If we will bring more sincerity and more integrity into our lives, more truth and more wisdom into our minds, more goodwill and more self-discipline into our hearts, not only will we be more blessed but also all others with whom we are in touch.
Face yourself if you would find yourself. By this I do not only mean that you are to seek out and study the pathetic weaknesses of your lower nature, but also the noble inspirations of your higher nature.
Philosophy guides human conduct not so much by imposing a particular code of rules to be obeyed as by inculcating a general attitude to be developed. It does not tell us what to do so much as it helps us to get the kind of spiritual knowledge and moral perception which will tell us what to do.
The moral precepts which it offers for use in living and for guidance in wise action are not offered to all alike, but only to those engaged on the quest. They are not likely to appeal to anyone who is virtuous merely because he fears the punishment of sin rather than because he loves virtue itself. Nor are they likely to appeal to anyone who does not know where his true self-interest lies. There would be nothing wrong in being utterly selfish if only we fully understood the self whose interest we desire to preserve or promote. For then we would not mistake pleasure for happiness nor confuse evil with good. Then we would see that earthly self-restraint in some directions is in reality holy self-affirmation in others, and that the hidden part of self is the best part.(P)
These ideals have been reiterated too often to be new, but concrete application of them to the actual state of affairs would be new.
This grand section of the quest deals with the right conduct of life. It seeks both the moral re-education of the individual's character for his own benefit and the altruistic transformation of it for society's benefit.(P)
We have free will to change our character, but we must also call upon God's assistance. We are likely to fail without it and it is possible by striving too earnestly all alone to make ourselves mentally or physically ill. We should Pray and ask for God's help even when trying to make ourselves have faith in a Higher Power as well as in ourselves.
We begin and end the study of philosophy by a consideration of the subject of ethics. Without a certain ethical discipline to start with, the mind will distort truth to suit its own fancies. Without a mastery of the whole course of philosophy to its very end, the problem of the significance of good and evil cannot be solved.(P)
The foundation of this work is a fine character. He who is without such moral development will be without personal control of the powers of the mind when they appear as a result of this training; instead those powers will be under the control of his ego. Sooner or later he will injure himself or harm others. The philosophic discipline acts as a safeguard against these dangers.
All those points of metaphysical doctrine and religious history like the problem of evil and the biography of avatars are doubtful, if not insoluble, whereas all the points of moral attitude and personal conduct like honesty, justice, goodness, and self-control are both indisputable and essential. Here we walk on trustworthy ground. Why not then leave others to quarrel fiercely about the first and let us abide peacefully in the second.
The aspirant must remember always that his immediate duty lies in self-preparation, self-discipline, and self-improvement. The building of fine character on the quest is quite as important as the efforts of aspiration and meditation, even more so, for the former will lead to the dissolving of egoism, and without this the latter are of little avail.
If you accept the existence of a power behind the Universe which controls its life, which is perfect, and which is bringing all things and all beings--however slowly--closer to its own perfection, you must also accept the values of hope, improvement, and evolution while you must reject those of pessimism, deterioration, and nihilism. You will never feel sorry for yourself.
The reformation and even transformation of character is as much a sector of philosophy as the practice of concentration and the study of mind. The virtue which develops from disciplining thoughts and controlling self removes obstacles and gives power to truth's pursuit.
To remodel his character will not interest a man if it requires great and constant effort, but to the quester it is an obligation. And this is so without his having to believe in all the windy rhetoric about the perfectibility of man.
If the moral fruits of the Spirit are absent or the evil qualities of the ego are present, all talk of having attained inward enlightenment is quite illusory.
The ethical ideals of philosophy are lofty but nobody is asked or expected to jump up to their realization, only to understand their direction; the rest of this inner work must develop at its own pace according to his individual possibilities.
Is it entirely useless to point out an ethical height to which very few can soar? No--the usefulness lies in the sense of right direction which it gives, in the inspiring love of truth and hope of self-betterment which it arouses.
However unrealizable the ideal may be in all its perfection, if we persist in holding it before us in aspiration we shall certainly approach it more closely in action. And the effort will give us more faith in life, make us more sensitive to its finer rhythms.
If the lower self disturbs you, silence it by invoking the higher self. If you are unable to do this directly, then do it indirectly by invoking it intellectually through declarations of spiritual truth and emotionally through genuflection in humble prayer. Do not accept the suggestion which drags you down, but instead seek for the pressure which lifts you up.
To the extent that he purifies and ennobles himself, he qualifies himself for the reception of superior insight.
If the aspirant will take care to fill his mind with thoughts that are always elevating, always positive, and always constructive; if he will be vigilant to keep out all thoughts that are degrading and destructive, this simple technique will keep his mind so continuously filled with the right kind of thought and feeling that he will unconsciously and little by little completely overcome the wrong kind. Thus his character will change and approach his ideals.
We must not, like the mystics, talk as if man were nothing else but a divine being. We are philosophical students and should not be so one-sided. We must tell men the whole and not a half-truth, which means we must tell them that they are a mixed lot, divine at the centre but slightly devilish at the circumference; altruistic in their potential nature but somewhat selfish in their actual one.
Everything that strengthens his better nature is useful and acceptable. Everything that weakens it is not.
So difficult is true self-mastery that nothing in the world's literature about it can overrate the accomplishment.
When the beast in man will bow in homage before the intelligence in man, when the ideal of perfected being set up for him by the serene figure of the Sphinx shall be recognized, accepted, and striven for, then indeed will he become a conscious collaborator with the universal Mind. Whoever knows how and where to look can find in himself the assurance of this ultimate victory.
There should be no space in his mind for negative thoughts, no time in his heart for base feelings.
It is not enough to repress a negative trait like jealousy or self-pity. One must also replace it by a positive trait.
His spiritual progress will be measured not so much by his meditational progress as by his moral awakening.
The truth will become truth for him not merely when he can understand it intellectually but also when he can accept it emotionally, and still more when he can incorporate it into his behaviour patterns.
He must look within himself for the impurities and falsities, the malice and envy, the prejudice and bitterness which belong to his lower nature. And he must work with all his willpower and thinking power to cast them out.
He must walk towards the highest with every part of his being, with his whole psyche matured and balanced. He must not only seek to intuit what is real, but also to will what is good.
It is when men come face-to-face with a real crisis, a real temptation, or a real hardship that they show their real character, not only their self-imagined or publicly reputed one.
It must be remembered always that mere intellectual study is not so essential as the building of worthwhile character, which is far more important in preparing for the great battle with the ego.
When a negative reaction impulsively shows itself before you have been able to prevent it, make as your second thought a deliberate replacement or substitution of it, by the opposed positive one. For instance, a reaction of envy at someone's good fortune should be substituted by the thought of appreciation of the good qualities or services which may have led to it.
When emotion is no longer able to cloud reason, when intellect is no longer able to dry up the feeling of conscience, a better judgement of affairs and a clearer perception of truth becomes possible.
Little by little, in tranquil moments or in deliberate meditation, there will come to him the revelation of errors in conduct and thought which, until then, he did not even know were errors.
Ideas influence their thinker himself; thoughts react on their generator if they are intensely held, deeply felt, and frequently born. Thus they help to form tendencies and shape character. The aspirant can take advantage of this truth.
His moral thought and metaphysical ideation will be so deep and earnest that they will converge upon his emotional feeling, when that has been sufficiently purified, and coalesce with it. Thus they become part of his inner being.
Each aspirant has to struggle with the demon inside himself if he is to realize his higher purpose in life.
Nature seeks to achieve its own ends, which renders it indifferent to all personal ends. It considers no man's feelings but only his level of development, that he might be raised to a higher one.
The only greatness he may rightfully seek is a secret one. It is not power over others that he should strive for, but power over himself.
He will have to grow into this higher consciousness. No other way exists for him.
He has not only to be brave enough to accept the aloneness that comes with every serious advance in the quest, but also strong enough to endure it.
How can anything be right in worldly practice if it is wrong in ethical theory?
The value of such study is immense. It involves a re-education of the whole mind of man. It strikes at the root of his ethical ignorance and destroys the selfishness and greed which are its malignant growths.
Mentally, man can do what no animal can. He can consider conduct from a purely ethical standpoint; he can struggle at heart between right and wrong, self and selflessness.
Every man betrays himself for what he is. He can hide his thoughts and dissemble his feelings, but he cannot hide his face. Therein are letters and words which tell plainly what sort of a man he really is. But few there be who can read in this strange language.
Character can be changed. He who habitually contemplates such exalted themes finds in time that his whole outlook is altered and expanded, as if by magic. The new outlook will gradually strongly establish itself within him. Says the Christian Bible: "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he," which may be matched with what was written in Sanskrit long before this was uttered: "As is one's thought, so one becomes; this is the eternal secret."--Maitri Upanishad.
What is to be done where a weakness becomes abnormally strong, overpowering the will and forcing him to do what his better nature rejects? The cure in the end must be based on his willingness to regard it as something not really part of himself, something alien and parasitic. If there is to be any way out toward freedom from it, he must stop identifying himself with the weakness.
The key to right conduct is to refuse to identify himself with the lower nature. The hypnotic illusion that it is really himself must be broken: the way to break it is to deny every suggestion that comes from it, to use the will in resisting it, to use the imagination in projecting it as something alien and outside, to use the feelings in aspiration towards the true self, and the mind in learning to understand what it is.(P)
The disciple who wishes to make real progress must attack, weaken, and ultimately destroy certain bad traits of character. Among them is the trait of jealousy of his fellow disciples. It is not only an unpleasant thought but may also end in disastrous consequences. It often leads to wrathful moods and raging spells. It not only harms the other disciple but always does harm to the sinner himself. It is caused by an unreasonable sense of possessiveness directed towards the teacher which does not understand that love should give freedom to him, not deny it to him.(P)
The pursuit of moral excellence is immeasurably better than the pursuit of mystical sensations. Its gains are more durable, more indispensable, and more valuable.(P)
There are five ways in which the human being progressively views his own self and consequently five graduated ethical stages on his quest. First, as an ignorant materialist he lives entirely within his personality and hence for personal benefit regardless of much hurt caused to others in order to secure this benefit. Second, as an enlightened materialist he is wrapped in his own fortunes but does not seek them at the expense of others. Third, as a religionist he perceives the impermanence of the ego and, with a sense of sacrifice, he denies his self-will. Fourth, as a mystic he acknowledges the existence of a higher power, God, but finds it only within himself. Fifth, as a philosopher he recognizes the universality and the oneness of being in others and practises altruism with joy.(P)
But, after all, these qualities are only the negative prerequisites of spiritual realization. They are not realization itself. Their attainment is to free oneself from defects that hinder the attainment of higher consciousness, not to possess oneself of true consciousness.(P)
The act must illustrate the man, the deed must picture the attitude. It is thus only that thought becomes alive.(P)
The more I travel and observe the more I come to believe that the only men who will make something worthwhile of philosophy are the men who have already made something worthwhile of their personal lives. The dreamers and cranks will only fool themselves, the failures and alibi-chasers will only become confirmed in their fantasies.(P)
Many people talk mysticism or play with psychism so long as either promises them wonderful powers which most other people haven't got or wonderful experiences which most other people do not have. But when they come to philosophy and find that it demands from them a renovation of their entire character, they are seized with fear and retreat. Philosophy is not for such people, for it does not conform to their wishes. It tells them what they do not like to hear. It disturbs their egoistic vanity and troubles their superficial serenity when it throws a glaring spotlight on their lower nature, their baser motives, and their ugly weaknesses.(P)
While the aspirant fails to take an inventory of his weaknesses and consequently fails to build into his character the attributes needed, much of his meditation will be either fruitless or a failure or even harmful.(P)
That it is not enough for men to think truth, that they must also feel it, is a statement with which most scientists, being intellect-bound, would disagree. But artists, mystics, true philosophers, and religious devotees would accept it.(P)
Buddha did not go into deeper problems before he had gone into practical ethics. He taught people to be good and do good before he taught them to venture into the marshy logic of the metaphysical maze. And even when they had emerged safely from a territory where so many lose themselves utterly, he brought them back to ethical values albeit now of a much higher kind because based on utter unselfishness. For love must marry knowledge, pity must shed its warm rays upon the cold intellect. Enlightenment of others must be the price of one's own enlightenment. These things are not easily felt by the mystic, who is often too absorbed in his own ecstasies to notice the miseries of others, or by the metaphysician, who is often too tied by his own verbosity to his hard and rigorous logic to realize that mankind is not merely an abstract noun but is made up of flesh-and-blood individuals. The philosopher however finds these benign altruistic needs to be an essential part of truth. Consequently the salvation which he seeks--from ignorance and the attendant miseries that dog its steps--is not for himself but for the whole world.(P)
It does not necessarily mean that he has faults to repair or weaknesses to overcome. It may mean that there is some lack in him, some quality or capacity that he needs to cultivate.
A habit change or a thought change which is made under someone else's persuasion and not out of inner need brought into the open by that other person, is only a surface one and will fade and fall away.
Despite all the repetitious assertions that there is no ego, that the person is a fiction, that the goal is pure being unsullied by the self-illusion, here--in the various manifested signs of an individual character in a separate body--is evidence to the contrary.
Accept fully and without demur your self-made karma, even to the extent of refraining from asking to be forgiven your sins, for it is a just result. Ask instead to be shown how to overcome the weakness which had been the cause.
