“We have seen that knowledge of the self gives us a roadmap to balance and bliss in our lives. Following this map not only requires a firm belief in the Oneness of all, but living a life of constant affirmation in our daily routines. The map has to be detailed enough to show us each and every landmark, road sign, and detour.”
Is an extremely detailed map really necessary?¶
It is not a question of necessity: it is unavoidable. You are on this journey: you need to know the lay of the land and the condition of the car, the fuel, the environment, the atmosphere, the signs etc. It’s not a question of necessary, onerous, simple or difficult. It is unavoidable.
The moment you are created, you are on a path wanting to know the direction, meaning and purpose behind Creation. We have, within our makeup, many layers and varieties of consciousness, which are programmed to unfold over the full range of genetic, chemical, mechanical, electrical and every other aspect of the entire human. For you and I to know why what is happening is happening, we need to have access to the foundation, so that we can read. Otherwise, when I am disturbed - or emotionally upset and have no idea about what the cause was and why it occurred - I will muddle through a life that becomes increasingly complex and vague.
We want to know! We are never content with ignorance, shadow or darkness. At the physical level, we want to know what is wrong with the body. Strangely enough, when we are given the name of a disease, we are content, even though that name doesn’t mean much. We want to know what the cause of this disturbance, distraction, disease, mental anguish or unhappiness is. We are programmed to go back to the foundation where equanimity, balance, and wellness can take place at all of these different levels.
If I know that it is physical and material, then it is easier for me to remedy and it is easier for others to help me. If I know it is mental, then it is a bit more difficult. Once it is mental and I am not willing to confess it or reveal and am simply accusing others and blaming others, then it is even more difficult. The entire business is about wanting to know where I am on this atlas, so that I constantly have access to the “city”: the inner core, or Divine essence.
It is like being in a little boat in the ocean: you need to care for the immediate vicinity, but if you don’t constantly also look to the horizon - that is, ask “what is the ultimate destiny of all this?” - there is no point in just caring for the boat and your body. You equally need to look constantly at the target horizon for which you are aiming.
Now, the situation with this map or atlas is that there are keys to it. What is the foundation for my constant anxiety, insecurity or depression, and how can I regain a certain modicum of my ability to advance hope? It is not a question of this onerous thing: it is already there! I just have to be able to access it. Those patterns are in us, like an old film where you first had to produce the negative, and from it comes the positive. I have to know the negative, and then the positive will emerge.
It is part and parcel of growth and development that I seek to know which aspect of me is now upsetting me, or bothering me, or misleading me. Until I realise that all of them are me! The lowest is in me and the highest is in me. If I pay attention to the lowest, then I will not be focussed on the higher and my priorities are wrong. As a six or seven-year-old child whose intellect is not fully developed, you are expected to be selfish and brutish and demanding and so on. But when that persists to the age of forty, something is drastically wrong.
What gives form to this map? What role does the environment play in your specific reading of the road signs?¶
The road signs are based on fundamentals. Amongst these fundamentals are what appears to be the opposites, which in reality are complementary. I have an inner aspect to me - which contains the subtle mind and the heart - and I have an outer aspect. The same thing applies to a society: its conduct, behaviour, and culture has got an inner meaning and an outer manifestation. Inner - outer. Meaning - form. Subtle, unseen, heavenly - and earthly. All of these are part of it.
Now, when I pray and I don’t move, it is subtle and has an inner, heavenly meaning. When I am running from a lion, it is earthly, outward form. The whole thing is interconnected and interrelated! This map is multidimensional: it’s about existence. It’s not just about my mind or my feelings. My feelings are a result of my overall makeup. They reflect the outer world and therefore I am dissatisfied, because I see in it a lot of discord and disharmony.
Yet, the inner and the outer meet, and we want that meeting point to be - all the time - understandable and in balance. We are seekers of balance, equanimity and peace; all of which are - again - attributes of the Divine light in us. God is forever at peace: He is never agitated. I am agitated in order to yield to that yearning and the desire for that peace.
Do we need a map reading course to understand and apply this?¶
Well, if you have been on a rough road - as I have been many times in my life, with a lot of bumps and a bad car - you would. We are all - in every instant in our life - wanting and needing to know and to be inwardly certain and secure. So we do need such a course. These multilayered maps are there, but we have to want to read them and then, with that wanting, we will come to know them; we will come to read them more fully.
Occasionally, we need cartographers and so on: a spiritual teacher; someone to look up to; a role model. That will continue and you may, as you grow, change the reflection of which you are most in need.
Do we become the people who design this roadmap for ourselves?¶
No, the roadmap is existence: it depends where you are in it. In truth, it’s where you are that determines _who _you are. If you are on a clear highway, with all the right signs, then you are in a manner of equanimity and wisdom and you are a sage. If you are all the time confused and complaining and swearing - as everyone is these days on the roads - then you, like anyone else, neither know the map, nor the driver, nor the condition of the road, car or environment. You are a mixed up person, as most of us are.
