Volume VIII: The Art of Being
PART II. THE PRIVELEGE OF BEING HUMAN
by Hazrat Inayat Khan
Overlooking – Darquza
There is a tendency which manifests itself and grows in a person who is advancing spiritually, and that tendency is overlooking at times this tendency might appear as negligence, but in reality negligence is not necessarily overlooking. Negligence is most often not looking. Overlooking may be called in other words rising beyond these things: one has to rise in order to overlook; the one who stands beneath life could not overlook, even if he wanted to. Overlooking is a manner of graciousness; it is looking and at the same time not looking. It is seeing and not taking notice of what is seen. It is being hurt or harmed or disturbed by something and yet not minding it. It is an attribute of nobleness of nature. It is the sign of souls who are tuned to a higher key.
One may ask: “Is it practical?” I may not be able to say that it is always practical, but I mean it all the same. For in the end the one who overlooks will also realize the practicality of it. Maybe he will realize it in the long run after he has met with a great many disadvantages of it. Nevertheless, all is well which ends well.
Very often overlooking costs less than taking notice of something that could well be overlooked. In life there are things which matter and there are things which do not matter. As one advances through life one finds there are many things that do not matter. One could just as well overlook them. The one who, on a journey which takes all his life to accomplish, will take notice of everything that comes his way will waste his time. While climbing the mountain of life, the purpose of which is to reach the top, it a person troubles about everything that comes along, he will perhaps never be able to reach the top. He will always be troubling about things at the bottom. No soul, realizing that life on this earth is only four days long, will trouble about little things. He will trouble about things which really matter. In his strife with little things a person loses the opportunity of accomplishing great things in life. The one who troubles about small things is small, the soul who thinks of great things is great.
Overlooking is the first lesson of forgiveness. This tendency springs from love and sympathy. For of whom one hates one notices every little fault, but of whom one loves one naturally overlooks the faults and very often one tries to turn the faults into merits. Life has endless things which suggest beauty and numberless things which suggest ugliness. There is no end to the merits and no end to the faults, and according to one’s evolution is one’s outlook on life.
The higher a man has risen, the wider the horizon before his sight. It is the tendency to sympathize which brings the desire to overlook, and it is the analytical tendency which weighs and measures and takes good notice of everything. “Judge ye not,” said Christ, “lest ye be judged.” The more one thinks of this lesson, the deeper it goes into one’s heart, and what one learns from it is to try and overlook all that does not fit in with one’s own ides as to how things ought to be in life, until one comes to a stag of realization where the whole of life becomes one sublime vision of the immanence of God.
Graciousness – Khulq
No sooner does the soul touch the inner kingdom, which is the divine kingdom, that the true nobility of the soul becomes manifest in the form of graciousness. Kings and those belonging to aristocratic families were trained in this manner of graciousness, but it is born in the heart of man. This means that every soul shows the aristocratic manner from the moment it touches the inner kingdom, and it shows that true aristocracy is the nobility of the soul: when the soul begins to express in every feeling, thought, word and action that graciousness which belongs to God Himself.
Graciousness is quite different from that wrong manner which is termed patronizing in English. The gracious one, before expressing that noble attitude, tries to hide himself even from his own eyes. The reason why the great ones, the truly noble people, are gracious is because they are more sensitive to all the hurt and harm that comes to them from those who are unripe. Therefore, out of their kindness, they try to keep themselves from doing the same to another, however unimportant his position.
There is a story of a dervish who was standing in the royal road at the moment when the procession of the king was passing by. Happy in his rags as he was, he did not at all mind who was coming, and did not move an inch at the warnings of the pages who were running ahead of the procession, until they pushed him away, yet he did not move far. He only said: “That is why.” Then came the bodyguards on horseback. They did not push him, but they said, “Away, away, dervish.” “Do you not see the procession coming?” the dervish did not move an inch, but only answered, “That is why.” Then followed the noblemen. They saw the dervish standing there. They did not like to tell him to move, they moved their own horses instead. The dervish seeing this said, “That is why.” Then arrived the chariot of the king. His eyes fell on the dervish in his rags standing boldly in the middle of the road. Instead of waiting for his bow the king bowed himself, and the dervish said, “That is why.” There was a young man standing by his side who could not understand the meaning of these words “that is why” spoken by the dervish whatever way he was treated. When he asked the dervish kindly to explain what was meant by these words, the answer was, “They explain all I mean.”
There is a great truth in what Christ has said in the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” This will always prove true whatever be the time and whatever be the evolution of the world. Be it the time of aristocracy, be it the period of democracy, the value of that nobility of nature which is expressed in graciousness will always command its price. It is easy to know the word, but most difficult to practice graciousness through life, for there is no end to the thought that needs to be given to every action in life. It wants judgement and fair sense of weighing and measuring all one does. Besides, it needs a fine sense of art and beauty, for in refining the personality one attains to the highest degree of art. Verily, the making of the personality is the highest art there is. The Sufi considers the cultivation of humane attributes, in which lies the fulfillment of the purpose of his life, as his religion.
