Every major Religion or Spiritual Philosophy draws its adherents to the ideal of the Spiritual Path or Way. It is the Tao, or Way, “Strait is the Gate and narrow is the Way”, and the “Way, the truth and the light” of Christianity, the Path and Way of Hinduism and of Buddhism, the Way of Sufism, and so on. The same Path is described under many names, and like Nature is an aspect of life and cannot belong to any one Religion or Philosophy alone. Many have explored the Path directly, and many are preparing. The most succinct explanation of the Path, though the same ideas permeate all the great Religions and Philosophies, may be found in the teaching of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, the last of which contains the Noble Eight-Fold Path: Right Belief, Right Thought, Right Speech Right Action, Right Means of Livelihood, Right Exertion, Right Memory, Right Meditation. We could say much about each of these, and many insights are certainly found in the Theosophical classics, ‘At The Feet Of The Master’, ‘Voice Of The Silence’, ‘Light On The Path’ and ‘The Masters And The Path’, which broadly describe the stages of preparation, the beginning of the Path, and beyond.
However, in discussions about the spiritual Path, an oft-quoted phrase from Jiddu Krishnamurti, or K, is that “Truth is a pathless land”, so I was intrigued to read the full speech. I found, perhaps not surprisingly, that it contains many Theosophical ideas which yet allude to the ideal of the one spiritual Path. His words are couched in quite strong phrases on first reading, particularly the opening paragraph, though we may note that the statements of past Religious reformers may be perceived as equally bold, unconditional and challenging. If we take some of the expressions attributed to Jesus, for instance, such as that he requires mercy—or love—and not sacrifice (Matt 9: 9-13), or to be perfect as the Father in Heaven is perfect (Matt 5:48), we find that each of these Truths are difficult to ignore, are not easily resolved, and whose meaning requires a much deeper understanding.
K states; “I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.”
“Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organised; nor should any organisation be formed to lead or coerce people along any particular path.”
From The Concrete To The Abstract, From The False To The True
Taken by itself, this quoted paragraph by K appears to condemn the very idea of the Path. However, the appearance is washed away in the wider context of the full speech. To begin, K’s speech as a whole makes a very definite distinction between the eternal, formless and timeless aspects of the One Life in which we live, and which is invisible to our mental, emotional and physical senses; and the temporal, formative and transient aspects of life perceptible to the personal senses and thought processes. The eternal aspect is beyond the temporal world, yet is inseparable to it, and is within us and without us. Every partial truth, no matter how true in itself, is yet incomplete and bounded, and therefore belongs to the temporal world—and the greater always naturally contains the lesser.
When K says that Truth is essentially a pathless land, he echoes HPB (Blavatsky) in her work “The Key To Theosophy”, she in turn echoing the Ancient Wisdom, when she draws on Eastern comparisons to tell us; “Theosophy [Divine Wisdom] is the shoreless ocean of universal Truth”. Both of these metaphors, the pathless land and the shoreless ocean, point towards something which is formless, abstract—and without boundaries—like the breath of abstract Spirit.
In saying that “you cannot approach it [Truth] by any path whatsoever”, there are two aspects to this: again, the eternal and the temporal. If we may deal with the temporal first, we live in an age in which the path or way has become very much a personal experience—many people speak in terms of “my path” and “your path”, or “my journey” and “your journey”. The idea of a personal journey may be important and meaningful, however it is also susceptible to change, which shows its transient nature. Similarly, every path that accentuates only one or a few qualities, though useful, is incomplete, and therefore belongs to the temporal world. Groups of people have pointed out the Way through particular shared or collective qualities, the most common being on the basis of devotion or bhakti yoga, knowledge or jnana yoga and self-sacrifice or karma yoga. In another sense, this forms the practices and interests of the Mystic and Martyr (Greek, meaning ‘witness’), the Theologian who seeks to understand, and those inspired towards service to others through the parable of the Good Samaritan.
