Points of View held by Spiritual Persons
THERE ARE persons who look at life picturing it as a school, and it is true that life is as a school. How much evolved one may be, there is not one day that one does not learn something new; from the most unevolved person to the most evolved one this can be seen. The more one realizes that life is a school, the more one learns from it, and if one does not learn from it then it is a school just the same. In this way one can justify the divine Spirit in letting every soul grow through different experiences: through the path of pain and pleasure there is something to be learned. One must not think that the divine Being does not teach the one who lives in pleasure. Therein is a teaching for him, and for the one who is in pain there is a teaching in pain.
Very often those who think that they can correct someone, that they can teach someone, that they can guide a person, that they can direct someone, are apt to forget that they may do quite the wrong thing. If a thief was told by his uncle not to steal, not to go and do his work and if he was held back, that only means that he would go and do it the next week. But if he goes and robs, if he is arrested by the police, if he is taken to prison and stays there for three years, then he has learned his lesson. His uncle could not teach him; it is life, it is circumstances that must teach him. It is the experience through which he has to go that teaches man.
Often one feels that it is unjust on the part of destiny to put one into conditions that seem very cruel, and one thinks that it would be kinder on the part of destiny to teach without troubling. But what, after all, is trouble? There are no such things as pleasure and pain; only the comparison between them makes them so. In other words, if there was no pain one would not be capable of enjoying pleasure, and if there was no pleasure one would not be capable of experiencing pain. If that is true, then to the degree to which one is capable to experience pain, to the same degree one is able to experience pleasure. The one who cannot experience pain cannot experience pleasure. The stone has nothing, it has neither pleasure nor pain. It is the relativity, it is the relation, the comparison between two experiences which makes them distinct, but the one cannot be distinct without the other. Therefore there is the necessity of both experiences.
Besides, it is very interesting to see that for one person it is necessary to go through pain and trouble and effort in order to come to a certain success or accomplishment, and for another to come to the same experience there is no pain, no trouble, it is easy. One might think, “Why is it easy for one person and why is it so difficult for the other one?” It is difficult because the soul needs that difficulty; it is the need of the soul, it is the want of the soul. There is a belief that the nightingale sits on a thorn in order to cry so melodiously. If you look into the lives of those who go through troubles and sufferings, you will find that unconsciously they seek trouble, they look for it. Not consciously; consciously they would run away from it, but unconsciously they look for it, because it is good for their souls, it is meant for them. If they did not have it, they would not reach satisfaction.
It is so interesting to watch how every soul is looking for trouble. It is not so interesting that every person is seeking pleasure, but it is most interesting to see how every one is seeking his pain, looking out for it. Tagore says: “When the string of the violin was being tuned it felt the pain of being stretched, but once it was tuned then it knew why it was stretched”. So it is with the human soul. While the soul goes through pain, torture and trouble it thinks that it would have been much better if it had gone through life without it. But once it reaches the culmination of it then, when it looks back, it begins to realize why all this was meant: it was only meant to tune the soul to a certain pitch.
Very often the foolish, those who have no responsibility, who have no sense of duty, who have no ideal, who have no principle, seem to enjoy life more than those with an ideal, with principles, with a sincere heart, with a faithful spirit. Those who desire to do good, those who desire to serve – it is they who go through pain and suffering. This only means that it is not the dead souls who are tried; their time is to come, their time will come. But the living souls are tried and tested according to the degree of their development and they are raised to a higher consciousness – even if it was necessary to stretch the string of their souls. In order to tune the string it must be stretched.
Then there is the point of view held by some spiritual persons that life is a puppet show – and that is true also. Today a person is rich, to-morrow he becomes poor; to-day a person comes to power, to-morrow he is thrown down; today he comes to great fame and position, to-morrow he is despised and forgotten. If we look at this world more keenly and with open eyes, we shall find that it is a puppet show. There is a hand behind it which makes one doll a king, another doll a queen or a servant; it is only a night’s play, in the morning they are all dolls.
There is a story of a dervish who spoke with a young man who was very interested in his words of wisdom. The young man said, “If I come to your part of the world, I will come to see you. Will you tell me where you live?” The dervish replied, “I live in the place of the liars”. This young man thought, “He is a wise man, he makes such a deep impression upon me. I cannot understand that he lives in the place of the liars. It seemed to me that every word he spoke was truth”. When he went to that country and asked for the dervish, the people said, “We do not know any place of liars, but there is a dervish living somewhere here”. So they took him near the graveyard where the dervish lived. The first question the young man asked was, “Why did you give me a name which is not the name of the place?” The dervish replied, “Yes, this is a place of liars”. It was the graveyard. He said, “Come with me, I shall show you. This here is a tomb, they say, of a general. Where is his sword, where is his power, where is his voice, what is he now? Is he a general? Here, this one was called a prime-minister. Where is his ministry, where is his office, where is his pen, where is his power? In the same ground! This person was called a judge. Whom is he judging now? He is in the ground. Were they not liars? Did they not tell a lie saying `I am so and so, and I am such and such’? “This is the point of view of those who look at life as being a puppet show.
Then there is a third point of view: to look at life as if it was a play going on on the stage, with the actors all dressed up as the king, the servant, the minister, the judge, but when they come away from the stage, they have only performed their part in the story. They are nothing, but while they are on the stage it is their duty to perform the role which they are meant to perform. So one understands that one is performing the role of a king, of a thief or of a judge, of a servant or of a prince. It only means that it is meant so; it is written in the story that it should be performed like this. It is a play that we all perform in the whole universe, and each takes part in this play, a certain part which is given to him maybe a desirable part or an undesirable part. Only the one who sees it in this light sees that it is a stage on which a play is performed, and the one who does not see it in this light thinks that it is really like this. His life is most difficult.
Then there is again another point of view – that of Hafiz -that every soul is drunken. It has drunk its ideal, its principle, its inspiration, its ambition, its thought, its feeling; it is all a drink. A person who despises another one – it is a drink he has in him; that intoxication makes him despise. A person who loves someone – it is a drink, he has drunk that bowl, he is in that intoxication. If one praises someone, one has drunk the bowl of beauty. If a man has revenge against someone, it only means that he has drunk the bowl of revenge. This life is a wine-press; from that wine-press each person takes that wine which is made for him. The one who looks at it all as a cafe where everyone is drinking, that person is called sober. He sees each person intoxicated, and he too chooses his wine – but he chooses it, he drinks the wine and at the same time knows that it is wine.
There is another point of view, the point of view of the madzub: that every head has a madness, a certain madness, be it of a higher or a lower kind. Why is it madness? Because it is unique, it is distinct and it is different: every head has a different thought, an idea different from others. We call mad someone who has an idea different from others. But every person has an idea different from others. Knowing this the madzub tries to act as mad, because he thinks, “When I am among the mad, then I too must act as mad”. But the one who tries to act as mad, is not mad; because he is acting as mad it is different.
