When a dietician expounds upon the wonderful results of a certain dietary system, Mr. John is very enthusiastic. However, because he never tries out that system of diet, he loses interest in it. But if another dietician visits town, Mr. John goes to listen to him because he remembers the enthusiasm he felt while listening to the first dietician. Mr. John does not try out this new system of diet either, or if he tries it a little, he soon falls back on his unhealthy eating habits. In this way, Mr. John, impelled by a theoretical desire to eat properly, develops the habit of listening to all the new dieticians who come to town without ever following their instructions.
But Mr. John should remember that he cannot follow all dietary systems at the same time and that he should not discard a good system of diet for a lesser system, just because it happens to be new to him.
Carefully select the best teaching
The above principles apply to religion as well. Most people try to follow a variety of teachings yet stick to none. Led only by curiosity, they love to listen to new ideas from new personalities without ever assimilating the ideas. They are like people who set out on a path to reach a certain destination but become so enamored with walking that they keep on walking and forget all about the point they wanted to reach.
Just as there is more than one true religion, so also is there more than one path that leads up the mountain of divine attainment. In the beginning of the spiritual search it is wise to seek truth through books and lectures and to compare different spiritual paths and teachers. But it becomes important at a certain point to carefully select the best teaching and the best teacher.
You can find the best teaching expressed in books, but to attain spiritual perfection, you also need the assistance of a guru. The willingness to accept divine guidance through one of God’s awakened channels differentiates the sincere seeker from the dilettante. To try to achieve spiritual perfection through a variety of channels shows not only a lack of commitment, but a lack of understanding of the universal path by which all souls find enlightenment.
The potential for confusion
Once you’ve made your selection, it is important to be firmly loyal to your way. You must simply accept that it is not possible to follow more than one teaching at a time, any more than you can reach a destination by following more than one route at a time. Once you’ve found a true teaching, the restless searching should cease.
Unfortunately, many students, even after finding a true teaching, continue to read other teachings and to investigate other paths, perhaps hoping to find easier, shorter routes to divine attainment. I once had a student who read other teachings all the time. She was a very nice person, always kind and polite to everyone. But I used to tell her, “Why don’t you read your own teachings?”
“Oh, all teachings are the same,” she said.
“That’s true,” I said, “but just the same, if you keep reading everything else you will get confused. You have to realize the truth behind those teachings. Only then will you know from realization that they are the same. Until that time, it will be like trying to cross a river with your feet in two boats. When the boats separate, you will fall between them and drown. Some differences do exist between the various teachings. With wisdom, they can be resolved. To the unenlightened mind, however, though they are superficial, they can be a cause of confusion.”
Unfortunately, this student didn’t heed my advice but kept on with her eclectic reading. After a time, she drifted off.
Loyalty is the first law of God
The very thought, “Oh, all teachings are the same,” has just enough truth in it to constitute also a pitfall. Until you have risen above your conscious mind and learned to live more by superconscious guidance, the differences between one teaching and another can easily lead into a bog of confusion.
To one who lives by superconscious guidance and is planted firmly on his own path, the differences between one teaching and another become superficial. Such a person understands the underlying purpose of each path, and sees why the good advice of one teacher may differ in some respects from the equally good advice of another. Newcomers to the path, however, may not perceive the unifying rationale behind those differences, and are often confused by them.
Always be wise in your seeking. The emotional excitement of finding new ways must always be balanced against the truth that “loyalty is the first law of God.” Eclecticism indicates a lack of serious purpose. This is not to say you should be fanatical, but on the other hand don’t be wishy-washy. If you would unite your soul with Him who is the foundation of the universe, you must be firm in what you stand for. Unswerving loyalty to one’s chosen path is necessary.
Seek God with deep sincerity
Why do so many people truly long for God, yet do not find him? It is because they do not seek Him with deep sincerity and give up too soon.
Always be completely sincere with God. Without sincerity, the necessary focus and intensity will be lacking. God already knows what you are thinking, but sincerity lends power to your thoughts and prayers by focusing and centering them in Him. God never fails to listen to true soul-calls.
The devotional call, if sincere, deep and continuous, and supplemented by sincere efforts at deep meditation, always brings a divine response. The sincere truth-seeker tells himself, “I know what an arduous task it must be to achieve perfection, but I will give it all I have. With God’s help, success surely must be mine!”
What happens if you fall?
We are living in a new age when the standards of living are less strict. It becomes even more important, therefore, to remember always that the correct spiritual way to live is to go within and ask yourself whether what you are doing is right or wrong. Be absolutely sincere with yourself. If you are sincere you will rarely go wrong, and if you do, you will quickly correct yourself.
Sincere repentance for past wrong actions is needed before a person can go forward and make the kind of effort needed to attain divine freedom. For this reason, Jesus wanted to test the character of his fallen disciple, the woman of Samaria, to see if she could be helped. The woman of Samaria had had five husbands and was then living with a man who was not her husband.
To determine the degree of her degradation, Jesus asked her to call her husband. When she responded honestly by telling Jesus that she had no husband, he was pleased. Her truthfulness showed that her moral degradation was only temporary. Because of her honesty and recognition of Jesus as the promised Messiah, he was able to heal her. Thereafter, she became one of his disciples and devoted herself to the spread of his teachings.
Never indulge in hypocrisy or insincerity
No matter how far a disciple has strayed from the spiritual life, he can be saved if he is sincere and honest with his guru. Insincerity and prevarication toward the guru are the greatest sins for these are deliberate transgressions, unlike flesh transgressions which are often due partly to instinctive compulsion. It’s possible to help wayward souls if they sincerely confess their faults and are willing to accept the guru’s advice and blessings. But if the disciple practices insincerity toward his guru and tries to hide his moral disease, he shuts the door to the guru’s healing help.
Never indulge in hypocrisy or insincerity. Always remember: no matter how far you fall from the grace of goodness, you are spiritually safe if you sincerely try your utmost to become good again.
It was this all-important quality of sincerity that Jesus praised in his disciple, Nathaniel, upon their first meeting. As Nathaniel walked toward him accompanied by the disciple Philip, Jesus said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile” — meaning, “Behold a soul who is completely free of all insincerity.”
Sincerity and courage attract divine strength
You can attain divine consciousness if you are sincere and persistent, and convince God that you want Him more than anything else. You must apply yourself energetically and put forth continuous personal zeal. No matter what your difficulties, you must not give up. Those devotees who never give up reach the divine goal.
Salvation is possible because sincerity and courage attract the strength needed for its attainment. God gives to the sincere seeker the power to achieve victory.