8. Yet stand alone and isolated, because nothing that is embodied, nothing that is conscious of separation, nothing that is out of the eternal, can aid you. Learn from sensation and observe it, because only so, can you commence the science of self-knowledge, and plant your foot on the first step of the ladder. Grow as the flower grows, unconsciously, but eagerly anxious to open its soul to the air. So must you press forward to open your soul to the eternal. But it must be the eternal that draws forth your strength and beauty, not desire of growth. for in the one case you develop in the luxuriance of purity, in the other you harden by the forcible passion for personal stature.
Yet stand alone and isolated, because nothing that is embodied, nothing that is conscious of separation, nothing that is out of the eternal can aid you.
This is the real truth, the reason why in Sanskrit one of the words for salvation is kaivalya, which means literally, “one-aloneness.” For those engaged in the Great Work there can be no support, anywhere, no dependency on anything outside themselves. All they can do is seek out their Source and return there. They cannot “come to rest” at any point in relative existence. So the Master says: “Stand alone.” And not just alone among a crowd–because the truth is that among a billion people we are always alone–but alone and separate in heart and mind however surrounded we may be physically. This is well expressed by Edna Wheeler Wilcox in her poem, “Illusion.”
God and I in space alone
And nobody else in view.
“And where are the people, O Lord!” I said.
“The earth below and the sky o’erhead
And the dead whom once I knew?”
“That was a dream,” God smiled and said,
“A dream that seemed to be true,
There were no people, living or dead,
There was no earth and no sky o’erhead
There was only Myself–and you.”
“Why do I feel no fear,” I asked,
“Meeting you here in this way,
For I have sinned I know full well,
And there is heaven and there is hell,
And is this the judgment day?”
“Nay, those were dreams,” the great God said,
“Dreams that have ceased to be.
There are no such things as fear or sin,
There is no you–you have never been–
There is nothing at all but Me.”
We have to be realistic about this aspect of spiritual life. If we lean on a crutch, when the crutch crumbles, we will fall. When the world falls apart, then we will fall apart with it. Whatever we have an affinity for will ultimately fail us.
Think of the questing spirits as meteorites flying through the universe. They may have been doing so, unhindered, for incalculable ages, but if they come too close to the earth and are drawn into its atmosphere, they are incinerated or else reduced to only a token of their original size and fall to earth, stopped in their flight. Therefore we must keep our distance from all that “is,” but in reality is not.
“Yet stand alone and isolated, because nothing that is embodied,…can aid you.” There is no physical entity that can be our help. Why? Because embodiment is the result of ignorance. This is why when Pythagoras’ students wanted to celebrate his birthday, he refused, saying: “The day of my birth is my shame. For if I had been a man of true knowledge I should not have needed to be born here on earth.”
This world in which we find ourself is the least and lowest in consciousness–in evolution. It is actually lower than the astral hells, because there the mind is much more awake and insightful as to why it has come there, whereas upon earth we are usually completely unaware as to the “why” of our incarnation here. In the astral hells we remember all the lives that have resulted in our ending up there, but upon the earth we usually do not even remember that we have had any previous existence at all. The astral hells are very meaningful to the people in them, but here on earth people understand nothing about themselves or it, including why they are here.
Nothing embodied can help us because embodiment is a veiling rather than a revealing. Therefore that which is embodied is that which is covered and hidden. This world is truly the world of the undead, the unalive. To be embodied is to be in the body. That is, the consciousness is confined to the body instead of centered in itself. In a sense, to be aware of anything besides our true Self as a spark of individualized consciousness is to be unconscious while seemingly conscious. Externalized consciousness is to internalized consciousness what fool’s gold is to the real item. We are truly lost. And only when we “come to ourselves” can there even be the possibility of our being saved or found.
Instead of being in our selves as we should be and working and evolving through conscious use of our vehicles of body, mind, etc., we are drawn out into the vehicles and lose our selves in exclusive awareness of them. We are like the hero in the old western films: when the stagecoach horses run away the man jumps into the middle of them and holds on, hoping to stop them. That is our situation exactly. We are no longer controlling and driving in an intelligent way, but have thrown ourselves right into the pounding hooves. And most of us get flattened by them from life to life. Instead of being masters of the bodies, the bodies are the masters of us.
By these few words the Master is telling us to realize that no external objects can help us in the Great Work of our liberation. That is, we are to use and exert force on them for our betterment–not expect them to affect us. For all power is within us, not outside us. “Nothing that is conscious of separation…can aid you.” That includes our own egoic mind and intellect, what to speak of other people. Another person bound like us, drowning like us, can hardly save us.
Also, one of the favorite excuses to avoid spiritual life is to tell how “let down” or “hurt” or “disappointed” we have been in others. But if we follow this maxim we will not fall into such silliness. (For that is all it is, shameful and spineless silliness.) How often we hear people saying: “I used to go to church/temple/the ashram/the center/meditation, and they hurt me… they let me down… I became disillusioned,” etc., etc., etc. Such people never sought God. They sought a group of people in which they could be one of the herd–or perhaps a leader of the herd. They sought for a group identity, a place of mutual ego support. The antidote to this (as well as all other) delusion is to fix our minds on God. Then we will not be let down or hurt. Considering how from life to life our own egos, minds, intellects, and bodies have done nothing but hurt and let us down, it is high time to separate from them and take refuge in the spirit!
True and false helpers
Beware of “helpers”! There are many people whose egotism manifests in a deluded concept of themselves as teachers and uplifters of humanity. They wander around thrusting their supposed wisdom and assistance on whatever victims they can find. Many of them do great harm to those they “help.” Who, then, can help us? Only those who see the divine unity in all things can help us. And I mean those who see the divine unity, not those who only believe or talk about it.
