header pic header text

Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness


WHEN WE picture life as a journey, there are a thousand things which will prove it to be so. When we are on a journey we are with a great many other people, looking at life and going forward. Those who have arrived at their station have got out of the train; and the little friendship or sympathy or antipathy that existed between us only lasted till then. Those who went on have left behind the impression of them, which we carry with us. That impression makes us either happy or unhappy; either it makes us love them even in their absence, or it makes us hate them, hoping that we shall never see them again. When we think of yesterday, of last week, of the last months, of the years that have passed in our lives, it only shows that they have passed and we have gone on. It is like the sensation that one has in the train, as though the train was standing still and the trees were moving. In life we have the same sensation, that life is passing and we are standing still.

And we also see when traveling that some are prepared, with all that is necessary in this world, while there are others who are not prepared. Both have to travel just the same, those who are prepared and those who are not. The only difference is that for those who are prepared, this journey is easy. This is explained by the Indian fable of the monkey and the sparrows. When autumn seemed to be approaching the sparrows said, 'We must have a nest. We must build it and it must be ready soon, for autumn is coming nearer.' A little monkey overheard this and was very frightened because it was the first time this young monkey had had to face the winter. It went with great anxiety to its parents and said, 'We must build a home, we must build a nest where we can be protected. I did not know the autumn was coming, but someone told me so.' While they were discussing this the sparrows made their nest ready, but the monkeys put it off from one day to another until autumn was upon them.

And so it is in the world. We find people who say, 'What does it matter? We shall wait and see what will come.' But when they are faced by a difficulty, by a need, then they begin to realize that it would have been better if they had been prepared. It is the same with education. A young person when he should be learning is always attracted to play and to the enjoyment of life; but when that golden age of childhood which gives facilities for learning and for acquiring knowledge is past, then it is too late.

The greatest wealth is health, energy, intelligence, and life itself. If this health is not preserved and looked after in youth, then even though one may not feel it at that time there will come a time when one realizes that one neglected it. I once asked a person who was old but strong and healthy, 'Will you tell me what blessings you have, what it is that keeps you so strong and healthy at your age?' He said, 'It is the conserved energy of youth which is now maintaining my life.'

Very few young people think about this. Youth is an intoxication. When they are in that intoxication, when they are full of energy, they do not think about it, of what they will have to spend in order to go far in the journey of life.

And then we come to the idea of humanity. Today what we consider learning or education consists of grammar and history and geography and mathematics. But that kind of education which we should possess as current-coin: a good manner, strong will, a right attitude of mind, that kind of education seems to be quite overlooked. We find it nowhere; and yet if a man has education, qualification, rank or position, and lacks manner, he lacks a great part of life.

If a man does not have that strength of mind which he needs to carry him along the whole of his life's path he lacks a great deal. A man who lacks money misses little. But the man who lacks power of mind misses everything in life. Weakness develops, and it develops without his knowing it. When one sees a little spark of weakness in oneself one thinks it is nothing, but one does not know that the spark will one day turn into a glow, and the glow will turn into a flame. For those who lack manner, strength of mind, a right attitude, it is then too late. They cannot be corrected any more. The nature of life is such that a thoughtless life will draw one into thoughtlessness, and then thoughtlessness will draw even a thoughtful person towards itself. Therefore there is more chance of falling than of rising in life. Besides among thousands there is hardly one who goes upon this journey with open eyes, for nearly all journey with their eyes closed. Man depends so much upon his friends, upon his relations, upon those who love him, upon those who admire him. But he does not know that those who love him will demand from him what is missing.

What is necessary in life is to master ourselves, and not to think that because we have influential or wealthy parents it does not matter what we ourselves are like. Whatever relations we have, however great and good they may be, that is not of any use to us. We each have our journey to make, and we have to answer the demands of this journey. How wonderful it is to watch the people on the daily journeys we make! One person comes along in a group of travelers and gives pleasure to all; he shares with them and gives a good impression to all and he wins their hearts. When he has gone what he has left with his fellow travelers is joy, a beautiful impression which they will always keep. And there is another one who causes hurt or harm or produces some disturbance among those traveling with him. And when he has gone they pray that they will never meet him again.

