Volume VI: The Alchemy of Happiness
by Hazrat Inayat Khan
STAGES ON THE PATH OF SELF-REALIZATION
WE SEE that in the words of philosophers, mystics, sages, thinkers, and prophets, great importance is given to self-realization. If I were to explain what self-realization is, I would say that the first step to self-realization is God-realization. The one who realizes God in the end realizes self, but the one who realizes self never realizes God. And that is the difficulty today with those who search after spiritual truth intellectually. They read many books about occultism, esotericism, and mysticism. And what they find most emphasized is self-realization. Then they think that what they have to do is to attain that self-realization and that they can just as well omit God. But in reality God is the key to spiritual perfection. God is the stepping-stone to self-realization, God is the way, which extends over the knowledge of the whole of creation. And if God is omitted then nothing can be reached. There is a wrong method in use today in many so-called cults, which often proves to be a failure, and which consists in teaching the beginner on the spiritual path to say, ‘I am God’: a thoughtless phrase, a word of insolence, a thought which has no foundation. It leads him nowhere except to ignorance. To the prophets and thinkers, to the sages who taught their followers the ideal of God, it had a meaning, a purpose. But today people do not recognize these, and being anxious to find a shortcut, they omit the principal thing in order to come to the realization of self.
Once a man went to a Chinese sage and said to him, ‘I want to learn the occult laws. Will you teach me?’ The sage said, ‘You have come to ask me to teach you something, but we have so many missionaries in China who come to teach us.’ The man said, ‘We know about God, but I have come to you to ask you about occult laws.’ The sage said, ‘If you know about God you don’t need to know anything more. God is all that is to be known. If you know Him you know all.’
In this world of commercialism there is a tendency, an unconscious tendency, even for a person who wants to promote the spiritual truth, to cater for the taste of the people. Either because of a commercial instinct, or with the desire to have a success, there is a tendency to cater for what people want. If people seem to be tired of the God-ideal, those who have that tendency want to give them occultism. They call it that or mysticism, because the God-ideal seems so simple. And as there is a fashion in everything there is even a fashion in belief Man thinks that the ideal of God is old-fashioned, something of the past. In order to create a new fashion he abandons the method, which was the royal road trodden by all the wise, and thoughtful of all ages, the method, which will surely take men to perfection. Safety and success are sure in that path.
There may be a man of devotion and of simple faith, religious and believing in God, who calls Him the Judge, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Protector, the Master of the Last Day, the Lord, the Forgiver, and so on. And there may be another man, perhaps an intellectual who has studied philosophy, and he says, ‘God is all, and all is God. God is abstract and it is the abstract which is God.’
In point of fact the one has a God, even if only in his imagination, but the other has none. He has only the abstract. He calls it God because the others say God, but in his mind he has only the abstract. For instance when you say ‘space,’ there is no personality attached to it, no intelligence recognized in it, no form, no distinct individuality or personality. It is the same thing with time. When you speak about time you do not imagine time to be something or somebody. You say it is time, which means a conception, which you have made for your convenience. A man who says that the abstract is God, has no God. By this I do not mean to say that one or the other is right. What I wish to explain is that from a mental point of view the one has a God, even if it is only a God of his imagination, but the other has none, whether he admits it or not. Both are right, and both are wrong. One is at the beginning, and the other is at the end. The one who begins with the end will end at the beginning. And the one who begins with the beginning will end at the end.
We might think, why in this short life should we create for ourselves a kind of illusion, why should we only arrive at the truth at the end? Why not begin with it? But if truth were such that it could be spoken of in words, I would have been the first to give it to you. Truth is a thing that must be discovered; we have to prepare ourselves to realize it, and it is that preparation, which is, called religion or occultism or mysticism. Whatever we may call it, it is that preparation. We prepare ourselves by one way or the other in order to realize truth in the end. And the best way, which all the thinkers and sages have adopted, is the way of God.
The next question is belief in God. There are four stages of belief in God. Each stage is as essential and important as the other. And if one does not go stage by stage, gradually evolving towards the realization of God, one does not arrive at anything. It must be remembered that belief is a step on the ladder. Belief is the means and not the end. It leads to realization. It is not that we advance towards a belief. If a man’s foot is nailed on the ladder, that is not the object. The object is that he should climb upward on the ladder step by step. If he stands still on the ladder he defeats the object for which he journeys on the spiritual path. Those therefore who believe in a particular creed, in a religion, in God, in the hereafter, in the soul, in a certain dogma, are no doubt blessed by their belief and think they have something. But if they remain there, there will be no progress. If the only thing necessary was to have a religious belief, then thousands and millions of people in the world today who have a certain religious belief could have been most advanced people. But they are not. They go on year after year believing something that people have believed perhaps for many generations, and still they continue with it and remain there just like a man standing on a staircase, which is a place not made for him to stand on but to climb up. When he stays there he comes to nothing.
The first belief is the mass-belief. If someone says, ‘There is a God,’ then everyone repeats after him, ‘Yes, there is a God.’ One might think that today, at this stage of civilization, people are too advanced to have mass-beliefs, but that would be a great mistake. People are the same today as they were a thousand years ago, perhaps worse if it comes to spiritual questions. Someone who is called ‘the man of the day’ in a nation, is for the time being supported by the whole nation. Thousands and millions lift him up, hold him high. But for how long? Until some still more powerful person says, ‘No, it is not so.’ Then the whole country lets him down.
Just before the war I was visiting Russia. In every shop one saw a picture of the Czar and Czarina, held in high esteem. It was a sacred thing for people. There was a religious ideal attached to the emperor, as he was the Head of the Church. And they used to be filled with joy when they saw the Czar and Czarina passing in the street. It was a religious upliftment for them. But not long afterwards they themselves had processions in the streets when at each step they broke the czarist emblems. It did not take them one moment to change their belief. Why? Because it was a mass-belief.
It is a very powerful belief. It changes nations. It throws them down and raises them up. It brings war. But what is it after all? A mad belief. And yet no one will admit it. If you ask an individual, he says, ‘I am not one of them.’ Yet at the same time all move together when an impulse comes for good or bad.
Then there is a second step towards belief and that is belief in an authority, as with people at the time of a dictatorship. They believe in a leader. They say, ‘I will not believe in the ordinary man, in my neighbor, in my colleague. I believe in that man whom I trust.’ This belief is one step higher, because it is a belief in somebody in whom one has trust. When a person says, ‘I am a Christian,’ it means a belief in Jesus Christ and his teaching. It is a belief in someone, not in an abstraction. One might think that people do not believe in authority today, but this is not so. For instance everyone accepts a discovery made by a scientist before having made investigations about it. Investigations come afterwards. When somebody comes forward and says he has discovered something, everyone accepts it. Perhaps another scientist will produce something else one may believe, but the one who says a thing with authority is believed by the multitude.
Then there is a third stage of belief a further stage, and this belief makes man still greater. It is the belief of reason, and it means that one does not believe in any authority, nor in what everybody else believes, but that one has reasoned it out. That one sees reason in it. This belief is stronger still; for of the beliefs I have explained before one cannot give proof, but in this case one can stand up and say, ‘Yes, I have reasoned it out.’
This, however, also has its limitation. Since reason is the slave of the mind, reason is as changeable as the weather. Reason obeys our impressions. If we have an impulse to insult a person, or to fight with him, we can produce many reasons for it. It may be that afterwards there will be contrary reasons. But at the time, while we have this impulse, right or wrong, there is always a reason which supports it. Have the criminals put in jail committed crimes without a reason? No, they have a reason too. It does not fit in with the law perhaps, it does not satisfy society, but if we ask them, they have a reason. The reason we have today we may perhaps change next week, but nevertheless this third belief makes us stand on our own feet, for that moment if not always. And it gives us a greater power to defend our belief
And then again there is a fourth belief. That belief is a belief of conviction, which stands above reason. There is a sense of conviction in man, which is not discovered for some time in life. But there comes a time when it is discovered. And that is a blessed day. Then there arises an idea, an idea which no reason can break, a feeling which is not a passing feeling but is a conviction. However high the idea may be, one seems to be an eyewitness of that idea. One is as strong, as confident, as a person who has seen with his own eyes. One can be convinced of ideas so subtle that they cannot even be expressed in words, and one is more convinced of them than if one had seen them with one’s own eyes. It is this belief which is called by the Sufis and Persian mystics Iman, which means conviction.
I remember the blessing my spiritual teacher, my murshid, used to give me every time I parted from him. And that blessing was, ‘May your Iman be strengthened.’ At that time I had not thought about the word Iman. On the contrary I thought as a young man, is my faith so weak that my teacher requires it to be stronger? I would have preferred it if he had said, may you become illuminated, or may your powers be great, or may your influence spread, or may you rise higher and higher, or become perfect. But this simple thing, may your faith be strengthened, what did it mean? I did not criticize but I pondered and pondered upon the subject. And in the end I came to realize that no blessing is more valuable and important than this. For every blessing is attached to a conviction. Where there is no conviction there is nothing. The secret of healing, the mystery of evolving, the power of all attainments, and the way to spiritual realization, all come from the strengthening of that belief which is a conviction, so that nothing can ever change it.
And now we come again to the question of God. Because this is the important question we must first make it clear in our minds before we take a further step in spiritual progress. Since to analyze God means to dethrone God, the less said on the subject the better. But at the same time, the seekers for truth who want to tread the spiritual path with open eyes and whose intellect is hungering for knowledge, should know something about it.
There is a Hebrew story that once Moses was walking near the bank of a river. And he saw a shepherd boy speaking to himself. Moses was interested and halted there to listen to what he was saying. The shepherd boy was saying, ‘0 God, I have heard so much of You. You are so beautiful, You are so lovely, You are so kind, that if You ever came to me I would clothe You with my mantle, and I would guard You night and day. I would protect You from the cruel animals of this forest, and bathe You in this river, and bring to You all good things, milk and buttermilk. I would bring You a special bread. I love You so much. I would not let anyone cast his glance upon You. I would be all the time near You. I love You so much! If only I could see You once, God, I would give all I have.’ Moses said, ‘What are you saying!’ The boy looked at Moses and trembled and was afraid. ‘Did I say anything wrong?’ he asked. Moses said, ‘God, the Protector of all beings, you think of protecting Him, of giving Him bread? He gives bread to the whole universe. You say you would bathe Him in the river. He is the purest of all pure things. And how can you say that you will guard Him who guards all beings?’ And the boy trembled. He thought, what a terrible thing I have done! He seemed to be lost. But as Moses went a few steps further there came a voice, ‘Moses, what did you do! We sent you to bring our friends to Us, and now you have separated one. No matter how he thought of Us, he thought of Us just the same. You should have let him think the way he was thinking about Us. You should not have interfered with him!’ Everyone has his own imagination of God. It is best if everyone is left to his own imagination.
In our daily life we may hate someone, yet the same one is loved by someone else. We may criticize, and the same one is praised by someone else. If this is so then the conception of everyone is different. The same person is considered a saint by one and Satan by another. The God we know, or can know, is nothing but our conception, a picture that we have made of God for our own self, our own use. It is the greatest mistake for anyone to interfere with the conception of God held by another, or to think that another should have the same conception of God as he has himself. It is impossible. Many different artists have painted the picture of Christ, yet each one is different. And since we allow every artist to have his own conception of Christ so we should allow every person to have his own conception of God.
We need not blame the ancient Chinese and Greeks and Indians who believed in many gods. Many gods is too small a number. In reality every single person has his own God. Besides all the different conceptions are really nothing but covers over one God. Let them call God by any name, or think of Him with whatever imagination they have: it is after all the highest ideal. And the ideal of each one is as high as his imagination can make it. Urging upon someone that God is abstract and formless and pure, and that God is nameless, all these things do not help that person to evolve. For the first step on the path of God is to make a conception of God. It is simply to help the seekers after God that the wise in all ages have sometimes made a small statue and called it a god or goddess. They said, ‘Here is God. Here is a shrine. Come there.’ And to the one who was not satisfied with this, they said, ‘Walk two hundred times round the shrine before you enter, then you will be blessed.’ When the worshipper got tired he naturally felt exaltation because he walked in the path of God.
But, one might ask, if we leave everyone with his particular imagination or ideal of God, will he then progress and one day come to the realization of the self which is the highest attainment taught by all great teachers of humanity? The answer is yes. There are three stages on the way to spiritual perfection. Those who are unaware of the possibility of spiritual perfection are greatly mistaken when they say that man is imperfect and cannot be perfect. They are mistaken for the reason that they have seen only man in man. They have not seen God in man. Christ has said, ‘Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ This shows that there is the possibility of perfection. It is also true that man cannot be perfect. But man is not man alone. In man there is also God. Therefore though man remains imperfect the God part in man seeks for perfection. That is what the world was created for. Man is here on earth for this one purpose, that he may bring forth that spirit of God in him and thus discover his own perfection.
The three stages towards this perfection are the following. The first stage is to make God as great and as perfect as your imagination can. It is in order to help man to perfect God in himself that the teachers gave various prayers, the prayers to God, calling Him the Judge, the Forgiver, most Compassionate, most Faithful, most Beautiful, most Loving. All these attributes are our limited conceptions. God is greater than what we can say about Him. And when by all these conceptions and by our imagination we make God as great as we are able to, it must still be understood that God cannot be made greater than He is. We cannot give God pleasure by making Him great, but by making God great we ourselves arrive at a certain greatness. Our vision widens, our spirit deepens, our ideal reaches higher. We create a greater vision, a wider horizon, for our own expansion. We should, therefore, by way of prayer, by praise, by contemplation, try to make God as great as we can possibly imagine.
