Volume X: The Unity of Religious Ideals
SUFI MYSTICISM, THE PATH OF INITIATION & DISCIPLESHIP;
SUFI POETRY AND OTHER LECTURES
by Hazrat Inayat Khan
In all periods of history, art has played a prominent part in the life of humanity. With every rise and fall, and with all the different changes that art has gone through, it has always remained the soul of life. It cannot be otherwise, for art is an improvement on nature. It is said that nature is made by God and art by man, but at the same time nature is made by God and art is made by God through man. In other words, art finishes nature. Therefore, the artist, whether one considers he has evolved or he has not, is indeed the hand of God — for that which is not to be found in nature, the artist adds. That is why art has often proved to be the stepping-stone to God’s shrine.
The Sufis have seen God in the realm of love, harmony, and beauty. The tendency towards art shows itself in all three, for beauty is produced through harmony. If the arrangement of lines or the composition of colors is not harmonious, a thing cannot be beautiful. Harmony creates beauty, and love of beauty results in art; thus art is the practice of that philosophy which Sufism teaches: the philosophy of love, harmony, and beauty.
Today, we notice on every side an increasing appreciation and love of the art of sculpture. A great effort is also being made by modern sculptors to produce art which the soul of the world is seeking; yet it seems that they are continually seeking for something that is still missing. Today many sculptors look at Greek art with envy, and with the anticipation that they may one day produce again what was produced long ago.
The drawback today is the method of development. Before trying to imitate ancient art, it is first necessary to open the inner eye, to see life as it really is. A statue is something dead; if one tries to make something exactly like it, it is only imitating something that is dead. The first thing one should understand is what has produced the statue. One will see that it was inspiration; it was the opening of the inner eye that produced the art of yesterday, and now the sculptors find it hard to produce anything like it. In spite of all the development in sculpture, one finds that fineness, magnetism, and attraction are lacking; and that is because today art is approached from a primarily practical point of view.
Also, art cannot be accomplished in the first place by effort; art should come from inspiration. The life of the artist should be easy, without anxiety and worry, without pressure to produce something. He should be passive, so that the work of art may come naturally. Then the Creator Himself, who is the Lord of beauty, can use the artist as His pen. No doubt suffering can purify a person and make him more capable of inspiration; but when an artist wants to produce a beautiful work of art, he does not open himself to inspiration by hardening himself and by straining his will.
In ancient times, people were very often inspired through their love of subtlety and beauty. When we study Greek art, we find that the Greek people were fine and subtle in perception. From their statues, we can observe that they did not lay down their philosophy in rigid, prosaic words. They made a shrine for wisdom in the form of legends and myths; they put the words of truth in a beautiful frame. This shows us the subtlety of their nature, and out of this subtlety a wonderful art was born.
Some of the most ancient statues are to be found in India and China. By studying these, we find that the sculptors had not only finished them in every detail, but had also put magnetism into them. Hundreds and thousands of times people have remarked that some of these statues possess great magnetism; this shows that the artist of those days was not only an artist, his art also had magic and an influence that would last for thousands of years. Whenever we go near such statues, they have a certain effect; merely by being in their presence, by looking at them, or by sitting before them, we can feel their influence. It is like that of a living being, or even stronger.
It is therefore not surprising that the Hindus have kept in their temples for ages the images of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Rama, Krishna, and many others. Even with their great philosophy and comprehension of life, this art has always helped and inspired them, for it has given them a wonderful influence. When a statue has been worshipped in a shrine for a very long time, this too will magnetize it. Yet the statue must have something to attract in the first place, in order to make intelligent people inclined to bow before it. It is as if the statue called out, “Come here with all your intelligence, man, and bow before me! I am sitting here full of life and influence, even though I do not speak.”
Many stories are told about a sculptor of long ago, whose name was Azar. The peculiarity of his art was that as soon as those who were antagonistic to idol-worship saw a statue of a god or a goddess made by Azar, they began following that particular religion. Art conquers humanity without words.
The art of ancient times was almost entirely symbolic. In those days, printing had not yet been invented, and the only way in which an idea could be bequeathed to later generations was through the medium of art. So by different symbols, the artists expressed the inspiration and the wisdom that were to be left for humanity. That is why we so often find ancient works of art containing a message. The day will come when people will not be curious only about the artistic aspect of the ancient sculpture, but will begin to read this art as a sculpture. No doubt there is already much curiosity everywhere about such art, and a great desire to go and study it in the East, in Egypt, in India and in China. So far, there is only appreciation of the skill and great fineness and beauty with which it was produced. But on the day when lovers of beauty look at it from a spiritual point of view, they will find in that ancient art an expression of divine wisdom that will once again become a source of revelation.
To some extent, symbology can be learnt, but symbology does not come to one only by learning; it comes by intuition. Symbolism is a language of intuition; it comes by itself, and suddenly one begins to understand the meaning of the different forms and colors. When it is said that the twelve apostles began to know different languages, it only means they knew the language of each person.
Suppose there were a book on symbology, and the book explained the meanings of different symbols. This would only be the opinion of the man who wrote the book. Perhaps all that he said was wrong. But when symbolism comes by intuition, then the true meaning of the symbol is revealed. Therefore, the knowledge of symbolism is not a form of learning. First the intuitive faculty must be opened, and then the whole meaning of the symbols will be understood; often it will be quite a different meaning from what the object seems to represent. It is a different language. It is learning the language of life.
Essentially, symbols have the same meaning for everyone; yet according to the direction in which people are looking, their interpretation differs. Under the same sun, we all see everything more or less the same; and in the same way, in the light from within we all can see the meaning of the symbols. The only difference is that between individual interpretations — in other words, limitations. This is the reason the wise very often spoke in symbols. Even their jokes were symbolical.
In ancient art, one often finds faces that are unlike those of human beings. This only means that the artist adopted an exaggerated way of picturing the features of different human beings in order to bring out their characteristics. Besides, when a man looks at a statue which is not very different from the human form, it is just like looking at one’s own kind; and when there is no difference, one does not get such a clear vision. Clear vision comes from difference. Some artists, especially those of China, therefore adopted this particular method of making sculptures not exactly like human beings, but a little different. By making them somewhat different, they produced a clearness of vision which enabled man to see through it and recognize what he would not have recognized otherwise.
In the same way, they made animals of different kinds. Sometimes in ancient art we see animals that are unlike the animals we know; but if they had been familiar animals, they would not convey a certain idea to us. Making them different helps us to concentrate our mind on a key idea. A sculpture like this speaks to us louder than one which we can easily recognize. When the mind sees an object with keen sight and interest, it is ready to receive the lesson that the object is meant to give. That is why many ancient statues appear unusual.
We also see that in ancient works of art, great attention was given to detail; wonderful skill was used in producing every detail. Then, when we look at the materials of which the sculptures were made, it is still more wonderful. Many statues made thousands of years ago look fresher than ever today.
There is no doubt that the art of sculpture stands out and attracts our attention more than any other kind of art. And as soon as the unrest of the world diminishes, and this age of labor and strife begins to decline, there will be an improvement in the realm of art. People will come to value it more; they will appreciate the artist more, and art will attain greater prominence. As the world evolves, there will surely come a time when art will recapture its ancient glory and will again become the means of expressing divine wisdom. On that day, words will not be necessary; art itself will be the source of revelation.
Furthermore, whether the artist knows it or not, what he makes always has an influence. Once, when I was visiting Berlin, I saw some statuary around the Kaiser’s palace. When I looked at it, I thought that it was no wonder that this empire had collapsed. It could not have been otherwise; it was as if the statues had been put there on purpose in order to ruin it! The symbolism which, either consciously or unconsciously, the artist had embodied in these statues was nothing but a source of ruin. Even now or at some future time, if anyone lives there, there will be a downfall. It cannot be otherwise.
Can it be that a thing is beautiful and yet has a bad influence? It is very difficult to say what is beautiful, and sometimes that which one person considers beautiful another thinks very ugly. Also, something which appears most beautiful to many people may have an effect which is just the reverse, like a fruit which looks delicious, but when one eats it, proves to be quite bitter. Therefore, one can say that something that is not beautiful in its effect is not really beautiful.
In all art there are three stages, and especially in sculpture. The first stage is conception, the next stage is composition, and the third stage is production. If the artist is not capable of conceiving an idea, he cannot go any further. He may try hundreds of times, but he will not arrive at the desired result. The outer world may help to bring about such a conception, but it must actually spring from within. It depends upon the stage of the artist’s evolution; according to his evolution he is able to catch, to sense, the rising steam of inspiration which comes from within.
The sculptor’s work is of very great importance, for it is an imitation of the art of the Creator, and not always in miniature form. The sculptor’s first idea is to make a life-size statue, or perhaps even larger than life-size. If it is smaller, his task is to put so much life into it that it may take the place of a living creature. Thus, sculpture is imitating God.
Composition comes from another faculty. Conception is the work of intuition; but even if a person has enough intuition to form an idea, he still needs the faculty of composition to express it. A gifted artist is he who has the gift, the capacity, to compose in his mind that which he wants to bring out. There are many intuitive artists who, owing to their particular stage of evolution, can perceive an intuition; but if they are not gifted, they cannot compose it. That is another talent. No doubt a lover of nature, a keen observer, an admirer of line and curve, a real artist, all have such a gift: the aptitude for composing that which intuition brings in the form of an idea.
The third stage is the production. If a person is not qualified to produce something with his hands, then he may have intuition and the gift of composition, yet he cannot produce a work of art. This is something else: skill — and skill is learned by practice. Human nature is such that it considers everything easy. If one has intuition, one readily thinks that one can also compose; and if one is able to compose a work of art in one’s mind, one believes that one can produce it. But again, producing requires another kind of talent.
Which is the most difficult stage? This cannot be determined, for one artist has talent but is without intuition; another artist can compose in his mind and yet is without skill in producing; and there is yet another who has intuition but is lacking in composition and production. In order to combine these three faculties, one must not only be an artist; one must become art itself. Then to the one who is so absorbed in his work that he forgets himself, that capacity, that intuition, that skill will come naturally. He begins to do wonders, and his art becomes a perfect expression of what he had in mind.
In the ancient art of Egypt, one finds an extraordinary atmosphere. One may take a simple statue that seems to have been made with little skill, when compared with the art of ancient Greece; but when it is studied from a psychological point of view, one finds something living within it. It is not only a work of art; life has been put into it. This shows that the tendency of the ancient artists was to give life to their thought. Their sculpture may not show a high degree of skill, yet it is a phenomenon. If a piece of rock that was carved thousands of years ago can produce atmosphere, this proves that the artist who made it gave it life. And the more man investigates the ancient history of Egypt, the more he will find that the Egyptians possessed the art of putting life into objects.
Coming to the art of India, the artists there made use of sculpture to produce scriptures. Every work of art in India is a scripture, and we can read one or another philosophical truth in each one. The carvings and engravings in the temples, the gods and goddesses, their several hands each holding some symbolical object, all have a deep meaning. By the study of this meaning, one may arrive at realization. Thus, the ancient temples of India were not only places where people worshipped, they were at the same time scriptures, places where people were inspired if their insight was keen enough to observe what was behind the symbols. The tourists who go there now and admire the artistic aspect of these sculptures, do not see what is behind them, and with what idea they were made. The artists did not give their attention only to the artistic side, for the principal motive behind these sculptures was to express certain aspects of the philosophy of life.
One finds this form of art all over India, for instance near Bombay in the caves of Elephanta, and in a place called Ajanta near Aurangabad. There are also examples near Darjeeling and in Nepal and its surroundings. When one goes farther into Tibet, one finds that the ancient philosophy has been preserved for thousands of years in the form of sculpture, ready to be revealed to souls which are evolved enough to read what was written there.
In the East, ancient China was considered to have the highest artistic skill. What is most estimable in the art of China is its imagery; the Chinese artist produced the picture of patience, of greed, of wrath; the image of war, the image of peace; and all kinds of abstract ideas like these, in the form of an animal or of man. It is a peculiar talent which is not to be found in every artist, as man naturally is inclined to picture what he is familiar with. But an artist who can imagine something entirely different from what one is accustomed to see, has quite a different talent. When we look at it from this point of view, it is very admirable. The Chinese were indeed able to make most interesting works of art in this way.
All that we are accustomed to see is easy to admire, because our eyes are used to it; but any form that is different seems odd to us, something strange. The Chinese have given beauty to forms which have never been seen but which attract the eye and the mind all the same; and the thoughtful will stop to think what is behind them. By their imagery, the Chinese artists attempted to bring the abstract into objective form. And to a greater or lesser degree, the world has admired the ancient art of China. Yet the world has not wholly understood its meaning. Nowadays, experts on Chinese art are trying to explain it to Western art lovers — but it is not the art expert who can explain the art of China. It needs psychological explanation, it needs the mystical touch; for it has come from minds that are deep and thoughtful, the minds of a people who have suffered for thousands of years and who have been in quest of the truth.
But as regards beauty, there is no art that can be compared with that of Greece. Ancient Greek art stands alone in its beauty, in its fineness. Its peculiarity is the movement within it. It seems as if movement had been given to the statue, and that the statue has been moving for thousands of years. The gracefulness, the delicacy, and at the same time the mysticism of ancient Greek art is wonderful. Every action that we can observe in this statuary reveals some meaning. Greek imagery, too, fills us with wonder and admiration.
When we come to the art of sculpture today, it seems as if the artist is searching; he is trying to reach something that he knows is absent. The soul of the sculptor is seeking for something that seems lost. First of all, by lack of appreciation around him, the artist is discouraged. Next, he is put in the midst of the business world; and the relief which should be given to the heart of the artist, so that he may think of art and nothing else, is not to be found today. There was not so much thought of competition in ancient times; there was not a fixed price for art. Art was invaluable. The admirers of ancient art never considered a work of art as having a fixed price. They always thought that they could never give enough for real art. In that way, art progressed; it was admired.
Besides, the direction of art today is not of the same nature as in ancient times. The direction of ancient art was towards spiritual realization. Love, harmony, and beauty were seen by the artist in their highest aspects. And when the artist loses that direction, then he comes down to earth; instead of going upward, he is going downward. There is no doubt that humanity nowadays is less religious. Every step we think we are taking in a new direction seems further removed from religion; in everything, we see that humanity is forgetting religion, and educated and intellectual people even wish to avoid any conversation on the subject. Many feel that to pronounce the name of God puts a great burden upon them; they think it is so heavy. And when this subject comes up in a conversation, they say things like “higher forces,” “higher powers,” or sometimes, with great difficulty, they say “gods.” To merely say “God” is too simple; they believe they are too evolved to say the word “God.”
A wrong conception of democracy has also resulted in modern writers writing against the ideal of God, an ideal which was depicted and beautified by the great prophets of Ben Israel and all the saints and sages. This ideal was a stepping-stone for them; but these writers say that by speaking, for instance, of the “wrath of God,” God was depicted in a cruel form. They think that the intelligent people of today would have expressed it better, would have given it a more beautiful form; but instead of giving it a more beautiful form, they have destroyed the ideal and thus impoverished mankind. With the ideal lost, there is nothing to hold onto except objects that the senses can perceive and touch.
This does not mean that Western art has not developed since the Renaissance. It has evolved at every step, but still it seems that there is something lacking; and what needs to be added to modern art is not yet there. Modern art needs so much to make it perfect, and no one can feel this as deeply as the artist feels it today. The scientist is sooner contented with what little he discovers; but the better the work of art, the more the artist feels that there is something still missing; his heart is longing all through his life to produce something more than that. Consciously or unconsciously, every artist is craving for that something which is missing. And if this goes on, no doubt the artist will find it; and on the day when the mystery is found, art will again become a language.
The meditative quality and the practice of concentration should be developed in art, and also the higher ideal; but the material world forms a barrier to all these. It stands in the way of the artist’s progress. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that a real artist is always spiritually inclined; he is only hindered by the world, and therefore it is possible that tomorrow the art of sculpture will evolve. It will evolve in fineness and in beauty, and sculptors will also develop their imagery. Then art will culminate in that greatest of achievements, when the artist will really be able to produce a living statue.
