Life, a Continual Battle (1)
Because life means a continual battle one’s success, failure, happiness, or unhappiness mostly depends upon one’s knowledge of this battle. Whatever be one’s occupation in life, whatever be one’s knowledge, if one lacks the knowledge of the battle of life one lacks the most important knowledge of all.
The question arises, of what does this knowledge of life’s battle consist? It comprises the knowledge of warfare, how to fight and how to make peace. Human nature very often makes the mistake of taking sides, either the side of war or the side of peace. But if one studies the history of nations and races one will find that it was this mistake which often caused their failure. There have been times when nations and races have developed in their character the knowledge of peace, for instance people such as the Hindus with their most ancient civilization; but it could not bring them complete satisfaction as one side of human nature was neglected and misunderstood.
War comes from God in the same way that peace comes from God. A fruit has to go through many processes in order to become ripe and sweet. Sunshine and rain are both needed to make the fruit ripe; and that shows that war and peace both have their place. But with our limited understanding we do not always comprehend the justice of what is done to us. For instance, if a man had lived through all civilizations, he would think very differently from the ordinary man of today; and so it is with God in regard to His knowledge of the entire world. We are too limited to understand.
In this present age it seems that the knowledge of warfare has developed; but on the other hand the knowledge of peace is absent; for the full knowledge of warfare is both the knowledge of battle and the knowledge of peace. This can be learned according to the mystics by battling with oneself, and by bringing about peace with one’s own soul. The life of an individual being is not very different from the Life of the world. An individual person’s home is not different from the world. An individual’s body and mind and spirit form the whole universe. An individual life can fill the gap between the dawn of creation and the last day. Man does not realize how important is his own life, his self; and the study of his own life and his own self is a study of the greatest importance.
A healthy person has waiting at his door several illnesses, several diseases, waiting for the opportunity when they can attack him. A person with wealth has many who wait at his door for the chance to take away from him what he possesses. A person about whom good is said, has many awaiting a moment when something bad may be said about him. A person who has power or position, how many are not waiting for the opportunity to pull him down and see him slide down from the place where he stands! And what does this show? Why is it so? One may give a thousand reasons, and yet no proper reason. The best explanation one can give is that life is a continual battle.
The process of creation began like this. According to science light comes from friction. It is one power against the other power, fighting; and from these two different forces striking upon each other comes an effect, and that effect in reality may be called life.
In this lies the secret of both love and hate. One sees in the animal kingdom that the first tendency of the animals is instinctively to fight one another. This tendency becomes modified; and it is its modification and its reduced force that produce in them what we call virtues. As it is said in the Qur’an that the world was created out of darkness, so wisdom comes out of ignorance. And the best knowledge is not only the knowledge of all that is good and beautiful, all that is harmonious and peaceful, but also the knowledge of the causes that are behind all the conflicts and all the battles chat one has to face in life. The reason why man generally lacks this knowledge is because when he is faced with a battle he wants to fight, instead of first wanting to learn how to fight. And the one who goes into life’s battle without first acquiring the knowledge of warfare loses in the end. But one who learns about this warfare of life first learns its reason and its causes, becomes more capable of fighting the battle of his life.
Christ pointed to this secret when he said, ‘Resist not evil.’ This means that if one resists or wants to fight a battle every time something in another person appears wrong or unjust, one will lose one’s power. For the competent general is not the one who always attacks. The competent general is the one who stands firm in defence. His success is more secure than the one’s who is continually attacking. Very often in everyday life one sees that by losing one’s temper with someone who has already lost his, one does not gain anything but only sets out upon the path of stupidity. He who has enough self-control to stand firm at the moment when the other person is in a temper, wins in the end. It is not he who has spoken a hundred words aloud who has won, it is he who has perhaps spoken only one word.
For this battle in life the first thing that is necessary is to keep the army in order. And what is this army? It is one’s nervous power. Whatever be one’s occupation, profession, walk in life, if one has no control over one’s own nerves one will be unable to control that walk in life. Today people study political economy or various other kinds of economy, but the most essential economy is economizing the forces which make one healthy and strong through life. This army must be drilled and made to work at command. And one will find the proof of this when one can sleep at will, when one can rest and eat and work at will; then that army is really at one’s command.
The officers of this army are the faculties of the mind. These faculties are five: the faculty of retaining thought, the faculty of thinking, the faculty of feeling, the faculty of reasoning and judging, and that faculty in man which is the principal one, the faculty of ‘I’, or ego. Even in a body with strong nerves, when these five faculties which work as the generals of the army are not in working order, not clear, one cannot expect success in life’s warfare. One should further study or practice the art of training these generals of the army in one’s own body.
Even with an army and with competent generals one must, however, have the knowledge of what one is battling against. For very often man is battling with his own real interest. During the battle it is an intoxication; he is battling but he does not know ‘where he is going, and at the end of the battle, even if he is victorious, he will find that his victory is a loss.
Today there seems to be a great seeking and enthusiasm everywhere; a new kind of urge seems to be aroused in humanity to understand life and truth. A very large number of people are looking for the best way of gaining the power needed to battle through life; and a small number again are looking for some way of bringing peace to themselves and to others. But both of these in their pursuit lack that balance which can only be brought about by understanding, by studying, and by practicing the knowledge of war and peace together. Without knowing about war one cannot thoroughly know about peace; without understanding peace one cannot thoroughly know about war. What is necessary at the present time is the study of life in general, and that means the knowledge of such questions as what is the purpose of life, what is really beneficial, what is nature, and where is the goal. It is no use practicing something before studying it. What does worldly wise mean? It means expert in this warfare of life; to know how to battle, how to make peace, why to battle, and what aim is accomplished by peace.
But it should be clearly understood that the battle with oneself means peace, and the battle with another war. If a person has not practiced this on himself he cannot be competent to battle with others. When one discovers what is the secret behind this creation, one finds that out of one life, the origin and the goal of all, this life of variety has come. That is why the nature of the life from which this world of variety has come is peace, and the nature of this life of variety is war. One can neither be without war nor without peace. One might say that all war in life should end, but this has no meaning; one might just as well say that the world of variety should not exist. Where there is plurality there must be conflict; and although conflict seems a tragedy, the true tragedy is ignorance. Instead of wanting to end the battle of life, or instead of opposing peace, one should gather knowledge of life and thereby attain to the wisdom which is life’s purpose.
Life, a Continual Battle (2)
In this continual battle of life the one who stands firm through it all comes out of it victorious in the end. Even with all power and understanding, if one gives up through lack of hope and courage, one has failed. What brings bad luck in this life, in this battle, is a pessimistic attitude; and what helps man to conquer in the battle of life, however difficult, is an optimistic attitude. There are some in this world who look at life with a pessimistic view, thinking that it is clever to see the dark side of things. To some extent it is beneficial to see the difficult side also, but the psychological law is such that once the spirit is impressed with the difficulty of the situation it loses its hope and courage. Once a person asked me if I looked at life with a pessimistic attitude or if I was an optimist. I said, ‘An optimist with open eyes’. Optimism is good as long as the eyes are open, but once the eyes are closed then optimism can be dangerous.
In this battle drill is necessary. And that drill is the control over one’s physical organs and over the faculties of mind. For if one is not prepared for this battle, however courageous and optimistic one may be, one cannot succeed. Another thing is to know something about this warfare; to know when to retreat and when to advance. If one does not know how to retreat and wishes always to advance, one will continually be in danger and become a victim of life’s battle. There are many people who in the intoxication of life’s battle go on battling, go on fighting; in the end they will meet with failure. Young people, strong and hopeful, who have had fewer difficulties, may think of nothing else but battling against all that stands in their way. They do not know that it is not always wise to advance. What is necessary is first to fortify the position and then to advance. One can see the same thing in friendship, in business, or in one’s profession. A person who does not understand the secret of the law of warfare cannot succeed.
Besides one must protect one’s own on all sides. Very often what one does in the intoxication of the battle, is to go on and on without protecting what belongs to one. How many people in the courts and in law cases, for perhaps a very little thing, go on spending and spending money! In the end the loss is greater than the success. Again, how many in this world will perhaps lose more than they gain only because of their fancy or pride! There are times when one must give in; there are times when one must relax things somewhat; and there are times when one must hold fast the reins of life. There are moments when one must be persistent, and there are moments when one must be easy.
Life is such an intoxication that although everybody thinks that he is working in his own interest, hardly one among thousands is really doing so. And the reason is that people become so absorbed in what they are trying to get that they become intoxicated by it, and they lose the track that leads to real success. Very often people, in order to get one particular benefit, sacrifice many other benefits because they do not think of them. The thing to do is to look all around, not only in one direction. It is easy to be powerful, it is easy to be good, but it is difficult to be wise–and it is the wise who are truly victorious in life. The success of those who possess power or of those who perhaps have goodness, has its limitations. One would be surprised if one knew how many people bring about their failures themselves. There is hardly one person in a hundred who really works for his true advantage, although everyone thinks that he does.
The nature of life is illusive. Under a gain a loss is hidden; under a loss a gain is hidden; and living in this life of illusion it is very difficult for man to realize what is really good for him. Even with a wise person, much of his wisdom is demanded by life and by its battle. One cannot be gentle enough, one cannot be sufficiently kind; the more one gives to life, the more life asks of one. There again is a battle.
No doubt the wise gain most in the end, although they have many apparent losses. Where ordinary people will not give in, the wise will give in a hundred times. This shows that their success is very often hidden in apparent failure. But when one compares the success of the wise with that of ordinary people, the success of the wise is much
In this battle a battery is needed. And that battery is the power of will. In this battle of life arms are needed. And these arms are the thoughts and actions which work psychologically towards success. For instance a person says to himself every morning, ‘Everybody is against me, nobody likes me, everything is wrong, everywhere is injustice, all is failure for me, there is no hope.’ When he goes out he takes that influence with him. Before he arrives anywhere, at his business, profession, or whatever he does, he has sent his influence before him, and he meets with all wrongs and all failure; nothing seems worth while, there is coldness everywhere. And there is another person who knows what human nature is, who knows that one has to meet with selfishness and ill consideration everywhere. But what does he think of it all? He thinks it is like a lot of drunken people. He thinks they are all falling upon each other, fighting each other, offending each other; and naturally a sober person who is thoughtful will not trouble with those who are drunk. He will help them, but he will not take seriously what they say or do. In this world of drunkenness a person who is drunk naturally has to fight more than he who is sober, for the latter will always avoid it. He will tolerate, he will give in, he will understand; for he knows that the others are drunk, and he cannot expect better from them.
Besides this, the wise know a secret, and that secret is that human nature is imitative. For instance, a proud person will always revive the tendency of pride in his surroundings; before a humble person even a proud man will become humble, for the humble one revivifies the humbleness in him. From this one can see that in life’s battle one can fight the proud with pride, but also with humility and sometimes gain by it.
From the point of view of the wise human nature is childish. If one stands in the crowd and looks at it as a spectator, one will see a lot of children playing together. They are playing and they are fighting and they are snatching things out of each other’s hands, and they are bothering about very unimportant things. One finds their thoughts small and unimportant, and so is their pursuit through life. And the reason for life’s battle is often very small when it is looked at in the light of wisdom. This shows that the knowledge of life does not always come by battling. It comes by throwing light upon it. He is not a warrior who becomes impatient immediately, who loses his temper suddenly, who has no control over his impulses, who is ready to give up hope and courage. The true warrior is he who can endure, who has a great capacity for tolerance, who has depth enough in his heart to assimilate all things, whose mind reaches far enough to understand all things, whose very desire is to understand others and to help them understand.
One may ask, how can one distinguish between the wisdom of the warrior and his lack of courage in the battle of life? Everything is distinguished by its result. There is a well-known saying in English that all is well that ends well. If at the end of the battle the one who was apparently defeated has really conquered, doubtless it was through wisdom and not through lack of courage. Very often apparent courage leads to nothing but disappointment in the end. Bravery is one thing; the knowledge of warfare is another. The one who is brave is not always victorious. The one who is victorious knows and understands; he knows the law of
What is sensitiveness? Sensitiveness is life itself. And as life has both its good and evil sides, so has sensitiveness. If one expects to have all life’s experiences, these will have to come through sensitiveness. However, sensitiveness must be kept in order if one wants to know, understand, and appreciate all that is beautiful, and not to attract all the depression, sorrows, sadness, and woes of the earth. Once a person has become so sensitive as to be offended with everybody, feeling that everybody is against him, trying to wrong him, he is abusing his sensitiveness. He must be wise as well as sensitive. He must realize before being sensitive that in this world he is among children, among drunken men. And he should take everything, wherever it comes from, as he would take the actions of children and drunken people; then sensitiveness can be beneficial.
