The Difference between Will, Wish and Desire
WILL IS the development of the wish. When one says, “It was the divine will”, it means that it was a command, a wish that developed into action. When the wish becomes action it becomes will, it becomes a command. One may think it is only one’s wish, but it is a wish as long as it is still. It is there, it has not sprung up, it is inactive, just like a seed in the ground: it is wish. But the moment the seed is coming out of the ground as a seedling and is in the process of becoming a plant, then it is a will. Therefore these two different names, wish and will, are names of one and the same thing: in its undeveloped state and in its process of development.
Desire is a weaker or primitive stage of the wish. When an idea, a thought, is not yet made clear in one’s own mind and one’s own mind has not taken a decision: “It must be so, I would like it to be so” -then it is a desire, it is a fancy. It comes and it goes, and one does not care. But when that desire is a little more developed then it is a wish. Then it stays there, it does not fade away like clouds, it is tangible, it is there. Yet it is not fulfilled, because for fulfilment it must develop.
There are some people in this world who say, “All my life I had bad luck. The bad luck was that never in my life my wish was granted”. They can very easily imagine that a spirit was against them, or God was against them, or the stars, or that something was keeping back their wish. But it is not always so. In the first place God wishes the same that we wish; if God wished differently from our wish we could not worship that God who was always against us. It is not so! Besides, there is no benefit in opposing the wish of man; to God there is no advantage in doing so. No doubt there are planetary reasons, reasons of the universe at work, reasons of the cosmos that oppose the wish. As it is said, “Man proposes, God disposes”. The name “God” is put in the place of the cosmic forces, but God with His mercy and compassion never has a desire to oppose anyone’s wish. God apart, a good-hearted man would never like to oppose anybody’s wish; he would do everything possible to make anybody’s wish complete, to make a person’s wish come true. A kindly person would do it.
But what mostly happens is that man proves to be the worst enemy of his own desire-for many reasons. One reason is that he is never sure what he desires. Out of a hundred persons you will find one who knows what he desires, but ninety-nine say, “Do I desire, or do I not desire – I don’t know. I think I desire, but I do not know if it is so”. Ninety-nine percent among men is in this condition; they really do not know if they desire. One day they say, “Yes, I do”, another day they say, “No, I don’t think I desire”. Therefore their desire is decomposed in the unclearness of the mind.
Then there are others who analyse their desire, and they analyse it till they have broken it to pieces. There are many analytical people who have all through life destroyed their desires by analysing them.
There is a third kind of people: those who have adopted a passive attitude. They say it is a sin to desire. Yet they cannot be without desire, and in this passive attitude they say, “Well, I will not desire”. They have crossed the desire that was there.
And there is a fourth kind of person who desires something, but by lack of concentration cannot turn his desire into a wish. Therefore the desire stays in its primitive stage all the time.
A fifth kind of person develops desire into a wish; he goes so far and no further. But the wish must be developed into will. So the desire is not carried through, so to speak, and never comes to its culmination.
Now this is a subject which is of the greatest importance in the life of every person in the world. No one can exist in the world without wishing for something, and if there is a person who has no wish he need not stay in the world. He must go somewhere out of the crowd; he cannot exist there. He must go out in the mountains and even there he should turn into a tree or into a rock in order to exist, because to be a living being without a wish is not possible.
The difference between persons – high and low – is according to the wish they have. One wishes for the earth, the other wishes for heaven. The desire of one takes him to the heights of spiritual progress, the desire of the other takes him to the depth of the earth. Man is great or small, man is wise or foolish, man is on the right road or on the wrong road according to the desire he has.
Now coming to the question of the opposing forces: according to the Sufis there are Qadha and Qadr. Qadhais the universal will, universal power; Qadr is the individual will and the individual power. No doubt the individual power in comparison with the universal power is like a drop compared with the sea. It cannot stand against the sweeping waves of the sea that come and destroy it. Nevertheless, the drop, being from the same source as the sea, has also a certain amount of strength, and the individual will also has a certain strength if it wills to hold against opposing forces.
If we want to make the individual will and the universal will more clear, it is in small things that we can do so. When a person is walking in the street and says, “I feel hungry, I should like to go to a restaurant and have a meal”, that is individual will. Another person goes in the street and sees a poor man, and says, “Ah, this man – he seems to be poor, he must have something; can I not do something for him? I want to see him looking happier”. As soon as he thinks of the good of another person, at once his will becomes the universal will. The reason is that the boundary that limits the will of an individual is the thought of the self. As soon as one has forgotten the thought of self, as soon as one thinks of another, that boundary breaks down and the will becomes stronger. The masters of humanity, those who have been able to do great things in the world, where did they get their will from? It was their own will which was extended by the breaking down of the boundaries of the thought of self. It does not mean that one should give up the thought of self, that one must never think of oneself, never think of one’s lunch and dinner. The self is there, one has to think about it. But at the same time in order to expand, in order to let the will grow, the more one forgets oneself the more one is helped.