When a candle is lighted, other candles can be lit from it without the candle having to want to do so. Fire communicates fire. In the same way divine consciousness communicates itself from consciousness to consciousness. During my spiritual meanderings, especially in India, I met various grades of spiritual teachers. Many of them were advanced yogis whose auras were expanded far beyond their bodies. When I came into their presence I felt subtle electrical currents flowing all around me. In the presence of some of them I felt great upliftment emotionally. But except for one of them there was a common flaw: I was made keenly aware of them, but forgetful of myself. It was also evident that their consciousness was of a duality–themselves and those around them. Because of this, there was a desire on their part to effect a change in those around them. This desire was noble and benevolent, but still based on a sense of separation, of duality.
The greatest of those I met–Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh–was in another league altogether. He was established in perfect unity with God–and therefore in perfect unity with those around him. Whenever I entered his presence his self-illumination communicated itself to me, and instead of being drawn out of myself in admiration of him, I found myself becoming intensely self-aware. In his presence I found my own consciousness changed. Rather than being transformed into a “groupie” I found myself strengthened in my endeavors for self-knowledge and spiritual freedom. Because of his unified vision, he did not have the attitude that the people around him needed his help, nor did he in any way evince a desire to influence or change people. Yet that is exactly what he did.
The sun does not need to think about giving light or heat. Its nature is to do so. In the same way those who are truly perfected in divine consciousness remain so in unbroken communion with the Infinite, never taking their eyes away from the One. Even when they move and speak with us they are doing so in that perfect consciousness, beholding us as we truly are: in God and of God. Since that vision is the only true one, it communicates itself to us in a mysterious way beyond intellect or emotion. Therefore the truly great and wise need never speak. They need only be.
The greatest philosopher-saint of India, Adi Shankaracharya, wrote: “How strange! the Master does not speak, but all the disciples’ questions are answered.” This is because the egoity of the Master is no more, and only divinity remains. In the spiritual Masters we behold a divine indifference. And because they simply are what they–and we–are, anyone who comes into their orbit has his own consciousness awakened–if they so desire and are sufficiently evolved to be awakened. (Those whose wills are turned away from light and truth will not be imposed on by the Masters, but can continue on as before. And this is as it should be.)
Many think that they would like to meet and even live with the Masters but it is not always so pleasant an experience, for the Masters, being themselves free from ego and knowing the ego as the anti-self within, do not deal with us on the egoic level, but only on the spiritual plane.
Most people who seek out the Masters have unfulfilled egos–especially spiritual egos, which are the worst of all–which they expect the Masters to soothe and please. Even though they know the ego must go, they usually want the Masters to give their ego the equivalent of a nice long “last meal of the condemned,” and then easily and painlessly dissolve their ego without their even knowing it or feeling it–or being changed by it! This of course is an absolute impossibility, being contrary to the nature of things–including that of the ego.
The Masters will not placate or coddle our egos. Rather, they either ignore their demands or they ruthlessly go after them to rout them and destroy them. But this can only be done with our cooperation. To assist at one’s own surgery without anesthesia is not an easy thing. But if we would gain benefit from association with the Masters that is exactly what must be done. Otherwise we will only turn away from the Masters in indignation accusing them of being without love or understanding–even of being egotistical!
The spiritually diseased have an obsessive insistence that saints and masters should be “childlike”–that is, too naive to see through their ego-gaming. They have forgotten how devastatingly insightful and candid children can be. The Masters cannot be coerced into playing the little mind-games at which we excel. They will not “play house” with our egos and agree to be our Mommy, our Daddy, our Baby, or–worst of all–our Lover. They will be the best and truest friends that our immortal spirits can ever have. But to be that, they will have to also be the most implacable enemies that our egos can ever have. So if we identify with our spirit we will call them friend, but if we identify with our ego we will call them enemy.
The Masters only love God. Therefore they only love the God in us. The rest is nothing to them, though they will help us to get rid of all in us that is not God, because that “everything else” destroys us by making us forget our real nature. Even the company of saints and angels would be detrimental to us if it made us forget what we really are. Such is the knowledge of the Masters, and since they love us in God they will not settle for giving us anything but the best they have to give: freedom from ego and all that goes along with it.
But we cannot become dependent even on the Masters, for they cannot “do it” for us, but can only point out the way. The Masters despise such dependency as being detrimental to us, knowing that our spiritual evolution is exclusively between us and God. Because of this, the Master who inspired Light On The Path is exhorting us to never place our trust or hope in anything outside ourselves in the realm of separation. Instead, we are to base our spiritual quest on that which is within, where there is divine unity, because “nothing that is out of the eternal can aid you.”
“Learn from sensation and observe it, because only so, can you commence the science of self-knowledge.” By “sensation” is meant any perceptions that enter our consciousness, whether physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. Thoughts and movements of the will are sensations just as much as the messages of the physical senses. We are told to put our minds on God and to ignore all else. Now we are being told to observe and learn from sensations which are external to us. But this is not a contradiction, for we are not to immerse ourselves in sensations, but to objectively observe them only. And this is accomplished through keeping our consciousness centered in the spirit. That is, we “sit” in pure awareness and observe the sensations that are arising. It is not inappropriate to say that we use our awareness as a kind of lens through which we focus on external phenomena. It is a divine eye through which we perceive what is outside us. But through It we always remain inside and safe. Since even our perceptions of externals are really interior experiences of the modifications of the energy field of the mind, we can come to comprehend the ways of our mind through observation. Once we do this we shall no longer be fooled by its tricky ploys. We must learn to interpret what arises around us in the motion picture of life.
