Dear spiritual sisters and brothers, dear seekers of the supreme Truth, I wish to give a short talk on obedience from the spiritual point of view.
Obedience is a forced life: obedience is the surrender of an inferior man to a superior man. These are the realisations of an ordinary, unaspiring human being. But the obedience that I am going to talk about is the inner obedience. This obedience is our conscious recognition of our higher life, higher reality and higher height. This obedience represents the achievement of true knowledge. When we obey the higher principles, the higher law, we come to realise that we are living eternally in the eternal Now.
A child obeys his parents. While obeying he walks along the path of truth, light and beauty. Although his outer life may be full of fear, his inner life is approaching the destination of perfection. In the spiritual life we are all eternal children. As sincere seekers we become devoted children and surrendered instruments of God; we listen to the Voice of the Inner Pilot who is guiding our destiny and moulding and shaping us in His own way. When we go deep within we feel that we are an exact prototype of His Being. We obey our Inner Pilot, not because He is all-powerful or because we fear He may punish us if we do not obey Him. No, this is not our realisation. Our illumined love-power wants to be one with His infinite Love and Light. We obey Him because He is all Love.
From the spiritual point of view, obedience is our self-giving to the illumined consciousness. The individual consciousness, the personal consciousness that we embody, is very limited. But we can offer our individual and personal life to something that is universal. Then the limited becomes universal and unlimited. A spark of divine light we are. When we enter into the vast Sun, we offer our individuality and personality to our highest source and then we become part and parcel of this vast Sun of Universality. From the finite we go to the Infinite; from the Infinite we go to the transcendental Absolute where all is universal oneness.
Our feet take us to school where we get mental knowledge and wisdom. This is because the feet and the mind have established their inseparable oneness. It is not obedience but inner necessity that makes them help one another. My legs will serve my mind when it is a matter of learning, and when it is a matter of running, my mind and heart come to the aid of my legs with their conscious concern and will power. Obedience is our conscious acceptance of our entire existence. When one part of our being needs special attention, another part comes to its rescue. "United we stand; divided we fall." This is the motto of our inner obedience.
In the spiritual life inner obedience and self-discipline go together; they are inseparable. When we discipline our life, we feel that we are no longer in the animal kingdom but in the human kingdom and, at the same time, we are aspiring for the divine kingdom. This divine kingdom is bound to dawn. In fact, on the strength of our aspiration, it is we who will give birth to the divine kingdom here on earth. Self-discipline leads us to self-discovery, which is God-discovery. God-discovery is followed by God-revelation and God-revelation is followed by God-manifestation. Finally, God-manifestation is followed by God-perfection and God-satisfaction.
Hesitation comes into our life when we do not obey the Inner Guide. Hesitation comes into our life when we do not nourish our inner existence with prayer and meditation. When do we hesitate? We hesitate when we live in the mind-room instead of the heart-room. When we are in the mind-room, we see a tiger in front of us, a lion behind us and other destructive animals all around us. We also hesitate when we shake hands with gloom, either consciously or unconsciously. When we open our inner door to the Prince of Gloom, we constantly hesitate. But if we obey the Inner Pilot, we are always cheerful. At that time the Prince of Gloom has no access to us. We also hesitate when we do not claim God as our very own. Our highest and only real Reality is God's Dream-Boat. But if we do not realise that in us and for us is God's Reality-Shore, then we are bound to hesitate.
If we follow the Will of our Inner Pilot, there is never any hesitation in our life. We must know that the moment an individual seeker obeys the Inner Pilot, a most beautiful rose comes into existence in the garden of God's Heart. This heart-rose emanates a celestial fragrance that elevates the whole earth-consciousness.
How can the seeker know what the Will of the Inner Pilot is? How can he differentiate between the voice of the soul and the voice of the mind or the vital, which can create unimaginable problems for him? How will he separate the real from the unreal, the wrong from the right? The sincere seeker will be able to detect easily the wrong, the unreal voice. If the voice wants him to get satisfaction from the results of his efforts, then it is the unreal voice. After obeying the voice, if he will be satisfied only if victory dawns, and disappointed if failure comes, then he knows it is the wrong voice. The right voice, the divine voice, the voice of his soul will only inspire him to do selfless action and right action. This is not always the same as successful action in the outer world.
In India's Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna says to his dearest disciple: "Thou hast the right to action, but claim not the fruits thereof." Action divinely performed is the supreme Victory. The result can come in the form of either success or failure. When a child learns how to crawl, he feels that he has achieved a tremendous success. But when he knows how to walk properly, he feels that yesterday's accomplishment was very insignificant. Today's success is never enough. Tomorrow we will try to get another, more gratifying kind of success. What we feel we want is something to satisfy our immediate need. But when it is a question of continual progress, our immediate need is also the eternal need. Our eternal need is progress. Progress is the continuous fruitful, ever-transcending fulfilment of our eternal need. Success is pleasing to the human in us, but when we take the side of progress, we get tremendous divine satisfaction. We see progress in the growth of a tree. A seed germinates and grows into a tiny plant. Gradually it becomes a huge banyan tree with hundreds of branches and thousands of leaves which can offer shelter to countless human beings. If we take life as a song of gradual progress, then life is constant satisfaction.
Inner obedience is responsibility and duty. When we look at responsibility with our unaspiring human consciousness, it seems like an unbearably heavy burden that we have to shoulder. But when we follow the spiritual life, we look upon responsibility as a divine opportunity. The more responsibility we have, the more we are able to fulfil both Heaven-consciousness and earth-consciousness. Responsibility is our immediate necessity. It is the necessity of our soul, the necessity of the real in us, the necessity of the ideal in us and the necessity of the ever-transcending in us.
A sincere seeker feels that it is his inner and outer necessity that has compelled him to cry for God and become inseparably one with God's infinite Light, Truth, Peace and Bliss. He also feels that God's Necessity and God's Divinity are constantly in need of his existence. God's Divinity needs him for God-realisation, and God's Necessity needs him for God-manifestation. Necessity is founded upon mutual responsibility. The son has made a solemn promise to the Father that to realise and manifest Him he will go into the world-arena again and again. The Father has made a solemn promise to the son that in him and through him He will manifest His infinite Peace, Light and Bliss.
A sincere seeker, an obedient seeker, feels that the desire-life is a dangerous thing. It is constantly destroying his inner power and inner realisation. When he becomes really sincere, really devoted, really obedient, he feels that his aspiration-life is constantly taking him away from the desire-life and animal-life. Each human being first lives the desire-life, then the aspiration-life and finally the realisation-life. When he lives the realisation-life, he finally comes to see that his animal-life and desire-life served a purpose, but were only stages in the soul's slow and steady evolution.
Aspiration-life is the life of inner obedience. When we obey someone outwardly, even out of fear, we gain something. But when we obey someone inwardly because he is divine, then we grow into his very image, into his own divinity. When we inwardly and outwardly offer our obedience to the Inner Pilot, our first experience tells us that we are on earth and our Father is in Heaven. Our second experience tells us that we are where our Father is, or our Father is where we are. Our third and ultimate experience is that no matter where He is or where we are, our only wish is that His Will be done. Let Him be in Heaven, let us be in hell. Our only prayer to the ever-compassionate Father is this: "Let Thy Will be done." This is the highest perfection founded upon the beauty of inner obedience.
University of Bristol
July 16, 1974