If together with sensitiveness one has not developed one’s willpower, it is certainly dangerous. No one can be spiritually developed without being sensitive; there is no doubt that sensitiveness is a human development. But if it is not used rightly it has a great many disadvantages. A sensitive person can lose courage and hope much sooner than another. A sensitive person can make friends quickly, but he can abandon his friends quickly too. A sensitive person is ready to take offence, and ready to take everything to heart, and life can become unbearable for him. Yet if a person is not sensitive he is not fully alive; therefore one should be sensitive, but not exaggeratedly so. The abuse of sensitiveness means yielding to every impression and every impulse that attacks one. There must be a balance between sensitiveness and will-power. Will-power should enable one to endure all influences, all conditions, all attacks that one meets from morning till night. And sensitiveness should enable one to feel life, to appreciate it, and to live in the beauty of life. It is true that by the cultivation of will-power one sometimes persuades oneself wrongly; there is that danger; but there is danger in everything. There is even danger in being healthy; but that does not mean that one must be ill. One must acquire balance between power and wisdom.
If power is working without the light of wisdom behind it, it will always fail, because power will prove to be blind in the end. What is the use of the wise person who has no power of action, no power of thought? This shows that wisdom directs, but that one accomplishes by power; that is why both are necessary for the battle of life.
What is most advisable in life is to be sensitive enough to feel life and its beauty and to appreciate it, but at the same time to consider that one’s soul is divine, and that all else is foreign to it; that all things that belong to the earth are foreign to one’s soul. They should not touch one’s soul. When objects come before the eyes they come into the vision of the eyes; when they are gone the eyes are clear. Therefore one’s mind should retain nothing but beauty, all that is beautiful. For one can search for God in His beauty; all else should be forgotten. And by practicing this every day, forgetting all that is disagreeable, that is ugly, and remembering only what is beautiful and gives happiness, one will attract to oneself all the happiness that is in store.
The Struggle of Life (1)
No one can deny the fact that life in the world is one continual struggle. The one who does not know the struggle of life is either an immature soul, or a soul who has risen above the life of this world. The object of a human being in this world is to attain to the perfection of humanity, and therefore it is necessary that man should go through what we call the struggle of life.
As long as an infant is innocent he is happy; he knows nothing of the struggle of life. The late Nizam of Hyderabad, who was also a great mystic, wrote, ‘What were those days, when my eyes had not seen sorrow! My heart had no desire and life had no misery.’ This is the first stage. From thence we come to the maturity of the intelligence, and then we see that no one can be trusted, neither the friend nor the relation. None can stand the test when it comes, all are false and none is true; and at first a person believes that this is directed specially against him. A dervish once wrote these lines on the wall of the mosque where he had spent the night, ‘The world believes in the ideal of God, yet knows not whether He is friend or foe.’
The waves of the sea go up and down; the atom believes that they rise and fall for it; it thinks, ‘The wave raises me, so it is favorable to me’, or, ‘it lowers me, so it is unfavorable’. In the same way man thinks a friend is favorable or unfavorable to him; but then he realizes that this is the nature of the world. In all of us there is the Nafs, the ego, and every ego fights against the others. There is a sword in every hand, both in that of the friend and in that of the enemy. The friend kisses before he strikes; there is no other difference. And then he realizes that nothing else can be expected of the world.
The great Indian poet Tulsidas has said, ‘Everyone does and says as much as he has understood.’ Why should a man blame another for what he cannot understand? If he has no more understanding, from whence can the poor man borrow it? Then a person begins to realize that whatever comes he should take it calmly. If an insult comes he takes it calmly; if a good word comes he accepts it with thanks; if a bad word comes he takes that quietly. If it is a bad word he is only thankful that it is not a blow; if it is a blow he is thankful that it is not worse. He is ready to give his time and his services to all; to the deserving and the undeserving alike, for he sees in all the manifestation of God. He sees God in every form, in the highest, in the lowest, in the most beautiful, in the most worthless.
The Sufi says that if God is separate from the universe, he would rather worship a God who can be seen, who can be heard, who can be tasted, who can be felt by the heart and perceived by the soul. He worships the God who is before him. He sees the God who is in everything.
Christ said, ‘I and the Father are one’. That does not mean that Christ laid claim to Godhood for His own person. It is what the dervishes call Humamanarn, which means all is He and He is all. There is not an atom in the universe that He is not. We must recognize Him, we must respect Him in every face, even in the face of our enemy, of the most worthless. Knowing that all is God by reading a few books on philosophy is not enough; our pity and our spirituality are valueless if we do only this. To read a religious book and feel pious is not enough. To go to some religious place and be pleased that we are religious is not enough. To give to charity and be conceited, believing that we have done something great, is not enough. We must give our services and our time to the deserving and undeserving alike, and we must be thankful to God that He has enabled us to give.
For this is the only opportunity we have of giving. This life is short, and we shall never have the same opportunity to give, to serve, to do something for others. In the Sermon on the Mount it is said, ‘Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also’. Someone may say or think that he should hit back; but a Sufi would not hit back. Why? Because he does not want twenty blows instead of one.
It is said that if a man asks you for your coat, you should give him your cloak also. Why? Because neither the cloak nor the coat are yours. If someone thinks, ‘This is mine, I should keep it, I should guard it’, he will always be watching his goods. If they are yours, whose were they before? Whose will they be after you? Someone will take them after you, and all that you value so much will be in the hands of others.
Then it is said that if someone asks you to go with him one mile, you should go with him two miles. That means, if someone makes use of our services, let us not think, ‘Why should I, such an important person, serve another, give my time to another?’ Let us give our services more liberally than we are asked to do. Let us give service,’ give our time; but when the time for receiving comes, do not let us expect to receive anything. Let us not expect our friend to be as we are to him; that will never be possible. We must then practice renunciation.
We must practice virtue because we like it; do good became we like to do it and not for any return; expect no kindness or appreciation; if we do, it will become a trade. This is the right way for the world in general, and the only way of becoming happy. Its moral is called the moral of renunciation.
There are two different attitudes that people adopt while going through this struggle of life. One struggles along bravely through life; the other becomes disappointed, heart-broken, before arriving at his destination. As soon as a man loses the courage to go through the struggle of life, the burden of the whole world falls upon his head. But he who goes on struggling through life, he alone makes his way. The one whose patience is exhausted, the one who has fallen in this struggle, is trodden upon by those who walk through life. Even bravery and courage are not sufficient to go through the struggle of life; there is something else which must be studied and understood.
One must study the nature of life, one must understand the psychology of this struggle. In order to understand this struggle one must see that there are three sides to it: struggle with oneself, struggle with others, and struggle with circumstances. One person may be capable of struggling with himself, but that is not sufficient. Another is able to struggle with others, but even that is not sufficient. A third person may answer the demands of circumstance, but this is not enough either; what is needed is that all three should be studied and learnt, and one must be able to manage the struggle in all three directions.
And now the question is: where should one begin and where should one end? Generally one starts by struggling with others, and then one struggles all through life, and never finishes. The one who is somewhat wiser struggles with conditions, and perhaps he accomplishes things a little better. But the one who struggles with himself first is the wisest, for once he has struggled with himself, which is the most difficult struggle, the other struggles will become easy for him. Struggling with oneself is like singing without an accompaniment. Struggling with others is the definition of war, struggling with oneself is the definition of peace. In the beginning, outwardly, it might seem that it is cruel to have to struggle with oneself, especially when one is in the right. But the one who has penetrated deeper into life will find that the struggle with oneself is the most profitable in the end.
What is the nature of the struggle with oneself? It has three aspects. The first is to make one’s thought, speech, and action answer the demands of one’s own ideal, while at the same time giving expression to all the impulses and desires which belong to one’s natural being. The next aspect of the struggle with oneself is to fit in with others, with their various ideas and demands. For this a man has to make himself as narrow or as wide as the place that one asks him to fill, which is a delicate matter, difficult for all to comprehend and to practice. And the third aspect of the struggle with oneself is to give accommodation to others in one’s own life, in one’s own heart, large or small as the demand may be.
When we consider the question of the struggle with others there are also three things to think about, of which the first is to control and govern people and activities which happen to be our duty, our responsibility. Another aspect is how to allow ourselves to be used by others in various situations in life; to know to what extent one should allow others to make use of our time, our energy, our work, or our patience, and where to draw the line. And the third aspect is to fit in with the standards and conceptions of different personalities who are at various stages of evolution.
Regarding the third aspect of this struggle, there are conditions which can be avoided, and there are conditions which cannot be helped, before which one is helpless. And again there are conditions that could be avoided, and yet one does not find in oneself the capability, the power, or the means to change the condition. If one studies these questions of life, and meditates in order that inspiration and light may fall on them, so that one may understand how to struggle through life, one certainly will find help and arrive at a stage where one finds life easier.
The Sufi looks upon the struggle as unavoidable, as a struggle through which he has to go. He sees from his mystical point of view that the more he takes notice of the struggle the more the struggle will expand; and the less he makes of it the better he will be able to pass through it. When he looks at the world what does he see? He sees everybody with his hands before his eyes, looking only at his own struggles, which are as big as his own palm. He thinks, ‘Shall I also sit down like this, and look at my struggles? That will not answer the question.’ His work therefore is to engage in the struggle of others, to console them, to strengthen them, to give them a hand; and through that his own struggle dissolves and this makes him free to go forward.
How does the Sufi struggle? He struggles with power, with understanding, with open eyes, and with patience. He does not look at the loss; what is lost is lost. He does not think of the pain of yesterday; yesterday is gone for him. Only if a memory is pleasant does he keep it before him, for it is helpful on his way. He takes both the admiration and the hatred coming from around him with smiles; he believes that both these things form a rhythm within the rhythm of a certain music; there is one and two, the strong accent and the weak accent. Praise cannot be without blame, nor can blame be without praise. He keeps the torch of wisdom before him, because he believes that the present is the echo of the past, and that the future will be the reflection of the present. It is not sufficient to think only of the present moment; one should also think where it comes from and where it goes. Every thought that comes to his mind, every impulse, every word he speaks, is to him like a seed, a seed which falls in this soil of life, and takes root. And in this way he finds that nothing is lost; every good deed, every little act of kindness, of love, done to anybody, will some day rise as a plant and bear fruit.
The Sufi does not consider life as different from business, but he sees how real business can be achieved in the best manner. The symbol of the mystics of China was a branch laden with fruit in their hand. What does it mean? It means that the purpose of life is to arrive at that stage where every moment becomes fruitful. And what does fruitful mean? Does it mean fruits for oneself? No, trees do not bear fruit for themselves, but for others. True profit is not that profit which one makes for oneself. True profit is that which one makes for others. After attaining all that one wants to attain, be it earthly or heavenly, what is the result of it all? The result is only this, that all that one has attained, that one has acquired, whether earthly or heavenly, one can place before others. Propkar, which, in the language of the Vedanta, means working for the benefit of others, is the only fruit of life.
The Struggle of Life (2)
The only difference between spiritual attainment and the continual struggle of life is that in worldly life one struggles in another direction. In worldly life, be it in business or politics or industry or whatever be life’s path, if a person proves to be lacking in that power which enables him to struggle along, he meets nothing but failure. He may be a good person, a saintly person, a spiritual person, but that does not count. It is for this reason that many in the world lose faith in goodness and in spirituality, when they see that this goodness does not seem to count in life. It is absurd for a spiritual person to say that by spirituality, goodness, and piety one’s worldly struggle will be helped. One should have the inspiration and power to answer life’s demands in life’s struggle. The seeker on the spiritual path should not forget that floating in the air is no good; standing on the earth is the first thing necessary. There are many who dream, who live in the air, but that does not answer our purpose. When they complain that they are doing spiritual work, yet are in bad circumstances, they forget that the language of these paths is different, the law of these paths is different. That is why I distinguish between these two paths, in order to make it clear that the one has little to do with the other. This does not mean that the wicked person will succeed or that success is gained by evil; if it were so, it would only be a mortal success. Nevertheless one should not blame the spirit for failure in worldly things, for worldly things belong to another inspiration; if it were not so all great sages would be millionaires.
The worldly struggle is outward struggle. The struggle on the spiritual path is inward struggle. No sooner does one take the spiritual direction than the first enemy one meets is one’s own self. What does the self do? It is most mischievous. When one says one wants to fight it, it says, ‘I am yourself. Do you want to fight me?’ And when it brings failure, it is clever enough to put the blame on someone else.
Do all those who have failed in life accuse themselves? No, they always accuse another person. When they have gained something they say, ‘I have done it.’ When they have lost something they say, ‘This person got in my way’. With little and big things, it is all the same. The self does not admit faults; it always puts the blame on others. Its vanity, its pride, its smallness, and its egotistical tendency which is continually active, keep one blind.
I remember a Persian verse made by my murshid which relates to the self: ‘When I feel that now I can make peace with my self, it finds time to prepare another attack.’ That is our condition. We think that our little faults, since they are small, are of no consequence; or we do not even think of them at all. But every little fault is a flag for the little self, for its own dominion. In this way battling makes man the sovereign of the kingdom of God. Very few can realize the great power in battling with and conquering the self.