All of these individual Paths and Journeys are significant as they interweave through the greater evolutionary scheme of life, just as every step is important to those next to us, and the ones which follow. However, if we may draw a distinction between evolution and the Path, we may say that the flow of evolution distinguishes between the life that flows unconsciously, unknowingly, instinctively; and the life that flows consciously, knowingly and in harmony with Divine Law, intuitively, in the higher sense of that word, and insightfully. We could suggest that when the outer personality becomes aware of the urgent necessity to act largely in response to the inner life, rather than external circumstances, that this would come close to marking the beginning of one’s journey on the one Spiritual Path. As ‘Light On The Path’ further reminds us, we must gradually become the Path itself, the Way itself, free of the feeling of separation from every other life, and losing all sense of the duality between the material world and the spiritual world, so that every intention flows unhindered from the Spiritual.
The Inner Life
This Path may only be found by going within. As the Delphic Oracle once declared, “Oh Man, know thyself, and thou shalt know the Universe and the gods”. ‘Man’ of course refers to the full human being, not simply the outer personality. We would not exclude the outer life, the counterpart to the inner, as the Great Teachers all point to the fact that it is impossible to develop on the Path without universal Love. Love keeps no record of wrongs, though Divine justice, or the Karma of our past actions, keeps an exact record, and our sympathy reaches out to those who suffer. Even in the worst of cases, where the suffering does not cease or death is inevitable, love, as healing, is always valuable because it gives two things which the sufferer cannot find for themselves—relief and strength; in all its varieties, moral, ethical, psychological and physical. Yet one’s union with the Path begins through the conscious awareness of the Inner Life, which is the real source of the power to love and heal.
K also makes the same distinction between the many external paths of human invention, which are personal, and the one true Path, which leads to the ‘kingdom of the eternal’. At a talk he gave on 6 August 1949, he tells us that; “Now, if you go into it very clearly and thoroughly, with intelligence, you see that to truth there can be no path; there is no path as yours and mine—the path of service, the path of knowledge, the path of devotion, and the other innumerable paths that philosophers have invented”. As Light on the Path (18-20) explains so well; “To each temperament there is one road which seems the most desirable. But the way is not found by devotion alone, by religious contemplation alone, by ardent progress, by self-sacrificing labour, by studious observation of life. None alone can take the disciple more than one step onwards. All steps are necessary to make up the ladder.”
As the first of the three great truths, recorded in “Light On The Path”, tells us, the Principle which gives Life, dwells within us and without us, is undying and eternally beneficent, is neither heard nor seen or smelt, but is perceived by the one who desires perception. This perception is ‘God-knowledge’, if we can use this term in its highest sense, or Theosophy. In the first fragment of “The Voice Of The Silence”, it is said that; “There is but one road to the Path; at its very end alone the Voice Of The Silence can be heard. The ladder by which the candidate ascends is formed of rungs of suffering and pain; these can be silenced only by the voice of virtue.” If we look for the meaning of ‘virtue’, the Collins Dictionary describes the archaic or older meaning of ‘virtue’ as “an effective, active, or inherent power or force”—that is, strength. Perception, for the one who desires it, arises through self development together with purification, once known as ‘character building’, in which we come to experience and know both our virtues and vices—and from the knowledge of these opposites, the building of our strength and the purification of our weaknesses, we derive our power and compassion.
The last Great Truth says that each one of us is one’s own absolute law-giver, the dispenser of glory or gloom to one’s own self, the decreer of one’s own life, one’s own reward, one’s own punishment. In other words, each of us is our own authority, our own key, and responsible for working out our own salvation, our own perfection, or fullness.
K states, from his 1929 speech; “you have the idea that only certain people hold the key to the Kingdom of Happiness. No one holds it. No one has the authority to hold that key. That key is your own self, and in the development and the purification and in the incorruptibility of that self alone is the Kingdom of Eternity.” And this is the essential nature of the Path. This does not mean that we relinquish the help of the right teacher, rather, that we learn with their aid to draw on our own powers. After all, it would not be unreasonable to realise that as we attain to unity with the higher Self, we would also attain unity to some degree with those Masters and teachers who have travelled the Path before us, who have experience of the Eternal. Whatever merit we gain can only come from our own efforts, however any rejection of the living and eternal Wisdom says more about one’s own failure to discern the true from the false than about the Wisdom itself. Eventually there is union with all of the Great Masters, leading to the Word, or Logos, an expression of the formless and unmanifest Divine Voice—who collectively are the Elohim. When we first begin to meditate, Nirvana appears to be a place or destination, and as we continue we gradually realise that it is Life itself.
