Signs and wonders will be seen – You know my tears – This is the hour – No man shall stop my plan – Trust me!
Follow the hand of God – I will reach for you – Take my hand – Walk with me – Praise the Lord!
You have been called – You are my witness – The Rapture is coming – I am the Light – Expect me!
This is the time of teaching – There shall be a Crusade – Prepare for me – I have risen – Embrace me!
A new day is coming – I am building a Temple – My Church is being restored – Read the signs – Stand!
“The Last Days of Tolemac” is a book of prophecy. It deals with events that are happening in the world today and shows how they fulfill prophecies that were made many centuries ago. The book is set out in a series of questions and answers, and explains in detail:
- What is about to happen to our planet
- Why these events are happening at this time
- What places on earth will be affected
- What the new world will be like
- What we can do to prepare
If you wish to read these prophecies Click Here
As the book explains, our world is about to be transformed. We are about to experience “a new heaven and a new earth” where there will be no more suffering and no more pain. However all of us are faced with a choice. Do we wish to inherit the new world that is coming? Or will we fall victim to the catastrophes that will herald its arrival? What we need to do to survive is explained in the pages of this book.
For the information of readers, The Last Days of Tolemac is now available on Kindle Books as a Digital Download, as well as Allan’s major work entitled The Cosmic Web.
The Cosmic Web explains the mysteries of life, and shows how we all have within us hidden powers that will transform our lives in the coming age. Many of the stories that appear on this Blog, as well as articles on esoteric aspects of life, have been taken from this book. And as usual with Kindle books, if you click on the cover of either book, you can read part of the contents for free.
Both books can be accessed here
Allan Colston can be contacted at Tolemac@shaw.ca
For the benefit of readers who might be looking for information on specific subjects related to prophecy, the following articles have been included here for easy reference. They can be found in “Articles” listed under the heading “Categories” in the column on the right:
- The Apocalypse Unveiled
- The Rapture Revealed
- The Lost Years of Jesus
- The New Golden Age
- The Last Pope
- The Death of the Pope
- The Doomsday Prophecies
- 2012 and the Maya Calendar
- The Kachina Prophecies of the Hopi
- Rebuilding the Temple of Solomon
- What is “Wormwood” in the Book of Revelation?
- What is “Mystery Babylon” in the Book of Revelation?
In this instalment, the 20th century Indian Sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj continues his dialogue about the state of mind of one who has attained the Kingdom of God, witnessed the Truth, overcome death, and is no longer bound by the limitations of matter, energy, space and time.
The Sage encompasses all consciousnesses and all worlds, and yet it is not limited by their content. The Sage experiences things just like other people experience them. The Sage feels and shares the thoughts and feelings of others as if they were his or her own experience. Yet the Sage remains beyond the reach of all experience. Thus being at the heart of all experience, the Sage is all-knowing.
Question: “Do you know all you want to know?
Maharaj: There is nothing I want to know. But what I need to know I come to know.
Question: Does this knowledge come to you from within or from outside?
Maharaj: It does not apply. My inner is outside and my outside is inside. I may get from you the knowledge needed at the moment, but you are not apart from me.” 1
Although the Sage does not actively seek information or outward knowledge, since all knowledge is predicated upon consciousness and change, the Sage spontaneously acquires whatever knowledge is needed at any moment.
“Once you are inwardly integrated, outer knowledge comes to you spontaneously. At every moment of your life you know what you need to know. In the ocean of the universal mind all knowledge is contained; it is yours on demand. Most of it you may never need to know – it is yours all the same. As with knowledge, so it is with power. Whatever you feel needs to be done happens unfailingly.” 2
Again and again we try to look into the mind of the Sage to see as he sees, and to try to grasp the action of his mind. What we fail to recognise is that the Sage is truly mindless, and does not evaluate the images of perception, which do not remain stuck in memory upon the screen of consciousness.
Question: “As I sit here, I see the room, the people. I see you too. How does it look at your end? What do you see?
Maharaj: Nothing. I look, but I do not see in the sense of creating images clothed with judgements. I do not describe nor evaluate. I look, I see you, but neither attitude nor opinion cloud my vision. And when I turn my eyes away, my mind does not allow memory to linger, but is at once free and fresh for the next impression.” 3
Because the Sage appears to inhabit a human body, and appears to function just as we do, we assume that the Sage is subject to the same interplay of thought and emotion and is bound by the same states of consciousness.
Question: “Do you experience the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping just as we do, or otherwise?
Maharaj: All the three states are sleep to me. My waking state is beyond them. As I look at you, you all seem asleep dreaming up worlds of your own. I am aware, for I imagine nothing. It is not samadhi (superconscious state), which is but a kind of sleep. It is just a state unaffected by the mind, free from past and future. In your case it is distorted by desire and fear, by memories and hopes; in mine it is as it is – normal. To be a person is to be asleep.” 4
Because our lives are bound by conditions and circumstances, we assume that the Sage is similarly bound. We inevitably transfer our own limitations to the Sage, believing that our own experiences in life must apply in equal fashion to the Sage.
Question: “You may be God himself, but you need a well fed body to talk to us.
Maharaj: It is you that need my body to talk to you. I am not my body nor do I need it. I am the witness only. I have no shape of my own. You are so accustomed to think of yourselves as bodies having consciousness that you just cannot imagine consciousnesses as having bodies. Once you realize that bodily existence is but a state of mind, a movement in consciousness, that the ocean of consciousness is infinite and eternal, and that, when in touch with consciousness, you are the witness only, you will be able to withdraw beyond consciousness altogether.
Question: We are told that there are many levels of existence. Do you exist and function on all the levels? While you are on earth, are you also in heaven?
Maharaj: I am nowhere to be found! I am not a thing to be found among other things. All things are in me, but I am not among things.” 5
Despite the Sage’s proclaimed victory over desire, the Sage continues to act as if he or she were responding to the ebb and flow of human emotion.
Question: “I have seen people supposed to have realized, laughing and crying. Does it not show that they are not free of desire and fear?
Maharaj: They may laugh and cry according to circumstances, but inwardly they are cool and clear, watching detachedly their own spontaneous reactions. Appearances are misleading and more so in the case of a Gnani (enlightened being).
Question: I do not understand you.
Maharaj: The mind cannot understand, for the mind is trained for grasping and holding while the Gnani is not grasping and not holding.
Question: What am I holding on to which you are not?
Maharaj: You are a creature of memories; at least you imagine yourself to be so. I am entirely unimagined. I am what I am, not identifiable with any physical or mental state. 6
Because we are creatures of memories, and because our world is filled with images which have form and events that change with time, we assume that the world of the Sage must be a variation, although perhaps more exalted, of these same images and events.
Question: “What distinguishes your world from mine?
Maharaj: My world has no characteristics by which it can be identified. You can say nothing about it. I am my world. My world is myself. It is complete and perfect. Every impression is erased, every experience rejected. I need nothing, not even myself, for myself I cannot lose.
Question: Not even God?
Maharaj: All these ideas and distinctions exist in your world; in mine there is nothing of the kind. My world is single and very simple.
Question: Nothing happens there?
Maharaj: Whatever happens in your world, there it has validity and evokes response. In my world nothing happens.
