The inner circle
“Among the followers of John were many men from Galilee. The most devout were Andrew, Simon, James, and John, with Philip and his brother of Bethsaida” (Aquarian Gospel 66:1).
Many teachers have made reference to their students being divided into the inner and outer circles. Few are those in the inner circle, though many may be in the outer circle. In Jesus’ case there were twelve in the inner circle even when thousands were following him. But in the end only the twelve were left. Now we are going to be told about the first six of the inner circle and how they became followers of Jesus.
Come and see
“One day as Andrew, Philip and a son of Zebedee, were talking with the harbinger, the Logos came, and John exclaimed, Behold the Christ! And then the three disciples followed Jesus, and he asked, What do you seek And the disciples asked, Where do you live? And Jesus answered, Come and see” (Aquarian Gospel 66:2-4).
This is a most important symbolic lesson. Those who are content to adulate and flatter a master never get anywhere–they begin in the ego, so they end in the ego. They are the type who build an organization around the teacher and do all kinds of things to make it into a personality cult. These have no interior life whatsoever–just the opposite–and are not students at all. The worthy students are utterly different. They aspire to attain the enlightened state of a master. Therefore when Jesus asked the three what they were seeking, they wanted to know where he “lived”–what was the state of consciousness in which he was established. They did not seek words or miracles, they aspired to enlightenment.
Sri Ramakrishna spoke of it this way: “A man kept a solution of dye in a tub. Many people came to him to have their clothes dyed. He would ask a customer, ‘What color should you like to have your cloth dyed?’ If the customer wanted red, then the man would dip the cloth in the tub and say, ‘Here is your cloth dyed red.’ If another customer wanted his cloth dyed yellow, the man would dip his cloth in the same tub and say, ‘Here is your cloth dyed yellow.’ If a customer wanted his cloth dyed blue, the man would dip it in the same tub and say, ‘Here is your cloth dyed blue.’ Thus he would dye the clothes of his customers different colors, dipping them all in the same solution. One of the customers watched all this with amazement. The man asked him, ‘Well? What color do you want for your cloth?’ The customer said, ‘Brother, dye my cloth the color of the dye in your tub.’”
The wise student seeks the “color” of the master–his state of consciousness. The foolish groupies go on and on about the teacher’s externals, including his spoken words, but the sensible ones are intent on consciousness alone. One of Paramhansa Yogananda’s beloved disciples, Brother Bimalananda, told me once that those who came to the ashram for Yogananda’s personality during his lifetime would eventually leave, but those who came for self-realization remained and persevered in their spiritual practice.
A true master has only one message: “Come and see.”
“And Andrew called his brother Simon, saying, Come with me, for I have found the Christ. When Jesus looked in Simon’s face he said, Behold a rock! and Peter is your name” (Aquarian Gospel 66:5, 6).
Two things are indicated here. The first is the fact that the moment a master sees us he knows all about us–much more than we do ourselves, which is why he can guide us. Masters recognize their disciples from past lives. Yogananda often referred to a disciple’s past life connection with him at their first meeting. When he saw Brother Bimalananda from a distance he began laughing heartily. Later he revealed to Brother Bimalananda that he had been a kind of gymnastic clown in his previous life and Yogananda was remembering his funny antics.
Second is the connection between our name and our destiny. There is a whole esoteric science of analyzing a person’s name to discover their life pattern. A friend once pointed out to me that people who were deeply involved in Indian philosophy and yoga often had names that sounded very much like meaningful Sanskrit words. In my case, from childhood other children would sometimes call me “George” for no apparent reason, even though they knew my “real” name. Finally, a great mystic spontaneously gave me the name George. This amazed me, and I was further surprised when I found that my “real” name meant “mighty warrior skilled with a spear”–which is an exact description of Saint George!
Petros means “rock,“ and Jesus is explaining that Saint Peter was given that name at birth because he was a spiritual rock.
“And Philip found Nathaniel sitting by a tree, and said, My brother, come with me, for I have found the Christ! In Nazareth he abides. Nathaniel said, Can anything of good come out of Nazareth? And Philip answered, Come and see. When Jesus saw Nathaniel come he said, Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile! Nathaniel said, How can you speak about me thus? And Jesus said, I saw you as you sat beneath the fig tree over there, before your brother called. Nathaniel lifted up his hands and said, This surely is the Christ, the king, for whom the harbinger has often testified” (Aquarian Gospel 66:7-12).