The motive behind the whole of creation is to put life into everything. That is its sole objective. In other words, every rock is longing for the day when it will burst out as a volcano, and when all that is valuable in it will come out. Sulfur, diamonds, gold, and silver; everything that is in its heart must come out one day. That is its purpose.
Every tree is longing for the day when it will bear fruit. Love expresses itself through every channel, and it manifests outwardly in order that God may see Himself face to face. And so it is with a work of art. People think that it is the artist who has made it; in reality, it is God who has perfected it. As it is God’s pleasure to create the world, so it is also God’s pleasure to create through pen and brush and chisel, to give life to what is lifeless. If there is life, it is God. And what is God? God is love, and thus the desire of that love is to manifest in the form of beauty in the realm of art.
Sculpture and painting complete architecture. The idea of building a home did not develop only with the creation of the human race; it had already begun with the first manifestation. And if we look into life and its laws with keen insight, we shall see that the whole of creation is built on this one principle: making a home for every word, for every thought, for every sound, for every idea, and for every color. Color, sound, or thought could not be recognized, nor could feeling be distinguished, if they did not have a home to live in. For instance, it is the breath that manifests as the voice, and it is the voice that manifests as a word. But in order to manifest as the voice, the breath must have the mouth as its home. For the voice to manifest as a word, as a sound, all that the mouth contains is necessary. That again is a home; it is a home conveniently made for the voice to turn into a word.
Then the voice, the word, needs a home in order to become audible; and that home is the ear. If something of what the ear should contain is missing, then the sound is not fully audible. The breath must have lungs and tubes through which it can manifest; they are its home. The blood must have channels through which it can circulate for the same reason; and in the same way the mind is the home of thought, the heart is the home of feeling, and the soul is the home of the divine light, the divine Spirit.
From the moment that sound begins its journey and passes through the different spheres, turning into an individual, the entire phenomenon of this process consists of making a home. First, the soul makes a home of the body that is taken from the angelic spheres, and by taking that body it becomes an angel. A being, a life which had no name and no distinctive features, obtained them when it gathered round itself a cover and took that cover as its home.
In the same way, in the sphere of the jinn the soul gathers round itself a home that gives it an accommodation, and that home is its being. It is the same with the human body. The soul has gathered round itself another home, and it is of this home in which the soul lives that man says, “It is I.” The Hindus have called this home an akasha, which means accommodation. Thus, accommodation is not only a need, it is indispensable; nothing can be born, composed, constructed, or molded without its accommodation. The Sufis have called this accommodation the temple; there is a temple of breath, a temple of sound, a temple of hearing, anda temple of seeing; and there is a temple of God’s spirit, which is the body. And each part of the body is again a temple that accommodates a thought, a feeling, a faculty, or a sense.
When we look at it in this light, we see that when man made himself a home to live in, it was the second step. The first step was that he made himself, the next step was that he made a home to live in. It is his second step because the four walls and the roof, all that is in front of him and around him, form his personality, his character. Today, when there is so much hotel life everywhere and home life is much less known, when the home is so little appreciated, people cannot understand how sacred the idea of house-building really is. Besides, the uniformity of these times takes away a great deal of the beauty of the home. We change the world into a prison when we begin to lose our conception of a home; then we think in terms of pigeon-holes, where a thousand or more pigeons can be put in and locked up in the evening.
Even when man first began to build the accommodation for himself to live in, the sense of architecture was already advanced. For even the birds very often have greater skill in making nests than man has in what he does. A beautifully built nest is a miracle in itself. The skillful weaving, the patience with which it is done, the perseverance and good sense that the bird shows — all these teach us that the spirit has developed the art of building a home even before man was created. Thus, from his moist primitive state he possesses the inborn quality of being able to build a proper accommodation for himself.
The art of architecture began with people digging holes in the ground, piling up stones, and making use of mountain caves as houses to dwell in. The first idea which inspired them to do this was not how it could be made more comfortable for them, more convenient, or more beautiful; rather, their first idea was how it could be made in such a way that they could think more of God. It is with this idea that the art of architecture began. Cutting stones and carving wood, the people made symbols or works of art, pictures or figures that would remind them of spiritual perfection. This was the first thought of primitive man.
Afterwards came the thought of how their home could be made more comfortable, how it could be made so that it would protect them against the weather – storms, excessive heat, cold, and rain. And so the next idea that influenced the building of the home was consideration of the weather, and that influenced all kinds of construction.
But subconsciously, the people felt that the house should not be too different from the picture of the world. Naturally then, because the horizon is round, they dug holes that were also round. In ancient Persian poetry, they speak of gardish-i dunya, which means the roundness of the world. And gardish does not mean only roundness, but a round action, a circular movement.
The houses were not always round; sometimes there was an improvement, for instance when an oval opening was made. Even now, one will find that among primitive people there are round dwellings; always their first idea is to build their house as they see the world — round — and then later they make it oval. This suggests that first they thought of the world around them, and only later did they think of themselves; for when we look at the form of a human being we see that it is not round but oval.
Next, there came the tendency of building steps up to the house. Where did this tendency come from? It was an inherited faculty of the soul to feel that it had descended many steps, so that it had to climb up many steps again to reach the highest temple. The house was the picture of the temple, and the steps were suggestive of going towards the temple, each step being a symbol of a different plane of existence. The most wonderful part of this is that from the most primitive times, no house was made without a religious conception of some sort or other. Perhaps the religion was of the lowest type, a very primitive conception of God; yet the house was always at the same time a temple. Later, when the people had built more houses, they constructed a temple for the community, thinking it would be better to come together in one building for worship. But their first conception was to use their own house as a temple.
The next important thing was the kitchen. There was an ideal behind using one’s house as a temple, but the kitchen was a necessity, because in the kitchen the offering was prepared. There again, the people had the idea that what they needed was at the same time an offering to God. So in some houses there was worship, and in others there was the kitchen in which to cook the food, offer it to God, and then to eat the food they had prepared for God — a blessing or a sacrament, as it were. That was the origin of the idea of sacrament, that no one should cook his meal thinking only of how to appease his hunger. Man should realize what he had already intuitively felt from the beginning: that there was someone else to offer his food to, who was better and higher and greater than himself, and whom he should try to please.
And what was the origin of the idea of sacrifice? There were times when there were famines, when people could not obtain any food except from animal sources. And the cruelest thing that man can do — killing an animal — struck even the most primitive man as not being right. But in order to save himself from starving, the only thing he could do was to hunt. So what he brought home, he placed before his gods as a sacrifice.
Naturally, the necessity arose for a storeroom in the house, and also for a separate place in which to sleep. Later it was thought that those who came to visit should not be taken into the kitchen or into the room where one slept, because these were sacred; yet they had to be taken into the house and not left out in the rain or heat. Therefore a room was made and set apart for guests, and with these few essentials in mind they built their houses.
When primitive people began to think that instead of living in holes in the ground or in caves they should live aboveground, they attempted to make houses of dry leaves, of straw, of reeds, and then of bamboo. A still further development was that they began to cut wood and make boards with which to build their homes. And so architecture developed more and more.
The first thing that helped architecture develop was the worship of God; the second was necessity; and the third, love of beauty. Next people discovered the art of painting and the art of sculpture. The latter was dedicated to religion, to their belief in God; while the art of painting was principally dedicated to making pictures of the myths and legends of their race. Nearly all the ancient legends are connected with metaphysics and religion; they are symbolical. Even if they were primitive legends, coming from the earliest races that had not yet developed their symbology, they were symbolical just the same. Every religion contains symbology, and it belongs to metaphysics. That is why the ancient people painted their books of philosophy on their walls in the form of legends, and by their primitive sculpture they gave form to the objects of their belief and of their worship.
Color can be expressed in two ways. One expression of color is striking, and the other is harmonious. One expression is soothing, and the other is exciting. And it seems that the primitive people mostly used exciting colors. The more primitive the race, the more exciting the colors they used. This was because they wanted to feel that they existed, which is a hidden tendency in every soul. If a person sits quietly, thinking about something, imagining something, then generally after some time he begins to move one of his legs up and down, or he begins to scratch himself, or to drum on the table. He must be moving in order to give evidence to his consciousness that he is still alive; that is why he performs those actions. Inactivity gives him a thought of death, and action gives him a thought of life.
The purpose of the use of striking colors by primitive races was this: that as soon as a man came home or somebody else came into the house, he should feel that there was a home. In Japan the doors are still painted red, so that before the host comes to meet a visitor with his warm heart, the red door may welcome him with its warmth. In all ages, the striking effect of colors has, naturally, been felt and appreciated most, while their more peaceful, healing, and harmonious effects were not generally understood — the people were mostly not evolved enough to enjoy them. This is why striking colors were mostly used in the beginning of architecture.
As to the furniture and objects that were in use in the houses of the ancient people, they were made of anything that could be obtained from their surroundings: skins of animals, straw, clay for pots and vessels, and other materials. They used pumpkins and animal innards for their musical instruments, bamboo and reed for flutes. In this way, a happy home was made which was a kingdom in itself. There they had their kingdom, their God, their temple, and they were as happy, perhaps more happy, than man can be today.
One may ask why, if primitive people were happier than we are, do the primitive races today not show the qualities of the Golden Age, but rather of savages? It is because they are affected by the condition of the human race as a whole. Children, animals, and the ignorant — all three — are more affected by the general condition of the world than others; therefore, if the general condition of the world is that it is full of conflict, these groups will reflect it more. In other words, when new wars are being plotted, the savage people will already be quarrelling and fighting among themselves. It is the condition of mind in the world that affects them, and they act upon it. Here, there is only the planning; there, they are killing and dying.
Will humanity ever return to simple living? Life is intoxication; and the more intoxicating it is, the more it proceeds from simplicity to complexity. It is the nature of life’s intoxication to lead man from simplicity to complexity, and man chooses complexity for himself. When he finds himself surrounded by complexity, he thinks that he is caught in it, and then it is very difficult for him to get out of it.
The sages of India give a very beautiful example of this. They say life is like a spider’s web. The spider weaves a web, making it more and more complex, weaving and weaving until it is completed. But when the web is finished, then the spider itself is caught in the web and cannot free itself. Its motive was to live there and to catch all the insects that might stray into it. But in the end, the spider does not see its desire fulfilled; the spider itself becomes a captive in its own web. And so it is with the ideal of man on earth. He perseveres and tries to make it as complex as possible for himself, and then enjoys the complexity. He sees it as an improvement, as something wonderful, and he becomes more and more interested in it. But what is the end? One day he is checked by something, and then he begins to feel that if he had been without all this complexity it would have been a thousand times better.
If we look at the Egyptian pyramids with open hearts and illuminated souls, they speak to us of the past. They tell us that even if the architecture of that time was not so advanced theoretically, it had reached a highly spiritual stage. They stand there as a token of the intelligence of this ancient people, and not only of their inspiration, but also of the depth of their mind. And if today or in the future, people inquire about the site that was chosen for the pyramids, they would find that it is exactly in the center of the solid part of the earth’s surface. At that time communications were not as they are now, and the study of geography was hardly known to the world; yet the Egyptians were able to find the exact center and to construct something there which is unsurpassed in history. What was the meaning of placing the pyramids in the exact center of the earth? The real human heart is the solar plexus, and that is to be found in the center of the body, which is the shrine of God. That is why it was necessary for the sacred temple to be located at the center of the earth.
The ancient Egyptians had a symbolical point of view in their architecture, and their influence became the principal source of inspiration for the civilizations that followed. Very little is known about ancient Egyptian drawing or painting; nevertheless, in the examples that remain, we always discover some mystery, some atmosphere, some magnetism; something very wonderful. And the excavations which are being made today are proving that the Egyptians of that particular period had reached a stage where they were more advanced in art and architecture than any other peoples, and that they were also able to inspire later civilizations.
Egyptian architecture is expressive of mystery. It was a mystical age, and everything the Egyptians did was done without mechanical power; it was done with spiritual power. And that is the reason why what they have made will last after all that others have made has been destroyed, and when all other buildings have vanished from the earth. It would not be surprising if on the last day, when everything else has been destroyed, the pyramids still remain standing.
It is very interesting to notice that the architecture of the Mongolian races is distinct and peculiar to them, and that it has no resemblance whatever to any other architecture. What stands out, as being most expressive of the people’s character is Chinese architecture, including that of Tibet, Assam, Burma, Siam, and Japan. There is a peculiar line, a peculiar curve, and a peculiar taste in color. This shows the exclusiveness of the Mongolian character, a character that is very distinct and remote. They have followed their tradition to such an extent that every insignificant form the Mongolians have made has that particular character. They are so attached to the form that belongs to them, they have been able to retain the type, the character of their architecture, for thousands of years. They have never abandoned that form, and they do not change it nor add to it from outside; they develop it in its own character. Thus, Mongolian architecture stands out as something different and distinct, peculiar to itself.
The architecture of Persia was influenced by Arabian architecture. The peculiarity of Persian and Arabian architecture is the dome, which is called in Arabic the gunbad and the mehrab. Gunbad means dome, and mehrab means an arch used in windows and doors which is not exactly round, but is formed of three or five parts; in other words, in five half-circles with the top made by two lines going upward and joining in the center. The mystics of Arabia gave the interpretation of this form. They called it qasab-e kousein, which means “the meeting of the eyebrows”. When a person looks upward, naturally his eyebrows come closer to each other. The idea is that as the spirit soars upward, the tendency of the soul is to rise from duality to unity. By working with these two particular forms, they have arrived at such perfection that if the same form were continued for a hundred thousand years, one could never tire of it.
During the time of the Moghul emperors, this architecture of Arabia and Persia was perfected in India. The Moghuls, who were worshippers of beauty and very fond of splendor and grandeur, spent enormous wealth in building something which would remain as a token of beauty. In India today, the most unique and beautiful signs of the past to be found are the Moghul buildings, for instance Moti Mahal, the mosque in Delhi, and best of all, the Taj Mahal in Agra. It was because of the emperor’s great love for Nur-i Jehan that he wished this love to be remembered forever afterwards, and also he wanted the people to know that he really loved beauty. He spared no effort, no money, and no time, to make the Taj Mahal perfect; when it was finished, it became the tomb of Nur-i Jehan. The Taj Mahal not only inspires one with its greatness and richness, but it also tells one of love, beauty, patience, endurance, idealism, joy, and peace; these are all there. It speaks without a tongue, and it will go on speaking for as long as it stands beneath the sun. Every little detail, the smallest piece of marble, was worked most carefully. There is not one inch in the Taj Majal, of floor or wall or ceiling, which had not been made perfect.
This shows a love of perfection, a love of finishing something, a love of creating something beautiful. Would it have been possible to make such a building if the workmen had been on strike ten times a year? Not in a century! And what would have happened if the workmen had insisted on weekend entertainment? No, their pleasure was in what they were making. Each workman realized that what he was making would live for centuries, that it was the greatest blessing, the greatest privilege to be allowed to work at it. That was the spirit of every man who worked there. It was built with joy. One can still find this in its atmosphere, for as soon as one comes near the Taj Mahal one begins to feel joy; it is something living.
The builders have gone, but the work remains; and every artist who has a real sense of architecture will appreciate this. What is early gain, compared with the thought that the work that one has done will live on and give joy for ages to come? This in itself is a great joy for the artist, because a real artist is not born for this earth; he is born in the sphere of beauty and he lives in that sphere. The things of the earth do not count for him.
In ancient Greek architecture, the Doric, which shows jelal influence in its character, is expressive of power. And where there is jelal there must be jemal too; thus the Ionic architecture is expressive of Greek wisdom, beauty, and fineness. And where one finds jelaland jemal, one will also find kemal; and this influence is seen in the Corinthian architecture. No doubt when jelaland jemal clash, then there is something lacking on both sides; nevertheless these three aspects of Greek architecture are expressive of jelal, jemal, and kemal.
