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The first of these qualifications is discrimination, and this is usually taken as the discrimination between the real and the unreal which leads you to enter the path. It is this, but it is also much more; and it is to be practiced, not only at the beginning of the path, but at every step of it every day until the end. You enter the path because you have learned that on it alone can be found those things that are worth gaining. People who do not know work to gain wealth and power, but these are at most for one life only and therefore unreal. There are greater things than these—things that are real and lasting; when you have once seen these, you desire those others no more.
In the entire world there are only two kinds of people—those who know and those who do not know; and this knowledge is the thing which matters. What religion we hold, to what race we belong—these things are not important; the really important thing is this knowledge—the knowledge of God's plan for us. For God has a plan and that plan is evolution. When once we have seen that and really know it, we cannot help working for it and making ourselves one with it, because it is so glorious, so beautiful. So, because we know, we are on God's side, standing for good and resisting evil, working for evolution and not for selfishness.
If you are on God's side, you are one of us, and it does not matter in the least whether you call yourself a Hindu, or a Buddhist, a Christian or a Muslim, whether you are from India or England, China or Russia. Those who are on God's side know why they are here and what they should do, and they are trying to do it; all the others do not yet know what they should do, and so often act foolishly, and try to invent ways for themselves which they think will be pleasant for themselves, not understanding that all are one, and that therefore only what the One wills can ever be really pleasant for anyone. They are following the unreal instead of the real. Until they learn to distinguish between these two, they have not ranged themselves on God's side, and so this discrimination is the first step.
But even when the choice is made, you must still remember that of the real and the unreal there are many varieties; and discrimination must still be made between the right and the wrong, the important and the unimportant, the useful and the useless, the true and the false, the selfish and the unselfish.
Between right and wrong it should not be difficult to choose, for those who wish to follow the Master have already decided to take the right at all costs. But you and your body are two, and your will is not always what your body wishes. When your body wishes something, stop and think whether you really wish it. For you are God, and you will only what God wills; but you must dig deep down into yourself to find the God within you, and listen to his voice, which is your voice. Do not mistake your bodies for yourself—neither the physical body, nor the astral, nor the mental. Each one of them will pretend to be the Self, in order to gain what it wants. But you must know them all and know yourself as their master.
When there is work that must be done, the physical body wants to rest, to go out walking, to eat and drink; and the person who does not know says, "I want to do these things, and I must do them." But the person who knows says, "This that wants it is not I, and it must wait awhile." Often when there is an opportunity to help someone, the body feels: "How much trouble it will be for me; let someone else do it." But you must reply to your body: "You shall not hinder me in doing good work."
The body is your animal—the horse upon which you ride. Therefore you must treat it well, and take good care of it; you must not overwork it; you must feed it properly on pure food and drink only, and keep it strictly clean always, even from the minutest speck of dirt. For without a perfectly clean and healthy body you cannot do the arduous work of preparation, you cannot bear its ceaseless strain. But it must always be you who control that body, not it that controls you.
The astral body has its desires—dozens of them; it wants you to be angry, to say sharp words, to feel jealous, to be greedy for money, to envy other people their possessions, to yield yourself to depression. All these things it wants, and many more, not because it wishes to harm you, but because it likes violent vibrations, and likes to change them constantly. But you want none of these things, and therefore you must discriminate between your wants and your body's.
Your mental body wishes to think itself proudly separate, to think much of itself and little of others. Even when you have turned it away from worldly things, it still tries to calculate for self, to make you think of your own progress, instead of thinking of the Master's work and of helping others. When you meditate, it will try to make you think of the many different things which it wants instead of the one thing which you want. You are not this mind, but it is yours to use; so here again discrimination is necessary. You must watch unceasingly, or you will fail.
Between right and wrong, the wisdom teachings know no compromise. At whatever apparent cost, that which is right you must do, that which is wrong you must not do, no matter what the ignorant may think or say. You must study deeply the hidden laws of Nature, and when you know them arrange your life according to them, always using reason and common sense.
You must discriminate between the important and the unimportant. Firm as a rock where right and wrong are concerned, yield always to others in things that do not matter. For you must be always gentle and kindly, reasonable and accommodating, leaving to others the same full liberty that you need for yourself.