But what does man generally do? He says, ‘My poor self, it has to withstand the conflicts of this world; should I also battle with this self?’ So he surrenders his kingdom to his little self, depriving himself of the divine power that is in the heart of man. There is in man a false self and a real self. The real self contains the eternal; the false self contains the mortal. The real self has wisdom; the false self ignorance. The real self can rise to perfection; the false self ends in limitation. The real self has all good, the false self is productive of all evil. One can see both in oneself: God and the other one. By conquering the other one, one realizes God. This other power has been called Satan; but is it a power? In reality it is not. It is and it is not. It is a shadow. We see shadow and yet it is nothing. We should realize that this false self has no existence of its own. As soon as the soul has risen above the false self, it begins to realize its nobility.
But then there is the practical aspect. How does it show? What form has it? It rises up in support of its own interest. It defends itself from the attacks of others. It feels exclusive towards everyone. It knows itself as an entity separate from friend and foe. It concerns itself with all that is transitory; it is blind to the future and ignorant of the past. It manifests in the form of self pity. It expresses itself in the form of vengeance. It lives by feeding upon bitterness and its life is always spent in obscurity. Its condition is restlessness and discontent. It has a continual appetite for all that is there; it is never satisfied. It has no trust in anyone, no thought for anyone, no consideration for anyone. It lacks conscientiousness and therefore manners. The little self thinks only of its own advantage and its own comfort. Giving to others, giving to those around it is dreadful to the self,, for it knows no sacrifice. Renunciation for it is worse than death. That is the little self.
When we blame another person, when we dislike somebody, we overlook the same element in ourselves. There is no soul in the world who can say, ‘I have not this in me’. If only he were just! For mostly it is the unjust person who blames another. The more just we become, the more silent will we be in all circumstances. If outwardly we see faults in others, inwardly there is the sum total within ourselves. For instance the little child cannot help loving. If a thief comes, or a robber, the child wants to love him and smiles at him. Why is it? Because a thief is not awakened in the child. The child is from heaven, the thief from the earth. There is no place for him there; that is why he is no thief to the child. We accept something because we already have it in us. If we consider our knowledge, a thousand things we seem to have experienced, we find that other people have told us most of them and we believed them at once. As soon as a person tells us about someone wicked, we think, ‘Now we know, we can be quite sure about it’. But when a person comes along and says, ‘I have seen a most wonderful thing; this man is so good’, everyone thinks, ‘Is it really true? Is it possible to be as good as that? Is there not anything bad in him?’ Good is unnatural to many people.
One might ask whether the spiritual path is a tyranny over oneself. No, for it is by treading it that one molds one’s character, that one makes one’s personality. In this is all religion. When a person begins to think, ‘I must not bring harm to or hurt anyone I meet, worthy or unworthy, friend or foe’, only then does he begin his work in the spiritual direction. Spirituality is not wonder working. Spirituality is attained by right attitude.
Where is the shrine of God? It is in the heart of man. As soon as one begins to consider the feelings of another, one begins to worship God. One might say that it is difficult to please everyone. No doubt it is. It is more difficult still if one has in oneself the inclination to please everyone. There is a story of a murshid who was going with his mureeds to visit some village. And he was keeping a fast. The mureeds also had taken a vow of fasting. They arrived at the peasants’ home where there was great enthusiasm and happiness and where a dinner was arranged for them. When they were invited to the table, the murshid went and sat down; but the mureeds did not dare because they had taken a vow of fasting. Yet they would never mention it to the murshid. They thought, ‘Murshid is forgetful; Murshid has forgotten the vow.’ After dinner was over and they went out the pupils asked, ‘Did you not forget the vow of fasting?’ ‘No,’ was the murshid’s answer, ‘I had not forgotten. But I preferred breaking the fast rather than the heart of that man who with all his enthusiasm had prepared the food.’
The thirst for life makes us overlook little opportunities of doing good. Every moment of life brings an opportunity for being conscious of human feeling, in prosperity, in adversity, in all conditions. It costs very little; only a little thought is necessary. A person may be good but at the same time not be conscientious about little things. There is no greater religion than love. God is love; and the best form of love is to be conscientious regarding the feelings of those with whom we come in contact in everyday life.
The further one goes, the more difficulties there are; one finds greater faults in oneself as one advances along the spiritual path. It is not because the number of faults has increased; but the sense has become so keen that one regards differently faults which formerly one would not have noticed. It is like a musician: the more he advances and the better he plays, the more faults he notices. He who does not notice his faults is in reality becoming worse. There is no end to one’s faults. To think of them makes one humble.
To say, ‘God is in me’ before one has realized this other, metaphysical aspect of truth, is not humble but profane. God is in the depth of the heart, but to know this is of no use when the doors of the heart are not open. It is the realization of the innumerable faults which makes one humble and effaces the little self from one’s consciousness. And it is in the effacement of the self that real spiritual attainment lies.
Every circumstance, favorable or unfavorable, in which a man finds himself, and every person, agreeable or disagreeable, in whose presence he is, causes him to react. Upon this reaction depends the man’s happiness and his spiritual progress. If he has control over this reaction, it means that he is progressing; if he has no control over it, it shows that he is going backward. When you take two people, a wise and a foolish, the wise person reacts more intensely than the foolish one; also, a fine person naturally reacts more than a dense one, a just person more than an unjust one, and a spiritual person more than a materialist. And yet it is lack of mastery when one has no control over one’s reactions. A person who is free, spiritual, sensitive, wise, and just, but who has no control over his reactions, is incomplete. And this shows that even becoming fine and just and spiritual is not sufficient; for all these qualities, though they make one finer and more sensitive, yet they weaken one in the face of the disturbing influences of the crowd; and when this is the case one will not be perfect.
The balance of life lies in being as free as a thread and as strong as a steel wire. If one does not show endurance and strength to withstand all the opposing and disturbing influences among which one always has to be in life, one certainly reveals a weakness and lack of development. In the first place this reaction causes the man a certain amount of vanity. He believes he is better than the one who disturbs him, though he cannot with certainty say that he is stronger. When he cannot put up with conditions around him he may think that he is a superior person, but in reality the conditions are stronger than he. If we are born on earth, if we are destined to walk on the earth, we cannot dream of paradise when we have to stand firm in all the circumstances that the earth presents us with. When a person progresses towards spirituality he must bear in mind that together with his spiritual progress he must strengthen himself against disturbing influences. If not he should know that however much he desires to make progress he will be pulled back against his will by conditions, by circumstances.
There are four different ways in which a person reacts: in deed, in speech, in thought, in feeling. A deed produces a definite result, speech produces effect, thought produces atmosphere, feeling produces conditions. Therefore no way in which a person reacts will be without effect. A reaction will be perceived quickly or slowly, but it must be perceived. Very often a reaction is not only agreeable to oneself, but to others also. A person who answers an insult by insulting the other stands on the same level; the one who does not answer stands above it, and in this way one can rise above things against which one reacts, if only one knows how to fly. It means flying above things instead of standing against them as a material person does. How can one call oneself spiritual if one cannot fly? That is the first condition of being spiritual.
The whole mechanism of this world is action and reaction, in the objective world as well as in the world of men. Only, in man there is the possibility of developing that spirit which is called the spirit of mastery, and that spirit is best developed by trying to gain control over one’s reactions. Life offers us abundant occasions from morning till evening to practice this lesson. Every move, every turn we make, we are faced with something agreeable or disagreeable, harmonious or inharmonious, either a condition or a person. If we react automatically we are no better than a machine and no different from thousands and millions of people who do so. The only way to find in ourselves a trace of that divine heritage which is mastery, is by controlling our reactions against all influences. In theory it is simple and easy; in practice it is the most difficult thing there is to master. But when we think of its usefulness we shall find that there is nothing in the world that is more necessary and more important than this development. If there is any strength to be found in the world, that strength is within ourselves; and the fact that we are able to control our reactions is the proof of this. It preserves dignity, it maintains honor; it is this which sustains respect and it is this which keeps men wise; it is easy to think, but it is difficult to continue to be a thoughtful person.
Very often people have asked me if there is any practice, any study, anything which one can do in order to develop will-power; and I have answered that yes, there are many practices and many ways, but the simplest and best practice which one can follow without being taught is to have one’s reactions always in hand. Such words as ‘I cannot endure’, ‘I cannot stand’, ‘I cannot sustain’, ‘I cannot have patience’, all mean to me, ‘I am weak’. By speaking thus we only admit in other words that we are weak. And can there be anyone in the world who is a worse enemy to us than our own weakness? If the whole world were our friend, that one enemy, our weakness, would be enough to ruin our life; but once this enemy is conquered we can stand against all those who come into conflict with us.
Now the question is how one should set to work in this development. One must also take into consideration one’s physical condition. The nervous system must be in a proper condition. It is from nervousness that man goes from bad to worse, and even a good person with good intentions may prove to be otherwise; for he may have good intentions but he cannot carry them out because his nerves are weak. What he needs is the habit of silence, of concentration, of meditation. A person who continually goes on talking or doing things and does not meditate for a while, who does not take a rest, cannot control his nervous system and keep it in order. If there is anything that can control the nervous system it is right breathing; and when that right breathing is done, together with a concentration of thought, then the nervous system is greatly fortified. Besides there are many things which cause unhappiness, and these can often be avoided by keeping the nervous system in hand.
When we look at it from a higher point of view, this can be done by denying the impulses which sometimes arise suddenly and which clamor for an answer. What is called self-denial is really this: that one controls one’s thoughts and wishes and desires and passions. But that does not mean retirement from life in the world;it only means taking oneself in hand.
It is never too soon to begin control, and it is never too late to improve it. If that kind of education is given from childhood, wonderful results can be brought about. In ancient times in India, though one sees very little of it now, the youths were trained in Asana, a certain way of sitting, of walking, of standing; and by that they first achieved control over their muscles and nerves. It would be of immense value if education today adopted both the study of controlling reactions and the practice of it in sports and gymnastics. If a youth of twelve to sixteen years could learn to breathe clearly and rhythmically and deeply enough, that alone would be something.
The control of the reaction will always give a certain amount of pain, but at the same time it is by suffering that one will gain the power to rise above it. But of course if it is not understood rightly one might endanger oneself. There is a danger in both cases; on one side there is a pit, on the other side there is water. There may be a person who by being afraid of getting hurt or oppressed by someone, is always keeping his thoughts and feelings suppressed; if he had expressed them he would have become a very bad man, but by not having been able to express them he has been ruined. Therefore one should develop one’s discrimination in order to analyze the reaction, to understand it before it is expressed. One should always ask oneself, ‘That which is in my hand now, shall I not throw it away? By throwing it away, shall I do something wrong? Where shall I throw it? Will it fall on my head? What will become of it?’ A man should know what he has in his hand. If in order to avoid breaking another person’s head he has broken his own head, he has done wrong too.
Then what should he do? He should first weigh and measure the impulses that come to him. Instead of throwing the impulse out automatically he should first weigh it, analyze it, measure it, and use it to the best advantage in life. A stone is not only used to break another person’s head or to break one’s own head, but is also used to build houses. Use everything where it will be most useful, where it will be of some advantage. All such things as passion and anger and irritation one looks upon as very bad, as evil; but if that evil were kept in hand it could be used for a good purpose, because it is a power, it is an energy. In other words evil, properly used, becomes a virtue; and virtue wrongly used becomes an evil. For instance, when a person is in a rage, or when he really feels like being angry, if he controls that thought and does not express it in words, that gives him great power. Otherwise the expression has a bad effect upon his nerves. His control of it has given him an extra strength which will remain with him. A person who has anger and control is to be preferred to the person who has got neither.
Does not self-control take away spontaneity? Self-control gives a greater spontaneity. It develops thought-power; it makes one think first about every impulse, which otherwise would have manifested automatically. In other words: hold the word between the lips before it drops out.
Is impulse, before it is controlled, wrong in itself, or is it good? When one thinks about the origin of impulse one goes in quite a different direction of thought. Then one has to think in what direction it is facing; also of the direction of the mind, whether it is in illumination or in darkness. The mind is sometimes illuminated, sometimes in darkness. One should think about the condition of the mind at the time. There is another thing to be considered in this connection: a person may have good intentions and his mind may be focused on good ideas; and then another with evil intentions and wrong ideas says or does something which automatically turns the mind of the first person to evil against his own will. There is the word of the Bible, ‘Resist not evil’. Sometimes evil will come like fire thrown by a person into the mind of another. A fire then starts in that mind which had been without it, and in reaction it too expresses that fire. To resist evil is to send fire in answer to fire; in other words to partake of the fire that comes from another. But by not partaking of it one casts the fire out and the fire falls on the person who threw it.