Again, the masters know all about those whom they are destined to guide toward the Kingdom. Often they refer to things in the student’s past that no one else knows. For example, we find this in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna:
MASTER [Sri Ramakrishna]: “Do you remember the great storm of the month of Aswin?”
M [the author of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna and “Master Mahasaya the Blissful Devotee” in Autobiography of a Yogi]: “Yes, sir. I was very young at that time–nine or ten years old. I was alone in a room while the storm was raging, and I prayed to God.”
M. was surprised and said to himself: “Why did the Master suddenly ask me about the great storm of Aswin? Does he know that I was alone at that time earnestly praying to God with tears in my eves? Does he know all this? Has he been protecting me as my guru since my very birth?”
In the thirty-fourth chapter of Autobiography of a Yogi, Lahiri Mahasaya was told by his guru: “As you lived out your human term of womb-life, and emerged a babe, my eye was ever on you. When you covered your tiny form in the lotus posture under the Nadia sands in your childhood, I was invisibly present! Patiently, month after month, year after year, I have watched over you, waiting for this perfect day. Now you are with me!”
I knew a woman whose guru called her by a “pet name” known only to her and her mother. And here we see the same with Jesus.
The wise request
“And John went forth and found his brother James, and brought him to the Christ.
“The six disciples went with Jesus to the place where he abode. And Peter said, We long have sought for Christ. We came from Galilee to John; we thought that he was Christ, but he confessed to us that he was not; That he was but the harbinger sent forth to clear the way, and make the pathway easy for the coming king; and when you came he said, Behold the Christ! And we would gladly follow where you go. Lord, tell us what to do” (Aquarian Gospel 66:13-17).
We see right away why Saint Peter was a leader among the apostles. He says two things that are absolutely essential for a seeker of true wisdom.
First, he vows to follow Jesus wherever that might be. Right at the beginning the seeker must determine that he will do anything–ANYTHING–that is required to find God. There is no place he will not go, no thing he will not do, and no sacrifice he will not make. Yogananda’s first American disciple, Dr. M. W. Lewis, said in a public talk (“Attaining Inner Peace,” San Diego, January 27, 1957) that the aspirant must not make any mental reservation whatsoever, that if even mentally he holds back something, thinking “I could not do that” or “I could not give that up,” he will be sure to fail in spiritual life.
When I filled out the form to subscribe to the Self-Realization Fellowship lessons, there was a box to check if I wanted the lessons to be sent in a plain envelope with no return address–so no one would know I was studying yoga. This was in 1960 and I was living in the so-called Bible Belt and my parents belonged to a very fundamentalist Protestant church, outside of which there was only the devil–or so they thought. But I realized that if I could not take the heat I should not even go into the kitchen. So I did not check that box. Every time my lessons came with the return address and the symbol of SRF right there on the outside I was happy and grateful to God, not ashamed or worried someone might not approve. Those who cannot stand up to external opposition will certainly not survive internal opposition arising from inner ignorance and negativity. No one can join an army and ask to not wear a uniform or carry a weapon.
Second, Saint Peter asks: “ Lord, tell us what to do.” He does not ask what to believe or what to say, but what TO DO. For without following the necessary spiritual practices, among which meditation is unquestionably paramount, no one is a real seeker for higher life and consciousness. That is why Patanjali puts such an emphasis on yama and niyama–the do’s and don’ts of yoga–listing them first in the eight “limbs” of yoga. Without them there simply is no possibility of spiritual life. We do not “work up” to them, we begin with them and keep on with them until they are an inviolable part of our very nature, just as they are essential characteristics of the Divine Nature. We cannot discard them if we will be like God, of whom Saint Paul said: “He abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (II Timothy 2:13).
Discipleship cannot begin until these two factors are present and permanent in us.
The way of salvation
“And Jesus said, The foxes of the earth have homes, the birds have nests; I have no place to lay my head. He who would follow me must give up all cravings of the self and lose his life in saving life. I come to save the lost, and man is saved when he is rescued from himself. But men are slow to comprehend this doctrine of the Christ” (Aquarian Gospel 66:18-20).
The foxes of the earth have homes, the birds have nests; I have no place to lay my head. Jesus was not a fox or a bird, he was a son of God, and consequently no place on earth could be a resting place for him. The same is true of us, since we are also sons of God. Therefore if we would follow Jesus we must follow him into the realm of the spirit, into the Infinite Itself. This is why an esoteric creed says: “We believe in Jesus Christ, the Lord of love and wisdom, first among his brethren, Who leads us to the glory of the Father, Who is Himself the way, the truth, and the life.”
