Thursday, 16 July 2020

Divine Heartache 2/3 - Practical Advaita Vedanta

Dealing with Spiritual Sadness
First Basic Delusion: Identification of yourself with the physical body
The first great basic delusion you have to get over is the identification of yourself with the physical body. The form of language in vogue in this material age of ours has much to answer for in this egregious error that has taken root in us. Even in childhood our susceptible nature is broken upon the wheel of this crushing blunder when we hear all around us sounds of “I go”, “I come", and so on, when it is merely the physical envelope that is seen to perform the act. The ascetics of India are the only people who always speak of “Sarira" as distinct from themselves and thus take care not to mislead people into an erroneous belief. Consider within yourself, without being deluded by the false notions floating around you, and begin to think of this body as nothing better than the house you have to dwell in for a time, and then you will never yield to its temptations. Wherein, dear friend, does the mass of flesh you are not ashamed to call yourself, differ from the tree in your garden ? Does not the axe cut it, the fire burn it ? Does it not wither and die even more rapidly ? What better than the air and water that supply nourishment to the tree is the food you eat with so much relish ? Ah! sad fate! amazing fall! you who are a God, yet revelling in the delight of flesh and blood! And lo ! you are enamoured of this fantastically shaped puppet, and spend your invaluable life in decorating and clothing it in strange garbs, so that other puppets may bend before it. Answer candidly if this mere puppet-show is worth your life's devotion. Serve the body only if it helps you in serving your God; otherwise it were far better for you that it should perish and be scattered in pieces, than serve the purpose of creating a host of delusions to enslave you. Work for it never so faithfully, it will inevitably betray you some day; so take warning while yet there is time. Sink into nothingness all concerns about its comforts, and, awakening to the true object for which you are born, devote every moment of your time in advancing towards the centre of Light that is beckoning you from afar.

Conquer the passions and begin to love the Unseen Principle
When you have in some degree realized the insignificance of the gross body, you will begin to doubt if the idea of self, which springs up almost entirely from the sensations derived from the body, is really your true Self. How can the world, in relation to which alone the false self exists, have any more reality or permanency than a dream, when there is absolutely no proof of the objective existence of matter apart from the cognizing mind? Analyze thus constantly the phantom to which you have given the name of self and reflect upon its illusory character. Try also with consistent attempts to conquer the prominent weaknesses of your nature by developing thought in the direction that will kill each particular passion. Are you home-sick ? Then will you tell us, dear brother, what is it that attracts you ? Is it the fond caresses and sweet speech of your relatives ? Know you not that all your connection with the persons you regard as your own, arises from the body, and that even while you are enjoying their embraces, if the machine stops, they are the first to turn you out of doors ? Cease then to love any forms of clay. You will not thereby be deprived of the only fire that makes life divine. Begin to love the Unseen Principle, set all your affections on him, and you will then bask beneath the Sun of Love from which at present only a few stray rays now and then pierce through the darkness of your heart. Be home-sick as passionately as you can, but let it be the true home that you long for and not a pile of bricks. Again, are you sensitive to the injustice and vile slanders of people around you ? Then ask yourself why you suffer. Is it not wholly due to your own actions, and would you not have suffered as certainly and as bitterly if the person against whom you are irritated had never existed ? Why then indulge angry feelings against the unfortunate person who has merely formed the instrument of the Law? Pity rather the poor mortal who has thus added to the heavy burden of his sin. Pray heartily for the erring brother that the iron will of Karma, which never stops, may not grind him utterly to dust. This you can do only by having a firm faith in Karma. This, on serious thought, all weakness will be found to arise in some error; use head and heart to drive it out.

The vacuum of the heart, the painful blankness
Your first efforts in this direction, however, are likely to prove discouraging. Not only will you be unable to observe any signs of development, or to feel any nearer the spiritual Light, but on the other hand you will find yourself sinking under such a deadweight as will make you stagger, and doubt if it will ever be in your power to lift it up. Your incipient efforts have now detached you from objects of sense only in so far that you cannot take anything like your original delight in friends, relatives or amusements; but they have not yet supplied you with the true ambrosia that cannot only fill their place, but absorb your whole being into itself; you begin to feel a sort of indescribable vacuum in your heart — we say indescribable, because nothing akin to that painful blankness is felt even in the saddest moments of worldly life. Particularly will this terrible monster of hollowness oppress you when you wake up from sleep; because on the dream-plane you will find yourself attracted to and made happy in your former delights; but as soon as you open your eyes, you find yourself, with a suddenness that takes your breath away, transplanted into a land of nameless horror, where there is nothing that can give you a moment's pleasure. The very fountain from which you now and then received refreshing draughts of the elixir seems to be dried up for ever, and for some time you walk upon the earth a disconsolate being under a grim shade, without one ray of hope or joy to cheer you. Here it is that the poor souls that are not firm-footed, stumble. But you, noble aspirant — you who would fain enter the sanctuary of truth — Despair not ! Doubt not! Falter not! beloved of the sages — for here it is that glorious saints are waiting with cups of infinite bliss for you, will you but take one more step undismayed.