Then there is still another point of view of the spiritual soul, and that is that humanity is to be pitied. The wrongdoer must be pitied for his doing wrong, and the welldoer must be pitied because he does not know how to do better. The foolish one must be pitied because he does not understand better, and the clever one must be pitied because he is not wiser. The spiritual soul thinks that humanity is a process of development of the lower creation, that all that exists in the lower creation is to be found in humanity – passion, anger, wrath, spite, vengeance -and that everyone does not only cause harm to others, but also to himself. One can only enjoy life when one has got rid of all these things and does not harm others by his character. Therefore the one who has this point of view, instead of concerning himself with others, concerns himself with his own being and tries to make himself free of all these things in order to experience the joy that comes from it, proving to the world the teaching of harmlessness.
This same principle is followed by some others who look at it in a different light. They think that to please man is to please God, and to please God is to please man. Therefore in speaking, in acting or in thinking they do all they can to avoid causing hurt or harm to another person. In trying to do everything to please and to serve mankind they think that it is a service to God.
What is lacking to-day in the world is idealism. Where does idealism come from? From deep thought. To-day life in general keeps man so busy in his occupation, in his profession, in his work of everyday life, that he has no time to think deeply and better; he does not find his ideal. Among a thousand persons there is perhaps one person who has an ideal and knows what ideal he has. All the others do not know it, they do not have an ideal. Besides, it is not only to have an ideal, but it is necessary to know the ideal and to attain to the ideal, to develop towards it, to unfold oneself towards the ideal. It is that in which lies life’s fulfilment.
Ideals are of five different kinds. There is a certain principle which is a person’s ideal, and if he can live that principle he has lived his ideal. There is a certain action which is a person’s ideal; if he has accomplished that action then his ideal is fulfilled. There is a belief which is a person’s ideal, and if he is able to keep to that belief he has fulfilled his ideal. There is a certain height to which a person wishes to reach, and that mark which he wishes to reach is his ideal. The fifth ideal is a person in whom is a man’s ideal, and when all the attributes which that person has are attained then that ideal is fulfilled.
But all these five ideals are as five stepping-stones to the shrine of God. The greatest ideal, the highest ideal is the ideal of God. It is not necessary – and yet it is most necessary – that there should be a stepping-stone to go to the altar of God. Without this stepping-stone many are lost. It is often a very rigid soul who will say, “God is my ideal. I do not care for any other ideal”. It comes from his rigidness, for it only means that he does not wish for the ladder; he wishes to jump from the ground to the next floor. The ideal of God is the perfect ideal, and in order to reach it there must be a footstool, there must be a ladder, there must be a steppingstone which leads to it – be it a principle, be it a belief, be it an action, be it a position, be it a person.
It is the poetic nature that is inclined to have an ideal; it is the artistic nature that has the love of ideal; it is the musical tendency to look for an ideal. Therefore ideal is attached to higher intelligence. The lower a person’s evolution the less he is inclined to an ideal; the higher the person is evolved the more he is inclined to an ideal. If those great ones -kings, generals, writers, poets, musicians – have really accomplished something great and made an impression upon humanity, it was because of their ideal. Without an ideal, whatever one has done is nothing. In the first place one cannot accomplish something without an ideal. If one did so, it would be nothing. A machine has finished something: there is no ideal in it. Ideal therefore is like the breath of life; ideal therefore is the lift that takes you upwards.
Then there are some who say, “Yes, I have my ideal in a person, but that person does not come up to my ideal. I am sorry, but I shall turn my back upon him”. It will always be like that. What is a person? A person is limited. The ideal is perfect. Therefore in order to retain your ideal you will have to make the person out of your own devotion, out of your love, your sympathy. Give to the person what is lacking, then that ideal is made. For instance, the great teachers of humanity, Buddha, Muhammad and Christ, what are they to those who do not follow them? Nothing. But to those who follow them they are everything. Why? Because their followers have made them out of their devotion; they have taken the name and then they have made their ideal out of their devotion. When a Buddhist says, “Buddha was God, and Buddha was the Lord, and all beautiful attributes were in Buddha”, it only means that he has taken all the beautiful attributes of Buddha and has added all kinds of beautiful things. But how much can the idealist add? There is endless beauty. It is only for his own conviction, for his devotion, for his development that he makes his ideal as perfect as possible, and it is the same with the devoted followers of any teacher of humanity.
But if people said, “We are going to analyse what the teacher taught. What he said was this . . . . Another teacher says another thing and a third one says something else; so it is all different”. That again is another outlook. They never have an ideal. Now many study theology in colleges and universities. Do they have that ideal? Never. They say, “What Buddha said is quite right. But there is something else here in the Bible which is different from it. What Muhammad said, well, one cannot apply it to practical life, and he is of quite a different kind”. When they begin to analyse the ideal it is an analysing of books. Their ideal is no ideal, their ideal is in the books, and one day they will get above it or beneath it. If they rise they rise above it, and if they fall they fall beneath it. But when one comes to the ideal – it belongs to devotion, it belongs to love. It is the same as what Majnun said about Leila, his beloved girl. When people asked Majnun, “What is Leila? She is not so beautiful, she is like any other girl”, Majnun replied, “In order to see Leila you must borrow my eyes”. That is what the ideal teaches.
Analysing and idealizing are two different things. If you analyse you are in quite a different sphere. If you analyse something you can say it in words; if you idealize you rise above words. The whole world is going downwards because of the lack of an ideal, and if there is any hope of the betterment of humanity, it is not through better economical conditions; it is not so that, if political conditions were better, the world would be happy. No, never, because that thirst, that hunger for money and that avariciousness will want just the same. If the labour-man came in the place of the government, if the labourer became a capitalist, and the capitalist a labourer, if the whole world became aristocratic, or if the whole world became democratic, that would not take away the trouble of the world. If there is anything that will raise the world, it is the ideal. If the ideal is given in different directions and to different individuals, and if humanity wakens to a higher ideal -that only can be the source of the betterment of humanity.
BY HIGHER spiritualism we do not mean that which is occupied with occult, curious or magical phenomena. Such spiritualism keeps man away from progress. Higher spiritualism is that in which the soul is enkindled and illuminated.
The petals and leaves and thorns of the rose are all different, and yet there is one rose; the spirit of the rose is one, these parts are so many aspects of the rose. In the same way all spirits are different, but are the outcome of the one real Spirit. In reality there is only one Spirit and it is only because of a sense of illusion that there seem to be many spirits; every ray of the sun is accounted as separate from every other.
