Mysticism is the quest after Truth17 min read

What I am going to place before you can hardly be called Indian. At the time when this philosophy took shape in the illumined minds of the holy sages living in the Himalayan region there was no such word as ‘ India ’. Even in the Upanishads I have not found the word Bharatvarsh or Aryavarsh mentioned. So I ask you to take these teachings as universal. God in His grace has allowed me to understand the value of the universality of an ethical, religious and spiritual concept. If I had said that I was placing before you some fragments of Indian philosophy I should be diverting your minds from philosophy to something which, though broad in itself, is yet narrow. I should like to say, before starting this lecture, that I am not politically minded. I have never taken part in political controversies, nor am I qualified to do so. Therefore I do not intend to tell you anything about India.

Aristotle said twenty-three hundred years ago that man takes delight in the exercise of his faculties, and he points out in his great classic the Metaphysics that to think is the greatest faculty man possesses. After all, what we call reason is only a development of ordinary thinking. What is the object of the faculty of thinking ? Why is it given to us ? When we think, Hegel has said, we try to find out the attributes of an object, its relation to other objects, and the reality underlying it. I am with Hegel on this point, that thought must lead to a region beyond conflict, and he has taught me that the region beyond conflict is to be found in Unity. I want to talk to you about that Unity which is found described in the holy classics of the Hindus.

What is mysticism ? To Indians it is a practical word. My conception of mysticism is that it is an enquiry into the eternal and immutable Truth, by the instruments of precision and cognition which are above the mind. I do not use the phrase ‘ above the mind ’ in the sense in which it is used by the psycho-analysts when they speak of the ‘ libido ’. We have instruments of precision which are called the senses, and above the senses is the mind, and above the niind is the purer part of the intellect which is called in Sanskrit buddhi. It is in the buddhi that what Plato calls the experience of gnosis is obtained. And beyond this sphere is yet another sphere which is transcendental, which even transcends Unity. The sages call it Non-duality—Brahman.

Mysticism is the quest after Truth. Man ceases to be man when this quest for Truth is not his main concern. We eat, breathe, live and study ; all this must lead to one thing which is to gain a direct perception—not a hazy, nebulous, ‘ mystic’ idea, but a clear-cut perception—of the infinite eternal Truth called Brahman. This is the purpose of life according to the Upanishads, and particularly according to the Gita. In the Gita the holy Lord Krishna calls the faculty of introspective enquiry into Truth the purest of all the faculties.
“ There is nothing as pure as jnana ”.
It is both the means of the enquiry into Truth, and also the Truth itself.

The word for philosophy in India is Darshan, which means ‘ to see ’; so the philosophy is not entirely dialectical. We do place faith in dialectics, but it is of secondary importance.
The first thing is to see the Truth directly.

To see wholly is what is called philosophy. The word mysticism has several Sanskrit words corresponding to it ; for instance there is one word, upanishad, meaning ‘ secret ’, but it is not that it is kept secret from someone, but that it is secret in the sense of being hidden or unperceived. The word upanishad, according to the interpretation of Shri Shankara also means any instrument which dispels the darkness of nescience.                                                                       .

When a man has known the Truth he is not called a mystic, but a Rishi or ‘ Seer ’—one who has actually seen the Truth and who can give evidence on the basis of personal experience. Academic study is not very much in favour with the holy sages because they hold that this universal truth is part and parcel of the human personality, not something in the seventh heaven ; it is an integral and intrinsic aspect of the human personality, immutable and all-pervasive, and it is known by the inner faculty called intuition. This is not the ‘ intuition ’ of Professor Bergson, or the so-called ‘ intuition ’ of woman, but something much deeper.

So we come to the conclusion that the purpose of life according to the Upanishads is to know Truth.

What is the value of this ? Christ Himself has said : “ Know ye the Truth, and the Truth will make you free “ I am the Way, the Truth and the Life ”.

