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Way of Heart
I come from India, and it is a land of fascinating mixtures and opposites. For instance, you will find there the most sublime beautiful things and the utter rubbish and dirt that we associate nowadays with my country. We have the crudest and the most stupid ritualistic forms of worship and the sublimest philosophies and the spiritual practices perhaps not known outside that land.
I had the good fortune to meet my master in 1964. I said good fortune because before that I was also studying yoga, trying to practise certain asanas on my own, doing pranayama, doing some mantras, et cetera. And at one stage I was almost facing psychic disorders within myself and it was quite alarming, the symptoms were quite alarming. I had the good fortune to stumble across some books on fundamental psychology, and especially to come across the works of Dr Jung, which in a sense helped me to regain some sort of stability.
It was at that time that I went to my master by accident. The first warning he gave me when he looked into my condition was, “Avoid all these practices.”
For two reasons: first, I did not have a guide who could guide me through the labyrinths of all these practices, and the second was that the practices were, as he called them, gross. It was my master’s first teaching, that God or Divinity or the Self or the soul, whatever you want to call it, is the subtlest, and the way of achieving that subtleness must be through a subtle means.
He used the analogy of threading a needle, or in another sense, trying to pick up a needle which has fallen on the ground, with a crane. I can also say he reversed this old saying in English which says, ‘The end must justify the means,’ in a sense, saying that the means determine the end that we are going to achieve. He used to smile rather sardonically when I told him about this old statement that all roads lead to Rome. I had met a lot of teachers of yoga and things like that in India, and there was this very satisfying statement that everything leads to God ultimately. I had been very mislead by this and therefore I had fallen a victim to so many practices, to so many people who had tried to guide me, not being my guru but casual guides. As I said, I was a mess when I reached my master in 1964, and it was his patience and his love that made him work upon me for a couple of years before perhaps I became fit to start this spiritual journey.
It was at his feet, as we say in India, that I was taught the difference between religion and spirituality. Late on, I was to learn that there is another thing called spiritism, with which we are more familiar in the Occidental countries, dealing with occult phenomena, spirits, ghosts, all these sort of things. Because it is necessary to distinguish three things: religion, spirituality, spiritism. Perhaps we in India are qualified more than anybody else to talk about religion because we have so much of it and we have had it for so long – literally thousands of years.
Unfortunately, as we say, few learn the lessons of history, because after coming to my Master, when I started looking into the past of my land there were clear, unmistakeable indications about the way Hinduism, as it was being practised, had robbed the thing of its beauty, its essence, of its value, of its effectiveness. One had only to see that out of Hinduism Buddhism was born, and Jainism was born. The two great outstanding spiritual leaders, Buddha and Mahavira, having been disillusioned, disenchanted, perhaps nauseated with the current temple practices, which impelled them to break away from the mainstream of that religious existence to which they had been born.
Perhaps, with the onset of the Aquarian age, there is now again a break away from Hinduism in that sense. Because my master is very definite and emphatic that though God is unchangeable, immutable, eternal, we cannot say He exists in a tangible way – ‘tangible’ meaning perceptible to the senses. It was his teaching that God cannot be seen with these eyes, touched with these sensory organs that we have, and that the only way of recognizing His presence is by experience of His presence. I think for him it was a natural development of the technique of yoga, that as human beings develop in their own spiritual evolution from the very crude concepts of divinity to what we today think of as sublime concepts, but which may be, in the future, again crude to those of the future. The method or the technique of trying to achieve that divine presence has to change as our concept of the divinity or God changes.
It was his teaching that when we thought of God as being embodied in physical objects, the human mind of those times naturally turned to worship of external objects, embodying them with the divinity – which is, of course, undeniable. But times change, concept of God changes. We tend to grow from the gross to the subtle, and that is how the technique of raja yoga evolved in India.
He used to caution me about one thing: that Patanjali’s yoga is absolute is an accepted fact in India, a generally accepted fact. My master was the first one to point out to me that Patanjali was only a codifier of yogic systems and he had put together a mass of information, of knowledge of those times, perhaps four thousand years ago, and that came to be known as the way of the ashtanga yogas, the eightfold path.
