Select English Poems – A discussion: Part 1


Okay, so I was touching on the E learning course, I want to start with a quote that actually comes from the E learning course itself, so you won’t find this in any of the books. This came from the E learning course on the poems book. So he says, “Vedanta is in Shakespeare, in poetry in different texts, every text. Vedanta is in the brooks, in the winds, in the hearth, in the streets, everywhere you can find. So it’s not confined to a textbook. It’s not one textbook superior to another textbook. Vedanta is everywhere. This is the blunder people make. Anywhere there is a discussion on the subtlety of life. It’s Vedanta.” I was tempted to be a lot more concise and just have that final sentence. So by way of analogy, nobody would say, for example, that the theory of relativity is a German theory. Because Einstein was German. It doesn’t make any sense. So too, it’s very easy to fall into this idea that Vedanta is an Indian philosophy. Vedanta is this discussion on the subtlety of life. So you can get this knowledge of Vedanta from anywhere that this discussion takes place. But we have, I say, we, for example, those who have attended the academy and who are continuing to study, we have stuck with the work of Swami Parthasarathy and the Indian tradition because nowhere else has this subtlety of life been mdescribed the way that it has been described and codified in the Indian tradition. The point is that Vedanta is not confined to a tradition or textbook or a teacher. or a particular school. It’s the principles that underlie your experience in the same way that physics is the principles that underlie the behavior of matter, simple as that. So I wanted to start this discussion with a story, something that happened to me when I was living in India. So the Vedanta Academy sits, one trying to stop away from Lonavala. And Lonavala is one end of the local train line, Pune is the other. And if you’ve been you know that the local trains in many places in India, they don’t have doors that close. Train – the doors are open. It’s wonderful. You can stand there, wind rushing in your face, watching the landscape go by. So one day I’m on the local train. I’m standing waiting for it to pull out. I’m on the opposite side of the platform. Very important for the story. The train just begins to pull out, and I see a gentleman with a briefcase, start to run towards me, my side. And of course, there’s no platform for him to get up, train’s making it making his way out of the station. So I reached down, grab his hand, he takes it, yank him up. He didn’t even look at me. He just walked straight past me. And went and sat down. One of the most wonderful experiences I had my entire time in India. A huge teaching experience. Why? Imagine you’re on the freeway, and you’re traveling 65 miles an hour for the whole trip. Every time you change lanes, you indicate nicely, check your blind spot, move across. And as you go to your exit, a policeman pulls you over and says, I saw your wonderful driving, madam. I wanted to say thank you. You’d think there was something wrong with that police officer and you’ll be right What are you talking about? This is how we drive these are the rules. This guy did not think me, why not? This is how we treat each other. This is a natural way to treat other human beings. If someone needs a hand up, because the train’s pulling out of the station, you just give it. I shouldn’t expect thanks for acting like a human being. He says in India, we don’t say thank you. We have gratitude. When you lack that deep sense of gratitude, there has to be this politeness. Hello, thank you. Yes, you’re welcome. All of this goes on. When there is that deep sense of gratitude. You just do what you ought to do as a human being for your fellow human beings. Without expecting thanks, without even giving thanks perhaps. So this highlights one of the first aspects of spiritual development, which is the theme I want to cover here. So this first poem highlights this idea. The poem is Abou Ben Adhem. So I’m just going to read through the poem and then we’ll discuss a little bit about it. Abou Ben Adhem, May his tribe increase, awoke one night from a deep dream of peace. And saw within the moonlight in his room, making it rich and like a lily in bloom, an angel writing in a book of gold, exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold. And to the presence in the room, he said, What writest thou? The vision raised its head, and with a look made of all sweet accord, answered the names of those who love the Lord. And is mine one? said Abou Nay not so replied the angel. Abou spoke more low, but cheerily still and said, I pray thee, then write me as one that loves his fellow men. The angel wrote and vanished. The next night it came again with a great wakening light and show the names whom love of God had blessed, and lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest. Very simple narrative. Man wakes up in the middle of the night to see an angel in his room writing in a book of gold. Happens all the time. He said to the angel Oh, What are you writing? Those who have love for God? Oh, am I on the list? No. Fine. But please make a note I am one who loves his fellow men. The poem’s a little imperfect, it really should have said loves his fellow beings. That’s okay. So the point here is, Abou Ben Adhem does not claim any love for God. I don’t claim any spirituality. But I do claim to love my fellow beings. I have a sense of empathy, a sense of oneness, a sense of love for my fellow creatures. I love my fellow creatures. I’m not a spiritual man. All that spiritual stuff you people come and have retreats and talk about and practice and listen to, all that goes over my head, I’m not interested. But I love my fellow beings, this much I know. So he claims love for his fellow beings. This is the sense of oneness that I was discussing with regards to ‘He didn’t even say thank you.’ Because there is such a pervading sense of brotherhood, of family. There’s that non necessity for that politeness of ‘Thank you so much.’ So this is why it’s very difficult not to fall in love with India when you go there. Because the culture has still got embedded in it, permeating through it, the values of this philosophy. You go onto the train and you’ll see it people leaning over each other, sitting on each other’s lap. Playing cards on a, an upturned briefcase. You can see that sense of community there’s a sense of oneness. This is the one of the first effects of spiritual development. We develop a greater sense of oneness with other people. So he has this love for his fellow beings. So we’re using this word love, oneness. True love. What makes true love true? The word that I want unattached, unconditional that’s getting much closer to what I’m thinking about unconditional, therefore universal. If you say I love my partner, but my partner’s siblings, I don’t love them. Then it’s not love. It’s not possible to love just one person. You can be attached to just one person, but use the analogy of a miner’s lamp. Right You got a lamp on your head. Everywhere you look, you cast that light at what’s in front of you. Someone who has genuine love, genuine oneness. They look at you, they cast it on you. They look at your enemy. They cast it on them. Everywhere that person looks, that love is shed everywhere it’s universal, unconditional, write me then as one who loves his fellow beings, there’s this pervading sense of oneness, the unconditional love that is there. So this brings him the love of God. Because remember, the angel came the next night and said, ok you weren’t on the list of those who love God. But the names whom love of God had blessed and lo Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest. So what is the love of God? Remember it’s poetry so we’ve got to interpret, what is the love of God. blessing, peace, happiness. Yeah, if God’s going to bestow something on you out of love, you know for certain it’s going to feel good. What we can understand that to mean is that we experience mental peace. So the effect of loving your fellow beings is a sense of mental peace internally, no expectations of others. It doesn’t matter whether you conform to my likes or dislikes. I don’t care if you agree with my opinions. laugh at my jokes. Yeah, it’s already given us. I’ll take you one step further, I’ll see you and raise you. There’s no God up in the heavens bestowing anything. OK, it’s poetry, it’s fiction. Vedanta does not claim there’s a creator up there who created us, giving us things withholding things bestowing or not bestowing, if we propitiate Him, and for some reason it’s a Him, then we will get something in return. As if God has a transactional nature. It’s absurd, so it’s all poetry to convey another point, and exactly what you said, that’s exactly where you find it. It’s our job to find that love for our fellow beings within ourselves. And when you read the commentary for this poem, and the select English poems book, he says God resides as the core of every being as the unconditioned Consciousness. I won’t explain that I don’t have long enough. But when you recognize that Self that Sunandaji has been speaking about within yourself, you’ll recognize it in others and then it’s impossible for us not to feel that sense of oneness. This is one of the effects of spiritual growth. This is the emotional side of it. So the other side of spiritual growth, we want to look at is the more intellectual side

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