This article is a chapter from the book An Instrument of Thy Peace.
The eternal message of the ancient sages and saints constitutes the common spiritual heritage of all mankind, and it is a universal inheritance that belongs to one and all. All of us have the right to receive this heritage, but we have not claimed it up until now. However, now the time has come to claim it. This common spiritual heritage of mankind is the richest treasure on earth. All other types of wealth can be taken away from you, devalued or destroyed, but once you acquire the spiritual wealth, it will never be diminished, and it will never leave you.
There is enough sorrow and suffering in this world. Let us not add more. On the contrary, let us bring more happiness into this world. Make yourselves centres of joy, and as you go along this highway of life, scatter this joy and blessedness on all sides. Remember the simple prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. Try to make your life a dynamic manifestation of this simple prayer. This prayer is the essence of all religion and spirituality, just as the message of divine life was the message of the worshipful Master Swami Sivananda. The St. Francis prayer goes like this:
Oh Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is injury, let me bring pardon.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is discord, let me bring harmony.
Where there is conflict, let me bring unity.
Where there is darkness, let me bring light.
Where there is sorrow, let me bring joy.
Divine Master, I do not seek so much to be consoled, but rather to console. I do not seek so much to be understood, but rather to understand. I do not seek so much to be loved, but to love. For it is in giving that one receives; for it is in consoling that one is consoled; for it is in pardoning that one is pardoned, and it is in dying to this little self that one attains everlasting light.
This simple prayer provides a mould for us in which to cast our life’s conduct and character. It provides a blueprint upon which to pattern our thoughts, speech and actions in our day-to-day relationship with all life around us. There must be a certain amount of renunciation of our own views and desires, and in our own small way we must be able to say, “Not my will, dear Lord, but Thy will be done.” We have to forego self-satisfaction if we wish to exercise the subtle virtues of forgiveness, sympathy, understanding and helpfulness.
Everything in this world of man has a price on it. The greater the value of what we wish to have, the greater the price that must be paid. When the thing that you wish to have is the Greatest, suffice it to say that no price for that supreme attainment should be considered too much to pay. Jesus referred to it as “the pearl of surpassing price.” Once you truly know its worth, you will act like the man in the parable. In modern terms he did the equivalent of selling his house, car, TV, radio, property, stocks, business and maybe even his wife’s jewellery, because he wanted to possess that which is priceless. He thought no sacrifice was too great.
When the rich young man in the Bible wished to follow Him, Jesus said, “Go and sell all that you have and distribute it among the poor, and then come and follow me.” Jesus invited the young man to share a life where one has no home or property, and there is not even a stone on which to lay one’s head. You are not being asked here to do such a drastic thing, although in classical spiritual history that was what was demanded. The spiritual masters of the present century understand the problems of man in the context of the changed situation that prevails today, so they do not ask for such an extreme change in a seeker’s life. They do say however that a certain amount of self-denial, sacrifice and submission to the dictates of the Higher Will are indispensable.
We have to be happy ourselves, and we need to live to make others happy. This we can do, and this we must do. We have to start doing this from this very moment. Sorrow is not natural to you—joy is natural to you. To smile and laugh is natural to you—not weeping and wailing. You have come here for happiness and joy, because you have come here from a great universal source of light, which we refer to as universal soul or God. You are rooted in the divine Reality, and your origin is the eternal truth. Though different religions give various names to the Supreme Being, It is beyond all these names and forms. It is that one, non-dual Being Who is glorified in all scriptures of the world. That is your divine abode. Your abidance in this physical universe is only temporary. Even while you physically and mentally abide on this earthly plane, in truth, even at this moment, you are abiding in the divine.
This Supreme Reality is pure bliss. You have come out of this bliss, you abide in this bliss, and this bliss is your ultimate goal. How can you avoid bringing this bliss out of yourself and manifesting it in this life? You are the children of light and bliss; yet, if you experience sorrow, it means that your life is not real life. It is the contradiction of the Reality and a negation of the truth. When you negate truth, your life becomes a living falsehood, and then all the miseries of life will start. The sufferings, conflict and grief of the world are the direct result of negating the truth. Once you stop engaging in this unnatural process and you try to affirm truth, then light comes into your life.
God is not a metaphysical abstraction, a mere theological concept or an academic idea. God is the one great Reality that is all-full and perfect. This is the truth and central fact about life—never forget this. Compared to God, everything is a half reality. This great Reality is your goal, and life is meant for its realisation. To ignore this Reality is the greatest loss in your life. God is all blessedness. The more you are connected or related to this Supreme Being, the greater is the peace and joy that come into your life. The more you become aware of this Reality, the more it is that harmony and beauty come into your life. This God is not the sole possession of any particular religion or system of faith; He transcends all religions, and He is beyond the confines of the pages of any scripture. Scriptures are only the attempts to cognise this Reality, but God is beyond the range of thought and the intellect.
You can experience him in the depth of your own inner spiritual nature. The universal Reality that we call God and your own true identity are identical. The mind can only infer the existence of God, but only the spirit can experience spirit. The intellect can at best try to form some concept about the Reality, but it is only given to you to enter and experience It. This is the greatest spiritual experience of which a human being is capable. Therefore, try to lift up your consciousness to that level where it begins to obtain spiritual awareness. In that state of illumined consciousness, you will come face to face with God. To experience God is to experience peace, bliss and joy.