When negative or degrading or weakening suggestions enter his mind, from whatever source, he can deal with them in two ways, singly if that prove enough, combined if not. The first is to tense his will and by a positive commanding mental act master the suggestion and drive it away. The second is to turn away into its opposing idea and dwell firmly on that until the suggestion vanishes altogether. If, in spite of using these methods he is still defeated, then he can try remembering the Overself. Can he still carry out the evil suggestion while thinking of that serene divine presence? By aspiring to it for help and protection as fervently as he can, the negative idea may disintegrate like the ash of a cigarette.
The real choice, decision, judgement, is made in the subconscious mind. Impulses come from it and character is formed in it.
If in some ways he learns to lessen egoism and practise humility, in other ways he gains a larger easier assurance. If he is now willing, to a certain extent, to be deflated, he feels he is standing nonchalantly and calmly on firmer ground than before. Perhaps this is all a play, not to be taken too seriously, for the real trial, the worst test, the last great agony, will come later--either through the terrible loneliness of the Dark Night of the Soul, or the painful crucifixion of the ego before Ascension, Liberation, and Fulfilment.
If each attack of adverse force, each temptation that tries a weakness, is instantly met with the Short Path attitude, he will have an infinitely better chance of overcoming it. The secret is to remember the Overself, to turn the battle over to IT. Then, what he is unable to conquer by himself, will be easily conquered for him by the higher power.
The question is whether he is to accept the baser weaknesses as human or whether he is to struggle against them as unworthy of a human being.
We must so centralize our consciousness as to render it strong against the onslaughts of outside suggestion, immune to the promptings of crowds and the dictation of places. Thus we learn to be our own true self not only at home, where it is easy, but also in the street and in others' homes, where it is hard. Thus we become truly individualized. Thus we are always serene among the anxious, good amongst the wicked.
Like a rock so firmly embedded that it cannot be moved by human force but can only be blasted by dynamite, his moral character must be embedded in the great Truths.
After a lifetime of world-wandering, after a varied experience among different races of people and in different classes of society, we have come to the firm and settled conviction that what is most to be looked for in a man is character. The best test of character is neither intellectual hair-splitting nor emotional, wordy gush, not high-flown idealistic professions, nor flowery mystical pretensions, but deeds.
From time to time his higher self will show him his own moral face as in a glass. But it will only show him that side of it which is the worst as well as the least-known one. He will have to look at what is thus exposed to him in all its stark fullness and hidden reality, only because he has to re-educate himself morally to a degree far beyond the ordinary. The experience may be painful, but it must be accepted. He has invoked the Overself, now its light has suddenly been thrown upon him. He is now able to see his ego, his lower nature, as it has not hitherto shown itself to him. All its uglinesses are lit up and revealed for what they really are. By thus showing up its true nature and evil consequences, this experience is the first step to making the ego's conquest possible.
He should begin with the belief that his own character can be markedly improved and with the attitude that his own efforts can lessen the distance between its present condition and the ideal before him.
It is a prime rule that quality of character and education of conscience are more important than nature of belief. And this is much more applicable to would-be philosophers than to would-be religionists.
In the twentieth sutta of Majjhima-Nikaya, Gautama recommends students who are haunted by a bad idea of undesirable character to try five methods for expelling it: (1) attend to an opposing good idea; (2) face the danger of the consequences of letting the bad idea emerge in action; (3) become inattentive to the bad idea; (4) analyse its antecedents and so paralyze the sequent impulse; (5) coerce the mind with the aid of bodily tension.
But philosophy does not trust to developed reason alone to control emotion and subjugate passion. It trusts also to psychological knowledge and metaphysical truth, to developed will and creative meditation, to counter-emotions and the prayer for Grace. All these different elements are welded into one solid power working for him.
Just as the writer turns his experiences of society to writing use and creates art out of the best and worst of them, so the disciple turns his experiences of life to spiritual use and creates wisdom or goodness out of them. And just as it is harder for the author to learn to live what he writes than learn to write what he lives, so it is harder for the disciple to convert his studies and meditations, his reflections and intuitions, into practical deeds and positive accomplishments than to receive these thoughts themselves and make them his own.
It is not so much that we have to change ourselves as to give up ourselves. We are so imperfect and faulty, so selfish and weak, so sinful and ignorant, that giving up our own selves means being more than willing to part with what is not worth keeping. But to what are we to give them up and how are we to do it? We are to invoke the higher self, request it daily to take possession of our hearts, minds, and wills, and to strive actively to purify them. Much of our striving will be in the form of surrendering egoistic thoughts, impulses, and feelings by crushing them at the moment of birth. In that way we slowly give up our inner selves and submit the conduct of our outer selves to a higher will.
If he fails to pass a test or if he succumbs to a temptation, he should realize that there must be a defect in character or mentality which made such a failure possible. Even though the test or temptation has been provided by the adverse powers, he ought not to lay the blame upon them but upon himself. For then he will seek out and destroy the defect upon which the blame really rests.
After all, there must have been a corresponding inner weakness in him to have permitted him to become the victim of a temptation. Consequently it is often better not to ask for protection against the temptation. This simply hides and covers over the weakness and permits it to remain in his mental makeup. It is better to ask for the strengthening of his own willpower, to cultivate it through a creative meditation exercise specially directed to the purpose: he should picture the arousal and hardening of this willpower during the very moments of temptation by seeing himself emerge victorious by his own forces.
It has been said that ideas rule mankind. This is but a half-truth, but be it as it may, it can be unhesitatingly asserted that ideals rule the traveller on this quest. If they do not, then he is not embarked on the quest. But an ideal is only an abstract conception. Unselfishness, freedom, goodness, and justice are intangibles, and their practical application has altered from age to age according to the conditions prevailing in different times and places. An ideal must have a concrete shape or it becomes sterile.
Faulty characters and faulty habits can be changed by the Secret Path as the coming of the sun changes winter to spring. Greed will slowly turn to goodwill, cruelty will make its exit to allow for the incoming of kindness, and all-round self-control will gradually replace weakness. The faithful application of these teachings must inevitably influence the entire make-up of a man, and influence it most certainly for the better.
He must begin this preparatory work on himself by an analysis of character. This requires a sincere honest appraisal, a rigorous search for truth, not easy when vanity, for instance, may masquerade as duty among his motives.
As a man, it is not essential to discover and correct these faults. As a seeker, such discovery and such correction are primary duties.
The code of conduct which philosophy asks its votaries to practise, the set of values which it determines for them, the endeavour to transcend themselves which it inspires--these elevate the mind into nobility, grandeur, and reverence.
To abstain from favoured foods is a hard test; to abstain from carnal intercourse is a still harder one. To the common mind, devoid of metaphysical faculty, this may seem far enough to travel. But to the developed mind the hardest of all tests must yet be undergone--to abstain from egoistic thought, feeling, and action.
What separates the lower appetites of man from his higher aspirations? The beast must obey blindly its group instinct, the human need not. He can choose between doing the same as the animal or holding himself back to think, reason, and arrive at a considered decision.
It is a great beginning of the real quest when he comes to the clear perception that the lusts, gluttonies, wraths, and passions have been lodged in him and have lived in his self yet are not him; that they are morbid creations which can be starved, exorcised, and expelled just as surely as they have been fed, nourished, and embraced.
The more the character is purified, the easier it is to practise meditation. The more the lower nature holds a man, the shorter will be the period of time in which he will be able to hold attention on the Overself.
The lower nature does not let him keep this mood of high resolve long. Not many days pass before it seeks to discourage him. For the old cravings, the desire habits, and the emotional tendencies are still there. Soon they begin to trouble him again. "Why try?" his lower nature despondently tells him, "Why torment yourself uselessly? You can only fail in the end." Thus it creates the expectancy of failure and turns his high adventure into a dismal ordeal. Only a fixed vigilant determination and correct approach will bring forth that inner consent to the new disciplinary habits so necessary to success. Only by re-educating his tendencies and gradually making them quite willing to conform to the right way of living can the lower nature be beaten.
To the extent that anything lifts men up out of their animality, it serves a higher purpose. This is true of athletic training and religious aspiration, of social codes and personal self-respect. For in the end they must turn their minds away from the passions which they share with the sub-human kingdom to the fulfilment of their higher human possibilities and destiny.
The honourable man who lives by a decent code of ethics has to be surpassed by the seeker, since he believes in a life and goal which is still more honourable.
Freedom is a tremendous word whose meaning goes much beyond the average man's idea of it. He is not free who is in bondage to narrow prejudice, strong attachment, unruled desire, and spiritual ignorance.
The same strength which is put into negative qualities like fear, grief, revenge, and discord--to a man's own detriment--can be put into positive ones like courage, cheerfulness, fortitude, benevolence, and calmness, to his own benefit.
He is to work for the day when his character will be utterly transformed, when he will be incapable of meanness or animality, when he will live in constant awareness of the idea.
The hopeless pessimist who asserts that men cannot improve their inborn character, that they will be exactly the same faulty creatures at sixty that they were at twenty, may be right about some men but is certainly wrong about others. Every Quester who tries hard enough proves him wrong.
Character may be bettered by bettering conduct, which is visible, just as it may by bettering feeling, which is not. Kung-fu-tse perceived this and built his system upon it.
If the check to a weakness, a shortcoming, an undesirable impulse, or a negative emotion is given instantly, if retreat from it is made before it has time to swell and strengthen, victory is very largely assured. He need not be too ashamed because he has felt these things, provided he pulls himself together. They are what he has inherited from past births, plus what he has picked up in the present one, and it is inevitable or "natural" that he should experience them. Even the saints have endured them repeatedly, but those who conquered in the end knew this trick of instantly outwitting the enemy. Father John of Kronstadt, a Russian of our own century, and Saint Isaac, a Syrian of the sixth century, are self-confessed examples.
He will undergo periods of purification, when the animal appetites such as lust and gluttony, and the animal passions such as wrath and hate, will have to be brought under better control. The discipline involved is both a kind of penance for past sins and a preparation for future enlightenment. It may be that these baser attributes need to be pushed up out of latency nearer the surface, in order to deal with them more effectually. If so, this will come about through some sort of crisis. He need not be distressed for it will be ultimately beneficent.
The ability to throw negative thoughts out of his mind is so valuable that a deliberate and daily effort to cultivate it is well worthwhile. This is as true of one's self-originated thoughts as of those picked up from outside, whether unwittingly from other persons, or absorbed through susceptibility from environments.
Man has an animal body, shares certain instinctive reactions, desires, and passions with other animals. But mentally and morally there are creative impulses, functions, ideas, and ideals which increasingly separate him from them as he develops and put him on a higher plane.
We are all imperfect and the making of mistakes is to be expected. The mishandling of problems need not surprise us and the yielding to weaknesses is a common experience. Let us grant all this, but it does not excuse us from being bereft of the desire for self-improvement, of the aspiration for self-ennoblement, or of the search for self-enlightenment.
Anyone can go on living but not everyone can go on living worthily.
The ethical standards of the disciple are, or should be, as far beyond those of conventional good men, as their standards are beyond those of evil men.
He may have to pass successively through the three stages of intemperate idealism, disappointed idealism, and philosophic idealism. The last is as balanced and discerning as the first is not.
The faults of character and defects in personality which bar advancement in the quest will also bar advancement in other spheres of human life. Being in him, they will inevitably bring their results on the physical plane in the course of time. They will manifest themselves in his business or career, his home or social relations. It is not too much to say, therefore, that the self-improvement brought about by the quest's discipline will be to his advantage in other ways.
Where the Overself lives fully in a man, he will not need to consider whether an act is righteous or not. Righteous acts will flow spontaneously from him and no other kind will be possible. But for a beginner to practise prematurely such nonresistance to his impulses would be dangerous and foolish.
Woman possesses a great power in possessing the power of love. She can lift and redeem men, succour and save them, or degrade and destroy them. But with this power comes a great responsibility.
When we reach the Olympian heights and stand to survey the scenes of our long struggles, we shall then not regret that we were tried, tempted, and tortured by conflicting desires, for without them we should only have become mechanically good. Even our sufferings turn to sympathy.
All ethical paths are twofold inasmuch as they must consist of the acquirement of virtues and the expulsion of vices.
The less a mental conflict appears in open consciousness, the more dangerous does it become.
The greatness of a character is tested just as much by the temptations for ego display in success as it is by failure.
Many moral precepts have been preached to mankind but few practical instructions in the matter of how to carry out those precepts have been given him.
Is it true, as so many say, that character is stubbornly resistant to change? It is the grown man's character that is in reference here, not the phases grades and adjustments of childhood and adolescence when the acquisition of new attributes, tendencies, and traits is natural. If the idea of reincarnation is accepted, then the personality of every man must inevitably change with time.
Those who are willing to practise such hard self-discipline form an elite among mankind.
The animal instincts are valid and have their assigned place, but the cerebral ones have even more validity and a higher place, while the spiritual ones should be elevated above the other two.
A constructive idea is used to displace the negative one, being put immediately underneath it.
Habit, weakness, and desire may prevent him from following behind the philosopher as he walks his lonely road, as they may prevent him from recognizing the logic of the philosopher's teaching.
His human weaknesses need to be recognized, admitted, and looked at in the face realistically. To fail to see them is to walk over marsh and quagmire, bog and quicksand. They need not frighten him away from the quest for they represent opportunities to grow, material to be worked upon for his ultimate benefit.
The attempt to escape from such problems by first refusing to look at them, and second, by refraining from the efforts needed to deal with them, leads only to their prolongation and enlargement later on.