A young man one day showed a little impatience toward his aged father, who could not hear very clearly and had asked him tow, three times to tell him again what he had said. Seeing the disturbed expression on his face the father said, “My son, do you remember that there was a day when you were a little child, and asked me what was the name of a certain bird? I told you: ‘a sparrow.’ You asked me perhaps fifty times, and I had the patience to repeat it again and again to you without being hurt or troubled about it. I was only pleased to tell you all I knew. Now when I cannot hear you clearly, you can at least have patience with me and if I did not hear you the first time, explain it twice to me.”
It seems that, in order to learn that noble manner of life, what is needed most is patience – sometimes in the form of endurance, sometimes in the form of consideration, and sometimes in the form of forgiveness.
Conciliation – Ittifaq
Any efforts made in developing the personality or in character-building must not be made for the sake of proving oneself superior to others, but in order to become more agreeable to those around one and to those with whom one comes in contact. Conciliation is not only the moral of the Sufi, but it is the sign of the Sufi.
This virtue is not always learned and practiced easily, for it needs not only good-will but wisdom. The great talent of the diplomat is to bring about by agreement such results as are desirable. Disagreement is easy; among the lower creation one sees it so often. What is difficult is agreement, for it wants a wider outlook, which is the true sign of spirituality. Narrowness of outlook makes the horizon of man’s vision small, and he cannot easily agree with another. There is always a meeting-ground for two people, however much they differ in their thought, but the meeting-ground may be far off, and man is not always willing to take the trouble of going far enough – as far as required in order to come to an agreement. Very often his patience does not allow him to go far enough: to where he can meet the other. What generally happens is that everyone wants the other to meet him in the place where he stands, and there is no desire on his part to move from there.
This does not mean that in order to become a real Sufi a person must give up his ideas so as to meet others in agreement. There is no benefit in always being lenient with every thought that comes from another, and there is no benefit in always erasing one’s own idea from one’s heart. That is not conciliation. The one who is able to listen to another is the one who will make another listen to him. it is the one who agrees easily with another who will have the power of making another agree easily with him. Therefore in doing so one gains in spite of the apparent loss which might sometimes occur. When a man is able to see from his own point of view as well as from the point of view of another, he has a complete vision and clear insight: he so to speak sees with both eyes.
No doubt friction produces light, but light is the agreement of atoms. When one seeks stimulus to thought it does not matter so much if two people have their own ideas and argue about them, but when a person argues for the sake of argument, the argument becomes his game. He finds no satisfaction in conciliation. Words then provide the means of disagreement, the reasons become fuel for that fire. Wisdom is there where the intelligence is pliable, when one understands all things: the wrong of the right, and the right of the wrong. The soul who arrives at the perfect knowledge has risen above right and wrong; he knows them and yet he does not know. He can say much, and yet – what can he say? Then it becomes easy for him to conciliate each and all.
There is a story that two Sufis met after many years, having traveled along their own lines. They were glad to meet each other after all those years of separation, for they were both mureeds of the same Murshid. One said to the other, “Tell me, please, your life’s experience. After all this time of study and practice of Sufism I have learned one thing: how to conciliate others. I can do this very well now. Will you, please tell me what you have learned?” the other one said, “After all this time of study and practice of Sufism have learned how to master life. All that is here in this world is for me, and I am the master. All that happens, happens by my will.” Then came the Murshid whose mureeds they were, and both spoke of their experiences during their journey. The Murshid said, “Both of you are right. In the case of the first one it was self-denial in the right sense of the word which enabled him to conciliate others. In the case of the other one nothing was left of his will any more. If there was any will, it was the will of God.”
Question: You said the other day that self-denial in the right sense of the word is “I am not, Thou art.” What is self-denial in the wrong sense of the word?
Answer: The right meaning is always one, wrong meanings are many. Among many wrong meanings the one which is most often understood is that self-denial is denying oneself the pleasures and happiness that the world can offer.
Consideration – Murawwat
Murawwat is a virtue most delicate to express in words. It is refraining from action out of respect for another, be it in consideration for his age, position, knowledge, goodness or piety. Those who practice this virtue do not necessarily have that respect only for someone who has a high position or who has much piety; when they develop this quality it manifests itself in their dealings with all people.
Murawwat is the contrary of what is called bluntness in English. It is not necessarily respect, it is something more delicate than respect: it is consideration and respect together. This virtue in its full development may even rise to such an extent that, out of consideration and respect, a person may try to sustain the lack of the same virtue in another. But when one arrives at this stage then ordinary manner ends and sage manner begins.