It begins with yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, all these things. Yama and niyama are dealing with the ethical development of the individual, moral conduct. Asana being certain recommended positions that we have to adopt. Pranayama being the control of the breathing, and to the subsequent four stages: pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi as they are called in Sanskrit. It cannot be translated because they are Sanskrit terms.
In most of our literature pertaining to yoga, you’ll find that these are delineated as the absolutely necessary eight steps for pursuit by an aspirant. My master said it was not necessary. He therefore started with dhyana, meditation, because it was his teaching that when you start with ethical principles, like don’t tell lies, don’t hurt your neighbour, don’t steal somebody else’s property… he said these are not things which are to be taught in yoga schools, where we talk of divinity, but things to be learned at home under the family atmosphere.
He considered it rather a fall in the Indian ethos that one had to learn to speak the truth, because it was his firm conviction that it should be natural to tell the truth – not something you have to learn. He said often that the human being is not any more a human being, because when a human being has to be told not to tell lies but to tell the truth, not to kill but to protect life, he considered that in some way there was a fall from the human values to the baser instincts.
He put this very pithily, in a very short statement that, “A human being is born as a human being, but most of us die as animals.”
Excuse me, I am telling you what he said.
How much of it is relevant to today’s society you will all be able to assess for yourselves, of course, remembering that we should not tell lies to ourselves about what we are. No honest human being can today avoid the conviction that there has been a tremendous degradation in moral values, leave alone spiritual values. The old statement, ‘Dog eats not dog,’ is no longer valid, because today’s human beings prey on human beings. We have finished off more of the lesser forms of existence. One has only to wander through the forests of Europe to see what little life there is, how little there is left of it.
If a Shelley or a Byron were to be present today, they would probably weep out their hearts in writing a different sort of poetry. Many of you must be familiar with that famous poem, The Ode to the Skylark. ‘Hail to thee blithe spirit,’ it begins.
This is just, by the way, a digression because it pinpoints how we have traversed the past, say, fifty years. Much is blamed on World Wars I and II, no doubt justifiably, but not entirely the fault of the wars.
Because my master said, “Why did the wars happen?”
Because as you will be told or you have been told again and again, wars are the result of expansionist policies of various governments. At one stage it was geographic, perhaps today it is economic. That is all the difference, you see.
To come back to the essence of my master’s teaching, that man is born as a man but dies as an animal, he started his spiritual training with this instruction, that we must first work in such a way as to restore ourselves to a human level of existence, where speaking the truth is a natural thing. Not taking away somebody’s property is a natural thing. Living happily with what we have becomes a natural thing. All the other things – helping others, being compassionate, being loving, being merciful – all these must become a natural ting, not something to be learned from books of religion or through social teachings.
He said, “Then begins the purpose of yoga.”
Often I feel that when we speak like this before audiences about the techniques of yoga and this sublime value of divinity etc, we are perhaps putting the cart before the horse. Therefore, in Sahaj Marg, in this method of raja yoga, as out sisters have explained to you, the focus of all self-development effort is the heart. Because it is the heart, the organ par excellence, which is signifying, which is denoting human values. It is not fallacious tat we describe an individual by the heart: good-hearted, kind-hearted, cold-hearted, warm-hearted. Somebody has a heart of stone. Another has a soft heart. You see, a human being is what his or her heart is.
But today we look to the outer form and the outer values, the dimensions of the external appearance. The beauty of the human being has been brought to the face and the figure. The power of existence is represented by the power that we wield, monetarily and in other ways. And my master used to suffer in a certain amount of sorrow at this putting away of the heart into some sort of iron box and locking it up. He said that all the subsequent degradation is because we have lost touch with our hearts. We have, therefore, to re-establish contact with that heart and whatever may be inside – we call it Divine, perhaps the soul. I don’t think it is an accident that all the traditions of this world speak of the Divine presence in the human being as being in the heart of the human being.
The ancient Indian tradition goes much further, and says it is in the heart of every created thing. Animals, insects, stone – anything you see. It is called dharma – that which upholds. A stone is a stone, not because it is a stone, but because there is something in it that makes it a stone. When we turn to the vast avenues of science (I was myself enticed by the magnificence of science), so appealing to an intellect that we believe a stone is a stone because it is a stone. A peculiar sort of syllogism, you see; nobody asks why it is not something else. Because we have been hearing of the transmutation of metals and things like that, transmutation of metals into gold, for instance.