The whole world is wonderful and we need hardly take special steps to find wonders and miracles by going to seek special phenomena. There is no end to the wonders around us! Our life consists of so few days that, if we realized the privilege of life and were thankful for its opportunities, we should devote our time to attaining what every soul really longs for, rather than taking interest in the curious and the occult. After all, those phenomena do not differ from the everyday phenomena we call natural. Human character, human life, the breath we take, our states of pleasure and displeasure, of like and dislike-what are they all but phenomena? The craze for a particular phenomenon leads us to overlook that the whole universe is activity. Christ was not pleased when asked to show a miracle. He did not summon the angels to satisfy the curiosity of his disciples. It was spiritual illumination which was their real need.
However good an education may be, it does not followthat the soul is kindled and, unless the soul is illuminated. how can it illumine another soul? When two such soul, should meet it is as lighting a candle. But a match will not kindle a piece of iron; it requires very much heat to do so. So souls which are not awake are very difficult to illumine. Persons may quarrel and fight over what they believe and disbelieve, but were the soul kindled such fighting would be found to be of no avail.
Forms will always be different; it is the real meaning and essence which is unchanging. Seers are always united in their thoughts because they perceive that the truth is one, and the Spirit is one; other persons have only knowledge of names and forms. When there is only one Spirit and one life, how can there be two knowledges? The spirit of Buddha’s teaching, of Solomon’s teaching, of Christ’s teaching always point to the same meaning, and yet how different their words and how different their lives. Even of one person or of one picture ten persons will have different ideas. This world of variety, always changing as it is, cannot be the basis of unanimity. Only when we come to a knowledge of the One Being can we be led to higher spiritualism.
Those souls who have departed from this life in the absorption of the vision of God, the Only Being, who have directed their love towards humanity so as to draw humanity towards heaven – all these are now not only in the vision of God, but they are bestowing their blessing and bliss upon you. All those blessed souls are linked to one another.
As from one taper every lamp in the world might be kindled, so from the higher Spirit we call God we derive our life, our light, the life eternal. He is the illumination of all the saints; He is the friend and ideal of all. The light which He directs through all the different spirits runs in one current from the souls of the blessed to the souls of the illuminated ones on earth. There can be no higher spiritualism than this. Since the current is from the one Spirit – even though it reaches us through many, or whether it reaches us from a man, plant, animal, sun or moon, or from whatever apparent source -why seek to differentiate in our search instead of going at once to the source of the current, to the unity rather than among the variety which is illusion?
But only those who have reached a certain evolution can realize the next step in this evolution. It is for us to awake only those who are about to awake and allow to sleep peacefully those who are yet fast asleep. They must not be awakened before their sleep is over; they have not had enough, they will feel inclined to awake some other time. It would be like taking a child to a dangerous electric machine. Not only would the child be hurt, but it would spoil the sensitive mechanism of the machine, or it might even destroy a whole factory. The attempt to reform the whole world because one has found out one aspect of the truth is to try and awaken great numbers of people who are not ready to be awakened. Let them sleep on.
The ultimate end of the sleepers is the same. They cannot go astray; in the journey through the world of changing experiences they can still know they are going on well. The heart will be enkindled and the torch will be given by which to guide them along the higher paths, and some day all will have found the higher spiritualism when they enter into the joy of the Lord.
The Process of Spiritual Unfoldment
IT IS not so that only a certain soul who is meant to unfold evolves. Every soul evolves in its own time; only the rhythm of the soul’s progress depends upon the speed with which it evolves. Whether a person is inclined to evolve or not, the inner inclination of his soul is to continue its process of unfoldment. Therefore, if among a thousand persons only one can be seen taking the spiritual path, the remaining ones are evolving just the same. It is before our eyes that we see such distinctions as some people going upwards and some downwards, some going forwards and others backwards; in reality all are going forwards, some slowly, others more rapidly.
There are four different ways in which people evolve. One form of evolution is advancing like a drunken man who does not know where he is going, whether he is on the right or on the wrong path. He does not look around, he is enjoying his drink; he is joyful, just passing through life. It is the condition of souls who do not know where they are going and where they have come from. They do not see what is beautiful and what is not beautiful, they do not try to distinguish between right and wrong. Drunken by life’s absorption they journey along life’s path and, falling down a thousand times, they arrive one day at the same destination.
It is wrong to think that sinners and wrongdoers-whom we make so by our man-made laws – are deprived of the bliss of spiritual attainment. They attain it just the same, only they arrive in their own time, and sometimes a drunken man walks more quickly and may arrive before another person who is not drunken. We cannot always judge who is going to arrive first. Nevertheless, the drunken man may have his own joy, the joy of intoxication, but he is deprived of the other joy that the sober one experiences, the joy of seeing all the beauty that can be noticed on the way, and the bliss of taking every step in life with open eyes. Intoxicated with the wine he has taken and caring little for anything else he is deprived of that bliss. Such is the picture of life: many go along the path of life like drunks without admitting it. Even a drunken man will not say, “I am drunk”. He is quite sure of his feet.
Another one is taken to the goal while asleep. Imagine! This person was journeying through a beautiful nature, but instead of looking at the beauty he is asleep. He will arrive at the same destination but has not taken the opportunity of enjoying all the beauty there is to be seen. Nevertheless, he will arrive where he is bound to.
The third form of evolution is that of the person who goes along this path indifferent to it. He also will arrive at the same destination, but because of his indifference he forgets and is unable to experience many things that he could have experienced with sympathy. Many do not notice the beauty that is to be found in the world.
The fourth way is that of the person who journeys with open eyes and heart, enjoying everything he sees. His coming to the goal is a great benefit: he has fulfilled the purpose of life. Therefore it is this particular way that may be called the spiritual path. It is the path one can tread with open eyes and heart, with sympathy and trust. Whether there is sorrow or joy or happiness, one can enjoy all things in life, everything has its beauty.
However much a person seems uninclined to spiritual attainment, yet there is a continual craving going on in the depth of his being. When he feels that irritation he thinks, “What is the matter? Perhaps I have not enough money. That is my trouble.” He then goes and works, he wants to collect money in order to be happy. Another one feeling that irritation thinks, “I am lonely, I must find a friend who will make my life happy”. A third one thinks, “I should have a big position, a high office. That is what troubles me. If I had it, I would be happy”.
No one of them knows the real reason of that irritation and, as by scratching irritation grows more and more, so by trying to satisfy the craving they feel in their soul – the craving to attain something without knowing what they want – it grows too. They have one thing and another and then see that they are more and more dissatisfied; the further they go in the pursuit of satisfaction, the more dissatisfied they become. This is not the case of one or two persons; there is hardly one person among a thousand who, having realized the pursuit of all these different things and having attained them, feels satisfied. These are perhaps means of going forwards, but they are not the goal, they bring no satisfaction. Do you think that a poor man, if money was left to him, would be contented? His irritation would grow more and more in some way or other, because it is caused by something else: it is the craving of his soul to attain a harmonious condition.
