All schools of thought today recognize the influence, as deep as it is universal, of the environment. For children in schools and for youths in colleges, for clerks in offices and for labourers in factories, for every man and every woman, at work as in recreation, a suitable, congenial environment is of great help in bringing forth that which is the best from within the individual himself.
Each one has an outer environment. Necessary as it is to try to make that external environment as clean, beautiful, peaceful and cheerful as possible, it is much more important to understant that it is possible for us to improve our inner environment. What is more, no change of external environment without a corresponding approriate transformation in the mind and the attitude of the individual himself or herself will be of lasting benefit. This intimate environment goes with us wherever we go, as the shadow follows the body wherever the body moves.
It is important to recognize that a change of outer environment will not by itself bring about a change in the inner environment. We carry the latter in our brain, in the active cerebrum or the passive cerebellum, in our very blood. We ourselves are responsible for the quality of the grooves in our brain as well as for the quality of our blood, because as we think and feel we are impressing our brain and making it more pure or less pure, more sensitive to spiritual truths or less responsive to universal principles. And the same is true of the quality of the blood; it is the way we feel that determines that quality. We need to get rid of the wrong notion that it is our birth that determines the quality of our blood, that because we are born in a certain community or in a certain family, therefore our blood carries certain inherent tendencies. What is the birth of the body compared to the reality of the Soul within the body? The body is but an instrument of the Soul, the Dehi, the Dweller in the body.
Therefore it is necessary that we recognize ourselves, not as the body, not even as the moral character, not even as the mind or the intellect; first and foremost let us ask ourselves, "What are we? We have bodies, characters, minds; but we are not the body, not the character, nor the mind; we are above and beyond these tools through which we are working, and as we work through them we improve them or cause them to deteriorate.
Do we not know of people who live in beautiful surroundings, who have everything that the world can give in the way of comfort and of possessions, but who themselves are imprisoned by fear or anxiety, by the wants of their body, by their thoughts, their prejudices, so that in spite of the beauty and the harmony of their outer surroundings, within themselves they live in a mean, narrow, petty environment? And do we not know that in the slums of the city a beautiful flower can grow, that diamonds lie buried in the dark depths of the earth, just as sometimes Diamond Souls live buried in the underworld of the cities? That is recognized more and more by our social reformers. A look at the statistics will reveal that slum-clearance enthusiasts often do succeed in removing the slums, but that if there still exist slum minds and characters they will build other slums with their own peculiar difficulties.
So the inner environment has to be changed. Men and women have to become sufficiently self-reliant—reliant on themselves as spiritual Souls—and have to see for themselves that they can change the contents of their own minds and the quality of their own moral characters. And then the external environment can be permanently changed, improved, purified, harmonized. But the beginning must be made from within, for all things in nature move from within without. All have had problems, difficulties, pricks of conscience; a change of external environment will not help us to forget or to evade these. The only way in which a particular difficulty or a particular pang of conscience can be overcome is by facing it and trying to learn the lesson that it contains. For the most part, when we say that we know that the inner is more important than the outer, that misery and happiness are states of consciousness and that we ourselves make them, it is a superficial recognition. When the dark hours really descend we begin to blame external conditions, other people and circumstances, instead of turning within to ask ourselves whether perchance we ourselves are responsible for the darkness of the hour and whether we cannot do anything for the quieting and the tranquilizing of the inner turmoil.
Recognition that the inner environment is more important than the outer must be followed by attempts to improve that which is closest to us, namely, the quality of our own thoughts and feelings. Shall we not do anything about the outer environment? We shall, we must, but since it is more important to change the inner let us see a few simple facts in reference to that inner change. We all know that we have certain limitations, that there are certain weaknesses and blemishes within our own natures. But we have the power to remove them. Until we test that power we shall never know whether it exists in us or not. The reality of a thing becomes clear only to the one who has tested the power of that reality within himself, in his own consciousness. So what shall we do with our mind, our likes and our dislikes?
The first thing to be noted is that there is something in us that can direct our mind and transform our character. What shall we do in order to improve the mental air that we breathe? When our body is ailing we are ordered to take the body away to some health-resort where the air is pure and will give the body an opportunity to regain health and vitality. When our mind is suffering from psychic or from mental fever, let us raise it from the plane of petty, mundane thoughts, above the clash and the turmoil of personal problems, and let the mind breathe in the pure air of universal and fundamental ideas. What is more, let us not wait till our mind is in a feverish state before taking it to the plane of universality. It is recognized that to preserve health is better than to cure a disease after it has already precipitated. Let us train the mind to detach itself from that which is petty and narrow, taking the help of such great spiritual truths as are contained in the scriptures of the ages. Daily reading from sacred and devotional books will help the mind to dwell on a higher plane and absorb something of the purity of the ideas upon which it reflects.
Is it too much to give a little time each day to devotional reading? Many will say that they have no time, that there are too many duties! It is a sham excuse. Do we not find time to feed our bodies three times a day or more? And is it not more important from the inner point of view to feed the mind? Let us feed the mind on the spiritual currents of truth itself, and elevate the heart. Let us give a little time to feeding that which is above and beyond the mind, and we shall then find that the Soul is a reality. It sounds like a very simple exercise, but it has to be put into practice regularly, and lack of time is no excuse. It will bring greater understanding, greater compassion for others, and greater strength to be strict with the weaknesses that manifest within ourselves. Our horizon will widen, our point of view will become more impersonal, and that will enable us to have a better inner environment.
Let us resolve to find that in us which can control both the inner and the outer environments. Let us seek inspiration in the compassion of the Great Ones, and guidance in the knowledge that They exist and give Their spiritual knowledge for the benefit of the whole of humanity. All of us as Souls can drink the waters of life which They draw from the Source of pure wisdom and pure compassion. Then we shall be in a position to live at peace in a world full of strife, live purely in a world full of impurities, live with love in our hearts and radiate that love in a world which is so full of hatred.