We seem to have been running around a lot, doing all kinds of things, just to find a little happiness. When everything failed we looked elsewhere and thought, Maybe I can have a little peace if I move to such and such place. Unfortunately, wherever we go, we carry our own minds. We carry our own insane selves. There is nothing wrong with the outside world. Wherever you might go, you carry yourself with you. The world is never bad and it’s never good—it is neutral. Is electricity good or bad? Plug in a lamp and you get light. Plug in your fingers? Terrible! Electricity itself is neutral. Is a knife good or bad? Cut a fruit, that’s a very good use of a knife. Cut a throat? Very bad!

Nothing in this world is bad or good. You might ask, “Well, what about poison? It kills people.” “Yes, but if you ask the doctors, they will say that it also saves people. There is a plant called digitalis that helps the heart when administered properly, otherwise it can kill you. When you use homeopathy, you actually administer cobra poison for certain cases. Whether or not something is good or bad depends upon how it is used. We have been using many of our resources such as electricity, atomic energy, and oil in the wrong ways, so we are now facing a lot of problems.

Even with all our material comforts there is consensus that, in America, people have more mental problems and there are more psychiatrists than in other countries. I’m an American myself and am very sorry to see this. So are we really happy with all the comforts, money, scientific growth, medicines and hospitals? Every year we add more and more hospitals. Are we really progressing? It means that we are creating more and more sick people, so we are progressing in that! But, something is wrong in the very foundation of our lives. We are all comfortably, sitting here right now, peaceful. It’s all very well. But at the same time, you should remember that in a concrete cell somebody is keeping an eye on a red button that is ready to be pressed when they get the signal from the president. And we don’t know which button will be pressed first—the one in Russia or the one in the United States. Is this the kind of benefit that we should be getting from all this material and scientific growth?

Please don’t think that I am condemning these achievements. I love science and it is growth. We are using electricity very well right now. So, where is the trouble? What is wrong? As we were traveling by plane this morning, I was telling the people who came with me, “If you want to fly a plane, you take care to use the perfect gasoline which is aviation gasoline, without anything mixed in; it’s completely pure fuel. The air, tubes, and engines must be properly cleaned. Just for a very short flight you have to take care of everything. And even during the flight, you take care of everything. Flying itself is a wonderful meditation. In a sense, we are flying constantly. Our bodies are our planes. Are we taking care of our fuel? Do we think of the proper mixture? No. Anything can come to the mouth and we just say, “Come on, swallow, it’s really delicious. Come on, put more in.” We have no worries about the mixture. And there are so many excuses; “Oh, after so many months, my sister especially prepared this apple pie and brought me some. How can I say ‘No thank you, I’m already full.’“ If you ask the tummy, “Do you want it?’” the tummy will say, “Whether it’s from my sister or brother, I am not ready for that please.”

We have forgotten to tune in and see what’s going on within. That’s why, having faced many problems, we are learning good lessons. It’s the reason why there are so many seekers after the truth. They’re tired of all the rest and that creates a good awakening. This kind of awakening comes only after knowing the world very well, and how temporary it is, how fleeting it is. Then one turns to look within.

Originally, we were all pure and beautiful. Just look at the faces of the babies. We were all born with that purity. When you were a little baby how many people would have stopped to look at you or wanted to have a kiss from you? Now, if you want somebody to kiss you how much makeup do you have to use first? The baby has a natural beauty which you call the cosmic beauty. When you do things in the wrong way and lose that cosmic beauty you have to depend on cosmetic beauty.

God made us in God’s own image. We came with that joy, with that peace and beauty. You are nothing less than that. But we were careless and didn’t maintain it. We allowed our egos to become unhealthy, to become sick. Once the ego becomes sick it wants to have different things. It thinks, “I’m this, I’m that,” and so on. I always say that in every way you were fine when you were born, but then you didn’t want to remain fine; you wanted to define yourself. When you define yourself you have to confine or limit yourself and then you have to have refinement to once again become fine. Refinement is returning to that original fineness. That’s it.

You were born free but you started binding yourself. You were born peaceful. But you forgot that and therefore you are looking for that peace and happiness all over again. You find yourself running after everything so that you can be happy, forgetting that you already are happiness itself. Then you get tired of running after that happiness. You say, “What is this? I run, run, and run, but wherever I go, whatever I get, nothing seems to be making me happy. What am I to do? Where can I get that happiness?” Then, you begin to turn inward. It is at that point, if you are lucky, you find somebody who will tell you, “Hey, look within. Tune in, turn inward.” Then you can stop running around and you can experience the real pleasure: the ever present joy of your true nature, your divine essence.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda