(In the four following chapters I quote largely from studies of their faith written by great Indians ancient and modern.)
It is taught in India that there are four roads, by each of which Yoga may be attained: perfect Yoga being understood to signify the concentration on or union with the universal Self which produces Realization, release from ignorance, liberation of the soul, and the powers. They are the Way of Action, the Way of the Intellect, the Way of Love and Devotion, and the Royal Yoga, which leads directly to the possession of the supernormal powers. A little should be said of each of the first three before passing on to the last, for it is not everyone who can, even if he would, devote himself to the hard discipline there prescribed, and there is a way for all--even for the very simple or the highly intellectual--to approach the knowledge of the
powers latent within himself. I have thought that the well-known parable of the Christ referring to the men who possessed the talents alludes to this very thing, for all have this mine within themselves if they care to dig for the silver, gold or diamonds it contains, each in their relative value. One man is condemned by the Christ because he hid his talent in a napkin and did not trouble himself further; the others made varying uses of theirs, and the moral drawn is the necessity of diligence in the pursuit of the real Wisdom.
There is a beautiful Indian parable illustrating the truth that each of these Yogas or disciplines leads straight to possession of the supernormal powers of body, mind, and spirit:--
A king in India used to demand of every great ascetic who possessed all the occult powers, "Which is the greater man--he who gives up the world to attain them or he who lives in the world and performs his duties as a householder?" Some said, "He who gives up the world." But when he demanded proof they could not prove this and he compelled them to marry and become house-holders. There came one day an ascetic with a
face of wisdom, and on the king's questioning him he replied:
"The householder and he who forsakes the world are equally great: each in his own way. Come with me and I will prove it."
And the king agreed.
So they went on a long journey to the chief city of another kingdom and there was all the rejoicing tumult of a high festival, for the beautiful princess, daughter of the king, was to choose her husband according to the ancient custom of India. Amid the assembled court and in view of the people she would throw a garland about the neck of her choice and none would question her will. And the king and the ascetic stood to see what she would do. Near them stood a young ascetic of such amazing beauty that the eyes of all followed him, and when the princess was borne in, radiant in loveliness, she too saw him, and cast her garland about his neck, thus choosing him for her husband. And the crowd rejoiced, for his was a heart-winning and spiritual beauty. He took the garland from his neck and gave it to her, saying with calm:
"My heart is fixed on other things. To me this is nothing." And he left the assembly, making
his way to the great forest, leaving behind him love, beauty, wealth and a kingdom, as if all were dross.
The princess sprang from her jeweled throne and followed him on foot, drawn by Love, the great Seducer, but he neither turned nor looked at her and so going steadfastly onward was lost in the forest; and there the king and his teacher, when they followed, found her sobbing and alone. And it was late in the evening.
So, taking pity, they said to her:
"Here is a great tree. We will all rest under it and tomorrow we will restore you to your father."
A bird's nest was in the tree where he lived with his wife and three nestlings. And looking down he saw and said:
"Wife, what must we do? Here are guests and it is winter and they have no fire to warm them." So he flew away and finding a small burning stick dropped it before them, and they lighted a fire.
Still watching, he said:
"Wife, they have no food. On us lies the duty as householders and hosts of providing it. I must do my part, I will give them my body."
And he flew down into the flame and was killed, and the bird-wife seeing this, said:
"Here are three persons and only one little bird for them to eat,--it is not enough. Also it is my duty to second my husband's endeavor."
So she too flew down into the fire, and the little ones accepting it as their duty also followed the example their parents had set them and fulfilled the guest-right, going cheerfully to death.
The princess, the king and the ascetic could neither eat nor sleep in beholding the action of the creatures who showed such high nobility. And next morning the two men restored her to her father. Then said the sannyasin (ascetic) to the traveling king:
"You have now seen that each is equally great in his own place. If you live in the world, hold yourself ready like these birds at all times to sacrifice yourself for the love of others. If you renounce the world resemble that young man whom neither love nor beauty nor wealth could tempt from the straight way of the spirit. But remember this always: The duty of the one is never the duty of the other."
And the king went home, comprehending. So ends the parable.
