by J. Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda)
(Excepted from a talk about how the emerging discoveries of the new age can help us find the hidden realities of our own being.)
We’re at a point in our society today where we’re beginning to slough off old ways of thinking and enter into a new age. You hear people saying, “Are you a ‘New Ager?’ ” Well, it’s not a question of being a “New Ager”—we are living in a new age, and we can’t avoid it. What defines this age? Essentially, it is the discovery at the beginning of this century that matter is energy, and that subtle realities exist beyond the reach of our senses. I don’t think people realize even yet the depth to which that discovery has taken us already, and is bound to take us in the future.
Look at our definition of institutions, for example. For a long time people thought that dogmas, upheld by institutions, were truth. This is a false assumption, for dogmas are only ideas about truth, not truth itself. Truth is universal. It’s a discovery that the soul makes as it evolves in its own self-unfoldment. If you understand the truth deeply enough, you can throw out the definition.
Once St. Francis of Assisi met a blind beggar woman along the road. She couldn’t see that he was even poorer than she was, and asked him for money. Feeling badly that he had no money to give, Francis gave her the one thing he did have—his Bible. Later, he felt the loss of his Bible, and prayed, “God, I’ve given away your Word.” A voice within him replied, “Francis, my Word is in your heart.” That’s where truth has to be. It has to be something we understand from within, not just something we read, or quote, or spout from a platform.
As we move forward into the new age, this way of thinking is gaining strength. Every day, it seems, a new discovery is being made that turns people’s minds more towards an understanding of energy and the subtle nature of reality.
There’s a principle based on this perception of energy that I’ve always upheld at Ananda: Don’t worry so much about the things you do, but be concerned that your attitude is right. If your attitude is right, if your energy flow is right, it’s amazing how everything flows smoothly and turns out positively for you. When you lose touch with the right attitude, the energy no longer flows, and success evades you. Try it for yourself, and you’ll find it works invariably.
An example of this took place in 1976 when our community (Ananda World Brotherhood Village) was struck by a forest fire that destroyed almost all of our buildings and burned most of our land. We didn’t have any money to rebuild or insurance to cover expenses, and we honestly didn’t know where the money was going to come from to start over. Just at that time one of our neighbors, whose property had also been burnt out by the fire, phoned us and said excitedly, “The cause of the fire was a county vehicle with a faulty spark arrestor. Let’s all sue the county and get what we can.” We easily could have sued for two million dollars and gotten all the money we needed to rebuild our community. But we said, “No, that’s not the way to go. We are not here to take from others, but to give.” We knew that if we had the right attitude, even if we couldn’t raise the necessary funds, God would help us in some other way. In fact, we were able to rebuild through many unexpected miracles and lots of hard work.
Where There Is Truth, There Is Victory
There is another important principle on which Ananda is based: Where there is adherence to truth, to high ideals, there is victory. We easily could have failed at the time of the fire, but we didn’t. In fact, some of our of neighbors were still weeping ten years later, while we were out the next day clearing the land and joyfully singing to God.
This is not a boast. I’m not trying to say how good we are. I’m trying to say that these are principles that will work for anybody if he will use them. They wouldn’t work if this world were only a material one, and matter were the bedrock reality. But there’s a subtler reality that is the basis of matter and of which itself is just an expression. When you can live in that subtler reality, you’ll find things happening in amazing ways to help and support you.
I think we’re living through a time in this century where we find ourselves with a complete loss of moral values and of any belief system. Our civilization seems to be falling apart, yet as we enter the new age I think the truth is that we’re just clearing the ground so that we can plant true and lasting values. I think we’re living in a glorious time, but we have to redefine our directions. We have to redefine our principles in such a way that we can once again bring meaning into our lives. This is something that you, I, all of us need to take a personal responsibility for.
Bliss Is the Source of Our Being
How to get back to that bedrock reality? The French philosopher Descartes said, “I think, therefore, I am.” This is a false assumption. The truth is, “I am, therefore, I think.” This is the one point of departure for all human understanding. This simple intuition—I am—is the central fact of your being. You are not any outward definition, but simply, I am. When you reach that point of emptiness, not blankness, but emptiness, then suddenly you discover that the source of “I am” is bliss. As this bliss expands, you understand that this is the one thing worth living for.
People tell you there’s no God, but I know that I am can never be taken from me. People say that there’s no truth, but there’s at least this that’s true: That which makes me happier is good for me, and that which makes me unhappy is not good for me. In this world there are two kinds of influences: One is light and the other is darkness. One is good, and the other is evil. How do you know which is which?
You can’t call things good or bad in themselves, but subjectively you can say its effect on us is good or bad. We can learn to discriminate in this respect when we open ourselves to the influence of darkness and allow our minds to become negative, pessimistic, doubtful, or cynical, then we’re going to suffer. If we attune ourselves to forces of light, and direct our thoughts to be positive, optimistic, hopeful, and courageous, we’re the ones who gain. That’s what makes an influence good or bad.
There is an objective truth, and we must face it as it is. If we were tigers, then I would say it was right for us to kill. But the truth is people like Mafia hit men who destroy life in others are killing it in themselves. Whatever you do to others, you do to yourself more than to anyone else. When you give love, you have love. When you give anger and hatred, you have anger and hatred in yourself, and you become dark.
We are at a wonderful point in the evolution of our society as we move into a new age. We have a choice before us now—to remain fixed in old ways of thinking and dogmas, or to reevaluate who we are, what we are, and what we’re doing here. Because I have faith that what we are is something eternal and good, I think we’re on the brink of a thrilling new adventure that will change our world into something that people have not seen for many, many centuries.
I think the future ahead is a glorious one, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll arrive at it easily. We’re still in a deck-stripping process and may have to face a few hard times. So be it. But don’t lose your faith in that simple reality that you can never get away from—the simple truth “I am.” On the basis of that single thought, build that “I am” into what you want to become, and shape your life into what you want it to be. Start from the divine reality of your own being, and discover the joy and freedom of the infinite.