QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Ommen, Holland, 1929
Before i answer these questions, there is a matter which I should like to mention. I have heard over and over again, not only here in Ommen during these Camps, but also in Ojai and India, that members who listen to me think that the real Teacher cannot be as harsh as I am, that he must be really compassionate, and that, as I am so harsh, so direct, I cannot be the real Teacher. This is so absolutely childish that I do not want even to discuss it, but I will do so this once, to make it absolutely clear. You have an idea that to be compassionate one must be weak, and you attribute that weakness to those great Teachers whom you think you know. I have heard this from some of your leaders too; therefore I want to make this clear. As I said the other day, if you go to a surgeon because you are suffering from a disease, you must bear the pain of the operation. It is exactly the same with me. It is not a question of directness or harshness, but you need to be shaken and, since you do not like that shaking, you attribute your ideas of compassion and love, which are essentially weak, to someone who is not weak, and you say that such a Teacher cannot be direct, strong and emphatic. This is not a question of compassion or lack of compassion, but a question of Truth, and you must face that question irrespective of your petty fears. I have been repeating over and over again that you must approach Truth unburdened, not with your small prejudices, with your preconceived ideas. If you want to be strong men, do not attribute your various weak qualities of corruptible love, of weak thought, to Truth. Do not allow yourselves to be persuaded by anyone -though I am afraid you will- that Truth has any of the qualities which men are momentarily developing on the way towards attainment. Bearing that in mind, I will now proceed to answer the questions which have been put to me.
1. When you speak of the uselessness of all religions, ceremonies, rites, do you refer only to the old established ones, or do you include in these the Liberal Catholic Church, Masonry and other esoteric rites, not spoken of publicly, which are performed for a purpose? It is thought by some that though the older forms may be outworn, these other are still living. But if Life and Truth are one, can the Life be held in any form?
ANSWER: I have said, and I will not go back on what I have said, that you cannot approach Truth by any path whatsoever, nor through any religion whatsoever, nor through any ceremony, new or old. I include -I do not want you to agree with me, but to think it out- all forms of religious ceremony intended to help man, for I maintain that they cannot help. That is my point of view. Whether they are new or old is of very little importance. If you have not new ones you will run back to the old. Many of you have left old forms and have taken new ones in the hope of finding Truth, and you have not found it. It is not a question of saying "Oh, we shall find it at the end of eternity." Of course you will. I say that to find Truth now you must be free of all these things. Do not say afterwards that I am just substituting one word for another. To help fundamentally you cannot give external aid but must help to purify the individual effort and strengthen the incorruptibility of the self. That is the only thing that matters, not all your forms, your churches and your rites. I have answered these questions I do not know how often, and I suppose I shall go on answering them to the end of my days, because you want all these forms, because you cannot stand by yourselves, free, certain, assured of what you are seeking. If it is not one form you will invent another, because all forms created manmade. These spiritual forms are not the outcome of Life, nor do they embody Truth. I speak emphatically, but it is only my own opinion. I maintain that I have found that which every man in the world is seeking, and I say that if you desire likewise to find, you must be strong, free, and put aside all these childish things. You cannot find lasting, true, unconditional aid from without, nor is the indulgence in these things true self-expression. I know you will say: "They are beautiful, they are this, they are that." Friends, why don't you worship a cloud? Why don't you pray to the man who is labouring in the fields, or take delight in the shadows that are cast on the tranquil waters? You invent something and call it beautiful, artistic. While you are worshipping in an enclosed shrine, Life dances in the street and escapes you. You want to find Truth in the sanctuary, in the tabernacles made by man but you do not want to worship Life itself, which is everywhere, in the heart, in the struggle of everyone around you.
"It is thought by some that though the older forms may be outworn, these others are still living." If you like to believe that, you can do so. There is something greater than all these objective creations of man, and you cannot arrive at the greater through these. You want to use these as crutches, as toys with which children play, to help you to attain strength. If you continually play with toys,how can you attain strength? If you do not test your strength by throwing away your crutches, how can you know your integrity, your vitality? Again, please do not accept me as an authority. I have done all these things and so I know. Truth lies along none of these paths. It is away from these things -which are shadows, unrealities- that you find the creator of all shadows, the seed of all things and true creation itself.
