Is spirituality an escape from reality?Harvard University; Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Andover Hall, Harvard Divinity School
9 June 1975
The answer has to be always in the negative. Spirituality can never be an escape from reality. What is spirituality? Spirituality is the fruit of reality. And what is reality? Reality is the seed of spirituality. The seed and the fruit are together and inseparable. Today what is seed, tomorrow becomes fruit. The day after tomorrow it becomes seed again, and the following day it becomes once more fruit. In the heart of time the seed and the fruit change their respective roles and play a game of constant oneness-manifestation.
Is spirituality an escape from reality? No, never! Who escapes? He who feels that he has done something wrong. He who feels that the inner world or the outer world have reason to punish him. A thief wants to escape because he has stolen something, but the seeker is aspiring all the time to do the right thing. A seeker who is eventually going to become a saint is not stealing anything from anybody. He is praying to bring down Peace, Light and Bliss in infinite measure.
He who feels that his reality is insufficient, insignificant, will try to escape from the reality itself. But the real Reality is all-pervading; nobody can escape from that Reality. The unreal in us wants to escape from the real in us. The unreal in us sees its shortcomings, its deficiencies, its limitations: therefore, it tries to escape from the vast Reality-existence. But the unreal in us unfortunately does not know that the real Reality is all-pervading; it has an omnipresent existence.
The animal in us wants to devour the human in us. It feels that by devouring the human in us it can achieve satisfaction. The human in us doubts the existence of divine Light; therefore, it tries to challenge the divinity within and without us. It feels that by challenging the divinity and by doubting, suspecting and ignoring the divinity it can derive satisfaction. This idea is absurd. As it is impossible for the animal in us to destroy the human in us totally, even so, the human in us cannot doubt forever, cannot blight forever the brilliant effulgence of the divine Light within us. The human in us will never be destroyed by the animal because the human in us is crying for something higher, for the higher Light, for inner Peace. Naturally one day, without fail, the human in us will be inundated with higher Light and inner Peace. And the human in us will not be able to doubt or blight the purity of the divinity within us forever, precisely because the divinity within us is infinite, eternal and immortal. The human in us will sooner or later surrender to the divine in us, just as the animal in us has to surrender to the human in us.
Real spirituality has to accept the world as it is. If spirituality wants to wait for the improvement of the world or if spirituality wants a better world in which to offer its light, then spirituality will have to wait for eternity. But spirituality is wise. It does not wait. It knows that the world is evolving and progressing. Each individual is progressing. Some are progressing slowly, while others are progressing fast and still others are progressing very, very fast. He who has an intense inner cry will naturally run the fastest. We have to accept the world and change the face of the world, transform the world of desire into the world of aspiration and transform the world of aspiration into the world of illumination and perfection. Acceptance-song we must always sing. We have to sing the acceptance-song inside the body, inside the vital, inside the mind, inside the heart. Anything that is given to us by God, the Author of all good, must be utilised properly, Him to serve in His own Way.
If we sing the other song, which we call the renunciation-song, we have to be extremely careful. Renunciation is a very complicated word and a very significant word in our spiritual terminology. For the last four thousand years, Indian seekers and some of the Indian spiritual Masters have sung the song of renunciation. If we begin to renounce, we will soon discover that there is nothing in us that we do not have to renounce eventually in order to attain satisfaction. Today we feel that our body is imperfect and ignorant; therefore, let us renounce the body. Tomorrow we shall feel that our vital is aggressive and undivine, so we shall try to renounce the vital. The day after tomorrow we will feel that our mind is unlit, impure, obscure, and we shall renounce the mind. The following day we shall see that our heart is very weak; it cannot resist temptation; therefore, we shall renounce the heart. In this way anything that we claim as our own, we shall renounce. But if we renounce everything that we have or that we inwardly are, how are we going to see the face of satisfaction? It is simply impossible. That is why we have to walk along the other road, the road of acceptance.
We must know that we have a soul, which is a spark of the highest Divinity, within us. This soul has Light in boundless measure and this soul abides in the inmost recesses of our hearts. On the strength of our aspiration we can feel the soul's Light inside our heart, and from the heart we can bring down the soul's light into the mind; from the mind we can bring it into the vital and from the vital into the physical.