Question: The very fact of experiencing your world implies duality inherent in all experience.
Maharaj: Verbally – yes. But your words do not reach me. Mine is a non-verbal world. In your world the unspoken has no existence. In mine – the words and their content have no being. In your world nothing stays, in mine – nothing changes. My world is real, while yours is made of dreams.
Question: Yet we are talking.
Maharaj: The talk is in your world. In mine – there is eternal silence. My silence sings, my emptiness is full, I lack nothing. You cannot know my world until you are there.” 7
Our world is dependent on consciousness and vanishes when consciousness is lost. The process of death terminates our awareness of the world. We assume that death must similarly provoke a dramatic transformation in the experience of the Sage.
Question: “Forgive me a strange question. If somebody with a razor-sharp sword would suddenly sever your head, what difference would it make to you?
Maharaj: None whatsoever. The body will lose its head, certain lines of communication will be cut, that is all. Two people talk to each other on the phone and the wire is cut. Nothing happens to the people, only they must look for some other means of communication.” 8
We lead precarious lives, where the breath of life may be snuffed out at any moment. The Sage has broken the bonds of death, and being immortal, is unmoved by the presence or absence of manifested form.
Question: “An accident would destroy your equanimity.
Maharaj: The strange fact is that it does not. To my own surprise, I remain as I am – pure Awareness, alert to all that happens.
Question: Even at the moment of death?
Maharaj: What is it to me that the body dies?
Question: Don’t you need it to contact the world?
Maharaj: I do not need the world. The world you think of is in your own mind. I can see it through your own eyes and mind, but I am fully aware that it is a projection of memories, it is touched by the real only at the point of awareness, which can be only be now.
Question: The only difference between us seems to be that while I keep on saying that I do not know my real self, you maintain that you know it well; is there any other difference between us?
Maharaj: There is no difference between us; nor can I say that I know myself. I know that I am not describable nor definable; there is a vastness beyond the farthest reaches of the mind. That vastness is my home; that vastness is myself. And that vastness is also love.” 9
The Sage speaks from direct experience of the one Reality that is the foundation of all manifested life, but is itself untouched by shape and form. This experience does not, however, demand an experiencer, for it is the experiencer who dies at the moment of birth into the world of enlightenment.
Question: “I hear you making statements about yourself like: ‘I am timeless, immutable beyond attributes,’ etc. How do you know these things? And what makes you say them?
Maharaj: I am only trying to describe the state before the ‘I am’ arose, for the state itself, being beyond the mind and its language, is indescribable.
Question: The ‘I am’ is the foundation of all experience. What you are trying to describe must also be an experience, limited and transitory. You speak of yourself as immutable. I hear the sound of the word, remember its dictionary meaning, but the experience of being immutable I do not have. How can I break through the barrier and know personally, intimately what it means to be immutable?
Maharaj: The word itself is the bridge. Remember it, think of it, explore it, go round it, look at it from all directions, dive into it with earnest perseverance; endure all delays and disappointments till suddenly the mind turns round, away from the word, towards the reality beyond the word. It is like trying to find a person knowing his name only. A day comes when your enquiries bring you to him and the word becomes reality. Words are valuable, for between the word and its meaning there is a link and if one investigates the word assiduously, one crosses beyond the concept into the experience at the root of it. As a matter of fact, such repeated attempts to go beyond the words is called meditation. Sadhana (spiritual practice) is but a persistent attempt to cross over from the verbal to the non-verbal. The task seems hopeless until suddenly all becomes clear and simple and wonderfully easy. But as long as you are interested in your present way of living, you will shirk the final leap into the unknown.
Question: Why should the unknown interest me? Of what use is the unknown?
Question: Nothing more is needed, of course. But you talk of the knowable.
Maharaj: Of the unknowable only silence talks. The mind can talk only of what it knows. If you investigate diligently the knowable, it dissolves and only the unknowable remains. But with the first flicker of imagination and interest the unknowable is obscured and the known comes to the forefront. The known, the changing, is what you live with – the unchangeable is of no use to you. It is only when you are satiated with the changeable and long for the unchangeable, that you are ready for the turning around and stepping into what can be described, when seen from the level of the mind, as emptiness and darkness. For the mind craves for content and variety, while reality is to the mind, contentless and invariable.
Question: It looks like death to me.
Maharaj: It is. It is also all-pervading, all conquering, intense beyond words.” 10
1 “I Am That“, Conversations with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, translated by Maurice Frydman. Book II, Chetana, Bombay, 1973, p. 151.
2 Ibid, p. 141.
3 Ibid, p. 209.
4 Ibid, p. 218.
5 Ibid, pp. 73-74.
6 Ibid, p. 304.
7 “I Am That“, Book I, op.cit., pp. 91-92.
8 “I Am That“, Book II, op.cit., p. 74.
9 Ibid, pp. 304-305.
10 Ibid, pp. 198-199.
The driving force of life is the motivation of desire. Life is nothing more or less than the desire for experience, and the search for ever-new ways in which to experience all the possibilities that life offers.
Desire stirs the waters of consciousness. The Central Sun of Awareness shines on this surface and is reflected in a myriad tiny ripples, each of which appears to be a miniature version of that sun. Yet each separate sun is illusory. Each reflection is a product of the turbulence of the water. When this disturbance ceases, each wavelet disappears, and with it the image of a separate personality.
The way to transcend the limits of experience is by renouncing the desire to experience. Since it is desire which stirs the waters of consciousness, it is the absence of desire which stills them.
The rediscovery of the Central Sun of Awareness is not the fruit of desire, but the absence of desire. It is by voluntarily relinquishing the desire for individual expression that the personality becomes absorbed in the universe, just as the individual raindrop is absorbed into the amorphous sea.
By sacrificing individual existence, the personality rediscovers its universal nature. The price of surpassing all human limitation has always been to surrender individual motivation, the desire for individual experience in life.
For as long as the personality marches to the beat of an individual drum it can never experience its universal nature. It is only by voluntarily surrendering the desire to be a person that the personality submerges into the infinite. Individual identity is lost forever, but Universal Awareness is regained.
It was this message of redemption through personal self-sacrifice that was the central feature of the life of the Christ.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life will lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16: 24-25)
“He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (John 12: 25)
The cross which Jesus bade his disciples take up was not mere death of the physical body. It was the ultimate sacrifice of the personality; the voluntary relinquishment of individual existence, for it was this self-sacrifice which opened the doors of redemption, by resurrecting the soul in eternal life.
As Jesus himself proclaimed, he was the way to eternal life, and his life was the pathway to everlasting Truth.
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14: 6)
The soul that strives for personal expression is bound to the cycle of rebirth. The individual appears to undergo a series of incarnations which always ends in death. It is only the soul that has voluntarily surrendered individual existence that transcends the power of death and is born no more. It takes off its mortal garb to don the cloak of immortality.
The purpose of Jesus’ life was to reveal the good news of the joy of illimitable freedom which lay beyond all mental thinking and intellectual understanding.
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
This common refrain has been told by Sages throughout the ages. Their message has been simple. Reality exists. Furthermore, this Reality exists within the heart of every individual, manifesting as the “I am” presence within.
