Years ago, someone wrote glowingly to me of Tara Singh, describing him as a man of unusual presence, a teacher, author, and humanitarian who had seen deeply into human nature and had a message worth hearing. I was struck by the letter writer’s admiration for this thinker who seemed to avoid labels as well as publicity.
A few years after that, I heard Tara Singh interviewed by Michael Toms of New Dimensions Radio. The simplicity of his insights was stunning, yet what impressed me even more was the depth of conviction in the man. Wise words matter less than whether one has earned them, and I could sense that here was someone who spoke only of what he’d struggled successfully to understand.
Born in India, in a small village in Punjab where he spent his early years, he travelled with his family to Europe and Central America and returned to India at the age of twenty-two, to live for four years as an ascetic in the Himalayas.
He became involved in India’s postwar industrialization, and was a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister Nehru.
After many years, he began to withdraw from worldly affairs. Inspired by his association with the writer and teacher J. Krishnamurti, he devoted several years to the study and practice of yoga, which culminated, in the early 1970s, in a three-year silent retreat in Carmel, California.
Most recently, he has written and spoken extensively about A Course in Miracles, an inspirational text published in 1976. From Easter 1983 to Easter 1984, he conducted a one-year, in-depth, tuition-free study of the Course.
He continues to work closely with students studying the Course at his Foundation for Life Action, 902 South Burnside Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90036. His books and tapes are available from the foundation.
Our thanks to Robert Taylor of The Movement newspaper in Los Angeles, California, who interviewed Tara Singh.
TAYLOR: I would like to talk with you about peace — both the inner peace we all seek and the world peace that seems so elusive. What is the bridge between inner peace and world peace? Is it a life of truth? Of integrity?
TARA SINGH: Our relationships are so related to the terms we use. It is these we should define at the start. Words like integrity and rightness, or love and truth, can never be understood by conventional definitions. These words cannot be known unless they are lived.
We ask, “What is integrity?” Probably everyone would say they know what it is. But no one really knows integrity unless they are aware of it in their lives at this moment. Very few have that awareness of the words they use. Yet this is important. We all feel there should be peace and goodness in the world. Many with good intent have become famous by holding these as ideals. But unless their own lives are at peace, they have no integrity. Do you see?
If you have a goal or an ideal, then you will pursue it thinking it is good. But what you project and then pursue is not integrity.
TAYLOR: Do we simply go wrong in our striving for peace and in trying to help others?
TARA SINGH: Probably. Mother Teresa is an example of what integrity is. When she picks up a child from the streets of Calcutta, dehydrated and eaten by ants and mice, she sees the Christ in him. And by Christ she doesn’t necessarily mean Jesus, but another kind of light that judges no one. Unless one sees this divine light in all that is created, there can be no integrity, but just an idea about integrity.
TAYLOR: In some way we are all striving for this divine light. Do you think there is hope of coming to it in this lifetime?
TARA SINGH: Very, very little.
TAYLOR: Then our striving seems futile. What you say seems so pessimistic.
TARA SINGH: Integrity has very little to do with our beliefs about pessimism or optimism. I can make integrity acceptable to you by making it optimistic. But then it would not be integrity at all. It would just be catering to something you think is good. Integrity has no opposites. When we have ended this conflict in us of good and bad, of right and wrong, we will know what integrity is.
TAYLOR: But we live by our judgement of what we think is right or wrong. Can anyone set aside all their beliefs?
TARA SINGH: First we must see that almost all of us are conditioned by the environment in which we are born. We are conditioned by cultural and traditional values and by the beliefs of our parents and their parents. If someone is a Catholic they remain a Catholic; the Hindu remains the Hindu. Somewhere, one has to start outgrowing all beliefs and dogmas.
And they can be outgrown if we are earnest. Of course one can blame his conditioning and lack of integrity on the environment and circumstances. But when I am earnest, I discover that I am shaped by my thought, by my past; that I have never stepped into a space where words have not intruded.
TAYLOR: What do you mean, never to have stepped into a space where words have not intruded?
TARA SINGH: This is the space of a silent mind. Walt Whitman has said a wonderful thing about that state. He said, “I am as one disembodied, victorious. . . .” The poet Rilke has said it this way, “Brother, step into the space that takes no heed of you.”
This space of a silent mind is something so vast. You are a part of it, but it cannot fit in yourself. Do you see? We try to fit things into ourselves. We love accumulation of knowledge, of wealth, and of properties. But integrity has nothing to do with accumulation. It reaches a state which has no unfulfillment in it, and is therefore independent of everything external.
So whether we seek silence or integrity, it must be independent of unfulfillment. It is this state that is creative. Are we seeing it clearly? Seeking fulfillment becomes a preoccupation, and can never be creative.