When we compare the architecture of the Middle Ages with the Roman and the Greek, there again we find these influences. The jelal influence of Roman architecture shows the ancient Roman characteristics of law and rule; the jemal influence in Greek architecture shows the Greek love of beauty and wisdom. Gothic is the kemalexpression; however, Gothic architecture has taken its own peculiar form in every country. It seems as if the soil inspired the builders, both the architects and the workmen. The Gothic churches in France are different from those in Germany, and even if there is some resemblance between French and Italian cathedrals, there is an individual feeling in every cathedral, wherever it may be. Gothic architecture has reigned over the Western countries for a long time, and although by now its influence has disappeared, it has made itself felt in a hidden way during many centuries.
It is very difficult to describe modern architecture. We hesitate to call it beautiful; but to say that it is not beautiful — no, we cannot say that! So instead of calling it beautiful, we might call it wonderful. If there is any wonder, it is in the immensity of the buildings. They are indeed enormous; the ancient people would never even have dreamed of such buildings. They would be horrified if they saw them. They are also wonderful in spite of the many floors they consist of; and yet they stand so firmly. And then the way in which everything possible is pre-fabricated in order to build very quickly – all this is most wonderful. Yet it is a drawback that only vertical and horizontal lines are to be seen; and when a traveler passes through countries where he finds the same kind of architecture in every city, it is just like looking at the same house over and over again — there is no difference. Instead of wandering through the city, he might just as well look at one house and be contented with that. Everyone must have the same kind of house built on the same plan, but we are not all made that way. Every person is different, and that is what makes life interesting. When every person is different, why should not every house and building be different? As the architecture of each country is expressive of the character of that country, so the architecture of each house should be expressive of the particular character of the owner of the house, and of the man who built it. But when the law of uniformity is forced upon people, there remains no choice in the matter — the choice has been taken away from the architect as well as from the owner of the house.
No doubt one sees a continual effort on the part of modern architects to produce something new. It seems that this effort is working as much in their minds as in the minds of painters and other artists; the need is to produce, to create something new. No matter what direction architecture takes, before long there will come a time when a better approach will be found. But what is necessary for this is the development of spirituality. The architect should not think that it is the study of different architectures that will make him capable of producing something new; it is the heart, it is the spirit, which must reveal to him what he should create. The work of the architect is of the greatest importance; it comes through inspiration and its origin is spirit, not matter. A house is built with matter, but made with spirit. And as the spirit of the world evolves, so architecture will evolve also.
In the future, one can foresee two improvements. One will be the giving of more scope to the personality of the individual to express itself. The other will be the evolution of an architecture which does not discard all that belongs to the past, but blends some of its best characteristics with the architectural conceptions of the present.
In poetry the rhythm of the poet’s soul is expressed. There are moments in the life of every human being when the soul feels itself rhythmic. At such moments children, who are beyond the conventionalities of life, begin to dance or to speak in words which rhyme, or to repeat phrases which resemble each other and harmonize together. It is a moment of the soul’s awakening. One person’s soul may awaken more often than another’s, but in the life of every one there are such times of awakening, and the soul which is gifted with the means of expressing thoughts and ideas, often shows its gift in poetry.
Among all the valuable things of this world, the word is the most precious. For in the word, one can find a light which gems and jewels do not possess; a word may contain so much life that it can heal the wounds of the heart. Therefore, poetry in which the soul is expressed is as living as a human being. The greatest reward that God bestows on man is eloquence and poetry. This is not an exaggeration, for it is the gift of the poet that culminates, in time, with the gift of prophecy.
There is a Hindu idea that explains this very well: that the vehicle of the goddess of learning is eloquence. Many live, but few think; and among the few who think there are fewer still who can express themselves. Then their soul’s impulse is repressed, for in the expression of the soul the divine purpose is fulfilled. Poetry is the fulfillment of the divine impulse to express something.
No doubt there is true poetry and there is false poetry, just as there is true music and false music. A person who knows many words and phrases may fit them together and arrange something mechanically, but this is not poetry. Whether it is poetry, art or music, it must suggest life; and it can only suggest life if it comes from the deepest impulse of the soul. If it does not do that, then it is dead. There are verses of the great masters of various periods that have resisted the sweeping wind of destruction; they remain ageless. The endurance of their words was in the life that was put into them. The trees that live longest have the deepest roots, and so have the living verses. We only read them, in the same way in which we look at the trees; but if we could see where the roots of those verses are, we would find them in the soul, in the spirit.
What is it that awakens the soul to this rhythm and brings about poetry? It is something that touches, in the poet, that predisposition which is called love. For with love there comes harmony, beauty, rhythm, and life. It seems that all that is good and beautiful and worth attaining is centered in that one spark, hidden in the heart of man. When the heart speaks of its joy, of its sorrow, all of it is interesting and appealing. The heart does not tell a lie; it must always tell the truth. By love, it becomes sincere; and it is through the sincere heart that true love manifests. One may live in a community where there are always amusement, pastimes, merriment, and beauty; one may live that life for twenty years, but the moment one realizes the movement in the depths of one’s heart, one feels that those twenty years were nothing. One moment of life with a living heart is worth more than a hundred years of life with a heart that is dead.
We see many people in this world who have every comfort, and good fortune, and everything they need; and yet they lead an empty life. Their lives may be more unhappy than those of people who are starving. He whose soul is starving is more to be pitied than he whose body is starving; for the one whose body is starving is still alive, but the one whose soul is starving is dead. Those who have shown the greatest inspiration, and have given precious words of wisdom to the world, were the farmers who were plowing the soil of their hearts. This is the reason why there are so few real poets in this world. For the path of the poet is contrary to the path of the worldly man. The real poet, although he exists on this earth, dreams of different worlds from whence he gets his ideas. The true poet is at the same time a seer; otherwise, he could not bring forth the subtle ideas which touch the heart of his listeners. The true poet is a lover and admirer of beauty. If his soul were not impressed by beauty, he could not bring it out in his poetry.
What stimulates the gift in the one who is born with the gift of poetry? Is it pleasure, or is it pain? Not pleasure; pleasure freezes the gift. The sensitive poet’s soul has to go through pain in his life. One may ask whether it would then be a wise thing to seek pain if one wants to be a good poet. But this would be like thinking that crying was a virtue if one hurt oneself and cried a little. Who, with a living heart, can live in this world as it is and not suffer and not experience pain? Who, with any tendency to feel, to sympathize, to love, does not go through pain? Who, with any sincerity in his nature, could experience daily the insincerity, falsehood, and crudity of human nature, and yet avoid suffering? At every step he takes, the poet will meet with suffering. A poet begins with the admiration of beauty, and his talent is the cause that he naturally tends to shed tears over the disappointments that he meets with in life. When he has passed that phase, then comes another phase — and he begins to smile, and even laugh, at the world.
The further one advances in life, the more life offers things that can give one a good reason for enjoying and amusing oneself. And the first thing that can make one smile is seeing how everybody is running after his own interests. Examples: how a man finds his way along devious routes, how he knocks another person down in order to go forward himself, how he pushes another from behind, and how he silences the next one. Is there anything that we cannot find in human nature? Biting, kicking, and fighting; it is all there. There is nothing of the animal nature that is not in the human being; man even exceeds the animal. All this, however, only makes one smile; the laughter comes afterwards, when one can see where it all ends. If one is capable of seeing all the various endings, in the end there will be laughter.
It is in this period of a poet’s advancement that in some way, pity, sentiment, and the sympathy that he already had will turn into smiles and laughter. It is like something that is turned inside out. The pity and the shedding of tears that were at first outside, are now inside; and outside is the smile and the laughter. Thus, both exist at the same time: laughter or a smile on the lips, and pity in the heart. When the poet is laughing, his heart is crying at the same time; this is his nature.
The poet rises above tears after he has shed enough. This does not mean that he becomes cynical, that he sneers at life; but rather that he sees the funny side of things and that the whole of life, which he once saw as a tragedy, now appears to him in the form of a comedy. This stage is a consolation for him from above, after his moments of great pain and suffering. But then there comes yet another stage where he rises higher still, where he sees the divine element working in all forms, in all names, and begins to recognize his Beloved in all forms and names.
This experience in the life of a poet is like the joy in the life of a young lover. It inaugurates another period in his life. Whatever his condition, rich or poor, in comfort or in need, he is never without his Beloved. His divine Beloved is always in his presence. When he arrives at this stage, he pities the lover who has only a limited beloved to admire, to love. For now he has arrived at a stage where, whether alone or in a crowd, whether in the North, the South, the West or the East, on earth or in heaven, he is always in the presence of his Beloved.
And when he goes one step further still, then it becomes difficult for him to express his emotion, his impulse, in poetry. For then he himself becomes poetry. What he feels, what he thinks, what he says, what he does, all is poetry. At this stage, he touches that ideal of unity which unites all things in one. But in order to reach this stage, the soul must become so mature that it is able to enjoy it. An infant soul would not be able to enjoy this particular consciousness of all-oneness. From this time on, one will find in the poetry of that poet glimpses of prophetic expression. Then it is not only the beauty of the words and their meaning, but his words become illuminating and his verses become life-giving. There are souls in this world who are pious, who are wise, who are spiritual; but among them, the one who is capable of expressing his realization of life, of truth, is not only a poet but also a prophet.
The poet was born first and poetry came afterwards; poetry was born in the spirit of the poet. It is said in the East that as one can already see in the cradle what features the child will have later, so one can recognize a poet before he learns to speak. And poetry came before language, for it is the poetic spirit in man that made language. Thus, the poet is not the son of language, but its father; instead of only taking words, he makes them. If it had not been for the poet, the language of all races would only have been shouting and howling. In all the different aspects of life, we can recognize the signs of inspiration most fully in the poet; and there is no doubt great truth in the saying that the poet is a prophet — though it would be still better to say that the prophet is a poet.
Poetry is the best art there is, for besides everything else it is also drawing or painting with words. The mission of poetry is the same as the mission of the other forms of art. Poetry is a living picture, a picture that says more than a painting on canvas; and its mission is to inspire. Poetry comes to a poet through the suffering caused by disappointment; but any pain or suffering is a preparation. Just as in order to be able to play on a violin, the violin must first be tuned, so the heart must be tuned in order to express wisdom. The heart is tuned by suffering, and when the heart has suffered enough pain, then poetry comes. The natural birth of poetry takes place on the day when the doors of the heart are opened. Poetry comes from the heart quality; it is an expression of the love nature.
There is an example in the Sanskrit language of what has been said above, that poetry comes before learning, In Sanskrit many everyday words rhyme. Mother and father rhyme: matr andpatr. Also brother and friend rhyme: britra and mitra. And if one goes through the kosh, which is the Sanskrit dictionary, one will find that all the words which are related to one another in some way rhyme. This shows that for the ancient people, poetry was the everyday language. In other words, their everyday language was poetry.
There is a Sanskrit saying which is perhaps an exaggeration, but it is significant: that a man without any interest in music and poetry is like an animal without a tail. If we wish to compare music with poetry, we can only say that poetry is the surface, and music is the depth, of one and the same thing. As with mind and heart — the surface is the mind and the depth is the heart — so it is with poetry and music. The ancient poets were not only poets, but also singers. They composed poetry and they sang, and the perfection of the soul could be seen in these two faculties: the faculty of poetry, and at the same time its expression in the form of music. Those who separate religion from life, they are interested in separating everything.
When we study the earliest Sanskrit poetry, we see that it was composed of words which had a fixed measure, each word containing three consonant root-letters to which different vowels were attached. This divided them into two kinds: words of one syllable, and words of two syllables. For instance, to the consonant root mtr could be attached one vowel a, giving matr, “mother;” or two vowels i and a, giving mitra, “friend.” The arrangement of the words thus composed formed a meter, and there were a great number of these meters in use.
The rhythms in which the ancient people composed their poems were taken from the rhythm of nature: the rhythm of the air, the rhythm of running water, the rhythm of a flying bird, the rhythm of waving branches. All these rhythms were taken from nature, and on them the poets based their poetry. They tried to keep near to nature, so that nature could teach them. And to each of these ancient rhythms or meters, they gave a name that was related to something in nature. For instance, there is a rhythm called hansa, after the sound of a bird of that name. Poets used the rhythm of the hansa’s call in the composition of their poetry.
Thus, the Sanskrit poets were very particular about the psychology of rhythm, words, letters, and syllables. They found that poetry had a mantric effect, which means that poetic inspiration creates a certain effect in the same way as mantrams or sacred words. Thereby, a person might unwittingly bring about bad luck or good luck for himself or for others, or be the cause of harm or success for someone.
There are superstitions that when a certain bird makes a sound it is a warning of coming death; this superstition exists in many different countries. It means that the sound this bird makes creates a destructive rhythm, and whenever that sound is heard it causes a destructive vibration. It is the same with poetry; the arrangement of words, syllables, and letters all have an effect. When the wind blows from the North, the South, the East, or the West; when it blows straight, slanting, zigzag, upward, or downward; it can cause different conditions in the atmosphere. It may bring the germs of a plague, it may culminate in a storm, it may create heat or cold, it may change the season, or it may cause destruction, good health, cheerfulness, or depression among people. And when by his breath, which can be likened to the wind that blows in the world, the voice of a singer pronounces a certain letter, then that breath has to take a certain direction. Either it goes upward or downward, to the right or to the left, straight or zigzag; and in accordance with this direction, it has an influence upon a man’s life.
One might think that if breath has such an influence on man’s life, it is only for himself, whereas the influence of the wind is for the whole country, perhaps for the whole world; but man is more powerful than the world, though he may not realize it. The ancient people used to say that one man can save the world and the thought of one man can cause a ship to sink. If one wicked thought can cause a ship to sink, what a great power man has! The reason is that the wind is not so directly connected with the divine spirit as is the breath of man, and therefore man’s breath is more powerful than the wind. Modern psychology supports the idea that the meaning of every word acts upon our life and has an influence on the lives of other people. Poetry can thus be considered to be a psychological creation, something with psychological power, either for good or for ill.
What was most remarkable about the poets of the Sanskrit age was that all their lives they practiced diction, the right pronunciation of every syllable and sound. Everything had to be in rhythm; in addition, it had to be of the right tone and it had to set up the right vibrations. And the most learned men, not only among poets but among doctors and others, spent half an hour or longer every day in practicing and pronouncing different syllables and words, so that they could speak with greater fluency. Just as a singer today practices pronouncing every word clearly, so did the poets of that time, because they believed in the influence of sound — how it is produced, and what effect it has.
The Vedas, which are supposed to have come from the divine source, are all in verse, as are the Puranas and other sacred scriptures of ancient times. This shows that when the divine mind wished to express itself, it did not do so crudely; it always expressed itself in a fully poetic, rhythmic, and lyrical form. So often we meet people who proudly and boldly say, “I speak the truth. I do not care whether anybody likes it or not. I have the courage to tell the truth no matter if it hurts or kills.” But they do not know what truth means; they do not know that truth comes in the form of poetry, of music, of delicacy and fineness.
After the Sanskrit age came the Prakrit age. Poetry became more human, and not as philosophical and scientific as in the Sanskrit age. At this time, the poet began to conceive in his mind different pictures of human nature and character; this was called rasa shastra, the science of human nature. In writing lyrics, they distinguished between three aspects of love, and they classified the female and male natures in four different stages.
It has always been the poet’s natural inclination to set the feminine aspect of life and of nature on a high pedestal. It is this that inspires the poet to give a beautiful form to all that he creates. Thus, poets of great repute in all ages have always been attracted by the moon. They have not written so many lyrics about the sun, as they had more appreciation for the feminine aspect of creation. For the same reason, the crescent was the sign of the Prophet; for if a prophet were not responsive to God as the crescent moon is to the sun, illumination would not come to him. It is through his response to the voice of God that a prophet receives or conceives in his spirit the message that he then gives to humanity.
Kings at all times have been very much interested in knowledge and learning,. Their association with poets softened their character, and balanced their more warlike tendencies, their roughness and crudeness. The poets helped the kings to look at life in a different way. It was the poetic inspiration of the emperor Shah Jehan that built the Taj Mahal. If it had not been for poetry, he would not have become such a great lover.