There is a story in Arabia of a dervish who came before Alexander the Great asking, “Will you fill my little cup with golden coins?” Alexander thought the little cup was a small thing to fill with gold coins. He asked his treasurer to fill it, but as the treasurer began to do so, the more coins were poured into it the wider the cup appeared. It seemed that it would never be full, always a place was left open to be filled. Alexander was much surprised and thought, “if this continues all my treasure will be taken”. He asked, “Oh dervish, what magic cup do you have here? What is it?” The dervish answered, “This is the cup of the desire of man. This cup is always empty and the more you fill it the more empty it becomes; it is never filled”.
Desire for wealth, power, position, for pleasure and comfort, for all things belonging to this world, is continuously there. The irritation felt in the soul man attributes to desire, thinking, “The restlessness, the dissatisfaction I feel comes from lack of this or that”, and so he spends his time going on from one thing to another. He is wrong, for wherever he arrives, whether he is successful or not, in both cases the irritation never ceases. It continues when a person begins his progress in the spiritual line.
Many people may say to-day, “Oh, but I am practical”, which means that they do not believe in dreams or in anything spiritual. Yes, they can say it to-day, but tomorrow they will not say it. It is a condition; one says it when one is drunk, when one is intoxicated, but the moment a person becomes sober he begins to feel a craving which remains unsatisfied. Have I not seen during my travels throughout the whole world how scientists -after having made a great name and after having seen much of the world-understanding the realm of reason and logic were still trying to discover something they did not know, some experience they had not made, to find something they had not explored?
There is a beautiful story of an old scientist who never believed in God, but whose wife had religion. When the scientist became ill and old and his reasoning faculties and the stiffness he had against spiritual things became loosened, he said to his wife, “I wonder if there is anything. I will not believe it, but I should like to know if there is anything else. You never lacked religion, do you think there is something? You are so happy. ” She said, “I am happy in the belief I have”. “I cannot have that belief’, answered he, “but I have you and what I can share is your happiness”. If one cannot believe directly, belief is taken indirectly. Not only mankind but even birds and beasts are attracted to an illuminated soul. A soul who radiates spirituality, who has realized the meaning of life, can impart his conviction even to the unbeliever who has never believed in soul or hereafter. Even the soul of the unbeliever becomes satisfied, even such a soul is blessed through contact with a person who has realized truth.
When the time comes that the intoxication of life begins to diminish and man begins to look at life differently, what comes first is a kind of depression, a kind of disappointment in things and beings. He thinks that all he had considered valuable has lost its value and importance. He begins to see falsehood behind all he had thought was so real and a kind of depression, of disappointment and bitterness begins to come over him. Be not surprised if a thoughtful person shows disappointment and changes his point of view about things he once considered valuable and important. His looking at things from a different point of view is natural. No doubt those who surround him begin to say, “These are the dishes you enjoyed so much, these the things you valued so much a few months ago. What has happened? Some change has come over you!” It is so, a change has come and the person has taken a step forwards. This change, this sort of disappointment he may show more or less. The more thoughtful the person the less he shows it, and the less thoughtful the more he shows bitterness: it is according to his evolution. One person shows his disappointment in tears, another in smiles. The one who shows it in smiles is superior; it is the way one should take in life.
Another step leads to the stage of bewilderment. He who has arrived at that stage is no more depressed or disappointed, but amazed at things about which ordinarily no one would be amazed. He is amazed because his eyes are open. Others see the same things, but their eyes are closed, so the same experience does not touch them. This person feels it and wonders about it. There is a continual bewilderment, and what causes it most is human nature, every aspect of human nature, its every turn and twist and its many phenomena. He looks at life, and it becomes so interesting. He need not seek solitude, he stands in the midst of the crowd and yet may enjoy every rub and knock. Every experience, all things amaze him and only make him smile and wonder. All such words as kindness, goodness, love, infatuation, connection have a different meaning for him. One might ask, “Does he become critical and cynical?” No, since he understands, he is much beyond cynicism and criticism, but there is bewilderment, continual amazement at his every experience from morning till evening.
Then there is a third stage: as the soul evolves further a man begins to see reason behind reason. So he sees several reasons, one hidden behind the other. There is a reason for everything, whether agreeable or disagreeable, right or wrong. Naturally he then can no more blame one soul in this world; he cannot blame the worst sinner, behind everything he sees its reason. If he sees a thousand reasons in support of someone, whether it is right or wrong, there is nothing for him to say. This makes him naturally tolerant, compassionate, forgiving – not because he thinks that it is kind to forgive, or good to be compassionate or because it is his principle to be tolerant. He is obliged to be so, his inner inclination cannot help being compassionate, cannot but forgive, as in the case of Jesus Christ. When people brought those who were accused of wrongdoings according to the law before the Master, he said, “God will forgive you”. There is not one instance in the life of Christ when he took revenge on anyone, or blamed a person.
When a man has understood the reason of all things and develops still further, then comes the realm of sympathy. Then naturally he has no blame for anybody, and that attitude culminates in harmlessness. Buddha says, “The essence of religion is harmlessness, and the moment you have become harmless, you have understood religion”. What is harmlessness? People know so little about it. They think that being harmful means killing someone. But everyone has a meaning of his own for every word. There was a soldier who heard people speaking about kindness and asked, “What is kindness?” They explained to him that it is an attitude and he said, “Once I practised kindness; my horse was ill and I killed it. A feeling of kindness came over me and I killed it”.
When one rises above this realm of forgiveness there comes a natural outpouring of sympathy. At that time a person becomes really sympathetic, for then to feel sympathy is no more his moral, it is his nature; it is not felt intentionally but automatically. There will be an outpouring of sympathy towards everyone who comes into the radiance and atmosphere of such a person.
Many people say, “is it not a weakening of the character to become so gentle and sympathetic? Is it not against practical life where we have to be vigorous, hard and crude in order to stand the hardness of life? Is it advisable to be so fine, kind and gentle that everyone can get the better of us?” Education to-day is quite contrary to this idea. The tendency of education is not to let our affairs or ourselves be shaken by the selfish ones of this world among whom we move and who might get the better of us. This is right, but at the same time if each person prepares himself in this way and harms others, without intervention it must end in battle. The manifestation is not made for battle, but we have made it a battleground.
The meaning of Adam’s exile from paradise, when he was sent into the world of toil, is the same. Man was born to enjoy the harmony and beauty of life, to experience what life means, but he has made paradise into a battlefield, into this world of conflict. It is not so that Adam was exiled, Adam turned paradise into a battlefield. Is it not so that we have made life difficult for ourselves? Is it the pleasure of God that life should be so difficult for us? In professional life, in the life of science or art, of business, commerce or politics, in all aspects there is nothing but continual struggle. If one looks with open eyes, one sees that every new born child will have to find this trouble. It is a struggle!