So, the ancient traditions of India say that without this Divine presence at the heart of everything, nothing can exist. Therefore, the Hindu mind says that God is greater than the greatest, smaller than the smallest, too. He’s both inside and outside His creation. And if this be true, yoga says why not look inside? Why do you want to search outside? Because to search outside you have to wander the face of the Earth, pit your intelligence against so many systems of worship, religions, practices, rituals. Evaluate them. Do we have the time for all this when it is very simple to go inside and look for it? So this is why raja yoga goes, at least this Sahaj Marg system of raja yoga goes, to the heart.
So, in our system we don’t use the other points for meditation, which traditional hatha yoga speaks of, because again, they are turning us outside. We try to seek Him in this inner temple which we call the heart. Sahaj Marg yoga is the way of the heart in this sense.
My master said, “It is so simple.”
Remember that the five senses are given to you to know the world. They are the most wonderful instruments God has given us, but they are only useful to know the outside world. It is a famous statement in the Vedas, that with these eyes we can see the entire universe, but we cannot see the eye itself. If we extrapolate that thought a little, we can say that with this intellect we can know everything outside ourselves, but we cannot know ourselves. Therefore, in the Greek tradition, in the Oracular tradition, ‘know thyself’ became a great virtue.
But my master went a step further and said, “What is the use of knowing yourself?”
Because, in our heart, every one of us knows what we are.
I remember reading a novel when I was young, The Picture of Dorian Gray, where a young man leads a licentious life, but by some strange quirk of destiny there is a painting of him in this beautiful condition when he was youthful, beautiful, handsome, endowed with all the virtues of youth. But as he gets into deeper and deeper degradation of his own existence the picture changes. He remains youthful, handsome, beautiful, fresh as a rose, but the picture becomes horrible. Ultimately he is afraid of looking at it himself. Every night he goes on his licentious life, comes back in the morning, throws open this picture, which he has veiled carefully, and suffers the anguish of the damned, as they said in Christianity. Eventually it is so bad that he plunges a knife into the picture’s heart and himself falls dead. Then there is this enormous frightening transformation, that this beautiful, youthful body on the floor becomes as aged and ugly as evil itself, and the picture regains its original beauty.
So you see, when we keep this [outside] beautiful and inside corrupt, this is a possible destiny that we face. My master felt that most of our isolation today – not being able to be with people, this unnecessary and un-understandable need for absolute privacy – to him these were signs of an inner despair, that we are trying to hide ourselves within ourselves.
So you see, we go back to the heart, not by some arcane technique of mantra, or this or that, but as my master said, by just diverting all these tendencies which are now going outwards inwards. When we sit in meditation this is what we try to do, you see, try to re-establish a contact of the existing outer self with the inner deep Self, which is the real Self.
I have found often that people, after they have been established in this practice for a few weeks, few days, sometimes a few months, often the very first sign of a little progress is they begin to weep without knowing why they are weeping. They often weep without knowing they are weeping. The tears just flow and they don’t know what I s happening inside, you see. My master said this is the first sign of the humanization of the heart. It is becoming soft. This softening of the heart is something we have to achieve.
Unfortunately, today in our societies we are taught that a person with a soft heart will be taken to be simple, will be taken to be a fool, and even be exploited. Therefore, we are afraid of opening ourselves up to any external influence. We are afraid to be kind, we have forgotten how to be sympathetic, and when we cannot weep for another, how can we weep for ourselves? The great teaching in life is that what you cannot do for somebody else, you cannot do for yourself ever. It is therefore, perhaps, that we do so much outside but we are not happy inside.
No external activity today satisfies the human being. Acquisition of wealth only leads to more desire for more wealth. Power is going on being multiplied without any limits. Everything – possessions, love life – anything you wish to name. It seems to operate on the old economic principle of declining values. The more we get, the less we really get. Eventually we find, to our utter despair, that we have everything but we really have nothing. Spirituality reverses this equation and makes a very bold statement that he who has nothing has everything.
My master used to say that people are afraid of being alone, of being lonely, as we say, but he said, “Remember your association with God is really a love affair, and the lover goes to the beloved only when the beloved is alone.”
