ANALOGY OF THE RIVER
This might be illustrated by the analogy of a river. The powerful current of the river carries with it great quantities of silt from the source and the banks. As long as these quantities are suspended in water they do not hinder the flow of the river, though they may slow it down. When the current becomes slower in the plains, and particularly towards the mouth, this bulk tends to deposit in the river bed and to form huge islands or deltas, which not only obstruct the current but often divert it or even split it into smaller currents and, on the whole, weaken the force of the mighty river.
Or again, when the river is in flood, it sweeps away all obstacles of trees, bushes and rubbish in its path, but when these accumulate to a certain degree, they can constitute a serious hindrance to the flow of the river. In the same way the path of spiritual advancement is often blocked by the obstacles of its own creation, and these can be removed only through the help of the Master.
The help of the Master is most effective when the aspirant surrenders his ego-life in favour of the unlimited life which the Master represents. Complete self-surrender is most difficult to achieve; and yet, the most essential condition of spiritual advancement is the lowering down of egoism to its minimum. The objective of spiritual advancement is not so much "works", but quality of life which is in no way curtailed by ego-consciousness. If the aspirant has many great and grand things to his credit, but has all the time claimed them to be his, his ego fastens itself upon his achievements and constitutes a formidable hindrance for the life unlimited. Hence comes the futility of rituals and ceremonies, acts of charity and good works, external renunciation and penances, when they are rooted in ego-consciousness.
It is, therefore, most necessary for the aspirant to keep free from the idea "I do this, and I do that." This does not mean that the aspirant is to keep clear of all activity through fear of developing this form of the ego. He may have to take to the life of action in order to wear out the ego which he has already developed. So, he is caught up in the dilemma that if he keeps inactive, he does nothing towards breaking through the prison of his ego-life; and, if he takes to a life of action, he is presented with the possibility of his ego being transferred to these new acts themselves.
For spiritual advancement, the aspirant has to avoid these two extremes and yet to carry on a life of creative action. Treading the spiritual path is not like the riding of a saddled horse, but like walking on the sharp edge of a sword. Once the rider is on the horse-back, he is practically at rest sitting with more or less, ease and requiring very little effort or careful attention to go ahead. But treading the spiritual path requires utmost attention and carefulness, since the path affords no halting places or room for expansion of the egolife, this way or that way. He who enters the path can neither remain where he is, nor can he afford to lose his balance either way; he is like one who attempts to walk on the sharp edge of a sword.
DISCOURSES, 4th ed, vol 5, pp. 22-24
1967 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust