The Path of Pure Consciousness
(By Swami Premananda.)
Review By Paramhansa Yogananda
JNANA YOGA is the telescopic spiritual eye through which man may look into the Infinite. Without spiritual discrimination the search for God is impossible. JNANA YOGA can produce such discrimination by opening the soul's eye to see Spirit.
God, as our Father, has everything. Then why does He bother with us puny mortals? There can be only one reason: He made man in His image, and His highest gift was free choice. God wants to find out whether or not man will use his freedom to choose the Father instead of His gifts. God has everything except human love, but unless man voluntarily offers that to Him, He can not get it.
Swami Premananda's emphasis on unconditional love for God is wonderful, as it tells man how, through JNANA YOGA, he can -reach a state of union with his supreme Self-Spirit--and obtain the ultimate freedom. Everyone will he highly benefited by reading this jewel of wisdom which has come out of the mine of Swami Premananda's spiritual soul.
Review By Virginia Scott
This is a revised and enlarged edition of one of the most popular books by Swami Premananda, conducting preceptor of the S.R.F. Center in Washington, D. C., and it is dedicated to his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda.
Swami Premananda says that his mission in life is ". . . to convert man to his inherent divinity,. to baptize him in the perfection of his soul and to initiate him into the consciousness of his oneness with God, more truly, into the full cognition of his absolute godliness." So this book, like all his others, is written "to awaken man to truth."
His style is well suited to an exposition of Jnana Yoga-neither too involved for pleasant reading nor too simplified to explain principles which often require the use of similes and metaphors. Color is added by the occasional use of parables, and many of the individual sentences express so much that they are suitable for meditation.
In the introduction it is stated that "The path of Jnana Yoga is the path of pure consciousness, Buddha Chaitannyam. Sometimes it is called the path of wisdom." On this path one does not study the relationship of God and man because ". . . it is based upon the premise of absolute truth that man and God are identical. According to Jnana Yoga man is God, and God is man. The question of relationship arises only in the state of duality."
Neither does this path deal with creation, nor with any relative state of consciousness. "It takes for its subject matter the absolute, not the relative. Creation comes within the scope of the relative... In Jnana Yoga we are to ask about Self, the Spirit, the Absolute. In it we have no right to raise such questions as Why do we have a body? Why do we die? Where do we go after death? What causes suffering? Here we are to devote ourselves to gain the knowledge and realization of the Self, which is bodiless, birthless, deathless, omnipresent, conscious and blissful."
The Light of the Self
The first section of the book deals with the light of the Self, which is composed of "consciousness, life and love." In the search for the Self, truth and religion must be understood. "Religion is the pure light of knowledge. By it man gains the vision of Truth. . . . Conversion through knowledge makes an enlightened devotee; blind faith welds the chain of emotional bondage."
The author defines all virtues and righteousness as radiations from the light of the Self. After enumerating these positive qualities, he continues, "Negative qualities of mind and unrighteousness of conduct are inevitable falterings of one who walks on the path of life in subjective darkness. By the very fact of his roving in lightlessness, he is forced to use these destructive qualities as a means of self defense because of his weakness.
The Quest of the Self forms the second section of the book. The fundamental principle of desire is discussed at length. Naming many of those desires which fill our days without filling our needs, he finishes with the assertion that we can never satisfy our desires until we have transcended the finite. "We live in this world not to possess it, but to learn to transcend it. Never expect to attain complete and perfect satisfaction of the desire of your heart, which is eternal and one, by any single object or by all the objects of this world. You will fail. It would be like vainly attempting to fill infinite space with grains of sand. Our thirst is for the eternal spring. How, then, are we to be satisfied with a teaspoonful of water?" However, this does not mean that we are forbidden to enjoy the experiences of life, he adds, but rather that ". . . in our loving, possessing, and enjoyment of material objects, we must approach life with a higher vision."