At the end of a short and great life St. Thomas Aquinas, after he had given up writing altogether, used still to salute his disciples and others in the name of Truth.

Indian mysticism implies a clear-cut unmistakeable and complete apprehension of this immutable element in the human personality, and this element is at one with the immutable and eternal element in every phenomenon and also in every noumenon. I do not want to divide the world arbitrarily into two, like Kant, but to take the philosophical concept beyond Kant and even beyond Hegel, because the Upanishad says :

“ That by whose power the mind is vivified and begins to function, yet whom the mind cannot know,
know that to be the Truth and not that which can be followed or pursued in the emprical realm ”.

This is the burden of the holy lives of the sages of classical India. In the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and other great Indian classics, you will find that they have tried to live up to this standard. God has been gracious to me and has thrown me into touch with a number of men who have reached this apex of knowledge.

The second question is : Why seek it ?

The senses give a report to the mind and it is of the colour, dimensions and perhaps the weight of an object ; but is that all ?

No. There is something much more than that in it.

A scientist who analyses a piece of paper will tell you it contains salts, oxygen, nitrogen and so on. Another scientist, who is a physicist, will say that the elements the chemist has spoken of are not final, but are surpassed by something finer, of which they are composed.

One of the great sayings of Aristotle is that the whole is not merely a combination of the parts. It is that and also something more. That something more is the object of the quest for truth.

When I was trying to study the art of Japan I went to an exhibition of the Motnbusha (Ministry of Education) and found that I could not understand it at all. I had a friend with me who was an artist. He took me and showed me a masterpiece, and said : “ My boy, look at it for half an hour, then forget the colour, outline, Canvas, subject-matter entirely. What remains is the art.”
I did so, and it gave me a flash of light. And so it is with other things also.

The highest study of man is the study of his own personality. He may know all about the stars and the chemistry of objects but unless he knows himself and what he is, his knowledge is of little use. Hegel says that the object of education is to deepen the self-consciousness and to broaden the heart almost infinitely. Therefore the study of Truth is necessary, irrespective of the means employed, whether they be empirical, psychological or mystical.

In passing I may bring in here a word which will be important. The truth is not clear to us because it is under a limitation. We find that limitation plays a very important part in each and every object. If I explain the ontological aspect of a chair and abstract from it all that is limited— its shape, colour, substance—that which ultimately survives and remains will be the eternal consciousness—nothing but that. But such dialectical discussions are, you will agree, out of place here.

The totality of nescience under which the Truth is hidden prevents the mind of man from knowing the Truth ; (in Sanskrit the terms avidya and maya are used for nescience ; there is a shade of difference between them which is too subtle and complicated to explain in this short piece).

People think that nescience means mere absence of knowledge, but in Indian philosophy nescience is a positive principle which is eternal in its ,ability to limit objects, though it is terminable. If you remember this point it will help you very much in studying Indian philosophy.

– To sum up. We need to study to be mystics (as you would say) or yogis (as I would say). Why ? To reduce the power of limitation, for when we have completely reduced the power of limitation, what remains is God or Consciousness Absolute. The ideal of the Hindus is complete freedom in this life (Jivanmuktt), not after death.

Omar Khayyam says :
“ O take the cash and let the credit go, Nor heed the rumble of the distant drum  ”

The talk of Paradise and so on is the ‘ rumble of the distant drum ’ but the ‘ cash ’ is complete freedom in this life. It is a state of consciousness. Jivanmukti is the state when consciousness having passed through the veil of ignorance returns to its innate purity.

Now you know the goal and the cause of that which obscures it. Now about the method. What I can say here will be very fragmentary, it can hardly be called an outline. Before we try to attempt yoga or meditation, or the methods by which this liberation is achieved and all limitations are annihilated, we have to qualify for the great discovery—not achievement but discovery—of God within us. What are the qualifications ?

