TRUTH knows no death; no birth. It is Eternal; has always been, will always be. Time cannot exhaust its force, for it carries its power within itself. Deep in the heart of Truth is hidden an object we all are groping for. It is power. It is power from the Divine side of things. It is this you seek: the power to be good; the power to bring relief and joy to suffering humanity; the power to shake yourself free from the bondage of your lower nature.
Man always seeks to act out his good wishes, his good intentions. He is here. He clings to this, to that, to all. The cup of desire was presented to our lips. We drank it deep. Its subtle force became embedded in the matrix of our being. It runs in our blood. We just watch its constant play, and watching, say: ‘Ah! the cup was mixed too strongly.’
Are you then satiated? Are you tired of being tossed about? of being manipulated for the accomplishment of impermanent ends? of being in the grip of Death, Despot, and Devil? of being ridden over roughshod by the forces of Evil? of being a slave to fear, a subject to wear and tear? of being the blindworm of Fate, the puppet of adverse conditions; conditions that cut up your opportunities in life into tiny bits and scatter same to the winds of heaven? of being hungry for the fleshpots of gold and greed? of being in the thrall of Fear, of Worry, of animalism, of worldism the most shallow and painful? In fine, have you had your fill of slavery? WOULD YOU BE WHAT YOU WILL TO BE? Then learn to say with dauntless courage “I am Master, not somewhere and sometimes, but everywhere and always. I will put my shoulders to the wheel and hew out my own path. My courage is indomitable. My spirit knows no flagging, no defeat, no despair. I am Fearless and Free”—this you must learn to say with assurance based upon a clear knowledge of the conditions of your existence; existence not outer, but inner; your inner existence, mark you.
That knowledge is self knowledge. No idle boast of the tongue it is to say with utter conviction “I am Master.” Your tremendous assertion must be the outcome of knowledge of the Supreme, of austerities, of purity, of love. It must be grounded upon experience; and here are a few suggestions just to put you upon the right path.
Man’s nature, like all else in Nature, is bi-polar: it is centrifugal and centripetal; positive and negative: interior and exterior. He is a living, breathing, powerful magnet. There is a magnet lying in the midst of splinters of steel. What is the action going on? It attracts, it repels. So also with man. He draws things to himself; he drives things away from himself.
Again, Man acts upon three planes; physical, mental, spiritual. Some are active upon the first only. They are the lowest type of humanity. They are in the thrall of matter. They are in the things of the earth, earthy. They are tied down to the attractions of the world and the flesh. They have their thoughts bound to the physical and carnal side of life. They do not live to eat but eat to live. Their souls say ‘eat,’ but they cry aloud ‘No, you fool, I will feast.’ Their souls say ‘Man and woman shall be one in the spirit.’ But they say, ‘No, man and woman shall be one in the flesh.’
One functioning only on a physical plane cossets his body; he kills harmless animals simply to please his palate; his own senses must be constantly gratified by means fair or foul: he it is who says ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die:’ ‘Ye Gods! I have dined today, tomorrow! do thy worst:’ The physical man is the lowest man, the blindworm of fate, the slave of his desire-nature. He is the domestic tyrant; the cruel Shylock insisting upon his pound of flesh; the oppressive ruler; the coarse-fibred, beef-and-beer-bred eater of burnt flesh. The physical man cares little for God except when the wolf is growling at the door. But when pain batters his brow; when his child, whom alone he perhaps loves, is writhing in pain, he thinks of God, goes to Temple or church, and prays for the pardon of sins he will commit again, and again and again. How woeful is this state of mind! Yet it is not necessary. We have all been through this experience. So if we come across one such, we must not shun him, but rather we should try our best to give him a lift. He is the object of our compassion and not of hatred. Remember always: Those who hate others for being evil are themselves evil. The face of another man is the mirror in which I dress my own. If I am evil, I shall see others as such. To the jaundiced eye everything appears yellow. My eyes axe blinded by my own evil tendencies. Perhaps I am beginning to fight evil in myself. Hence when I see another worse than myself, I see evil in a magnified form. I therefore feel my indignation rise up against it and I hate the evil man, for is he not the embodiment of what he appears to be? This repulsion is in me because I myself am struggling with evil. The man who is subject to fits of righteous indignation is really himself very imperfect. He instinctively clings to stern rejection of an evil as the only way to escape it. But when your conquest has risen to a height of assurance, you do not hate; you pity; you help.
