Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
THE INNER LIFE AND SELF-REALIZATION
IT IS by the inner life that self-realization is achieved. Life can be divided into two parts. One part is attending to our worldly needs, toiling, earning money, serving in different capacities in order to live ourselves and to provide for our families. That is one side of life. And the other side is realizing that there is something besides the worldly life, that there is a higher ideal, a greater happiness, a deeper insight into life, and a greater peace. This is another life. By inner life I do not at all mean a religious life; for a man may be religious and at the same time very worldly.
There is a story about Aurangzeb's reign in India, that he issued an imperial command that everyone in his dominions must attend all the five prayers of the faithful. At that time, a sage lived there, although no one knew that he was a sage as he lived in solitude. This sage also received the command, but he forgot it or did not think about it. The police were sent to bring him to the house of prayer, and he came willingly and joined the congregation. When the priest who leads the prayers began his recitation the sage ran away from the congregation almost at once. The police went after him, and he was brought before the judge, for he had not only violated the law but disturbed the whole congregation. He said to the judge, 'I would like to know what the leader of the prayers meant the congregation to do.' The judge said, 'Religion teaches that your thoughts should be united with the thought of your leader.' The sage said, 'But that is what I did! The teacher's thought went to his house. He had forgotten his keys at home. So I could not remain in the house of prayer. I ran for the keys.' In the end it was proved that it was so. He was a great sage and to him was known all that was going on in the minds of others.
To be religious, to be orthodox, or to be pious does not necessarily mean to be spiritual. To be spiritual is something quite different from being 'prayerful,' as one calls it.
The question is, how does one proceed in the inner life? The inner life can be considered as a journey to a desired goal. And there are certain conditions on this journey which one should first know. In the first place the journey is hard because there are no electric trains. It is a journey we have to make on foot. This at once changes the character of the journey and makes it different from the journeys we are accustomed to. There is no modern equipment, and we have forgotten how one journeyed in the past. To go through the wilderness, over mountains, to swim rivers in order to get to the other side, to risk all sorts of dangers on the way, that is the kind of journey we have to make in spiritual attainment. The outer journeys are made easy today, but the inner journey has kept its difficulties.
The first condition of this journey is conscientiousness in regard to the customs on the way. For instance when one has to walk long distances one gives up all unnecessary burdens. We have to give up so many things in life in order to make this journey. We unconsciously make our life heavy for ourselves. And while outwardly it may not seem difficult, yet when we begin to journey inwardly we realize how difficult it is to carry a heavy load. When we have to travel on foot every little responsibility we take upon us, and every little habit, weighs upon us, little things which in everyday life we would never think about. We have become more and more addicted to comforts, more and more intolerant towards environment, more and more sensitive to jarring influences. Instead of becoming stronger we have become weaker every day, so that when it comes to journeying and facing the difficulties which we find on the journey, it becomes very difficult indeed.
Everyone at all periods of the world's history who has tried to proceed on the spiritual path has met with difficulties. The moment he starts on this path he has more difficulties than the average person. From all sides come greater and greater temptations on his way, temptations which perhaps had never come before. The moment he takes this path temptations of all kinds come. He is tested and tried at every step he takes. Besides, if he does not keep himself in hand, he is taken to task very seriously. Others are not taken to task so seriously, and this is natural. When a child breaks a glass one overlooks it, but when the maid does it one asks why she did it, why was she not more careful. For a grown-up person is responsible. The one who takes the spiritual path is responsible. That is why more is exacted from him. He has to answer for everything he does, either to himself or to life.
We have many debts to pay in our lives, debts we do not always know of. We only know our money debts, but there are many others: of the husband to his wife and of the wife to her husband. Of the mother to the child and of the child to the mother. The debts to pay to our friends and acquaintances, to those who stand above us and to those who are dependent upon us. There are so many different kinds of debts we have to pay. And yet we never think about them. In ancient times even those not taking the spiritual path, for instance noblemen and warriors, had the law of chivalry, and there were strict rules about paying one's debts. The ancient people thought, 'My mother has brought me up from infancy, she has sacrificed her sleep, rest, and comfort for me and loved me with a love which is beyond any other love in this world, and she has shown in life that mercy to me which is the compassion of God.' The child thought a great deal about the debt it owed to its mother.