Try to see what is worth doing, and remember that you must not judge by the size of a thing. A small thing which is directly useful in the Master's work is far better worth doing than a large thing which the world would call good. You must distinguish not only the useful from the useless, but the more useful from the less useful. To feed the poor is a good and noble and useful work; yet to feed their souls is nobler and more useful than to feed their bodies. Any rich person can feed the body, but only those who know can feed the soul. If you know, it is your duty to help others to know.
However wise you may be already, on this path you have much to learn; so much that here also there must be discrimination, and you must think carefully what is worth learning. All knowledge is useful, and one day you will have all knowledge; but while you have only part, take care that it is the most useful part. God is wisdom as well as love, and the more wisdom you have the more you can manifest of God. Study then, but study first that which will most help you to help others. Work patiently at your studies, not that others may think you wise, not even that you may have the happiness of being wise, but because only the wise person can be wisely helpful. However much you wish to help, if you are ignorant you may do more harm than good.
You must distinguish between truth and falsehood; you must learn to be true all through, in thought and word and deed.
In thought first, and that is not easy, for there are in the world many untrue thoughts, many foolish superstitions, and no one who is enslaved by them can make progress. Therefore you must not hold a thought just because many other people hold it, nor because it has been believed for centuries, nor because it is written in some book which people think sacred; you must think of the matter for yourself, and judge for yourself whether it is reasonable. Remember that though a thousand people agree upon a subject, if they know nothing about that subject their opinion is of no value. You who would walk upon the path must learn to think for yourself, for superstition is one of the greatest evils in the world, one of the fetters from which you must utterly free yourself.
Your thought about others must be true; you must not think of them what you do not know. Do not suppose that they are always thinking of you. If people do something which you think will harm you, or say something which you think applies to you, do not think at once: "They meant to injure me." Most probably they never thought of you at all, for each soul has its own troubles and its thoughts turn chiefly around itself. If people speak angrily to you, do not think: "They hate me, they wish to wound me." Probably someone or something else has made them angry, and because they happen to meet you they turn their anger upon you. They are acting foolishly, for all anger is foolish, but you must not therefore think untruly of them.
When you become a pupil of the Master, you may always try the truth of your thought by laying it beside his. For the pupil is one with the Master, and needs only to put back his thought into the Master's thought to see at once whether it agrees. If it does not, it is wrong, and the pupil changes it instantly, for the Master's thought is perfect, because he knows all. Those who are not yet accepted by him cannot do quite this, but they may greatly help themselves by stopping often to think: "What would the Master think about this? What would the Master say or do under these circumstances?" For you must never do or say or think what you cannot imagine the Master as doing or saying or thinking.
You must be true in speech too—accurate and without exaggeration. Never attribute motives to another; only the Master knows the pupil's thoughts, and he may be acting from reasons which have never entered your mind. If you hear a story against anyone, do not repeat it; it may not be true, and even if it is, it is kinder to say nothing. Think well before speaking, lest you should fall into inaccuracy.
Be true in action; never pretend to be other than you are, for all pretense is a hindrance to the pure light of truth, which should shine through you as sunlight shines through clear glass.
You must discriminate between the selfish and the unselfish. For selfishness has many forms, and when you think you have finally killed it in one of them, it arises in another as strongly as ever. But by degrees you will become so full of thought for the helping of others that there will be no room, no time, for any thought about yourself.
You must discriminate in yet another way. Learn to distinguish the God in everyone and everything, no matter how evil they may appear on the surface. You can help your brothers and sisters through that which you have in common with them, and that is the Divine Life; learn how to arouse that in them, learn how to appeal to that in them, and so shall you save your brothers and sisters from wrong.CHAPTER 2
There are many for whom the qualification of desirelessness is a difficult one, for they feel that they are their desires—that if their distinctive desires, their likings and dislikings, are taken away from them, there will he no self left. But these are only the ones who have not seen the Master; in the light of his holy presence all desire dies but the desire to be like him. Yet before you have the happiness of meeting him face to face, you may attain desirelessness if you will. Discrimination has already shown you that the things which most people desire, such as wealth and power, are not worth having; when this is really felt, not merely said, all desire for them ceases.
