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The Place of Education in Spirituality
Inaugural Address at CREST (Centre for Research, Education, Sadhana & Training),
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We have been welcomed very affectionately by brother Jagannathan. I think Babuji’s choice of the first director of this institution called CREST, is a blessing to us and I hope he will live long and preside over its activities generating enthusiasm, well-being and incremental knowledge as the courses go on. My prayers for his long life, as I pray for all of you, for your long lives, fast progress in spirituality, so that the goal is achieved in this lifetime.
Most of you, if not all of you, are preceptors. I won’t call you candidates, but you are all people from whom I hope to learn something: of how such courses should be conducted, what should be the course content for the future, what should be the duration of such courses, and should there be a permanent faculty. Or, should it be like this: people speaking, people listening, people evaluating, people absorbing, people doing, and people becoming.
Sahaj Marg is essentially a process of becoming. Babuji Maharaj has said so often that knowledge is not necessary for spiritual evolution. That was from his position, his lofty position in the universe, sitting on the pinnacle of spiritual life, where nothing is necessary. You don’t need the body, you don’t need the mind, least of all education. But as a Mission, we have come into a sort of invertendo in our evolutionary process too, as I observe. Babuji started with this spiritual evolution of mankind. He concentrated solely only on spiritual practice. The few books that were available when I joined this Mission—Reality at Dawn, Commentary on the Ten Commandments of Sahaj Marg, Towards Infinity, Philosophy of Sahaj Marg—were all from his heart. And they were, in a sense, the summum bonum of spiritual values, summum bonum of spiritual teaching, and all that was necessary to practice to try to become like Him.
Then came the need for a physical expression of this, and so the Mission started putting up ashrams one by one, one by one. In his lifetime, there were but few. Today there are many—many outside in the world, many in India too. So from the spiritual, we came down to the physical. Now in swinging back and forth, we have come down to the mid-point and we are going to try to offer education so that the mind knows what this is all about, the intelligence doesn’t have to speculate. It absorbs what is given to it and makes use of it. In the Indian tradition, education which cannot be used in one’s lifetime is a waste of time. In India there is no unnecessary learning. We are taught to learn what is essential for our spiritual progress. Babuji Maharaj said that Lalaji gave him enough, and what was that enough? We don’t know, because probably it was a few words: do and learn and become.
So the process of learning has a place between the doing and becoming. That, we are trying to expand beyond the sutra [aphorism] form, as given by Lalaji Maharaj, because some background of world religions, world cultures, world nuances of how people live, the ability to appreciate without criticism [is necessary]. That as people are many, so are the ways of life, so are the modes of education, so are cultural mores, so are even truths.
So you see, we are now swinging into one point of the pendulum where we are trying to tackle this educational phase of our spiritual life, because there are parts of this world where the spiritual system without any educational base, or knowledge base, is not considered a total system. It is linked with New Age in California and voodoo in Africa and humbug in India! So we have to set all these misconceptions straight, and our people in India have to lose this pride that the Hindu teaching is the best teaching, the Vedas are the ultimate teachings, and that the Indian God is God of all. There is no Indian God, there is no Christian God, there is no Muslim God; God is One, though He is known by many different names.
Essentially, Sahaj Marg teaches of a God who has no name, no form, no attributes. I was interested to learn from a recent book that what I said about fifteen years ago in a talk at Hyderabad—that God is not a person but a principle—has been voiced by Western philosophers, deep thinkers into what these things are and mean, because God cannot really be a person if you think over it. If he is a person, he can be destroyed. If he is powerful, then there can be something more powerful. If he is educated, there can be someone more educated. If he is big, there can be someone bigger. If he is small, there can be someone smaller. So the Hindu tradition, the Vedic tradition describes him as anoraniyaan mahatomahiyaan—smaller than the smallest, bigger than the biggest. Now, we are at liberty to conjure up whatever figure or image of the divine existence that we wish to choose, but they will all be fruitless. Because Vedic tradition also speaks of Shiva trying to find out this Ultimate, assuming the form of a swan and going from beginning to end, and finally finding that there is no beginning, there is no end. Therefore the Divine is called anaadi anantam—beginning-less, endless, timeless.
