The Devotee as Inquirer after Truth

From:  "jagbir singh" <adishakti_org@y...>
Date:  Sat May 29, 2004  12:57 am
Subject:  The Devotee as Inquirer after Truth

1."As I grew up, several things began to trouble me about the
fundamentalist religious heritage in which I was born. First, was the
matter of exclusiveness. The people of our denomination felt that
they possessed Truth uniquely and insisted on that idea. It didn't
matter that all other Protestant denominations who differed slightly
from ours did so too, and the Roman Catholics as well. Besides, it
wasn't a case of all those others simply being wrong; they were also
going to be punished for their bad judgment in having chosen not to
ride on the divinely ordained bandwagon. They would have a lesser
place in heaven, or perhaps not reach there at all. And for the vast
non-Christian world, well, it was better not to speculate on the
ultimate fate of those billion or two billion souls.

It seems to me now, and will seem to many who read these words, that
I am referring to some unbelievably quaint, long-vanished period of
human thought. But these ideas were current only a couple of
generations ago, and are accepted avidly by many born-again
Christians even today. Conservative evangelical movements such as the Moral Majority attract multitudes in the United States through
gigantic church programs and television broadcasts. (I shan't even
refer to modern musulmans and communists, who in their fashion are as zealot as we Protestants were.)

How troubling a thought. I asked myself how anyone could be so sure
of this. One didn't have to be overly observant to see that person
was narrow because he was limited, ignorant. Was it intelligent to
conclude that someone who had been born into a different spiritual
tradition and was following it conscientiously should be punished for
not believing as we did? What if you were a native somewhere where no missionary had ever penetrated? And what about those who had lived and died before Christ was born? How could the leaders of our
denomination be so sure that Jews and Muslims and Hindus and
Buddhists—yes, and even for the most part the Roman Catholics—were
not getting something from their faith? What about the elevated
scriptures of other religions and the fact that wise men, undeniable
saints, were known among the pagans? Was not this attitude of
thinking everyone else benighted just a terrible religious

A second problem confronting my adolescent attempts to be a
practicing Christian was that I could never seem to get "saved". As
described in the many sermons I listened to during my early days,
conversion was an occurrence which, when it came, gave you a
particular assurance and miraculously changed you from a bad to a
good person. But to my dismay, although I prayed for it and responded
to altar calls to my fullest ability on several occasions, I could
never achieve this transformation.

A third difficulty was my failure to see how, if God was God, such
differences should be permitted to exist between man and man in
capacity, opportunity, and inclination. I listened to the various
Christian explanations of this; but they added up, it seemed to me,
to one of two conclusions—that God must be either demoniac or
whimsical. If demoniac, how could he be God? And if his acts were
merely capricious, why bother to posit, as responsible for the
universe, the existence of a God at all? Since it seemed only just
that the Director of all creation should practice at least the
minimum code of justice of a good and wise human, I could not accept
the Christian explanation of individual differences.

Fourth, to me the Christian doctrine of history was not reasonable.
It simply did not explain the past sensibly or give you a means for
viewing the present or future. Propounded by that most able public-
relations man of the early church, St Augustine, in his The City of
God, the theory is so familiar as to seem almost law: Creation began
at a certain point in time and is proceeding toward a culminating
event which will continue eternally. Adam was born guiltless, but
tempted by Satan, through his own self-will, fell from his perfect
condition, introducing sin into the world. All men inherit this sin,
and each has his chance—one chance—to come out of it. Some continue
to sin up to their death and are thereafter everlastingly damned;
some, through the mediation of Christ as expressed though the
Catholic Church, gain their redemption and share in an unending
resurrection. History thus becomes essentially a battle between the
powers of God and Satan, from which God must emerge victorious.
Earthly troubles—persecutions, wars, temptations to follow false
gods, and all other evils of past and present—have a purpose: they
are the flails with which God—"our" God, that is, the true God of
the Old and New Testaments—since the beginning of time, has
separated the wheat from the chaff, the elect from the damned. Such
occurrences have been the tools which have fashioned the citizens
with whom He would populate his city of vision, paradise.