Since all that happens to us is an echoing back of forces set in motion by us in the past, it should be evident that the present reveals the character of our past–and therefore of our mind and will. For all actions require thought and will as their basis. Though we think we are seeing “the world,” we are really seeing our own psychic face. The world is like a musical instrument–what we hear is what we ourselves are producing. When Buddha–and later, Jesus–taught that we should do to others the things we would have done to us, he was stating a fact of life. What we do to others shall be done in turn to us. So what is being done to us now is what we have done to others in the past. If we do not like it, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Although others may be the instruments of manifestation, in reality everything that is done to us is really being done by us to ourselves. We are slapped only because we have slapped in the past and now that seed is coming to fruition as a slap in the present. We are wronged only because we have wronged others. If we do not like our present, then we must watch what we are doing now and see that we do not keep sowing the seeds whose fruits we do not like.
There is no one to blame but ourselves regarding whatever happens to us. It is a bitter pill to accept full responsibility for our lives and deeds, but it must be done if we would intelligently progress in any aspect of life. How often we hear people blaming environment, parents, or peers for their problems and their “hurts.” But that is self-deception. We alone are the ones to indict.
If, then, we will carefully observe and analyze our daily experiences, both internal and external, we can come to some intelligent diagnosis of where we are “at” spiritually. The world around us is a play, but we are the authors, and our minds and intentions are revealed as it unfolds. Clearsighted understanding of our surroundings will result in understanding of ourselves. Our minds must be carefully observed since they are the instruments of the lying ego. We need not believe our minds, but we must observe them. Our minds are often liars, but behind the lies is the truth. We must learn to interpret the mind and its antics, not necessarily accept or believe them. When we can do this, the mind, like the world, will become a conveyer of truth to us, even though indirectly.
The world is ultimately not real. Anyone can say that, but to perceive it is quite another matter altogether. Silk flowers can look absolutely real, but close scrutiny shows otherwise. Similarly, by watching the world carefully we will come to see both what it is not and what it is. The Master says to observe and learn, not give in to it, believe it, accept it, and be pushed around by it. This is also true of the internal world, especially the world of mind and emotion. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the essential requisites for successful spiritual life is swadhyaya, which means self (swa) study (adhyaya). Here the word “self” refers to the wrappings of the spirit, not the spirit itself. The most important of the wrappers is the mind. If we study it, as well as our emotions, etc., we will see their natural folly and illusory character. More to the point, we need to realize their frequent treachery and unreliability.
Our ego, mind, emotions, intellect, and desires are often our implacable enemies. Jesus had this in mind when He said: “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10:36). For some people, because of their karma, their earthly family or friends may be inimical to their spiritual progress. But in the more psychological sense–that our “household” consists of our own inner faculties–it is usually true for everyone. Our bodies, emotions, senses, intellect, and desires can militate against our progress and with fiendish genius expend themselves in endeavors to ruin our spiritual life. Now, they have no objection to fake religious or spiritual life–they will even push us toward it. But they shall literally war to the death against our true spiritual progress. We must see through them and know them for what they are–and are not. For our inner household is the hardest army of all to resist and conquer.
So must you press forward to open your soul to the eternal. But it must be the eternal that draws forth your strength and beauty, not desire of growth. For in the one case you develop in the luxuriance of purity, in the other you harden by the forcible passion for personal stature.
We must not misunderstand: in their “normal” state our body, emotions, mind, intellect, and will cannot be opened to the eternal, for they are bars to our attainment of the eternal. When purified and elevated they can be instruments for our growth into the eternal, but they shall be left behind at the gates of eternity. As the Upanishads say, God is “that from which the mind and the senses turn back.” In other words, they can only go so far, and then no more. When Saint Thomas Aquinas in his poem uses the term “sensuum defectui,” he means that in the presence of the eternal the senses fade away and are transcended. So in time we press forward and beyond them to the eternal. Therefore our process of meditation need cannot involve these things which will ultimately be turned away from the door of God. From the beginning our meditation is formless, without concept, without intellection, focused on the pure consciousness within.
We must press forward to open our spirits to the eternal because we have become enclosed, locked in the various energy bodies. The simile is often given of sea water that is separated from the sea by being enclosed in bottles. Although the separation may last for aeons, the moment the bottle is opened or broken, the water within will regain its unity with the greater body of water. The bottled water is the individual spirit and the sea is the Infinite Spirit, God. After ages of confinement we now want to break these jars and let our consciousness participate in the life of Infinity.
Our spirits can be opened to the eternal alone–to nothing else. One purpose of our energy body-bottles is to keep the spirit untouched by the temporal state of existence. For this reason Solomon describes the spirit as an enclosed garden and a sealed fountain (Song of Solomon 4:12). The spirit is ever virgin, betrothed to God alone, and within this virgin spirit, finite though it be, the infinite consciousness can be enclosed and experienced as its very own.
We cause confusion and suffering for ourselves by trying to open our spirits to things other than God. We are trying to get our spirits to rest where there is no rest, for the eternal alone is the destiny of the spirit. “But it must be the eternal that draws forth,” declares the Master. Although we say that the plant breaks through the earth, we can equally say that the sun draws it from the earth. So “it must be the eternal that draws forth your strength and beauty, not desire of growth.”
Only the Eternal
Only the eternal, then, can produce spiritual life. As plants are made to grow by the light and heat of the sun, so by continually centering our awareness in consciousness, in spirit, we are drawn upwards. It is both an action by us and an action upon us. In Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano tells a man that he has flown to the moon by standing on an iron disk and throwing a magnet out in front of the disk. The magnet would then draw the disk to itself. By repeatedly tossing the magnet ahead of the disk he was able to propel himself to the moon. Absurd as it might be in Cyrano, that is what we are doing in meditation. We are entering into Spirit Consciousness, and That alone is acting upon us.
We should note that the Master says that it is the Eternal which we must use. This informs us that the Eternal can be an object. “For in the one case you develop in the luxuriance of purity.” That is, the Divine, Which is all-pure, all light, and stainless, develops in this abundance of Presence, which we produce through meditation. However, “in the other you harden by the forcible passion for personal stature.”
