The Voice of the Silence tells us that though "the Path is one for all, the means to reach the goal must vary with the Pilgrims." We can understand that a journey can be undertaken either on foot or by one or another means of conveyance, but how can the goal of Divinity be reached by many means?
Let us ask ourselves: Who travels this Path? What are the vehicles that are used for this travelling? Are they outside of the one who travels, or are they within him? What exactly is this Path? It is necessary to ask ourselves these questions before we consider the many means to reach the goal.
It is the I in us who travels this Path—I, the Personal Ego, all that we know of as "myself." So it is our body, feelings, mind, the sum-total of our traits and tendencies that we call our character, that travels the Path. But what is the relationship between all these that we consider to be "myself" and the Path? Is the Path well marked? Are there obstacles on it? Is it on the physical plane, the astral plane, or the mind plane?
The trouble with us is that we do not prepare ourselves beforehand. If we have to undertake a physical journey, we try to learn all we can about the place we are going to, what we shall need and what luggage to take with us; but we start walking this spiritual Path without knowledge or understanding. If we are to travel up a mountain and start off without making proper provision for the weather up there, we might die of cold; but if we take the advice of those who have been there before and prepare our luggage, we shall be kept warm. There is much that we have been told regarding the inner Path; many hints have been given as to the correct procedure, the requirements of the journey, the preparations to be made. Why not pay attention to these and proceed in a well-planned manner instead of wearing all the warm clothes that we shall need towards the end of the journey right at the beginning when it is hot?
First of all, let us think over the statement: "Thou wilt have to travel on alone. The Teacher can but point the way." Realizing this, we can understand why it is written that "for him who is on the threshold of divinity no law can be framed, no guide can exist." Does this frighten us when we understand its meaning as far as we can with our mind? Do we realize the heart-loneliness that goes with it? Do we know what it means to "be on our own" at this most crucial of all moments on the Path? If so, we shall understand what we have to be prepared for all along the way.
What is said in the Third Fundamental is vitally important to us at all stages—we progress by "self-induced and self-devised efforts." No fixed rules will help us because every unit of humanity is different from every other (except in essence) and therefore all difficulties will have to be met according to our character and capacity for achievement. If we are used to devising for ourselves our own particular ways and means at every step on the Path, we shall not feel lonely or frightened during the last stage of the journey. The achievement is the same; the vehicles or the means by which the achievement is gained differ according to past experiences.
We are told about the first step on this Path:
Thou hast to be prepared to answer Dharma, the stern law, whose voice will ask thee at thy first, at thy initial step:
How do we attune our heart and mind in this way? Have we made the initial preparation?
Before thou canst approach the foremost gate thou hast to learn to part thy body from thy mind, to dissipate the shadow, and to live in the eternal. For this, thou hast to live and breathe in all, as all that thou perceivest breathes in thee; to feel thyself abiding in all things in SELF. (The Voice of the Silence, pp. 53-54)
It is here that the foundational work is done and here that the different means and ways begin to show themselves. Each of us starts with an emotional character and a mental character in addition to all that he has learnt through and with his vehicles. In any given condition the effect on those going through the condition must vary. For instance, suppose one is watching an act of cruelty performed on an animal. The emotional person is affected in his emotional nature and probably either weeps helplessly or is moved to anger and gets ready to fight the offender. This emotionally overwrought person has to learn to control his impulses while taking proper action to relieve the sufferer and help the one who is inflicting the suffering. On the other hand, the callous person has to learn that "inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin."
All along the Path we have to go on examining ourselves, and only the traveller through life can know just what he needs to make himself ready to overcome the pitfalls on the way.
Seek it [the way] not by any one road. To each temperament there is one road which seems the most desirable....The whole nature of man must be used wisely by the one who desires to enter the way. Each man is to himself absolutely the way, the truth, and the life. But he is only so when he grasps the whole individuality firmly, and by the force of his awakened spiritual will recognizes this individuality as not himself, but that thing which he has with pain created for his own use....(Light on the Path, p. 5)
Walking the Path means nothing but a change of character, the acquirement of greater powers and faculties, mental, physical and psychical, and the purification of the vehicles. What else can it mean but a change of attitude and of character? The key to a change of character and of outlook is within the mind.
We have to become "like the fix'd star in highest heaven," and it is this fixity of purpose and of soul-thought that we have to attain from the start. Therefore it is said that the Path is within us. We experience all things within ourselves, and send out the steady light that shines from the heart and shows the way to all. We are asked to "remain unselfish till the endless end." Remaining unselfish, shining for all except ourselves, we are truly enlightened and can safely choose our way.
It is to be noted that at the end the harmony that has been established between the Pilgrim and the whole of Nature makes the latter know of his triumph, and a "chant of love ariseth, both from the flaming Fire and flowing Water, and from sweet-smelling Earth and rushing Wind"—from all the elements, in fact.
We begin to understand that unselfishness, or rather selflessness, unites one to the ALL, that selfishness in any form or guise separates one from the ALL on very plane of consciousness, and we begin to see that journeying on the Path implies an alteration within ourselves. It seems as if there is to be developed an inner centre which will be firm and unruffled and able to withstand everything, even the great flow of the Ocean of Spirit at the very end.
Light on the Path says, "stand aside in the coming battle"; and, "Look for the warrior and let him fight in thee." Who is this warrior? He has to be looked upon and obeyed "as though he were thyself, and his spoken words were the utterance of thy secret desires." The whole of Light on the Path should be studied well. We must find the warrior in ourselves. Let us ask ourselves what secret desires we have and whether they are in harmony with the will of the inner warrior. Have we the desire to help all mankind, the great as well as the lowly? Have we the desire to lose ourselves in the ALL and to feel one with the criminal as well as with the saint? Have we the desire never to rest but to work always for the good of all beings? Only if these are our secret desires will the warrior be our eternal and sure guide, who will never forsake us. "Had I but serv'd my God with half the zeal I serv'd my king, he would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies"—that is the cry of all who serve the impermanent and perishable. All, all is impermanent and perishable save the Warrior within. His voice and our secret desires have to become one.