The truth behind this is, that a person who sees good points in others and wants to add what is lacking in others, becomes nobler every day. By making others noble, by thinking good of others, he himself becomes nobler and better than those of whom he thinks good. And the one who thinks evil of others in time becomes wicked, for he covers up the good in him and produces thus the vision of evil. Therefore the first stage and the first duty of every seeker after truth is to make God as great as possible, for his own good, because he is making an ideal within himself. He is building within himself that which will make him great.
The second stage is the work of the heart. The first is of the head. To make God great intellectually, with thought and imagination, is really the painter’s work, but still more important is the work of the heart.
In our everyday life we see the phenomenon of love. The first lesson that love teaches us is: ‘I am not. Thou art.’ The first thing to think of is to erase ourselves from our minds and to think of the one we love. As long as we do not arrive at this idea, so long the word love remains only in the dictionary. Many speak about love but very few know it. Is love a pastime, an amusement, a drama. Is it a performance? The first lesson of love is sacrifice, service, self-effacement.
There is a little story of a peasant girl who was passing through a field where a Muslim was offering his prayers. And the law was that no one should pass by a place where somebody was praying. After a time this girl returned by the same way, and the man said, ‘0 girl, what a terrible thing you have done today.’ She was shocked and asked, ‘What did I do?’ He said, ‘You passed by this way! It is a great sin. I was praying, thinking of God!’ She said, ‘Were you thinking of God? I was going to see my young man! I did not see you; how did you see me when you were thinking of God?’
To close the eyes for prayer is one thing, and to produce the love of God is another thing. That is the second stage in spiritual realization. Where in the thought of God one begins to lose oneself, in the same way that the lover loses the thought of self in the thought of the beloved.
And the third stage is different again. In the third stage the beloved becomes the self, and the self is there no more. For then the self, as we think it to be, no longer remains. The self becomes what it really is. It is that realization which is called self-realization.
MAN, THE MASTER OF HIS DESTINY (I)
IT IS said in the Gayan, ‘The present is the reflection of the past, and the future is the re-echo of the present.’ Destiny is not what is already made. Destiny is what we are making. Very often fatalists think that we are in the hands of destiny, driven in whatever direction in life destiny wills. But in point of fact we are the masters of our destiny, especially from the moment we begin to realize this fact. Among Hindus there is a well-known saying that the creation is Brahma’s dream. In other words that all manifestation is the dream of the Creator. I would wish to add to this, that destiny means the materialization of man’s own thought. Man is responsible for his success and failure, for his rise and fall. And it is man who brings these about either knowingly or unknowingly.
There is a hint of this in the Bible, in the principal prayer taught by Christ, in which it is said, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ It is a psychological suggestion to mankind to make it possible that the will of God, which is easily done in heaven, should also be done on earth. And the English saying that man proposes and God disposes supports this. It suggests the other side of the same truth. These seem to be two contrary ideas, yet they explain the same theory: that what is meant by destiny is changed by man, but that destiny also changes man’s plans.
The more we study life the more we understand that it is not only qualifications, enthusiasm, and energy that count, but also the design, the plan already made. And according to that plan man has to go through his destiny. No doubt one should not use this to support the argument of some fatalists who think that they can sit back comfortably and wait for better times to come. They may just as well wait for the rest of their life and not accomplish anything.
The question of destiny can be better explained by the picture of an artist meditating on a certain design he has in his mind. The first stage is to create the design in his mind. The second is to bring it on to the canvas. And when he draws this picture on the canvas, it may suggest something to him that he had not thought of when he made the design in his mind. And when the artist has finished his picture, he will see that it is quite different from what he had originally thought of.
This shows that our life stands before us like a picture. When all that has been designed beforehand begins to happen, our soul will receive a totally different suggestion from the picture. Something that was lacking may have been put in, and in this way the picture is improved. For there are two kinds of artists: one who paints the plan, which has been made in his mind on the canvas. And the other who takes suggestions from the picture itself as he goes on painting. The difference is that the one is merely an artist and the other is a master. The latter is not bound to the plan. The former has designed something and is bound to what he has designed; he is limited.
One sees the same thing with a composer of music. He composes a certain melody in his mind. He ponders over it and wishes to put it on paper. But when he plays his composition on the piano, the music suggests improvements to him. He plays the same musical idea that he first had, but he is able to perfect and complete it when he has heard it with his own ears.
That is a picture of our life. There is one man who is driven by the hand of destiny, he does not know where he comes from, he does not know where he is going. He is placed in certain conditions in life. He is busy with something, occupied with something, and he cannot see any other way of getting on. He may desire something quite different, he may have difficulty in putting his mind to what he is doing, but he still thinks he must go on. That is the man who has not yet understood the meaning of this secret. But there is another man who even after a hundred failures is still determined that he will succeed at the next attempt. That man is the master of his success.
There are two parts in man. One part is his external self, which the soul has borrowed from the earth. And the other part is his real self, which belongs to his source. In other words an individual is a combination of spirit and matter, a current which runs from above and attracts to it the earth from below, shaping it in order to make it a vehicle. The human body is nothing but a vehicle of the soul, which has come from above and has taken the human body as its abode. Thus an individual has two aspects of being: one is the soul, the other is the body. It is the meeting of the soul and the body, which makes the mind. And these three together make an individual.
The external part of an individual can be likened to the outer form of a globe, while the mind takes the place of the finer inner machinery. This is the mechanical part of being. There remains the soul, which is the divine heritage, a spiritual current shooting forth from that Spirit which is the source of all things. Therefore the soul has in it a potentiality, a creative power as its divine heritage. On the one side man is limited and imperfect. On the other side he represents the unlimited and perfect. That is why Christ has said, ‘Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ It means: one not only inherits from one’s earthly parents, but, one also inherits that creative power, which makes one’s life from the Father in heaven.
A soul is born with a mechanism which one calls mind and body. From infancy a soul naturally finds itself limited in captivity. All the tragedy of life comes from limitation. If you ask a hundred people what is the difficulty in their life, each one will name a different struggle that he is facing at the time. But in reality it will be the limitation of life, which has caused the tragedies in every form. Man grows up in limitation, and this limitation suggests to him at every step that he is imperfect, handicapped, weak, captive, incapable. And it is because of this constant suggestion of imperfection that he begins to say, ‘I cannot endure it, I cannot stand it, I cannot bear it, I cannot forget it, I cannot forgive.’ A man begins to think all these things because he is imperfect, because of all the continual suggestions, which arise in life and convince him that he is limited. Naturally, therefore, as the man goes on, whether he is successful or unsuccessful, whether he is more qualified or less, whatever his condition may be, his mind holds the thought that his power and inspiration, his knowledge and capability are limited. He cannot understand anything else but that, and he remains totally unaware of that spark which continually shines in his heart and which may be called his divine inheritance.
Is there a possibility of changing, or of improving our destiny? We in our material life become so rigid in our thinking that we cannot imagine something existing and at the same time improving and changing. We are only capable of recognizing change as far as we can see it, and the moment we cannot see that change any more we call it destruction or death. In other words what we call destruction or death is only a change. We cannot follow, we cannot see the link. It is not visible to us, we cannot fathom it, and therefore we say that it is the end. But is there anything that ends, that is destroyed, or anything that has ceased? Nothing. All these words are our own illusion, our own conception, a conception which is only true as long as we have not seen the continuity. As soon as we understand this mystery, we no longer continue to have that conception. When we see life end suddenly, we call it death. We say a word, in this case ‘death,’ and once that word is spoken it is the end of the matter for us. But the word is never silent, it continues, if not in this then in another sphere.
So it is with thought. We have a thought and then we say, ‘I have forgotten.’ Yes, the mind has forgotten, but the thought is not dead. It is going on. It never ends. Is there anything that ends? Nothing. Such words as ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ are our conceptions, and the further we go in studying life the higher the realization we get of those conceptions. It is this principle which is called unlearning. People are proud and satisfied with what they have learned, but the further one goes the more one finds that learning ends in unlearning.
Then another learning begins. It is like turning life inside out. We are walking on the same earth under the same sun, but we are looking at a different world with different eyes. Life is a different life to us then and the meaning of every word is different. Those who have realized in themselves the possibility of improving their lives, do improve them. But the one who thinks, ‘I cannot help it. I am what I am. I get angry, I cannot help it. I get annoyed, I cannot help it. I cannot understand, I cannot bear it.’ That person comes under his own suggestion and he naturally becomes weaker every day and cannot accomplish things. But the one who realizes that life begins with spirit, says, ‘What does it matter; if I fail today I will succeed tomorrow. The present limitation does not discourage me.’
It is never too late in life to improve. There is always scope for the man who wants to improve himself. But the man who is content with himself, or so discouraged that he does not want to improve, falls flat. There is no way for him to accomplish anything in life. The spirit of those who went to mountain caves or lived in the forests was a meditative one. One might think it was an undesirable life. Yes, perhaps undesirable to follow, but in relation to what they reached the experience they gained was most desirable. There is much that could be exchanged between East and West. The West has improved and cultivated and invented many things, which should go to the East. And the experience of those in the East who went to the forests and sat in meditation under the shade of trees should be taken to the West. It is this that will bring East and West closer, to the best advantage of the whole of humanity.
There is a story of Timurlenk, the great Moghul emperor, a man whom destiny had intended to be great. Yet he was not awakened to that greatness. One day tired of the strife of daily life and overwhelmed by his worldly duties, he was lying on the ground in a forest waiting for death to come and take him. A dervish passed by and saw him asleep and recognized in him the man that destiny had intended to become a great personality. The dervish struck him with his stick and Timurlenk woke up and asked, ‘Why have you come to trouble me here? I have left the world and have come to the forest. Why do you come to trouble me?’ The dervish said, ‘What gain is there in the forest? You have the whole world before you. It is there that you will find what you have to accomplish, if only you realize the power that is within you.’ He said, ‘No, I am too disappointed, too pessimistic for any good to come to me. The world has wounded me. I am sore, my heart is broken. I will no longer stay in this world.’ The dervish said, ‘What is the use of having come to this earth if you have not accomplished something, if you have not experienced something? If you are not happy, you do not know how to live!’ Timurlenk said to the dervish, ‘Do you think that I shall ever accomplish anything?’ The dervish answered, ‘That is why I have come to awaken you. Wake up and pursue your duty with courage. You will be successful; there is no doubt about it.’ This impression awakened in Timurlenk the spirit with which he had come into the world. And with every step that he took forward, he saw that conditions changed and all the influences and forces that he needed for success came to him as if life, which before had closed its doors, now opened all to him. And he reached the stage where he became the famous Timurlenk of history
In all walks of life it will be proved to the seeker after truth that there is a key to success, a key to happiness, a key to advancement and evolution in life. And this key is the attainment of mastery. The question is, how does one attain mastery? There are three stages. The first stage of mastery is the attaining of self-control. And when once self-control is gained, then the second stage is to control all the influences that pull one away from the path, which one wishes to take. And when one has been victorious in this second stage, then there is a third stage, which is the control of conditions, of situations. The man who is responsible, the man who has control over conditions and situations is greater than a thousand men who may be otherwise well qualified but do not have this. The one who is able to control them may sit in his chair appearing to do nothing, but he will accomplish more than one who is doing things all day long. Very few can imagine to what an extent a man can gain power, especially as life today is a continual strife for nothing, a busy life without much accomplishment. We cannot imagine to what an extent the power of the master-mind can accomplish things. But it is done behind the scenes. Those who do little come forward and say they can do so much, but those who really do something say little.
There are three aspects of the master mind, or Sahib-e Dil as he is called in Persian. These three aspects are connected with three different temperaments. One is the saintly temperament, another is that of the master, and the third is the temperament of the prophet.
When a person has attained mastery, it may be called an inner initiation. From that time he is consciously used to fulfil a certain purpose. Every soul is here on earth in order to fulfil a certain purpose in the scheme of life. But when one has reached mastery, from that moment one is chosen by Providence to he used as a tool, an instrument, to accomplish a certain purpose. Humanity, every single human being, is a kind of raw material which destiny uses. The master-mind, however, is a finished instrument which destiny handles to accomplish its purpose.
The saintly temperament is the negative temperament, resigned, perfectly resigned, to the will of God. The saint has learnt patience, confidence, endurance, tolerance. He has carried the cross, he is crucified a thousand times in his life. He knows what love means. He has taken a path of devotion. He leads a life of service. He has effaced himself. He has crushed his personality. He has dissolved the rock out of which he was made into water. His way is not the way of the hammer but of the water. The hammer breaks a rock but the water surrounds it and makes its way. That is why the saintly personality gives peace and harmony and comfort to those who come in contact with it. It is such a personality, which heals and lifts up those who are groping in darkness, who are touching the depths of the earth. He has developed the love that one sees in a mother and father but he has that love for every person, for every soul. It is not just a fable that the trees and plants and rocks spoke to the saints. It is the truth. When a person has developed that sympathy, he is sympathetic to rock and plant and tree. Everything in nature opens up before him. It is through that at-one-ment that he is able to communicate with every form of life, whatever it is. Therefore it is not necessary that he should leave the world. Whether he is in the forest or amidst the world’s strife, the soul of man is always capable of rising to the greatest heights, if only he wishes to attain to them.
The other aspect is the aspect of the master. Resistance against all that increases his weakness, that appeals to his weakness, the tendency of continual perseverance, courage and boldness, firmness and steadiness, all such qualities manifest in the master. That is the difference between saint and master. One is active, the other passive. One is resigned, the other persistent. But at the same time both are going forward. Only their ways are different. One is the positive way, the other the negative way. One is the way of power, the other of gentleness. Nevertheless, both have their purpose to accomplish in the scheme of nature.
In the master’s path the will is used mostly in regard to outer things. In the saintly path the will is used to control one’s own self. In other words it is used for the time being against one’s own self. The saint is resigned to Kaza, and the master has regard for Kadr. But in order to know the will of God it is wise first to take one’s own will in hand and use it in the knowledge that it is given for some great purpose in life.
