Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part I: The Vision of God and Man and other Lectures
THE PATH OF MEDITATION
THERE is a trace of the meditative to be found in all ages, and yet no one can fully explain in words why people perform their meditations or what they experience while doing so. In order to make this more tangible I would like to say that life can be divided into two sections: the outer life and the life within. There are very few even among the intellectual who will readily agree when I say that there exists a life within, since their intellect has kept them occupied with the life outside. They have only known the life outside; the experience they have had of the outer life by the help of reason and logic is their only experience, and it is this which they call their learning or knowledge. If one speaks of anything else to them they will say, 'This is a mystification, it is confusing, what we would like as proof is a phenomenon!' Besides, words can say so little about something that is only experienced by the meditative. How can a person who has had a certain pain, a pain which is not experienced by anyone else, explain to another how it feels? It is the one who experiences the pain who knows what it is. Therefore we can put into words all fine experiences in life and yet express so little of them.
In order to simplify this idea I would like to divide these two aspects, the meditative and the worldly, into two categories. One is connected with action, the other with repose. Much as action is needed in life, repose is just as necessary; and sometimes repose is even more necessary than action. All such complaints as nervous illnesses and disorders of the mind come from lack of repose. This realm of life, which is explored by meditation, is the world of repose. And as one can say that by a certain kind of work one has gathered this or that experience, or has a certain success, or has added a particular aspect to one's knowledge, so one can also say that by this method of repose one has acquired a certain strength, illumination, and peace.
And when we go a little further we will find that it is this concept of repose which the wise turn into a method, considering it most sacred, for by this process they attain to something much more valuable than anything our actions can bring us.
The first step on this path of meditation may be called concentration. This means the ability to control our mind, which is sometimes active with our will and sometimes without it. What we call imagination is an automatic working of the mind, and what we call thought is an action of the mind and will. Therefore such words as 'imaginative' and 'thoughtful' distinguished the condition of the mind: that we either allow our mind to work as it wishes, or use our mind to work according to our will.
Another thing that can be accomplished by concentration is the following. The mind is a storehouse of all the impressions that one has gathered through the five senses; and the most wonderful phenomenon that one can perceive is that every one of those impressions is at hand as soon as the mind asks it to present itself before one. They instantly come to be used. For instance an artist wants to paint a wonderful picture. He would like it to be a picture of a man, but at the same time an unusual one. As soon as he closes his eyes images of the horns of an animal, of the wing of a bird, and of the body of a fish present themselves, and then he paints a figure with horns, wings, and the body of a fish, combining all into one fabulous whole. Now what would one call this action? This action is an action of the will of the artist, who wanted to produce something wonderful, and the mind was instantly ready to supply from the storehouse all that the artist wished.
Another side of this question is that imagination also helps concentration. As soon as a person has imagined a running stream, he also imagines the rocks near by and the beautiful scenery, which is round the spring. From this we learn that concentration is not only something that is practiced by a mystic or a philosopher, but everybody – in business, in his art, in industry – practices concentration to some extent. At the same time it is concentration which makes a person a genius, it is concentration which brings success, and it is concentration which is the mystery of the accomplishment of all things.
And when one goes a little further on the same path one finds that there is contemplation, which means the retaining of the same thought or thought-picture. The distinction between concentration and contemplation is that the former is the composition of form, and the later is the retaining of this impression, of this form. It is difficult to explain to what extent the power of contemplation works; those who are acquainted with the workings of contemplation can only call its results a phenomenon. The reason is that the mind is creative because the divine spirit is creative, and because the divine spirit is creative therefore the mind inherits, as its divine heritage, the faculty of creating. No one, however material, will deny the fact that all beauty and art, through whatever realm it is manifested, through science or industry, is a phenomenon of the mind. All the wonderful things made in the world in the way of inventions, of architecture, of art, have come as a phenomenon of the mind. But they are mostly the phenomenon of an active mind, and one does not realize how great the phenomena are when produced by a controlled mind, controlled through concentration and contemplation.
And when we proceed still further we come to the aspect we call meditation, an experience which is brought about by a perfect control of the mind and by rising above the action of the mind, an experience by which the inner side of life begins to reveal itself. For instance if you ask a person, 'Tell me about your being, what you know about it,' he will say, 'I have a physical body composed of five senses, subject to sensation, pleasure, pain, decay, and disease. And if I have anything more, perhaps somewhere in my brain I have the faculty of thinking. Perhaps, as many scientists say, it is an impression in my brain of all the things I have seen; and that is what I know of my mind. If there is anything else I know about myself it is a feeling, which I may call love or sympathy, but I do not know where it is; perhaps it is a sensation like the other sensations which I perceive. Besides this I do not know anything about myself except the affairs that I have to attend to in my everyday life.' This shows that the majority of people, and a very large majority, know very little about themselves; what they know about themselves is that limited part which cannot be compared with the part that is to be found within.