There will come a time before long when it will be difficult to live in this world. Only some few people, very well equipped for strife and struggle and most inclined to conflict, will be able to exist. When to-day we look with wide open eyes we see this aspect more keenly. There is no direction of life where it is smooth; it is more and more difficult every moment of the day. There is nothing but competition and conflict, and when there is one manner of action and one rhythm going on throughout the whole of manifestation, those few cannot help having to go through this same way, because life in the world is a mechanism; we have to run in the same way. Besides, even if we know how disadvantageous life proves to be at the present time, do you think that we can strike another line? Life is put into a mechanism; we cannot make another way out of it.
The number of lives that has been made miserable and disturbed is so enormous that if we thought about it we would be most unhappy to see their condition. There are many who think that a better time may be brought about by making unions, communities and different brotherhoods. But this cannot be brought about by small efforts. Besides, in such unions and parties struggle again begins, one being against the other. What is most necessary at this time is spiritual awakening of the generality, and every effort should be made to awaken this ideal, to lift the spiritual ideal, to bring peace that will remain and last. It is a mission that can be worthwhile. Everyone of us can do it if we think sufficiently about it. In our own lines-be it in business, in politics, or in education -whatever small service we can do we should always render. The main thing we can do is to awake; to awaken ourselves and those around us to a high ideal, to a greater realization of life, and a deeper understanding of truth.
The Awakening of the Soul
THERE IS an awakening from childhood to youth and from youth to mature age and during this development one’s point of view, one’s outlook in life changes. Also sometimes in one’s life, when one has gone through an illness or a great suffering, at the end of it the whole outlook on life has changed. One also sees that a person who has taken a long journey after having come back has quite changed. Also after a friendship, after a pupilship, after a marriage a sudden change comes in the outlook of a person, and we find that there are some cases where the change is so great that we may say that he is an entirely new person. Seeing this we can divide such changes which may be called developments into three classes.
One class pertains to the physical development, another is connected with the development of the mind and the third class with the development of the soul. There are instances in the lives of many – who rarely will say or admit it – that they can recollect experiences in their childhood when in one moment’s time their whole outlook on life changed. As ripening is a desired result, it is the result of every object in life to ripen and to develop. Therefore the fulfilment of life’s purpose is to be expected in the awakening of the soul.
One may ask what are the signs of the soul’s awakening. The first sign of this awakening is just like the birth of an infant. From the time of its birth the infant is interested in hearing something, any sound that comes, and in seeing something, a colour or light, whatever it be attracted to. And thus a person whose soul has awakened becomes awake to everything he sees and hears. Compared to that person everyone else seems to be with open eyes and yet not to see, to be with open ears and yet not to hear. There are many with open ears, but there is rarely one who hears, and there are many with open eyes, but there is hardly one who sees. It is
therefore that the natural seeing of the awakened soul is called clairvoyance and his natural hearing clairaudience. In English there is the simple word “seer” which explains that this person not only has eyes, but together with eyes he has sight.
The moment the soul has awakened music makes an appeal to it, poetry touches it, words move it, art has an influence upon it. It no longer is a sleeping soul, it is awake and it begins to enjoy life to a fuller extent. It is this awakening of the soul which is mentioned in the Bible, “Unless the soul is born again it will not enter the kingdom of heaven”. Being born again means that the soul is awakened after having come on earth, and entering the kingdom of heaven means that this world, the same kingdom in which we are standing just now, turns into heaven as soon as the point of view has changed. Is it not interesting and most wonderful to think that the same earth we walk on is earth to one person and heaven to another? And it is still more interesting to notice that it is we who change it; we change it from earth into heaven, or we change it otherwise.
This change comes not by study, nor by anything else, but only by the changing of our point of view. I have seen people seek after truth, study in books about it, write many books on theology, and in the end they were in the same place where they were standing before. This shows that all outer efforts are excuses. There is only one thing that brings us before reality and that is the awakening of the soul.
All tragedy of life, all misery and inharmony are caused by one thing and that is lack of understanding. Lack of understanding comes from lack of penetration. The one who does not see from the point of view from which he ought to see becomes disappointed because he cannot understand. It is not for the outer world to help us to understand life better; it is we ourselves who should help ourselves to understand it better.
Then there is a further awakening which is a continuation of what I have called the awakening of the soul. The sign of it is that the awakened person throws a light, the light of his soul, upon every person and every object and sees that object, that condition in this light. It is his own soul which becomes a torch in his hand, it is his own light that illuminates his path. It is just like throwing a searchlight upon dark corners which one did not see before, and the corners become clear and illuminated again. It is like throwing light upon problems that one did not understand at first; it is like seeing with xrays persons who were a riddle before.
Since life becomes clear to the awakened soul it shows another manifestation: every aspect of life becomes communicative with him. The idea is that life is communicating, the soul is communicating, but they do not communicate until a person is awakened. Once a soul is awakened it becomes communicative with life.
As a young man I had a great desire to visit the shrines of sages, of great teachers. With every desire of hearing something of them or of asking them something I always held my tongue back. I sat quiet in their presence and had a great satisfaction and felt a greater blessing by sitting quiet there than if I had discussed and argued and talked with them; for in the end I felt that there was a communication which was much more satisfactory than these outer discussions and arguments of people who know not what they discuss. It was enlightening, it was refreshing and it gave that power and inspiration with which one can see life in a better light. Those who are awakened become lights, not only lights for themselves but also lights for others. These may not know it but their light, their presence itself helps to make the most difficult problems easy. This brings us to realize the fact that man is light, as the Scriptures have said, a light whose origin, whose source is divine. And when this light is raised then life becomes quite different.
When the soul is awakened furthermore its condition is then as that of a person sitting in the midst of the night among hundreds and thousands of people who are fast asleep. The picture is that he is sitting among them, standing among them, he is looking at them, hearing of their sorrows, miseries and conditions-hundreds of them moving about in their sleep, in their own dreams, not awake to the condition of the other one who is next to them. They may be friends or relations or acquaintances or enemies; whatever be their relationship, little they know about one another, each one absorbed in his own troubles. This awakened soul standing among them all will listen to everyone, will see everyone, will recognize and realize all they think and feel, but his language no one understands; his thoughts he cannot explain to anyone; his feelings he cannot expect anyone to feel. He feels lonely and nothing else can be felt. No doubt in that loneliness there is a sense of perfection, because perfection is loneliness.
When it was said that the apostles knew all languages at the descent of the Holy Spirit, it did not mean knowing the languages of all countries. They knew the language of the soul; for there are several languages which are spoken in different lands, but numberless languages are spoken, as each individual has his particular language. That brings us to realize another idea of very great importance: the outer language can convey only outward things and feelings to one another, but there is an inner language, a language which can be understood by souls who are awakened. It is a universal language, a language of vibrations, a language of feeling, a language which touches the innermost sense. Heat and cold for instance are different feelings which are called by different names in different countries, but inwardly they are the same feelings. So there is love and hate and kindness, harmony and inharmony which are all called by different names in different countries, but their feeling is the same experience for all men.
