Preparation for the Path to Nirvana

Nick the Pilot

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Tokyo, Japan
-- The Path --

The Path proper consists of several steps. They pass the tests and requirements at each level, rising to the next level, eventually rising to the top of the Path, letting them into Nirvana.​

The Path is a formal pledge to complete all of the tasks (and tests) to reach Nirvana.​

-- Esoteric Teachings and Initiates --

One part of the Initiation process is the Initiate receives esoteric teachings that are not given to the general public.

-- Preparation for the Path --

First, the seeker must see how the hustle and bustle of everyday life needs to be re-directed.
“ acts to gratify his lower nature; he acts because he wants to get something; he acts for fruit; he acts for desire, for reward. He works because he wants money in order that he may enjoy. He works be&shy;cause he wants power in order that the lower self may be gratified. All these activities, these raja&shy;sic qualities, are set going with the purpose of ministering to his lower nature. In order that these activities may be trained and regulated to serve the purpose of the Higher Self, he is to be taught to substitute duty for self-gratification, to carry on work as work because it is his duty, to turn the wheel of life because it is his function to turn it, that he may do as Shri Krishna said He does Himself. He does not act because there is anything for Him to gain either in this world or in any other; but He acts because without his action the world would cease, He acts because without His action the wheel would no longer revolve. And those who accomplish Yoga must act in the spirit of His acting, acting for the whole and not for the separated part, acting for the carrying out of the divine will in the Kosmos and not for the pleasure of the separated entity that imagines itself to be independent when it ought to be a co-worker under Him. This object is to be gained by gradually raising the sphere of these activities. Duty is to be substituted for self-gratification....” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, <A href="" target=_blank>paragraph 12 online or page 18 hardcopy).​
Meditation is emphasized.
“A man meditates in the early morning and at the going down of the sun, but ultimately his life will be one long meditation. He meditates for an hour to prepare himself for meditating always. All creative activities are the result of meditation, and you will remember that it is by Tapas that all worlds are created. In order then that man may reach that mighty and creative power of meditation, in order that he also may be able to exercise that divine power, he must be trained towards it by religious ceremonies, by intermittent thought, by Tapas taken up and laid down again. Set meditation is a step towards the accomplishment of constant meditation; it takes a part of daily life in order to permeate the whole, and men practise it daily in order that gradually it may absorb the life. The time comes when for the Yogi there is no fixed hour for medi&shy;tation, for all his life is one long meditation. No matter what outer activities he may be doing he meditates; and he is ever at the Feet of his Lord although both mind and body may be active in the world of man.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 12 online or pages 19-20 hardcopy).​
Doing good deeds and service for humanity is emphasized.
[As] “...with all other forms of action; first a man learns to perform action as a sacrifice to duty and a paying of his debt to the world in which he is — the paying back to all the different parts of Nature of that which they give to him. And then later, sacrifice becomes more than the paying of a debt; it becomes a joyful giving of everything the man has to give. The partial sacrifice is the debt that is paid, the perfect sacrifice is the gift of the whole. A man gives himself, with all his activities, with all his powers, no longer paying part of his possessions as a debt but all of himself as a gift.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 12 online or page 20 hardcopy).​
-- Love --

Love must be taken to a high level.
“Take again love. You may have that in the lower brutal form — the animal passion between the sexes of the very lowest and the poorest kind, which cares nothing for the character of the one for whom the attachment is felt, which cares nothing for the beauty of the mental and of the moral nature; it cares only for the physical beauty, the physical attraction, and the physical pleasure. There is passion in its lowest form.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 28 online or page 35 hardcopy).​
Selfish love is transformed by Duty-to-Family into something higher.
[Self and only self] “... is purified by the man who follows Karma-Yoga into love which sacrifices itself for the one who is loved; he performs family duties, he takes care of wife and of child and does his very best for them at the sacrifice of his own inclina&shy;tions, of his own leisure and his own gratification; he works in order that the family may be better supported, he works in order that the family wants may be supplied; in him love no longer seeks only its own pleasure but seeks to help those who are beloved, and to take on itself the evil that threatens them in order that they may be sheltered and spared and guarded; by following Karma-Yoga the man purifies his love from the selfish elements, and that which was an animal passion for the other sex becomes the love of the husband, of the father, of the elder brother, of the relative, who fulfils his duty, working for the sake of the loved and in order that their lives may be fairer and happier.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 28 online or pages 35-36 hardcopy).​
This higher-love then goes out to all people.
“And then there comes the last stage, when the love that is purified from self goes out to all. Not only in the narrow circle of the home does it work, but it sees in every one whom it meets a person who is to be helped, sees a brother to be fed in every starving man, sees a sister to be protected in every woman who is left forlorn. Finding any one who is lonely, a man thus purified becomes father and brother and helper to that one, not because he loves personally but because he loves ideally, and because he seeks to give for love’s sake and not even for the gratification of being loved in return. The highest love, the love that grows out of Karma-Yoga, asks nothing back in return for what it gives; it seeks no gratitude; it asks for no recognition; it is willing to work un&shy;known; nay, it is more glad to work unknown and unrecognized than to work in a way that brings recognition and that brings praise.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 28 online or page 36 hardcopy).​
Such a love then becomes divine.
“And the ultimate purification of love is where that love becomes absolutely divine, where it gives because it is its nature to spread happiness, where it asks nothing for itself but seeks only that others should be glad.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 28 online or page 36 hardcopy).​
-- Greed and Selfishness --