The one who reads poetry, the one who enjoys poetry, and the one who writes poetry must know that it is something which does not belong to this earth. Rather, it belongs to heaven. In whatever forms one shows one’s appreciation and love for poetry, one really shows one’s appreciation and love for the spirit of beauty.
Very little of the ancient Egyptian poetry has come down to us. We can only trace some of it through what we know about the character of the Egyptians of those times, who expressed the mystical and musical aspects of the soul in a symbolical way. Hebrew poetry is little-known also, except for what one finds in the Old Testament. It was the Arabic lyrics that became best known to the Asiatic world as being the most inspired and beautiful. Also, the Arabs were a metaphysically- and philosophically-inclined people, and their poetry combined philosophy with lyricism and romance.
Poetry found its highest expression in Persia. The Persians had a natural gift for poetry and poetic inspiration, and their language yielded poetic form for the expression of their souls. When Firdausi wrote the history of Persia, he wrote it entirely in verse, showing thereby how the inspiration and language of the Persians blended with poetry. Sufis, especially from the time of Farid-ud-Din-Attar, have given God’s message and have interpreted religion to the people of Persia in the form of poetry. Jelal-ud-Din Rumi’s wonderful work, the Masnavi, and the poetry of his teacher Shams-e Tabriz, all show that the spirit of poetry was incarnate in Persia at the time when Hafiz was born. This was also when Sa’di wrote his Rose-Garden and his Garden of Fragrance, in which he taught ethics from beginning to end. In this period great poets were born, one after another, but after that they ceased.
What gave rise to this subtle, deep, and symbolical poetry was the fact that the Persian rulers suppressed all free thought and free speech. Therefore, the great philosophers who felt a deep inspiration, and also an urge to interpret the secret of life by the means of words, had to look for some way in which they could express themselves. In the end they found it, and that way was by expressing their philosophical ideas in the form of lyrics. This gave birth to a new form of art. It was like painting; all poetry became a picture of life. With different lights and shades and colors, the poets composed pictures of the various aspects of human life. That is why Persian poetry has always been known as an individual, a unique, and a most wonderful and beautiful art. It is still considered to be so, though that inspiration seems to have vanished a long time ago.
The poetic wave from Persia came to India, and it was because of this wave that the poetry of India changed its character. The Hindus, who have always been exclusive, remote, and followers of tradition, did not at first adopt the Persian form. In India two different aspects of poetry were developed. One aspect was the poetry written in one of the Prakrits, the vernaculars that had superseded Sanskrit both as a spoken language and in some forms of literature. It is said that the Prakrit languages were formed by yogi powers and spiritual inspiration. The poets expressed wonderful ideas in Prakrit poetry, and they generally followed the same meters as in Sanskrit. They used many Sanskrit words, although the languages as a whole were Prakrits. Only in rhythm a new form was introduced, in which the vowels attached to different consonant letters were not heeded any more, and words and ideas were arranged so as to follow only the beat of the rhythm. In this way they were quite free to express themselves as long as they could beat the time in their minds, without being tied to the rigid system of syllables prevalent in Sanskrit poetry, as explained in the previous chapter.
There is an amusing story about two great Hindustani poets whose habit it was to speak in poetry. Poets who were able to do this were called shigrakavi. One of them came to the village where the other poet was living; and one was very thin while the other was very stout. The fat one asked the thin one, in verse, if he was well. And the other answered, “The temple which is meant for God to live in does not need flesh; one must be thankful that there are bones!” And he added, “But you look quite well.” Whereupon the stout poet answered, “When I had not yet found my beloved I also was thin, but the moment my beloved had come to me I became fat.”
The other aspect was the poetry that developed later, written in Urdu-Hindustani. With the birth of this language, poets found a great facility in expressing their souls, for it was composed of many languages, and this gave them a vast scope of expression. There were perhaps ten words for the sun and about twenty for the moon, and there were a great variety of expressions for any idea. In one way this made poetry easier, but in another way more difficult. It was easy for the gifted ones, and difficult for those who wanted to make poetry mechanically, because the choice of words is not an easy thing. When there is a variety of objects in a shop it is difficult to make a choice; and to make a choice of words demands greater inspiration.
The poetry of Persia was enriched by the ideas of the Sufis, and Hindustani poetry was also developed by the same Sufi influence. Many of the great Hindustani poets were Sufis, and there was no end to their success; the whole country was in ecstasy over their poems. It grew to such an extent that in conversation, every literate man quoted verses from some well-known poet. This custom exists even today; an educated man, when he is conversing even for a short time with another of his kind, will always quote a few verses. In this way, he uses the words of the poets to support his arguments.
When we look at the other side of the world, the Greeks of ancient times were as great in their poetry as they were in art. Every race that reaches a higher consciousness shows signs of its development in the form of art, music, and poetry. Greek poetry, therefore, will always remain an inspiration for poets and lovers of wisdom. Latin poetry, too, contained a great deal of mysticism. And in spite of the great gap of years, Dante showed the flame of the same inspiration that was so apparent in antiquity. It is most wonderful to see that in the same period, on the one hand there should be such a wave of poetic inspiration in Persia, and on the other Dante should renew the art of poetry in Italy.
As we go further, we find that from poetry came dramatic art, which became so highly developed in the time of Shakespeare. In his work, we recognize the flame in spite of some passages of darkness. We can feel in the words of Shakespeare the ancient voice of the prophets. Whether people dwell in the East or in the West; in reality they come neither from the East nor the West. Nor do they go, in the end, either to the East or to the West. The source and goal are the same, and so is inspiration. Whoever reaches the truth and realizes the it, whether in the East or in the West, realizes the same truth; the guidance comes from the same Spirit of Guidance. It seems as if there is weight in every word of Shakespeare, as if behind every word there is something else; and the more one thinks about it, the more one sees that his words are a kind of veil, hiding what is behind them. Added to this, there is great dignity in Shakespeare’s work.
When we come to modern poetry, we see that there have been symbologists and expressionists and other schools, but it seems that it will take a long time before the poets will reach the real symbols, before they will become real symbologists. Symbolism is born of an unconscious feeling that springs from intuition. When this happens, then the symbolism which the poet or artist has expressed in words or in some other form, inspires even the one who has expressed it.
A poet was once reading a very deep poem, a symbolical poem, written by a friend of his. And when he saw his friend he said, “What a wonderful poem! I was so impressed by its symbology. Will you explain to me what you meant by this line?” And the poet looked at him and said, “Really, I cannot tell myself what it means.” When a poet writes mystical poetry, and he himself is unconscious of his mysticism, then his mind must be a machine. Indeed, an obsessed poet can do this; but then it is some other poet who composes and he is only the pen. The poet writes what his soul dictates, and he writes according to the evolution of his soul.
No doubt in modern times, much thought is given to rhythm, but on the other hand there are many poets who want to free themselves from rhythm. Both inclinations are right if they are used rightly. If rhythm binds one’s thought and ideas and holds them back, it is just as well to be free from this bondage; but at the same time one should not forget that rhythm comes from the dancing of the soul. When the soul begins to dance, every word, every expression of a person becomes rhythmic. Rhythm, therefore, must not be forgotten, for rhythm inspires other souls to dance.
Modern writers have a tendency to seek the expression of power rather than of beauty. When birds turn into animals, which happens according to certain theories, they become heavy and dense; and in the same way people, after having sought beauty, may turn into pursuers of power. Seeking beauty means going upward, but pursuing power means going downward; and when the birds come down, the sparrows turn into barnyard fowls. It is owing to the materialism and commercialism of our time that poets are becoming denser. Also, nowadays there are so many writers and so few poets. This itself shows that instead of going upward, we are going downward.
One day, a friend introduced me to a very well-known poet, immediately after I had given a lecture. And this poet asked me, “Is it really true that inspiration is required for poetry?” He, a well-known poet, did not believe in inspiration. And I met another poet who had made a great name for himself, but neither his expression nor his movements, words, or thoughts showed any sign of his being a poet. Why was this so? Because to become well-known and enjoy momentary success, a man nowadays has to come down to the lowest mentality, and let the others appreciate what is shallow. In this way, one can raise the ordinary people to a higher standard, instead of stooping to reach them on their own level.
In New York, a newspaper reporter came to see me and asked questions for half an hour. These were questions on philosophy and mysticism, and I was so interested in the questions he asked that I answered them extensively. Finally, the journalist said, “How shall I put all these things that you have told me to the man in the street?” I replied, “If you have come here in order to put these ideas to the man in the street, please do not use any of them; just put what you like.” And so he did.
Poetry is the dance of the soul, and when, from a poet’s heart, an inspiration wells up and he writes it down, his prose will be poetry. But it is difficult for the writer of prose to write poetry, for it is not his line. Life has become so mechanical for us. We are thrown into this struggle of life from morning until evening; everywhere we turn, we are caught up in a certain mechanism. The depth of life, the high imagination, the lofty ideal, all seem to be missing. It is because of our everyday life. Under such conditions, what happens is that those who are really talented and worthy of praise are not noticed; only those who succeed in making an appeal to the most ordinary mentality are well-known. No doubt this will not last, and a change will come; but it can only come when the readers of poetry change. It seems that the general education conceals the beauty of the art of poetry, because education is principally given for commercial purposes: to fit a man to protect his own interests in his worldly struggles. How can such a man appreciate poetry? And it is not only so in the West; in the East, it is still worse. Poets have died of hunger for many, many years. Very few rajas today have any appreciation of poetry, and the general public is not developed enough to appreciate it. Therefore, a good poet must die of hunger, and only those who can make an appeal to the general public are successful.
But by their success, the mentality of the whole race is being lowered. On the day when education takes another form, and is given with another ideal, the poetry of the world will change also. In order to write or appreciate poetry, the poetic spirit must be awakened. It is not that the human race has lost inspiration, but that it is not awakened. The spirit today is awakened to business; but when it comes to higher ideals and principles, beautiful imagery, wonderful symbols, depth of thought and feeling, then it seems that the race is not making any progress. And this should be remembered: that the day when poetry improves and becomes more appreciated and more instructive and illuminating, that day we shall see and feel the promise for the human race go forward once more.
In all ages, the thoughtful have called music the celestial art. Artists have pictured the angels playing on harps, and this teaches us that the soul comes on earth with a love of music. In Arabia, there is a story that when God commanded the soul to enter the body, the soul refused, saying this body seemed to it a prison. Then God asked the angels to sing and dance; and as the soul heard this music it was moved to ecstasy, and in that ecstasy it entered the physical body. It is an odd story, and yet it gives the key to the secret of music: that it is not after being born on earth that man learns to love music, but that the soul was already enthralled by music before it came to earth. And if one asks why then every soul does not love music, the answer is that there are many souls that are buried. They are alive, yet they are buried in the denseness of the earth; and therefore, they cannot appreciate music. But in that case, they are not able to appreciate anything else, for music is the first and the last thing to appeal to every soul.
The heaven of the Hindus, Indra Loka, is filled with singers. The male singers are called gandharvas, and the female singers upsaras. In Hindu symbology, music seemed the best symbol with which to express paradise.
Why does music appeal so much to man? The whole of manifestation has its origin in vibration, in sound; and this sound, which is called nada in the Vedanta, was the first manifestation of the universe. Consequently, the human body was made of tone and rhythm. The most important thing in the physical body is breath, and the breath is audible; it is most audible in the form of voice. This shows that the principal signs of life in the physical body are tone and rhythm, which together make music. Rhythm appeals to man because there is a rhythm going on in his body. The beating of the pulse and the movement of the heart both indicate this rhythm.
The rhythm of the mind has an effect upon this rhythm that is going on continually in the body, and in accordance with its influence, it affects the physical body. The notes appeal to a person because of the breath; breath is sound, and its vibrations reach every part of the body, keeping it alive. Therefore, in having an effect on the vibrations and on the atoms of the body, sound gives us a sensation.
This is only an explanation of the appeal of music to the physical body. Music reaches further than the physical body; it only depends on what kind of music it is. There is a tradition that the first language in the world consisted of music. After that, a language of words came into being. Even now, among primitive races, there is a language of sounds; and the more musical languages of the world are more expressive, whereas the languages which have less music in them are less so. It is not only words that convey a meaning; very often the tone of the voice conveys it much better, and sometimes the same word can have two or more meanings depending on the tone in which it is spoken.
It is said that Shiva, or Mahadeva, was the first inventor of a musical instrument. When he was wandering about in the forest, engrossed in his spiritual attainment, he wanted to have some source of amusement — a change in his meditative life. So he took a piece of bamboo and two gourds, which he attached to the bamboo; and the strings he made out of animal guts. When he had fixed these on the instrument, he had invented the vina. That is why the Hindus call the vina a sacred instrument, and for many years they did not allow any strings except gut–strings to be used. Afterwards, this instrument was improved and made more refined, and now steel strings are mostly used; but the reason why gut-string is appealing to the human soul, is that it comes from a living body. Even after being separated from the body, it still cries out, “I am alive!” Thus, the violin gives out a more living sound than the piano. The piano may drown the violin, but the life that comes from gut-strings manifests as a voice.
There is a Chinese legend that says that the first music was played on little pieces of reed. The great musician of ancient times who introduced music in China, made holes in a piece of reed at a certain distance from each other, the distance between two fingers; and so the flute of reed came into being. From this came the scale of five notes: one note was the original note produced by the reed, and placing the fingers on the holes made the four other notes. Afterwards many other scales were developed.
Hindu philosophy distinguishes four different cycles of humanity of the human race: Krita Yug, the Golden Age; Treta Yug, the Silver Age; Dvapar Yug, the Copper Age; and Kali Yug, the Iron Age. This cycle in which we are living now is the Iron Age. In the Golden Age, there was the music of the soul, music that appealed to the soul itself and that raised it to cosmic consciousness; the music of the angels, a music which was healing and soothing. And the music of the Silver Age was the music of the heart. This was the music that appealed to the depths of the heart, creating sympathy and love of nature, inspiring man and helping the heart quality to develop. The music of the Copper Age appealed to the mind, to the intellect, so that one could understand the intricacies of musical science, the difference between many scales, and the quality of the rhythm. Finally, the music that belongs to the Iron Age has an influence on the physical body. It helps the soldiers to march and moves people to dance.
A story told in India helps illustrate this idea. At the court of the last emperor, Mohammed Shah, a singer came who had invented a new way of composing. And when this man sang his new compositions, he won the admiration and praise of everyone at the court. The singers and musicians were simply amazed to think that there could be a new development in music. But one of the old musicians who was present said, “If your Majesty will pardon me I would like to say a word. There is no doubt that this is most beautiful music, and it has won the admiration of all those present, and also my own. But I must tell you that from this day the music of the country, instead of going upward will go downward, because the music which was handed down to us has weight, it has substance, but now it seems that this has been lost and the music has become lighter. Therefore from now on it will go downward.” And so it happened; step by step after that, the music was brought down.
A well-known writer said, “There are four types of intoxication: the intoxication of physical strength, the intoxication of wealth, and the intoxication of power; but when it comes to comparing these three with the fourth, the intoxication of music, they are all as nothing.”
One day the Emperor Akbar said to his chief singer, Tansen, “You are such a great singer and there is such wonderful magic in your voice; I wonder how great your teacher must have been.” “Please,” said Tansen, “never compare me to my teacher, there is no comparison.” Akbar said, “Is your teacher then so great? Is he still alive?” Tansen said, “Yes, he is living dead.” “Where can one find him?” asked the emperor. “I should like to hear him.” Tansen said, “I will try, but I am afraid that his spirit might revolt if he saw that he had to sing before the emperor.” Then Akbar said, “I shall come disguised as your servant.” Tansen said, “In that case, it might be possible.”
Akbar went with Tansen, and after travelling a long way they found this teacher in the mountains, in solitude. Although Akbar was dressed as a servant, the sage recognized him; still, the emperor’s humble attitude appealed to him. And then he sang, and both Akbar and Tansen became spellbound; the sphere of the earth was lost from their consciousness.
