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Volume XIII - The Gathas

Part VI
Taqwa Taharat: Everyday Life

GATHA I

1.   Everyday Life

It is a very necessary thing in the life of an adept for him to adapt his mind and body to the spiritual life, in other words, it is necessary for a man to become his natural self before he begins his journey in a spiritual path. It is this naturalness which is called by the orthodox purity. For pure water, or pure milk, means water or milk in its own essence; when another element is mixed with it then its purity is lost. To become spiritual means to purify one's spirit from the foreign elements which take away the natural feeling of the spirit. Concentration, meditation, all these help to make the spirit its natural self again, but the vehicles that the spirit uses in order to experience life must help the spirit to become natural. These vehicles are the mind and the body. However great the musician, if the instrument is out of tune he can do nothing with it. To say that only the spirit matters and the body does not count is not right. Therefore it is necessary that first both mind and body be fit vehicles for the spirit to use.

The difference between a pious person and a spiritual person is this, that the pious person makes his mind and body ready for his own spirit to use, and the spiritual person, after making them ready, gives them to God. Piety is the first step and spirituality the next. There is no exaggeration in the saying that cleanliness in next to godliness. The body must be considered as the temple of God, and this sacred house of God must be made pure in every way; then the light of God is reflected in it.

Beasts and birds all have a tendency to be clean and pure, and for man it is necessary that he should develop this tendency. It helps, not only on the spiritual path, but also in the development of mind. To the artist in his art, to the scientist in his science, in all aspects of life it gives happiness. When man neglects it, that does not mean that he does not like it, it is only out of negligence that he overlooks things that are of the first importance. One's body is of all things in the world the closest to oneself, and its influence has a great effect, and an immediate effect, upon one's mind and soul. A great many illnesses are caused by the lack of consideration of the necessary cleanliness of the body, which is a science and an art in itself. On the soul and mind one's own body makes the first impression, all other things come afterwards. Yes, there are souls who have arrived at such a plane of spirituality that the condition of the body does not matter to them. But they are not to be followed as examples. It is the normal path which is safe and is for all. The question, 'Would this not give one too much the thought of self?' may be answered thus: the thought of oneself exists when the light of God is absent; in the presence of every beautiful thing man forgets himself.

2.   The Instrument of Our Body

The body is an instrument for experiencing life; both the worlds, that within and without, are reflected in this instrument. Therefore purity of the body is the first essential thing, and the most essential, in the path of spiritual attainment. Every civilization has a peculiar method of cleanliness. But the mystic is not satisfied with the customary manner.

Mystics have two views: one view is that external cleanliness matters nothing to them, and the other is that it is most important. As the work of an astronomer depends upon a telescope, and as it is necessary for him to keep the telescope as clean as possible, so it is necessary in the life of the mystic to keep the body in a fit condition.

All the passages in the body are connected with the centers, which are most important in spiritual development, and it is upon the cleanliness and purity of these passages that spiritual development depends. Besides these nine passages it is also necessary to keep the skin in a proper condition for spiritual purposes. It is from the mystical conception that humanity first learned the idea of clothes. There have been times when certain races painted their skin, and by certain yogis the body was covered with ashes. In ancient times the body was covered with the bark of trees. But behind all this there was always an inclination to keep the skin in a proper condition. It is upon the cleanliness of the body that sensitiveness depends; therefore people who have no regard to the cleanliness of the body are less sensitive than those who have regard to it. Besides the cleanliness of the outer part of the body, it is equally important, perhaps more important, to consider the cleanliness of the inner part of the body. Mystics, therefore, take precaution about what they eat and drink, and have methods of cleansing the inner part of the body also. No mystic in the East guides a pupil who has not first prepared his body for spiritual purposes. Cleanliness of the body, besides its importance for spiritual and moral development, also prevents serious disease.

