[This is a transcript. The audio can be downloaded at this link: Non-Violence and Spiritual Strength.zip. The transcription was done by Michael Smith.]
The best answer to that question is: Let spiritual experience become personal. The more you go into your personal spiritual questions, the more answers come. It’s not answers to questions. Simply guidance comes. If I had never met you and read a book about you, and friends had told me about you, I would have all sorts of questions about you. The best answer to that is to meet you. The best answer is to meet God. Until such time, the questions will remain. Some answers will come. Those answers will raise more questions, and the process goes on.
The answer is silence of the mind — clearing your emotions – clearing your emotions so that they do not become obstacles in the way of your spiritual experience.
A lot of people have emotional experiences. They are spiritually inclined, so they think they’re having a spiritual experience. I believe in utter purity. I don’t believe in all this flying off to astral travel, and out-of-body experiences, and dreaming this and dreaming that. A lot of people think of that as spirituality. And there are a lot of people who have written books on that basis, and they are very misleading.
My idea of spiritual experience is . . . total stillness — stillness of body, stillness of breath, stillness of mind, quietness of speech. Not “armchair loving.” You know, just like some people do “armchair traveling, some people do “armchair loving.” They sit there and send out loving thoughts to the universe – and they have not loved their near-and-dear ones yet.
Stillness and selflessness is my idea of spirituality. Stillness and selflessness. The rest is all very romantic: “I am thinking this thought. I saw a bird. Maybe the bird brought me a message.” I don’t believe in all that. It’s nice poetry. It’s enjoyable. Stillness and selflessness. It’s all very poetic.
I’ll tell you the truth. I never have any experiences – I must be very unfortunate – but I also now do not have questions.
I’m not yet totally selfless. My ambition for that total selflessness is not yet fulfilled. I know where there is self-centeredness in me. I know where my stillness is still lacking. And I keep working on that. And as I work on that, the questions have become less and less and less and less.
You will find your own way. You will not need to ask. Your own soul, what we call antar-atman, your own “inner-self,” will show you. You will devise your own experiments because your situation and somebody else’s situation are different. Whenever you are faced with a situation where you have to make a decision, where you have to respond to something, respond to something someone has said, you have to respond to something your child is asking, or your friends are expecting, or your husband is wanting from you, or your wife is wanting from you – what is the least violent way? You create your own experiment. What is the most loving way – even if you disagree? What is the least violent way you can express yourself – causing the least disturbance, in the other person’s mind causing the least disturbance in your mind, causing the least disturbance in your surroundings? You will make your own experiments once you have decided that you want to go on that path. You will make your own experiments. No one else can tell you. You have to make your own experiment. What is the least violent way? What is the most loving way?
You cannot become totally nonviolent at the present state of your life and your relationships. It’s not that it’s not possible. It’s possible, but you’re not yet ready for it. You’re not yet ready to go and stroke a tiger in the forest. Some special, rare enlightened ones do it, and the tigers come to them like little pussycats. That is a fact, but it is not yet for you. But the animals you hurt you can stop hurting. See where your next step to nonviolence is. Start with small things. Go home, see where your next step to nonviolence is. And I want to say something that many people don’t like me saying. The philosophy and the traditions that we come from does not differentiate between a human soul and an animal soul. So nonviolence is towards all living beings. So which is your next step. You work it out.
In the Yoga philosophy they speak of five Yamas and five Niyamas, and the first Yama is Ahimsa (Nonviolence). And it is said that the other nine Yamas and Niyamas arise out of Nonviolence, and they exist and they are practiced to support Nonviolence; it is written in the sutras in the explanations. So truth that leads to violence is not truth. Truth arises out of Nonviolence and exists to support Nonviolence.