Those who are prepared to break the chains which bind them, can experience this Reality in a dynamic fullness of expression that transcends all limitations, and is resplendent with inexpressible joy.
In spite of the various ways in which this message has been repeated, it still falls strangely on Western ears. Most Westerners not only cannot conceive of such a Reality, but instinctively seem to mistrust those who claim to have experienced it directly.
This problem has been neatly summarised in a discussion with the 20th century Indian Sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj:
“The Westerners who occasionally come to see you are faced with a peculiar difficulty. The very notion of a liberated man, a realized man, a self-knower, a God knower, a man beyond the world, is unknown to them. All they have in their Christian culture is the idea of a saint – a pious man, law abiding, God-fearing, fellow-loving, prayerful, sometimes prone to ecstasies and confirmed by a few miracles. The very idea of a gnani (enlightened being) is foreign to western culture, something exotic and rather unbelievable. Even when his existence is accepted, he is looked at with suspicion, as a case of self-induced euphoria caused by strange physical postures and mental attitudes. The very idea of a new dimension in consciousness seems to them implausible and improbable.” 1
This gospel of triumphant liberation has been echoed from generation to generation. It was the same good news which Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj conveyed to the young Maruti, who was later to become Nisargadatta Maharaj.
But whereas most hearers of this message have preferred to ignore it, Maruti actually made these words the ally of his heart. Within the space of three short years, he had shed the last vestiges of individual existence, and become absorbed in that blissful state which transcends all definitions and limitations. He described how this transformation came about.
“My Guru showed me my true nature – and the true nature of the world. Having realised that I am one with and yet beyond the world, I became free from all desire and fear. I did not reason out that I should be free – I found myself free – unexpectedly, without the least effort. This freedom from desire and fear has remained with me since then. Another thing I noticed was that I did not need to make an effort; the deed followed the thought without delay and friction. I have also found that thoughts became self-fulfilling; things would fall in place smoothly and rightly. The main change was in the mind; it became motionless and silent, responding quickly but not perpetuating the response. Spontaneity became a way of life, the real became natural and the natural became real. And above all, infinite affection, love, dark and quiet, radiating in all directions, embracing all, making all interesting and beautiful, significant and auspicious.” 2
Nisargadatta Maharaj followed the inward spiral of the sensation of the “I am”, pursuing this thread remorselessly until he found himself at the heart of Reality. In achieving this crown of enlightenment, he had first to conquer the Minotaur of desire, thus snapping the links of those chains which had bound him to phenomenal existence.
When the thread which creates the entire universe is followed to its source, it ends in the emptiness of the Void. The heart of the “I am” yields nothing but emptiness. Yet it is an emptiness that contains the fullness of all created life.
To reach the fountain of Supreme Truth, it is necessary to transcend the Void, that Ungrund of outer darkness which shields the inner light. Those who finally reach this inmost Sanctuary, have to pass through that ring of darkness which St John of the Cross has called “the dark night of the soul”.
These who persist in their efforts to cross over to the farther shore, however, find a joy that is beyond all telling. It is living at its most abundant, unlimited and without end.
The idea that there can be life beyond the nihilism, emptiness and darkness of personal extinction, defies the intellectual mind. We simply cannot comprehend life other than through our customary conscious experience.
The difficulty which confronts the mind is that it attempts to form a concept of illimitable experience. This attempt is doomed to failure. The limited mind is quite unable to conceive of an experience that is without any form of limitation. All words fail in their efforts to describe it. No concept, no matter how subtle, can define it.
Visitors to Maharaj constantly sought to reduce the essence of his state to a mental concept, attempting to capture the unknown within the parameters of the known, as we can see from the following conversations:
Maharaj: “I know myself as I am in reality. I am neither the body nor the mind nor the mental faculties. I am beyond all this.
Question: Are you just nothing?
Maharaj: Come on, be reasonable. Of course I am, most tangibly. Only I am not what you think me to be. This tells you all.
Question: It tells me nothing.
Maharaj: Because it cannot be told. You must gain your own experience. You are accustomed to deal with things, physical and mental. I am not a thing, nor are you. We are neither matter nor energy, neither body nor mind. Once you have a glimpse of your own being, you will not find me difficult to understand.” 3
Like the following questioner, we find it paradoxical to think of unlimited being which is capable of expressing itself in limited form. We are caught in this conflict of logic, due to the limitations of our mental powers of reasoning.
Question: “I have understood that personality is an illusion, and alert detachment without loss of identity is our point of contact with the reality. Will you, please, tell me at this moment are you a person or a self-aware identity?
Maharaj: I am both. But the real self cannot be described except in terms supplied by the person, in terms of what I am not. All you can tell about the person is not the self and you can tell nothing about the self which would not refer to the person, as it is, as it could be, as it should be. All attributes are personal. The real is beyond all attributes.
Question: Are you sometimes the self and sometimes the person?
Maharaj: How can I be? The person is what I appear to be to other persons. To myself I am the infinite expanse of consciousness in which innumerable persons emerge and disappear in endless succession.
Question: How is it that the person which to you is quite illusory, appears real to us?
Maharaj: You, the self, being the root of all being, consciousness and joy, impart your reality to whatever you perceive. This imparting of reality takes place invariably in the now, at no other time, because past and future are only in the mind. ‘Being’ applies to the now only.” 4
Yet the mind still struggles with these mental contradictions. Not only do we wrestle with the difficulty of unlimited expression intertwined with limited form, but there is also the problem of Absolute Awareness apparently confined within limited consciousness.
Question: “You say you are the silent witness and also you are beyond consciousness. Is there no contradiction in it? If you are beyond consciousness, what are you witnessing to?
Maharaj: I am conscious and unconscious, both conscious and unconscious, neither conscious nor unconscious – to all this I am witness – but really there is no witness, because there is nothing to be witness to. I am perfectly empty of all mental formations, void of mind yet fully aware. This I try to express in saying I am beyond the mind.
Question: How can I reach you then?
Maharaj: Be aware of being conscious and seek the source of consciousness. That is all. Very little can be conveyed in words. It is the doing as I tell you that will bring light, not my telling you. The means do not matter much; it is the desire, the urge, the earnestness that count.” 5
Yet the desire to eat of this divine confection is countered by the fear that we might not like its taste. Anxious to forestall this possibility, we attempt to derive beforehand an idea of what it is we may finally hope to achieve. Even though we can acknowledge the limitation of the mind, we nevertheless resolutely seek to reduce Reality to corporeality, and so dress the illimitable in clothes of thought, before deciding whether it really is worth striving for.
Maharaj explains the distinction between corporeality and Reality.
“I see as you see, hear as you hear, taste as you taste, eat as you eat. I also feel thirst and hunger and expect my food to be served on time. When starved or sick, my body and mind go weak. All this I perceive quite clearly, but somehow I am not in it. I feel myself as if floating over it, aloof and detached. Even not aloof and detached. There is aloofness and detachment as there is thirst and hunger; there is also the awareness of it all and a sense of immense distance, as if the body and the mind and all that happens to them were somehow far out on the horizon. I am like a screen – clear and empty – the pictures pass over it and disappear, leaving it as clear and empty as before.” 6
Having severed the knot of identity which strings images together in consciousness, the Sage does not react to these images from the standpoint of personality. They come and they go, and there is no desire to link successive images. Yet from the viewpoint of the observer, the Sage continues to act and speak just like a normal, rational human being.
