Were all souls created together, as Paul Brunton theorizes, or were they created at separate stages? Is this difference – the difference in their stages – due to their own choice or is it their destiny? What degree of choice do we have as far as reincarnation is concerned?
Before I can answer this question, two or three things must be understood. One, religious inquiry is basically different from scientific inquiry. In scientific inquiry the question is important, but in religious inquiry it is the questioner – the state of mind in which the question is asked – who is significant. In scientific questioning your mind has to be continuously focused on the question. In religious inquiry the question is just a jumping board into something that is uncharted. So ask the question and then forget it, because the question is concerned with the known, and the answer can only be concerned with the unknown.
When we formulate a question the very formulation, and the presupposition on which the formulation is based, belong to our mind, our memory, our knowledge. But the answer is bound to be in a totally different dimension. For example, this question. We will take it in parts.
Were all souls created together, as Paul Brunton theorizes, or were they created at separate stages?
The question seems relevant. Man has always been deeply concerned with the concept of creation: How are things created? When? Why? By whom? Even concerning souls man has many questions: When were souls created? Were they created equal or unequal? And if they were created equal, then why this inequality?
Is this difference – the difference in their stages – due to their own choice or is it their destiny?
To us it seems important to ask about creation. But in existence, nothing is created; it is a continuous and endless beginning. The very concept of creation is childish and irrelevant as far as existence is concerned. Existence has always been: it has never been created and it can never be destroyed. “Creation” means out of nothing – and out of nothing, nothing can come. The world, the creation, is in constant change, but nothing can be created or destroyed.
Change is the reality. By change I mean that only the form changes, never the substance. The basic remains always the same; only the mode of expression, the form, changes. And this change is continuous; it is eternal. So neither things nor souls are created. When not even things are created, the concept of the creation of souls becomes absurd. A created soul cannot be a soul; if a soul could be created then it would become just a thing.
But to the so-called religious mind creation seems significant, because we have conceived of God as the creator, and without creation where will the creator be? God is not the creator, God is existence itself. God is not something separate but the very substance of reality; he is not the creator of reality but the reality itself.
This duality – God and the world, the creator and the created – is due to our dualistic thinking. Our mind goes on creating dualities, but the reality is one. God is not the creator but the creation, the energy, the force, the basic substance of all.
Look at it in another way. No one asks, “Who created God?” because the question seems absurd. If you ask, “Who created God?” the question leads to an infinite regression; the same question can be asked again and again about the answer. If A created B then we can ask who created A. We can go on asking ad infinitum and no answer will be found. Every answer will only create another question, and the same question at that.
We cannot think of God as being created because if he is created then he is not God; he becomes a thing. The same is true of the soul: the soul is not a created phenomenon. And not only the soul – even matter is not a created phenomenon.
Even science realizes now that nothing can be created and nothing can be destroyed. Even if matter is converted into energy and energy converted into matter, it is not destruction and it is not creation. The quantity remains the same. If matter is converted into energy we can say that it is destroyed, because the matter disappears. But it is not destroyed, because matter itself is a form of energy – it is in a different form now, but the same energy remains. The total quantity of existence is always the same. Whether you change A to B or B to C makes no difference to the total; not a single particle can be added to the total and not a single particle can be subtracted. And this total quantity is God.
The first thing to be understood is that nothing has been created. Existence is. Existence exists with no beginning and no end, but with many changes.
Our mind has created a second duality: that of matter and mind, body and soul. This, again, is a mind-created difference; in reality, only one exists. The body is a form of it and the soul is also a form of it.
That is why, just as matter can be converted into energy and energy can be converted into matter, the body is constantly being converted into consciousness and consciousness is constantly being converted into the body. You cannot come to a point where you can say the body ends and consciousness begins; there is no demarcation. Body and soul are not two things but only two poles of one existence: at one pole you feel the body and at the other there is consciousness.
You have an existence: one pole of it is consciousness; the other, the body. If you become more and more conscious, you become a soul; if you become less and less conscious, you become only a body. If Buddha is sitting beside you, both of you have bodies, but only to outward appearances.
Buddha has no body, he is just a soul. By soul I mean that every particle of his existence has become aware. On the other hand, when you are in deep sleep, you are just a body and not a soul.