That is the sacredness of love in the Eastern traditions. Love cannot be, must not be, a public affair. The symbolism is used again and again of a tiny flame, which has to be protected by a glass chimney, because in the beginning it is delicate. We have these love stories of the East – Layla and Majnun, for instance – and so many of your own western stories of a princess being locked up in an ivory tower three hundred metres above the ground, and a young man coming to her all alone, braving all dangers.
“If it is true of the human love,” my master said, “how much more true of the divine lover?”
Tradition speaks of Lord Krishna coming to his beloved at midnight.
Of course in the West people may laugh and say, “Who has the patience to wait till midnight nowadays?”
But in love, as in everything else of value, the ability to wait denotes the value that you set upon a particular object. I think it is an indication of the general degeneration in the human values and assessment of human values that today we are in a society in which instant coffee, instant tea, instant babies – everything is instant. I don’t know if the psychologists will agree with this evaluation by me. I am a layman. But it is a well-known assessment of the human mind in the East that what we value very much we are willing to wait for, and if something is not worth waiting for it is not worth having.
So, the technique of our meditation is to empty the heart of everything that is in it. My master often said we have to wait. Essentially, the act of meditation is an act of waiting for the beloved to come.
My master used to explain it very beautifully to simple, unlettered people, saying, “Suppose you invite a great man to your house for dinner. What would you do?” We would clean our house, we would cook good food, we would lay the table and wait for them to arrive. He said, “In spirituality it is exactly the same.”
The greater the guest, the longer sometimes we have to wait, or at least the longer we must be prepared to wait.
If it is the ultimate truth that we are inviting, the aspirant’s attitude must be one of patience, prepared to wait forever if necessary. So, patience comes with the evaluation of that which we are trying to achieve. One who is impatient is easily satisfied with any trash that is going around, anything that is available. That’s why, I think, the Americans call it a ‘pick-up’. In the old days in India, we used to call puck-ups newspaper pieces which we picked off the ground to clean the gardens. So you see, language reveals a great deal of truth which we have also forgotten to appreciate.
That is why, in the way of the heart, it is a way of love. One has to learn to love without knowing what he is loving really. It is merely a concept in the beginning. What is God? Who is God? Where is God?
These are questions that arise in all of our minds, and if we are cynical we say, “How can there be a God with all this nonsense going on in this world of ours?”
We become cynical, and that is an enemy of spirituality.
My master used to say, “It is not necessary to think of these things and ask a foolish question, ‘Can there be a God when so many things are happening?’” He said, “Ask this question that, there being a God, why do these things happen?”
Then the answer will be very obvious. We are the cause. It is we who have debased society. We have debased ourselves. We have brought degradation to this Earth. Nowadays everybody blames society, governments, for every evil that is existing, but it is we who are responsible.
If you’ll permit, I’ll tell you a beautiful story to pinpoint this, of a young man who wanted to be a disciple of a famous master, and approached him with this request.
The master said, “Bring me the worst thing on Earth. Then I will accept you as my disciple.”
Now this young fellow went around looking for the worst thing on Earth. Several years passed and he was finding very bad things, and even worse things, but there was always something worse. Eventually, one day he was sitting in the toilet and suddenly he realised that his own excreta was the worst thing. Because his reasoning was that nobody wants to look at it, nobody tolerates its smell, nobody will touch it. This must be the worst thing.
So he was going to take up some of it to take back to his master when there came a voice from his excreta, which said, “Yesterday evening I was apple tart and strudel and chocolate from Sprüngli and all these things. You touched me and I have become this. Now you may judge who is the worst thing in creation. What is the worst thing in creation?”
At that moment he had a moment of awakening. He went empty-handed to his master. His master recognised him immediately and said, “My son, have you brought the worst thing that I wanted?”
He fell at his feet prostrated and said, “Master, it is myself.”
So you see, this is an ancient story but it is true even today, because how ever clean our outer environment is today … You in Europe know more than anybody else that trees are dying, forests are dying, fishes are dying, whales are dying, everything is dying. It is not untrue to feel that we are clinging on to a terrestrial existence which is becoming more and more insubstantial, more and more delicate, where the thread of existence can be cut by a mere puff.
