The most natural way
Extract from a talk by Sant Kirpal Singh in Philadelphia, USA, Sept. 13th, 1955
Ethical life is a stepping stone to spirituality. Right conduct is a prerequisite for spiritual progress. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Purity of heart is very necessary for a pilgrim on the Path, for without it one cannot see the Light of God and hear the Voice of God. All scriptures speak of it. The Sermon on the Mount is clear enough on this point. In it Jesus deals with the realities of life. References to the “single eye” and the “Kingdom of God within,” etc., pertain to the inner life. The inner and the outer are interdependent. Jesus has dealt with both the aspects of life: outer as well as inner. We have therefore to go step by step.
Buddha also laid great stress on right living and enunciated the Eightfold Path of righteous living for his followers. In fact, he never uttered a word about God as he knew that the God experience would follow of necessity when the ground was prepared. The Hindu scriptures too say the same thing. I came across a book the other day which a Buddhist scholar brought to me. The author tried to show that Jesus Christ was not unacquainted with the teachings of Buddha. This is a matter for research and not for discussion. Nevertheless, the Christian teachings are almost parallel to the teachings of Buddha, so much so that the two seem to be almost identical.
Ethical life, as said before, precedes spiritual life. It consists of righteous living with life dedicated to the highest ideals: to wit,
- Chastity or purity in thought, word and deed, for chastity is life and indulgence is death;
- Universal love or love for all living creatures – in this way the self expands and tries to embrace the totality in one single sweep;
- Selfless service, or service before self, which stems from the great reservoir of love for God, the very source and fountainhead of life;
- Love and service naturally lead to ahimsa or non-violence, even in thoughts and words, what to speak of deeds;
- Truthfulness – it comes in as a natural efflorescence from the above, for then one begins to be true to one’s self. Of truthfulness or true living, Guru Nanak says, “Truth is higher than everything but higher still is true living.”
These, then, are the five cardinal virtues or the five aspects of ethical life and these above all else pave the way Godward. Christ emphatically speaks of these in his beatitudes for he himself was an embodiment of purity and love and truth.
Suppose you said that you had reached the higher spiritual planes, that you were the mouthpiece of God, but you were having the qualities of an ordinary man, then how could anyone believe you? That is why Nanak says, “True living is higher still.” True living is the stepping-stone to having the spiritual experiences which are recorded in the scriptures.
All Masters who came in the past were the children of light. Whenever they came, they gave light to all the world. They came not for one nation, for one country, for one social religion or another, but for all mankind, to lead them back to their Father’s home. Whatever they found helpful on the Godway, they recorded in their scriptures. “I am the light of the world, and he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,” said Jesus.
All these scriptures are with us. They are all true and contain the experiences with Truth which these Masters had in their lives. When you look into them, you will see that their thoughts are all parallel and at places even the wording is similar. Of course, they used different languages; but the import is the same.
These scriptures or holy books we have to understand. But how? We can do so only at the feet of those who have had the same experiences described in the scriptures. Suppose some people come to visit Philadelphia from abroad. When they return to their different countries, they record in their own particular language what they have seen. If you were to read their accounts, you would find that they agree on the salient features, but in certain matters there may be differences in details – one giving a full description of one particular thing and another omitting the details altogether. If you have seen Philadelphia yourself, you would find no contradictions at all in the various accounts, but if you have not, you may be confused and bewildered and be unable to reconcile the differences in the different accounts. Similarly, the scriptures we have with us are travelogues of those who trod the Inner Way, describing how they rose above body consciousness, what they experienced on the Way, what helped them in their journey, and what retarded their progress. The description of all these things is given in the holy scriptures. Now the man who has himself traveled on the Godway knows what the scriptures are speaking about and can explain them to us, logically reconciling what may appear to be inconsistencies to the novices on the path who have not yet learned to delve deep beneath the surface.