Sit evenly, erect, at ease, with palms folded on the lap, with eyes fixed on the nose: cleanse your lungs by taking a deep breath, holding it in and then discharging it, raise in your heart the OM sounding like the tolling of a bell, and in the lotus of your heart, contemplate My form as encircled by light.
The path of knowledge is for those who are weary of life; those who still have desires should pursue the path of sublimation through works: and to those who are not completely indifferent nor too much attached the devotional path bears fruit.
Perform your actions for Me and with thoughts fixed on Me: untainted like the sky, see yourself within your self; consider all beings as Myself and adore them; bow to everybody, high or low, great or small, kind or cruel; by seeing Me constantly in all, rid yourself of jealousy, intolerance, violence and egoism. Casting aside your pride, prestige, and sense of shame, fall prostrate in humility before all, down to the dog and ass. This is the knowledge of the learned, the wisdom of the wise – that man attains the Real with the unreal and the Immortal with the mortal.
— Krishna to Uddhava
The universe is mostly unmanifest, and every human being is a microcosmic reflection of the entire egg-like cosmos. Each individual is a vast but largely hidden force-field, but all are manifesting with varying degrees of knowledge, deliberation and discrimination. These diversities are the product of a long history of use, overuse and misuse of the sheaths and vestures in which immortal monads have been embodied in myriad environments over eighteen million years. Given this far-reaching perspective, how can any person use this potent teaching in order to become a better human being? How can an individual become more attentive and discriminating in using the sacred gift of creative imagination, training the mind as an instrument for concentrated thought, directed with a benevolent feeling towards goals compatible with the purposes of all living beings, towards universal good? Strange as it may seem, everyone can discover indispensable clues for answering this question in the simple fact that he or she is a certain kind of human being. The whole story is recorded from head to toe: the way a person walks and talks; the way a person holds himself or herself; the way a person thinks, feels and acts; the way a person relates to other beings; but, above all, the way a person lives through waking and sleeping from day to day, passing through the three halls of consciousness – jagrat, swapna and sushupti – connecting moments in childhood through the seasons of human life, growing, maturing and mellowing with intermittent glimpses of wisdom.
Every person can test motives and methods in the daily attempts to translate thought and intention into outer modes of expression. If someone gets a chance to work upon certain details of some part of a larger work in which the levels of motivation markedly vary, that person can learn through what karma brings to him or her. If, by mistake, one became involved in more than one can manage, this would be known within a short time because one would get burnt. To be unready is to have a shrunken sense of self and therefore a force-field that is very congested with blurred, contradictory and weak currents liable to short circuits and shocks. As long as there is the opportunity to learn and to correct, it is always possible to make a difference, because all human beings are capable in their finest moments of the highest possible motivation. There is hardly a person who has not had moments of pure love of the human race. There are few who have gone through the whole of life without even once having looked at the stars and sky and wondered at the magnitude of the universe. Nature cannot support a human being who cannot ever negate the suffocation of confinement within shallow perspectives of mind and heart. As long as there is the beneficence of sleep, every human being has abundant opportunities to renew the larger Self, the greater motive, the fuller perspective. The problem then is not that a human being is without spiritual resources, but rather how to make those resources tapped during deep dreamless sleep relevant when one is out in the field of duty, Kurukshetra. Wakeful deployment of resources will require sufficient noetic detachment to avert captivity to compulsive activity, and thereby avoid being cut off from the greater Self. When the only correction available is sleep, it is too inefficient to rely upon automatically because the daily passage through confused dream states vitiates the healing effects of deeper dreamless states.
Meditation is the source of noetic understanding, but this depends upon an initial humbling of the false self that otherwise undermines every effort. Learning without unlearning is not only useless, but, like eating without elimination, it can be fatal. Bad habits must be unlearnt while learning new ways of doing things that come from new ways of thinking, and in this continuous process one has to be courageous in assessing one’s spiritual strivings. By seeing where one is going wrong and why, it is possible to make significant connections between causes and consequences and then see where a real difference can be made. It is always possible to make a difference, but only on the basis of self-examination that leaves one more determined and relaxed – more relaxed because of seeing oneself in relation to the whole of humanity. Without running away from the facts, it is possible to take an honest inventory, and if this is done, one will soon begin to discover that it is not that one’s motive is entirely bad or that one is altogether no good. It is rather that one is not very good at learning because of having created blockages in the self through pride, blockages in the mind through prejudice, blockages in the heart through partiality, blockages in the will through perversity. These blockages precipitate very quickly in the presence of great resolves, and if they are not faced, it is difficult to avoid walking backwards. But if this realization brings a sense of defeat, that means one never really understood the teaching of Karma. The Self that has to make the effort of understanding is that ray of the immortal soul which is put in charge of the kingdom in which the different parts of one’s being must be dynamically balanced. When there is a greater harmony within, it is possible to contribute more to harmony without. This is what each is meant to do. The general accounting can be left to Karma. By altering radically one’s attitude to work, to motive and method, and one’s way of balancing them, there is the opportunity for growth on the basis of a larger and a firmer recognition of the invisible forces, realities and laws constantly at work in Nature and in oneself.
Hermes, May 1979