Chapter 5

Folly and Wisdom


I feel desolation within, and all is dark as night. Pitying myself, I am unable to follow either the way of righteousness or the way of truth. May there be a light to help my soul on its journey! With submission and sincerity, may I be guided to a true teacher!

Men of old passed away, and the men in times to come will also pass away. Mortals ripen like corn; like corn they are harvested, and like corn they are resown to grow again and again in an endless cycle of seasons.

What forces drive man to act wrongfully? Greedy desire, arrogance and anger - the passions of man - are the forces of destruction, ancient enemy of the soul.

The impetuous violence of the senses always emerges to assault the mind of even the wisest man, when he strives for perfection. Even in the austere soul pleasures of the senses cling tightly and are difficult to remove.

Desire has impregnated man's inner fabric, clouding the mirror of self and blinding all hopes of wisdom. Like a fire raging out of control, desire can never be satisfied until it has burnt everything.

When the mind dwells on the objects of desire, on the pleasures of the senses, the thinker feels attraction. From attraction grows desire; from desire grows lust for possession; from lust for possession grow the possessions of greed and anger.

How can we be satisfied with wealth? How can we enjoy comfort when death is always in sight? How can we follow earthly attractions, with all their deceits, when death is always in sight?

Men deluded by wealth and pleasure say: "This is the only life; there is no other!"

The chain of possessions with which men bind themselves is heavy, and drags many down into dark worlds of demons and death.

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Insatiable desires are a torment to both body and soul; they give rise to cares that last one's life through.

The highest end of immoderate men is the enjoyment of lust. This, they believe, is all there is. Their hopes for eternity are vain, who strive by unjust means to amass wealth for themselves.

The dark nether regions of death await those who deny their guiding light and set their hearts on other men's goods. From these regions of utter darkness there is no escape.

There are three gates of hell: the gate of lust, the gate of anger, and the gate of greed. Characteristic of the beasts and of the lower nature of man, they are qualities to be shunned.

Men who chase pleasure and power seek a heaven of desire. Their soul is earthbound, and their reward is here on earth. When they die, their soul returns to seek a new body.

All things come about in time through the action and interaction of natural forces. The foolish think that they alone by their will have brought things about; with their self-regard they live in a world of delusion.

Those who love the sound of their own voices, leading others to gratification and power on earth, determine their own destiny. They lack the clear sightedness of one who seeks unity with the One.

Like the sound of the sea is the sound of one's own voice. It holds a musical fascination for us all and is a tempting lure for men; but sea water is bitter and cannot sustain human life for long. Those who seek self esteem will seek it again and again as they go from death to death, floundering in a sea of folly.

From the passions of greed and anger comes confusion of the mind, neglect of duty, forgetfulness of obligation. Reason itself is destroyed, and when reason is destroyed, the soul is in mortal danger.

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Ruled by the powers of nature to the exclusion of Spirit, blinded by their own selfishness and arrogance, such men act though drunk on anger and lust. They cannot abide the thought of Spirit favouring others, and reject him for themselves. In all this vast cycle of birth and death, they are the lowest of men, whose soul is the embodiment of hate.

Such men with their closed souls are unworthy of bounteous nature, and enemies of the good earth. Instead of seeking to understand life, their own lives work towards its destruction.

The dark nether regions of death, worlds haunted by demons, are inhabited by the souls of men who have denied Spirit.

What are the characteristics of a man destined for hell? Deceitfulness, conceit, anger, arrogance, insensitivity, coarseness and ignorance, lust instead of love, lies instead of truth, heedlessness of morals, faith of God. Such characteristics are ruinous chains for the soul.

Such men feel pride in their wealth and success, in their social rank, in their ability to wield power and discomfit their competitors. They may describe to worthy causes for their conscience's sake, but in vain; whilst enjoying life they blunder ever more deeply into the darkness of delusion.

Led astray by their own thoughts and tripped by the web of delusion, hampered by lust and immodest pleasure, they fall at last into a foul smelling pit. Reborn into a lower life form, they move farther and farther away from the possibility of spiritual guidance.

