then he forgets what he was doing and does something else.
This shows that man in his life in the activity of the world is just like a piece of wood, lifted by the waves of the sea when they rise up, and cast down when they subside. That is why the Hindus have called the life of the world Bhavasagara, an ocean, an ever rising ocean. And man is floating on this ocean of worldly activity, not knowing what he is doing, not knowing where he is going. What seems to him of importance is only the moment which he calls the present; the past is a dream, the future is in a mist, and the only thing clear to him is the present
The attachment and love and affection of man are not very different from the attachment of the birds and animals. There is a time when the sparrow looks after its young and brings grains in its beak and puts them into the beak of its young ones, and they anxiously await the coming of their mother. And this goes on until their wings are grown, and once the young ones have known the branches of the tree and they have flown in the forests under the protection of their mother, they never again remember that mother who was so kind to them. There are moments of emotion, there are impulses of love, of attachment, of affection, but there comes a time when these pass; they pale and fade away. And there comes a time when a person thinks that there is something else he desires and something else he would like to love.
The more one thinks of man's life in the world the more one comes to the understanding that it is not very different from the life of a child. The child takes a fancy to a doll and then it gets tired of that doll and wants another toy. But at the moment when it takes a fancy to the doll or the toy it thinks it the most valuable thing in the world; and then there comes a time when it throws away the doll and destroys the toy. And so it is with man; his scope is perhaps a little different, but his action is the same. All that man considers important in life, such as the collection of wealth, the possession of property, the attainment of fame, or the rising to a position he may think ideal, all these objects have only an intoxicating effect on him; and after attaining the object he is not satisfied. He thinks that there is perhaps something else he wants, that it was not this that he wanted. Whatever he wants he feels to be the most important of all, but after attaining it he no longer thinks it is important at all; he wants something else. In everything that pleases him and makes him happy, in his amusements, his theater, his moving pictures, golf, polo, or tennis, it seems that what amuses him is to be puzzled and not to know where he is going; it seems that he only desires to fill his time. And what man calls pleasure is what happens at the moment when he is intoxicated with the activity of life. Anything that covers his eyes from reality, anything that gives him a certain sensation of life, anything that he can indulge in and that makes him conscious of some activity, that is what he calls pleasure.
Man's nature is such that whatever he becomes accustomed to is his pleasure, be it eating, drinking, or any activity. If he becomes accustomed to what is bitter, bitterness gives him pleasure; if he becomes accustomed to what is sour then sourness gives him pleasure; if he becomes accustomed to eat sweets then he will like sweet things. Some men get into the habit of complaining about their life, and if they have nothing to complain about then they look for something to complain of. Others want the sympathy of their fellow men and want to explain to them that they are badly treated. It is an intoxication.
Then there is the person who has fallen into the habit of theft; he derives pleasure from it and the habit becomes stronger and stronger, and when another source of income is offered to him he is not interested, he does not want it. In this way people become accustomed to certain things in life; these things become a pleasure, an intoxication. There are many who develop the habit of worrying about things. The least little thing worries them very much. They cherish whatever little sorrow they have; it is a plant they water and nourish. And so many, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, become accustomed to illness, an illness that is more an intoxication than a reality. And as long as a man holds the thought of that illness he sustains it, and the illness settles in his body and no doctor can take it away.
Then a man's environment and condition in life create for him an illusion and an intoxication, so that he no longer sees the condition of the people around him, the people of the city or country in which he lives. And the intoxication not only remains with him when he is awake, but it continues in his dreams, just as the drunkard too will dream of the things that have to do with his drunkenness. If he has joy or sorrow, if he has worries or pleasure, the same will be his condition in his dream; and day and night the dream continues to exist. With some the dream lasts the whole life; with others only a certain time.
Man loves this intoxication as much as the drunkard loves the intoxication of wine. When a person is seeing something interesting in his dream, and somebody tries to wake him, he feels for a moment inclined to sleep on and finish that interesting dream, although he knows that it was a dream and that someone is waking him.
This intoxication can be seen in all the different aspects of life; it manifests even in the religious, philosophical, and mystical aspects. Man seeks after subtlety and wishes to know something that he cannot understand; he is very pleased to be told something that his reason cannot understand. Give him the simple truth and he will not like it. When teachers like Jesus Christ came to earth and gave the message of truth in simple words, the people of the time said, 'This is in our book, we know it already'; but whenever there is an attempt to mystify people, telling them of fairies and ghosts and spirits, they are very pleased; they desire to understand what they cannot understand.
What man has always called spiritual or religious truth has been the key to that ultimate truth which man cannot see because of his intoxication. And this truth nobody can give to another person. It is in every soul, for the human soul itself is this truth. All that can be given is the means by which the truth can be known. The religions in various forms have been methods by which the inspired souls taught man to know this truth, and to be benefited by this truth which is in the soul of man, But instead of being benefited by a religion in this way, man has accepted only the external part of the religion and has fought with others, saying, 'My religion is the only right one, your religion is false'.
Nevertheless there have always existed some wise ones, like those of whom it is told in the Bible that they came from the East when Jesus Christ was born, to see the child. What does this mean? It means that at different times there have existed wise men, whose life's mission it has been to keep themselves sober in spite of this intoxication all around them, and to help their fellow men to gain this soberness. Among those who were wise and remained sober there have been some who had great inspiration as well as great power and control over themselves and over life within and without. These are the wise men who have been called saints, sages, prophets, or masters.
But even when following or accepting these wise men, man, through his intoxication, has monopolized one of them as his prophet or teacher and has fought with others; in this way he has shown his intoxication and drunkenness. And just as a drunken man will, without any thought, hit or hurt another person who happens to be different from him, who thinks or feels or acts differently, so for the most part the great people of the world who came to help humanity have been killed, crucified, hurt or tortured. But they have not complained about it; they have taken it as a natural consequence; they have understood that they were in a world of intoxication or drunkenness, and that it is natural that a drunken man should try to hurt or do harm. This has been the history of the world in whatever quarter the message of God has been given.
In reality the message comes from one source and that is God, and under whatever name the wise gave that message it was not their message, but the message of God. Those whose hearts had eyes to see and ears to hear, have known and seen the same messenger, because they have received the message. And those whose hearts had no eyes or ears have taken the messenger to be important and not the message. But at whatever period that message came and in whatever form the message was given, it was always that one message, the message of wisdom.