In whatever one does and in whatever way one releases the higher will, one is merely drawing a certain portion from an inexhaustible and universal source. If one understands this, one will not ask to draw more from it than one in fact can use, or more than one can properly sustain. In other words, one will begin to see through the tricks played by the human mind, which is the great deceiver and the adversary in man, when it tries to escape from what can be done by demanding more. When the mind insists that it must know whether its share of love and light is adequate in relation to its aim or self-conception, it becomes the great deceiver and obscurer of the light and love that are latent in every human soul. Many supposedly philosophical questions and spiritual concerns are really nothing but what the Buddhists call attavada, the dire heresy of separateness. They reflect the philosophic error of assuming that all one’s tendencies, desires and thoughts make up some kind of entity which is cohesive and persistent and, above all, cut off from the rest of humanity. This is an illusion. There is no such entity. No true sense of selfhood can be located in this aggregate of ever-changing, and second-hand, chaotic tendencies.
Instead, this aggregate of the skandhas represents one’s karmic share in the collective accumulations of tendencies of all humanity. All human beings, one might say, have contributed to the growing of weeds, and every human being has got his or her share of the world’s weeds to take in hand and to cut down. At the same time, every human being has got to find and sow the seeds of wisdom and compassion. This can be done only through cultivating patience and the power of waiting, rooted in the willingness to work with the cycles of Nature. As the prophet teaches inEcclesiastes, there are different seasons, times for sowing and times for reaping, times for living and times for dying. That is true with regard to all the manifestations of love, and the wisest know that the deepest love is beyond manifestation. As Maeterlinck wrote, there are in love silences with so profound a depth that the unexpressed flows with uninterrupted continuity across the barriers of time and space. This deeper love is often forfeited because of a concern with what can be demonstrated, what can be increased, mitigated or compared. To recover the lost potential of the soul, one must rethink what is real. On the one side, there is that which is universal and includes all that is potential. On the other, there is the entire collection of particular, episodic, finite expressions and manifestations. Vast though they are, they are in the end limited in relation to the inexhaustible content of love and light within the immortal soul of every human being and at the heart of the whole cosmos.
By learning to think in this way, one can begin to discern immense beauty in the idea that every human being is, in the simple act of breathing, both living and loving. Most of this is unconscious or unrelated to any particular desires or demands. But in the case of the wisest beings, the most enlightened masters of compassion, this breathing is self-consciously benevolent and universal. Having become conscious of the enormous potential energy within the heart of the cosmos, they are able skilfully to direct and channel that energy to vast numbers of souls. They have learnt how to help particular persons at particular times only through lifetimes of trial and error. They have recognized the proliferating consequences of doing too much or not doing enough. Through practice, over millions of years and myriads of lives, Bodhisattvas become intelligent and skilful in the application of wisdom and compassion, light and love.
To be able even to understand such possibilities in such beings, much less to be able to move in that direction, one must shake off conventional divisions between the head and the heart. Often it is assumed that it is a great thing for the mind to become sharper, smarter and more intelligent. It is also conventional to think of the heart as sentimental. Both these notions are based upon misconceptions. In the subtle vestures of human beings, in what is called the spiritual heart, lies the basis of the highest intelligence, ideation and creativity. Therefore, from the spiritual point of view, one cannot activate any of the higher centres in the brain unless one has first aroused a spark of fire in the spiritual heart. Many human beings are able, sporadically, to release extraordinary powers, skills and flashes of genius. These intermittent abilities represent an unbalanced condition that is a reflection of excess and deficiency in previous lives. They are accompanied by a karmic frustration at not being able to tap and recover knowledge self-consciously, and such individuals have got hard lessons to learn before they can create new and better balances within themselves.
