In this cinema theater of life we are both viewers and actors. As actors, we offer entertainment, inspiration, and instruction through the roles we play, sharing with others, in a sense, the understanding we have gained so far in our lives. As viewers, we watch the changing, entertaining, constructive, endlessly fascinating play of life—our own and that of others. Viewing the play gives us an opportunity to draw important lessons for ourselves.
Newsreels in movie theaters, reporting current events from East, West, North, and South, give us opportunities also to enlarge our mental screens as they provide us with a bigger picture of how people live everywhere on this planet. Every nation, with its (to us, sometimes) strange‐seeming and colorful customs, its various countrysides and climates, provides us with new “snippets” of interest.
How many adventure stories we live through! How many thrillers! How many sweet stories, balanced (inevitably) by suspense or horror movies!
Countless “motion pictures” are displayed daily on our mental screens. The comic movies we find delightful; the educational ones, informative and also, if we ponder that information more deeply, instructive. Sensational events in our lives help to keep us “awake and ready.” Sad movies lead us slowly by the hand to the portals of reflection, on passing which we recognize that all fulfillments in life are really a “mixed bag” of success and disappointments. And the inspiring movies lead us into the garden of higher reflection where we learn to hope for better things in life than endlessly pulling up the weeds of troubles in hopes of making life trouble‐free. The hope that dawns on us is that there may be lofty regions of consciousness where not only rest, but enduring love and bliss are possible.
Life gives us human examples from which to pro t: great trailblazers like Lincoln, Gandhi, Marie Curie, Admiral Byrd, Emerson, William the Conqueror, Isaac Newton. Through such persons we may receive the inspiration to improve our own lives. God gives us great religious teachers also, such as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Zoroaster, Confucius, Mohammad, and Krishna to guide us and give us hints that in ourselves we, too, have high potentials.
In the movies of our own lives we behold examples that sometimes move us with deep emotion; sometimes inspire; sometimes entertain us and help us to be light and happy; and that sometimes frighten us into correcting ourselves, after beholding the consequences of wrong behavior. The scenes we observe in real life may be as dramatic as any of those penned by Shakespeare.
The movies that life plays for us of other people’s sufferings affect us, but their impact on us is diminished by our own relative lack of involvement in them. We may shed a passing tear, but the pain will be slight compared to the sufferings we experience in our own lives.
Personal suffering is therefore necessary, both for our self‐understanding and because it deepens in us a desire to expand our sympathies by helping others. Self‐understanding must grow gradually until, as our understanding and empathy expand, it becomes superconscious insight.
Sympathetic higher beings derive great inspiration from helping “earthlings” to uncover their own inner joy. If such high beings wept with us and identified with our sorrows, they would not be able to uplift anyone. Indeed, we ourselves, when we grieve too deeply with others in their sorrows, only increase those sorrows.
Compassion is a loftier feeling than sympathy. Compassion is like being able to swim strongly enough to save someone from drowning. Pity may mean jumping into the water and drowning with him! The only way to diminish others’ grief is to apply to them the potent salve of our own inner calmness and joy. Those who can do so most effectively for both themselves and others are advanced beings whose inner happiness has become unshakable.
As we watch, therefore, the tragic mistakes and misfortunes in people’s lives—including our own—we should shed only tears of joy at the privilege of being able to offer help, even to ourselves. We should approach tragedy, whether in others’ or in our own lives, with an attitude of dynamic inner joy. The way to emerge from suffering is to raise to a higher level our own, or other people’s, consciousness. For ourselves, consciousness can be raised by right attitudes.
In souls made in the image of God there is no room for disturbing emotions such as grief. The fundamental cure for all human ills is everywhere one and the same: to raise one’s consciousness.
In this cosmic movie, the gains we can receive from people who are stricken with despair, and who collapse fainting at the slightest whiff of bad news, are that we can see displayed so plainly the effects of negative thinking.
We must prepare ourselves mentally to meet life’s inevitable trials, difficulties, and tragedies. For such preparation, the movies we see in actual theaters can be instructive. If viewed with inner calmness and detachment, they can help us to understand that nothing in life is real in itself. Highly nervous individuals, those who suffer from melancholia, or those again who are afflicted by “Anemic Pessimism,” should avoid as they would a communicable disease any movie that depicts human tragedy or sorrow. Stories of this sort will not inspire them to live better. People who flock to “tear‐jerkers” because they love crying only undermine their own ability to stand rm in the face of life’s tests.