Question: “When I ask a question and you answer, what exactly happens?
Maharaj: The question and the answer – both appear on the screen. The lips move, the body speaks and again the screen is clear and empty.
Question: When you say clear and empty, what do you mean?
Maharaj: I mean free of all contents. To myself I am neither perceivable nor conceivable; there is nothing I can point out and say: ‘this I am’. You identify yourself with everything so easily; I find it impossible. The feeling: ‘I am not this or that, nor is anything mine is so strong in me that as soon as a thing or thought appears, there comes at once the sense ‘this I am not’.
Question: Do you mean to say that you spend your time repeating ‘this I am not, that I am not’?
Maharaj: Of course not. I am merely verbalizing for your sake. By the grace of my Guru I have realized once and for all that I am neither object nor subject and I do not need to remind myself all the time.
Question: I find it hard to grasp what exactly you mean by saying that you are neither the object nor the subject. At this very moment, as we talk, am I not the object of your experience, and you the subject?
Maharaj: Look, my thumb touches my forefinger. Both touch and are touched. When my attention is on the thumb, the thumb is the feeler and the forefinger – the self. Shift the focus of attention and the relationship is reversed. I find that somehow, by shifting the focus of attention, I become the very thing I look at and experience the kind of consciousness it has; I become the inner witness of the thing. I call this capacity of entering other focal points of consciousness – love; you may give it any name you like. Love says: ‘I am everything.’ Wisdom says: ‘I am nothing.’ Between the two my life flows. Since at any point of time and space I can be both subject and the object of experience, I express it by saying that I am both and neither and beyond.” 7
1 “I Am That”, Conversations with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, translated by Maurice Frydman, Book I, Chetana, Bombay, 1973, pp. 191-192.
2 “I Am That“, Book II, op. cit., p. 10.
3 Ibid, p. 46.
4 Ibid, p. 302.
5 Ibid, p. 75.
6 Ibid, p. 8.
7 Ibid, pp. 8-9.
Five centuries after the “Light of Asia” had spread his message of compassion and freedom to all those tormented by suffering, a son was born to a young couple in Judaea.
The boy’s name was Jesus, and he was raised in Nazareth near the Sea of Galilee, where his father was a carpenter. Little is known of his early childhood, but the boy expressed a strong interest in the religious beliefs of his people.
At the age of twelve, when his parents went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual feast of the Passover, he was found in the temple, listening to learned scholars and asking them questions. He showed a precocious grasp of spiritual matters that amazed his elders.
“And all who heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” (Luke 2:47)
Nothing further is recorded in the Bible of his progress until about the age of thirty, when he travelled from Galilee to the river Jordan, to be baptised by a desert prophet by the name of John.
When Jesus had been baptised by John, he retreated into the wilderness, where he fasted for a period of forty days and nights. During this time he was assailed by the same inner conflict which had challenged Gautama in his meditative repose beneath the Bodhi tree.
Gautama had been tormented by Mara, the Tempter, who had offered him the prize of worldly gratification and power, if he rejected the call of Brahma Sahampati, to sacrifice his identity in the universal source of all being. Likewise, Jesus was tempted by Satan, who offered him undreamed of wealth and worldly power.
In rejecting this glorification of the personal self, Jesus emerged from the wilderness as a being transformed, radiant with transcendent understanding. He was no longer Jesus the man, but the “Christ”, the “Anointed One”.
He was no longer a man born in time and limited to a particular face and form. He was the Absolute itself – eternally present, beyond space and time. As Jesus later announced to those Jews who ridiculed him because he claimed that Abraham had rejoiced to see his day:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)
Like the Buddha before him, the Christ preached a message of joy and freedom to all who would listen. His message was the gospel, or good news, that men and women could overcome the bondage of pain, suffering and death, and live a life of eternal freedom. As his disciple John later recorded of his mission:
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Speaking on the Mount of Olives, Jesus told the throng that had assembled around him:
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8: 32)
Jesus ministered to a very different society than had the Buddha. There was no long tradition of subtle philosophic thought in Israel at that time, as there had been in Asia.
The Jews were a hardy people, dominated by the rigorous demands of life in subjection to a foreign power. For this reason, Jesus conveyed his gospel by means of parables, simple stories which could easily be understood by untutored people.
For Transcendental Reality, Jesus chose the metaphor of the Kingdom of God. In its immanent aspect, as the unmanifest source of all, which the Rishis had called Brahman, Jesus used the symbol of the Father.
In its manifested aspect, resident in the heart of all creation as the “I am” principle, which the Rishis had called Atman, Jesus adopted the symbol of the Son. These twin, or complementary, aspects of God were fused together in Jesus into one indivisible whole.
In Jesus, the Father and the Son were united in a mystic “at-one-ment.” As he was to announce to those who came to hear him preach: “I and my Father are one.” (John 10: 30) There could no longer be any possibility of the Son acting independently of the Father. For, as he challenged those who doubted:
“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” (John 14: 10)
In uniting his former individuality with the Absolute Reality, Jesus had not only conquered all forms of material limitation, but physical death as well. Having attained the Kingdom of God himself, he was the living proof that it could be achieved by others.
But this Kingdom of God was not some remote state which lay beyond the portals of death. It was the Atman, or “I am” principle, which existed in the heart of every person.
So when the Pharisees wanted to know where the Kingdom of God that he spoke about was located, Jesus replied that this was not something that could be seen or experienced outwardly, but was rather something that existed inside every person.
“And when the Pharisees had demanded of Him when the Kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, ‘The Kingdom of God cometh not with outward show’. Neither shall they say, ‘Lo, it is here!’ or ‘Lo, it is there!’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17: 20,21)
Anyone was free to achieve this union of the individuality with the Absolute. However, there was one condition that was essential to its attainment. The person had to be “born again”. For as Jesus explained to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin:
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God“. (John 3: 3)
Each person had to conquer their individual ego and renounce desire. For those who would follow Jesus and attain the Kingdom of God, it was necessary to follow the path that Jesus himself had taken.
Those who chose to direct their lives according to the desires of their own hearts would be doomed to die. In order to reach the Universal State, one had to be willing to surrender one’s own individual desires, and submit to the will of the Father. As St. Matthew recorded:
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16: 24-25)
Yet in spite of the fact that it was necessary to sacrifice one’s personality upon that cross before one could attain the Kingdom of God, this was to Jesus a goal that was to be prized above all other things in life.
He likened it to a treasure hidden in a field, “which, when a man hath found, he hideth; and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field.” (Matthew 13 : 44)
Or again, it was like “a pearl of great price” that was worth selling everything in order to possess it. The nature of this Transcendent Reality, the Kingdom of God, was resplendent beyond all imagining. It was “that peace which passeth all understanding.”
The force of the words spoken by the Rishis of old, by Lao Tzu, Gautama the Buddha and Jesus the Christ, is undiminished, notwithstanding the long centuries that have unrolled since they trod the earth.