However, because we are programmed not wanting to remain mixed up, we seek the answers to “Where is it?”, “Who am I?”, “Where am I going?”, “How will I get there?” and so on, gaining more inner knowledge, confidence and tranquility. “Why am I not ready for departure from this world?” Because I have no idea about the next world, which is why I am afraid. Fear of death is fear of the unknown, but why is it unknown?! Simply because I have been spending too much time in the frivolous known: the day-to-day hurly-burly, up and down, trying to pay bills and so on. We are not just these rational, mundane creatures. That is an outer manifestation of an inner, permanent reality.
It is real that we get depressed. It is real that we lose hope. It is real that we get let down. But these realities are passing. Everyone is looking, all the time, for a zone of reality that never ever changes, which we call - if you like - the Absolute, or Trust, or Truth. It is that to which I can refer.
Such a reference allows you to put the fact that you are on a bumpy road in perspective. The ultimate objective of every seeker, every person who wants that inner constancy of joy and contentment, is to be able to refer to a zone that reflects the Truth.
Is religious dogma helpful?¶
For those who remain within that dogma, yes. But, once they see beyond it… [laughs]
Religion helps in the sense of providing a certain cohesion in a culture or society, but invariably, most of these effulgences by prophets or messengers end up being too structured and they end up being worshipped, rather than their being a message towards and about the worship-able!
Within many of these religions, the people who profess to be religious end up worshipping their religion, rather than divine; the Absolute Creator of it all.
How does one reconcile the different religions and teachings without involving oneself in a lifetime of reading and experimentation?¶
If the prophets and messengers were true - if they truly were reflecting the eternal truth in them and above them and before them and after them - then the essence is the same. The way that message came out and was made available to that culture or society differs, according to the times they were in.
The prophet Noah lived at a time where there was a lot of human mischief and disruption, and that mischief was causing global disruption - changes in the atmosphere and so on - thus he warned the people that there were going to be catastrophic events. That was a special thing in those days and that time. The same applies to the prophet Jesus, with his ability to heal and produce miracles, all of which were important for the people living at the time he came, with their particular language (Arameic) and culture.
In essence, they are all the same. The way they are interpreted later, the structured part, changes. In the case of Islam, you have got the whole package of both the outer and the inner, the essence and the outer practices and boundaries. So, in a way, you are less able to manipulate it because you are supposed to have regular performance of prayers, the idea being that you will be in prayer all the time. There is an inner meaning to all of these rituals.
In essence, all true messages are the same. In terms of the practice, timing, relevance and applicability, they change. For example, at the time of Buddha, there were huge spaces and people could move away if they were oppressed or depressed, so there was no need to regulate societal interactions. However, as time developed, there was a need for certain kinds of societal foundations.
Take the case of alcohol and its detrimental effects. There was hardly any alcohol a thousand years ago! So it is the appropriateness within a certain measure of the regulatory side which differs.
Is there not a danger that one gets stuck in outer religious practices to the detriment of their inner meaning?¶
There is, of course. People get waylaid by the rituals and start worshipping their religion, rather than using the path as a flying carpet to be in the ever-present light and delight of the divine Creator. But this is not the fault of the True Path, or the True Religion, it is the fault of the practitioners, because we want something which is not able to fathom or encompass that which is the Source of every want and every desire and every existence. We can’t take it! We can’t take the vastness of the Divine Presence…
So we become these small-minded things and end up being blocked by our little desires. That is why one needs a teacher; a guide to align you with the ultimate Light. The religion then acts only as a highway code. The prophetic conduct is just a template, a role model.
How important is the spiritual teacher or guide for the self-journey?¶
I think it is indispensable. You can’t but want to resonate and tune your frequency to another frequency that is more reliable. That is why you like to be with people who are happy, people who are wealthy, people who are free. Because that enhances your synchronicity with your own inner zone of freedom.
You want to enhance your access to those qualities that are already in you. So the outer person, or the teacher, or the prophet, is a mirror towards that which is inner. If they are a truly enlightened person, then that mirror is clearer than any other one. You can’t see the sun, but you like to have a reflector of the sun. You look at the moon and you know the sun is there. You look at the light and you know that the original Light is already there. You want to look at a person who is - at all times - in tune with the higher in them, which means they are not succumbing or faltering or falling into the fear and the miseries of the shadows. We all want that!
Are such people identifiable?¶
If one is a sincere seeker, even ordinary people can help along the path. You need to be sensitive to the message, rather than the messenger. If you want to gain wisdom, then you can gain wisdom even from fools.
It’s said that “He is a fool who does not experience anger. But he is wise who does not express it and waste that energy.” We are seekers of wisdom, efficiency, and optimal being at all times. Many people can help us along the path, including looking at the misery of those who are completely off the path. This applies less if you are at a very fine point of self-awakening, though. It’s like mountaineering: if you are near the summit, then self-delusion and illusions and all the other fantasies can become quite dangerous, so you need to have someone who has been there to tell you, “Don’t fall into these inner, subtle, spiritual fantasies.”
