As birds gather in flocks, and animals,
in herds, so there are human beings who move in groups in this or that
direction, drawn by the power of others. Yet, if one asks a person if
this is the case with him, too, he will say, "No, not with me, but with
all others." It is difficult for anyone to realize to what extent he can
unconsciously move with the crowd to the right or to the left. And when
a person takes a step in a different direction, dissatisfied with being
held and swayed by the crowd, by his friends and relations, by those who
surround him, then he shows initiative.
So, the real meaning of the word initiation, which is related to
initiative, is that a man takes his own direction instead of going in
the direction of the crowd. When this happens, the religious people will
say that he has become a heathen, his friends will say that he has
become foolish, and his relations will say that he has gone crazy.
Initiation has three different aspects: one is natural initiation,
another is advanced initiation, and the third is higher initiation.
natural initiation may come to a person at any time of his life. It does
not come to everyone, but only to some. And for this initiation one need
not go to a teacher; it comes when it is time for it to come. It comes
in the form of a sudden change of outlook on life. A person feels that
he has suddenly awakened to quite another world. Although he remains in
the same world, it has become totally different to him. Things that
seemed important become less important. Colors pale, and the brightness
of things disappears. Things show themselves to have different values.
The value of everything changes the moment the outlook is changed. It is
a change like looking through a telescope. Through a telescope one sees
things quite differently.
A person may be young and have that experience, or it may come at any
time in one’s life. To some, it comes gradually; but then, it is a long
process. With others, something suddenly happens in their lives and in
the twinkling of an eye, the world has become different and everything
suddenly has a different value. This is natural initiation.
How is this initiation brought about? What is its metaphysical process?
The soul is veiled by covers, one cover over the other, and the rending
of these covers allows the soul to emerge or to rise higher. Naturally,
with the next step, the horizon of its outlook becomes wider, and the
soul reaches farther, while life becomes clearer. A person may not be
conscious of such a change; he may ignore it or not know about it; yet,
it is there, even though among a hundred people perhaps only one is
really conscious of it.
With every step forward that the soul takes on the path, it naturally
comes closer to God. Coming closer to God means inheriting or drawing
towards oneself the qualities of God. In other words, the soul sees
more, hears more, comprehends more and enjoys more because it lives a
greater, higher life.
The teachers and prophets who had to give a message to humanity, who had
to render a service to humanity, had such initiations even in their
childhood. There is a symbolic story that the heart of the Prophet
Mohammad was opened and some substance was taken out of it. People take
this literally; but the real meaning is that a cover was torn away and
the soul was allowed to reach upward and go farther on the path. There
may be many such initiations, perhaps one or two, or six or seven,
according to the state of evolution of the initiate.
Life, as we live it today, is very difficult for a person whose outlook
is thus suddenly changed. For the world lives nowadays at a certain
pitch, and it cannot tolerate someone whose pitch is below or above the
ordinary pitch of life. People dislike such a one, they make
difficulties for him, they disapprove of him and of his ideas. If he
does not have any friend or guide on the path, then he may linger on in
the same plane of thought till nature helps him, for everything else
pulls him backwards.
Some people think that saints, masters or sages have no need for
initiation; but they forget that no soul can go farther on the path
What is the result of this natural initiation? Bewilderment, extreme
bewilderment. But this bewilderment is not the same as confusion. There
is a vast difference between the two. In confusion, there is an element
of doubt; but when a person is bewildered, he says, "How wonderful, how
marvelous! Words cannot explain it, it is a miracle!" It may appear
quite simple to someone else, but to an advanced person, it is a
miracle. And there may be others who say, "How foolish, I do not see
anything in what you have seen!" But what one has perceived is so
marvelous that it cannot be explained.