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life as our living example. And I say “living example” because he is also the empowerer of those who worthily ask it. Jesus is a living master present in the world and in communion with all who desire–again, worthily–that communion, saying with the words of the hymn:
Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word!
Bless Thou the truth, dear Lord, to me, to me,
As Thou didst bless the bread by Galilee;
Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
And I shall find my peace, my all in all.
Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me;
Give me to eat and live with Thee above;
Teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love.
O send Thy Spirit, Lord, now unto me,
That He may touch my eyes, and make me see:
Show me the truth concealed within Thy Word,
And in Thy Book revealed I see the Lord.
He who would follow me must give up all cravings of the self and lose his life in saving life. There are two sides to everything–positive and negative, active and passive. In spiritual life it is important to have this fact in mind. For example, it is not enough to stop negative behavior; positive behavior must be put in its place. So Jesus is telling us that all ego-based desires and impulses must be let go and in their place must come forgetfulness of ourself in the benefitting of others. We must save both ourselves and our fellow human beings. Our life must be directed toward both. This does not mean that we should become a kind of missionary and annoy everyone by preaching at them. Rather, we should do things that will benefit both ourselves and others. Some activities will involve contact with others, some will be actions that uplift the vibrations of life in general, and some will be an unseen assistance of others. For example, prayer and affirmations for other can be of great help to many people.
My maternal grandmother was a great healer, but she did all her healing in secret and people never knew she had healed them. One exception was a woman she raised from the dead. My grandmother had a hard time persuading her to not tell people about it. She was so pure and so holy that the world was blessed just by her being in it. To step inside her house was to go into another, higher dimension. There are greatly evolved souls that live in solitude yet are aware of troubles in the world and actively correct them. A man told me of visiting one such person who lived thousands of miles from him. The hermit spoke in detail of the problems my friend had been having in the past year and assured him that he had sent him blessings; and in truth the difficulties had melted away shortly after. As Saint Seraphim of Sarov and Yogananda often said: “Save yourself and you will save thousands.”
I come to save the lost, and man is saved when he is rescued from himself. We are divine spirits that have been kidnapped and imprisoned by the ego. Only when we are rescued from this anti-spirit, this anti-Christ, can we become free and ascend to higher life. Again, we need to save ourself, and the saints and angels can actively help us in the process. The real “communion of saints” is when we arise hand in hand with these great beings who love and serve God through helping us.
But men are slow to comprehend this doctrine of the Christ. They certainly are, for it involves recognition and renunciation of the ego. It is hard to wake from the spell of the ego and to turn from all its lying promises and ways. Ego is a habit that even the insects are entrenched in. Only by the awakening of our spirit can there be hope of shedding it and stepping out in freedom. Most “religious” people are intent on straightening out others. Westerners especially are always sure they are going to change society and the whole world by whatever their ideas may be. It is very sad to see how many metaphysical and even yoga groups go on and on about changing the world and bringing in a new age, even meddling in politics. This is just not the way things work–it never has been. Just as patients in a hospital recover one by one, all on their own, and only then are released, it is the same with this world. It never happens in groups–in fact the gathering and creation of a group is just the compounding of the problem, a sure symptom of spiritual pathology. As the song says: “On the Jericho Road there is room for just two–no more and no less, just Jesus and you.” God is our only companion on the path of liberation. In the beginning we have many helpers, but eventually it is just God and us.
The right response
“And Peter said, I cannot speak for any other man, but for myself I speak: I will leave all and follow where you lead. And then the others spoke and said, You have the words of truth; you came from God, and if we follow in your footsteps we cannot miss the way” (Aquarian Gospel 66:21. 22).
This really merits a careful scrutiny, for it reveals both the attitude and the situation necessary for taking up viable spiritual life. Again we see why Peter was a key disciple. Despite subsequent failings, his words in this chapter reveal that he was truly ready to follow the Christ of Infinity which was manifested in Jesus.
I cannot speak for any other man, but for myself I speak. Here, too, we see that it is all an individual matter. Others cannot speak for us and we cannot speak for others. God-seekers are not a herd, but absolute individuals. They may be friends and encourage one another, but the going to God is completely individual. Since God is on that Jericho Road with us we have all the help and strength we need. If we turn toward anyone else we will lose the path and begin to wander. We see here that Saint Peter does not care what others think or do–he is intent on what he thinks and what he intends to do. It is a solo flight that has been called “the flight of the alone to the Alone.” Humans with the minds of herd animals do not even set foot on the road to God, but mill around with one another, secure and content in each other’s company. “Verily, they have their reward,” contentedly remaining outside God. Jesus has not “done it for us” nor has anyone else. We do it ourselves, for God has implanted that impulse and that capacity within us.