According to the words attributed to St Paul; “when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully” (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). For there to be a ‘Man’, the child must die, so to speak, so that the ‘Man’, the higher and Divine Self within each of us, may be fully realised in every action, feeling and thought. Similarly the personality must be outgrown, naturally, so that the Christ-nature within may manifest, and become liberated. We may substitute the word Christ, which is a title “the Anointed”, for any similar title such as Buddha, or Krishna, or any other representative name.
And as Rumi further explains, the ascension from the child to the adult, from the corruptible to the incorruptible, is not found in the physical and solid world, but in the spiritual and abstract, “not like the ascension of a mortal to the moon; nay, but like the ascension of a sugar-cane to sugar, … not like the ascension of a vapour to the sky; nay, but like the ascension of an embryo to rationality.” (See ‘Rumi’, trans by R. Nicholson, verses titled ‘The Spiritual Ascension’).
K does not appear to reject prior knowledge and books, which are necessary tools in life if every student is to benefit by the work of others, except in those instances where we allow our inner freedom to be constrained by partially remembered knowledge, opinions and books, held up to support outer authoritarianism, dogmatism and indoctrination. A dogma or doctrine is not good or bad in itself, and may actually be true and useful in preparation for one’s own investigations. The danger arises when we relinquish our right to question, explore and validate. To teach is to share knowledge, and help, and sharing in its essence is a form of altruism and love. When freely and willingly explored in the right spirit of self-education, dogmas and doctrines, or teachings by any name, can point us towards the rain of direct knowledge and blessings, and can help to clear our inner clouds of doubt, fear and confusion. K touched on this idea at one of his schools, Brockwood Park in England, 1 Sept 1981; “The questioner says: are you not contradicting yourself when the teachers and the students in all these schools are trying to understand their own conditioning, educating themselves not only academically, but also educating themselves to understand their own whole conditioning, their whole nature, their whole psyche? One doesn’t quite see the contradiction. … We are trying not only to educate academically to “O” and “A” levels, but also to cultivate an understanding, an inquiry into the whole psychological structure of human beings.”
The Path To The Inner Life
HPB once wrote of the Path that; “There is a road, steep and thorny, beset with perils of every kind, but yet a road, and it leads to the very heart of the Universe: I can tell you how to find those who will show you the secret gateway that opens inward only, and closes fast behind the neophyte for evermore. There is no danger that dauntless courage cannot conquer; there is no trial that spotless purity cannot pass through; there is no difficulty that strong intellect cannot surmount. For those who win onwards there is reward past all telling—the power to bless and save humanity; for those who fail, there are other lives in which success may come” (From Collected Writings Of H P Blavatsky Vol XIII P219).
K further similarly tells us, in describing this Path or ascension to Truth, that it is possible to reach the eternal; “Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. … If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.” In climbing the steeps, that road steep and thorny because our growth has made of the choice a necessity, we learn that dauntless courage, along with spotless purity and strong intellect, are the qualities essential for success.
He goes on to say; “But those who really desire to understand, who are looking to find that which is eternal, … they will become the flame, because they understand.” Towards the end of the little book, ‘At The Feet Of The Master’, it says, if I may paraphrase, that one who is on the Path exists not for the self, but for others; one has forgotten oneself, and become immersed in the great work in order that one may serve them. He or she is as a pen in the hand of the Divine, through which the Divine thought may flow, and find for itself an expression down here, which without a pen it could not have. Yet at the same time one is also a living plume of fire, raying out upon the world the Divine Love which fills one’s heart. This is something to remind us that by finishing his 1929 speech in which he left the Society with the same ideal and hope with which he closed his first little book nearly twenty years earlier, that Theosophy, the Ancient Wisdom, is the key, the cornerstone and background to his teachings.
The message of the great teachers is very clear, and that is never be satisfied with anything but the essence of the essence. K’s teachings are part of the Ancient Wisdom and, along with our Theosophical literature, are united in their conflict with authoritarianism, materialism and ignorance.