Man in this world is not born only to eat, drink and make merry. He is born to arrive at the fullness of humane character, and he realizes this by a greater thoughtfulness and consideration. If not, with power, position, wealth, learning, and all good things in the world, he remains poor without the riches of the soul which is good manner. All the beauty around man is something outside of him; the only beauty which is dependable is to be found and developed in his own character.
A person may show lack of murawwat, if not in words, his glance. He does not need to speak in order to be rude. In his look, in his turns or twists, in his standing up or walking, in closing the door on leaving the room, he can show his feelings. If man does not speak he makes the door speak. It is not an easy matter to manage oneself when one’s mind escapes one’s hands. Plainly speaking, murawwat is acting with consideration and respect for another in a situation where rude impulse is called out; it is controlling oneself, refraining from committing an insolence, out of respect for another.
Delicate ideas such as these are most difficult to learn and to practice in life. Today many may wonder if they are not weaknesses. But nothing in the world can prove to be a weakness when it can only be practiced by mastering oneself. There is no loss if thought or consideration is given to someone who does not deserve it; for if such an action does not bring any profit, it is still practice – and it is practice which makes man perfect.
Tact is a thread which connects heaven and earth making them one. Tact, therefore is not learned by worldly cleverness. Earthly qualifications do not make a man really tactful; he may imitate a tactful person, but polish is different from gentleness. Where does tact come from? Tact comes from the profound depth of the human heart, for it is a sense which is developed by human sympathy. A selfish person, therefore, cannot prove to be tactful but will end in losing that spirit, because false tact will not endure. It is the real alone – object or person – that can endure.
Tactfulness comes from our consideration for one another, and that consideration comes from our feeling, our sympathy for one another. What is consideration? Consideration is feeling “all that is displeasing, distasteful, disagreeable to me – I must not cause it to another.” From this sense tact develops as wisdom. A man may be most learned, most capable, most influential, and yet not be tactful. Tactfulness is the sign of the great ones. Great statesmen, kings, leaders, heroes, the most learned men, the great servers of humanity were tactful. They won their enemies, their worst adversaries, by their tact; they accomplished the most difficult things in life by the power of tact.
One never can say, “I have enough tact.” It is never enough. A real tactful person, having proved not to be tactful enough in his everyday life, finds more faults with himself than a tactless person. As one becomes more tactful so one finds more fault with oneself, because there are so many shortcomings: actions manifest themselves automatically, words slip off from the tongue, and then the tactful one thinks and sees that he did not do right. But as Sa’adi says, “Once it is done then you, thoughtful one, repent of it. This is not the time to repent, you ought to have controlled yourself first.”
One becomes tactful through self-discipline, one develops tact by self-control. A tactful person is subtle, fine, poetic; he shows real learning and fine intelligence. Many say, “How can we be tactful and at the same time truthful?” Many look at the fineness of the tactful person saying, “Hypocritical!” But what is the use of that truth which is thrown at a person’s head as a big stone, breaking his head. A truth which has no beauty – what kind of truth is it? The Qur’an says, “God is beautiful,” therefore truth mist be beautiful. If it were not beautiful then beauty-seeking souls and intelligent beings would not have sought after truth.
It is not always necessary to say things which could just as well have not been said. Very often it is weakness on the part of a person to drop a word which could have been avoided. It is the tactful soul who becomes large, because he does not always express himself outwardly. So his heart, accommodating wisdom, of thoughtfulness. It is the tactful person who becomes popular, who is loved; it is the tactful person whom people listen to. Besides, it is by tact that we maintain the harmony of our lives. If not, life turns into a stormy sea. The influences coming from all around in our everyday life are enough to disturb the peace of our lives, and if we were tactless in addition to it what would then become of us? There would be one continual storm in our lives and there could never be peace. It is by tact that we make a balance against all inharmonious influences which have a jarring effect upon our spirit. When inharmony comes from all sides and we are creative of harmony, we counterbalance it, and this makes life easy for us to bear.
What is goodness, piety, or orthodoxy without wisdom, without tact? What will a good person accomplish by his goodness, if he is not able to give pleasure and happiness by what he says or does? Of what use his piety or spirituality will be, if he is not creative of happiness for those who come in contact with him? It is, therefore, with tact that we begin our work of healing ourselves and others.
The Sufis of all ages have been known for their beautiful personality. It does not mean that among them there have not been people with great powers, wonderful powers and wisdom. But beyond all that, what is most known of the Sufis is the human side of their nature: that tact which attuned them to wise and foolish, to poor and rich, to strong and weak – to all. They met everyone on his own plane, they spoke to everyone in his own language. What did Jesus teach when he said to the fishermen, “Come hither, I will make you fishers of men?” It did not mean, “I will teach you ways by which you get the best of man.” It only meant: your tact, your sympathy will spread its arms before every soul who comes, as mother’s arms are spread out for her little ones.
