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Chapter 2 / parts 1 - 5

Workshop on Spirituality - Part 1

   Following the talks to the assembled devotees at the All-Euope Sai Conference there were a number of concurrent workshops scheduled. I led the workshop on spirituality. To describe the situation: The workshop was held in a large ballroom of the conference facility. There were perhaps 700 to 800 people present, initially sitting at tables. There was no sound system set up. I asked everyone to move the tables to the side and come in very close, while I sat up on the edge of the stage with my feet dangling over the side. It was a very informal and intimate setting, not really in the European character. But it was perfect for exploring together Swami's teachings. The only material I brought with me were some notes of an interview Swami had given some years earlier to about 45 foreign devotees. I started the workshop with a discussion of that interview.

1  The Kodaikanal Interview

   Four years ago in Kodaikanal Swami blessed a number of visitors from different overseas countries who had come there with an interview. In the course of that interview he gave us the highest teachings on spirituality. We had the distinct impression that these were the most relevant teachings for Western devotees. Swami did not give a discourse as such, but he answered individual devotee's questions. The totality turned out to be a very powerful initiation into the highest teachings of the guru. I took notes of the interview and would like to share these with you today.

2  World and Relationships

   The first question that a devotee asked was: "Swami, what is the best way to relate to the world?" Swami said: "Do not think about the world. Do not spend time thinking about the world or about your relationships to individuals. They are all impermanent. They will not last. Pay attention to that which lasts, that which is permanent. All things involving the world or relationships have to do only with the body. The body is like a water bubble. The mind is like a mad monkey. Do not follow either the body or the mind. Follow the conscience. It is above the mind. It is permanent. It is the voice of God. The voice of unchanging truth inside."

   So, right from the beginning in this interview, Swami took us above the level of body and worldly consciousness. When I first came to Swami I asked him the same thing. At that time, I was very much concerned about the condition of the world. Perhaps I should just say a little bit about my own background. At one time I was involved in the technical management of nuclear weapons, particularly the ballistic missile programs in the U.S. arsenal. Temperamentally I was not suited for that work, and so I found myself in and out of hospitals with ulcers. Finally I realized that I was not supposed to be doing that. I went into natural healing. I changed my work completely and left my technical training behind. But I never forgot that within 45 minutes at any time, day or night, this world could be reduced to ashes. That always pressed on my heart.

   When I finally went to Swami, one of the first things I asked him was: "Swami, what about this world? What do we do about this world?" And Swami answered: "The world is not your business. It is God's business. You think of God and let God take care of the world." A burden fell off my shoulder.
And then, three years ago Swami said: "Now the time has come for Swamiji to enter the hearts of world leaders and turn them towards peace." Before that it was not time for peace. Everything has a time. It is a grand drama which he is enacting. We have front-row seats to watch this drama, and, at the same time, we are also in the drama. He said: "The time has come for world leaders to turn towards peace and the Russians will come first. Don't call them Communists; call them Come-you-next." That is when Gorbachev came into the picture.

   Of course, Swami did not say that we should not work for peace. But here he was teaching a most important lesson. Follow the voice of the divinity inside. Follow the conscience. If he says from within: "Go do!" Then you do. But listen to that inner voice.

3  Conscious, Conscience, Consciousness

   Then the devotee asked: "Swami, how do we tell the voice of conscience from the other voices?" Swami answered: "Where there are many voices you can call it conscious but not conscience. Conscious relates to the little self. It deals with the mind. In that there will be many voices and differences. But conscience is always only one. It is unchanging. You should understand these different terms."

   And then he gave these three terms: conscious, conscience, and consciousness. They mean three different things. All the various phenomena, everything pertaining to the world can be called conscious. The supreme spirit, the highest awareness is pure consciousness. It is the one omnipresent reality. From it comes the conscience.
Out of pure consciousness comes the conscience, which is the voice of truth inside. Conscience is the soul, the spark of the divine. It is the divinity that is always residing within. On the spiritual path we go from the worldly level to the divinity which is in our heart, that is from the conscious to the conscience, and then to the ultimate reality - the consciousness. Conscious to conscience to consciousness are the three stages of spiritual life. "This is the path that Jesus showed, and this is also your path," Swami said.

4  Dualism, Qualified Dualism, Non-dualism

   And then he explained it further. He said: "At the beginning you are aware only of the physical relationship. You say, 'I am a devotee. I am an instrument, a messenger, a servant.' This is the stage of dualism. Between the messenger and God there is a vast difference. It is the master-servant relationship, where God is the master and you are the servant. It is the initial stage of devotion, the beginning stage." Many of us are in that stage. And many of us prefer to remain in that stage. It is like the ant that delights in the mountain of sugar. It does not want to become the sugar. It likes to taste the sugar. But what happens when the sugar disappears? Swami says you have to move on. Don't remain stuck at the lower stages. Remember, he was speaking to Westerners. Many of us have gone through all these stages of ritual worship. We have done that in other lives. We are ready for this highest teachings.

