Purity is an interesting subject, because we have so many images of what “purity” means. The first thing I want to touch on tonight, just because it’s on everybody’s mind, is the current political situation in Washington, D.C. There is national debate about the “purity,” or perhaps I should say, the “moral purity” of a president. There are people who say, “It matters”; and there are people who say, “It doesn’t matter. It’s his private life”.
One thing I know about the pursuit of politics and power is that it is frequently, if not most of the time, linked to the lower chakras, the impulses for survival, sexuality, ego expression. It is very outward. It is very social. People who are very successful in these arenas usually have really big egos that need to be satisfied, and also a strong drive to please other people. This does not always find itself in harmony with what is considered in most religious cultures to be “moral purity.” That is why, throughout history, we have had priests for religious leadership, and kings for political leadership. We have very rarely had priestly kings, except in theocracies; and then you have to really worry, because you have kings who say they’re divinely inspired and can therefore do whatever they please.
So when you look at this secular field, you have to look at the whole ball of wax and realize that it’s consistent with politics to have a high libido, or to be willing to say different things at different times to please people. Believe it or not, politicians actually do this. It’s called “making promises to get elected”. Every political party does it, and people who are too honest or too straightforward usually end up falling flat on their faces. Two examples of this in 20th Century presidential politics were George McGovern and Barry Goldwater. They basically spoke their minds, and were crushed in two
of the biggest landslides in American history.
Beyond that, it’s really up to people’s own sense of society and culture, and their moral values, to decide what they expect from their local, state and national leaders. When are people fed up to the point where they say, “Enough’s enough”? Or what, for that matter, constitutes “enough?” That is something that has been running through my mind for a while. We’re not electing a priest-king. We’re electing somebody who feels the same way about certain things that we do. And I’ve always believed in forgiveness, and in understanding that nobody’s perfect.
Having said that, I do want to make one point. I do think it is important when choosing political leaders to take into consideration their overall judgment. While every person makes mistakes, including in their marital relationships, when they lack good relationship sense while running for office (e.g., having an affair while running, or offering their wife up as a stripper for a biker rally) this may reflect a lack of good judgment on a larger scale. This must be weighed carefully during elections, particularly presidential
Now moving beyond politics, let us discuss purity in spirituality, because people are looking for this rather amorphous image that is known as “spiritual purity.” It’s right there with terms like “enlightenment,” “realization” and “heaven”. We all have a vague feeling for what it is, and a sense that it is good. We know that much. At the risk of sounding like Martha Stewart, it’s a good thing. Heaven is good. Purity is good. Love is good. Compassion is good. But the challenge we face is, “How do we achieve it? How do we express it? How do we live it? How do we find somebody in whom it is manifested?”
Now this goes back to the discussion about spiritual teachers. One of the great challenges implicit in the principle of contemporary living masters is that it forces us to look at the human element of spirituality and God-realization. Because it is, here and now, staring you right in the face. When we rely upon masters who have come in the past, or who live in different dimensions of existence, what we have is somebody upon whom we can project our own preconceptions and ideals of spirituality, enlightenment and purity.
When we think about Jesus, as an example (because we’re predominantly a Judeo-Christian culture), we have certain images and they go along with what we read in the Bible: you know, walking on water, performing miracles and all that. And then there’s the image of Jesus portrayed in many movies. He is very stately, almost gliding through crowds in his flowing robes, like a human hovercraft, humming along being very solemn and profound all the time, saying, “thee” and “thou” and things like that, moving slowly like a Tai Chi master at all times, as if his entire existence was like that.
It’s a very nice image. It’s a very uplifting image. It’s a very beautiful image. And it’s basically how we function as soul. In your soul body, you are a being who glides, who is, who loves, who flows. But in the human form, it’s a different thing. Masters who have come in the past, who we all love and respect, are our spiritual forefathers and foremothers. It’s easier to trust in them and put our attention on them because our expectations are not going to be confounded. They are not going to be challenged. We are not going to have somebody in the flesh giving us direct feedback, telling us we’re doing good things, or bad things. We have priests and such who can do that; but we can always say, “Well, they’re just a priest. They’re not God.” And so we can write off their admonishments and guidance if we want to.