Character is as easily imperilled by the briberies of wealth and luxury as by those of poverty and lack.
The mind is the real root of the tree of character which, despite its thousands of branches, leaves, and fruits, possesses but this single root.
If man is to improve himself, he must improve his acts of will, his objects of desire, and his subjects of thought. This means an entire psychological re-education which will involve much work upon himself.
Those who desert the quest's moral ideals but not its mystical exercises, who seek to gain selfish victories over the rights and minds of others by the use of mental or occult power, become evil-doers and suffer an evil end. Theirs is the way of the left-hand path, of black magic, and of the sin against the Holy Ghost. Until retribution falls upon them in the end, they bring misery or misfortune to all who accept their influence.
Those who struggle in the work-a-day world need to learn what their higher duty is rather than what metaphysical truth is. They need a stimulant to the practice of righteousness rather than a stimulant to the analysis of intellectual subtleties.
From the point of view of philosophy, we ought not to be virtuous merely because of baits of peace and contentment and lessened suffering which dangle from virtue itself, but because the very purpose of life on earth cannot be achieved unless we are thoroughly virtuous.
It is easy to confuse respectable conventionality with authentic virtue.
Although philosophy wags no finger in smug portentous moralizing, it respects the validity of karmic consequences, the getting-back of what is given out, and also the need to begin curbing the ego, its desires and passions, as a preliminary to crushing it. There is solid factual ground for the excellent ethical counsel given to all humanity by Confucius and Buddha, Jesus and Socrates.
All our virtues come from that divine source. They are incomplete and imperfect copies of the abstract and original archetypes, the idea of the spirit behind each particular virtue. This is one reason why the path of being, thinking, and practising the Good, as far as he is able, becomes, for the unbelieving man, as much and as valuable a spiritual path as any offered by religion.
Many of the stupid, overworded objections to the so-called impracticability of ethical idealism will be disarmed and disproved. He will ruefully wake up to the fact that the mentality which begins by imagining rigid restrictions on what can be done to construct a better life ends by imposing them.
Ethical practice is the best ethical precept. Merely telling man to be kind and not cruel is utterly futile. They must be given adequate reasons to justify this precept.
Only as men become convinced that their further fortune and happiness or distress and trouble are closely connected with their obedience to these higher laws--and particularly the law of karma--will they discover that not only is virtue its own reward but also adds to peace of mind.
He will find that there is no other way, and will do better to come to it in the beginning than in the end. He must learn to cooperate with the World-Idea, the planetary will, or suffer from its whips. The choice is between animal-human and spiritual-human.
The really mature person is a positive person. He prefers goodwill to hate, peace to aggression, and self-control to unloosed passions.
Temperament and circumstance, happening and karma will combine to decide whether he lets go the bad tendency or habit suddenly or whether he will need a period to adjust and settle down anew.
We Westerners have to bring two polar opposites into harmony, for we have to adjust our temperamental inclination towards the practical, the actual, the visible, and concrete with rising other-worldly needs of the transcendental, the real, the silent, the invisible, and abstract. It is from this deeper part of our being that there arise our noblest ethics and our loftiest ideals.
Philosophy creates and maintains the highest standards of conduct. But they are not necessarily conventional ones.
It is time preachers began to realize that giving naïve admonitions to the weak and sinful is not enough. The latter must not only be told to be good but, not less important, taught how to be good!
It is not enough to repent today and forget tomorrow. Repentance should be a continuous attitude of heart until the thing repented of is expunged from it and gotten rid of.
We may well look with envy upon the life of Ralph Waldo Emerson, for he was a man whose course conformed perfectly to the doctrines which he taught. We may have seen high truths in our moods of vision and often written them down, but how to bring an unwilling heart and rebellious body to their subjection is ever a problem to us.
The forming of a high character is both a contributory cause to mystical illumination (by removing obstacles in its way) and a consequential result of it. The inner light does not shine in a vacuum. It clarifies the man's moral judgments and educates his moral conscience.
It is still a fact, which may be noted more in the Orient perhaps, that merely by being lofty, strong, and noble in character, a man's existence helps or comforts some of those he meets even if his circumstances prevent him doing anything outwardly useful to them.
There is a natural dignity which comes from inner greatness, and which is to be respected, but there is also another kind which comes from the little ego's self-infatuation, from its foolish empty pride.
If a man cannot make the right decision in a time of stress, if he feels bewildered in a time of crisis, this is not sufficient justification for him to expect a master to make his decisions for him. For his blindness and bewilderment measure the depth to which he is sunk in his personal self and lower nature. He would have seen his way more clearly had he kept his will free from their domination. For a master to make his decisions for him during such a critical time is not really to help him but to injure him. For it would prevent the struggle within himself continuing until it could give birth to a higher point of view, to a stronger character.
We must put out of our minds every weakening impulse by instant reference to the strength of the Overself, every evil thought by a call to the infinite good of the Overself. In this way character is uplifted and made noble.
On the degree of authority which he vests in the Overself, will depend the degree of power he draws from it to conquer the lower nature.
There is a perfect relation between the impression we make upon others and the mastery we have achieved over ourselves. The strength of the impression depends on the degree of the mastery. Furthermore, our power over the world outside us will be proportionate to our power over the nature within us.
The real tests of character are imposed through our reaction to thoughts as well as to events. Both are needed to show us to ourselves.
In the giant mills where steel is prepared, we may glean a great lesson. The crude material is first made to undergo the ordeal of fire, a fire so intense that the material loses its solidity and becomes a bubbling liquid. And after its temperature has been lowered sufficiently to resume a solid form again, the still red-hot material has to undergo a further ordeal. It is hammered on every side, pounded from top to bottom. Out of these processes there emerges at last a purified, strengthened, finely tempered steel which will stand up to the most trying tests during wear and work. Men who wish to make something of their lives must take the terrific pounding and suffering to which they have had to submit in the past few years as a similar process intended to turn away the dross in their character and strengthen the nobility within it.
The desire to serve the cause of Truth is praiseworthy, but an inner change of character is at once the basis and the beginning of such work.
Passion and emotion are easier to control than thought. For this and other reasons they are brought to heel--not completely, but sufficiently--as a preliminary to the practice of meditation.
If possible, a beginner should avoid any thing, any person, any contact, any event, or any environment which he knows will upset his emotional balance or produce negative thoughts. It is only at a later stage when he is more proficient in the art of self-control and has more strength within himself that he should not be afraid of these challenges but should accept them and try to win through.
Mental attitudes can be developed, thoughts can be trained in this direction, and feelings can be stimulated in harmony with it; but all this should be done naturally and not artificially.
Discipline without harshness, strength without coldness, balance without pedantry, these are desirable qualities.
If a man believes he is worth nothing and will become nothing, his seership will be confirmed. Humility can be overstretched.
If, as sometimes happens, an aspirant seems to have some unusual power over others, he is strongly advised to check it immediately. If allowed to continue, it could develop into black magic, which leads to self-destruction. Such a person should devote far more effort to the task of ridding himself of these dangers, to improving his thought-process, and to praying to the Overself for protective guidance.
There is a certain stage of development when it is more important to work on the improvement of the character than to practise meditation.
The fulfilment of one's Higher Purpose depends on a great deal of strenuous character building and improvement, plus the final overthrow of the ego.
Why purification of character should be needed in order to contact what seems to be above our lowly human characteristics is, indeed, a paradox which only the Overself can answer. Perhaps it is a test of our devotion--for it is known that the Higher Self will not surrender her revelations to anyone who does not love her completely. Purification is merely the casting out of lesser loves for the sake of this supreme Love.
When he begins to exercise these scruples, he will begin to question the impulse to act for its source much more than for its purpose.
The advantages of an excellent physique are plain enough but they are not good enough. Something more is needed to make a man. He needs excellence in character and intellect. But even this is still not enough if he is to find self-fulfilment. Intuitive feeling, which takes him into a holier presence if followed up, must be cultivated.
The hallucination--for usually it is nothing less--that an ideal existence can be found by emigrating to some distant spot may be turned into a reality if he who suffers from it turns himself into a different man. To the extent that he removes weaknesses from his character and expels negatives from his thinking, to that extent only will his new life be a happier one.
Philosophy does not believe that any man is doomed to continue to sin, but that every man is capable of rising to a life higher than that which he has previously lived. It believes, too, in the forgiveness of sins and in the truth of hopefulness. It is not pessimistic but reasonably optimistic in its long-range views.
The discontent with a spiritually unfulfilled life has a twofold origin--from personal experiences of the world outside and from vaguely felt pressures by the Soul within for the man to surpass himself. There is thus a reciprocal working of negative and positive feelings.
Our higher nature bids us aspire to inner growth, development, self-control, and ennoblement. It goes further and seeks freedom from enslavement by the passions, thus lifting the human nature above the animal.
Whatever within himself keeps a man from seeing the Real and knowing the True must be got rid of, or rectified. And whatever he lacks within himself and also keeps him away from them must be acquired. The struggle to attain these things may not interest most people, whose desire for self-improvement is not strong enough to move their will: but it is well worthwhile.
There is devilish cunning in the human ego, animalistic beastliness in the human body, angelic sublimity in the human soul. But this is only the appearance of things. All three conditions are really mental conditions. They pertain, after all, to the mind. We must root out the evil or foster the good there and there alone.
Occult power should not be sought until the battle for self-mastery has been largely won.
The nobler part of his self may exist in a man even though he has not yet come to awakening.
There are three activities which he needs to keep under frequent examination and constant discipline--his thoughts, his speech, and his action.
The quester who wants to keep his integrity in a corrupt world may not be able to live up to his ideal but at least he need not abandon it. The direction in which he is moving does still count.
It is not his business to reform others while he himself remains as he is. The attack on them will only provoke them to answering attack.
He must refuse to allow himself to become emotionally overwhelmed by an unthinking majority or intellectually subservient to an unworthy convention.
If you are dissatisfied with yourself, abandon your self! You can make a start by abandoning its negative ideas, its animal passions, and its sharp critiques of others. You are responsible for them: it is you who must get rid of them.
Temptation is easiest cast out at the first thought. As the number of thoughts grow, control grows harder too.
The man who wants the spiritual prizes of life must elevate his thoughts and ennoble his impulses.
He will prudently look ahead not only to the consequences of his actions but also of his thoughts.
He must be prepared to spend a whole lifetime in making this passage from aspiration to realization.
Petal-by-petal the bud of his growing virtues will open as the years pass. His character will be transformed. The old Adam will become a new man.
The progressing disciple who reaches an advanced state will find that his powers of mind and will develop accordingly. Where they are not accompanied by sufficient self-purification, they may become dangerous to himself and hurtful to others. His vigilance over thought and feeling must become greater accordingly. To dwell upon thoughts which belong to a lower level out of which he has climbed may open up a pitfall in his path; to hold bitter feelings against another person may throw discord into that person's life.
His outer conduct should be brought into agreement with the soaring aspiration of his inner life. When the one is antithetical to the other, the result will be chaos.
Those who do not have the strength of will to translate into practice the ideals which they accept in thought need not despair. It can be got by degrees. Part of the purpose of ascetic exercises is to lead to its possession. There is knowledge available, based on ancient and modern ascetic experience, which can be applied to liberate the moral nature from its weaknesses.
When the body's appetites and the intellect's curiosity get an excessive grip on a man, they throw an air of unreality on aspiration which soars beyond both. This makes intuitive feeling and metaphysical thinking seem irksome or trivial.
That man has attained mastery whose body yields to the commands of reason and whose tongue obeys the orders of prudence.
He who puts his lower nature under control puts himself in possession of forces, gifts, possibilities, and satisfactions that most other men lack.
If a man's inner life is repeatedly wasted by passion he will know no assured peace and attain no enduring goal. He must govern himself, rule his passions, and discipline his emotions. He must strengthen his higher will at the expense of his lower one. For the first promotes his spiritual evolution whereas the second inflames his animal nature.
Faith is needed to make the basic change in his thinking, the change which takes him out of the past's grip. A new life is possible if he takes up new thoughts.
If he lets compromise with the world, or lapses from the right moral standard, slip beyond a certain mark, he will pay commensurately for it.
It is not only a matter of self-betterment but also of self-respect for an honourable man.
The man whom he has looked upon as himself must be left behind; the New man, who he is to become, must be continually with him in thought, aspiration, will, and deed.
This it is to be truly human for it brings man into a more perfect state. To sneer at the philosophic ideal as being inhuman is really to sneer at it for rejecting the evils and weaknesses and deformities of the worldly ideal.
The moment a negative idea appears, repudiate it automatically by the use of (a) counter-affirmations and (b) imagination, which is the gate to creative subconscious mind.
Such negative thoughts as animosity and jealousy must be rooted out like weeds as fast as they spring up. This is both the easier and more effective way in the end.
The man who has not learned to control himself is still only a fractional man, certainly not the true man that Nature is trying to produce.
When he cannot live with his negative side any longer, illumination will come and stay.
Character is tested by afflictions more than by prosperity.
The first stage is to expunge the evil in his heart and to raise the good in it to the highest possible octave.
A personal character which will be beautiful, a way of life which will be the best--if he holds these as ideals, a man is more likely to come by them.
He needs to be as fastidious when allowing thoughts to enter his mind as when allowing strangers to enter his home.
If a man lives in mental and emotional negativity, the removal of his physical residence to another place will in the end benefit him much less than if he removes himself from the negativity.