What a crude and naive teaching—and how complacent! Everything I
knew was at variance with any straight-line theory of progress; and
time, which is its very cornerstone, had already been proved to be
illusory. The concept of perpetual progress did not square with
common observation. Augustine did not see that the new order he was
promoting was certain—it too to lose eventually its dynamic quality,
as the Roman Empire of his day had done, and to enter, equally, into
its own period of barbarism and decay. Then too, how could one, on
the basis of this Christian theory of history, explain the infinite
age of the universe, the previous decline of great cultures and valid
religions, the rise and fall of animal life, the rhythm of evolution-
involution our eye is witness to from our birth? How indeed to view
the falling off of Christian sanctity, the fracturing of Christian
society and the vulgarization of the Church—that Gate to the City of

And a fifth stumbling block to accepting Protestant dogma was its, to
me, inadequate handling of the problem of evil. There is a force of
evil, personified by Satan; and of good, exemplified by God. Each
wars in this universe, and in mens' hearts, at times one winning, and
at times the other. However the end of the story, as in a western
melodrama, is known in advance; the Good Guy has the greater power
and is sure to triumph in the end.

To this I always said: "Then why does He let it go on—all this mess,
all this suffering? If He really is stronger, why doesn't He put an
end to the agony?

And I was given this answer: "Oh no. We grow by suffering. Evil is
permitted to persist for its chastening value. We are trained by

"But are we?" I would reason. "Is evil a proper tool for a good
Almighty to use?" (Youth is always shocked that God should be less
literal than he!) 'Many are not trained at all—only drowned in the
world's evil. If God is omnipotent, and it's trained people that he
wants, why doesn't He just create us already chastened, finished,

And the answer that I got was: "Because we don't permit him to
Because of the perversity in man's heart. Man wants to do wrong; he
likes doing wrong. He was once perfect, but he chose to turn away. He
chose, as he still goes on choosing, to resist perfection."
I saw, of course, that Christians must take this position, for
without it the whole idea of Christ as special redeemer—on which
Christian theology is based would fall. But really, who can agree
that any human being would choose evil, clear-mindedly prefer to
spurn God? One might be ignorant, impassioned, impetuous, a fool. But would anyone rationally decide to remain permanently perverse,
habituated in a course which must lead to his eventual destruction?
Putting the onus on Adam doesn't help, for is it logical that I
should suffer as a result of an act committed by some individual I
could never have known, thousands of years in the past? And advancing
the theory of predestination that God wants some people to be lost
well that is just a blasphemous teaching; that is, again, making God

That man has a tendency to be less than a saint, that pain may be
educational, was easy to see. But that God should will man to suffer,
or that man should rationally pursue wickedness that I could not and
would not accept.

2. So after many unsuccessful attempts to make a "decision for Christ"
which would work and be permanent, towards the end of my teens, as
already mentioned, I made a trembly, guilt-ridden withdrawal from
church. In deep conflict, I came to the conclusion that I was an
anomaly who must somehow attempt to find Truth through some alternate means.

In Chapter Four I describe how I searched for an ideal in the social
sciences and the gradual disillusionment they afforded. When I
chanced to be told one day by the manager of the hotel where the
American Psychological Association, of which I was a member, was
holding its annual meeting that we adjustment specialists were acting
away from home about as badly as had the Legionnaires when they had
had their convention in that same hotel a few months earlier, I felt
sure that I was engaged in a very dubious quest.