Throughout all trials, of whatever nature, we can retain our equilibrium and sail through the most harrowing experiences with our inner peace and joy unaffected, if we remain inwardly calm.
Learn to look upon whatever happens to you with the certainty that nothing can touch you in your true, inner Self: your soul.
Great wars have been waged everywhere on earth. Widespread famines have caused millions to die of starvation. Disasters alternate invariably with happier times of peace and prosperity. Learn to view everything as passing and temporary. Don’t look for “happy endings.” “Real” life has no endings at all! Every apparent ending of one story is only the beginning of another one. In this universe of dualities there must be as many sad stories as happy ones. This statement is as true for the whole universe as it is for the lives of human beings. Every wave must have its corresponding trough.
Is it not ironic that every human struggle to “get ahead,” to achieve this goal or that, and every dream and hope of a “happy ending,” must always be canceled out by the very opposite of everything we sought. Every “up” must be balanced by a “down”; every triumph, by a defeat. The sum total of our myriads of incarnations must be zero! Isn’t that something to stiffen our spines? Everything we aspire toward, dream of, and attempt on earth is, quite literally, all for nothing?
The vast dramas of this world: the saints; the great statesmen; the conquerors; the villains; the works of great genius: all have as little reality as Mother Grady’s frustrated cries over the ants getting into her apple pie!
A movie depicting a life in an actual theater movie takes little time to play out: perhaps hardly two hours. In “real” life, events pass more slowly, though the speed varies according to the degree to which we engross ourselves in them. Whatever the length of our lives, however—whether ten years or a hundred—when Life’s Director calls, “Cut!” the movie ends.
When life finishes, we are given a glimpse, with the telescopic lens of retrospection, of everything we lived.
Life is indeed a movie show! The millions of geologic years; the vast starry constellations; the atmosphere which surrounds planets; the atomic combinations that produce the chemical elements; the vast continents and oceans; the unceasing parade of birth and death; and the virtual change‐over of the entire cast every hundred years: all this is but a show!
The varying abilities displayed by human beings; the march of civilizations, rising and falling: the whole incredible spectacle is nothing but a “super‐colossal”, ever‐entertaining, displaying constant novelty. Yet we can’t simply walk out on the movie of life: We must sit through it. Those who try to escape by committing suicide must simply return and start over again. Those who think to escape to some South Sea island or polar wilderness will find their karma keeping track of them and jumping determinedly onto their backs no matter where they go.
Life is a movie in serial form. Each installment is engrossing, new, stirring, and delivered with fantastic complexity. Great minds are stars in the movie production; they command universal attention from the audience. We cannot all be stars, however. Don’t mind if you are not a main player in life’s movie. No motion picture ever consists of only one player, or one event. Your role, even though it be short or seemingly insignificant, has its own importance. Without you, the “plot” would be incomplete. In the eyes of the Director, an actor who plays his role well, whatever it be, is, in his own special way, a star, adding luster to the whole production.
Life’s pictures, in order to be interesting, must change constantly. Who wants to be subjected over and over to the same old comedies, the same old prosaic events, the same grim, increasingly gray tragedies? We all want variety. Some people can hardly bear to see twice the same movie at the movie theaters. Therefore does the Cosmic Director of this great motion picture of life keep on changing things to keep the show interesting.
Indeed, one can never drink twice at the same spot from the same water out of a running brook. One can never live exactly the same event twice. Brooks ow; events change; we are not exactly the same now as we were even a minute ago, for our thoughts change, and the sum total of our reality assumes ever different proportions.
To accept life as a motion picture requires a certain mindset. You must steel yourself never to accept sorrow as your reality. You must be mentally prepared to accept every change in life. But why be a psychological antique? When crises come, don’t shrink from them or lament. Instead, why not applaud the spectacle appreciatively? The brouhaha of this world was created for your entertainment and enjoyment.