You have no soul – just a concept of the soul, just a thought, a theory, a philosophy of the soul.
It may seem strange, but Gurdjieff used to say that not everyone has a soul. He also used to say that to have a soul is an achievement; only rarely does it happen that someone acquires a soul. He was right. The concept that everyone has a soul is misleading. It appears as if the soul is something you already have, but it is not so.
It is a possibility, a potential… it is a flowering.
You can be a soul, but you may also miss. If your whole consciousness becomes an actuality, if the potential becomes an actual center of perfect awareness, then the attachment to the body will be lost. You will appear to be a body to others, but for you there will be no body. This duality must be thrown away. Body means unconscious energy and soul means conscious energy. The energy is the same. Look at it in this way: matter means only one thing, potential soul, and soul means only matter that has come to its flowering. Forget completely the concept of creation and forget any concept of duality. Only then can you go deep into existence as it is.
Philosophies and theologies will not help – they are all mental creations. Whatsoever mind can create will be in the shape of duality. Wherever there is mind, there is bound to be duality because mind cannot conceive of polar opposites as one.
How can mind conceive of body and soul as one? It is impossible. That is why there are two types of monists.
One type is like Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Mao. They are monists: they say that there is no soul, that only matter and body exist. Mind cannot conceive of these two opposites existing side by side. Where will they meet, and how? The mind always inquires how consciousness and matter can meet – what the bridge between the two will be, and who will bridge them.
The question exists for the mind because the mind has already divided them. Then the question arises how they are able to work together along parallel lines. But they are already bridged. For example, if your body feels hurt, the mind is hurt. If there is a thorn in the body, you feel it in your soul. Your mind is depressed and your body becomes depressed; your mind feels blissful and the whole body becomes young and fresh. They do not behave as two, they behave as one. But the mind divides them so there is a problem: how to make them behave as one, how to bridge the gap?
Consciousness and matter are so opposite – what type of interrelationship can exist between them?
A monist will do one of two things. He may deny the soul completely, as materialists such as Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Mao have always done. Then only the body exists, there is no soul – the soul is just a fiction.
Or there is another type of monist, like Shankara, who has said that there is no body, only the soul. Their conclusions are contradictory, but their logic, their argument, their thinking, is the same. Shankara says that matter is just an illusion, a dream – it cannot exist – and Marx says that the soul is just an illusion.
The problem for both Shankara and Marx is this: first they make a division of body and soul and then they cannot unite them. It becomes a problem to unite them; so instead, they eliminate one or the other.
To me, the solution to the whole problem takes on a different shape. Do not divide them. They are not two, they are already one – they have always been one. When the energy becomes conscious it is soul, when it becomes unconscious it becomes body. Sometimes you are more a soul and less a body, sometimes you are more a body and less a soul.
This flickering back and forth between one and the other goes on continuously. In the morning you may be more a soul, in the evening you are more a body. When you are in anger you are more a body, when you are in love you are more a soul. The degrees change continuously. When you meditate your consciousness expands and your body shrinks; when you take an intoxicant your consciousness shrinks and your body expands. Body and consciousness are two poles of one phenomenon.
So remember: this second duality is only mind-created, mind conceived. It is not there.
I will not say that souls were created. Nothing has been created; everything has always been here. And when I say that souls are not created, then of course, there is no question of whether they were created equal or unequal. The question will take on an altogether different shape.
As I see it, all souls are potentially equal. They have always been potentially equal, but in actuality they are not equal. And they are responsible for it, no one else. No one else is there to be responsible for it. God is a very useful concept – you can put all your responsibilities on him. It is a good device, a very cunning device: if there is a God, and if you are not equal, then he is responsible for it. He created you unequal so what can you do? There is no such God! The total existence is God. You participate in the total, so you participate in the responsibility.
You are potentially equal. That means you become equal when you flower totally. A Buddha flowering, a Mahavira, a Jesus, a Mohammed – they become equal. There is no difference between them. But when the flowering was just a potential, they were unequal. On the path we are all unequal.
No one else is responsible because there is no one else. Only you exist. So it is your decision what to be or what not to be. Whatever you are is your decision. If you are not changing, it is your decision. If you want to change you can change this very moment. Time is not needed, only your decision to change.
