Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
FROM LIMITATION TO PERFECTION (1)
THE ROCKS, the trees, the animals, and man all in their turn show an inclination to seek perfection. The tendency of rocks is to form into mountains reaching upward. And the waves are ever reaching upward as if they were trying to attain something which is beyond their reach. The tendency of birds is the same. Their joy is flying in the air and going upward. The tendency of many animals is to stand on their hind legs. And man, who is the culmination of creation has this tendency from infancy to stand up. An infant, who is not yet able to stand, moves his little hands and legs showing the desire to do so.
This all shows the desire for perfection. The law of gravitation is only half known to the world of science which believes that the earth attracts all that belongs to it. It is true. But the spirit also attracts all that belongs to it, and that other side to the law of gravitation has always been known to the mystics. The law of gravitation is working from two sides: from the side of the earth which draws all that belongs to the earth, and from the side of the spirit which attracts the soul towards it. Even those who are unconscious of this law of gravitation are also striving for perfection, for the soul is being continually drawn towards the spirit. They are striving for perfection just the same. In the small things of everyday life a man is never satisfied with what he has. He always wants more and more, be it a higher rank, wealth, or fame. He is always striving for this.
This shows that the heart is like a magic bowl. However much you pour into it, it only becomes deeper. It is always found to be empty. The reason why man is never satisfied is that he is unconsciously striving for perfection. Those however who strive consciously after perfection have a different way. Nevertheless, each atom of the universe is meant to struggle and strive in order to become perfect one day. In other words, if a seer happens to be in the mountains he will hear the mountains cry continually, 'We are waiting for that day when something in us will awaken. There will come a day of awakening, of unfoldment. We are silently awaiting it.' If he went into the forest and saw the trees standing there they would tell him that they too were waiting patiently. One can feel it. The more one sits there the more one feels that the trees are waiting for the time when there will be an unfoldment. So it is with all beings. But man is so absorbed in his everyday actions and his greed that he seems to be unaware of that innate desire for unfoldment. It is his everyday tasks, his avariciousness, his cruelty to other beings, that keep him continually occupied, and that is why he cannot hear the continual cry of his own soul to awaken, to unfold, to reach upward, to expand, and to go towards perfection.
It is the nature of God to wish to realize His own perfection. An artist wishes to bring out the best that is in him. Therein lies his satisfaction. In every soul there is a longing to bring out, to bring to a culmination, what is waiting within. And as soon as it has realized this longing the purpose of that soul's birth on earth has been fulfilled.
As is the nature of the creatures, so is the nature of the Creator. His satisfaction also lies in the realization of perfection. It was to this end that everything was created. By going through this entire process His nature was perfected, wherein lies the fulfillment of His own desire.
All that is in our nature is in the nature of God. The only difference is that God is great and we are small. We are limited and God is unlimited. We represent imperfection, God represents perfection. As we sleep God sleeps too. If we can be unconscious, there is also God's unconsciousness. It is said in the Bible, that in God's image was man created. If one wishes to study God, one must study man.
Is it possible for man to reach perfection? When one sees how limited man is one can never believe that he is entitled to perfection. There is no end to his limitations and he cannot even comprehend what perfection means. One becomes pessimistic when it is a question of perfection. Yet we read in the Bible the words of Christ, 'Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.' This shows that there is indeed a possibility of it. All philosophies, all religious and sacred teachings, are intended to bring about that realization which is called perfection. Any philosophy or religion that does not show this path to perfection has been corrupted and fails. There is something missing in it.
But if we look at religion as one and the same religion in all the ages, given by different masters of humanity yet inspired by one and the same Spirit of Guidance, one and the same light of wisdom, we see that they have all given the same truth. It is only when it is interpreted to suit people of different ages, periods, and races that it varies. In this way it differs. But the underlying truth of all religions is one and the same, and whenever a preacher teaches that perfection is not for man, he corrupts the teaching that is given in all the religions. He has not understood it. He professes a certain religion, but he does not understand it, for the main object of every religion is the striving toward perfection.
Many people seeking for knowledge say, 'What we want in the world today is greater harmony, greater peace, better conditions. We don't want spiritual perfection.' But Christ has said in the Bible, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.' The tendency of every man is to seek everything else first and to keep the kingdom of God for the last. That which should be sought first is left to the last. That is why humanity is not evolving towards perfection.
Occupations such as war and preparation for war cannot be called civilized occupations. It is a pity that in this period of civilization man should have wars. And yet we think that we are more civilized than the people of ancient times! Ages before Christ, Buddha taught 'Ahimsa paramo dharma ha' – harmlessness is the essence of religion. And he taught people to be friendly even to the smallest insect. He taught them the brotherhood of all things. And we occupy ourselves with wars! Under the conditions existing today we can expect war anywhere in the world. Why is this so? It all comes from seeking perfection in the wrong way. Instead of seeking spiritual perfection earthly perfection is sought. But what the earth holds is limited, and when everyone struggles for earthly perfection the earth will not be able to answer the demands. Whether we get what we want or not, there will be a continuous struggle.
