Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.–Luke 17:21
All in the mind
“In silent meditation Jesus sat beside a flowing spring. It was a holy day, and many people of the servant caste were near the place. And Jesus saw the hard drawn lines of toil on every brow, in every hand. There was no look of joy in any face. Not one of all the group could think of anything but toil” (Aquarian Gospel 33:1, 2).
These two verses show the truth of Sri Ramakrishna’s frequent assertion: “The mind is everything.” We are in Buddhist territory, and Buddhism rejected the caste system, yet here are “many people of the servant caste.” How amazing–Buddha’s teachings free them from the absurd idea of hereditary caste, yet they clung avidly to the imprisoning ideas he long ago repudiated.
When reading about “the hard drawn lines of toil on every brow, in every hand…no look of joy in any face” we should not be quick to react emotionally, for we are told why they were so miserable: “Not one of all the group could think of anything but toil.” So it was all in their mind. Remember, this is a holiday and they are not working, but instead of relaxing and enjoying themselves they are all gloomy and glum. Why? Because they are slaves in their minds, reveling in their victimhood. We will see this when Jesus in his compassion starts reasoning with them.
“And Jesus spoke to one and said, Why are you all so sad? Have you no happiness in life? The man replied, We scarcely know the meaning of that word. We toil to live, and hope for nothing else but toil, and bless the day when we can cease our toil and lay us down to rest in Buddha’s city of the dead” (Aquarian Gospel 33:3, 4).
“Buddha’s city of the dead”? This shows that no matter how surrounded people may be with freeing wisdom, if they choose ignorance and bondage that is exactly what they will get. I have seen this in nearly every ashram I have visited. No matter how wise and worthy the guru may be, and how many hours are spent listening to the guru’s teachings, there will always be some that act as though they have hardly heard of God, much less the subtleties of Indian philosophy. They are walking bundles of misery and resentment, what Yogananda called “spiritual skunks,” stinking up the place that is fragrant with holiness and the highest wisdom.
Heaven at hand
Perhaps those that choose to be miserable are more to be pitied than others who cannot help it for:
“Jesus’ heart was stirred with pity and with love for these poor toilers, and he said, Toil should not make a person sad; men should be happiest when they toil. When hope and love are back of toil, then all of life is filled with joy and peace, and this is heaven. Do you not know that such a heaven is for you?” (Aquarian Gospel 33:5, 6).
One of the reasons so many people in ashrams–especially in India–are so miserable is that they live in a useless, pointless, and idle manner. Their minds have gone to seed from years of indolence and they are no longer fit for this world or any other. Swami Vivekananda and Swami Sivananda understood how destructive it is even for sadhus to fall into this morass and become worse than nothing. They wisely required that ashram inmates engage in useful work to keep their minds in shape and also to give them self-respect. Sivananda used to tell those that came to the ashram that he intended for them to become competent in all areas of ashram work. The idlers fled, but the fit remained and became proficient in spiritual life.
Jesus understood the right principle of work–which is the entire message of the Bhagavad Gita. So he followed the precept of the Gita: “Let the wise show how work is holy when the heart of the worker is fixed on the Highest” (Bhagavad Gita 3:26). For work is an expression of hope for betterment, as Jesus points out. When work is done in the right perspective, life becomes a heaven on earth.
Writing this I see vividly in my mind’s eye a tiny laundry that was run by a Chinese family very near where I once lived in Hollywood. At that time I was living right next to the Self-Realization Fellowship Church and immersing myself in the study of yoga while at the same time attending college. (I spent a lot more time at SRF than school–a wise choice.) Heaven was opened to me, right in my grasp, through the wonderful practice of meditation. One day I wandered into the hot and steamy laundry and saw the harried faces of the parents and their little children as they drudged along to make a living. Looking at them I thought: “If they knew how to meditate, they would be living in Paradise within their hearts. How happy they would be!” A prayer of gratitude flew up from my heart to God as I turned and went back out onto the street. No, I did not evangelize them because they knew right where they, too, could find what I had learned. They passed it every day. It was a matter of choice, conscious or subliminal
A wrong perspective
“The man replied, Of heaven we have heard; but then it is so far away, and we must live so many lives before we can reach that place!” (Aquarian Gospel 33:7).
Right there in India, amid the teachings of Buddha, they thought heaven was the goal, and that it would take lives for them to be good enough for it. Lots of return tickets to planet earth–might it be that they wanted it that way?
The right perspective
“And Jesus said, My brother, man, your thoughts are wrong; your heaven is not far away; and it is not a place of metes and bounds, is not a country to be reached; it is a state of mind” (Aquarian Gospel 33:8).
In an audience in 1999 Pope John Paul II described heaven as “neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but that fullness of communion with God, which is the goal of human life.” Both Jesus and the Pope agree with me!
“God never made a heaven for man; he never made a hell; we are creators and we make our own” (Aquarian Gospel 33:9).
The Pope also defined hell as “the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.”
So it is all up to us whether we live in heaven or hell–and how high or how low. Physically there seems to be only one world, but people live in vastly differing degrees of heaven and hell. People who live in the same “world” group together and say theirs is the only world, but fortunately it is not true. In C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce (a book I certainly recommend) the main character discovers that anyone can pass back and forth from heaven to hell easily. It is matter of simple choice. (Shaw presented the same view in the “Don Juan in Hell” section of Man and Superman.)
There was a Buddhist monk whom people jokingly named Wintermelon because he seemed a completely useless blockhead. One day he left the town and was never seen again. He left behind a piece of paper on which he wrote a poem that concluded with the words: “I walk through the streets and no one guesses that Paradise [Sukhavati] is within.” Once an over-educated wiseacre in China met an old woman who was walking along the road muttering the mantra of Amida Buddha. “old lady,” he sneered,” are you thinking that you will go to Amida’s Paradise when you die?” To his surprise, she emphatically shook her head No. Being a confirmed fool, he tried another tack. “Where is your Amida Buddha, then?” She smiled, tapped her chest, and walked on. He never got the idea, but we can.
- How to Misuse Your Power of Thought
- Does Hell Exist, and Why?
- The Difference Between Soul and Spirit