3.   The Breath

It is necessary for the breath to flow freely through the lungs, tubes, and veins of the body, and things that one eats and drinks often block the channels through which the breath passes, invigorating and vivifying every particle of the body. All skin diseases are caused by want of breath in the skin. The mystic feels not only the vibrations of music but even the vibrations of another person's breath. The skin of the mystic in time becomes sensitive and feels even the vibrations of the breath of another. Music, so to speak, touches every particle of his being.

Breathing exercises will not give proper results if the channels of the breath have not been cleared. The spine, the lungs, the tubes and the veins of the body, the intestines should be kept clear. When the channels of the breath are blocked man feels heavy, depressed, lazy, drowsy, and confused; the expression becomes dull and the voice harsh; then the movements lose grace and beauty when sitting, or standing, or walking, or moving; in every action one expresses a weakness, a lack of spirit. Feebleness is different from lack of spirit. A person may be strong bodily but may lack spirit, and the teaching of Christ is that it is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.

4.   Outer and Inner Ablutions

The vehicle which is made of earth can be cleansed with water and by air. Therefore besides external ablutions inner ablutions are necessary to make the body a proper vehicle for the working of the spirit. In many different religions different ways of ablution are taught. They are not only for the cleanliness of the body, but are also helpful in making the body a fitting instrument for the spirit to experience life.

The external organs of the body are used for external activities, but the inner ones are the instruments of the mind. The factors which are closer to the mind and which are more important for man than his physical organs are the centers which are located in the body, and the cleaner the channels of the breath are the more active the centers become. The breath is to these centers as the air is to the plant. Besides inner ablutions, the breathing practice itself cleanses the channels of the body.

5.   Inner Ablutions

Besides making ablutions it is necessary that the channels of the breath be kept clean, and for this consideration is necessary about what one eats and drinks. Food that is raw and indigestible, stale food, old and decayed vegetables, rotten fruits, and meat that has been preserved for a long time, and all such-like things do not only block the channels of the breath, but their influence makes the breath impure. The air, which is always pure, becomes dense and impure by the contact with the impurities of the earth, and so is the nature of breath. Naturally, when a person cannot digest food or when his lungs are not open and free the breath is not pure. The Sufi takes great care in his life as to what he should eat and what he should drink. Alcoholic drinks and drinks made from decayed fruits naturally make the breath impure; even smoking tobacco has a bad effect on the breath. Those who observe the mystical rules carefully even refrain from all flesh food, even from eggs. No doubt white meat is preferable to red meat, for red meat has particles which block the channels of the breath. This was the reason why the eating of pork was prohibited by the prophets of Beni Israel. No doubt to the pure all things are pure, but in order to become pure it is necessary to observe the rules of purity.

One must not judge of another person's spiritual evolution by seeing what he eats or drinks, because this has nothing to do with a man's evolution, for Shiva, the great Lord of Yogis, had fish for his food, and wine was given in the church of Christ as a sacrament. Therefore no one has the power to estimate his fellow man from what he eats or drinks. But everyone who whishes to tread the spiritual path may observe the mystical law, which certainly enables one to progress speedily. It must be remembered that it is the spiritual ideal which is the first thing to be held fast; what to eat and drink, and what not to eat and drink is a secondary thing. Any dispute about this proves to be unnecessary.

6.   Vegetarian Diet

The question of vegetarian diet is often discussed among seekers after philosophical truth. Some people give no importance to what they eat or drink, and there are some who give more importance to it than necessary.

There are two things which speak against flesh-eating; one thing is that meat, as a substance, hinders spiritual progress, and the other is that the unkindness towards the animals is a breach of moral law. Speaking about the first question, it is no doubt true that meat causes two kinds of harm to an adept. One is that it produces in man to a certain extent the animal nature; also it has an influence on the character of man. The nature of the animal he eats certainly has an influence upon a man's character. It was therefore that the prophets of Beni Israel forbade their followers to eat the flesh of certain kinds of animals and birds. Mystically speaking, it clogs the channels of the breath, and the important psychical centers which work in man as the instruments of wireless telegraphy. Morally, there is no doubt that it has a hardening effect upon the heart of man, which is meant to sympathize, not only with his fellow man, but with every living creature. There is no doubt that if all the people in the world became vegetarians, there would be no more wars. A person who refrained from killing the lower creatures would surely not be inclined to kill his fellow man.