When they came to their senses they saw that the sage was not there any more. “Where is he?” asked Akbar. Tansen said, “He has left this place for ever, fearing that we might come again and trouble him.” Akbar could not say one word in praise of the music he had heard.
After their return to the palace, one day the emperor said, “Tansen, I feel such a longing to hear him again!” Tansen said, “We can never find him again now that he has left that place.” “But,” said Akbar, “I feel so restless. I long so much to hear that voice again. Do you not know that ragawhich he sang?” Tansen said that he did know the ragaand began to sing it. But when he had finished the emperor said, “It is not the same. Why is that?” And Tansen felt hurt and said, “It is because I sing before you, but my teacher sings before God!”
This incident awakened in Tansen’s heart such a feeling of independence that he saluted the emperor and bade him goodbye. He saw that the source of his imperfection was the relationship he had with the court, and he could no longer bear it. And so he left, and the rest of his life he wandered through the country and led a meditative life.
The stories about singers who could charm the birds and the animals, and about the miracles that were performed through the power of their music, are not only stories. Music can do even more than that; tone and rhythm are the source of the whole of manifestation.
The ancient Greek music seems to have been largely the same as the music of the East. The Greeks had certain scales like the ragas in India, which also resembled the Persian scales. In this way, there was a similarity in the music of the human race; but there came a division between the music of the East and of the West when the Western music, especially the German, progressed in another direction. In the traditions and the history of the world, as far as one can trace, one finds that melody was considered the principal thing in the East as well as in the West; and the composers, according to their stage of evolution, enriched this melody as much as they could. At first the melodies were chiefly folk songs, but sometimes also more elaborate compositions; and as such they were the expression of the soul. They were not compositions in the sense of modern, more technical compositions; they were in reality imaginations. An artist made a melody, and that melody became known after he had sung or played it; then others took it up. In this way, one melody was sung by perhaps ten different musicians in various ways, each retaining his liberty in singing that melody. No doubt it was difficult even to recognize the same melody after four or five persons had sung or played it, yet each of these had his freedom of expression, right or wrong.
Music in the East was based on ragas, which means a certain arrangement of notes, a theme that was recognized and distinguished as a certain raga. These ragas were composed by four different classes of people: those who studied and practiced folk songs, and out of these folk-songs arranged certain themes or ragas; mathematicians, who worked out mathematically many hundreds of ragas; poets and dramatists, who composed ragas and their wives, raginis, as well as sons, daughters, and daughters and sons-in-law, creating in this way families of ragas in their imagination; and finally musicians, who out of the three above-mentioned kinds of ragascomposed new ones with their musical gift. On these ragas the music of India was based.
The credit for every song a musician sang and for every theme he played went to him, because while the theme might consist of only four or eight bars, he improvised extensively on it and made it more interesting. Therefore a performer in India had to be a composer at the same time, although in these improvisations due consideration was given to the original theme and rhythm of the raga, so that the audience might be able to recognize it. Even today, if a musician sings a raga which is not exactly as it ought to be, there may be someone among the audience who while not knowing precisely what is wrong, will yet feel immediately that it does not sound right. This is just as in Italy, when an opera singer makes one little mistake; someone from the audience will immediately show his disapproval. This is because the music of the opera has become engraved upon the spirit of the lovers of opera. As soon as it seems slightly different from what they are accustomed to hearing, they know there is something wrong.
But what is most remarkable is that the mystics played such an important part in the development of Indian music. They used it for their meditation, as it was invented and taught by Mahadeva. Music is the most wonderful way to spiritual realization; there is no quicker and no surer way of attaining spiritual perfection than through music. The great Indian mystics such as Narada and Tumbara were singers; Krishna played the flute; and thus music in its tradition and practice has always been connected with mysticism. Musicians have always held to the principle that modern scientists have rediscovered: that the ear is incapable of fully enjoying two sounds played or sung together, and that is why they enriched the melody to such an extent for the purpose of their meditation.
When Persian music, with its artistry and beauty, was brought to India, it was wedded to Indian music; and there resulted a most wonderful art. The desire of the people of all classes and ages has always been and still is that music, no matter whether it is technical or non-technical, theoretical or non-theoretical, should touch the soul deeply. If it does not do so, the technical, theoretical, and scientific side of it does not appeal to them. Therefore, it has often been very difficult even for the great masters of music, who had developed the technique and science of music, and who were masters of rhythm and tone, to please the audience. The audience, from the king to the man in the street — everyone — wants only one thing, and that is a great appeal to the soul from the voice, from the word, from melody. Everything expressed in music should appeal to the soul. This is true even to the extent that when a beggar in the street does not sing a song that appeals to the passers-by, he will not get as many pennies as another who is more appealingl.
No doubt the music of India has changed much during the last century. That which the Indians call classical music, or music with weight and substance, is not patronized any more, because of the ignorance of most of the princes and potentates of the country. Therefore, the best music is no longer understood. Then people have taken to smoking and talking while listening to music, and music was not made for that. It seems that the spirit of the great musicians is dead. A great vinaplayer, who considered his instrument sacred and who worshipped it before taking it in his hand, practicing and playing it for perhaps ten hours a day, regarded music as his religion. But if he had to play before people who are moving about, smoking, and talking with other people at a social gathering, then all his music would go to the winds. It was the sacredness with which the people of ancient times invested music, that kept it on a higher level.
When Tansen, the great singer, left the court, hurt by a remark of the Emperor Akbar, as was related in the previous chapter, he went to Rewa, a state in central India. When the maharaja of Rewa heard that Tansen was coming, he was perplexed, wondering in what way he should honor him. A chair was sent for Tansen, to bring him to the palace, and when he arrived Tansen expected the maharaja at least to receive him at the door. So as soon as he got out of the chair he said, “Where is the maharaja?” and the man whom he asked replied, “here is themaharaja.” pointing to the one who had been carrying the chair all through the city. Tansen was most touched, and he said, “You could not have given me a greater reward.” From that day, Tansen saluted him with his right hand, saying, “This hand will never salute anyone else, all my life.” And so it was. Tansen would not even salute the emperor with his right hand. Such was the appreciation, the acknowledgment of talent in ancient India.
Now a new music has come to India that is called “theatrical music.” It is neither Eastern nor Western; it is a very peculiar music. The themes of march and gallop and polka, and airs that no one wants to hear any more in the Western world, are imitated, and an Indian twist is given to them. Thus they are spoilt for the ears of the Western listener and also for good Eastern ears. Since the masses have not been educated in the best music, and for them there is only one source of entertainment — the theatre — they are becoming as fond of this music as people are of jazz in America.
Pope Gregory I, after whom the Gregorian scales are named, coordinated those beautiful melodies that had come from ancient Greece via Byzantium, to form the religious music of the Church. This is all that remains as a relic of the music of those times, though one does find traces of this Gregorian music in the compositions of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries — for instance, in Handel’s Messiah. Later composers, however, created a type of music which was quite different. No doubt they laid the foundation for Western music and helped it to evolve, but evolve in what way? Mechanically. They were able to make use of large bands, either brass bands or string bands, and also of an orchestra in which hundreds of instruments could be played at the same time. This naturally made a great impression, and it gave much opportunity and scope for the development and evolution of music. Nevertheless, there was one thing which was lost and which is being lost more and more every day: the appeal to the soul, which is the main purpose of music.
Debussy was looking all his life for something new to introduce into modern music. Scriabin once told me personally, “Something is missing in our music, it has become so mechanical. The whole process of composition nowadays is mechanical; how can we introduce a spirit into it?” And I have often thought that if Scriabin, with his fine character and beautiful personality, had lived longer, he could have introduced a new strain of music into the modern world.
Will someone else try to do what Scriabin wanted? When there is a need, if there is a real desire for its fulfillment, it must come. It only seems that we do not need it enough; that is the difficulty. We become so easily contented with what we have. If the world feels a greater need for a better kind of music, then it will come; but if people mostly enjoy jazz, and if that is sufficient for them, then naturally it will only come slowly, because so few want anything better.
The music of the future will be different from the music of the past in this way: the ancient music developed only in one direction, and that was that every instrument was played alone and every song was sung alone; there was no other instrument or voice. And the modern development is that there are a variety of voices and there are many instruments playing together; the development of music in this direction has its origin in what is recognized as classical music. It certainly has its value; but on the other hand, something has also been lost. In order to make music perfect, its ancient aspect should be developed more.
There is music that makes one feel like jumping and dancing, there is music that makes one feel like laughing and smiling, and then there is music that makes one feel like shedding tears. If one were to ask a thoughtful person which he preferred, no doubt he would say, “The last, the music which brings tears.” Why does the soul want sad music? Because that is the only time when the soul is touched. The other music, the music that reaches no further than the surface of one’s being, remains only on the surface. It is the music that reaches to the depths of one’s being which touches the soul. The deeper the music reaches, the more contented is the soul. No doubt a person who is very cheerful and has had dinner and a glass of wine could be quite happy with some dance music. But then he need not have serious music; for him, jazz will be quite sufficient.
The modern revival of folk music is an effort in the right direction. But it should be carried out without spoiling the folk music; for the tendency of most composers is to take this music and then put too much of their own touch into it. If, however, they can preserve the folk music without spoiling it, it will be something worthwhile. Composers sometimes take folk music and attach a modern harmony to it; and this spoils it too, for generally folk music is the expression of the soul of that particular time, when there was no harmonization such as there is now. And the modern method of harmonization, when it is applied to folk music, takes away its original atmosphere.
We can observe two principal tendencies in modern music. One is the tendency to make the music of our time more natural, and in that way to improve it. And this can surely be developed more and more, as there will be a greater appreciation of solo music, for instance, of the cello or the violin. Musicians will again go back to the ancient idea of one instrument playing or one voice singing at a time. And when they again come to the full appreciation of this idea, they will reach the spiritual stage of musical perfection. People today like music that has more than one voice, because they do not listen enough to solo music. But the more they hear it and the closer they come to it, the more they will forget the other kind. There are big symphony concerts given in the concert halls of London, New York, Paris, and all the large cities, but if one notices carefully what the audience likes best, it will be a solo on the cello, on the flute, or on the violin.
People are accustomed to hearing music of many sounds, and after the solo concert is over they will enjoy the other kind of music. But in the depths of their being they will surely still prefer the solo music, for the human soul is the same now as in ancient times, and the same in the East as in the West. The ringing of one bell has a greater appeal than the ringing of many bells. One sound always goes deeper than many sounds. The reason why two sounds are in conflict with each other is that however much they are tuned to one another, they are two; and that in itself is a conflict.
But then, there is another tendency which is working hand in hand with this one, and which is dragging music downward. And that tendency is that the composers are not contented with the chords that the great masters such as Mozart or Beethoven or Wagner have used in their music. They are inventing new chords, chords which tend to confuse thousands of listeners. And what will be the outcome of this? It will have an unconscious effect upon the nervous system of humanity; it will make people more and more nervous. And as we often see that those who attend good concerts only go there out of vanity, they will accept any kind of music. But as Wagner has said, noise is not necessarily music. It is not the newness of the music that will give satisfaction in the end; it will not do any good to the souls who have gone to the concert-hall only to satisfy their vanity. Music should be healing, music should uplift the soul, music should inspire; then there is no better way of getting closer to God, of rising higher towards the spirit, of attaining spiritual perfection, than music — if only it is rightly understood.
When one thinks deeply about the origin of drama, one finds that drama belongs to the origin of life itself; not only has man invented dramatic art, but God has produced a play in the form of this manifestation. Very often, inquiring souls raise the question of why, if God is kind and loving and merciful, must there be these tragedies in life — suffering, disappointments, and failures. And the best answer that could be given to this question is that He has arranged this play. Would we say that it is unkind to give someone the part of the victim in a play, or that it is wrong of the producer to give an actor the part of a murderer? But when we look at it as a play, we see that all these different parts are given in order to produce one effect, in order to get to the essence. For every character in the play, from beginning to end, the king and the slave, the murderer and his victim, the lover and the one who hates, the cruel one and the one who is kind-hearted, the one who is just and the other who is unjust — they are all helping to produce one ultimate effect, and it is for this effect that the whole play has been arranged.
It is the same with God and the Creation. The whole of manifestation is arranged, with all its desirable and undesirable aspects, with its right and wrong, and with all the kindness and cruelty that we see on the surface of this earth; all this produces in the end one single effect for which the whole play was made. One might say that if this is only a play then it is nothing — but if this is nothing, then there is nothing else that we can call anything. If anything exists at all, it is this manifestation; one may call it everything or nothing, as one wishes.
When we trace the origin of dramatic plays back to the Sanskrit age, we find that religious ceremonies and rituals first took place in order to give human beings the impression which they needed for their development; to console them, to bless them, to reveal the truth gradually to them. Everything that was necessary for their development was given to them in the form of ceremonies or rituals. Then the same tendency took another form, and the result was the putting on the stage of the palace, the court, the king, and the courtiers; and later the officers and soldiers of the army were added. It was all a production, but a production for a purpose. In life, drama is necessary; life is a drama and it needs drama.
When we consider our own individual life, is it not a drama? In the dream, a play is performed; for hours on end a certain life is experienced. But when the eyes are opened, the curtain has fallen and the play is over. That which was real at that moment becomes a dream, as soon as the eyes are open and the sun has risen.
The ancient drama was performed by reciting, singing, playing music, and acting. One man told a tale and acted it at the same time, helped by those around him, and in this way it developed into a form of storytelling. Man’s artistic sense embellished it more every day, to make it as pleasing as possible to the eyes and ears. The great Hindu scriptures of Valmiki became most popular, because they presented philosophy and religion in the form of tragedy; and that tragedy was then performed by those who were capable of giving full expression to it. The dramas of Kalidasa, the great Indian playwright of the Sanskrit age, have always appealed to the Hindus as dramas of most wonderful character and ideal. As later, in the dramas of Shakespeare, we find in them great substance and the full expression of character.
In opera, much of the ideas and of the plot is sacrificed in order to make continual singing possible. The result is somewhat unnatural. On the stage, when a man is happy he sings, and when a man is sad he also sings. Whether a man is anxious or at peace, from beginning to end he is singing. No doubt it is most interesting to hear singing all the time, but it is also one-sided, it does not give one a full idea of the play; it only gives one an occasion to hear singing.
It seems that the more material humanity has become, the more superficial is the drama of today. And in comedy every attempt is made to amuse the man in the street. Imagine a play during which the audience has to laugh from the beginning to the end! What can a play like that teach mankind? There is a roar of laughter all through the play, and hundreds of thousands of people come to see it and to become hysterical in the end. That was not the idea of the theatre. The idea of the theatre was to awaken man from his intoxication of life, and to make him realize life’s deeper aspects, showing him an aspect which was hidden from his eyes, so that his eyes might be opened and he might see it; that was the object of drama and the theatre.
There is a feeling, called vairagya in Sanskrit, which is produced by throwing a full light upon life, and this vairagya was the central theme of the ancient playwrights. Among the Greeks, there was a custom that in the midst of a feast a mummy was brought into the assembly. The idea was that when people were enjoying life, drinking, and playing, intoxicated with life, one brought before them something to distract their mind from the pleasure and joy of the surface of life, and to draw their attention to its beginning and end, and to its reality. That was the real purpose of drama; that men who are busy in their factories and offices and industries, or with their studies, might have an opportunity to look at life from another point of view. Thus, they might be able to see more clearly those sides of life which are veiled from their eyes because of their everyday occupations.
Nowadays there is not only the theatre, but also moving pictures; and they are only for distraction and to pass the time. And in that distraction the degenerate side of life is shown, so that very often children and young people get wrong impressions. Hundreds and thousands of people go to see these plays, but what do they gain? In fact it is a great loss. Life was already so material, and the cinema makes it even more so.
