Since the time man began his adventure upon earth he has been in search of a magic potion, or call it a wonder pill or a perfect recipe for health and vitality and youth — something that can prevent disease, delay or halt, if not actually reverse the inevitable deterioration of his physical condition. In fact, he has tried to go even a step further, to ward off diseases, to conquer death, to secure immortality. Each age of mankind has been a witness to these efforts and the effort itself has been in accord with the type of humanity representative of that age. These methods can be broadly categorized as spiritual, occult, psychological or psychophysical, and physical. The categorization is of course a broad one and there is often an interlacing of the different dimensions and methods whose ranges can be astonishingly wide and varied. Many of these, whose mention we find in myths and legends such as sanjivani vidya, parkaya pravesha, kayakalpa, etc., have been possibly lost in antiquity. Others, such as the healing sciences of Atlantis, the rituals of the Shamans and the Mayan civilization, or the occult rites of Egypt and the magic potions of ancient Greece, have vanished without leaving a trace. Still others are being reborn in a new form and name. Thus, the ancient science of pranayama has been reborn and is being marketed under attractive brand names. So also with surya chikitsa, pranic healing, working with energy body, vipassana, etc. In addition, the market of alternative medicine and new-age spirituality is being flooded each year with new techniques, new gadgets, new magic potions, new diet recipes for perfect health and of course new gurus claiming their branded product as the best, their method the sole panacea, their practice and technique superior to all else, their potion the most magical, their following the maximum in number.
To deal with the details of each and every technique, method, gadget, recipe and pill that claims to save us is beyond anybody’s scope. These are specialized things (when genuine of course and not motivated by commercial and other interests) and require a lifetime of dedicated and sincere search and research. Such a search and research is often lacking and its need is lost amidst the noise and din of the crowd that often throngs around the dramatic and the charismatic and is easily attracted to what appears to it as instantaneous and the miraculous. But in our hurry and haste, we often forget that the instantaneous is not necessarily the miraculous and that which dazzles our eyes too much is also that which blinds us. It is the devious attractive recovery that has led to the development of so many pills, some of which do act like common magic. Take a Paracetamol tablet and be free of the fever in a short while; take a strong painkiller and the pain is gone as if it never existed. But as allopathic practitioners know only too well, thanks to some sincere research at least, the magic wears off and the malady returns. The cause is deeper and needs a deeper cure. The magic was an illusion created by a duping of the senses, by stunning the nerve endings that convey pain sensations into a stupor or else by fooling them biochemically. The instantaneous was not necessarily the miraculous. It had a process, or to put it the other way, a miracle does not hang in thin air — it has a process, physical or supra-physical, gross or subtle, sensible or occult. And it is as necessary to know the process as it is to observe the effects. By observing the effect, we discover a practical tool or our immediate purpose. By observing the process we can evolve many more and better tools for the future.
The same is true of what dazzles us. For the dazzle is simply a showcase packaging, not the product inside. It is something external, something that acts like an advertisement which presents a false picture of the product or at least a one-sided picture and by doing so plays upon our sense-bound mind or our nervous sentimentality which gets excited and titillated. It compels us to buy the product suspending all rational judgment or even an intuitive discernment or a higher discrimination. It is like a wave of vital charm rather than the authentic psychic feeling that carries us on a roller-coaster ride. And we enjoy it, till we crash land one day and discover that the joy and strength that we experienced was a conjuring trick of the vital; the calm, a crude caricature of authentic peace built by the mind; our experience of relief a mere imitation of the true lasting relief that comes when we are liberated from the prison of the ego and find our home in the freedom of the Infinite.