Through the one we want to experience infinity so we can love God. We want to reach out to embrace God. On the other side, the ego says: “I want to be greater because I want to be master.” The spirit desires to be infinite so it can be an infinite servant. It wants to be infinite so it can give infinitely back to God the love God gives to it. The ego wants to be infinite so it can receive infinity. The spirit wants to receive to give back. The ego wants only to receive, to enjoy God in the childish manner of self-gratification. To the ego God is a cosmic lollipop to lick. The spirit of course rejoices in God, but wishes to become perfect so God can rejoice in it. The spirit wishes to become a flawless mirror in which God can behold His own beauty. The ego is incapable of such aspirations, however nobly it may speak. So the ego says: “I would be free, I would be unrestrained, I would have no bonds so I can be the master to do what I want.” Of course it likes to say: “There is no God but me, there is no God beyond me. And when I attain the highest, I will myself be the Infinite. I will be that. I will be the sum of all that is.” Such is the ideal of the ago.
What, then, is the purpose of finding God? What is it that the spirit truly desires? The fundamental urge of the spirit is to give itself as an offering unto–and into–God, to merge with God. The spirit has nothing else but itself to give, to totally lose the thought of “I” and be absorbed completely in the thought of “Thou.”
The spirit knows that it is the drop and that God is the ocean, but the ego will not learn this. The ego will swear: “I am the ocean, there is no God beyond me.” This it must do for survival, for the ego dies in the attainment of spiritual transcendence, whereas the spirit comes to life.
When we feel an aspiration to know God we must first discover the source of the aspiration, for the ego can aspire to godhood just as the spirit can. This is why Sri Ramana Maharshi used to continually challenge seekers to discover who was doing the seeking. The ego would like to know God in hope of gaining for itself the powers and glory of God.
The source of our searching
All the evils done in the name of religion are continually being pointed out by those who hope to thereby excuse themselves from following a legitimate spiritual path which involves humility and obedience–both deadly poisons to the ego. But what they (willingly) do not realize is that religion is of two kinds: ego-motivated and spirit-motivated. The fruits of the two will be utterly different. This is why in religion we have to be very careful and inquire of ourselves: “Who is being religious? Who is ‘on the path’? Who is it that is seeking God?” In most people it is the ego itself that is seeking. But since it would be dissolved if it really came into contact with God, it veers off and creates a false path and a false god. Alternately, it rebels or gives up, and falls back. Only the spirit can go all the way to God.
In the very beginning of our spiritual search we should ask ourselves: “Do my seemingly spiritual impulses come from me–my spirit–or do they come from my ego?” The wise take a sober look at the world and see that it is filled with suffering, but they do not seek God for the sake of cessation of that suffering. If they do begin with that motive they will soon discover that spiritual life, too, can be very painful, that the price they have to pay for the cessation of suffering is very excruciating. Then they (hopefully) learn to say: “I do not care about pain. Although I suffer, let me draw near to God.” Then they shall have conquered pain, and suffering will cease. This is part of the paradoxical nature of spiritual life. Those who are willing to suffer will be freed from suffering. Those who are willing to die shall live. Those who are willing to sacrifice shall be rewarded. Those who are willing to serve shall rule. Those who are willing to be small shall become great. Those who are willing to be finite shall become infinite.
Many saints have suffered greatly in their search because they started out with a motive for comfort rather than God. Those who desired ease were required to struggle. Those who wanted material abundance had to learn to love poverty. This, too, is part of the divine, therapeutic paradox. Since God is love, the only motive for seeking God is love. We must be prepared for severe tests in our spiritual life, for thereby the quality and nature of our aspiration, our love, is determined.
The Master also points out that if our seeking comes from the ego it will cause us to be “hardened” and locked even more into our egoity, reducing our spiritual pursuit to just another passion. This is why “religious” people hate and harm one another, going into hysteria at any disagreement with their ideas and ways, striking out at “heresy” and “heretics.” Or they may simply run away the moment they hear something they do not like or agree with, and try to block the offending idea or individual out of their minds. This latter is the more “mellow” reaction of New Age egos.
Those whose religious involvement comes from the spirit are aware that intellectual concepts count for very little, in fact they know that any philosophical concept is imperfect and never a statement of absolute truth. Further, they know that true spiritual life manifests as a result of evolution–never from intellectual conviction. Therefore, no outside influence can be brought to bear on another’s spiritual life. The true spiritual seeker must always be independent and free. Although discipline and even obedience are essential in spiritual life, they must be voluntary, never imposed.
Those who are dominated by the ego say: “Never bring into my world something I do not like or approve of.” Naturally, they consider God to be just like them and project the same egoic motivations and reactions onto Him. They then define sin as something that angers or offends God. A thing is sinful simply because God dislikes it. The realization that sin and virtue are only in relation to what keeps us away from God and what aids us in reaching Him is simply beyond them since they can only impute selfish attitudes and motives to God. They cannot understand that neither our sin nor our virtue mean anything to God because they are only momentary appearances. Nor can they really believe that God never changes in either His relationship to us or His attitude toward us. And the realization that God never deals with us on the egoic level is simply too devastating for them to even consider, much less accept.
9. Desire only that which is within you.
That which is real, which is infinite, is within; that which is finite–is false and illusory–is outside. In truth we can never see that which is outside, but only what is inside. So we should seek only that which is within, for God Himself is within us as the Life of our life, the Spirit of our spirit.
10. Desire only that which is beyond you.
A basic flaw of our present status is the desire to dig in and stay in one spot, mistaking this for peace and security. Since this is not really possible, we either deceive ourselves or actively suffer. We must keep pressing ever onward, never content with the attainment of the moment. In spiritual life we need to be like Rockefeller. When he was asked how much money it would take to satisfy him, he replied: “Just a little more.” We must never be satisfied with anything less than the Absolute.
