Volume IX - The Unity of Religious Ideals
THE Christ spirit cannot be explained in words. The omnipresent intelligence, which is in the rock, in the tree, and in the animal, shows its gradual unfoldment in man. This is a fact accepted by both science and metaphysics. The intelligence shows its culmination in the complete development of human personality, such as the personality, which was recognized in Jesus Christ by his followers. The followers of Buddha recognized the same unfoldment of the object of creation in Gautama Buddha, and the Hindus saw the same in Shri Krishna. Those who followed Moses recognized it in him too, and they have maintained their belief for thousands of years; the same culmination of the all-pervading intelligence was recognized in Muhammad by his followers.
No man has the right to claim this stage of development, nor can anyone very well compare two holy men both recognized by their followers as the perfect Spirit of God. For a thoughtless person it is easy to express an opinion and to compare two people, but a thoughtful person first thinks whether he has arrived at that stage where he is able to compare two such personalities.
No doubt it is different when it concerns a question of belief. The belief of the Muslim cannot be the same as that of the Jewish people, nor can the Christian belief be the same as that of the Buddhists. However, the wise man understands all beliefs, for he is one with them all.
The question whether a certain person was destined to be a complete personality, may be answered that there is no person who is not destined to be something. Every person has his life designed beforehand, and the light of the purpose that he is born to accomplish in life had already been kindled in his soul. Therefore, whatever be the grade of a person's evolution, he is certainly destined to be so. Discussion of the lives that the different prophets have lived, as to the superiority of one over the other, seems to be a primitive attempt on the part of man. If without knowing the conditions of that particular time when the prophet lived, or the psychology of the people at the time, he is ready to judge that personality by the standards of today he does not do that personality justice.
When a person compares one particular teaching of a prophet with the teaching of another prophet, he also makes a great mistake, because the teachings of the prophets have not all been of the same kind. The teachings are like the works of a composer who writes music in all the different keys, and who puts the highest note and the lowest note and all the notes of different octaves into his music. The teachings of the prophets are nothing but the answer to the demands of individual and collective souls. Sometimes a childlike soul comes and asks, and an answer is given appropriate to his understanding; and an old soul comes and asks, and he is given an answer suited to his evolution.
It is not doing justice to either to compare a teaching, which Krishna gave to a child with one, which Buddha gave to an old soul. It is easy to say, 'I do not like the music of Wagner; I simply hate It.' but I should think it would be better first to become like Wagner and then to hate if one still wants to. To weigh, to measure, to examine, to pronounce an opinion on a great personality, one must first rise to his stage of development; otherwise the best thing is a respectful attitude. Respect in any form is the way of the wise.
Then there are simple people who hear about miracles; they attach great importance to what they have perhaps read in the traditions about the miracles performed by the great souls, but in this way they limit the greatness of God to a certain miracle. If God is eternal then His miracle is eternal. It is always there. There is no such thing as unnatural, nor such a thing as impossible. Things seem unnatural because they are unusual; things seem impossible because they are beyond man's limited reason. Life itself is a phenomenon, a miracle. The more one knows about it the more one is conscious of the wonder of life, and the more one realizes that if there is any phenomenon or miracle it is man's birthright. By whom are miracles performed? It is by man, who can do it and who will do it; but what is most essential is not a miracle: the most essential thing is the understanding of life.
The soul who realized the truth even before he claimed to be Alpha and Omega, is Christ. To know intellectually that life is eternal, or that the whole of life is one, is not sufficient, although it is the first step towards perfection. The actual realization of this comes from the personality of the God-conscious soul like a fragrance in his thought, speech and action and affects the world like incense put on the fire.
There are beliefs such as that of salvation through Christ, but the man who is prejudiced against religion closes the doors of his heart before having had the patience to understand what it really means. It only means that there is no liberation without an ideal before one. The ideal is a stepping stone towards that attainment which is called liberation.
