Monday, 29 December 2014
One of the strangest aspects of the world we live in is the genuine ignorance that different religions and cultures have of each other. Thus, both east and west have very little idea that men and women of God, great Yogis, have lived everywhere across the globe. This gives a very skewed idea of things. To this day, you would be surprised at where the truly great teachers and yogis really do live. For example, once my Guru Sri Shivabalayogi was asked, while on one of his American trips, "Well, does America have truly enlightened people and Yogis?" Back came the reply: "Yes, but they are hidden. Most are Native American Indians." An intriguing comment!
The twentieth century produced some truly remarkable teachers, and the light of some of them shone in the darkest of times. One such was the Bulgarian mystic Peter Deunov, also called by the spiritual name Bensa Duono, who lived and worked in Bulgaria from 1864 to 1944. This put his life bang smack in the middle of two world wars, economic chaos, the breakup of an old order, and the threat of fascism and communism. A time when light was in particularly short supply.
The Master had a curious and visionary youth, and even lived when young briefly in America. He was the son of an Orthodox priest. His teaching work centred on many innovations, such as the vast circles of people in white practising cosmic exercises on summer mountain meadows. The exercises are a little like tai chi, and are called paneurhythmy. and you can see the circles of dance on you tube performed by the school of esoteric thought, the Order of the White Brotherhood that he founded.
Deunov was a magnetic speaker, a truly enlightened sage. He did not just look the part. Some credit him with the escape of Bulgarian jews from the fate that befell them in other countries during the second world war. He espoused a tolerant, wide open form of spirituality, diving into the mysteries of the indwelling Lord with great and gentle wisdom. Records of his talks are now available on the internet, so search him out.
I came across Deunov by accident around 20 years ago, picking up a second hand book without knowing anything about him or his work. I was greatly inspired by what I read. He faced many practical troubles from the usual type of officials who instinctively wanted to stamp out his teaching. But he managed to overcome all the challenges.
Many years ago I also remember that he visited me in a dream. "I wanted to come and see you," he said, and I vividly remember the aura of peace and above all gentleness that emanated from this astral visitor.
One of his disciples, Omraam Mikael Aivanhov (who ended up looking uncannily like the Master) carried on his work and indeed became a master himself. Both of them revered the sacred Pranava Om as the expression of Godhead, and both particularly stressed the beneficial effects of getting up early, climbing a mountain, and watching the dawn come up. he also gave some wonderful prophecies about the times we live in.
Here, to save you looking, is an extract from one of his talks. Enjoy!
Love gives birth to the good. The good is the foundation of life. The good is the soil of life and at the same time its nourishment. Only the good can sustain life, only the good can nourish it.
When God limits Himself, the good is born in the world. When man is confined, evil is born. And when he is freed from confinement, good appears. In other words, when the desire to serve God originates within the human soul, then the conditions for the good are created.
Men wish to create good within themselves, but good is not created, it is born. It is implanted from the beginning in every man and he has only to become aware of it and reveal it.
Man must be good because good is the foundation of life. Without good the life of man has no foundation.
If man does not do good, evil is born. The evil that is now in the world is the unutilized good of the past.
Evil results from an unstable order. It is a world of arbitrary rule.
In the world of nature, it might be defined as reproduction without law.
Evil is, however, inevitable in the relations between forces and beings. Evil and good in Living Nature are forces which it utilizes equally. Behind the good and the evil is the Great Intelligence which utilizes everything. Man must not fight evil. He must escape it. He must not fight evil but must rather set good against it. The man who fights evil most, errs most. The only being who can harness evil into work is God.
You must know that there exists a collective consciousness of good and a collective consciousness of evil. They form the two great poles of Creation. Human life moves between those two great poles.
When evil is within, predominating over good, and the good is without, then evil reigns on earth. In other words, "hell" reigns on earth. But when good is within, triumphant, and evil is without, then "heaven" governs and good reigns in the world.
"Hell" is a place where evil is both inside and outside.
"Heaven" is a place where good is inside and outside.
And human life is "a place" where sometimes good is within and evil without, and sometimes the reverse.
Each man, according to the life he leads, is either at the pole of good or the pole of evil.
The man in whom evil is master lives in constant turmoil. Outwardly, he may have great wealth, he may be honored by men, but within himself he is not at peace. He is unceasingly troubled by evil misgivings and fears. Gradually he loses his health and his strength.