Sri Ramakrishna often told of the woodcutter who was told by a wandering monk: “Go on further into the forest.” He did so, and found a deposit of iron ore. At first he was elated, planning how to mine it, but then he remembered that the monk had said to go on, not just to find something and stop. So he went further and found a copper mine. Keeping on, he found a silver mine, a gold mine, and finally a place with many gems in the earth. All this he gained because he did not stop moving on.
Instead of being like little Jack Homer with the plum on his thumb, we must keep asking: “What next? What more?” There is a divine greed, a divine ambition, and we must cultivate it. We are capable of possessing all the worlds–from lowest to highest–but still there will remain something more. There is That which lies beyond all worlds, beyond all that “is” in a relative sense. Nevertheless it can be attained by those who apply themselves wholeheartedly.
The emanation of all the worlds occurs in cycles of projection and withdrawal. Why is this? Why has not the realm of relativity been once sent forth and maintained eternally? The cyclic process is necessary because the individual consciousnesses get caught in the higher states of being. Since there is no suffering there, and since those realms are endlessly fascinating, it is possible for those who evolve to those states to delay their progress in exploration of the seemingly infinite possibilities accessible to them. Therefore even those worlds must be periodically dissolved in order to remind them of their higher Goal, to unsettle them and stimulate them to move onward.
God meditates on us, and we meditate on Him, and in time the two become One. God seeks us, and we seek Him, and at last we “find” one another. God reaches for us, and we reach for Him, and eventually we embrace one another. God in us, and we in Him, our ultimate unity is attained. It is because God seeks us that we seek Him. He having chosen us, we choose Him. Therefore the questing spirit should never doubt or despair. Our search for Him is but a mirroring of His search for us. And God never fails in His intentions. The entire universe has but one purpose: our return to God.
11. Desire only that which is unattainable.
This has really already been covered. We can attain through evolution all the worlds but we cannot attain the status of the infinite God. However, we can so purify and evolve ourselves that we become capable of sharing in the Infinite Consciousness, of attaining the Unattainable. And that alone is worthy of being desired by us.
We need to stop and take another look back at the three “desire” admonitions: “Desire only that which is within you. Desire only that which is beyond you. Desire only that which is unattainable.” Although they may sound like Renzai Zen Buddhist koans, they hold a very serious meaning that is the key to success in sustaining spiritual endeavor.
12. For within you is the light of the world–the only light that can be shed upon the Path. If you are unable to perceive it within you, it is useless to look for it elsewhere. It is beyond you; because when you reach it you have lost yourself. It is unattainable, because it for ever recedes. You will enter the light, but you will never touch the flame.
For within you is the light of the world–the only light that can be shed upon the Path. Within us is this Divine Light; in us alone is the means to see our way out of darkness. If we look outside, we will find only delusive darkness–in the ultimate sense, since it is a mere appearance and nothing more–and if we live and walk in that outer darkness, we shall stumble and fall. It is inevitable. But if we live inside, centering our awareness within, then we and our path will be illumined, for there is no other light possible in this or any other world.
In Sanskrit the state of enlightenment is called swayamprakash–being self-illumined–for the spirit, the true Self, is Light. Buddha is described in Buddhist texts as self-illumined, as well. The Light of the World is not in the world at all! It is in us. We must realize and experience this if we would not live in darkness. This inner light is in truth “the only light that can be shed upon the Path.”
It is only natural that as intellectually developed beings we should enjoy hearing and reading about spiritual subjects. This does help in our spiritual quest. But when it comes to real evolution, which is the walking of the Path, then we must rely upon the inner light alone. If we attempt to live our spiritual life solely through the intellect we will become hopelessly entangled. This is especially true since spiritual realities lie mostly outside the scope of the intellect and therefore often appear absurd or contradictory within its context.
Also, if we are not careful we will substitute intellectualization about spiritual life for spiritual life itself. This is especially true in the West. There is a parable about a group of “seekers” who were confronted by two paths. Each had a sign and an arrow pointing along it. One sign said: “The way to God.” The other said: “The way to a discussion about God.” Everybody went to the discussion! This is what happens when we become so acclimatized to the cage of the intellect that we are like the imprisoned bird that is afraid to venture beyond its bars.
We can “reason” ourselves out of and into just about anything–except spiritual life. When it comes to that, we must utilize the inner light of our spiritual consciousness. That alone reveals the Path. Therefore we must not fall into the dangerous practice of mind-gaming, for many people mind-game themselves right out of spiritual life. “Since we are all God right now, what is the need to do anything?” is one of the favorite exit lines.
We are on our own
Most importantly, another person’s light cannot illumine our path. Once a man went to consult a saint, and when leaving asked him to pray for him. The saint replied: “No. I cannot eat for you, or breathe for you, and neither can I pray for you. That you must do for yourself.”
We can see only through our own eyes, not those of another. Only false teachers try to impose on us their vision of things, to make us see as they see. True teachers give us the means to open our own inner vision and see for ourselves. They may tell us how they see a thing, but never with the idea of making us see it in the same way. Also, even if we come to realize that our view is imperfect or incorrect, we can only set about correcting it–we must not deny the way we presently see things. There is an account of a Zen master who always taught: The Buddha is the Mind. But one day he called a monk and told him to go to a disciple who was living far away as a hermit and tell him that he now understood differently: No Buddha, No Mind. So the monk hastened away and told the hermit about the new understanding. “Well,” said the hermit, “I still say The Buddha is the Mind.” Back rushed the monk to “tell on” him. But when he relayed the incident the master smiled happily and said: “I see he has gained maturity.” He had integrity, too.