The best proof that I was not on a false trail would be to encounter
a social scientist who was himself well adjusted, or someone who had
been perfected through psychological techniques. I was tired of
listening to mere theorizing as to what great things our programs
might accomplish. I wanted to see someone somewhere who was a proper result of what we preached. It was at this point that I met Harry
Hopkins. It was a thrilling moment. He had always been an ideal. A
trained social worker, a man who had gone through a lengthy
psychiatric analysis, he also had had enormous power, as friend of
and adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt, to put into practice
many of the same ideas we as social scientists supported. He had been
in charge of some of the largest social engineering projects ever
undertaken. I sat beside Harry Hopkins for a couple of hours in a
Pullman chair car traveling from Washington to New York. It was in
July of 1945. Hopkins had just returned from his trip as President
Truman's emissary to Stalin to try to settle the vexing problem of
Poland's independence. Here was a man who, at the height of his life,
should have something hopeful to tell me about scientific
humanitarianism. I questioned Hopkins closely and he answered
frankly. And what did he have to say? That he was defeated; that he
could see no hope for mankind, no solution anywhere. He was sunk in
the deepest despair. He was to die a year later.

Perhaps I should not have been shocked, but I was. And I recalled
other older men I had encountered. When young they were said to have
been courageous and idealistic. But even when successful, as old men
they had become hopeless and defeated, without belief, without peace.
History was full of examples of bankrupt humanitarians. Was that what
I was here for to grow old and disillusioned? Life couldn't be
designed as such a bad joke as that; there must be something perfect
and clean somewhere.

3. Eventually I concluded that for both an end to believe in and an
influence to help me toward it, I was looking in the wrong place.
Reason told me that truth must be somewhere back in the field of
religion, but where? I was disenchanted with my childhood faith.
Roman Catholicism could be discounted at the outset, as more of the
same. In becoming an Episcopalian, I had hoped that something
helpfully atmospheric and artistic might be available from that old
faith. I even approached an Anglican monastic order; but again, more
of the same. I looked into the claims of Christian Science and other
New Thought sects, with their emphasis on sweetness and positive
thinking, and concluded their approach to be superficial. And never
anywhere in all my searches did I find a representative of his faith
whom I felt knew experientially much of what he was talking about.
It was then that the publications of Vedanta came to my attention:
Christopher Isherwood's Vedanta for the Western World; Aldous
Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy; and Swami Prabhavananda's
translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with its classic introduction by
Huxley. And I began to read again the New Testament, with opened
eyes: "And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let
him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For
whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose
his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man
advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast

This was it. Maybe if I had been born a thousand or so years before I
might have found what I wanted in the Christian tradition. But now,
even though put off by some matters oriental as being in dubious
taste, and even though the word Hinduism scared me to death, I had to conclude that what I must have was available only through a religious journey to the East. Hence the shift to Swami Prabhavananda's center and all that that shift set in motion.

4. For me, then, Vedanta was at last the right answer. For people of
this day and age who really want religion, but for one reason or
another cannot find fulfillment in the faith of their heritage, it
offers much. I listed earlier five stumbling blocks I found in the
faith in which I was brought up. I shall mention them again and show
how Vedanta met these problems.

I had been troubled, first, by the conflicting claims of the many
religions and sects. If everyone claims that he has truth, and the
claims are not compatible, can anyone have it? It just made you
wonder whether anyone had or could have the truth; for what could be
more discouraging to the innocent seeker of truth than the mutual
contention which goes on in its support?

The Semitic tradition, for reasons unknown, seems to be
constitutionally exclusive. In the history of Christianity, Judaism,
and Islam, fanaticism is a prominent feature. The occidental mind is
for ever attempting to find and establish truths which are absolute,
unassailable, subject to no contradiction. Indian thought, I found
out, on the contrary, claims that various sorts of seemingly
conflicting views can all be true at the same time, for such kinds of
truths, verbally established, are relative. In studying Vedanta, I
was bewildered at first, and then comforted, to find that no action,
no view, no position is clearly right or wrong in and of itself.
Everything, I was often told, "depends". It can only be said that
that truth is more true then another which leads more directly than
the other towards higher truth. Accept the ideas of the heterodox;
respect superstition; permit the beliefs of your opponent. These,
like yours, are provisional, representing stages. Welcome all
contradictions; they may be somebody else's truths to live by.
But there is a Truth which is not relative, and that is that we are
essentially Spirit. The evolution which is occurring is man's
progress from the belief that he is separate and individual, in his
state of relativity, to the certainty that he is one with God, in
which he goes beyond relativity, beyond truth and untruth. But this,
we are told, is a state never arrived at rationally, but experienced,