But when goodness is in the heart of a man, he may have neither riches nor power, but he is at peace and full of joy. His outward conditions are bad but his inner conditions are good. Such a man has something powerful within him and because of it he is loved by all.
The good people are the truly strong people in the world.
People think that evil is powerful in the world. Evil is powerful only because people love it. The love given to evil gives it strength. Evil obtains strength from love.
In spite of this, however, the striving for good can never cease. The process of good is eternal.
It is the creative process of life. Therefore, the good might be called the path to life. It leads us to life.
Evil is the path to death. It is condemned to barrenness.
In order to distinguish between good and evil, remember the following:
Good and evil are the high and the low in the world. Evil is the weakest possible vibration of good. Therefore, good is the price of rationality, and evil is the price of irrationality.
Good increases the value of human consciousness. Evil lowers it.
Through good, endowments are strengthened; through evil they are weakened and dimmed.
Good begins with small insignificant things. But they constantly grow, increase, and multiply, and then organize and unite into one whole. In evil there is always disintegration, disconnection.
The good might be compared to a spring that constantly flows. Evil on the other hand is like a dried-up spring that hardly trickles.
Evil promises much and gives nothing. Good promises nothing but gives much. Is it necessary for the spring to promise that it will flow? It simply flows.
So it is with a good man. In him, good is like a spring. He remains good under all conditions. It is delusion to think that conditions might change him. Good permeates his whole being, it is the foundation of his structure.
The good man differs fundamentally in construction from the evil one. The nervous system of a good man is more intricate and more finely constructed. His brain has more cells and more folds; it is differently constructed. His circulatory system, also, forms a richer and thicker network. The skin of the good man has more cells, and it is finer than the skin of the evil man.
The good man generally has a more perfect constitution. He is a highly advanced being. That is why every person who lags behind in his development becomes evil.
There is no greater act than this - to do good.
However minute this good might be, it is a noble act that all in heaven praise because God is hidden within goodness.
Nature is very careful even with the smallest gain. When a man does a good deed in the world, when he performs an intelligent act, there is great rejoicing in the invisible world.
To do good means to call upon God to act through you. And when God acts, He does so not only for one person, but for all. That is why when good is being done, all heavenly beings participate.
Thus, every act in which heaven does not participate is human, and every act in which heaven participates is divine.
Good must be done at the proper time. It does not take much time to do good, but it is necessary that your mind, your heart, your will, your soul and your spirit be fully concentrated, during those moments, upon the good you do.
Do not think, however, that you must do good only when you are well disposed. Good may be done even when you are in the worst of dispositions. Indisposition is something that concerns the flesh. It does not concern the spirit of man.
People think that good is something that is dead. This is not true. Within the sacred idea which has stimulated you to do good, acts a higher, secret spirit who will illuminate this deed and will reveal that the life of the man who serves God is always fulfilled.
The good is the first link in life. The good is the first bond between people. It is the only material bond that truly unites people. Moreover, good is the first real bond between the souls of all people, on earth or in heaven.
You can acquire no knowledge without goodness. Knowledge begins with acquaintance with good.
A good deed is never forgotten. It is recorded in the Divine book because it is an act of love and as such it will be remembered in the Divine world for all time.
Everyone who does good becomes an ideal for others.
Do not think that when you do good, this will deprive you of something. On the contrary, good will elevate you.
Therefore, never shrink from difficulties when you ought to do good. Be brave, be decisive, do the good and let that good bring life, light and freedom to your fellow men.
All of you can do good, because there is good in the hearts of all of you.
Every good you do is a bond that gradually increases in strength.
You must continually form such bonds - not just once.
However, do not forget that man must remain anonymous in doing good as he tries to remain anonymous in doing evil.
Do not hasten to become good. Good is an indispensable condition for the perfection of man, but man does not become good in one day. If he aspires towards perfection, however, good will help him.
To be perfect, you must be strong in the good.
The only thing that distinguishes a man is the good that lives within him.
Good is a way to find Divine Love.