If your decision is weak, more time is needed. But if your decision is total, then the change can happen this very moment. No time is needed – the change can occur this very moment. Time is needed only because your will is not total, your decision is not total. The problem is created because basically you are not ready to change, and yet your mind has become obsessed with the concept of change.
We have seen Buddha, so the greed is with us. How to be a Buddha? This is greed, this is lust, this is desire: how to be a Buddha – calm and collected, a light unto oneself, a deep silence with no disturbance, a flower not of this world. The greed has commenced, but the mind is not ready. We want to be like Buddha without being Buddha-like, because the mind wants other things also. What Buddha renounces we are not ready to renounce, but what Buddha has achieved we are greedy to achieve. This is the problem. The major part of your mind is not ready for the change, not ready to be a soul, but the desire has come in.
No one else is responsible for this. Go inside and analyze why you are not a Buddha. The potential is there, the energy is there. Why are you not a Buddha?
Don’t go on thinking, who created us unequal? Who created someone a Buddha and someone not a Buddha?
No one has created this; our minds are responsible. If I cling to the theory that God created us – him like a Buddha and me not like a buddha – then what can I do? It is a destiny that has been forced on me. Then I can remain what I am, I can drift. This drifting will not do! The theory is just a saving device, a trick, so that you can continue as you are without bothering to change.
Religiousness is born in you only when you begin to feel total responsibility for yourself. Philosophy is one thing: philosophy can continue its meaningless, absurd theorizing. Religion is different: religion is a decision; it is to feel totally responsible for yourself. Whatever I am – a violent, angry, greedy, lust-filled mind, a bundle of desires – I am responsible.
The moment I feel that my ugliness is my responsibility, that my sin-centered mind is my responsibility, then the jump becomes possible. Because I am responsible for my ugliness, no one else can be responsible for my beauty. If I am responsible for all the darkness that is within me, then all the light that comes to a Buddha can also come to me. By taking responsibility for the one, the other potential becomes open.
Responsibility means freedom, so don’t go on complaining to God. There is no one to receive your complaints; you are only deceiving yourself. If I am not responsible for myself then I am not free. But if I am free, then I have to carry the whole responsibility.
If I am living in hell, it is my decision. I have used my energy and freedom in order to come to this hell; I have not been thrown there. Sartre speaks about man’s being thrown into the world. No one has thrown you; it has been your choice to come.
Sartre feels that only in one dimension does man seem to be free, and that is suicide. You are not responsible for your birth, but you can be responsible for your death: you can commit suicide. This is illogical! If one pole is free, the opposite pole cannot be otherwise. If I can commit suicide – if I can end my life by my own decision – then, whether I remember it or not, my entry into life has also been my decision. The other pole must be consistent. If I am responsible for my suffering then no one else can be responsible for my bliss. If I can be responsible for my death then I am also responsible for my birth.
That is what religion says: It is your freedom to be born, to live, or to die. When someone is dying, to us he appears to be dying. But if you penetrate a dying man’s mind you will see that he is desiring life and more life; he is constantly thinking of another life, of continuity. First he will try to cling to this life; then, if the clinging becomes impossible, he will desire a different body, a different form, a different shape, so that he can live again. But if a man is dying with no desires left unfulfilled, with no desire to continue living, then there will be no more births for him. If some desire is left unfulfilled, the mind will endeavor to fulfill it: that will become the choice for a new birth.
We know that when someone is born he has to die, but we do not know the other side of it – that when someone dies he has to be born again. If birth leads to death, then death will lead to birth again unless you die totally. That total death is samadhi. That total death is the highest peak of being a soul – the soul has been purified completely. There is no more desire for the future, because future means birth; no more desire for tomorrow, because tomorrow means birth; no more desire for the next moment, because the next moment means birth. In this moment, if you can die totally – with no future, with no tomorrow, with no desire, with nothing remaining unfulfilled – then there is no more birth.
It is your choice to be born again even though it is a very unconscious choice. If you become more conscious you will not choose, or you will choose differently.
Buddha was dying. Someone asked him, “Where will you be after death?”
Buddha said, “Nowhere. Enough! I have been in so many bodies for so many lives – it is enough.