The building-up of character naturally brings a better sense of proportion in one's dealings and outlook.
My good and kindly friend Swami Ramdas says: "By seeing good in all persons, you become good, but if you see evil, the evil in you will augment." We may match this with Emerson's: "People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character. We can only see what we are."
He must become thoroughly sick of his mistakes and sins before he will take the trouble to develop by self-training his discriminatory faculties and moral ideals.
We can combat fear by remembering that the Overself is always with us. The power of such thinking is its rightness and its constructiveness. It is right because the Overself is the real source of strength and courage so that recalling its ever-presence in us helps to tap that source. It is constructive because it uses up the energy that would otherwise have gone into the fear-thoughts.
He has only to resolve that he will always be faithful to his higher self and the trick is done. But alas! resolution is one thing, execution another.
If he finds himself attacked by a strong temptation or about to be overcome by an old obsession, he should at once think of the master, of his name and picture, and call for his help.
Whether you live as a labourer or a lord, it is your character that counts most in the end.
It is the ego that gives way to moods of sulkiness, bad temper, irritability, and impatience. Remember that on the outcome of your efforts to control yourself, your faults and emotions, your speech and your actions, much will depend for your worldly and spiritual future.
He who controls the mind controls the body, for the one acts upon and through the other.
It is not enough to overcome the jealousy which begrudges other people's having advantages denied us: we must also take the next step and overcome the envy which feels discontented at not having those advantages and continues to desire them for itself. Jealousy would go out of its way to hurt those others by depriving them of their possessions, but envy would not fall so low.
Once he forms this resolve to follow the bidding of intuition and reason when they oppose emotion and passion, he will find it both a safeguard and a test. If at any time he should temporarily weaken from this resolve, he may become uncertain as to the correct course to pursue when at a crossroads.
A willing discipline of the character by one's own self may often take the place of an unwanted and unwilling discipline by outer events.
He is to become an exemplar to the aspiring, a pattern-setter for those who would ennoble themselves.
The quest is carried on always under silent and continual pressure. The earnest aspirant will strive to live well where formerly he lived ill, will keep looking for better ideals.
The ideal man that he wants to be should be evoked, pictured, and adored daily.
If greater wisdom brings an immunity to other men's negative thoughts, it also brings the responsibility to stifle one's own.
When all malice and all envy are resolutely cast out of his nature, not only will he be the gainer by it in improved character and pleasanter karma, but also those others who would have suffered as victims of his barbed words or ugly thoughts.
The past is beyond recall, but the present is at our command.
At any place along the road of life, he may turn his back on ignorant habits and seek to create better ones.
If society finds him an odd creature, if it laughs at his peculiarities of belief or frowns at his departures from convention, then he must not blame society. He must accept the situation as inescapable and submit to its unpleasantness as being better than the littleness of surrender.
He must establish, for and over himself, an emotional discipline and intellectual control. He cannot successfully do this all at once, of course. Emotional tendencies and mental habits engendered by years of materialism cannot be overturned and eliminated in a single night. But the goal must be there and must be kept in view.
Few are ready to impose such a discipline upon themselves as if it were enforced by outside authority; but many more could do a little more if they applied what they know.
Some temptations come on slowly, but others suddenly and before he fully realizes what is happening to him. Whatever the way they come--and this depends partly on his personal temperament, partly on the nature of the temptation--he should prepare himself in advance by fortifying the weaker places in his character.
The negative quality can be rubbed away gradually by bringing counter qualities into the field against it.
He is expected to put forth the effort needed to dispel a negative emotion or to destroy a negative thought, since such will not go away of itself.
When the mind is sufficiently purified, it receives intuitions more easily and nurtures aspirations more warmly.
Tread firmly on negative thoughts, eject them from the mind as soon as they appear, and give them no chance to grow. Spite, envy, moroseness, despondency and denigrating criticism should all be denied entry.
A prompt and decisive `No!' to the suggestion or impulse as soon as it appears, prevents it from gathering strength and becoming uncontrollable.
The quickness with which an impulse moves him to action may hide its beginning in him. But the moment is there: by self-training it may be perceived in time, and inhibition or control applied with more and more success.
His intellectual clarity must be deep and his emotional tolerance broad.
It is always a pity when thinkers are not equal to their own thoughts. Schopenhauer, that melancholy metaphysician, is a case in point. He extolled the Buddhistic calm of Nirvana and the supreme beatitude of living in deep thought, but he did not hesitate to beat his landlady when she committed some trivial transgression. In his attitude to events and in his relations with men, it is the business of the philosopher to display qualities flowing from the ethos of his teaching, but it is not necessarily the business of a metaphysician to do so. This is the practical and moral difference between them.
The gain of building an equable character and evenness of mind is not only a spiritual one, it is also a contribution to personal happiness.
He will not agree to act under threat. Every such attempt to intimidate him makes him only more determined to resist it and to reject the desired action.
The power which man spends in the passions and emotions of his lower nature will, when governed and directed upward in aspiration to his higher nature, give him the knowledge and bliss of the Overself.
It is not enough to follow a wholesome diet and a healthy way of life. The seeker after a better existence must match with these advances his thoughts and emotions.
There is all the difference between a sturdy independence and an inflated self-esteem.
An experience which is a blow to his ego ought to be received with humility and analysed with impartiality. But too often the man receives it with resentment and analyses it with distortion. In the result he is doubly harmed: there is the suffering itself and there is the deterioration of character.
We sin by wandering away from our true inner selves, by letting ourselves become wholly immersed in the thoughts and desires which surround us, by losing our innermost identity and taking up an alien one. This is the psychology of sin as philosophy sees it. But it could not have gained the knowledge for such a view of man if it had not succeeded in itself overcoming the bondage of flesh, feeling, and thought and penetrating by means of its flawless technique into the world of the divine spirit, which is the real man.
He is to live for the praise and blame, not of other people, but of his own higher self.
The distance from lip to heart is sometimes immense. Who has not known men who had God prominent in their heard speech but evil prominent in their silent desires?
The philosophic way of living asks for more than most men possess, more command of the passions, more discipline of the thoughts, and more submissiveness to intuition.
The moral injunctions which he finds in this teaching and must follow out in his life, are based on understanding the relation between his higher self and his lower self. They are not arbitrary commands but inevitable consequences of applying the adage, "Man, know thyself."
There is an abuse of authority when anyone takes advantage of it to bolster his own ego at the expense of those under him.
Few are those who are psychologically ready for philosophy's disciplines, which call, not merely for a reluctant control of the animal nature, but for an eager aspiration to rise above it altogether. Few are ready for its ethics, which call not merely for a willingness to abide by society's protective laws, but for a generous disposition constantly putting itself in someone else's place.
All that is best in the Christian virtues, the Buddhist virtues, the Stoic virtues, among several others, you will find in the philosophic ones.
He will be virtuous not merely for the reasons that so many others are--it is safer, it stops the prodding of conscience, etc.--but much more for the reason that it is essential to put up no obstructions to the light flowing from the Overself.
Whoever does a wrong to another man is not doing it to him alone. He does it also to himself.
The nature of the means used will help to predetermine the nature of the end reached. An evil means cannot lead to a good end, but only to one of its own kind, even though mixed with some good.
The truth comes when it is sought, but is found only when we are ready. This is why the aspirant must take himself in hand, must improve his character and discipline his emotions.
There is to be nothing in himself to impede the intuitive power.
Moral nobility is not the sole possession of either the rich or the poor, the educated or the ignorant.
The conflict between lower and higher values, between the false and the true interpretation of life, goes on all the time within all men. But he who brings it into the open and looks it in the face is the man who has gained more than a little wisdom from the impact of experience.
Unless there is honest effort to apply practically the knowledge got and the understanding gained from this teaching, unless there is real striving after personal betterment and individual discipline, the interest shown is mere dabbling, not study.
The first moral slip is also the worst one. For the effort to cover it up involves a further lapse. Then the road runs downhill from slip to slip.
Small mentalities cannot comprehend big truths. Greedy mentalities cannot comprehend generous truths. Bigotry keeps vital facts outside the door of knowledge. This is why the philosophic discipline is needed.
He is called upon to reconcile spiritual aspirations with life's demands.
Too many people are willing to make an assault upon the outward effects of evil while leaving untouched the inward causes of evil.
Those who want only to gratify bodily appetites and have no use for spiritual satisfactions may regard ideals as quite futile. They may find the only rational purpose in human action is to cast out all aims except selfish ones, subordinating all moral restraints to the realization of those aims in the process.
However stubborn and intransigent his character may seem, let him never despair of himself. Even if he keeps making mistakes let him pick himself up and try again. However slow and laborious such a procedure seems, it will still be effectual in the end.
He must purify the will by abandoning sin and purify the mind by abandoning error.
What he does in his personal relations with others or in the way he meets events is no less a part of his spiritual life than his formal exercises in meditation.
If the goals of life are not redefined on a higher plane, the status of life remains--hovers--between that of the animal and the human and does not become fully human.
He needs to be wary of his own animal self and its interfusion with his human self and its hostility to his angelic self.
A justly balanced picture would show every man to be good in some points, bad in other points. There is nothing exceptional in this. Therefore, there is necessity for the false pride of anyone who ignores his bad points. But in the spiritual aspirant, such pride is not only unnecessary but also deathly to his progress.
The tyranny of negative thoughts and negative feelings can and must be broken. For this he can look to help from the best in him and the best in others.
It is said that necessity shapes its own morality. This is often true. But the exceptional man listens to a higher command.
Standing aside from one's thoughts, as if one were no longer identified with them, observing their nature and results quite critically, becomes a means of self-betterment if repeated regularly.
It is tremendously important to safeguard the fruits of one's studies by purification of character. On this Quest, the aspirant's motives must necessarily be of the highest quality.
Each should do what he or she can to prepare himself by learning how to recognize and eliminate weaknesses. It is equally essential to keep the thoughts, emotions, and actions on as high a level as possible.
The discipline of self is a prerequisite to the enlightenment of self.
It is true that most people realize that they do not yet come anywhere near such an ideal as philosophy proposes to them regarding their personal development. At least if they are aware of the ideal and if they accept it, they will find that practice can make quite a difference. The simple practice of holding back their own negative thoughts, holding back their own negative feelings when these first appear and nipping them in the bud is the beginning of becoming their own master.
If a man regrets his own conduct, be it a single action or a whole course of actions, he will feel some self-contempt and get depressed. This is a valuable moment, this turning of the ego against itself. If he takes advantage of it to ferret out the cause in his own character, in his own person as it got built up through its reincarnations, he may remold it in a more satisfactory way. This inner work is accomplished by a series of creative and positive meditations.
He is not required to acquire a perfect character, a complete absence of all faults. In new surroundings or circumstances and under different pressures, new faults may appear. He is required to remove just sufficiently the obstructive conditions within himself.
The herd of men are ruled by physical instincts and changing emotions. The aspirant for true individuality must set up the higher standards of self-control, personal stability, and harmonious balance.
Though man assigns little importance to his thoughts, contrasted with his deeds, their total effect is to dictate his policies which in turn dictate his deeds.
If karmic obligations may have to be fulfilled, at least this will not be done in total ignorance. It will be with resignation rather than hatred, and with hope for higher attainment.
The habit of always remembering that he is committed to the Quest and to the alteration of character which this involves, should help him to refuse assent in temptation and reject despondency in tribulation.
The Buddhist scriptures name obstacles the aspirant may have to deal with. They are: frivolity, changeableness, unruly desires, dissatisfaction, gratification of the senses, and craving for the ego's existence.
Even if he finds himself in a moral solitude, as he may in the earlier years, it is still worthwhile to be loyal to ideals.
He must cast off the long mantle of arrogance and put on the short coat of humility.
A lapse in artistry may be pardoned but a lapse in sincerity may not. Be sincere! That is the message from soul to self, from God to man.
It is not a man's own voice which is to acclaim him as a master, but his life.
His willingness to acknowledge he has faults and lots of them is admirable--so few ever like to confess such a thing--but they are not so deep or so numerous as he imagines. He should not forget that he has some merits too and they are well able to balance the others and keep them where they belong. As for perfection, alas, the sage too is still striving for it.
Pride can take a dozen different disguises, even the disguise of its very opposite, humility. The quicker he grows and the farther he goes on this quest, the more must an aspirant examine his character for its traces and watch his actions to detect it.
He is indeed a prudent man who refuses to be blinded by passions or deluded by appearances.
He who trims his sails to the winds of expediency reveals his insincerity.
He does not know in advance what he will do in every new situation that arises--who does?--but only what he will try to do, what principles he will try to follow.
It is true that environment contributes to the molding of character but not true that it creates or even dominates character. Thought and will are linked with our own reincarnational past. Character can be improved by effort and Grace. If we will only attend to the first and persistently carry out the inner work required on ourselves, destiny will attend to the second and not seldom remove the outer obstacles or improve the outer environment in the process.
Each person who enters our life for a time, or becomes involved with it at some point, is an unwitting channel bringing good or evil, wisdom or foolishness, fortune or calamity to us. This happens because it was preordained to happen--under the law of recompense. But the extent to which he affects our outer affairs is partly determined by the extent to which we let him do so, by the acceptance or rejection of suggestions made by his conduct, speech, or presence. It is we who are finally responsible.(P)
The victim of exterior suggestion is never quite an innocent victim, for his own quota of consent must also be present.