The Sufis say, “Neither are we here to become angels” nor to live as the animals do. We are here to sympathize with one another and to bring to others the happiness which we always seek.” Yes, there are many thorns on the path of life, but looking at ourselves we see the same faults, if not more, as those of others which prick like stings, like thorns. Therefore if we spare others the thorn that comes out of us, we will give that much help to our fellowmen – and that is no small help! It is by being tactful that we accomplish our sacred duty, that we perform our religion. For how do we please God? We please God by trying to please mankind.
Spirituality is natural nobleness, and the unfolding of this innate nobleness is spirituality. It is a divine heritage which is hidden in every soul, and by the manifestation of this divine heritage a soul shows its divine origin. All striving in the spiritual path is to bring out that nobleness – but one need not strive to bring it out; it will come by itself, if one is conscious of one’s divine heritage.
It is this consciousness which brings out the nobleness of spirit. In the Sufi terminology this nobleness is called aklaq Allah, which means the manner of God, a manner which is unlike any other manner known to the world. It is the manner of the mother towards her child, the manner of the father towards his son, the manner of a man towards his friend, the manner of the maiden towards her beloved, it is the manner of the lord towards his servant; it is the manner of the child towards his mother, the manner of a son towards his father, the manner of a slave towards his king – and yet it is above and beyond all manners known to mankind. It is humility, it is modesty, it is price, it is honor, it is kindness, it is unconceivable to human mentality, a manner which cannot be learned or taught, a manner which springs by itself and comes forth as a divine blossom.
It is in this manner that lies the fulfillment of the purpose of man’s life. This manner is the highest religion, the true spirituality, real aristocracy, and perfect democracy. All disputes and disagreements, all misunderstandings fall away the moment the human spirit has become noble, for it is the sign of the noble spirit to comprehend all things, to assimilate all things and therefore to tolerate and forgive all things. Of what use is a religion, a philosophy, a mysticism, or whatever you call it, if it does not produce that spirit in you, that inclination which is divine? And if that inclination and that spirit manifest themselves in anything, they show divine manner. Neither in the graciousness of a king, nor in the subservience of a slave one will find that dignity and that humility which divine manner gives.
Is not man the seed of God? Is it then not his life’s purpose to bring forth divine blossoms? It is not by working wonders that man shows his divine origin, nor is it by possessing extraordinary powers. If in anything divine origin is seen it is in the aristocracy of the human soul, it is in the democracy of the human ego. In the world we see that there is aristocracy and that there is democracy, but in spiritual unfoldment these two become one, culminating in real perfection.
A flower proves to be genuine by its fragrance, a jewel proves to be genuine by its radiance, a fruit proves to be genuine by its sweetness, a soul proves to be genuine by its manner. Therefore, manner is not to be disregarded. This is something to take notice of first. All studies, practices, silences and meditations aside, this is the main thing: to express God in all one does, especially in the manner one shows towards another.
Innocence is so much idealized that a person may ask whether intellect is not a thing to be avoided. The world has advanced very much in intellect: how to get all for oneself, how to get the best of another diplomatically, how to get the best of another politically, how to get the best of another politely and with charming manners, is thought and wisdom. This is not wisdom, it is intellect.
If a person has not developed his intellect, the world will take the best of him and he will not realize it. The Sufi should develop his intellect – not in order to use it in the same way as an intellectual person would use it, but in order to see the world as it is. On all sides you will see the selfishness of the world, and the more you develop spiritually, the more you will see it. Sometimes one may wonder whether there are not only animals in the world and no human beings at all. Sometimes one may wonder whether this is not a world of devils. Everywhere one voice is heard, “I want to eat you!” I want to take you!” And you cannot run away to the mountains and jungles. There are very few wise men in the world, and very many intellectual persons.
Another thing is that you may not be innocent as the child is innocent. The child, if it has a diamond brooch and a thief wants to take it, will give it and not know what it is giving. You should be like the king in a story which tells that a king was sitting in his room in which were carved chairs, made like tiger’s heads. The eyes of the tigers were diamonds and very beautiful. The king went to sleep. When he awoke, he saw that a thief had come into the room and was stealing the eyes of the tigers. The thief said, “Hush! Don’t tell anyone I am stealing the diamonds.” The king was much amused at his boldness and confidence, saying this to the king from whom he was stealing. So, knowing that he was a thief, he let him take the diamonds.
You should not do a kindness to an undeserving person, thinking that he deserves your kindness, for the next day you will discover that he does not deserve it, and you will repent. You should do a kindness to a person knowing that he does not deserve it. Then your kindness is very great and there is no repentance.