The Deeper Side of Life
When we consider life deeply, we can divide it into two parts and call one the lighter side of life and the other the deeper. The importance of both these sides may at times seem equally great. When a person is thinking of the lighter side of life, at that moment that side is more important, while the other side, of which the person is not conscious, seems to have no great importance. But then there are other moments which come in life, perhaps after suffering, or after a loss or some other experience, when a person suddenly awakens to a different realization of life; and when one is awakened to that the deeper side of life seems to have more importance than the lighter side. No one, neither clergyman nor mystic nor any authority, can say which side is more important. It depends upon how we look at it. If we raise its value, though it may be a small thing, yet we shall attach a greater value to it. There is nothing in this world which has a permanent value attached to it. If there seems to be such a thing, it does not stay in the same position always. If something like money is subject to change, then what is there in this world which does not change in importance?
As it is necessary to have repose after action so it is necessary to have a glimpse of the deeper side of life after having performed one’s everyday duties. That is why religions have taught prayers, and why churches were built where people could go every day to be in a right atmosphere and to be silent. Now religion has become a secondary thing and man’s life has developed with more struggles; naturally a man has hardly time to go to a solitary place or into a church to sit down in silence. Those few who have the time and who care to continue with their religion go once a week to a service. Therefore if I would suggest a way at the present time, it is the way of esotericism, which means on the one hand studying, on the other hand practicing, and also meditating: doing these three things.
One may ask, what should one study? There are two kinds of studies. One kind is by reading the teachings of the great thinkers and keeping them in mind, the study of metaphysics, psychology, and mysticism. And the other kind of study is the study of life. Every day one has an opportunity for studying; but it should be a correct study. When a person travels in a tramcar, in the train, with a newspaper in his hand, he wants to read the sensational news which is worth nothing. He should read human nature which is before him, people coming and going. If he would continue to do this, he would begin to read human beings as though they were letters written by the divine pen, which speak of their past and future. He should look deeply at the heavens and at nature and at all the things to be seen in everyday life, and reflect upon them with the desire to understand. This kind of study is much superior, incomparably superior, to the study of books.
Then there is practice, the practices which the Yogis and Sufis in the East have performed for many, many years; and they have transmitted their thousands of years of experience as a tradition from teacher to pupil:ways of sitting, ways of standing, of breathing properly, of being in silence, ways of relaxing, of concentrating, of feeling inspired, joyful, or more peaceful. Of course for such practices the help of a teacher is necessary.
And the third thing is the practice in everyday life; to practice the principles one has esteemed in life, to uphold the ideal one has always held in one’s heart. These things and many others besides, such as one’s attitude to others, one’s manner with others, everything one does from morning fill evening, all these things help one’s development, till one arrives at a stage when one can see the deeper side of life naturally. There are numberless people, unhappy, depressed, or in great despair, perhaps wanting to commit suicide, who after having done this have eventually realized that life is worth living after all.
We can picture the lighter and the deeper sides of life in our present experience. We are travelling together, some from one country, some from another country, coming from different parts of the world. Yet we are gathered together. By what? By God who brings us together for a few days in this ship.
It is our happy disposition, our favorable attitude to one another, our desire to be kind, friendly, and sociable, which alone makes us understand one another and which will help us to make one another happy; it brings us still closer together than destiny did. It is a little picture of life. When we consider the life of a community a nation, a race, even of the whole world, what is it? Is it not like a large ship on which all are travelling, whether knowingly or unknowingly, all moving, all changing?
There are two types of traveller. Those who know where they are travelling to, and those who do not know where they are coming from or where they are going. When these open their eyes, they only realize that they are in this ship, that they come from somewhere and that they are in a ship which is moving and is going somewhere. There are many people like this living in the world today. They are so absorbed in their everyday activity that they are ignorant of where they come from and where they are going.
Imagine the difference between these two travellers: the one who knows where he comes from and what his goal is, and the one who only knows where he is, what his present activity is, what the things in his immediate surroundings are. The one who does not know where he is going is not prepared to arrange, to face his destination; he does not know what is in store for him, and that is why he is not prepared for it.
Buddha was asked one day by his disciples what he meant by ignorance. And he answered by describing how a person was once clinging in distress to the branch of a tree in the utter darkness of the night, not knowing whether there was earth or a ditch or water beneath him. All night long he trembled and wept and was clinging fast to that branch. And with the break of day he found he was not one foot away from the earth beneath his feet.
Ignorance can be defined as fear, doubt, passion, confusion. Where do all these come from? They all come from our ignorance of one side of life, its deeper side. We may be clever in making the best of what we call the lighter side of life, but that is not all.
Notwithstanding all our efforts from morning till evening we do not know what we shall arrive at, what we gain by it. If we consider wealth, position, fame, name, or anything else, it only confuses us, for life is moving; it is all moving. We cannot hold it. A person may have riches one day and the next be poor; he may be successful one day and yet perhaps sooner or later he will meet with failure. Such powerful nations as Russia and Germany, who could ever have thought that they would fall down in a moment; nations which took hundreds of years to become strong and to build themselves up? But when their time came their downfall did not take long. If such great powers are subject to falling in a moment and their whole construction can be broken, if that is the nature and character of life, no thoughtful person will deny the fact that there must be some mystery behind it, some secret of which he would like to find the key. At least he would want to know what life is and what is behind it.
Those who have studied life and thought long enough about this subject, have arrived at the same point as the thinkers who lived as much as eight thousand years ago. Buddha has said and has realized the same things that a really wise man would realize and say today. This shows us that wisdom is the same in all ages. We may be evolving or going backward, but wisdom never changes and will always be the same. The same realization will come to all those who think deeply and try to realize what life is. In order to realize life it is not necessary for us to follow a certain religion. It is not necessary for us to be great or good, pious or spiritual. The first and most necessary thing is that we become observant. We should look at life more keenly than we do instead of living superficially. It would cost us nothing. It only takes us away from our everyday occupation for a few minutes. Life always gives an opportunity of thinking, however busy we may be.
It is not necessary for us to leave our occupation, our work in life, and go into the forest and sit in silence and meditate upon life. We can meditate upon life in the midst of life if only we want to. What happens is that a man begins his life by action and the more active he becomes, the less he thinks. Then his action becomes his thought. But if he considered what exists besides the action and thoughts which are connected with everyday life, if he also gave thought to the deeper side of life, he would have more benefit.
The ideal life is at least to try to live up to one’s ideal. But in order to have an ideal one must first awaken to an ideal. Not everyone possesses an ideal; many people do not know of it. It is no exaggeration to say that the wars and disasters we have gone through, the unrest that all feel, and the disagreement among the people which is sometimes seen and sometimes not seen, are all caused by one thing and that is the lack of an ideal. We are progressing commercially, industrially. But in all walks of life progress will be stopped one day or another if the ideal is destroyed. If there is anything which can be said to be the means of saving the world, it is the awakening of idealism. It is the first task that is worth considering.
Besides for the average man to consider even one thing, that he must live a life of balance, would already be of great importance, and it is not very difficult. When a person is working he should realize that recreation is also necessary. When a person tires himself it is necessary to take repose; when a person thinks too much it is necessary to rest the mind at certain times, during which he must try not to think. But life is an intoxication, it is like drink, whatever be man’s motive, whether he is compelled and thrown into it or not. It is all an intoxication, going at his object with all his might and thought and feeling, till either he has accomplished what he wants, or he is destroyed. If he used balance in everything he did, he would find the key to a life of greater happiness.
People often fight and argue and discuss. Over what? Over a reason. When two persons dispute, each has a reason. Each thinks his reason the right one. They may dispute for years and yet will arrive nowhere because the reason of each is different. Therefore to think more is to see behind the reason. And the moment we have begun to see behind the reason, we will look at life quite differently. Then we find that behind what we blame the other for there is perhaps something to praise; and where there is something to praise there is perhaps a reason for blame. We shall begin to see what is beyond all appearances and that will give us the proof that the whole of life is a kind of unfoldment. The deeper we look into life the more it unfolds itself, allowing us to see more keenly. Life is revealing. It is not only human beings who speak; if only the ears can hear even plants and trees and all nature speak, in the sense that nature reveals itself, reveals its secret. In this way we communicate with the whole of life. Then we are never alone, then life becomes worth living.
The thoughtful of all ages have considered the source of creation to be one and the same. A scientist will tell us today that the cause behind creation is motion, vibration. So far he will go. But if from motion and vibration this manifestation has come into our view then that motion is not lifeless. If that motion is life itself, then it is intelligent. It is of course not intelligent in the sense we understand this word. We know the limited side of it; we call the function of the brain intelligence. We say that one thing is intelligent because it is living, and another thing where we do not distinguish life we call unintelligent. But an Indian scientist has pointed out that even trees breathe. If that is true, then the trees are living. And if today it is proved that trees are living, it will also be found that stones are living. Then one will realize that all life comes from one source which is the very life of all things, and not only life but intelligence also; this is what religion calls God. Whatever we call it, it is the same. The difference is only in name.
Life, An Opportunity
When we look at the world today and at the condition it is in, we begin to wonder if we understand any better than those who lived before us the idea that life is an opportunity. In spite of our present stage of evolution and the scientific advancement of the world, the war which humanity went through not long ago shows that never in the history of the world was such a great catastrophe caused by mankind. It seems as though the whole evolution of humanity had been intended to prepare and to create such means of destruction that the greater part of humanity has been ruined by it. And when we think of the distrust that exists today among nations and how one nation has allowed another nation to be ruined, we begin to feel that we understand the idea much less than those who lived before us that life is an opportunity.
Regarding education, year by year the study in the schools and colleges is becoming more difficult; to pass their examinations the students have to work so hard that it seems that by the time they have got a degree their nerves and finer forces are shattered, and that they are then unable to make full use of their qualifications.
When we look at the political world we see the same: each political party is striving for its own welfare just as each individual is trying to get the better of another; and nations follow the same principle.
Domestic life seems to be declining every day. Life is becoming more and more a hotel life. Very few in the world today experience and enjoy home life, or are even capable of appreciating it, for they do not know it. Those who lived before us were much happier, for they knew the simplicity and affection of home life and the joy and the pleasure of a home. The pleasures today are not like the enjoyments of the more intelligent and wise in ancient times. They used to enjoy poetry and higher music; today jazz has become more popular. It is the same with all the other entertainments. When we go to the theater we find the plays more and more limited in scope; there is no depth, no height, no ideal. They show life as it really is, but that does not inspire or uplift mankind. What is needed is to show life better than it is so that man may follow that example. Besides the tendency of the writer, of the poet, of the artist, of the musician, is now to appeal to the most ordinary person, to the man of the lowest evolution, ‘the man in the street’. If everything that should educate man, theater, books, poetry, and art, pull him down to his lowest stage of evolution, it means going downward instead of upward. When a person writes good music or poetry with more lofty themes, there is no market for it. Whenever a person brings something higher he is told that it is not wanted. It seems that education, higher ideals, everything, is becoming commercialized; and by being commercialized it is lowered. And at the same time, if we stand in the midst of the crowd and look at the people hurrying by, we would think that never before have people tried so hard to make the best of life’s opportunity.
But the opportunity of life should be considered from a different point of view. The wiser we become the more our outlook changes. There are four different stages in life: childhood, youth, middle age, and advanced age; and each of these four stages shows a great opportunity. For instance in childhood the consciousness is in paradise. The child living in the same world of woe, treachery, and wickedness as the grown-up is happy because it is not yet awakened to the other aspect of life. It only knows the better side of it, the beauty of life. And therefore that same world is the Garden of Eden for the child till it grows and is exiled from the Garden. Before that it enjoys paradise on earth; it is unaware of the wickedness and the ugliness of human nature. It still maintains in itself the heavenly air and angelic innocence and the tendency to appreciate all beauty and to love every being.
As it grows it begins to lose that tendency; nevertheless the child shows by its words and actions and by every tendency the angelic essence in its soul. This is the opportunity for every child to experience kingliness in life; and this opportunity is taken away by parents who send the child to school too early and burden it with study. We need not be anxious to prepare the child for its studies so that it will be able to answer in school. That kingliness that God has given to it, that joy and beauty for which it is born and which it longs to have, are thus taken away from it. This period of its life should be made free of anxiety and worry. The parents burden the child with studies, but after all what do these studies lead to? The child’s strength and intelligence are only lessened, when it is burdened with unnecessary studies before the mind is developed; and this tendency is increasing more and more.
People also want to teach a child concentration; but they have forgotten that a child is born with concentration. It is the grownup whose concentration is weak. Every soul is born with concentration; it loses this faculty as it grows up.
Once I was travelling in England and someone invited me to see a school where concentration was taught. They brought before me ten or fifteen children, and each child was asked to look at a blank curtain, and say what was there. One child looked and looked and said, ‘A lily’. Another child said, ‘A rose’. The teacher asked a third child to tell her what was there. The child answered, ‘I don’t see anything!’ I thought, ‘That is much better; at any rate he says what he sees!’ And so the teacher asked ten or twelve children questions about what they saw. It was a lesson in hypocrisy, in exciting the imagination. It could never help a child, for the child’s concentration is already there; if the child is kept a child that is enough. We want to make the child into a grown-up person, but it is only happy when left to run about or to be cheerful. The child should not have this burden. We have made it for ourselves;it is not born with us.
