Whenever we read religious books or study any subject, there is a certain terminology peculiar to each of them. For instance, in law books, certain terms have a specialized meaning or connotation. If we are conversant with the definitions of the terms used, we are able to understand the law properly, and will be able to apply it. If a layman reads the text of the same law, he will not be able to grasp or to apply the true meaning of the law.
We have scriptures, holy scriptures, at hand. Therein we find a certain specialized terminology. Unless we are conversant with it, we may not be able to understand the true import of the scriptures. For instance, there are certain words used in the scriptures, such as "kingdom of God" which is within you. There is "the Light of God." "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light." These are certain terms peculiar to the English Bible. Because of the special use of words like these, persons not conversant with them are not able to understand the scriptures correctly. They simply interpret them from the intellectual level; and many phrases like "Light within you" or "God is Light" are interpreted by the intellectual people as meaning intellectual light. But the scriptures tell us: If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. What is the difference?
Whenever the Masters came, they gave out the truths in a very simple way, so that even the unsophisticated could understand. But, unfortunately, people with no practical inner experience have interpreted them in a way that makes it difficult for others to understand. If we take up the scriptures ourselves and read them, we will find their language always very simple. But the task is rendered difficult if we study them in the light of the controversies raised by different intellectual interpreters who have no knowledge of the practical side of things. Working from the intellectual plane, they complicate matters. Those who read the conflicting commentaries on the scriptures become confused and are spiritually unrewarded.
So the task would become easier if you would read the scriptures directly yourselves. I think the best way to understand any scripture is always to read it in the original language in which it was written. If you know the language, you will probably be able to understand better than by reading how somebody else has translated it in the language which you know. A single error in interpretation may alter much of the essence.
The majority of our scriptures were written in a language different from that in which we read them now. When I was in search of truth, I wanted to read the Persian literature of Maulana Rumi, Shams-i-Tabrez, and other Saints of the Middle East. I read the commentaries of highly renowned interpreters and each gave a different version of the same thing. A commentator tends to give the viewpoint he holds, not what the scriptures – the real texts of the scriptures – convey. And so the persons who depend on these commentaries are liable to be misled. For this reason, I had to study the Persian language thoroughly so that I might be able to read those scriptures in their original form. And I found them different from what the commentators had said.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew. Later it was translated into different languages. The translators found here and there something which they could not understand correctly and so those who only read these translations run the risk of going astray. I have had occasion to meet very intellectually advanced people, who were leaders of thousands of men. When I questioned them about something from the scriptures, just for interpretation's sake, they kept quiet or gave some quaint interpretation of their own, on an intellectual level. Their conception of God, soul and scriptures answered to the level of their intellect and interests.
Wherever I speak, I always ask the heads of various sects what they understand by scriptural quotes like God is Light and Ye are the temple of the living God, etc. But they, not having gone within, interpret "the Light of God" as the light of reason and intellect. The other day I met the head of a large religious society and questioned him about the significance of words like: If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; and the kingdom of God is within you. It cannot be had by observation. "Well, does it mean anything?" No reply to that.
The point is, the truths are there in the holy scriptures. The pity is, that not being conversant with what lies within, we cannot interpret correctly.
I have had a series of talks in a church in Louisville. The clergyman in charge was very open-minded and admitted that though what I said was borne out by the Bible and otherscriptures, yet he had no practical knowledge of the truths mentioned therein.
What I am telling you is not anything new. It is all there in the scriptures. I simply had the good fortune to sit at the feet of a Master in India who was a practical and perfect Saint. At his feet I learned not only the theory but also the practice – seeing the truth for myself.
When you see things for yourself, you are fully convinced. Generally, what do you find? We take God as a matter of something in the way of feeling or something emotional, or just as a matter of inference arrived at by intellectual striving. All these are subject to error. But the scriptures tell us that we have "eyes and yet see not."
"Blessed are your eyes for they see . . . many prophets and righteous men have desired to see these things which ye see and have not seen them and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them." Our scriptures say so. Well, what did they see and what did they hear? That is the point. The scriptures tell us God is Light. They saw the Light of God. But where and how?