It is perfectly true that environment does count, and often heavily, in the sum of life. But it is also true that if one's faith is strong enough or if one's understanding is deep enough, the quest can be pursued effectively anywhere, be it a slum tenement or a stockbroker's office. It is easier to pursue it in some places, harder in others, but the law of compensation always operates to even matters out. If there is a total giving-up of oneself to this higher aim, sooner or later there will be a total result, whatever the external circumstances may be.
What is in a man, in his character, his mind, and his heart is, in the end, much more important than what is in his surroundings; but his surroundings have their own importance, for they either limit or they promote what he can do.
With most people the reaction to their environment and to events is mainly impulsive and mostly uncontrolled. So the first step for them is to become conscious of what they are doing, the second being to refuse to do it when reflection and wisdom dictate a better course. All this implies a taking hold of the self and a disciplining of its mechanism--body, feelings, and thoughts. It leads to using the self with awareness and functioning in it with efficiency.
It is fashionable in certain circles to fix the blame for a man's erring proclivities on his faulty upbringing--or lack of it--by parents, or on his companions, temptations, and surroundings. But are they so much to blame as the man himself? And is he not the victim, the resultant, of his own prenatal past? And even this is not the ultimate cause of his sinning. He is misled by ignorance--without understanding of his deepest self and without knowledge of life's higher laws.
There is some kind of correspondence between the outward situations of his life as they develop and the subconscious tendencies of his mind, between the nature of his environment and the conscious characteristics of his personality, between the effects as they happen to him and the causes that he previously started. He can begin to change his life for the better when he realizes how long he has mentally been unconsciously building it up for the worse. The same energy which has been directed into negative thoughts can then be directed into positive ones. Were it not for the stubbornness of habit, it would not be harder to do this than to do its opposite.
The emotions felt inside the heart, the thoughts evoked inside the head, affect the environment and atmosphere outside us.
Without dropping into the artificial attitude which pretends to give small value to outward circumstances, he can yet try to set himself free from their mental dominion.
Until he has attained that inner strength which can concentrate thoughts and dominate emotions, it will be foolish to say that environment does not count and that he can mingle with society as freely as he can desert it. Without this attainment, he will be weakened by most of them or strengthened by a few of them.
The inner life is affected by physical conditions, although not to the extent to which it is affected by thoughts and feelings.
Birth into a prosperous elegant and gracious circle is valued highly in this world: it gives a man dignity and assurance. Education, which nurtures intellect and bestows culture, is likewise well appraised. But both measure as small things in the other world of spiritual attainment.
How are we to behave toward our fellow men? Each will answer the question differently according to his evolutionary status. The young inexperienced naïve idealist will contradict the aged worldly-wise cynic for whom life, authority, celebrity, tradition, innovation, have been totally denuded of their glamour. The distance from one answer to the other will also be marked by varying views.
It is quite true that moral codes have historically been merely relative to time, place, and so on. But if we try to make such relativity a basis of non-moral action, if we act on the principle that wrong is not worse than right and evil not different from good, then social life would soon show a disastrous deterioration, the ethics of the jungle would become its governing law, and catastrophe would overtake it in the end.(P)
The relativity of good and evil is no justification for the tolerance of wrong and evil.
It would be a mistake to believe that because philosophy affirms that morality, art, conscience, and religion are relative to human beings, it therefore has no moral code to offer. It most assuredly has such a code. This is so because side by side with relativity it also affirms development. It holds up a purpose, traces out a path to its realization, and hence formulates a code.
The virtue which he is to practise is not bounded by the standards set by law and custom, nor even by conventional morality. His standards are far higher and far nobler. For they are not measured by human weakness but by human possibility. If for so much of his lifetime they have to exist side by side with his shortcomings, the latter are not accepted but are resisted.
Moral relativity has led, when embraced by intellectual materialists or unphilosophical mystics, to foolish and even dangerous practical result. The fallacy is that although all points of view in morality are tenable, all are not equally tenable.
The danger of this teaching of evil's unreality and moral relativity is that in the hands of the unwise it annuls all distinction between evil and good, while in the hands of the conceited it opens dangerous doors.
The undisciplined or the evil-minded will always seize on such a tenet to provide support and excuse for their faults or sins. There is no reason to withhold it, however, for they will commit the same faults or sins anyway whether they have the teaching or not.
Because there are levels of moral growth, character, and self-control, it became necessary to lay down laws, codes, and rules for mankind in the mass. These may be of sacred origin, as with a Moses, or of secular authority, as with a ruler. Where the name of God is invoked to give them weight, this is usually a human device. But the come-back of karma is very real, and not a fancy.
The discovery of moral relativity gives no encouragement however to moral laxity. If we are freed from human convention, it is only because we are to submit ourselves sacrificially to the Overself's dictate. The unfoldment of progressive states of conscious being is not possible without giving up the lower for the higher.(P)
Although we try to avoid fanatical beliefs and extremist views, there are certain matters where compromise would be cowardly and halfheartedness would be harmful.
The doctrine that ethical and artistic values are relative need not be inconsistent with the doctrine that they are also progressive. They evolve from lower to higher levels. Being ideas in some individual mind, they improve with the improvement of that mind's own quality.
The codes of good and bad are usually part of religion and certainly belong to the religious level. But the idea of goodness implies the idea of badness, so both are held in the mind although in different ways: one explicitly, the other implicitly. The philosopher does not depend on them but on their source, the Higher Power.
The ego being an illusory entity its virtues are in the ultimate sense either imaginary or also illusory. Nevertheless, moral perfection of the ego is a necessary stage on the journey to perfection of consciousness, to the Overself. To cast it aside as being merely relative, to reject ethics and virtue as being unnecessary, is a trick of the intellect to enable the ego to stay longer in its own self-sufficiency.
When the life and teachings of men like Muhammed and Buddha are compared, the most extraordinary differences become apparent. What in effect Buddha placed before his followers as the highest ideal was, "You may live a good life as a layman, but if you want to live a superior life you must become a monk." Muhammed, on the other hand, said literally, "No faithful follower of mine shall ever become a monk." He even told his followers that under certain conditions they could practise polygamy and have four wives. Both these men are revered as wise, and yet such divergences exist in their teaching. The divergence arose because in their wisdom they had consideration for the degree of evolution of the people to whom they spoke, of their physical, mental, and ethical needs, and of the circumstances of their lives. They gave to the people what they most needed, and the highest wisdom within their comprehension. They did not give them the hidden philosophy, the highest teaching open to man.
Even today it is useless to preach ethics to a gangster. He is not ready. Through the power of the Mind, a Sage can place himself in perfect sympathy with every man. He can see the next step ahead which can be taken without undue difficulty. It was temperamentally and climatically easy for the Indians of that period to renounce marriage, and it was therefore easy for Buddha to bring them a step further along the path by teaching complete monasticism. But the wild tribes amongst whom Muhammed lived could only grasp something much grosser, and so Muhammed in his wisdom gave them what would make them a little less savage; he gave them a practical ethical code for daily living, and at the same time stimulated their faith in after-death rewards. Instead of telling them to retire to monasteries, which they were incapable of doing, and instead of telling them to practise meditation, which they would not have understood, he said in effect "No, go on with your daily life but five times a day let go of all personal affairs for a few minutes. Kneel down, remember God, and pray." The Arab people of that time could do that, and it acted as a check on their more barbarous instincts.
Such was the wisdom of Muhammed and Buddha. But for us in the twentieth century to take the path of either would be foolishness, because it was not given to us but to a people of other times. The Sages do not give a doctrine which is once and for all delivered to all mankind. They give a teaching suited to a particular section of mankind and for a particular period.
If the good and evil values of this earthly existence are in the end relative, partial, and transient, there yet remains a supreme value which is absolute, total, and eternal in its goodness. It belongs to the root of our being, the Overself in us that represents the World-Mind.
The atheist who declares that the moral scene is entirely suggested to man by his environment has taken a partial truth, a partial untruth, and joined them together. But if he had declared that the environment was a contributory factor to the final result, he would have been quite correct.
The moaning of a cat has doubtless a certain musical note in it. The Messiah by Handel has musical notes of another kind. Metaphysical scepticism would say that both values are relative and not absolute, hence both are as worthwhile or as worthless as we believe them to be. But most of us would prefer Handel! Why? Because although as relative as the cat's sounds, it is progressively superior. We may apply this to ethics.
Excessive moral tolerance easily becomes moral lethargy.
How can you rightly give the same rules on self-control to young men, in whom the lusts are hot, and to old men, in whom they are cold?
Where the Hindu guru denounced anger as a blemish on character, the Greek patriot praised it as an incitement to courage.
To tie a code of moral values to a religious belief is safer in a simple community and riskier in a sophisticated one.
A virtue may be practised wrongly, when it is no longer a virtue.
New circumstances bring out new and different qualities, including latent and even unsuspected ones. Or a crisis in events may explode and let them appear suddenly. Thus the good may become the bad; the bad may become good. Arrogance in virtue is risky.
Sinfulness is relative. What is right for a man at a low stage may be wrong for him at a higher stage; and in the highest stage, he may act rightly yet sin in thought.
By giving his allegiance to the political system, the religious system, and the commercial system in which he lives, he has unwittingly done two things: he has made a judgement on them and he has taken a moral decision about them. But whether or not this has penetrated his consciousness, he cannot absolve himself from these responsibilities.
Although two different doctrines may each be relatively true, this is not the same as being on the same level of evaluation.
To set up relativity as an absolute truth without qualifying it, is unfair. To say that all values are alike, all codes are the same, is to say something half-false.
Paradox is an indispensable element of the Highest Formulations.
If the old moralities fall away from him it is only to be displaced by higher ones, certainly not to be bereft of any ethical code.
The doctrinaire who uses right ideas to support or defend wrong actions is able to do so only because those ideas are general and abstract ones. They ignore circumstances, time, and place. Convert them into specific concrete, practical, and particular cases, and their misuse becomes difficult.
Although he has now inwardly transcended conventional codes of good and evil, he will outwardly continue to respect them. This is not hypocrisy for he is not opposed to them. He perceives that the very relativity which deprives them of value for him, provides them with value for society.
Obedience to the Overself will then become the only code of ethics that he can follow.
If it is not possible for the generality of mankind to practise ethical indolence permanently and to avoid the moral struggles which the situations of life lead to intermittently, it is much less possible for the minority of mankind who have begun this quest to do so. Life becomes graver for them. If they do not obey the call of conscience the first time, it may become more painful to obey it the second time. If they persist in following an ignoble and contemptible course after they have already seen that it is ignoble and contemptible, the karma becomes proportionately heavier. It has been said that knowledge is power, but it needs equally to be said that knowledge is also responsibility.
As his sensitivity develops and his conscience refines, he comes to regard certain actions as sinful which he formerly regarded as innocent.
There is a guiding conscience in a man which develops or weakens as he responds to the forces and influences playing on and in him from both bygone lives and the current incarnation. It is this preoccupation with choosing good and avoiding evil, with religious feelings and moral virtues, that lift man above the animal.
We must interpret the word duty in a larger sense, not merely as some social task imposed on us from without, but as a spiritual decision imposed on us from within.
It is a faulty use of the term self-respect, when they really mean keeping up appearances before others. A true self-respect is that feeling inside a man, call it conscience if you wish, which keeps him from giving way to bestial impulses and dishonest action.
We shall understand the mysterious nature of conscience only if we understand its twofold character. What we commonly experience as the inward voice of conscience is simply the distilled result of accumulated past experience, and this includes the experience of many, many earth lives also. This voice is usually a negative one, inasmuch as it more often warns, admonishes, and hinders us from wrong conduct. There is a rarer experience of conscience, however, which is the voice of our own Overself, that divine consciousness which transcends our personal self. This voice is usually a positive one, inasmuch as it more often directs, guides, and explains with a wisdom which comes from beyond the fears and hopes, the suggestions and customs, that organized society and patriarchal convention have implanted in our subconscious mind. Its external development of a so-called evil course of conduct may or may not coincide with the disapproval arising from ancient experience or divine wisdom, for it is merely a matter of social convenience, cultural development, or geographical custom. It may indeed be defective, false, or even quite immoral guidance, for mob passion often masquerades as social conscience. This is the kind of conscience which has a history. It changes with changing circumstances and evolves with evolving grades of culture. The trial and death of Socrates is a classic case illustrating the conflict between genuine and pseudo-conscience.
When I was in India I learnt that to commit suicide under any circumstance was the worst of human sins whereas when I was in Japan I learnt that the failure to commit suicide under certain circumstances was itself one of the worst sins. In both countries the individual pseudo-conscience tenders its counsel to commit or not to commit suicide according to the suggestions implanted from outside in the individual mind by collective society. We may sum up by saying that the voice of outer convention is conscience in its commonest form, that the voice of personal experience is the wisdom of the human personality and the distillate of many incarnations, and that the serene monition of the Overself is conscience in its purest form, the true innermost voice of divine wisdom.
The ego takes his conscience over and fits it to suit himself.
That voice within you which whispers that one act is right and another wrong, is in the end none other than the voice of the Overself. Only it may come to you as from afar, remote and muffled, halting and intermittent, because it has to come amid other voices which are more clamant and more close to your inner ear.
When formalism is stretched out into hypocrisy and when compromise is accepted to the point of surrender, social conventions have drowned a man's conscience.
Everyone has some degree of what is called conscience. So, in relationships with others, an awareness of the promptings of this inner voice--in the light of, and supplemented by, the teachings of Masters like Jesus and the Buddha--will clarify one's course of thought and action.