There are others who cannot conceive the idea of Christ's divinity. The truth is that the soul of man is divine, and that divine spark deserves to be called really divine when with the unfoldment of the soul it reaches the point of culmination.
There are also many different beliefs about the immaculate birth of Jesus. In point of fact when a soul arrives at the point of understanding the truth of life in its collective aspect, he realizes that there is only one Father, and that is God; that this world, out of which all the names and forms have been created, is the Mother and that the Son, who becomes worthy through his recognition of the Mother and the Father, by serving them and thus fulfilling the aim of creation, is the Son of God.
Then there is the question of the forgiveness of sins. Is not man the creator of sin? If he creates it he can also destroy it. If he cannot destroy it his elder brother can. The one who is capable of making is also capable of destroying. He who can write something with his pen can rub it out with his eraser from the surface of the paper. And if he cannot do it, then his personality has not yet reached that completeness, that perfection which all must attain. There is no end to the faults in man's life, and if they were all recorded, and there were no erasing of them, life would be impossible to live. The impression of sin in metaphysical terminology may be called an illness, a mental illness and just as the doctor is able to cure illness, so the doctor of the soul is able to heal. If people have said that through Christ sins are forgiven, it can be understood to mean that love is that shower by which all is purified. No stain remains. What is God? God is love. When His mercy, His compassion, His kindness are expressed through a God-realized personality, then the stains of one's faults, mistakes and wrong doings are washed away, and the soul becomes as clear as it has always been. For in reality no sin or virtue can be engraved or impressed upon a soul; it can only cover the soul. The soul in itself is divine Intelligence; and how can divine Intelligence be engraved with either sin or virtue, happiness or unhappiness? For a time it becomes covered with the impression of happiness or unhappiness; but when these clouds are cleared from it, then it is seen to be divine in its essence.
The question of the crucifixion of Christ, apart from its historical aspect, may be thus explained: that the life of the wise is a continual crucifixion. The wiser the soul becomes, the more it will realize the cross, for it is the lack of wisdom which causes the soul to commit all actions, good or bad. As it becomes wise, the first thing that happens is that its action is suspended, and the picture of that suspension of action becomes a picture of helplessness: the hands nailed and the feet nailed. Such a soul can neither go forward nor backward. It cannot act, nor move. This outward inaction may appear as helplessness, but in point of fact it is the picture of perfection.
As to the belief that Christ gave his life to save the world, it explains the real meaning of sacrifice: that no man in this world going towards the goal will escape from the test to which life will put him. And that test is sacrifice. At every step towards the final goal, the attainment, a greater and greater sacrifice will be demanded of him, until he arrives at a point where there is nothing, whether body, mind, action, thought, or feeling, that he keeps back from sacrifice for others. It is by this that man proves his realization of divine truth. In short, the Christ-ideal is the picture of the perfect man; and the explanation of what the perfect man is and what are his possibilities can be seen in the verse of the Bible, 'Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.'
THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST
The belief in Christ is in the Church, the book of Christ is with the clergy, the spirit of Christ is in the illuminated soul. The spirit of Christ can be traced in Christ's own words where he said, 'I am Alpha and Omega,' I am first and last. By this he meant, 'I was before Jesus was born, and I shall be after Jesus has gone.'
'I am Christ' means 'I am now, and I shall be till the end.' In this the Master identifies himself with that light of which we read in the Vedanta, and which existed thousands of years before Christ, the divine light which is recognized by the Sufis as the Spirit of Guidance, and which is also mentioned in the Quran. This light of Christ is symbolized by the lantern in the story of Aladdin, in the Thousand and One Nights. And it is this same light which the Hindu legend speaks of when it says that there exists a cobra with a light in its head, and when it searches for food it takes that light in its mouth and by its illumination it can go about in the forest. It is the light of life of all men and all beings, seen and unseen. In reality it is the essence of light.