When in order to know the thought of another we depend upon his outer word then no doubt we fail to understand, for perhaps we do not know that person’s language. But if we can communicate with him soul to soul we can certainly understand what he means, for before he says a word he has said it within himself, and that word reaches us before it is expressed outwardly. Before the word is spoken the expression says it; before the thought has formed, the feeling speaks of it. And this shows that it is a feeling which forms a thought, a thought which comes as speech. Even before this a feeling existed, and even there it can be caught when one is able to communicate with the soul. This is what may be called communication: to communicate with the innermost being of a person. But who can communicate? The one who knows how to communicate with himself, the one who in other words is awakened.
The personality of an awakened soul becomes different from every other personality. It becomes more magnetic, because it is a living person who has magnetism; the dead corpse has no magnetism. It is the living person who brings joy, and therefore it is the awakened soul who is joyous. Never for one moment imagine, as many do, that a spiritual person means a most sorrowful, dried-up, long-faced person. Spirit is joy, spirit is life, and when this spirit has awakened all the joy and pleasure that exist are there. As the sun takes away all darkness, so spiritual light takes away all worries and anxieties, sufferings and doubts. If spiritual awakening were not so precious what would be the use of seeking it in life? It is a treasure which nobody can take away from you, a light that will always keep and will never be extinguished. That is called spiritual awakening which is the fulfilment of life’s purpose.
Certainly, the things a person once valued and considered important become less important. They lose their value, and things which are beautiful lose their colour. It is just like seeing the stage in the light of the sun; all the big palaces and decorations on the stage mean nothing. No doubt this takes away the slavery to which everyone is put by the things of this world; the awakened person becomes a master, and at the same time he need not give those things up. Optimism develops naturally, but an optimism with open eyes. Power increases, the power of accomplishing things. Then as long as a person has not accomplished something he will go after it however small it is.
It is very difficult to judge an awakened soul, as they say in the East, for there is nothing outwardly to prove to you, “this person is an awakened soul”. The best way of seeing an awakened soul is to waken oneself. No one in the world can pretend to be awake when he is still asleep, as a little child by putting moustaches on his face will not prove himself to be a grown-up man. All other pretences may be accepted but not the one of being an awakened soul, for it is a living light which no one can pretend to be. If there is any truth it is in the awakening of the soul, for truth is born in this awakening. Truth is not taught, truth is discovered.
Very often people make an effort – but in vain – to awaken a friend or a near relation whom they love. But in the first place we do not know if that person is not more awakened than we ourselves, and we may be trying in vain. And the other point is that a person may be asleep and needs that sleep. Waking him would be a sin instead of a virtue. We are only allowed to give our hand to the one who is turning over in his sleep, who desires to awake. Only then a hand is given.
This giving of the hand in esoteric terms is called initiation. No doubt outwardly a teacher who is acquainted with this path may give a hand to the one who wishes to journey, but inwardly there is the Teacher who gives a hand who has always given and always gives a hand to awakening souls, the same hand which has received the sages and masters of all times in a higher initiation.
Verily, the seeker will find sooner or later, if only he keeps steady on the path till he arrives at his destination.
The words waking and sleeping are familiar to us as we use them in expressing different conditions of life. Really speaking, when we look at it from the point of view of the soul, we sleep and are awake at the same time. For instance when we are looking at a certain thing and our mind is fully absorbed in looking at it, we do not hear things at the same time. And if we are hearing something, absorbed in what we are hearing, when our sense of hearing is focused, our eyes may be open and yet we are not seeing. If that is true it explains to us that when one sense is fully awakened the other senses are asleep. In the same way, when we experience a sensation through the mind the body is absent.
The more we look at sleeping and waking from a psychological point of view, the more we shall come to the conclusion that they are not as we understand them, but that every moment of the day and the night we are awake and asleep at the same time. To give another instance: when a person is asleep and experiencing a dream, he is awake to something and yet asleep to the outer things. To one world he is asleep, to the other awake. So one is always asleep and always awake.
According to the ideas of the mystics there are five stages of consciousness which make one asleep to one stage and awake to another. One state of consciousness is our experience through the senses. In this condition – as we are just now, our eyes ready to see, our ears hearing – we are wakeful to the outside world. This is one aspect of wakefulness. Apart from this aspect which we alone recognize as wakefulness there are four other aspects.
The second aspect of wakefulness is when a person is asleep and yet is experiencing life exactly as he does on this plane of the physical world. This is the dream state. We call it dream when we are awake, when we have passed that dream state. At the time of dreaming that state is as real as this state in the physical world; we do not think it is a dream. Nothing that we can find here is lacking in the dream, and even things we cannot find here on the physical plane we can find in the dream state. All the limitation, all we find lacking in this life is provided for in the dream state. All that we are fond of, all that we would like to be, all we need in our life is easier to find in the dream than in the wakeful state.
If we say that after waking up we find the real life and call the other state a dream, and say therefore that it was an imagination without reality, we think that on this physical plane we are awake, that it is real. But is yesterday as real as to-day? When we look back upon our childhood, from the moment we came on earth all is yesterday; only just now is to-day. All that is past is yesterday and if it is not a dream, what is it? We need not only recognize what we see in the dream as a dream; all that is past is nothing but a dream as well. It is the “just now” which gives us the feeling of reality. What we are experiencing – that becomes real to us; what we are not experiencing, what we are not conscious of even at this moment does not exist for us. Only what our senses are conscious of is all the world, is life to us, and all we are unaware of means nothing, does not exist for us.
In this way each person has his own life and his own world; we all live in the same world, and each has his own world. Man’s world is that of which he is conscious and in this way every person has his heaven and his hell made by himself. He need not wait for heaven and hell afterwards, he has already there what he has made for himself, what he is conscious of. If he is conscious of sorrow and depression, tortures and sufferings, pains and agitations, he lives in all that. He has made a fire for himself and is standing in it; he need not wait till death comes, he is already there. The one who lives in beauty, compassion, affection, forgiveness, appreciation for all that is good and beautiful, has heaven here; he need not wait for afterwards. This again shows that we are in the world to which we are awake, and to the world to which we are not awake we are asleep. We are asleep to that part of life which we do not know.
Another experience is that of a man who lives in music, whose thoughts are music, whose imaginations compose music, who enjoys it, to whom music is a language: he lives in the world of music. He lives under the same sun as everybody else, and yet his world is different. It is said that Beethoven who could no more hear with his ears, very much enjoyed the music he read and played, while perhaps another man with good hearing did not hear it. The soul of Beethoven was in music; the music he was playing was in himself, he lived in music and enjoyed it.