God made man in his own image, and man made places of worship after the image of man. Churches are nose-shaped. All temples of other religious sects are dome-shaped, like the head, and the places of worship in Mohammedan mosques are forehead-shaped. All these are made after the image of man. What do we keep in them? First, the symbol of Light and second, the symbol of the Sound Principle. This is only to show to the seekers after Truth that in this temple of the body that you are carrying, you will find the Light of God. This light you can see if your inner eye is opened. You will also hear the sweet symphony of the "Music of the Spheres," as Plato puts it, that is reverberating throughout all creation.
So the physical body is the true temple of God, and after this image of man the outer places of worship were made, in which you find the symbol of light and sound.
When I was in service, I had a Roman Catholic office superintendent working under me. I asked him to go to the Bishop of Lahore (in Punjab) to ask him about the symbolism of the big bell that is rung in churches. This symbol you also find in all other places of worship, whether they are Hindu or Sikh temples or Jain or Buddhist. (We also find the symbol of light in the churches in the form of lighted candles – which is also a common symbol in all other places of worship.) I just explained all this to him and asked him to inquire of the Bishop who was considered to be the most advanced in India, what the ringing of the bells stood for. He did go to the Bishop, who replied that it was meant simply to call people to church. But if that were correct, how can we explain this custom in the temples of other religions where every visitor when he enters, tolls the bell? Among the Hindus it is a common practice to light earthen lamps and ring bells at prayer-time. These symbols stand for something about which we are ignorant.
When you look within this temple of God – the human body – you find the Light of God. Where to find God? Does He reside in the holy scriptures? The holy scriptures merely contain a very good account of the valuable experiences that the Masters had themselves, within this temple of the body. They saw the light of God within, and heard the Voice of God within. The reading of the scriptures will inspire in us a desire to know Truth.
Does God reside in the holy temples? We have respect for all temples because there we all sing the praises of the Lord. These holy temples are made after the image of man to remind us that God is to be realized within the human body and not outside it. Where then does God reside? In the true temple of the body. We find in Corinthians: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
All is holy where devotion kneels. The true temples are these bodies we are carrying. The whole world is the true temple of God, the earth below and the sky above. There is no place where God is not present. These temples were made to enable us to sit together and join our hands in prayer to the Almighty. For that reason, we get together in temples. But God does not reside in the temples made by human hands. He resides in this human frame which truly is the temple of God. We must keep it clean and chaste. How clean we keep the temples of brick and mortar, both without and within! But what about the true temple of God – the human body? It must above everything else be kept pure and chaste. In Corinthians we have: Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. But we only defile this temple of God. Again I refer to Corinthians: If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
These scriptures are all ours. They were produced by the holy Masters who found God within themselves. Whatever experience they had, they recorded for our guidance and help. Again we find in the Bible: Now, this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The phrase "flesh and blood" signifies the life of the senses. Until we know how to rise above the physical body, we cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Saint Paul wrote: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Neither doth the corruptible inherit the incorruptible.
The Lord of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands. That is what all scriptures say. This does not in any way mean that we have no respect for the places of worship; we have respect for them because these are the places meant for singing the praises of the Lord, Whom we are enjoined to love, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. Because we love God, wherever we sit together and chant His praises, the atmosphere of that place gets charged with the loving devotion of the devotees. But God resides in us; that is the point I am bringing out.
A Mohammedan Saint says: Whom you worship, Whom you are alter, He resides in you and you are seeking Him elsewhere, in the outer things; how will you find Him? That is what the scriptures and all the Saints tell us.
The body is the true temple of God, wherein God resides. How can we worship Him? The scriptures tell us: God is spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The elementary steps that we have in all the religions begin with the body. These lead or pave the road to true spirituality, and are helping factors. They are means to the end; they help us, just like a nurse helps in bringing up a child. We have to make the best use of them, and, with due deference to all the social religions and their immense importance to man's social life, we must go beyond them. It is a blessing to be born in a temple but not necessarily to die in one.
I told you earlier that we in the twentieth century are fortunate in possessing the records of the spiritual experience of all the Masters who came in the past. We are fortunate that we have all these words of wisdom, the invaluable records of their teachings, of the experiences they had with themselves and with God. Had we lived before those Masters came, we would have been without them. The only thing that now remains is that we have to view these scriptures in their right perspective; and to begin with we have to learn the terminology of the scriptures. If you read the scriptures under the guidance of one who has had no experience with the Light within, who has not known God as a first-hand experience, it becomes almost impossible to understand the otherwise simple and accessible truths taught by the Masters.