Should not this part then, which is much larger and of the greatest importance, be explored? And is it not great negligence on the part of man, which may be called sleep, that he goes on, day after day, without giving even a thought to that part of his being which is of much greater importance than the part he knows? In spite of all the wealth that one may earn, and in spite of all one's success and the rank and position that one may attain, one has lost a great deal, if life is lost. And if that part of oneself is not found which is so much higher and greater, and which can be called sacred or the heritage of the divine Being. It is the inner self, and it can be explored by the path of meditation. When once this part of oneself is discovered then realization comes in the form of light, and this light becomes like the lantern of Aladdin, which was found with great difficulty, but when it was directed on to life it made life reveal itself.
In India there is an amusing story which illustrates this idea. A young lad was sent to school. He began his lessons with the other children, and the first lesson the teacher set him was the straight line, the figure 'one'. But whereas the others went on progressing, this child continued writing the same figure. After two or three days the teacher came up to him and said, 'Have you finished your lesson?' He said, 'No I am still writing 'one'.' He went on doing the same thing, and when at the end of the week the teacher asked him again he said, 'I have not yet finished it.' The teacher thought he was an idiot and should be sent away, as he could not or did not want to learn. At home the child continued with the same exercise, and the parents also became tired and disgusted. He simply said, 'I have not yet learned it, I am learning it. When I have finished I shall take the other lessons.' The parents said, 'The other children are going on further, the school has given you up, and you do not show any progress; we are tired of you.' And the lad thought with sad heart that as he had displeased his parents too he had better leave home. So he went into the wilderness and lived on fruits and nuts. After a long time he returned to his old school, and when he saw the teacher he said to him, 'I think I have learned it. See if I have. Shall I write on this wall? And when he made his sign the wall split in two.
What does this story tell us? It tells us that there is another direction of learning, which is quite contrary to what we generally understand by learning. When this lad was taught to write 'one,' he could not see beyond 'one.' He thought: two is one and one is one. What is four? It is one and one and one and one. It was to this 'one' that he put his mind, and when he went into the wilderness what was his contemplation? Every tree suggested the same figure 'one' to him; every plant, everything in nature he saw as 'one', because everything in nature is unique, and it is the uniqueness in nature, which is the proof of the oneness behind it all. This symbolical story of the wall being split in two explains that when the meditative person has developed the sense of oneness, wherever he cast his glance, on a human being, on an object, it will open itself just as the wall opened into two, and it will show him its character, its nature, its secret, and its mystery. People who read occultism say that there are three eyes, and that the third is the inner Eye. What does this mean? It means that the very two eyes we have turn from two into one. When a person meditates upon the One, and when he realizes One, then his eyes become one; and in becoming one this eye obtains such power that it pierces all things and knows all things. It is for this knowledge that the eye opens.
But now one might ask a question. Today we live in a world of struggle, where there is only struggle to gain things of our choice and longing, but even the struggle for a living, the struggle for existence. What can one do under such conditions, and what shall we attain by coming to the realization about which I have spoken? The answer is that this difficulty of life, which we experience just now, is not a difficulty which arises from the conditions; it comes from our individual selves. It is we who cause this difficulty; it is not that the conditions have made it difficult for us. It is not true that the world is small and its population vast; the world would be large enough to accommodate a population ten times greater, if only man were as he ought to be, if he were humane, if his feelings toward others were what they should be. It is not that in this world there is a shortage of all that is good and beautiful and of all that we need. The shortage is in our hearts: we do not want others to have anything. And it is the culture of humanity, which will bring about better conditions, and not this outer change with which many occupy themselves, thinking that through this change the conditions of the world will improve.
Man experiences a kingliness of soul when he gets into touch with his inner being, and he experiences slavery, in spite of all that he may possess in life, if he has not come into touch with his inner self. But, one may say, can a meditative person not explain in words the knowledge that he receives, so that others can read such a book and thus acquire this knowledge? But I should like to say that if a man who had traveled to Venice gave an account of what he had seen there, it would entertain you for a moment, but it would not give you the same joy as you would experience by traveling to Venice yourself. That which a meditative person experiences in his meditation is not a speculation, neither is it a kind of conception or idea that a man can clothe in the form of poetry, that he can explain, that he can express. Besides, what is our language made of? It is composed of names, which were given to objects, to things that are intelligible to us. There are no words, which can express that which is unintelligible; and the experience which is beyond words cannot be experienced by the help of explanations.When not even our everyday experiences, such as gratefulness, sympathy, pity, devotion, can be explained in words, then such a feeling as is experienced by coming into the state of meditation, by being in communion with one's inner self, is so sacred that it can in no way be explained in words. That is why in the East this way is sought under the guidance of those who have trodden this path.