London, UK, 1928
AS I AM going to speak only for forty-five minutes I should like you to give your intelligent criticism to whatever I am going to say, rather than blind credulity. I should like you throughout my speech not to accept anything, because if you accept without true understanding there is a possibility of misleading you from a proper understanding of life.
My purpose this evening is to explain a certain point of view which I hold -to which you have come to listen- and in order to understand it fully and intelligently I should like you to be critical rather than accept anything blindly.
As I am going to speak only for a short time I am not going to enter into details, I am only going to generalise, and you, when you get back home, will have to think it out for yourselves. Only, I would beg of you, do not reject, do not accept, but use judgement with understanding and critical examination, with the desire to discover.
Now to go on with that as an introduction. Everywhere, in all countries and among all peoples, there is a desire to find out something which is hidden, which people think will satisfy their hunger for knowledge, the satisfaction of their desire for the understanding of life. Everyone in the world seeks Truth and imagines that Truth is away from the ordinary current of life, whereas Truth IS life. The understanding of life gives a knowledge of Truth and the moment you understand the working of life you are beginning to understand the working of Truth. Now most people in the world imagine that Truth is hidden away from general existence, from the ordinary human mind, from the ordinary man of thought and feeling -imagine that they must retire from the world to seek Truth, that they must acquire certain qualities, certain knowledge, experience certain sorrows and certain pleasures. I want to show this evening that the moment you understand life as it is taking place around each one of you, then you understand Truth and by understanding Truth you will solve the problems of your own lives.
There is no God except a man purified, and there is no Power exterior to himself which controls him -no guide other than himself. There is no heaven or hell, good or evil, except that which he creates himself, and hence man is solely responsible to himself and to no one else.
Now before you accept any of these things, or rather examine these things that I am going to say, I should like to suggest that for this evening at least you should not be bound by prejudice, because prejudice is like a shadow on the face of the mountain, like a cloud across the fair skies. Prejudice warps the mind so that it is incapable of understanding; prejudice is like a leaf that falls in the springtime and is destroyed by the foot of man. So a mind that desires to understand life, that is full of the desire for the knowledge of life, must be without prejudice, not already made up, narrow, limited.
In order to understand life, which is Truth, and in order to understand that each one of you is solely responsible to himself and not to another -responsible to no exterior Power, to no God or spiritual authority, to no superhuman deity- in order to understand that, you should not have a mind that is biased, that is overwhelmed by tradition.
I have just come from a country, my own country, where I have travelled seven thousand miles and visited many towns and talked to numerous people, and there one of the most difficult things is to make a mind understand and perceive clearly without prejudice; for we are, in the East, as elsewhere, full of tradition, and bringing that tradition forward to judge, it warps our minds. Tradition is necessary so long as you use it for a crutch -tradition is essential for a child, but we are not children. We have minds and hearts which are capable of clear thought and clean feelings and we must judge everything for its own sake and not be biased by any belief that we hold to be dear or true. Most people in the world bind life by beliefs, by traditional morality, and hence their lives are narrow, limited and unhappy. It is like binding the waters in your garment, or taking the wind in your fist. That is what every human being is doing, binding his life by a set of beliefs, dogmas and creeds. And in order to understand what I am going to say this evening I should like you to be without such prejudice. For I hold that it is not necessary to have any belief in order to lead a clean life, a noble life, a pure life.
This is nothing new, for there is nothing new under the sun, only new things come to those who discover, and I have discovered -I am saying this without conceit and with all humility. I have found the source that gives happiness. I have a mind ... by innumerable beliefs, by traditions, but a mind that is willing to examine all things that are put before it with clearness, with interest and with intelligence. This is the first requirement for the understanding of Truth, for the liberation of life from its narrow limitations, its beliefs, dogmas and creeds.
Take what is happening with modern painting, modern architecture and everything that is connected with modern thought and feeling. The other day in Paris I was with a friend of mine who is a well-known modern painter, and he showed me one of his pictures -one of those super-realist pictures. My first instinct was to reject it, but my friend said: "Do not judge. You are used to a certain form of painting, in which there is definite proportion, definite colour, definite idea, relief, and so on. I am trying to paint a picture which very few have attempted, and it may be absurd, but I want your intelligent and unprejudiced understanding. If you will examine it in that way you will understand what I am painting." And after a while I found that where before there was no form, no colour, no proportion and relief now there was form, there was colour, there was relief. At the beginning, because my mind was accustomed to a particular idea of form, colour and proportion, I could not understand.