What may seem the blessings of nature on earth act to limit man's awareness of Spirit: the qualities of light - in man, happiness; of fire - in man, passion; of darkness - man, sleep.

Men who habitually live under the influence of light follow a path that climbs through life, raising them to a higher level as their wisdom grows.

Men who habitually live under the influence of fire follow a level path, their efforts and desires burning unchecked through life and death.

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Men who habitually live under the influence of darkness follow a path that plunges downwards to worlds of sorrow and ignorance.

When the quality of light is strongest and takes the lead, men seem possessed of wisdom; but they are still bound to this earth. Wisdom leads to truth; but though men may reach the heaven of truth, they are still bound by the forces of time.

When the quality of fire is strongest and takes the lead, men seem obsessed with greed. All their activities lead to the acquisition of wealth, and they are still bound to this earth.

When the quality of darkness is strongest and takes the lead, men seem overcome by inertia, living their lives in squalor and ignorance, under the spell of delusion. They are still bound to this earth.

Like light, happiness in nature seems a pure quality, the health of life; but it may bind the soul of man to lower knowledge, seeking only earthly happiness.

Like fire, passion in nature seems a creative quality, bringing life-giving warmth; but it binds the soul of man to profitless actions and attachment to lust.

Like darkness, asleep in nature seems a restful quality, bringing peace; but it binds the soul of man to dullness, ignorance and idleness, neglectful of destiny.

The man who lives by his lower nature is affected by the ever changing conditions of nature. Bound like the beasts to conditions that are always changing, his fate whether good or evil whirls him round and about, propelling him towards death.

Most men think they move in daylight - that they have clear vision; but to wiser minds they move in darkness. What seems as daylight to men of folly, seems darkest night to men of wisdom.

The wise man who observes the working of natural forces one upon the other, takes good care not to become enslaved by them. The foolish quickly become their slaves, falling under a spell of delusion. They see only profusion where in reality there is but one.

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Natural forces encompass man as well as beast; there is a higher nature besides a gross nature. As a man's own higher nature is, so is the nature of his true work; so should be the nature of all his actions in this mortal life.

It is as wrong to despise natural impulses as it is to lust after them. The wise man who comprehends the oneness of nature follows the true instinct of his own higher nature. To follow one's lower nature is to act blindly, in ignorance of the greater life that lasts for all eternity.

That man finds peace whose work, motivated by wisdom, is free from anxious hopes and dreams. He expects nothing, relies on nobody, feels joy in working according to his own higher nature.

The characteristics that normally descend - thoughts of self and its needs, the senses of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, and all feelings and actions associated with these - lead man to ignorance and the brute life of nature.

The characteristics that normally ascend - sincerity, selflessness, humbleness, gentleness, forgiveness, honesty, devotion, purity, steadfastness, self harmony, and freedom from lust - lead man to spiritual vision.

The characteristics of desire, pleasure, aversion, pain, tempered with wisdom and courage, may be diverted from the descent to the ascent.

As all beings in nature live by nature, a wise man follows his own true nature. When a man knows his true place in nature, there is no need for restraint.

With the perception of sorrow arising from the natural events of birth, death, sickness, old age and suffering, the human quality of intelligence leads to a desire to withdraw from society to lonely places. From this beginning of perception acquired through hardship comes a certain evenness of mind, freedom from attachment to home and family ties, and a feeling of love for one's fellow beings leading to a feeling of love for Spirit. This is a vision of truth that leads to the final path.

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Thoughts that lack determination diverge into many forks, the river of mind meandering into a swamp. Determination creates a clear channel for the flow of thoughts.

Determination is man's only safeguard against the passions; even so, one's ultimate aim should be the end of determination, and the final resting place of this karmic river in the sea of attainment.

With men of folly a stream of desire flows constantly into a pool of their senses, causing passion to overflow on every side. The wise man is an ocean into which flow innumerable rivers, yet the ocean never overflows. Desires flow into the wise as they do into others, but wisdom is deep and broad. Like the ocean, the wise man is one in serenity.