There is no place in spiritual life for an unquestioning cult-slave mentality. And this occurs in Eastern religion just as much as in Western religion, the difference being that in the East they are not as coercive, hostile, and threatening. One time I heard an American ask his guru: “What do we believe about that?” How absurd! He obviously did not believe anything about the question, so “we” did not believe anything at all. There is nothing wrong in asking what a person’s belief is, or what a scripture teaches, but to ask with the intention to unthinkingly accept whatever will be said is a crime against ourselves and truth.
We must light up the inner light. We must be like the Hermit of the Ninth Major Arcanum of the Tarot in the Waite deck. He is holding aloft the lamp in which shines the six-pointed star, the symbol of the union of human and divine consciousness. Yet, the Hermit does not peer outward into the darkness, but stands with bowed head and closed eyes, his consciousness turned within. He is seeing with the inner light which the lamp symbolizes.
If you are unable to perceive it within you, it is useless to look for it elsewhere. If in the beginning we cannot perceive the Light, we keep on looking within through meditation, where everything is present. All illumination is there, although we are not perceiving it. When we go from the light into a darkened room, or into the light from a dark place, at first we cannot see anything. But gradually our eyes adjust and we see everything. So in time we will see all. Our inner eye needs adjustment, attunement, and healing from what is called in Sanskrit ajnana tamira, the glaucoma of ignorance. Also, the cataracts of illusion and material consciousness must be removed before we can see truly. And, we must face it, sometimes we do not see because we are not really looking.
It is beyond you; because when you reach it you have lost yourself. “You” and “yourself” do not refer to the true Self, our immortal spirit, but to the false ego that has usurped the place of the true “us,” or either the mistaken experience of our true Self as separate from God. Here, too, is a clue as to why we may be seeing only darkness when we look for the light. We may be looking through the eyes of our blind egos which are incapable of seeing the light. There is no adjustment or healing for the ego–it must go. Also, we may be looking at the ego itself, which is the quintessence of darkness.
When the sun is in the sky many objects shine, even blindingly. But when the sun sets, there is only darkness, for in those objects there is no light. Even though the body, emotions, mind, intellect, etc., can reflect the light of life, it is a mistake to seek for that light in them. Our spirits are the suns that lend temporary illumination to the lesser parts of our present being–parts that in time shall be discarded for higher consciousness. Therefore we must cultivate spiritual consciousness.
We seek God because God is drawing us to Himself. We, being egotistical, attribute that action to ourselves and say: “Oh, I am seeking God,” whereas in reality we are just answering the call. The classical Sanskrit definition of meditation is: “The unceasing flow of the mind toward God.” When we get beyond ourselves (or, more accurately, our unselves), then we will reach the Light. It will do no good just to complain that we do not see the light–we must get out of the darkness of our ignorance and ego into the light. Then there will be a possibility of seeing.
In the Song of Solomon the soul says: “I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth” (Song of Solomon 3:1-4). Our physical bodies are the city, the streets and squares are the subtle bodies, and the watchmen are the senses, gross and subtle, physical and astral. The senses, mind, and intellect have never seen God, nor can they. But when we go beyond them all, we shall find our spirits; and there, one with them, shall we find God. When we find ourselves we find God, for He is one with us. There is an eternal unity and an eternal duality. This is why Jesus said: “I and the father are one” (John 10:30), not: “I and the father are the same,” or “I am the father.” Meditation takes us out of the little phony “I” and establishes us in the consciousness of God. And in that consciousness we come to know ourselves in God. We shall know ourselves with Divine Knowing.
Unattainable and untouchable
It is unattainable, because it for ever recedes. You will enter the light, but you will never touch the flame. This is because all “hands”–the body vehicles with which we would touch or which would act as an intermediary for some kind of contact–will have long ago been transcended. We will have entered into and become the light, therefore it will never be an object. We will behold and possess it within–never outside.
“It is unattainable because it for ever recedes.” We can get the false light right away through a little bit of yoga or some other psychic exercise, and congratulate ourselves on our exalted state, confident that we need attain nothing or “go” anywhere. But that is the lying light. The true light keeps saying: “Take a step more; come on a little further.” If we are ego-centered we may become frustrated and angry at the divine elusiveness. But if we keep following its drawing of us, the further it draws us the more the veils of illusion will drop away. Then at last there will be no more veils, only the Light. What, then, will be left to lay hold on it? For we shall have entered into and become one with It.
There is no place in this for the ego, which cannot by its very nature ascend to that status. In the ego-oriented systems there is much talk about the descent of higher consciousness. This is indeed true, but such descents mean nothing unless they motivate us to ascend to the Source, which alone is salvation. We go higher and higher until the distinctions of higher and lower are left far behind along with the “who” that was ascending. What will then remain? That which has always been there: the pure spirit.
The “descent” into matter and our subsequent evolution is really only a matter of ideation. It is impossible for us to “go” anywhere since space and time are only appearances, not realities. But we have fallen into the ideational exercise and come to believe that it is really “going on” and that we have fallen away from God in a spatial sense.
Consider how it is when we watch a motion picture, a television story, or a play in a theatre. Willingly we lay aside our knowledge that it is all false–merely a pretence–and begin reacting to what we see. We become amused, afraid, anxious, indignant, happy, relieved, disgusted, etc., moving through a spectrum of reactions triggered off by what we are observing. Knowing it is fantasy we yet willingly respond to it as reality. All of creation, from highest to lowest, is but a projection of consciousness, a dream of the infinite. Yet we have allowed ourselves to become convinced of its reality and become drawn right into the midst of it, no longer able to draw back and see it as it is and as it is not.
13. Desire power ardently.
The Path of Power has already been referred to. The next directive, then, is: “Desire power ardently.” What is the power we should seek? The power to seek God. What is wanted is the power to run faster to the Goal, to intensify our efforts. The intensity of desire and will needed to carry us to God would burn an ordinary person to a cinder. We have to accustom ourselves to increasing degrees of spiritual fervor, like a flyer or mountain climber who acclimatizes himself to higher and higher heights.
