Spirituality 101: Great quotes, sayings and metaphors by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
May 7, 2016
It is an art to talk about our true Being. Too often, spirituality descends into a heavy and dull monologue — full of big abstract words, empty of familiar images.
On this page, you will find quotes and sayings from one of the greatest masters of spiritual metaphors, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He describes the deepest movement of reality while relating it to memorable, powerful images we can instantly recognize from our own experience.
” the inexhaustible battery
For example, the electrical current from a battery reaches the light bulb and radiates out as a beam of light. As the beam proceeds further from its source, its intensity diminishes until it reaches a limit when the light may be said to be nil. Likewise, from the inexhaustible battery of Being, bliss consciousness radiates, and as it proceeds further from its source the degree of bliss diminishes.
” a powerful business owner
It is like a powerful business owner who is rarely found in the actual place of business, who remains obscure and yet effectively controls his business operations. In order to see him it is necessary to meet him in seclusion, far from the main activity of the business scene. Likewise, the all-controller of the universe, being present everywhere, influencing everything, remaining at the basis of the conduct of all universal activity and phenomenal life, dwells in the silent chamber of the heart of everyone and everything.
” a dry leaf on the ground
All relative life without the conscious basis of Being is like a ship without a rudder, ever at the mercy of the tossing sea. It is like a dry leaf on the ground left to the mercy of the wind, drifting aimlessly in any direction the wind takes it, for it has no roots to anchor it.
” ripples and waves of the vast ocean
Being is like a limitless ocean of life, silent and ever-existing in the same status. The different aspects of creation can be taken to be as ripples and waves of the vast ocean of eternal Being.
” the sap and the root
Being is the basis of all living, just as without the sap and root there would be no tree. If we can take care of the sap the whole tree will be taken care of. Similarly, if we can take care of Being, the whole field of thinking and doing will be taken care of.
” gas to water and water into ice
In order to have a clear picture of the nature of cosmic law, let us take an example: Hydrogen is gas, oxygen is gas; they combine to make water, H2O. The qualities of gas have changed to qualities of water, but “H” and “O,” hydrogen and oxygen, remain “H” and “O.” Again, the water freezes and is transformed into ice. The qualities of water have changed into the qualities of ice, but hydrogen and oxygen, the essential constituents, remain the same. Hydrogen and oxygen remaining the same means there is some force, there is some law or system, which maintains the integrity of hydrogen and oxygen. Yet there are certain laws which keep on changing the qualities of gas to water and water into ice.
” sunlight, candlelight
Just as, in the bright sunlight, candlelight loses its relative significance, so also, in the eternal light of the absolute bliss, the relative joys of life lose their attraction. This is said to be the loss of the binding influence of Karma under the influence of the experience of the absolute bliss of eternal Being.
” pulling the arrow back
The skill in action is to first bring the activity to nil, and from there start to act. It is like drawing the arrow back on the bow before we wish to shoot ahead. The skill lies in pulling the arrow back on the bow as far as possible until it reaches the state of no activity. From that point, the arrow can be shot by just releasing the catch, without effort. So this skill in action is only a matter of pulling the arrow back and then releasing it. It will, with the least amount of effort, naturally shoot ahead with the maximum force. Likewise, by utilizing the skill of bringing the activity of the mind to a state of stillness and from that point starting the activity, the energy necessary to perform the action will be least. The action will be performed for the greatest results, and the doer will cultivate a state of eternal freedom.
” a bubble starts at the bottom of the sea
A thought starts from the deepest level of consciousness, from the deepest level of the ocean of mind, as a bubble starts at the bottom of the sea. As the bubble rises, it gradually becomes bigger. When it comes to the surface of the water it is perceived as a bubble. Mind is like an ocean, and, as in an ocean, the surface layers are active in waves and the deeper levels are silent. The surface layers of the mind are actively functioning while the deeper levels are silent.
” a white cloth is dipped into yellow
For example, when a white cloth is dipped into yellow dye it becomes yellow. When it is brought out, the depth of color is not as great as it appeared while the cloth was still in the dye. If the cloth is put in the shade for some time, the color fades still more and, if the cloth is placed in the direct sun, it is found that the color fades even more rapidly. Likewise, when the mind gets to the transcendental state of Being, it becomes pure Being. If it is put to activity in a very normal and natural manner when it comes out of the Transcendent, the infusion of the faculty of Being is retained for some time. But, if the mind is strained in activity, then the intensity of infusion is much less.