The way of attaining spiritual knowledge is quite opposite to the way by which one attains worldly knowledge. As the sky is in the direction opposite to the earth, so the source of knowledge of spiritual things is opposite to the knowledge of the world. As a man becomes intellectual he knows things of the world, but this does not mean that he becomes spiritual. He goes, on the contrary, further away from spirituality through the thought, “I understand worldly things.”
What is the best way of attaining spiritual knowledge? First one must develop in one’s nature that little spark which is divine and which was shining in one’s infancy, showing something pure, something of heaven. What attracts us most is innocence. It is innocence which gives an impression of purity, but we must not understand this wrongly. Knowledge of the world is more than necessary; it is needed to live in the world, to make the best of our life, to serve God and humanity – it is not heeded to attain spiritual knowledge: innocence is necessary for that.
When one sees among one’s friends, one’s relatives, something which attracts one most it is perhaps the side of their nature which is innocence. People forgive those who are dear to them, they tolerate their faults. They say, ‘He is wrong, but he is innocent.” There is a purity which is divine and which attracts everyone. Innocence is like a spring of water purifying all that is foreign to heart and soul.
How can we attain innocence? Innocence is not foreign to our nature; we all have been innocent, and by being conscious of that nature we develop it. By admiring, by appreciating that nature we develop it too, for all things which we admire become impressions. Those who have a bad nature but have collected good impressions will in time turn their nature.
During my travels in India, the purpose of which was to pay homage to the sages of that land, what appealed most to me was that the greater the soul, the greater was his innocence. It is innocence one sees in them, not simplicity. The one who is simple does not understand. We see this in everyday life: he closes his eyes. Innocence is to understand and to rises above things. Every person sees another through his own glasses. Prejudice often stands between them; for insight, unity is necessary. When innocence is developed one has attained spirituality. A man becomes wise after having been intellectual, when he rises above the intellect. Then he sees cause behind cause and understands the way of his enemy.
Would it be practical to live altogether according to the principle of innocence? A principle is to be used, not to guide our life. When people make a chain out of principles, it becomes captivity. Life is freedom. One cannot force oneself in innocence. But if there is any sign of piety or spirituality, there is no better sign than innocence together with all understanding.
Often one wonders what the word holy means. Sometimes people understand by it spiritual, pious, good, pure, religious. But none of these words can fully explain the meaning of the word holy. Holy is the next degree to pious. God-realizing is pious, self-realizing is holy. The first step to self-realization is God-realization; it is not by self-realization that man realizes God, it if by God-realization that man realizes self.
Holiness is a spark of divinity in man, and no soul must be considered as being deprived of this spark of divinity. This spark is light itself, which also exists in the form of life in the lower creation among animals and birds, in trees and in plants. In man this light has the opportunity to blaze into a flame, but at first this light is buried in the heart of man. From the moment this spark of divinity begins to sparkle from his heart, a man shows the sign of holiness. Therefore holiness is no human heritage, it is inherited by every soul from God. It manifests itself only when the heart is open and when out of that spark, which is divine in man, there rises a tongue of flame which illuminates the path of man in life’s journey towards the spiritual goal.
It is lack of understanding of this subject which has made man accept one teacher in whom he, or his friends or ancestors, recognized divinity, and reject another with all his holiness. Holiness does not belong to a particular ace, community, or family. It comes naturally in the life of some; in the life of others it requires digging. The fire is there, but it is buried, it wants to be brought to the surface, and sometimes blowing is needed to help the flame to rise.
Is holiness seen in action? Yes, it can be seen in action, but who can judge the action? When it is difficult for a wise man to judge the action of the worst sinner, who with any sense would be ready to judge a holy man? Can holiness be recognized in goodness? Yes, it is possible, and yet no one can fix a standard of goodness, for what is good for one is bad for another; something which is poison for one is a remedy for another, and the goodness of every person is peculiar to himself. The worst person in the world, if he wants to, can accuse the best person of lack of goodness. No man has ever proved, nor will any man ever prove, to be good to the satisfaction of every soul that demand goodness.
Holiness in itself is goodness, even if it is not in accordance with people’s standard of goodness. Holiness is a continually rising fountain of light, it is a phenomenon in itself; it is illumination and illuminating. Light has no other proof than itself. Holiness needs no claim, no pleading, no publicity, it is its own claim, and it pleads for itself. Light itself is its own publicity.
Many in this world seem to be confused about false and true, but there comes a moment when one can see the difference between false and true without any difficulty because false cannot stand longer than a moment all the tests that come from all sides. It is the real gold that stands all tests – so it is with true holiness. Holiness is enduring, knowing, forgiving, understanding, and yet it stand beyond all these things, above all things. It is unbreakable, unshakable; it is beauty, it is power, and it is divinity when it reaches its perfection.
