MANY a great Teacher, such as, Jesus, Buddha, Mahavira, Shankara and Confucius have shown by the example of their own lives, what it is to live a true spiritual life. An earnest aspirant knows well that living the spiritual life is the most serious undertaking. He realizes that Spiritual life is not just about performing rituals or ceremonies, nor is it concerned merely with almsgiving or the reading of the Scriptures or performing austerities. It is about dedicating one’s whole life to the new way of living. It does not mean running away from the world and tiresome responsibilities, but living the life of a chela, a disciple, a neophyte or a devotee of the spiritual discipline. While the outward expression and methods differ, the goal is the same— Self-realization—reaching enlightement and perfection.
First comes the motivation. If the desire is for self-advancement or for powers, such as, clairvoyance, clairaudience, mind-reading, etc., then he has chosen a dangerous goal, as these will take us away from the Path. Wonder-workers and snake-charmers in India exhibit astonishing feats, but they are not spiritual. The desire to attain Moksha—peace and bliss of Nirvana for oneself—is good, but ultimately considered as glorious selfishness, since all of us are identical in our physical and spiritual essence and interconnected on the inner plane, how can we choose bliss for ourselves while mankind suffers? The Bodhisattva Ideal exemplifies renunciation of Nirvanic bliss for the sake of suffering humanity. Hence, it is prudent to look into the innermost thoughts and ensure that Self- realization is sought for the sake of humanity.
Spiritual living is not an abstraction. It means living the life as per the spiritual doctrines, so that they become living facts in one’s life that can be sensed by others around. Hence the need for a thorough understanding of the fundamental teachings of the system of philosophy followed. A true Guru presents the truths for consideration and encourages inquiry and seeks to arouse intuition of the earnest aspirant. The insincere pupil merely gets the most
obvious meaning because the keys, which can unlock many a hidden meaning, require sincerity and effort. He should not ask questions merely out of curiosity or without a sincere desire to know. Nor should he ask question unless he has made every effort in his power to get the answer himself. How else can he learn self-reliance? Krishna says: “Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee.” In the Socratic Method, the student was guided to seek the answer for himself. Socrates simply questioned the finality of the findings and conclusions of his pupils by gently pointing out the fallacy. He then presented questions that would encourage his pupil to make fresh search along new lines, thereby bringing him closer and closer to truth. The method also prepared his pupils to deal with possible objections in a convincing manner, because he had worked it out himself during his quest for truth.
Living the Spiritual life does not require complete mastery of the teachings. The Buddha said: “He who forsakes lust, hatred and folly is possessed of true knowledge and a serene mind, craves nought of this world or of any other, applies to himself the teachings of the Sacred texts he recites, even though a few in number—such a one shares in the blessings of the Good Life.” Ethics are like axiomatic truths. They do not need much explanation. It is true that one does not become an adept overnight. In fact, we should not even attempt it. Slow and steady is the best approach. The delicate Human constitution would break under such sudden and heavy strain. We have learnt many false things and lived by the way of the world for many years in this life and thousands of incarnations in the past. The momentum would topple us over if we apply sudden break. Hence, it is better to take a few fundamental teachings for sincere application in day to day life.
Let the first step be, practice of brotherhood, at least among the co-disciples. In The Voice of the Silence, the disciples are likened to the Veena, a musical instrument with many strings. Each string must vibrate in harmony with others or else it would break and be discarded. Co-disciples are the pilgrim souls. Each one is unique in some respect and hence presents an opportunity of having simultaneous experience and learning of many lifetimes. It also presents the benefit of satsang (good company) and varied view- points from which the truth can be approached. Mutual sympathy and tolerance are the basic qualities expected of those who join such a Brotherhood or Sangha or Order, where strength of one complements weaknesses of another and makes strong bonds. A whole living and vibrating unity can become like a nucleus that can attract others to itself, and deserve guidance from the Guru.