Yet our understanding of their simple message has been clouded by a host of conflicting translations, and a multitude of different interpretations of their words. The result has been that followers of these faiths have been split into numerous different sects and factions, with each one emphasizing some particular aspect of their teachings, and with each believing that they alone have captured the true essence of the message.
There is one sad footnote to the gospel of Jesus. Despite the passage of almost two thousand years, there is no record in the history of Christianity of a single person achieving this Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about, while still retaining human flesh. In other words, Christianity has so far failed to produce another Christ.
Yet within the history of the religions of the East, this has happened many thousands of times. In India, such has been the vitality of the religious culture of the nation, and such the passion with which Indians have continued to seek these lofty goals, that new Rishis have been crowned in every generation. And each new enlightened being has served to validate and interpret anew the ancient wisdom of the Vedas.
Every succeeding Sage has been both a witness to the divine nature of man, and an example of the mystical union that can be won, regardless of the prevailing circumstances of the times. And as social conditions have changed, so has the guidance which these new Sages have dispensed to their own generation of seekers.
Enlightened masters have walked the soil of India in the twentieth century along each of the paths laid down by the early Rishis. And while there have been some liberated Sages who have avoided publicity and remained obscure, there have been others who have lived their lives in the full glare of worldly fame.
They have attracted vast legions of followers from every part of the earth, as we shall see in the following instalment.
Mankind’s search for God is perhaps as old as humanity itself. It was undoubtedly prompted initially by the wonder of the unknown, and the desire to find meaning in life’s mysteries. The origins of metaphysics lie much farther back in time than those of physical science, which began with the stirrings of the Hellenistic mind over twenty-five centuries ago.
Yet at a time when the Greek civilisation had not yet dawned, there already existed an ancient tradition of wisdom which had been discovered and guarded by an Indian lineage of Rishis, or enlightened Seers.
These Rishis had acquired a personal insight into the true nature of God, by means of direct experience and revelation. These revelatory insights were initially passed directly from master to pupil by word of mouth. These hidden truths were later systematised into a form of philosophy that was transmitted orally from generation to generation.
After many centuries, these oral teachings were reduced to writing, and became the core of the literary spiritual tradition of India. While the identities of the earliest Rishis have long since been forgotten, their codified teachings have been incorporated into these written works, which now comprise some one hundred thousand couplets.
These couplets of philosophical truth have come to be known collectively as the Vedas, which is a term based upon the Sanskrit root “Vid” meaning “to know.” This Vedic knowledge was divided into four major books, which were titled the Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, Yajur-Veda and the Atharva-Veda.
These classical works represented the timeless wisdom of the earliest Rishis. A couplet in chapter ten of the Rig-Veda ascribed their origin simply to a divine source. Each book was divided into two sections. One section dealt with various practical rules of living, and included prayers, hymns, rituals and rules of conduct.
The latter part of each book was concerned with the sacred knowledge of the origin of humanity and the true nature of reality. These latter portions of each of the four books became known as the Upanishads. They were secret teachings which were only to be revealed to those who were deemed fit to receive them.
Because the central wisdom of these four books had been incorporated into their latter portions, this was referred to as Vedanta, based on the Sanskrit word “anta”, meaning “end” or “purpose”. Thus Vedanta represented the essence of the teachings of these four books.
It also represented the purpose for which these sacred teachings had been recorded, which was to pass on the secret insights of the Rishis. While Vedanta was the term used initially to refer to those teachings within the four classic books, it later came to embrace other related works and commentaries.
The central teaching of the Vedas was that there existed one single, eternal, immanent Reality, which we refer to as God, that was the source of all creation. They called this Reality Brahman. This Brahman could not be described in words because it was beyond all mental attributes.
Brahman was considered to be unchanging, in spite of the continual changes of the phenomenal universe. It was held to be the source of the manifested world, being its substratum or foundation, but was completely unaffected by the constant ebb and flow of creation.
The Vedas went on to teach that this absolute principle of Brahman was not something that was remote from mankind and unobtainable. Instead, this Reality manifested itself within the heart of every person in the guise of the “I am” sensation.
This “I am” sensation was called Atman. Atman and Brahman were therefore twin aspects of the same Reality. Atman was thus the Supreme Self residing in the heart of all creatures, that manifested itself as the “I am” presence within.
Because Atman was the secret source of every living being, and at the same time formed an indivisible part of Brahman, this absolute Reality (or God) could be directly experienced by any man or woman, simply by following the thread of the “I am” sensation within.
This awakening irrevocably changed the character of the individual concerned. The individual no longer continued to exist in personal form, and was freed from all of the outward manifestations of the universe, such as matter, energy, space and time. Instead, it experienced the dissolution of the personality in a mystical union with Atman-Brahman.
The individual person became transformed into an expression of life that was eternally free from all limitations. His or her former individuality blended into the Absolute, just as a stream would flow into the sea, evermore losing its former existence and character.
The Upanishads, or secret portions of the Vedas, were devoted to describing the various ways in which this mystical union could be attained. They urged men and women everywhere, regardless of caste or creed, to discover their real natures, and to strive for the final goal of union with the Godhead within themselves.
Throughout the last three thousand years, the Vedas have continued to focus Indian thought upon the Absolute, and to guide those who wished to devote their lives to this purpose, towards the experience of union with Atman-Brahman.
Although the Absolute could not be defined as having any attributes, the actual experience of this union was characterised by the very nature of the Absolute itself. Its nature was described as Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sat represented absolute existence. Chit was absolute consciousness, and Ananda absolute bliss.
The good news was that Brahman-Atman could be experienced by any person who truly wanted it. According to the Vedas, there was only one condition that was necessary to put on this cloak of immortality. One had to break the chains of personal desire.
“When all desires dwelling in the heart cease, then the mortal becomes immortal and attains Brahman here.” Katha-Upanishad 1
“The wise freed (from the sense! and from mortal desires) after leaving this world, become immortal.” Kena-Upanishad 2
“Let a Brahmana (God-seeker), after having examined all these words attained through Karma-Marga (sacrifices and good deeds), become free from all desires; realizing that the Eternal cannot be gained by the non-eternal.” Mundaka-Upanishad 3
The extraordinary impact which the Vedas have had upon the collective mind of India, is evidenced by the fact that these teachings have continued to draw people in search of the Absolute along these time-worn paths, from hoariest antiquity right up to the present day.
At a time when India was dominated by the philosophy of the Vedas and rejuvenated by the living examples of its Rishis, China came under the influence of an extraordinary man.
He was born in the seventh century before Christ, and from this vast perspective in time, can only be discerned as a shadowy historical figure. But while the exact details of his life are veiled in obscurity, the impact of his teachings upon the people of China has been profound.
The name given to this man was Lao Tzu, which is the Chinese equivalent of “old master”. This name may therefore have been a title of honour which was later bestowed upon him.
The details of Lao Tzu’s life lie shrouded in legend. He was thought to have been a member of the Imperial Court who lived most of his life as a hermit in the State of Chou. At an advanced age he was said to have undertaken a journey to the west and, having crossed the frontier, was never seen again.
Lao Tzu has come to be regarded as the founder of Taoism, and is reputed to have been the author of a series of enigmatic sayings that have been incorporated into a book known as the Tao Te Ching, or the “Book of the Way”.