I will leave all and follow where you lead. Right at the beginning this must be the resolve of the aspirant because on every step of a journey everything is being left behind moment by moment–that is what progress is all about. Just as there are many people that cannot bear to grow up, and refuse to grow up, there are those who are the same spiritually. Full of nostalgia for “the way it was,” they will not move on but stay right where they were the first day they went to Sunday School and sang “Hear the Pennies Dropping.” It is only good sense to understand that growth implies change, that getting implies losing, and moving forward means leaving things behind. That is why Jesus said: “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Reality must be faced.
The journey is not haphazard, according to our ideas, desires, or whims. It is a following–a following of God through the intermediaries sent to us until we develop enough spiritual intuition to follow God’s leading directly. There must be the resolve to go wherever we are led, “treading the thorns in the heat of day” not holding back in any way or refusing whatever is required.
You have the words of truth. Truth alone matters. Most people are satisfied with words that sound good and make them feel good, but such words cannot lead anywhere but to disillusionment and loss. This is especially true in religion. True religion is pure fact, like mathematics. That is why yoga is the only real religion. It is not philosophy or theology, it is attainment, and its ways are demonstrable as much as any scientific process–even more so.
You came from God. Divine Life was behind the words of Jesus. Anyone can speak intellectual truth, but only the spiritually evolved have the vibration of Truth in their voice–even in their written words. Only those who have experienced God can teach about spiritual life and practice. Only those who have dived in the ocean can tell us about its depths. We should not give our attention to anyone but those, for their words alone are living and able to make us live. They alone can teach us. That is why Jesus said: “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers” (John 10:8). Our emotions, ideas, and desires upon which we acted–often in good faith–only stole our time. Spirit consciousness alone can guide us, and only those who are living in Spirit can show us the way to Life.
If we follow in your footsteps we cannot miss the way. If we do exactly what the masters have done, we will definitely become what they are. They are proof of the validity of their spiritual practice. This is why it is utter folly to read books written by speculators and intellectual philosophers and think we can learn the way to truth. Only the masters of wisdom know the way. Theory is valueless–we need Reality. And that is known only to the liberated masters. Further, the masters teach us concrete methods to open our consciousness, they do not waste our time with mere words. Some of the greatest yogis I met in India never gave any talks, wrote any books, or conducted satsangs. They just showed the way and gave the “power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12). I will never forget them.
“Then Jesus and the six disciples sat a long, long time in silent thought” (Aquarian Gospel 66:23).
It is not enough to chew up food and swallow it. It must then be processed internally and assimilated–otherwise it has no value at all. It is the same with spiritual teaching. The highest teaching can be in the silence. Writing about Dakshinamurti (a form of Shiva), Shankara says: “How strange! The master does not speak, yet all the disciples’ questions are answered.” In the twelfth chapter of Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda gives this example:
“Sri Yukteswar related one of his own experiences in scriptural edification. The scene was a forest hermitage in eastern Bengal, where he observed the procedure of a renowned teacher, Dabru Ballav. His method, at once simple and difficult, was common in ancient India.
“Dabru Ballav had gathered his disciples around him in the sylvan solitudes. The holy Bhagavad Gita was open before them. Steadfastly they looked at one passage for half an hour, then closed their eyes. Another half hour slipped away. The master gave a brief comment. Motionless, they meditated again for an hour. Finally the guru spoke.
“‘Have you understood?’
“‘Yes, sir.’ One in the group ventured this assertion.
“‘No; not fully. Seek the spiritual vitality that has given these words the power to rejuvenate India century after century.’ Another hour disappeared in silence. The master dismissed the students, and turned to Sri Yukteswar.
“‘Do you know the Bhagavad Gita?’
“‘No, sir, not really; though my eyes and mind have run through its pages many times.’
“‘Thousands have replied to me differently!’ The great sage smiled at Master in blessing. ‘If one busies himself with an outer display of scriptural wealth, what time is left for silent inward diving after the priceless pearls?’”
My happiest memories of the masters of India and saints of the West are the times I sat with them in holy silence.
Read the next section in the Aquarian Gospel for Yogis: Jesus’ First Sermon