And the third aspect is the aspect of the prophet in whom these two qualities are balanced. On one hand the prophet is power, on the other hand gentleness itself. On the one hand the prophet is courage, on the other he is the personification of divine sympathy. On the one hand the prophet is enthusiastic in his desire to change the condition of humanity, on the other hand the prophet has retired from all things of life. All these opposite qualities are balanced in the spirit of the prophet.
The work of the prophet is a greater work than that of the master or saint. They can remain behind the scenes, but the prophet is before the world to awaken humanity, to raise mankind to a higher consciousness, to inspire it, and to voice the truth so that it may have its echo on the earth, in the sky, everywhere. Do not be surprised, therefore, when you hear that the words of Buddha or Mohammad are still being cherished after so many years, or that the personality of Christ still has power after two thousand years. They have won humanity; they were prophets because that part of their experience, which we know in history, was real and will always remain real. Mastery is not only a means of accomplishing the things of the world, but it is that by which a person fulfils the purpose of his life.
Everything to be found on earth, such as gold and silver, gems and jewels, is all for mankind. And all that gives happiness such as power, intelligence, harmony, peace, inspiration, ecstasy, joy, also belongs to man. Man can make a heavenly experience his treasure, just as well as an earthly possession. It is not necessary for man to leave all the things of the world and go into retreat. He can attend to his business, to his profession, to his duties in life and yet at the same time develop this spirit in himself which is the spirit of mastery. The spirit of mastery is like a spark: by blowing continually upon it it will grow into a blaze, and out of it a flame will rise.
Man does not need to trouble about what is lacking outside, for in reality all is within himself. And if he will keep this idea before him and blow on the spark of mastery by constant contemplation, then one day that flame will rise and his life will become clear and his power will indeed be great.
MAN, THE MASTER OF HIS DESTINY (2)
THERE ARE two opposite opinions existing in the world: one belongs to those who are called fatalists, those who believe in fate, and the other is the opinion of those who believe in free will. And if we look at life from both these points of view we shall find reasons for and against each. There are many instances in life where there are qualifications, conditions, inclinations and every possibility of progress. Yet at the same time there is some unknown hindrance and one cannot find out what it is. A man may work for years and years and not succeed. There are also many who hope and believe that all good things will come of themselves, but just by hoping and believing good things do not come. It takes an effort and persistence, it needs patience to accomplish things. This shows that there is truth in both possibilities. But at the same time the middle way is the best, the way of understanding how far free will works and also where free will is hindered.
Life according to the mystic’s point of view can be divided into two aspects. One is the preparatory aspect, and the other is that of action. The preparatory aspect is the time before a person is born and the other aspect is the time after his birth. A person may be born into a certain condition, which becomes the foundation of his life’s course. For instance among people who are addicted to drink or in a rich family. The credit for what he does, considering that condition, belongs to him, but that condition is something he has not made. From it he has to develop and evolve through life. And the question is how this condition is brought about.
Eastern philosophers have had different ideas about this matter. The way that the wise and the mystics look at it is that man is a ray of the spirit, like a ray shooting forth from the sun. Therefore the origin of all souls is one and the same, just as the origin of the various rays is in the one sun. But as these rays shoot forth they pass through three different phases, in other words they penetrate through three different spheres. When the ray shoots forth, the first sphere it passes is the angelic sphere, the next is the sphere of the genius or jinn, and the third is the physical sphere. As they are recognized in the metaphysics of the East.
Now the nature of each sphere is such that the ray or soul when it penetrates through a certain sphere must clothe itself in the garb of that sphere. Just as a person from a tropical country, going to a cold climate, must adopt the clothes of that climate, so the soul, which, by origin, is intelligence and a ray of that Sun, which is the source and goal of all beings, adopts a certain garb with which it is able to enter, to stay, and to pass through, that particular sphere. Therefore, according to the metaphysics of the East, man is an angel, a jinn, and is also man. In these three conditions the soul is the same, though the garb it has taken makes it seem different. Passing through the angelic sphere the soul is angel, passing through the sphere of the genius the soul is jinn, passing through the physical sphere the soul is man. The soul’s condition in the preparatory stages of angel and jinn in the end makes it man.
What about the animals, and about many other beings and objects which show some part of life in them, such as trees and plants and rocks? All these are preparatory coverings, which make the clothes, the garb, for the soul. There is a saying of a great sage of Persia who lived 500 years before Darwin and who gave his ideas on biology: he said that God slept in the rocks, God dreamed in the plant, God awoke in the animal, and God realized
Himself in man. It tells that this process, from the vegetable to the animal, from the animal to man, is really the progress of the garb . For instance the first clothes were made of the bark of a tree. Then as people went on making clothes they found better materials and finally came to the finest. Man is the finest material: his garb, not his soul. His soul is the same as that of the man of a thousand years ago. The material has changed and has progressed with the evolution of the soul, which has adorned itself with it. In this way the vanity of creatures has been made manifest. And as the matter of our bodies changes every few years, we attract a finer and finer quality of matter as we grow spiritually. Spiritual advancement has an influence upon the body.
There is also another outlook on this subject: that although the soul, as a ray, goes forward to the physical sphere, yet its nature is to go backward, because it follows the law of gravitation. Just the body, which is made of clay, is drawn to the earth, so the soul, which belongs to the spirit, is drawn to the spirit. ‘But,’ one may say, ‘we can see the body drawn to the earth, we can see all things of the earth drawn to the earth, but we do not see the law of gravitation working in the soul.’ Actually we do see it, but we deny it, because we do not look at it in that way. For there is a dissatisfaction, a discontent, in every soul. A man may be in a palace or in a cottage, but no matter what condition he lives in there is an innate yearning and longing which even he himself does not recognize. One thinks today that one longs for money, tomorrow for a position, for fame or name. One goes from one thing to another. It just goes on, and when in the end one has reached one’s object one wants something else. It is the law of gravitation, that yearning towards the Spirit, the Sun, which is at the back of it. That is why in ancient times people worshipped the sun god as a symbol of the sun within us, the sun which cannot be seen by our eyes, but which is the source and goal of all beings, from which we have come and to which we are drawn. As it is said in the Qur’an, ‘From God we all come and to Him we have to return.’ That means: there is a spirit, the spirit of all things, the essence of life from which we come and towards which we are drawn.
These three spheres can only be entered on one condition, and that condition is that the soul must clothe itself in the garb belonging to that particular sphere. It is that garb which makes an entity of the soul, which hitherto was without any distinction or attribute. As soon as it has adopted this garb it becomes an entity. Before it was only a divine ray. The first garb makes the soul an entity known as an angel. The next garb makes it a mind; and the third garb makes it a body.
Is the mind within the body, and is the soul within the mind? As according to science the brain is within the body one could think that the mind too is within the body, but it is not so. It is as much within as without. It is vaster and wider than the physical body. A jug cannot contain the water of a lake, and so the body cannot contain in itself the mind. Yet the jug can contain some water from the lake, and the body can contain some of the mind within itself.
But the word ‘within’ has a quite different meaning from that which we attach to it in everyday language. When we speak of the mind being within it means a different dimension. It does not mean in the head or in the breast. It means within each atom of the body, and within every nerve and every blood-cell. And at the same time that it means within, it means behind or beneath or under or nearest to the soul, nearest to our being. That is the meaning of within. The mind is both within and without the body. And so in the same way the soul is both within the mind and without the mind.
One might ask to what extent the jinn world and the angelic world occupy space in our world and pervade it. But what is space? Space is that which accommodates. The mind is a space also, a space which is wider than the world. Our eye is a space too. And as the mind does not mean the brain, so the space in the eyes of our body is not the only space. Behind it is another space, which is connected with it. And when this idea becomes clear to man, that there is another space, different from this outer space which already accommodates so much, then the vision of the heavens is opened before him. When a Chinese philosopher was asked what the soul is like, he answered that it is like the pupil of the eye. He meant to say that the soul is an accommodation, like the pupil of the eye, which is so small and yet accommodates so much.
And think of the heart. If there were a thousand universes it would accommodate them all, it is so large. As the former Nizam of Hyderabad who was a mystic said, ‘What is the universe and the entire cosmos? If the doors of the heart are open, the heart proves to be larger than the whole cosmos.’ What little one can understand of this is shown by the sign of the cross: there is a horizontal space and there is another kind of space, which can be pictured as a perpendicular line. It is to explain the latter space that the mystics and seers have used the word ‘within,’ and to explain the space of the world, they have used the word ‘without.’
The entities or souls, which shoot forth from the Spirit, into these three spheres, have in each of them the experience of meeting those souls which are returning from manifestation. It is just like a person going from the United States to the Far East and another going from the Far East to the United States, and both meeting in Europe. They give each other whatever they have. The one coming from the Spirit gives magnetism, electricity, intelligence, freedom and freshness, love and life. And the one returning gives experience, knowledge, impression, expression, desires, wishes, thoughts of the wickedness and goodness of the earth, all that he has learned and earned and done and wants to accomplish. All these things are exchanged. It is like the way in which one man may come from Europe with an introduction to the United States which would take him into the best society, and another one who has not received any introduction might go to quite the wrong people.
Thus the soul comes on earth already prepared during the journey through these two spheres. Now supposing for instance the returning soul of Shakespeare met in the world of the jinn another soul coming from the inner Spirit and gave all its experience and qualities and attainments to this soul which was coming to the earth. Then this soul would be born with the same qualities as Shakespeare. With the tendency to write poetry, and with much of the knowledge which Shakespeare expressed in his works. According to the Hindus this person may be called the reincarnation of Shakespeare. But one might think, ‘What has happened to Shakespeare himself; is it not Shakespeare who has come again in this person?’ Yes, but what we know of Shakespeare is of his mind and his body. Shakespeare’s soul was a divine ray. It had no peculiarity that might serve as a proof of his being Shakespeare. The Shakespeare in him was outwardly his physical body, and inwardly his mind. That mind was impressed on a soul who came forth on to the earth with the heritage already received from Shakespeare. And for Shakespeare to continue further towards the inner Spirit it was necessary to throw away that garment. Therefore the mind of Shakespeare was a garment borrowed from the jinn plane. That garment he may have given to another one. So if you say, ‘What about Shakespeare?’ the first question really is: who was Shakespeare? Because it is not the soul, it is the garment which has come again, renewed. The difference is only in words. In its deeper sense there is no difference.
There seems to be a great dissimilarity between the ideas of Buddhism and those of Christianity about reincarnation. The reason is that the message of Jesus Christ was given to the children of Beni Israel, to those prepared to understand God as the King, as the Master of the Day of Judgment, as the One who is all justice and all power. While the message which Buddha gave was to the people of India, who were more metaphysical and scientific. The simple people of India had their gods and goddesses, and they were satisfied with their religion. But the intellectual class was not satisfied with the gods and goddesses alone and with a religion of devotion. They were scientific and logical. They had their own philosophies. Buddha’s mission therefore was to give the people of India an understanding beyond what religious devotion can teach. That is why he did not give the essential wisdom in the form of religion, but in the form of philosophy. The common belief was in reincarnation. And it was much easier for the Master not to attack that particular belief but to build on that belief a wonderful structure.
Some Buddhists today whose insight is great wonder why Buddha gave this theory, and why he did not give a reason for it. I was very much interested once in San Francisco where a Buddhist came to see me. He was a well-known preacher of Buddhism in Japan. There was another man present who had read many Buddhist books. I was eagerly waiting to hear what this Buddhist priest had to say, but he did not think it necessary to say anything. In order to make him speak I said I would so much like to know the Buddhist teaching about reincarnation. But the other man, the one who had read many books, said, ‘Reincarnation is the principal idea in the Buddhist religion. That one is born again and again. And that is what constitutes Karma.’ But I was eager to hear something from the priest! After the other had finished his explanation, I asked the Buddhist preacher if this was right. And in his simple way of speaking, he said, ‘What this gentleman has said is his belief.’ He said no more.
If one should ask if there is such a thing as reincarnation the answer is both yes and no. Why? Because in both answers there is sense and both answers are true. When you look at life as one life then you do not look upon people as separate entities. Then you cannot say that this person has reincarnated as another. It is the One who is all, and each one is nothing. Either you look at life in that way or you look at life by seeing each person as a separate entity. Naturally, as everything has to go on being something, it must still exist after it is destroyed, it must have an existence in some form. But the destruction or death is only a change. Something cannot be nothing. If it is nothing to our eyes, it is because we do not see. Everything must exist in some form or other. Thus the theory of reincarnation teaches that there is nothing which will be nothing, that everything will be something, must be something.
The other conception is this: if the source is one, the goal is one, then all that we see is phenomena as long as we do not look deeply. When once we look deeply we shall no longer distinguish separate entities. Then we shall see one life, one Being. And then there is no reason to think about reincarnation. The thought of Buddha was the same as the teaching of Jesus Christ, only given to Hindus in another form. The religion of the Master was the same whether he was called Buddha or Christ. The more we think of this subject the more we shall find that a preparation is made for man before he is born on earth. And it is that preparation which makes him able to live the life on earth.
What is this life on earth? Is this a life which is fixed and designed, or is there free will? Very often people do not understand the meaning of the term freewill, and specially those who claim most to have free will have the least of it. They are so conscious of their free will and yet they do not know where it comes from. When they have an inclination to laugh or cry, to sit or move, they believe that it is because they want to do it. But they do not know where the thought came from. Do we not feel every day at some time an oppression, seemingly without reason, or a feeling of hilarity or of despair, or a desire for action and at other times a feeling of lethargy? We think that whatever comes into one’s mind is freewill. But freewill is quite different from that. We each have our free will. And that free will gives us the power to work to some extent within the activity of the
whole. But both that which we decide and that which conditions create can all be summed up in the Will of God. We have our individual part to perform. And we must do what we feel is right.