Of course, there is another side to the question: life exists in all aspects of the creation, even in plants; and if one does not see the harm done to the plants, it is because they cannot express themselves. And, looking from this point of view, one can observe that life lives on life. At the same time, the creations a process by which the lower from of life evolves to a higher form, and the life used in this process of evolution is not really lost, on the contrary it is raised to a higher consciousness. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the animal which is used as the food of man has been transformed from the animal kingdom to the human, which is really a natural process of evolution, the human kingdom being the goal of the lower creation. However, this point of view does not help man, morally or physically, in his individual evolution; he has not gained by eating flesh, on the contrary, he has allowed himself to evolve more slowly than he could otherwise have evolved.

The impression on the consciousness of man of having done harm to another creature which can feel pain as he himself can is not a good one; it blunts the fine, tender, and sympathetic feeling towards all living beings. At the same time not every person who eats meat is capable of considering the subject philosophically, and therefore of giving an answer to his conscience or to another one, as an explanation of having caused harm to a living creature for his enjoyment.

For many thousands of years the human race has lived on flesh food, especially in the cold countries, and the bodies made with that essence for thousands of years are so dependent upon flesh food that they cannot abstain from it without causing some harm to their health. Man feeds on things of which he is made, and it is not, in every case, easy for a man to give up flesh food, even if he realized its disadvantages. There are countries where there are deserts – no trees to be found for miles – and the inhabitants could not live if they did not live on flesh food. For the evolution of humanity in general, uniformity is necessary. If some ate flesh and others lived on vegetables, it would be as if carnivorous and herbivorous animals were living in the same forest. Certainly people living different lives cannot live together harmoniously, and the strong must in every case have the upper hand. Tenderness of heart will not answer the same purpose as strength and power. Therefore it is a question how vegetarian diet can be introduced in the world. There is another side to this question: if the animals were left alone they would multiply and the herbivorous would become a prey to the carnivorous animals. The tigers and lions and bears and wolves would increase and would be in search of man; so the human kingdom would diminish and the animal's increase.

For those who strive in the spiritual path it is most essential to be thoughtful and considerate, and to be kind to the whole creation, and if they can manage to live a vegetarian life, it is no doubt very helpful to them. It is not right, however, for a vegetarian to look at the flesh-eater with contempt and regard his own harmless attitude with pride. There are many vegetarians who will prove selfish and unkind to their fellow man, whereas there are many non-vegetarians who will prove to be otherwise. Verily, charity of the heart must begin at home and then expand so that it may reach the very lowest of the creation.

7.   The Five Elements of the Body

The body is made of five elements, according to the mystical view: earth, water, fire, air and ether. Yet these terms must not be compared with the scientific terms; these are mystical conceptions and they should be understood in a mystical sense. These five elements form the sustenance of the body, at the same time these elements purify the body.

For instance, no ablution with water only is sufficient; earth is required also. In the East Brahmans used pure earth, some used ashes; in the East gram flour is still used in place of soap. The scientist can never deny the fact that there is no better disinfectant than earth itself. The use of water for every kind of ablution has been taught by all religions in some form or other. That shows that it is not only used for cleanliness, but it helps in spiritual development. The scientist today admits that there is no better tonic than pure water; this has always been considered to be so by the mystic, who called the rivers sacred rivers and gave water in healing.