So, likewise, a prejudiced mind requires a certain definite form, a mould, through which life, Truth, must come. A Hindu requires Truth to appear through his own particular form of religion; a Christian demands Truth through his own particular form, so does a Buddhist, a Mohammedan, and so on. But Truth never comes through a form, or through any definite mould which has been created by the hand of man, and in order to understand Truth, which is life, you must come prepared with an unbiased and unprejudiced heart and mind. I have said that is the first requirement. You may be Christians, Theosophists, or anything else, and hold to all the paraphernalia of religions and beliefs, but if you want to understand life -as I want to show it to you- I would make that the first condition.
Secondly, in order to understand life, and hence Truth, you should be discontented, you should be in revolt against all established beliefs, dogmas and creeds. Take what is happening throughout the world today. Wherever you go, especially among the younger generation, there is a spirit of revolt against the established order and against the established idea of morality. There is a discontentment with authority -and this is quite right, because a mind and a heart that is merely satisfied is like a pond in the peaceful wood. On such a pond the green scum grows and no animals or human beings come to it to quench their thirst. It is stagnant, and so, likewise, a mind that is satisfied. Without revolt, without discontentment, you will never find Truth. Without this revolt you will never solve the problems of your lives. Now it is very easy to get into a state of so-called discontentment, and it is equally easy to get into a state which you call contentment. The discontentment I want is intelligent discontentment. Intelligence is the accumulation of all experience and hence when you are discontented intelligently you are beginning to create, and in creation and not in destruction, lies the solution of life. That is the second qualification I should like to suggest for the understanding of Truth.
The third is that you should have a mind and a heart that are simple. Now, simplicity does not mean crudeness. Do not look at simplicity from the old fashioned, traditional, narrow, limited point of view of putting on ashes and sack-cloth, of being generally dirty, untidy, and withdrawing one's self from the world in order to solve the problems of life. I do not mean that kind of simplicity. Take a leaf and watch it. How simple it is. But behind it there lie many winters, many springs, many summers, and many autumns. It is the production of great experience, great sorrow, great struggle, out of which simplicity is born. That is what is required for the understanding of Truth. A mind and a heart that are not prejudiced, a mind and a heart that are in intelligent revolt, and a mind and a heart that are made simple through great experience.
Now with that as our canvas let us paint a picture. What is it that every human being in the world craves for? What is it that every human being, of whatever religion, whatever nationality or colour, at whatever stage of experience or inexperience, desires? What is it that everyone of you in this audience desire? You long to be happy, and that is the highest spirituality.
Every human being wants to be happy and for the attainment of that happiness he must have immense experience -not of one short life, but of many lives. Such happiness is the culmination, the apotheosis of all experience, and yet it is beyond all experience, and from the happiness comes liberation which is freedom from all things because you have learnt from all things. It is beyond all desire because you have been through all desires, it is beyond every experience because you have been through every experience. Such is happiness, such is freedom, and that is what everyone in the world is wanting. Now with that desire burning in him, a man turns to religion, he turns to something, some Power, which he imagines to exist beyond him, which controls him and which gives him encouragement, nourishment, and great delight, in treading the path of life. Now I say -though you need not accept it- that I have found such freedom, such happiness. I have struggled, I have watched many people, some rich in the multitude of possessions, some who have nothing at all, people who are religious and full of dogmas and creeds and who run on every possible occasion to a church or to the temple in order to have their problems solved -and because I have watched all these things, and because of the lives that lie behind, I have attained, and because of that attainment I would like to show you the way. That does not mean a new creed, a new crutch, a new religion, for I hold that religion is the frozen thought of men, out of which they build temples with the brick of their frozen thoughts, and in which they are held, bound, by the goods who demand special rites and ceremonies special sacrifices, traditions and superstitions.
Now if you accept anything of mine as a dogma, as a creed, you are creating a new religion in which you will be bound and in which the gods of your own creation will demand of you sacrifices. I want to liberate those individuals who are painting the cage of their limitations.
Wherever you go in the world, there are so many beliefs -in this or that particular God, in this particular idea, in that particular religion. Wherever you go there is confusion because there are so many gods, so many interpreters thereof, so many religions each claiming to have its own special heaven and hell, its own special deity. Out of this confusion shall we create order, a miracle of order from the centuries of chaos, or shall we create another belief, another god and build a new temple with the crystallization of our thoughts? Shall we find out for ourselves a new and a simple way? Because wherever there is confusion and disorder, there is disharmony and hence unhappiness.
Now as I said, happiness which is not negative but positive, happiness which is the culmination of all experience and yet is beyond all experience, happiness which gives liberation to the mind and to the heart which is bound to a limited form of thought and feeling, such happiness is the only requirement that each one of you wants, that each one of you longs for, and the moment you have that as your goal, you need no interpreters. That is the Absolute, the final goal for humanity. Hence, because you want to be happy and because you want to be free and liberated from all desires, you must go through all desires, through all experiences, in order to be freed and not for the mere pleasure of experiencing. Then, when you have established your goal, you need no interpreter, you need no outer authority.
