There are many different things in life that are intoxicating, but if a person would consider the nature of life, they would think that there is nothing more intoxicating than their life itself. In the first place, we can see the truth of this idea by thinking of what we were yesterday and comparing it with our condition today. Yesterday is a dream to us, our happiness or unhappiness, riches or poverty; only our condition today counts.
This life of continual rise and fall, and of continual changes, is running like river water, and with the running of this water a person thinks, “I am this water.” In reality we do not know what we are. For instance, if a person goes from poverty to riches and if those riches are taken away, they lament. People lament because they do not remember that before having those riches, they were poor, and from poverty they came to riches. If people can consider their fancies through life, they will find that at every stage of their development in life they had a particular fancy. Sometimes we long for certain things and at other times we do not care for them. If a person can look at their life as a spectator, they will find that it was nothing but an intoxication. What at one time gives a person great satisfaction and pride, at another time humiliates them. What at one time is valued highly, at another time is not valued at all. If we can observe our actions in everyday life, and we have an awakened sense of justice and understanding, we will find ourselves doing something that we had not intended to do, or to say something that we would not like to have said, or to behave so that we say, “Why was I such a fool!”
Sometimes a person allows themself to love someone, to admire someone; it goes on for days, for weeks, for months, even years (although “years” is very long); then one feels, “Oh, I was wrong.” Or, something comes along that is more attractive, then they are on another road. The person does not know where they are or whom they love. In the action and reaction of their life, sometimes a person does things on impulse, not considering what they are doing. At other times, so to speak, a person gets a spell of goodness and goes on doing what they think is good. At yet other times, a reaction comes, and all this goodness is gone.
Then in business or in the professions or commerce, a person gets an impulse, “I must do this; I must do that.” The person seems to have all the strength and courage, and sometimes goes on and on. Sometimes it lasts only a day or two, and then they forget what they were doing and do something else. This shows that a person, in life, in the activity of the world, is just like a little piece of wood raised by the waves of the sea when the waves are rising, and cast down when the waves are going down. Therefore, the Hindus have called the life of the world Bawasada, an ocean, an ever-rising ocean. And we are floating in this ocean of the activity of the world, not knowing what we are doing, not knowing where we are going. What seems to us to be of importance is only what is happening in the moment, which we call the present; the past is a dream, the future is in a mist, and the only thing clear to us is the present.
The attachment and love and affection of people in the world’s life are not very different from the attachment of the birds and animals. There is a time when the sparrow looks after its young and brings grains in its beak and puts them into the beak of its young ones. They anxiously await the coming of the mother who puts grain in their beak. This goes on until their wings are grown. At one time the young ones have known the branches of the tree, and they have flown in the forests under the protection of their kind mother. Then they fly on, never knowing the mother who was so kind to them.
There are moments of emotion, there are impulses of love, of attachment, of affection, but there comes a time when they pass, when they become pale and fade away. And there are times that a person thinks that there is something else they desire and something else they would like to love. The more we think of human life in the world, the more we come to understand that it is not very different from the life of a child. The child takes a fancy to a doll, and then gets tired of the doll and takes a fancy to another toy. When the child takes a fancy to the doll or the toy, the child thinks it is the most valuable thing in the world, and then there comes a time when the child tears up the doll and destroys the toy.
So it is with humanity; the scope is perhaps a little different, but the action is the same. All that a person considers important in life, such as the collection of wealth, the possession of property, the attainment of fame, the rising to a position that they think is ideal, any of these objects before the person, has nothing other than an intoxicating effect. However, after attaining the object, a person is not satisfied. They think, “There is perhaps something else I want, it is not this that I wanted.” Whatever they want is the most important thing; but after attaining it, they think that it is not important at all. They insist, “I want something else.”
In everything that pleases a person and makes them happy—amusements, theater, moving pictures, golf, polo, tennis—they seem to be amused by being in a puzzle and not knowing where they are going. It seems that we only desire to fill up our time and do not know where we are going or what we are doing.
What a person calls pleasure is that moment when they are more intoxicated with the activity of life. Anything that covers their eyes from reality, anything that makes them feel a kind of lively sensation, anything that they can indulge in consciously, eating, drinking, any activity, this is what is called pleasure. If a person becomes accustomed to what is bitter, then they find pleasure in bitterness; if a person is accustomed to what is sour, then they find pleasure in sourness; if a person becomes accustomed to eating sweets, they like sweets. One person gets into a habit of complaining about life, and if this person has nothing to complain about, then they are looking for something to complain about. Another person wants the sympathy of others, to complain that they are badly treated by others; this person looks for some treatment to complain about. It is an intoxication.
Then there are people who steal, they are pleased by it, and develop a habit. If there is another source before them, they are not pleased, and do not want to have it. In this way people become accustomed to certain things in life; they become a pleasure, an intoxication. There are many with whom it becomes a habit to worry about things. The least little thing worries them very much. They can cherish the least little sorrow they have; it is a plant they water and nourish. And so many, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, become accustomed to illness, and the illness is more intoxication than reality. As long as a person holds the thought of that illness, they, so to speak, sustain it, and the illness settles in the body. No doctor can take it away. The sorrow and illness are also an intoxication.
June 21, 1921