In these paradoxical aphorisms, Lao Tzu expressed a lofty philosophy based on the concept of Tao, the all-embracing principle of Reality. For Lao Tzu, Tao was the root and source of all creation. Heaven and earth were its garments, yet it remained immutable amid the changing fortunes of life.
No words could describe its true nature, which was beyond the capacity of the human mind to understand. Referring to Tao, Lao Tzu confessed:
“The Tao which can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao; the name which can be uttered is not its eternal name.” 4
For Lao Tzu, Tao was the mysterious source of all creation.
“How unfathomable is Tao! It seems to be the ancestral progenitor of all things.
Oh, how still it is, and formless, standing alone without changing, reaching everywhere without suffering harm. It must be regarded as the Mother of the Universe. Its name I know not. To designate it, I call it Tao.”
“Ceaseless in action, it cannot be named, but returns again to nothingness. We may call it the form of the formless, the image of the imageless, the fleeting and the indeterminable.” 4
We can see how closely Lao Tzu’s idea of Tao paralleled the Vedic concept of Atman-Brahman. The spiritual essence of humanity, which the ancient Rishis had called Atman, was also recognised by Lao Tzu to be an indivisible part of Tao. It could not be separated from the outward world of matter and form.
“These two things, the spiritual and the material, though we call them by different names, in their origin are one and the same. This sameness is a mystery – the mystery of mysteries. It is the gate of all wonders.” 4
For Lao Tzu, matter and spirit were indivisible and complementary aspects of the single principle of Tao. While Tao was something which defied description, it was recognised to be the foundation as well as the very nature of matter, energy and form.
“Tao in itself is vague, impalpable – how impalpable, how vague! Yet within it there is Form. How vague, how impalpable! Yet within it there is substance. How profound, how obscure! Yet within it there is a Vital Principle. This principle is the Quintessence of Reality, and out of it comes Truth.” 4
Tao was therefore an Absolute principle that was able to create life and form without effort or purpose. Tao remained ever in perfect peace, yet was the active source of all creation. Lao Tzu saw, as the highest goal of mankind, the attainment of union with this Tao.
Lao Tzu’s contribution towards Chinese thought was not only that he taught the existence of an Absolute principle, but also that it lay within reach of the experience of every individual. But while union with Tao was the ultimate goal of all humanity, this divine union could only be achieved on one condition. One had to forego one’s personal desires.
“Only one who is ever free from desire can apprehend its spiritual essence; he who is ever a slave to desire can see no more than its outer fringe.” 4
Some years after Lao Tzu vanished into the mountains of western China, a prince was born in the Sakya clan of northern India, in what is now Nepal. His name was Gautama Siddhartha.
Young Gautama was brought up in palatial splendour in accordance with regal tradition. His father showered him with every luxury, and shielded the young prince from all forms of adversity. He was prevented from seeing any type of sickness, sorrow or death. In due course the prince grew into adulthood, married, and had a son.
It was about the age of twenty-nine, according to tradition, that Gautama undertook his first journey beyond the palace walls. In mixing with his subjects, he was confronted for the first time by the spectre of age, and the suffering wrought by disease. His journey was climaxed by the sight of a dead man.
Stricken by the sight of so much suffering, Gautama felt a sense of revulsion at the life of luxury that he had lived up to that time. He felt impelled to save himself from the tragedy of suffering, and to discover the mystery of its meaning.
Despite the strong emotional ties that still bound him to his family, legend has it that he looked down at the sleeping form of his baby son, Rahula, and exclaimed: “This is yet another tie which I must break”.
Leaving the palace secretly, he set forth as a penniless hermit, rejecting all worldly wealth and status. Gautama was joined in his search for enlightenment by five monks. Together they adopted a path of extreme austerity, believing that the mortification of the flesh was indispensable to the holy life.
But bodily torture brought no peace or insight to Gautama, and after six years of intense physical denial, it seemed to him that the fruits of understanding could never be purchased by the coin of physical suffering. He resolved to give up his austere path. His fellow monks mocked him for his weakness in renouncing his former path, and abandoned him to his solitude.
Gautama had reached a critical point in his spiritual quest. Consumed by his fervent desire for enlightenment, he committed himself to unbroken meditation, determined not to cease his efforts until he had gained inner illumination.
It was at Uruvela, now known as Buddh Gaya, a city in northern India, that Gautama finally achieved his goal. The peepul tree under which he sat for so long was renamed the Bodhi tree, the tree of wisdom, in honour of that event. For in the course of his intense, inner meditations, Gautama had become the “Buddha”, the “Enlightened”, or “Awakened One”.
Gautama had not merely won an empty intellectual battle. He had achieved a total inner transformation. He was seized with the rapture of liberation. He reflected this joy in one of his famous stanzas of the Dhammapada:
“I have gone round in vain the cycle of many lives ever striving to find the builder of the house of life and death. How great is the sorrow of life that must die! But now I have seen thee, housebuilder: never more shalt thou build this house. The rafters of sins are broken, the ridge-pole of ignorance is destroyed. The fever of craving is past: for my mortal mind is gone to the joy of the immortal Nirvana.” (Verses 153-4) 5
The word Nirvana, drawn from its Sanskrit roots of Va “to blow”, and Nis, meaning “out”, represented the final dissolution or extinction of the flame of individual life. It was the emancipation of life, and union with the Supreme Spirit.
In its reference to extinction, however, Nirvana has often been gravely misinterpreted by western minds, who have regarded it as a sort of melancholy nihilism. A sense of the severe self-denial and misery suffered by the mendicant Gautama still clings to the modern interpretation of the word.
Referring to this misconception, Lama Anagarika Govinda wrote:
“Partly under the influence of Schopenhauer’s philosophy, partly due to the materialistic outlook of science at the beginning of this (20th) century, there arose the impression that Buddhism was either a pessimistic kind of philosophy or a life-negating form of rationalism. Both these views forget that Buddhism was not founded on an intellectual theory, but on an experience of overwhelming power. Nirvana, thus, is not the annihilation of individual life, as generally assumed, but something that can be experienced in this very life, as demonstrated by the Buddha himself.” 6
The individual soul of Gautama Siddhartha had been absorbed into the Glory of the Absolute. As Sir Edwin Arnold described it, “the dewdrop had slipped into the shining sea.”
For the Buddha, this Absolute Reality was beyond description, No thought, word or quality could serve to clothe its mysterious being. It could only be described as Sunyata, the void or emptiness, or Tathata, simply translated as “suchness”. The Chinese master Seng-tsan referred to Tathata in the following words:
“In the higher realm of true Suchness
There is neither “self” nor “other”:
When direct identification is sought,
We can only say, “Not two“. 7
As the modern interpreter of Buddhism D.T. Suzuki has pointed out:
“Empty”(sunya) or “emptiness” (sunyata) is one of the most important notions in Mahayana philosophy and at the same time the most puzzling for non-Buddhist readers to comprehend. Emptiness does not mean “relativity”, or “phenomenality”, or “nothingness”, but rather means the Absolute. When Buddhists declare all things to be empty, they are not advocating a nihilistic view; on the contrary an ultimate reality is hinted at, which cannot be subsumed under the categories of logic. Sunyata may thus often be most appropriately rendered by the Absolute.” 8
The Buddha was himself a witness to that state which transcended all physical limitations. He had attained that Absolute State which was the foundation of all life. Because he had achieved it, it was possible for all men and women to attain this too, and so escape the wheel of suffering.