The Supreme Quest
To know the Self, and thereby to know God, is the underlying theme which Swami Premananda approaches from many angles. After discussing man's true nature, and the incident known as death, he gives five proofs that man is not the body. He also cites three facts which prove that we can know God. If we do not achieve realization of God it is because we do not care enough, do not pursue Him with the same burning desire the lover has for the beloved. Far from making Him the single object of our search, most people do not even believe in Him wholeheartedly.
"Do you think the majority of people truly believe in God?" asks Premananda. "Do you think even those who seldom miss a church service or religious meeting have real faith in God? . . . The faith of most people is likely to be 'fair weather' faith. If all the material requirements of their lives are well provided for, then they are loving and satisfied with God. Let one hard blow come upon them from the world, and all their faith will be shattered. Immediately they complain, questioning the justice of God. They at once denounce God, saying, 'I have been all my life kind, charitable, and devoted to God. Then why should God strike me with such terrible misery? I doubt if there is any God.' A little worldly suffering is enough to shake their faith in God. This kind of faith is not the faith that reveals God. . . . Our spiritual life should not be dominated by adverse material circumstance,,. Spiritual life must stand above all earthly conditions, as our Soul is above all effects of dualities."
It is possible to realize God if one believes in Him under all conditions, and if one is anxious enough to find Him-Premananda assures the reader. There are various methods, but he outlines only those which he feels are the most important, namely: resignation, meditation, discrimination, and faith. His interesting contribution to the science of Jnana Yoga closes with a description of the sensations attending the dawning of Self-realization.
(Collected by Olga Rosmanith, Essential Books, 270 Madison Ave.,
New York 16. 1944. $1.10 postpaid.)
This philosophical anthology contains brief excerpts from the world's great teachers and scriptures. The title is taken from Schopenhauer, who compared great authors to "fixed stars unchangeable, possess their own light and work for all time." A few of the well-chosen quotations follow:
"No man has come to true greatness who has not felt in some degree that his life belongs to his race, and that what God gives him, He gives him for mankind." -Phillips Brooks.
"I would give nothing for that man's religion whose very dog and cat are not the better for it."-Rowland Hill.
"It is only a narrow-minded man that makes such distinctions as 'This is our friend; this is our enemy A liberal-minded man showeth affection for all."-Precious Treasury (Tibetan).
"According to the purpose a man has in this world, thus does he become on departing hence. So, let him form for himself a purpose."-Vedas.
"My motto: I don't want anything."-Anton Cbekhov.
"Those who are constant are sought after by men, and assisted by God."-Tao.
"This path is difficult, secret and beset with terror. The ancients called it ecstasy or absence-a getting out of their bodies to think." -R. W. Emerson.
"Where there is only a show of religion there is only an imagination of happiness."-Benjamin Whichcote.
"The Law is tranquillity amidst disturbance, and disturbance leads to its perfection."-Chuang Tsu.
"There should be no compulsion in religion."-Islam Proverb.
"If a man loves others, and no responsive attachment is shown to him, let him turn inward, and examine his own benevolence."Confucius.
Did You Read It?
(This postcript to the Book Review Department will serve as a reminder of old books worth rereading, as well as those which the reader may have missed at the time of publication.)
(By Charles Erskine Scott Wood. Vanguard Press, New York. Out of print, Available at Public Libraries and some second-hand book stores.)
By Paramhansa Yogananda
I have seen many saints in India, and I am always looking for great ones in America. I found such a one in Charles Erskine Scott Wood and am extremely grieved because I did not meet him in this earth life. Almost everywhere in his great book he spoke truth, with the will and courage of Christ, and without being prejudiced by his own opinions. Everyone should read this pleasant, humorously written modern bible, HEAVENLY DISCOURSE. Every line in this amazing book is intensely instructive for all times especially what this great savant writes about war, human rights and conduct.