“And so again with greed, covetousness. Men seek to gain in order that they may enjoy; they desire gain in order that they may have power; they strive to gain in order that they may be lifted up. They purify that first form of greed; and they begin to desire gain that the family may be better off, that the family may be in a better position, that the family may be beyond suffering and want and starvation; thus they grow less selfish than before. Then they go further. They desire power in order that they may use it for good, that they may spread it to do good over a wider area than the family, that they may serve in a wider field than the home; and at last, as in the case of love, they learn to give without any return. They learn to desire knowledge and power not that they may hold it but that they may give it, not that they may enjoy it but only in order that it may be spread. And in this way selfishness is burned up.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 29 online or pages 36-37 hardcopy).​

“Thus do these first steps lead onward towards true discipleship, lead onward towards the finding of the Guru, lead onward towards the Inner Temple, the holiest of holies, where the Guru of humanity resides. These are the first steps that you must take, this is the route by which you must travel. Men you are, living in the world and bound by worldly ties, men living the social and political life; and yet at the back of your hearts you are desiring true Yoga and the knowledge which is of the permanent and not only of the transitory life. For in the hearts of every one of you, if you go down to the very bottom of them, you will find a yearning to know something more, a desire to live more nobly than you live today. You may have the outer appearance of loving the things of the world, and you do love them with your lower natures; but in the heart of every true Hindu, who is not absolutely renegade and apostate to his religion and his country, there is still an inner yearning for some&shy;thing more than the things of earth, still a faint longing, if only from the past traditions, that India shall be nobler than she is today and her people more worthy of her past. Here then is the route that you must begin to tread: no great nation unless individuals are great; no mighty people if individuals are sordid and poor and selfish in their lives You must begin where you are today, in the life that you are leading and following these lines that I have roughly sketched you will take your first steps to&shy;wards the Path.​
“Let me close by reminding you of what the end of that Path is.... [The man on the Path] is balanced amidst friends and foes, balanced in praise and in shame, self-reliant, looking on all things with an equal eye, on the clod of earth, on the piece of gold, on friend and on enemy alike. He is the same to all.... That is the goal that we are seeking. These are the first steps towards the Path that crosses over. Until these are trodden no other steps are possible; but as these are gradually accomplished the beginning of the true Path is seen.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraphs 31-32 online or pages 39-40 hardcopy).


Each member of humanity goes through life, eventually reaching a high level that allows them to enter the Path.

-- Qualifications for Discipleship --

There are specific qualifications that must be achieved before discipleship is possible. Certain fetters must be removed.​

