A most essential question
What convergence is there between the journey of the ascetic Tibetan yogi Milarepa and that of the little-known great French mystic of the Seventeenth Century, Madame Guyon ? between Ramana Maharshi and the famous sufi Al-Hallaj ? What is the common denominator between these extraordinary beings who, in such apparently dissimilar ways, climbed the rungs leading to the ultimate realization ? Is it not a question of the greatest importance, to conjecture about what is essential and what is of incidental value, about what is truly the core of a practice and what relates to a cultural context and epoch ?
“All things by immortal power,
Near and Far
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star.”
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. —
“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…
“I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts — possessions, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.
“My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a ‘lone traveler’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude…”
Take it thus, that I am here in this world and everywhere. I support this entire universe with an infinitesimal portion of Myself.
By Me, all this universe has been extended in the ineffable mystery of My being;
Vigilance is the path to Life Eternal. Thoughtlessness is the path to death. The reflecting vigilant die not. The heedless are already dead.
Ninth letter to a nun.
“Let us think often that our only business in this life is to please God, that perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity. You and I have lived above forty years in religion (i.e. a monastic life). Have we employed them in loving and serving God, who by His mercy has called us to this state and that very end ? I am filled with shame and confusion when I reflect on one hand upon the great favours which God has done, and incessantly continues to do me ; and on the other, upon the ill use I have made of them, and my small advancement in the way of perfection.
Since by His mercy He gives us still a little time, let us begin in earnest, let us repair the lost time, let us return with a full assurance to that Father of mercies, who is always ready to receive us affectionately. Let us renounce, let us generously renounce, for the love of Him, all that is not He ; He deserves infinitely more. Let us think of Him perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him : I doubt not but we shall soon find the effects of it, receiving the abundance of His grace, with which we can do all things, and without which we can do nothing but sin.
We cannot escape the dangers, which abound in life, without the actual and continual help of God ; let us then pray to Him for it continually. How can we be with Him but in thinking of Him often ? and how can we often think of Him, but by a holy habit which we should form of it ? You will tell me that I am always saying the same thing : it is true, for this is the best and easiest method I know ; and as I use no other, I advise all the world to it. We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him ; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure. This is an argument which well deserves your consideration.”
Hope for Him whilst you live,
Know whilst you live,
Understand whilst you live;
For in life deliverance abides.
If your bonds be not broken whilst living,
What hope of deliverance in death?
It is but an empty dream
That the soul shall have union with Him
Because it has passed from the body;
If He is found now, He is found then;
If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.
“If we ask:
who can say that they have now within themselves, at this moment, a strong unifying presence?
A strong sense of their own separate individual reality, and also a related state to everything surrounding them here.
This is exactly what we are trying for.
This is exactly what we are aiming at.
That is, an unconditional, present, conscious state.
The experience of I AM. This is our aim …”
« It seems to me that we have ultimately to go beyond all forms of thought – even beyond the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, etc. All these belong to the world of « signs » — manifestations of God in human thought — but God himself, Truth itself, is beyond all forms of thoughts. All meditation should lead into silence, into the world of « non-duality », when all the differences — and conflicts — in this world are transcended — not that they are simply annuled, but that they are taken up into a deeper unity of being in which all conflicts are resolved — rather like colours being absorbed into pure white light, which contains all the colours but resolves their differences. »
« “I have often said to the orchestra, especially to the younger players, ‘Do your best, and love what you are doing, because you are allowed to do this thing.’ By this I mean, they can do what millions of people cannot do. Many people cannot think of playing music or listening to it until six o’clock in the evening. To be involved professionally in a thing as creative as this is a great privilege and we have a duty to make it in such a way that we can help bring pleasure and a sense of fulfillment to those who are not so fortunate.”
Herbert von Karajan
Many of my critics write, and will go on writing, that I conduct too lavishly. That may be so. During my day people have been somewhat extravagant in terms of art and music. I believed this was the right attitude to adopt, and so I’ve supported it. It has something to do with respect towards art, and if this respect is old-fashioned, so be it, I’ve no intention of dissociating myself from it. When I was young, we approached music with a sense of awe and celebrated each such approach as a special event. I can see, of course, that times have changed, that people don’t want to know about respect any longer, and that it is not in keeping with the times to celebrate a concert. People are going to great lengths to make themselves ugly, to wear ugly clothes, and to feel precious little enthusiasm for beauty. I’ve been observing this for years…I know there is nothing that can be done at present to change all this. But no one can expect me to seek a polite or understanding explanation for this, still less that I should agree with it and conform. I belong to a different age. And what I want to preserve for myself and posterity also belongs to a different age.”
”I think, if I had understood then, as I do now, how this great King really dwells within this little palace of my soul, I should not have left Him alone so often, but should have stayed with Him and never have allowed His dwelling-place to get so dirty.”