This is not to say that miracles do not happen or that all miracles are false and every dazzling light an imitation. Quite the contrary. Miracles do happen; the Light of a Self-existent Truth very much exists and is the very basis of all existence here. And precisely because It exists, it can be imitated, not in its essence and quality since that is impossible, but in its appearance. And for this very reason it is necessary to be vigilant and on one’s guard lest we land up in the valley of false glimmer rather than the Home of the True Light; we need to be careful that in our over-eagerness to hastily cross the wastelands of misery, suffering and pain we are not duped by the hijackers that intercept the caravans of light by fabricating signs of the Real in our ignorance. One thing is true and that is miracles are not made to order; that instant gratification of man is neither the way of the world’s evolutionary struggle nor the way of God in us; that which titillates us with an instant and mass appeal is that which clouds our higher and deeper parts of discrimination and calm discernment. Such a short-lived or prolonged suspension of judgment is well-known and is easy enough to understand. It happens because ‘reason’ and ‘judgment’ in us is still heavily dependent upon the senses and therefore can easily be lulled into sleep or tilted in favour of one or the other by the so-called results which are usually nothing more than passing and temporary appearances. And these appearances too are often created not by the technique or the method but by our own wishful thinking, even a subconscious expectation (which is a kind of faith) created by the ‘hype’ and ‘hoops’ of a mass movement.
This is again not to discourage the new-age experimentation which is part of God’s plan in our infant striving to bridge the evolutionary curve that would take us to Future Next. But we should not mistake our first infant strivings to grip and grasp as if we now have a hold of the world in our palm. Perhaps we do hold the world but a small little world, a tiny private corner of our vast existence.
This indeed is the real issue, the core issue. Is there a panacea for all our ills, a perfect recipe for our all too frail and fragile human state, a master key to a predestined change that would make us pass beyond our present life of Ignorance and Falsehood and Suffering and Disease and Death through a golden door to Light and Bliss and Freedom and Immortality? Or to put it in an obverse way and a little bluntly — do we really believe that a ten-day or a ten-month spirituality course or health camp or yoga workshop is going to set right everything for us? Or even one or many ‘techniques’ of meditation or pranayama liberate us from the bonds of our human nature, if there is not, as an accompaniment, this thirst, this need, this aspiration for self-exceeding and self-transcendence?
Or else, can food regulations such as milk-free diet, or a raw vegetable and fruits diet, or fasting fads or sun-gazing and moon-gazing and star-gazing free us from our ego and ignorance? Perhaps the contrary, since these ‘techniques’ when done solely as a ‘technique’ release certain energies in our system which are not only not necessarily the very best ones but often crude ones. The various forms of pranayama (it does not matter what name we give them — people often create a little variation here and there and sell it as a brand product), if not accompanied by the other preliminary and subsequent steps of Rajayoga may simply release a lot of vital energy of a mixed nature in our system. So also fasting can release this vital energy by first eating upon our body’s reserves and next drawing pranic energy as a compensation from around. The result is a rather quick weight loss, a feeling of being energetic and full of life which makes one ‘feel good’, etc. This in turn also helps in keeping away certain afflictions which are due to low vitality and a reduction of vital force. These are the immediate effects of both pranayama (when done as a technique alone and in isolation) or of various forms of extreme diets. But the effect stops here. It often leaves us with the illusion of ‘being helped’ and ‘all is well’ syndrome. But this is only 10 percent, if not less, of the real work.
If we do not simultaneously work upon our ego and desires, then this abundant vital energy, impure and ignorant, can be like an unbridled wild horse. It can create in us the figure of a titan rather than that of a God. Therefore, as the legends go, such forms of practices of breath and body exercises or forced excesses (Hatha) upon the body were the favourite forms of ‘yoga’ for the demon kings such as Ravana and Hiranyakashyapa. That may be an extreme case. But there is always a ‘mini Ravana’ concealed and waiting in us to feed upon an excess of vital energy so as to expand the empire of its ego and the kingdom of its ambition. It subordinates one form of appetite only to create an excess of another. If fast we must, then let us first let our egos fast, let us first go on desire-free diets and the rest will follow suit if necessary and at its proper time. If sun-gaze we must, then let us first discover the inner sun of Truth-Light which our nature hides for it is That Light alone which can free us from the bonds of obscurity and the chains of ignorance of our earth nature.