1. Practice of Dharma. Dharma means in rough outline, the principle of harmony which upholds the stars and planets, which upholds the world and the electrons dancing round their nucleus in perfect order. The scientist Planck said, twenty years ago, that there was a harmony even in the indetermination characteristic of the atomic nuclei. That force by which they are co-ordinated is called Dharma. The expression of it in our life is righteousness or truth—to speak truth, to love it, to live as men of truth, to make truth our God whatever may come. The aged warrior Bhishma, lying on a bed of arrows, concluding his lecture on Dharma says :
“ I give you the sum and substance of the experience of a long life :
neither for the sake of greed nor for the sake of pleasure,
nor even for the sake of preservation of life, give up truth”.
If we all adopted this, how easy would be diplomacy. How far removed would we be from wars and the present entanglements.
Angerlessness, forgiveness, fortitude, patience, learning—all these are included, according to the ancient law-giver, Manu, in dharma.
Unless we practice it in our daily life we cannot become qualified to know that Reality which gives conscious immortality.

2. Outer and Inner Control. There is no greater illusion in life than the race for pleasure. It is the tranquil mind devoted to the contemplation of truth which alone is the source of true happiness, and there is no other. We have to qualify by undergoing the discipline of tranquiliising the mind.

3. Tapas, Brahmacharya, Self-Study. Tapas means austerity, restraint, and the cultivation of inner equanimity at any cost. It means the ability to suffer each and every catastrophe that may happen to us unmoved, calm and tranquil. Without tapas nothing can be accomplished. Tapas and Brahmacharya (continence) are the secret of the mystic life. You can conquer death as the sages have done in the past, by pursuing Truth, Tapas and Continence. Brahmacharya means, among other things, restraint of that great energy given by the Creator, so that through control it may be converted into intellectual power, peace and patience. Self-study means to study the philosophy yourself, and also to take one sentence of the philosophy and, sitting in meditation, to brood upon it, or to take a sentence and repeat it with a controlled mind some hundreds and thousands of times.

4. Right Action. Lastly, do good works and surrender the fruits to the Lord. God does not want our flattery, though admittedly to praise Him purifies the mind—but really the way is to do good deeds and not to think about them, but to offer their fruits to the Lord. These things are indispensable.
Purification of the mind by the means just described ; exercise of selfless benevolence, and spiritual absorption of the mind—-these complete the course of preparation for the attainment of that illumination called Nirvana, perfect happiness or perfect freedom.

Knowledge is divided into two categories. Wer know things by means of the rays of our minds that pass through the eyes or other sense organs, strike an object and bring back its picture to us. This is called virittijnann.

The higher category of knowledge is to know the reality—that is swarupjnana.

The great philosopher Sureswaracharya has given a wonderful illustration. The rays of the sun illumine a straw, but the same rays, when collected through a glass, burn up the straw. So the world of nescience, in the form of time, space and cause-and-effect is illumined by the ray of our mind, but when the rays are collected together by holy meditation and the process called dhyana (contemplation) they burn up that nescience and when it is burnt up, what remains is pure Consciousness, Truth, the immortal Element which alone gives perfect happiness.

Devotion is a sure means to Samadhi, which is the name of the state wherein the mind is so applied to the contemplation of an object that all ideas such as : ‘ I am meditating ’,
‘ This is the object of meditation ’ and ‘ I am the meditator ‘ are negated.

Then we are at the point of Samadhi ; then a flash which is indescribable by any means whatsoever takes place, and in that flash you see the world in an entirely different light.

The result is that you find nobody is an enemy or a stranger—nobody is going to harm you. All that is happening is happening according to a scheme, which means, as Tennyson has said, that extreme good will be the end of each and every evil. Many other experiences follow.