The main way of seeking for perfection is through religion. Religion has five different aspects, and its principal aspect and foundation is belief in God. What is God? To many the thought of a personal God does not appeal, though they might accept the idea of an abstract God. But they forget that something abstract cannot be a living being. You cannot call something abstract like space, God. Space is space. You can neither call space God, nor can you call time God. Space is a conception of our own, and in the same way time is a conception. In reality they do not exist.
What is unlimited cannot be comprehended, and what cannot be comprehended is nameless. We can give a name to what is intelligible. If it is unintelligible we cannot give it a name, because we do not know it. And when we consider those who believe in a personal God, many of them merely believe in a certain law given in the name of God. They do good works for the sake of God, but at the same time they only know that there is a God somewhere.
Neither of these types of believer in God has a conception of the real meaning of the God-ideal. They merely have belief in God, and this does not take one much further. The God-ideal is in reality a stepping-stone towards the knowledge of spiritual perfection. It is through the God-ideal that higher knowledge can be gained. And those who wait to see if they will be shown a God before their eyes, or who want a proof of the Being of God, are mistaken. That which cannot be compared, which cannot be named, cannot be shown.
For instance you see light. Light is intelligible to you because there is darkness opposed to it. Things are known by their opposites. Since God has no opposite, God cannot be known in the same way that the things of the earth can be known. Besides to explain God is to dethrone God. The less said the better. And yet the knowledge of God is necessary for those who seek after perfection.
Different religions have different conceptions of God. But not only religion, every man has his own conception of God. We cannot think of any being without making a conception in our mind of that being. For instance if someone told us a fairy tale, the first thing we would do would be to make a conception of a fairy, what it looks like. If someone talks to us about an angel we make a conception of it. It is a natural tendency to make a conception according to one's own experience and therefore very near to one's own self. A human being does not think of an angel or a fairy as being like a bird or an animal, but as something like himself. If this is true then it is not a fault when someone has his own idea of God. But it is a great fault on the part of those who want to take away that idea and wish to give that person another idea. It is not right. No one can give to another his own conception of God, because each one must make it real for himself. The prophets of all ages have given some ideal to help man to form a conception of God. It has been said, 'If you have no God, make one.' That is the right way and the easiest way of realizing the unlimited truth.
In the story about the Eastern Romeo and Juliet, Laila and Majnun, someone said to Majnun, the young lover, 'Laila is not beautiful. What is she? Why do you love her so much?' And Majnun said humbly, 'In order to see Laila you must borrow Majnun's eyes.' The conception of God is different and distinct for every person and one cannot give one's conception of God to another.
There is another story told about a house-wife who was preparing a great feast. When her husband came home he said: 'My good wife, why have you prepared a feast? Is it a birthday? What is it?' She said, 'It is more than a birthday, it is a great day for me.' But he insisted, 'What is it?' She replied, 'My husband, I never thought that you believed in God.' He asked, 'And how did you find out?' She said, 'While turning over in sleep you uttered the name of God, and I am so thankful.' He said, 'Alas. That which was so sacred and secret in my heart has today been revealed. I can no longer sustain it and live.' And he dropped down dead. His conception of God was too sacred for him.
There is outer expression and inner expression, and we do not always know which is which. We may think many people are far removed from the God-ideal while they are much nearer to God than ourselves. It is difficult for anyone to judge who is near to God and who is not. It is difficult to know even in our own lives what pleases our friend and what does not please him. The more conscientious we are in wanting to please our friend, the more we find how difficult it is to know what will please him and what will not. Not everyone knows it, but then the light of friendship has not been kindled in everyone. Sometimes it remains a word in the dictionary. One who has learned friendship has learned religion. The one who has learned friendship has attained spiritual knowledge. The one who has learned friendship need learn very little else. Morals in Persian are called friendship.
When we cannot understand the pleasure and displeasure of our own friends in this world, how can we understand the pleasure and displeasure of God? Who on earth can say that God is pleased with this or that? No one could ever have the power of making rules and laws, saying God is pleased with this or displeased with that.
Another aspect of religion is the aspect of the teacher. For instance, Christ. There are those who see divinity in Christ. They say, 'Christ was God, Christ is divine.' And there are others who say, 'Christ was a man, one like all of us.' When we come to look at this question, we see that the man who says, 'Christ is divine' is not wrong. If there is any divinity shown it is in man. And the one who says, 'Christ was a man' is not wrong either. In the garb of man Christ manifested. Those who do not want Christ to be a man, drag down the greatness and sacredness of the human being by their argument, by saying that man is made of sin, and by separating Christ from humanity. But there is nothing wrong in calling Christ God or divine. It is in man that divine perfection is to be seen. It is in man that divinity is manifested. There are Christ's own words, 'I am Alpha and Omega.' Many close their eyes to this, but the one who said, 'I am Alpha and Omega' existed also before the coming of Jesus, and the one who says, 'first and last,' must exist also after Jesus.