   So, listen to the voice of conscience. When the voice says: "Move on!" Then move on! It is very appropriate that we are sitting here without a picture of Swami, with just a light. Swami told some people from Hamburg: "Get all the pictures out of your room." Move on! Those who are ready to move on, move on! Do not remain stuck at the lower stages. Now he will speak about that.

   "At the beginnning you are a devotee, a messenger. This is the initial stage. After that you speak of an inner, a subtle relationship. You say: 'I am a spark of the divine. God is my father. I am a child of God.' In the beginning you say to God: 'O God, you are very dear to me.' But now God says to you: 'You, my child, are very dear to me. You are always near and dear.' Now you are in a family relationship with God. In this stage you are the child of God, or the son of God. Here you no longer have an outer relationship but an inner one. This is the second stage on the spiritual path which is not yet completely non-dual but not dual either.

   "Finally you realise that there is only the one. Now you feel: 'I and God are completely inseparable. We are the one spirit.'" Swami said that this is the true relationship, the permanent relationship. Swami said that Jesus did not have that full realization until he was on the cross. On the cross Jesus still felt some trace of resentment towards the soldiers who were brutalizing him. Then he heard the voice of God telling him, "All are one, my dear son. Be alike to everyone." At that point the last vestige of separation dropped off and Jesus declared, "I and my Father are one." He had realized the ultimate truth of the oneness of the self and God. This is the stage of complete non-dualism.

   Swami continued: "In that there is no difference between you and God. But then there never was a difference. It was always your imagination. The sense of difference was in your mind. There is no separate I or God which has become one. Always there was just the One without a second. At that point you can only say: 'I am I' or simply: 'I am.' At that final stage you would not even say: 'I am God', because that still has some duality in it. At that point there is only the pure I.

   "That is the highest truth. To reach that ultimate state, you must not allow yourself to ever think that you and God are separate. Think always: 'God is with me. He is inside me. He is around me. He is above me. All there is, is God. I, myself, am God. I am the infinite. I am the eternal. I am not two. I am one, only one; there is no one else besides me. I and God are

5  Self-confidence

   "In order to realize this unity, the first step is to develop self-confidence." You may remember Swami sometimes speaks of this. He says the foundation is self-confidence, the walls are self-satisfaction, the roof is self-sacrifice. Then you can move in and occupy this house of self-realization. These are the steps. He says before faith in God has any meaning, you must have faith in yourself. First comes self-confidence. All the emotional feelings you have towards God will not have any deep significance until you have self-confidence. Why is that?

   Well, you may feel: "I am a sinner. I am weak. I am not a good person. I am so troubled. I am depressed." But do you remember the second of the Ten Commandments? It says you should not use the name of God in vain, meaning that you should not speak of God improperly. Now, 'I am' is the name of God. If you say: "I am a sinner" How can that be? How can God be a sinner? Or: "I am no good!" How can God be no good? He said to Moses: "'I am' is my name." Swami has also said the same thing. Many times he has declared, "The 'I' you use refers to the divinity." Everytime we say "I am", that "I am" is God. If I say: "I am Drucker", that 'Drucker' is some temporary word that comes and goes. It is a name and form, but preceding it and serving as its basis is the divinity, the unchanging 'I am'. So we must not use the name of God in vain. Every time we say 'I am', it must only be connected with godly qualities. That is the meaning of self-confidence; it is confidence in the indwelling divinity.

   This is very important. Whether we know it or not, this is what has taken us to Swami. This is what has taken us to India. It is not just some dissatisfaction that we may have with the religion in which we were brought up. Perhaps that religion has lost some of its meaning for us. Many Christians feel that. Many religious people have some concern about the way in which their religion has developed. Well then, we can work to affect some reform from within the religion or join a new movement that is more congenial to our needs. But why would we want to depart from our Western heritage to embrace a very different Eastern tradition? Why would we go to India, a country that appears so strange and different? What is it that coming there gives us, that we don't have here?

   Why would someone like myself spend ten years there? It is this teaching - that the individual self we claim for ourselves is in truth the universal. That is what is both unique and compelling about the perennial wisdom of the East. And it is that which brings us to India, because our long-hidden inner truth cries out 'Yes!' when we hear the Vedantic proclamation that In essence, we are God. This non-dualistic revelation of the oneness of the self with God is the fulfillment of every religion. Yet, we can find hints of this in all our major religions.

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