Take a ship on the open waters of the sea. Imagine that there was no compass on that ship, it would be lost, it would not know which way to go or where lay its port. So, because individuals in the world have no goal, they are lost in the confusion of thought and in order to determine their course they must establish a goal, and that goal must be of their own creation and not that of another. As I said, every human being in the word wants to be happy; it is the only delight, the only Truth, and when you have established that goal for yourself then you have the rudder which will guide your ship. Let us imagine for a moment that each one of you has fixed that goal of happiness for himself. Then, you say, what is the manner by which I can establish that happiness within myself eternally?
Within each individual there are three separate beings; there is the mind, there are the emotions, there is the body. If you watch over your mind and over your emotions and over your body you will see that they are three different entities, each one working and struggling on its own and hence creating disharmony. It is like this: if you were in carriage and had three horses to draw you but had no control over them, you would not get to your destination because the horses would each be pulling in a different direction. But if you had control over them and a fixed purpose, then you would get to your destination with understanding and with harmony. There are in each one of you three separate beings, if I may so call them, the mind, the emotions and the body and each one must be made perfect in order to have perfect harmony. What is the ultimate for the mind? As you have fixed the goal of happiness for yourselves, as you must establish a goal for the mind. That goal is the purification of the self. This does not mean the destruction, the annihilation of the self, as most people understand it, but, on the contrary, the development of individual uniqueness. You can never destroy the self -you can purify it, ennoble it, and hence bring it nearer to its desired end. Take a mosaic: in that there are innumerable colours which go to make up the particular form which the painter desires to produce, but if the colours in it are not each perfect, it will not be harmonious. Likewise each one has to develop his own particular individual uniqueness and when he develops his own individual uniqueness to perfection, then there is unity with everyone. Suppose for a moment that your colour is green and mine is red, and so on: if you develop your colour to perfection and I develop mine to perfection, when we meet there is no colour, for as we know, all colours eventually melt into the one white light. When they meet there is absolute unity, no division, no feeling of the separate self. That is the highest goal for the mind.
So also you must establish a goal for the emotions. What is it? It is to have immense affection, and yet to be detached. Watch how affection develops. At first it is envious, narrow, limited, jealous of everything, but little by little, through sorrow, through pain, it develops, and little by little it extends and includes more and more people. So when you watch and follow affection to its ultimate goal, you will find that it has become affection with detachment.
For the body, what is it that is essential to bring about perfect harmony? First, beauty. Look throughout the world -for centuries upon centuries human beings have been seeking beauty. Go down any street in London and look into shops and you will see innumerable creams for making people beautiful, and quite rightly so. But it is no good merely producing a beautiful shell. Take a shell on the seashore. It may be beautiful, but that which created it has gone away, and it is a dead thing. Likewise, a mere beautiful form may be attractive, but it is not harmonious, it is not the Absolute. So beauty is the first requisite. Then restraint, which does not mean suppression, but understanding. And then, great simplicity. When I was travelling in India people said to me "You say we should lead a simple life. Why then do you put on clean clothes, why are you neat, why do you shave?". Simplicity does not mean retrogression. You must not judge simplicity by the traditions of two or three thousand years ago. You would not go back to that time -we are three thousand years ahead and it is no good returning to a time when ordinary physical life was crude. We have progressed. That is a dangerous word, but I will employ it for the moment! So for the mind the Absolute is to purify the self -which does not mean destruction of the self, but on the contrary to develop its individual uniqueness. For the emotions, for the heart, it is to be detached and yet at the same time to be greatly affectionate. For the body it is beauty, refinement, culture and behaviour -for with behaviour dwells righteousness. When you have these three practically carried out, then there is harmony, and when there is harmony then there is happiness.
So when once you have established the goal for yourself which is happiness from which comes liberation -that detachment from all things which is the outcome of all experience -then, as I have said, you will know the way because you have harmony within yourself. Then you do not require beliefs, then you do not require religions with all their innumerable interpreters, and you do not require the great paraphernalia associated with beliefs. You are responsible to yourself; you create order within yourself and then because you understand with the understanding that is born of experience, you see that there is no such thing as evil or good; that there is no such thing as failure or success; it is all a matter of experience, of learning, gathering your strength towards that perfection which lies within each.
As I have found that harmony, and have established within myself that happiness which is the outcome of liberation, so I would be as a signpost for those who desire to walk the path of happiness, for those who desire to understand life which is Truth. But if you stop at the signpost you will never attain. Perfection lies within the individual grasp of each one. So you must, as an individual, solve the problem for yourself and then you will solve the problem of the world. As an individual you will have to create harmony within yourself, and when once you have created that harmony, that synthetic understanding of life, then there is happiness and freedom.
London, UK, 1928
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