This time I am going to be nowhere. I am dying totally.”
To the questioner this seemed tragic – Buddha, dying totally. He would not be born again. Now there was no hope left. The questioner began to weep.
Buddha said, “Don’t weep. Dance! This is the moment of my fulfillment: I am dying totally. This is the last peak, the highest possibility. With no desire, with no hope, with no future, I am simply dissolving into the cosmos. I will be nowhere because I will be everywhere.
You will not be able to find me confined to any point, but I will be like the salt of the earth: you will be able to taste me everywhere. But it will only be a taste. I will have no body, no visible form; I will be cosmic energy.”
This is what Buddha means by nirvana. Nirvana is a beautiful word. It is not moksha, not liberation; nirvana is a different word, with a different quality. It means cessation, like the cessation of a candle.
“Just as a candle ceases,” Buddha says, “I will cease.” When a candle ceases can you tell where the light has gone? You will not be able to find the flame, you will not be able to locate it, because now there is no new desire. But it will still be part of the cosmos, because nothing can disappear from the cosmos.
Everything is a choice. For us, this becomes difficult to conceive of, because then our whole suffering is our own choice: that is the problem. If someone else is responsible I can be at ease; then I am not suffering because of myself. If there is a destiny, if there is a God, then someone else is responsible and I am forced to be as I am. This is an escape. No one is there! You are alone.
Then how can we explain suffering? We think that we never choose suffering, but that is nonsense – we choose everything. No one is ready to admit that he chooses suffering because when we choose, we only choose facades. But in the end the reality of what we have chosen is encountered.
Everyone chooses pleasure and, ultimately, everyone suffers, because pleasure is just a facade, a false screen. The closer you come to pleasure, the more the pleasure begins to evaporate. This happens every time, but we are still not aware that pleasure is just the false face of pain, of suffering, of anguish.
No one chooses suffering directly; everyone chooses it indirectly. But the choice is unconscious, unaware. You choose pleasure, and you have chosen suffering: every pleasure ends in pain, every pleasure creates a tense state of mind. Suffering is an inevitable part of pleasure, the tail end. You cannot escape it. The hankering for pleasure, the seeking of pleasure, is an illusion; what you achieve finally is never pleasure. Look at it from the outside. Someone chooses pleasure.
It is a positive effort: ambition, achievement…. Then suffering comes – you choose heaven and you enter hell. Heaven is the gate of hell. Enter the gate, and you have entered hell. Pleasure is a positively sought thing; happiness is negative. It is not the presence of anything, it is the absence of something – the absence of suffering. Don’t choose pleasure, and suffering will be discarded automatically. And when there is neither pleasure nor suffering, there is happiness and bliss.
From the outside it looks negative – it is an absence – but from the inside it is a positive thing.
Happiness is your nature. It is also a choice – everything is your choice. If you don’t choose pleasure then you have chosen happiness.
Any moment you can change. And when I say “any moment” I mean much by it. I mean that whatever you have chosen in the past is not a barrier. For millennia you may have continuously chosen pleasure, pleasure, pleasure, and perhaps got only suffering, suffering, suffering.
But that is not a barrier. Whatever you have chosen in the past you have suffered for – nothing remains suspended in the balance. This very moment you can choose the opposite, and whatever karmas, whatever actions you have done in the past, will not be a barrier.
The mind can play tricks. If there is no destiny, if there is no God, then karma becomes your scapegoat. You say, “What can I do? – I have been a sinner for lives and lives, and now my karma is standing in the way. How can I choose freely? I am bound by my karma.”
You are not in any bondage. And if you are, if you still feel that there is an imprisonment around you, it is your own choice. There is no prison and no jailor.
You can come out this very moment. It is your choice to live in a prison, it is your choice to be there or not be there; no one is preventing you from leaving it.
If you want to be a prisoner you can create a philosophy around yourself in which you can be a prisoner. If you want to be a free man, if you want to be freedom itself, then you can choose a different type of thinking and you can be free. Both are your choices.
Whatever level you are on you are responsible because you are free; there is no bondage. There are many bondages, but there are no bondages outside you. They are all your creations; they are all because of you.
