The following talk was given by David Jevons at one of the regular monthly meetings of The Compass Group in Chichester, Sussex, England, on September 28th 2001. It has been edited, but only for the purpose of reproducing it in this Newsletter
As a boy I was brought up in the Christian religion. As a matter of interest, I attended The King's School, Canterbury and regularly worshipped in Canterbury Cathedral, the very seat of The Church of England. So from a very early age I was imbued with the principle of Duality, the belief which states that Man is on Earth, that God is in Heaven, and that there is a big separation between the two. I was taught that this separation can only be bridged by God sending down divine messengers, such as His Son, to redeem Humanity as a Race and to lead it back to God. I was also introduced to the doctrine of original sin. However, even as a teenager, I began to reject this understanding and it was no surprise to me at all that at the tender age of twenty one I wound up as an agnostic! I then began to walk my own spiritual path, to become a channel and to publish books of the teachings that came through me. I was also privileged to sit at the feet of many great spiritual teachers, both men and women, and to be exposed to a wide variety of spiritual understandings, before I eventually travelled out to India in 1988 to meet Sri Sathya Sai Baba who is, I believe, one the greatest living teachers and exponents of Advaita or Non-Dualism in the world today. Much of what I am about to share with you tonight comes from his teachings.
In the vedantic philosophy of ancient India there are three recognised schools or spiritual understandings, which define Man's relationship with God. They are known as Advaita or Non-Dualism, Dvaita or Dualism and Vishishtadvaita or Qualified Non-Dualism. Now this may all sound very esoteric to you, so I would like to simplify these three very distinct paths by using the example of Jesus' life and mission. When Jesus first began his ministry, he said that he was a messenger of God. He was therefore saying that he and God were separate and unrelated beings. That would be a state of Dualism or Dvaita. Later on in his ministry he announced that he was the Son of God, i.e. that he was related to God, that God was his father, but that he was still separate from Him. That would be a state of Qualified Non-Dualism or Vishishtadvaita. Finally, in the very last few hours of his life, Jesus made that wonderful statement "I and my father are one"; thereby implying that he was one with his Creator. There was no separation between him and his Creator; there was no individualised soul. That would be a state of Non-Dualism or Advaita. Many of the great spiritual teachers of India say that this is the highest path that we can follow, the path that leads us to the recognition that everything is God, that God is the totality of all existence, that it is impossible for us to exist in any individualised form, be it a physical body or a soul. It is held that we will all have to walk the path of Non-Dualism one day, one life, if we are desirous of obtaining liberation.
When I had my first interview with Sai Baba back in 1993, he created a great conflict in my mind, because he suddenly turned to me and said, "Remember, you are God, you are God, you are no different from God." This statement clashed with all my old religious conditioning. I said to myself "This cannot be. I know that I am not God. I know what I am like. How can he possibly say something like that?" At that time it never even occurred to me that he knew a great deal about the nature of God, whilst I knew nothing, and that he was in a far better position to say whether I was God or not. I did not have the faintest inkling of who or what God was! Very few of us are privileged to know the reality of God. The various religions might attempt to paint a picture of God, based on the known attributes of God, but they have never seen and have no concept of the reality of God. They merely define their ideas of God. In truth, though, God is a mystery. All that can be said with any certainty is that God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He cannot be defined or described by any physical sense. If we do that, then, we immediately place limits on Him. However, if we are no different from God, then, perhaps, we can know something of the nature of God by knowing ourselves.
I believe that, like Jesus, we will all progress from Dualism, through Qualified Non-Dualism to Non-Dualism. If I am God, then, the states of Dualism and Qualified Non-Dualism are simply an illusion created by wrong thinking and wrong vision. Moreover, if I am God, then, so is everyone else, so how can I justify treating anyone else other than as God. So I must change my viewpoint. I must begin to see wholeness or oneness where I now see only separation and division. I must see one race, one planet, one universe, one God, of which everything is a part. If I recognise that I am an actual part of God, then, I must also possess all the attributes of God. Sai Baba once said to me "A little part of God is in you, but all of you is in God." So if I am non-dualistic in thought, word and deed, how do I view the world and, more particularly, how do I view events such as occurred on September 11th 2001.
Living as I do, just outside of Vancouver, on the USA/Canadian border, I receive many American television stations and so I am able to get a good sense as to how America is reacting. I have to tell you that the primary feeling that is emerging is one of revenge and retribution. Jingoism rules on most television programs and friendship is being defined as "If you are not with us, then you are against us." An American university professor received death threats simply for expressing the point of view that American foreign policy might be partly to blame for the attack of September 11th. How would Non-Dualism view this tragedy? It would say that as not even a leaf stirs but that God wills it, so the death of those five thousand people was willed by God. Every tragedy, no matter how ghastly we think it is, is a part of God's plan for Humanity and has both meaning and purpose. It is all a part of karmic settlement. The people who died in the destruction of The World Trade Center did not die by chance, in a preventable accident. It was their destiny, for whatever reasons, to die in that tragic event.
