Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
MAN, THE MASTER OF HIS DESTINY (2)
THERE ARE two opposite opinions existing in the world: one belongs to those who are called fatalists, those who believe in fate, and the other is the opinion of those who believe in free will. And if we look at life from both these points of view we shall find reasons for and against each. There are many instances in life where there are qualifications, conditions, inclinations and every possibility of progress; yet at the same time there is some unknown hindrance and one cannot find out what it is. A man may work for years and years and not succeed. There are also many who hope and believe that all good things will come of themselves, but just by hoping and believing good things do not come; it takes an effort and persistence, it needs patience to accomplish things. This shows that there is truth in both possibilities; but at the same time the middle way is the best, the way of understanding how far free will works and also where free will is hindered.
Life according to the mystic's point of view can be divided into two aspects. One is the preparatory aspect, and the other is that of action. The preparatory aspect is the time before a person is born and the other aspect is the time after his birth. A person may be born into a certain condition which becomes the foundation of his life's course. For instance among people who are addicted to drink or in a rich family. The credit for what he does, considering that condition, belongs to him, but that condition is something he has not made; from it he has to develop and evolve through life. And the question is how this condition is brought about.
Eastern philosophers have had different ideas about this matter. The way that the wise and the mystics look at it is that man is a ray of the spirit, like a ray shooting forth from the sun. Therefore the origin of all souls is one and the same, just as the origin of the various rays is in the one sun. But as these rays shoot forth they pass through three different phases, in other words they penetrate through three different spheres. When the ray shoots forth, the first sphere it passes is the angelic sphere, the next is the sphere of the genius or jinn, and the third is the physical sphere; as they are recognized in the metaphysics of the East.
Now the nature of each sphere is such that the ray or soul when it penetrates through a certain sphere must clothe itself in the garb of that sphere. Just as a person from a tropical country, going to a cold climate, must adopt the clothes of that climate, so the soul, which by origin is intelligence and a ray of that Sun which is the source and goal of all beings, adopts a certain garb with which it is able to enter, to stay, and to pass through, that particular sphere. Therefore, according to the metaphysics of the East, man is an angel, a jinn, and is also man. In these three conditions the soul is the same, though the garb it has taken makes it seem different. Passing through the angelic sphere the soul is angel, passing through the sphere of the genius the soul is jinn, passing through the physical sphere the soul is man. The soul's condition in the preparatory stages of angel and jinn in the end makes it man.
What about the animals, and about many other beings and objects which show some part of life in them, such as trees and plants and rocks? All these are preparatory coverings, which make the clothes, the garb, for the soul. There is a saying of a great sage of Persia who lived 500 years before Darwin and who gave his ideas on biology: he said that God slept in the rocks, God dreamed in the plant, God awoke in the animal, and God realized Himself in man. It tells that this process, from the vegetable to the animal, from the animal to man, is really the progress of the garb. For instance the first clothes were made of the bark of a tree. Then as people went on making clothes they found better materials and finally came to the finest. Man is the finest material: his garb, not his soul. His soul is the same as that of the man of a thousand years ago. The material has changed and has progressed with the evolution of the soul which has adorned itself with it. In this way the vanity of creatures has been made manifest. And as the matter of our bodies changes every few years, we attract a finer and finer quality of matter as we grow spiritually. Spiritual advancement has an influence upon the body.
There is also another outlook on this subject: that although the soul, as a ray, goes forward to the physical sphere, yet its nature is to go backward, because it follows the law of gravitation. Just as the body, which is made of clay, is drawn to the earth, so the soul, which belongs to the spirit, is drawn to the spirit. 'But,' one may say, 'we can see the body drawn to the earth, we can see all things of the earth drawn to the earth, but we do not see the law of gravitation working in the soul.' Actually we do see it, but we deny it, because we do not look at it in that way. For there is a dissatisfaction, a discontent, in every soul. A man may be in a palace or in a cottage, but no matter what condition he lives in there is an innate yearning and longing which even he himself does not recognize. One thinks today that one longs for money, tomorrow for a position, for fame or name. One goes from one thing to another. It just goes on, and when in the end one has reached one's object one wants something else. It is the law of gravitation, that yearning towards the Spirit, the Sun, which is at the back of it. That is why in ancient times people worshipped the sun god as a symbol of the sun within us, the sun which cannot be seen by our eyes, but which is the source and goal of all beings, from which we have come and to which we are drawn. As it is said in the Quran, 'From God we all come and to Him we have to return.' That means: there is a spirit, the spirit of all things, the essence of life from which we come and towards which we are drawn.