Where is this light to be found? It is to be found in the sun and in the higher intelligence; but this phenomenon of light occurs in all different forms. Even the spark that comes from the heart of the stone when it is struck represents the same light. Also the light that manifests in the blossoming of plants, in the ripening of fruit, in the light that we see on a moonlit night, and in the rising and the setting of the sun, it is all one and the same light manifesting from the unseen to the seen, yet existing in the unseen to a much greater extent than can be seen with our eyes.
One might ask why, if God is all-sufficient, should He have made the Christ Spirit? An example will explain this. A farmer wanted to go to a place, which was at a great distance from his farm. And he thought how during dark nights with storms and winds and fogs one very often loses the way. Therefore he made a lantern to light him in case there should be a dark night, so that it could guide him on the path. It was his creation; he made, he prepared the lantern for himself in order to be guided by it.
This creation is nothing but the manifestation of God, and man is the culmination of that manifestation. God did not make man as a carpenter makes a chair, for the carpenter uses wood, something different from himself, in order to make the chair. But God made man out of Himself; in other words God manifested as man, and in His manifestation the One has become many, the unity has become variety and has become a puzzle. Thus life on earth for man is in the first place a puzzle: he does not know where to go and where not to go, he does not know what to do and what not to do. From the beginning till the end he is puzzled as to what is right and what is wrong. The wiser a man becomes the more difficulties there are. This shows that there are storms and winds, mists and fogs on this life's path which his eyes do not see but which the soul experiences. And in order to make these difficult times easier, a lantern is given which is God's own spirit, and which He made for His creation in order that man may take this lantern to guide him on his path.
Not only human beings have this lantern, even beasts and birds have it. In herds of animals there is always one that guides them. In flocks of birds there is one that guides and sees from which way the wind blows. The one that leads knows which way to go and the other birds follow him. In India a beautiful story is told about elephants by those who live in the forest. They say that in a herd of elephants there is one which is the leader and takes the branch of a tree in its trunk and goes ahead examining the ground where it walks in order that those which follow may not fall into a ditch. It is also alert to the sound of gun and arrow, and detects any atmosphere, which may be unwholesome for elephants. But sometimes there is an unwilling elephant. It goes astray and is lost, and in order to catch it men dig pits in the ground so that when this lost elephant goes near one it may fall into it, and after two or three days they come and capture him.
This is a beautiful picture of the work of the Christ spirit. When one understands this one cannot blame those who say, 'Christ is our Savior,' or, 'Christ is our God.' They may not see what the Spirit of God is in our interpretation, but there is nothing wrong about it except that they do not know themselves what they are saying. If one sees divinity in Christ, there is nothing wrong about it. If divinity does not manifest through man, then where is it to be found? Is divinity to be found in the heavens alone? And if on the other hand someone else calls Christ man, he only raises the standard of man to the highest point; and in this there is truth also. Only, the two do not understand each other's meaning, and they each say that the other is wrong; and this arises because they do not believe that he who is often called Christ, the Savior, is in reality the savior spirit. With elephants that savior spirit is the one that guides the herd; and a loving mother, a kind father, an innocent child, a helpful friend, and an inspiring teacher, all represent to a greater or lesser degree that savior spirit. The one who saves a man's life by jumping into the water does not do such a great work as the one who saves a soul who was groping in the darkness.
But then, one might say, what about the whole world, the whole of humanity? Each soul is connected with the other, and there is not one soul, which does not undergo the influence of the whole cosmos, consciously or unconsciously. Every cell sooner or later has an effect upon the whole body. Therefore, if one looks at it rightly, there is no exaggeration in calling a liberated soul the Savior of the world; but if one only holds it as a belief, one does not know what it really means.
Naturally the liberated soul is like the living drop of blood. Scientists have discovered that blood transfusions can give new life. A soul who has risen to great illumination can inspire and invigorate the whole of humanity, just as one powerful man can influence a whole nation. He is then called the man of the day, and he may have an influence, which can raise man to the height of heaven. If a material man can do this to the whole nation, why then should not a spiritual man have such an influence upon the whole world? Whether we recognize it or not, it does not matter. But there are souls in the world whose influence is greater than that of the so-called man of the day about whom so much is written in the newspapers.
