Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part I: The Vision of God and Man and other Lectures
In discipleship one has to consider the idea of sympathy. The great Lord of yoga, Mahadevi warned against initiating or welcoming an insincere, ungrateful, or doubting pupil into this mystical cult. This was his advice to every mystic. Why was this? What concern is it of the mystic whether a pupil is grateful or not, sincere or not, as surely he has to be good to everyone? The idea is that unless a person is sincere he is not ready to benefit, and the teacher will not do him any good. He must have sincerity and faith and sympathy. How true is the saying, ' he who speaks evil of another knows him not; he who speaks well of another knows him better!' This illustrates the fact that sympathy is the only thing that discloses the secret of all things. For example, if you are fond of a certain composer's work you will enjoy hearing one of his compositions far more than will a person who is prejudiced against this composer. Having closed his heart to this music he will never enjoy it. So, too, if you are fond of a certain poet you will remember everything that the poet has to say. Even if his words do not say it his spirit does, and so you understand what the poet wanted to convey to you. He may have failed to express it, but you will still read it in his words, for your heart is united to the heart of the poet.
This being true, how then can an enemy know an enemy? He can never get to know him, for he will say that his enemy is full of evil. It is only a friend who can know, not an enemy. It is love that builds a bridge during the interchange of feelings and thoughts; hatred cannot do this. In fact even the least doubt prevents it.
Thus a person who is thinking, 'Let me see, what can mysticism teach me? What can this cult show me that I do not already know?', would be wasting his time. Far better that he should spend his time on something in which he has faith, otherwise he will only be creating a wall before himself, and, whether he wishes to explore this teaching or not, how then can he find out anything about it? This path is not for those who are only curious about it. They would never succeed with it. Nor is it for those who are always changing their mind, wondering whether they will go on walking along this path, asking themselves if it is the right path or is it the wrong path. Such people might go four steps forward, and then come across something, which frightens them, and so they run back ten steps! Then, perhaps, they may go forward again, but next time something like this happens they go back twenty steps. Their journey would last thousands of years, and even then they would not be arriving.
No one without confidence in himself can ever have confidence in another. One cannot have faith in another if one has none in oneself. The faith taught by Jesus Christ as well as by those religious teachers who laid great emphasis on it is not necessarily faith in a particular church or creed or scripture or religion or clergy. It is faith in oneself. He who has faith in himself can have faith in others.
For a person to have a simple faith does not mean that he has no sense. Such a person may be the most sensible of all, while one who thinks that he is too clever to trust anybody, who will not be taken in by anyone and is proud of his cleverness, may really be the most foolish. He prides himself on his skepticism, which makes him doubt every person he meets, thinking that he is so clever. But when such cleverness prevents one from having any peace of mind and makes one always restless, going from one belief to another, one would much rather be without the cleverness.
Faith is the light that kindles the same substance in another person's heart. By trusting another person one also creates in his heart the same attribute which is within oneself: trust. What peace it brings to have faith and trust!
Consider two such people as these: one gives a jewel to a friend, asking him,' Please keep it for me', and then thinks no more about it. Another asks his friend the same thing, but as soon as he has left he keeps on putting his hand in his pocket, wondering what his friend will do with his jewel. Then when he gets home his mind is still in his friend's house, in fact he may be so uneasy that he even goes back to his friend on some excuse, though when he gets there he does not like to ask his friend to return the jewel. Better for him not to have entrusted his friend with his property, if it only means loss of peace of mind or the humiliation of his friend.
How can such a person learn occult or mystical knowledge and tread the path of spirituality, if he has this attitude of mind? Having no sense of trust or confidence in himself, how can he expect to succeed on the path? The first thing to learn then is to have confidence in oneself.
Another thing to remember about entering this path is that if a person is only attracted by the word 'Mysticism', or by any psychical cult, he is only interested in the name and does not know what he really wishes to discover. So he asks himself, 'What is this path like?', as if it were a kind of a delicious dish or drink, to be tasted before wanting any more, just to see what it is like!
