One of the chief purposes of life is self-development. The mental development means our capacity to love truth. It is expressed through our practice of virtue, of which patience in distress and forgiveness in prosperity are chief characteristics. This gives the mind serenity.
A serene mind is essential to the development of love of truth and the unfoldment of the infinite potentialities of the mind to raise itself to the spiritual region and to realize the peace which passeth all understanding. We are freed from the fear of death, and endowed with passionlessness and the inner light which transcends the joys and sorrows of life.
Man has physical appetites, such as the need for food, shelter, security and sense-satisfaction, if such a thing exists at all. The moral appetites, such as sympathy with fellow men in distress, compassion and forgiveness, express the real value of reason and emotion, and must also be satisfied, or our spiritual development will be impeded.
Then there are the spiritual needs which, when satisfied, make the life worth while. Their chief characteristics are humility, undisturbable peace, the urge to see infinity in the finite and to seek the light which never fades. Under the spiritual light the sufferings—which are an integral part of life—are utilised to further the peace within. Submission, as in the case of the stormy life of Beethoven, prepares the way to the spiritual light. It gives fearlessness, a sense of unity in diversity and consciousness of the infinitude of the Self.
This is the climax of self-development. Appreciation of beauty is a help if it is on a non-possessive and universal basis. Possessiveness in regard to beauty hampers the journey of the local self to the universal self within it.
Now let us discuss the question of philanthropy. Unless man serves his kind and other living beings irrespective of racial or national considerations, his self-development is retarded and the rays of the spiritual light are blotted out. Our chief contribution is moral and spiritual. We do not undervalue the contribution of those who use their great wealth to relieve human suffering, but the moral and spiritual growth of man is a crying need, particularly at this time.
Without trying to be dogmatic or expressing self-superiority or trying to collect disciples and followers, the knowers of Truth are those who communicate their inner experiences to aid the self-development of others. As an artist uplifts the soul of his votaries by evoking in them spiritual desires, so the enlightened communicate their experience, not merely bookish learning, to stimulate the spiritual appetite of their fellow human beings. They infuse into them a desire for universal compassion and love of the light within. They make no converts: their mission is to light the path of the weary pilgrims to the temple of the universal Truth, with the experiences of the sages of the past corroborated by their own experience.
A majority of people do not understand the phrase ‘spiritual attainment’. To them material gains have a real meaning. The moral achievements have value for the few who have advanced on the path of self-development.
Imagine a beautifully bound volume of the poems of Goethe containing many pictures. Some observers will like the appearance of the book, others the illustrations. They are compared to those who realize the material and moral value of life. But the real enjoyment of the book is for those who can appreciate the poetry and savour its deeper meaning. Such is the spiritual value of life also.
Those who have touched the innermost circle of light in the consciousness of the Self and view the world as a great drama enacted by the spirit, know the ultimate value of life. They try to awaken in us that inner vision which gives a sight of the infinitude of the spirit in practical experience. Their contribution has no amusement value, nor do they try to impress others with their own importance and depth of learning. To the enlightened, the seeker is God, the path is God, the goal is God, and all is God.
The ABC of the path is to run away from our localised ego into the realm of infinity. First we forget our self-interest and equip the mind with truth and beauty with the purpose of serving God in others. Then we suppress the mind and lead it to the vacuity within. ‘All is an empty dream except the Self’ is the motto. Illness and health, spring and winter, abuses and respect are all the same: mere words or sensation but nothing real in them. This vacuity is filled with the light of ‘I am’. This ‘I’ is universal. A great flood of peace fills the mind. But it too is ignored, because ‘all that is finite is Maya’.
This is real self-development. It is not free from relapses. By courage and single-minded devotion to the ideal we overcome the tendencies to relapse. We live in the world to glorify God and to make Shanti and Dharma illustrious.
Thought and self-expression as light are the characteristics of the developed individual consciousness. Each harbours the highest potentiality—to become a person of spiritual illumination. Come what may, you have done your duty.