Resist not Evil
Often one wonders at this saying in the Bible, and it is not always given the right interpretation. To interpret it the first thing is to explain what evil means. Is there any particular action, is there any particular thing that one can point out as being evil? No doubt man is always apt to point out a certain action as evil, but nothing can be evil according to a fixed principle. What then is evil? It is something which is void of harmony, which lacks beauty, something from which love is missing. Beyond and above all, it is something which dies not fit into the accommodation of life. What fits into the accommodation that life offers cannot be evil; it is the characteristic of evil that it does not fit into it.
Evil may be likened to fire. The nature of fire is to destroy everything that comes into its fold. The power of evil is as great as the power of fire, and at the same time evil is as weak as fire, for fire does not endure, and so evil does not last. As fire destroys itself, so evil is its own destruction. Why is it said, “Do not resist evil?” Because resistance gives life to evil, non-resistance lets it burn itself out.
In the form of anger, passion, greed, or stubbornness one sees evil, and also in the form of deceit and treachery. But the root of evil is one, and that is selfishness. In one person’s heart the evil is perhaps manifest on the surface, in another person it is in the depth.
There is a saying in the East, “Do not invoke the name of Satan or he will rise from his grave.” An inconsiderate or tactless person always falls into the error of awakening this evil even if it is asleep, for he does not know the music of life. In order to live in the world one should become a musician of life. Every person therein is a note, and the one who feels this way has an instrument before him: the whole world is an instrument upon which a symphony is to be played.
Even in small things one can observe the same law. Very often the great trouble that one has in life is not due to the difficulty of others, but to a lack of comprehension of human nature. If one knew human nature, not to resist evil would be the first lesson and the last lesson to be learned, for resistance becomes fuel to its fire. If one tells someone, “Do not do this,” if one asks someone, “Why did you do it?” if one says to someone, “You have done such and such a thing,” by all these words one only makes evil stronger; one makes the person firmer in his fault.
Everyone in this world can be a teacher – but not a real teacher. A real teacher is the one who always teaches himself, the more he finds that there is so much to be taught. This self has so many lacks that a whole lifetime is not enough to teach it. The more the self learns, the more it overlooks the evil in others. It does not mean that the evil is in others; it only means that one finds in oneself the enemy which one was seeing outwardly. And the worst enemy one was faced with in outer life one finds to be in one’s own heart. It makes one feel humiliated, but it teachers the true lesson: one finds oneself having the same element which one wishes to resist in another.
Life is a place where gentle movement is necessary. In thought, speech or action, in everything the rhythm must be controlled; the law of harmony should be observed in all that one does. One should know that, when walking barefoot on thorns, even they will not allow one to be free from the accusation: the thorns will accuse one of having trampled upon them. If the delicacy of living in this world is to that extent, can one say, “I have gained sufficient wisdom,” or can anyone say, “I can afford to live in this world without giving a thought to this problem?”
The problem of evil is great. Many cannot tolerate to hear the name of evil, but they are faced with it every moment of their lives and therefore to leave this problem unsolved does not help. Besides this, everyone is ready to judge, to observe, or to take notice of the evil in another, not knowing that sometimes the surface of a thing is quite different from its depth. Maybe what seem s evil has something good inside it, or what is good in appearance may have a spark of evil inside. By what standard can we determine evil and good, and who can judge the evil and good of any man?
If one can judge something it is one’s own evil and good. No one except God has the power to judge another. The sense of justice that is given to man is for judging his own actions, and if he judges himself he uses this sense best, because it is for this purpose that the sense of justice has been given to him.
When we look at life through a telescope, we shall find that it is nothing but a struggle for living, individually and collectively and it appears that, if there is anything worthwhile in this life, it is what is besides this struggle: giving and taking kindness and love, doing any action of unselfishness. However qualified a person in the things of the world, his qualification reaches a certain extent and does not go beyond. The whole qualification required is the understanding of life, understanding the law which is working behind it. It is this qualification alone which will diminish man’s continual struggle in life. It will diminish his struggle in this way that it will give him less to resist. It will make him more tolerant of the natural condition of human beings. As soon as one realizes that one cannot expect from anyone something of which he is not capable, one becomes tolerant.
The difficulty is that everyone demands more of another person in the way of thought and consideration, of kindness and love, than he does of himself. Man wants more justice to give; and his standard may be so high that another person cannot keep up to it, which in turn makes him disappointed. What generally happens is that one does not just remain quiet after being disappointed but one resists, and so the struggle of life continues. One should not expect the pear tree to bear roses, nor the rose bush to produce jasmine. Every person is like a certain plant, but not the same plant. We may be fond of roses, but every plant does not bear roses. If we want roses, we should seek only the plant on which roses grow, and we must not be disappointed if what we find is not the rose plant. In this way we can correct our own deception.