No, this path is a lifelong work. There is nothing more serious that one can enter upon. One cannot attain something when one does not know what one is aiming at and is altogether undecided. How can one walk in the spirit without knowing whither one is traveling? A person who does not know his destination may think he is walking on the mystical path, but he is not. If you should ask him about it perhaps he might say that he wants to travel this path in order to become good; but he could learn how to be good without using the mystical path at all. The mystical path does not teach any spiritual goodness; it is only our love of goodness that will make us good. People do not have to be mystics to be good; not all good people are mystics.
Another person may wonder whether he ought to realize what spirituality is before he can become spiritual. He may think that he has to disconnect himself from matter; he may think that spirit is the exalted substance, and matter only the lower. Again, another person may tell you that he is taking up the spiritual path because he wants to be able to communicate with spirits and ghosts. Yet another may say that he wants to see things and hear voices that other people cannot hear, and to discern fairies or angels or spirits or other invisible beings which other people cannot see. But if this is the motive for coming to the mystical or spiritual path then it is not for them. Discipleship is not needed for that.
So many people want to dabble in these matters, but when they come into contact with others of like mind there they are just waiting to be fooled by them. The world is full of all sorts of people, but few of them are ready for the path of discipleship. Real discipleship has just the same implication as lies in the word ' Baptism.' It is a real baptism in itself, not just a ceremonial, something external. Spiritually it means to be our natural selves, neither exalted nor pious nor good, nothing but to be just our natural self. A person may say,' I have no natural self', and the more we look at ourselves the more we think this, yet it is the lack of realizing our natural self that accounts for our depressions, our disappointments, our weaknesses, and everything that is undesirable in us. We are only conscious of our false self and do not know our real self. The idea is to disclose that self who is our real self, our natural self; and we do this by uncovering the different planes of mortal being which hide the self. All the yoga practices, their meditations and concentrations, are aimed at uncovering this real self.
'Well then,' people will ask, ' how does one attain this?' The answer is: you would never understand even if you studied all your life. To take an example, supposing you were to study a textbook of music which contains everything from theory to counterpoint, and suppose you read a thousand such books, would you be able to sing well or play the piano? No, you have to train your ear; you must know which note is which, you must recognize the chords. It is just the same with life itself. It is not a matter of reading; it is a matter of realizing. One must live the life.
You may ask: does meditation help? The answer is yes; it does; it helps a great deal. If you also study at the same time it will add to your realization, so it is not that study is useless, it is only that it is of no use without practicing meditation. Meditation is like practicing music. By playing the piano your ear becomes trained in the intervals and the notes; then by further study and reading you become a master of music.
It is just the same with the music of life, which is called mysticism. Although it can be studied it is of no use unless there is practice also. What is more if a person asks, ' Suppose I play and practice with a book, can I become a great singer?' he would have to be told that he needs a teacher to show him how to use his voice, how to make music. If you have a teacher you can accomplish in ten years what you could never learn alone, by yourself, in a hundred years. That is the purpose for which the guru is intended.
More than this, the presence of the guru is an example to the pupil. Nothing can help study or meditation as much as the mere presence, the contact, the association with the teacher. By this means the pupil understands how the teacher would act under various circumstances. It is true that sympathy itself is a very great thing, for by it the pupil intuitively knows what the answer is to this or that problem. Apart from the teacher, truth cannot be spoken of in words, so if the real, essential truth cannot be expressed in words or in writing, how otherwise could you learn it? It must be learned through contact. And how can you learn it through contact? Well, you see this in your daily life. If your sensitiveness is great and delicate you can tell whether a person is pleased or displeased without his speaking a word. You can tell whether he is favorably or unfavorably inclined to you, and when this is so there is an exchange of thought between yourself and the other; more than this, there is an exchange of spiritual vibrations. Just by study or practice you can not realize this truth, this feeling, this peace, this joy which is beyond words, which belongs to being yourself, your natural self. In the East this is called Tawajjuh, which means presence, contact association with. It is in this way that you learn what cannot be learned in any other way. Thus the disciples of Jesus Christ learned by his presence what no study or practice would ever have taught them. And in Muhammad's time his disciples Ali and Abu Bakr gained very great benefit from his presence.
