About the middle path
In the spiritual life, the most important, significant and fruitful thing is self-control. No self-control, no self-realisation. In the dictionary we come across hundreds and thousands of words. Of all these words, self-control is the most difficult one to practice. How can we have self-control? We have to surrender ourselves to the Source. This Source is Light; this Source is God.
How can we inspire the body, the vital, the mind and the heart to enter into better and more fulfilling light? If we find fault with them, we can never change and transform them. But if we appreciate them, saying that they have the capacity to play a significant role in God's cosmic Drama, that they are as important as the soul for the full manifestation of God on earth, then we can transform them. If we do not condemn the body, vital, mind and heart – on the contrary, if we tell them that they can be the chosen instruments of God, that God needs them for His divine Lila or Game on earth – then eventually we can transform them. The unruly members of our family will before long feel the importance of their respective roles in the fulfillment of God’s manifestation. They can and will be unified for the fulfillment of a single goal.
Self-control takes time. It cannot be achieved overnight. Through introspection, self-examination and proper meditation, one achieves it. Again, self-control does not mean self-torture. Neither does it mean austerity. Unfortunately, in the West, self-control has been misunderstood. People think that the austere, arduous life practiced by some Indian aspirants of the past stands as the ideal of self-control. But that kind of austere life, torturing and punishing the body, is not real self-control. It is self-mortification. If somebody wants to realise God by fasting for days and months, then he will be embraced by death, not God.
A normal, natural life – the middle path – is what God demands from us. The Buddha taught us to follow the middle path, not to go to extremes. We have to be very firmly planted on earth. The root of the tree is under the ground, and the branches are looking up towards the highest. Self-control is within and self-manifestation is without. Today's self-control will be tomorrow's self-transcendence.
I wish to tell about an incident in the life of Socrates. Once Socrates and a host of admirers went to see a palmist. The palmist read Socrates' hand and said, "What a bad person you are, ugly and full of lower vital problems. Your life is full of corruption." Socrates' admirers were thunderstruck. They wanted to strike the palmist. What gall he had to say such things about Socrates, who was truly a pious man, a saint!
But Socrates said, "Wait, let us ask him if he has said everything." Then the palmist continued, "No, I have something more to say. This man has all these undivine qualities, without doubt, but he has not shown any of them. They are all under his control."
There is but one philosophy:
God can be seen
With my aspiration-cry.
There is but one religion:
My life's sunrise begins
With God's Compassion-Beauty.
There is but one code of life:
I live to love God.
God lives to purify me and perfect me,
So that He can hoist His Victory-Banner
In the battlefield of my life.
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