Let us remember that it is Man who sows the seeds and then reaps the harvest. That is the reality of the great Law of Karma. Whilst we are concerned that five thousand people died in the terrorist attacks of September 11th, are we just as concerned when ten times that number die in far greater tragedies in other parts of the world? Are we concerned that the same numbers of people die every day in third world countries from starvation? The deaths in New York are only more significant to us because they are closer to home, because they happened to a nation with values similar to our own and because the incident can be interpreted as an attack on our lifestyle, our culture, our viewpoint of the world. Many Americans believe that they are the innocent victims of a cowardly terrorist attack. They can in no way accept that they might have drawn this tragedy unto themselves. Nevertheless, it is a wise soul that recognises that as we sow, so shall we reap, no matter whether we are a country or an individual. We are all magnetic beings and we attract the universe unto ourselves according to our nature, according to the seeds that we have sown in the past. We should also all consider why twenty-one young Muslim men, some of whom were married, would willingly sacrifice their lives in such an attack. It could only be because they felt a deep sense of injustice.
I now want to read you an extract from a letter that the Dalai Lama sent to President Bush, soon after the events of September 11th.
Non-Dualism holds that since everything is one, since we are an actual part of the Godhead, then, like our Creator, we too are immortal and infinite beings. We were never born and so we can never die. There is no birth, there is no death; there is just wholeness and infiniteness. Therefore we are not our physical bodies, we are not our human personalities, we are not indivualised into race, colour and creed. We might think that we are individuals and that we are separate from each other, but that is simply the human conditioning to which we have been exposed in this life. Do you not realise that in fact you are the sum total of all the conditioning that has been pumped into you since the day you were born. Your parents, your education, your culture, your country, your marriage, your children, your career, your experiences so far in this life, have all helped to define the 'you' that you think you are. Your physical brain has carefully recorded every single experience, and on both a conscious and a subconscious level you have chosen to identify with this 'you'.
Sai Baba says that, in fact, there are three 'you's. There is the 'you' that you think you are, there is the 'you' that others think you are and there is the 'you' that you really are which, of course, is divine spirit. Non-Dualism denies the validity of the first two 'you's and says that the only reality is One God, One Spirit, One Creation. Everything else is an illusion and, further more, anything that supports those first two 'you's is also an illusion! Now at this point I must confess that I really have no right to talk to you about Non-Dualism, because I have not experienced it, I do not live in it. To me it is simply a concept, albeit a very appealing concept. I cannot describe the reality to you of being in a permanent state of Non-Dualism, of how the world looks through Non-Dualistic eyes. There are, however, beings that do live in a permanent state of Non-Dualism and all that I can do is to pass on some of their experiences in the hope that you too may want to walk that path.
Many years ago the story was related to me about a sadhu or a holy man who lived in a cave in India and who spent his days meditating in front of a statue of the Goddess. He possessed a bowl in which, miraculously, every day, a supply of fresh food would appear. One day a thief came into the cave and stole his bowl. The devotees of the sadhu were absolutely appalled by this behaviour and put out many negative thoughts against the thief, demanding that the sadhu identify and punish the man. But the sadhu replied, "It is of no consequence. Someone else has need of the bowl" and he closed his eyes and carried on meditating! Now at the time I thought "What a ridiculous answer. It's his bowl, he needs and uses it and it's been stolen. How can he say 'Someone else has need of it' and allow the thief to get away?" Today, of course, I realise that the sadhu was in a state of Non-Dualism, a state when you recognise that you own nothing, that everything belongs to God, that everything is under God's control, that God disposes as the need arises, and who are we to question that need. I also remember the account that the great Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti gave of his moment of Non-Dualism. He was sitting under a tree in Ohai, California, when suddenly he entered a heightened state of awareness. He lost all sense of self-identity. He was the tree under which he was sitting, he was the ground on which the tree stood, he was the workman repairing the road a short distance away, he was the pneumatic drill in the hands of the workman, he was the road that the drill was breaking up, he was everything. He was experiencing everything. What an amazing reality that must have been, that all is one.
If we are trapped in Dualistic thinking, then, the hardest thing in the world for us to do is to recognise and to respect the fact that an aspect of God beats within the heart of every human being. God is in the saint and in the sinner, in the being who saves a life and in the being who takes a life. But if we do not recognise the fact that we are God, how can we even begin to recognise the fact that God is in everyone else, even the person we hate or despise? Sai Baba has often said to me " I am God; you are God. The only difference between you and me is that I know it." So why don't we know something as important as that? It is because of all our human conditioning. We have accepted as fact what has been pumped into us since childhood, what our spiritual ancestors have established as the truth of God, namely, Dualism. We have believed what our religious teachers have drummed into us about good and evil, about right and wrong. But what do the religions of the world, which even fight amongst themselves, which claim that their way is the only way, know about the Wholeness and the Oneness of God? The religions have always been concerned with the particular, rather than with the whole. The role of any religious teacher, any guru, any priest, is surely not to say that their path is the only true path to God but, rather, is to say that they seek only to disperse the clouds of darkness and illusion that surround us so that we may recognise the God in us more clearly.
