Today many people interested in a spiritual path say "Forget the basics, let's just start with the end of the path." Of course this approach doesn't work very well because they don't have a foundation. Gurudeva said that the yamas and niyamas are an important foundation to sustain the bliss of meditation and yoga. He said the fact is the higher we go the lower we can go. When our mastery of the yamas and niyamas is good, then we don't fall down.
The other image which is helpful is thinking about a spiritual foundation. These days it may have always been that way. Certainly these days, lots of individuals are interested in the spiritual path, want to make progress. What approach do they want to take? "Let us forget the basic. Let us just jump into the advance practices. Who needs the basic? Those are for someone less evolved than I am. I will just start with the end of the path and forget about the beginning." Right? "Just give me a high powered pranayama. That is all I need, a real good pranayama. I will sit in meditation and really go within." Right?
Of course, this approach does not work too well because they don't have a foundation, a spiritual foundation. It is like trying to do anything without learning the basics first. We really can't sustain it. Gurudeva has a nice quote on that.
"It is true that bliss comes from meditation and it is true that higher consciousness is the heritage of all mankind. However, the ten restraints and their corresponding practices," practices means the Niyamas, " are necessary to maintain bliss consciousness." Gurudeva is saying, the idea that though without them you can do something, get your pranayama going and get into bliss, you won't sustain it because you don't have the instinctive mind and the intellectual mind under control. They are going to pop up and cause you to lose your state of bliss consciousness or override it. You will become angry or something and there goes bliss. You can't be angry and blissful at the same time. You haven't seen someone angry and blissful at the same time, have you? No, if you become angry you lose your bliss, definitely.
In thinking about a spiritual foundation, I was drawing the analogy to building a tall skyscraper. How many of you have ever seen a very tall building being built? Like in San Francisco, in the old days some of us saw the Transamerican Pyramid being built. Or some really tall building and you notice how far down below the surface of the earth they dig? Really, far down. The taller the building is, the further down they have to dig. Why? So it doesn't fall over, right? Okay, we can learn something from this.
Gurudeva says, "The fact is the higher we go, the lower we can fall. The top chakras spin fast, the lowest one available to us spins even faster. The platform of character must be built within our lifestyle to maintain the total commitment, the total contentment needed to persevere on the path."
So, in thinking about this foundation for the building, the idea is first you put in concrete, so much concrete! It is amazing how much they pour down there. So that is like the Yamas. The first part that holds up our consciousness is the foundations of the Yamas. In concrete they put steel, right? So the steel is like the Niyamas. It comes out of the concrete and goes up. It is because of digging deep, the foundation is a solid one. We are really good at the Yamas and Niyamas, that is what digging deep means. We mastered them. Because the foundation is deep and consists of cement and steel, the building is stable. It goes up and it doesn't fall over. So that is the idea. When our mastery of the Yamas and Niyamas is good, our consciousness goes up, doesn't come back down, we don t fall down. Why? Because we have the foundation. The foundation was there in the first place.
Gurudeva is even more specific in another quote. He says, "These restraints and practices build character. Character is the foundation for spiritual unfoldment."
All of what I have said so far about foundation can be summarized in the word, character or character building.
When Gurudeva came back from the European Innersearch, that was one of his themes. I don't know what stimulated it, not being on the Innersearch myself. But he was going around talking a lot about character building and philosophical understanding. I remember he said, "What we need to stress at this time among new students and new Church members are those two areas. Character building and philosophical understanding."
Based upon that, the devotional practices will make more sense and bear more fruit, let alone the meditating practices. So, build character.