Aldous Huxley brought these ideas together in a brief equation which
he called the Perennial Philosophy, first enunciated by the mystic
Bruno Rontini in the Huxley novel Time Must Have a Stop . On other
occasions Huxley spoke of the affirmations making up this formula as
the Highest Common Denominator of spiritual religion, and the Minimum Working Hypothesis:

For those of us who are not congenitally the members of any organized
Church, who have found that humanism and blue-sky domeism are not
enough, who are not content to remain in the darkness of spiritual
ignorance, the squalor of vice or that other squalor of mere
respectability, the minimum working hypothesis would seem to be about as follows:

That there is a Godhead or Ground, which is the unmanifested
principle of all manifestation.
That the Ground is transcendent and immanent.
That it is possible for human beings to love, know and, from
virtually, to become actually identified with the Ground.
That to achieve this unitive knowledge, to realize this supreme
identity, is the final end and purpose of human existence.
That there is a Law or Dharma, which must be obeyed, a Tao or Way,
which must be followed, if men are to achieve their final end.
That the more there is of I, me, mine, the less there is of the
Ground; and that consequently the Tao is a Way of humility and
compassion, the Dharma a Law of mortification and self-transcending

Huxley reexamined this equation in the extraordinary introduction he
contributed to the Prabhavananda-Isherwood Bhagavad-Gita:

At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental

First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized
consciousness—the world of things and animals and men and even gods—is a manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial
realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-

Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the
Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a
direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate
knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.

Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity
within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to
identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine
Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.

Four: man's life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify
himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of
the Divine Ground.

This compact credo gave me the formula needed for viewing conflicting religious claims. So compact, so compatible with world wisdom. I could turn to religion with a broad spirit, without supporting any new provincialism. One may approach the top of a mountain from any side, but when the summit is reached, pathways merge. Climbers may be far apart when they are in the foothills of theology, ritualistic
observances, or organizational practices. Climatic and geographical
causes, historic factors, and group temperaments all make for
different starting points. That is normal. It adds to the richness of
the pageant. Is life in this world not more delectable for the varied
contributions of Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, or indeed even,
say, of Theosophy, Scientology, and Primal Scream Therapy? How
artistic that there should be room for such variety how rich the
texture is, and how much more interesting than if the Almighty had
decreed one antiseptically safe, exclusive, orthodox way. Although he
is Unity, God enjoys, it seems, his recreation, his play, his lila,
in endorsing variety!

But the realization of the highest truth—the Truth that is "truest
of the true"—is all the same realization. For God, when he is found,
the avatars and saints tell us, is One, the One without a second. If
anyone will compare their statements about this, as Huxley does in
The Perennial Philosophy, one must agree. Or if one wants
experimental data from one who proceeded in a scientific spirit,
there are the well-documented reports concerning Sri Ramakrishna, who followed in all orthodoxy one after another the world's great
religious paths, reaching the same Light equally by way of each.

Second, I grew to see that perfection is most unlikely to come
precipitously, instantaneously; and it is illogical to expect that it
should. Do we produce new tissue all of a sudden, become piano
virtuosos or figure skaters in an instant, or reach health, after we
have been sick, in a flash? Do we find any development in nature
occurring without struggle, effort, time? The fabric of the mind, I
saw, is remade most slowly of all. Hence yoga—a word and discipline
I had formerly shied away from as denoting something in objectionable
taste—became to me a course in self-improvement. Adjustable to
individual leanings, yoga provides a variety of practices for the
slow remodelling of the mind and discovery of the Divine Ground. By
recollectedness, by meditation, by repetition of the Name, by
selfless work and abnegation, one might, I began to see, slowly turn
one's moment-to-moment existence into a freeing sacrament.