If Christ existed before he was known as Christ, what was he? And if Christ will be after he has been known as Christ, what will he be? We are too limited as human beings to determine this; to try to do so would be nothing but folly. But at the same time, have we not known inspirers of humanity before Jesus? Have there not been prophets like Moses and Abraham and Zarathushtra, inspirers like Krishna and Buddha, whose influence has been felt all over the world? What were they? If truth is one, if wisdom is one, if human personality is one, if God is one, then what are they if not the same spirit? Those who saw them have called them Buddha or Krishna; but they were all one and the same, the same lantern, the same light although in different globes.
After they have gone the light comes in another form to illuminate humanity. Does not that light work in our everyday life? In our deepest distress, in our greatest confusion, a friend, a relation, or a teacher comes and tells us something he himself does not know to be the message of wisdom. And sometimes it comes in such a queer way; perhaps in the form of a change, and we do not understand from whence it comes, so that we do not even believe it. But at the same time the inner guidance comes just at the moment when we have need of it. It comes perhaps from an innocent child, the word that is the message of God. For the light is hidden.
Those who say that after Jesus Christ they have not seen the light being kindled any more, limit Christ. Those who see the Christ spirit in all the various globes which are the light, they are the ones who really see Christ.
Christ identified himself with the Spirit of Guidance instead of with the personality, which was known as Jesus. And people have limited that divine wisdom, that Spirit of Guidance, to the personality, which came as Jesus. And they forgot that he himself said, 'I am Alpha and Omega,' which means all the prophets and seers who came before Jesus whether it were Abraham or Zarathushtra or Buddha or Krishna. He identified himself with them. That is why he said he had not come to give a new law, but to fulfill the law, by which he also indicated that the guidance would continue afterwards. It was really a declaration of that identity in which Jesus lived, but not that in which the people recognized him.
Jesus Christ also said to some, 'I will come,' and to others, 'The son of man will come.' It was one answer to two mentalities: to the souls who could recognize his identity he said, 'I will come,' and to those who could not realize his real identity he said 'Someone else will come; whenever wisdom is lost, Christ will come.' The real meaning of this is, 'I will come in another form, which is myself just the same.' It is a puzzle of words only for those who want to puzzle themselves. For those who wish to get out of the maze it is easy and simple. But human nature enjoys complexities and prefers to make the truth as difficult as possible.
PHILOSOPHY OF THE SACRAMENT
The true meaning of the sacrament, which is said to be symbolical of the flesh and blood of Christ, shows that those who give importance to the flesh and blood of the Master, are mistaken; that the true being of the Master was bread and wine. If he had any flesh and blood, it was the bread and wine. And what is bread and wine? The bread is that which is the soul's sustenance, and the soul's sustenance is the knowledge of God. It is by this knowledge that the soul lives the eternal life. And the blood of Christ is the love element, the intoxication of which is a bliss. And if there is any virtue, it comes from that principle.
Man is not made only of flesh, skin, and bone, but is also composed of many fine and gross elements, and therefore, for him to live, many different properties are needed. But man generally considers only his food to be that which nourishes his physical body, and seeks for a stimulant for that body, not realizing that besides this much of his being is starved for food all through his life. Man's ignorance of this other part of his being allows it to die, at least to his consciousness. The words of Christ, 'The spirit quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing,' indicates this.
We read in the Bible of Christ telling his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood. What does that mean? It does not mean, 'Eat the flesh of my physical body and drink its blood.' It means, 'The being in which I am living is God's being. Take this as food to nourish your finer being; drink this to stimulate your spiritual being.'
There is a verse of Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad, 'I am the bird of the spiritual spheres dwelling at present in earthly spheres, but my food is the knowledge of God and my drink is His beauty in manifestation.' Those who are conscious of the earthly spheres live on earthly food and stimulants; but those who become conscious of the higher world are nourished by the thought of God which is their bread. And that which stimulates them like wine is their vision of God in the sublimity of nature. This is the real sacrament, given symbolically in churches as bread and wine.