Someone went to the Prophet Muhammad and asked him, 'Prophet, you said there is a great debt to be paid to one's mother. Suppose that I gave my mother all that I have earned, would that pay her back?' The Prophet said, 'No, not in the least. If you served her your whole life, even then you could not pay the debt of what she has done for you in one day. She brought you up with the thought always in her mind that even when she was gone you would live. She has not only given her service and heart and love to you, but also her life. That you will live after her, that has been all her thought. And what is your thought? If you are a kind and good person your thought is, 'So long as my poor mother is living, I will take care of her to the end. One day she will die, and then I shall be free.' It is a different thought from her thought.'
This is only one example. But there are many other debts, to our neighbors, to strangers, to those who depend upon us or who expect from us some help, some counsel, a word of advice, some service. They are all debts we have to pay. There is also much to pay to God, but God can forgive. The debt to the world, however, must not be forgotten before entering upon the spiritual path. The spirit feels a great release when it pays its debts as it goes further. Do people think of these simple things nowadays? As soon as a person starts thinking about spiritual matters the first question is what occult books shall he read in order to obtain the key to the path. He never thinks about these little things and how much depends upon them. But there is a condition that must be fulfilled, and that condition is our consideration for every soul.
We may ask, 'What if they don't deserve it, what if they are not worthy of it?' It is not our concern whether they deserve it or not. We should not think about it. When there is money to be paid to a money-lender it must be paid whether he deserves it or not. And so it is on the spiritual path. Those we have to pay we must pay, in the way of attention, service, respect. All that is due to anyone, we have to pay. In the first place, apart from spiritual realization, we feel such a release at having paid our debt to everyone to whom it is due. It opens for us the light of the soul, straightening and illuminating the way, so that the confusion one always feels when striving to progress spiritually disappears.
We can now understand what is the next step on the spiritual path. It is to develop our tendency to trust. A person who wants to go along the spiritual path should have a greater desire to trust than the average man. No doubt the world is going from bad to worse today. Promises have no value. A ten-cent stamp is valued more than a word of honor. Since this is the state of the world it is difficult for a person to develop the tendency to trust. But when we begin to tread the spiritual path trust is the first thing necessary. Very often a person says, 'I would like to trust people, but people are not worthy of trust.' It may be practical to think about it like this in business, but when it comes to another kind of life, social life or the life of spiritual attainment, we should not look at it in this way. We can only develop the tendency to trust others by being ready to undergo every loss.
It is not always foolish to trust. On the contrary, it is the wise one who trusts more than the foolish one. Besides it is not a weakness to trust, it is a strength. The one who has less trust is weak, and every day makes him weaker. The one who does not trust people outside will soon not be able to trust his own relatives, his own friends. And finally that distrust develops to such an extent that he does not trust himself. That is the end.
There is a story of a great Sufi who in his early life was a robber. Once there was a man traveling through the desert in a caravan and he had a purse full of coins. He wanted to entrust them to someone because he heard that robbers were about.
He looked around and some way off he saw a tent, and a man was sitting there, a most distinguished looking man. So he said, 'Will you please keep this purse, for I am afraid that if the robbers come they will take it.' The man said, 'Give it to me, I will keep it.' When the traveler came back to the caravan he found that robbers had come and taken all the money of his fellow-travelers, and he thanked God that he had given his purse to someone to keep. But when he returned to that tent he saw all the robbers sitting there and among them was this most dignified man dividing the spoils. He realized that this was the chief of the robbers and thought, 'I was more foolish than all the others, for I gave my money to a thief! Who can be more foolish than that!' And he was frightened and backed away. But as soon as the thief saw him he called to him and said, 'Why are you going, why did you come here?' He said, 'I came here to get my purse back, but I found that I had given it to the very band from which I wanted to protect it.' The chief said, 'You gave me your purse, is it not so? You entrusted it to me, and it was not stolen from you. Did you not trust me? How can you expect me to take it from you? Here is your purse, take it.' This act of trustworthiness impressed the robbers so much that they followed the example of their chief. They gave up robbery. It moved them to the depths of their hearts to feel what trust means. And in his later days this chief accomplished great spiritual work. This shows that by distrusting people we perhaps avoid a little loss, but the distrust that we have sown in our heart is a still greater loss.
The third step in the inner life is to find someone whose guidance we can trust. We might find a spiritual teacher as great as an angel, and yet if we have no trust, he can do very little for us. Besides if we found in our life a spiritual guide who did not prove trustworthy, our loss would be smaller than the loss of the teacher. The loss of that teacher would be far greater. Nevertheless, the whole of the spiritual progress under the guidance of a teacher depends upon the extent of our trust in his guidance. Without this trust all the teachings and practice of occult laws will amount to nothing.
