This article is a chapter from the book An Instrument of Thy Peace.
The great sages of the past discovered the Supreme Reality. It is the one Being that is eternally present. It is That which is beyond sense perceptions, and which is the depth of your own consciousness. They did not give It any particular name; they only said that it is “That” or Tat. That alone exists; That alone is. It is eternal existence. They said that you are no different from That. The quote in Sanskrit is Tat twam asi, or “Thou art That.”
However, the sum totality of the knowledge concerning all things in this material physical universe is comprehended only through the senses. These phenomena, like the flitting shadows upon a cinema screen, come and go, but they are made possible because of the presence of the screen. Without the substratum of the screen, it would be impossible to project any pictures. The screen was there even before the projection of the movie started, it is present throughout the showing, and it remains when the show is over. It alone persists even when the shadow play is finished. But no one ever thinks of that silent screen in the cinema theatre; everyone is interested only in the shadow play. However, that screen is the true Reality, while the pictures are only a play of shadows. The great sages said that the Reality is not the same as this passing show and that it is none of what you have known up till now through the senses.
What is the basis of human experiences? Do these experiences really exist outside of you? Have they got an independent existence apart from you? Now let us make it more concrete. Your joys and your sorrows—do these things exist in this world outside of you? Who makes you happy, and who makes you weep? Can you point the finger at someone or something and say, “This is the cause of my happiness, and this is the cause of my sorrow?” This finger pointing is what we all do. We all think we are all wonderful and innocent people, but it is this world outside that puts us through the mill. We are always bothered by this unjust world that gives us such an unfair deal, and we try to find the causes of our unhappiness in the outer things.
Is there something at all outside? Is this world capable of giving us experiences? If we think that it is, then we attribute a great deal of power to this world, but does it deserve the power attributed to it? One great sage dismissed the whole thing. He said, just consider what happens every night when you enter into deep sleep. At that very moment of entering deep sleep, all your problems, sorrows and experiences of the outside world are gone. Nothing prevails from your waking consciousness, and everything is bundled away. You don’t have any problems—no worry, no disappointment, no frustration—nothing, nothing, nothing. You go into a serene state where everything is restful and silent.
Everything is so very desirable in that deep sleep state, that if you are not able to sleep well for two or three days, then you become terribly upset. You may be a condemned prisoner in his cell, or a panhandling hobo or a multibillionaire, no matter what his outer life is, everyone seeks to enter into a state where this world does not exist. Isn’t this situation very, very interesting? You have to see what it is that makes us want to go off into this state. You can understand, because when you enter into that state, all your problems and anxieties are magically gone.
The moment you wake up, all of these things come back to you. Why do they appear when you came back into the state of wakefulness, and why do they once again vanish when you enter into sleep? They vanish because the mind ceases to be active. The moment you enter into the state of deep sleep, the mind is at a standstill, but when you wake up, the mind starts becoming active. The moment mental activity commences, the whole world and all the experiences once again appear. This great sage I mentioned said that the waking state is not the ultimate Reality. So, he says, the kingpin of this entire matter is the activity of the mind.
If you are able to change the nature of the activity of the mind, then you have the key to bring about a corresponding change in the nature of the experience you have. If in a particular condition of the mind, a certain quality of experience comes to you, if you bring about a transformation in the inner state of your mind, it means your experience will also be transformed. It is like changing the channel of your TV. You change the channel and immediately that program vanishes and some other programme comes.
You Can Make Your Own Happiness
We do not want sorrow and pain; we want happiness and joy. That is what everyone is seeking. You create all your experiences-you can make your own happiness and unmake your own misery. This is the truth; please ponder this again and again. If you refuse to allow anything in this world to affect you, then already you have guaranteed what will happen to you and what will not happen to you. It is this decision that can make all the difference between causing you misery or allowing yourself to be able to stand like a rock—no matter what comes. But then, this lightning decision of the moment has behind it the whole background of what you have trained yourself to be, what you have learned as lessons of life, and how you have cultivated yourself. The world cannot shake the person whose background is full of discrimination, enquiry and analysis.
If this background is not there, then you are a plaything in the hands of whatever is outside. Everything has the power to shake you up and make you either laugh or weep. It is unwise to go on giving outside things this power to affect your life inside. You ought to be the master of your own situation within, and therefore you have to seriously cultivate yourself. You have to carry on discrimination and deep thought, and then observe and learn lessons from other people’s lives. These things that come to us are inevitable-they are part and parcel of life. There is no use in hollering about something that one cannot change.
The great sages understood the prayer, “Give me the courage to change that which can be changed, give me the serenity to accept that which cannot be changed, and give me the wisdom to know the difference.” In this way, they saw the inevitable, and then they came to terms with it. They said, “This is as it is, so I should accept it, and I should learn to relate myself in the right way.” Our happiness, misery, joy or sorrow are in truth ninety-five per cent a matter of how well we know ourselves and how we relate to our own inner life.