Under the pressure of his personal ego but haunted by the commandments of respected prophets, he finds himself occasionally in moral dilemmas.
How shall a man meet different moral situations? What line of conduct should he follow on different occasions? How shall he resolve each conflict of duty? These are questions which he alone can best solve. It is his own conscience which is at stake. However, this does not mean that he should disdain whatever sources of guidance may be available to him. It means that what he has to do in particular circumstances at his particular stage of evolution is not necessarily what other men would have to do.
We can depend on making a correct ethical choice always only when we have consciously worked out a true philosophical basis for all our ethics; otherwise we shall be at the mercy of those many possible changes of which feeling itself is at the mercy.
It is not only a question of what course of action will be most effective, but of what will be most ethical. Neither of these two factors can be ignored with impunity; both must be brought into a balanced relation.
It is more prudent to "sense" the emanations imprinted in the auric field surrounding a person than to trust alone to the words he utters or the claims he makes.
Those who depend on other persons to make decisions for them or to solve problems, lose the chance of self-development which the situation offers them.
In trying to reach a decision about his work and how he can best serve others, the individual must turn to the Overself, and not to other sources, for direction.
When confronted by difficult decisions, one must be especially careful to take into consideration the future effects of his choice. A decision based on sentiment, or on other emotional reactions, unchecked by reason, cannot solve any problem--as the student has, undoubtedly, already learned. It is necessary to examine past experience--one's own, and that of others--in order to discover and profit from the lessons there presented. Failure to do so leads to painful repetition of avoidable suffering. This is particularly true of personal relationships.
There will come a time in the life of each student when certain critical decisions will have to be made. These, together with the quality of the ideals he pursues and his whole general attitude, will determine the circumstances of the remainder of that incarnation.
There are so many sides to even the simplest situation that the aspirant will at times be bewildered as to what to do or how to act. He will waver from one decision to another and be unable to take up any firm ground at all. At such a time it is best to wait as long as possible and thus let time also make its contribution.
If by waiting a little a man can see his way more clearly and reach a more positive decision, he should wait. But if it only befuddles his mind still further, then he should not.
But we are not always given the chance to choose between simple good and evil. The situations which organized human society develops for us offer not infrequently the choice only between lesser and larger evils.
We see among neurotics this same long-drawn inability to form decisions, or dread of their being wrong if made.
In every situation requiring an important decision, he will get a truer one if he can successfully analyse the personal and emotional factors involved in it.
Judgements made in haste, actions done rashly, without proper consideration, and decisions given out of impatience and excitement are likely to be of less value than the opposite kind.
Rousseau taught that human nature was essentially good, whereas Calvin taught that it was essentially bad. Philosophy teaches that the innermost core of human nature is essentially good but the outer and visible husk is a mixture of good and bad, varying with individuals as to the proportions of this mixture.
The mark of true goodness is, first, that it never by thought, word, or deed injures any other living creature; second, that it has brought the lower nature under the bidding of the higher; and third, that it considers its own welfare not in isolation but always against the background of the common welfare.
There are three different forms of wrong action which he must carefully separate from each other in his mind if he is to adhere to the principles of philosophical living and if he is to place a correct emphasis where it should belong. First, the most important, is the sin in moral behavior; second is the error in practical judgement; third is the transgression of the social code.
A sharply self-accusing honesty of purpose, a blunt integrity of conscience, will have again and again to thrust its sword into his conduct of life. An ethic that far outleaps the common one will have to become his norm. Conventional ideas of goodness will not suffice him; the quest demands too much for that.
Few characters are completely good, totally selfless, and it leads only to dangerous illusions when this is not remembered. New evils grow in those who deceive themselves, or others, by tall talk and exaggerated ideals.
The goodness which philosophy inculcates is an active one, but it is not a sentimental one. It is more than ready to help others but not to help them foolishly. It refuses to let mere emotion have the last word but takes its commands from intuition and subjects its emotions to reason. It makes a clear distinction between the duty of never injuring another person and the necessity which sometimes arises of causing pain to another person. If at times it hurts the feelings of someone's ego, it does so only to help his spiritual growth.
This goodwill becomes instinctive but that does not mean it becomes unbalanced, wildly misapplied, and quite ineffectual. For the intelligence which is in wisdom accompanies it.
The goodness which one man may express in his relation to another is derived ultimately from his own divine soul and is an unconscious recognition of, as well as gesture to, the same divine presence in that other. Moreover, the degree to which anyone becomes conscious of his true self is the degree to which he becomes conscious of it in others. Consequently, the goodness of the fully illumined man is immeasurably beyond that of the conventionally moral man.(P)
Why did Jesus ask his followers to refrain from calling him good? By all ordinary standards he was certainly a good man, and more. It was because his goodness was not really his own; it derived from the Overself having taken over his whole person, his whole being.
In the end the question of goodness involves the question of truth: one may be correctly known only when the other is also known.
The term "good" is used here with clear consciousness that there is no absolute standard of goodness in common use, that what is regarded as good today may be unacceptable as such tomorrow, and that what one man calls good may be called evil by another man. What then is the sense which the student is asked to give this word? He is asked to employ it in the sense of a pattern of thinking, feeling, and doing which conforms to his highest ideal.
What is sin? It may be defined, first, as any act which harms others; second, as any act which harms oneself; third, as any thought or emotion which has these consequences.
Goodness is naturally allied to the truth, is the perfume of it exhaled without self-consciousness.
Evil-doing is too vulgar. The spiritually fastidious man does not find himself set with a choice between it and the opposite. He cannot help but choose the good spontaneously, directly, and unhesitatingly.
He will awaken to the realization that the chaotic unplanned character of the ordinary man's life cramps his own possibilities for good. He will perceive that to let his thoughts drift along without direction and his feelings without purpose, is easy but bad.
Whatever else he may be, he is no aspirant for sainthood. That admirable goal is quite proper for those whose innate vocation lies that way. But it is not the specific goal for would-be philosophers.
The same truth, ideal, or master that shows him the glorious possibilities of goodness within himself, will also show him the ugly actualities of evil within himself. No sun, no shadow.
Morally, emotionally, and intellectually, no man is all weaknesses or all strengths. All are a mixture of the two, only their proportion and quality varies.
The good in man will live long after his faults have been forgotten.
He who has achieved goodness in thought and feeling cannot fail to achieve it in action.
Sin is simply that which is done, through ignorance, against the higher laws. Virtue is the obedience to, and cooperation with, those laws.
Human sin derives from human ignorance of the Presence which is always within man. Who that is aware of It could possibly transgress, could oppose Its benignity or forget Its teaching of karmic come-back?
It is true that a face may proclaim the possessor's character, but it is also true that often only a part of this character is revealed and that the hidden part is, schizophrenically, of an opposite kind.
The fact must be admitted, as every saint has admitted it, that there are two poles in human nature, a lower and a higher, an animal and an angelic, an outward-turned and an inward-turned one.
It is more just to say that each man's nature is compounded of both good and bad qualities. This must be so because the animal, the human, and the angel are all there in him.
The need today is not for compromise or patchwork. It is for one, outright, generous gesture.
The selfish person thinks only of satisfying his own wants first of all, not caring if he harms others. The next higher type thinks also of his immediate circle of family and friends. But the highest type of all gives equal regard to himself, to his family, to whoever crosses his path, and to all others. He feels for everyone, never satisfying his desires by wrongfully taking away from, or harming, another.
One fruit of the change will be that just as the old idea was to watch out selfishly for his own interests, so the new idea will be not to separate them from the interests of others. If it be asked, "How can anyone who is attuned to such impersonality be also benevolent?" the answer is that because he is also attuned to the real Giver of all things, he need not struggle against anyone nor possess anything. Hence he can afford to be generous as the selfish cannot. And because the Overself's very nature is harmony and love, he seeks the welfare of others alongside of his own.
Those who regard altruism as the sacrifice of all egoistic interests are wrong. It means doing well by all, including ourselves. For we too are part of the all. We do not honour altruistic duty by dishonouring personal responsibility.
He is entitled to seek his own profit and advantage, but only in equity with and considerateness for those of the other person concerned.
Up to a certain point in development, man does right in seeking self-gain. But beyond that point, he must stop the process and seek self-loss.
The attitude of non-interference in other people's lives is a benign and justifiable one at certain times but an egotistic one at other times.
The best charity in the end is to show a man the higher life that is possible for him.
By selfishness is meant seeking advantage to self in all transactions with complete indifference to others' welfare.
It is useless to prate and prattle of altruistic motives when the essential motive imposed on us by Nature is self-interest. Every man has a complete right to be selfish. Trouble arises only when he hurts others in order to fulfil this aim. Then the same Nature which prompted him to concentrate on his own existence will punish him. For the law of compensation cannot be evaded: that which we have given to others, of woe or good, will some day be reflected back to us.
Be careful not to limit the third element in the quest--action--to altruism or service. It is rather the re-education of character through deeds. Thus this includes moral discipline, altruistic service, overcoming animal tendencies, temporary physical asceticism, self-training and improvement, and so forth. It is the path of remaking the personality in the external life both through thought-control and acts so as to become sensitive towards and obedient to the Overself. Altruism will then become a mere part of, a subordinate section in, this character training.
Whoever labours worthily at a worthy task which does not afflict his conscience is rendering service to humanity. It does not matter whether he is a peasant or a businessman, a bricklayer's apprentice or a spiritual teacher.
The isolationist individual who stands unmoved by a crime being committed on his doorstep, is tempted by selfishness not to burden himself with another person's troubles.
Ambition can be transformed into service.
No right action, done through unswerving faithfulness to the philosophic ideal, is ever wasted even if its results are not to be seen. It will surely bear its good fruit at some time in the individual's existence, however long deferred and however far off that may be.
We must learn not only to develop right qualities of character, but also not to direct them wrongly. Misplaced charity, for instance, is not a virtue.
In ethics we are to seek a sublime common sense which means that we are not to help ourselves to the ignoring of others, not to help others to the ignoring of ourselves.
To treat others too softly may not be the wise way when life itself may treat them more harshly because of their mistakes, sins, or weaknesses.
He needs to protect himself by the truth which, applied here, means he must strengthen himself against their negative, slushy emotion. A misconceived and muddled pity brought in where toughness and reason are needed, would only harm them and him, both.
The continued study of this philosophy will inevitably lead the student to accept its practical consequences and thus make the universal welfare of mankind his dominant ethical motive.
I have more respect for the man who builds a career of usefulness and service to his community than for the man who turns his back on cares or responsibilities so as to sink into the smug peace of retreat. At the best the latter will address useless appeals to mankind to be better, whereas the former will do something more positive and more effective.
Excerpt from: John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez: "Perhaps the most overrated virtue in our list of shoddy virtues is that of giving. Giving builds up the ego of the giver, makes him superior and higher and larger than the receiver. Nearly always, giving is a selfish pleasure, and in many cases it is a downright destructive and evil thing. One has only to remember some of our wolfish financiers who spend two-thirds of their lives clawing fortunes out of the guts of society and the latter third pushing it back. It is not enough to suppose that their philanthropy is a kind of frightened restitution, or that their natures change when they have enough. Such a nature never has enough and natures do not change that readily. I think that the impulse is the same in both cases. For giving can bring the same sense of superiority as getting does, and philanthropy may be another kind of spiritual avarice."
Pure altruism is a rare and difficult quality, remote from the actuality of human conditions. The cautious person is also entitled to ask whether it is justifiable, whether a man is not entitled to do justice to himself as well as to others. The obvious reply is that there is no reason why his own good should not be included in that of the whole community. It is an arguable question whether the Buddhist story of a man who gave his own body to feed a starving tigress acted very wisely, although we must admit that he acted most generously.
He may love mankind without being in love with mankind. He may act with unwearying altruism and compassion towards them and yet with clear sight of their moral uglinesses and mental deformities.
An intellectual enlightenment not accompanied by a moral purification, can lead only to a meagre result when turned to the service of humanity. The altruist must educate his own character before he can influence effectually the character of others. Only then are false steps and dangerous missteps less likely to be taken.
A generous act not only helps the beneficiary but, if the motive is pure, ennobles the doer. The wisdom of the act is, however, a different matter and requires separate analysis.
If he has cultivated the quality of calmness, then he will automatically derive from it the quality of patience. If he has not done so, he will yet get something of its atmosphere quite involuntarily and unconsciously from the stretching-out of his intellectual outlook by his metaphysical vast studies, with their unveiling of the cosmic plan, the eternal cyclic laws, and the ego's own long-drawn evolution. How valuable a trait of character patience can be is best revealed in the domain of action. It will stop premature deeds, it will guide him to the knowledge of when to act, and it will teach him that wise activity is a well-timed, ripened activity.
The student will now see how necessary it is to develop the quality of equipoise. Without it he is at the mercy of every desire and passion, every emotion and impulse, every negative thought which rises from within himself or is picked up from contacts or neighbours outside himself. But with it there will be at least a conflict before surrender or a conflict leading to victory.
When a mystic's words are spoken or written from too high a level for the aspirant, so that he can see no trail leading up to that level itself, the aspirant is likely to become depressed and discouraged at the magnitude of the climb before him. Let him not lose heart too quickly at this point of his upward course, for the path does indeed involve the work of many reincarnations. Here is his chance to learn two useful qualities: resignation and patience. Yes, there is hope for him, but it is a realistic and not a dramatic one. He must learn to be patient because his labours are not in vain. He must learn to be resigned because the hour when he will gather their fruit is in God's hands.
