Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
THE JOURNEY TO THE GOAL
The word journey may be applied to life. As life has two aspects, it may either be called a journey or a goal.
Why should life be called a journey? Because there is a change in nature and a change of experience. One goes from one experience to another, and that is also the meaning of the word journey: going from one place to another, passing from one experience to another. The whole of the external life is nothing but a succession of experiences, one after the other, night and day. That is why it is called a journey.
Yet there is a part of life from which this life of changes has sprung; the life which is everlasting, which is eternal, the life to which all things return; and that life is the goal. Therefore, life is not only a journey; it is a goal. The goal is the stable part of life, the source of life; the manifested life called creation is the journey.
In this way we see that there are really two journeys. There is the journey from the goal to the life in the world, and there is the journey from the life in the world to the goal. And both journeys are natural. As it is natural to go forth from the eternal goal, so it is natural to go from the changing life to the life which is unchangeable.
Which is the most desirable thing in life, to seek for the goal or to dwell in this changing life? The answer is that every person's desire is according to his evolution. That for which he is ready is desirable for him. Milk is a desirable food for the infant, other foods for the grown-up person. Every stage in life has its own appropriate and desirable things. The desire to attain to a goal must be there before reaching it; when he does not feel the desire, it is not necessary for a man to seek it.
All things are worthwhile when we seek after them; then only do we appreciate their value; then only are we happy to have them. We do not need the things we do not know and do not desire. We need them when we know them and desire them.
The law of nature is that this external life develops gradually, stage by stage, through rocks, through vegetables, through animals, through man. Its depth is intelligence, which is named Ilm by the mystic. The joy of the whole life is the fullness of intelligence, and intelligence comes to its fullness in the human kingdom. It is there that life and the primitive intelligence have their eyes opened to see and understand and think. 'God slept in the mineral kingdom, dreamed in the vegetable woke in the animal, and became self-conscious in the human'. But in the human stage we find that not everyone has the same capability of thinking and understanding and knowing. It is his thinking quality that distinguishes man, that is why the real man is the thinker, he who is capable of thinking. The more thoughtful, the more awakened the mind, the more can be found in man the fullness of that attribute for which the whole world was created.
When he begins to think, the question arises why all this was created. And the answer is that all this gradual development is towards one single development, that of human life; and in human life, towards the development of mind. Throughout the whole universe that which has really developed is the mind, which begins to know the use of all things and all forms, their secret and the way in which all things and all forms are controlled.
Another question comes to the thinking mind, after realizing the secret of all things and all forms, and after knowing the way in which all forms and all things are utilized, and that is, 'Is this enough? Is there not something else that man desires?' Then he will find that there are four different desires: the desire to know, desire to love and be loved, the desire for joy, the desire for peace.
After the toil of the day there is a desire to rest and be away from people. Then there is the desire to get a certain amount of pleasure and joy things one feels delighted in, such as going to museums and theatres. Another finds comfort and happiness in loving and being loved. The scholarly mind who wishes to know and understand things, has happiness and joy when he understands them. If any of these four desires is absent, one is unhappy.
The world is engaged in four different kinds of occupations. To one person some of them may be repellant and undesirable, while to another they seem desirable. Everyone has his own occupation in which he seems to be happy, but that of another seems to him useless, foolish or undesirable. In Sanskrit these occupations are called Kama, Artha, Dharma, and Moksha. The occupation of Kama is love, affection, attachment, or infatuation, to such an extent that nothing else matter in life neither money nor position, nothing. Kama is the thing he wants; it is his one occupation.
Artha is the occupation in which one pursues money; he wishes to be rich, to have property, to make trade prosper. Love does not appeal to him. He calls the lover crazy, foolish, out of his mind. He believes that everybody will like him if he has money, and that it is crazy to pursue love!
Dharma is the occupation of pursuing duty. Such a person says, 'these things are not right. The right thing is to do one's duty'. Perhaps he is interested in his family, in family duty to mother, father, wife, or children, saying, 'This is my virtue'; or in the people, the nation, the poor, or the rich. Whatever he considers his duty he gives his life to. He may be a soldier, a teacher, or a merchant; but he feels justified according to the way he does his duty. The person who is after money thinks he is a fool. The lover thinks he is a fool too. For him the first thing is to convert people to his Church; to do something good for his nation, city or village.