But a real living human being who is God-realized, that’s a different story, and much more challenging. When we start on the spiritual path, or just start looking at spirituality and searching for a true teacher, it is very easy to find fault with them. Because no matter where you look, you’re going to find a human being (give or take a few possible space aliens walking around – just kidding).
I guarantee you, every master you meet on this planet, if you place them in an uncontrolled (as opposed to controlled), unscripted environment, you will find out that they are very human. By “controlled” I mean when you’re sitting in an auditorium, and the teacher enters the room from a distance, and gives a talk. The attendees become an audience listening to the master and everybody is properly blissed-out. At the end of the talk, the master gets up, maybe shakes your hand, and then leaves the room. At no time is there any real human interaction. You are in a controlled environment and can project all of your hopes and dreams and expectations on this person. They are an unblemished mirror for which all you aspire to be, and you can say: “Oh! Isn’t this amazing? This person is so wise, so funny, beautifully dressed, etc. He/She must be an enlightened being.” But if you hang out with them, one-on-one, you
find out that they are fully human, and have their own likes, dislikes, idiosyncrasies and even human frailties.
I’ve met so many people since I’ve started teaching who keep looking around for a teacher, a real spiritual teacher, “But none of them is as good as Jesus,” because we know what Jesus was like, right? Or Buddha, or Saint Germaine, or Rumi, or Nanak, or Kuthumi or Ashtar.
And so, because we base our search for a living teacher on preconceptions we hold about teachers who ave come in the past, we look around and don’t see a “real” teacher (by “real” I mean somebody
who fits into our expectations). So we keep looking. You can walk by a living saint walking down the street and not know it, because he or she will probably be dressed just like you, unless they’re visiting
from another country. If they’re from a different country or different culture, they will probably dress differently. If they are from some place in Africa, they might well dress in the traditional garb of their region. If they are from India, with a Sikh background, they will likely wear a white turban, dress in white and have a beard and not cut their hair. If they’re from more of an Islamic background they might wear a fez. If they come from a Greek Orthodox background, they will likely wear the robes and headdress of that particular faith.
I find it amazing, and somewhat funny, how we will look at other cultures (e.g., India) and find them more spiritual than ours. Of course they appear more spiritual than we are; we don’t have to live with them. It’s like talking to your best friend when you were a kid and saying, “Your parents are so cool! They’re way cooler than my folks!” Then you go visit them for the night and you find out that they don’t cook food like your mom does. In the same way, things from a distance can look really rosy. So people look at India and say, “Oh, if I dress like this, it’s ‘spiritual’. If I follow this diet, it’s ‘spiritual’. I can find a real spiritual being by looking for somebody who dresses like this, who eats like this, who walks like
this, who talks like this.” So you keep looking until you find someone who fits these expectations. But, if you get too close, you will find that he or she is another human being too, and you might say, “Well, they are not pure. They don’t walk on water. They don’t glide. They’re a human being just like me. They go to the bathroom and do all the things human beings do.” This can naturally be a bit disheartening. And I’ll clue in on a little secret. They most likely have times when they’re in a good mood and times when they’re kind of irritated. So how then do you define what “purity” is?
You could take an orthodox Christian line and say, “Well, the only true Master was Jesus. That was it! Bingo! Case closed. Two thousand years ago God came, one time only. Prime time attraction.
If you didn’t catch it, you missed it. Sorry.” You know? And they could be right.