He must discipline himself in patience, where patience is needful. He must learn to wait and let a situation ripen until it is really ready for him to use advantageously. On the other hand, it would be foolish for him to delay and over-prepare, for an opportunity which occurs once may never occur again.
It is the work of a lifetime to venture on such a great improvement of character as will place the lower self under our control, instead of our being controlled by it. We are likely to get disheartened at times by the seeming slowness of progress. This is partly because we are too apt to think in terms of this single incarnation only, whereas those who understand life's actual range think of it in terms of dozens and scores. Hence we have to learn a certain tolerant patience with ourselves, while at the same time maintaining an ardent aspiration for self-improvement and a critical attitude towards our weaknesses. This sounds contradictory but it is not really so. It is rather a matter of getting a proper balance between the two attitudes.
We find by rueful experience that years are needed to begin to correct a weakness, let alone to complete the correction. The moral adjustment to truth is a long-drawn affair. This is disheartening if we seek quick results. The formidable nature of our task of self-changing thus discloses itself. Tendencies built up through many a lifetime cannot be altered, without Grace, in a single year. Patience is called for in dealing with them.
However disheartening the slowness of his growth may be to his emotions, the remembrance that he is a sage in embryo should always be encouraging to his reason.
Patience is needed, and confidence in the path chosen. Resignation rather than rebellion brings results.
The practice of calmness amid all occasions and the exercise of an unruffled patience in all situations are indeed two valuable elements of the philosophic discipline which contribute definitely towards the student's growth. It is easy to be patient sometimes and with some men but the philosophic discipline calls for unruffled patience at all times and with all men.
Each man has to fight his lonely battle which nobody else can share with him, has to work out personal problems in the solitude of his own mind, has to gain command of his passions in the secrecy of his own heart.
Where the good and the evil are so closely blended together, as in human character, unless he makes his self-portrait harsh, uncompromising, and unbeautiful, he will waste many years in illusions, only to find at the end that everything still remains to be done.
If he will be strong enough to rise above the cowardice of conformity and above the embarrassment of setting himself apart from others, he will receive a proportionate though intangible reward. He will know the delight and strength of being himself to that extent.
A man will do the best he can in his personal situation, not the best that someone else could do in the same situation. His action is relevant to his strength and understanding. All this is true. But it is equally true that he has untapped inner resources. Why not try to better his best?
He cannot help being what he is but he can help remaining what he is.
Each virtue is the fruit of a long self-discipline, a constant self-denial. It is not picked up easily, but has to be cut from the solid rock.
He must not let himself be swayed by emotions into unreasonable actions nor lured by intellect into unintuitive ones.
Self-reliance is not a quality which can be given to others. Only by providing them with your own example can you contribute to this end.
When we enlarge our love of the Divine by making it a matter of the will as well as feeling, we ennoble it.
Where self-confidence is based on the possession of adequate knowledge and innate ability, and not on arrogant conceit, where furthermore it arises from a conscious and logical carrying out of predetermined courses, it is a useful attribute.
All aspirants on this spiritual quest have to go through periods of discouragement from time to time and I myself was no exception. Physical nature does not easily permit us to escape from her grasp and her resistance to the individual spiritual effort is inevitable. Perseverance is therefore an indispensable quality.
An ordinary fortitude of the will is enough to enable one to bear the trifling disappointments of life, but a deep philosophic courage is needed to bear the crushing blows of life.
Such power is not easily gained. A man must overcome much within himself, must hold his spine unbending and his effort undeviating. All those negative qualities which act as encumbrances to true understanding of situations, occasions, events, and persons must be guarded against in attitude and action.
Amid his gross brutalizations and maniacal exaggerations, Nietschze's evil mysticism expressed some truth. He affirmed rightly that life must be hard if it is not to be trivial.
His quest of the Overself must be an untiring one. It is to be his way of looking at the world, his attitude toward life.
It is far more important to develop the strength within himself needful to break the spell than to beg for preventative protection against it. In the first case he progresses enormously and rapidly; in the second, he is static.
Each difficulty surmounted, each weakness resisted will fortify his will and increase his perseverance. It will evoke the better part of his nature and discipline the baser, and thus fit him more adequately to cope with the next ones.
He must be equally steadfast in adhering to this attitude whether other people utter complaints against him or make compliments to him.
We must retain our determination and our loyalty to the quest in all circumstances. Physical pains, climatic extremes must not deter us. We must console ourselves with the thought that these things are certain to pass away. They are mental figments, ideas which will be negated, whereas the truth and reality we seek belong to the immutable, and can never be negated.
Few of us can withdraw from the world and most of us must engage in its activity. But that is no reason for accepting the evils which are mixed in with this activity.
Tenacity of purpose is a characteristic of all who accomplish great things. Drawbacks cannot disgust him, labour cannot weary him, hardships cannot discourage him in whom the quality of persistence is always present. But to the man without persistence every defeat is a Waterloo.
Indecision of purpose and infirmity of will must yield to the resolute mind and the determined act. The person who sways uncertainly between one side and the other misses opportunity.
The student's inner reactions to outer events provide him with the opportunity to use his free will in the right direction. His attitude towards his own lower nature, that is, how far he encourages or discourages it, is another. And his recognition of what are good opportunities and what should be avoided, together with his acceptance or rejection of them, is still another.
Mental indolence and moral lethargy are hardly likely to waft us into the high haven of spiritual peace. We must learn to think fearlessly and courageously about every problem that faces us; we must try to elevate our hearts above the level of the moral lepers and spiritual cripples of our time.
He will learn to endure the blows of misfortune with a bravery heretofore unknown and a serenity heretofore unexperienced.
The strength of will which can lead a man to command of his sexual desires, cannot stop there if he is to achieve a full self-mastery. It must also go on to his diet and feelings, his speech and habits.
Value of confession, repentance
The man who seeks to release himself from moral responsibility for his actions or his fortunes can in no way make any real progress on the spiritual path. He may improve his capacity to meditate, he may become more sensitive psychically, but his real battle--against the ego--remains unfought and therefore unwon.
It would be a grave error to believe that philosophy is merely the practice of reflection over lofty or lovely thoughts. It is also the shedding of tears over low or unlovely ones, the remorseful weeping over past and present frailty, the poignant remembrance of errors and incapacities. We who practise it must examine ourselves periodically. This means that we should not, at any time, be satisfied with ourselves but should always recognize the need of improvement. Hence we should constantly strive to detect and remedy the moral, temperamental, and mental defects which disclose themselves. We will need to look into our hearts more deeply than ever before, and search their darker labyrinths for the motives and desires hiding away from our conscious aspiration. We are called upon to make the most searching criticism of ourselves, and to make it with emotional urgency and even profound remorse.
This advice to look within would be idiotic if it meant only looking at our human frailty and mortal foolishness. A morbid self-obsession, a continuously gloomy introspection and unending analysis of personal thoughts and experiences is to be avoided as unhealthy. Such ugly egocentricity does not make us more "spiritual." But the advice really means looking further and deeper. It means an introspective examining operation much longer in time, much more exigent in patience, much more sustained in character, than a mere first glance. It means intensity of the first order, concentration of the strongest kind, spiritual longing of the most fervent sort.
Although philosophy bids us avoid morbid thoughts of depression, doubt, fear, worry, and anxiety because they are weakening and because they represent only one side--the dark side--of a two-sided situation, this counsel must not be misunderstood. It does not bid us ignore the causes which give rise to such thoughts. On the contrary, it bids us take full note of them, face up to them frankly, examine them carefully, and understand the defects in our own character which led to them. Finally we are to adopt the practical measures needed to deal with them. But this once done, and thoroughly done, we are to turn our back upon them and let them go altogether in order to keep our serenity and contain our spiritual detachment. In every painful problem which is ultimately traceable to our own wrong-doing, the best way to rid ourself of the worry and anxiety it brings is first, to do what is humanly possible to mend matters in a practical way; second, if others are concerned, to make such reparation to them as we can; third, to unmask our sin pitilessly and resolutely for what it is; fourth, to bring clearly into the foreground of consciousness what are the weaknesses and defects in our own character which have led us into this sin; fifth, to picture constantly in imagination during meditation or pre-sleep, our liberation from these faults through acquiring the opposite virtues; sixth, and last, when all this has been done and not until then, to stop brooding about the miserable past or depressing future and to hand the whole problem with its attendant worries into the keeping of the Overself and thus attain peace concerning it.
If this is successfully done, every memory of sin will dissolve and every error of judgement will cease to torment us. Here, in its mysterious presence and grace, whatever mistakes we have made in practical life and whatever sins we have committed in moral life, we need not let these shadows of the past haunt us perpetually like wraiths. We may analyse them thoroughly and criticize ourselves mercilessly but only to lay the foundation in better self-knowledge for sound reform. We must not forget them too soon, but we ought not hug them too long. After the work of self-analysis is well done, we can turn for relief and solace to the Overself.
Human nature is universally frail; his is no exception. Nevertheless, if he is appalled at his mistakes, if this anguish is doubled because what he has done wrongly is irreparable, is there nothing else left to do than to give himself up to helpless despair? The true answer is more hopeful than that. "I know that if I keep patient while cultivating humility and silencing the ego's pride, I shall grow away from old weaknesses and overcome former mistakes"--this should be the first stage of his new attitude. For the next one, he can at least go over the events of the past and amend them in thought. He can put right mentally those wrong decisions and correct those rash impulsive actions. He can collect the profits of lessons expensively learnt.
The first value of self-confession of sin is not so much getting rid of an uncomfortable sense of guilt over a particular episode or series of episodes as getting at the weakness in character responsible for it or them, and then seeking to correct it. Merely to remove the sense of discomfort and to leave its moral source untouched is not enough. Any priestly rite of forgiveness is ineffective until this is done. It must produce repentance if it is to be real and that in its turn must produce penance if it is to be successful in purifying his character. The second value of the confession is to induce the sinner to make amends or restitution to those he has hurt and thus balance his karmic account with them.
Men commit many sins and fall into many errors before the failure of their own conduct finally dawns upon them.
By raising his point of view regarding any grievous situation, whether it involve himself alone or other persons, he attracts the entry of a higher power into it which will work for his benefit and in his favour. He will learn to endure the blows of misfortune with a bravery heretofore unknown and a serenity heretofore unexperienced.
What then is all this repentant religio-mystic activity in prayer and reflection since his novitiate began but a form of confession of his sin? Confession is a rite as necessary to those outside the church, apart from priests, as it is to those inside. The object is a kind of psychoanalytic procedure, to bring the sin to the surface by reliving the past if forgotten in the past, and to correct it mentally and imaginatively as well as in the character by resolves for future change. The result is purificatory.
It is better for his real progress that his eyes should fill with the tears of repentance than with the tears of ecstasy.
When a man lets go of his ego, all the virtues come submissively to his feet. If he can let it go only for a little while, they too will stay only a little while; but if he can make the parting permanent, then the virtues are his forever. But this is a high and uncommon state, for it is a kind of death few will accept.
Everything that belongs to the ego and its desires or fears has to go. For some men it is hard to put aside pride, for others it is harder to put aside shame, but both feelings have to go.
His thoughts, his feelings, and his actions must work in combination to effect this great self-purification which must precede the dawn of illumination. And this means that they must work upon themselves and divert their attention from other persons whom they may have criticized or interfered with in the past. The aspirant must reserve his condemnation for himself and leave others alone to their karma.
You are right to shut the door on the past if you have analysed its meanings and profited by its lessons, but not otherwise.
It is a useful practice, both for general moral self-improvement and for combatting our ego, every time we become aware that we are preoccupying ourselves with other people's faults, to turn that preoccupation upon ourselves and let it deal with our own faults, which we usually overlook. For we earn the right to judge others only after we have judged ourselves.
But although the aspirant will be greatly helped by a calm analysis of the transiency, suffering, and frustration inherent in life, he will be greatly hindered if he uses it as an excuse for a defeatist mentality and depressive temperament. The gallant inspiration to go forward and upward is indispensable.
The self-righteousness which prompts him to criticize others, and especially his fellow-questers, is a bad quality which ought to be excised as quickly as possible.
He may come to self-approving attitudes, but only after he has plumbed the depths of self-distrusting ones.
Every time he takes the harder way of acknowledging a fault, repenting a wrong, and then earnestly seeking to make reparation to whoever has suffered by it, he will be repaid by the sudden descent of gratifying peace, of a happy serenity absent from ordinary hours.
His attitude towards those situations in life which are difficult or trying will show how far he has really gone in the Quest. If he has not undergone the philosophic discipline, he will either analyse these situations in a wrong egoistic way or else avoid analysing them altogether.
Tolerate weakness in others but not in yourself.
If this process of self-examination is to bear fruit, the disciple must pick out those virtues which he lacks or in which he is partially deficient and he must set to work, as a practical exercise, to cultivate them. If his practice is to be complete it will take him into the emotional, intellectual, and volitional parts of his being. He should constantly strive to think, to feel, and to do what he should be and do.
So long as a man carries a flattering picture of himself, deterioration of character waits in ambush for him.
To acknowledge past perceptual error, to confess intellectual mistake, and to retrace one's steps accordingly may be bad policy for politicians, but it is sound policy for truth-seekers. The superficial or the conceited may feel that they lose in character thereby, but the earnest and the humble will, on the contrary, know that they gain.