So also with ‘techniques’ of meditation and japa. In our haste to find and adopt a technique we forget the aspiration which is the soul of any process. To take an example from the life of the great ones: Buddha did not first discover the techniques and then arrive at the gates of nirvana. His was rather a thirst for freedom; he was like a being of fire trampling upon desire and putting his ego as a dead shell or an empty cloak below his feet as he walked over to the gates of the Beyond. Would we have his fire or simply his technique? If we have the fire, then techniques will come and go, grow and evolve, for Buddha is bound by nothing least of all to a technique. But if we have only a technique and not the authentic fire, then we are like cheap imitation jewellery which invites robbers but is unfit for the body of the gods. And who or what can ignite the fire within us — not a ritual of meditation but a sincere and genuine search?
We see in the life of another great one, the princess Meera, who lost her crown and found the Delight and Love of God. What was her cherished mantra? The Name of Krishna! But Krishna was not a name to her but a living Presence whom she saw with her eye of faith and loved with all her heart. Would we have the faith and love of Meera or simply her mantra that our tongue can repeat mechanically as a parrot while our hearts wander in every direction pulled by so many strings tied to countless objects? If we have the faith and love, then are we ever in meditation and japa as a lover is ever mindful of his beloved. But if we do not have these but simply the ‘techniques’ then we are like an artificial fruit that looks delicious but is unfit to be served as a nourishing food even to man, let alone gods. Like the technique of body and life, so also meditation as a technique simply releases certain mental energies in us that can, if not accompanied by surrender and humility, breed spiritual pride and the arrogance of a powerful and brilliant but a hard, cold, dry and soulless mind.
It is even worse when it comes to applying physical means alone such as diet, medicine and herbs for making our life free and perfect. For the roots of our problem lie deeper than the physical, in our subconscient nature. It is in the recurrent pattern of habits, which the force of life has developed in its material embodiments, that we find the proneness to decay, disease, limitation and death. Life has evolved in matter through a constant stress and struggle and a clash of forces that have left their unique stamp and a perpetual sense of suffering, fear, doubt and denial. No outer remedy, no mere physical discipline and change of lifestyle, no mere adjustment of diet and drugs, no mere wonder herb or a power-packed pill, no simple energy tablet or a health drink can help us win the fight against this formidable subconscient adversary. Or perhaps we do not know what we are talking about. For if there was a perfect physical or even a vital and mental solution to the human problem, then mankind should and or in any case would abandon the evolutionary adventure and its limited possibilities and be content in perfecting its limited circle of Ignorance, that is to say, continue its round of life based on ego, division and desire plus a few herbs and exercises to bring in some extra vital and mental force in our system. Naturally, our impatience seeks such a quick-fix solution and is readily attracted to whatever such a thing is promised — or shall we say advertised through well-packaged crash courses! Well, these things do have their utility, but a short term and temporary one. They are not solutions but patchworks and their role is a small fraction in the required sum of human effort and its underlying potentials.
That required effort is for man to ascend beyond his mind, break the barriers of his ego, transcend desires and go deeper into his soul. It is this ‘need’ to exceed himself and his small life, centred around petty goals of the ego and the satisfaction of the dwarf desires, that will carry man beyond the barriers of his mortality, beyond the limiting hedge of his senses, beyond his divided consciousness. For this ‘need’ is like a fire that will burn the lid separating the mortal from the immortal sphere. No mere technique, no method alone, no outer changes of life and its activities can save us if this ‘need’ is not present as an aspiration at its core. And if it there, then the rest matters little except as a supporting power of faith. Thus, if someone has this, he or she puts their faith in a certain method, technique, process, or path and Master, then one goes through and gets the desired result. Of course it is subject to the sincerity put into the effort, the receptivity and other preparatory elements of the recipient consciousness and to Time, that great cosmic weaver who works out the results of efforts through the intricate pattern of energies that we have woven through many lives. And finally, it depends upon the supreme sanction of Grace whose inexpressible mysterious ways are beyond all human calculations and override the law of causality.