I’m inclined to believe that the purity we look at, and look for, is a spiritual one. It’s an inner one. It starts with sincerity, sincerity and devotion to the path to God, to be willing to do what it takes to find God and communicate God, willing to take chances, willing to fail. I can’t speak for anybody else except yself. But I know that I have good days, and I have bad days. I know there are talks that I give that are more uplifting and open, and somewhere I feel like, “What am I doing here?” I know there are times I’m available on the telephone, and times that I’m not. And that’s part of me being me. There are
many times that I look at myself in the mirror and wonder what the heck I’m doing, and if I really have anything of value to offer. And then Spirit taps me on the shoulder and tells me to relax, take a deep
breath, meditate, and take another step. I try to make no personal pretense of being some sort of “embodiment of all purity” in terms of my own life. I’m not always in harmony. But I give it my best shot. And, in the physical body I think that’s all that we can do, give it our best shot. There are people who revere Paul Twitchell, and people who say he was just an offshoot from Kirpal Singh. And there are people who absolutely worship Kirpal Singh, and others who say he was a ‘schismatic’ split from Radha Soami Satsang Beas. There are people who will love you, and there are people who will not love you. This is just part of living. And so it’s really a question of how each of us relates to ourselves,
and to the Divine. It’s really one and the same. Your spiritual life and your social life are not different. Your spiritual life and your marital life, or your relationship life, are not different. It is all
part of a continuity – school, work, shopping, socializing. It is all the same thing, because it is you living your life. And each of us has our own life we’re living. We have our own conditions we have
come from, our own karmas, our own lessons we need to learn, our own challenges we face as we are purified by the tumbling stones of God.
And just like, as we used to say, you can’t just be a Sunday or Easter or Christmas Christian – (Lenny Bruce had a field day with that stuff thirty years ago) – so too you cannot just be a Wednesday night
devotee. Nor can you just be a seminar devotee, where you go to a great seminar and feel uplifted one day, and are then stuck back in the grunge of work and life the next. Spirituality demands consistency. It demands integrity. It demands continuity.
And so I will say to you, if you are looking for a spiritual teacher and trying to discern outward expressions of their spiritual purity, I would suggest that you see if they are consistent between their daily life, their human life, and their spiritual life. See if the way they speak is consistent and the way they write is consistent.
It’s not about trying to appear “spiritual,” or adopting the “right” words, or finding the right hook that makes a person “spiritual.” It’s simply about harmonizing your attention with the Spiritual Current, harmonizing your attention with the Holy Spirit. You’ve got to be dedicated. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes. It’s like the old story about how it took Thomas Edison ten thousand tries to develop the light bulb. If you get up on the balance beam of harmony with your meditation, and you fall off 1,000 times, drag your self up and get back on 1,001, 1,002, or 10,015.
We spend our entire lives, and many lives before this, learning our passions, learning how to be out of balance, how to be drawn outside by our senses. We don’t unlearn that overnight, or even in a year, or
five years. We have to know that there is something that is eternal. There is something that is absolutely pure, and that is the Holy Spirit, the Shabda, the Eck. There is a God. You can call Him Sugmad
or Anami or Radhasoami or The Lord. There is a God, the Ocean of Love and Mercy. It is a place of all beingness, all love, all peace and all bliss. By properly focusing the attention, anybody can go There and be There, and It can be in them.
The key in our daily lives is to make sure we are sure we keep doing our meditations. And not just the formal one we do at the same time every day. We also need to bring the repetition of the mantra of the
Holy Name into our lives throughout the day. What happens is that the Holy Spirit starts bathing us. It starts flowing through us in a river of pure love that is Light and Sound. It is like a giant cleansing action with these scrubbing bubbles of the cosmos that get inside us and saturate us in their essence. And very, very, very gradually they purify us. It is done gradually so we don’t fall out of balance, go out of tune, so that we don’t look to our friends and relatives and peers like suddenly we joined some weird trip and we’ve gone off the deep end. We’re just same, only better. In fact you become more you, because the real you is soul.
As we do this, we simply learn to be the Holy Spirit, and we learn how to identify when we are in tune. When we sing the Hu, It is our tuning fork of God. It is an absolute harmonic. And when we sing it
enough times, we start noticing when we are sharp and when we are flat. We very gradually fine tune over time. In the process, our lives gradually become a little more ethical, kinder and gentler.
This is different from the high you get from an inspirational weekend. I mean, anybody who’s gone to anything that’s really inspiring (I used to get this when I went to Eckankar seminars), you leave on a cloud. You’ve spent a weekend with a crowd of people in the presence of an inspirational, awakened being. You feel like you’ve been in the presence of God ItSelf. And everybody’s just glowing and radiating love and vibrating at a higher frequency. And you think, “Ahhhhhh, this is great. This is wonderful. I’m going to take this to work. I hate work, but I’m going to take this wave of divine love to work with me, and it’s going to charge the place and everything’s going to be blissful.”