There was, however, one condition that was crucial for this attainment of Reality. It was necessary to sacrifice one’s personal desires.
“If a man watches not for Nirvana, his cravings grow like a creeper and he jumps from death to death like a monkey in the forest from one tree without fruit to another. And when his cravings overcome him, his sorrows increase more and more, like the entangling creeper called birana. But whoever in this world overcomes his selfish cravings, his sorrows fall away from him, like drops of water from a lotus flower. Therefore in love I tell you, to you all who have come here: cut off the bonds of desires. (Verses 334-337) 9
1 “The Upanishads“, translated by Swami Paramananda, Vedanta Centre, Cohasset, 1981, p. 91.
2 Ibid, p. 98.
3 Ibid, pp. 128-129.
4 “The Sayings of Lao Tzu“, translated by Lionel Giles, John Murray, London, 1905, pp. 20-22.
5 “The Dhammapada“, translated by John Mascaro, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1973, pp. 56-57.
6 Lama Anagarika Govinda, “Enlightenment of Buddha Sakyamuni“, “The Mountain Path”, Vol.15, No.1, January, 1978, pp. 18-19.
7 D.T. Suzuki, “Manual of Zen Buddhism“, Rider, London, 1983, p. 81.
8 Ibid, p. 29.
9 “The Dhammapada”, op.cit., p. 83.
The paradoxical truth that has been taught through the centuries by the founders of religion and enlightened Sages, is that peace and justice are the fruits of “inaction”, not of action. The way to overcome evil is not by resisting it, but by not resisting it.
We may liken evil to the roiling waters of a stormy lake. When the waters of the lake are rough with turbulence, our efforts to suppress evil are like the legendary attempts of King Canute, who tried to beat the waves into submission.
Every act of striking the water merely adds to its turbulence. We can never restore calm by beating the waves. However, if we do nothing, the waves will subside of their own accord.
As Lao Tzu states in the Tao Te Ching, “Who is there who can make the muddy water clear? But if allowed to remain still, it will gradually become clear of itself.” 1 “It is the way of Heaven not to strive, and yet it knows how to overcome.” 2 “Perfect virtue is inactive, having no need to act.” 3
In counselling others, he entreated: “Practise inaction, occupy yourself with doing nothing. Practise inaction, and there is nothing that cannot be done. Leave all things to take their natural course, and do not interfere.” 4
Lao Tzu’s compatriot Confucius also spoke of the virtues of inaction. “The wise take delight in water; Manhood-at-its-best delights in mountains. The wise are active; Manhood-at-its-best is quiet.” 5
The “wise” man of today assesses a problem by means of intellect, and initiates actions that are designed to counteract the problem. The underlying difficulty however, is that it is the mind of the “wise” man that is itself the problem, and therefore any course of action simply contaminates that situation.
The Sage, by contrast, does not initiate action as a result of deliberate thought. The Sage, being at one with all of creation, serves the deepest needs of creation by the mere resonance of Being, as we see from the following conversation with the 20th Century Indian Sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.
Question: “How does the gnani (enlightened being) proceed when he needs something to be done? Does he make plans, decide about details and execute them?
Maharaj: “A gnani understands a situation fully and knows at once what needs to be done. That is all. The rest happens by itself, and to a large extent unconsciously. The gnani’s identity with all that is so complete, that as he responds to the universe, so does the universe respond to him”.
“He is supremely confident that once a situation has been cognized, events will move in adequate response. The ordinary man is personally concerned. He counts his risks and chances, while the gnani remains aloof, sure that all will happen as it must; and it does not matter much what happens, for ultimately the return to balance and harmony is inevitable. The heart of things is at peace.” 6
Being rooted in Transcendent Peace, the Sage’s actions automatically serve to restore this peace, even though there is no conscious effort to do so. The “inaction” spoken of by the Sage should not be misinterpreted as idleness, nor is this “inaction” the “absence of action”.
“Inaction”, as it is referred to in the Hindu classics, is action without motive. The Sage acts without the express intention of influencing affairs for the better. As we read in the Ashtavakra Gita:
“The mind of the freed Sage is unmarred by trouble or pleasure; it is inactive, static and desireless and also free from doubts. The mind of the Sage is free from effort whether meditating or acting. His actions and meditations are not prompted by personal motives.” 7
As Krishnamurti was fond of saying, the mind of a liberated Sage is characterised by “effortless and choiceless awareness”.
The Sage does not seek to impose his will. In a world dominated by purpose and motivated by action, it may seem impossible to imagine action without a motive. Motiveless action, or inaction, is however the inevitable fruit of self-sacrifice. It was that sacrifice which allowed the Christ to say “Not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22: 42)
A person who has sacrificed his or her personal self becomes transformed within. It is a transformation that is charged with power. This inner transformation leads mysteriously, but naturally, to outer transformation, without the least effort or motivation to do so.
Whatever effort is consciously expended to induce peace or happiness in the world is bound to fail. Peace is not the reward of effort. It is the perfume that radiates from the mere presence of the flower of inaction. It is through “not acting” that this inner transformation occurs, and which leads inevitably to outer reform. As Maharaj advises:
“Let go your attachment to the unreal and the real will swiftly and smoothly step into its own. Stop imagining yourself being or doing this or that and the realization that you are the source and heart of all will dawn upon you. With this will come great love which is not choice or predilection, nor attachment, but a power which makes all things love-worthy and lovable.” 8
Ramana Maharshi warned that it was the discrimination between right and wrong that was the true origin of sin.
“One’s own sin is reflected outside and the individual in ignorance superimposes it upon another. The best course for one is to reach the state in which such discrimination does not arise. Moreover, however much you may advise them, your hearers may not rectify themselves. Be in the right yourself and remain silent. Your silence will have more effect than your words or deeds.” 9
Again, when asked the best way in which to work for world peace, the Maharshi replied:
“What is the world? What is peace and who is the worker? Peace is the absence of disturbance. The disturbance is due to the arising of thoughts in the individual, who is only the ego arising up from Pure Consciousness. To bring about peace means to be free from thoughts and to abide as Pure Consciousness. If one remains at peace oneself, there is peace all about.” 10
Peace, goodness, happiness and virtue are not goals that can be attained by the action of desire. While we may certainly desire happiness and peace, such blessings can never be won by motivated action. They blossom of their own accord when the conditions are appropriate. These conditions have always been non-interference and non-resistance.
As Maharaj has confirmed, “They manifest spontaneously and effortlessly, when things are left to themselves, and are not interfered with, not shunned or wanted or conceptualised, but just experienced in full awareness.” 11
The images and events of this world are projections upon our screen of consciousness. If we don’t like the pictures that we see projected in consciousness, the answer is to change the contents of our mind that is doing the projecting.
When we look at cinematic images, we may be outraged at the violence and horror that we see portrayed upon the screen. Yet we recognise that these projections are simply part of the film itself. If we don’t like the pictures, the answer is to change the film, not attack the screen on which these images are projected.
It is the person who renounces the desire to help the world who does the most to improve it. He or she is the truly charitable person.