As the use of earth and water cleanses and purifies the body externally, so it has a purifying influence on the internal part of the body. By eating wholesome food and drinking pure water not only does one receive nourishment, but this cleanses and purifies every particle of the body. It is therefore that an adept must avoid eating and drinking anything unwholesome. This does not mean an absolute restriction to certain food and drink but just that care in eating and drinking is necessary.

Once a person has advanced in spirituality, nothing matters to him – neither what he eats and drinks, for he lives in the spirit the most part of his life; for him the body is a coat and he does not care if it is full of holes or if it is patched. But for a person who has yet to develop spiritually and who follows a process consideration is necessary; it is most necessary that the body should be kept pure, outwardly and inwardly, that it may become a suitable vehicle for the manifestation of the spirit.

8.   Purification

Man's health and inspiration both depend upon purity of breath, and to preserve this purity the nostrils and all the tubes of the breath must be kept clear. They can be kept clear by proper breathing and by proper ablutions. If one cleanses the nostrils twice or oftener during twenty-four hours it is not too much, for a Muslim is taught to make this ablution five times, before each prayer. The cleansing, not only of the nostrils, but also of the ears is necessary, for part of the breath works through the ears, and if the ears are not protected and cleansed sometimes one hears a sound, which often is that of the breath which does not find its way smoothly through the regions of the ear.

The throat and palate are also important factors for the flow of the breath. The palate and throat are kept clean by the adept by gargling. The adepts drink water at fixed hours for the purpose of cleansing the veins and tubes in the chest, so that the breath may find pure channels for its passage. An adept drinks water before going to bed and after rising from sleep. It is necessary that these laws of ablutions should be practiced by the student of thought first, in order that others may follow. Hygienic consideration is the first principle which is necessary for the health and happiness of the generality.

9.   Sobriety

Sobriety is most necessary in the path of spiritual evolution, especially in the first stage, when the body must be made pure for spiritual revelation. Everything intoxicating deadens the nerves more or less, and the centers, which are the factors for spiritual realization, become dead. Although at times they may seem more active, too abnormal an activity is always exhausting. The centers which show sensitiveness during the time of intoxication, after its influence become weary and lifeless. Faqirs or yogis who take intoxicants in order to excite the centers become dependent for their spiritual experience on material objects; in the end they find their seeming advancement fatal. Even hard smoking may block, not only the channels of the breath, but even the centers, and thereby intuition is confused. No doubt smoking gives a momentary comfort, because it brings a kind of repose to the smoker, but it is only a passing comfort. Smoking not only has an effect upon the throat or lungs but by it the two important centers, the heart and brain, upon which the whole spiritual progress depends, will become blocked.

The principal thing in spiritual attainment is to be self-sufficient, and the first step to self-sufficiency is to make one's body independent of all such things upon which its comforts and enjoyment depend. The sages of all times and the mystics of every cult have observed the value of continence and fasting, for the very reason that the body, upon which the experience of the whole life depends, must first be made fit by purity.

10.   Fasting

The reason why fasting is practiced by those who live in retirement is to let the breath pass through every vein and tube of the body, which can be made possible only when there is no foreign substance, such as food or even drink, in the body to block the channels. When the breath has touched every particle of the body, the body naturally becomes more sensitive and the pores of the skin open, making the centers transparent, so as to feel, outwardly and inwardly, all that is to be felt. This can be understood by seeing the difference between the intelligence and the intuitive faculty of a fine person and a dense person.

Continence also helps, not only to keep the channels clear, but it conserves all the energy in every particle of the body and especially in the centers where it is most needed. Another thing is that continence keeps every outer element away. By this the adept is better able to keep his body and centers free from every foreign element, becoming at the same time a reservoir of energy, which expresses itself as radiating magnetism. Professed celibacy is an assumption of chastity which must sooner or later break by nature, together with man's profession of the same. The true celibacy, therefore, can be practiced without profession and without any outward appearance or the attributing to it any religious rank, only for a certain time and for a certain purpose.

 

checked 11-nov-2015