There are some who take the path of resignation, neither doing good to themselves nor to another. It is a kind of attitude they have taken to say, “It will come from somewhere. Somebody will do it. If I am hungry somebody will come and feed me” – or, “If another person is in need, somebody will come and help him”. Their wish is inactive, they do not let their wish become a will, they remain where they are, they are passive. No doubt, an intelligent passiveness and resignation can also bring about a wonderful result, but many of these people do it unintelligently. The quality of the saints is to be resigned to all that comes -but then they do not even form a wish. They take all that comes, flowers or thorns; everything that comes, they take it. They look into thorns and see that they are flowers. With praise and with blame they are contented. They are contented with rise and fall; they take all that comes, they take life as it is. That is the intelligent way of doing it. The unintelligent way is to say of anything that is difficult, “Somebody will come and do it”. This is a kind of laziness. They may think it is passiveness, but it is laziness to think, if one has to do something, “Somebody will come who will do it”.
In India it is told that a man was lying under a cherry tree and some ripe cherries were falling near him. But he was just lying there. A man came from a distance to whom he called out, “Please come here, will you please put this cherry in my mouth?” There are many to be found like this who out of a feeling of helplessness, of laziness, give in, who have no enthusiasm, no courage. In this way their willpower is broken down and in the end they are helpless. There is no comparison between the saintly spirit and the spirit of the helpless. Although both become resigned, the latter is not truly resigned: he would like to have the cherry in his mouth, but another person must give it to him. The saint does not care if he eats it or if he does not eat it; it is just the same to him. In that case it is allowable.
Then there are others who are over-anxious for their wish to come true; it destroys their wish because the strength, the pressure they put upon their wish is too great. It is just like guarding a plant against the sun and against water; if one guards the plant against the very things that should help it to grow, then it cannot grow. It is the same with the wish; if a person says, “This is my wish and it must come true, no one must think about it, no one must look at it”, he is always afraid that perhaps this wish will not come true. He is eager, he is thinking with doubt, fear and suspicion and therefore he will destroy his own wish.
Again there is a person who is willing to sacrifice anything, or to persevere as much as it requires for even a small wish which he does not value very much when it comes to value. Yet he gives it every thought and he does everything in his power to make that wish come true. That person is taking the same path as the path of the masters. He must have success, and it is success which brings success. If once a person is successful, his success attracts success. Once a person fails then this failure attracts failure; for the same reason that, if a person is on the path of accomplishment, each accomplishment gives him a greater power to go forward, and when he is on the path that goes downward then every step leads him downward.
Now arises the question which desire and wish one must give up and which one must rear. One must have discrimination. If here is no discrimination one will take a wrong way; it may lead to success, but it will be a success in a wrong way. If one rears every desire and wish, and thinks, “This must be accomplished”, then sometimes it may be right and sometimes wrong. Discrimination must first be developed in order to understand what leads one to happiness, a lasting happiness, a greater peace, a higher attainment. But once a person has discrimination and has chosen a wish, then he should not analyse it too much. Many have formed a habit of analysing everything every day. If a person holds a wish for ten years and every day analyses it in his mind he acts against it. Every day he looks at it from a new point of view, he tries to find the wrong points of his own wish and so he tries to crush it in every way possible. In ten years’ time his wish would have come true, and instead it is broken to pieces. There are many intellectual people, many people who doubt, many analytical persons who are the greatest enemies of their wish.
And now comes the question whether it is wrong if a person expresses his wish in prayer, for many people say, “God knows everything, so why should we tell God that such and such a thing should be done. God knows the secret of every heart. Besides, is it not selfish to bring our wish before God? If it is a good wish, it must come true of itself.” The answer is that prayer is a reminder to God, prayer is a song sung before God who enjoys it, who hears it, who is reminded about something. But one thinks, “How can our prayer, our little voice reach God?” It reaches God through our ears. God is within us. If our soul can hear our voice, God can hear it too. Prayer is the best way, because the wish is beautifully expressed, which harmonizes us with God, which brings about a greater relationship between man and God.
Then one may ask whether it is good to think about the wish one has. One can never think too many times of the wish one has. Dream about it, think about it and imagine it, keep it in mind, retain it in mind and do everything possible towards its fulfilment-but with poise, with tranquillity, with patience, with confidence, with ease, and not by thinking hard about it. The one who thinks hard about his wish destroys it, for it is just like overheating, or giving too much water to a plant: the very thing that should help it, destroys it. If a person worries about his wish he certainly either has no patience, or he has some fear or some doubt; all these things destroy the wish. The wish must be cherished easily, with comfort, with hope, with confidence and with patience. Doubt is like rust, it eats into it; fear is still worse, it destroys it.
When a person has no discrimination and he is not sure whether it is a right wish or a wrong one, whether it should come true or not, one day he says, “I should so much like it to come true”; another day he says, “I do not care if it comes true”; after a week he says anew, “I so much wish it to come true”, and after a month, “Oh, I do not care now”. It is just like making a fire and then putting it out, then making the fire again and again putting it out. Every time he extinguishes the fire it is gone, he will have to make it anew. And so, if a person has formed a wish and cherished it for ten years, each time it is broken he has to make it anew.
And now comes the question what wish is the most desirable. This depends upon one’s own stage of evolution. A person who is only so much evolved that he can make no greater wish than for the need of his daily life, let him do it. He must not think, “Because it is only the need of daily life it is nothing, I must wish for something higher”. He must not think that. If his heart is inclined to the need of daily life, he must think of it first. But if his heart thinks, “No, I cannot wish for this, I can think of something much higher”, then he must take the consequences. The consequences will be that he will have to go through tests and trials – and if he does not mind this, so much the better.