A seeker is he who wants to please God, who wants to please the real in himself, who wants to do the first thing first. The first thing is to love God and please God. The real in us is God and nobody else. By accepting what we have right now and what we stand for on earth, we shall eventually fulfil the divinity within us and the reality within us.
Now we have two lives: the desire-life and the aspiration-life. The desire-life feels that the fulfilment of the senses, whether they are purified or not, is everything. The pleasure-life is everything for the desire-life. For the aspiration-life, pleasure-life is not everything. On the contrary, it is absolutely nothing. The life of joy is everything. Pleasure-life is something that secretly compels us to deny the real Reality in us. The real Reality is all-pervading, inseparable oneness. The life of joy openly teaches us how to establish an inseparable oneness with the world at large. In the pleasure-life, the sense of separativity constantly looms large. Pleasure is in the limited earth-bound existence. And joy is in the unlimited Heaven-free existence.
When a seeker starts praying and meditating, either consciously or unconsciously, he feels the necessity of the aspiration-life. Many times a seeker prays and meditates unconsciously; therefore, he does not march continuously, he halts at times. But when he becomes conscious, he walks or runs along the road all the time, twenty-four hours a day. And he sees inside himself a different life, not a human life which spans sixty, seventy or eighty years, but a life that transcends both human life and human death. When the seeker starts consciously walking along Eternity's road, slowly, steadily and unerringly he reaches his Destined Goal.
When the seeker reaches his Goal, to his wide surprise he finds that his Goal is nothing but a new starting point. Why? His inner hunger has increased. The life that he has seen and become is not enough for him. He needs more light, abundant light, infinite Light. When a child is in kindergarten, his destination is primary school. When he is in primary school, his destination is high school. When he is in high school, his destination is college. And, when he is in college, his destination is the university. When he completes his university course, he is still not satisfied, even in spite of having a Master's Degree or a Ph.D., for he knows that there is no end to his knowledge. He wants to discover more about the world—more truth, more knowledge. He knows that there is no end to the things he can learn. This is in the ordinary life, the life of human knowledge. In the life of divine wisdom, which is infinitely more powerful, which deals with Eternity, Infinity and Immortality, one has to be continuously a student. Like the great philosopher Socrates, we have to become eternal students.
Spiritual life is the life of love and satisfaction. The love that we achieve from our spiritual life is the love that grows, glows and flows. Unlike human love, which strangles and is strangled while it is trying to possess something or someone, divine love continuously grows and blossoms within us. Divine love is a flower; its offering is its fragrance. When the seeker smells the fragrance, he feels that his inner being is purified and his outer existence is purified.
Satisfaction can be achieved in two ways: through destruction and through perfection. The animal in us and the human in us try to derive satisfaction from destruction. The human in us wants to devour the world of reality. The human in us invents bombs to destroy the world and then both the animal and the human feel that they will have satisfaction. But the divine in us knows that satisfaction, true satisfaction, can never be achieved by destroying reality. As a matter of fact, the real Reality can never be destroyed. It is not only omnipresent but it is also omnipotent. Instead, the divine finds satisfaction in perfecting the limited reality that it discovers here on earth. In this way only can divine satisfaction, lasting satisfaction, be attained.
The world is God's Dream. And God's Dream and God's Reality are inseparable. God cannot exist with only His Reality, without having a dream. Again, He cannot exist with only His Dream. His Dream and His Reality are like His Soul and His Body. The Body, let us say, is Reality and the Soul is Dream. The Cosmic Dream is constantly running, flying, diving into uncharted planes. It has made friends with Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. The Cosmic Reality is static: it holds the Cosmic Vision. It is like a dancer who needs something to stand upon to dance. Reality God needs in order to perform the Cosmic Game, which is the manifestation of His Cosmic Vision or Dream.
Spirituality and Reality are inseparable. Spirituality is the sky within us and Reality is the sea within us. In the sky-consciousness we get the message of delight. When delight enters into freedom, we see that freedom has become the Face of the Transcendental Supreme. When freedom enters into delight, we see that delight has become the Smile of the Transcendental Supreme. The life of freedom and the life of delight each seeker has within himself. When he practises prayer, concentration and meditation, the day soon dawns when he discovers that he himself has eternally been the very thing that he has long been searching for. When his dream-boat carries him to the Reality-Shore, he sees that that Reality-Shore is nothing other than his own forgotten Reality.