But likely as not (usually “as not”), you get to work and you just have the Monday of all Mondays. You get a dozen Mondays rolled into one on your first day back, and it’s a diametrical contrast to the bliss you felt just 24 hours before. Part of it is Spirit testing you, checking to see if the love and bliss and wisdom you felt was a transitory thing (because you were hanging out with a bunch of people who agree with you, so you’re all slapping each other on the back saying, “Yay God!”). And in addition, you are dealing with a reality that is not synchronous with your spiritual focus. And the test is, in the midst of duality are you still able to be in harmony with Spirit and with God.
And then the next test is, if you’re really working on it, do you walk up to people you work with and, instead of saying, “Hey Joe, how’s it going?” you piously and sanctimoniously say, “Brother, I know that you are out of balance because you do not know the Lord. But I will pray for you.”
Now the latter response is, generally speaking, not the most optimal one, although I give you all permission to do it once. Give it a try and see how it plays in Peoria. (I mean, as Keith Moon told Jimmy
Page when Jimmy said he was going to start a band called “The New Yardbirds”, “Oh yeah, Jimmy. That’ll float like a lead zeppelin.”) People just get really weird around folks who are overtly pious. So either you stay pious and really irritate people, or you realize that it doesn’t work as a way of social being, which brings you back to the question of: “So then, how do I live a spiritual life?”
Obviously you don’t want to go preaching at people. Of course most folks here will try preaching at some point. There may be a day, an hour, a couple of months, when you really want to become a Shabda
evangelist. But you realize after a while that people are getting really quiet around you, and a lot fewer people are hanging out with you, and they get a little weird and start backing off. They start
back-peddling and trying to flee tactfully. You begin to realize that banging them over the head with the “Shariyat ki Sugmad” or “Sar Bachan,” or Paul Twitchell or Kirpal Singh, or any of the Eckankar or
Radhasoami teachings might not be such a good idea. You might as well be throwing one of those little ultra-right Christian cartoon tracts at them, like the one with the devil watching “Bewitched” and cackling
because he’s infiltrating the American households. I saw one of those once; it was great. Really funny. Satan in hell watching “Bewitched” because it was this big giant subversive thing. Too funny.
And we don’t want to do that. Let’s not go there, okay? What you want to do instead is, when you’re at work or with your family or friends, ask yourself, “How do I maintain my spirituality around people who are not doing this practice?”
I learned my lesson of bringing spirituality into the workplace a few years back when I was reading spiritual books and had some great pictures my teachers, most of which had quotes on the bottom of them. I wanted a picture of one of my teachers on my desk at work, and all I had were these pictures with quotes on them. So I thought, “What the heck. I’ll put one on my desk” Now I don’t believe in – to
paraphrase a Pat Benatar song – using God as a weapon. But I put this one picture up on the bulletin board by my desk because I liked looking at it.
The very next Monday, people came by my desk – and the picture was right up at about eye height, right above my computer – and would not look up. They would look down at my desk with the papers they were giving me, look at me a little bit, and then look back down at the desk and then turn around and hurry away. And the first time this happened I thought, “Well, this is fascinating.” I thought I’d try that a few more times to make sure it was consistent. Sure enough, for the next couple of days, they were just staring at my desk, doinga little pivot and then walking away really fast. Even though I wasn’t dressing or acting different (no turbans or robes or anything like that), people were still uncomfortable.
So I finally took the picture down and found another one to replace it with. The new picture was a simple one of my teacher with no quotes or anything overtly “spiritual” about it. And my coworkers had an
easier time dealing with that. It seems that as long as you don’t mention the big “G” word – the “God” word – or overtly evangelizing, people are more relaxed around you and receptive to the spiritual
current flowing through you, and you’re probably doing okay.
So this is a test of spiritual purity. In ordinary situations, what do you do? What does it mean to be “pure” and “spiritual?” To me, it does not mean throwing a book at somebody, or lecturing them, or
wagging your finger. What it simply means is just you being you. Each of us has our interests. We all have hobbies. We all have social interests. Hopefully we all vote, on some level at least. I
don’t care who you vote for; but you should be registered to vote and vote every time an election comes up. It’s a really important part of being a citizen.