Persevere and the clouds will break
There would be greater reason to doubt the law of expansion by heat (because certain organic substances contract by heat, owing to the moisture they contain), than for you to doubt the final expansion of your soul because of the apparent contraction you may be experiencing. Know you not it is but the driving out of the rheum and the filthy moisture of your heart. Regard this shade, then, as the soft twilight heralding the rise of the sun of Ananda (spiritual bliss). Pursue your determined course with undaunted courage and the clouds will break. The weight under whose pressure you had all but succumbed, will then be lifted up, and your heart will spring back into the free air with an elasticity unknown before. Once more the life-imparting stream of your soul begins to flow, but it is more continuous, and its waters more tranquil and pellucid. Once more you are blessed with “angelic visits", but not “few and far between " as before. Remember, that sadness is by no means the unmitigated evil it is supposed to be, and that there is a limit to the pain caused by it. When that limit is passed you enter quite unexpectedly into a region of unthought-of beauty, just as a ray of light is refracted or broken until the critical angle is reached, after which refraction gives place to the perfect reflection called “total reflection".
Sadness has two stages: the painful and the serene
Bear in mind that sadness has two stages. First, the painful, which is almost the only one known to the ordinary material man; and second, the serene, into which the first gradually merges in the case of comparatively pure persons even as calm follows storm. In fact, on surviving the first terrible blow of despondency, you will learn the novel lesson that sadness is not after all the fabled vulture devouring the heart of Prometheus to eternity. You will no longer dread it and fly impatiently from it, but will try to use it as a ladder to ascend to the clear sky. You will recognise it as the shadow of the Light that shines beyond. It is only in the Cimmerian darkness of all-absorbing material occupation that there is neither light nor shadow. Sometimes when the serenity of your soul will be marred by some worldly engrossment, sadness will prove a welcome guest — nay, you will yearn to fly to it for refuge, so that it may infuse into you the calm of a life the busy world knows nothing about, and for which your heart pines. You would much rather have your soul drowned in the sweetness of melancholy, than lost in the noisy hubbub and meaningless laughter of what is called social life.
Brother I do not hastily turn round and say: Would you then deprive man of his sole delight, the capacity for laughter? No, indeed !We are only suggesting the replacing of mimicry by reality — by that centre from which radiate beams of cheerfulness not only lighting up the gloom of men, but piercing to the very heart of the earth. Laugh, then, the laugh of the Spirit, if you can, otherwise keep silent. “Silence is golden", is an old saying, but if we may be permitted the liberty of altering it a little we should say, " Silence is the philosopher's stone". Ordinarily it is golden, because it is of the greatest use to us even in our ordinary dealings with men, but when directed towards the contemplation of the Supreme, it becomes a true philosopher's stone. All objects which then come within its influence instantly borrow its charm, and reflect a beauty so exquisite that we feel as if everything around us had suddenly changed into something brighter and nobler. Silence, therefore, is essential for the neophyte. When, however, it proves oppressive — as it will sometimes — then talk if you will, but talk, as far as may be, only on subjects allied to what you have made the aim of your life. When the mind is fatigued by continuous meditation, or when it is rambling, books on spiritual subjects are of great help, but much depends on your selection of such books and how you read them. Your object in study should not be, as is usual with men, a confused mixture of obtaining a tremendous amount of information, and of finding a sort of sedative amusement for the intellect. You should have a well-defined purpose in view — and need we say what that should be ? Surely none other than to achieve that which you have made your life-effort — Soul-elevation. You must, therefore, read little and think more, in order to " feed the flame of thought". Give up all desire of turning into a gourmand, devouring a heap of sundry books. Oh I how gladly would we part with a whole library of books for one such invaluable gem as the Bhagavad-Gita, Light on the Path, The ldyll of the White Lotus, or Sowing and Reaping (Chatterji, Mohini. The Theosophist, May-Sept. 1886). With one such book in your hand, ponder well till you find yourself absorbed into the Spirit of Truth. " Read to live, and do not live to read." 

Gyanbhikshachari.  Divine Heartache. The Theosophist. Volume 8, No. 9. June 1887, pp. 549-57).

Part 3

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