How can there be freewill, one might ask, if all is God? The power of water is different from the power of fire. The power of fire is different from the power of earth. So the action of each individual is different, although in the soul of each there is God. According to conditions and education temperaments differ. Yet God is in all.
There are many things one has to overcome before one sets forth upon the journey to higher realization. But at each step one takes towards the realization of truth one will feel more self confident. And the more one overcomes all doubts and the more one’s self-confidence grows, the greater will be one’s will. And the closer to truth one reaches, the more light one will see. And what is that light? It is the light of self-realization.
THE LAW OF ACTION
TO SAY that results are according to deeds sounds simple, for almost everyone knows it. But not everyone always follows it. And the reason is that knowing a law does not necessarily enable man to observe that law. Besides the nature of life is so intoxicating that, absorbed in the activity of life, one mostly forgets this rule. It is natural, however, that this most simple thing should be very difficult to practice, because one generally neglects to think seriously about it. In order to prove this theory, that the results of a deed are similar to the deed, one need not go far. One can see numberless examples in one’s own life and in the lives of others. For it is like an echo. What one does has an echo, and in that echo is the result.
Zarathushtra says that actions may be divided into three kinds: deed, speech, and thought. One may not do wrong, but one may speak wrongly. One may not speak wrongly, but one may think wrongly. And the wrong is done just the same. And how many people excuse themselves by saying, ‘I only said it, but I did not do it!’ A person can even excuse himself by saying, ‘I did not say it, I only thought it.’
According to the ideas of the mystics the world in which we make our life is an Akasha, and Akasha means capacity. It is pictured, by them, as a dome. And whatever is spoken in it has its echo. Therefore no one can do, say, or think anything for one moment, which will become non-existent. It is recorded. And that record is creative. It is not only what one does, says, or thinks that is recorded in the memory or in the atmosphere, but that record also creates at every moment, so that every line and letter of it becomes the seed or the germ that produces a similar effect.
I once heard a sculptor say that every man is the sculptor of his own image. Not only is this true, but every man is also the creator of his own conditions, favorable or unfavorable. The difficulty is that man never has the patience to wait till he sees the result. For the result takes some time to manifest, and before that he may meet with contrary effects. For instance a man who has just robbed another person may have the good luck to find in the street a purse full of gold coins. Naturally he will think, ‘What a good result after good work! Now that it is shown that I have done good work, I must continue it! It is the simple ones who say things against it, but I have seen the good results in my own experience!’ Life is so intoxicating that it gives man no time to think that the result of one’s deed is perhaps waiting. That what happens today may be the result of something else further back.
When we consider the law of action we see that it can be divided into five different aspects. One aspect is the law of the community. For this law is made for the comfort and convenience of the members of that community. Another aspect can be called the law of the state. It is the law by which different classes of people and different communities are governed as one whole. No doubt this aspect of the law is as limited as the mind of man. Naturally, therefore, many laws are rejected, and many new laws are made and brought into practice. And as time goes on people will see that the members of the community or the state will always wish for changes to be made in the law. This has always been and will always be.
The third aspect of the law is the law of a Church. A law, which perhaps comes from tradition. A law, that people accept, not only because it is a law, by which they are governed, but because it is a law that is concerned with their faith, with their belief, which is sacred to them. It is this law which builds a conscience, more than any other aspect of the law.
But then there is another aspect and that is the law brought by the prophets from time to time. And what is this law? It comes as an interpretation of the hidden law, which a prophet has been able to see. But a law given by a prophet is also related to the period in which he lived, to the people of that period and their particular evolution. Thus this law is brought about by two actions. One action is the condition of humanity at that specific time, reflected in the heart of the prophet. And the other is the light of God, shining from above to make that condition so clear that a solution can be found for it. It is this solution which can be called the divine law, given by the prophet.
When we study the religions given by various prophets to different people in this world, in different periods of the world’s history, we shall find that the truth which is behind all the religions is the same. If the teaching differs it differs only in the law they have given. People have always disputed in vain over this difference in the laws that the different teachers have given to their people, not realizing how much that law depended on the people who received it and on the time when it was given.
But these four laws mentioned above: the law of the community, of the state, of the Church, and of the prophet, all have their limitations. There is, however, one law, which leads man towards the unlimited. And this law can never be taught and can never be explained. At the same time this law is rooted in the nature of man, and there is no person, however unjust and wicked he may seem, who has not got this faculty in his innermost being. It may be called a faculty, for it is the faculty of discerning between right and wrong.
But what determines that something should be called right or wrong? Four things: the motive behind the action, the result of the action, the time, and the place. Wrong action with the right motive may be right; and a right action with wrong motive may be wrong. We are always ready to judge an action, and we hardly think of the motive . That is why we readily accuse a person for his wrong, and excuse ourselves readily for our wrong, because we know our motive best. We would perhaps excuse another person as we excuse ourselves if we tried to know the motive behind his action too. A thought, a word, or an action in the wrong place turns into a wrong one, even if it was right in itself. A thought or word or action at a wrong time may be wrong although it may seem right. And when we analyze this more and more we shall say as a Hindu poet has said, ‘There is no use in feeling bad about the wrong deed of another person. We should content ourselves with the thought that he could not do better.’ To look at everything, trying to see what is behind it, to see it in its right light, requires divine illumination, a spiritual outlook on life . And this outlook is attained by the increase of compassion. The more compassion one has in one’s heart, the more the world will begin to look different.
There is another side to this question. Things seem to us according to how we look at them. To a wrong person everything looks wrong, and to a right person everything looks right. For a right person turns wrong into right, and a wrong person turns right into wrong. The sin of the virtuous is a virtue, and the virtue of a sinner is a sin. Things depend very much upon our interpretation, as there is no seal on any action, word, or thought which determines it to be wrong or right.
There is still another side to it: how much our favor and disfavor play their part in discerning right and wrong. In someone whom we love and like and admire we wish to see everything wrong in a right light. Our reason readily comes to the rescue of the loved one. It always brings an argument as to what is right and what excuses his wrong. And how readily do we see the faults and errors of the one whom we disfavor. And how difficult it is for us to find a fault, even if we wanted to, in someone we love! Therefore, if in the life of Christ we read how he forgave those who were accused of great faults or great sins, we can now see that it was natural that the one who was the lover of mankind could not see faults. The only thing he could see was forgiveness. A stupid or simple person is always ready to see the wrong in another and ready to form an opinion and to judge. But you will find a wise person expressing his opinion of others quite differently, always trying to tolerate and always trying to forgive still more. The present is the reflection of the past, and the future will be the echo of the present. This saying will always prove true.
The Sufis of Persia have classified the evolution of personality in five different grades. The first is the person who errs at every step in his life and who finds fault with others at every moment of his life . One can picture this person as someone who is always likely to fall, who is on the point of tumbling down. And when he falls he at once catches someone else and pulls him down with him. This is not rare if we study the psychology of man. The one who finds fault with another is very often the one who has the most faults himself. The right person first finds fault with himself. The wrong person finds fault with himself last. Only after having found fault with the whole world does he find fault with himself. And then everything is wrong, then the whole world is wrong.
The next grade of personality is that of the one who begins to see the wrong in himself and the right in the other. Naturally he has the opportunity in his life to correct himself because he finds time to discover all his own faults. The one who finds fault with others has no time to find fault with himself. Besides he cannot be just. The faculty of justice cannot be awakened unless one begins to practice that justice by finding the faults in oneself.
The third person is the one who says, ‘What does it matter if you did wrong or if I did wrong? What is needed is to right the wrong.’ He naturally develops himself and helps his fellow-men also to develop.
Then there is the fourth man, who can never see what is called good without the possibility of its becoming bad, and who can never see what is called bad without the possibility of that bad turning into good. The best person in the world cannot hide his faults before him and the worst person in the world will show his merit to his eyes.
But when man has risen to the fifth grade of personality, then these opposite ideas of right or wrong, good or bad, seem to be like the two ends of one line. When that time has come he can say little about it, for people will not believe him, while he is the one who can judge rightly, yet he will be the last to judge.
There are three different ways that man may take in order to progress towards human perfection. But a person who is not evolved enough to adopt the third way or the second way, should not be forced to attempt them. If he were forced at this stage it would mean that he was only taught a manner. For these three ways are like three steps towards human perfection.
The first degree is the law of reciprocity. It is in this degree that one learns the meaning of justice. The law of reciprocity is to give and to take sympathy, and all that sympathy can give and take. It is according to this law that the religion and the laws of the state and of the community are made. The idea of this law is that you may not take from me more than you could give me. I will not give you more than I could take from you. It is fair business: you love me, I can love you. You hate me. I can hate you. And according to this law if a person has not learned the just measure of give and take, he has not practiced justice. He may be innocent, he may be loving, but he has no common sense, he is not practical.
The danger in this law is that a person may value most what he himself does and may diminish the value of what is done by another. But the one who gives more than he takes is progressing towards the next grade.
It is easy for us to say that this is a very hard and fast law. But at the same time it is the most difficult thing to live in this world and to avoid it. One must ask a practical man, a man with common sense, if it is possible to live in this world and not to observe this law of give and take. If the people of the world did no better than keep this law properly there would be much less trouble in this world. It is no use thinking that people will become saints or sages or great beings. If they became just it would already be something.
And now we come to the next step. This is the law of beneficence. And this law means being unconcerned with how another person responds to us in answer to what we do to him in love and sympathy. What concerns one is what can one do for the other person. It does not matter if a favor is not appreciated. Even if the favor were absolutely ignored, still the satisfaction of the beneficent man comes from what he has done, not from what the one who has received it has expressed. When this sense is born in man, from that day he begins to live in the world. For his pleasure does not depend upon what he receives from others but depends upon what he does for others. His happiness is not dependent on anything. His happiness is independent. He becomes the creator of his happiness. His happiness is in giving, not in taking.
But what do I mean by giving? We give and take every moment of the day. Every word we speak, every action we do, every thought and feeling we have for one another, is all giving and all taking. But it is the man who gives who will forget his sorrow, it is he who will forget his miseries, it is he who will rise above the pains and miseries of this world.
Then comes the third law, and that is the law of renunciation. To the one who observes this law giving means nothing. For he is not even conscious of the fact that he gives. He gives automatically. He never thinks ‘I give.’ He thinks that it is being given. This person may be pictured as someone walking on the water. For it is he who will rise absolutely above the disappointments, distresses, and pains of life, which are so numberless. Besides renunciation means independence and indifference. Indifference to all things, and yet not by the absence of sympathy. And independence in regard to all things, and yet not independence in the crude sense of the word.
Renunciation, therefore, may be called the final victory. Only one in a million can attain to this ideal. And the one who has attained this ideal is he who may be called elevated, liberated.
PURITY OF LIFE
PURITY of life is the central theme of all the religions, which have been given through the ages to humanity. For purity is not only a religious idea but it is the outcome of the nature of life itself, and one sees it in some form or other in every living creature. It is the tendency of all animals and birds to cleanse their coats or feathers, and to find a clean place in which to live or sit. And in the human being this tendency is even more pronounced. Even a man who has not risen above the material life shows this faculty in physical cleanliness, but behind this there is something else hidden, something which is the secret of the whole creation and the reason why the world was made.
Purity is the process through which the life-rhythm manifests. The rhythm of that indwelling spirit which has worked through the ages in mineral and plant, in animal and man. For its effort, through all these experiences, is to arrive at that realization where it finds itself pure, pure in essence and pure from all that could affect its original condition. The entire process of creation and of spiritual unfoldment shows that the spirit which is life itself, and which represents the divine in life, has wrapped itself in numberless folds, and in that way has, so to speak, descended from heaven to earth.
This process is called involution, and that which follows is known as evolution, or the unwrapping of the divine essence from the folds of enshrouding matter. The sense of this need of freeing the spirit from that which clogs and binds it is called purity, in whatever part of life it is felt. It is in this sense that we may understand the saying ‘cleanliness is next to godliness.’ In the Arabic language the word for purity is Saf from which root the name Sufi is derived. Some of the early orders of Sufis were called the Brothers or the Knights of Purity. And this did not allude to physical purity but to the unfoldment of the spirit towards its original condition, the pure being of the metaphysician, or the pure reason of the philosopher. The word Sophia or pure wisdom has the same derivation.
In the ordinary use of the word ‘pure’ we find the same meaning: for instance, when we speak of pure water or pure milk, we mean that the original substance is unmixed with any foreign element. Therefore a pure life is the term used to express the effort of man to keep his spiritual being untainted by the false values of the worldly life. It is the constant search for the original self, the desire to reach it, and the means employed to recover it, which alone can truly be called purity of life. But the term can be applied with the same meaning to any part of man’s life.
When it refers to the body, it expresses the idea that what is foreign to the body should not be there. And this is the first stage of purity. When a person is spoken of as pure-minded, does it not mean that only that which is natural to the mind remains there, and that all which is unnatural has been washed away? This leads us to the question as to what is natural to the mind. And for an answer we cannot do better than to take the mind of a little child. What do we find there? We find first of all faith, the natural tendency to trust. Then love, the natural tendency towards friendliness and affection. Then hope, the natural expectancy of joy and happiness.
No child is a natural unbeliever. If it were so it could not learn anything. What it hears and what it is told is accepted by the mind, which is ready to believe, admire, and trust. It is experience of life. The life of the world where selfishness reigns, that spoils the beauty of the mind of the child who is a natural believer. A natural friend, ready to smile at every face; a natural admirer of beauty, ready to see without criticism and to overlook all that does not attract it. A natural lover who knows no hate.