Be a good actor, too—entertaining with style! When you are ill, or when anything else goes wrong in your life, play heroically the part of someone fighting disaster. Patiently endure whatever trials come, no matter how great. Keep seeking methods to overcome, or to rise above, every test that comes. Seek to be constantly creative. And keep always in mind that you are only, always, playing a part.
A movie actor isn’t personally involved in any suffering he depicts in the characters he plays. Even so let us be. Retain always an attitude of inner freedom, no matter what challenges you are called upon to meet in life. Remember, people suffer only because they think things ought to be different from what they are.
A disciplined consciousness, especially if it is guided by the superconscious, never experiences pain when the body is ill, nor fear or anger when it encounters opposition, nor devastation over failure of any kind. We should always see ourselves as God’s children: ever perfect, calm, happy, and unaffected by anything that happens to us.
A state of mental detachment can be achieved by understanding the true meaning of life. That, indeed, is wisdom; it gives a deep sense of inner purpose to one’s own life.
Our troubles usually arise from not knowing what part we are meant to play. A person with musical talent may take a step backward in evolution if he lets people’s praise go to his head. He may do better—and, in fact, it may be his true role, designed for him by the Director—to use his natural sense of harmony, perhaps, by helping groups of people to work cooperatively together.
How Can One Know What God Wants?
Uncertainty as to our life’s role is due to carelessness in developing our innate, intuitive soul faculties. Even without that certainty, however, the Director will certainly guide you if you approach Him in the right way. Perhaps He will put you into circumstances that will help you to respond with discrimination to His guidance. First, however, you must offer yourself to Him sincerely, and cooperate willingly with the opportunities He gives you. Rouse, therefore, your own all‐feeling, all‐seeing wisdom by regular meditation, and ask earnestly to be shown your true role in life.
As you watch the show, participate in and enjoy the part you yourself play. Watch everything that happens around you with equal appreciation. Whether events provide a delightful comedy of errors, or a sequence of harrowing trials and difficulties, watch with an attitude of calm inner detachment. There is no place in the lives of God’s children for pain, sorrow, grievance, complaints, or boredom. A person can, in retrospect, replay joyously all the noble parts of his life. Reflect that you can replay even the ignoble parts, if you’ve the courage to rise above the shame, and turn them to good purpose by resolving to improve in future.
The Great Director of life’s motion picture is Bliss Itself. We, His children, made in His image, should resolve to be ever blissful also in ourselves. From joy we came, in joy we live, in sacred joy we melt. God created this cosmic motion picture for entertainment—our own, and that of every hectic atom as it spins about in His aware universe. We, His human children, have reached a point in our evolution where we’ve been given the ability to reach superconsciousness. Even a light touch of higher awareness, through the practice of inner non‐attachment, can help us to watch the moving picture of our own lives, and the broader picture of life, birth, death, and general events everywhere, with the same spirit of divine enjoyment.
You’ve surely seen a theater motion picture that depicted tragedy: Shakespeare’s Hamlet, for instance, or a great Greek tragedy. At the end of the play you thought, “What a marvelous drama!” Why not view in the same way every scene in life? Say to yourself, “How interesting it all is, with its ups and downs, its laughs, its ‘cliff hangers,’ and even the seeming finality of an actual plunge down the cliff!” Remember, there are no final endings: there is only continuous change. Ah, what a glorious adventure story!
Man’s consciousness may be described as being embedded in God. As such, all pain is illusory. It is a dream, a movie. All our suffering is due to our imaginary identification with these bodies of ours, and with wrong habits of living and thinking. As long as we inhabit our bodies, we have no choice but to travel through life’s labyrinthine paths and participate in its multitudinous experiences. Why not, then, view it all with the consciousness of the angels? As they live far removed from this earth, so also can we, if our hearts are inwardly free.
Life and death will appear to us, then, as an unalterably joyous experience. We shall find ourselves united with cosmic consciousness, and shall no more be affected by any wakings of birth or sleepings of death. Thus will it become natural for us to watch the cosmic motion picture with pure delight, knowing that even those “zombies” who stumble, dazed, along jungle paths of delusion will come out in the end, and will know eternal freedom in ever‐existing, ever‐conscious, ever‐new Bliss.