In the words of Christ there is the idea of perfection. He identified himself with that spirit of which he was conscious. Christ was not conscious of his human part, but of his perfect being when he said, 'I am Alpha and Omega.' He did not identify himself here with his being known as Jesus. He identified himself with that spirit of perfection which lived before Jesus and will continue to live to the end of the world, for eternity. If this is so then what does it matter if some say, 'Buddha inspired us,' and millions are inspired by Buddha? It is only a difference of name. It is all Alpha and Omega. If others say Moses, or Muhammad, or Krishna, what difference does it make? Where did the inspiration come from? Was it not from one and the same spirit? Was it not the same Alpha and Omega of which Jesus Christ was conscious? Whoever gives the message to the world, whatever illuminated human beings have raised thousands and millions of people in the world, they cannot but be that same Christ whom the one calls by this name and the other by another name. Yet human ignorance always causes wars and disasters on account of different religions, different communities, because of the importance they give to their own conception, their own corrupted conception which differs from another. Even now on the one hand there is materialism and on the other there is bigotry. What is necessary today is to find the first and last religion, to come to the message of Christ, to divine wisdom, so that we may recognize wisdom in all its different forms, in whatever form it has been given to humanity. It does not matter if it is Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism. It is one wisdom, that call of the Spirit, which awakens man to rise above limitation and to reach perfection.
The third aspect of religion is the manner of worship. There have been many in different ages who have worshipped the sun, but they have believed in God just the same. The sun was only a symbol. They thought, 'This is a light which does not depend upon oil or anything else, something which remains.' And then there were others who worshipped sacred trees and holy places, rocks and mountains of ancient traditions. And again, others, who worshipped heroes of great repute or teachers and masters of humanity. Nevertheless, all had a divine ideal, and the form in which they worshipped does not matter.
The Arabs in the desert, where there was no house, no building to go to, stood in the open air and bowed low in the open space at sunset and sunrise. It was all worship of God. It was given in that form. The Hindus made idols of different kinds in order to help man to focus his mind on particular objects. These were all different prescriptions given by the doctors of souls. They were not pagans or heathens. They were only taught differently by the wise. Different thoughts, different ways were given to them just as a doctor would give different prescriptions to different patients in order to obtain the same cure. Therefore difference in worship does not make a different religion. Religion is one and the same in spite of a thousand different kinds of worship.
The fourth aspect is the moral aspect. Different religions have taught different moral principles. But at the same time there is one human, moral principle on which all is based, and that is justice. And this does not mean justice in principle and in rules and regulations, but it means that one, true, religious law that is in man, that is awakened in man. As his soul unfolds itself this law becomes more and more clear to him: what is just and what is unjust. The most wonderful thing about this law is that a thief or a wicked or unrighteous man may be most unjust to others, but if someone is unjust to him he will say, 'He is not just to me.' This shows that he too knows justice. When he is dealing with others he forgets it, but when it comes to himself he knows justice very well. We are all responsible to ourselves according to that religious law. If we do not regard it, it naturally results in unhappiness. Everything that goes wrong goes wrong for the one reason that we do not listen to ourselves.
The fifth aspect of religion is self-realization. This is the highest aspect, and everything we do leads to it: prayers, concentration, good actions, good thoughts. And how is it gained? Some say that we realize God by self-realization. But it is not so, for we can only realize self by the realization of God. Whenever someone tries to realize self while omitting God, he makes a mistake.
It is very difficult for man to realize his true self because the self he knows is a most limited self. The self to which he is awakened from the time of birth, the self which has made within him a conception of himself is most limited. However proud and conceited he may be, however good his idea of himself yet in his innermost being he knows his limitation, the smallness of his being. He may be a most successful general, he may be a king. But he discovers his limitation when the time comes for him to lose his kingdom. Then he knows that he is not really a king. Earthly greatness does not make him great. If there is anything that can make him great it is only the effacing of himself and the establishing of God instead. The one who wants to begin with self-realization may have many intellectual and philosophical principles, but he will get into a muddle and arrive nowhere. These are wrong methods.
There are people who say, 'I am God.' This is insolence, stupidity. It is foolish to say such things. They insult the greatest ideal that the prophets and saviors of humanity have always respected. Such people can never reach spiritual perfection. In order to reach spiritual perfection the first thing is to destroy this false self. First this delusion must be destroyed. And this is done by the ways taught by the great teachers, ways of concentration and meditation, by the power of which one forgets oneself and removes one's consciousness from oneself, in other words rises from one's limited being. In this way a person effaces himself from his own consciousness, and places God in his consciousness instead of his limited self. And it is in this way that he arrives at that perfection which every soul is seeking.