There are two ways of becoming pure in mind and body. The one way is to live so that the divine nature in us may shine out and illuminate our path, and so that everything we do and refrain from doing may result in a pure life. The other way is very simple and yet very difficult: it is to observe a child, to envy its innocence, simplicity, and purity, and to grow like a child, following first the example of a child of nine years, then of eight years, then of seven, and so on. As one goes further one comes to taking even an infant as one’s example. It was this secret which was taught by the pictures of the Holy Mother with the infant Christ. Also the symbolical meaning of the wise men of the East, coming to pay homage to the infant Christ, is that to learn the truth we must unlearn all the truths we have learnt.
To bring back that higher stage of innocence, which existed in the Garden of Eden, we do not need to lose intellect, we need to rise above it. As long as man is beneath his intellect, he is the slave of his intellect. But when he is above it he is its master. Man is greater than the angels, therefore the world can be a higher place than the Garden of Eden, if only man has mastery over his intellect, if only he can rise above it instead of sinking beneath it.
When the soul is evolved it feels by itself. In other words it becomes conscious of its purity, of its majesty, of its eternal life, of its bliss, of its inspiration and of its power. Such is the original mind of man and such its natural condition. It is not sin that is original but purity, the original purity of God Himself. But as the mind grows and is fed by the life in the world, unnatural things are added to it and for the moment these additions seem desirable, useful, or beautiful. They build another kind of mind, which is sometimes called the ego or the false self. They make man clever, learned, brilliant, and many other things. But above and beyond all is the man of whom it can be said that he is pure-minded.
When we think about this there arises the question as to whether it would then be desirable to keep a child always a child, so that it should never learn the things, which belong to the worldly life. But one might just as well ask if it is not desirable that the spirit should always remain in heaven and never come to earth at all!
True exaltation of the spirit resides in the fact that it has come to earth and has realized there its spiritual existence. It is this, which is the perfection of spirit. Therefore, all that the world gives, in the way of knowledge, of experience, or of reason, all that a man’s own experience or that of others teaches, all that is learnt from life, its sorrows and disappointments, its joys and opportunities, all these contradictory experiences help our love to become fuller and our vision wider. A man who has gone through all experiences and has held his spirit high and has not allowed it to be stained, such a man may be said to be pure-minded. The person who could be called pure because he had no knowledge of either good or evil would in reality be merely a simpleton. To go through all which takes away the original purity and yet to rise above everything, which seeks to overwhelm it and drag it down, that is spirituality. The light of the spirit held high and burning clear and pure. It needs the effort of a whole lifetime, and he who has not known it has not known life.
The first kind of purity is the purity of the physical world in which man has to obey the laws of cleanliness and of hygiene. And in doing so he takes the first step towards spirituality. The next is what is generally called purity of life. That purity of life which is shown in a man’s social, moral, and religious attitude. The national and religious codes are often very rigid with regard to this kind of purity, and sometimes it is merely an external, man-made purity which the individual soul has to break through to find that of a higher plane. There is, however, a standard of inner purity of which the principle is that anything in speech or action which causes fear, brings confusion, or gives a tendency to deception, extinguishes that little spark in the heart, the spark of trueness which only shines when the life is natural and pure.
A man may not always be able to tell when an action is right in regard to particular circumstances, or when it is wrong. But he can always remember this psychological principle, and judge as to whether the action or word robs him of that inner strength and peace and comfort which form his natural life. No man can judge another. It is a man’s self that must be his judge. Therefore it is no use to make rigid standards of moral or social purity. Religion has made them, schools have taught them, yet the prisons are full of criminals and the newspapers are daily more eloquent about the faults of humanity. No external law can stop crime. It is man himself who should understand what is good for him and what is not. He should be able to discriminate between what is poison and what is nectar. He should know it, measure it, weigh it and judge it. And that he can only do by understanding the psychology of what is natural to him and what is unnatural. The unnatural action, thought, or speech is that which makes him uncomfortable before, during, or after it has taken place. For his sense of discomfort is proof that in this case it is not the soul which is the actor. The soul is forever seeking something, which will open a way for its expression and give it freedom and comfort in this physical life. In reality the whole life is tending towards freedom, towards the unfoldment of something which is choked up by physical life. And this freedom can be gained by true purity of life.
We have seen what it means to purify the life of the body and of the mind. But there is a further purity, which is the purity of the heart, the constant effort to keep the heart pure from all the impressions which come from without and are foreign to the true nature of the heart, which is love. And this can only be done by a continual watchfulness over one’s attitude towards others. By overlooking their faults, by forgiving their shortcomings, by judging no one except oneself. For all harsh judgments and bitterness towards others are like poison. To feel them is exactly the same as absorbing poison in the blood: the result must be disease. First disease in the inner life only, but in time the disease breaks out in the physical life. And these are illnesses, which cannot be cured. External cleanliness does not have much effect upon the inner purity. But inner uncleanness causes disease both inwardly and outwardly.
Then after this third stage has been reached, and the heart has been attuned by high ideals, by good thoughts, by righteous actions, there comes a still greater purity in which all that is seen or felt, all that is touched or admired, is perceived as God. At this stage no thought or feeling may be allowed to come into the heart but God alone. In the picture of the artist this heart sees God; in the merit of the artist which observes nature, in the faculty of the artist to reproduce that which he observes, such a one sees the perfection of God; and therefore to him God becomes all and all becomes God.
When this purity is reached man lives in virtue. Virtue is not a thing, which he expresses or experiences from time to time. His life itself is virtue. Every moment that God is absent from the consciousness is considered by the sage to be a sin. For at that moment the purity of the heart is poisoned. It is lack of life, which is sin: and it is purity of life, which is virtue. It is of this purity that Jesus Christ spoke when he said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.’
IF anyone asked me what is the life of life, and what is the light of life, what gives one interest in life, I should answer him in one word, and that is: the ideal. A man with wealth, with qualifications, with learning, with comfort, but without ideal to me is a corpse. But a man without learning, without qualifications, without wealth or rank, but with an ideal is a living man. If a man does not live for an ideal what else does he live for? He lives for himself, which is nothing. The man who lives and does not know an ideal is powerless and without light. The greater the ideal, the greater the person. The wider the ideal the broader the person. The deeper the ideal the deeper the person, the higher the ideal the higher the person. Without an ideal, whatever a man may be in life, life for him is worthless.
What do I mean by an ideal? However insignificant the object may be which one loves, which one looks up to, for which one is ready to sacrifice oneself and all one possesses, yet that is an ideal. I prefer the fanatic who says, For this idol of stone I will give my life, I worship it as a god,’ to the one who says, ‘I do not know, I just live on from day to day.’ A sincere ideal, however slight, is an ideal. Even to have a slight ideal, and yet to understand it and to be sincere about it, is something worth while. We do not reach the ideal when we go from one ideal to another.
There is an old story of Haris Chandra, a king, whose principle was to be faithful, to be truthful, to be true to his word. At one time, having been taken prisoner, he was sold into the house of a person who made him a keeper of the graveyard. And one day he saw his wife coming there, from whom he had been separated many years. His wife was bringing his son who had died to be buried there. A great struggle went on in his mind when he saw that it was his own child and his own wife, whom he had not seen for so many years. She was so poor that she could not pay the money that was needed for the burial, and here he was appointed by his master to ask money for the work he had to do. But though
he recognized his wife, he never said, ‘I am your husband.’ He recognized his child, but never allowed his heart to show his deep sadness. He did not allow her to enter without paying, for he was appointed for that purpose. He went through a sorrow, which was worse than death. Yet he kept to his principle. The ideal will always appeal to one; however fanatical it may seem, however unreasonable, however it may seem to lack logic, yet an ideal is an ideal. It has a life of its own. An ideal is living, and it makes the one who is an idealist alive.
There may be someone who will go through any sacrifice to serve his nation: he has his ideal. There is another who in order to keep up the dignity of his family, of his ancestors, will endure troubles and difficulties, and yet will keep his honor. He has some ideal. However narrow he may seem to be, however conservative, yet he has a virtue which should be recognized. The records of the world’s history show that those who have been able to maintain their virtue have very often been able to do so because their parents or their ancestors had maintained their dignity. Therefore they could not do otherwise. A person who does not consider these things will go on living, and may even have a profitable life, but it will be an ordinary life, a life without depth, without value. There is nothing in life, which can make it worth while except an ideal.
There are others who have a racial ideal. They value certain qualities of their race and maintain them, and in order to maintain them they are willing to go through any sacrifice. There are others who have the honor of their word. Once they have given their word it is for ever. There are other idealists who have the honor of their affection, the honor of their love, the honor of their friendship. Once they have given it, it is given; to go back upon it is the greatest disgrace to them. Both in giving their heart and in accepting a heart there is character, there is honor. The loss of that stability is worse to them than death. All these things, however small and childish they may appear, have great value. They are really the only things worth while in life. The following story is an example of an extreme ideal.
Once in the Panjab some little girls were playing together when Maharaja Ranjit Singh passed by. He was taking a walk, disguised as an ordinary man. One little girl said, ‘I am going to marry a millionaire.’ Another little girl said, ‘I am going to marry a general.’ Then a third little girl who was a Rajput, a caste which is known for its pride and chivalry, said, ‘I am going to marry the king of this place, the Maharaja.’ Ranjit Singh, who was old enough to be her grandfather, overheard this and was greatly amused. He told the parents of that girl that when the time of her wedding came they should apply to him, and then a dowry would be given to her by the state so that she could be happy all her life.
Years passed and the king died. And the time came for the parents to think about arranging their daughter’s marriage. When the question was put to the girl she said, ‘How can it be? I have been married already. Did I not give my word? Is it not enough?’ They said, ‘It was a word given in your childhood, it meant nothing at all. It was play, and the Maharaja is now dead.’ She said, ‘No, I will not hear another word about it. I am the daughter of a Rajput, I have given my word and I will not go back on it.’ This is an extreme ideal. It has a fanatical aspect, but nevertheless it is an ideal.
There is another story of a Rajput Raja, a man with a fine nature and high ideal, and who was also very fond of poetry. He waged war against the Moghul Emperor of Delhi, and the struggle continued for a long time. While the war was going on, other princes gave in and came to the emperor’s court and did homage, but that one Raja said that as long as he lived he would never bow to the emperor. And at last, when the emperor became disheartened after a long battle, he told the warriors of his court that there would be a very large prize for the one who would bring him the head of this Raja who had caused such great trouble and expense.
No one seemed to want to undertake this task except one man, a great poet at the court of the emperor. All the brave warriors laughed at him, but the poet went to the camp of the Raja, and his great talent made such an impression upon the Raja that he said, ‘Ask, 0 poet, for I really do not know what to give you. There seems to be nothing worthy of you in the treasury.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘do not promise what will be difficult for you to keep.’ He replied, ‘My promise is a promise.’ The poet then said, ‘I feel very embarrassed at asking you, but it is your head I want. Will you keep your promise?’ The Raja at once unsheathed his sword and put it in the hand of the poet and said, ‘It is a very small thing you have asked, it is not greater than my word.’ The people, his children, the ministers, were all very upset; but he was not upset at all.
Then the poet said, ‘As you have promised me your head, why not give me your body also? Why should not this body also come with me?’ The Raja agreed and left with the poet, the poet first and the Raja behind him. And thus he was brought alive to the camp of the emperor. And there was great excitement, and in order to satisfy his vanity the emperor asked the Raja to come into the court where all the nobles were gathered. After the poet had brought the Raja into the court, the emperor looked at him, at that enemy with whom he had been at war for so many years, and he said, ‘You have come after all, after so many years, but it does not seem that your pride is gone, for you do not think even now of bowing before me!’ The Raja answered, ‘Who should bow, a dead person?’ No doubt that ironhearted emperor did not see the beauty of that soul for he ordered that he should be beheaded. But the poet exclaimed, ‘No, if he is to be killed, then I must be killed first. I must be beheaded also, for I shall never find anyone who will appreciate my music as he has.’ So this poet died together with the Raja. And the sons of the poet, his whole family, all came and recited the most wonderful and inspiring poems, which were just like the salt of the earth. Each one said one poem and died, for the merit of that Raja and the great wisdom he had shown.
Everyone must die one day or other. The Raja died because he would not break his word. If the earth were above and the sky below, he would keep it just the same.
In the history of nations one finds a great many examples of idealism like these. One might say that these people lack wisdom, that they lack balance, reason, logic. And yet they stand above logic and reason, they stand above what one calls practicality and common sense. Many practical people with common sense have come and gone. But if we remember the names of any who have made a lasting impression upon the world they are the idealists.
It is very difficult to distinguish between a false and a true ideal. It is not only difficult, but it is impossible. For if something is false, then it is as false as it is real. And if it is real, it is as real as it is false. The best way is just to take as true that which at the time appears true to us. But we should not always discuss it with others, nor try to defend it. We do not know. We do not know if what we find true today will not appear false to us tomorrow. For all these terms, good or bad, right or wrong, virtue or sin, false or true are relative. And according to differences of time and space they change, which means that it depends from what height we look at it, from what position we see it. In other words, what seems right in the morning, may seem wrong in the evening, and what may seem wrong in the day, may seem right at night. Another example is that if we stand on a certain step of a staircase when looking at things, the right things will seem wrong by looking at them from another step. And the wrong things will seem right by looking at them from a higher or lower one. Therefore whatever we consider at the time to be right, just, good, and virtuous, that is the thing we ought to do. But we should not impose or urge what we consider right or good or true upon others who do not consider it in the same way as we do.
The ideal is such that one can go to extremes, but as they say in Sanskrit, extremes in all things are undesirable. Yet at the same time it is not generally so. Mostly one does not consider the ideal enough. For instance one cannot be too good and one cannot be too true. The way to practice this is in one’s everyday life. If one would only keep in mind that what one has said one must do, even if it is a very small thing.