Creativity is not of personality. It is of life. The birth of a child is an action of life. It is not the body that creates the child, it is an action that takes place involuntarily within the body. Can we see that life is creative, and personality is not? We have much to outgrow to know what integrity is.
TAYLOR: Then what you are saying is that we are born by creative actions but immediately we are in some way conditioned away from them?
TARA SINGH: Absolutely. We can see most of our teaching is prejudiced. Yet the parents’ job, if they have integrity, is to make sure they don’t prejudice the child. This is very difficult, because children, even though they have been brought up gently and have been introduced to noble spirits, are excited the minute they see a James Bond movie. Or on seeing other children with the newest toys, they immediately get taken over. It is increasingly difficult for man to come to a natural state because of the pressure of time and of commercialization. It can be done, but it requires a certain kind of wisdom — a wisdom that starts with knowing thyself; the wisdom to know I have a motive in everything I seek.
No one is interested in truth. Truth cannot be known unless one sees the limitation of having a point of view.
TAYLOR: It’s clear that we’re conditioned. Yet what can end this conditioning? Can we call on God?
TARA SINGH: The word God must be used with reservation because, like the words love, wholistic, and truth, it has been abused and has lost its meaning. We use words that are only what someone else has said. Whether the words are of Jesus or of Buddha, we are mere interpreters, aren’t we?
Jesus did not need Buddha. He had his own clarity, his own integrity, his own holiness. He was independent of any interpretations. He brought something of another kingdom to the Earth. It was the same with Buddha. Buddha did not have to draw upon someone else. Once one comes upon truth or love, then one knows it clearly. This knowing is not of the brain.
Most men feel they have integrity, and live by ideals and goals they think are good. Yet we still live in isolation, separated man from man. It is this separation that results in tension and war. Even in the United Nations each country comes to represent its own point of view. No one is interested in truth. Truth cannot be known unless one sees the limitation of having a point of view. When you see this limitation your mind comes to a moment of silence.
In that silence integrity comes and you outgrow conventions, traditions, belief systems, and all that separates. That moment of silence is creative. It is more powerful than anything the brain can conceive.
One who really loves something that is beyond the man-made world does not think of himself as an American or an Indian. He is a human being. He belongs to no sect or man-made, organized religion because he sees that dogma is not religious.
Religion and politics and commercial interests each have their vested interests and people who follow them. The mass-mind does not think, it merely follows. Whether they are Greek masses, or Indian masses, or American masses, today they have become like beasts of burden — the energy of their lives taken to make the corporations richer.
Things have gone berserk. We used the atom bomb on Japan. Should not all Christian churches have protested? Do they not teach “Thou shalt not kill?” Instead they send their own sons to join the military, and give them guns to kill an enemy they have never met, never seen.
In ancient times, people outgrew worldly experience. They became disillusioned with the world and placed great value on wisdom. Wisdom means knowing yourself, knowing something eternal. In maturity the whole lifestyle changed. It was the most glorious part of one’s life. Passions and desires subsided, and their interests became vertical. Look now at the old people, they are worse than the children.
TAYLOR: These are high values you speak of. But few people are searching inside for this wisdom. Why are we tied to our beliefs and to mundane life?
TARA SINGH: We cannot see that our minds are shaped and conditioned. There is always someone to tell us what to do. First it is the parent and then it is the school. But they are teaching external values. This is not wisdom. And if we can see it, we are being more and more harassed and coerced by the propaganda of “the American way of life,” or “the Indian way of life.” These cliches take us over and life deteriorates to mere existence.
With all of today’s advances, few have work of their own. They have jobs. In the past people had their own work, their own farm or shop, and each was his own boss. When relatives came, they would close everything up and have a feast. Today we have jobs and work for big corporations. We do not know how limiting our “progress” is. How great is our loss of freedom.
TAYLOR: Can people change?
TARA SINGH: I would say that people in general, society that is, will not change. Here and there a human being will change. Society won’t change. It never has because it doesn’t have a mind.
The masses had come to Jesus, probably 5,000 people, and he multiplied the fish and the bread. Everybody thought, “He’s the Messiah.” Yet they ate the fish and the bread and never came back. Just look at what took place within the week after Palm Sunday.
Moses freed the slaves, parted the sea and took his people across. How overwhelmed they must have been. They adored him, and sang songs to him. Yet within a few months they were complaining and building a golden calf. They didn’t want to see him and even his life was in danger.
So what the masses think, or do not think, has no validity at all. It doesn’t matter whether they’re Indian or American, it’s all the same. But neither education nor organized religion can free us because they are bound by their own ideas and are not free.
Nevertheless, an individual can still free himself. He must see the false as the false. That’s all. Seeing the false as the false is the beginning of integrity. How simple it is.
The action has to take place in the individual. He first has to see the deceptions. Just seeing that frees him. There are no techniques to it. He sees the ego would like to improve, but that is the deception.
