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June 2020, #76  PB’s Path

The topic of the last E-teaching, “The Independent Path” encouraged me to read more about the thoughts and experiences that led to PB’s independence, and spurred him to forge a new path. Indeed, he studied ancient scriptures and thought from both Hindu and Buddhist teachings and explained them for use in a modern world. Volume 8 of the NotebooksReflections on My Life and Writings, is a rare opportunity to look into his personal journey. He writes, “I have attempted to think out anew, and on the basis of my own experience and not that of men who lived 5,000 years ago, what should be the attitude of a normal modern man toward life. Such blessed independence may be scorned by some but it is a birthright which I jealously guard.” (p.44, para 146)

   PB experienced severe criticism when his ideas dared to differ from the Holy Ones of India.  “The spiritual doctrine of unity with all mankind does not appeal to me; let those seek its realization who find it to their taste. The ethical doctrine of good will does appeal to me and I try to practice it…. I must not only follow Shakespeare’s dictum ‘Be true to thyself’ but must go farther and be myself. Those religions and teachings which tell us to destroy the ego do not appeal to me. But if I am asked to destroy the tyranny of ego, to make it subservient to the Overself, it is certainly my duty to try and do so. Yet I consider this is not the same as destroying my individuality.” (p. 199, para 419) He wrote on page 43, para 144: “Paul Brunton also has something of his own to give. He cannot merely copy these others in living or echo them in writing. He too must be himself just as they were themselves. He may be their friend but he cannot be their follower. If it is for others to be that, he rejoices; but if he is to be true to the light which has come to him, he must shed it by himself, however small it be in contrast to theirs.” He goes on; “He has to speak the Word which he alone can speak, for every individual is unique. Every man is born to be himself, to undergo a set of experiences which in their entirety no one else has undergone. He alone of all the human race has just the mental and emotional psyche which he has.” (Ibid.)  He speaks of the changes that broader experience and deep reflection brought him.   

  In one of the two essays PB reflects on lessons learned. He was directed to review mistakes he made on the spiritual path and was led to build up an imaginative picture of what might have happened had he successfully passed the tests.: ”I had to instill the lesson of the necessity of hope which I ought to communicate to the aspirants I was scheduled to meet later, and who were discouraged by the lack of results.” (p.10)  At a later time he realized, “My work has also been to open up new paths, both for those already interested in spiritual seeking and for those who in the past were not but are now ready to begin it.” (p. 125, para 2)