By Virginia Scott
In this satire where invective, slang and beautiful imagery mingle companionably - God appears in His Jehovah aspect, but as a Jehovah who has evolved considerably since the Old Testament was written! He has learned that even Satan's work tends toward ultimate good, has abolished Hell and forbidden over-zealous St. Peter to bar any soul from Heaven. However, "the Stupid" bar themselves, and must go back to earth for another try. In these dialogues the Sons of God (Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tze, Confucius, etc.) and the poets, scientists and philosophers discuss the evils and stupidities perpetrated on that little pill familiarly known as "Jesus' earth," a fault-infested little lump of matter which continues as a part of the universe only because God has promised one of His beloved sons a million years' trial for the humans who struggle there.
Upon publication this book was acclaimed by the critics because the characterizations of famous persons are faithfully drawn, and because flippant humor, righteous indignation, tolerant humanitarianism and imperturbable wisdom are mixed together with startling, but delightful, effects. Readers applauded, chortled or hissed-according to their individual political and religious leanings. That the book was ahead of its time is indicated by the encouraging fact that today it appeals to a wider audience than ever.
Although we recommend it enthusiastically, our endorsement is not a blanket one. For instance, it is probably true that all self-appointed censors of morals, and all who would reform their fellows through force and prohibition, are neurotics suffering from some form of repression - most commonly, sexual repression or maladjustment. But it does not follow that the converse is true - that all who choose a life of renunciation and asceticism become repressed neurotics. We also disagree with the harsh judgment passed upon Woodrow Wilson. At that time, his failure to fulfill his intention of assuring a just peace and establishing machinery to prevent future wars aroused grief which took form in bitterness against him personally. Now, having obtained a broader view of that era, we know how much he was hampered by monopolists and power politicians.
Themes range through the social evils that infest our so-called civilization, but in addition to tearing down hypocritical pretensions, the characters make many constructive speeches concerning immutable laws of justice and brotherhood which man must some day learn to follow. There are discussions of: racial and religious prejudice; how God evolves; why He will not break His own laws; futility of reform by force; man-made marriage; war mongers, censors, hypocritical evangelists (whose rantings find them a place in the African Medicine Men's heaven), repressed reformers and other smelly souls; evolution versus fundamentalism; selfish prayer; the stupidity of war; how morals vary with climate and era; the Klu Klux Klan; the mask of "100% Americanism"; revolution as one form of evolution, evil and good as two sides of one law; etc.
Some of the names of the negative protagonists are now dated, but the evils they represent certainly are not, nor have any of the problems presented so vividly yet been conquered. We still have remnants of the Klan, and there have been a dozen equally vicious organizations spawned from that germ idea. The cry of "100% Americanism" is still used by organizations desiring an opportunity to persecute all who disagree with their racial, religious or political beliefs. Certainly the devils of war and intolerance are still at the heels of all who would spurn them -and are perched comfortably upon the shoulders of all who are amenable to their suggestions.
Futility of Force
The God of Heavenly Discourse is often at a loss to understand the reasoning of the contradictory creatures who inhabit "Jesus' earth." Ingersoll, Mark Twain, Thomas Paine, Voltaire and many others try to explain illegitimacy, false modesty, religious fanatics (each sure he speaks for God), the persecution of pacifists (who are only following Jesus' teachings), what is and what is not "moral" according to censors, and above all-why men have not yet learned that force and prohibition are contrary to evolution.
When questioned about this last matter, God once conjectures that perhaps He is really to blame. "I made the life-desire so insistent that from this comes determined individualism and from this arises an egoism which causes each to think that he alone is fit to rule the cosmos. The great advance is for one to know he knows nothing and is not fit to rule anybody.
"Ingersoll: Let him be the cosmos for himself, and govern it for himself, but let him permit every other peaceable fellow also to be his own cosmos and his own governor.
"God: But that would be wisdom. Wisdom comes slowly. Tolerance requires the intelligence to see that no one can ever be sure of anything and that none can be truly free till all are free."
God, His Sons, and the philosophers all agree that war is founded upon "man's supreme stupidity in greed. Whoever wins loses." Those who died, hoping to bring peace (which cannot come until freedom and brotherhood are established) were fooled by lies. But God will not interfere because: "My law is freedom. I permit man to go to his destruction or his salvation according to his folly or his wisdom. Let him learn to know lies or die."
