The first of these Qualifications is Discrimination; and this is usually taken as the discrimination between the real and the unreal which leads men to enter the Path. It is this, but it is also much more; and it is to be practiced, not only at the beginning of the Path, but at every step of it every day until the end. You enter the Path because you have learnt that on it alone can be found those things which are worth gaining. Men who do not know work to gain wealth and power, but these are at most for one life only, and therefore unreal.
There are greater things than these – things which are real and lasting; when you have once seen these, you desire those others no more.
In all the world there are only two kinds of people – those who know, and those who do not know; and this knowledge is the thing which matters. What religion a man holds, to what race he belongs – these things are not important; the really important thing is this knowledge – the knowledge of God’s plan for men. For God has a plan and that plan is evolution. When once a man has seen that and really knows it, he cannot help working for it and making himself one with it, because it is so glorious, so beautiful. So because he knows, he is on God’s side, standing for good and resisting evil, working for evolution and not for selfishness.
If he is on God’s side, he is one of us, and it does not matter in the lest whether he calls himself a Hindu or a Buddhist, a Christian or a Muhammadan, whether he is an Indian or an Englishman, a China-man or a Russian. Those who are on His side know why they are here and what they should do, and they are trying to do it; all the others do not yet know what they should do, and so they often act foolishly, and try to invent ways for themselves which they think will be pleasant for themselves, not understanding that all are one, and that therefore only what the One wills can ever be really pleasant for anyone. They are following the unreal instead of the real. Until they learn to distinguish between these two, they have not ranged themselves on God’s side, and so this discrimination is the first step.
But even when the choice is made, you must still remember that of the real and the unreal there are many varieties; and discrimination must still be made between the right and the wrong, the important and the unimportant, the useful and the useless, the true and the false, the selfish and the unselfish.
Between right and wrong it should not be difficult to choose, for those who wish to follow the Master have already decided to take the right at all costs. But the body and the man are two, and the man’s will is not always what the body wishes. When you body wishes something, stop and think whether you really wish it. For you are God, and you will only what God wills; but you must dig deep down into yourself to find the God within you, and listen to His voice, which is your voice. Do not mistake you bodies for yourself – neither the physical body, nor the astral, nor the mental. Each one of them will pretend to be the Self, in order to gain what it wants. But you must know them all, and know yourself as their master.
When there is work that must be done, the physical body want to rest, to go out walking, to eat and drink; and the man who does not know says to himself: “I want to do these things, and I must do them.” But the man who knows says : “This that wants is not I, and it must wait a while.” Often when there is an opportunity to help some one, the body feels : “How much trouble it will be for me; let some one else do it.” But the man replies to his body : “You shall not hinder me in doing good work.”
The body is your animal – the horse upon which you ride. Therefore you must treat it well, and take good care of it; you must not overwork it, you must feed it properly on pure food and drink only, and keep it strictly clean always, even from the minutest speck of dirt. For without a perfectly clean and healthy body you cannot do the arduous work of preparation, you cannot bear its ceaseless strain. But it must always be you who controls that body, not it that controls you.The astral body has its desires – dozens of them; it want you to be angry, to say sharp words, to feel jealous, to be greedy for money, to envy other people their possessions, to yield yourself to depression. All these things it wants, and many more, not because it wishes to harm you, but because it likes violent vibrations, and likes to change them constantly. But you want none of these things, and therefore you must discriminate between your wants and your body’s.
Your mental body wishes to think itself proudly separate, to think much of itself and little of others. Even when you have turned it away from worldly things, it still tries to calculate for self, to make you think of your own progress, instead of thinking of the Master’s work and of helping others. When you meditate, it will try to make you think of the many different things which it wants instead of the one thing which you want. You are not this mind, but it is yours to use; so here again discrimination is necessary. You must watch unceasingly, or you will fail.
Between right and wrong Occultism knows no compromise. At whatever apparent cost, that which is right you must do, that which is wrong you must not do, no matter what the ignorant may think or say. You must study deeply the hidden laws of Nature, and when you know them arrange your life according to them, using always reason and commonsense.