If you find difficulty in leaving the prison it is not the prison which is preventing you, it is your own habit, your own wrong choice. You have chosen it so many times that it has become a routine, a habit: it is easier to be in the prison than to be out of it.
You have become so well-acquainted with the prison, you have decorated it so much that it looks not like a prison but like a home. Inside there is every security, every defense, and outside you will be vulnerable and open – with no defense, with no security. You will be in an unknown world, fear will grip you. It is new; it is not the prison of your own mind.
Whenever someone chooses, becomes conscious and remembers his freedom, he is free. It is this remembrance that makes him free. It is not an effort, it is coming to understand one’s freedom and one’s responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are two aspects of one coin, so don’t throw your responsibility on anyone else or you will be throwing away your freedom also.
Feel responsible, accept responsibility for yourself, because only then will you become free. If you can say that this hell you are in is your choice, that no one else is responsible for it, then you have become free; you can go out of it, you can leave it. But if someone else has put you in this hell then only he can take you out. You are not involved in it at all.
The attitude that someone else has been the source of whatever you are will make you more of a body and less of a soul. I am saying that if you feel responsible for yourself, then a sudden freedom begins to appear in you. You are responsible for yourself; you become more of a soul.
A person like Buddha feels responsible for the whole world. Buddha goes to the other extreme: He says, “Whenever I choose misery I create vibrations of misery.” A miserable person creates a certain type of vibration. A violent person creates violence, an angry person creates anger, a loving person creates love.
Ordinarily, we feel that God is responsible for us, the whole is responsible for us. Buddha goes to the other extreme and says, “I am responsible for the whole. If there is ugliness in the world I am responsible for it because I have created it. If there is hatred in the world I am responsible for it because I have created it. I have chosen hatred so many times when I could have chosen love. I have chosen hatred, I have chosen anger, I have chosen lust, and when I choose, I create a milieu in which others become vulnerable to choosing the same things.”
If you feel that you are responsible for yourself then you become a soul. If you feel that you are responsible for the whole then you become a god. Then there are no barriers. You have become the whole – the “other” has gone.
What degree of choice do we have as far as reincarnation is concerned?
You are totally free to choose. Freedom cannot have degrees. How can freedom have degrees?
How can you call that which has degrees, freedom? If you are free only inside your house but not if you go outside, then you are not free. A limited freedom is not freedom; it is slavery with a beautiful name. Freedom means that which is unlimited; it cannot mean anything else.
Slavery means limitation. This is something that has to be understood deeply. Slavery can never be unlimited – you cannot make someone a slave without limitations – because slavery is a limited thing. There are degrees of slavery: you can be more of a slave or less of a slave. I can make you a slave up to a certain limit; I can say, “As far as this or that is concerned, you are free.” But there are no degrees of freedom; freedom is total. It is such an infinite phenomenon that we become afraid of it.
Erich Fromm has written a very beautiful book, Escape from Freedom. The name is very significant: Escape from Freedom. He is right – everyone is escaping from freedom. For example, love is a freedom but marriage is not. Once you are in love, sooner or later the mind will try to escape from freedom and move into marriage.
Love is unchartered, unknown – no one knows where it may lead. And freedom is infinite – one becomes afraid. So you make a cage, draw boundaries, and live within them. Then you know where you are and where you are going. You have escaped from freedom.
We are escaping in every way. Why? Because freedom is such a total thing, so big, and we are so small that we cannot face it, we cannot live with it. If you are alone you have freedom, but when someone else is there, when you are in a crowd, the freedom is lost. That is why everybody is trying to escape from loneliness. No one wants to be alone and free. One must have company because company means less freedom and more slavery.
David Riesman has written a book, The Lonely Crowd, in which he talks about this phenomenon. Everyone escapes into a crowd because to feel the pangs of loneliness is to be afraid – afraid of oneself, afraid of living with oneself. Everyone has done the same thing, so it is a big crowd, and everyone in it is lonely.
A person who is not capable of living with himself cannot be capable of living with anyone else. One who is not capable of loving himself, enjoying his own company, will not be able to be in a deep communion with anyone else. If you are bored by yourself, you will create boredom in others. So the crowds are there, but they are lonely crowds.
