We all have some conception of the highest good, but owing to the paucity of our intellect or to want of experience, for want of right penetration into the problem, we make errors, and what is temporal and transient we take to be our highest good. And unless the highest good is achieved we have to come back into the school of life again and again, to acquire experience again and again, till we have devoted our being to the highest good and found identity with it.
Lately I have given a little attention to the problem of devotion in the Advaita Vedanta, and while giving attention to it, and by re-reading the holy commentaries of Shri Shankara, I have come to a settled conclusion about points which I knew but which had never occurred to me so definitely.
Shri Shankara says that without Ishvara, without devotion to Ishvara, knowledge is impossible.
First of all we offer our body and our mind and our talents and our skill and whatever capacities we have from the physical point of view to the service of man. The psychology of the West has taught me that man does not live for himself, as Shand has said, and we may affirm this without the least hesitation or fear of error. Man has been created to live for others. Life is otherness.
Life-force is love-force. There is no difference between life- force and love-force. And how wise was Dr. Sigmund Freud who gave the name of love-force to the life-force when he called it libido. And then not only service like the Stoics, not like the followers of Zeno, but service in its higher sense—and the higher sense of service is to increase the flame of knowledge and consciousness in us all the time. The law of life is: expand, expand, expand. Expand in love, expand in service, expand in intelligence, expand in knowledge, expand. And as soon as you cease to expand you begin to fall down. Nothing is stationary in life. These are the words of the Stoic master, Zeno, but they are universal in their application. And therefore, we should not only give physical service but also the service of our intelligence, of our soul.
Is that all? No. There is still something beyond expansion. And that something is the feeling of seeking identity with the whole. And that is what Kant meant by transcendence. First realize the wholeness of your being. Realize the wholeness of your being, and then throw it into the sphere of transcendence, and that is ‘Shivoham’ (I am Shiva). Now, this in short is the law of life, this is the highest good, this is the summum bonum, and if we don’t practise it we may enjoy the breezes for a short time, but the clouds are gathering on the horizon. Thunder is clapping and is about to crash around us, and all our desires and ambitions will end in the jaws of death. I want this thought to sink into your heart. Therefore I wish you to practise a little bit of transcendence now.
What is meditation? To meditate is to lead your mind from the circle of limitations formed by all the categories—by name and form and energy and knowledge and ignorance, by all the categories— and throw it into the vast expanse of pure consciousness which is without a subject and without an object and about which you can say nothing positively, about which you cannot say “It is this”. All that you can say is, “Neti, neti, neti—not this, not this, not this”.
To lead your mind into this realm is what we call dhyana or meditation. I give you a short meditation to do now and to do whenever you want your mind to behave well and whenever you want to remain in this truth. The meditation is universal, not of any particular school or particular religion, because if we are anything at all we are universalists. We love the Jewish scriptures and study them, we love Islam and study it, and in the same way this meditation I give consists of the last words of the divine poet of Germany, Goethe; and it is:
“Light, more light, still more light”.
“Light, more light, still more light”.
These were the last words of that wisest of men, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and if you are to follow the present practice this should be the text of your meditation. We should throw our mind into light, into greater light and into higher light. The light of the intellect, the light of emotion, the light of understanding, and the highest light, the light which is pure awareness and consciousness and nothing else. Now I ask you to imagine that these words are written here on your heart and that you are reading them. You should concentrate your mind on them thus for a little while now and for a long time at some regular occasion each day. And if you do it every day you will acquire a degree of benefit from it which reading of many volumes will not give.
There are only two fundamental categories and these are knowledge and ignorance, the conscious and unconscious. Only these two. Knowledge does not mean remembering facts and cramming our minds with them, that is not knowledge at all. Knowledge means revelation. The word jnana which I have translated as knowledge means in the holy philosophy to bring the obscure into light. And what is obscure? That which we are pursuing day and night without attaining it—and that is joy, bliss, ananda.
Who can say there is no such thing as existence? Who can say there is no consciousness? Where comes the difficulty?
In ananda, in bliss. Man from the time he is born and until his death is running after this shadow called bliss, joy. The more ignorant he is, the more joy he seeks out of outer objects, which are limited. How true are the words of Socrates that wealth gives no joy, that friendship gives no joy.
When somebody asked him, “What do you think ? Should a man marry or not marry?”, Socrates replied, “In either case you will repent.”
This is the secret of life! Man is looking for ananda, bliss. And what is bliss? Brahman (the Absolute) is bliss. One of the most significant passages in the Upanishads is,
“All this world is born of bliss, ananda; it stays in ananda; it : returns to ananda”.
And when a man begins to seek ananda, bliss, in his tranquil mind, subdued heart, in his withdrawn consciousness, when he begins to think ananda, when he gives up his talents to the service of others, his strength to the service of others, when he gives up all he has to God, then what remains? That which still remains is Brahman or ananda.
Ignorance is that element—I wouldn’t say principle, because philosophically speaking the word principle cannot apply to a negative category like ignorance—ignorance is that element which veils and which also makes a thing appear what it is not.
The latter faculty is called vikshepa in Sanskrit, ignorance it veils. Veils what? The world of joy, the real joy. And then by the property of vikshepa it makes it appear as the objects of the world. Those who followed ambition, thinking it will lead them to joy, have all found themselves imprisoned by it.
Read history. I have been very fond of history in my life. I still read history, history of Japan, history of China, history of Persia, history of India, history of other countries.
And what does history teach? That what we consider as values are no values at all. And therefore let us try to have knowledge in order to remove ignorance; let us rob ignorance of its property of veiling. Concentration, when subjective, is called meditation; when turned on Self it is called contemplation. When concentration is turned on any ideal it is called meditation; when concentration is turned on the concentrating entity then it is called contemplation, and it is this contemplation which is the real joy and the real life.