The custom of baptism has a mystical significance, which should be studied according to the Sufi ideal, which they call Fana. Immersion of the whole body in the water means being as if not being, or living as if not living. In other words, living not as the dead are living, but as those who are really alive.
The water symbolizes the ocean in which there are so many waves, yet it is one ocean. Baptism means immersion in this spiritual ocean, which is the Spirit of God, and becoming as nothing, in the love of God, in the knowledge of God, and in the realization of God. From that time one understands the meaning of the saying, 'I exist no more as myself, as a separate entity; and yet I exist, and this existence is the existence of God.'
This is the main teaching of Sufism: to sink into the Consciousness of God, that no trace of one's limited being may be found, at least in one's consciousness. That is really the ideal, the path and the goal of all. There is a verse of the Ghalib that gives a beautiful picture of this. 'I degraded myself in the eyes of the world by dying. How well it had been, had I been sunk in the water! No one could have seen my funeral; no one would have found my grave!'
The essence of all that can teach man to bring out the good in the soul of man is to be found in the Beatitudes as taught by Jesus Christ, the Murshid of murshids. And if anybody wants to see it practiced, he may go today and watch the life that the Sufis live in the East. It is they who have understood it properly and have practiced it to their utmost ability. Therefore, the real treasure of Christ's teaching is Sufism, although the latter is not called Christianity. However, the name makes no difference so long as the sense is right.
'Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' 'Poor in spirit' means mild in ego, and the ego is by nature tyrannical. All the tyranny in the world is only caused by the ego. When the ego is laid before God, in other words, when the ego is illuminated with the knowledge of God, it begins to fade; for it denies its limited being and it realizes the being of God. So it loses all its tyranny, and becomes mild, which is being poor in spirit. This makes man's whole life heaven, both here and in the hereafter.
'Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.' All things are given to those who demand; only they deserve them, and only they can enjoy them. The infant cries when it is hungry, and it is given food, it is then that it enjoys it most. So it is with the lovers of God, with the seekers of truth. When their desire becomes so deep that it makes them mourn, it is then that they are comforted.
'Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.' There is a saying in Persian, 'If your word is sweet, you can win the world.' The world is too small when meekness can win even the hearts of men, for the heart can contain a thousand such worlds.
'Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.' There are only two paths: the path of light and the path of darkness. The former leads to all joy, while the latter leads to all sorrow. Not everyone understands this, but the one who understands goes in pursuit of it, for he knows that the only sustenance of his soul is righteousness.
'Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.' The warmth of one's own feeling takes away the coldness from another person's heart. Therefore, one cannot receive mercy either from the earth or from heaven, unless one has oneself awakened mercy in one's soul.
'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.' This purity of heart is not only in thought, feeling, and action; it is the purity, which in the East is called Saf, from which the word Sufi is said to have come. This Saf makes the heart pure from all that is not God, in other words, the heart must see and realize all as God and God as all.
'Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.' Only those who make peace in life who are unbiased, unselfish, or impartial, and this is the nature of God, before whom all, rich or poor, foolish or wise, are equal. His mercy is upon all, and He bestows His gifts on all, both the deserving and the undeserving. Therefore, those who follow the way of the heavenly Father are really His deserving sons.
'Blessed are they, which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' It is easy to be righteous when everything is smooth in life, but when a person is tried it is difficult to keep to it. For the more righteous he is the more losses he has to suffer, and, though there may not seem to be any gain in righteousness, yet the reward of the righteous is heaven in the end.
'Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven. For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you .' this advice is not given only to the followers of Christ, but especially to the mureeds, whose murshid bears a message. It means that they can only prove worthy when their faith in the teaching of their teacher is so great that they stand by him and his teaching in all conditions, and suffer contentedly all that befalls them through the ignorance of man; for so it has been and will ever be with everyone who gives the message of truth.