So concern yourself with Life, which is the self of every human being; strengthen and make that self incorruptible, and then the forms which that self creates shall be perfect. You are taking the shadows for realities and worshipping the shadows and forgetting the realities. If you are really anxious to find, to establish happiness within yourselves, you must leave your nurseries. I do not mean this in any harsh sense or brutal manner. If you are burning for Truth you must come out of your shadows, leave your playthings, and enjoy that which creates all things, which is yourself.
2. According to your standard, what would be the true relation of "rights" and "duties"? Or are these ideas to be abandoned as arising from a mechanical or commercial view of life?
ANSWER: My standard is not applicable to your standard, because you are still playing with unessential things, and so whatever I say will be misrepresented to suit your convenience. But I will try to explain what I mean. As long as limitations create a barrier, there is sorrow. Hence, any rights or duties -I am using these words very carefully from my point of view, but I know it is going to be misunderstood- which create a barrier, create sorrow; therefore I will not have any duties or rights that create limitation. Now, you cannot shirk any responsibilities you have already undertaken. Why not? I will tell you. Because your friends, your children may starve. But it is your duty not to undertake new responsibilities if you can help it -from my point of view. You are asking these questions wholly from the wrong standpoint, because duties, rights, and other such things, seen from the point of view of the everlasting, are only a means to an end, stepping stones. But you must realise that they are stepping stones, and go forward, not stay bound by those duties and those rights.
If you are continually trying to seek Truth, and have that as your standard, judge everything else by that. Do not judge from the old standards laid upon you by duties and rights, but from the standard which you establish through search, through careful discrimination between the essential and the unessential, for that is intelligence. The capacity to choose the essential is the highest form of intelligence, because the essential is that which will set man eternally free. If you have that as your everlasting standard, by that you can measure everything that arises.
3. The great Teachers of the past have given rules of conduct, systems of ethics. Is there an eternal standard of ethics, and is right conduct the same as true creation? Is it an expression of Truth, as art is an expression of beauty?
ANSWER: "The great Teachers of the past have given rules of conduct, systems of ethics..." I doubt it. It is generally their disciples who establish the system, lay down the rules of conduct. That is my opinion. Probably you can discuss it historically, and refute it, but it won't convince me, because really great Teachers do not lay down laws; they want to set men free, and you cannot be set free by systems of ethics or by laws of conduct. It is purely an individual matter.
"Is there an eternal standard of ethics, and is right conduct the same as true creation?" There is an eternal standard for the man who has attained, and yet for him no standard of ethic exists, because he is free. I hope you understand what I mean. It is rather difficult to explain this. An eternal standard in ethical matters cannot exist, ultimately. These standards are invented by man for the right conduct of his neighbours, and never for himself. You cannot say that there is an eternal standard of ethics, because a standard is a measure by which to judge, by which to compare. When you have attained that freedom, which is Truth, you are everything, and everything conceivable is in you, because Liberation is Life, it is the seed of everything. For such a man there is no standard. Please do not misunderstand me. It does not mean that you can do exactly as you please. You cannot. The man who is struggling towards the eternal must have a standard by which to measure, and that standard is comprehension of the eternal, but no one can lay down a law for him.
"And is right conduct the same as true creation?" In a way, yes, and in a way, no. True creation is the moment of poise at which you arrive through the harmony between reason and love. I maintain that that harmony is true creation. You must arrive at that creation which is poise through right conduct, which is self-discipline imposed by yourself in the light of the eternal; not discipline imposed by another, through the fear of another, nor through the hope of salvation, but self-discipline imposed through understanding of the fulfilment of life.
I will explain it by a simile, and you will see what I mean. When an eagle is poked on a branch, ready to fly, when it is full, eager, pliable, unconditioned and ecstatic, that moment when the eagle is about to fly is true creation. Whether it flies over the mountain or down into the valley is unimportant. But to arrive at that poise the eagle has trained itself. That training is right conduct, that right conduct is self-discipline imposed on yourself because you understand the true purpose of life.