Now this first means of approach to the true occult is so simple as to be within reach of all who have the faintest glimpse of desire for progress and power in the only world that is real--the world of the Hidden, the Beautiful, the True--the universe of Power. It is called the Yoga of Action. And the first instruction is: Consider your ideal,--the self which you would be if you could choose. Consider it even from the point of view of the so-called palpable world about you, and having considered proceed to realize it in yourself. It may be very far from a perfect ideal but at the moment it is your best and therefore it clearly indicates the path along which you must travel to the Land behind the Looking Glass. No two ideals can be, or indeed ought to be, the same, and this was recognized in India in the four great divisions of caste to which I must not diverge at present.
The first definite rule is that a man must labor steadfastly at the duties he has chosen or that have chosen him, and that, doing this faithfully, the results must not trouble him. They are not his concern. Example. Benefit others in so far as it is possible, but do not let the question of their gratitude or ingratitude trouble you.
[paragraph continues] Accomplish to the limit of your powers, but if they attract the world's notice set no value on the fame they bring. That is not your concern, and the reason why it is not is obvious. The desire for fame is one of those things on which the sense of personality, selfhood, egoism, feeds and fattens. Therefore it stands as a lion in the way of achievement in a system which demands oblivion of self and realization of union.
It is unnecessary to recite the moralities common to all humanity (it may almost be said) of duties to parents, husband, wife, children, friends, the poor, and as a citizen. But there are instructions in this Indian system of Yoga as a means to an end which differ from the Christian ideal and are certainly worth consideration.
The householder is to work as an ordinary man at his profession and the things which concern him and his family. The profession must not be one which in itself implies wrong-doing. He must do his best to succeed in his profession and the acquisition of wealth by fair means is in no way forbidden. He is to be a center in life and in social matters and the distribution of his wealth along right lines will advantage all. The house-holder who acquires wealth by good means and
for good purposes is walking the Way (though it is another Way) to the same end as surely as the ascetic. In him we see a different aspect of the selfsame virtues of self-surrender and self-oblivion. He must not gamble, however; he must not move in the companionship of the wicked; he must speak the truth always. He must speak gently. He must not be the cause of trouble to others. The householder by aiding great social aims goes toward the same goal as the greatest yogin beyond the bondage of the three spheres. If the householder dies in battle fighting for his country and faith he comes to the same goal as the yogin does by meditation.
But now comes the difficult part. The freedom of the soul is the goal of all Yoga however reached. By action men may attain the same goal which the Christ gained as a Bhakti (the path of utter love and devotion) or the Buddha as a Jnana (that of high intellect and philosophy). But how is he who lives and works in the ordinary concerns of the world "to free his soul"?
He is to work like a master, not a slave; his work is never to bind or attach his soul. It is all to be done through freedom and love, for all
selfish work is slave's work. When a man can love his wife, children, countrymen, mankind, the world and the universe, and when his actions spring from that root, he is a true yogin of work, and his spirit is unattached and winged.
Do you ask a return from your children for what you have done for them? Do so no more. Work for them and let the matter end there. In what you do for persons, cities, or the State, expect nothing in return. If you hold the position where all you give is given without the least thought of return and as a free offering to the world, then your work will never bind you. Attachment follows only when return is expected.
So in the sacrifice made by the householder-birds in the parable quoted above, no fetters held them to life and they were free as the immortal gods. Surely the Yoga of action, of the man who lives in the world, is at least as difficult as that of the ascetic, and it is no wonder that It should lead him straight into the hidden heart of Reality and Power.
And here I will use another Indian parable which illustrates this Yoga of action.
A young sannyasin (ascetic) had given himself to the strictest Raja Yoga discipline. Meditating in the forest one day some leaves fell about him and looking up he saw a crow and crane fighting. Fury possessed him at the insult to his quiet, and a flash of fire shot from his head and destroyed the birds. He rejoiced to recognize power and to feel himself a yogin of full attainment. He went into the town to beg his bread as usual and, at the entrance of a house, called: "Mother [the usual Indian address], give me food.''
"Wait a little, my son," said a voice from within.
Pride at once assailed him and in his heart he thought:
"Wretched woman--how dare you keep me waiting!"
Instantly the voice answered:
"You are thinking too much of yourself. Here is no case of the crow and the crane."
Dumb with astonishment at this, he waited until the woman came with her alms and then he fell at her feet.
"Mother, how could you know?"