This freedom that you are asking about is the greatest freedom: to choose one’s life, to choose one’s being, to choose one’s self. One becomes afraid. It is better to surrender to someone, it is better to let someone makes the choices for you – someone who is more expert, someone more knowledgeable, someone who can guide you. We go on escaping….
I have met many, many people who come to me and say, “I cannot do anything. I surrender to you – do something for me!” I am always surprised. If you cannot do anything, then how can you surrender? Surrender is a big thing. But people say, “I cannot do anything so I surrender,” as if surrender were nothing, as if surrender meant not doing anything. How can you surrender if you have not chosen your life? If you think that you have not chosen anything, that you have just been thrown into life, can you say, “I have surrendered?” Who are you to surrender?
No! Surrender is the greatest act, a total act. Only a person who feels totally free can surrender, not a slave. How can a slave surrender? Only a responsible person can surrender. And if you can surrender, you can do anything.
This freedom must be understood deeply, not as a concept but as a situation in which we live. We are free. This very moment you can make an about-turn.
There is no destiny that is forcing you in a particular direction, no past that is pushing you, no future that is pulling you – only you. You can turn around this very moment and change. You can be different, completely different. You can be a soul, not a body.
There are no degrees of freedom. And when I say that there are no degrees of freedom, no degrees of choice, I am also saying that there are no degrees of enlightenment.
You become enlightened suddenly. Just as there are degrees of slavery but no degrees of freedom, there are also degrees of ignorance but no degrees of knowing. Either you know or you do not know.
People come to me and ask, “Who is more enlightened, Buddha or Mahavira or Krishna or Christ?” As if there were degrees! People who write in the scriptures that there are degrees of enlightenment are stupid. ”Buddha has attained this degree of enlightenment. Mahavira has attained that degree, someone else has gone beyond both….” There are no degrees of enlightenment!
Whoever evaporates, jumps. Enlightenment is a jump. Buddha’s ignorance has degrees, Mahavira’s ignorance has degrees, but the moment Vardhaman – the old name of Mahavira – or Siddhartha – the old name of Buddha – evaporate, their knowing has no degrees. Bliss penetrates the whole phenomenon of life.
Similarly, there are degrees of hate, but there are no degrees of love. There are degrees of anger, but there are no degrees of forgiveness – either you forgive or you don’t. There are degrees of sin, but there are no degrees of virtue – there cannot be.
You are totally free to choose, infinitely free to choose. You can go on choosing repeatedly, birth after birth, for millennia. No one can tell you to change. You cannot change unless you yourself realize that it is enough. Buddha said, “It is enough. I have been, now I am going to be no more.”
This is difficult to conceive of because logic feels that there must be degrees to everything. Reason says, “How can I say that I am free when there is bondage everywhere?” There is, but it is you who have created it.
Logic cannot conceive of it because logic is part of the mind and logic thinks in terms of rigid dualities. In logic, either there is white or there is black; either you are free or you are not free. In logic, there is no gray. But in life, gray is the only reality: white is one pole of gray and black is the other pole.
When I say that you are free, I am also saying that you are free to be unfree, you are free to be a slave. Your freedom is such that you can choose unfreedom also, because if you cannot choose to be unfree then your freedom is not total.
That is the dilemma. Ordinary logic will ask, “If man is free then why is he not free? If man is divine then why does he not feel divine? If man is bliss then why is man not in bliss?” But I say that man is unfree because he is free – he has chosen. Man can choose freedom and become free or man can go against himself, against his nature. That is what freedom implies. When you can go against your nature, when you can expand your consciousness or not expand your consciousness, you become free, responsible – or more damaging to yourself.
Animals are not free – not free in the sense that they are more unconscious. They live by instinct, they cannot choose. They have a fixed nature; they have to follow it.
Man has no fixed nature – there is no such thing as man’s nature. Man has freedom: he can fall, he can rise: he can go lower than the animals or higher than the angels. He has no fixed nature.
The more conscious you become, the less there is that binds you. The more responsible you become, the more dangers there are. Dangerous changes will be there, and you will not escape them unless you become totally aware. But it is good to pass through them rather than to try to escape because these dangers will help you to be more aware. Escape will only create unconsciousness, unawareness, lethargy and sleep.
Excerpt from The Great Challenge, Chapter Ten
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