This whole question is very delicate, because it is said that in the beginning was the Word. So breaking one’s word is breaking God. If man begins to realize, ‘In my word there is God,’ then he will keep his word.
Some wonder if it is better to keep one’s word even if one finds later one was mistaken in giving it. This depends upon one’s discernment. Keeping one’s word is like a promise. Besides this, a person may speak without thought and later he will have to change. But if he will always try to speak without mistakes, then in time he will be able to avoid mistakes.
To say, ‘A promise is a promise’ might seem somewhat rigid, but it is not; for a promise is one’s word, one’s honor, one’s ideal. As high as one’s ideal is, so important is one’s promise. If one’s word can be kicked about like a football it is nothing. One’s word is like a pearl mounted on the crown of a king. There are men with such high ideals that once their word is broken they do not wish to live. There is something very high, very wonderful, in this, for it is the divine spark within which gives one the sense of the word. If there is anything by which one can test a person, what he is, his personality, his greatness, his goodness, it is by his word.
No doubt the ideal by which we all feel that we come from the same source and return to the same source is the greatest. For in that ideal we unite with one another, serve one another, and feel responsible for being sincere and true to one another. Even if a man has learned some virtues, he cannot very well practice those virtues if he has no ideal. Ideal teaches virtues naturally. They rise from the heart of man.
There is a story of a king who judged four persons for the same misdemeanor. The wise king said to one that he must be exiled, to the other that he would be put in prison for some time, to the third that he should have a life sentence, and to the fourth he said, ‘I am surprised. I never expected that such an offence would be committed by you.’ And what was the result? The one who was sent to prison was quite happy with his comrades there. The one who was exiled built up his business outside the country. The one who was sentenced was sentenced, and that was that. But the fourth one went home and committed suicide.
It is the ideal, which prompts man to sacrifice, and the most important thing he can sacrifice is his own life. A man without ideal has no depth, he is shallow. However pleased he may be with his everyday life, he can never enjoy that happiness which is independent of outer circumstances. The pleasure, which is experienced through pain, is the pleasure experienced by the idealist. But what of the pleasure that has not come out of pain? It is tasteless. Life’s gain, which people think so much of; what is it after all? A loss caused by an ideal is a greater gain than any other gain in this world.
The true ideal is always hidden behind a man-made ideal, which covers it. For instance the fragrance is hidden in the petals of the rose, and when one wants to extract the spirit from them one has to crush them. But thereby the same rose that could have lasted for only a few days has been turned into spirit, into essence, which can last a whole lifetime. That is what is meant by the saying from the Gayan: ‘The ideal is a means, but its breaking is the goal.’ The ideal can also be pictured as an egg: its breaking is the fulfillment, as with the egg when the chick comes forth. It is necessary for the ideal to break; if it is not broken then the ideal is not used.
The ideal recedes when one approaches it, but the keener one’s sight becomes, the greater becomes the beauty of the ideal. In this way one is not removed further from the ideal. One is brought closer to it.
THE JOURNEY TO THE GOAL (1)
WHEN WE picture life as a journey, there are a thousand things, which will prove it to be so. When we are on a journey we are with a great many other people, looking at life and going forward. Those who have arrived at their Station have got out of the train. And the little friendship or sympathy or antipathy that existed between us only lasted till then. Those who went on have left behind the impression of them, which we carry with us. That impression makes us either happy or unhappy. Either it makes us love them even in their absence, or it makes us hate them, hoping that we shall never see them again. When we think of yesterday, of last week, of the last months, of the years that have passed in our lives, it only shows that they have passed and we have gone on. It is like the sensation that one has in the train, as though the train was standing still and the trees were moving. In life we have the same sensation, that life is passing and we are standing still.
And we also see when travelling that some are prepared, with all that is necessary in this world, while there are others who are not prepared. Both have to travel just the same, those who are prepared and those who are not. The only difference is that for those who are prepared, this journey is easy. This is explained by the Indian fable of the monkey and the sparrows. When autumn seemed to be approaching the sparrows said, ‘We must have a nest. We must build it and it must be ready soon, for autumn is coming nearer.’ A little monkey overheard this and was very frightened because it was the first time this young monkey had had to face the winter. It went with great anxiety to its parents and said, ‘We must build a home, we must build a nest where we can be protected. I did not know the autumn was coming, but someone told me so.’ While they were discussing this the sparrows made their nest ready, but the monkeys put it off from one day to another until autumn was upon them.
And so it is in the world. We find people who say, ‘What does it matter? We shall wait and see what will come.’ But when they are faced by a difficulty, by a need, then they begin to realize that it would have been better if they had been prepared. It is the same with education. A young person when he should be learning is always attracted to play and to the enjoyment of life. But when that golden age of childhood, which gives facilities for learning, and for acquiring knowledge is past, then it is too late.
The greatest wealth is health, energy, intelligence, and life itself. If this health is not preserved and looked after in youth, then even though one may not feel it at that time there will come a time when one realizes that one neglected it. I once asked a person who was old but strong and healthy, ‘Will you tell me what blessings you have, what it is that keeps you so strong and healthy at your age?’ He said, ‘It is the conserved energy of youth which is now maintaining my life.’
Very few young people think about this. Youth is an intoxication. When they are in that intoxication, when they are full of energy, they do not think about it, of what they will have to spend in order to go far in the journey of life.
And then we come to the idea of humanity. Today what we consider learning or education consists of grammar and history and geography and mathematics. But that kind of education, which we should possess as current-coin: a good manner, strong will, a right attitude of mind, that kind of education seems to be quite overlooked. We find it nowhere. And yet if a man has education, qualification, rank or position, and lacks manner, he lacks a great part of life.
If a man does not have that strength of mind which he needs to carry him along the whole of his life’s path he lacks a great deal. A man who lacks money misses little. But the man who lacks power of mind misses everything in life. Weakness develops, and it develops without his knowing it. When one sees a little spark of weakness in oneself one thinks it is nothing, but one does not know that the spark will one day turn into a glow, and the glow will turn into a flame. For those who lack manner, strength of mind, a right attitude, it is then too late. They cannot be corrected any more. The nature of life is such that a thoughtless life will draw one into thoughtlessness, and then thoughtlessness will draw even a thoughtful person towards itself. Therefore there is more chance of falling than of rising in life. Besides among thousands there is hardly one who goes upon this journey with open eyes, for nearly all journey with their eyes closed. Man depends so much upon his friends, upon his relations, upon those who love him, upon those who admire him. But he does not know that those who love him will demand from him what is missing.
What is necessary in life is to master ourselves, and not to think that because we have influential or wealthy parents it does not matter what we ourselves are like. Whatever relations we have, however great and good they may be, that is not of any use to us. We each have our journey to make, and we have to answer the demands of this journey. How wonderful it is to watch the people on the daily journeys we make! One person comes along in a group of travelers and gives pleasure to all. He shares with them and gives a good impression to all and he wins their hearts. When he has gone what he has left with his fellow travelers is joy, a beautiful impression which they will always keep. And there is another one who causes hurt or harm or produces some disturbance among those travelling with him. And when he has gone they pray that they will never meet him again.
One day a maid informed her mistress that there was a funeral passing along the street. She was much impressed and said, ‘Certainly the person who died went to heaven.’ Her mistress laughed at this maid’s authoritative exclamation that this dead person went to heaven. She said, ‘Did you see this dead person going to heaven?’ ‘It is simple, Madam,’ she said, ‘for everyone who was following the funeral was weeping. Certainly this person has made a good impression on those among whom he lived.’ Man loses everything when absorbed in his daily life, not realizing that life passes and the call comes before he even thinks of it.
Man makes many great mistakes but there is one principal one, and that is that he goes through life thinking that he will stay here for ever. And since he is without preparation, the call naturally comes to him as a blow instead of as an invitation. When we think of the journey beyond, we begin to see how many there are in this world who do not even know that there is a hereafter. And the one who believes in the hereafter has his preconceived ideas about it. Either a religious or a philosophical belief. But not even that suffices for our purpose. What suffices for our purpose is to become acquainted with the road along which we have to pass, and with the road whereby the soul descended to the earth. This road is the bridge that stands between the physical and the spiritual part of our own being, and therefore the nature of this journey is different.
The journey in the world we make outside ourselves. And it is by being acquainted with this road that we are led to that destination which we are meant to reach. It is this that is acquired as divine knowledge by the help of meditation. There are many in this world who are curious to know what we shall find beyond this life, and it is this curiosity which gives scope to those who wish to attract mankind by falsehood. It gives them the chance to make up stories to satisfy man’s curiosity. For who can know of this way but man himself? He is the traveler and his own spirit is the way. It is man himself who must find his way, and it is with his own eyes that he must see what he will find on this way.
Therefore the true teachers of life’s secret do not tell him that he will see this or that on the way. They say he will find whatever he will find, and that his duty is to open his eyes so that he may travel on the way and see for himself. Once a mureed asked his teacher, ‘How I should like to see what it is like in heaven and what hell looks like!’ ‘Close your eyes,’ said the teacher, ‘and you will see it.’ ‘Shall I see heaven first?’ The teacher said, ‘Yes.’ He closed his eyes and went into meditation. ‘And now,’ said the teacher, ‘see hell also in meditation.’ And when the pupil opened his eyes the teacher asked, ‘What did you see?’ He said: ‘I saw nothing in heaven of that paradise of which people speak, nor were there those beautiful plants and flowers and all the wonderful objects of comfort and luxury. There was nothing.’ ‘And what did you see in hell?’ said the teacher. ‘I saw nothing. I had expected to see fire and brimstone and people in torture but it was empty. What is the reason? Did I see or did I not see it?’ And the teacher answered, ‘Certainly you have seen heaven and hell. But the brimstone and fire, or the beautiful gems and jewels of paradise, you have to take there yourself. You do not get them there.’
This gives us the secret of Omar Khayyam’s saying, ‘Heaven is the vision of fulfilled desire. Hell is the shadow of the soul on fire.’ What is most necessary for us to learn and understand is that from a perfect source we come, and to a perfect goal we go. But few seek that source consciously, and fewer still seek that source rightly.
What is the right way of seeking that source? The way to seek it is first to learn the psychology of one’s own life: what makes one fall, what makes one rise, what makes one fail, what makes one succeed, what gives one happiness, what brings one sorrow. Then one should study the nature of pleasure and pain, whether it is a lasting pain or whether it is a lasting pleasure, a momentary pleasure, or a momentary pain. And then find out the deceitful and false nature of one’s own impressions, how under cover of pain there was pleasure, and how under cover of pleasure there was pain. How in the worst person there is some good to be found, and how in the best there is something bad to be traced. This widens the point of view of a man and prepares the ground of his heart to realize the secret of enjoyment.
And the next thing man has to do is to control his activities, physical and mental. He should know that the nature of life is to go on, and that therefore this suspension of life gives scope to that tendency to progress within, instead of only giving it scope to progress outwardly. However much a person reads about and studies these things, it does not bring him satisfaction. Satisfaction comes only through experience, and experience is gained from meditation.
THE JOURNEY TO THE GOAL (2)
THERE ARE two different stages in human evolution, the minor and the major stage. In the Hindu Puranic symbology, characters belonging to the one or the other of these stages are called the younger and the elder brother.
Just as there is a stage of childhood when the child only knows what it wants and is only happy when it gets it, no matter what might be the consequences, so the minor stage of the soul is when man only desires what he can see, hear, perceive, or touch. When beyond that he does not care and does not wish for anything else. And the major stage is when man has experienced life to a certain extent, has known pleasure and pain, enthusiasm and disappointment, and has realized the variability of life. Only then has he reached the stage of majority.
These minor and major stages do not depend upon a certain age, nor do they depend upon a particular education. They depend upon the inner life. When a man has penetrated into life as far as he can go, and when he has passed the limit of the minor stage, then he arrives at the major stage. In the East there is a custom that has become a kind of religious etiquette: not to wake a person who is asleep. In other words, one should treat the world according to nature and not go against nature. The man who is in the minor stage should not be forced into the major stage. He must first sleep well before he can awake.
On the spiritual path the man who is in the minor stage says, ‘Yes, I would like to go on this path, but where shall I arrive?’ Before he travels on this path he wants to know all about it. He wants to know whether his friends are going with him. And if they are not, he is not ready to go either. For he is not sure of the way. He will not go alone and wants to know when and where he will arrive, if it is safe to journey on that particular path. On his journey he looks back and at the same time tries to look forward, asking, ‘Shall I reach the goal? Is it really the right path?’ A thousand times doubt comes, or fear. He looks back, forward, around. If others could only tell him how far he has journeyed! He is restless. He wants to know how far he is from the goal. He really is still a child, although he has a desire to travel on. To him the mystical hints for mental research are toys, which keep him busy, looking at the map of the journey to see where he is going.
About the conditions of the major stage the Bible says, ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ If I were asked what the journey really is, and what its object, I would answer that the purpose of the whole of creation was for this journey, and that if it were not for this purpose there would be no creation at all. Before a person starts upon this journey he practices it in some form or other in play, although in reality he has not yet started. For instance a person desires to be rich, and he devotes all his time and energy, his life and his thoughts, to that object, and so to speak journeys towards that goal. If he desires power he makes for that and gets it. If he wants position he uses all his strength to reach that goal. But he does all this in play. And the proof of this is that every time he attains the object he desired and of which he was in pursuit, it only gives him the desire for something else. If he is rich he wants to be famous. If he is famous he wants something else. If he has one thing he strives for another and is never satisfied. It shows that man, outwardly busy in the pursuit of worldly things, is not satisfied but has a constant yearning in his soul for something more. And this keeps him uneasy. Rumi gives a good explanation of this in his Masnavi where he says, ‘What is it in the reed flute that appeals to your soul that goes through you, pierces the heart?’ And the answer is: it is the crying of the flute, and the reason of its crying is that it once belonged to a plant from which it was cut apart. Holes were made in its heart. It longs to be reunited with its source, with its origin. In another place in his book Rumi says, ‘So it is with everyone who has left his original country for a long time. He may roam about and feel very pleased with what he sees, but there will come a moment when a strong yearning rises in his heart for the place where he was born.’