[These are] “... qualifications for discipleship; that which has to be done before discipleship is possible; that which has to be accomplished before the search for the Guru has any chance of success; that which has to be done in the world, in the ordinary life of men, utilizing that life as a school, as a place for learning the preparatory lessons, as a place for qualifying the man to be fit to touch the Feet of the great Teachers who shall give him the true re-birth - the re-birth which is symbolized in all exoteric religions by one or another external ceremony, sacred less for itself than because of that which it symbolizes.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 38 online or page 46 hardcopy).​
The first is self-control.
“When we say a man is self-controlled we mean that his mind is stronger than his passions; that if you take the lower nature, the passions and the emotions, and over against that you set the intellectual nature, the mind and the will and the reasoning power and the judgment, that these last are stronger than the first; that the man is able in a moment of temptation, under an appeal to his passions, to say: ‘No, I will not yield to that; I will not permit myself to be carried away by passion, I will not allow myself to be run away with by means of the senses; these senses are simply the horses that draw my chariot; I am the driver, and I will not permit them to gallop along the road they desire’; and then we say that that man is self-controlled. That is the ordinary sense of the word, and mind you, that self-control is an admirable quality. It is a stage through which every man must pass. The uncontrolled and un&shy;regulated man, who is subject entirely to the senses, he indeed has much to do ere even this quality of worldly self-control will be acquired; but very, very much more than that is wanted. When we talk about a strong-willed man and a weak-willed man, we mean for the most part that the man who has got a strong will is a man who under the ordinary cir&shy;cumstances of temptation and difficulty will choose his path by reason and by judgment, and will guide himself by the memory of the past and by conclusions which are based thereon; then we say a man has a strong will; he is not a man who is at the mercy of circumstances; he is not a prey to every impulse, he is not like a ship carried by the currents of the river or driven about by the winds as they blow upon it. He is rather like a ship controlled by a seaman who understands his duty, who utilizes the currents and the winds to drive his ship in the direction in which he desires to go, who uses the rudder of the will to make the ship follow the path on which he himself has determined.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 39 online or pages 50-51 hardcopy).​
The second is controlling the mind's tendency to flitter here and there, willy-nilly, from topic to topic.
“But we know there is a difficulty about this lower self of ours, the mind. Do you remember what Arjuna said to Shri Krishna when he was dealing with this control of the lower Manas that we are studying? You remember how he said to his divine Teacher that Manas was so restless; ‘Manas is verily restless’, he said, ‘O Krishna; it is impetuous, strong, and difficult to bend; I deem it as hard to curb as the wind‘. And that is true; every one knows it to be true who tries to curb the mind. Every one who tries to control Manas knows how restless, impetuous, and strong it is, and how hard to curb. But do you remember how the Blessed Lord gave answer to Arjuna when he said it was hard as the wind to curb? His answer was: ‘Without doubt Manas is hard to curb and restless, O mighty-armed; but it may be curbed by constant practice and by indifference’. There is no other way. Con&shy;stant practice: no one can do it for you; no Teacher can accomplish it for you. You yourselves must do it, and until you begin to take it in hand no finding of the Guru is possible for you. It is useless to cry out and desire to find, if you will not take the steps that are laid down in the published words of all the great Teachers in order to guide you to Their Feet. Here is a mighty Teacher, an Avatara, who lays down what must be done and who says it may be done. And when an Avatara says it may be done, He means that it can be done by the man who wills it; for He knows the powers of those whom He can see, and whom He as the Supreme has brought into the world; and when He gives His divine word that the conquest is possible, shall we dare to say that we cannot do it, and so as it were give the lie to the God that speaks?​
“How then shall it be done? ‘By constant practice’, says the Lord; that is to say in your daily life as you have it, in the busy life of men, you are to begin to train this restless mind of yours and make it subject to your will. Try for a moment to think steadily. You will find your thoughts fly away. What shall you do? bring them back again to the point on which you desire to fix them. Choose a subject and then think definitely and consecutively upon it....​
“In order that you may fight against this modern tendency of scattering thought you should make it a daily habit to think consecutively and to concentrate your attention for some time on one subject; make it a serious practice in the training of your mind to read every day some part of a book that deals with the graver matters of life, with the eternal rather than with the transitory; fix the mind upon it while you are reading. Do not allow it to wander, do not allow it to scatter. If it travels off bring it back, and place it again on the same idea, and in that way you will strengthen the mind, you will begin to curb it, you will by constant practice learn to control it, and make it go along the path that you desire it should follow. Even in things of the world this quality is of great advantage. It is not only that in doing this you are preparing yourself for the greater life which is open to you, but even in the common things of life the man of concentrated thought is the more successful man; the man who is able to think con&shy;secutively, clearly and definitely, he is the man who even in the lower world will be able to make his way. So you will find this constant practice in training the mind useful in this unimportant world as well as in greater things. And then you will gradually learn the control which is one of the conditions of discipleship.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraphs 44-45 online or pages 59-61 hardcopy).​
The next is meditation.