At the same time we see that the theatres and opera houses and music halls are built more splendidly than ever before in the whole history of humanity. The stage is so cleverly illuminated and the scenery is made to appear so real, that one can say, never in the world has there been such an advance in this field as today. It is wonderful to observe how anxious are the artists to do their best on the stage, and how far the talent of acting is developed. If only in the artistic world, and especially in the world of actors, a spiritual ideal could be introduced; if their interest could be drawn to the real side of life, they could render a very great service to mankind at this day when the stage is a central object of interest to humanity.
One cannot say what the future will be. But as today one sees such numbers of people quite satisfied with what they get at the theatre, and as very little effort, or none at all, seems to be made to deepen the dramatic ideal, it must obviously take some time to introduce a spiritual ideal. But with the development of art, literature, music, and poetry, drama will also develop in its own time. The development of drama will become a most important factor in the evolution of humanity.
The effort that a playwright makes today is to show the present condition of life to the world. But the present condition of life is already known; it need not be shown again. People see it from morning until evening: the street, the café, the station, the train; all these things they see and none of these are new to them. Giving the picture of life as everyone sees it all day long is not helpful. One should bring before the people the sides of life which are hidden from the generality, and which can help them in their evolution; then no doubt drama would take an important place in education.
When one speaks to people on this subject, they say, “People do not like to have anything philosophical in a play, because if they want to learn philosophy they will read books. They do not want anything religious; if they want religion they will go to church.” Then what do they want? Pastime. But those who never open a book of philosophy, and yet for whom philosophy would be very helpful in their lives, can be benefited by a little touch of philosophy in the play. At the same time, whether it is the church or the stage, whenever wisdom is given it helps humanity. It does not matter in which way it is given.
Plays today are made as if in a mold, and if they are not made according to this mold, then it is not considered to be good playwriting. But an ideal is something that cannot be confined to a mold, that cannot be limited to a certain design or a certain form. The higher the ideal, the larger the scope it requires; it cannot be accommodated in a small design or form. Not only drama, but also music and poetry often suffer because of a fixed mold that is forced upon the composer or the poet. The production of art has become material. Whether it is poetry, music, or drama, it can only be true art, really inspired art, when it is made just as it comes, and when it is also completed in that way.
THE PROBLEM OF THE DAY
The Problem of the Day (1)
The hustle and bustle of life leaves a man very little time to think of his general condition. The only news he receives is from the newspapers, and so he depends upon the papers for his ideas; and the intoxication of life leaves him very little time to think about the real meaning of life. When he looks around him and considers the condition of the nations today, he finds that in spite of all the progress, there is an increase in ill-feeling between them. Friendship only exists for self-interest. A nation only thinks about its own interest whether it has to deal with friend or enemy. If one considers the world as a body, he can say that poison has been put into its heart, owing to the hatred which people feel towards one another.
No period like this can be traced in the history of the world; this age has accomplished a much greater destruction than ever before. It reminds one of a spider, which weaves a web for its own comfort but cannot get out of the web it has made for itself. And if one goes to the root of this subject one sees that all this disorder has been caused by the spirit of materialism. Money seems to be the only gain and the only aim. It is undeniable that when one is continually thinking of such a subject all one’s thoughts and energy will go in that direction. Perhaps, in the end, man awakens and finds that all his life he has given his thoughts to something which does not last, which does not even exist, and which is only an illusion.
No doubt this pessimism is only the bridge from one optimism to another, and it may be said to be disinterestedness, or vairagya, as it is called in the Vedanta terms. It is not the man who leaves the world, who is great, but rather the one who lives in the world, understanding the difficulties and troubles that belong to humanity. It is he who sees not his little self, but the whole. Jesus Christ taught us to think of our fellow men, to live as our fellow men. And what do we see today? Difficulties arising between masters and workmen; peace conferences where nothing can be decided concerning peace. And all this because the point of view which makes people say, “I will do something for you and you will do something for me,” is absent. “No,” says everyone, “I will look after myself and you will look after yourself.” To serve one another, to love one another, to work for one another, should be the aim of life; but man has lost hold of this altogether.
Look at the central theme of education today. Only a short time is given to the child to prepare him for the kingliness of life and the freedom of the spirit. And as the child’s intellect grows, every year more and more it sees the life before it like an ocean which it has to cross, like something dark awaiting it. And later when the child has become a man, he gives all his time to his work, to his office, and there is no time even for love or friendship; yet at the end he cannot take all these things with him. After sacrificing all his life to these things, what has he really gained? Through his external life in the world, the complications of life have only increased.
In spite of all the progress of modern civilization that has been made in all departments of life, such as commerce, industry, politics, and economics, the question still remains whether we have really progressed. If one observes the superficiality of the life which man lives today in the so-called civilized parts of the world, one will certainly find that he is far removed from nature both within and without, and he has become an exile from the tidal state of life. The more laws that are made, the more crimes are committed; the more mechanisms that are prepared, the more work increases, and yet little is being done; the more lawsuits that are brought in court, the more cases occur; the more physicians, the more diseases. Cupidity has come to the fore, so that whether one has an aristocratic or a democratic system, justice seems to be absent.
Also, in spite of the regard for the rights of women that have been established in this age, woman’s responsibility in life has much increased. She has to fight her battle in the open field, which naturally exhausts her energy and courage, causing her to lose her inherently fine nature, as she has constantly to rub against the rough edges of life.
The prejudice, hatred, and distrust that exists between nations whether friends or foe, every nation being absorbed in its own interest regardless of the people in general, have reflected on the mentality of individuals and have made life difficult for both rich and poor. Everywhere one turns one sees material strife; every ideal, every principle has to be sacrificed to it. And yet no man can be deprived of his human inheritance ¾ the treasure in himself which has to be found. Religion should have helped man, but the religious authorities have very often failed to uphold the inner qualities of their religion. The question is not what religion one follows, but how to live one’s religion. When religion has lost its hold on the inner life and faith, there is nothing left. Many people, especially among the intellectuals, have lost their religion; and among the younger ones there are a good many who even dread the name of God.
What is needed today is an education that will teach humanity to feel the essence of its religion in everyday life. Man is not put upon this earth to be an angel. He need not be praying in church all day long, nor go into the wilderness. He needs only to better understand life. He must learn to set apart a certain time in the day to think about his own life and doings. He must ask himself, “Have I done an honest deed today? Have I proved myself worthy in that place, in that capacity?” In this way, he can make his everyday life a prayer. Among politicians, doctors, lawyers, and merchants it might be possible to have love as the battery behind every deed, every action, together with a sense of harmony regarding all these activities.
We need today the religion of tolerance. In daily life we cannot all meet on the same ground, being so different, having such different capacities, states of evolution, and tasks. So if we had no tolerance, do desire to forgive, we could never bring harmony onto our soul; for to live in the world is not easy and every moment of the day demands a victory. If there is anything to learn, it is tolerance; and by teaching this simple religion of tolerance to one another we are helping the world. It is no use to hold on to the idea that the world is going from bad to worse that the germs of disease will spread and bring greater calamities. Every man’s being is good; in the depths of this heart there is something definitely good.
There are teachings about healing, but the best way is the way of character healing, healing one’s own character. In this way instead of accomplishing miracles, one’s whole life can become a miracle. The lack of religion today has created strange beliefs about communicating with ghosts or fairies, and things one does not and cannot understand; but all that has very little to do with religion. The Bible is full of simple things and one would be happy if one could accomplish one of them. There has been a great demand for knowledge and for occult powers, but with all his intellectuality what has man achieved beyond the destruction of his brother?
The need of the world today is not learning, but how to become considerate towards one another. To try and find out in what way happiness can be brought about, and in this way to realize that peace which is the longing of every soul. And to impart it to others, thereby attaining our life’s goal, the sublimity of life.
The Problem of the Day (2)
There has been a great upheaval in the world, beginning at the time of the Reformation and culminating on our own times. It seems that there is continual unrest in every direction of life. There seems to be a great turmoil; and in spite of all the progress, which has been make during the last years civilization does not seem to have succeeded. The difficulty has been the adjustment of the new idea of democracy to the foundation of aristocracy on which it is based. The outcome of this difficulty is felt now more than ever before; there seems to be confusion and chaos rather than the understanding of how to live to its best advantage. The reason is that the character of aristocracy and democracy is not generally understood from the point of view of the mystic, and as long as this lack of understanding remains, a thousand democracies or aristocracies would always fail in the end.
When we study nature we find that there is a model of life, a design for us to follow: the interdependence of the stars and planets, and how they are sustained in heaven by each other’s gravity. Also, how the light of the sun functions in the moon and how the light of the sun is reflected by all the different planets. And at the same time how the planets differ in their light and character and how every planet in the universe fulfils the scheme of nature. Call it aristocracy or call it democracy, there is a model of life that nature has produced before our eyes.
To some people the word aristocracy, when not understood, often sounds very unpleasant. But the real aristocracy is not necessarily the picture of its abuse, its degeneration. And what is democracy? Democracy is the fulfillment of aristocracy; in other works democracy means complete aristocracy. But when democracy is sought without aristocracy having been understood, then democracy cannot be fully understood either, for then it is not complete. Man is born in this world ignorant of the kingdom that is within himself, and true aristocracy is the attainment of that kingdom. To recognize that kingdom in another person is aristocracy, and to see the possibility of that kingdom in another person is aristocracy, and one person is king, democracy means that all are kings; but when a person does not know one king, he does not know all kings. What I mean by this is that we should realize that the object of life does not lie in the revolting against someone who is more advanced than ourselves, and by this revolt pulling him down to our level-that is not democracy. Real democracy means recognizing the possibility of advancing just as others have done, trusting in that possibility of advancing just as others have done, trusting in that possibility, and trying to advance to the same level as that of the others.
All sections and classes of humanity should study the problem of the day. It seems that through being absorbed in a more comfortable life, many have neglected their part in all the different aspects of life both at home and outside. There are certain classes who have been unaware of the tasks that life demands at home and in the world. Now the time has come when they meet with difficulties because they find themselves more dependant on the very things which they have neglected in their lives. They have always shown unwillingness to do certain things that seemed beneath their idea of dignity. Now humanity is being turned upside down; what has happened is that one class is being submerged by the other class and its place is being taken by the other. In this way instead of more comfort, chaos is being manifested.
The way out of it would be to imitate some of the ideas of the ancients. If this is not done, although life will perhaps become settled in a certain way, it will become a hotel life and there will be no more of that joy and happiness and pleasure which is found on home life. The difficulties of modern living will before long bring about a situation where in every district there will be a kind of hotel arrangement, and in that way all individual progress, culture, and joy will be hampered. Man’s individual choice will be sacrificed to the mechanism of living.
The method I mentioned which might be followed is a method that was used in ancient times by the Hindus, and even now some part of it exists. Among the different communities of Brahmins, Brahmin may be in a high position and be very rich, yet he knows how to cook for himself. The women in the household, even in the home of the Prime Minister, attend to the kitchen themselves. There is nothing in the home that they do not like to do. In ancient times they were trained to sew, to knot, to weave, and to cook, keeping the house neat, decorating it, cleaning it, painting it, all these things were accomplished by everyone. No one possessed a house at that time who did not know everything about talking care of the house, quite independently of the housekeeper. Perfection of life mans perfecting oneself, not only spiritually but in all the different aspects of life. The man who is not capable of attending to all life’s needs is certainly ignorant of the true freedom of life.
The more we study the problem of the day, the more we shall realize that it is the strict division of work at the present time that has made people helpless. What is most necessary now is to introduce into education of the spirit of providing for oneself all that one needs, and arranging for oneself all that is necessary in one’s everyday life. The mechanical life of our times may show progress, yet is it not a complete progress. Imagine a person living from the morning till evening in a factory and only making needles! Perhaps he does for twenty years and what does he know of life? Only how to make a needle. Perhaps the benefit goes to the owner of the factory; but what benefits goes to this man who has been making needles all his life?
The ideal of life and its progress is to become self-sufficient, and the key to the secret of democracy is self-sufficiency. Spiritual perfection is the second step, and the one who has first make himself self-sufficient entitled in the end to spiritual perfection.
The unrest which one finds throughout the world, the difficulties among the nations, the hatred existing among people, the cry of misery which comes more or less from all sides, the commercial catastrophes, the potential problems; all these make one wonder what may be done to find a solution for the general cry of humanity. What happens today is that the different institutions try to extinguish the fires burning here and there, but that can never really solve the problem of the world.
The first thing that should be remembered is that all activities of life are connected with each other, and if one does not heed this one finds that while one thing is put in order another thing goes wrong. It is just like a person who is ill and who needs sleep and a good diet: it he gets sleep without that diet it will not do him good, nor will a good diet without sleep help him. While trying to straighten out commercial difficulties political problems creep in. While considering the social questions moral difficulties appear. The desire to serve humanity in the work of reconstruction is the duty and responsibly of every sensible soul whatever be his rank or position or qualifications in life. The first question to be studied is what remedy can be found for all the maladies that manifest on the surface of life today.
There is one principle remedy and that is the changing of the attitude of humanity. It is this alone that can help in all aspects of life. This attitude can be changed by moral, spiritual, and religious advancement, and the work that the Sufi message has to accomplish lies in this particular direction, for it is a method which enables man to have another outlook on life.
The chief thing that the Sufi movement tries to avoid is sectarianism, which has divided man in all ages of the world’s history. The Sufi message is not opposed to any religion, faith, or belief; it is rather a support to all religions, it is a defense for religions which are attacked by the followers of other religions. At the same time the Sufi movement provides humanity with that religion which is really all religions. The Sufi movement is not supposed to take the whole of humanity in its arms, yet in the service of the whole of humanity lies the fulfillment of the Sufi message. The Sufi movement, therefore, does not stand as a barrier between a member and his own religious faith, but as an open door leaking to the heart of faith. A member of the movement is a bearer of the divine message to the followers of whatever church or sect he may belong to.
The work of the Sufi movement is not to collect all the rain water in its own tanks, but to make a way for the stream of the message to follow and to supply water to all the fields of the world. The work of the Sufi message is showing; reaping we shall leave to humanity to do, for the fields of the world. The work of the Sufi message is sowing; reaping we shall leave to humanity to do, for the fields do not belong to our particular movement; all the fields belong to God. We who are employed to work on this farm of the world must do what we have to do and leave the rest to God. Success we do not trouble about; let those who strive for it seek some other direction. Truth alone is our success, for the only lasting success is truth.
Especially after a war and the pain that the world has thereby experience, people begin to think again about the subject of reconstruction. But no doubt every person looks at it according to his won mentality, and in this way the ideas about the reconstruction of the world differ very much.
If we consider the condition of the world as it is today, we see that its financial condition, which is most essential for order and peace, has become so complex that many people of intellect and understanding are helpless before this most difficult problem. No doubt there are those who will tell us that there is no remedy for the betterment of humanity other that the solution of the financial problems. But at the same time it seems that these problems are becoming daily more and more difficult and bringing nations and races and communities towards a greater and greater destruction. Before a solution is reached it will be no wonder if a great deal of damage is done to many nations. And although absorbed by their own problems, men do not think enough about these things, nevertheless in the end the world in general will realize the weakness, the feebleness caused by this disorder and by unbalanced condition of the financial world. Nations and people make profit out of the losses of the other nations and people, and even if for the moment they may think that they are benefited, in the end they will realize that we human beings, whether as individuals of as a multitude, all depend upon one another. For instance, if because of one part of one’s body is sick another part suffers, in the end there will prove to be an unbalanced state, a lack of health in the physical body. And just as health means that all the organs of the body are in good condition, so the health of the world means that all nations, all people, are in a good condition.
Leaving this financial question coming to the problem of education, in spite of all the progress that has been make in this field, any thoughtful person will be struck by the amount of work which a little child is given to do considering its age and its strength. It seems that in the enthusiasm for making education richer and richer, a load has been heaped upon the minds of the children. And what happens? It is like a dish, which was meant to be cooked for half an hour, but is being made ready in fine minutes. It will perhaps be burnt, or perhaps it is underdone. The child knows too much to its age; it knows what it does not require, what it does not value, what is a load to it, what is forced upon its mind. And how few of us stop to think of this question, that childhood is kingliness in itself. It is a gift from above that the child is growing and that during the time of its growth it is unaware of the woes and worries and anxieties of life. These are the only days for experiencing the kingliness of life, the days when the child should play, when it should be near to nature, when it should absorb what nature gradually teaches.
