91. Pleasure and Happiness
Questioner: A friend of mine, a young man about twenty-five, was told that he is suffering from an incurable heart disease. He wrote to me that instead of slow death he preferred suicide. I replied to him that a disease incurable by Western medicine may be cured in some other way. There are yogic powers that can bring almost instantaneous changes in the human body. Effects of repeated fasting also verge on the miraculous. I wrote to him not to be in a hurry to die; rather to give a trial to other approaches.
There is a Yogi living not far from Bombay who possesses some miraculous powers. He has specialised in the control of the vital forces governing the body. I met some of his disciples and sent through to the Yogi my friend’s letter and photo. Let us see what happens.
Maharaj: Yes, miracles often take place. But there must be the will to live. Without it the miracles will not happen.
Q: Can such a desire be instilled?
M: Superficial desire, yes. But it will wear out. Fundamentally, nobody can compel another to live. Besides, there were cultures in which suicide had its acknowledged and respected place.
Q: Is it not obligatory to live out one’s natural span of life?
M: Natural — spontaneously — easy — yes. But disease and suffering are not natural. There is noble virtue in unshakable endurance of whatever comes, but there is also dignity in the refusal of meaningless torture and humiliation.
Q: I was given a book written by a siddha. He describes in it many of his strange, even amazing experiences. According to him the way of a true sadhaka ends with his meeting his Guru and surrendering to him body, mind and heart. Henceforth the Guru takes over and becomes responsible for even the least event in the disciple’s life, until the two become one. One may call it realisation through identification. The disciple is taken over by a power he cannot control, nor resist, and feels as helpless as a leaf in the storm. The only thing that keeps him safe from madness and death is his faith in the love and power of his Guru.
M: Every teacher teaches according to his own experience. Experience is shaped by belief and belief is shaped by experience. Even the Guru is shaped by the disciple to his own image. It is the disciple that makes the Guru great. Once the Guru is seen to be the agent of a liberating power, which works both from within and without, whole-hearted surrender becomes natural and easy. Just as a man gripped by pain puts himself completely in the hands of a surgeon, so does the disciple entrust himself without reservation to his Guru. It is quite natural to seek help when its need is felt acutely. But, however powerful the Guru may be, he should not impose his will on the disciple. On the other hand, a disciple that distrusts and hesitates is bound to remain unfulfilled for no fault of his Guru.
Q: What happens then?
M: Life teaches, where all else fails. But the lessons of life take a long time to come. Much delay and trouble is saved by trusting and obeying. But such trust comes only when indifference and restlessness give place to clarity and peace. A man who keeps himself in low esteem, will not be able to trust himself, nor anybody else. Therefore, in the beginning the teacher tries his best to reassure the disciple as to his high origin, noble nature and glorious destiny. He relates to him the experiences of some saints as well as his own, instilling confidence in himself and in his infinite possibilities. When self-confidence and trust in the teacher come together, rapid and far-going changes in the disciple’s character and life can take place.
Q: I may not want to change. My life is good enough as it is.
M: You say so because you have not seen how painful is the life you live. You are like a child sleeping with a lollypop in its mouth. You may feel happy for a moment by being totally self-centred, but it is enough to have a good look at human faces to perceive the universality of suffering. Even your own happiness is so vulnerable and short-lived, at the mercy of a bank-crash, or a stomach ulcer. It is just a moment of respite, a mere gap between two sorrows. Real happiness is not vulnerable, because it does not depend on circumstances.
Q: Are you talking from your own experience? Are you too unhappy?
M: I have no personal problems. But the world is full of living beings whose lives are squeezed between fear and craving. They are like cattle driven to the slaughter house, jumping and frisking, carefree and happy, yet dead and skinned within an hour.
You say you are happy. Are you really happy, or are you merely trying to convince yourself. Look at yourself fearlessly and you will at once realise that your happiness depends on conditions and circumstances, hence it is momentary, not real. Real happiness flows from within.
Q: Of what use is your happiness to me? It does not make me happy.
M: You can have the whole of it and more for the mere asking. But you do not ask; you don’t seem to want.
Q: Why do you say so? I do want to be happy.
M: You are quite satisfied with pleasures. There is no place for happiness. Empty your cup and clean it. It cannot be filled otherwise. Others can give you pleasure, but never happiness.
Q: A chain of pleasurable events is good enough.
M: Soon it ends in pain, if not in disaster. What is Yoga after all, but seeking lasting happiness within?
Q: You can speak only for the East. In the West the conditions are different and what you say does not apply.
M: There is no East and West in sorrow and fear. The problem is universal — suffering and the ending of suffering. The cause of suffering is dependence and independence is the remedy. Yoga is the science and the art of self-liberation through self-understanding.
Q: I do not think I am fit for Yoga.
M: What else are you fit for? All your going and coming, seeking pleasure, loving and hating — all this shows that you struggle against limitations, self-imposed or accepted. In your ignorance you make mistakes and cause pain to yourself and others, but the urge is there and shall not be denied. The same urge that seeks birth, happiness and death shall seek understanding and liberation. It is like a spark of fire in a cargo of cotton. You may not know about it, but sooner or later the ship will burst in flames. Liberation is a natural process and in the long run, inevitable. But it is within your power to bring it into the now.
Q: Then why are so few liberated people in the world?
M: In a forest only some of the trees are in full bloom at a given moment, yet every one will have its turn.
Sooner or later your physical and mental resources will come to an end. What will you do then? Despair? All right, despair. You will get tired of despairing and begin to question. At that moment you will be fit for conscious Yoga.
Q: I find all this seeking and brooding most unnatural.
M: Yours is the naturalness of a born cripple. You may be unaware but it does not make you normal. What it means to be natural or normal you do not know, nor do you know that you do not know.
At present you are drifting and therefore in danger, for to a drifter any moment anything may happen. It would be better to wake up and see your situation. That you are — you know. What you are — you don’t know. Find out what you are.
Q: Why is there so much suffering in the world?
M: Selfishness is the cause of suffering. There is no other cause.
Q: I understood that suffering is inherent in limitation.
M: Differences and distinctions are not the causes of sorrow. Unity in diversity is natural and good. It is only with separateness and self-seeking that real suffering appears in the world.