People seeking after truth should know the place of the teacher in their lives, the importance of a spiritual guide and of his guidance. They should value it and consider it sacred. If that knowledge is not there, then nothing is there and they are like lost sheep. Moreover the tendency of going from one thing to another, from one teacher to another, is an offense to the teacher, to God, and to oneself. In this way one accomplishes nothing.
Many wonder why it should be necessary to seek the guidance of someone else in order to arrive at spiritual attainment. If a person is self-sufficient, if he is satisfied and guided by the light from within he need not seek any such personality. But I have never seen a child born who had already learnt how to speak and who never needed help from his mother or father. And just as it is necessary for an infant to learn how to speak from someone, so also one must learn the heavenly language from someone who knows it.
In my youth my interest in the spiritual path was great, and I came in contact with the teacher by whom I was destined to be initiated. And one thing my teacher said was, 'No matter how great a teacher comes, once you have received this initiation, this blessing from my hands, your faith may not change.' Having had a modern education I wondered what to think about this. I did not doubt but I asked myself what does it mean? But with every step further in my life I found out more surely that this alone is the right way. When the mind is disturbed, when a person is distrustful and he goes first to one teacher and then tries another method, what can one find in him? There is no ideal there. In a university one may study first under one professor and then under another, and so on. That is all right for a university; it is a different kind of education. But when it comes to spiritual education, idealism is necessary.
In a village there was once a young peasant who was known to be a great seeker after truth. A great teacher came to that village, and it was announced that for whoever came into the presence of this teacher, the doors of heaven would be opened, and he would be admitted without having to account for his deeds. The peasants were very excited about this, and they all went to the teacher except this young man. The teacher said, 'Everyone from the village came to me except that young man. I shall go to him myself.' So he went to the cottage of this young man and said, 'What is it? Is it that you are antagonistic to me, or that you doubt my knowledge? What is it that has kept you from coming to see me?' And he said, 'There was nothing that kept me back except this one thing: I heard the announcement that everyone in your presence would be admitted to heaven without question. And I do not seek this admission, because although I had a teacher once I do not know where he is, in heaven or in hell. If I went to heaven and he was in the other place it would be terrible for me! Heaven would become hell for me. I would rather be with my teacher wherever he is.'
That is the ideal of the seekers after truth about their spiritual teacher. And that idealism enables them to progress and gain the confidence of their teacher. Today the tendency is different. A pupil begins to weigh and measure the teacher before he has started on the spiritual path. He wants to know whether the teacher fits in with his idea or whether he does not fit in, and if the teacher does not fit in with his idea he does not come to learn. But when it comes to teaching it is quite different. They say they are seeking a teacher, but they believe they are teachers themselves. It is this attitude which is keeping thousands of people back.
It is not only the faith and devotion one has for one's teacher which counts, but also the effacing of one's self, because the teacher's work is like that of a goldsmith who melts the gold and then makes an ornament out of it. Therefore the teacher has to test and to try, to mold and to melt before he can use the pupil for a better purpose. If a pupil cannot give himself to that molding, then he will have a difficult time.
One might ask if it is not weakness to be so passive. Yes, if one were passive from weakness it would be weakness. But if one is passive from will power then it is strength, for it requires great strength to dominate one's own self. One's self has a silent influence as is shown in the story of Daniel. It was the power of his self that tamed the lion. But it is easy to tame a lion compared with the taming of one's self. One's self can be horrible, more horrible than a lion. One may think, 'How I have melted, how gentle, how thoughtful I have become!' But then there may be moments when one acts quite differently, to one's own astonishment. Really to dominate the crude nature is a melting process. Then when the gold is melted one can turn it into any ornament one likes.
And when we go still further on the spiritual path it becomes the path of power, of concentration. The mind is just like a restive horse that will not stay quiet, that cannot be controlled. Once a person begins to practice concentration he finds an even greater difficulty in making his mind obey. As long as he does not try he is unaware of this, but the moment he begins he realizes how very difficult it is to concentrate the mind.
In concentration lies the secret of all things. What is meant by concentration is the change of identification of the soul, so that it may lose the false conception of identification and identify itself with the true self instead of the false self. This is what is meant by self-realization. Once a person realizes his self by the proper way of concentration, of contemplation, of meditation, he has understood the essence of all religions; because all religions are only different ways that lead to one truth, and that truth is self-realization.