There are many things in this world which we want and which we need, and yet we do not necessarily think about them. If they come it is all right, and if they do not come we feel uncomfortable for a time, but that feeling passes. We cannot put our mind and thought upon them if we are evolved, because then we think of something else, of something higher; our thought is involved in something much higher and greater than what we need in everyday life. We do not pay attention to what we need and that slips from our grasp. It is therefore that great poets, thinkers and sages were very often hard up for things that one could get in everyday life. With all their power they could command gold to come to their house – and the gold would come, they only had to command it. If they commanded that an army was to come into their power it would come – the army and anything they would command. Yet they could not give their mind to it, they could only wish for something which was equal to their particular evolution.
So each person can only wish for something equal to his evolution, he cannot properly wish for something which is beneath his evolution, even if he was told to do so. Very often in order to help a person in a certain situation I have said to him, “Now think of this particular object”. But being much more evolved than that he thought with his brain, his heart was somewhere else, and so it never came true. One can give one’s heart and mind and whole being to something which is equal to one’s evolution. If it is not equal one cannot give one’s whole being to it. Maybe a person gives his thought to it, but what is thought? Thought without feeling is no power. If the soul and the spirit are not at the back of it, there is no power.
So this must be understood: that our wish must be different from what we need in everyday life. Never mix it! Always think that what we need in everyday life is one thing: something practical. Though if that be our wish, then it is all right. And then we are to cherish, to maintain our wish as something sacred, something given to us by God to cherish, to bring to fulfilment, for it is in the fulfilment of one’s highest and best and deepest wish that lies the purpose of life.
Question: Is there any way of finding out beforehand if a wish will be good for us?
Answer: That is the most difficult thing to say. It can only be done by training oneself, and that training is: always to have a good thought for everyone, a kind thought for everybody, to develop a consciousness of justice within oneself, to have sympathy, to have goodwill for everyone in the world. If a person keeps this as a principle in his everyday life then every wish that will come to him will be productive of good results.
Question: Can we feel the accomplishment of a wish beforehand?
Answer: If one can feel the accomplishment of a wish beforehand it means that the wish is secure, that the wish is surely to be fulfilled. If with the wish you have got a feeling that this wish will come true, then it must come true. There is no doubt about it, because when you have that feeling it shows that you have no doubt, that there is nothing opposing it. Therefore that wish of yours is a promise at the same time.
Question: When Buddha said that we should have no desire, did he mean that we should have the attitude of a saint?
Answer: The Buddha never said that you should have no desire. The Buddha spoke of “the man who has no desire”. It never was the principle of Buddha that you must not have a desire; Buddha was too wise to commit himself like this. What is meant is that we must develop so that one day we may reach to that stage where naturally we shall have no desires. But if we have a desire and say, “Because Buddha has said that we must have no desire, therefore we must throw it away”, it is working against ourselves. It is just like a man who, having heard that a saint had lived without food for a very, very long time and had experienced exaltation, would say, “Well, I shall give up my lunch every day if I can become spiritual by it “. He may just as well have his lunch because he feels hungry. The one who went without food was not hungry, he had risen above it. We must have principles according to our stage of evolution, and never take principles higher than our stage of evolution, forcing ourselves to abide by them.
Question: Does it matter if one has several wishes at the same time?
Answer: Suppose one did salt and sweet and savoury and pepper all together in the mouth, how would the taste be? It would come to nothing. And so each wish destroys the other. You may have five best wishes at the same time, but one wish will destroy the other; therefore there is not one wish that you will enjoy. Besides, it is only to one wish that you can give your greatest power.
Question: The other day you said, “The one who turns his back to the world – the whole world runs after him”. How is this to be understood?
Answer: This can be understood by seeing two persons bargaining. For instance a pedlar at the dock of Alexandria comes with an object, and you say, “How beautiful. I like it. How much will you take for it?” As soon as you have said this he wants you to give as high a price as he wishes to get from you. As soon as you turn your back and say, “I do not care for it”, he comes after you and says, “Will you take it for half the price?”. If you go still further and still turn your back, he will give it to you for the quarter of it. Exactly the same is the nature of this world; it is a greedy world. You follow it, it runs from you; you turn your back to it, it comes after you.
Destiny and Free Will
THERE ARE two points of view: very often people either believe in destiny or in free will. Those who believe in destiny do not believe in free will; it is a question of temperament, and it also depends upon the experience they had in their lives. Some people have worked and had some success and recognized it as the outcome of their work. Then they think, “if there is anything it is free will. What we have done shows it: we have achieved results”. And there are others who have worked but did not succeed. In that case they begin to see that something is keeping them back from getting results, and then they think, “There is something destiny – which is holding us back”. Many think, “It is a sort of laziness to be fatalist; after all it is a superstition”. And others think, “Free will is just a name, a conception, an idea a person may have, but really it is all destiny”.
Nevertheless, their idea of free will has its meaning and this belief has its peculiar benefit in life, while at the same time the idea of destiny is profound. Whether a person believes in it or does not believe in it, there is always an attraction about it. One who reads the future will always attract the believer in destiny as well as the unbeliever. The believer goes to him with faith, the unbeliever with smiles. Whether they believe that it is true or not, both are attracted to know about destiny because it is the greatest mystery there is. One’s own life in which one is most interested always remains a secret, a mystery, and this mystery is greater than any other in the world. No one can say, “I have no interest in knowing about my life, in knowing why I have had that past, why I have this present and what future I shall have”. To know about it is the greatest desire one has.
