Yoga and Morality

The next point that I would pause upon, and ask you to realise, is the fact that Yoga is a science of psychology. I want further to point out to you that it is not a science of ethic, though ethic is certainly the foundation of it. Psychology and ethic are not the same. The science of psychology is the result of the study of mind. The science of ethic is the result of the study of conduct, so as to bring about the harmonious relation of one to another. Ethic is a science of life, and not an investigation into the nature of mind and the methods by which the powers of the mind may be developed and evolved.

I pause on this because of the confusion that exists in many people as regards this point. If you understand the scope of Yoga aright, such a confusion ought not to arise. The confused idea makes people think that in Yoga they ought to find necessarily what are called precepts of morality, ethic. Though Patanjali gives the universal precepts of morality and right conduct in the first two angas of Yoga, called yama and niyama, yet they are subsidiary to the main topic, are the foundation of it, as just said. No practice of Yoga is possible unless you possess the ordinary moral attributes summed up in yama and niyama; that goes without saying. But you should not expect to find moral precepts in a scientific text book of psychology, like Yoga.

A man studying the science of electricity is not shocked if he does not find in it moral precepts; why then should one studying Yoga, as a science of psychology, expect to find moral precepts in it? I do not say that morality is unimportant for the Yogi. On the contrary, it is all-important. It is absolutely necessary in the first stages of Yoga for everyone. But to a Yogi who has mastered these, it is not necessary, if he wants to follow the left-hand path. For you must remember that there is a Yoga of the left-hand path, as well as a Yoga of the right-hand path. Yoga is there also followed, and though asceticism is always found in the early stages, and sometimes in the later, true morality is absent. The black magician is often as rigid in his morality as any Brother of the White Lodge.[Terms while and black as used here have no relation to race or colour.] Of the disciples of the black and white magicians, the disciple of the black magician is often the more ascetic. His object is not the purification of life for the sake of humanity, but the purification of the vehicle, that he may be better able to acquire power. The difference between the white and the black magician lies in the motive. You might have a white magician, a follower of the right-hand path, rejecting meat because the way of obtaining it is against the law of compassion.

The follower of the left-hand path may also reject meat, but for the reason that be would not be able to work so well with his vehicle if it were full of the rajasic elements of meat. The difference is in the motive. The outer action is the same. Both men may be called moral, if judged by the outer action alone. The motive marks the path, while the outer actions are often identical.

It is a moral thing to abstain from meat, because thereby you are lessening the infliction of suffering; it is not a moral act to abstain from meat from the yogic standpoint, but only a means to an end. Some of the greatest yogis in Hindu literature were, and are, men whom you would rightly call black magicians. But still they are yogis. One of the greatest yogis of all was Ravana, the anti-Christ, the Avatara of evil, who summed up all the evil of the world in his own person in order to oppose the Avatara of good. He was a great, a marvellous yogi, and by Yoga he gained his power. Ravana was a typical yogi of the left-hand path, a great destroyer, and he practiced Yoga to obtain the power of destruction, in order to force from the hands of the Planetary Logos the boon that no man should be able to kill him. You may say: “What a strange thing that a man can force from God such a power.”

The laws of Nature are the expression of Divinity, and if a man follows a law of Nature, he reaps the result which that law inevitably brings; the question whether he is good or bad to his fellow men does not touch this matter at all. Whether some other law is or is not obeyed, is entirely outside the question. It is a matter of dry fact that the scientific man may be moral or immoral, provided that his immorality does not upset his eyesight or nervous system. It is the same with Yoga. Morality matters profoundly, but it does not affect these particular things, and if you think it does, you are always getting into bogs and changing your moral standpoint, either lowering or making it absurd.

Try to understand; that is what the Theosophist should do; and when you understand, you will not fall into the blunders nor suffer the bewilderment many do, when you expect laws belonging to one region of the universe to bring about results in another. The scientific man understands that. He knows that a discovery in chemistry does not depend upon his morality, and he would not think of doing an act of charity with a view to finding out a new element. He will not fail in a well-wrought experiment, however vicious his private life may be. The things are in different regions, and he does not confuse the laws of the two. As Ishvara is absolutely just, the man who obeys a law reaps the fruit of that law, whether his actions, in any other fields, are beneficial to man or not. If you sow rice, you will reap rice; if you sow weeds, you will reap weeds; rice for rice, and weed for weed.

The harvest is according to the sowing. For this is a universe of law. By law we conquer, by law we succeed. Where does morality come in, then? When you are dealing with a magician of the right-hand path, the servant of the White Lodge, there morality is an all-important factor. Inasmuch as he is learning to be a servant of humanity, he must observe the highest morality, not merely the morality of the world, for the white magician has to deal with helping on harmonious relations between man and man. The white magician must be patient. The black magician may quite well be harsh. The white magician must be compassionate; compassion widens out his nature, and he is trying to make his consciousness include the whole of humanity. But not so the black magician. He can afford to ignore compassion.

A white magician may strive for power. But when he is striving for power, he seeks it that he may serve humanity and become more useful to mankind, a more effective servant in the helping of the world. But not so the brother of the dark side. When he strives for power, he seeks if for himself, so that he may use it against the whole world. He may be harsh and cruel. He wants to be isolated; and harshness and cruelty tend to isolate him. He wants power; and holding that power for himself, he can put himself temporarily, as it were, against the Divine Will in evolution.

The end of the one is Nirvana, where all separation has ceased. The end of the other is Avichi–the uttermost isolation–the kaivalya of the black magician. Both are yogis, both follow the science of yoga, and each gets the result of the law he has followed: one the kaivalya of Nirvana, the other the kaivalya of Avichi.