So all these things we shall try to hear from speakers who, I hope, have enough knowledge to convince the future batches of our abhyasis who will come here, because initially this will be restricted only to abhyasis. So please remember, the spiritual edifice has been set up for us to use for ever and ever. There will be no change in that spiritual edifice and CREST will make no attempt to interfere with the teachings of my Master: not to add to it, not to subtract from it. It is what it is. It is sampoorna—it is complete in itself; it doesn’t need anything. Physically my successors will add to whatever physical edifices may be considered necessary in all parts of this world, so future ashrams will spring up to offer spiritual values, to offer a place for meditation, rest, relaxation—retreat centres.
Sahaj Marg Spirituality Foundation has built this CREST centre here in Bangalore, and will be building one more in a place called Kharagpur, about hundred and fifty kilometres west of Kolkata. It is also a serene place with good trees, and it is a place where the first IIT in India was established by Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. The Indian Institute of Technology, the first one, came up in Kharagpur, which is essentially a university town—there are very few shops, and roads are rickety. There are horse-drawn carts and, in a sense, it is primitive, but it has a knowledge institution that is catering to thousands and thousands of students year after year. That will be the second CREST centre. There will be only two in India.
Other than this, we are proposing to build in Pune, in Ambala in Punjab (or Haryana as it is now called), in a centre in U.P. and elsewhere, five or six Sahaj Marg Spirituality Foundation Retreat Centres, as well as one near Pallakad in south India—Malampuzha, where there is a dam. We are among the hills, and elephants come there to the water. These retreat centres will be available to abhyasis who wish to stay away from the world of men and matters from periods of three days to thirty days, on request. They are not teaching institutions; they are institutions where a soul yearning for rest from the clamour of this world, from the insistence on money making, on the demands of power structures, can come. We can lay all that behind us and go there and relax and bring our souls up to their pristine purity, and meditate, introspect, do some writing if we wish to do so, and as I said, there will be six of them but one by one they will have to be constructed.
I am happy to acknowledge the financial, the moral and the other means of support that you all have extended towards these enterprises, without which none of this would have been possible. And by Master’s grace, I am sure more and more will come up, again with your co-operation, with your confidence and your personal backing.
I am not here to inaugurate anything, because, as I said and I am telling this truthfully, for me this is for my personal education. What you get out of it will depend upon each one of you. There are no experts here, even in their individual traditions, but I have found even now, before we commenced this seminar, that people who have been assigned subjects against which they rebelled, have delved deeper and deeper into their own roots, and have come up with surprising evaluations of what their pasts were, of the traditions from which they have arisen, of the cultures from which they have sprung, and the beauties of those pasts—relegated into the subconscious like the foundation of a house, not visible but supporting everything.
It would be a serious and dire mistake to relegate the past into a forgotten past. We must remember that the roots of the tree are what keeps the tree in all its glory, its manifestation. The greatest oak owes its existence to the roots, but the roots must not be seen; they must be there, supporting what is above. That is the base. The Gita tradition speaks of a different sort of edifice and uses as an illustration, a tree upside down with its roots above and branches below. When we transcend the physical and terrestrial existence and move into the spiritual existence, our succour, our blessings, our daily bread come from above. Now our roots are above, still unseen, but knowable, experience-able—that which we call Divine, God, Yahveh, Allah, whatever we wish to call it.
So I hope these courses will develop a broadminded approach with love and respect to each one’s own tradition and love, respect and forbearance for all other cultures and religions, because what this world needs today is not knowledge; it is patience, it is tolerance—two values which I believe can be developed only through spiritual practice. And that is what Sahaj Marg insistently and essentially offers to all of you and to everyone in the world.
With these words, I close my initial talk and pray for His blessings on all of you. And I leave it to the director to continue with the program. I hope to be with all of you through all the lectures, to listen to you carefully, so that I know what I don’t know. You know that old Chinese saying:
He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool—shun him!
He who knows not, but knows that he knows not, can be taught—teach him!
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep—awaken him!
He who knows and knows that he knows, is worthy of being followed—follow him!
May it be so with all of us. Thank you.