Fundamental to the Spiritual living is the correct concept of God, Law and Evolution. If God is not a person but an omnipotent reality pervading entire world and if the universe is governed by the Law of Karma—the law which works unerringly and impartially to bring just results in accordance with our own actions—then we must have courage to hold on to these ideas even under heaviest trials. If we seek to dodge the Law of Karma by performing propitiatory ceremony or by making offerings to some deity, then our learning is only intellectual. The Theosophical position is summed up, by H.P.B. and Mr. Judge, in following words:
If you ask me how we understand Theosophical duty practically and in view of Karma, I may answer you that our duty is to drink without a murmur to the last drop, whatever contents the cup of life may have in store for us, to pluck the roses of life only for the fragrance they may shed on others, and to be ourselves content but with the thorns, if that fragrance cannot be enjoyed without depriving some one else of it. (The Key to Theosophy, p. 227)
We must be ready to say at any moment under whatever circumstances, whether expected or unexpected: “It is just what I in fact desired.” For only those ideals can be dissipated which rest upon a lower basis than the highest aim, or which are not in accord with nature’s (God’s) law. And as our aim ought to be to reach the supreme condition and to help all other sentient beings to do so also, we must cultivate complete resignation to the Law. (Notes on the Bhagavad- Gita, p. 45)
To be watchful and mindful of one’s own faults and acts of omission and commission will leave little time to dwell on faults of other people. Disciples are not saints and are bound to have some defect in their natures. Not knowing what inner struggle the person is going through, not knowing circumstances in which karma has placed him, not knowing his karmic stamina, how can anyone sit in judgment over another? Daily introspection and self-examination vis-à-vis the ideal in view must teach humility and determined effort to move in the right direction, little by little.
Most difficult is the conquering of the personal self. Small victories—such as overcoming vices, practice of virtues, ability to understand intricate teachings, sometimes lead to pride and intolerance of the shortcomings of others. When other struggling co-students look up to him, seek his help and guidance, a sense of superiority and desire for respect or even reverence from the fellow- students are the dangers which he must guard against. He has to remind himself: “That power which the disciple shall covet is that which shall make him appear as nothing in the eyes of men.” Check this out: Are you content to be a foot-soldier, ready to lay down your life for the Cause which is dear to your heart? If yes, then you are fit to be the General, not otherwise.
This is a righteous war in which no retreat is possible. Once the desire for the divine has arisen in his heart and moved him to declare his resolve, the door has closed behind him. He cannot go back to his days of ignorance and irresponsible life any more. Idle and frivolous life, innocent and perfectly legitimate joys in which man of the world indulges, stop giving him the same pleasure. In those enjoyments there is awareness that “these are the joys of little worth.” His duty to himself is well described by H.P.B., thus:
To control and conquer, through the Higher, the lower self. To purify himself inwardly and morally; to fear no one, and nought, save the tribunal of his own conscience. Never to do a thing by halves; i.e., if he thinks it is the right thing to do, let him do it openly and boldly, and if wrong, never touch it at all. (The Key to Theosophy, p. 238)
He is fortune’s favoured soldier in righteous war. Karma has now taken him into her own gentle but firm hands. She works on him like a blacksmith hammering away a block of iron to shape it into a useful tool. He will put the piece of iron in and out of fire, hammering it again and again till he has made a perfect tool out of a raw block of iron. Suppressed vices covered over by fine manners and false exhibition are now truly threatened. Quickened under trials, his vices, however cleverly hidden, are bound to surface. So will his virtues and goodness. Having invited Krishna to become his charioteer, he has no escape but to face and exterminate his fond vices—the very kith and kin without whom existence seems to become meaningless and uninteresting. Yet, he knows that it is the personal man who is despondent and diffident. The Master within, his own higher spiritual nature, rejoices that the prodigal son has at last returned home! And a voice within repeats what Sanjaya said in the last chapter of the Gita: “Wherever Krishna, the supreme Master of devotion, and wherever the son of Pritha, the mighty archer, may be, there with certainty are fortune, victory, wealth, and wise action; this is my belief.”
WHETHER we wish to do well or ill we have first to arouse within us the desire for either course. The good man who at last becomes even a sage had at one time in his many lives to arouse the desire for the company of holy men and to keep his desire for progress alive in order to continue on his way.
—W. Q. JUDGE