The mind that is bound to the wandering senses is like a storm-tossed boat. As a raging gale, the passions carry away wisdom. Recollection, meditation and harmony still the winds of passion and restore wisdom.

As a tortoise protects its body from danger by withdrawing its limbs, the wise man protects his soul by withdrawing the senses into his own awareness - thoughts and memories.

In inner silence the burden of sorrows is loosened. When the feelings of man are at rest, wisdom can enter, with the serenity of the infinite.

Harmony within leads to wisdom. Without harmony there can be no contemplation; without contemplation there can be no peace; without peace there can be no joy.

The harmonious soul rises above the torments of earth - heat and cold, hunger and thirst, pleasures and pain alike. They are all fleeting values from the world of the senses. Let us rise above them!

The soul cannot escape from the world of the senses. Yet whilst living in this world the soul can strive to keep the senses in equilibrium, without liking or disliking. The soul in balance finds harmony, and in harmony, wisdom.

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That man is dear to God who feels neither lust nor hate; who feels neither attraction nor revulsion; who sees both sides of an argument; who works not for himself but for God. His love for God is plain, and his wisdom makes him respected by men.

That man is dear to God who argues not about good or evil and longs not for possessions, but feels only love for his fellow men, and for God.

That man is dear to God who is evenly balanced between blame and praise, who is uncomplainingly happy whatever his measure.

That man is dear to God whose love is equally divided between friends and enemies; whose soul is the same whether in honour or disgrace; who is free from the influence of earthly attachments.

That man is dear to God who remains steady and peaceful in the face of provocation - one in whom others find peace for themselves, reassurance in their troubles, their anger and fear. His mind is determined and his soul is in harmony within itself; he loves both God and his fellow men.

Faith and love are the highest characteristics that we call human. People governed by them are dearest to God.

The serene mind does not rejoice or mourn, whether fortunes be good or bad. The firm mind does not waver where others are shaken by sorrow, anger, delight, lust, fear, longing or despair.

The strong have no use for despair, for despair wins neither heaven nor earth.

Faced with the inevitable, do not grieve. Out of life comes death, and out of death comes life. Before their birth all beings are unseen, and after their death all beings are unseen; they are but briefly in view between states of invisibility. Why should this be a cause for sorrow?

The wise do not grieve for the dead any more than they grieve for the living. Both life and death shall pass away.

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In heaven there is no old age, infirmity, fear or death. In heaven the good can rejoice, never again to know discomfort or deprivation.

Kings and emperors, priests and mighty warriors - all are overcome by death; but death itself is overcome by Spirit.

May the soul not cleave to the body when the body goes to ashes. May the soul remember all past striving? May the soul remember all past striving and seek only Spirit and the light of truth!

Truth can never be a bad aim. The steps of one who seeks truth are never wasted, and even a little progress brings some freedom from untruth. No insurmountable dangers are to be found along the way.

To abandon the fight for truth is to abandon duty and honour. For a man of honour, such a fate is worse than death. Your disgrace will be a talking point among the stout hearted for years to come.

Much has been made of war between truth and falsehood, between good and evil, between wisdom and folly. Such a war is fought on the battlefield of the heart and the soul; to fight in such a war for the good opens the gates of heaven.

Do not run from the battlefield of life with fear in your heart, or those who once thought highly of you will speak of you with scorn. Your name will be held in contempt - a shameful fate.

A man caught up in civil war might see his own kin on the opposing side: his friends, family, neighbours, teachers. Being a thinking man he would not wish to fight - what would it avail to overcome his own folk? Better, perhaps, that he should die rather than bring sorrow upon his family. What happiness could he enjoy, what justification could he feel, having destroyed his own kinsfolk? Others have their own sense of right, their social order, their inherent culture.

Once a man has seen that the life within himself is the same life as that in all others - in truth, the same current and the same consciousness - he can never again feel moved to kill or harm another, or recruit another to do harm.