Whatever you meditate upon, you soak into the mind the attributes of that object. If it is a sword, you will have’the desire to fight ; if you meditate on war, you will become a warrior ; if you think of murder, read such stories and see such films, you are slowly accumulating in the mind the impressions of murder. Whatever we meditate upon, the attributes of that object collect slowly and silently upon the tablet of the mind and begin to transform it. Hegel says that the spirit of man is a self-determining entity. No thing is self-determining, but man can change himself ; he is a self-determining entity. Let us use every means in our power to transform ourselves from being subject to fear and duality into something truthful, glorious, majestic— nay divine. This is the meaning of meditation. The Hindus meditate on Sri Krishna because in His personality each and every aspect of the human mind has been given the fullest expression.

Meditation is a very important thing, when you have acquired charity, non-injury, and the other qualifications. Devotion is a sure shield.’

It is absolutely essential for those who want to be successful to have a teacher who knows the philosophy and who has received a mandate to teach from a traditionally inspired, spiritually perfect being. Without a teacher there is no real knowledge, although you can make a good deal of progress.

Having obtained a teacher there are three methods : Hear the truth ; cogitate on the truth ; then reflect on it. Sri Madhusudan Saraswati, one of the great philosophers of India has said : “ Having derived the truth from the Vedas, the holy Scriptures, I am now going to establish it by logic.” In Hindu philosophy there is no taking refuge under faith ; they are willing to meet all objections and contrary opinions in the field of dialectics. The teacher says that the essence in you is the immutable and all-pervasive Truth. It is ‘ that ’ in you which is not the body, nor the senses, nor the mind, nor the causal body—that is Truth. Hear this, cogitate upon it and reflect upon it. Discuss it with the teacher and your friends—when you have known it, then practice.

Stop all thoughts of duality and practise unity ; when you have practised unity, you transcend that also. Even beyond unity is non-duality.

A Professor of Tokyo University went to see a Zen monk, who had a great reputation as a Teacher. It is the Japanese custom to give green tea to guests, and a cup was given to the Professor, and the Teacher poured tea into the cup. The cup became full, but the Teacher went on pouring so that the cup overflowed and the tea was spilt on to the floor. The professor was most surprised and asked : “ Why is this ? ” The Teacher said : “ I can put something into an empty object but not into one which is already full. Your mind is full of tneum and tuum, ambitions and desires. Empty your heart of them, then come to me and I will teach you.”

The examples of Hitler, Mussolini and Alexander clearly demonstrate that these passing things give only passing satisfaction. Let us empty our hearts of them ; this is the way by which you can reach the Truth.

Samadhi is the return of the spirit to its innate inner purity. It has pothing to do with clairvoyance of flying in the air. Birds can do these things, and even if a man could do them, where is the superiority of man ? A kite can see far ; an ant can smell food for miles.

I will sum up by giving you an example. There was a man who was a gardener and a spiritual teacher of a high order. (The ideal of Indian Philosophy is not retirement ; Sri Krishna lived as a king and a king-maker ; the world is a school, and in society we exercise our faculties). This teacher, at the time when a pupil came to see him, was transplanting little seedlings from one bed to another. The student said : “ I have come to learn about God.”
The teacher said : “ Root out from here (the realm of time, space, meum and tuum, which are all fading pictures ; root out the desires, ambitions and loves) and plant there (in the great reservoir of your own Self, where Truth is).”

What happens to a man when he has obtained this knowledge ? The message of the Gita is : Discrimination, true wisdom, forgiveness, truth, control over the senses and the mind, joy sorrow, evolution and dissolution, fear and fearlessness—all these emanate from Me. Take them with detachment and think on ME ; in the end I will come to you.

Goethe says :
“ I tell you this is man’s supreme vocation
Before Me was no world ; t’is My creation.
T’was I who raised the sun out of the sea ;
The moon began her changeful course with Me.”

That ‘ Me is the ‘ Me of God.

If ye knew God as He ought to be known yye would walk on the seas and the mountains would move at your call.

When every phase of our mind shall be in accord with the mind of Buddha, then there will not be a particle of dust that does not enter into Buddahood.