Concerning the idea of destiny one may ask whether a plan is laid out so that every occurrence in life must be according to that plan. And if it is laid out, on what ground? Who has laid it out? If it is God who laid it out, how far could it be just on the part of God to make one happy and another miserable, one great and another small, to let one enjoy and at the same time make another suffer -living under the same sun, walking on the same earth? If it is man’s action, is it in the first place the action of the past or is it the action of the present and, if it is man’s action, to what degree is he responsible for it? These questions take a person to the depths of life’s mystery, and once they are solved a great philosophical problem has been solved.
Most often a person has a preconceived idea, and this idea he keeps as a wall before him; content with what he knows about it, he does not try to inquire any further.
There is no doubt that a man is born with a plan to be accomplished in life – not only with instincts, with merits or gifts, but with the whole plan of how his life is to be. There is a saying in the East that one can read the life of an infant from looking at its feet; even the little feet of the infant show the sign of the plan that it is to follow through life.
There is a story that explains a little more the relation between destiny and free will. A seer was working as a porter (from the French portier, i.e. doorman.) in a rich man’s house. Now there is a belief in the East that no sooner a child is born than angels come and write on its forehead the whole plan of destiny. But this seer-porter was a wonderful man. At the door, as soon as the angels came, he said, “Stop, where are you going? I am the porter here! You cannot go in unless you promise to tell me about the plan”. The angels told him; he was a strong porter, he would not let them go without telling him. And so every time a child was born in that house he took down the notes of what was going to happen. Then the parents passed away. Theirs had been a rich house, but for some reason or other the money was lost. The children were left without shelter, and it fell upon the shoulders of the old porter to look after them with what little means he had.
As soon as they were old enough the children went to different countries with what little they had to spend. One day this servant of the house thought that it was his duty to go and see how they were getting on. Also for a seer it is most interesting to see the material phenomenon of the same thing he had seen inwardly as a vision. That comes as a satisfaction to a seer; it is naturally amusing for him when he sees on the outer plane the same things he had felt inside himself. It gives him the greatest fun, the greatest amusement.
So the porter went and saw one child of the house working as a horse groom. He was very sorry to see the child of a house, where so many horses had been kept, in this situation. He went to the young man and told him, “It could not be avoided, it was meant that you should be so. Only, I want to give you one advice, because it makes me sad to think that you, in whose house were so many horses, now have to work as a horse groom. Here is a little money, take it and go to another city and try to work as a horse trainer. Horses of rich men may be given to you to train them, and I am sure you will be successful”. The young man asked, “Can I do anything else?” “No, that is the only door out. Perhaps you would have been a horse groom all your life if I had not told you this. Anything else you cannot do; this is the only path for you. Do your work in a different way and you will have success”. The young man did so and was successful.
The porter then went to the other son and asked, “What is your condition?” “My condition is that I wander about in the forest and bring back some birds. I sell them in the city and hardly get any money to live”. In those days there was a fashion among kings to keep a certain bird as a pet; that bird was called Shahbaz, the king’s bird. The porter said, “You must not look for game birds, look for this bird Shahbaz”. The boy replied, “But if I cannot find it, should I then rather starve and die?”
“Do you know what your father was and what you are?”
“Yes, I had bad luck”.
“You will have better luck if only you listen to me. You need not change your profession of catching birds, but catch Shahbaz. You can sell it for millions. That is the bird you ought to catch”.
This story makes us realize what the seer does. A definite plan was made for those two young men; at the same time there was scope for free will to work – but within that plan. If one did not think of this scope one would go on in the lines of the plan and continue to live miserably. Seeing changes the scope. It is a great lesson and those who can understand this lesson can benefit immensely by it: seeing there is a plan and at the same time that there is scope to do better, and much betteryet within the plan.
Sa’di, the great poet of Persia, has said, Every soul is born for a certain purpose and the light of that purpose is kindled in his soul”.
Now the question arises if a person is born with what the Hindus call karma: some action of the past, or something he has brought with him on earth, a good influence or a bad influence, something that he has to pay. No doubt there is truth in it and we can see that truth very often: a person is placed in a situation where he has to give, where he has to serve, where he has to sympathize without any intention on his part, as if he has to pay a debt to someone. He may not have the slightest desire to do so – at the same time it falls on his shoulders, he cannot help it. It is as if a higher atonement has determined that it must be so. Whether the person does it willingly or unwillingly he must give his time, thought, sympathy and service to someone else.
Then one sees that a person receives money or comfort or love and sympathy from someone else. Whether he deserves it or does not deserve it is not the question to be thought about: one is in a certain situation and cannot help it. Whether people are willing or not willing, there is something that compels them, they cannot help it. This shows that one is born with that relation of give and take, one cannot help it. Among Hindus some people are accustomed to say that to them others are like children who have nothing to pay, just like parents will say, “We have nothing to get from our children”.
This makes it clear that man is born with certain obligations which willingly or unwillingly he must fulfill. It also shows that, however powerful and however great a person may be, however good circumstances may seem, when there is to be a difficulty it cannot be helped; the difficulty will be there. And then at other times in life, in spite of all things lacking, a way is open; you have not to do much and it is all smooth. This also shows that there is a plan. It is not only qualification and cleverness that make successful, but a plan is to be accomplished. There are times when you are meant to have an easy life, success and all you wish, and other times when you cannot have these.