There is one experience which we make through our five senses, and that is one world, one plane of existence. Then there is another existence which we experience in the dream, and that is a world too. It is a separate world, its law is separate. Those who consider a dream only as a dream do not know the importance, the greatness, the wonders of it. The dream plane is more wonderful than the physical plane, because the physical plane is crude, limited and poor, subject to death and disease. The other plane which one experiences in the dream is better, purer, one has a greater freedom there.
Dreams can be divided into four different classes. One dream is a confused repetition of the same experience which we had during the day in wakefulness. However confused the dream may be, whether it be a repetition of all we have done or said in our daytime life, yet this repetition has a meaning, a great meaning. It has an influence in life, it has an effect, as every thought and imagination has an effect. We must not believe that what once we think or imagine is lost. Every thought ever born lives without our knowing, whether good or bad, harmonious or inharmonious. Once it is born it is created and left in the world of thought to live and to have its effect. A dream also is a thought and is as living, or even more so, as is thought in the wakeful state. Therefore every dream, however confused it may seem, once it has appeared before us has a meaning and a certain effect upon our lives. Also the dream in connection with someone else in our lives in one way or another has something to do with that person.
There is a second aspect of the dream and that is the contrary dream. It is just like the mirror in which you look short when you are tall, and tall when you are short: just the contrary of what you are. In the same way, if there is unhappiness, weakness waiting for you, you will see yourself in that dream in great glory, and when happiness is awaiting you, you will see yourself in misery. It is a kind of upset condition of the mind that produces quite the opposite to what is going to happen.
The third kind of dream is symbolical and it is most interesting to study this aspect of the dream. If a poet has a symbolical dream it is in the poetical realm. If a fine person has a symbolical dream it has fine symbols, for a rigid person it has crude symbols; it is all according to a man’s stage of evolution. The more one studies this aspect of the dream the more one marvels at the phenomena of dream-land.
The fourth kind of dream manifests from the spirit and is exactly the picture of the future. It may be a picture of something going to happen the next day, next month, next year, or perhaps ten years later. The law of these dreams is that first a person sees a picture of what is going to happen after twenty years. When he advances this comes closer and closer: something going to happen after five years, after one year, after six months, and so on. And then he sees to-night what is going to be to-morrow. That is the realistic dream.
The first kind of dream explains the condition of everyday life. That dream comes to a person who is engrossed in his work and has no concentration of mind. He is just like a machine working all day long, and at night he sees his work reproduced before him. The second kind of dream, showing the opposite of what one is, comes to the person whose mind is upset, confused, troubled and puzzled. The third kind of dream, the symbolical dream, comes to a person who is intelligent, intellectual, etherially evolved. The fourth kind of dream comes to someone who is already evolved, spiritual, devotional, loving, kind, forgiving by nature, tenderhearted, of gentle nature. This again tells us that man’s reward and punishment is not to be anticipated after death, but given to him every day, every hour of life.
Now coming to the third stage of consciousness – this stage lies between spirit and matter. It is this state of consciousness which we experience as the condition of sleep which we call fast sleep, deep sleep, when we do not even dream. There is so little said about it and very few think about it. Once a person studies this question of sleep he will find that it is the greatest marvel in the world. It is a living phenomenon. The rest and peace, vitality and vigour, intelligence and life that come to a man during that time of sleep is beyond explanation. Yet man is so ungrateful, he is never thankful for this experience given to him every day. He is only unhappy when he has lost it; then nothing in the world can satisfy him. No wealth, no comfort, no home, no position, nothing in the world can replace that experience which is as simple as sleeping, which means nothing and yet is everything.
The further we study the phenomenon of deep sleep the more we shall come to understand the mystery of life. It gives a key to the mystery of life, because it is an experience of consciousness which divides our spiritual consciousness between the physical and the spiritual world. It stands as a barrier between two experiences: one in this world and one which is reached by spiritual attainment. Our great poet of Persia, Rumi, who has inspired millions of people and whose works are considered in the East as the foundation of higher knowledge, has written about sleep, “O sleep, it is thou who makest the king unaware of his kingdom; the suffering patient forgets his illness, and prisoners are free when they are asleep”. Imagine how all pains and sorrows and limitations of life, all the tragedy of life, all sufferings and agitations are washed away when one experiences that deep sleep.
It is a great pity that the mechanical and artificial life we live to-day in this world is depriving us of that natural experience of deep sleep. Our first fault is our gathering and living in one city, all crowded together. Then there are motorcars, there are houses of twenty storeys shaking every moment of the day and night, every vehicle shaking it. We are a race at the present time which is unaware of the comfort and bliss of the life known to the ancient people who lived simply, who lived with nature, far removed from this mechanical and artificial life. We are so far away from natural life that it has become our habit; we do not know any other comfort except the comfort we can experience in this kind of life we live. At the same time it shows that the soul is capable of attaining to greater comfort, pleasure and joy, to greater peace, rest and bliss only by living naturally.
These three stages of consciousness, physical, dream and deep sleep, are each nothing but an experience of the soul in an awakened state. For instance, when a person is awake outwardly he is conscious of the outer world; when he is fast asleep he is awakened to that particular plane while asleep to both dream-land and the physical state.
Now you may ask, “If a person who sleeps deeply is awakened to a certain consciousness, why does he not remember it? We think that he is asleep, for if he was awake he should know something about it; if he remembers nothing it means that he was asleep and certainly not awake. To be awake means experiencing something; during deep sleep one does not experience”.
When we are looking at a bright light and that bright light is shut off then we see darkness. In reality there is no darkness. If there had not been bright light first there would not be darkness but light; it is the comparison that makes it darkness. Therefore the experience we have in our deep sleep is an experience of a higher and greater nature. It is so fine, so subtle and unusual -our consciousness being accustomed to the rigid experiences of the physical world that the experience we have in that state is too fine to be perceived, too fine to be brought back to the physical world.
Every experience can be made intelligible by contrast. If there were no straight line, we could not say high and low, right and left; it is the straight line which makes us recognize them as such. If there were no sun we would not be able to say south, north, east and west. Therefore with every conception there must be some object to focus upon which helps to form our conception. In order to understand deep sleep we have nothing in the physical existence to compare it with and therefore that experience of deep sleep remains only as a great satisfaction, joy and upliftment, as something that has vitalized us and has created energy and enthusiasm in life. This shows that there is something we receive; we do not come empty-handed from there, we have attained something we cannot get here from the physical plane. From there we receive something that we cannot interpret in everyday language – more precious, more valuable and vital than anything from the physical and mental planes.
There is a still higher plane or experience of consciousness, different from these three experiences which everybody knows more or less, and this fourth experience is that of the mystic. It is an experience of seeing without the help of the eyes, of hearing without the help of the ears, and experiencing a plane without the help of the physical body – an experience similar to that of the physical body and at the same time independent of it. As soon as one arrives at this experience one begins to believe in the hereafter, for it gives one the conviction that, when the physical body is thrown off, the soul still remains – independent of the physical body and capable of seeing, living and experiencing even more freely and fully. Therefore this stage of experience is called the consciousness of the mystic.