When people say that someone is bad it really means that the surface has become bad. The depth cannot be bad, however bad a person may seem. For goodness is life itself; and a person who would be all bad could not live. The very fact that he is living shows that there is a spark of goodness in him. Besides just as there are various objects so there are various persons; some show softness inside; some are very good to the depth and evil on the surface. Some are evil on the surface and good in the depth, for there are as many different varieties as there are souls.
What education, what point of view, what attitude in life is the best and will give the greatest happiness? It is the attitude of overlooking evil instead of resisting it. There are three ways of living one’s life, which can be compared with the struggling in the sea whose waves are rising and falling all the time. The first will struggle as long as life will permit; but the rising and falling of the waves in the sea continue forever and ever, and in the end he will be drowned. And so it is with man. He struggles along, intoxicated by his struggle. How long will it go on? As long as his energy will permit it and in the end he will be drowned. In this struggle he may seem powerful, he may seem to have overcome others, he may seem to have done things greater than others – but what is it after all? In the end that person is drowned.
There is another man who knows how to move his arms harmoniously in the water, and who has got the rhythm of moving his arms and legs. He swims with the rising and falling of the waves, he is not struggling. This man has a hope of arriving at the port, if only the port is near. If his ideal is not too far off, then he is the one to accomplish it.
The third person is the one who walks above and over the water. It is this which is the meaning of Christ’s walking upon the sea. Life is just like waves, it is making its way continually. The one who allows himself to be disturbed by it will be more and more disturbed every day. The one who does not take notice of it will keep the quietness which is his own within himself. The one who sees all things and yet rises above all things is the one who will walk upon the sea. No one can reach the highest summit of life, the summit of wisdom, in a moment’s time; even a lifetime is too short. Yet hope is necessary. The one who hopes and sees the possibilities walks towards the summit. The one who has no hope has no legs to mount on this hill of wisdom, the summit of which is the desired goal.
Question: How can anyone at the head of a business or institution possibly keep to the rule of not resisting evil?
Answer: I have seen people at the head of certain factories who had won the heart of every worker, and another head of a factory whom every worker was speaking against. It may be that the latter made a greater profit than the former, but in the end he would find the profit of the former more durable than his own.
The manner of wisdom and tenderness cannot be made into principles to which people should be restricted. A brush cannot take the place of a knife. Therefore, everyone has to use every manner and action according to the situation. Nevertheless, the thought of not resisting evil should always be at the back of it.
Question: How can one manage a person who is really bad?
Answer: If a person is “really bad” it means that the whole surface has become bad, but still the depth cannot be bad.. however bad a person the depth cannot be bad, for goodness is life itself and a person who is all bad cannot live. The very fact that he is alive shows that there is a spark of goodness in him. Besides, just as there are various objects, so there are various persons. Some show softness outside, hardness inside. Some show harness outside and softness inside. Some have good in the depth and evil on the surface, and some have evil in the depth and good on the surface, because as many souls there are, so many are the varieties.
Question: Is there a system to take away evil?
Answer: That system is understanding life more and more; it is keeping the love element alive, trying to keep an harmonious attitude as much as possible, and then keeping beauty before oneself.
It is difficult, but it is possible when we have the spirit never to be really grown-up, never to close our heart to learning, always to be ready whatever our age, to accept what is harmonious and beautiful. when one thinks, “What I think is right,” and one finds arguments and reasons to make it right and when one thinks, “What the other person thinks is wrong” and one finds reasons to make it wrong, one will always remain in the same place. But when one is ready to accept, even from a child, that something one says may be wrong, one thinks, “Even though it is a child who said it, it is a profit for me to accept it.” God has not spoken only through His prophets, He speaks through every person, if we open our hearts to listen. The difficulty is that we become teachers. If throughout our whole life we remain pupils teaching will come all the time from within and without. As soon as we become teachers we close our hearts from Him who alone is our Teacher.
Question: If we want to be kind to a person, how can we prevent him from abusing our kindness?
Answer: Our part is to be kind; that person’s part is to use it rightly. It is not our part to see that the other person makes the right use of our kindness. If we think about that we shall forget our part.
Question: How can we help a person who does not understand our kindness and is doing harm?
Answer: Love is a conqueror, and in the end will conquer. It is not only the person outside whom live will conquer, but it will conquer the self of the one who loves. This is the conquering of the kingdom of God. The power of love is penetration, nothing can resist it in the end, and by giving kindness we have not lost anything. It is an element which is never lessened, it is a treasure which is divine. When we consider whether a person is worthy or unworthy we limit our love to a channel, but when we allow that feeling of kindness to flow it will develop into a continually flowing condition. Then kindness will work out its destiny without any intention on our part.
Resignation is the outcome of the soul’s evolution, for it is the result of either love or wisdom.