One may ask, “Is it so that something is born with a person, or is it the effect of a person’s action on the earth?” The answer is, “Both”. Suppose an artist first made in his mind a design of a certain picture and then, as he made that picture, so he was inspired by it. This suggested him to change the design and, as he went along making the picture, it changed to such an extent that it became quite different from the picture he had made before. He had thought of putting two horns on a particular figure and now he made two wings: instead of an animal it became a bird. Even to that extent life may be changed by action. A right action, a good action is productive of power; it is creative and can help much more than man can imagine.
Then arises the question to what extent man can help himself. The answer is that man has two aspects in him. One aspect is his mechanical being where he is but a machine controlled by conditions, by his impressions, by outer influences, by cosmic influences, by his actions. Everything working mechanically turns his life accordingly: he has no power over conditions, he is just a tool of influences. The more this aspect is pronounced in man, the less evolved he is. It is a sign of less evolution.
Another aspect in man is creative, in which he shows the sign of being representative of the Creator, in which he shows that he is not only linked with God but part of God: his innermost self is God. Be not surprised therefore if you hear those amazing stories of sages, masters, saints and prophets whose command worked in the cosmos and by whose will a generality, a collectivity moved as they wished it to move. It is nothing to be surprised at. Outwardly every man is almost of the same size; no man is as high as a camel, or as stout as an elephant. Outwardly men differ little, but inwardly there is no comparison in the size of the spirit, no comparison between the understanding, the power and insight of one man and that of another. One walks, one runs, one flies and one creeps; yet all walk on the same earth, live under the same sun – all called men. Nevertheless, there is no man who has not a spark of this power, who has not the possibility of changing conditions by his free will, if only he realized what he is. It is the absence of this realization which makes man a machine.
Now coming to the causes that change man’s life, man’s destiny: these are not only his own actions, but also the thoughts of another. For instance I have seen many cases where a loving mother was not pleased with her growing child who did not satisfy her. This must always make the child suffer in one way or another; it is never otherwise. He may become a qualified and capable man, but not having satisfied his mother is quite enough for him to quit luck.
A keen study will make us understand how these things work, but from childhood we have been so absorbed in our own life and interest that we do not think much about how the thought and feeling of those around us act upon us. A rich man, displeased with his porter or servant, may speak roughly to him or insult him, not realizing at the time that perhaps the feeling of the servant, who is dependent and bound to that particular place, who thinks that his situation keeps him in that position, is hurt. Then, when the rich man goes to his office, to his affairs, he gets that pinprick there; he does not know why. He thinks that he has given a pinprick to a servant who could not return it – but someone else returns it. He feels it but does not know that it is the answer of the same thing he has done.
The more we think about this the more we shall believe that God works through all beings -not only human beings but even through animals and birds. And when we are able to believe this we cannot help believing the words of Buddha, “The essence of all religion is harmlessness”. Harmlessness does not mean refraining from killing: one can kill many without killing. In order to kill a person one does not need to murder him; a glance, a word, a thought can kill a person, and that is worse torture than death. It is this experience that will make us say, “My very feet, be conscientious lest you tread on the thorns lying on your path, lest they complain: You have crushed me”.
There is no end to consideration once a person begins applying this principle. If there is any religion it is in having consideration for everyone: earnestly to consider what feeling can be touched by a moment’s mistake. If there is any abode of God it is in the heart of man. If the heart is touched wrongly it has an effect upon destiny, and we do not know to what extent destiny can be changed by the feeling of another person: it can change it more than our own feeling could. One always wishes good for oneself; no one wishes to be unhappy.
Then there are planetary influences, and one may ask, “What are these planetary influences? What relation do they have with us?” The answer is that man also is a planet and, as one planet is related to another, so in the same way planets are related to mankind. Naturally the changing of the condition of a planet and what is produced by it, and what effect is produced by the planet, have an effect upon man’s life.
One might ask, Is man so small as to be under the influence of a planet?” Yes, outwardly. Outwardly man is so small as to be a drop in the ocean. If the planet is the ocean, then the individual is a drop. But inwardly the planet is a drop in the ocean of man’s heart. Asif, the great philosopher says, “My ignorance, the day you will have vanished my heart will be open, and this whole universe will become a bubble in the ocean of my heart”. Smallness and imperfection are the outcome of ignorance and relate the heart to limitation. The day when the heart is open the whole universe will be in it, and the source of destiny, its secret and its mystery will be in the hand of man.
What is the manner in which we should believe in destiny and free will? The best way of believing in destiny is to think that all disagreeable things we have gone through belong to destiny; they are past, we are free from them. The way how to look at free will is to think that all that is before us, all that is to come, is the outcome of free will, and to keep before us as a concentration the thought: nothing wrong will touch us, but all that is good for us, all that is best, lies before us. It is wrong to think that worse things are in store for us because destiny has kept our karma and intends that we must suffer, that we have to pay for our karma, for the one who is conscious of his karma will have to pay a high interest; the more he is conscious of it, the more interest he will have to pay.