I will give you a few examples of the wisdom of proper relationship to our experience. A while ago there was a baby with a heart defect that was flown to a special hospital, and the case was reported in the newspapers and given much attention. They tried to save the baby, but it eventually died. It was of course a great sorrow to the parents. Such a thing is apparently only an outer event, but philosophy wants you to see things as not merely external, but also having to do with the inner self. How many babies are born like this and then die-maybe in your own neighbourhoods or maybe in the family next door. But it does not make any great difference to you unless you are personally identified with the situation. Someone else’s tragedy does not put you into terrible throes of anxiety and sorrow, and you can go about your normal life. Nevertheless, the tragedy is happening.
People are ill with cancer, paediatric hospitals are full of terribly ill and dying children, and yet we go along as though these things never existed. However, when something like this happens in your family or to you, why is it that you become so filled with sorrow and suffering? It is not because a child died, or because some person is suffering from cancer that you are sorrowing and in great grief. It becomes painful when it is your child or relative who is suffering. It is because the mind has conceived of a particular relationship, and it looks at the whole thing in a particular way. Ultimately you trace the experience to the special way the mind has related itself to that being or to that thing.
Another example might be, say, if you are waiting at the bus stop and fire engines come rushing by. You are not very concerned, because you know that the odds of the fire being at your house are very low. Yet, if someone tells you that the fire is directly in the area where you live, in that moment you might be gripped by anxiety. “Oh God, it may be my place!” If actually it is your home, then your anxiety and fear will be tremendous. In the same way, if a bank crashes and goes into liquidation, you are not bothered, provided you have not invested in it. You will forget about it and continue drinking your cup of coffee. But if it happens to be the bank where all your finances are invested, then of course you will be quite disturbed. This is the “mine-ness” or the special state of mental attachment to a particular object.
Do you ever ponder this? The most important thing is not that you have certain positive or negative experiences, but how you relate to those experiences. Ultimately your experience is due to two factors: one is this special way in which the mind thinks of a particular thing, person or event, and second, as I already mentioned to you, it also depends upon the way in which you have trained your mind to receive things. If the mind receives things in a negative way, then every experience has the power to put you out of balance. If the mind receives them in a positive and a creative way, then you go through life serene and unaffected. You have so disciplined yourself that you have created an integrated personality characterised by strength. If you are already rooted in a strong centre, you will be able to serenely cope with the inevitable ups and downs.
Let’s take another example of someone who allows himself to be ruled by his outer experience. Let us picture a young man who has got a good job, lots of friends, and a very enjoyable life. One day as he is coming home from the office in his sports car, he stops at the traffic light, and casually he glances to the right. There in the other lane is a devastatingly beautiful girl sitting in a car of the same make and colour. They look at each other, and maybe he breaks the ice and speaks to her. Then, in that moment, this man falls head over heels in love.
Unfortunately for him, he has not been able to fully make her acquaintance or find out who she is. From that day onwards, he is always thinking, “I want to see her again. Maybe I will come across her at another traffic stop.” He is in a state of anxiety, and he is not able to keep his mind on his work. But one day they happen to meet again just by accident. He loses no time in correcting his previous blunder, and he goes to make her acquaintance. But, poor fellow, what he did not realise was that she was already engaged! When he invites her out, she says, “Oh, I am sorry. I am going out to dinner with my fiancé,” and he is suddenly propelled into a totally miserable condition.
Now, who created his misery? Did this misery exist in some corner waiting to come over him? This unhappiness that has now started to tear him up did not exist anywhere. He created it himself. The girl did not create it; in fact, she had no part in it. He might have seen so many girls, but his heart jumped when he saw that particular one. His mind went into a peculiar state, and out of that arose the whole train of events. If he were a wise person, he would say, “What does it matter? If she is already engaged to be married, well okay, that’s it.” He gives his mind a good scolding and accepts this situation and forgets it. Everything is set right. Why? Because he knew that he should not cry over spilt milk. He was a fool in the first instance, but now he can correct his folly. If he comes to terms with things through a maturity of understanding and is able to make the mind understand, then everything is all right. If however he goes on mulling over his loss and making himself miserable, then he will not be able to come to understand the fact that misery does not have independent existence apart from the mind.
Let’s use this same young man to also illustrate something I said before about deep sleep. This same fellow, if he spends a miserable evening thinking about the girl, once he goes into deep sleep, the whole experience will be erased. No girl, no head over heels in love, no misery, no disappointment—everything is all right. He is enjoying the best rest, and the quality of his peace and rest is no less than the peace and rest of an emperor or a multimillionaire who has everything. It is the same quality. Why? Because of the simple fact that the mind is not active. The crux of this entire matter of human experience is the way the mind has been educated and trained. Are you behaving as if you were a puppet in the hands of the mind, or is your relationship with the mind that of a master over a servant? You have to decide.