Mankind is searching throughout the world for satisfaction through created objects, but in spite of his lifelong searching, he fails to find happiness. He can only obtain that satisfaction and fullness in God. The created things are finite and imperfect, and the experience that they can give is a relative experience—but not absolute joy. Being limited by space and time, they fail to give us satisfaction that is everlasting. But when we experience God, we attain absolute bliss and peace that passeth all understanding. This experience bestows upon us eternal satisfaction. Countless mystics and sages have obtained this absolute experience, and out of their love for all beings they have proclaimed this truth and shown the way.
Four Things to Always Remember
To move us in the direction of this absolute experience, Master Sivananda used to ask us to remember four things. The first is to remember that this physical life will come to an end. Death is the one universal certainty and cannot be avoided. Remembering death, be active upon this spiritual path. Know that your time here is necessarily limited, and do not postpone your highest welfare. If you do not liberate yourself because you neglect the inner spiritual life, then you will regret it in the end. Side by side with your life as a family person, your life in a profession or as a social being, carry on an active spiritual life.
If you are sincere and earnest, the outer life of normal activity need not interfere with the inner spiritual life that is your real life. Your outer life in this world is only a temporary reality, because in truth you are spirit. Temporarily you are engulfed with physical activity conducted through a transitory physical body. These two currents of your outer and inner life should be carried on earnestly. The more active you are in your spiritual life, the wiser you become. That person comes to grief who neglects the inner life through taking only the outer life as important. He also comes to grief who postpones the inner life. You should not postpone it. You must do it now, because there is an end to this life in death. Therefore, be active on the spiritual path.
The second thing is to remember that the objects of this world cannot give you real happiness. The appearances of these outer objects are very attractive and alluring. They deceive you and get you entangled in them. If you allow yourself to be deluded by these outer sense objects and if you run after them, you will miss your goal. Be wise, and know that these temporary created objects are imperfect. At most they have the capacity to temporarily give you some pleasant sensation. In the ultimate analysis, all that you experience through the contact of your senses with the sense objects is mere biological sensation. Perception of the sense objects depends entirely upon the central nervous system and a network of nerves connecting the brain with the outer senses. Your central nervous system governs the entire range of experience you are capable of having in this world of physical sense objects. Can you say that this is in fact a real experience? If anything goes wrong with any one of these nerves, then that sensation is completely cut off. If the optic nerve goes wrong, the eye becomes sightless, and there is no form, colour or shape for you to see. If the auditory nerve goes wrong, you become deaf and there is no beautiful sound for you at all.
This is the truth you must always bear in mind. You cannot think that these mere physical and biological sensations constitute happiness. Happiness is an inner state of mind. How can you contend that happiness will be found in these mere biological sensations? What is more, these objects that give you these pleasant sensations are equally capable of giving you the same amount of unpleasant sensations. In outer objects there is one cent of happiness and ninety-nine cents of pain. Become aware of the painful nature of this outer universe, and do not get deluded by the outer appearances of these sense objects. Be wise, observe, enquire into the real nature of things, realise their transitory nature, and discriminate between mere sensation and real happiness. Go through life in a spirit of inner detachment and as a master of these outer situations. True happiness is only to be found in the Supreme Reality.
The third teaching is to remember the Supreme Reality or God. You may call this Being Jehovah, Allah, Ahura Mazda, Ishwara, Tao, Nirvana or anything. Names do not matter. This is the one great Reality, and It belongs to you more than anything else belongs to you. Nothing really belongs to you other than This. Have you ever considered what you can take with you when you quit this world? You cannot take even a little rusted needle with you. Your connection to all other things here, including your own body, is only temporary. Therefore, always remember the Supreme Reality. Even as that Reality is the only thing that really belongs to you, in the same way, you only belong to It. Your connection to It is everlasting and permanent. It is the experience of God that enables you to transcend all the pain, sorrow and miseries of this physical life. It is the experience of this Supreme Reality that enables you to rise above the bondage of the senses with the sense objects.
The fourth teaching is to remember the greatness of spiritual wisdom and the great mystics and saints. Remember their ideal lives, lofty examples and their illumined teachings. These great mystics and saints through their lives, teachings and examples show us the real path. They show the manner of living by which we can come face to face with Reality, go beyond all sufferings of earthly life, and become established in a state of immortality. Their ideal lives constitute the path. If you have any type of confusion due to the different types of teachings, philosophies or scriptures, all these doubts can be removed if you contemplate the ideal lives of these great mystics and saints. No matter in which age or country they lived, certain common features unite all the lives of these saints, because they belong to a universal spiritual fraternity. Their goals are identical, and their way of living also is similar. They are the uniting factor in the spiritual life of all mankind. The outer structure of religion may differ, and theology and doctrines may differ, but the lives of the mystics go beyond theology and doctrine to the underlying unity in the spiritual life.
They are all endowed with great hunger and aspiration for the realisation of God, and they all demonstrated noble character and pure conduct—pure in thought, word and deed. They all demonstrated a certain humility and simplicity and a life of righteousness and virtue. Purity was the keynote of their lives. Control of the senses and abstaining from all that is unspiritual and undivine was also a common universal characteristic. Compassion for all creatures, a love for all mankind, and a deep urge to help were all a part of their lives. This is the ideal that the lives of these great saints and mystics demonstrated. Remember and keep before you the shining examples of these great ones. Remember their lofty and noble teachings. Their teachings are the direct path to God-realisation. If you try to walk in their footsteps, you will attain the goal. Attaining the goal you will go beyond all earth experience and attain the state of immortality. Daily remember death and be active on the spiritual path. Don’t become deluded by outer attractions of objects and do not become a slave to them. Be wise and move towards the goal. God bless you.