In my own search for what is the right conduct for me, I could be involved with many things, but I’m only one body – and at the age of 76, I cannot start a new movement here, and a new movement here, and a new movement here. So what is the core thing I feel I can do? That is what I am doing. And if people have that: purity of mind, purity of emotions, these problems that we are creating in society will not exist. Along with that I judge my capacity. I am not a prime minister or a president of a country. I cannot make laws. I do not have one trillion dollars that I can give to the hungry children. So what is within my capacity? That much I do. And I hope and pray that my capacity may increase, and I do mentally and spiritually what is within my power to increase my capacity. About the rest, I don’t waste my time sitting in my library and crying about the rest; this I cannot do. And I absorb myself in what I can do and remain neutral about the rest. This I cannot do; I accept that fact.
Sitting there crying about it is not helpful to anybody. Shouting angry slogans is not helpful to anybody. So, watch your capacity, work for increasing your capacity – your spiritual capacity, your moral capacity, your influence in society so people listen to you.
“Oh, I’m a spiritual person; I don’t talk about money.” How are you going to feed the hungry children? Make more money; find ways to make it so that you can give more. That is spirituality. That is also your next step in nonviolence: make more money so you can give more to the hungry children.
So, you will devise your own ways. Once you’ve got your mind clear – “Okay, what is the purest way, what is the cleanest way for the mind to live? What is the purest way, what is the cleanest way, what is the most nonviolent way?” You just do that. And you make your own experiments. And you will make those experiments, and to do your experiments in such a way that they do not hurt your child, your parents, your husband, your wife. Because that is canceling your spirituality. Take them along. “How? He won’t listen to me.” Because you do not have nonviolence enough. So make experiments with that. That is why he won’t listen to you. Nayam atma balahinena labhya. “This Atman, this Self cannot be found by a weakling.” (Mundaka Upanishad – 3.2.4) You have to have some inner strength in you – nonviolence strength. Nonviolence requires the greatest strength. You cannot be nonviolent without deep inner strength.
Again, you have to watch. You have to make your own experiments. What do you love? What do you want? Act accordingly, and do it again and again, nonviolently, with no violence to anyone, no hurting of anyone, no withdrawing your love from anyone. Otherwise your so called spirituality is self-defeating.
There are subtle things. Act according to your capacity. What is within your capacity, do that. In your present capacity, your task is not to look at whether other people are angry with you or not, but whether your mind is angry or not. You cannot actually stop the whole world from being angry with you. The Jews and the Romans were angry with Jesus. I saw in my master’s life that so many people got very angry. But I am not going to compare myself with a master.
Your work is not so that people should not be angry with you, but in you there should be nothing that causes anger in others. That is the real meaning of that. In you there should not be something that causes anger — that you want to reduce your resistances to them. That others resist you means that you are resisting them.
You cannot send out a questionnaire to seven billion people on this earth: “I am on my spiritual path, dear Sir?” — You can do it on the internet — “Are you angry with me?” – [Laughter] “because I want to judge whether I’m making spiritual progress or not.” That was not the point. How far are you moving in that direction inside you? That is all that matters. And its effects on others will show themselves. But some folks have such strong rajasic and tamasic tendencies, that your sattva may not influence them – and you have to accept that fact. Then be neutral towards them. Then you don’t respond to their anger. Then you just be neutral. That is their rajas. That is their tamas. “I have examined myself – my thoughts, my tone with my words, my actions – and I have done the best, the purest, the most loving, the most nonviolent that I could be.” That is it. That is all. And you bring that together in you. You’re not working on other’s anger. You’re only working on your sattva – to increase it.
So, spiritual life is the easiest life because it gives of ease of mind – gives you ease of mind – but you have to learn to use those tools that God has given you. Some people are really doing it – great work!
Okay, God bless you all. See you whenever, wherever. Keep up your practice. Plan in your own way of spirituality, in a very practical way, okay – not birds bringing me messages – but in a practical way, what you can do out of compassion to purify yourself. Alright. Keep your meditation pure – very clear. Alright. God bless. Thank you.
[This article was also published in the June 2020 edition of the AHYMSIN Newsletter.]