If life were not so complex there would have been no need of war and of such difficulties as we have today. Because we have spoiled ourselves we want more and more; and yet we make it so difficult to get what ‘we want, that in the end we cannot get it at all. And at the same time by wanting more than is necessary we make life miserable, and the life of others also.
The amount of study with which a youth is loaded, is the greatest wrong done to him today. But the culture of the youth seems to have disappeared and inspiration is lacking. We have not realized what is necessary for young people; they are not given the inspiration of lofty ideals, nor those impressions which make them do great things. Today there seems to be a kind of uniformity in all youths. Youth has no admiration for a hero; no stimulus is given to youth to become a wonderful or an inspired person, a great poet or musician. Because of this uniform education the child does not get the nourishment for its soul which it needs to become that for which it was born.
Besides youth is an opportunity during which time a beautiful manner, a high aspiration, and lofty ideals can be taught. And it is youth which has the enthusiasm to take everything that comes, assimilate it and express it in return. But when the time of a youth is spent only in working hard all day long and trying to pass examinations, and little time is left for recreation or for other things, that does not suffice for his life’s purpose.
Those who understand these ideas realize that youth is the greatest opportunity that comes in life; it never comes again. Life’s spring-time never returns; it comes only once; and when that opportunity is taken away and the youth has not been inspired as he should be, it is just like keeping a plant without watering it. For that is the very time it should be watered, that is the time for it to be reared; and that time should not be neglected. There are thousands and millions of young people in the colleges who have had no good manners taught to them, and no inspiration given to them. When they are grown-up they can show that they have passed examinations, that they have gained a lot of knowledge; yet the knowledge which enables the soul to develop, has been neglected during their youth, during the time when the mind is receptive, and when the child with all its enthusiasm and capacity for concentration can grasp everything that is good and beautiful.
The inspiration of the musicians and poets who have done great work in the world was created during their youth. Either they saw an example, a living example which impressed them, or they were told or they studied something that was just like sowing the seed in their heart. For youth is the only time which destines the child to become great in life; and if this time is past it will never come again. Whether a person wants to be a business-man or a politician, a professional man, a scientist or a musician, it is in youth that he should start and that he should be inspired with that ideal. At that time the ground is fertile. But when that time is gone the chance does not easily come again.
Besides the training for various professions and occupations, there remains another capacity which is neglected in youth: the cultivation of the heart-quality. Today there is hardly one person in a hundred whose heart-quality has been cultivated. Although instinctively the heart-quality is always there, every effort is made to blunt it. What is meant by the heart-quality? There is intuition, there is inspiration, and there is revelation. All these come from the culture of the heart, from the heart-quality. A person may be most cultivated, may have studied much, and yet may not be intuitive.
A person may learn all the techniques of music and poetry without having the heart-quality. Heart quality is something which must be developed within oneself; and when no attention is given at the time of youth to developing that particular quality, what happens when a person is grown-up? He will be selfish, proud, mannerless and not ready to sacrifice. He believes that these characteristics guard his interest best, and one calls such a person a man or common sense or a practical man. But if everybody were like that, what could one expect of life except constant conflict as there is today? Religion or the devotional side of man’s nature is also dying out for the reason that the heart-quality is lacking. Even if people go to church or to another place of worship, their piety is intellectual. People can only enjoy something intellectual. When there is a mathematical explanation of something it is wonderful; but when it comes to feeling blessed and uplifted, to feeling the raising of the consciousness towards the higher spheres, that they cannot experience for they live in their intellect.
There are two principal experiences of life: one experience is called sensation and the other exaltation. What is generally known and experienced by the average man today is what is called sensation: all the beauty that one sees, of line or color, all that one sees with the eyes or that one tastes and touches. It is living in sensation that makes man material, and after some time he becomes ignorant of the spirit.
Exaltation, which is a greater bliss, a higher pleasure, and which makes man independent of the outer life for his happiness, does not seem to be known by the majority. What is exaltation? The soul can go through four different experiences which are all in reality the longing of the soul. Mistakenly man does not seek those four experiences but instead he experiences something else. For instance it is a constant yearning of the soul to experience happiness, and instead of that it becomes connected with what one calls pleasure; but pleasure belongs to sensation and happiness to exaltation. Pleasure is only the suggestion; happiness is reality.
After that comes knowledge. Every soul yearns for knowledge, that knowledge which will give exaltation. But the soul cannot be satisfied by the knowledge one gathers from books, by learning, or by the study of outside things. For instance the knowledge of science, the knowledge of art, are outside knowledge. They give one a kind of strength, a kind of satisfaction, but this does not last. It is another knowledge that the soul is really seeking. The soul cannot be satisfied unless it finds that knowledge, but that knowledge does not come by learning names and forms. On the contrary it comes from unlearning. Do not be surprised therefore if you read in some books of the East that Mahatmas went into the mountains and sat there for many years. I do not say that we should follow their example, but we can appreciate what they have brought from there. They went there to explore life, that aspect of life which is unseen and remains unexplored. They sat there for years in meditation. They lived on leaves and fruits, on what they could find in the forest. They contemplated. What they have thus gathered is not a knowledge learned from this world, but a greater knowledge which can be learned from within.
One can see pictures of Buddha, with closed eyes, sitting cross-legged. What does that symbol convey to us? That there is a knowledge that can be learnt by closing not only the eyes but also the mind from the outside world. Closing the eyes does not make the concentration any greater. Most people go as far as closing the eyes, and no further; but if the eyes are closed and the mind is pondering over things, that is not concentration. Those who can concentrate can do it without having to close the eyes. I once saw, when travelling in the East, a person working in a telegraph-office; and however busy he was, his concentration continued. I said, ‘It is very wonderful, that with all this work you can go on concentrating.’ He smiled and said, ‘That is the way of concentration.’
The third thing one experiences in life and for which the soul yearns is happiness. That can be gained also by getting in touch within oneself. And the fourth thing is peace. It cannot be gained by outer means, by outer comfort and rest alone. It can only be gained when the mind is at rest.
After youth comes the stage of middle age. Middle age is the time when one has gathered knowledge, when one has experienced life, when one has gone through joy and sorrow, when one has learnt lessons from one’s profession, from one’s occupation, from one’s home, from every side of life. It is the opportunity? to make the best use of what one has gathered by experience. But what generally happens is what Sa’di, the Persian poet says, ‘O my self, you have come to middle age, and yet you are no better than a child!’ If a person has not learnt by that time all he ought to learn, he has indeed lost life’s opportunity. Because it is that age during which he earns not only money, but experience and knowledge; and the more he has learnt, the richer he is at that time, and the better he knows how to make use of what powers he has, the more successful and fruitful he becomes.
Besides that is the age when one begins to know life’s obligations, and if one does not know them even then, one has not learnt anything. To know one’s obligation towards those who look up to one, who surround one, who expect some help, some advice, some service from one, that is the time when one must be conscious of these things. It is the beautiful age when the tree comes to full maturity, when it begins to give fruit to the world. Not only is this the time for the singer when his voice is in full blossom, not only is this the time for the artist or the thinker when he can express himself fully, but for every person that age is the promise of the ripened mind expressing itself to the best advantage; and if that opportunity is not taken then man has missed a great deal in life.
Advanced age too has its own blessings. People do not appreciate the blessings of every period of life; therefore they appreciate one and dislike another. In the East, especially in India, great respect is given to age; and it would be good if that ideal were more widespread. Old age is the time when man is the record of his whole life; whether he has been sympathetic, kind, wise, foolish, or whatever he has been, whatever he has done, advanced age brings the record of it. One can read it in his face, in his features, in his atmosphere. He has a greater opportunity to inspire, to bless, and to serve those who want his service or who want to be directed. He can show them a better way of looking at life. But when man does not realize his opportunities, he will act like a child in middle age, while in childhood he was given the work of an old person, and in youth he was burdened like someone of middle age.
If we only understood that every moment in life, every day, every month, and every year, has its particular blessing; if we only knew life’s opportunity! But the greatest opportunity that one can realize in life is to accomplish that purpose for which man was sent on earth. And if he has lost that opportunity, then whatever he may have accomplished in the world, whether he has gathered wealth, possesses much property, or has made a great name for himself, he will not be satisfied. Once man’s eyes are opened and he begins to look at the world, he will find there is a greater opportunity than he had ever thought before.
Man is as poor as he is, as limited as he is, as troubled as he is; yet there is nothing in this world which could not be accomplished by man if he only knew what thought can do. It is ignorance which keeps him from what he ought to accomplish. Man should know how to operate his thought, how to accomplish certain things, how to focus his mind on the object that should be accomplished. If he does not know then he has not made use of his mind but has lived like a machine. If man knew the power of feeling, and realized that the power of feeling can reach anywhere and penetrate anything, he could achieve whatever he might wish.
There is a Persian story of Shirin and Farhad. Once Shirin, the girl whom Farhad admired, in order to test his love said, ‘Farhad, do you love me? If you love me, you will have to make a way through the mountains’. Farhad said, ‘Yes, I was waiting for that test.’ He went to the mountains full of the feeling of love he had for her. Every time he broke the rock with his hammer, he said the name of Shirin, and the strength of his hammer became a thousand times greater because it was joined by the feeling of his heart.
Today man has forgotten the great power there is in feeling. It can break rocks. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished by the power of feeling. But generally there is no feeling; feeling has become drowned, it no longer exists. To realize the power of feeling and to express it is a great opportunity which life offers; but a still greater opportunity of life is to free oneself from the captivity of limitations. Every man is a captive in some form or other; his life is limited in some form or other; but one could get above this limitation by realizing the latent power and inspiration of the soul.
Kabir, the great poet of India says, ‘Life is a field and you are born to cultivate it. And if you know how to cultivate this field you can produce anything you like. All the need of your life can I be produced in this field. All that your soul yearns after and all you need is to be got from the field, if you know how to cultivate it and how to reap the fruit.’ But if this opportunity is only studied in order to make the best of life by taking all that one can take and by being more comfortable, that is not satisfying. We must enrich ourselves with thought, with that happiness which is spiritual happiness, with that peace which belongs to our soul, with that liberty, that freedom, for which our soul longs; and attain to that higher knowledge which breaks all the fetters of life and raises our consciousness to look at life from a different point of view. Once a person has realized this opportunity he has fulfilled the purpose of Life.
Our Life’s Experience
Consciously or unconsciously we call to us that element which makes us what we are. What we experience in life, therefore, has either come from what we have already called to us in the past, or from what we call at the present moment. It is very difficult for a person to hear something for the first time and accept it immediately. No person in this world is desirous of calling for something that he does not wish to have, so, as Emerson has said, think beforehand of what you want.
The principle of the whole of creation is based on this; even the fruits and flowers, the plants and trees, in order to be what they are, call for that element which makes them. If fragrance belonged to all flowers then every flower would have fragrance; but it is only a certain flower which has fragrance; it is that flower which calls for it. Every flower has a different color. Why? Because each flower calls for it. Every seed or herb which possesses medical value shows that its peculiarity belongs to it, and it calls for it. The life of little insects will also show us proof of the same fact. Their green or blue or red color, and their beautiful or ugly form, are all based on and controlled by what they have called to themselves. Insects moving among beautiful flowers show beauty in their color, in their construction; for they live in beauty and so they call for beauty. Insects living in the mud show a different quality again. Why? Because they call for it. The more we study science, be it natural science or chemistry, we shall find that each being and each object with a certain peculiarity shows that it is like that because it has called for that particular element.
One might ask how, if it is true that the flowers and plants call for the element that makes their color, it happens that there is sometimes little difference in the colors of flowers and leaves, and that all roses have more or less the same scent. The answer is that the rose’s past is behind it; and since the seed of the rose had conceived those properties which the rose shows, it has maintained as its heritage that fragrance and color. But at the same time it takes from the air and the sun that substance which makes it the perfect rose. In other words, there is perhaps in some garden another plant, a flower which is without fragrance. It has the same sun, it has the same air, it is in the same soil; but it is the rose which calls for the properties that make it a rose. Though that flower is in the same place it does not call for them, it calls only for those properties which keep it as it is. And of people one may say symbolically, that one creeps on this earth, another walks gently, a third runs, and a fourth flies; yet they are all on the same earth and under the same sun. No quality can exist without being maintained by what it attracts every moment of the day. As our physical body depends upon physical sustenance for its existence, and as our mind depends on the sustenance of its own sphere, so each quality has its food, a food which it calls for and on which it lives. As the body would cease to exist if its sustenance were not given to it, so every quality, however great it may appear in a person, would cease to exist if there were no sustenance within reach. If we observe keenly the life around us we will find a thousand proofs of this. How many are there with an inclination to sing, with a desire to do some good, who themselves cannot find their qualities, or whose qualities vanish once they are starved of that food on which they live!