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The war between light and darkness, truth and untruth, takes place in the field of the soul and in the hearts of men. Family and friends, respected and loved ones, may be massed in opposition; but the battle is between the forces of truth and falsehood within. The good fight must be fought and won. In killing false values that we once held dear we are slaying unreality. In reality the unreal never lives; in reality the real never dies.

Sages say a man should stand on his own feet in the world. To carry out one's own duty, however humble, is an act of life. To carry out another's duty, however noble, is an act of death. To rely on the fortunes of others, however great, is to follow a way of darkness.

Action is greater than inaction. If there are tasks to be performed it is folly to shirk them. Karma cannot be defeated by inaction; if there were no action, life itself would cease.

God is never free from action. All his works are pure action; the soul of activity. Let our actions be consecrated; let our actions be pure and free from desire.

A man cannot obtain freedom from action merely by refraining from action. If he thinks he withdraws himself from action he falls under the spell of delusion, and follows a false path. Action is the essence of nature, and in our bodies the forces of nature have their rightful home.

Work done under the influence of light brings good rewards, creating a harmony of purity and wisdom.

The heart of man should be set upon work; in truth, the function of beings is to work. The heart of man should not be moved by success or failure, or work only for reward. Work is necessary for life, and work is its own reward.

Never cease to work! Do not think that heaven is idleness; heaven is work!

Work and action cannot taint the being of one who is in harmony - whose soul is one with all souls. Such a man is master of his own life, and master of all that he does.

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Setting aside the motivation of reward and pleasure, the wise man pursues his work and his obligation with a sense of freedom from the bonds of attachment. Such unselfishness in a man transcends the natural laws of action and reaction.

One who undertakes the obligation of sacrifice should not count the cost. One should take care to forgo pleasures with a calm feeling of acceptance; then the powers that receive the sacrifice will accept them with gratitude, and the giver will be rewarded.

Sacrifice is the act of forgoing some part of pleasure, food, or comfort, with a quiet sense of duty. The law of karma rewards sincere sacrifice with renewed blessings.

Sacrifice carried out for the hope of reward is not sacrifice. Asceticism, too, is folly - torturing the body and thwarting desire for the sake of reward. The only result is loss and torment, both for the body and for the soul.

Selfish giving is sacrifice wasted. Where the foolish give for their own gratification, the wise give unselfishly, and for the good of others.

A gift brings blessings to the giver, if given with sincerity to the right person, at the right time, and in the right place, and when nothing is expected in return.

A gift given without sincerity to the wrong person, at the wrong time, or in the wrong place, is a gift of darkness and its end result is of darkness.

When men speak of gods and sacrifices, they say: "By sacrifice shall you honour the gods, and the gods shall love you and grant you all your desires."

There is truth in this. A man who would take gifts from the gods without offering some part of them in return is no better than a thief.

Foolish men are they who perform frightful austerities, torturing their bodies; torturing their souls. By strengthening their will through the passions they imprison the soul, excluding Spirit. Their minds wallow in darkness.

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Practice is good for the soul, but concentration is better; Concentration is good for the soul, but meditation is better; Meditation is good for the soul, but submission of all results to the love of God is better. Submission to God leads to peace for the soul in Spirit.

The uncultured mind lurks in a dark forest of delusion, screened by the comforting darkness of unreality. Leaving forests behind, the cultured mind travels far beyond narrow doctrines, past, present and future.

Men with no clear vision observe the letter of moral rectitude. They study scripture word by word, and say: "There is no truth other than this."

Their heaven is earth with all its desires. Their reward is rebirth in an earthly body, and a fate to counterbalance their desiring.

Zealous adherence to ancient laws and teachings is like drawing water from a well when the whole land is flooded. To the seer of eternity, life and truth have their own life and their own truth.

The contradictions of scripture have caused many minds to waver. Through sincere meditation; through divine contemplation, the mind with reason may approach wisdom.

If we say: "I know - I know the lord," in truth we know not - we know him not. What we perceive are our own senses, our own imagination.

Nature is not folly; the academic achievement of man is not folly; religion is not folly. But when a man says: "This is all there is," that is folly.

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