Third, about individual differences—the inequities we find between
people, and Christianity's unsatisfactory explanation of them.
Through its rejection of the doctrines of reincarnation and karma in
the fourth century, Christianity fashioned for itself, it appeared to
me, a trap from which it was later never able to escape. To me, the
principles of reincarnation and karma seemed, the first time I heard
of them, patently sensible. At ten or so I overheard my parents
talking about an aunt of mine who had taken up Theosophy. "She
believes that people gain salvation by coming back to earth again and
again in different bodies—imagine!"

"Capital," I thought, like a light going on.

Theories of reincarnation and karma tie in with science and explain
individual differences wonderfully: all results have a cause; my
present condition is the result of what I have been, what I have
really wished for; and I may govern my own future by what I am, by
what I wish for now. Thus responsibility is placed on the individual
instead of others, on God, or on some ambiguous fate.

And you have, with reincarnation and karma, a reasonable basis for
social theory. We may say that all men are born free and equal; but
the evidence of our eyes demonstrates that they are not. Still, the
idealistic man is repelled by class, desires to be equalitarian in
outlook. Where reincarnation and karma are accepted, he can be. The
criterion of rank is spiritual unfoldment. Divinity is manifested
more completely in some than in others, and that man is most
estimable in whom it is unfolded most. The real aristocrat is the
saint, the plebian the person of minor spiritual evolution. This is
where the emphasis of class should be. But every man is equally a
repository of the identical indwelling spirit, and must be respected
as such.

Fourth, about religion and history.

Nearly everyone will admit now that we have come to a queer time—of
vulgarity, of disillusionment, of social and psychological
dislocation. After fifteen hundred years of attempting to built
Augustine's City of God, Western man has reached a point where he can see that he has done nothing of the kind, and perhaps question at
last the familiar straight-line theory of history.

Yet there seems to have been for a while a kind of kingdom of heaven
on earth in the West, a social-spiritual youth and flowering. This is
frequently and appropriately called the Age of Faith.

But that was long ago. By the time of the Renaissance the tide had
reached its crest and was beginning to fall back, to run away in a
thousand rivulets which no one could ever rechannel into one stream
again. The Catholic Church tried. But religion had become
institutionalized and dogmatic—unable to adapt itself to changing
needs. As more screens of time and human interpretation came down
between man and the original Christ, spiritual ardor lessened. The
effect of Christianity in shaping faith and morals diminished almost
to the vanishing point. The Church split up, philosophy went off in
various directions, and eventually naturalism appeared as the
prevailing viewpoint. Organized Christianity went firmly on, as
though nothing had happened; but actually religion in the West by the
sixteenth or seventeenth century had come to have very little
influence on life. Most thought which really impelled action stemmed,
as it does today, from naturalistc assumptions.

This was the way I saw what had occurred, and the concept of
historical cycles seemed far more logical to me than any theory of
straight-line progress. It was clear that a scheme of rise and fall
was the law of life. The cyclical theory was prominent in Greek
thought. Some good historians had supported it in the modern period:
Giambattista Vico in the early eighteenth century, and Brooks Adams,
Oswald Spengler, and Arnold Toynbee in our time. The configuration of
a culture's life may be compared to an oblique 5. There is the
commencement, a deliberate rise, the rapid ascent to a height, then a
long tapering off. This cyclic view of history explained where we are
today and how we got here. It also explained the mystery of the many
earlier civilizations which have been but are no more: the glory that
was Rome—and Greece—and Egypt—and Vedic India—and ancient China—and probably countless more.

