Jesus said, Now the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered them. Some fell on the road; the birds came and gathered them up. Others fell on the rock, did not take root in the soil, and did not produce ears. And others fell on thorns; they choked the seed(s) and worms ate them. And others fell on the good soil and it produced good fruit: it bore sixty per measure and a hundred and twenty per measure. (9)
Now the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered them. This is a picture of wisdom entering into the life spheres of various individuals, and is also a portrayal of the individual cultivating higher consciousness under his own will. It is a consideration of spiritual environment. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: “This body is called the Field, and he who knows this is called the Knower of the Field–so say the knowers of these things” (Bhagavad Gita 13:1).
The world is said to be the body or vehicle of God, just as our bodies are the vehicles of our spirits. Both we and God are engaging in the process of evolution–not of our spirit being, for that is eternally perfect, but of our body-instruments so they may reveal and manifest the light of Spirit.
Perhaps the most important point in this quotation is the fact that Jesus is speaking only of the environment of the seeds–not the seeds themselves, for they are without defect, perfect. In this way Jesus is telling us what kind of inner and outer environment we must create for our spiritual progress. Our inner perfection means nothing if we cannot manifest it, for that is the sole purpose of our being here in the world and undergoing the process we call life.
Some fell on the road; the birds came and gathered them up. The constant traffic moved them around and prevented their taking root. Busyness is perhaps the worst possible environment for spiritual progress. Activity is necessary for any growth, but busyness is constant involvement with external factors and short-term goals. It is the trivializing of the human being, however much others may admire the busy person. Some people are always on the go to cover up the void and discontent that would impinge on their awareness if they allowed themselves to become still for even a moment. Others are chronic worriers and busybodies because it amuses them and occupies their idle minds. In contrast there are those whose professions or situation in life demand continual dedication to outer action. If it would be suggested to them that they should change professions or situations they would be indignant, insisting that their activities are indicative of their being responsible and conscientious regarding their duties, that to do otherwise would be to be selfish or slackers. Running in their self-satisfied hamster wheels they will never get anywhere, because the birds of constant anxiety and outer demands preclude any possible interior growth. They are so busy “serving humanity” they have no time to fullfil the sole purpose of humanity. They think the world could not manage without them. But as DeGaulle remarked, the cemeteries of the world are filled with “indispensable” people. Any of these people could stop the traffic and shoo away the birds at any moment if they wanted to.
Others fell on the rock, did not take root in the soil, and did not produce ears. The road was soil (remember, Jesus is speaking at a time when all roads were dirt tracks except for some of the Roman roads that were paved with stone) and at least had a potential for growth. But there are environments, internal and external, that simply give no possibility of sprouting. They are the rocks. In early Christian documents we find lists of professions or situations in life which prevented someone from becoming a Christian. These lists were not based on the idea that those professions or situations were sinful, but rather on the fact that they rendered those involved in them incapable of spiritual life. Such situations do exist. I do not see any need to list them, because it would be impossible to make a complete list, and a little thought with good sense reveals what they are. It is only wisdom for us to continually evaluate our inner and outer situations and ask the question: Is this conducive to spiritual life or does it contradict or stagnate spiritual life?
When I was eighteen and searching fervently for truth, I attended a church meeting in the summer. One of the ministers was a most unusual man with great experience in the spiritual quest. On the final day of the meeting he asked to speak with me. We went and sat in the main auditorium. Without preamble he opened his Bible and read: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalms 91:1). Then he spoke briefly about the necessity for me to always check my situation to make sure I was really “under the shadow of the Almighty.” His counsel was prophetic, because I went from there to another state where I got a position in the office of what we then called “a radio preacher.” This man was heard throughout the United States and even in some foreign countries. But he was a crook on all levels. After a few days I sat at my desk and asked myself straightforwardly if I was “under the shadow of the Almighty” working in such a place. Of course I was not. So, although it was a very high-paying job, I quit.
Ray Bradbury gave a talk at a university writing class in which he told the students that if anything in their life–including some person–was blocking their becoming writers they should get rid of it immediately. He further said that aspiring writers should get divorces if need be. Everybody chuckled and thought that was cute. But what if he had enunciated that principle in relation to spiritual life? He would have been branded a fanatic. Nonetheless it is true that we must ruthlessly reorder our life if its present status hinders or prevents spiritual life. As Swami Trigunatitananda used to say: “Do or die–but you won’t die!”
Others fell on thorns; they choked the seed(s) and worms ate them. Some environments are too agitated (busy), some are simply impossible for growth, and then there are those in which the elements of the environment completely overshadow and distract the seeker from the quest. These are the “thorns.” Sometimes they are distracting by their inherent nature, and sometimes the seeker is too susceptible to their influence or effect. But however it may be, the quest becomes crowded out of the mind and heart, and the “worms” of distraction and attraction annihilate the upward impulse and end the journey for that life. In how many lives has the same happened to us?
“Thorns” take many forms, some pleasant and some painful. It seems a necessary part of each one’s story that temptations must arise to reveal the depth and quality of our aspiration. Infinite is the number and variety of the thorns that snag human beings and stop them on their upward striving. This is especially true of those that have turned to spiritual life more from frustration and disappointment than from a real desire to know God. Inevitably it happens that some greatly desired object is–at least seemingly–offered to them. But to have the desired thing, spiritual life must be laid aside–and it usually is. Sometimes the distracted aspirant really gets what he wants, but usually he never gets it or it is taken from him after a short while and he ends up with nothing. Tragically, such a one never turns back to the search for higher life, but passes his life in desolation, almost unaware of what has happened to him.
There are heroes of spiritual life who, when confronted with what they have long desired, turn away and keep on pursuing the goal. Buddha renounced wife, child, father, wealth, and kingdom. Renunciation is an essential trait of the successful spiritual quest. “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple,” said Jesus (Luke 14:33). And: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:33).
And others fell on the good soil and it produced good fruit: it bore sixty per measure and a hundred and twenty per measure. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and as my dear friend, the healer Ben Bibb, frequently said: “You can’t argue with results.” As the renowned Dr. Bronner said on his product labels: “Judge only by the amazing results.”
The proof that the soil was good consisted of only one thing: the seeds produced good fruit. For lifetimes people bang away at religious dicta and get absolutely nowhere, yet they remain loyal. Today huge numbers of people follow worthless gurus and practice yoga that either does nothing significant or even harms them mentally and physically, yet they remain almost hysterically loyal. They refuse to look at the results, or lack thereof. Of course, starting out with plenty of negative conditioning–usually from religion–they are disposed to lay the blame on themselves.
Stripping away the nonsense, the principle is plain: good soil produces good fruit, both physically and metaphysically. We should never forget this simple criterion.
Yes, sometimes the results depend on the individual, so Jesus says that the amount of good fruit may vary from person to person. But when there is good soil they all bear good fruit, and that is what matters. Spiritual life is not a competition. Someone may have striven for lifetimes and so in this life produces a spiritual bumper crop relatively quickly, whereas another may just be beginning and will produce much less. But this has nothing to do with superior or inferior–only how long they have been working at inner cultivation.
The important thing is to note that Jesus never said that some seed bore no fruit because it was bad or unworthy. There is no place here for laying blame on the yogi. For we are all inherently divine, and in the right soil only divinity will manifest.
Divinity is within us, we only need to provide the right environment for it to come forth.
Read the next section in The Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: Guarding the Flame