“Find yourself first,” says the Maharshi, “and endless blessings will follow. Nothing profits the world as much as the abandoning of profits. A man who no longer thinks in terms of loss or gain is the truly non-violent man, for he is beyond all conflict.” 12
“Be free first of suffering yourself and then only hope of helping others. You do not even need to hope – your very existence will be the greatest help a man can give his fellowmen.” 13
We imagine that results can only follow from direct action, and that cruelties, violence and war must be attacked by resolute action if peace and harmony are to be achieved. What we fail to see is that each one of us is an integral part of the entire universe. Every action on our part has its counterpart in the universe we see around us.
When we reform ourselves, the world itself becomes reformed, whether we are conscious of it or not. This is the true process of reform.
“There are people in the world”, notes Maharaj,” who do more good than all the statesmen and philanthropists put together. They radiate light and peace with no intention or knowledge. When others tell them about the miracles they worked, they also are wonderstruck. Yet taking nothing as their own, they are neither proud nor do they crave for reputation. They are just unable to desire anything for themselves, not even the joy of helping others. They know that God is good and are at peace.” 14
The presence of enlightened souls transforms the lives of all those with whom they come in contact, not because of any inherent desire to do so, but through the resplendent nature of their Being. Just as shadows are banished by the light of the sun, so do the stains of the mind vanish in the presence of this Transcendent Reality.
When Confucius expressed the wish to live among some degenerate tribes, his followers remonstrated with him. “What about their crudeness?” they exclaimed. The Chinese Sage replied: “If Great Man were living among them, how could they be crude? His very presence would alter all that.” 15
The true message of reform has been passed from generation to generation. Those who seek to achieve social reform must first submit to self-reform.
And in every generation this advice is spurned. For self-reform is a painful process. The soul is torn upon the rack of suffering before it can win its crown of peace, and experience the soaring joy of redemption. Far better say we, and quicker too, to strive for temporal power, and then use that power to compel others to reform.
Throughout long centuries of travail, men and women have selected this path of folly. The banner of ignorance flies today from all the standards of the world. Despite the evidence of sorrow and despair which these attempts have wrought in every age, we remain locked in the conviction that we can succeed where others have failed.
We tie the noose ever more tightly around our necks, and cry out in anguish when it strangles us. Will the world be saved or will it slide into oblivion? The choice does not rest with governments or Kings. It remains where it has always been, with us as individuals.
We do not need to hold high office to initiate change. When Confucius was asked why he didn’t work in the government, he responded:
“It is said in “The Writings of Old”, ‘Filial duty! Just let there be filial duty. Then there will be kindness toward brothers, and this in turn will spread to the administration.’ This too is to be working in the government. Why must one actually hold office in order to work in the government?” 16
It is the individual actions of our daily lives that combine to make up the conditions of the universe. If we truly wish to work for benevolent change, we need to deal with those images that we alone are responsible for creating. When our hearts are changed they will spread their healing to the farthest reaches of the cosmos, whether we intend this or not. For as Maharaj has remarked:
“When more people come to know their real nature, their influence, however subtle, will prevail, and the world’s emotional atmosphere will sweeten up. People follow their leaders and when among the leaders appear some, great in heart and mind and absolutely free from self-seeking, their impact will be enough to make the crudities of the present age impossible.” 17
We believe that we are powerless to influence the vast arena of this world. The world’s problems appear so numerous and oppressive, that we wonder what we, as mere individuals, can do to overcome them. Yet we fail to reckon with the power of a transformed heart.
The people who actively transform this world for the better do not sit in Parliaments, Congresses or on thrones. They are the unheralded individuals in every land who have devoted their lives to rediscovering the True Source of their own beings. It is in the triumph of their inner revelation that the world will be renewed again, as it has been in ages past.
These new leaders of reformation are not daunted by the problems that now confront us. They are not deterred by statistics. If the light of one small candle can hold back the night, then the radiance of a single transformed soul can serve to banish the encroaching gloom.
Throughout history the Sages have borne testimony to the common experience of Transcendental Awareness that lies at the heart of life. While this source is inexpressible in its nature, it can nevertheless be approached by a thousand different paths.
Just as the spokes of a wheel all focus on the centre, and meet in the emptiness of a common hub, so all the religious paths offered to mankind lead inevitably to a single source. That source is the Supreme Reality that underlies and animates all forms.
As Lord Krishna taught his disciple Arjuna in the “Bhagavad Gita”: “However men approach me, in that same way do I show them my favour; my path men follow in all ways, 0 son of Pritha.” (Chapter 4:11) 18
This same truth is conveyed by Nisargadatta Maharaj. “Christianity is one way of putting words together and Hinduism is another. The real is, behind and beyond words, incommunicable, directly experienced, explosive in its effect on the mind.“ 19
The source of the power that is capable of re-forming the world lies ever present in each one of us. It is freely available to all who seek it. Any person who has discovered the way to tap its bountiful spring will acquire the power, as Paramahansa Yogananda has pointed out, “to reform thousands.”
The price of this attainment is personal self-sacrifice. It is a price that the comfortable philanthropists and politicians of this world do not care to pay. Yet those who choose to submit find it a small burden for the extravagant blessings it confers. They draw on the power of its Resplendent Silence, which is able to transform all dreams.
Being without motive, and acting without personal desire or the hope for any reward, they work for the welfare of all life and the reformation of the world. This truth rings out through the avenues of time. The ancient wisdom of Lao Tzu soars across the centuries, addressing our modern litany of sorrow:
“But in the present day men cast off gentleness, and are all for being bold; they spurn frugality, and retain only extravagance; they discard humility, and aim only at being first. Therefore they shall surely perish. Gentleness brings victory to him who attacks, and safety to him who defends. Those whom Heaven would save, it fences around with gentleness.” 20
These are the true peacemakers of this world.
1 “The Sayings of Lao Tzu“, translated by Lionel Giles, John Murray, London, 1905, p. 33.
2 Ibid, pp. 24-25.
3 Ibid, p. 27.
4 Ibid, p. 35.
5 “The Sayings of Confucius“, translated by James Ware, Mentor, New York, 1955, pp. 47-48.
6 “I Am That“, Conversations with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, translated by Maurice Frydman, Book II, Chetana, Bombay, 1973, pp. 301-302.
7 “Ashtavakra Gita“, translated by H.P. Shastri, Shanti Sadan, London, 1961, p. 44.
8 “I Am That“, Book I, op.cit., pp. 3-4.
9 “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi“, Recorded by Swami Saraswathi, Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, 1968, p. 429.
10 Ibid, p. 428.
11 “I Am That“, Book I, op. cit., p. 16.
12 Ibid, Book I, pp. 167-168.
13 Ibid, Book II, p. 22.
14 Ibid, Book II, p. 142.
15 “The Sayings of Confucius“, op.cit., p. 62.
16 Ibid, p. 28.
17 “I Am That“, Book II, op.cit., p. 21.
18 “The Bhagavad Gita“, translated by W. D. P. Hill, Oxford University Press, London, 1928, p. 104.
19 “I Am That“, Book II, op.cit., p. 285.
20 “The Sayings of Lao Tzu“, op.cit., p. 39.