Once we have begun to be drawn toward the goal, we yearn for power to run after the prize. Because of this need for power we then begin to increase and conserve our personal power by means of various disciplines in thought and deed. It is here that the observance of the “ten commandments of yoga”–yama and niyama–is so important. (See The Foundations of Yoga.)
We also begin to simplify our life so we can direct all our activity toward finding God. It is not external power we need, but internal power. For it is the inner power that impels us onward, toward the Light. We must seek empowerment to develop the requisite tenacity of will, for much–if not all–lies in the will. On every level we strive to become more and more self-contained so we can gather the power to leap into the Infinite.
Though it may not seem so at first sight, self-respect and integrity are also part of this conservation of power. If we look around us we will see that many people who profess high ideals readily lay aside those ideals if sufficient reward or punishment is placed before them. This is why the Stoic philosopher Epictetus (whose Discourses are of great value for the seeker) challenged his hearers to consider at what price they would sell their choice and will. Then, having discovered what they would “sell out” for, they should strive to become indifferent to it so they would never sell themselves for any reason, whether gain or loss. This is why many spiritual seekers prefer to be self-employed–so they need never compromise their principles for the sake of material gain.
We are to desire this power ardently–flamingly, even. This desire will consume all that which controverts it so the person will be single in will and act. In a sense, it must consume us, but it is the fire in which the Phoenix of the immortal spirit is manifested. Instead of death, it brings us life.
Part of Hindu worship consists of offering burning camphor. This is because camphor burns without leaving a residue–is totally consumed. So also in our desire all must be consumed except That which is the object of our desire. The energies of our bodies, gross and subtle, are consumed in the race for the Infinite. This being so, only those who are willing to be so consumed should begin the race. Nothing can be held back–that fire consumes all. That is why Jesus warns us: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:33).
14. Desire peace fervently.
How can there be peace? By moving the center of our consciousness from the realm of continual change that is this world and directing it toward that ever-receding goal. Just as a cease-fire is not a real peace, so true inner peace is not the simple cessation of agitation or change, but the ending of the possibility of agitation and change. It is achieved by going beyond all that is capable of change. That alone is peace. Deafness should not be mistaken for silence. That is, the peace spoken of here is not a mere non-experiencing of any pain or agitation; it is being established in that state where pain and agitation simply do not exist.
15. Desire possessions above all.
16. But those possessions must belong to the pure spirit only, and be possessed therefore by all pure spirits equally, and thus be the especial property of the whole only when united. Hunger for such possessions, as can be held by the pure soul, that you may accumulate wealth for that united spirit of life which is your only true self. The peace you shall desire is that sacred peace which nothing can disturb, and in which the soul grows as does the holy flower upon the still lagoons. And that power which the disciple shall covet is that which shall make him appear as nothing in the eyes of men.
But those possessions must belong to the pure spirit only, and be possessed therefore by all pure spirits equally, and thus be the especial property of the whole only when united. It is God we must desire. Why, then, does the Master say “possessions”? Because everything that is has come out of God, and when we find God we find everything.
Some people asked a saint about what would remain once a person had transcended relativity, and were told: “Nothing is lost there.” So we leave everything behind, only to find it in the One. Here in relativity we cannot really possess anything because of the laws of change and dissolution. Moreover, instead of our possessing things, they begin to possess and bind us. But when we give them up, turn our back on them, and leave them behind, we will come to truly possess them in the possessing of God, for God wills to share all things with us and to say: “Thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine” (Luke 15:31).
When we enter the Infinite, we will find everything there, we shall have gotten out of the mirror into the real thing. Right now we are living in the movie screen thinking that it is the real world. We have been afraid to move out into the light that is projected on the screen, thinking that we would become nothing. But if we keep on going further into the light, right to its very source, we will find that the whole “picture” is there, and has been all along.
To “desire possessions above all” is to desire Infinity, to desire to possess omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. In transcending the universe we shall encompass it. But first we must get out of it. Those who hold to it are the ones who lose it, but those who give it up come to possess it. Here in the realm of relativity we are grasping for mere reflections, trying to pull the moon out of a lake by casting in a net.
The desired possessions are those things which belong only to the purified spirit when it returns to the Divine Source. All will possess them equally, for there God is all in all. God shall be in us, not outside of us. We shall be with Him in the depths of our own being, just as we are even now in the depths of His being. And each of us shall possess the totality of God.
When Krishna was a child, those who loved Him used to go out with Him into the forests, and as He would play the flute they would dance around Him. But one time each dancer found that Krishna was dancing with him. That is, there were as many Krishnas in the circle as there were dancers. So each one experienced dancing alone with Krishna. Each one had all of Him. This is called the Maharasa, the Supreme Sweetness, each individual possessing all of God.
In possessing God we shall possess all that has ever been or ever will be. No need to wonder if we shall be bored! All creations and their history will be there. All that has ever been known or thought, both wise and foolish, will be there, every form that has ever existed will be there, every work of art, poor, mediocre, and wonderful, every piece of music ever written–not just in this creation, but in all previous and subsequent ones, will be there. If we are so minded, we will have a lot to explore, and a lot to look at.
We must engage in divine greed, not being satisfied with this one little universe, but wanting them all in God. If we want them in and of themselves then we cannot have them. We should desire them because they are His manifestations and in having them we have Him, in beholding them, we behold Him. Behind all, He alone is.
But only those who “give up” will gain. The “pure soul” means one that is clear and divested of all these bodies, “and thus be the especial property of the whole only when united.” When we are one with God, and one with one another, then we will have it all.