Spiritual materialism is far worse than non-spirituality. People want to use anything that enhances their love for power, so they become these spiritual characters, which is far worse for everyone. We have this wonderful story of two people walking towards the mosque: one was a very pious person and the other was a well-known rascal. The enlightened being who saw them told his people that this fellow who was a rascal was on his way to the heavens, but the other one is already in hell. They were surprised, because that person had such piety, but the answer was that his piety is the veil preventing him from submitting totally, utterly, to the Divine. The other fellow is wretched, and God loves the wretched and the weak and the meek and the depressed and the needy. It is to do with humility. Spiritual arrogance is the worst type of veil, which brings about hypocrisies and misleads people.
Where does Sufism stand?¶
Sufism, basically, is the heart of Islam and it is what preserved - to a great extent - the inner core of enlightenment. Essentially, Islam is the path of acknowledging the outer, keeping to the bounds and boundaries and yet allowing the inner to take you over (which it has already!). You are already possessed by God. You are already taken over. You are already in submission. But now, you have to submit fully to it, with knowledge, so that synchronicity occurs. By choice, you have allowed the Divine Light that is already in you to take you over and pulverize you and recrystallize you.
Soon after the departure of the Prophet, the Muslims fell into the usual, structural aspects of culture and society, bearing in mind the power vacuum that was in the world. They soon ended up under the rulership of kings and sultans, many of whom were not spiritual. So, if you like, the model of the philosopher-king ruling soon became modified. It became secular leaders ruling with a religious whip, or having religious people under them. To a great extent, the path of Islam ended up being one from which Muslims deviated, avoiding the original, full accountability so critical to unifying the outer and the inner, or the laws with the spirit and essential foundation of their purpose.
Sufis emerged two or three hundred years after the departure of the Prophet, trying to rectify this, because they saw rulers who were very unfit to rule. They didn’t want to fight and create a lot of discord in the community, so they created these lines - if you like - of Sufi paths, to maintain the original, prophetic way. This way is to do your best in this world, for you are accountable here, yet also yield to the Maker of this world, so that you live in thrill, rather than just in Islamic ceremonies.
It was basically a movement to rectify a certain diversion that had occurred.
So sufism is not a sect?¶
No. Any enlivened Muslim will have realised and seen that these were corrective movements in societies and cultures that had witnessed an aberration. An enlightened Muslim will not be this nor that: they are prophetic followers. They will not have yet another sect, yet another madhab. They have all emerged from one source: the prophetic beingness. So, if you go back to that time, you transcend a lot of cultural, habitual and historical differences and deviations. Then you will put up with the others, and you will understand their attempts, rather than accusing everyone of difference, and following the usual pattern of people’s arguments.
What is the root of the human need to trust?¶
It is, again, the original Divine Love, which is beckoning you. The Divine Light has complete and utter self-containment: It does not need anything exogenous to It. It is the Permanent, Absolute, Self-Contained, Self-Loving, Self-Knowing Essence. We have, within us, a reflection of it, a spark of it, which is the soul or the spirit. It is beckoning us! We all need to trust, otherwise we wouldn’t have a compass to drive by. I need to trust that this car will get me to the place, or that when I am promised something I will be given it.
We need to know that we can meet these divergences in time, so we trust the clock, we trust the government and so on. We want to trust, so that we are constantly looking at the ultimate altar of equanimity, bliss, ease, and beingness. Trust drives us, and we can drive by it! But we need to be tuned to It. Otherwise people can just say, “I trust my heart,” but we don’t know if it is their whims or their emotions or their fear. If it is to do with your soul, it can never lie, because it is always consistent.
Is there a difference between trust and faith?¶
I would define faith as a broader avenue that may lead to the ultimate, specific trust. We all have faith that I will come, one day, to trust. That’s why we need to have access to people who are trustworthy, which is also why it is very difficult nowadays to trust. Even the language points at this with “antitrust” laws and so on.
If you have trusted people and they have let you down, how do you remedy that?¶
With difficulty [laughs]. If a person is really healthy, they will realise that they have misplaced trust. If trusting others leads you to trusting yourself more - the higher in you - then it is the right direction. Ultimately, you want to trust that frequency which is the attribute of Trust (an attribute of the Divine) which is within both me and you. That is why, if you truly trust in the higher, even untrustworthy persons end up being trustworthy to you!
It is amazing: you regenerate trust in them. As you sow, so you reap. So the intelligent, wise parent turns the trust of the child from themselves towards the higher. Thus, when the child realises that the parents are also human beings liable to faults, they do not blame them and begin to distrust everyone in sight. We are - all of us, in a way - transmitting the ultimate and the penultimate and the shadow, so we have to realise that these are the multiple layers of consciousness that we are all subjected to.