The whole of childhood is devoted to study, study of material knowledge; and as soon as the child has grown into a youth, the burden of life is put on its shoulders, a burden that is becoming heavier and heavier for rich and poor. The result of this is that there is strife between the political parties. There is disagreement between labor and capital; and this life full of struggle to which the child opens its eyes never leaves it time to be one with nature, to dive deep within itself, or to think beyond this life in the crowd.
When we consider the problem of nations we become still more perplexed. The enmity, hatred, and prejudice which exist between one nation and another, and the antagonism and utter selfishness which are the central theme of the relationships and ties between nations, show that the world is going from bad to worse, and unrest seems to be all-pervading. There seems to be no trust between nations, no sympathy, except for their own interest. And what is the outcome of it? Its impression falls as a reflection, as a shadow upon individuals, turning them also towards egoism and selfishness.
Religion was meant to be the safest, the only refuge in the world; but at the present moment, with ever-growing materialism and overwhelming commercialism, religion seems to be fading away. A silent indifference toward religion seems to be increasing, especially in the countries foremost in civilization; and that being so, where can man find the solution of the problem of the day?
We can consider this question from a philosophical point of view. What is construction and what is reconstruction? A construction is that which is already made. A newborn child is a construction. But after a disorder in the body or the mind, there comes a need of a reconstruction. In English there is an expression: to pull oneself together. The world needs reconstruction today, the world has to pull itself together. Education, the political, social, and financial condition, religion, all these things which make civilization, seem to have been scattered; and in order that they may come together again, the secret of life must be studied. What is the secret of healing power? It is making oneself strong enough to pull oneself together; and that is the secret of life of the mystic. The world has lost its health, and if one pictures the world as an individual, one can see what it means to lose one’s health. It is just like illness in the life of an individual; and as for every illness there is a remedy, so for every disaster there is a reconstruction.
But people have different ideas. There is a pessimist who says, “If the world has got to this state of destruction who can help it, how can it be helped?” This is like a person who says, “Well, I have been so ill, I have suffered so much, I do not care. How can I be well now? It is too late.” In this way he holds on to his disease and cherishes it, though he does not like it. And then there is the curious person, who is very anxious to look at the newspaper and see whether his investments have gone up or whether they have gone down, and to see whether there is the probability of war. And he will excite his friends about it. Then there is another person who says, “Committees must be formed, there must be societies and leagues; congress must be held, and many more meetings, many more discussions.” There seems to be no end to the discussions and disputes in order to find out the ways and means of how to improve conditions!
I do not mean to say that any effort, in whatever form; towards the reconstruction or towards the betterment of conditions is not worth while. But what is most needed is for us to understand that religion of religions and that philosophy of philosophies, which is self-knowledge. We shall never understand the outer life if we do not understand ourselves. It is knowledge of the self that gives knowledge of the world. The politician, the statesman, however qualified, will dispute about things for year and years, but he will never come to a satisfactory conclusion unless he understands the psychology of life and of the situation. And so the educator will try new schemes, but he will never come to a satisfactory conclusion unless he has a psychological knowledge of human nature. But I do not mean by psychology what is generally understood by this word; I mean the understanding of the self, the understanding of the nature and character of the mind and of the body.
What is health? Health is order. And what is order? Order is music. Where there is rhythm, regularity and co-operation, there is harmony, there is sympathy. Health of mind and health of the body depend therefore upon the preserving of that harmony, upon keeping intact that sympathy which exists in the mind and body. Life in the world, and especially as we live it amidst the crowd, will test and try our patience every moment of the day, and it will be most difficult to preserve that harmony and peace which is all happiness. For what is the definition of life? Life means struggle with friends and battle with flows. It is continual giving and taking.
And where are we to learn this? All education and learning and knowledge is acquired, but this one art is a divine art, and man has inherited it. Because he is absorbed in the outer learning he has forgotten it, but the deepest knowledge that he has in the heart. No progress in any line that man can make will give him the satisfaction which his soul is craving for, except the one which is the art of life, the art of being, the pursuit of his soul.
In order to further the reconstruction of the world the only thing possible and the only thing necessary, before trying to serve humanity, is to learn the art of being, the art of life, both for oneself and in order to be an example for others.
The Need of Religion
Every man is born on earth with a certain object to accomplish, and the light of that object has been kindled in his soul. The day when he finds his life’s purpose he is stronger, more successful; his life becomes easier, he feels inspired, and a greater power pours out through him. And as a man develops spiritually, so there comes with the fullness of his soul a time when his service to the world and to humanity is a sigh from the higher Spirit.
Those who have come at different times to the world to enlighten humanity and to awaken souls from their sleep of ignorance, have come from one and the same source. And although they are different souls there is but one spirit in them and thus all that they have given to humanity is the same in essence. By studying the scriptures deeply and with sympathy, not only intellectually, one will find in Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, in all these religions which have been followed by millions for ages, in spite of having different outer forms, they all have one and the same inner sense. The inner teachings of Buddha are the same as the teachings of Krishna, although their followers may deny it. And so will the others; each one will say that the faith of the other is different soul his own. This separation has always existed and still exists. It can only be removed by the understanding of the essence that is to be found in all religions.
But one might ask, “What about the different histories of the great ones, the tradition of the life if Jesus Christ, the history of Mohammed, the life and story of Krishna, the legend of Buddha? They are all quite, quite different!” Yes, they are different in appearance because they came at different times and to different people. Mohammed came to Arabia, Jesus to Palestine, Zoroaster to Persia, Buddha to India. Because they have had to give God’s message to different peoples they have had to adopt different terminology and different expressions. If there is any difference, it is only in the way they have presented divine wisdom, and not in the essence of divine wisdom itself.
Then people say, “Yes, I can understand that all religions have the same essence. But at the same time I believe that one prophet is greater than another; please tell me who is the greatest.” But who can tell who is greater? Apart from the prophets, how can we even judge the greatness of musicians such as Beethoven or Wagner; are we equal to any of them? When we have a better understanding of their music our lips close. Since there is but one truth there is only one religion, and the different creeds which today appear as many different religions or churches are only special covers hiding that one truth which alone is the religion.
All through world-history there have been wars, for the very reason that there were differences in faiths, that certain people had faith in a particular creed or religion, or in a particular community. But the truth has always been one and the same. If the great masters such as Jesus or Buddha and all the other great ones who have given a spiritual message to humanity, had seen the Sufi Universal Worship, it would have fulfilled their ideal. And it was their prayer that one day the people of all the different faiths. The Universal Worship, therefore, gives the promises of a world form of worship.
Religion is the greatest need at any period in the past or future. No doubt, the form of religion has changed according to the evolution of man, for the form depended upon the customs and ways of the country, and also on the psychology of the followers of any specific religion. These changes which were made in the different religions did not spring from the intellectual part of man’s spirit. There is another part of man’s spirit: the divine part; and the awakening of that part raises a foundation, a fountain which is religion. In the ancient history of India there are a great many examples of men who were in the position of kings; but they never wholly succeeded, for religion does not come from that source. Its source is divine.
If truth and falsehood are distinct and different then why is the difference between them? Truth is God and the unreal is all this nature which we see before us. Therefore all that is from God is real. No doubt man’s mentality has also played a part in religion, expressed; but religion itself is from the divine source. The outside may be different but the depth is always the same. In this age it seems that one has science on one side and politics on the other, and education is aiming at supplanting religion. But nothing can supplant religion.
There is a touching story of a scientist in France who all his life did not believe or admit to any belief in God, in the soul, or in the hereafter. But as he lived longer in the world, he felt the need of religion, although he did not accept it. His wife, on the other hand, was devout and religious. One day, stirred by profound sentiment, they were talking heart to heart on the question of religion. The wife was anxious that he should accept it and she asked him, “Don’t you ever feel the need of religion, of that devotion which is the only thing that is worth while?” And his answer was, “I do not admit it, yet I believe in your belief, I enjoy your sentiment. That is my religion, my only religion in life.”
We do not know under what guise a person preserves his religion. It may be hidden somewhere in his heart; perhaps it does not show outwardly. No doubt, if no one were able to express his religious sentiment there would be no communication possible, and that is why it is very necessary in society that we should communicate our deepest religious sentiments.
The Present Need of the World
No one with any sense who observes keenly the present condition of humanity, will deny the fact that the world today needs the religion. Why I say the religion and not a religion is because there are many religions in existence which might be called a religion; but what is needed is something else; it is the religion. Must this be a new religion? If it were to be a new religion it could not be called the religion; then it would be like many other religions. What I call the religion is that which one can see by rising above the sects and differences that divide men; and by understanding the religion one will understand all religions.
I do not mean that all the religions are not religion; they are the notes; but there is the music, and that music is the religion. Every religion strikes a note, a note that answers the demand of humanity in a certain epoch. Yet the source of every note is the same music which manifests when the notes are arranged harmoniously together. All the different religions are the different notes, and when they are thus arranged together they make music. One might ask why at each epoch not all the music was given; why only a single note. The answer is that there are times in the life of an infant when a rattle is sufficient; for the violin another time in life is more appropriate. During the time of the Chaldeans, Arabs, Greeks, and Romans, different religious ideals were brought to humanity. To the few music was brought, to many only a note; and this shows that this music has always existed, but that man in general was not ready to grasp it and so was given only one note.
The consequence was that the one who was given the C note fought with another who was given the G note, each saying, “The note given to me is not the right note!” But in reality all are right notes. Thus there is an outer substance of religion that is the form, and an inner essence, which is wisdom; and when wisdom has blessed the soul, then the soul has heard the divine music. Those who tuned their hearts, who raised their souls high enough, heard this divine music. But those who played with their rattle, their single note, disputed with one another. They would have refused a violin; they were not ready for it and they would not have known how to use it.
Today the world is more starved for religion that ever before. The reason is that some simple souls, attached to the faith of their ancestors, hold their faith in esteem. For they consider religion necessary in life. But many others, with intelligence, reason and understanding of life, rebel against religion, as the child grows away from its rattle, for it is no longer interested in it. So today, the condition is that religion remains in the hands of those who have kept it its outer form through devotion and loyalty to their ancestors’ faith; and those who are, so to speak, grown-up in mind and spirit and who want something better, but cannot find anything. Their soul hungers for music, yet when they ask for music they are given a rattle; and then they throw away the rattle and say that they do not care for music. Yet at the same time they have an inner yearning for the soul’s music, and without it their life remains empty.
There are few that recognize the fact, and fewer still who are willing to admit to it, the psychological condition of humanity has become such that a person with intelligence refuses the music, he does not want it; but because he still want something, he calls it by another name. Travelling for ten years in the Western world, I have come into contact with people of great intelligence, thinkers, men of science; and in them I see the greatest yearning for that religious spirit. They are longing for it every moment of their lives, for they feel, with all their education and science, that there is an emptiness in themselves, and they want it filled. Yet if one speaks to them of religion, they say, “No, no, speak of something else; we do not want religion!” This means that they only know the rattle part of religion and not the violin part. They do not think that anything can exist that is different from a rattle, and yet there is perplexity in their heart and a spiritual craving which is not answered even by all their learned and scientific pursuits.
Therefore what is needed in the world today is a reconciliation between the religious man and the one who runs away from religion. But what can we do when even in the Christian religion we see so many sects, one opposing the other, whole the Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and many other religions also consider that no religion is worth thinking about except their own? To me these different religions are like the different organs of the body, cut up and thrown apart. It seems as if one arm of the same person were cut off and were rising up to fight the other. Both are arms of the same person, and when that person is complete, with all these parts are brought together, and then there is the religion.
Then what is the purpose of the Sufi movement, to make a new religion? No; it is to bring together the different organs of one body as they are meant to be united. And what is our method, how do we work to bring about such a reconciliation? By realizing for ourselves that the essence of all religions is one, and that that essence is wisdom; by considering that wisdom to be our religion, whatever by our own form. The Sufi movement has members belonging to many different faiths and who have not given up their own religion. On the contrary, they are firmer in their own faith through understanding the faiths of others. From the narrow point of view, people may find fault with them because they do not hate, mistrust, and criticize the religion of others. They have respect for the scriptures which millions of people have held to be sacred, though these scriptures do not belong to their own religion. They desire to study and appreciate other scriptures, and to find confirmation of the fact that all wisdom comes from one source, both the wisdom of the Ease and of the West. The Sufi movement, therefore, is not a sect; it can be anything but a sect; and if it ever became one it would be quite contrary to the ideal with which it was begun. For its main ideal is to remove differences and distinctions which divide mankind, and this ideal is attained by the realization of the one source of all human beings, and also the goal, both of which we call God.
East and West
In order to distinguish East and West, it is natural first to give the points in which they differ. The people of the East, in all ages, have had only one object in view, and that was to get in touch with the deeper side of life. Some came sooner to that point, some later; some had to struggle along, and for some it was very easy. The result naturally was that for both the wise and the foolish there was less contact with the outer world. By this I do not mean to say that there are no people in the East who are pursuing material gain and material things, and that there are no people who love wealth and all that belongs to the earth. There are earth-worshippers in all lands, and hell-worshippers too. But when, for instance, one is among the most learned people of the East, one finds that they have great knowledge of science and art; at the same time it all serves the purpose of gaining knowledge of the deeper side of life. In any work they are doing their whole motive is to understand this deeper aspect.
Even ancient Eastern politicians and warriors thought in the same was. We have as an illustration the history of the Prophet Mohammed, who was not only a mystic but a general of his army and a statesman, and who was the first of the history of the Orientals to set up a constitutional government, in Mecca. His people formed the first parliament in Medina, and every man and every woman in the city had the right to vote in that parliament; and this happened fifteen hundred years ago!
I have often come across a domestic servant, who had never had any education, but who, as soon as one began to touch his sentiment and his heart, showed that he knew as much about the worthlessness of material life as a great philosopher. A man like this may perhaps talk to one on philosophy for an hour, from his deepest sentiment and with full understanding of life.
All this does not mean that the East did not make any progress in material things, for if one takes for instance the science of medicine, the books of Avicenna have been the foundation of medical study for the whole would. Besides, the music of Vedas was not only music but a psychological expression so sound and rhythm; and therefore it was also a mystery, a science so perfectly formed that it was not only useful for worldly things, but for meditative purposes. Today people come and tell the world about the repetition of some sound that will cure people from illness. Both the scientific and the unscientific worlds believe this to be a new thing, but if one goes to the East any man the poorest circumstances will say, “We have always known this, we do it every day; we know what the power of the work means!” They will not be able to give a definition; one must ask that of a learned man; but it is a science that has always existed in the East.
As to the Western world, in the first place the race which came from the ancient Aryan sources to countries with difficult climates, giving rise to greater responsibilities, became naturally more active. Being obliged to concern themselves more with material things these people found the means of communicating with matter. The result of this is in itself a phenomenon. All these inventions that we see today are no less than a miracle, but a miracle which has come from communication with the things of the earth, as the product of earthly things, and it is as visible and tangible as the earth. It is like a father with two sons: one son produces something all the time, one day a rattle, another day a bicycle, a third day an airplane; he always has something to show his father. But the other son may sit quietly, and while perhaps his thoughts and feelings are developing, he himself cannot very well define them, nor can others see it. Therefore it is natural that progress make in the objective would is visible and tangible, whereas in the spiritual realm it is difficult to see how far something has progressed.
However, with all these differences, human nature is always the same. Those who have developed in thought and in feeling are not only to be found in the East; there are many to be found in the West too. Also those who have a material inclination and produce things from matter do not exist only in the West; they exist also in the East. In the West there is more scope for producing what one has invented for discovered, while in the East there is much less scope; and this in the cause of many difficulties.