This was how, by the time I reached Vedanta, I had come to view
history. All that was needed was for Vedanta to supply the missing
modus operandi—what makes a new culture rise in the first place.
This became apparent at once. The massive unifying force which
produces a new culture is the revelation, the life on earth, of a son
of God. It is the advent of a saint or Incarnation which inspires a
new flowering.

It was always understood in India, and is clearly stated in the
Bhagavad-Gita, that God reappears on earth at those sterile times
when goodness grows weak and evil increases. Then he makes himself a body and returns, to reestablish righteousness and deliver the God-
seeker. To an agrarian culture God came as a charming shepherd boy,
in the form of Krishna. The hard-shelled formalism of the day was
broken, as ecstatic love for God flowered once again. In a
civilization of feudalism he appeared as an ideal young prince, who
renounced to become the ascetic Rama. His preaching as Buddha, at a
period when faith had become strangled by a decadent priest craft,
was: Be a lamp unto yourself. Up and down the Judea of Caesar's age
he walked as a familiar kind of prophet, called Jesus, but with a new
message that was to replace obedience with charity, a shop keeping
ethics with love. Many more appearances have been recorded. It is
even said that in times far gone by, when life was all aquatic, the
Lord swam the world's oceans as a superb, exemplary fish!

Considering the modern state of Christian culture, I was prepared to
believe that it was time for God to come anew. Again Vedanta supplied
the needed ingredient. It said that he had. Around the time when
Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States, God, this time
having assumed the form of a temple priest named Ramakrishna, was
giving out a message which would start a new civilization. He was
here, in one of his innumerable second comings, living just north of
Calcutta. Just on the eve of the development of instantaneous
communication and speedy transportation—when the world was becoming one in time and space and must become one in spirit—he had
introduced the new motif of harmony.

I congratulated myself that I was in on it. Somehow I had been lucky
enough, in rejecting the last fragments of the final tapering off of
the old curve, to have landed astride the rising stroke of the brand-
new S. A most entrancing moment in which to be alive! To know where
one is in history is good. To be able to visualize what is going to
happen next is also good. And to be alive at one of the turning
points of man's fate—that is best of all.

And fifth, about my old problem of good and evil.

When Christopher Isherwood was living at the Hollywood Vedanta
Society, and editing the Society's magazine, he wrote a fanciful
little piece—I suspect to fill some last-minute gap in an issue—on
the Kalpataru or wish-fulfilling tree of Indian fable.

Some children are gathered on a lawn with their uncle. He tells them
of this magic tree: "If you speak to it and tell it a wish; or if you
lie down under it and think, or even dream a wish, then that wish
will be granted. It is over there. It is called a Kalpataru."
So the children try out the magic of the tree. They run to the
Kalpataru and, looking up into its serene branches, address to it all
their desires. Most of the wishes are very unwise. Many of them end,
Isherwood tells us, "in indigestion or tears". But the wishing tree
fulfills them just the same; it is not interested in giving good

Years pass. The children are all men and women now. They have long
since forgotten the Kalpataru in their uncle's garden. They have
found new wishes and are trying to fulfill them. At first the aim of
their lives is to get these wishes granted; but later on it is just
the opposite. The whole effort finally is to find wishes which will
be very hard—even impossible—to fulfill.

What we are to understand is that the whole Creation is a giant
Wishing Tree. A branch extends into every heart. Whatever longing
rises there, some force, some justice, operates so that some time or
other—in this life or another—it will be granted. Granted, yes—
along with its attendant retinue of consequences, life's indigestions
and tears.

As I studied Vedanta I found this idea just, practical, and
intellectually satisfying. We may—we must—have everything we want.
In fact, this creation is nothing but our desires in substantial
form; and one's own condition in it something one oneself has
ordained—a vehicle one's soul has fashioned best capable of
traveling the trails his dreams have laid down, qualified, of course,
by the consequences.

