Often man wants to know the taste of a dish, before eating it; he wants to learn to swim without entering water! Theory is not experience; and, naturally disappointed, he turns away from truth, into the open lanes of aimless, purposeless, animal life.
Man is the image of God; and it is as true today as it was in Biblical times, in the Vedic period. Truth does not change; that is the criterion of truth. The quest for this truth is also eternal and ever fresh. In the heart of each individual there is this yearning to know the truth. But, to know the truth is to experience it, not merely understand it with the intellect. The latter is a wayside station, not the destination.
Man wants to know himself, to realize himself. He wants to understand the world around him. He wants to probe into the beyond, in space and in spirit. There is in him an unquenchable hunger to KNOW. He fashions the instruments with which he can acquire that knowledge. He is permanently satisfied with none. Of what use are external instruments and devices? They are but aids, often poor aids, to his own inner intelligence!
Psychology tries to analyze man’s “inside.” They that dare to go deep enough are staggered by the vastness of this inner field. They that graze on the surface grope in the dark. Man, the real man, remains the unknown.
The little hands of a babe cannot hold a book, nor can untutored mind read it. The little, finite, frail, impure intellect cannot realize the infinite, radiant self of man. A dirty mirror, thickly coated with dense soot, cannot reflect your face. Man’s impure heart, thickly laden with the subtle impressions of countless lives of undivine life, cannot all at once reveal the Divinity that is enshrined in it.
First things first. Clear the soot and clean the mirror, instead of condemning the mirror or declaring that it is impossible to see one’s own reflection in the mirror. Wipe the heart clean of its dross, of the impurity that has accumulated over it, with the brush of purity, of love and of spiritual aspiration. Let the babe grow into a youth and be educated, before the book of life is given into his hands. Man should grow out of his bestiality, grow out of even his mere human nature and become divine; he must be educated in the art and science of Yoga or divine life, before he can understand and realize his essential divine nature.
The ancient sages, the pioneers in this discovery of the soul of man, had seen what sort of equipment the seeker after truth would need, and what preliminary training and discipline would be indispensable if he desired to realize the truth. To ignore them is to forfeit the delight of Self-discovery.
Every religion in the world, every school of religious thought, every saint or prophet, has emphasized that man must purify his heart, must grow in selflessness, in self-restraint, truthfulness, humility and purity, before he can really, truly and fruitfully seek after truth. But, man, proud of his discoveries and inventions in the plane of matter, and unwilling to shed the animal in him, vainly attempts to probe the spirit with his material instruments, and when these cannot find it, declares that it does not exist!
Yet, truth does not suffer from such childish denial. It is man himself who suffers. Electric current is not switched off from a live wire by an ignorant man’s denial of it; the foolish man receives the shock all right when he touches the wire. Even so, the ignorant man, who denies God, denies the soul, denies the existence of anything except the gross, “solid” world of matter, is rudely awakened to the existence of something beyond, by some unaccountable calamity or untoward event in his own life or in the life around him. Should he have waited for this to happen? Could he not have paid heed to the warning finger that is raised in the holy scriptures?
That then is the first and foremost prerequisite. Faith in the wisdom of the men-of-God, who have, by their own radiant example, by their own flaming renunciation of the world of matter and disregard of material pleasures and possessions, silently taught the truth: “The world is transient; rise above it and enter the Eternal Kingdom of God.”
Having acquired this faith in the men-of-God, one should equip oneself with the ‘first things’: virtuous qualities. Virtue is poison to the vicious mind! The mind will revolt. Faith is the rod that quells it; devotion is the whip that silences it; the sword of aspiration slays it.
The gymnasium, the playground, and other places exist to serve him as fields for the exercise of his body. Similarly, if he has to grow vigorous and healthy in mind, he has to learn from the men of wisdom and learning; he has to think and reflect over what he has learnt. He has to understand and assimilate. If he has to grow in virtue, if his heart is to expand, he has to enter the field of service, and engage himself in selfless, egoless, untiring service of humanity. It is in the field of such service that he will come face to face with his own inner nature, and, if he is sincere and introspective, he will know what virtues he lacks and what evils lurk within himself. Without yielding to despondency or depression, he will apply himself to the eradication of vices and cultivation of virtues.
Rooted in faith and devotion, as he grows in virtue, the vision of truth will also grow more and more distinct in him. He will perceive that the body is but the outer-most covering, something like the dress he wears, that the mind itself is a thin veil which hides the light within, but, derives its own lustre from it, and that beyond the body and mind, as the substratum of everything, the Self or Reality dwells in his heart. He will realize that with it everything could assume an importance of value; without it nothing is of any value.
But, first things first. This realization is possible only if the seeker is firmly established in self-control, in divine virtues. The moral sense must be ingrained in him. We can achieve this best by instilling the moral sense in the young. That is the best period to sow the seeds of ethical idealism, moral sense and righteousness. The young men and women in our schools and colleges must learn the fundamentals of morality and ethics. These have been beautifully summed up in the saying: “To help and serve others is virtue; to harm others is sin.” This idea must be inscribed on the tablet of the heart of every one of our students. Then and then alone can we hope that out of our colleges will emerge good and noble citizens of whom we, the nation and the whole world, will be proud.
Among such citizens will be found the noble patriot, the great social worker, the man of wisdom, the mystic and the man of God. For, once the foundation of a moral life is well and truly laid, then the inner spiritual aspiration will guide every seeker aright upon the path of Yoga, to the great goal of Self-realization. Let us attend to the first things and first.