Man has a free will, but its power is too small in comparison with the all-powerful will of God which stands before him in the form of more powerful individuals, or of conditions which cannot be helped, or in that of many other things. Resignation does not mean giving things up, resignation means being content to give up.
To be resigned means to find satisfaction in self-denial. That self-denial cannot be a virtue which comes as a result of helplessness and culminates in dissatisfaction. The nature of an un-evolved ego is to resent everything that comes up in life as a hindrance on his path to the accomplishment of a certain object. When one accepts to become resigned in the face of a difficulty, and when at the same time this gives satisfaction, the resigned person, even without having accomplished his object, has risen. In this way even a defeat of a truly resigned soul, in truth, is success.
Resignation is a quality of saintly souls. It is bitter in taste but sweet in result. Whatever be the power and position of a person, he always has to meet with a more powerful will, in whatever form it may manifest itself, which in truth is divine will. By standing against the divine will one may break oneself, but by being resigned to the divine will one makes a way. For resignation is the manner of water: if anything is standing in its way it takes another course and runs along. It yet makes its way so as to meet the ocean in the end. Such is the way of the saintly souls who tread the path of resignation and yet keep self-will alive. That will has the power to make its way. A person who is resigned by nature becomes in the end a consolation to the self and a happiness for others.
Resignation is not necessarily weakness, or laziness, or cowardice, or lack of enthusiasm. Resignation is only the expression of mastery over oneself. The tendency to resign to the will of another or to conditions does not always work to the disadvantage of the resigned one. It may sometimes prove to be profitless, but the benefit of such s virtue is realized in the end.
It is lack of power of endurance which is the cause that souls are not ready to resign; they cannot endure their pain, they cannot sustain their loss. The resigned ones practice resignation even in small things of everyday life; they avoid using the power of their will unnecessarily in every little thing they do. Resignation is passivity and it shows itself sometimes to be disadvantageous in the life of an active person who has an object before him to accomplish. But it may be understood that a continual activity, with power and energy given to it, very often results in disaster. Every activity is balanced by passivity. One must be active when it is time to be active, and passive when conditions ask one to be passive. It is in this manner that success in life is attained and that happiness, which is the seeking of every soul, is gained.
The truth of this can be seen in the life of the child and that of the grown-up person. As soon as the child becomes attracted to objects, it knows that it wants them, and if it is denied an object the child is dissatisfied. As the child grows with its evolution in life, it learns resignation. That is the difference between an unripe soul and a soul advanced in the path of wisdom; for the riper the soul the more it shows in its nature the power of resignation.
Question: When should we be active and when passive?
Answer: Suppose a person goes on a bicycle in the streets of Paris and says, “I shall go straight on, because my object is just to keep the line I have taken. If a car comes my way, I shall not mind it, I shall just go on.” This person will come against something which is more powerful than he, and he will destroy himself. The wise cyclist, therefore, will see that there is a vehicle before him, or that the road is blocked: he will take another way. At the time it is just a little hindrance, yet that resignation makes him safe from disaster and gives him a chance to strike another line by which he will come to the same destination.
Very often people who are strong-headed will not be resigned, and often they will find in their lives that, by not being resigned, they get what they want. That gives them proof of the beneficial nature of their strong-headedness – which means their lack of resignation. But what happens in the end? Their own power sometimes strikes them so hard that it breaks them to pieces, because there is no passivity. Man after all is limited, and there is an unlimited power before him. If he always wishes to fight, he must of necessity break himself. There is the saying: Man proposes, God disposes. If man is conscious of this, he will know when to try and make his way, and when to strike a different way.
Question: In the Bible it is said: If a person wants you to go one mile with him, go two miles.
Answer: Resignation is self-denial. In our everyday life it may happen many times that we meet with people who say something which hurts our feeling, and we wish to answer back. It is a natural tendency which expresses itself spontaneously. However, if at that time our wisdom is awakened, we ask ourselves, “Is it necessary to answer? And if we did not answer?” That is becoming resigned to the will of God. Spontaneity is just giving the answer, but when kindness comes, or the feeling that perhaps the other person did not understand us, or that he had a little more experience than we, it restrains the tendency to speak back and this is mastery. It is bitter for the time, it shakes one: that force which wanted to express itself is controlled. But by being able to sustain it, one has gained a certain mastery over oneself.
Question: in your example one just stops for a moment, but mostly in life this resignation means going quite another way.
Answer: Both are possible. By resignation is only meant to be resigned to one’s own wisdom, to one’s own feeling of kindness and dignity, or to be resigned to the person whose will perhaps is better or greater.
Question: There are natures who develop the contrary to resignation.
Answer: Very often we give unnecessary strain to our will and this exhausts us very much. It is consideration which is wanted. Every day there are many cases of this which we can avoid by not using so much will-power to resist them.