But then there comes a time when the external presence is not needed any more. After having traveled along this inner path the inner presence of the master, the teacher, will inspire. Then you learn from your teacher that which words cannot teach and study will not bring and even practices cannot further. This is what the path of discipleship is.
There are four different paths to follow; abstinence or Hatha yoga, devotion or Bhakti yoga, learning from life's experiences or Raja Yoga, and the fourth one, Mantra Yoga, which means attaining spirituality through wisdom. The Sufi does not give preference to any particular path, take whatever suits your temperament best. However, in my own experience I have found it better to take one path as a special one for oneself, but to use also the other three. Thus you lack nothing. If the Bhakti Yoga suits you specially you should also get to understand something about Hatha yoga, and bout the others too if you can. By understanding these others also you gain great strength and perfection.
The Sufis have never given out any special doctrines; they only consider moral conceptions, so they never ask their mureeds to accept any doctrines. The Sufi does this because he considers that his sole work is to blow upon a little spark or flame in order to make it develop into a larger flame; and then this flame will show you the path. The Sufi does not interfere and say, ' This is the doctrine you must accept, because I believe this or that', for instance about the life after death, the continuity of life. The Sufi master does not concern himself with the laws of nature and assert that this or that doctrine is the truth, or that this or that speculation is the truth. All he says is,' Find it out for yourself.' He says, ' My work is only to tell you in what way the faculty of revelation can be awakened. Do this practice, and this faculty will be awakened; you will then see for yourself. Then, whatever you see for yourself, you will believe.'
But you might say, ' Well, then why do we have lessons? If there are no tenets, what are lessons for?' The answer is that it is like learning the alphabet, which is one stage. When a person can read a book, that is another stage. He needs books to practice reading: it does not matter what book you take up to read, you can practice reading with it, you do not have to take it as being an inspired scripture. Similarly the exercises which are given in the form of lessons or instructions are just lines of thought to follow until you get accustomed to these different lines of thought when inquiring into metaphysical and spiritual subjects. But you do not have to accept them as rigid tenets or doctrines or principles, and then make out that Sufism is limited to them!
Therefore I do not restrict my pupils or my friends to the exercises. They are only exercises. After these, life itself is the scripture to read; it is the only real scripture. You must get to understand it, and what you do not understand at the first reading you must read again and try to understand it then.
Raja yoga is the best one for life in the Western world. This is because life in the West is so full of responsibilities and there is so little time to devote to solitude and practices. You have to practice wisdom and deep thought in all your affairs from morning till night; in this way you make your life into a teaching for yourself. Therefore whatever your work or business or profession, let that be your mode of progress, so that you advance through your every duty. At the same time, if you will only devote ten or twenty minutes to a practice it will prepare you for something better, and it will also help you in your work. Thus Raja Yoga, the yoga of life's experiences, is certainly the best for western life, but if a person prefers a life of retirement, let him take it.
Why does one need yoga? Because, in the first place, western education does not interfere with it. The church has still less influence. Necessary though discipline, reverence, and respect are, they are sometimes allowed to lapse, and then life becomes empty, drab, lacking something. Dharma is the one thing needed for the spiritual path, as both Shiva and Buddha pointed out. One should acquire the tendency to respect and to revere, and this comes from worship. This one thing that is needed is developed through devotion; that is why it is better, if possible, to add a little of the color of beauty to the Raja Yoga, and thus beautify your life. But whichever of these paths you choose, a teacher is needed. It is his blessing, his guidance that helps; it is the contact with him that is important.
A real teacher is only an instrument of God. It is his presence, what he wishes for you that helps; not the words he speaks. When I asked my teacher what is the sign of a real guru he replied, 'It is not his form, it is not his appearance, it is not what he says; it is his atmosphere, it is what his presence conveys to you, it is what his atmosphere tells you.'
There is an English saying: actions speak louder than words, or: what you are speaks louder than what you say.