Then comes purity. Here, again, we see how Lord Jesus goes to the very root of the problem and suggests a radical cure. Immorality is not confined to action; it is rooted in the very thought. It can be effectively eliminated not by merely restraining the external organs, as the hypocrites do, but by making the mind and heart pure. "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in the heart." Sin is in the mind; the body is a mere tool of the mind.
An extraordinary injunction follows this declaration. It is the method of self-punishment. It is a well-recognised spiritual practice. Punish yourself and pray. Dissociate yourself from the body and even the mind, and chastise them with the rod of self-punishment. First the grosser forms of self-punishment, like fasting, etc., till you learn the technique of completely dissociating yourself from the body and mind and then you can use your strong and powerful will as the reins to restrain the turbulent mind and senses. That is what the Lord alludes to when He says: "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee." You are different from the offending organ: use your discrimination and cut off its supply of soul-force, thought-power and nerve-impulse. Then it will cease to function at variance with your will, but will meekly submit to thy will. This rule applies not only to the eradication of lust, but to anger, too, and the host of other vices. This is panacea for all evils that assail the human heart.
For, remember, that the goal is to be "perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect." Perfection in all virtues is what is aimed at: but when you cultivate the cardinal virtues which the Lord has enumerated and dwelt upon in the Sermon on the Mount, the other virtues will cling to you. Love, Purity, Truth, Charity, Humility, Sincerity and Self-surrenderthese are great virtues that you should make positive efforts to cultivate. They will make you perfect: a radiant image of God.
In the practice of Truth, the Lord has something very illuminating to say. People generally swear that what they say is the truth; and they swear that they would do certain things in the future. Lord Jesus asks His followers to abstain from swearing. Swearing springs from the self-arrogating ego. It is vanity. No one really knows the truth: but everyone is ready to swear "by God" that what he says is the truth. It is arrogant vehemence. A wise man would say: "To the best of my knowledge and belief this is the truth." Only God knows what is truth. And, therefore, Lord Jesus says: "Judge not others."
The other form of swearing is to swear for the future. One can take resolves with a devout prayer. This is more like auto-suggestion. You may say: "Henceforth, I shall lead a life of abstinence, of celibacy or of renunciation: God, shower Thy Grace on me." This is necessary for spiritual progress. Similarly in the case of worldly dealings it is necessary to enter into some agreements and undertakings. But the most important point to bear in mind alwaysand this is the fundamental tenet of true religious lifeis that the future is in His Hands. Our outlook upon the future ought to be one of surrender to the Divine Will. To pledge ourselves to certain vows is like a little boy promising his fond mother that he would "for ever and ever wear the beautiful coat" she presented him on his fifth birthday.
It is here that the greatest caution is needed. One should neither surrender to the evil forces of nature (Satan), nor should one develop religious arrogance. To lead an aimless life, taking things as they come along, reacting instinctively to surroundings and circumstances is subhuman. To arrogate to oneself the powers of doing or undoing things, of shaping his own and mankind's destinies, is surely more than an animal can do; but it is something worseit is diabolical. The wise man, on the other hand, would look forward to something good, will aspire for something grand, will work for peace and prosperity, and then leave everything to His Will. He knows that by his own will, he cannot "make one hair white or black" on his own head!
This is the master-key to all progress. For thus recognising the inevitability of the Divine Will, man will march forward, with God enthroned forever in his heart, assimilating all that is good everywhere and during changing times, and transforming all that is base and evil, by the touch of his godliness, forbearance and love. He will not be bound down by dogmas and "fixed" creeds and rituals, but he will be lifted up on the wings of God's Will and His Grace.