THE MEANING OF THE SYMBOL OF THE CROSS
The symbol of the cross represents three great secrets. By understanding these secrets one can understand the whole of nature.
The first secret is the secret of form: that every form has been built up on a perpendicular and horizontal line. In fruit, flower, leaf, in everything one can see the cross as its basis. It becomes fully manifest in the form of man, this being the perfect form. It is perfect because every form of the mineral, vegetable, or animal kingdom has evolved gradually and developed into the human form. One can notice this by studying the latent human form even in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms. Not only the animals have a resemblance to man's form and face, but even in the rose you can see man's face indistinctly. In the pebbles by the seashore, in the rocks, in the mountains, one sees an indistinct human form. And when one distinguishes the human form in its real aspect, it is nothing but a cross.
There are two kinds of space, one known to all and the other only known to a mystic. The first space is the one which we see and which we can measure; the other space is that which accommodates this first space within itself. For instance, a space of ten, twenty, or even fifty miles can be accommodated, in other words can be reflected, in the eye, which is hardly one inch wide when measured according to the external space. This shows that the space that the eye occupies is a different kind of space from that which it can accommodate within itself. The eye is the representative of the soul. If the eye can accommodate so much space, how much more can the soul accommodate! It can accommodate the whole universe. Therefore, that which we call space is in the terms of the mystic the horizontal space; but that space in which this horizontal space is reflected is the perpendicular space. It is these two kinds of space that are called in religious terms 'this world' and 'the next world.' And it is these two lines that show the sign of the cross.
In the beginning the traveler on the path of morals understands that the whole of life is a fight against destruction, a continual destruction that threatens his life. The picture of activity or construction is the perpendicular line, and the picture of destruction or hindrance is the horizontal line. But when he advances from the moral to the spiritual plane, then he sees two paths of attainment, both of which are equally necessary for perfection. One is the expansion of the spirit from a single being to the whole universe, which signifies the horizontal line. And the other is the journey of man to God, from the limited state of being to the unlimited, which represents the perpendicular line. And in this cross is hidden the secret of perfection.
'THY WILL BE DONE, IN EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN'
In the Lord's prayer there is a sentence, 'Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.' This gives an important key to metaphysics. It gives a hint to the seer that His will, which is easily done in heaven, is done with difficulty on earth. And who stands against His will? Man. And where lies the will of God? In the innermost being of man. And what stands as an obstacle? The surface of the heart of man. And this means struggle in man himself. In him there is the will of God, as in heaven, and where there is an obstacle to it, there is the earth. By this prayer man is prepared to remove the obstacle which stands before the will of God.
How can we distinguish between these two aspects of will: the will of God and the obstacle, which is the will of man? It is easy for a person with a clear mind and open heart to distinguish between them, if he only knows the secret of it. For to that which is the will of God his whole being responds, and in doing His will his whole being becomes satisfied. When it is his own will, only one side of his being perhaps is satisfied for a certain time, and a conflict arises in him. He himself finds fault with his own idea or action; he himself feels dissatisfied with his own being. The wider the scope in which he sees his idea or his action, the more dissatisfied he will become. When a man looks at life in this manner, by the ray of intelligence he begins to distinguish between his own will and the will of God. The kingdom of God, which is heaven, then comes on earth. It does not mean that it disappears from heaven, but it means that not only heaven remains as a kingdom, but even earth becomes a kingdom of heaven. The purpose behind the whole of this creation is that heaven may be realized on earth. For if one does not realize it on earth, one cannot realize it in heaven.
What is meant by heaven? Heaven is that place where all is the choice of man and everything moves at his command. Heaven is the natural condition of life. When on earth life becomes so entangled that it loses its original harmony, heaven ceases to exist. And the motive of the soul is to gain in life the kingdom of heaven, which it has lost. Nothing else in life will give the satisfaction, which can be attained by bringing heaven on earth.