In conclusion we come to understand that there are two aspects of will working through all things in life. One is the individual will, the other the divine will. When a person goes against the divine will, naturally his human will fails and he finds difficulties, because he is swimming against the tide. The moment a person works in consonance, in harmony with the divine will, things become smooth.
“But”, one will say, “life has not been smooth for great personalities such as Christ. From childhood there were difficulties; his parents had to flee to the desert, and when the young Jesus was brought among the people there were still greater difficulties. The great saints and sages had great difficulties all through life; all was not smooth for them. Did they work against destiny, against the will of God?”
This question shows that to realize the will of God is difficult on the material plane. In the Bible we read, “Thy will be done on earth as in heaven”. This makes us understand that it is not as easy for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. And this is a suggestion which teaches us a great lesson: there is a conscious will working and an unconsious will working. That unconscious working is abstract working, but the conscious working is divine working; it may be called divine will. It may have difficulties, but at the same time these difficulties have a meaning. In other words, success or failure of God, of godly power, means nothing: it is success in the end. And the success or failure of man also is nothing: it is failure in the end. If a man succeeds in collecting so much wealth or in attaining such a high position as he wants, what is the end of it? It will belong to someone else who will snatch it out of his hand. Therefore whether we have success or failure in life – if it is individual, in the end it is failure. But in the case of a godly purpose, whether it is failure or success, it is success in the end. It cannot be otherwise; it is only gain that is there.
Nanak says, “The grain that takes refuge near the centre of the grinding mill is saved”. So is the man who keeps close to God and draws his power and inspiration from God. When his life is directed by that power and inspiration, whether he has difficulties or ease, his way is always smooth and the end is what it ought to be.
Free Will and Destiny
THE POWER an individual is acquainted with is the power of his free will- or he arrives to experience that his free will is clashing against the free will of another individual. Then he begins to see the clashing between the free will of two persons. If he happens to be powerful he gets the better of the situation; if the other happens to be more powerful then the other gets the better of it. And when they come to think about destiny the one who is slow in believing will say, “I do not know . . . . “, but a man with some belief in things of the abstract will say that there is a destiny. He has every proof to convince himself of it.
There are many clever and qualified people in business, in professions, in politics, but their cleverness or qualification is not always the reason why they are successful. Very often we will find that a simple person, a person lacking cleverness or lacking qualification is successful. It is not always the rule but very often it is so: a most innocent person in a very high position, and a most clever person perhaps working as his waiter. People in high offices may have a secretary who knows more than they themselves – if not always, very often. And when we ask, “Why does that person stand here with all his cleverness while the other sits in the chair of honour? What is the reason?” – the answer is that destiny is working behind it all, fixing them and adjusting them in their places. There is a saying in the East: “The feet of the infant are to be seen from its cradle”. In other words, what it is going to be you can see from the cradle; it shows signs which promise its future.
Then the question arises, “Is destiny the will of God?” And the answer is that in a sense the perfect will of God is that which the godly perceive in its fullness. If it were not so the hint in the Bible, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” would have no meaning. It does not say, “Thy will is being done on earth as it is in heaven”. If this was so it would point to destiny, but it is the work of destiny and free will to come in connection in order to fulfill the will of God. It is free will and destiny, the two coming together, which bring about the will of God – but free will in its perfect state, in its fuller meaning.
A man arranges something in life – then conditions oppose it. In that case either the will, the will of God, is in that man, or the will is in the conditions. In the end, when one of these opposing forces will fail and one conquer, then the will of God is fulfilled; or when these two different aspects of will work harmoniously then the will of God is fulfilled. There is a Persian saying, “When two hearts become one they can remove mountains”. In other words, when the will of one person and the free will of the other person become one, in other words harmonious, then they become a phenomenon; it works like magic. But when they do not work harmoniously then the will that is done is not the will of God, it is destiny.
I will give you a small example. A nice lady had a new maid. In order to entertain a friend who was coming to visit her, she asked the maid to go and buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers. When the maid went out and asked the price of the bouquet at the florist’s, she thought, “How extraordinary on the part of my lady to spend all that money on this. I wish she would have asked me something else to do”. Instead of doing what the lady had asked her she went and bought some cheese sandwiches, and was delighted in her heart thinking, “When I bring these to my lady she will be very pleased”. When the lady saw what the maid had bought she was horrified. While she had expected that her friend would be entertained with flowers, there were cheese sandwiches!
This will make you understand more fully that hint in the Bible, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. What man always does out of his will is not always divine will. The divine will is done when man is in contact with the divine Spirit in himself; it is then that he begins to understand the meaning of the divine will.
Those who persevere in the path of power are persons of three kinds: the one whose way is uphill and the other whose way is downhill-both arriving at the same end, the first perhaps with greater, the other with less difficulty. The third has the most difficult way, for it is neither upwards nor downwards; it may be called the way of the cross.
The uphill way is the way where a person thinks, “I must have it, I must accomplish it”. He spares no effort, no thought, no energy, nothing! He goes after it, in its pursuit till he has obtained it. This is the uphill way, because climbing to the heights of the mountain every step is very difficult and very tiresome. But if his patience helps him, if he continues to persevere, in the end no doubt he arrives at the top of the mountain. This may be seen in great or in small things. If a child tries to make a toy out of wax, and he cannot make it the first time and tries another time without accomplishing it, and the third time, after a week, makes the toy he wanted to make, he has really accomplished something. But if after having tried to make it twice he thinks, “Oh no, I cannot make it”, he has failed. This path of course is a path of continual struggle.