Such is life. It is a difference of outlook. One person sees a wonder, a
splendor; and another says, "What of it? It is quite simple, it is
nothing." And the one who says this thinks that he is superior because
to his mind, it is simple. While the one who wonders has the outlook of
a child, for a child wonders at everything. No doubt it is childlike,
but it is the child’s soul that sees; it sees more than the soul of an
adult who has become covered by a thousand veils. In infancy, the child
can see the angelic world, it can talk with unseen entities, it can see
wonderful things belonging to the different planes. It is easy to say of
something that it is childlike, innocent, or ignorant; yet it is the
most wonderful thing to be childlike and to have the innocence of an
infant. There is nothing better to wish for, as in this, all happiness
and beauty are to be found.
This bewilderment produces a kind of pessimism in a person, but a
pessimism which cannot be compared with what we ordinarily call
pessimism. For we regard pessimism as a kind of wretchedness, but this
is something different. A hint of this is to be found in Omar Khayyam’s
"O, my Beloved, fill the cup that clears today of past regret and
tomorrow, why, tomorrow, I may be myself with yesterday’s
seven thousand years!"
This pessimism comes as an upliftment, it makes a
person see life from a different angle. The very life that seemed before
to be towering over his head suddenly appears to be beneath his feet.
What is it, then? Besides calling it pessimism, one could also call it
indifference, or independence; yet, it is none of these three things.
There is no word for it in English. In Sanskrit, it is called vairagya,
an emotion, a feeling quite different from all other ways of looking at
life, an outlook which brings one into an entirely different world of
thought. The values of things and conditions seem to change completely.
One might think that it would be an uninteresting life to be indifferent.
However, that is not so. It is most interesting. It gives one a feeling
as if the burden of life were lightened. What a wonderful feeling this
is! Think what a little relaxation after a day’s toil can do, when one
can just rest for a moment. What upliftment comes, what soothing
vibrations, and how the mind feels refreshed! If then the spirit has the
same experience, feeling that the load it is continually carrying day
and night is lifted, then it, too, feels widened for a moment. What a
blessing this is! It cannot be spoken of in words, but the one who has
had even a slight experience of it can comprehend its value.
No doubt there comes a time in a man’s life when, even if he were
initiated a thousand times by nature, he still seeks for a guide walking
upon the earth. Many will say, "Why is God not sufficient? Why must
there be someone between God and man? Why must it be a man who is just
as limited as we are? Why can we not reach the spirit of God directly?"
But in a man who is your enemy and who has tortured you throughout your
life, and in another who is your greatest friend, and in your teacher
who inspires and guides you, and in all these is to be seen the hand of
God. They have all three guided you on the path of inspiration; they are
all three needed in order that you may go farther in life. The one who
has disappointed you, who has harmed you, is also your initiator, for he
has taught you something, he has put you on the road, even if not in the
right way. And he who is your friend is your initiator, too, for he
gives you the evidence of truth, the sign of reality. Only love can give
you a proof that there is something living, something real. And then
there is the inspiring teacher, be he a humble man, an illiterate person,
or a meditative soul, a great teacher or a humble one, he is what you
think him to be, as everyone is to us what we think them to be.
If it were not necessary that man should guide his fellow men, then
Jesus Christ would not have been placed among those fishermen who could
not understand him; and yet, he proved to be their guidance. The
presence on earth of personalities such as Buddha and all the other
teachers — many of them not even known to humanity, though they have
done so much, but who always will be under whatever name and in whatever
guise they may work — gives guidance to individuals and to humanity. God
never reaches so directly and so fully as when He reaches through His
teachers. The best way for God to reach human beings is through a human
being; not through an angel, but through man who is subject to birth and
death and to all the faults that everyone has.
The way of the teacher with his initiate is strange. The greater the
teacher, the stranger may be the way. The teacher may test, and the
teacher may give trials; and the attitude of the teacher can never be
understood, for a real teacher never commits himself. Neither his yes
nor his no can be understood, for their meaning will be symbolic and
very subtle. Perhaps he will speak in parables, perhaps he will teach
without teaching, perhaps he will teach more just by a glance than by
speaking a hundred words. Perhaps the presence of the teacher is of
greater blessing in the life of the pupil than a hundred books he has
read. Neither the indifference nor the sympathy of the teacher may be
taken for what they appear to be, for in both, there is something else.