These three spheres can only be entered on one condition, and that condition is that the soul must clothe itself in the garb belonging to that particular sphere. It is that garb which makes an entity of the soul, which hitherto was without any distinction or attribute. As soon as it has adopted this garb it becomes an entity. Before it was only a divine ray. The first garb makes the soul an entity known as an angel. The next garb makes it a mind; and the third garb makes it a body.
Is the mind within the body, and is the soul within the mind? As according to science the brain is within the body one could think that the mind too is within the body, but it is not so. It is as much within as without. It is vaster and wider than the physical body. A jug cannot contain the water of a lake, and so the body cannot contain in itself the mind. Yet the jug can contain some water from the lake, and the body can contain some of the mind within itself.
But the word 'within' has a quite different meaning from that which we attach to it in everyday language. When we speak of the mind being within it means a different dimension. It does not mean in the head or in the breast. It means within each atom of the body, and within every nerve and every blood-cell. And at the same time that it means within, it means behind or beneath or under or nearest to the soul, nearest to our being. That is the meaning of within. The mind is both within and without the body. And so in the same way the soul is both within the mind and without the mind.
One might ask to what extent the jinn world and the angelic world occupy space in our world and pervade it. But what is space? Space is that which accommodates. The mind is a space also, a space which is wider than the world. Our eye is a space too. And as the mind does not mean the brain, so the space in the eyes of our body is not the only space. Behind it is another space which is connected with it. And when this idea becomes clear to man, that there is another space, different from this outer space which already accommodates so much, then the vision of the heavens is opened before him. When a Chinese philosopher was asked what the soul is like, he answered that it is like the pupil of the eye. He meant to say that the soul is an accommodation, like the pupil of the eye, which is so small and yet accommodates so much.
And think of the heart. If there were a thousand universes it would accommodate them all, it is so large. As the former Nizam of Hyderabad who was a mystic said, 'What is the universe and the entire cosmos? If the doors of the heart are open, the heart proves to be larger than the whole cosmos.' What little one can understand of this is shown by the sign of the cross: there is a horizontal space and there is another kind of space, which can be pictured as a perpendicular line. It is to explain the latter space that the mystics and seers have used the word 'within,' and to explain the space of the world, they have used the word 'without.'
The entities or souls which shoot forth from the Spirit into these three spheres have in each of them the experience of meeting those souls which are returning from manifestation. It is just like a person going from the United States to the Far East and another going from the Far East to the United States, and both meeting in Europe. They give each other whatever they have. The one coming from the Spirit gives magnetism, electricity, intelligence, freedom and freshness, love and life. And the one returning gives experience, knowledge, impression, expression, desires, wishes, thoughts of the wickedness and goodness of the earth, all that he has learned and earned and done and wants to accomplish. All these things are exchanged. It is like the way in which one man may come from Europe with an introduction to the United States which would take him into the best society, and another one who has not received any introduction might go to quite the wrong people.
Thus the soul comes on earth already prepared during the journey through these two spheres. Now supposing for instance the returning soul of Shakespeare met in the world of the jinn another soul coming from the inner Spirit and gave all its experience and qualities and attainments to this soul which was coming to the earth. Then this soul would be born with the same qualities as Shakespeare; with the tendency to write poetry, and with much of the knowledge which Shakespeare expressed in his works. According to the Hindus this person may be called the reincarnation of Shakespeare. But one might think, 'What has happened to Shakespeare himself; is it not Shakespeare who has come again in this person?' Yes, but what we know of Shakespeare is of his mind and his body. Shakespeare's soul was a divine ray. It had no peculiarity that might serve as a proof of his being Shakespeare. The Shakespeare in him was outwardly his physical body, and inwardly his mind. That mind was impressed on a soul who came forth on to the earth with the heritage already received from Shakespeare. And for Shakespeare to continue further towards the inner Spirit it was necessary to throw away that garment. Therefore the mind of Shakespeare was a garment borrowed from the jinn plane. That garment he may have given to another one. So if you say, 'What about Shakespeare?' the first question really is: who was Shakespeare? Because it is not the soul, it is the garment which has come again, renewed. The difference is only in words. In its deeper sense there is no difference.