Now man not being by any means a finished product of Nature, but only a developing creature, full of immense potentialities, cannot, even if he would, remain a permanent fixture in the narrow sphere of the physical senses. Impacts from without, the slings and arrows of adversity, the ups and downs of life, are dashing up against his sleeping consciousness; they are so many blows to open up his mental horizon. It is sufferings that drive lessons home and propel the dormant consciousness along the endless track of spiritual evolution.
Extremes meet. What is the state of the Zoophite or of the stone. Complete absence of thought. Perhaps a faint, imperceptible vibration. Now, tell me what is the state of the highest man—the adept—in the superconscious stage, in Nirvana;—complete suspension of thought, complete quietude of the otherwise intensely active life-forces. Then is the adept in Samadhi the same as the Zoophite? No! No! No! The difference is wide as the ocean. The first is one of intense bliss, the last is one of total inertia.
From this view-point, we can continue the parallel. Man’s physical equipment is played upon by three special forces: Sathva, Rajas, and Tamas; rhythm: mobility: inertia. Taking the last first we see that tamas is inertia. The tamasic man is lazy, dull, inactive, weighed down by his own sensual thoughts. He has no control over himself. He is lifeless. Digestion and sex absorb his vital forces. His formulae of life are Eating, Drinking and Breeding. Having no strength, no inner force of character, resistance of evil is an utter impossibility to him. He plays today to the rich for the loaves and fishes of office. He higgles. He cringes. He weeps. He whines. He goes about trying to please everybody and thus he pleases nobody. The smile of the rich is his sunshine. The empty praise of fools is his crowning victory. When evil presses him down, he cries aloud: “What can I do? I am so weak, such a sinner!” He is thus condemning himself. Unable to resist evil,—for he does not resist but simply sits down and wrings his hands and beats his breast—he hates himself. It is all kismet, is his wail! Ah! this superstition! How vice-like is its grip on the tamasic man!
Once upon a time there lived a Persian king who commanded the angelic as well as the human worlds. Peris, and houries of transcendent charm, slaves, dzins, gods, animals, all obeyed him. This powerful monarch had a very wise physician at his court. This physician was master of all occult knowledge. Vast was his learning—deep his erudition. The finer forces of this tremendous universe had no secrets for him. The king in one of his odd moments sent for him. “Great Master of the Mysterious in Nature, solve me the riddle of birth and death. Solve me the riddle of fate,”—thus spoke the monarch. “Gracious king,” replied the physician, “Fate wears an inscrutable face. It sways all, all.” “Prove it,” challenged the king. The physician then had a jar brought up to him. He prepared certain combinations of herbs, known only to the ancient Kabalists and put them into the jar. He then had the jar hermetically sealed; and handed it to the king: “King! I have gratified your whim. My life’s span covers twenty-four hours more. Six months after you shall open this jar in the presence of all your courtiers. Out of the jar shall emerge a bird of royal plumage. Let the bravest man be ready to ride after this bird. Let his steed be of the fleetest and the best in your stud. This bird shall fly over 600 miles. The horseman must follow it alone. It will at last perch itself on a tree of great height. It will then begin to pluck its splendid feathers one by one and eat them up. It will next begin to tear up its legs and eat them up. It will then plunge its beak into its own stomach, and drawing forth the entrails, eat them up, too. Let the horseman stand beneath the tree and watch the bird closely. As soon as the bird has eaten up its whole body except the neck and the head, let him ask it 3 questions and the answers shall be quite correct.” Twenty-four hours later this great occultist breathed his last. The king had everything arranged and the physician’s son, a young warrior of great prowess, consented to follow the bird. Six months after the jar was opened before the whole court. Up flew a bird of wondrous beauty. Light flashed from its body. With an ear-piercing cry, the bird winged its way through space, the youth riding after him. At last the bird alighted on a tall, stately palm tree and began to eat itself up voraciously. “Now the moment approaches,” said the brave youth exultingly. But hardly had he uttered these words than a terrible, acute, unbearable, pain shot through his brain. It was toothache. Whilst the youth was thus writhing in exquisite suffering the bird spoke, “Brave warrior! Be quick. My head and neck remain. Quick! Put the questions or I eat up my neck also.” But the youth was crawling in pain. His senses had fled. Yet making an effort he asked, “What is the remedy for toothache?” “Zambur” (the instrument for extracting teeth)—came the ringing reply. “What is the remedy for toothache?” “Zambur,” cried the bird again. “What is the remedy for toothache?” “Zambur,” sang out the bird for the third time and vanished from sight. The king when he heard it felt deeply chagrined. But what could he say to the youth. “I would have done the same thing!” exclaimed the just monarch sadly, “Who can triumph over fate?”