In Revelation it is said: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he dwelleth with them. Some people will ask: "Where should we find God?" For that purpose, we shall have to look within our own self, which, the seers say, is the true temple of God. We have to make the best use of the scriptures and of the places of worship. We must understand the true import of the scriptures we have, but we cannot do so until we sit at the feet of one who has himself experienced what they describe and is capable of giving us that experience. Only a true Master is competent to give us all that. What do the scriptures say? Again they speak of the true home of our Father and pray – Thy kingdom come.
I am not going to give you examples from all the scriptures; I have simply laid before you the gist of what they say within the short time I have at my disposal in order to bring home to you the truth as it is given in them.
What do we find in our Bible? The kingdom of God cometh not by observation. The kingdom of God is within you. If we have to enter the kingdom of God, we have to enter the kingdom of God within us and not go outside in search of it. Other scriptures say: The Word is beyond all physical perception and limitations. The Word, the source of all blessings, dwells within the human frame. If you ascend within, then alone you will experience the Word.
In the Bible we find: Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it. Those who are just leading the life of the physical senses and do not know how to transcend body consciousness will not have everlasting life. But whosoever shall lose his life shall save it. Losing one's life does not mean committing suicide; it means coming above body consciousness while alive. Let me relate to you a sad incident that took place in India due to an ignorance of the real meaning of the scriptures. We read in the Bible, that the kingdom of God is within us. It can be gained by death-in-life or in other words by taking a new birth for we have in the scriptures: Whosoever loses this life shall have life everlasting. This is what a certain man had read in the scriptures. The ministers had given him to understand that by just dying he would enter the kingdom of God, for the ministers had no practical experience of the truth given in the scriptures. So what did the poor fellow do? He took a glass of wine and put in it a big lump of opium. He placed it on the table before him and said: "O God, I am now coming to you." With these words he drank the deadly potion, killed himself and thus brought ruin on himself and his family.
This was the result of blind faith in the teachings of blind priests. The scriptures never meant this. Of course, they tell us: Unless you lose this life, you cannot have everlasting life. But "losing this life" means just rising above body consciousness at will. It is a practical subject that we can learn at the feet of someone who has had that experience and is a real adept in the theory and practice of the science of spirituality.
Further, it is said: Verily, Verily, I say unto you, except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The scriptures explain the whole thing precisely; provided there is a real teacher to expound it from personal knowledge and practice and be a guide on the God-way.
"Baptism" or initiation at the hands of one competent enough to impart the life-impulse and grant an experience of the beyond is an absolute necessity on the Path of the Masters. By personal attention, the Master can make one rise above body consciousness and give a first-hand experience of the "kingdom of God" within.
Again, you will find: Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God does not come by observation. It is just a question of "being born again" of the incorruptible seed, "by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
Again, we have in scriptures: seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you. "Seek ye the kingdom of God" is the first and foremost thing – the rest will follow. Unfortunately, we have been seeking the kingdom of God without. For entering the kingdom of God, and for seeing the kingdom of God, we have to invert, enter within the temple of the body. We have to tap inside and peep within. It is a regular process of inversion. Our body has been likened to a mansion with ten doors. The outer organs of sense constitute nine of them: two eyes, two ears, mouth, two nostrils, the rectum and the genital organ. These are the outlets of the body. These are the doors with which we live all the time. Besides, there is a tenth door. It is within and latent. It leads to the kingdom of God. But very few find this out about which it is written: strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto Life, and few there be that find it.
About this, it is said: Knock and it shall be opened unto you. But we do not know where and how to knock. This is something practical. The tenth door in the body is the entrance into the Beyond. Until you know all about it, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
How can you find your way to the kingdom of God within you and not without? You can enter into it and see it only when you are able to rise above the physical body at will. So the scriptures say: Learn how to die so that you may begin to live. Bear the cross and the cross will bear you. Though the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day.