I do not wish to bring into this the right and wrong of the motive, or the good and bad of the striving of a person, because that would take us to the subject of morals which we shall not touch just now. No matter what a person is striving for, if he perseveres continually without fail, he is coming closer and closer to the will of God.
Then there is the one who says, “Well, I will be resigned. What will be will be, what will come will come. I am ready to face it, I am ready to take it as it comes. If it happens that I should give I shall give, if it happens that I should take I shall take. Whether it is agreeable to me or not agreeable, whatever is coming, whatever conditions will offer – I will take all that life gives”. This is the downhill way; it asks little effort, just like coming down from the top of a hill does not tire one so much.
Nevertheless, the one way is not more difficult than the other. It only depends on what temperament a person is born with. There is the persevering one who will go on striving against all difficulties; for him to go downhill is difficult, for him to renounce, to sacrifice is difficult. He is born with the spirit of attainment, he will go upwards in spite of all difficulties. If he lost his life it would not matter, he will go on in this path. And there is the other one who is born with renunciation. He will be content with all that comes, he is in harmony with conditions, he is in peace with people. Whether they treat him rightly or wrongly he will take it all peacefully, harmoniously, and in the end he will arrive at the same goal, in touch with the divine will.
The third way is the way of the cross: it is striving and being resigned at the same time. No doubt that is the most difficult way. The uphill way is the way of the master, the downhill the way of the saint, but the way of the cross is the prophetic way. The prophets, in all ages in whichever part of the world they have come, have striven continually and have been resigned continually to all that comes. On the one hand active, on the other hand passive they progress through life. Therefore their life is being pulled from both sides. When they walk one leg is pulled from the back, the other leg is pulled from the front; there are always two sides to their lives.
At the same time either of these qualities can be found in each person as a temperament, and the secret of one’s life’s success and the fulfilment of one’s life’s purpose lie in taking one’s natural way. If it happens that a man is born with a quality of striving continually, his way is striving. He must not be passive, he must not be resigned, for if he does so he will fail and not accomplish his life’s purpose. But if it happens to be his temperament that he is resigned, always resigned to all that comes, then he must take that way. There is nobility of spirit, of soul, in both these ways. But if unfortunately it happens that a person is born with these two qualities at the same time, his problem in life will be the most difficult, for he can neither do one thing nor the other. No doubt if he goes on in this way, in the end there is success-but success in the spiritual sense, not in a material sense.
Now the question arises whether destiny is working blindly, or whether it is working intelligently, consciously. Is it working with wisdom? The answer is that to some extent it is always working more or less consciously, but at the same time in its different ways of working its condition is different. For instance, a person has the habit of getting up at night while still asleep; he walks in the room and knocks against the door or the wall because his eyes are closed. That is one way of moving about in the room. There is another way: a person is thinking of his poetry, he does not know where he is going, whether to a corner of the room or to one or an other side; his mind is thinking of the poetry. He is walking but does not know towards what he is walking. His walking has a meaning, and has not a meaning. His walking at that time is a stimulus to his inspiration; it helps him, but it is not conscious walking. Yet he knows that he is walking. And there is a third condition: when a person intentionally goes into a certain corner of the room in order to fetch something; he has a purpose in going there. Destiny works in these ways; the nature of life, of the whole of life, can be understood by studying the nature of man.
Question: Is destiny working sometimes blindly, like the man walking in his sleep?
Answer: It is for a demonstration that I have tried to put something in words which cannot be put in words. If I were to say that there are only seven notes I would be wrong, and still I would be right too, because there are seven accepted notes. But the gap between each note can be filled, if we distinguish them clearly, by perhaps five, six notes – or more or less. So what we call “blindly” is according to our perception of blindness. When we see this according to the idea of the Absolute, as the one and whole Being, then we cannot say that it is working blindly or unconsciously. It is what it is; it may show its work in different stages of consciousness, but it cannot be blind, it is still conscious. There is still a wisdom behind it, but not that wisdom which we understand as wisdom.
For instance, a person walked in his sleep in his room while a thief was trying to take something out of his cupboard, and in his sleep he fell on the thief who then ran away, fearing that the man had got up. Here a purpose is fulfilled without intention. His walking in his sleep accomplished something, although the person did not walk in his sleep in order to fall upon the thief. So all things that happen, whether we understand the meaning or not, have their purpose and by that something is accomplished. Perhaps we know it at that moment, or perhaps we shall know it afterwards.
Question: What is the distinction between inertia and the disposition you have characterized as the second path?
Answer: Inertia could be understood as a kind of weakness, but this path is a kind of strength. It is a very strong person who can resign; a person who can sacrifice, tolerate and resign is not always a weak person. Yes, it is possible that a weak person out of weakness may tolerate, may sacrifice and may be resigned, but his feeling at doing so is different from that of the brave and courageous soul. The person whose character I described as saint shows the greatest bravery one could show. Is he not brave who patiently takes all things which trouble him, which hurt him, which torture his life, who suffers and endures all? A weak person will give an outlet to these things. For instance there is an artist whose art is not appreciated, who has no place in the world of art, and for some days he has to remain without a penny. If he busies himself in his studio, still working with no bread and butter in the house to eat and if he does not speak about it to anybody, is he not courageous? Is he not brave? Is he not noble? Is this weakness? No, the one who lacks these qualities would go out and say, “Look at me, in what condition I am!” That would be different. There is great strength in a person who can take all things with resignation.
