Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
THE FOUR PATHS WHICH LEAD TO THE GOAL
There is one path which may be called the way of the intellectual. When an intellectual person has risen above his intellectuality it is then that he may be called an intelligent person, for there is a difference between the intellectual and the intelligent. An intellectual person is he who has gathered knowledge by impressions, by studies; and he is the king of the domain of his intellect. What he has learned, what he has studied, what he has experienced, he has kept in the book of his mind; and that is his world; but it makes him captive to a limited horizon of knowledge, and it is the rising above that knowledge which may be called intelligence. Yet it is the intellectual person who is capable of being intelligent; intellect is a cover over intelligence, and when this cover is taken off then a person becomes intelligent. The intelligent one is he who perceives for himself, who learns for himself, who understands for himself, who recognizes things by himself, who is a pupil and who is a teacher within himself at the same time.
Once a person has risen above the boundaries of his limited knowledge, then the higher knowledge begins to come to him by itself. He begins to learn more in one moment than an intellectual person would learn after having read all the books in the library during many years. When once an intelligent person has got an insight into the hidden laws of nature, he begins to see a way opening to the higher knowledge. His reasoning changes its nature; it becomes the essence of reason. He does not see things through the reason he has learned from the world, but he begins to see the reason of all reasons, the reason, which is covered by ordinary reasoning.
Man is born intelligent; it is afterwards that he covers his intelligence and that he is glad to call it intellect. Then he is recognized as being learned, and he thinks that he has acquired some knowledge, but it is at this point that he makes his intelligence limited. And as long as his intelligence is limited, he cannot see further than he sees.
There is a time in a person's life when he is learning, and there comes a time when he himself is knowledge. It is at the time when the soul becomes knowledge itself that it begins to have glimpses into the hidden laws of nature; and this illumination may develop so that a person sees the whole of manifestation clearly and fully in the light of intelligence. The Quran says, 'God is the Light of the heavens and of the earth;' and if there is any spark of God that can be found in man, it is his intelligence. Naturally, therefore, when this divine light which is hidden in man is once brought to a blaze and has risen as a flame, it illuminates his path towards perfection.
The second path to perfection is the path of righteousness, of duty, of good actions. A person may not be intelligent, but conscientious in what he does and what he should do, always using his goodwill to do a righteous action; and by doing so he is fulfilling that law of harmony which automatically raises his soul to perfection. Very often one wonders about friends or relations who one thinks are goodness itself, their actions being righteous actions. And yet they never seem to show any tendency towards religion or meditation; and then one often thinks what a pity it would be if they did not arrive at spiritual perfection. But it is quite possible that they will arrive at that perfection before the seeker who makes too much fuss about it and does little; before a person who talks too much about spiritual things and knows little; before the one who is clinging to the outer signs of religion and spirituality. Merely by his righteous actions, by his good deeds, such a person will attain the goal. He may not know it, but it will work automatically, because he is taking the path of righteousness, which will surely lead him to perfection.
The third path is the path of discipline, and it is in this path that concentration, meditation, contemplation, and all different forms of discipline are necessary, in order to bring about that realization which is the ultimate goal. The path of meditation enables man to experience different planes of life, not always classified as people do when speaking about this plane and that plane, this grade and that grade. The real experience of inner life cannot very well be classified. For instance, if one asks a meditative person, 'Are there seven planes of existence?, he will say, 'Yes it is so.' But when another person says, 'I have read in a book on Greek philosophy that there are nine planes of existence; can it be true?' he will answer, 'Certainly.' Then another one comes and says, 'I think that there are only three planes,' and again he will agree. He does not say this to please; he is able to see these planes as five, seven, nine, in as many forms as he likes, because he actually sees them so. Go to a beginner in music and ask how many notes there are. He will answer, seven; and perhaps he will mention the semitones besides. But if you asked of an experienced musician who has given all his life to music and has come to understand the essence of sound, 'Is it not true, as the Chinese say, that there are twenty notes in the octave?' he will say, 'Yes, it can be true, but when the Indians say that there are twenty-four notes in the octave, that is true too; it is how you look at it.'