Christ, in unmistakable terms speaks: Take up your cross daily and follow me. The life which can be saved, the everlasting life, can be had only when we learn to die while alive. Dadu, a Hindu saint, says: Dadu, learn to die before death comes, for in the end everyone has to die.
What is death? Death is not something terrible; it is a mere change, a transference from one plane to another. What happens when you leave the physical body at the time of death? This physical body is knocked down. We shake off this mortal coil. As we do not know how to shake it off, it eventually overtakes us and we are overtaken unawares.
We think ourselves to be just the body, and we are attached to its environments. But death comes and we must leave all this behind, and therefore, we are frightened and confused. What is more, we do not know where we have to go or who is going. And as we do not know how to leave the body, we have to pass through the agony of death.
I quoted from Plutarch to you the other day: The experiences that the soul has at the time of leaving the body at death, the same experiences one has who has been initiated into the mysteries of the beyond. This is the meaning of "Learn to die so that you may begin to live." And unfortunately this we have not known yet.
Again it is said: Forsake the flesh for the spirit. Mark the word "forsake." We live in the physical body all the twenty four hours of the day. We have the physical body, the intellect, and the soul. We know a lot about the physical body and its environments, our families, our social connections and political affiliation and the like. We have also advanced much on the intellectual side. But we know little or nothing about our soul– the real inner self in us. There are values and higher values of life. Each thing has its own value. Is not life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?
I told you the other day that in our daily life we unwillingly act wisely. When a man meets with an accident, and his very costly apparel is spoiled and torn, he says: "Never mind, I am saved." Again, when he is in the grip of a deadly malady and the doctors declare his case hopeless, what does he do? He says: "All right, spend all the money I have so that I may be saved." If there is no money in the house, he says, "Well, sell all my possessions so that I may be saved." Thus the body is to us more than all the possessions we have. Again, if he accidentally breaks his leg or arm, he cries out: "Well, never mind, I am saved." This shows that there is something even more valuable than the physical body. This something is the actual life in him – the active life-principle of which he is not yet actively aware, though he feels its presence in him.
In worldly affairs, we act like this. But in spiritual matters we behave quite the other way. We act like little children with all our care for the physical body and its environments, for attaining intellectual advancement. We pay no heed what-soever to our inner self – the real one in us. Isn't it most strange? This is the grand delusion in which we live through all our life.
The most important aspect of a man's life is his own self, and he does little or nothing in that direction. Whomsoever you meet, you may say: "My dear fellow, have you ever considered this? You have to leave the body some day." But that is no terror. It is just leaving this body and entering into the Beyond, about which we know nothing so far. And who is it that leaves? That is what I was explaining to you in my previous talk. "Know thyself" has been the theme of all the scriptures. Even the old Greeks and Egyptians inscribed on their temples "Know thyself."
You go to temples so that you may know yourself – not others; not books, religions, social forms, rituals. But they said, "Know thyself." You go to churches only for that very purpose – to know yourselves and to know God.
The human life is the golden opportunity that you have. The highest mission of man's life is to know himself and to know God. If he has not done that he has not achieved the object for which man's life was meant. You may be an excellent engineer, you may be a great astronomer, you may be a famous doctor, you may be anything, but unless you know something about your own self, you have done precious little. Why? Because, after all, you have to leave the body. All your intellectual attainments and all your outer possessions cannot help you towards self-knowledge, which alone shall make easy the passage from this world to the Beyond.
This is the desideratum of all religions. Kabir tells us that this is the only true devotion, the only true religion that you may know how to die while living. And this you will learn at the feet of some living Master who is a practical adept in the line. He will be able to give you a first-hand experience of how to go beyond the body consciousness – how to die while living. Once he gives you some experience, you can develop that from day to day by regular practice, with proper guidance and help which shall be readily given.
This is the most important subject, and unfortunately we have ignored it too long. Seek ye, therefore, first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. All these things to which we are devoting the major portion of our daily lives will be added, when we seek first of all our own selves.
After all, we have to leave the body. When? Nobody knows. No time is fixed that we know. The sooner we solve the mystery of life, the better, because who knows when the time may come for us to leave the body? Each one of us has to leave the body. That is no bugbear, I assure you. Certainly, it is a change but is no calamity. I assure you it is only for the better, if we know how to leave the body.