"Is right conduct an expression of Truth, as art is an expression of beauty?" It is. True creation is the expression of Truth, because true creation is perfect harmony, which cannot be disturbed, which is serene, pliable, strong and assured. That poise is Truth. That Life, which has been attained through the perfection and the incorruptibility of the self, is Truth. Therefore it is the expression of Truth, as art is the expression of beauty.
4. You say that you are the World-Teacher. Is not this but another name for a Guru? Would not the Awakener suit your purpose better?
ANSWER: It is only a name. Do not be caught in the illusion of words. I say that, for a man who desires Truth, there can be no guru, so do not make the World-Teacher into a guru. If you do, it will be a cage in which you will be held.
"Would not the Awakener suit your purpose better?" Perhaps. It is not of very great importance. What is of great importance is that you should attain, not in the future, not at some distant time, but that you should struggle, become immense in that struggle now. I cannot awaken you if you have not the desire to be awakened, so you yourself are the true awakener, which is life itself.
5. Truth is a pathless land, can there be a path of discipleship, which leads to it, or would the existence of such a path be a barrier?
ANSWER: I say do not bother about these things. You are coming back over and over again to the old things and throwing them in my face, to establish your own uncertain truths. I say that Truth is a pathless land, which cannot be approached by any path, by any way, or through another. You cannot interpret this except in one way. You are finding it all so difficult because you will not give up your old ways of thought. You want the new to be transformed into the old, and thereby to settle down comfortably in the old. "Not to be disturbed" is what you are crying for. You want to be left alone in your quiet stagnant waters. If you do, do not come here; but if you want the new, leave the old and come out, do not play with things. This is not a selfish matter. I speak strongly because there is misery, sorrow, in the face of everyone -please do not get sentimental- there is chaos, continual strife, and you are caught in it and you will not leave it because you are afraid. You would much rather dwell in that sorrow, that suffocation, than leave the old and strike out for the new. So, when I see sorrow, pain, suffering, rejoicing, pleasures that are bound by tears, I want to set man free. But as I cannot set him free -he must set himself free- my business is to awaken him, to urge him to that freedom -not through sentiment or through ecstasy or through authority, but by careful analysis, by thoughtfulness, by awareness, by self-recollectedness. Do not think that to understand me you must have studied for thirty years. I told you the other day the story of the poor man at the railway station who did not know who I was or anything about me, but understood the one thing that would make him immense, and because of that he had the courage to leap forward and leave the old behind. As in the springtime every tree gives forth new leaves, so there must be in you a continual change -and you are afraid to change. You want Truth to be given exactly in your old manner, so that you may be happy, tranquil and thereby degenerate into stagnation. I am not speaking in harshness, but this is what is happening throughout the world. To understand Truth you must plunge. Oh! You must be so eager that you will set everything aside and jump -not foolishly, not without discrimination, but with care, with thoughtfulness with the intelligence which chooses between the essentials and the non-essentials -and then you will understand.
6. What place should be given to occultism? Not as a path to spiritual salvation, but as pure science, based on experience and comparative research?
ANSWER: Its normal place. That is very simple, isn't it? Do not divide Life into this or that. In Life there is neither mysticism nor occultism. To the man who is truly liberated they are all divisions of little importance. I tell you that I am speaking about something wholly different from all these. I am talking about that on which all things depend, and from which all transformations arise, and you want to play with words, with things that are in the shadow.
7. You say to us, "If you are in earnest, fight the whole world." But would not agitation aimed at abolishing some of the terrible cruelties in social life draw us into conflict with established laws and governments, and compel us to share in, even to promote, political revolutions?
ANSWER: I say, "If you are in earnest, fight the whole world." I mean by that, fight the unessential things that support the weakness of the self. Is not that clear? So do not go about saying that I advocate revolutions. That is childish. The moment you alter the self, you alter the whole world. The moment you make your own self incorruptible, you will create clearness in the world. Politics, sociology and all these things are the outcome of the corruptibility of the self. They are weaknesses, they are perversions, and are caused by the weakness and perversion which exist in the self of every individual. So if the individual can be straightened, strengthened and made incorruptible, your laws, your regulations, your governments, will be changed.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Ommen, Holland, 1929
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