Thus far all is simple; it needs only that you should understand. But there are some who forsake the pursuit of earthly aims only in order to gain heaven, or to attain personal liberation from rebirth; into this error you must not fall. If you have forgotten self altogether, you cannot be thinking when that self should be set free, or what kind of heaven it shall have. Remember that all selfish desire binds, however high may be its object, and until you have gotten rid of it you are not wholly free to devote yourself to the work of the Master.
When all desires for self are gone, there may still be a desire to see the result of your work. If you help anybody, you want to see how much you have helped them; perhaps even you want them to see it too, and to be grateful. But this is still desire, and also want of trust. When you pour out your strength to help, there must be a result, whether you can see it or not; if you know the law you know this must be so. So you must do right for the sake of the right, not in the hope of reward; you must work for the sake of the work, not in the hope of seeing the result; you must give yourself to the service of the world because you love it and cannot help giving yourself to it.
Have no desire for psychic powers; they will come when the Master knows that it is best for you to have them. To force them too soon often brings in its train much trouble; often their possessor is misled by deceitful nature spirits, or becomes conceited and thinks he cannot make a mistake; and in any case the time and strength that it takes to gain them might be spent in work for others. They will come in the course of development—they must come; and if the Master sees that it would be useful for you to have them sooner, he will tell you how to unfold them safely. Until then, you are better without them.
You must guard, too, against certain small desires which are common in daily life. Never wish to shine or to appear clever; have no desire to speak. It is well to speak little; better still to say nothing, unless you are quite sure that what you wish to say is true, kind, and helpful. Before speaking think carefully whether what you are going to say has those three qualities; if it has not, do not say it.
It is well even now to get used to thinking carefully before speaking; for when you reach initiation you must watch every word, lest you should tell what must not be told. Much common talk is unnecessary and foolish; when it is gossip, it is wicked. So be accustomed to listen rather than talk; do not offer opinions unless directly asked for them. One statement of the qualifications gives them thus: to know, to dare, to will, and to be silent; and the last of the four is the hardest of them all.
Another common desire that you must sternly repress is the wish to meddle in other people's business. What others do or say or believe is no affair of yours, and you must learn to let them absolutely alone. They have full right to free thought and speech and action, so long as they do not interfere with anyone else. You yourself claim the freedom to do what you think proper; you must allow the same freedom to others, and when they exercise it you have no right to talk about them.
If you think someone is doing wrong, and you can contrive an opportunity to privately and very politely tell them why you think so, it is possible that you may convince them; but there are many cases in which even that would be an improper interference. On no account must you gossip to some third person about the matter, for that is an extremely wicked action.
If you see a case of cruelty to a child or an animal, it is your duty to interfere. If you see anyone breaking the law of the country, you should inform the authorities. If you are placed in charge of another person in order to teach him, it may become your duty gently to tell him of his faults. Except in such cases, mind your own business and learn the virtue of silence.CHAPTER 3
The six points of conduct which are especially required are given by the Master as:
1. Self-control as to the mind
2. Self-control in action
[I know some of these are often translated differently, as are the names of the qualifications; but in all cases I am using the names which the Master himself employed when explaining them to me.]
1. Self-control as to the mind. The qualification of desirelessness shows that the astral body must be controlled; this shows the same thing as to the mental body. It means control of temper, so that you may feel no anger or impatience; of the mind itself, so that the thought may always be calm and unruffled; and (through the mind) of the nerves, so that they may be as little irritable as possible. This last is difficult, because when you try to prepare yourself for the path, you cannot help making your body more sensitive, so that its nerves are easily disturbed by a sound or a shock and feel any pressure acutely; but you must do your best.
The calm mind means also courage, so that you may face without fear the trials and difficulties of the path; it means also steadiness, so that you may make light of the troubles which come into everyone's life, and avoid the incessant worry over little things in which many people spend most of their time. The Master teaches that it does not matter in the least what happens to you from the outside: sorrows, troubles, sicknesses, losses—all these must be as nothing to you and must not be allowed to affect the calmness of your mind. They are the result of past actions, and when they come you must bear them cheerfully, remembering that all evil is transitory and that your duty is to remain always joyous and serene. They belong to your previous lives, not to this; you cannot alter them, so it is useless to trouble about them. Think rather of what you are doing now, which will make the events of your next life, for that you can alter.
Excerpted from Inspirations from Ancient Wisdom by J. Krishnamurti. Copyright © 1999 Theosophical Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
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