These are the things we read in the religious books, all our life, but we have not cared about them because we have had no knowledge of their inner meanings so far. Our social religions teach us only to observe certain rituals, certain ceremonies, the daily recitation of hymns, offering prayers, and adopting particular modes of life. These are the elementary steps, no doubt. We cannot ignore them. But these are only meant to pave the way to spirituality, and not spirituality in its true sense.
What then is spirituality? To know oneself – who you are, what you are. Are you this five or six-foot high physical frame of flesh and bones or something else? Certainly you are not the body nor the senses nor the vital airs, all of which constitute the outer man. You are the indweller of the body. You possess the senses and the vital airs as aids in your physical existence. The time does come when you have to leave the body, and all the rest. You must know the inner man that you are. Until you know the inner man, you are lost.
That is why it has always been stressed: Verily, verily I say unto you, if a man keeps my sayings, he shall never die, and The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. How can we destroy the all-powerful death? By knowing how to leave the body while alive, at will; this is what all the Masters stress.
What is death? It is simply "leaving the body." If you know how to rise above body consciousness, naturally the sting of death is gone, all fear of death is vanished.
The holy books of the Sikhs say: If you are afraid of death, just go to the feet of some Master. He will tell you how to die while living. He will give you an experience of death in life. Everybody wants to live on. Guru Amardas, the third Master of the Sikhs, tells us: Everybody is afraid of hearing the name of death. Why? First, we do not know how to die. Secondly, we do not know after death where to go. And third, we do not know ourselves that we have to leave the body. These are three things which awe us, and cause us to dread dying.
God gave us different vestures of the body – physical, astral, causal and super-causal. We find that the macrocosm is in the microcosm, on a miniature scale in the body. At present we are identified with the physical bodies so much so that we cannot differentiate ourselves. We pass our lives in the enjoyment of the senses, never given to understand what it is to die while alive.
In our places of worship, this ought to be the most important subject to be taught, but this point is never even touched upon. We are simply told to observe certain rituals, certain rites, certain forms, this and that; and we shall be saved. But with all this, we are still where we were. If we acquired great learning, will we retain it after death? If not, we remain as ignorant after death as when alive. Death by itself does not mean heaven. It does not make gods of us all. Now what should we do to conquer death? Guru Amardas tells us: Just sit at the feet of a Master-soul by whose favour you may learn how to transcend the body. When you have learned to transcend the body at will, you become a conscious co-worker of the Divine plan. If you know how to die while living, if you know this much, you will have life ever-lasting.
So this is what our scriptures say – this is the way by which we can overcome death. If we know it, we are prepared for it. I know I have to leave Philadelphia, I am prepared for it, and ready to leave at any moment.
During the last war, an Indian Air Force pilot was given six hours notice to prepare himself for the front. In panic he came to me and said: "Well, please tell me how to die." He was panic-stricken for he was not prepared for death. My point is, if we are prepared in advance, then there is no danger. Fore-warned is fore-armed. After all, we have to leave the body one day. When death overtakes us, can we do anything at that hour? If you are prepared for death, there is no fear, no panic. I will tell you of an instance in India in 1919. There was a friend of mine in Peshawar. At that time influenza was sweeping the country. I went to see him. He was then reading a book on Yoga. When I asked him what he was doing, he said since death was overtaking everybody, he was reading that book to find the Yoga-way. "I may as well learn something about life after death and am reading a book on Yoga," he added. I told him: "Is it not too late now? How can you begin to dig a well when you are dying of thirst?" A week after this conversation I went to see him again. It was Sunday and the gentleman lay on his deathbed. My words had proved true. It had indeed been too late.
This is the most important thing in life, the most important subject, but we have ignored it altogether. Seek ye first, say the Masters and we have not even made it the last. We have simply been ignoring the great importance that all the scriptures attach to this subject. A saint of the East has said: All must die at the time of death; but thou, my friend, learn to die while living. If you are prepared in this way death may strike at any moment and you are prepared for it. Once you have traversed the inner planes, you know where to go after leaving the body. Maulana Rumi says: Look here, be not afraid of death, for death is not the end of life, and thou hast bodies more than just the physical.