One sees that those in the world who have really suffered, who have been disappointed, who are broken-hearted, do not wish to tell anybody about their experiences, they do not want any company but wish to be alone. And then it is as if there were someone waiting with open arms, waiting for such a soul to come as a child comes to its mother. This shows that there is somewhere a consoler greater than any in the world, a friend dearer than anyone else, a protector stronger than any earthly one. Knowing that the world is not to be depended upon, the one who has gone through all this looks for that great one in himself.
The friend who is a friend in life and after death, in pleasure and pain, in riches and poverty, one upon whom one can always depend, who always guides rightly, who gives the best advice-that friend is hidden in one’s own heart. One cannot find a better one. Who is this friend? Man’s own being, his true inner being. That friend is the origin, source, and goal of all.
But the question arises: if that friend is one’s own being, why then call him a friend, why not call him one’s self? The answer is that no doubt this friend is really one’s own being, but when the greater Self is compared with the present realization one finds oneself smaller than a drop in the ocean. Man cannot very well call that friend himself until he has forgotten himself until he is no more himself. Until and unless one has arrived at the state of perfection one had better be quiet and not insolent, talking about that which one has not yet become.
All occult schools all over the world prescribe as the first lesson quietude, no discussion, no dispute, no argument. The conditions for those on the path are altogether different from the conditions of the outer world. The true knowers of life have kept their lips closed about this subject. No method has been successful and profitable other than the method of the prophets of all lands, who gave man the first lesson of love for God.
Religious authorities of different times have kept humanity ignorant of the knowledge of God and have only given it a belief in God. And it is lack of this knowledge, which has made the man of reason rebel against that which he could not understand. There remained no link between the two, knowledge and belief and that is how the reign of materialism came to the world, a reign which is still spreading. At such times of materialism chaos comes into the world. All is confusion and unrest. Many wish to do good, but do not know how. Such times Shri Krishna has called ‘the decay of Dharma,’ when the spirit is gone and only the form remains. No doubt at times warning comes in the form of intuition to the soul, but the intoxication of life, the mist, is so great that the message is not heard, not understood, not received until the messenger has disappeared.
What is the manner and the method of the journey? We see that when a person rises above all the things of the world such as power, wealth, possessions, all that gives pride and vanity, there comes a desire in his heart, a remembrance of his origin, of the perfection of love and peace, although no one in the world can pretend to have arrived at this stage. Every moment of a man’s life speaks louder of what he says than of what he really is.
Man’s first tendency towards humanity is a loving, a charitable attitude, to the extent that forgiveness dictates every action of his life. He shows patience in his actions, tolerance towards his fellow men, and considers that each one has his own stage of evolution. He does not expect a person to act in a better way than his stage of evolution permits. He does not make his own law wanting others to follow it. He follows the law for all.
When a man’s attitude has become a loving attitude, a tendency to serve, to forgive, to tolerate, to have reverence for all, good and bad, young and old, then he begins his journey. To explain what path it is there is no better symbol than the cross. No one without courage, strength of will, and patience can follow this path. When a person has to live among people of every different kind, he must make his own character soft as a rose, make it even finer so that no one can be hurt by the thorns. Two thorns cannot harm each other. The thorns can hurt the rose, but the rose cannot tear the thorns. Think what the life of the rose between two thorns must be!
The journey begins with a path of thorns, and the traveler must go barefoot. It is not easy always to be tolerant and patient, to refrain from judging others, and to love one’s enemy. It is a dead man who walks on this path, one who has drunk the bowl of poison. The beginning of each path is always difficult and uninteresting, hard for everybody. Ask the violinist about the first days when he practices scales and cannot even form the tones! Often he does not have enough patience to go on till he can play well enough to satisfy himself. The first part of the path is constant strife, struggle with life, but as one approaches the goal the path gets easier. The distance seems greater but the path is smoother and difficulties less. The journey is achieved by realizing in oneself the answer to the questions: what am I? Am I body, mind, or what else? Do I originate from the earth or if not from whence?
As soon as one has started on the journey one’s lower nature rises up, and all one’s follies and weaknesses want to drag one down to earth. And the struggle of breaking these chains requires the strength of a Samson. Then comes the struggle between the beauty of matter and spiritual beauty. Beauty in form and color is more realistic. Spiritual beauty is hidden in mist until one comes to a stage when spiritual beauty becomes the beauty, which is a shining light.
When man has acquired knowledge, power, magnetism, he becomes conscious of having greater power than others, of knowing more than others, of being able to achieve more than others. To use these faculties rightly is another struggle . He should not pride himself on these accomplishments. There is an enemy who starts with him on the journey and never leaves him: his pride and spiritual egotism and this enemy stays with him as long as he is on the path.
It is a great temptation to think, on having received inspiration and power, ‘I can do, know, understand more than you.’ It is a constant struggle until the end, and at any moment one may stumble and fall down. Only the steadfast traveler will persist in rising up every time, for without patience he may lose his way. But those who journey on this path will get help. As Christ said, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.’ It is the goal, which is important, and so is the right attitude of the soul towards it. Not the things one meets on the path.
WHAT generally happens in life is this: man acknowledges what he should not acknowledge, and he does not acknowledge what he should acknowledge. As a rule it is best never to acknowledge a fact that one does not wish to give life to. For instance, when a person begins to see that his friend is not as kind, not as affectionate as he ought to be as a friend, as soon as he acknowledges it he at once gives substance to something which so far has been only a shadow. A person who feels, ‘Everyone in my family, in my surroundings, dislikes me, disapproves of me. I have a tiring effect upon them,’ certainly gives life to that fact.
Once a friend came to me and said, ‘I do not know what bad planet is exerting its influence upon me, but for the last three years everything I touch has gone wrong. Nothing that I touch brings success or pleasure.’ I said, ‘I am very sorry you have come so late. Yet it is not too late. But for three years you have added fuel to this fire.’ Then he asked, ‘How did I add fuel to this fire?’ I answered, ‘By acknowledging it.’ If we acknowledge every little fact that has a bad effect upon our life, we give it life from our own, and thus make it a living thing. And so it is with many illnesses. Very often people get into the habit of saying, ‘Oh, I am so tired!’ It is not necessary for them to cut wood or carry stones. They will be tired before doing it. No sooner do they think of tiredness than it is there. There are many cases in which there is no need to be tired. One becomes tired only by the fact of having acknowledged it. It is the same with sleeplessness. Once one acknowledges to oneself that one cannot sleep, that is enough to keep one awake all night. There are many illnesses of this kind, and chief among them is depression.
To the one who acknowledges this life to be his friend, life will prove to be his friend. To the one who acknowledges this life to be his enemy, life will prove in every way to be his enemy. There are many who take notice of those who are working against them, and by taking notice they make them do it even more, because they make an impression upon them. One might ask if there does not exist any animosity in people if one does not think about it. It may exist, but by taking notice of it, by acknowledging it, one gives life to it. If one does not acknowledge it, it will die in time. For animosity is a fire, but not a perpetual fire. It is the acknowledging which gives fuel to the fire. If one does not acknowledge it, the fire will be extinguished. Many might say that it is hypocrisy not to acknowledge a fact. But that hypocrisy is better than the truth. In point of fact one would not call it hypocrisy if one knew its meaning, its worth. The doctor who, even when he sees that his patient has a high fever, tells him, ‘It is all right, it is nothing,’ is not a hypocrite. By saying that there is a high fever, he will certainly increase the fever of the patient. And many doctors do so. Everything a physician or a religious man does to make a person who is on his deathbed think of death, only encourages him towards death, he is pushing him towards death. One could prove a greater friend to someone who is on his deathbed by not acknowledging his trouble, his difficulty, his coming death. I have known cases in which, as soon as the doctor said that he had given up hope, the whole family began to talk about it to the patient, and his departure was hastened by many months.
What should we acknowledge? That which we always escape from acknowledging, that is to say our faults. By acknowledging our faults we shall kill them. But it is the one thing we want to hide that we want to keep hidden even from our own sight. To look one’s own fault in the face is the best thing one can do. To analyze it, to weigh it, to measure it, and to understand it better. By this one either destroys it or understands it, or one turns the same fault into merit. Very often people think it is wise to say to someone, ‘No, you are not my friend. You have not been very attentive or kind to me.’ When a person tells another such things, he will inspire that person with them, even if they did not exist before. Besides all misfortunes, all dangers that threaten and frighten man, are very often not as great as man thinks and can be avoided if man did not acknowledge them. For how a person feels about the danger depends upon the particular pitch to which the heart is tuned. For instance if ten people were standing before the same danger and one could weigh their fear, one would find that each of them had a very different degree of fear.
Once when the Prophet Mohammad and his followers were exiled, his enemies were pursuing them in the desert. They were standing behind a rock when suddenly the galloping of many horses was heard. ‘0, Prophet,’ said one of the disciples, ‘they are pursuing us. They are many, there is a whole army behind us.’ ‘0 they are going somewhere else,’ said the Prophet, ‘they will go in some other direction’. ‘But what shall we do if they come here?’ said the disciple. ‘They are so many, and we are only two!’ ‘Are we only two?’ said the Prophet, ‘no, three: you, I, and God.’
Everyone does not look at danger from the same point of view. To one the smallest thing is too great, to another the greatest thing is nothing. It is according to how one views it. Once one sees the danger as being great, one will make it greater. But by not acknowledging the greatness of the danger one will diminish it. When conditions have gone so far that it is most difficult to overcome the trouble, then one has to get them under control again, yet by making a great fuss over it we shall not make the trouble any less; on the contrary it will become greater.
There is an amusing story, which explains this. Not long ago there was a Prime Minister of Hyderabad. He belonged to one of the ancient princely families who carried with them a certain ideal of manners and culture. Once when he was sitting at table entertaining some foreign friends, it happened that a part of the palace caught fire. As it was the custom not to come hurriedly when bringing any news, the aide-de-camp came very gently, between the courses, and he whispered in his ear what was happening. To the great surprise of the aide-de-camp the Prime Minister only said, ‘Yes?’ and went on with the next course, which had arrived. And then when that was served, he asked his guests to excuse him and said, ‘I will come back in a moment.’ Quietly he went, as if nothing had happened, giving orders what to do to extinguish the fire, and then came back quietly. A great part of the palace had already burned, but the guests left without having
noticed anything. Next day they read in the paper about the fire. They were very surprised to see such a thing, such patience, such self-control, such mastery. It did not mean that the minister did not feel the loss. He felt it perhaps more than anyone else could have felt it, but he did not show it. It was not his way to jump up and make a fuss for nothing. Suppose he had done as everyone does, what would he have achieved? He would have excited the others also, and made things worse. It was better that the palace should be on fire than the spirit.
There is another thing that one should acknowledge. One should acknowledge in one’s friend, in one’s companion, in those one wishes to help, the good part in their character. By acknowledging it, by noticing it one will fortify it. It will become greater. And do not think that it is against humility to acknowledge even one’s own merits; for if one is unconscious of one’s merits the plant is suffering there without water. It does not mean that by acknowledging one’s merit, one’s virtue, one becomes proud or conceited. If one wants to one can keep oneself free from pride or conceit. But by recognizing one’s merit one certainly waters the plant, which is worth rearing.
This same method can be extended from psychology to esotericism. In esotericism we have a problem before us. T here is a truth, which we have to discover, which is obscured by a fact. And if we become accustomed to deny a fact in order to discover a truth, we will be ready then in esoteric work to discover that truth which is worth discovering. The fact is a shadow which for the moment represents something which has a certain meaning attached to it, which we can witness, but which at the same time will not continue to be real for ever. For instance a person says, ‘Sandow,* in fact, is a strong man. Yes it is a fact that he is a strong man, but because he will not be eternally strong it is only a fact, it is not a truth. Therefore the knowledge of the existence of others, all this knowledge that we have is a changeable knowledge, and since it is changeable it is a fact. Truth is behind it. But when we discover within our own self and in others that something, which is everlasting and will never change, that is the truth. The one who understands this will understand the meaning of all the concentrations and meditations which are studied and practiced by the Sufis. They are all one means for one purpose. They are all in order to deny fact, in order to establish truth.
*EUGENE SANDOW: famous as a ‘strong man’ and inventor of a system of physical culture early in the century.
IN THE Qur’an it is said that God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused, being unable to bear it. And then God offered His trust to man who did accept it. Trust in this case is responsibility. The value of man is as great as his responsibility, for what mountains cannot bear mankind has carried through life. And that is why a responsible man naturally shows a spiritual quality in all connections, in all relationships. Be he our friend or our master or servant or relative, if he is responsible for the trust we give him, it is that which gives him value. Be he a minister or a king or a president of the state, his greatness, his value, is according to his responsibility, and according to the power with which he carries it out through life.
But there is another point of view from which to look at it: that man may become great by his responsibility. And at the same time he may fall, for there is a stumbling block: the more conscious man becomes of his responsibility, the less he recognizes the power of wisdom, which is working beside him. It is because of this that at this time of materialism there are great personalities who accomplish many things, and yet in the end they show their limitation. This limitation comes from being drowned in the responsibility they have taken upon themselves and from having forgotten God, the other power that is working beside them. However great man may be in wisdom, in power, yet he is limited. And if his wisdom and power are compared with divine wisdom and power, they are not even as much as a drop compared with the sea. Sa’di, the Persian poet, has made a remark in his Rose-garden in simple words. He says, ‘The Constructor of this whole universe is active in constructing even my affairs. But my anxiety about my affairs is my illness.’ By this he means, ‘It is something I cannot help, but at the same time I recognize that all that I wish to accomplish is already done by someone else, who is far greater, more powerful and wise than I.’