The more one studies the personality of the teacher, the more puzzled
one becomes. The teacher is the initiator of life, he is the example of
the subtlety of the whole of life.
Some people affirm that they have been initiated by a teacher on the
other side. Well, perhaps they have; but are they not then in two worlds,
the teacher in one and the initiate in the other? The initiate neither
belongs to the teacher’s world, nor does the teacher belong to his. This
surely gives one less trouble than having to regard the pleasure of a
living being. It is easier to feel that one has someone at one’s back
who is always whispering in one’s ear and who speaks to one in dream or
vision. It is not wrong, and in some cases, it is even true. There are
souls, there are teachers, who have perhaps not given on earth what they
had to give, what they had to impart to others, but that is not the
normal process. If it were a normal process, then all the teachings
would have been sent from the other side; but neither Buddha nor Jesus
Christ nor Mohammad gave their teachings from there.
Today the prevailing thought is that no man should guide his fellow men
and that there is no virtue in such guidance. This thought is so
widespread that it is preventing people from seeking guidance from
someone who is facing the same struggles, the same troubles, and who has
the same experiences as everyone else. They go on rejecting such a man,
as Jesus Christ was rejected, and at the same time, they are looking for
someone on the other plane! Many societies and groups have puzzled their
heads so much over this subject that they have deprived themselves of
that living water which follows its natural course through the world of
The work of the teacher is most subtle. It is like that of a jeweler who
has to melt the gold first in order to make an ornament out of it. It
first has to be melted; but once it is melted, once it is not hard metal
anymore but has become liquid, then it can be made into a crown or a
ring or an ornament. Then one can make a beautiful thing out of it.
After this, there is a further step. When the pupil has received the
initiations that the teacher has to give, then the teacher’s task is
over and he sends him on. The teacher does not hold the pupil
indefinitely; he has his part to perform during the journey on the path,
but then comes the inner initiation. This comes to the disciple who has
become meditative, whose interest has become keen, whose outlook has
widened, who sees life differently, whose conscience has acquired the
habit of reasoning, of expanding.
No doubt in this experience, also, there is always help to be had. As
help comes on earth, so in the unseen world, too, that help then comes.
It is as if we were in the street in some kind of difficulty; naturally,
others would come by to see if they could be of any assistance. So, as
one goes further, one attracts the sympathy of beings who are always
busy helping humanity from all planes of existence. The sympathy of
those who are close to the one who is traveling on the path is attracted,
giving him a hand to go forward. It is that giving of a hand which is
called initiation. There are so many different initiations; they are all
steps by which to go upward.
In conclusion, I shall mention what is attained through initiation. What
one attains is that realization for which we are born, which is our
life’s purpose. Unless we approach life’s purpose, nothing we do will
help us sufficiently; it will only help us perhaps with a certain need
of ours, but not any farther. There is only one thing that gives
complete satisfaction, and that is to arrive at self-realization. It is
not simple, and it needs more than just meditation and concentration,
although these are of great help in the attainment of self-realization.
Those who believe that by reading a book on yoga they can get to that
realization are mistaken. They are mistaken because it is a phenomenon,
and it is by this phenomenon that one proceeds further.
Some people think that by straightforward study, by purely scientific
study, that they can come to realization; but in order to attain
self-realization, a certain way of life is necessary. Is it the life
that religious people teach, that one should live in such and such a
way? Is it a life according to certain principles, certain dogmas? No,
nothing of that kind. It is the continual process of effacing the self.
It is just like grinding something which is very hard. It is a continual
grinding of the self. The more that the self is softened, the more
highly a person evolves and the greater his personality becomes. No
matter what power and inspiration a person may have acquired, if there
is no self-effacement, then nothing is accomplished. The result brought
about by initiation is self-effacement, and self-effacement is needed in
order to arrive at true wisdom.