All that man learns intellectually about metaphysics keeps him limited to book-learning. He derives no benefit but a passing interest; it is a surprise to him to know that there are so many different planes of our being. He does not go further, and if he wanted to see them and know what they are, he could not. But by meditation he can realize them, and by this realization he can give the interpretation of any philosophy, whether Buddhist, or ancient Greek, or Vedanta philosophy, any philosophy you put before him, for he knows what he has experienced through meditation.
No doubt the way of self-discipline is a very difficult way. It is the way of mastery, of power; but it is a hard and difficult path. Practicing discipline by sitting in a certain pose or posture is very difficult to keep up for a long time. If one makes a vow to refrain from eating fruit, sweet or sour things, a vow of silence, of fasting, of standing so many hours, or walking, or staying up for part of the night or the whole night, it is not always easy to keep to it. Self-discipline is learned by going against one's own inclinations. Why should one go against them? Are inclinations not natural? One cannot say what is one's own inclination; all inclinations are borrowed here, and what one calls natural is what one has become accustomed to. The word 'natural' is a word that one can study for years and years, and one will find at the end of the study that there is no such thing as natural. There are natural inclinations to pleasure and comfort, which clash with the still greater and deeper inclinations we have for more power and strength, for more light and for more life. So the inclinations can be divided into two aspects: the innermost inclinations, and the inclinations, which one feels in everyday life. There is always a conflict between them; and the innermost inclinations are sometimes undermined by the outer inclination. By learning self-discipline one learns to suppress the outer inclinations in order to make way for the inner inclinations to rise and to flourish, which finally culminates in what we call mastery.
The fourth path of perfection may be called the path of devotion, a path that cannot be compared in value or in depth with any other path. The reason is that devotion touches the Spirit of God. Not everyone is capable of this method, for in some people the heart is closed by the head quality, by intellect, but in others the heart quality is foremost. The first step on the path of devotion teaches selflessness; it makes one unselfish. Devotion is the tuning of the heart to its natural pitch; in other words, the healthiest condition possible in man is that in which devotion has blossomed. It is devotion alone that buries man's false self, be it devotion to a human being or to God. If truth is ever to be seen it is in devotion; for the world of heart is a different world from the world in which we all live; its law is different, the weather there is different, its sky is different, its sun and moon are different. The nature of that world is different; it is a world in itself. By devotion, heaven is brought to earth. And yet how very often a person says, 'But is it not a simple devotion?' It is in simplicity that the greatest subtlety is to be found; for it is the heart of the devotee, which is liquid compared to the one which has become crystallized. It is awakened to sympathy, it is open to appreciate all beauty.
Women are more attracted to devotion than men, for generally the nature of women is to be more respectful towards human beings. This is natural, for if it were not for the love of the mother the world would not go on. This is the principle of devotion; it is in the quality of devotion which exists in women that the secret of the whole creation resides.
Krishna has said, 'I am with my devotees.' And therefore if one says, 'Where is God? Is He in the sixth heaven or in the seventh, or in a certain paradise or palace in which people imagine Him to be?' The answer is that the paradise or the palace or the dwelling-place of God is in the heart of His devotee. No doubt it is not easy for man to rise to devotion to God. It is on this account that the Sufis in all ages have practiced devotion gradually, by their sympathy for their teacher, by the devotion to their Lord, and by the culmination of that devotion in God. It is devotion, which raises the object of its devotion, or its ideal, to the highest heaven. It is by devotion that the rocks have been turned into gods. Someone asked a Hindu, 'By worshipping a God made of rock, what do you gain? Do you really believe that you have made a God?' 'Yes,' said the Hindu, 'my hands have made this God of stone, and my devotion has given life to it. If you believe in a formless God and have no devotion, you have not yet reached him. He is far away from you. My God is before me; your God is far away from you.' As the Bible says, God is love. If God is to be found anywhere, he is to be found in the heart of man. And when is He to be found? When the heart is awakened to sympathy, to love, to devotion.