Question: In the end, looking at the events when they have happened, must we not say that all is done according to the will of God?
Answer: Well, that is a Sufi way: begin with free will and finish with the will of God. The only consolation when a thing is not done is to interpret is as the will of God.
Question: Is the way of the cross the happy and satisfactory way?
Answer: If it is happy and satisfactory to you, it is. If it is not so, it is not.
THE QUESTION is always brought up: Is there a power which rules the universe and controls all our actions, or are we free to do as we please; is our situation the result of our good or bad deeds, or are our actions and situation governed by the influence of the planets?
In answer to this I will first mention what contradicts each of these principles. If God makes us act then we are not responsible; then it is all God and we have no responsibility. If we are quite free then I will say that you are your own well-wisher, and no one will be his own ill-wisher. Then whatever you wish forsuccess, riches or whatever it is-you will have it. It seems however that it is not so. If happiness and good fortune were the result of good actions then everyone would be good, and no one would be bad. But we see that many very wicked people are very fortunate: every day a wicked deed and every day a good fortune while many very good people are always unfortunate and in difficulties. Christ and all the prophets and saints suffered great adversities.
If everything is the outcome of the influence of the planets, then I will say that you should stay in your room when there is a planet that is unfavourable to you; you should do nothing. Also when there is a planet that is favourable you should do nothing, because the planet will bring you everything by itself.
Having told you the contradictions I will now tell you the truth of each principle. There are four great powers that govern the world: Qadr and Qadha, Jalal and Jamal.
Qadha is the power that governs the whole. For instance the king governs the whole country, but power is given to viceroys and to governors. The governor governs a whole province, but power is given to a commissioner. The commisioner governs his district; he knows more about its affairs than the governor knows and the governor does not interfere in his district. Each human being is given a power: this is Qadr. In the same way a mother allows her child to go as far as the end of the room, but no farther: from here as far as the end of the room let it destroy as much as it pleases, but not more than that.
When we see a wicked person very happy we may think, “Has God forgotten him?” No, his jar is not yet full. When it is overfilled it will flow over and bring destruction to himself and those around him. Sometimes a very good person is very unhappy in life, but when the jar of his good actions is overfilled it flows over and brings happiness to him and those around him. We have some power, but our action is so limited; our power of seeing is so limited. We are very small.
The forces of jalal and jamal are the creative and the responsive forces. We are sometimes creative and sometimes we are responsive. Jalal is creative, jamal is responsive. The singer is creative, the one who hears and enjoys is responsive. All our troubles are owing to our lack of creative or responsive power. If we are in a situation which is difficult for us, which is hard, which we dislike, it is owing to our lack of creative power to make another situation for ourselves. When a situation, an opportunity would benefit us and help us and we are not benefited, it is owing to our lack of response. Everything in the world is creative or responsive. The benefactor is creative, he who is benefited is responsive.
But however interesting, however attractive these things are, the name of God is much greater; without the study of the name of God they are nothing. That is the only thing that is great, the only thing that is beautiful, the only thing of value, the only thing worthwhile.
Question: What gives the planets their influence?
Answer: The soul before its manifestation on earth passes through the sun, the moon and the planets. As there is only one sun and one moon each soul passes through sun and moon. There are many planets and each soul passes through one planet, not through all. This gives the soul an affinity with a certain planet, and through this affinity the planet has its influence upon the soul, upon the individual. There are of course in man’s life many other circumstances and influences beside those of the planet, and the outer influences, also man’s will, may be stronger than the planet.
On its return journey the soul has also to pass through the planet, the sun and the moon.
IF GOD gave man free will and so refused to make his decisions for him, no other individual has a right to butt in and attempt to force a man’s decisions.
So you can only help a person within the scope of his own character.
I mean that your capacity to help is limited by his ability to help himself.
And that must be the tragedy of God.
Every person has his own way in life, and that particular way is most suited for him.
Trouble not about the past, worry not over the future but concern yourself with the present,
for it is the present which is the picture of the past and the design for the future.
Looking at the past and finding one’s errors is like cracking nuts and finding a shrivelled kernel.
Looking at the past and recognizing one’s mistakes is like mounting the steps of a staircase.
Do not imagine what you do not wish to happen.
Do not say what you do not wish to be done.
The fatalist makes human beings as chairs and tables.
The mystic makes even chairs and tables living beings.
In spite of all his limitation a wonderful power is hidden in man’s soul.
What makes man helpless is ignorance of his free will.
Free will is the basis of the whole life.
Free will is the mighty power, the God-power, hidden in man,
And it is ignorance which keeps man from his divine heritage.
When the rocks are asleep leaving Us to use them for whatever purpose We may,
when the trees are resigned to Our will to bear whatever fruit We may want them to bear,
when the animals are carried along with their passions and appetites,
We have made you partner in Our dominion and have given you a share in Our mercy, compassion, wisdom and righteousness,
that your heart may expand so that it may rise to Our perfection.
I erase the past out of my mind, brighten the present, and build a hope for the future.
4. Kismet is the usual Turkish transcription of the Arabic qismet – portion, share, destiny.