In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says: “I am all that a man may desire without transgressing the law of his nature” (Bhagavad Gita 7:11). We can–and should–desire this Divine Thing, this Divine Glory, this Divine All-possessiveness, this Divine Wealth, this Divine Kingdom. We are to hunger for it, but at the same time lose our hunger for all other things. In other words: distinguish those things, and hunger for them alone.
Hunger for such possessions, as can be held by the pure soul, that you may accumulate wealth for that united spirit of life which is your only true self. By this is meant the Divine Wealth of spiritual perceptions in the highest levels of our being–not in that which is relative and time-space bound, but in that which is beyond it. In this way we shall be creating a karma for entry into the transcendent realms of existence, into the possession of the All.
The peace you shall desire is that sacred peace which nothing can disturb, and in which the soul grows as does the holy flower upon the still lagoons. How much do we hear about peace in our modern times when there is less peace than ever before. And how violent are those who demand peace. The louder they yell the word, the less of the real thing there is. But it is not political peace the Master is speaking of, but “that sacred peace which nothing can disturb, and in which the soul grows as does the holy flower upon the still lagoons.”
The holy flower referred to is the lotus, which in the East has for ages symbolized enlightenment and the enlightened soul. This lotus-peace is a sacred peace which nothing can disturb. Nothing can disturb it because it exists in that realm where “things” simply do not exist, where there is no “other” of any kind, but only unity. It exists in the core of our being where there is nothing else but God–which is why the Master says it is sacred.
The divine lotus
The lotus grows “upon the still lagoons.” All is at rest, yet down in the invisible depths the seed germinates and begins to grow. Down there all is mud and darkness, but the seed has a destiny for the light. It pushes up from the mud and begins the upward journey, growing in a spiral motion, in a form of cycles. Then it emerges onto the surface of the water in the full light of the sun where it blossoms in perfect beauty. The mud of its origin, and even its stalk, is ugly. Yet, from that ugliness proceeds beauty, a beauty that can manifest only outside of the water.
In silence in the depths of our being, the Divine Seed, the Holy Word, grows, lifts the consciousness higher and higher in evolution until the field of relativity (“water”) is transcended and Divine Consciousness blossoms forth.
And that power which the disciple shall covet is that which shall make him appear as nothing in the eyes of men. Power that makes us appear as nothing! If it was earthly power, we would be considered great by men of earth, but the masters are not in their world, wielding earthly power, but live in the realm of God, wielding the power of God. However great the miracles of the saints may be, they remain unknown to the world, except to be mocked or denied by it–especially in the West. That is because the saints live in the spirit, and the world lives in the ego. Those in the ego consider the world of the spirit unreal, whereas those in the spirit know the ego and its world are unreal.
That power which enables us to be alone with God, even though in the world, makes us invisible to the world. Some of the greatest Masters on earth have come in secret, lived in secret, and departed in secret. This is true even now. There are people who are living next door to immortal Masters and will never know it.
The power we should covet is that which will make us appear as nothing in the eyes of men. Why? Because the outer eyes of men only see matter, and their inner eyes see only ego. If, then, there is nothing in us of earth and ego, how will they see us? This is why earth-bound people meet teachers of only middling evolution, who still have plenty of ego and ignorance, and are deeply impressed with them and just adore them. Then they will meet a truly evolved person and do not give him a second thought, except maybe to remark to someone how unimpressed they were. The lives of saints are filled with accounts of people who came to meet them and then refused to believe they were the saints they had heard so much about. Often they actually despise them. “That old fool!” they comment.
Pilgrims used to make long journeys to Zagorsk to meet Saint Sergius of Radonezh. They would ask one of the monks where the abbot (Saint Sergius) was, and when he was pointed out to them, they would become angry and say: “Quit trying to make a fool of me. That old man cannot be the abbot! Now which one is he, really?”
In Egypt a translator for the Coptic Patriarchate told me that once a large group of Protestant theological students came from Germany to see Pope Shenouda. The Pope came in wearing his simple monastic clothes as usual and spoke to them, answering questions, for over an hour. Then he excused himself and left. The group then asked the translator: “When do we meet the Pope?” The translator told them they had just been speaking to him. They objected, saying: “That old man was nice, but he could not be the Pope.” When the translator and others assured them that they had truly met the Pope, they became angry and began to shout: “Don’t you think we are good enough to meet your Pope? Do you think we are so stupid that you can pass that old man off on us as the Pope?” Only when some of the bishops came and solemnly swore to them that “that old man” really was the Pope would they accept it.
People used to come to see Sri Ramakrishna, and assuming from his simple demeanor and dress that he was a servant, they would call out: “Hey, you, tell me where the Paramhansa lives!” He would say: “Here in this room.” In they would go, and He would come in another door and sit down. How amazed they would be. On occasion such people even made him carry things they had brought to present to “the saint.” In contrast, a man came to meet Sri Ramakrishna who had seen Jesus in a vision and become a Christian. After being some time with Sri Ramakrishna he said: “I see in you exactly what I saw in Jesus.”
On occasion, though, evil people hate the saints on sight, which is why the master tells us to desire the power that will make us seem like nothing to them. Then they will leave us alone.
We can only gauge the spiritual status of others from our own status. Those who are wandering in the maze of earthly delusion cannot in any way sense or comprehend those who are out of the game and home free.
Who but God is egoless enough to be as nothing in the eyes of the ignorant, yet love and bless them? So are His saints, who are His perfect images. The Bible says that we are strangers and pilgrims (I Peter 2:11). Therefore we must live like strangers and pilgrims, estranging ourselves from this world by snapping the bonds which we have ignorantly formed with it. Does not the world utterly disregard God? How many in the world strut around, saying: “We don’t see the need for God to exist,” “God has been created by man,” “Man creates God in his own image,” and such-like platitudes. But God continues to love and believe in them. This is the anonymity we must desire.
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