” leaf becoming fresh and flourishing
It is like a tree which receives water at its root and consequently all the parts of the tree automatically receive nourishment and flourish. No other part of the tree, however, knows or experiences the process of the root receiving the water. Its influence is seen in the increasing freshness of all parts of the tree. Perhaps a leaf puts up the argument that it feels better but does not feel that it is receiving any nourishment. Its constitution from the beginning has been such that it naturally received life energy from the roots. The same process is just continuing on a greater scale. This is why the leaf does not recognize that anything is happening to it. What is happening to it is appreciated, however, by all those who have seen the leaf drying up and who now see that it is becoming fresh and is flourishing. Likewise, when one meditates, one experiences increased energy and clarity of mind, but does not experience the actual process of the infusion of Being into the nature of the mind. The whole process is silent on the level of pure Being.
” describe the taste
It is as in the case of someone who has been eating something and is asked to describe the taste. It is very difficult to put the exact taste into words even though he was able to taste the food perfectly well. Similarly, Being is very well lived in life and is a state of experience, but It cannot be expressed precisely.
” the garments keep on changing
When a judge sits in the courtroom, he wears robes befitting a judge, but when he goes to his club he appears in the clothes that are worn at a club. When he is at home he wears clothes that differ from those he wears on the street. And, before retiring at night, he changes his clothes once again. The garments keep on changing, but the man remains the same. He is addressed in different ways by different people, yet the man is forever the same man. Likewise, all different forms and phenomena in creation differ in their qualities. No two forms in the world appear to be the same, for nothing in creation seems to be stable. All is changing from one to the other, yet, at the basis of all these ever-changing phases of forms and phenomena of creation, the underlying reality is the same never-changing eternal absolute Being.
” the life of a tree
What life is could be illustrated by the example of a tree. All the various attributes of the outer aspect of the tree—trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit—together with the various attributes of the inner root, go to make up the whole life of the tree. But when we look more closely into the life of the tree we find that, although the root is the basis of the outer tree, it has no absolute, independent status. The root depends upon the nourishment, or sap, that comes from the area outside the root itself. This sap is the essence of the entire tree. It makes the root and, passing through the root, gives rise to the various aspects of the tree. We thus find the tree is nothing but the nourishment that comes from outside the boundary of the individual tree. The tree is obviously limited within the bounds of the root and outer tree, but its basis is outside these bounds.
” layers of a coconut
The various aspects of life may be compared with a coconut. The outer part of a coconut consists of a hard shell and husk of many fibers. The husk and its particular shape may be compared with the outer or gross physical aspect of life, the body. Underneath the shell is a more precious aspect of the coconut which is the solidified layer of milk, the kernel. Beyond the kernel is the essence of the coconut, the milk in its pure form. The milk in its pure form has solidified into a firm inner layer and surrounds itself with the harder and more solidified layer of the shell in order to protect the precious inner aspect of the coconut. Similarly, in the life of the individual we find that inner Being is unmanifested absolute Being which manifests as the ego, intellect, mind, senses, and Prāṇa.
” a millionaire who goes begging
By not using his full potential, man is not able to fulfill the purpose of his life. He is found suffering in many ways because he is not using the full conscious capacity of his mind; he is not using the great energy he carries within himself. He is not experiencing and expressing in his life the abundance of absolute bliss that he naturally possesses, the great absolute field of creativity and power that he has within himself. He is like a millionaire who has forgotten all his wealth and status and who goes begging in the street and at every moment feels the lack of money.
” a stone is thrown into a pond
If a stone is thrown into a pond, waves are produced that travel throughout the pond. Every wave produces effects in every part of the pond, resulting in some influence or other. Similarly, the wave of individual life through its activity produces an influence in all fields of the cosmos.
” the wave becomes powerful
A small wave on the surface of the ocean would not be a very powerful wave, but the same wave becomes powerful when it connects with deeper levels of water. So, the art of improving and strengthening a wave is to enable it to contact directly deeper levels of water.
” castle on the beach
The attempt of modern psychology to improve the relationships, surroundings, and outlook on life has nothing to do with the basic fundamentals of life. It is like a child’s attempt to build a castle on the beach with the sand that is available. Trying to build up human life purely on the consideration of surface values of psychology can amuse the intellect of some ignorant people, but it cannot serve the real purpose of life.
” a skilled gardener waters the root
If a petal of a flower starts to wither, a skilled gardener does not water the petal, he waters the root. If a relationship begins to create tension, very little can be gained by trying to reconcile the parties by suggestions on the surface.