Nevertheless, the actions of East and West are directed towards two different poles. The material progress of the East has been hindered by the climate, a climate which makes part of the day useless for active wok. One would prefer to sit in a dream rather than be active and work, and this also makes a difference in inclinations. Moreover very much of Western progress is due to the uniformity of the people, and much of the backwardness of the East is due to lack of uniformity. Every man in the East may have his own individual progress; but whenever there is individualistic progress, it may be very free, yet it will not be recognized by those who do not understand this particular way. It is like a scientist who comes up with a new invention that is not understood by another scientist, who then will be sure to oppose him. In the East, therefore, whenever an intelligent person progresses in his own line, he has to face great opposition, and he finds no one who can understand him. But in the West is the contrary. There are academies and associations and people who understand things and who can give encouragement. Yet on the other hand, uniformity pulls people back from individual progress.
Now, owing to modern communications, East and West have been brought together, and this gives us great hope that East and West, which depend for their progress upon mutual exchange and understanding, will soon unite. In industry, in politics, and all the things, they can unite and thus benefit each other. The greatest benefit that can come from the meeting of East and West is through interchange of thought and ideal, through meeting in that light which is the light of intelligence and which is divine by nature.
The Sufi movement has directed all its efforts towards this goal, that the East may be able to appreciate all that is good and worth while in the West, and that the West may understand and sympathize with all that is worth understanding in the East. Words cannot explain to what extent the world would benefit by the realization of this ideal. Just now ,the East is working in its own way and the West is working in its own way; this is like working with one eye open and the other eye closed. It is in the unity of East and West that the vision will become complete, and it is in this conception that the great disasters and troubles which have kept the world in such uneasiness will be rotted out. And by the unity of East and West in wisdom, one can look forward to real peace.
One can see the beginning of the spirit of brotherhood when one looks at flocks of birds flying together in the sky, or at the herds of animals in the fields and the swarms of insects all living and moving together. No doubt this tendency of brotherhood is more pronounced in man, for man is not only capable of realizing the spirit of brotherhood, but also of fulfilling the purpose which is hidden in this natural tendency. There is one secret behind all this diversity which we call good or bad, right or wrong, sin or virtue. The secret is that all that leads to happiness is: right, good, and virtuous. And all that leads to unhappiness is: wrong, bad, and evil. If there is any sin, it is the latter which may be called sin. Brotherhood is not something which man has learned or acquired; is something that is born in him, and according to his development of this spirit he shows the unfoldment of his soul.
Coming to the religions that have been given to the world, we read for instance in the Bible the words of Jesus Christ, admonishing us from beginning to end to love our fellow man, our neighbor. It was the moral of brotherhood that the Master taught and repeated constantly. If one studies what is the central theme of all the different religions which exist in the world, with their millions and millions of followers, we will find that it is brotherhood: to love one another, to serve one another, to be sincere to one another.
But while man is capable of loving his friend, he is still more capable of hating his neighbor. The first tendency, that of brotherhood, of love, brings satisfaction to him and happiness to the other. The other tendency of hating his brother brings dissatisfaction to him, and unhappiness to the other. Brotherhood creates happiness, and the spirit that is contrary to it produces sorrow.
When we read the scriptures of the great world religions, whether the Bible, Kabala, the Qur’an, the Gita, or the Buddhist scriptures, we find that in some form or another, in the manner best suited to the people to whom the religion was given, it was the same moral, the same symphony, the same music which was performed before them. Were the great teachers specially engaged in giving mystical or occult teachings to the world? Were they engaged in discussing philosophical problems? Not at all, although they were mystics and knew philosophy and occultism, that was not the principal thing that they had to give. What they gave to the world was that simple philosophy which is never new to anyone and which even a child knows: to love one another, to be kind, to be sincere, to serve one another.
But if such a simple thing, so simple that even a child knows it, why was it necessary for the great ones, the godly souls, to come and teach it? Life is most simple and yet it is most difficult to live, and man will not accept any teaching from someone who does not live it, of if he accepts it, he will not hold on to it for long. Therefore they came on earth with love from above, and they lived that simple moral, that simple philosophy of brotherhood. A Moghul emperor, Ghasnavi, who was alsoa great poet, wrote, “Born in a palace, and having reigned from the first day that I came to earth, I saw nothing but thousands and thousands of people bowing before me. But on that day in my life, when I learned my first lesson of love, my proud head bowed as a servant before every slave that I was standing before me. Then I felt that I was their slave,” What does this show? It shows that coldness of heart hardens one’s feeling and closes one’s eyes to that light which illuminated the path of brotherhood.
There are many relationships, there are many connections in this world, by blood and also by law, but the greatest relationship is friendship; and it is the culmination of friendship that is called brotherhood. Brotherhood means perfect friendship. But now comes the question: how may this principle of brotherhood be lived, how may it be practiced? It is very difficult to teach this principle to anyone. The best way of teaching it is my living it oneself. The parents, either father or mother, who show their children that feeling of brotherhood, can best express themselves to their children in this way; and the children too are able to express themselves best to their parents through this feeling. A father may be most kind, a mother most loving. But as long as he or she maintains the attitude of considering himself or herself only as father or mother, as beings which are different from the child, it will perhaps grow to love them but it will never look upon them as friends. The child will look for friends elsewhere. And a teacher may be respected by his pupils, he may bear himself with great dignity before his pupils, but at the same time there cannot be established that communication of inspiration, of love, of sympathy, of understanding until he has practiced the manner of brotherhood with his pupils.
In what way did the great ones, the prophets, the seers, the mystics, treat their pupil, their disciples? The story is known to all of Jesus Christ calling the fisherman to come and sit and talk with him. The Master never felt comfortable when they called him good. He said, “Call me not good.” What he meant was, “Do not consider me superior to you, I am one of you.” Think then of the master washing the feet of his disciples; what does it teach us? It teaches us brotherhood. No miracle, no great power, no great inspiration, occult or mystical, can equal the phenomenon of that humility, of that fraternity, of that brotherhood with which the great ones have become with all men.
The world appears to be going from bad to worse; it seems that the suffering that has been caused to humanity has not yet ended. No doubt life in the world is so intoxicating that man hardly stops to think about life. Life, such as it is now, has so many responsibilities; everyone, whether rich or poor, is so absorbed in his affairs that he hardly has a moment to think of what is going on in the world. Nevertheless illness is illness, and the world is ill. A person may neglect his illness and engage his mind in something else, but if that illness is not attended to, it remains just the same. When we look for the cause of all these disasters we may be able to find a thousand causes, yet there is one principle cause and that is the lack of brotherhood.
One could have endured the absence of anything else; but the world can never be happy, nor can order peace ever be maintained, in the absence of brotherhood. This brotherhood can be learned, and every person has facilities for learning it in his life. The master who is kind and loving to his servant, who considers this servant as his brother, is blessed. A family in which all the members, whatever their relationship, realize the idea of brotherhood in sharing pain and pleasure with one another, how happy, how pleased that family will be! How blessed would be a nation, in which, whatever its government, whatever its constitution, there were this spirit of brotherhood between people of different position, of different rank or occupation! From whence does injustice come, from whence unfairness? It all comes from the lack of brotherhood. Think of the conditions today, the courts full of cases, the prisons full of prisoners! How many disagreements there are between people and inharmony between nations, all caused by the lack of brotherhood.
When we consider this question from a still deeper point of view, we shall find that in the spirit of brotherhood is hidden a way to illumination. A man who may live by great principles, or who prays all day or meditates in the caves of the mountainside, if he does not show the spirit of brotherhood, is no good to himself or to others, because brotherhood is the way to develop spirituality. It is not exclusiveness, it is not running away from the world which is the way of really spiritual ones. Their way is to consider one’s obligations, to keep one’s word, one’s honor, and to prove sincere in whatever minor capacity one may be working, faithful to friends and true to everyone. These are the merits, which develop by themselves when the spirit of brotherhood has matured in man.
But behind all this world of various names and forms there is one life, there is one spirit. This spirit which is the soul of all beings is attracted towards unity, and it is the absence of this spirit which keeps the world unhappy. To a person who has just had some unpleasantness with his brother or sister, his food is tasteless, the night without sleep, the heart restless, the soul under a cloud. This shows that we do not necessarily live on food; our soul lives on love, the love that we receive and the love that we give. The absence of this is our unhappiness, and the presence of it is all we need. Nothing in the world is a greater healing power, a greater remedy, a greater happiness, than to be conscious of brotherhood and to be able to give that feeling to one’s child, master, neighbor, and friend.
The humble efforts made by the Sufi movement in the service of God and humanity are towards brotherhood. In the form of devotion, of philosophy, of mysticism, of metaphysics, art, or science, in whatever form the Sufi movement presents the ideal to the world, the central theme is always brotherhood.
Brotherhood is not something that is learned or taught. Brotherhood is a tendency, a tendency which arises from a heart that is tuned to the proper pitch. And it is in this natural tendency that real happiness lies from that which raises harmony and which culminates in peace. The message of brotherhood is a message of sympathy, a message of harmony. But the person who is not in harmony with himself cannot be in harmony with another, with all the teaching of brotherhood and with all his learning, he will not be able to observe the law of brotherhood.
In the whole system of the world’s creation one sees a blind impulse working like a kind of mechanism of the universe. This impulse is more apparent in living creatures, and its most pronounced form is agitation. If we study the lives of the lower creatures we find that they not only have a desire for food or a desire to move about with their mates; their first desire is to sleep. But besides this there is an inclination that manifests as agitation and it is because of this agitation that the animals and birds fight among themselves. Their whole life is filled with that agitation. Furthermore, herbivorous animals are less agitated than carnivorous ones, while in the carnivorous animals there is more desire for fighting. The lion and the tiger are more inclined to fight than horses and cows, which shows that the herbivorous animals are a step more advanced than the carnivorous animals. The tendencies to eat or drink, to seek pleasure or enjoy comfort or become agitated, do not belong specially to the human being; he gets these characteristics from the animal. His special characteristic is sympathy, harmony; but this comes only when man rises above that agitation which, so to speak, buries the spirit of sympathy. No doubt man is educated, he is trained, he has some polish, he has been taught some manners, and therefore he dons not always show his agitation. It is only at a time of weakness, when he cannot control his agitation, that it breaks our and manifests to his own view as well as to that of others, thereby proving that he is not yet ready to be called human.
One might ask if there is any time in a man’s life when he rises above this. One person will get it under control sooner than another, but one will always master it when one really tires to. This spirit of agitation shows itself as intolerance, as rivalry, as jealousy, as a domineering spirit, as irritability, or as the tendency to patronize; all such qualities show agitation. When it is said that Krishna fought a battle with Kamsa, the monster-man, that monster was not outside of Krishna; that monster was inside him. It was this spirit of agitation. Krishna had to fight it, and it was only after conquering the spirit of agitation that he became the messenger of love.
In the Bible we read that Jesus Christ went for forty days into the desert, and that Satan was at his side. What is Satan? It is the same spirit that is the greatest enemy of the human race, the spirit of agitation. And Halima gives a symbolical, artistic, and picturesque description of an experience of the Prophet. She says that the breast of the Prophet was cut open and that some undesirable material was removed. Symbolically this means that the spirit of agitation was taken away to make place for divine inspiration. This shows that man inherits the earthly characteristics, and among those earthly characteristics agitation is the principal one. A child sometimes shows it against its parents, a schoolboy against his friends, a youth against its companions, a grown-up against his neighbors — and everyone has a reason to justify this wrong attitude. Agitation, therefore, is the sign of the false ego, and when this false ego is broken, when this very agitation has crushed itself, just as fire burns itself out, then begins the process of purification.
Man does not really notice how far this spirit follows a person on the path of spiritual progress. A person may arrive at the very gate of the heavens, and even to that length this spirit will travel with him. It may become weaker, but it is there; only, this spirit has no entrance into the shrine of God, and the soul which carries this spirit with it has no entrance onto that perfect abode. He may advance as far as the gate of the inner temple, but he is not allowed in; he is held back by the power of that same spirit of agitation. For the shrine of God is called Dar-e-Sala’m, which is the same as Jerusalem. It means the door of peace, and agitation is not allowed to enter through the door of peace; it must stay outside. When the ancients said, “You cannot follow two masters, God and Satan,” this meant that Satan is the spirit of agitation which is to be found within ourselves, while God is the spirit of peace in whom is our happiness; and we cannot follow both of these masters.
There are many movements and institutions for the promotion of brotherhood, and they are all doing what they can to further this ideal, for this is an ideal that is the essence of religion and the soul of spirituality. But how can one attain to it? By creating in oneself, and by trying to give it others, the idea of a natural sympathy; by strengthening ourselves, thereby giving power to others also to fight against this spirit of agitation which has always proved to be the worst enemy of mankind.
Where does this agitation come from? From disorder, either of the body or of the mind; if the body is not in its proper rhythm and proper tune, or if the mind is not in its proper rhythm and tune. And if the mind and body are not in tune with one another, if they are not in harmony, then also this agitation comes. Sometimes it is the reflection of the body upon the mind. How true is it that man is his own enemy; but where is that enemy? That enemy is this spirit; a spirit which is never contented, which does not appreciate, which dies not respond, which does not sympathize, which does not agree, which does not endure, which does not tolerate, which does not harmonize. A spirit exists which stands against any influence of harmony, agreement, sympathy, or kindness.
Is this spirit a living being? Is it Satan, a devil, or what is it? What is its explanation? What is its origin? The best explanation is that it is like a smooth silken thread which becomes tangled at one end and ties itself into a knot. But in the place where there is a knot it is very difficult to unravel, it is still the same silken thread. Only it is in a condition where it is difficult for it because it is not free. And it is difficult for others because they cannot unravel it. And so the same soul that has divine breath in it, which has come from heaven, which represents God on earth, when it is turned into a knot, has difficulty with itself, difficulty with others, and others have difficulty with it. In this way it becomes inharmonious, and it creates inharmony; it finds itself in a kind of inharmonious condition. This only means that it has lost its natural, original condition, its smoothness and softness; and yet it remains silk; it has not turned into cotton, it is still silk. Call it Satan or devil or whatever you like, but if one knows the source, the origin, one cannot call it anything else but a condition. Thus what is most important is the work or brotherhood, is to develop that spirit in ourselves by getting above all knots and difficulties, in order that we may not only be able to follow the rules of brotherhood, but that all which comes naturally from ourselves may express brotherhood.
In working towards the establishment of brotherhood, the main object of the Sufi movement is to bring about a better understanding among the different classes, among the followers of different religions and the people of different races and different nations; but this we do not mean mixing them up. If this were our idea, it would have been quite a different thing. We want to let the farms of wheat be farms of wheat; on the farms where rice grows, let rice grow; where there are woods, let there be wood, where there are gardens, let there be gardens — all are necessary. Our ideas have not reached to the extreme of wanting to cook everything in the same dish. We do not wish to stretch the fingers so as to make them all even, for their natural size is the proper size for them; our conception of equality does not conform to such an idea. Our only motive is that the East and West, the North and the South, instead of turning their backs upon each other, may turn their faces towards each other.
We do not wish all the people in the world to be of the same religion or the same education, or to have the same customs and manners; nor do we think that all classes must become one class, which is impossible anyhow. We wish that all classes may blend with each other, and yet every individual has his own individual expression in life. That all nations may have their peculiarity, their individuality, but at the same time express goodwill and friendly feeling towards one another. That different races may have their own manners and their own ideas, but at the same time understand one another; that the followers of different religions may continue to belong to their own religions, but at the same tome become tolerant towards each other.
Therefore our idea of brotherhood is not in any way extreme. The motive is not to change humanity, but to help humanity on towards its goal. People may belong to one church and yet fight with one another; it is just as well that they should belong to different churches and yet understand each other, respect each other’s religion, and tolerate one another. People may belong to one institution, and yet disagree with one another. Then what is the use of that institution? Therefore, it is not at all the mission of the Sufi movement to try and make the whole of humanity followers of one special movement, but to give to humanity what God has given us, so that we may serve in His cause.