Therefore conquer the flesh before you question the mysteries of Life. It would be the turning-point in the life of the tamasic man if he could say “I will resist evil.” His non-resistance is due to weakness and weakness alone. Then comes the Rajasic man: full of activity: his brain toned up to a tremendous pitch of energy. “Nothing shall stand in my way,” is his determined cry. “I will resist.” He does not sit down and bemoan his lot. He does not talk of destiny, his evil star, his guardian angel, his fate. He measures his strength by his resistance of all that would bar his progress. He strikes. He resists evil and thereby does the right thing. He passes through much storm and stress, toil and turmoil, but his spirit burns with a steady blaze. Nothing can crush him. At last this severe and continued fighting so toughens and tones his fibres that he has but to lift a finger in order to bring others to his feet. Then comes calmness. He is a lamp burning steadily despite the winds and waves playing around him. At last, he is conscious of tremendous force. He knows he can smite a fellow down easily. Then possessed of this superhuman strength the saint forbears. He has the power, but wields it for good purposes alone. This is the Sathvic man. This is then the supreme stage: Non-resistance of evil.
To resume the thread of our discourse: The physical man would gladly remain in the quagmire, but things go against his wishes. His consciousness is trying to individualize itself, to centre itself; and the result of his effort is that he is being flung about mentally. The mind wanders. It is being tossed about. It is the butter-fly mind. The first stage of consciousness. It is called the kshipta state.
The next stage is brought about by the breaking of the emotions, the passions, the lust of the flesh, the lust of life, the pride of the eye. When these assert themselves, confusion, utter and most desolate follows. A still small voice is constantly telling, “It is bad to lose your temper,” but you never try to keep it till you have lost it. The same with other foibles. You wish to control but you cannot just when you ought to. There comes a feeling of utter ignorance, despair and desolation. Life seems insipid. Pleasures have lost their piquant flavour. You are sad-eyed, silent, yet patiently suffering. The crucifixion nails are being driven in. The pain is acute. This is the mudha state. In this transition stage, the individualized consciousness is suffering its birth-pangs. It has yet to cut its wisdom-teeth. The gold is being put into a furnace of fire that the dross may be burnt off and the pure metal come out in all its shining splendor.
But consciousness is a series of sudden awakenings, with a sure belief in its actual existence. Thus at last the man who has been willing earnestly to achieve self-control draws help to himself: Men superior to him mentally and spiritually; books rich with useful information; thoughts laden with force;—all are drawn to him. He hears the great men; receives their higher vibrations; absorbs same. He extracts useful details from books. He pauses in the rush of life when a good thought shines out to him. He is building up an idea] for himself. His life is taking on a coherent shape. He is no more aimless. He has a wider outlook on life. Blissful visions of the perfect man that he is to be one day float before his eyes. Peace comes and folds its wings around his once pain-stricken life for a few moments. No achievement has yet come to him. He is simply surrounded with delicious day-dreams. He is thus vitalizing his ideal. At last the ideal possesses him, entrances him, fascinates him. His is in a state of infatuation. He is mad upon one idea. He is turned inwards. Externality is no more his bane. Thus perhaps he goes through life dominated by one idea. This is the third stage: Vikshipta: the state of preoccupation through love, ambition, etc. “Genius is madness,” they say. So it is. This man is approaching Yoga. He is under the magic spell of a fixed idea. He may under its influence reel off into monomania or he may suffer martyrdom. Maniac or martyr, he stands for an idea. This man, who instead of being possessed by one single idea, possesses it and controls it, touches the higher consciousness.