No one else is to be regarded as responsible for his troubles, irritations, or handicaps. If he will analyse them aright, that is, with utter impersonality, he would see that the responsibility is not really in the other person, who apparently is the agent for these calamities, but in his own undisciplined character, his own egoistic outlook.
No man can follow this Quest faithfully without finding that the very weaknesses which he conceals from other men will eventually be brought to the forefront of his attention by the play of circumstances, so that he will be unable to postpone work on them any longer.
The very fact that he has become aware of these faults arises because the light has come into existence and begun to play upon the dark places in his character, thus generating a conscious desire for self-improvement. This awareness is not a matter for depression, therefore.
To wish one's past history to have been different from what it was, to pile up blame for one's bad deeds, choices, and decisions, is to cling to one's imaginary ego although seeking to improve it. Only by rooting up and throwing out this false imagination which identifies one with the ego alone can the mind become freed from such unnecessary burdens.
You are to be penitent not only because your wrong acts may bring you to suffering but also, and much more, because they may bring you farther away from the discovery of the Overself.
To repine for past errors or to wish that what has been should not have been has only a limited usefulness. Analyse the situations, note effects, study causes, draw lessons--then dismiss the past completely.
If the ego is discarded, all regrets over past acts are discarded with it.
He may be ashamed of what he did in the past but then he was that sort of man in the past. If he persists in identifying himself with the "I," in time such feelings will come to him and cause this kind of suffering. But if he changes over to identifying himself with the timeless being behind the "I" there can be no such suffering.
Repentance must be thorough and whole-hearted if it is to effect this purpose. He must turn his back upon the former way of life.
If Nature is hard, truth is cruel. It is unsparing to our egoistic desires, merciless in ferreting out our personal weaknesses.
If it is right to forgive others their sins against us, it must also be right to forgive ourselves and not constantly condemn ourselves to self-reproach. But we ought not do so prematurely.
When a man becomes aware of his wrong-doing and realizes its meaning for himself and its effect upon others, he has taken the first step towards avoiding its inevitable consequences. When he becomes deeply repentant he has taken the second step. When he tries to eliminate the fault in his character which produced the evil conduct and to make amends to others, where possible, he has taken the final step.
The quest will uncover the weakest places in his character, one by one. It will do so either by prompting him from within or by exposing him from without. If he fails to respond to the first way, with its gentle intuitive working, he must expect to endure the second way, with its harsh pressure through events. The only protection against his weaknesses is first, to confess them, and then, to get rid of them.
The constant nagging of those with whom he is compelled to live, work, or associate, so far as there is any truth in their exaggerations or misunderstandings, can be made to serve a most useful purpose by arousing in him the necessity of change and self-improvement. However much his self-love is wounded and however long it may take to achieve this and to correct his faults, he will only profit by it. With his success a separation may occur, and they may be set free to go their own way. It may be brought about by their own voluntary decisions or by the compulsion of destiny. When a relationship is no longer useful to evolution or karmically justified, an end will come to it. This acceptance of other people's criticisms, humbly and without resentment, may be compared to swimming against the current of a stream. Here the stream will be that of his own nature. In this matter he should look upon the others as his teachers--taking care however to separate the emotional misunderstandings and egoistic exaggerations from the actual truth. He is to regard the others as sent by the Overself to provoke him into drawing upon or deliberately developing the better qualities needed to deal with such provocations, and not only to show him his own bad qualities.
Out of the shadows of the past, there will come memories that will torment as they teach him, pictures that will hurt as they illustrate error, sin, and weakness. He must accept the experience unresistingly and transmute it into moral resolve and ethical guidance for the future.
The seeker should try to regard his weaknesses and faults from a more balanced and impersonal point of view. While it is correct for him to be ashamed of them, he need not go to the other extreme and fall into a prolonged fit of gloom or despair about them. Sincere repentance, coupled with an unswayable determination to prevent further recurrences, is the philosophic way to deal with them.
To have discovered a sin in oneself, and to have gone on committing it, is to sin doubly.
He is not interested in defending his past record or denying his errors. He understands that there are no excuses for excuses and that to make them habitually is to confess failure to overcome the ego.
In this blend of analysing the results of past actions, reasoning about the probable results of present tendencies, measuring up to the standards of spiritual ideals, and obeying the quiet whispers of intuition, he will find a safe guide for shaping his future course of conduct.
One should be eager and quick to judge, condemn, and correct himself, reluctant and slow to judge, condemn, and correct others.
When he can bring himself to look upon his own actions from the outside just as he does those of other men, he will have satisfied the philosophic ideal.
His errors and shortcomings can be excused by his sincerities and intentions, but that is not enough. He may accept such excuses but life itself will not.
Each is so accustomed to obeying the lower ego that he finds his greatest comfort in continuing to do so, his greatest discomfort in disobeying it. Insofar as the quest seeks to bring about such a reversal of acts and attitudes, it becomes the most difficult enterprise of his whole life. Much new thinking and much new willing are required here.
To accept our moral weaknesses, to overlook our failure to practise control of thoughts, and smugly to condone this unsatisfactory condition by calling it "natural," is to show how powerful is the ego's hold upon us.
When a man comes to understand that he has no greater problem than the problem within, he comes to wisdom.
The fact that he is becoming aware of his weaknesses more acutely and that he now sees egoism in himself where he formerly saw virtue, is a revelation made by his progress towards truth.
Even temptation can nourish a man, make his will stronger, and his goal clearer, if he considers it aright and understands it as it really is.
To make amends and fast, acts as a purification after a sin.
The memory of past wrong-doing whether to others or to self may make a person shrink with shame. Such feeling is valuable only if it creates a counter feeling. It should originate a positive attitude: the remembrance or belief or recall of Plato's archetypal ideal of The Good. This should be followed by new determinations. Not out of someone else's bidding but out of his own inner being he may lay this duty upon himself.
The willingness to say, at least to himself, "I was wrong. What I did was done under the influence of my lesser self, not my better one. I am sorry. I repent" may be humiliating but will be purifying, when completed by attention to self-improvement.
Until a man freely admits his need of true repentance, he will go on doing the same wrongs which he has done before.
Some over-anxious aspirants fall into the error which the sixteenth-century Roman saint, Philip, warned against when he said that prolonged expression of remorse for a venial sin was often worse than the sin itself. I think he meant that this was a kind of unconsciously disguised and inverted spiritual pride.
Since he is called upon to forgive others, he must likewise forgive himself. He need not torment himself without an end by the remembrance of past errors and condemn himself incessantly for their commitment. If their lesson has been well learnt and well taken to heart, why nurse their temporary existence into a lasting one by a melancholy and remorse which overdo their purpose?
No decision, no action is really unimportant and none should be underrated. By the light of this view, no event is a minor one, no situation is an insignificant one. A man may display negative traits in the littlest occurrence as in the greatest; the need for care and discipline always remains the same.
An excuse for one's action is not the same as a reason for them. The first is an emotional defense mechanism, the second is a valid, logical justification.
If the aspirant has any grievance against another person or if he be conscious of feelings of anger, resentment, or hatred against another person, he should follow Jesus' advice and let not the sun go down on his wrath. This means that he must see him as expressing the result of all his own long experience and personal thinking about life and therefore the victim of his own past, not acting better only because he does not know any better. The aspirant should then comprehend that whatever wrongs have been done will automatically be brought under the penalty of karmic retribution. Consequently, it is not his affair to condemn or to punish the other person, but to stand aloof and let the law of karma take care of him. It is his affair to understand and not to blame. He must learn to accept a person just as he is, uncondemned. He certainly should try not to feel any emotional resentment or express any personal ill-will against that person. He must keep his own consciousness above the evil, the wrong-doing, the weaknesses, or the faults of the other man and not let them enter his own consciousness--which is what happens if he allows them to provoke negative reactions in his lower self. He should make immediate and constant effort to root such weeds out of his emotional life. But the way to do this is not by blinding himself to the faults, the defects, and the wrongdoings of the other. Nor is it to be done by going out of his way to associate with undesirables.
Whatever mistakes he has made, whatever sins he has committed, let him learn their lessons, correct his thinking, improve his character, and then forgive himself. Let him joyously receive Jesus' pardon, "Go thou and sin no more!" and accept the healing grace which follows self-amendment.
He should not be satisfied with being contrite alone. He should also do something: first, to prevent his sins or errors happening again and, second, to repair the wrongs he has already done. The first aim is fulfilled by learning why they are sinful or erroneous, perceiving their origin in his own weaknesses of character or capacity, and then unremittingly working at changing them through self-improvement. The second aim involves a practical and sacrificial effort.
Since a mistake will not rectify itself, he must go on, write to the person he has wronged and humbly make amendment and apology.
If he engages in honest and adequate self-appraisal and blames himself for the inner fault which really accounts for some outer trouble, and if he sets out to correct that fault, he will in time gain power over that trouble.
You will learn the truth about your character in easy stages. No one can take it all at once: one might have a nervous breakdown or even a physical sickness. The truth has to be given gradually for safety's sake.
A point is reached when remorse has served its purpose, when carried further it becomes not only a torment but useless. This is the time to abandon it, to lose it in the remembrance of one's inner divinity.
His character improves whether or not he tries to impose disciplines upon it. The process is spontaneous and proportionate to the improvement in his point of view, in the disengagement from the ego's tyranny.
Among the moral self-restraints which an aspirant is required to practise is that of truthfulness. It is the second of Patanjali's five ethical injunctions for the would-be yogi. There are several reasons for this prescription. But the one which affects his quest directly is the effect of untruthfulness upon his inner being. It not only spoils his character and destiny but also deforms his mind. In the liar's mouth the very function of language becomes a perverted one. He renders defective the very instrument with which he is seeking to make his way to the Overself; it becomes spoiled. If he meets with any mystical experience, it will become mixed with falsity or hallucination. If he finds spiritual truth, it will not be the pure or whole truth but the distortion of it.
Where situations are likely to arise which make truth-telling highly undesirable, the earnest aspirant should try to avoid them as much as possible by forethought. The pattern of indifference to truth-speaking must be broken up. The pattern of scrupulous respect for truth must be built up. The discipline of his ego must include the discipline of its speech. His words must be brought into correspondence with his ideals. Every word written or uttered must be steel-die true. If the truth is awkward or dangerous to say, then it may be advisable to keep silent. May he tell a small white lie to liberate himself from an awkward situation? The answer is still the same: "Thou shalt not bear false witness." Not only will he refrain from telling a conscious lie of any kind but he will not, through bragging vanity, exaggerate the truth into a half-lie. Any tendency in these directions will be crushed as soon as he becomes aware of it. He will take the trouble to express himself accurately, even to the point of making a fad of the careful choice of his words. Let him not maim his heart nor deform his mind by formulating thoughts which are false. If philosophy be the quest of ultimate truth, then it is certain that such a quest cannot be carried to a successful conclusion if this rule be broken. He who seeks truth must speak it.
We have begun to question Nature and we must abide the consequences. But we need not fear the advancing tide of knowledge. Its effects on morals will be only to discipline human character all the more. For it is not knowledge that makes men immoral, it is the lack of it. False foundations make uncertain supports for morality.(P)
Men ask, "What is truth?" But in reply truth itself questions them, "Who are you to ask that? Have you the competence, the faculty, the character, the judgement, the education, and the preparation to recognize truth? If not, first go and acquire them, not forgetting the uplift of character."(P)
The time may come when he may have to choose between his ethical life and his material livelihood. In this agonizing experience he may choose wrongly unless his hope and belief in the benevolence of whatever Powers there be is firm and strong. But a wrong choice will not dispose of the problem. Sooner or later it will present itself again with more compelling insistence. For a glimpse of truth once given is like a double-edged sword: a privilege on one side, a duty on the other. A man's allegiance to Truth must be incorruptible.
If every momentary passion is to cloud a man's judgement and confuse his reason, if he is to become angry with every doctrine which he dislikes, if he is swept away by the emotional claims of mere prejudice when examining a theory or a viewpoint, if his heart is agitated with bitterness over personal injustices incurred to the extent that he declines to see both sides of a matter, he can never come to a right conclusion but will be tossed about like a rudderless ship--his emotions of hate, fear, or love forever interposing themselves between him and the truth. He who exhibits anger at views which he dislikes, for instance, is exhibiting his unfitness to study philosophy. For psychoanalysis of his state of mind yields the fact that he gets angry not because the views are untrue, but because they are repugnant to him, the individual named "X." We must learn to seek after truth not by our heartfelt emotions, nor by our vivid imagination, but by our keen reason.
The kind of truth you will find will depend on the kind of person you are, the kind of thinking of which you are capable, the kind of experience you have had, and the kind of instruction you have received. The man with a distorted mind, for instance, will discover only distortions of truth; that is, there will be a basis of truth beneath his ideas, but their structure will be perverted or distorted.
Canting moralists busy themselves with drawing up the catalogue of virtues. They could better employ their time by first coming to an understanding of the one who is to possess these admirable virtues, the Self. For then they would find, if they find the Self, the very fountainhead of all virtues.
Clarity of vision goes much better with purity of heart.
We must not crucify truth to assist a political cause.
Nevertheless, however ready to come to terms with an imperfect society, however intimidated by the political power of an institutional religion, the philosopher will not feign his assent to false doctrines. He must be true to the best that is in him when such assent is demanded of him.
The use of falsehood to propagate truth has always ended, historically, in the persecution and suppression of truth.
When a man begins to excuse in his own mind an evil course for the sake of an excellent objective, he begins unconsciously to change his objective.