THE PERFECT CONTEMPLATION
When thus vigour has been nurtured, it is well to fix the thought in concentred effort; the man of wandering mind lies between the fangs of the Passions. It cannot wander if body and thought be in solitude; so it is well to forsake the world and put away vain imaginations. Because of love, or hunger for gain, and the like, men will not forsake the world; then in order to cast it aside the wise will lay to heart these thoughts. Passion is overcome only by him who has won through stillness of spirit the perfect vision. Knowing this, I must first seek for stillness; it comes through the contentment that is regardless of the world. What creature of a day should cling to other frail beings, when he can never again through thousands of births behold his beloved? Yet when he sees him not, he is ill at ease; he rests not in concentred thought; and even when he beholds him he is not satisfied, but is distressed by the same longing as before. He sees not things in their reality; he loses his horror of the world; ho is consumed by his grief in yearning for union with the beloved. In thoughts there upon his brief life vainly passes away hour by hour; and the eternal Law is broken for the sake of a short-lived friend!
If he share in the life of the foolish, a man assuredly goes to hell; if he share it not, he wins hatred; what profits it to have commerce with the foolish? They are friends for a moment, foes for a moment, wrathful when they should be pleased how hard to content are the worldly! They are angered if wholesomely counselled, and hold me back from good; if I heed them not they are wroth, and pass into hell. When can good come of a fool? He is jealous of a better man, contentious with a peer, haughty towards one that is lower, puffed up by praise, angered by blame. Exaltation of self, blame of others, discourse in praise of worldly pleasure some such guilt will assuredly come from fool to fool. Thus it is from the union of one with another; evil thereby meets evil. I will live alone, in peace and with untroubled mind. It is well to flee from the foolish. If he come in thy way, seek to win him over by kindness, not so as to hold commerce with him, but in a manner of godly indifference. I will take from him only enough for the holy life, as the bee takes honey from the flower; thus in every place I will hold myself from commerce with him, like the new moon.
The mortal who thinks of his gains or his honours or the favour of many men will be afraid of death when it falls upon him, Whatsoever it be in which the pleasure crazed spirit takes its delight, that thing becomes a pain a thousand times greater. Therefore the wise man will seek not for pleasure, for from desire arises terror; and if it come of itself, let him stand firm and wait, Many there are who have found gain, many who have won fame; but none know whither they have gone, with their gains and their fame. Some loathe me; then why shall I rejoice in being praised? Some praise me; then why shall I be cast down by blame? Living beings are of diverse character; not even the Conquerors can content them, much less simple souls such as I. Then why think of the world? They blame a fellow-creature who gains naught, they scorn him who gains something; being thus by nature unpleasant companions, what happiness can come from them?
The Blessed Ones have said that the fool is no man’s friend; for the fool has no love save where his interest lies. The love that rests on interest is but selfish, even as grief at loss of wealth springs from loss of pleasure. Trees are not disdainful, and ask for no toilsome wooing; fain would I consort with those sweet companions! Fain would I dwell in some deserted sanctuary, beneath a tree or in caves, that I might walk without heed, looking never behind! Fain would I abide in nature’s own spacious and lordless lands, a homeless wanderer free of will, my sole wealth a clay bowl, my cloak profitless to robbers, fearless and careless of my body! Fain would I go to my home the graveyard, and compare with other skeletons my own frail body! For this my body will become so foul that the very jackals will not approach it because of its stench. The bony members born with this corporeal frame will fall asunder from it, much more so my friends. Alone man is born, alone he dies; no other has a share in his sorrows. What avail friends, but to bar his way? As a wayfarer takes a, brief lodging, so he that is travelling through the way of existence finds in each birth but a passing rest.
It is well for a man to depart to the forest ere the four bearers carry him away amidst the laments of his folk. Free from commerce and hindrance, possessing naught but his body, he has no grief at the hour of death, for already be has died to the world; no neighbours are there to vex him or disturb his remembrance of the Enlightened and like thoughts. Then I will ever woo sweet Solitude, untroubled dayspring of bliss, stilling all unrest. Released from all other thoughts, with mind utterly set upon my own spirit, I will strive to concentre and control my spirit.
The desires beget harm in this world and beyond: here, by bondage, slaughter, and loss of limb; beyond, in hell. That for the sake of which thou hast bowed many a time before bawds, heeding not sin nor infamy, and cast thyself into peril and wasted thy substance, that which by its embrace has brought thee supreme delight, it is naught but bones, now free and unpossessed; wilt thou not take thy fill of embraces now, and delight thyself? This was the face that erstwhile turned downwards in modesty and was unwilling to look up, hidden behind a veil whether eyes gazed upon it or gazed not; and this face now the vultures unveil to thee, as though they could not bear thy impatience. Look on. It why dost thou flee now from it?