In the third stage this Eternal Traveller learns Viveka: “discrimination between the real and the unreal, between the outer and the inner.” In the fourth, he learns Ekagrata:—one-pointedness. He carved out a statuesque ideal of himself. He has to actualise it, to vitalise it, to realise it. Now comes the state of practice, of training, of discipline, of asceticism, of austerities, of vairagya—dispassion,—of solitude, of utter devotion to his ideal. He is unattached. The world is no longer for him. His whole mind is concentrated, focused, upon his ideal. He is a Stoic of stoics. He is above pleasure and pain, praise and blame, virtue and vice, and all the other dualities. He knows that he cannot have the one without the other. No longer does he tremble. “THERE CAN BE NO FALL NOW,” he says. “I live in the ETERNAL. I can never die. My ideal is mine already mentally. I shall bring it down to the physical through continued exertion. I have started the fine causes, I have introduced the thin end of the wedge and each stroke shall drive it deeper.” This stage is the fifth stage: Nirudha: self-controlled: takes or does not take, chooses as he wills according to the illumined will. This man can effectively practice Yoga. This stage corresponds to activity on the spiritual plane. Further Patanjali tells in that “these stages of mind are on every plane.”
Now, my reader, if you are undergoing training, think well over what I have said. It is but little at the best. Yet, it will help teach you to realize your own state. In the first and second stages, Yoga is impossible. In these, you are in the womb of pain. But take heart, thou brave one! Pain is to be accepted. It will chasten, toughen and strengthen you. Hence flinch not.
If in the third, you are nearly ready for the treading of the higher path. Short indeed is the transition from the third to the fourth, from thence to the fifth, and thence to Samadhi. The last you need hardly aim at; so difficult indeed is its achievement that the mere contemplation of it will dash your spirits. Effort, intensity of the will-to-achieve, earnestness, purity, devotion, tenacity of purpose, will bridge the distance of time for you. The light shining upon us is but a fitful glimmer. We shall strengthen it so that it shall burn steadily, calmly, evenly, right on through life. Do you hear this call? It is not a call to arms: to bloodshed: to manslaughter: to worldism: to sham supernaturalism: to present-day spiritualism. It is a call to ascetism;—stern, self-imposed, and severe: to self-sacrifice; to chastity; to manhood; to continence; to mercy; to brotherhood; to life; keener, harder, fuller, more sensitive; to Love, pure and simple. Here you touch the apex of bliss. Here you drink God’s sweet, soothing elixir at the pure fount of life. Here you realise all that you have been hungering for. Here learn to say with the dear blessed Swami:
“Each soul is potentially divine.
The Goal is to manifest this divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal.
Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy, by one or more, or all of these—and be free.
This is the whole of religion. Doctrines or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms are but secondary details.
— Swami Vivekananda.
Learn to say these blessed, saving words with your heart full of Divine passion. Learn to rest upon them as you would on a rock. They were ground out of the heart’s blood of one of India’s greatest saints. Meditate upon them. Make them the flesh of your flesh and the bone of your bone. Rest under the protecting wings for ever and ever. You are great. Compared to your nature this world is but a pinch of star-dust. Lightning can but smite your body at worst, not you. The sword can but cut up your body into pieces, not you. The fire can but burn your body, not you. The water can but drown your body, not you. Why fear then? O Thou Soul! You are Master, not somewhere and sometimes but everywhere and always, you are of God. (Extracts from “Yoga Lessons for Developing Spiritual Consciousness”)