“As you thus train the mind you will perhaps take another step — meditation. Meditation is the deliberate and formal training of the mind in concentration and in fixity of thought. You are to do it every day, because if you do it every day you are helped by what is called the automatism of the body and mind. That which you do daily becomes a habit; that which is done daily is done without an effort after a time; that which is hard to begin with becomes easy by practice. Now meditation may be taken partly as devotional and partly as intellectual, and the wise man who is training himself for discipleship will meditate in both ways. He will concentrate his mind, fix his thought, on the divine ideal, on the Teacher whom, unknown at present, he still ultimately hopes to find; and keeping before him this perfect ideal, he will fix his lower mind on that ideal in the hour of meditation, and will aspire upwards towards it with fixed and unswerving thought. As the mind grows, this will become easier and easier; as he keeps this ideal before the mind in meditation he will begin to reflect it, to grow a little like it. That is one of the creative powers of the mind — the man becomes that upon which he reflects; and if he reflects daily on the perfect ideal of humanity he will begin to grow towards that perfect ideal himself. Then he will gradually find that as he fixes the mind steadily on this ideal, as he aspires upwards towards it, and longs to come into contact with it, he will find during this time of meditation that the lower mind will become peaceful, that the lower mind will sink into quietude, that the outside world will fade away from consciousness, and that the deeper consciousness will shine as it were from within — the higher consciousness, that of the individual himself, realizing and knowing what he is. For as the lower mind is thus quieted, as its restlessness is con&shy;quered, it becomes like a still lake of water which is unruffled by any wind, unmoved by any currents. That lake is like a mirror; on that mirror-like surface, unruffled, tranquil, the sun which is in heaven shines down, reflecting itself in the quiet water; so also the higher consciousness reflects itself in the mirror of the tranquillized lower mind. And then the man knows, no longer by authority but of his own knowledge, that he is more than the mind which he has realized as intellect, that his consciousness is greater than the passing consciousness of the mind; then it becomes possible for him to begin to identify himself with the higher, and if only for a moment to catch a glimpse of the majesty of the Self.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 47 online or pages 63-65 hardcopy).​
The next is purity.
“How shall a man build himself into purity? By, in his morning meditation, taking purity as part of the subject on which he thinks, realizing what it means. No impurity of thought must ever touch him; no impurity of action must ever stain him, he must be pure in the threefold thread of action, word and thought. That is the threefold cord of duty, as I once reminded you, and is that which the Brahmanas threefold thread is intended to represent. In the morning he thinks of purity as a thing that is desirable, that he must accomplish; and when he goes out into the world he carries the memory of his meditation with him. He watches his actions; he allows no impure action to stain his body; he commits no impure action all through the day, for he steadily watches every action that no touch of impurity may soil it. He watches his words. He speaks no word that is impure; he makes no reference in his talk to an unclean subject; he never permits his tongue to be soiled by making an unclean suggestion. Every word of his is pure, so that he would dare to speak it in the presence of his Master, whose eye sees every lightest stain of impurity which the ordinary mortal eye would miss. He will watch every word that it may be the purest that he can utter, and he will never foul himself or others by a single word or phrase coarse with impure suggestion. His thought will be pure. He will never allow an unclean thought to come into his mind, or if it comes into his mind it will at once be cast out; the moment the thought comes he will cast it out; and as he knows that it could not come into his mind unless there was in his mind something to attract it, he purifies his own mind, so that no unclean thought of any one else may be able to gain entrance.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 49 online or pages 67-68 hardcopy).​
The next is truth.
“And then again he will take truth in his morning meditation; he will think of truth, its value in the world, its value in society, its value in his own character; and when he goes out into the world of men he will never commit an action that will give a false impression, he will never speak a word that conveys a false idea. Not only will he not lie, but he will not even be inaccurate, because that also is speaking a falsehood. To be inaccurate in recount&shy;ing what you have seen is to speak untruth. All exaggeration and painting up of a story, everything that is not perfectly consistent with fact, so far as he knows it, everything which has any shade of untruthfulness, may not be used by him who would become a disciple. And so in thought again he must be true. Every thought must be as true as he can make it, with no shadow of falsehood to pollute his mind.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 49 online or pages 68-69 hardcopy).​
The next is compassion.
[The aspirant] “...will meditate on compassion in the morning and during the day he will seek to practise it; he will show all kindness to people around him; he will do all service to family and friends and neighbours. Wherever he sees want he will try to relieve it; wherever he sees sorrow he will try to comfort it; wherever he sees misery he will strive to lighten it. He will live compassion as well as think it, and so make it part of his character.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 49 online or page 69 hardcopy).​
The next is inner strength which prevents mood swings.
“He will think of the nobility of the strong man, the man whom no outer circumstances can depress or elate, the man who is not joyful over success nor miserable over failure, who is not at the mercy of circumstances, sad today because things are troublesome and joyful tomorrow because things are easy. He will try to be himself, always balanced and strong; as he goes out into the world he will practise; if trouble comes he will think of the Eternal where no trouble is; if loss of money comes, he will think of the wealth of wisdom that cannot be taken away from him; if a friend be snatched by death, he will consider that no living soul can die and that the body that dies is only the garment which is thrown aside when it is out-worn, and another taken, and that his friend shall be found again.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 49 online or pages 69-70 hardcopy).​
And other qualities. The aspirant must work on them all.
“And so with all the other virtues of self&shy;restraint, of peaceableness, of fearlessness -- all these things he will think of and practise. Not all at once. No man living in the world would be able to give sufficient time to meditate on each of these every day; but take them one by one, and build them into your character. Work on steadily: do not be afraid of giving time to it; do not be afraid of giving trouble to it. Everything that you build you are building for eternity, and you may well be patient in time when eternity spreads before you. Everything you gain, you gain for evermore. Meditation alone or practice alone is insufficient for the building of the character. Both must go together; both must form part of the daily life, and in this way a noble character is made.” (Annie Besant, The Path of Discipleship, paragraph 49 online or page 70 hardcopy).​