If you see a snake, you are not going to go near it. But we seldom look for or see our deceptions. We do not look at what we fear. So society, with its own motives, is interested in “improving” man. But how can you improve that which is perfect?
I would say that people in general, society that is, will not change. Here and there a human being will change. Society won’t change. It never has because it doesn’t have a mind.
TAYLOR: On one level, I understand that I’m perfect. But most of the time I don’t feel that.
TARA SINGH: You have to have discrimination to see deception. Discrimination is the hardest thing of all and the most real. It requires discrimination to see what is Earth-born, and thus is of thought, and what is born of silence, and thus one’s own discovery. Discrimination is a clarity that is free of all education. Its action frees one from all that is external and introduces you to your own Self, to your own glory, and to your own holiness. It is not something you learn. It is something you discover.
TAYLOR: What is the difference then between learning and discovery?
TARA SINGH: When you learn, you learn externally from another, and therefore become dependent. Discovery is born out of one’s own vitality, and therefore is independent. In discovery, an action of newness takes place within oneself. In learning, there is a conditioning. Learning is a brain process, and the brain does not know totality. The brain, because it is incomplete, looks for someone who says, “I’ll give it to you!”
So integrity would see this deception. Isn’t that beautiful? Only integrity doesn’t organize a movement or make something a cause. Integrity just sees. And by seeing, it is free. Then whatever it would do is born out of freedom, out of something other than thought.
TAYLOR: I almost feel the truth in what you are saying. Yet I also feel a loneliness. If I accepted everything you say, wouldn’t I feel very alone? Who would I turn to? Who would have the same frame of reference? Who would support me?
TARA SINGH: I know what you feel and I am glad that you are so honest about it. I think it is this fear and this aloneness that enslaves us. At some level everyone feels helpless. Man is the worshipper of his helplessness. I think integrity would question helplessness. I think it would see the propaganda that has gone into me from childhood and would not accept it. I don’t mean to say integrity would deny it, but at least it would be willing to explore, “Is helplessness real?”
One would then see that neither schools, nor churches, nor anyone can tell me. Don’t you see that it is because we think we can’t do it without their help that we think we are abandoned?
In talking about integrity, I am talking about the man who has become a human being, who no longer belongs to any belief. He relies on his own resources and is not dependent. Already he has the strength, doesn’t he?
TAYLOR: But how does he deal with the world that he left?
TARA SINGH: The world he left has a kind of false importance. And that’s what threatens him. It is fear that asks, “If I leave the world, where am I?” Then one must discover that one is always afraid of consequences. Are we beginning to see what self-honesty is?
So you and I can see that most men can’t afford self-honesty or integrity. Where is the person who has integrity or self-honesty, with no fear of consequences? Has America produced one who has no fear of consequences? You would have to go back to Emerson and Thoreau. That’s how few there are.
Of all the presidents, Lincoln stands out. During the years of the Civil War he never smiled or laughed, because he saw the agony and brutality of man killing man. As President, he felt the responsibility to do something, yet could not find the solution in those he consulted. But day and night this one person was determined to find the answer. It was his first passion. That is dedication; that is humanism; that is having integrity.
In the end, he discovered something extraordinary. He discovered for himself that if this nation stayed with rightness, no nation of Europe or of Asia could ever touch its shores and that nothing internal could ever undermine it. It was his discovery of rightness that prevented this country from splitting in two. This one person did it. Had it been divided, civil wars would have gone on forever, and your experiment in the new world would have been finished by now. He came to that integrity and lived by that rightness.
Lincoln found that the instruments of safety would be provided. So he knew that which is beyond thought, didn’t he? He said, “If this nation stays with rightness, the instruments of safety will be provided.” Do you think America paid any heed?
TAYLOR: It would seem not.
TARA SINGH: But what is important at this moment is that you and I can discover the action of integrity. You asked what can bring us to integrity. If you are interested enough then you would quit everything that does not have integrity. To talk about it only makes it abstract. Don’t you see? Why should you write about integrity? Why not make it your business to know it? Then you would have integrity in what you write, wouldn’t you?
Somehow we are always under pressure and never stay with this moment. We know so much that we can always blur the picture. You see, integrity doesn’t believe anyone, or disbelieve anyone. It has the capacity to know the truth this instant. And what is apart from truth this instant will just be ideas. So you see, I am interested in you who have come to me to know what integrity is.
The action has to take place in the individual. He has to first see the deceptions. Just seeing that frees him. There are no techniques to it. He sees the ego would like to improve, but that is the deception.
TAYLOR: As a writer, I naturally want to put integrity into my work.
TARA SINGH: Of course, but once you have discovered it, you will know you have it. Until then we can only assume. When we really have integrity, then we know it by its action. We don’t have to speculate about it.