"My son, I know no Yoga practices. I am an ordinary woman, but all my life have struggled to do my best. My husband was ill. I could not leave him and so you had to wait. And such duties, as daughter and wife, are all the Yoga I have ever practiced. But since I know so little, go on and you will find a butcher from whom you may learn much."
And he was horrified and startled because in India the butchers belong to the class of the "untouchables." There are none so low. But he could do nothing but go on until he saw before him the butcher at his revolting work. And looking at the young sannyasin the man said:
"The woman sent you to me. Be seated, please, until I am ready."
He waited, and the butcher finished his day by serving his parents and then turned to the sannyasin.
The young man questioned him on the high subjects of Yoga and in answer the butcher spoke like one inspired, delivering a discourse that contained the highest flights and concentrated essence of the Vedanta philosophy. And when he had finished his great teaching the young ascetic asked:
"Sir, why, with your knowledge, do I find you thus?" And the man answered;
"No duty is ugly; none is impure. To this I was born, to this devoted. But I have done my best, and I serve my parents and fulfil my duty as a householder. I know no Yoga, nor have I ever left the world. But illumination has found me because I have worked with a spirit free and unattached."
This parable perfectly illustrates the point that the feeble may confute the wise. These two, the woman and the butcher, had received the great Illumination. So much for the Yoga of Action.
Next follows the Yoga of Intellect, and here I own I always picture the mathematicians leading with their pure and austere knowledge, though of course it is not necessarily so. This is the Yoga that walks fearlessly along the mountain-peaks of the highest intellect, which from its own altitudes sees through and over the lies of the senses and knows that the world is far other than it appears. Here I must use the word "maya"--so often used in the Western world to signify "illusion" in the belief that such is its
[paragraph continues] Sanskrit signification. But its real meaning may more truly be described as "phenomena," and as representing the world of appearances which the untrustworthy senses report to us. They are not illusions, though an Indian sect at one time argued that point of view, but they are things wrongly perceived through a medium which presents them to us as they are not, so that we take them as it were by the wrong handle and cannot use them as we should and could if we knew them as they are.
There is a passage from one of the ancient Indian books which sums up the meaning of "maya" very finely.
"Because we talk in vain and are satisfied with the things of the senses, and because we are running after desires, therefore we cover the reality as it were with a mist."
And again in one of the ancient books:
"Know nature to be Maya, and the Mind, the ruler of this Maya, to be the Lord himself."
Now, in a very deep sense, the highest, most piercing, most searching form of intellect may most truly become the Lord of Maya, in the sense that it may by sheer luminance of insight so light up the misleading forms which the senses
offer us as to make them transparent and see through them to the truth behind. Of this form of Yoga the Buddha is the highest known example.
He had practiced the ascetic discipline of the Raja Yoga to which I devote the whole chapter following this, but certainly also he cast it aside, perceiving another path upon which his super-normal intellect could lead him. There is nothing more interesting to those who care for such things than to study the deep reasoning contemplation to which he gave himself under the Tree and to read the stages by which it soared through all the clouds and mists of the senses until it reached the (to others) almost unbearable illumination of pure truth--naked but radiant. Naturally the powers followed such strength like tamed hounds, and from his height he surveyed them and found them comparatively meaningless because he beheld things so far above and beyond them.
There is no intellect, probably, that could tread the path of the Buddha, but such insight into causes clears the way for other minds belonging in their lesser degree to the same order, and this is the road that the great philosophers,
mathematicians, scientists, and others like them may tread to the Land behind the Looking Glass. They will search into the question of man's boasted "individuality," and will find that it does not exist. The body is a flux of constantly changing particles, the mind an ever-changing whirl-pool passing from the imbecility of the infant to the imbecility of unmemoried old age, and through all this Maya they will pierce and find their way to the One and Unchanging of which we are all a part. They will realize at last, by their sheer power of destroying interposing veils by reasoning, that the "individuality" of man is a distortion of the truth; that only infinite Spirit is individual, that nothing infinite can ever be divided or changed, and that every man is in himself the infinite, the unchanging, though the phenomena of life, while they are believed to be real, make him appear to change, like colored lights playing upon white surfaces.