We are at present working through the physical bodies and sense-organs. We feel that outer life is the only reality. If we learn to leave the physical body, work in the astral body through astral sense-organs, we will come in contact with the astral world, just as we are with the physical world. He who can transcend that way, why should he be afraid of death?
This is no miracle I am telling you about. This is a practical subject, which can be learned just as any other science. And I think this is by no means a very difficult one. Why? In other things, when you have to learn, you have to begin with some hypothesis and then work up to the solution. But this way – an adept giving you a first-hand experience of transcending physical consciousness – is direct. Who are the true Masters – their qualifications and their competence – and how can we distinguish the genuine from the spurious? This subject will be discussed in my next talk.
Coming back to our present theme, all that I say is how the scriptures have put it. Rumi says: Don't be afraid, because you have another body to live in. Again, he lays much stress on it. He says: Look here, poor friend. Die while you are alive, if you would like to have the true profit of a man's life. That we also find in the scriptures.
What does it profit a man if he gains the possessions of the whole world and loses his own soul? I do not mean that you should leave the world and go to the wilderness and lead the life of a recluse.
God has given you physical bodies. Maintain them. These are the temples of God. Maintain your families. Fulfill your duties. God resides in every heart. Others, as members of your family, have come in contact with you as a result of your past karmas about which you are not aware. God brought you together. Maintain your relationships. By love serve one another. Do all that you can do in that way. This is an essential step.
Earn your livelihood by honest means, by the sweat of your brow. This is also part of the show. You must maintain your physical frame. It is the temple of God, wherein you may discover Him – a rare privilege indeed.
The Masters have said: You have intellect. Develop it, become intellectual giants. But you are souls. You must know about your own Self as well. They simply say, out of 24 hours of the day, you should devote some part of it in search of your own Self. Man's greatest search is man. Just search your Self. When you know your own Self, only then can you know the Overself.
Is there any reality, other than God, which we can understand, which is defined by the name of God and so many other names? Truly speaking, we are not really theists. How? When we talk of God, we do so on hearsay or from our knowledge of the scriptures. We have no first-hand experience of it. Unless we see and experience for ourselves, unless we have a first-hand experience of our own Selves, and come in contact with that Reality, unless our inner eye is opened and we see the Light of God within us, we cannot be convinced. We may read the scriptures. We may come across a Master and hear his words of wisdom on the subject, yet we will not be really convinced. We may accept what they say, and make it the basis of our search for God. But till we see and experience God within ourselves, we can never be fully convinced, and thus become real theists.
But who is to know God? It is our own Selves. Self-knowledge precedes God-knowledge. Until we know ourselves, how can we see God? This is why so much stress is laid on Self-knowledge. In all the scriptures, ever since the world began, the Masters have always been emphasizing know thyself.
Unless we know a drop of water, we cannot know the ocean. We may not get full knowledge, but we will have some idea of what the ocean is.
It is the soul that can know God, not intellect, nor physical body, nor sense organs. God is an ocean, a limitless ocean of all consciousness. Our souls are a drop of that ocean. We are conscious entities, conscious beings. Unless we know our Selves, we cannot know God. God will be known only when we know our Selves by a process of self-analysis; who we are and what we are.
Kabir says: Learn to die at will, a hundred times a day. Transcend body consciousness and enter the kingdom of God. This is a regular way.
All Masters have laid stress on this point, but we have been ignoring it altogether. We think that by observance of the outer forms, rituals and ceremonies we can reach God. They are helping factors, no doubt; but Self-knowledge is the real road that leads to God. Only then shall we come to know God.
Let me give a concrete example. Once in Lahore, there was a man who loudly proclaimed God, His generosity, His love and His infiniteness. However, he had not had any practical experience of God and what he taught was mere hearsay from the scriptures. Then came the partition of the country into India and Pakistan, entailing great hardship on the people. He lost all his possessions and many of his relations were killed. When he met me again in Delhi, he asked me if there really was a God, after all. And how many of us are like him?
When misfortunes overtake us, we begin to question the existence of God.
But if we have had a first-hand experience of God, then how can we doubt His existence? You see how important it is to have practical experience of Reality, and that you can have only by self-analysis, by knowing your real Self. Unless you do that, you cannot see nor enter the kingdom of God.