If we truly believe that God is in everyone, then, how do we handle our conflicts with other people, the conflicts that naturally arise when you live in a state of Dualism? If we really believe that God is standing in front of us every time that we meet someone, then, we would treat them with respect and reverence. Sai Baba says that every time that we meet someone, imagine that it is he that is standing before us and act as we would do in his presence. Be very respectful, open and friendly towards them. Our problem is that we only see the outer form, not the inner spirit. We look with the outer eye, not with the inner eye. Every time that someone stands before us we should visualise that it is God standing there, because, in reality, it is. We are all God. We are all no different from God.
I have a very practical suggestion to make as to how you can bring God into your everyday lives. I imagine that God is sitting on my shoulder and I am having a continual conversation with God. Every time I have a decision to make about how to act or how to speak, I turn round to this God and I say, "OK God, I am going to do or say this, do you approve? What would you do or say?" If the God on my shoulder says something different to me, then, I must reconsider. Playing this little game of directing your attention towards God is a step towards being consciously and continuously aware of God. The ultimate goal is attain Constant Integrated Awareness, a state when you are constantly one with God. Then you are a realised being!
Sai Baba says that there are three very simple steps to reaching an awareness of Non-Dualism, which can be summarised as mantras.
My spiritual teachers have a simple analogy to demonstrate the reality of Non-Dualism. They say that the fingers on our hands can be compared to individual souls and so we are all fingers on God's hands. Now just as the fingers on the left hand believe that they are separate from the fingers on the right hand, and can hold a knife and can do harm to the fingers on the right hand, so we, suffering from the same misapprehension, can attack another human being, believing that they are separate from us. But the reality is that the hands are attached to the same body, and when you hurt one hand, you are, in fact, also hurting the hand that is doing the hurting, because they both belong to the same body, the body of the Human Race, the body of God. We may all be different shapes and sizes of fingers, some soft, some hard, some calloused, some mutilated, but we all have a purpose and are of equal importance and significance to the body as a whole. We are all loved and nurtured by the same God, because we are all a part of God. That is Non-Dualism. There is no separation between you and God. God is the totality of everything. You can't go anywhere, be anywhere, without God being present in your lives. You can't do anything without God; you can't be anything without God. You cannot compartmentalise God. God is not to be found just in a church or temple; God is everywhere. You do not worship God only in a church or temple; you worship God everywhere.
If we are not individualised beings, then, how do we explain away the existence of reincarnation, of the fact that an individualised identity appears to keep on coming back to the Earth? There is a part of me that likes to think that even though my human body dies, and I know that I have had many human lives; nevertheless, my soul remains indivualised and has an enduring identity. It is comforting to know that the 'me' that lived in ancient Egypt still exists today and that I could call upon those memories. Recently I came across these words by the great Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi, which challenge my very understanding of reincarnation. Isn't it wonderful how our concepts of life are continually being put to the test, how we are forced to go outside of our comfort zone!
Many people regard Sri Sathya Sai Baba as the avatar of the Age. The stated role of the avatar is to protect the righteous, to punish the wrongdoers and to re-establish right living on the Earth. However Sai Baba says that his incarnation has another purpose, namely, he has come to offer the gift of liberation to those who want it. What is liberation? It is the ending of the cycle of birth and death, of the need to reincarnate on the Earth once again. This liberation is born out of self-knowledge, out of the realisation that we have never been separated from the Godhead, that we have never been individual and particular. We have always been a part of the whole - the total existence that we call God. It is the realisation that we don't exist, that we have never existed! We only exist because we choose to exist. We take physical birth and, as a consequence, die, but only because we choose to do so. Our minds create our realities on whatever plane we choose to exist. This was shown to me very clearly by a vision that was experienced by an American friend of ours. As she lay on her bed one night, she suddenly began to leave her body, and as she rose up out of her physical body and left the Earth, she ascended up onto the higher planes of existence. As she passed through these planes, such as the astral and the causal, beautiful beings greeted her and invited her to stay with them. She was attracted to the beauty of these planes and to her familiarity with them, to the way the beings there called her name and sweetly invited her to come and play with them, but she resisted their pleas. To do so would have been to preserve her self-identity. She sped through all of creation, all of the planes, until she emerged in a blinding light of nothingness. Standing there was Sai Baba and she said, "I am done, my Lord. I am ready to merge." She had chosen liberation and had resisted all the temptations to retain her self-identity. It is by sacrificing the self that we gain the whole. That is the mark of a realised being.
So the tests go on life after life, on the physical plane and on the higher planes of life, until we come to the realisation that we are God, that we no longer need to cling to our sense of separation, of self-identity. This is the supreme challenge. Sai Baba says that the Earth is the perfect school in which to learn this reality. It is the fast track to liberation. Millions of souls are queuing up for a chance to incarnate on the Earth, so we are privileged to be here and we are especially privileged to be here at the time of the avatar, who reminds us of our divine birthright. I want to finish by reading something that Sai Baba has said and which puts Non-Dualism in a clearer perspective. These are the words of the greatest living teacher of Advaita or Non-Dualism.