Volume V - Spiritual Liberty
Part V: PEARLS FROM THE OCEAN UNSEEN
Higher attainment in the material sense of the word is easily explained; if we possess a hundred pounds, we may hope for the higher attainment of two hundred, or we may look upon higher attainment as a rise in the social world. In spiritual matters there is nothing we can recognize as higher attainment. The striving for higher attainment on the spiritual path is like shooting an arrow into the mist. We know that we have shot it, but we do not know whither it has gone, or where it has struck. It is so with our spiritual progress. We cannot see where we are, or how far we have advanced on the spiritual path, for there is nothing to show. Some people say that higher attainment in the spiritual life means communion with God. But this would not satisfy the agnostic, for God to him is a stranger, and he would not wish for communion with a stranger. Some would travel along this path if they could attain their worldly desires, wealth or fame. To such the answer may be given: seek for things of the earth on the earth, and for heavenly things in heaven.
There are some who follow this path in order to gain occult and psychic powers, but the attainment of these powers is not necessarily higher attainment. There are only a few who travel along the path for higher spiritual attainment.
What then is higher attainment? If we look at our five fingers, we realize that all the power in them comes from one arm. If we want to arrive at higher attainment in the spiritual life, we must enter the plane of the abstract, for we find everything there. We must come to the realization of the one life running through all. To a certain degree we attain to the realization of unity by contemplation, religion, and prayer. But what is most necessary is sincerity in our way of life. What we are is all that really matters. Contemplation and meditation help in this, but our manner of life is what is all important, sincerity in our actions, and living life practically and not in theory.
There is a story told in India of the boyhood of Bullah Shah, a great saint. He went to school when he was a young boy, and was set to learn the alphabet. He was given the first letter Alif, the figure one (a straight line), and he never progressed any further than this one letter. His master was in despair, also his parents. In the end they became weary of him, and he went to live in the jungle. After many years he returned and sought out his old master. He told him that he had now learned Alif, and had he anything else to teach? He then made the sign of Alif on the wall, saying, 'Look, is it right?' Immediately the wall split in two, making the sign of Alif. On seeing this phenomenon, the master exclaimed, 'Thou art my teacher. I am thy pupil.'
From this story we learn what it actually means to realize what unity is, because we always see the one. Two is one and one, and it is the same with three, four, or five, hundreds or thousands. In the end, all numbers, even millions and billions, are nothing but multiples of one. Thus we may say that the higher spiritual attainment is the realization of unity.