When Jesus sorrows for all who are suffering and dying, believing in pretty slogans coined by the powerful few, God answers that this need not happen, and continue to happen periodically, "If the common people had the sense to join on all sides the world over in common cause against the artificial system which 0 breeds masters, that would be real brotherhood, and I might think them worth saving; but then I would be in them and of them and they would save themselves, As it is, their battles interest me no more than the combats in old cheese. Let my laws take their course. Wars there will be while for each nation the shortsighted self-interest and greed of a few competes for ownership of the earth, and there will be this competitior, till 'civilization' sees its Salvation in a free exchange of blessings."
He illustrates the necessity for cooperation: "Suppose the cells of man's body each fought for itself to become supreme - how long would the body last? So, ?-]so, if each individual in the social group understands that the utmost freedom for all is the only freedom for each, and that union and harmony of all accomplish more than the greatest strength of any and that the whole world is a common village, with common united aims, and trade between all must be absolutely and entirely free, then man will survive and continue to evolve under my eternal conditions; otherwise he must perish."
Similarly, all that is said here against churches and their machinations is directed toward their thirst for worldly power, their endeavor to win followers through fear and force, their useless dogmas and misinterpretations of the words ' and acts of the founders (Jesus, Buddha, etc.) and not toward the individual priests that serve these churches. Among these are many good men , as Jesus acknowledges when he has repudiated the churches which do not preach his will: "A great multitude-gentle and loving souls, giving their lives in poverty, with self-sacrifices to the service of the Father." And among Jesus' followers are the devout as well as the hypocrites. As God says: "There should be two words. my son: Christ-ian, for those who actually live your teachings; and Christian for the prayer snivelling hypocrites."
Evolution and freedom are two of God's fundamental laws, and He makes many statements concerning them. For example: "I was pretty mean myself in the old Jehovah days. But, I too, have evolved." And, "I made nothing. I did greater than that-I established eternal conditions out of which all things create themselves and grow: heavenly bodies, these beautiful blossoms and the fruit to be, and man."-"All who speak for freedom, speak for me. If some will have poison, let them to it. It works its own cure. I never lifted a finger to save anyone. Let them save themselves."
Because of these two laws man cannot be forced to accept or follow a type of life or religion which is not in harmony with his character at this stage of his evolution. Jesus repudiates high-pressure con_ version methods when he rebukes the soul of Billy Sunday: "My brothers neither hate nor holler. They are the pure in heart, quiet, without malice, whose law is love." Only hypocrites dare cloak religious intolerance with the cloak of Christianity. They take his name in vain. "What of my life-my whole life?" Jesus asks. "What of my death? If these mean anything, they mean tolerance, persuasion by love. refusal to answer force by force."
Ingersoll puts it a little more pungently: "Did Jesus intend to drag his black lamb back into the fold with a ring in its nose, sheep dogs biting its throat and the shepherd beating it on the buttocks with an iron crook?"
One factor which raises Heavenly Discourse above the level of many social satires is the author's ability to weave strong, shining statements concerning universal laws into the speeches of God and the lesser characters. Because of this, the words of the Jehovian God seem those of a truly superhuman being with an expanded consciousness, rather than the social concepts of the author issuing from the mouth of an old man with a white beard. When God has introduced some of His sons, mentioning the life mission of each, Mark Twain responds, "I am fortunate to have seen all the sons of God." But He replies, "Not all. I have many sons." At another time He answers one who believes that salvation lies only through Jesus, "My sons are many. They sparkle through the ages. Whoever gives his life to teaching love instead of hate is my son. Can a man be bad who believes and does all that Jesus taught, though he never heard of Jesus?"
To the soul of an intelligent Bishop who is surprised at confronting a personal God--in whom he had never believed--God says. "Ah, my friend, am I personal? Could I be personal and cosmic? Perhaps you were right, and this you now speak with may be but a single apparition of the vast unknown, a momentary phantom of eternity, as on earth a drop of dew is brought from the invisible to the top of a blade of grass."
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