So, when we build mighty edifices of steel and concrete and glass, and have the latest atomic reactors and the beautiful planes that are flying the skies today, perhaps in a sense we are trying to mislead ourselves. I make bold to say that it is a form of escapism. Every man who tries to surround himself with beauty is escaping from his inner ugliness. So, the conclusion is inevitable. Great masters don’t have to say this. We all know this but we are afraid. This fear is the thing that we have to overcome.
I read a small ‘Dennis the Menace’ comic the day before yesterday, where he is very dirty, filthy. His mother pulls him towards the bathtub and is undressing him, and he lets out a wail.
He says, “Mommy, all this is dirty, but inside I am clean.”
Now, this affected me very deeply because that child, in its innocence, is still clean.
How many of us can say the same thing, that, “Only this is dirty. I am clean inside.”
So you see, we have to follow not the ascetic path – it is a stupid thing. My master was against asceticism because the pendulum, instead of swinging this side, is swinging this side. He said India has always been the prey of two extremes. Either they became total materialists, corrupting religion, corrupting God himself, or they withdrew from the world totally and became entirely ascetic, recluses living in the jungles. He said both are wrong. We have to be like birds that fly with two wings, balancing the material existence with the spiritual existence.
I think this was his greatest teaching to a modern world, that there is really nothing wrong with the material existence provided we look to our inside existence, too. Balance both. Give equal attention to both, and then there is nothing wrong with this beautiful world. If you have inner beauty inside you will see outer beauty everywhere, because everyone knows that beauty is not in what we see but, as the poet said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One who has wealth inside sees wealth outside. One who is sick inside sees sickness outside. One who sees cruelty in God must be cruel himself.
So, Sahaj Marg does not preach the old tradition of running away from life, asceticism, things like that. On the contrary, it says that you are born into a material existence, you have to live a material existence; you cannot possibly avoid it. But remember the inner existence too, because the outer is nothing but a reflection of the inner. That is why I told you the story of Dorian Gray, because we always need to look outside to see ourselves. When we speak, we look at other people to see their reaction. When a painter exhibits his paintings, he looks at the people who come to see it. What is their reaction? Even the greatest, because there is always this inner doubt about what we are, about what we have produced.
This is revealed in the famous story of Snow White.
Her stepmother was looking into the looking glass every morning and asking the question, “Who is the fairest in this land?”
Every morning, the story says, the mirror said, “You are the fairest!”
When I told this story to my master he laughed. He said, “Why on earth had she to ask that mirror every morning the same question?”
Because inside herself there was this doubt that she was not the fairest, and therefore she ran into tragedy, because one day the mirror said, “Snow White is the fairest.”
The starts this beautiful hunt of a witch for a young child, seeking its destruction, which, if you can understand in a different way, is the destruction of innocence arising out of our own emphasis on ourselves.
The more we think about ourselves the less we think of others. When we think of nothing else but ourselves, we cannot think of anything outside us. This is the heartlessness and the cruelty that we see today. Not that human beings are innately cruel or heartless, because there are moments when you click them and all that human love and charity and compassion floods the environment. But it is the closing of all avenues of external contact by this total self-centredness – my power, my money, my this, my that.
My master only says, “Forget thyself.”
That is why I said, when I referred to the Delphic oracle, ‘Know thyself,’ I said this system goes a little beyond that, because knowing ourselves is useless.
My master said, “Become what you have to become.” For this he said, “The master is a mirror,” because as we grow we see in the mirror, which is the master, the reflection of ourselves.
Therefore, we have the Dorian Gray picture now reversed. The picture becomes more and more beautiful, and ultimately it is so overpoweringly beautiful that we swoon at its feet and merge into it.
Broadly speaking, this is the message of the heart, the way of the heart. Go inside. Find the inner Self. Learn to live with it. Learn to listen to the voice that you call conscience, which is coming out of it. Obey it fearlessly. Learn to give, in the true confidence that giving brings more and more for you to give, whereas keeping only sours the gift. Then we find this extraordinary miracle of any one of us perhaps becoming a saint, who receives and receives and receives unlimitedly, to go on giving, not retaining anything for himself, knowing that in that is his existence. … Thank you.