One day a maid informed her mistress that there was a funeral passing along the street. She was much impressed and said, 'Certainly the person who died went to heaven.' Her mistress laughed at this maid's authoritative exclamation that this dead person went to heaven. She said, 'Did you see this dead person going to heaven?' 'It is simple, Madam,' she said, 'for everyone who was following the funeral was weeping. Certainly this person has made a good impression on those among whom he lived.' Man loses everything when absorbed in his daily life, not realizing that life passes and the call comes before he even thinks of it.

Man makes many great mistakes but there is one principal one, and that is that he goes through life thinking that he will stay here for ever. And since he is without preparation, the call naturally comes to him as a blow instead of as an invitation. When we think of the journey beyond, we begin to see how many there are in this world who do not even know that there is a hereafter. And the one who believes in the hereafter has his preconceived ideas about it. Either a religious or a philosophical belief. But not even that suffices for our purpose. What suffices for our purpose is to become acquainted with the road along which we have to pass, and with the road whereby the soul descended to the earth. This road is the bridge that stands between the physical and the spiritual part of our own being, and therefore the nature of this journey is different.

The journey in the world we make outside ourselves. And it is by being acquainted with this road that we are led to that destination which we are meant to reach. It is this that is acquired as divine knowledge by the help of meditation. There are many in this world who are curious to know what we shall find beyond this life, and it is this curiosity which gives scope to those who wish to attract mankind by falsehood; it gives them the chance to make up stories to satisfy man's curiosity. For who can know of this way but man himself? He is the traveler and his own spirit is the way. It is man himself who must find his way, and it is with his own eyes that he must see what he will find on this way.

Therefore the true teachers of life's secret do not tell him that he will see this or that on the way. They say he will find whatever he will find, and that his duty is to open his eyes so that he may travel on the way and see for himself. Once a mureed asked his teacher, 'How I should like to see what it is like in heaven and what hell looks like!' 'Close your eyes,' said the teacher, 'and you will see it.' 'Shall I see heaven first?' The teacher said, 'Yes.' He closed his eyes and went into meditation. 'And now,' said the teacher, 'see hell also in meditation.' And when the pupil opened his eyes the teacher asked, 'What did you see?' He said: 'I saw nothing in heaven of that paradise of which people speak, nor were there those beautiful plants and flowers and all the wonderful objects of comfort and luxury. There was nothing.' 'And what did you see in hell?' said the teacher. 'I saw nothing. I had expected to see fire and brimstone and people in torture but it was empty. What is the reason? Did I see or did I not see it?' And the teacher answered, 'Certainly you have seen heaven and hell. But the brimstone and fire, or the beautiful gems and jewels of paradise, you have to take there yourself. You do not get them there.'

This gives us the secret of Omar Khayyam's saying, 'Heaven is the vision of fulfilled desire. Hell is the shadow of the soul on fire.' What is most necessary for us to learn and understand is that from a perfect source we come, and to a perfect goal we go. But few seek that source consciously, and fewer still seek that source rightly.

What is the right way of seeking that source? The way to seek it is first to learn the psychology of one's own life: what makes one fall, what makes one rise, what makes one fail, what makes one succeed, what gives one happiness, what brings one sorrow. Then one should study the nature of pleasure and pain, whether it is a lasting pain or whether it is a lasting pleasure, a momentary pleasure, or a momentary pain; and then find out the deceitful and false nature of one's own impressions, how under cover of pain there was pleasure, and how under cover of pleasure there was pain: how in the worst person there is some good to be found, and how in the best there is something bad to be traced. This widens the point of view of a man and prepares the ground of his heart to realize the secret of enjoyment.

And the next thing man has to do is to control his activities, physical and mental. He should know that the nature of life is to go on, and that therefore this suspension of life gives scope to that tendency to progress within, instead of only giving it scope to progress outwardly. However much a person reads about and studies these things, it does not bring him satisfaction; satisfaction comes only through experience, and experience is gained from meditation.

checked 18-Oct-2005