Man who is so to speak the finished product of creation shows this doctrine in its fullness. His success, his failure, his sorrow, his joy, all depend upon what he calls, and what he has called to himself. Many will say, ‘But is it not the case that he is experiencing that which he was meant to experience?’ That is the idealistic point of view, and a good point of view to take; it is also consoling. Yet when we come to the study of metaphysics we shall find that the secret behind creation is what the Hindus call the dream of Brahma. Since each being represents Brahma, the Creator, so each being in his sphere is a creator of his own life. It is ignorance of this fact which keeps man back from his progress towards perfection; and it is knowledge of this which alone can be called divine knowledge. For if ever anyone attained to a higher realization it was by this knowledge.
There is another side to this question to be considered. One may say that there are many undesirable things which one should never have desired, but one did not desire them as one sees them now; it was, as one saw them before, in another form, that one desired them. Very often happiness shows itself in the guise of unhappiness, very often pain shows itself in the guise of pleasure. He who does not seek after pain will seek after pleasure; but he does not know that perhaps behind that pleasure the pain was hiding. A seeker after success may not see failure hiding behind it, and at that time the very seeking for success would lead him to failure. For that success was only a success in appearance; in reality it was a failure.
Life is a comedy, and the more you look at it the more you can smile at it; smile not at other people but at yourself. Life is always different from what one thinks it to be, and this applies to pain, pleasure, happiness, success, and failure, everything.
People often wonder why some souls are born in miserable circumstances and others are not. There is a saying in the Qur’an, which even sages have sometimes misinterpreted: ‘The creation has come out of the darkness.’ The soul does not always come to earth with its eyes open. It generally comes with closed eyes, as is shown by the infant which does not open its eyes immediately. But to compare one condition with another one needs to be familiar with those conditions, and that time comes after being born. If one considered this question more deeply, one would come to a very great realization of the secret of life, and especially of the secret of good and bad fortune. Then one would realize that it is not always by design that a soul is so limited that it cannot get out of a certain condition, but that every soul makes for itself a condition, even after coming to the earth. There are many who live in misery, in bad conditions, because they know no better. If they had known better they could have managed to better themselves.
This rule applies to many people in life. Most of the reasons for their misery are to be found in their own ignorance. If they knew how to right, how to get out of their misery, there would be many ways of doing so. But whatever be the condition of a person, it is never unfair, for his gains will always equal his losses and his losses his gains. Only, we do not always see what is the real value of every loss and gain, and outward conditions count little in reality.
Thus one person has difficulties and troubles and another is at peace. But it all evens up. Even when with great difficulty one finds a happy man, it is not easy to prove that he is happy. Happiness consists of one thing only: the realization of God; and to realize God means to lose one’s self. No doubt as in the light of the sun the dim candle-light fades, so in the happiness of Godconsciousness the longing for minor pleasures falls away. At the same time, finding God does not mean looking for unhappiness and renouncing all the pleasures of life. Life becomes even more pleasant the more one progresses in the realization of God.
All conditions are illusory, and in the end the sum total of every person’s difficulties is the same; that is to say the sum total’ is the horizon, but if we have to point out where the horizon is, we cannot. As we go towards the horizon, however, we find the distinction between cause and effect becoming paler and paler, and everything balances more and more in our life. The further we go the closer we come to that equilibrium which is expressed by the symbol of the serpent with its tail in its mouth. There is neither tail nor mouth; mouth and tail are only there as long as the serpent is straight; they are no longer there when the serpent has curled itself up and put its tail in its mouth.
There was once a man who hated his neighbors and fought and quarrelled with them. This bred much ill-will, until in the end the heart of one person melted, and he said, ‘What are we quarrelling about? It is just a misunderstanding about a single word I said’. And their whole world of hatred crumbled from that moment, and they became friends. There comes a time when there is a summing up of the situation or event. That is the end of it; and the further we go the more it disappears. All our disputes, high or low, will pale and fade away; and when no color is left in them, then that white light comes which is the light of God. It is that attainment which was called by Buddha Nirvana. To our ordinary senses colors appear as a reality, but in the realism of truth they fade away.,. they have no existence.
There are however blessed souls, souls who are really satisfied and whose hunger is stilled by seeing another person eating or who are happy seeing another person adorned with beautiful clothes. It might seem to us a great renunciation or self-denial; but they have been given a cross to bear and have risen above it. Sacrifice gives no pain; it only gives pleasure.
The spark of this Nirvana is in every soul. I once said to a child, ‘Wouldn’t you rather give your toy away to that other poor child?’ It had just received the toy and had not even played with it. I added, ‘You should not give your toy away if you wouldn’t be really glad to see that other child playing with it.’ It was just like watching a match bursting into flame. That child consented at once and gave its toy, and you should have seen its face; it was beaming with happiness. Therefore this Nirvana need not be learnt by study; it is in us. It is a star in us whose brilliance consumes all the impurities of life, and it turns them all into purity which is the divine light.
If there were no pain one would not have the experience of joy. It is pain which helps one to experience joy. Everything is distinguished by its opposite and the one who feels pain deeply is more capable of expressing joy. If there were no pain, life would be most uninteresting; for it is by pain that penetration takes place, and the sensation after pain is a deeper joy. Without pain the great musicians, athletes, discoverers, and thinkers would not have reached the stage they have arrived at in the world. If they had always experienced joy, they would not have touched the depths of life. For what is pain? Pain in the true sense of the word is the deepest joy. If we have imagination we can enjoy tragedy more than comedy: comedy is for children, and tragedy is for grown-ups. It is by pain alone that somebody becomes what is called an old soul, one who may be young in age but whose thoughts are deep.
If sorrow and sadness have no reality, why then did Christ say, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful?’ We must distinguish between the human side of the Master’s life and the divine side. If the human side were not human, then what would be human? Why does God send His message to humanity by. a man and not by angels? Because only a human being knows human beings. He knows them from having experienced human limitation.
That he felt sadness is the most beautiful side of the Master’s life. If he had not, how could he have sympathized with those who are sorrowful? If we were all born perfect there would be no purpose in human life. The purpose of life is that we grow towards perfection; from the greatest limitation we grow towards perfection. Its beauty is in acquiring wisdom, in living at the cost of all our failures, our mistakes. It is all worth while, and it all accomplishes the purpose of our coming to the earth.
Is it perhaps, one might ask, God’s way of making us immune to sorrow when He sends us troubles and difficulties? Everything is the way of God:when He sends troubles and sorrows, and when He sends joy and pleasure. If we would see in everything the hand of God, we would be thankful for both. Some people are very much impressed by the doctrine of Karma, and in a way it is a virtue to take everything patiently and call it Karma; but that is not sufficient. We should realize that happiness is our birthright. God does not rejoice in our sorrow, God is not pleased by our pain; and therefore we must do everything in our power to escape from illness and other difficulties, instead of lying patiently waiting, as if under a rock, ‘because it is our Karma’.
On the other hand it is good to look for the cause of our sorrows in our own thoughts and actions. Sometimes it is not only the conditions of life which cause us sorrow, but we allow them to create sorrow for us. A part of sorrow comes from life, and a part we make ourselves. Also a part of joy comes from life, and a part we make ourselves. If one helps life to give one a little joy, it will do so; if one does not allow it, life becomes helpless. Out of a hundred things in everyday life that we take too seriously, we should perhaps take only one seriously, and realize that the other ninety-nine matter little.
To some extent there must be attachment and illusion, although as little as possible. For if there were no illusion and attachment, it would be as if it were day all the time and never night. Also in illusion and attachment there is a motive power, and by that motive power a purpose of life is accomplished. And if there were no illusion and attachment, the soul would not be able to hold the. body, even to a small extent, because this it can only do through attachment. Many people who are very ill, sometimes for years and years, continue to be ill without dying; the reason is the attachment of the soul to the body.
But, we may ask, as the world that we see has no reality, as it is an illusion, why do we see that illusion; what is the cause of that illusion which torments us? One uses the word ‘illusion’ conventionally, but its true meaning is not realized until the reality of life is understood, until the innermost or eternal life is realized. It is when we understand this that everything seems an illusion; illusion is something which seems to exist but yet does not exist in any form. The nature of all things which seem to exist and do not last is like this: their existence is transitory, and to a certain extent the effect produced by them upon our soul is intoxication. We are so hypnotized by all we see, that momentarily we forget it is not lasting. Therefore the way of the mystic is to close his eyes and also his heart to that which is not lasting, in order to have a chance of finding out that there is a life which is not transitory. He practices every kind of meditation and concentration to free his mind of this intoxication which is continually coming over him. Man spends all his efforts to gain this intoxication, and in the end there is only disappointment.
We cannot claim that there is no joy and no pain. In saying so we defeat our own argument. One can say there is nothing but illusion; but putting this idea into words weakens it for those who do not look at it in the same way. It is realization which is needed, not the claim. Real virtue is learnt by the study of reality; then it comes by itself. When a person becomes conscious of reality the light of reality shines before him, the lamp of Aladdin, the guiding light.
There are two ways of calling, of attracting, that which makes up one’s self. One way is by calling that which is outside of one’s life in order to make one’s life complete, be it wealth, power, position, or anything else. But there is another way of calling, and that is to call the very self. By calling one’s real self one naturally harmonizes one’s spirit, and it may become so harmonized that both with friend and foe one would feel harmony. Once we have communicated with our self, once we have called our self, our real self, we become naturally harmonized with pain and pleasure, and we become contented with success and failure. For in the different experiences of our external life, there rises in the depth of our heart a harmony, a peace, and a power which keep us centralized. To avoid being wet in the rain we cannot stop the rain; all that we can do is to have an umbrella which is waterproof. By developing ourselves materially or spiritually we cannot stop the natural consequences of life. When we are in the midst of the world we are exposed to all the agreeable and disagreeable experiences which life gives us.
If there is a way of making life easy for ourselves it is only by harmonizing within ourselves so that we can harmonize with all the different conditions and experiences of life. If we complain, there is no end to our complaints. In order to have no complaints we must not complain. But we should be conscious of the fact that all that we experience is called, is attracted by us, and that all we shall experience will be called by us also. Thus at each step in our life we must be wise, in order to recognize, among all the things that we desire, those that we should call to ourselves and those that we should not. The past has passed, it is no use mourning over it. It is just as well to forget the past except for beautiful impressions and good memories. It is the present for which we are responsible, for it is the present which will be our future. The most essential thing, therefore, is to harmonize in such a way that by centralizing our thought within ourselves, by finding our real self, the future may become harmonized. There is a prayer in the East: ‘We thank Thee, God, for all we have experienced; the only thing we ask is make our end the best experience of all.’
Communicating with Life
From the point of view of the mystic, life in all its aspects is communicative; if one only knows the secret of communicating with life. As long as one is ignorant of this secret one is deaf though one has ears and blind though one has eyes. There are stories of sages and saints who spoke with trees and plants and rocks, with mountains and with seas. People take these to be legends, but it is as true as anything else in this world of variety. It is not only true of the past but it can always be possible, if one knows how to communicate with life.
In the lower creation we recognize a faculty which we call instruct: the tendency that makes the bird fly and the fish swim without learning. This instinct also appears as intuition among the lower creation. Many scientists today say that animals have no mind, but in reality all creatures have a mind, even plants and trees. Those who live close to nature, those whose life-work is agriculture, those who live in the solitude among animals, know the fact that animals often give a warning of illness or of death, of a storm or a flood. They have intuition. The mechanism of man’s body and mind is finer still; man is capable of a greater intuition; and yet it seems that animals perceive some things sooner than man. The reason is that man is so absorbed in his outer life, in his object in life, that it is very difficult for him to believe in intuition, and therefore his intuitive faculty becomes blunted and he proves to be less intuitive than the lower creation.
Those living close to nature in the solitude, or peasants living in the country, have greater intuition than intellectual people who live in the midst of worldly life. This shows that the life we live today in large towns is an unnatural life, lived in an artificial atmosphere, eating artificial food, adopting artificial ways. So one loses that heavenly quality, the divine heritage of man which is shown in the intuitive qualities. Fine persons seem to have more intuition than gross ones, women seem to have greater intuition than men. The reason is that woman is by nature responsive. It is the receptivity of her more mature being that makes her more intuitive. Sometimes man reasons and argues, but woman says, ‘Yes, but I feel it is to be this or that’; and her feeling proves to be right, although she cannot give a reason for it.
In every person there exists to a greater or lesser degree a faculty of perceiving impressions, and that is the first step towards intuition. The finer the person the greater his perception. But everyone at times feels, as an impression, the conditions of a place, the character of the people he meets, their tendencies, their motives, their desire, their grade of evolution. When this happens and one is asked why one feels like this, one cannot always give an explanation. One may say it is from the person’s face, or from the atmosphere, or from what he has said. But in reality it is a feeling which is beyond description. A free, sensitive, intelligent person always gets an impression on seeing someone.
The next stage is intuition. By intuition one receives warning of a coming danger, the promise of success, or the premonition of failure; if any change is to take place in life one feels it. But very often by not having self-confidence one loses that intuitive faculty. One fears that one’s intuition is wrong; and in this way one loses self-confidence. One often thinks that perhaps one’s intuition is not right; by following one’s intuition one will fail, and so one takes another course. That is the way of reasoning, of logic, but naturally one’s intuition becomes blunted after some time. If one does not make use of this faculty it disappears, and someone who is capable of perceiving intuitively then loses that faculty.
Another wonderful thing about intuition is that one is blessed with intuition according to one’s sincerity. If a person is earnest, sincere, sympathetic, kind, he will be blessed with intuition; but if these qualities are lacking, intuition will be lacking too. Also, those who have no intuition have difficulty in attaining to the spiritual ideal, for spiritual belief does not come from outer experience, it does not come by reason and logic; it is a belief that springs from within in the form of intuition. And if the intuitive faculty is not developed that person’s belief is not strong. Someone who lacks intuition lacks belief too; and if he has a belief, that belief will not be strong enough, for it is not built on a sound foundation.
The next step along the path of intuition is inspiration. Poets, writers, musicians, thinkers, philosophers, are able to make use of this faculty. Others have it but they do not know how to use it. In art, poetry, or music one can create in a few moments through inspiration that which one could not otherwise create in ten years. It is a natural flow; one has no difficulty in working it out. What is inspired comes already arranged beforehand and there is very little to be done by the brain and by the mind. Besides everything that comes through inspiration is living and is most beautiful, most harmonious, compared with the art or poetry or music that is the outcome of the brain. Music of the great musicians of the past such as Wagner or Beethoven is still living. And no matter how often one hears it one always thirsts for it. Modern music has not that appeal.
It is the same thing with ancient art. There is something living in that art, and today with all the progress made in art that something is missing. It is the same with poetry. In Persia there were great poets such as Hafiz, Rumi, and Sa’di, whose works are still studied today and highly esteemed by millions of people in the East; they consider that without these works there would be no human culture. Their work was the foundation of human culture in the East; many later poets have tried to produce the same kind of works, but they have not yet succeeded even after many centuries; it seems that the inspiration is lost. Inspiration whenever it comes is living and life-giving; and it will always last and one will never get tired of it.
What is the theory of inspiration? Where does one find it? Where does it come from? There is one treasure-house where all knowledge collected, experienced, learned, and discovered by human beings is stored; and that treasure-house is the divine Mind, a mind with which all minds are linked. There is no experience we go through that does not remain or that is not recorded in that treasure-house. Every good or bad experience we have, every new thing we learn, every discovery we make, is all stored in that treasure-house. But one might ask, ‘How does one find in it what one wants? If we have a large store, perhaps hundreds and thousands of things, it is difficult to find anything we want at a moment’s notice!’ The power of the mind, the willpower, is such that if one has enough of it one can find anything one wants to find. It is related that someone with great willpower wanted to buy a certain piece of furniture. In the first street he went to after leaving his house he saw exhibited in the show-room the very piece of furniture he desired. He was guided towards it.
What one really wants is attracted by one, and one is attracted by what one wants. It is the same with the poet, the musician, the thinker. When he is deeply interested in what he is doing, then he has only to wish; and by the automatic action of the desire his wish becomes a light. This light is thrown on the divine store-house, and it is projected on the object he wants. Such is the phenomenon of will and inspiration, that no sooner is an inspired person moved by the beauty and harmony of life and wishes to express his soul, than the light of his soul shines on that particular object or on that particular knowledge. It comes instantly to his mind, expressing itself outwardly through his mind. All that is brought from within in this way is perfect, harmonious, beautiful, and has a wonderful effect.
In ancient times the Shah of Persia expressed the desire to have a history of Persia written. But he was told that the records were lost, and that it would be very difficult to trace the accounts of the kings who had lived in the past. However, a poet of that time, named Firdausi, said ‘I will write the history of Persia.’ He was a truly inspired poet. People were amazed; they wondered how he could do it. But Firdausi sent his soul, so to speak, into the past, and his soul became a receptacle of the knowledge of the past, which he expressed in the form of poetry. His book is called The Shah-Nameh of Persia.
Many people think that science is based upon the knowledge of facts proved by reason and logic, and very few know that at the beginning there was always intuition. All scientific discoveries spring from intuition; after that reason has its place, and logic helps. The scientists analyze and make their discoveries intelligible to others, but in the beginning these come from intuition. If the great inventors of America such as Edison and others had been great mechanics only it would not have been sufficient; behind this, however, there was intuition.
Today there is a tendency not to admit that side of life. People believe it is not solid enough to rely upon intuition or inspiration. Once in Paris I was surprised at hearing a famous writer say, ‘Is there such a thing as inspiration?’ I thought, ‘Here is a great writer who has made a name for himself, and yet he does not know if there is such a thing as inspiration!’ By continual material strife, and by continual ignoring of the God spirit, people have become so materialistic that they do not think that such a thing as inspiration exists. This man had become famous without believing in inspiration, and that was all he wanted. But when I learnt more about the work of this writer I found that his works were extremely superficial. There was no depth to them and no height, and that is the kind that is successful these days.
When one goes to see modern plays one finds the same thing. There is hardly a play with depth. And if one asks why it is so, the answer is: in order to please the man in the street. That means, we must keep everybody back in order to please the man in the street!
The next step after inspiration is vision. It is more than inspiration. One need not see a vision only in a dream; one can also have a vision when awake. There is nothing to be frightened of in this. It is only clearness of the inner sight. Knowledge comes in a flash and a problem is solved; a philosophical problem or a certain hidden law of life or nature has become manifest in a very clear form. Or one has got in touch with something or with someone at an unimaginable distance. Many people have misunderstood the real meaning of vision and have often pretended to be visionary; but the development of the true inner vision indicates great progress of the soul.
When one goes still further on the path of intuition one comes to what is called revelation, which means that everything and every being reveals to one its secret. Such a one feels that every leaf has a tongue to tell its legend. He finds that every soul is a living book which reads its own story aloud. He finds that every condition of life is turned inside out before him the moment he looks at it. He feels that he is at home on earth and in heaven and that both the here and the hereafter become manifest to his soul.
How does it happen that one experiences and perceives intuition or inspiration, and that one sees visions and gets revelations? There is the story of the Apostles who instantly knew many languages. This does not mean that they knew French or English, German or Spanish. It means that they knew the language of every soul, that every soul began to speak to them, that they began to communicate with every person. The meaning of revelation is the understanding of the language of the soul. Every soul is always speaking if one can only hear it. It is not always what one hears in the noise of the world or the voice of man; but even the silent trees and the still mountains speak to us when we are able to hear them. It is a language of vibrations, an imperceptible language, and yet a free mind can grasp it. The only explanation of it is that it is a music. For a musician music is a language that tells him something. The high and the low note, the flat and the sharp, are all expressive and all tell him something; it all has a meaning. A person who is not a student of music does not know that language. He will enjoy music but he does not know the language.
Then there is the language of life, for life too is music. Each person represents a note in that music, and that makes the symphony of life. One person is in tune, the other person is out of tune, one person is sounding the right note, the other a false one. In this way every person makes or disturbs the music. Revelation comes from the understanding of this music. You cannot learn it; you cannot teach it, but you can tune your heart to that pitch where it begins to live and to enjoy the music of life.
In this way revelation is perceived. It happens when the heart has become awake and living, so that it can perceive the vibrations coming from every soul, and every condition conveys a certain meaning to it. The great prophets and teachers who have brought religion to humanity, who have inspired humanity with a higher ideal, who have guided mankind towards spiritual attainment, they were the souls who had revelations. And what they gave to the world was their interpretation of those revelations, which came from the music of life. But no sooner does a composer put his music on paper than much of it is lost; and when the prophet gives his teachings in the form of words much is lost too.
There are some who consider their belief as something sacred and are satisfied with that; but there are others who want to know the spirit of it. The words that have come down to us are only the interpretations of the revelations the prophets received.
If all the people in the world knew the spirit of religion, then there would not be so many different religions .and creeds. They would all keep to that one truth. That there are so many creeds, so many religions, is because they do not understand religion. If one understood it then there would only be one religion, interpreted differently by the different teachers of humanity. But whether people understood more or less, they have all benefited by the prophet’s coming to this earth, though no doubt his message could be better fulfilled if it were understood by more people, and if those who understood it could understand it better.
The Intoxication of Life (1)
There are many things in life which are intoxicating, but if we considered the nature of life we would realize that there is nothing more intoxicating than our life itself. We can see the truth of this idea when we think of what we were yesterday and compare it with our condition today. Our unhappiness or happiness, our riches or poverty of yesterday are like a dream to us; it is only today’s condition that counts.
This life of continual rise and fall and of continual changes is like running water, and man identifies himself with this running water, although in reality he does not know what he is. For instance, if a man goes from poverty to riches and then those riches are taken away from him, he laments; and he laments because he does not remember that before having those riches he was poor, and that from that poverty he came to riches. If one considers what one’s fancies through life have been, one will find that at every stage of development one had a particular fancy; sometimes one longed for certain things and at other times one did not care for them. If one can look as a spectator at one’s own life, one will find that it was nothing but an intoxication. What at one time gives man great satisfaction and pride, at another time humiliates him; what a person enjoys at one time, troubles him at another time; what at one time he values greatly, at another time he does not value at all.
If a man can observe his actions in everyday life, and if he has an awakened sense of justice and understanding, he will often find himself doing something which he had not intended to do, or saying something that he did not wish to say, or behaving in such a way that he asks himself, ‘Why was I such a fool!’ Sometimes he allows himself to love someone, to admire someone; it may go on for days, for weeks, for months, even years, although years may be very long; and then perhaps he feels that he was wrong, or something more attractive comes along; then he is on another road and does not know where he is any more, nor whom he loves. In the action and reaction of his life a man sometimes does things on impulse, not considering what he is doing, and at other times he has, so to speak, a spell of goodness, and he goes on doing what he thinks is good. At other times a reaction sets in and all his goodness is gone. Then in his business or profession he gets an impulse:he must do this, or he must do that, and he seems to be full of strength and courage; sometimes he perseveres and sometimes it lasts only a day or two and then he forgets what he was doing and does something else.
This shows that man in his life in the activity of the world is just like a piece of wood, lifted by the waves of the sea when they rise up, and cast down when they subside. That is why the Hindus have called the life of the world Bhavasagara, an ocean, an ever rising ocean. And man is floating on this ocean of worldly activity, not knowing what he is doing, not knowing where he is going. What seems to him of importance is only the moment which he calls the present; the past is a dream, the future is in a mist, and the only thing clear to him is the present
The attachment and love and affection of man are not very different from the attachment of the birds and animals. There is a time when the sparrow looks after its young and brings grains in its beak and puts them into the beak of its young ones, and they anxiously await the coming of their mother. And this goes on until their wings are grown, and once the young ones have known the branches of the tree and they have flown in the forests under the protection of their mother, they never again remember that mother who was so kind to them. There are moments of emotion, there are impulses of love, of attachment, of affection, but there comes a time when these pass; they pale and fade away. And there comes a time when a person thinks that there is something else he desires and something else he would like to love.
The more one thinks of man’s life in the world the more one comes to the understanding that it is not very different from the life of a child. The child takes a fancy to a doll and then it gets tired of that doll and wants another toy. But at the moment when it takes a fancy to the doll or the toy it thinks it the most valuable thing in the world; and then there comes a time when it throws away the doll and destroys the toy. And so it is with man; his scope is perhaps a little different, but his action is the same. All that man considers important in life, such as the collection of wealth, the possession of property, the attainment of fame, or the rising to a position he may think ideal, all these objects have only an intoxicating effect on him; and after attaining the object he is not satisfied. He thinks that there is perhaps something else he wants, that it was not this that he wanted. Whatever he wants he feels to be the most important of all, but after attaining it he no longer thinks it is important at all; he wants something else. In everything that pleases him and makes him happy, in his amusements, his theater, his moving pictures, golf, polo, or tennis, it seems that what amuses him is to be puzzled and not to know where he is going; it seems that he only desires to fill his time. And what man calls pleasure is what happens at the moment when he is intoxicated with the activity of life. Anything that covers his eyes from reality, anything that gives him a certain sensation of life, anything that he can indulge in and that makes him conscious of some activity, that is what he calls pleasure.
Man’s nature is such that whatever he becomes accustomed to is his pleasure, be it eating, drinking, or any activity. If he becomes accustomed to what is bitter, bitterness gives him pleasure; if he becomes accustomed to what is sour then sourness gives him pleasure; if he becomes accustomed to eat sweets then he will like sweet things. Some men get into the habit of complaining about their life, and if they have nothing to complain about then they look for something to complain of. Others want the sympathy of their fellow-men and want to explain to them that they are badly treated. It is an intoxication.