Mark how fortune brings endless misfortune by the miseries of winning it, guarding it, and losing it; men’s thoughts cling altogether to their riches, so that they have not a moment to free themselves from the sorrows of life. Thus they who are possessed by desire suffer much and enjoy little, as the ox that drags a cart gets but a morsel of grass. For the sake of this morsel of enjoyment, which falls easily to the beast’s lot, man, blinded by his destiny, wastes this brief fortune, that is so hard to win. For all time lasts the struggle for the welfare of the mean body that is doomed to depart and fall into hell, and even a millionth part of this labour would win the rank of the Enlightened. Greater is the pain of them that are possessed by desire than the pain of the way of holiness, and no Enlightenment comes to them. Neither sword, nor poison, nor fire, nor fall into abysses, nor foemen may be compared to the desires, if we bear in mind the agonies of hell and the like. Then shrink from the desires, and learn delight in solitude, in the peaceful woodlands void of strife and toil. Happy are they who are fanned by the sweet silent breezes of the forest, as they walk upon the pleasant rock-floors broad as in a palace and cooled by the moonbeams’ sandal ointment, and take thought for the weal of their fellow-creatures! Dwelling anywhere for what time they will, in deserted sanctuary or cave or beneath the trees, saved from the weariness of winning and guarding possessions, they wander fancy-free at pleasure. Indra himself can hardly win the bliss of contentment that is enjoyed by hint who wanders homeless at his own free will and unattached to aught.
By pondering in such wise upon the excellences of solitude a man stills vain imaginations and strengthens his Thought of Enlightenment. First he will diligently foster the thought that his fellow-creatures are the same as himself. “All have the same sorrows, the same joys as I, and I must guard them like myself. The body, manifold of parts in its division of members, must be preserved as a whole; and so likewise this manifold universe has its sorrow and its joy in common. Although my pain may bring no hurt to other bodies, nevertheless it is a pain to me, which I cannot bear because of the love of self; and though I cannot in myself feel the pain of another, it is a pain to him which he cannot bear because of the love of self. I must destroy the pain of another as though it were my own, because it is a pain. I must show kindness to others, for they are creatures as I am myself. . . . Then, as I would guard myself from evil repute, so I will frame a spirit of helpfulness and tenderness towards others.”
By constant use the idea of an “I” attaches itself to foreign drops of seed and blood, although the thing exists not. Then why should I not conceive my fellow’s body as my own self? That my body is foreign to me is not bard to see. I will think of myself as a sinner, of others as oceans of virtue; I will cease to live as self, and will take as my self my fellow-creatures. We love our hands and other limbs, as members of the body; then why not love other living beings, as members of the universe? By constant use man comes to imagine that his body, which has no self-being, is a “self”; why then should he not conceive his “self” to lie in his fellows also? Thus in doing service to others pride, admiration, and desire of reward find no place, for thereby we satisfy the wants of our own self. Then, as thou wouldst guard thyself against suffering and sorrow, so exercise the spirit of helpfulness and tenderness towards the world. . . .
Make thyself a spy for the service of others, and whatsoever thou seest in thy body’s work that is good for thy fellows, perform it so that it may be conveyed to them. Be thou jealous of thine own self when thou seest that it is at ease and thy fellow in distress, that it is in high estate and he is brought low, that it is at rest and he is at labour. Make thine own sell lose its pleasures and bear the sorrow of thy fellows; mark its deceit at each time and in each act. Cast upon its head the guilt even of others’ works; make confession to the Great Saint of even its slightest sin. Darken its glory by telling of the greater glory of others. Make it a carrier in thy fellow-creatures’ service, like a mean slave. It is made of sin, and because it may have, some chance morsel of goodness from without, it is not therefore worthy of praise. Let no man know its goodness. In short, let all the wrong that thou hast done for the sake of thine own self to others fall upon thine own self for the sake of thy fellow-creatures. Grant it no power to talk overmuch; keep it in the condition of a young bride, abashed, timid, and guarded. Bend it to thy will by commanding it how it shall act and stand and forbear, and chastise it for disobedience. “O my spirit, thou wilt not do as I bid thee; then I will chastise thee, for in thee all sins find a home. Whither wilt thou go? I shall see thee, and overthrow all thy pride; the days are gone when I let myself be undone by thee. Put away now the hope that thou canst still seek an advantage of thine own; I have sold thee into the hands of others, heeding not however much thou mayst suffer. For if through heedlessness I deliver thee not over to my fellow-creatures, thou wilt doubtless deliver me to the warders of hell. Many times hast thou thus betrayed me, and long have I been racked; remembering these deeds of enmity, I will destroy thee, thou slave of self-seeking.” If thou lowest thyself, thou must have no love of self; if thou wouldst save thyself, thou dose not well to be saving of self. The more heedfully the body is guarded, the sorer are its sufferings and the deeper its fall. But despite its fall, the whole earth cannot satisfy the lust of the flesh; who can do its will? To him who longs for the impossible come guilt and bafflement of desire; but he who is utterly without desire has a happiness that ages not. Then give no room for the lust of the flesh to swell; blessed indeed is the thing that is not imagined for the sake of its pleasantness.
The body is a motionless thing stirred by something without, and ending in ashes, a loathsome frame of foulness; why do I cling to it? What have I to do with this machine, alive or dead? What distinguishes it from such things as clods of earth? Alas, O thought of self, thou wilt not die! Through complicity with the flesh I win sorrow, all to no purpose; it is no better than a thing of wood, and what should avail its hatred or its kindness? It feels no love when I guard it, no hate when vultures devour it; then why do I love it? I am angered when it is treated with scorn, delighted when it is honoured; but if it has no knowledge, to ‘what end is my toil? My friends, forsooth, are they who wish well to this body; but all men wish well to their own flesh, and why are not they also my friends? So I have surrendered my body indifferently for the weal of the world; it is but as an instrument of work that I still bear it, with all its guilt. Enough then of worldly ways! I follow in the path of the Wise, remembering the Discourse upon Heedfulness and putting away sloth. To overcome the power of darkness I concentre my thought, drawing the spirit away from vain paths and fixing it straightly upon its stay.