Jelal-ud-Din Rumi points out in his Masnavi that the smallest insect receives its proper nourishment. Either it is attracted to its nourishment or the nourishment is sent to it. Man, who is responsible for himself and who takes the responsibility upon himself for other living creatures, would never even think of the small insects living at the bottom of the wall of the house, under the earth, hidden under leaves, covered by grass. But they receive what is needed to keep them alive. And so birds and animals all receive their nourishment and everything they need to build their nests without the help of man. The unfortunate task falls upon man of toiling and of earning his living, but it is the price that he pays for self-reliance, for self-dependence, for the responsibility that he takes upon himself. In so far as he takes a responsibility upon himself he undoubtedly does a great work for humanity. But, if he becomes so absorbed in that responsibility, that he relies only upon his own limited resources, forgetting that source from whence his help comes, and, if he is unaware of that power and wisdom which is beside him, then, no doubt, with his very great responsibility, he will fail in the end, notwithstanding all the power and might he may have.
When a man asks today if there is not an energy, a force, working which is devoid of wisdom, the answer is, that there cannot exist a quality, an attribute, without the possessor of that quality, of that attribute. Energy cannot exist without the energetic, to whom energy belongs. Might cannot exist without the mighty one whose attribute it is. Intelligence cannot exist without the intelligent one to whom that intelligence belongs. And then a person may say, ‘Well, is it not energy, a force, a power from which all this comes?’ But he does not call himself energy, or force, or power. He says, ‘I am I, an ego, a being.’ If this being is produced from an object he can not be a being. He should not claim himself to be a being. This shows that a being comes from a being. That there is a being behind it all. And that Being is perfect in His power and wisdom. But then a person is inclined to wonder if that being is a larger being than himself for his ego compares that being with himself. He wants to see that other being, how it stands in comparison with himself. And the answer to this is, that it is a Being that includes everyone and all things. And therefore there is nothing else that one can compare this Being with, nor can it be explained, for neither is His wisdom like our wisdom nor His power like our limited power.
Those who have tried to learn the life of dependence upon that Being have been saints and sages. They have practiced the recognition of the divine power and of divine wisdom by becoming passive to it, by becoming responsive to it. And by this practice their load of responsibility was taken away from them and their lives were made easy for them, and they experienced a great ease and peace.
Very often a thoughtful man envies a little child, who is so happy, without care, without anxieties. He realizes that the child represents the divine kingdom. It is as if all that is there belongs to it, all that is good and beautiful. But now the question arises as to how far one should depend upon divine power and wisdom, and how far one should feel responsible for oneself and for those who depend upon one. What sometimes happens is that man takes a principle and practices it. But in order to practice that principle one must prepare oneself. If one is not prepared for that principle one should not practice it. If a man who toils every day for his livelihood sits down and says that God must provide for his livelihood, the supply will not come so soon and he will be disappointed. In order to practice it he must first of all prepare himself to acquire faith. It is confidence and faith, which will bring the supply. But confidence and faith should first be cultivated gradually, and the principle should not be practiced at once. If one has a business affair somewhere, and one says, ‘Well, it will all be done by itself, I shall not go there,’ that will be wrong, because that man has started by being responsible for it. He cannot suddenly take himself away like this. At the same time he should practice every day that principle of recognizing the wisdom and power which is beside oneself.
I would never advise anyone to give away one’s responsibility in recognition of the might and wisdom of God. But one should be full of courage and confidence in the face of difficulty and seeming trouble, by recognizing that there is a mighty power, that there is a perfect wisdom behind one, and that all will be well. Through this a person will rise above his limited power and wisdom, and will be able to draw power and wisdom from that unlimited source which in the end will lead him to success. Then even in the case of failure this recognition of a perfect power and wisdom working beside oneself will give one the strength to bear it, and to be resigned to the will of God.
THE CONTINUITY OF LIFE
THERE IS a question, which occupies every mind: sooner or later a person begins to wonder whether there is such a thing as continuity of life. There are many who, in their pessimism, believe that there will be nothing afterwards. And there are others who, owing to their optimistic attitude, think that no matter whether it is true or not, it is just as well to believe that there is something. Nevertheless it is most painful when a person thinks that there will be nothing after death. And however many reasons he may have in support of his belief, that belief is worse than death.
There are some who wish by various phenomena to gain proof of life in the hereafter. But they meet with ninety-nine disappointments and perhaps one reality.
The idea of the Sufi is that life lives and that death dies. In other words: to life there is no death, and to death there is no life. But this way of attaining to the certainty that life is continuous, is not only an intellectual one. For by studying all the philosophies and metaphysics all through his life, a man may prove to himself by reasoning that there is continuity of life. Yet this realization gained by effort of mind will still not give him the feeling of certainty which he would wish to have. The Sufi, therefore, practices the process by which he is able to touch that part of life in himself, which is not subject to death. And by finding that part of life he naturally begins to feel the certainty of life. It makes him more certain of life than of anything else in the world, for he sees the changeability and limitation of all things. Everything that is constructed is subject to destruction. Everything that is composed is subject to decomposition. Everything born is subject to death. In finding that life he finds his own self and as that is the real life, everything else that he knows about life begins to lose its importance.
In what way does he discover that life in him which was never born and will never die? By self-analysis; but a self-analysis according to what mystics know of it, which means the understanding of what this vehicle which we call our body is to us and in what relation we stand to it. By understanding what the mind, that which we call mind, consists of. By asking oneself, ‘Am I, then, this body, am I this mind?’ There comes a time when man begins to see that he himself is the knower of the body and of the mind. But he only arrives at this realization when he can hold the body and mind in his hands, like objects, which he uses for his purpose in life. Once he has done this, then the body and mind become like two floats, which he puts on in order to swim in the water without danger of drowning. The same body and mind, which cause man’s mortality, at least in his thought, then become the means of his safety. They save him from drowning in the water of mortality.
In point of fact mortality is only our conception. Immortality is the reality. We make a conception of mortality because we do not know the real life. By realization of the real life and the comparison between real life and mortality, one learns that mortality is nonexistent. I t is no exaggeration to say that the work of a Sufi is unlearning. What he is accustomed to call or recognize as life, he then begins to recognize as death. And what he is accustomed to call death, he then begins to recognize as life. Thus for him both life and death are not conditions to which he is subject, but conditions which he himself brings about. A great Persian Sufi, Bedil, says, ‘By myself I become captive, and by myself I become free.’ In simple language this means, ‘By myself I die, and by myself I live.’ Why does a Sufi say this? Why does not everyone say this? Because, for a Sufi, it is a condition, which he brings about. For another person it is a condition in which he is helpless.
To bring about this realization, the first thing that one must learn in every little thing in life is the way of unlearning. In my own work I find it very difficult when a person comes to me and says, ‘Now I have learned so far. Will you add more to my knowledge?’ In my heart I say, ‘The more you have learned, the harder it is for me. And if I wanted to add to it, it would not be adding. It would be taking away from what you have, in order that I may unburden you from all you have learned. You must be able to unlearn first. For through this unlearning will come the true learning.’
But, one might say, is it then quite useless for us to learn what we learn in life? And the answer is no, it is all useful. But for what? For the object for which one has learned it. But not everything is learned on account of the object for which one is searching. When one is searching for the secret of life, the first thing to unlearn is that which one calls learning. No doubt this is something which is difficult for everyone to understand. And yet when we read the lives of Rumi and his teacher, Sham-e Tabrez, the first lesson the latter gave to Rumi was to unlearn all that he had learned.
Is this unlearning forgetting all that one learns? Not at all. This unlearning means to be able to say with reason, logically, the contrary to what one has learnt. When one is accustomed to say: this is wrong, that is right. This is good and that is bad. This is great and that is small. This is higher and that is lower. This is spiritual and that is material. This is up and that is down, and this is before and that is after. If one can use the opposite words for each with reason and logic, one has unlearned naturally that which one had once learned. It is after this that the realization of truth begins. For then the mind is not fixed any more. And it is then that one becomes alive, for then one’s soul has been born. It is then that one will become tolerant, and it is then that one will forgive. For one will understand both one’s friend and one’s foe. Then one never has only one point of view. One has all points of view. Is it not dangerous, one might ask, to have all points of view? Wouldn’t that make one lose one’s own point of view? Not necessarily. One may occupy one room in the house or ten rooms. One may use each as one likes according to how many points of view one can see, so large is one’s point of view.
All this is attained by the meditative process, by tuning oneself, by bringing oneself into a proper rhythm. By concentration, contemplation, meditation, and realization. By both dying and living at the same time. In order to rise above death one must first die. In order to rise above mortality one must know what it is. But this is certain, that the greatest and most important thing that one can wish to accomplish in life is one and only one: to rise above the conception of death.
In order to rise above the conception of death, one should play death, and try to know what death is. And it is a great lesson to play death. What we do is a very false thing, for we play life when we are subject to death. If we played death it would be something real, and not a hypocrisy. It is through this that we shall discover life. For we experience death by playing life, and we experience life by playing death. What we call death is the death of this body, and if we attach ourselves to this body as our being, then it is death. A simple man asked a friend, ‘How shall I know that I am dead?’ ‘Well,’ the friend said, ‘it is very easy. When your coat has become torn and worn out, that is the sign of death.’ And when his coat was worn out and torn, this man began to think that he was dead, and he was weeping bitterly. Then some thoughtful person came along and told him, ‘It is only your coat that is torn. How can you cry? You are still alive!’
This story illustrates exactly the mystical idea. To the mystic the body is a garment. But it is no use realizing this intellectually. For if one says intellectually, ‘My body is my garment,’ the next question is, ‘But then what am I, and where am I?’ It is by the meditative process that one finds where one is and what one is, and this does not remain as a belief. It becomes faith, and even greater than faith. It becomes conviction.
There was a king who thought that he would give up his kingdom and become a mureed. He wanted to give up all worldly things, and just lose himself in spiritual thought. And when he went to Bokhara, under the guidance of a teacher, the teacher gave him a probationer’s work, and that work was to sweep and clean the whole house where all the pupils lived, and to collect the garbage and take it out of the village. No doubt the pupils were very much in sympathy with this man, and they were shocked that he, who used to sit on the throne and be a king, had to do this. They thought it must be a terrible thing for him. The teacher, knowing the object that he had before him, could not do otherwise. He said, ‘He must do it, for he is not yet ready.’ Once all the disciples came and said, ‘Teacher, we are all in sympathy with this man, and we think he is so refined, so kind, and so cultured, and we would be so glad if you would relieve him of this duty.’ The teacher said, ‘We will have a test.’ One day when he was taking his garbage pail outside the town somebody collided with him, and all was spilled on the ground. He looked up and said, ‘Well, this would not have happened in the past, that I can tell you!’ And when the report was brought to the teacher he said, ‘Did I not say that the time had not yet come?’
After some time a test was made again. And when the same thing happened, this man looked at the one who had pushed him and said nothing. Again the teacher said, ‘Did I not say that the time has not yet arrived?’ But the third time when he was tested he did not even look at the man who upset his pail. He gathered up everything that had been spilled and carried it along. Then the teacher said, ‘Now is the time, now he can play death.’
All the teachings of Christ, such as: if one should strike you on one side of the face, turn the other side. If one should ask you to go one mile, go still farther. If one asks you for your overcoat, give your cap also. When we think of it, what does it all mean? Is it not all teaching us how to play death? Therefore, if at any time the teachers of truth have prescribed for their pupils any process of behavior towards their fellow-men, that process can be called nothing else but playing death. One might think that this is very hard, that it is very cruel on the part of the teacher. But the instructor had also to go through the same cruelty at a certain period of his life. Sometimes the greatest cruelty is the greatest kindness. It is hard, but the hardest path can be conquered in this way. And how many times do we take to heart unnecessary things. How many times do we cause, or take interest in, disharmony, which could just as well have been avoided? How often do we refrain from evil, which we could just as well have refrained from? This is all playing life, and the other is playing death. When we play death we arrive at life. When we play life we arrive at death.
Playing with death is rising above the sensible and the insensible, because what we call sensible and insensible belongs to a certain stage. One can rise above that stage. Then all is sensible. Besides one will always find that those who play death or who have played death are the ones who are the most open and sympathetic to the pain of others. For while they are playing death, automatically they are playing life too. That is why they are alive to everything that can help them to aid others, although they are dead to all the wrong things that come to them.
What is the life of a mystic, of a man who has realized God, if it is not playing a part? The part is not one part. It is a thousand parts. He has to play the part of a servant, of a master, of his parents’ son, of a friend, of the father of his child, of a neighbor. And yet in his mind he realizes unity. In all capacities he goes on playing the part and yet keeping that feeling of oneness alive. The further one advances on the spiritual path the more one will have to learn to play a part. The twelve Apostles could suddenly speak many languages, and from that day they were able to play many parts and to answer the questions of everyone in his own language. The inspiration that came to them enabled them to play the part.
If one wants to take part in the play produced before one, this can be accomplished by effacing oneself. One has to become separate from one’s self. That is the whole secret: when one is no more what one thought oneself to be. Annihilation, which is such a frightening word, is in reality nothing but acting in a play with a different name, a different form, a different appearance. The annihilation of the self comes first by adoring another form or appearance. That annihilation never kills a person. It is Fana-fi-Shaikh, and later come Fana-fi-Rasul and Fana-fi-Allah. These are the three steps on the path of annihilation. One step is annihilation in the ideal of form, the next in the ideal of name, and the third step is annihilation in the nameless and formless.