We always find some other thought and drift away from the issue. It takes energy to end deceptions and know integrity. And because we are dissipated, we don’t have the energy. We are constantly compromising and evading this moment. This moment is as perfect as any other moment to end the deception of thought. Integrity is not touched by thought.
TAYLOR: I find that very difficult. If integrity is not touched by thought, that means I don’t know what it is.
TARA SINGH: Are you interested in knowing it?
TAYLOR: Yes, I am. I would like to know what integrity is.
TARA SINGH: But do you see that just an intellectual definition will not introduce you to the state? Why is it that you are evading it? In looking at ourselves we will understand why everyone evades it, why we are just pleased with phrases. Looking at it in this way is what integrity is.
Why are we satisfied with definitions about something, rather than knowing the thing itself?
TAYLOR: How then can I bring integrity more into my life?
TARA SINGH: By first accepting nothing less than integrity. For example, if one was really interested in integrity then he would not postpone it. As we sit here it is possible. Right now. And if one discovered it, it would change one’s whole life.
TAYLOR: Then I would like to come to that.
TARA SINGH: That is why I am asking, why do you want to write about integrity? Why don’t you want to know it?
TAYLOR: But I do want to know it. I feel that I could write best about it if I knew it.
TARA SINGH: Writing about it is secondary. Knowing it as a state must be first. Once one knows what integrity is, then integrity would know how to express itself. Can we see that everything in nature extends what it is? Therefore, unless one comes to integrity, one cannot extend integrity no matter how much he talks about it. It is still not it. You have come to ask about integrity. But ideas about things are abstract. I am interested in integrity because this moment is real.
Can we see, together, that although I do not know what integrity is, I can know what integrity is not? Then, whenever I pretend to know it, I would see that pretension and recognize it as just an idea or an opinion. What a freedom it would give to dissolve all our pretensions!
It takes energy to end deceptions and know integrity. And because we are dissipated, we don’t have that energy. We are constantly compromising and evading this moment. This moment is as perfect as any other moment to end the deception of thought. Integrity is not touched by thought.
TAYLOR: But how can I dissolve my pretension of knowing?
TARA SINGH: By having integrity! It is that quick. Look, I do not know what integrity is, but I know what it is not. So, in not accepting what integrity is not, that is integrity!
TAYLOR: I believe I hear what you are saying. Can that work in daily life?
TARA SINGH: Never mind can it work. Just see that that’s integrity.
How quickly we want to shift into “what can I do with it?” Maybe this doing, which is a tendency of the human being, takes us away from integrity. Can we just say, “All right, I understand. Not to accept non-integrity is the action of integrity.” Then do you see, right away comes the panic, “What do I do?” This is a human trait. Whether it is about integrity, about honesty, about God, about truth, or about love, the question always comes, “How am I going to do this?” Or, “What am I going to do?”
Integrity would question this fear. And it would discover, “My God, I’m so obsessed with doing.” Integrity would see that when I’m afraid I always want to do something. Once this is discovered I can put an end to the “doing.” Now I start discovering why it is that I am insecure. Don’t you see?
One begins to see that from one minute of silence, or stillness, or integrity, or truth, I get scared and therefore I don’t go near it. Yes, I flirt with it. I want to know it. I write books about it. All of this. But somehow I’m afraid to get deeply into it — to live it.
Integrity looks at one’s own knowing. It can see that when I am afraid and don’t know what to do, then I start to make assumptions, to wish I had a guru, or to wish I had a friend. I begin to project my wishes and desires. Integrity has a potential and a tremendous wholeness that we will not know as long as we settle for some activity or desire. The minute I assume I don’t know what to do, I am living under the authority of my own conclusion. And whether this conclusion is good or bad, it will never know integrity.
Integrity ends our separation and our fear. It has its own glory. It has a potential of its own that relates us with the whole of creation. It knows the creative action of life.
TAYLOR: How can one live more that way?
TARA SINGH: One has to give up the impulses and the urges, the conclusions and the verdicts one passes over oneself. It is a process of undoing, and unlearning of all we have learned. Wisdom starts with unlearning, Accumulation of knowledge is just the opposite.
One who is wise starts lovingly, slowly, to undo and unlearn. At some point you may get scared, but as you unlearn, more integrity comes and you can look at the fear and see its motives and its falseness. Slowly, it will begin to unfold and strength and clarity will grow until you can’t live without it. When you can’t live without truth and integrity, you will change the course of history. A million men could not do what integrity can do in one individual. What a wonderful thing this self-reliance is then, to find one’s own vastness.
This state we call integrity is beyond time. A man who has integrity is no longer a victim of circumstances. His words are eternal. They do not change. He honors that which is real. He is part of another world, the created world, not the man-made world. One with integrity would have very little to do with the man-made world. He would live by eternal laws and bring something of the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. In his own way he enriches mankind and the whole planet.