In other words, though outer methods have their limited usefulness, yet they are not the primary thing, least of all the source of our change. It is the faith that we put in them, the aspiration that is behind them, the hope or expectation that we have from them that brings the results since the Divine Grace chooses that means to help us and pull us out of the suffering abyss of the human condition. The sincerity of our effort and the faithful and persistent practice of a given method becomes an indicator of our aspiration. The outer effort — the technique or the method — then becomes merely an excuse for the Divine Grace and Its Force to act. Of course, these is something like a drvyaguna, the quality of the substance or the herb taken, just as there is some truth of occult process behind every technique. But that truth is relatively small and a subordinate one. The Divine and His Truth are free and infinite. He is not subject to a fixed technique, not bound to a school of philosophy or a sect, not limited to our narrow beliefs and non-beliefs in this or that method or medicine. It is we who choose these things to be our intermediaries. And for a time it is natural that it be so, for the human consciousness is so narrow, so bound by its smallness that it is difficult for it to emerge all of a sudden into the vastness and freedom of the Infinite. It is as if shut in a small hole which does not allow any light to enter there. It needs an enticement, or a little rope to hold and come out of its life built almost on a subconscious pattern of habitual ideas, formulas and beliefs about life. Once pulled out of the hole, it is willy-nilly exposed to the Light which was always there above and around him. The rope was simply one form of contrivance to expose him to the Light from which he had deliberately or ignorantly hidden himself out of fear or resistance, out of love for his limitations. The necessity of the rope arises because one is stuck out of habit and is unwilling or fearful to come out. It is like teaching swimming to a baby and to an adult. Even animals are known to develop defences instinctively out of ‘need’. In fact, training often corrupts them since, though specialized in one form of activity, they lose the overall adaptability and plasticity according to the ‘need’ of the moment. A similar thing applies to man. Too much reliance on method and technique takes the soul out of truth, turning it over a period of time into a lifeless ritual. Those who have followed a technique solely as a technique know very well how the returns begin to diminish unless one takes care to revitalize it with the same enthusiasm as at the beginning or adapt it to life’s ever-changing and evolving patterns. One even becomes the slave of a method rather than the servant of Truth. One clings to the rope that was held down into the hole and forgets the Sun that is the goal.
The wonder pill, the magic rope is within us and not outside. This has been the wisdom of the ages. Whatever helps us in finding that inner Truth is fine. If anything helps us individually in that discovery — diet, exercise, breath control, mind control, japa or whatever else, we must keep ourselves clean of two errors: to mistake the means for the end and a stage for the goal. The method we use today at one stage of our progress may become redundant or even a hindrance at another stage. So also we must not linger with the experiences that arise at a certain stage whether by the help of certain methods or without them. The other mistake is an almost innocent need in us to want everyone to think alike. But what has helped one may not help another. People are at different stages and also each has his own unique destiny and unique path paved by the footprints of his past energies. It is puerile to want others to think like us or convert others to our belief. No doubt Truth is One but this One is not a solitary point but an infinity that holds in its oneness the incalculable complexity of this and many other universes that derive from the One! We best serve the cause of Truth in humanity when we recognize this law of variation in humanity. Then we stress only on the essential points, the core or real issues, the Truth behind appearances while leaving each one free to figure it out in their own way. For, God moves simultaneously along many paths and on all paths. He draws the human soul through countless ways, even ways that the human mind does not recognize since they are so drastically different to what we traditionally call as ‘the path’. He enjoys the differences since it is through multiplicity that we find His Infinity best expressed. For in the last analysis it is not our journey but in each one it is the journey of the Eternal One.