The universe we see is relative. It is not good or bad; it is just
relative. The Indian term for it is maya. It is built up of pairs of
opposites: pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, fulfillment and
frustration. To claim the pleasant is to gain, equally, the painful;
to grasp joy is, as well, to hold sorrow. We find this out; we have
disappointment after disappointment. Yet we go on seeking; we go on
wishing. We cannot do otherwise, for something in us will not give
up; something in us goes on commanding us to persist aso as to gain
the perfect joy.

The motivation, Vedanta told me, is the longing to know God, to
discover the real Ground of our being. We don't know that's what
attracts us, for maya has obscured that real self. But it is the
hunger to know God which produces this restless search through many
lives. Every movement of the heart is an obscured wish for God. We
don't know it, but that's what it is. The drunkard's search for bliss
in a bottle is a search for God. Human love is would-be mystic union.
The famine for delight, for experience, for meaning, the pursuit of
beauty—all the fluttering of the bird that would escape to a larger
air. We keep trying to reach the sun by shinnying up every lamp-post.
Eventually you catch on to the swindle. Finally, after you have tried
everything an achieved the same sense of frustration for perhaps the
hundredth or the thousandth time, in sheer exhaustion you give up
attempting to find the absolute in the relative. That is what, I
learned, is called the dawning of discrimination. You perceive at
last what bad is, if there is such a thing; it is the ignorant hunt
for light in the shadows; it is confusion of the relative with the
Real; it is false identification. You grasp at last—again if there
is such a thing—what good is too: anything which helps to break the
hallucination; anything which shatters the apparent so that the Real
may shine forth. Then you reach out to catch the mind and wrestle
with it, and hold it back from its running. That is what renunciation
is. And the way you get the strength to reverse the direction of your
mind, and the skill to do it, is through meditation and allied
spiritual practices. Meditation is creation in reverse—a
dehypnotizing process.

That was Swami Prabhavananda's immediate advice to me when I met him for the first time in November of 1948. I had asked it of others, now I asked it of him—in effect: "Lord, what must I do to be saved?"

"Meditate, meditate, meditate," was the Swami's response.

Once, when upset about some terrible and seemingly meaningless
trouble that had come into another's life, I spat out to
Prabhavananda: "What a mess! How poorly God designed this universe.
The most debased of us could have done it better."

Swami's response was: "No. He designed it very well; because the way
he designed it brings us to him."

All life is struggling upward. The vulture tearing at dead flesh, the
liar trying to improve his situation through falsehood, the
highwayman robbing to get comforts for his family—each is aspiring
to something better than he has known; and each of these I have been.
So with the madman, the murderer, the philanderer. One cannot
apologize, nor should one regret, because it is this sort of error
which makes one turn from error.

Why does the world exist? That is like asking why the first acts of a
play exist: to make possible the perfect ending. This world drama was
composed to provide a meeting at last between lover and beloved. The
scenes of comedy and joy; the stretches of stupid melodrama; the
episodes of tragedy; the sub-plots and false climaxes—all are
necessary to built up suspense and create a crashing climax.

God thus, according to Vedanta, does not decree good and evil. He has
nothing to do with such matters. Where relativity is, there he is
not. Where he is, relativity is not. Take your choice; if you choose
relativity, do not try to involve God in it. If you choose God—and
in time each man shall—you will wring your hands a good deal less
about the problem of good and evil.

This seemed to me to be satisfactory and logical.

5. Vedanta appealed to the Devotee as inquirer after Truth, hence,
because it is so attractive rationally; it allows one to be
cosmopolitan, permissive, broad. It furnishes a psychologically sound
program for personal growth and development. Its tenets square with
discoveries of modern science—as a veritable cascade of new books on
physics as mysticism and mysticism as physics demonstrates—and
furnishes a basis for equitable social practice. Vedanta illuminates
history. And Vedanta copes successfully—or as successfully as
anything can—with the problem of good and evil.

This, then, is what Vedanta means, or has come to mean, to me."

The Devotee as Inquirer after Truth


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