Hence the importance, especially with children, of withdrawing undue emphasis upon the mind and developing instead a sense of the heart. Instead of fostering an obsessive inclination to grade the mind, one should encourage an evolving conception of excellence in relation to the heart. This does not happen automatically; unless one becomes fearless and courageous, one cannot release the potency and spiritual strength in the heart. One must educate the heart in the best truth that one knows. This truth includes the mortality of one’s body, the immortality of the soul, and the means of making that immortal soul function within a mortal body. It is crucial to give children some of the fundamental truths of the Divine Wisdom, and in particular to teach them not merely to look at things in terms of today and tomorrow, but rather in terms of their finest impulses and most generous urges. Over a lifetime of learning, these can provide the basis of authentic fearlessness and true universality in compassion and love. One must include in one’s heart people whom one does not see. To do this requires an active imagination, ultimately a capacity to visualize the whole of humanity. This involves a dynamic balance between one’s contemplation of all the beings that exist on this earth and one’s relationships with those who are nearby.
In practice, this requires simplification and a development of precision, which is at the origin of all etiquette and manners. One must learn not to overdo with people who are immediately around oneself. To do less is to do more. Thus one will have a great opportunity to keep oneself intact, without getting into syndromes of excessive expectation and rapid disillusionment. While maintaining a greater steadiness in relationships to those around oneself, one will, at the same time, see beyond them. One will develop a concern to take one’s place in the family of man and to become what is called in the Buddhist tradition a son of the Buddha family. Like the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, one becomes willing to think in terms of serving all beings on earth. This is not something that one can contemplate or emulate in a short time. Instead, it will require a repeated renewal. It will have some impact at the moment of death and also a distinct effect upon the kind of birth one will have in the next life. Not immediately, but eventually, it will change the current and tropism, the tonality and colouring, of one’s varied relationships to the vestures and their use.
By gaining this precision, one will become more free, and at the same time the better able to help other human beings. One’s mind becomes more willing, vibrant and versatile by becoming an obedient servant of a heart that has found deep peace within itself. Once the heart has discovered within itself its own secret fire, it can, through various forms of daily meditation and oblation, activate that fire. Whether one calls this the fire of devotion, of tapas, of wisdom or truth, these are only different aspects of that which is ultimately the fire of the Mysteries. It is the fire that represents the immortal self-subsisting sovereignty of the individual human soul. It is capable in principle of becoming a self-conscious mirror of the whole cosmos. Therefore it is also capable of reaching out from within the inmost sanctuary and affecting, learning from, teaching and helping everything that exists. This requires deliberate and systematic training because of the diverse kinds, speeds and levels of communication between beings based upon the vibrations of the heart realm. The more skilful one becomes in using karmic opportunities to participate in the partial modes of love and learning of this world, the more one learns how to shed a little light for a few human beings upon a few things, while at the same time ceaselessly looking beyond one’s horizon towards the limitless potential within all.
Eventually, one can reach a point where one has the great privilege of seeing no more evil and limitation because they have lost their fascination. They are really nothing more than a grotesque representation of muddle, error and delusion, ultimately based upon captivity to illusion. They are futile and short-sighted, they are short-lived. But so long as there are elements in so many beings that are caught up in short-term considerations, evil and limitation are compounded. While at first they may look like an awesome all-potent monster, one later sees that this is not true. This is a form of protection for those who are on the Path and concerned with the real work of the human race. That work is continuous, though hidden by a stream of invisibility, because most people are simply caught up in the external sights and sounds of reality. They are captives to exaggerations of form, limitation and evil. Hence the importance, at the individual level, for each human being to say, like Jesus, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” One cannot say this for others; one must do it for oneself.
As long as there is light, there will be shadow. Yet every human being can at any moment turn his face away from the shadow and towards the light of the sun. Whenever one is with other souls, one can ask oneself, “Do I love others more than myself? Do I take less and give more to others? Do I actually reach out within myself, within my mind and heart, and also in my acts, towards other human beings? In the way I look at other human beings, can I salute the Divine within them? Can I shed light and also be grateful for the light that I daily receive from others?” By asking questions of this kind, one will find that all increments of change become significant. Life becomes not only worth living, but worth consecrating. The mind and the heart recapture the immanence of the ideal of boundless Love and Light.
Hermes, March 1985