The fourth occupation, Moksha, is different again. This means to work for paradise, for heaven, for heavenly peace. What is the use of bothering about ones duty? The whole aim is heaven; that is the happiness to look for. All things will change, all will pass – wealth, earthly love – they are all changeable. But paradise, the happiness one can get in the hereafter after all the suffering here, that is the unchangeable. A man who thinks thus is pious. He suffers all his life; he goes through all kinds of pain; he is seeking for that paradise. The lover may say, 'How foolish; my paradise is on earth. My beloved is my love. What a foolish person to sacrifice all this, and who knows what will come hereafter?' But the other says, 'I can create my own paradise with my wealth'.
These four paths are diverse. Everyone considers his own the best and wisest. The Sufi looks on all with tolerance, and knows that there is a path for everyone. The path of the lover is for him, the path of the one seeking for wealth is for him, the seeker after paradise is following his path, it is all a journey. It is simply that there are four different routes by which the journey is made. The Sufi sees the same goal at the end of each; the lover has to meet the seeker after wealth, and both have to meet the one who has done his duty. Therefore at the end of their journey there is a place where they can meet. What does it matter if one does not go by a certain path? Let each choose the way that belongs to his own temperament and tendency. Therefore the Sufi does not worry. He gives no preference to one or the other. He sees the journey of life being made along one or other of these roads. The saying of Buddha, 'Forgive all', comes true. Forgiveness does not come by learning, it comes by understanding that a person should be allowed to travel along that path which is suited to his temperament. As long as he is journeying with open eyes, let him journey.
The great thing is that one should journey with one single desire. There should be the single desire: whether to love a beloved, to collect wealth, or to do some good for the world of humanity, or to attain paradise. There should be the desire to journey to the goal. So many do not know which is the goal or what it is. One thinks wealth is the goal, another paradise, another the beloved. They do not see that there is still a further goal. They are naturally prompted by the desire to get to the goal, and yet they are not conscious of the further goal.
As it is said in the Bible: 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all things shall be added unto you.' The real desire is for that kingdom of perfection, the goal of everything, but how can a person desire that of which he does not realize the meaning? Desire comes by knowing the thing to be desired. If we do not know what the goal is like, how can we be attracted to it?
Rumi, the great Persian poet, speaking about this, says, 'Every soul is a captive on earth'. And this captivity is in the limited physical body, which man calls his individuality or personality; while the nature of the soul is peace and joy and freedom. In this captivity it lacks these things. That is why the soul begins to feel it wants this or that: paradise, duty, a beloved, or wealth. Reason may suggest, 'This is it,' and the soul goes after it, but having acquired it, it begins to feel, 'No, this is not the thing that I wanted.'
All this shows that there is a constant desire of the soul to find its own nature. Until it finds it, it is always looking for something, though what it does not know. Is it not true of every individual in this world that, whatever may be his desire, as long as he has not attained it he is unhappy, and eager and anxious to achieve it? He is longing and suffering and doing all he can to attain it; but when he has succeeded, he does not feel happy. At once a new desire arises; if he has a thousand he wants a million; if he has done one duty there is another, and after that another. So it is with love affairs; so it is with paradise. He will never feel contented and satisfied, because fundamentally it is not the desire that he is really concerned with. Though he crosses the boundary wall of the desire he finds himself again with a new desire. And this itself proves the fact that there is really only one fundamental desire underlying all others: the desire for spiritual perfection.
One is not capable of setting out on the journey to the eternal goal unless the four desires and occupations have been surmounted. In the first place the motive limits one to certain kinds of accomplishment; and it does not allow one to accomplish anything beyond the scope of that particular motive. As long as a person has the desire to attain to something with a particular motive, he cannot go further. That is why the sages have said, 'Rise above the earthly motives. Accomplish all you wish to accomplish in life, whatever be the motive, and then that itself will lead you to a stage from which you can rise above them, and above the earthly desires of the body'. They have never said, 'Stop, and go into the jungle, and see life from our point of view'. Everybody's path is for himself. Let everyone achieve the fulfillment of his own desires so as to be able to rise above them to the eternal goal.
There are four different paths recognized as leading to the attainment of that goal. The Yogis call them Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Bhakti Yoga.
Hatha Yoga is the path of abstinence. This is a form of self-control, achieved by practicing different postures, sitting quietly and trying to slow down the circulation or follow a certain rhythm, or quieting the nerves by a certain kind of breathing. This is all a process of mastery of the body and mind. Sufis call this mastery Vilayat.