Monday, 15 December 2014
My twin brother William died on 7 December, just over a year after he was diagnosed - out of the blue - with an inoperable cancer of the brain. He only found out by a strange accident. He was driving a car, turning into a road, and happened to knock over a cyclist turning at the same time whom he had simply failed to spot. Off he went for an eye test, and within a week he was being referred to a cancer specialist in a hospital.
William then had months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy that failed to arrest the tumour, and by the time summer came along, you could clearly witness parts of his mind shutting down, until at the end he was unable to speak, or recognise anyone,or remember anything. And thus he died.
The scriptures from any traditions constantly tell us "Be aware! Death is stalking." But we tend to ignore this inconvenient truth until death does indeed come knocking at the front door of our house. The scriptures also tell us,"Look, this life involves a lot of trials and suffering. We all have to drink from the cup of sorrow." But again, when we are young and vigorous, its a warning alarm that is easy to ignore.
Sword of events
When suffering does fall in our lap, when our hearts are pierced by the sword of events, what then? One classic response is something like "Why is life so horrible? There cannot be a God, how can He allow pain and sorrow?"
So actually saying "OK, things are as they are", and still managing to stick to our own spiritual mission and values, it's truly a moment of truth. It's when we realise that sadhana has a real life-changing value.
Some of us have faith, some of us do not. Some of us are well-acquainted with grief and know that it, too, passes just like everything else in this changing world. Some of us indeed find our strength, our desire to serve the Divine stronger than ever, even if the roof caves in, problems multiply, losses swallow us in a chaotic avalanche. Some of us find a wisdom in events, even if we do not know the purpose or the direction of the Divine play. This does not mean there is no hurt or pain. But it means that even in the deepest, darkest series of events, we do not lose our centre.
I do not pretend to know the karmic reasons why, in this case, one twin brother died and the other lived on. As a practitioner and knower of Jyotish, Vedic astrology, I can see why death might have occurred as it did (we shared virtually identical birth charts), but not why he should choose to go at that time. There are always many such periods when the so-called Maraka, or "death dealing planet" is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I do know, however, that right from the earliest age William thought he would die young (if you can call 60 young). He was a great lover of life, but never did any spiritual practice. Yet in those early days of his illness, when his mind was intact and he desperately had to prioritise the remaining tasks he had to do (he was in the restaurant trade) he also told me "It's wierd, you know. But there's this other presence I feel now, it's like a voice that tells me what practical things I need to do and what I do not have to worry about, It's really reassuring." So even the worldly William felt something, someone outside of himself at the darkest moments.
Life includes suffering. Some suffering we know we cause ourselves. Others come to us unbidden and unawares. This is the mystery of destiny, or prarabdha karma. In Vedic thought, the karma is a legacy from previous lives. It may elevate us to riches. It may doom us to destitution. But it can only be thinned out by spiritual practice.
Such karma has one basic lesson to teach us: humility. Indeed, until suffering touches us we can often be insufferable, arrogant, careless, self-obsessed. Suffering is a way for our hearts to open, for compassion to dawn for the plight of others. Because when we suffer a loss we begin to see how pervasive loss and pain is throughout this world. Economic disparities, the prosperity and ease of the few over the many; oppression; poverty; starvation; disease. It's all there. As someone says of the modern world, "we are all just two wage slips away from starvation". Many of us get caught up in the workings of national karma. In my own country,the UK, I can clearly see how my and earlier generations have had to deal with the karma engendered by all that rapacious empire building done in the nineteenth century.
The point of sadhana is not to avoid karma, but to be so centred in the Divine that even when misfortunes flow our way, we remain steady, humble and keenly aware of the grace of Divine pouring into creation each new day. By living this way, the tears still flow when pain visits, but even beneath the tears there is a whole deeper sub-stratum of joy of being alive. And ahead - the home of full enlightenment when we are bathed in union, when there is no "outside" to impact us. All is One.
I know I will meet my dearly loved Brother again, and thank him for his kindness of spirit, joy of living, and great sense of fun. He was a great light in my life when I was young. And I know that I will meet him in joy and love, and we shall joke as we always did about all the amazing drama of existence. I could not save his life. But I have saved in my heart the loving-kindness he spread when he lived on this earth. And I pray that he is safe and sound in our true home.
So, suffering is part of the trial of life. And that being so, what do we do? We just keep walking up that hill to find the home of love, truth and goodness.
William, a week after he was diagnosed
And a year later, a month before he died