How fortunate is man when the spirit of enquiry so fills his being that he is not satisfied until he has gained the higher knowledge of his true Self. He may ask himself many questions, but the greatest truth is revealed to those who patiently and humbly enquire into the questions “ What am I ? ”, “ What is this world ? ”, “ What is God ? ”
Yet to most people life is “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep ”. Death is upon them before they ask such questions—much less try to obtain the answer. The wonderful and glorious opportunity which, with the possession of a human body, has been given them at birth, is thus lost, and once again they leave the world in ignorance and fear.
Worldly happiness is frail and illusory. The loss of a loved relative or friend can end it in a moment, and there come periods in our life when we are tempted to echo the words of Macbeth that life is
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Only in knowledge of the Self is happiness and contentment to be found. A study of the spiritual philosophy called Yoga is a preliminary to this knowledge. The word Yoga has no occult meaning. It signifies “ union ” or “ yoking to “, and the holy Yogic path is one of discipleship which is a means of uniting us to God, our Source.
“ Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls,” said Jesus of Nazareth to the weary multitudes who followed Him.
Yoga teaches us that there are two ways of living in this world—as separate individuals, or as part of a great Whole.
The way of individualism is not real living, because it produces unhappiness, frustration and discontent, which surely cannot be our only heritage. Separative living has no real purpose and no true goal. People who live for themselves and their family, however much they may deny it, are unconcerned with the well-being of those outside their own circle. They are often lonely, full of self-pity and neurotic, and their company mostly proves devitalising and dull. They are imprisoned by their love of comforts and possessions, and, as Pascal says : “ The man, who lives for himself, hates nothing so much as living alone with himself.” The life of the individualist is a continual process of escaping from himself, by means of the radio, novel-reading and other such pursuits. As for the thought that he may one day “ shuffle off this mortal coil,” he either cannot visualise such a happening, or he puts the thought as far from him as possible. True creativeness has no part in his life, because the latent powers of his mind are fast asleep.
How different is the way of Universal or Cosmic living. Such living is happy and contented, yet full of the highest form of activity. There is an ever-increasing ability to handle the various problems of life wisely and well. There is a purpose and a fixed goal. There is a passionate concern for the weal and woe of humanity. Universal living brings peace and happiness, not only to the one, but to the group to which that one belongs.
What does Universal or Cosmic living mean ? It begins with the assumption that there is a belief in God—or at least an admission that the Universe is governed by some mysterious Power which produces law and order. When man admits that such a law exists, he cannot but conclude that he is subject to this law equally with all other beings. This law must be obeyed if man is to fulfil the highest purpose for which he was created—to be finally united with his Divine Source. St. Augustine recognises the transience of worldly happiness and the satiety which comes from the pleasures of the senses, when he says : “ For Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
To all human beings has been given freedom of will. We may live in accordance with the divine law of order and harmony, or we may live completely outside it. Many of us try to make the best of both worlds, with no lasting results. The sluggard within must wake up to the knowledge of the true Source of our being if life is to be transformed. Only then does true creativeness begin to function. St. Augustine will be blessed for ever for his ‘ Confessions ’, which he wrote only when he had realised the Lord within his being.
“Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved Thee. For behold Thou wert within me, and I outside; and I sought Thee outside. Thou wert with me and I was not with Thee”.
St. Francis of Assisi was not born a saint. His youth is the story of a life given up to pleasure and dissipation, but in one moment of moral anguish and disgust with his way of living, he penetrated to the real purpose of life. Then began such a conquest of his lower nature, such moral heroism, that he has left a pattern of humility and devotion for all ages.
So when man sees that his life is governed by a Cosmic Force, and learns to allow his will “to be anchored in the Will of God,” he ceases to work alone, and relies no longer on his own personal cleverness to bring about longed-for results. His values are changed and he begins to work within the Divine Order. But during the life of experience, he has to learn many bitter lessons before this Cosmic Truth becomes apparent to him. He still loves to make his own experiments ; he still believes in the “ magic shadow- show ” and in its power to bring him happiness and contentment.
Only a spiritual minority believe that this Cosmic and Universal Law must be obeyed. We need only witness the moral disintegration which shows itself today in strikes, violence, stealing and all forms of dishonesty, to know that the great mass of people hardly seem to know that this law even exists.
“ Where there is no vision,” said Solomon, “ the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
All good citizenship depends upon obedience to this law ; all countries must learn to conform to it, and bring right education to those who refuse to obey it. The Jesuits used to say that if they could have charge of a child’s education until he was seven years old, that child would be a Jesuit for ever. The results would surely be beyond all telling if our educational system taught this Universal way of life, using history and literature as a field of example.
In the Yogic philosophy, this law is called the law of Dharma, the law of eternal righteousness, universal living, ethical living, right living. Whatever is contrary to this order binds man in ignorance and constant suffering.
Where can we find this law ?
It is given in all the revealed books, such as the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran and many others. One of the chief characteristics of a follower of the holy Yogic path is that revealed books of all the great religions of the world are recognised to contain the one great Truth, and all are read with equal reverence. From the beginning of time these truths have been given to the servants of God, to guide man in the way of right living— skilful living as it is called in the Gita. Skill is not used here in the worldly sense, but implies the co-ordination of body, mind and spirit. This spiritual law governs man’s relationship with God, and it is an infallible guide in every aspect of life.
Conformity to this law entails love of truth and mental and verbal honesty. There must be forgiveness, harmlessness, and benevolence, and a gradual breaking away from the life of sense pleasures. There must be charity and a feeling of universal brotherhood, because when the Self—Atman—is recognised in our own being, that Self is recognised to be in every living being. One of the first premises of the holy Yoga is that God alone is real. He is changeless, omniscient and omnipotent, and we can learn, through a life of Dharma, devotion, holy study and meditation, to know Him as Sat, Chit, Ananda— Truth, Consciousness and Bliss. These words can only be meaningless terms until we come into a spiritual way of life and have a spiritual goal in view. But when man begins to be absorbed in such a purpose, his narrow self-interest fades and that hard knot of egoity, anxiety and fear, which is the make-up of the individualised self, disappears.
“ Liberation consists of the destruction of the heart’s knot, which is nescience”, says Shri Shankara.
This liberation does not come after death, but here in this very life. It is such a stupendous thought that even a glimpse of this truth makes us realise that this is our only reason for being here, that it is the only purpose of life and the only way to know true peace and happiness. Believing this great Truth, how can we feel a sense of separation, how can we help but feel united to the rest of humanity by the bonds of good-will and brotherhood ? Let us clearly recognise that the saints and mystics of all ages have passed this way.
“ I am awake for the first time,” said Emerson, “and all that has gone before was nothing but a despicable sleep.”
May all awake from the deep sleep of ignorance and begin to seek the path of the Enlightened Ones, who alone can bring peace to the world !