One day a spiritual Master discovered two of his disciples who had a literary bent sitting in his garden, surrounded by all his poetry books, looking very confused and sad.
"What is the matter, my daughters?" he asked. "Why do you look so perplexed?"
One of the girls said, "Master, last week you asked us to select some of your poems for an anthology. But last night you told us that all of your poems are of a high standard, no matter what level of consciousness they express. Doesn't this mean that none of the poems are really better than the others?"
The Master said, "Let me use an analogy to answer this question. If you go to a store where they sell ladies' purses, some of these purses are very beautiful. Some are gold, some are full of ornamentation, and so forth. The price range will vary widely — the purses can cost anywhere from two dollars to twenty dollars or more. Now, if somebody does not have much money and cannot afford to buy the bag which costs twenty dollars, then what will she do? She has to be satisfied with the one she can buy. To some extent, you can say this one is inferior. One who has the capacity to buy something for twenty dollars will naturally call the two-dollar bag inferior. But you have to know that for the woman who has the money to buy only the two-dollar bag, the one she buys will be the most expensive and most beautiful bag because that is the one within her capacity.
"So we have to see an individual's standard. If an individual does not have a very elevated consciousness, there will be certain poems which will come up to his standard and which will satisfy him. And if somebody has a high, elevated consciousness, then there will be some other poems to satisfy him. The consciousness of the person who reads the poems is an important factor. If somebody is not able to meditate well, he will be satisfied with the kind of poem I write that says that my body is this and my vital is that. But if somebody has a very high consciousness, he will like poems expressing my loftiest philosophy. The spiritual height of the words will really satisfy him."
At this point the other girl said, "Master, you have made it much clearer to us. But since you have asked us to make a selection of your poetry, what criteria should we apply?"
The Master explained further. "In considering what criteria to apply, we have to make quite a few categories. In one category the poems will be judged according to their absolute spiritual height. Of course, spiritual people will have to judge the spiritual height. If a poem expresses divine longing, for example, that kind of poem will be on the spiritual side. In another category the poems will have to be judged from the modern stylistic approach. For example, let us say that I have exercised considerable freedom — not like a mad elephant, of course — but I have written with tremendous confidence. Then there will be other categories for poems which are spiritually illumined or mentally illumined, and for those which express earth-aspiration or Heaven-illumination.
"You will need at least ten categories. Only in that way can you judge my poetry properly or make a wise selection. Since I have written a few thousand poems, you can easily have ten categories. There cannot be any one, single, satisfactory point of view. If you judge only on the basis of spiritual height, for example, the selection will not satisfy everyone. Even my poems that express the highest realisation and revelation — my most outstanding poems — are not liked by everyone. Many people prefer the ones that tell of the frustration and emptiness of life. Now look at the difference between these two kinds of poems. One expresses the height of my realisation, when I am one with the Supreme. In the others I am totally identified with the tremendous frustration and destruction of the earthbound consciousness. But many times these poems have been quoted, and I have heard that many people like these poems more than those in the other category. So you see, each one likes and judges a poem according to his own immediate necessity."
The first girl smiled and said, "Before you came, Master, we were both more in the world of frustration than in the world of spirituality. I wonder what our selection would have been like at that time."
The Master blessed both the girls affectionately and said, "True. Why do we even need to speak of different individuals liking different types of poems? Let us take just one person. At every moment his consciousness, his standard, is changing. After his morning meditation he will read one particular poem and feel that this is one of my best poems. Then during the day he may read another poem and feel that he likes this one the most because it is answering his needs at the time. In the evening, if he has met with disappointment and other problems during the day, he will like and identify with a poem which expresses his feelings of frustration. He will not care at all for the poem that he liked in the morning. So it is necessary to choose a great variety of poems which express many moods and needs, human and divine."
26 July, 1974