The Path Within

By Scott Osterhage
From the unreal lead me to the real.
From darkness lead me to light.
From death lead me to immortality. -- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.3.38

There is a path, referred to time and again by ancient scriptures and sages, through which we may travel to higher worlds, by which we may achieve wonderful things, and by which we may reach God, whatever our personal conception of such a being may be. They say the path is not a short, clear way, but a long and winding road which we must find and tread until the very end. Fraught with opposition, difficult to pass, it seems steep and thorny. Where can we find this path which promises to be filled with danger but which we desire to travel and to search for the promise of gold at the end? Where must we go, and whom do we need to please or placate?

Masters of wisdom have taught humanity throughout history that this path is hidden and that we must constantly seek to find it though it is very near us. While looking for outward ways leading closer to divinity, we often become distracted by those worldly stimulations which seem so uplifting. Physical and psychic ecstasy and intoxication play with us, seeming to transport us to another world where all is delightful, apart from our mundane woes. But the path is much closer than any exteriorly induced exhilaration. It is not found in foreign countries, nor high on a mountain, nor clothed in any outward guises, waiting there for us to find it. It is closer than any roads we may find before us, because it is inside each of us: the path is within.

The secret place spoken of in so many ancient religious writings is actually the interior chambers of our heart -- not the physical heart, but the seat of the light within each of us which is the path leading to the core of the universe. Therefore, it is always there, wherever we go, wherever we are. Being within, this path may lead us to higher ways, to higher worlds, to a more compassionate manner of living. All things evolve out from within, an evolution of inner qualities becoming manifest in our life.

At the same time this path, overgrown with the tangles of earthly life, suggests formidable foes we must meet and reckon with as we attempt to reach the summit. These, however, are not visible opponents, enemies without, but opposition within: opposing forces and desires which come from our self. The long battle between our lower and higher natures echoes the eternal duality in the universe. Each time we take a step we have before us a fork in the road. This may be likened to the choice between the path of the pratyeka buddhas and the buddhas of compassion. The pratyeka buddha seeks personal salvation, while the buddha of compassion seeks the enlightenment of humanity first. So there are even paths within the path within. Always this or that, up or down, in or out -- we literally make ourselves by the minute choices made each moment of our life.

To travel the inner path we must be wary of the dangers along the way, but not fearful of them, for we ourselves have placed those obstacles there in this or a previous life. "It is not 'the fear of God' which is 'the beginning of Wisdom,' but the knowledge of SELF which is WISDOM ITSELF," H. P. Blavatsky explained (Studies in Occultism, p. 9). Inherent in that portion of us which reimbodies are the latent effects of causes we have set in motion. These effects are worked out through the personality we assume in each new life. The causes we set in motion return to us, sometimes as familiar friends appearing over and over, until we recognize the compassionate avenue for action and restore cosmic equilibrium. The path, though arduous and full of angst, is both compassionate and enlightening for those who remain unselfish. When we follow this karmic nudging we gain untold wisdom of life. Blavatsky related: "Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance" (The Voice of the Silence, p. 14).

How do we find this path within us and pursue its winding way? ``None can grow in the truest sense spiritually, unless he has suffered till his heart and mind are attuned to the heartache of the world," Katherine Tingley asserted, adding that "Love is the greatest power in the world and self-control is the magic talisman. With love in our hearts, and self-control, we are on the path that leads to the relative perfection of man." The key, then, is love -- not personal, selfish, sensual, or sexual love, but wise, unselfish love for all humanity, indeed for all beings, as the Buddha taught.

So love turns the key and opens the way. When the gate has been opened we see lying before us a vista which beckons us to continue. And advance we will, each in our own time, for this is the course each of us eventually must pursue. It is not through any one medium or faculty of ours that we immediately see the road before us. Our entire being must be orchestrated toward that sublime goal. G. de Purucker explains that

Occultism is the exposition of the very essence, the quintessence, of truth, of reality. It cannot be studied by the higher mind alone, nor can it be studied alone by those other faculties in man which he classes under the generic heading of "feelings." But it must be studied as a complete whole, and it answers fully to all demands of man's entire spiritual and psychological composition, and is therefore entirely and utterly satisfactory. It provides man not merely with a basis for the noblest system of ethics the world knows, but describes to him what those ethics are, and on what they are founded, and what the due and perfect practice of them will lead to. And that leading, we are told, is along that old, small path, of which the Upanishads speak . . . -- Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, p. 497

Once we enter and become responsible, we find it hard to turn back and walk in our old ways. Our motive -- the desire to raise the consciousness of all humanity -- being pure, we continue on, putting one foot in front of the other, slowly making our way, with determination, to the very end. And what is that end? De Purucker tells us that those who follow this path

finally come into direct connection and into confabulation with the all-wise and calm-eyed gods, for that path leads us directly . . . into those spiritual, superspiritual, and divine, regions where is the core of the being of each one of us. -- Ibid.

So the path within is the same for all, yet unique for each. Speaking of this self-directed path, the Zen master Basho leaves us with a final thought: "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought."

  • (From Sunrise magazine, December 1996/January 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Theosophical University Press.)

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