There seems to be a great dissimilarity between the ideas of Buddhism and those of Christianity about reincarnation. The reason is that the message of Jesus Christ was given to the children of Beni Israel, to those prepared to understand God as the King, as the Master of the Day of Judgment, as the One who is all justice and all power. While the message which Buddha gave was to the people of India, who were more metaphysical and scientific. The simple people of India had their gods and goddesses, and they were satisfied with their religion. But the intellectual class was not satisfied with the gods and goddesses alone and with a religion of devotion. They were scientific and logical. They had their own philosophies. Buddha's mission therefore was to give the people of India an understanding beyond what religious devotion can teach. That is why he did not give the essential wisdom in the form of religion, but in the form of philosophy. The common belief was in reincarnation. And it was much easier for the Master not to attack that particular belief but to build on that belief a wonderful structure.
Some Buddhists today whose insight is great wonder why Buddha gave this theory, and why he did not give a reason for it. I was very much interested once in San Francisco where a Buddhist came to see me. He was a well-known preacher of Buddhism in Japan. There was another man present who had read many Buddhist books. I was eagerly waiting to hear what this Buddhist priest had to say, but he did not think it necessary to say anything. In order to make him speak I said I would so much like to know the Buddhist teaching about reincarnation. But the other man, the one who had read many books, said, 'Reincarnation is the principal idea in the Buddhist religion. That one is born again and again. And that is what constitutes Karma.' But I was eager to hear something from the priest! After the other had finished his explanation, I asked the Buddhist preacher if this was right. And in his simple way of speaking, he said, 'What this gentleman has said is his belief.' He said no more.
If one should ask if there is such a thing as reincarnation the answer is both yes and no. Why? Because in both answers there is sense and both answers are true. When you look at life as one life then you do not look upon people as separate entities. Then you cannot say that this person has reincarnated as another. It is the One who is all, and each one is nothing. Either you look at life in that way or you look at life by seeing each person as a separate entity. Naturally, as everything has to go on being something, it must still exist after it is destroyed, it must have an existence in some form. But the destruction or death is only a change. Something cannot be nothing. If it is nothing to our eyes, it is because we do not see. Everything must exist in some form or other. Thus the theory of reincarnation teaches that there is nothing which will be nothing, that everything will be something, must be something.
The other conception is this: if the source is one, the goal is one, then all that we see is phenomena as long as we do not look deeply. When once we look deeply we shall no longer distinguish separate entities. Then we shall see one life, one Being. And then there is no reason to think about reincarnation. The thought of Buddha was the same as the teaching of Jesus Christ, only given to Hindus in another form. The religion of the Master was the same whether he was called Buddha or Christ. The more we think of this subject the more we shall find that a preparation is made for man before he is born on earth; and it is that preparation which makes him able to live the life on earth.
What is this life on earth? Is this a life which is fixed and designed, or is there free will? Very often people do not understand the meaning of the term free will, and specially those who claim most to have free will have the least of it. They are so conscious of their free will and yet they do not know where it comes from. When they have an inclination to laugh or cry, to sit or move, they believe that it is because they want to do it. But they do not know where the thought came from.
Do we not feel every day at some time an oppression, seemingly without reason, or a feeling of hilarity or of despair, or a desire for action and at other times a feeling of lethargy? We think that whatever comes into one's mind is free will. But free will is quite different from that. We each have our free will. And that free will gives us the power to work to some extent within the activity of the whole. But both that which we decide and that which conditions create can all be summed up in the Will of God. We have our individual part to perform; and we must do what we feel is right.
How can there be free will, one might ask, if all is God? The power of water is different from the power of fire; the power of fire is different from the power of earth. So the action of each individual is different, although in the soul of each there is God. According to conditions and education temperaments differ; yet God is in all.
There are many things one has to overcome before one sets forth upon the journey to higher realization. But at each step one takes towards the realization of truth one will feel more self confident. And the more one overcomes all doubts and the more one's self-confidence grows, the greater will be one's will; and the closer to truth one reaches, the more light one will see. And what is that light? It is the light of self-realization.