Then there is the person who has fallen into the habit of theft; he derives pleasure from it and the habit becomes stronger and stronger, and when another source of income is offered to him he is not interested, he does not want it. In this way people become accustomed to certain things in life; these things become a pleasure, an intoxication. There are many who develop the habit of worrying about things. The least little thing worries them very much. They cherish whatever little sorrow they have; it is a plant they water and nourish. And so many, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, become accustomed to illness, an illness that is more an intoxication than a reality. And as long as a man holds the thought of that illness he sustains it, and the illness settles in his body and no doctor can take it away.
Then a man’s environment and condition in life create for him an illusion and an intoxication, so that he no longer sees the condition of the people around him, the people of the city or country in which he lives. And the intoxication not only remains with him when he is awake, but it continues in his dreams, just as the drunkard too will dream of the things that have to do with his drunkenness. If he has joy or sorrow, if he has worries or pleasure, the same will be his condition in his dream; and day and night the dream continues to exist. With some the dream lasts the whole life; with others only a certain time.
Man loves this intoxication as much as the drunkard loves the intoxication of wine. When a person is seeing something interesting in his dream, and somebody tries to wake him, he feels for a moment inclined to sleep on and finish that interesting dream, although he knows that it was a dream and that someone is waking him.
This intoxication can be seen in all the different aspects of life; it manifests even in the religious, philosophical, and mystical aspects. Man seeks after subtlety and wishes to know something that he cannot understand; he is very pleased to be told something that his reason cannot understand. Give him the simple truth and he will not like it. When teachers like Jesus Christ came to earth and gave the message of truth in simple words, the people of the time said, ‘This is in our book, we know it already’; but whenever there is an attempt to mystify people, telling them of fairies and ghosts and spirits, they are very pleased; they desire to understand what they cannot understand.
What man has always called spiritual or religious truth has been the key to that ultimate truth which man cannot see because of his intoxication. And this truth nobody can give to another person. It is in every soul, for the human soul itself is this truth. All that can be given is the means by which the truth can be known. The religions in various forms have been methods by which the inspired souls taught man to know this truth, and to be benefited by this truth which is in the soul of man, But instead of being benefited by a religion in this way, man has accepted only the external part of the religion and has fought with others, saying, ‘My religion is the only right one, your religion is false’.
Nevertheless there have always existed some wise ones, like those of whom it is told in the Bible that they came from the East when Jesus Christ was born, to see the child. What does this mean? It means that at different times there have existed wise men, whose life’s mission it has been to keep themselves sober in spite of this intoxication all around them, and to help their fellow-men to gain this soberness. Among those who were wise and remained sober there have been some who had great inspiration as well as great power and control over themselves and over life within and without. These are the wise men who have been called saints, sages, prophets, or masters.
But even when following or accepting these wise men, man, through his intoxication, has monopolized one of them as his prophet or teacher and has fought with others; in this way he has shown his intoxication and drunkenness. And just as a drunken man will, without any thought, hit or hurt another person who happens to be different from him, who thinks or feels or acts differently, so for the most part the great people of the world who came to help humanity have been killed, crucified, hurt or tortured. But they have not complained about it; they have taken it as a natural consequence; they have understood that they were in a world of intoxication or drunkenness, and that it is natural that a drunken man should try to hurt or do harm. This has been the history of the world in whatever quarter the message of God has been given.
In reality the message comes from one source and that is God, and under whatever name the wise gave that message it was not their message, but the message of God. Those whose hearts had eyes to see and ears to hear, have known and seen the same messenger, because they have received the message. And those whose hearts had no eyes or ears have taken the messenger to be important and not the message. But at whatever period that message came and in whatever form the message was given, it was always that one message, the message of wisdom.
The Intoxication of Life (2)
Every stimulus that one experiences through food and drink is really a small intoxication. But it is not only the food that one eats, the water that one drinks, and all that one sees and hears and touches that has an influence, an effect, on a man’s being and intoxicates him; even the air that he breathes from morning till evening is continually giving him a stimulus and an intoxication. If this is true, is there then one moment when a man is not intoxicated? He is always intoxicated, only sometimes more so than others.
This is, however, not the only intoxication. A man’s absorption in the affairs of his life also keeps him intoxicated; and besides the intoxication of his work and affairs in which his mind is absorbed, there is a third intoxication, and that is the attachment that a nun has to himself, the sympathy he has with himself. It is this intoxication which makes him selfish, greedy, and very often unjust towards his fellow-men. The effect of this intoxication is that a man is continually feeling, thinking, and acting with the idea in mind of what would be to his interest, what could bring him an advantage;’ and in this idea his whole life and all his time become fully involved. It is this intoxication that makes him say, ‘This one is my friend and that one is my enemy; this one is my well-wisher, but that one is against me’; and it is this intoxication that builds the ego, the false ego of man.
Just as an intoxicated man does not really know what is profitable to him, so a selfish man in his selfishness never knows nor understands what is really to his advantage. In moments of soberness a man wonders, ‘If this is intoxication, then what is reality? I would like to know what reality is.’ But to know reality not only the eyes and ears are necessary, but soberness too is needed to hear and see better. One might ask why all this should be called intoxication if it seems to be the normal state of every person. It can be called a normal condition only in so far as it is indeed the condition of everyone; but intoxication remains intoxication; it is not satisfactory. There is an innate longing for a certain satisfaction which man does not know, and this satisfaction he seeks. No active person with any wisdom will deny the fact that often an effort he makes for happiness seems to result in disappointment; this shows that the effort was in the wrong direction. But apart from the making of an effort to find reality one must first realize what this intoxication is;in order to do this the first step on the path of truth is to know that such a thing as intoxication exists.
There is the intoxication of childhood. Imagine what attention, what service, what care the child demands at that time when it still does not know who takes the trouble or who takes care of it! It plays with its toys, it plays with its playmates, it knows not what is awaiting it in the future. What it wants, what it plays with, is what is immediately around it; it does not see further. Nobody in his childhood has ever known the value of his mother or his father or of those who care for him, until he reaches that stage when he begins to see for himself. And when we observe the condition of youth, that again is another intoxication, it is the time of blossoming, of the fullness of energy. The soul in that spring-time never thinks that it can be anything else; the soul never thinks that this is a passing stage. The soul at that time is full of intoxication, it knows nothing apart from itself. How many errors a youth commits, how many faults he has, how many thoughtless, inconsiderate things he does of which he afterwards repents but about which he never thinks at the time! It is not the fault of the soul, it is the intoxication of that time of life. The person who is intoxicated is not responsible for what he does; neither is the child to be blamed for not being responsible or appreciative enough, nor the youth for being blind in his energy; it is natural.
The intoxication remains as a person goes on in life; there is only a change of wine. The wine of childhood is different from the wine of youth, and when the wine of youth is finished some other wine is taken. Then, according to what walk of life a man follows, he drinks that wine which absorbs his life, either collecting wealth or acquiring power or seeking a position; all these are wines which intoxicate man. And if one goes even further in life, intoxication still pursues one. It may be one is interested in music or fond of poetry, or one may love art or delight in learning; it is all intoxication. If all these different occupations and interests are like different wines, what is there then in the world that can be called a state of soberness? It is wine indeed from beginning to end. Even those who are good and advanced, spiritual and moral, they also have a certain wine. One has to take wine all the way; but there are different wines. A highly advanced artist, a great poet, an inspired musician will admit that there are moments of intoxication which come to him through his art as a joy, as an upliftment, and it makes him exalted; it is as if he were not living in this world.
Soberness is very difficult to find. The intoxicating effect of life is overwhelming and keeps man from a clear understanding. Therefore, however far advanced a person may be in the spiritual life, he can never be too sure that he will not become intoxicated; for he experiences intoxication in everything he does. That is why one cannot be too conscientious, ever. There are many who are confused, who do not know what they are doing; but a conscientious person does not hesitate. He is always wide awake, and he always knows whether he has done right or not. He does what he believes is right, and when that happens to turn out wrong, he will see to it that it is right next time.
The higher intoxication cannot be compared with the lower intoxication of this world, but it is still intoxication. What is joy? What is fear? What is anger? What is passion? What is the feeling of attachment, and what is the feeling of detachment? All these have the effect of wine, all produce intoxication.
Understanding this mystery, the Sufis have rounded their culture upon the principle of intoxication. They call this intoxication Hal, and Hal means’ literally condition or state. There is a saying of the Sufis, ‘Man speaks and acts according to his condition.’ One cannot speak or act differently from the wine one has drunk. With the one who has drunk the wine of anger, whatever he says or does is irritating; with the one who has drunk the wine of detachment, in his thought, speech and action you will find nothing but detachment; with the one who drinks the wine of attachment, you will find in his presence that all are drawn to him and that he is drawn to all. Everything a person does and says is according to the wine that he has taken. That is why the Sufi says, ‘Heaven and hell are in the hand of man, if he only knew their mystery.’ To a Sufi the world is like a wine-cellar, a store in which all sorts of wines are collected. He has only to choose what wine he will have and what wine will bring him the delight which is the longing of his soul.
I once had an experience in India which was my first impression, and a very deep impression indeed, of this aspect of life. When walking in a district where dervishes lived in solitude I found ten or twelve dervishes together, sitting under the shade of a tree in their ragged clothes, talking to one another. As I was curious to hear and see people of different thoughts and ideas, I stood there watching this assembly to see what was going on. These dervishes, sitting on the ground without a carpet, at first gave an impression of poverty and helplessness, sitting there in disappointment, probably entirely without possessions. But as they began to speak to each other that impression did not remain, for when they addressed one another they said, ‘O, King of kings, O, Emperor of emperors’. At first I was taken aback on hearing these words, but after giving some thought to it I asked myself: what is an emperor, what is a king? Is the real king and emperor within or without? For he who is the emperor of the outer empire depends on all that is without. The moment he is separated from that environment he is no longer an emperor. But these emperors, sitting on the bare ground, were real emperors. No one could take away their empire, for their empire, their kingdom, was not an illusion, their kingdom was a real kingdom. An emperor may have a bottle of wine in front of him, but these emperors had drunk that wine and had become real emperors.
Do we not sometimes see in our everyday life a person who says, ‘I am ill, I am sorry for myself, I am miserable, I am wretched’? Put him in a palace and surround him with doctors and nurses, he will still be wretched. And another person who may be in great suffering and pain, but yet says, ‘No, I am well, I am happy, everything is all right’, that person has a right attitude. Does it not show us that we are, that we become, the wine we drink? The man who is drunk with the wine of success knows no failure; and if circumstances make him fail nine times, the tenth time he will succeed. The one who has drunk the wine of failure may be given all the possibility of success; but he has drunk the wine of failure; he cannot succeed.
There is, however, a subtle feeling which every soul has, a feeling which cannot be explained in words; a feeling which makes a man more comfortable in his armchair at home than when perhaps ten thousand people stand before him paying him homage. A person may be loaded with wealth, but the moment when he sets aside all his pearls and jewels, and sits down alone and takes a rest, that is the time when he breathes freely. And what does this teach us? It teaches us that man may have everything in the world which has the greatest value in his eyes, but there will yet remain something for him to seek. When he has that then he is happy.
One does not want to have a person, however beloved he may be, around one all the time; one sometimes wants to have a moment away from even the dearest person in the world. However proud a man is in his thought, and his thoughts may be great, deep, and good, yet the greatest joy is in the moment when he is not thinking. One may have the finest feelings of love, tenderness, and goodness; but there are moments when there are no feelings, and these moments are the most exalting.
This shows that the whole of life is interesting because it is all intoxicating; but what is really desired by the soul is one thing only, and that is a glimpse of soberness. What is this glimpse of soberness and how does one experience this glimpse of soberness which is the continual longing of the soul? One experiences it by means of meditation, by means of concentration. But if it is a natural thing, why has one to make an effort for it? The reason is that one enjoys this intoxication so much that afterwards one becomes addicted to drink. And that is the condition of every soul in this world; every soul becomes addicted to the wine of life. At the same time there comes a moment, if not in the early part of life, then later, if not when a person is happy, then when he is unhappy, when he begins to look for that soberness which is the continual longing of his soul. The Sufi culture therefore is a culture designed in order to experience that soberness.
It is no doubt very difficult to explain how this soberness is attained; yet after having explained this subject of intoxication it is less difficult. For it is really as simple as saying that the way to give up drink is to keep the drink away and to remain without drink for a time. There are three principal wines, three principal intoxications: the intoxication of one’s self, the intoxication of one’s occupation, and the third intoxication which is what the senses feel every moment; and these three wines cannot all be taken away at once. It would be just like taking away his life’s sustenance from a person who lives on wine. But one can set a person a certain time and see that during that time he keeps sober and only takes two wines, not three; and that he next tries to take only one, not two. And as a person advances in meditative life he may arrive at that stage where the three wines on which he lives may all be withheld and yet he still feels that he can live; and so he will become convinced that he can exist without these three intoxications. Verily, this conviction of existing independently of these three wines, which bring man the realization of external life, is the essence of the divine message and of all religions.