” wiping off the mud
When a man, because of some misdeeds, seems to be punished by nature and suffers for it, this also is the manifestation of the kindness and helpfulness of nature. If a child has smeared mud on himself, his mother will wipe the mud off. Even if the process of wiping off the mud is not liked by the child, it is good for him because the mud could harm his skin. The child, however, does not understand the injury that the mud would cause him and rebels against his mother’s efforts.
” at the mercy of the doctor
When a doctor is to operate on a patient, he cuts into the body in all kindness, sympathy, and willingness to help the patient, but he can only start operating when the patient has completely given himself to him. The patient has to put himself at the mercy of the doctor and only then can the doctor operate for the patient’s benefit. Similarly, if one submits oneself to nature, nature begins to operate on him and all that nature does is for his own evolution and good.
” the letter is repeatedly redirected
A letter sent by a man a long way from home to his father reaches the home, and if, when it reaches the home, the father has gone on to another town, it is redirected to him there. If the father has traveled still farther to yet another town, it is again redirected to him. The letter is repeatedly redirected as long as the father is traceable. If the father is no longer traceable, and if his son or nearest relation could be traced, the letter will go to the heir. Blood affinity is the agency through which the reaction reaches the doer. If an action is performed now of which the influence will reach the doer in a thousand years, that influence will reach that soul wherever in the universe it may be.
” it is not the nature of the bee to fly
If a honeybee is flying here and there in search of a honeyed flower, it should not be thought that flying is its nature. It is flying with the purpose of remaining steady at a flower; it will wander as long as it does not find a flower containing honey. But as soon as the flower is found, the bee immediately will alight on it. There is a purpose to the flying. It is not the nature of the bee to fly; rather its nature is to be at a flower and to draw out the honey. Similarly, the mind wanders, but it is not wandering by nature. It wanders because it does not find a place to rest or a medium of happiness.
” keeping a dog at the door
There are two ways of keeping a dog at the door. One way is to run after it, forcibly bring it to the door, and tie it with a chain. But this is a difficult job. Even if the dog is tired, it would be pulling against the chain trying to run away. It would be difficult to keep it quiet at the door. The second way of keeping the dog there is not to run after it or tie it, but place some good food for it to eat. The dog will eat the food and choose to remain at the door. In like manner, it is not necessary to try to control the mind.
” a devoted scientist who spends all his time in the laboratory
If a man with a family is a devoted scientist who spends all his time in the laboratory, his wife begins to suffer, the children do not get the love of their father, the house is not well taken care of. The habit of remaining fixed on the purpose of action is a desirable quality of the mind, but if it is overshadowed, always remaining on one aspect of life, it may become a means of misery as well, by unduly overshadowing other aspects.
” the delivery of the football
Only an action which suits the temperament of the man provides a means of joy during its performance. For example, a boy is told to take a football to a house two miles distant. If there is a chance for him to keep kicking the football toward the house, then the boy gets it there in a very pleasant and joyful manner. The delivery of the football to the house does not become a burden because he has been playing with it all the time. If, however, he is asked to carry it on his shoulder or in his arms rather than being permitted to kick it, the delivery of the football will become a burdensome task.
” he does not mind the dirt
No set of surroundings could be said to be absolutely bad or completely useless or damaging. If a mind is not able to take advantage of the surroundings, it is its own weakness that makes it unable to do so. For example, a man is sitting in a room that is filthy, full of dust and dirt. If his mind is grounded in contentment, joyfulness, peace, and happiness he radiates those qualities around him and does not pay attention to the dirt and dust.
” through a red glass
If one puts a red glass to his eye, he sees everything as red; if he looks through a green glass he sees everything as green. Whatever the individual’s state of mind, it reflects itself. But due to ignorance, generally, the atmosphere is held to be responsible for it.
” a glass of water in the sun
When a glass of water is placed in the sun, the sun is reflected in it. The sun is always there, but it shows no reflection unless a proper medium is found through which it can be reflected. Similarly, Being is always here, there, and everywhere, but it has no opportunity to radiate itself directly in the relative existence unless a suitable state in the nervous system is created for it.
” if the machine is given rest
When the nervous system is not brought to that state of restful alertness, the level of Being which we have described, the body becomes strained, as does a machine which continuously functions without stopping. But if the machine is given rest at intervals, then the wear and tear is less and this gives strength and life to the machine.