And when a man has realized this he knows that the universe is his and he, and the secret places of the universe are as open to him as the street in which he lives--and more so--and the occult is the happy alphabet of the new language the psyche in him has learned to speak. Of
course he cannot tell all he knows, for, as has been said, it takes two to tell the truth--the one to hear and the other to speak,--and there are not many yet capable of hearing the truths that the yogin who has trodden the road of reasoning can tell. "There are a few whose eyes are not darkened with dust. They will hear. None others."
It would not be suitable or possible to open here all the high teachings on this head. They need a volume of their own. Their watchword is realization of the great truth, "Thou art That." By pure intellect and reason a man may gain the truth that the universe is one and he one with it, and having gained this eternal foothold he knows the central truth of the central thought of ancient India.
"He that seeth about him the manifold goes from death to death."
He who sees the One has beheld the Vision and holds power in the hollow of his hand. So much for the intellect and reason.
The third Yoga is known as Bhakti Yoga, and this way is open to all who possess passionate love and devotion to the occult, the Hidden Treasure. There is no Yoga that is not based on renunciation, for the reason that the individual self must
be forgotten or it obscures all the rest of the universe. But this third Yoga dreams on self-renunciation, adores it, is absorbed in it. It sends rays of love to all that lives and moves and has its being, and in a sense this is the easiest Yoga of all because no renunciation is difficult where there is love. If a man loves the marvelous animal life which lives beside us and which, as Cardinal Newman said, man as a whole understands less than he does the archangels, is it difficult to him to refrain from killing, wounding, maltreating those whom science knows to be our brothers, or slaying them for food? No, indeed. And it may be added that their lover secures for himself joys wholesome, clean, uplifting to the true Yoga and understanding, which the man with a gun or knife can never know. If the heart is given to another all service for him is pure and exquisite joy, and so, in reading the lives of the saints, Eastern or Western, one sees that actual pain became pleasure when the call of the Divine was heard. The martyrs swept the flames about them like water, the tortures of the dungeons were assuaged with secret passionate incomprehensible joys. And, as the Swami Vivekananda has said, the path of love is the easiest advance to
the higher consciousness because the lover does not lament the loss of what he has left behind. I myself should add that nothing is ever left behind,--all is included and carried on. (I condense.)
"A man loves his own city, then his country, and the intense love for his little city subsides smoothly, naturally. He learns to love the whole world and his fanatical patriotism for his own country drops off without pain. An uncultured man loves the pleasures of the senses, then, as he becomes cultured, he begins to love intellectual pleasures, and sense-enjoyments mean less and less to him. So, when he gets into a plane higher than the intellect or that of inspiration he finds a state of bliss in which all pleasures of the senses and even the intellect become as nothing. When the moon shines the stars dim.
"And when this love and adoration reach supreme devotion the man is free. He resembles the ship in the fable which coming near the magnetic rock lost all its iron bars and bolts, and his fetters drop. The adorer, the lover of the highest, need not suppress his emotions [as in the other Yogas] but needs only to intensify and direct them to the highest."
When this point is attained the yogin sits smiling, enthroned above pain or change. I suppose in our own Scriptures that St. John may be taken as the type of the Bhakti-yogin, the man who has attained through utter love and devotion; and it is very clear that he was regarded by the early Christians as a mighty master of the powers, as much as, if not more than, St. Paul, who may rather be regarded as a yogin of pure intellect. This is not to say that the yogin of intellect does not love and that the yogin of love is incapable of reason, but each has trodden a different road to the occult. Both have lost the impeding ego, though by different inspirations.
I might give many illustrations of the three great paths of Yoga which have been trodden in the West, though perhaps with a less definite consciousness of the goal ahead than in the East, but I have said enough to indicate their significance and to urge some readers to study these ways in a deeper degree for themselves. It cannot be denied that in these three there is a way for every one to the occult and the powers, from the simplest to the greatest and most highly developed soul.
In the following chapters I treat of a Yoga far
less known and practiced in the West than in the East, though in many a lonely monastery and cloister in Europe the road was unconsciously and therefore ignorantly followed which guides the eagle flight of the psyche to union and the powers. Yet let it not be thought that Raja Yoga--the royal Yoga--is greater in any way than the other three. It may perhaps in some respects be a straighter if a harder road, though even that is open to question. What may be said to anyone whom the irresistible music of the unseen draws is this: Take the road in which you can move most simply, steadfastly and easily to attainment. Each has his own Yoga.