It is practice rather than study that helps in controlling the nerves of the body, the rhythm of the circulation, the mechanism of the body. The adepts are able to stop every pulsation of the body at will, for a few seconds at a time. There have been experiments made by doctors verifying this power. However surprising it may seem for the external pulse to be controlled in this way, what would it seem like if we could see still more deeply into the life of the adept! The control of the mind is so much greater; words can never explain it; one must experience it oneself. The control of the self means the control of everything.
What does it mean when we see a person fail time after time, or another person succeed time after time? It is just a matter of holding the reins of our affairs in our hands. When there is no rein there is failure. Failure means that there has been lack of self-control, whether it is a failure in affairs or in health. Illness always comes when a person has lost the control of the self. It is because this is the main theme of metaphysics that Hatha Yoga has been considered of the greatest value. All the miracles and all the wonders that have ever been known in this world have been done by those who have been able to control themselves by abstinence, and therefore to control life. However much was said upon this subject, it would still not express it. To begin with a person is puzzled by it, and he wonders whether he should believe it or not. That is why in the East the adepts never speak of their experiences in the spiritual life. They only tell their disciples to lead it and practice for years. 'That will make it clear to you', they say.
The other path on the spiritual journey is that of Raja Yoga. This is the path of Life, going through all life's experiences and accepting its responsibilities. On this path there are four stages.
Brahmacharya-shrama is the path where a person works with the intellect. He wishes to know about things, reason about them, and understand them. It is the intellectual attainment of knowledge.
Grihastha-shrama is the attainment of knowledge through the experience of the responsibilities of life: of home, children, servants, neighbors, friends, and enemies; the experience of living among them, doing one's duty to them, loving them, being kind to them, and taking upon one's shoulders every kind of responsibility. The experiences of welcoming the neighbor, the friend, with a smile even when in distress and despair, or in any difficulty. This itself becomes a lesson.
Vanaprastha-shrama is the service of the world, of humanity. This means considering not only one's own family as one's responsibility, but also one's townsfolk, ones race, the world at large.
Sanyasa-shrama is retirement, love of solitude, silence, contemplation, and resignation in regard to all things of this world.
By these four stages of development perfection is gradually attained.
Mantra Yoga, strictly speaking a system of Yoga based on the repetition of and meditation on sacred words, aims at the attainment of perfection by means of wisdom, understanding life, and seeing through it. The best word to use for such a person is 'seer'. He sees into life, into the depth of life, through a person, through an affair, through a thing. He sees not only the outside, the surface, but by means of concentration he sees through things as with a torch that illuminates whatever is seen. This seeing is called Jnana. The journey through life is made by that means.
In Mantra Yoga, a person comes in touch with the mysticism of sound when he begins to see and understand. He begins to see that he gains power by sound, that in every vowel, word, composition, a certain effect or element is hidden, because life and the whole of manifestation is the outcome of what may be called vibrations. The scientist today says that life is motion, but the mystic has said so for thousands of years. At the same time he has worked with what the Hindus call Nada Brahma: sound-God or vibration-God. He has worked with life according to the law of vibrations, and has seen what great power vibration has. The whole of Mantra Yoga is based on this law of sound or vibrations. But this is a very big subject.
Bhakti Yoga is the most important yoga, especially for those who have the quality of love and kindness, because all the beauty that there is in life is after all what we call love. From it all the virtues spring. The whole beauty of life is in it, and it is as the English song says, 'The light of a whole life dies, when love is done'. Life's light is love; and when the heart is empty of love, a man is living and yet not living; from a spiritual point of view he is dead. When the heart is asleep, he is as though dead in this life, for one can only love through the heart. But love does not mean give and take. That is only a trade; it's selfishness. To give sixpence and receive a shilling is not love. Love is when one loves for the sake of love, when one cannot help but love, cannot do anything but love. Then one is not forced to love; there is no virtue in that. One does not love because another does. It is simply there. It cannot be helped. It is the only thing that makes a person alive. If a person loves one and hates another, what can he know of love? Can you love one person fully if at the same time you cannot bestow a kind glance on some other person? Can you say you love one person fully when you cannot bear him to be loved by someone else as well? Can you hate a person when love is sprinkled like water in your heart? Love is like the water of the Ganges. It is itself a purification. As the Bible says, 'God is love'. When love is awakened in the heart, God is awakened there. When a man has journeyed, he reaches the goal as soon as his heart has reached love.
The Sufi says, 'The Kaba, the divine place, paradise, is the heart of the human being'. That is why he has respect for every heart. Every heart is his Kaba, his shrine. The human heart is the place toward which he bows, for in this heart is God.