You must discriminate between the important and the unimportant. Firm as a rock where right and wrong are concerned, yield always to others in things which do not matter. For you must be always gentle and kindly, reasonable and accommodating, leaving to others the same full liberty which you need for yourself.
Try to see what is worth doing; and remember that you must not judge by the size of the thing. A small thing which is directly useful in the Master’s work is far better worth doing than a large thing which the world would call good. You must distinguish not only the useful from the useless, but the more useful from the less useful. To feed the poor is a good and noble and useful work; yet to feed their souls is nobler and more useful than to feed their bodies. Any rich man can feed the body, but only those who know can feed the soul. If you know, it is your duty to help others to know.
However wise you may be already, on this Path you have much to learn; so much that here also there must be discrimination, and you must think carefully what is worth learning. All knowledge is useful, and one day you will have all knowledge; but while you have only part, take care that it is the most useful part. God is Wisdom as well as Love; and the more wisdom you have the more you can manifest on Him. Study then, but study first that which will most help you to help others. Work patiently at your studies, not that men may think you wise, not even that you may have the happiness of being wise, but because only the wise man can be wisely helpful. However much you wish to help, if you are ignorant you may do more harm than good.
You must distinguish between truth and falsehood; you must learn to be true all through, in thought and word and deed.
In thought first; and that is not easy, for there are in the world many untrue thoughts, many foolish superstitions, and no one who is enslaved by them can make progress. There you must not hold a thought just because many other people hold it, not because it has been believed for centuries, nor because it is written is some book which men think sacred; you must think of the matter for yourself, and judge for yourself whether it is reasonable.
Remember that though a thousand men agree upon a subject, if they know nothing about that subject their opinion is of no value. He who would walk upon the Path must learn to think for himself, for superstition is one of the greatest evils in the world, one of the fetters from which you must utterly free yourself.
Your thought about others must be true; you must not think of them what you do not know. Do not suppose that they are always thinking of you. If a man does something which you think will harm you, or says something which you think applies to you, do not think at once: “He meant to injure me.” Most probably he never thought of you at all, for each soul has its own troubles and its thoughts turn chiefly around itself. If a man speaks angrily to you, do not think: “He hates me, he wishes to wound me.” Probably someone or something else has made him angry, and because he happens to meet you, he turns his anger upon you. He is acting foolishly, for all anger is foolish, but you must not therefore think untruly of him.
When you become a pupil of the Master, you may always try the truth of your thought by laying it beside His. For the pupil in one with his Master, and he needs only to put back his thought into the Master’s thought to see at once whether it aggress. If it does not, it is wrong, and he changes it instantly, for the Master’s thought is perfect because He knows all. Those who are not yet accepted by Him cannot do quite this; but they may greatly help themselves by stopping often to think: “What would the Master think about this? What would the Master say or do under these circumstances?” For you must never do or say or think what you cannot imagine the Master as doing or saying or thinking.
You must be true in speech too – accurate and without exaggeration. Never attribute motives to another; only his Master knows his thoughts, and he may be acting from reasons which have never entered your mind. If you hear a story against anyone, do not repeat it; it may not be true, and even if it is, it is kinder to say nothing. Think well before speaking, lest you should fall into inaccuracy.
Be true in action; never pretend to be other than you are, for all pretence is a hindrance to the pure light of truth, which should shine through you as sunlight shines through clear glass.
You must discriminate between the selfish and the unselfish. For selfishness has many forms, and when you think you have finally killed it in one of them, it arises in another as strongly as ever. But by degrees you will become so full of thought for the helping of others that there will be no room, no time, for any thought about yourself.
You must discriminate in yet another way. Learn to distinguish the God in everyone and everything, no matter how evil he or it may appear on the surface. You can help your brother through that which you have in common with him, and that is the Divine Life; learn how to arouse that in him, learn how to appeal to that in him; so shall you save your brother from wrong.