The question again and again arises: "How can we know the Self?" You have seen the difference in faith born of first-hand knowledge and that arrived at by belief in hearsay. Seeing is believing. Direct perception is far better than inferential knowledge. That is why the scriptures say: Blessed are they that see. You have eyes and see not. All the scriptures say that there is a kingdom of God and that it is within you. You can enter the same and see the Light of God if you transcend body consciousness. The kingdom of God cannot be had by observation; it can only be had by inversion, by tapping inside, as Emerson puts it. But how to tap inside? This experience you will have, as I have said repeatedly, at the feet of a Master – an adept in the science. He will give you at the time of initiation some experience which you may develop by daily practice. You may learn how to leave your body. Until your inner eye is opened, you cannot see and be convinced. Truly, we have eyes and see not. Guru Nanak says: He is not a blind man who has no eyes on his face, but one whose inner eye is not open to see the Light of God within.
How many of us are there who are not blind? We have heard about the Light of God. Have we ever seen it? Can we see the Light of God and how?
Again I refer to the scriptures. Most of the sayings are taken from the Bible, as you are most familiar with it. However, let me tell you that Christ belonged to the East where the people are more conversant with the spirit. If you only learn those scriptures through the eyes of an Easterner you will come nearer the Truth. I do not mean that the West is in any sense opposed to or different from the East. What I mean is that the terminology of the Holy Bible is Eastern. Therein it is said: It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye. With one eye? We have two eyes. What does Christ mean? He says further: . . . rather having two eyes and be cast into hell-fire.
When I was on my way from Chicago to Washington, in the plane, some children came to me for autographs, which I gave them. An old lady also came up and said: "Will you please write something for me and give me your autograph?" I simply wrote these words: "It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye" and signed it. She read it. She wondered what could it mean ? Her son was a bishop. He was also travelling in the same plane. She took it to him and asked if he could explain it. He read it exclaiming: "It is from the Bible, of course." But even he could not not understand its meaning. Practical knowledge is different. To ask people to observe certain rules and regulations, rituals and ceremonies, is something else. The bishop asked one of my companions if he could talk with me. He was of course welcome. He came over to me.
The words I quoted are from the scriptures. I am not telling you anything new. They are not given in the Bible only, but in all other scriptures of which you probably know very little. If you are broad-minded and interested in the subject, I would suggest that you undertake a comparative study of different religions to find Truth, but not for finding fault with them for then you will gain nothing. The kite though it soars high in the sky, yet its eyes are fixed on the carrion flesh. If you begin to look for flaws, you will be able to find fault with everything; but you will miss the truth.
Kabir, a great saint of the East says: It is not the scriptures that are false, but they who do not understand them. Christ says: The light of the body is the eye. If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light. The "Single" or "one eye" – in the East they call it the third eye, or the latent eye – is in each of us, even in the blind who have no outer sight. But the single eye is closed. We have to open it. When it is opened, you see the Light of God which is already within you. You do not have to create it. Some people simply visualize. They light a candle, they look at it, and imagine it within. You need not visualize any such thing when you enter this temple of God – the human body. You will see the Light of Heaven within you. It is already there. You are not to visualize, not to pre-suppose, not to imagine.
These are concrete facts, which are experienced by those who enter this temple of the body, such as you have. The difference is that you are leading an external life and have never known how to invert and tap within. The fact is as Jesus says: But if thine eye be evil, thy body is full of darkness. The Light is there. It has been there. But do we see it? Have we ever heeded the solemn warning? Take heed that the Light in you be not darkness. It does not mean that you will have to create the Light. It exists already. You must see that it is not darkened. How can the Light be darkened? Merely by not paying heed to it, by externalization, by neglecting the inner life, if you could abstract yourself from the outer world, you would see the Light of God, here and now.
God is everywhere. The Light of God is everywhere. The whole world is made of Light, but only for those whose inner Eye is opened.
How to open that Eye? This is a practical question. These things are explained by others too, besides Christ. Tulsidas and Guru Nanak tell us that only a true Master can put us on the way to God. What can he give to us? He opens our inner Eye. He enables us to see the Light of God. Take heed, therefore, that the Light which is in thee be not darkness. That is what we read in St. Luke. But how to find that Light?
In the East we are told that there are two ways in this life. One, called the "Pire Marg," a very beautiful way, and the other, "Share Marg," very dark and narrow to begin with. When you enter the way of the world, you are lost and reach nowhere. But if you were to go the other way– the way of the spirit within you, you may have to start in darkness; but ultimately you will enter the kingdom of God. The Gospels express it very simply: Strait is the Way. And when that opens up, you will find worlds and worlds within you.
There are two ways in this life. One taking us into the outside world, away from the kingdom of God, the other taking us within towards the kingdom of God. One leads to death, the other to life. That is why it is also said: Enter ye in at the strait gate. This you will find in Matthew: For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth into life, and few there be that find it.
There are few who take to the latter course. So Jesus stresses: Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter but shall not be able. Again, It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
This then is the way to enter into the kingdom of God within you. This then is the way to open the Inner Eye.
At present you see through two eyes. How to have the Single Eye? It is a practical matter which you have to learn at the feet of some competent Master, who can, by giving you the preliminary lift, enable you to have that experience from within. The Gospel compares it to the lighting of a candle: If the whole body, therefore, be full of Light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of Light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.
Now you may understand the significance of the lighted candles placed in churches; they symbolize the Light within. The Master enables you to see that real Light. That is why we are told about the Masters who came in the past that they could cure the blind– physical blindness in some cases perhaps, but for the most part spiritual blindness, the inability to see the Light of God. Jesus further says: Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. We have eyes and see not and ears that hear not. This is what the scriptures tell you. There is the Inner Eye to be opened and also the Inner Ear to see the Light of God and to hear the Voice of God which is reverberating throughout the creation.
The subject of this talk was: Where is the kingdom of God, where to see the Light of God, how to enter the kingdom of God, and how to see the Light of God? All is within you when you rise above body consciousness. As long as you are leading this physical life of the senses, you are identified with the body; you do not know how to transcend the body consciousness, to open the Inner Eye and the Inner Ear; you cannot see the kingdom of God or the Light of Heaven and you cannot hear the Voice of God. You can learn all these things when you sit at the feet of some competent living Master. But Christ warns us: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
The world today is full of pseudo masters so much so that the people are fed up with the very word "master." Men are willing to sacrifice everything – their money, their possessions, just to see the Light of God. They are fed on hopes and promises and then they are told that they are as yet not fit for the way. Ultimately, they find that those "masters" (so called) are after material wealth like themselves; they lead the same life of the senses as themselves. Naturally this causes revulsion and the people say that masters are all a hoax. This is only an erroneous result of the sad experiences that they have had.
All the gifts of nature are free. Spirituality is also a gift of God, not of man. Why should it be sold? It is not a marketable commodity. Knowledge is to be given away free. Do we have to pay for the sun that shines on all of us? Why then should we pay for the knowledge of God? It is God's gift, and it is to be distributed free and freely, so no true Master will ever accept anything in return. He gives freely.
Once, some people in America wrote to my Master in India; "We have sufficient worldly wealth. We will give you this wealth, and in exchange, will you kindly give us the wealth of spirituality?"What did he write? He replied: "Spirituality is God's gift, and all His gifts are free. This too will be given free. I don't want any material wealth in return."
What does a spiritually rich man care for worldly riches? But many of the so-called masters have made it a source of profit. I have had occasion to meet some of them. A few do concede their fault, but add that they must live, and living costs money. But it is sinful all the same. You will find there are heads of various sects all the world over, who, we are prone to assume, have reached God. Whether they have reached God or not, is another question. But we do assume that all the religious leaders have reached God. If this be true, then why can they not be friends with each other? Two lovers of wine, two tipplers can sit together in a tavern but two professed God-men cannot even brook the sight of each other.
Humanity is ignorant, and therefore, it is exploited by so-called God-men. We must learn to distinguish the genuine from the false, and find the true Master. He would give us a first-hand experience of the Inner Reality. As Shamas Tabrez, a Muslim mystic, says: We should be able to see God with our own eyes. We should be able to hear the voice of God with our own ears. He should make us see the Light of God and hear the Voice of God; and he would do all this for love and not for money. This is what all the scriptures say and what all true Masters grant.