Perhaps you have read in books of Eastern philosophy the words nirvana and mukti, and you have become frightened! Nirvana means to become nothing. You may say, “I do not want to become nothing”. Everyone wants to become something, no one wants to become nothing. Those who want to be something -although that can be taken for nothing! – are so frightened of that idea. I have seen hundreds and thousands who were interested in Eastern philosophy, but when it came to being nothing they found it a difficult idea to grasp and they found it frightening to think, “One day this `I’ shall be nothing”. But they do not know that it is the solving of this question which allows one to be; for what man identifies himself with is a mortal thing that will one day expire, and he will no more find himself to be as he had thought himself to be.
Nirvana therefore is the fifth and highest consciousness which I am explaining now. The experience of this consciousness is of a similar kind to that of a person in deep sleep. But in the deep sleep one is asleep outwardly, which means in the physical and in the mental body, while in the condition of nirvana, or highest consciousness, a person is conscious all through: he is conscious of the body as much as of the soul. Then the consciousness is so evenly dividedwhile yet he keeps to the highest stage – that at that time the person lives fully.
To conclude: what does the soul’s awakening mean? The body’s awakening means to feel sensation. The mind’s awakening means to think and to feel. The soul’s awakening means for the soul to become conscious of itself. Everyone is conscious of his affairs, of his conditions of life, of his body, of his mind, but not of his soul. In order to become conscious of the soul one has to work in a certain way, because the soul has become unconscious of itself; by working through its vehicles – body and mind – it has become unaware of its own freedom, of its own beauty.
In the East there is a custom and a belief that the one who sleeps must not be awakened. This is symbolical. Those whose soul is asleep may just as well sleep. If one awakens them they will be sick. It is not their time to awake. If they awake too soon they will be confused, they will act wrongly, speak wrongly. It is therefore that an untimely education of the philosophy of truth always proves to be undesirable.
The other day in London a friend of mine came from Ireland. I told this person to stay in a pension near my place which was a pension of the Theosophical Society. My friend came next day to me very surprised and troubled. She said, “I am quite confused. In that pension someone came to me and said, `In my last incarnation you were my aunt’. Then someone else came and said, `You were my sister’. Everyone there was my aunt, or friend, or somebody in a past incarnation, and everyone is claiming to have been a king. No one wishes to have been a poor man”. I said – you know that Indians like humour-“They must have committed a great sin to have come this time as simple people”.
That shows how, when we give untimely philosophical education, everything of subtle nature is made simple and is spoiled. Do you think that they speak very much in the East? They have respect, they do not talk, do not argue. All that is of a sacred nature, aspirations that belong to a higher world, they keep among some few who understand them and do not speak about these things. Therefore there is that custom never to awaken those who are asleep. When their time comes then you can give them a hand and they will awake.
The first stage in the awakening of the soul is a feeling, “is there not something else that I could know”. He feels dissatisfied with all he knows, with all the knowledge he may have, science, art, philosophy, or literature. He comes to a stage where he feels, “There is something else I must know that books, dogmas and beliefs cannot teach, something higher and greater that words cannot explain. That is what I want to know”. It does not depend upon the age of the person. It may be a child who has that inclination or one who has reached age – and yet does not feel like it. It depends upon the soul. Therefore in the East they call a child an old soul when it begins to show that inclination, when it is not satisfied with the knowledge of names and forms and wants to know something else, although it may not know what it is.
Then there comes a second stage, and that stage is bewilderment. Imagine, an evolved person being more bewildered than an unevolved one! And yet it is so, for he begins to see that things are not as they seem to be but as they are. So there comes a kind of conflict: “What shall I call it: this or that, good or bad, love or hate?”. There comes a time when all that was accepted in his mind, all that he believed to be so, appears to be quite the contrary to what it seems to be.
His friends, his relations, those whom beloved, wealth, position, all things he had followed, change their appearance and sometimes become quite the contrary to what he had thought.
I will give you a little example of this bewilderment. The other day in Chicago a lady came to see me, trembling, in a very sorrowful state of mind. I asked her what was the matter and she said she had had an accident. The house in which she lived had been burnt, she had had to break a window in order to get out, she had hurt her hand, and it had all made a great upset in her life. But then she said, “It is not all that which makes me so upset”. I asked, “What else?”. She said, “The way how all my friends and neighbours whom I loved and liked acted at the time when the fire was on, has impressed me so that the whole world is quite different now”. What does this mean? That friendship, relationship, love, devotion may not be the same as they appear when it comes to the time of test. Then there comes a time when a person begins to look at things differently.
This reminds me of a word from the Prophet Muhammad, who says in a kind of poetic form, “A witch followed me in the hereafter and I was frightened. I asked, What is this, Lord, that is frightening me? And the answer came, It is the same world that once you adored and worshipped and pursued and thought so much of”. That shows that our consciousness changes our outlook in life; it changes as soon as our soul has opened its eyes. Our whole life changes. We live in the same world, and yet we do not; it is quite a different world then.
The next stage after this bewilderment is the stage of sympathy. We begin to appreciate things more and sympathize more, for so far we had walked on thorns and did not feel them, but in this stage we begin to feel them. We see that others are walking on the same thorns, so we forget our pain and begin to sympathize with them. The evolved ones therefore develop sympathy, a natural outgoing tendency. Troubles, sufferings, limitations everyone has to go through, everyone has to face the same difficulties. Not only the good ones, the wicked one has a still greater difficulty: he lives in the same world with his wickedness, he has a great load to carry. So naturally the evolved one becomes forgiving and sympathetic towards him.
As one goes further in the soul’s unfoldment one finally arrives at the stage of revelation. Life begins to reveal itself, the whole of life, each soul becomes communicative-not only living beings but each thing. They say that the twelve apostles knew all languages. It does not mean that they knew English, French and Italian, but that they knew every soul’s language, as every soul has its own separate language. They began to perceive vibrations and so every evolved soul will feel the vibrations of every other soul, and every condition, every soul, every object in the world will reveal its nature and character to him. Sa’adi, the Persian poet, has said, “Once a soul has begun to read, every leaf of the tree becomes as a page of the sacred book of life”.
The word awakening is merely used for convenience, to make you see it more clearly. In reality the soul is always awake, the soul is never asleep. Day and night are two diverse conditions, they are not conditions of the sun. The sun neither rises nor sets. It is our conception; it is more convenient to speak of the rising and setting of the sun, but if anything rises and sets it is the world, not the sun. So day and night are not conditions of the sun, they are conditions themselves. When the world turns its back to the sun it is night, and when the world turns its face to the sun it is day. It is the same with the soul’s awakening. The soul is always awake, but what is it awake to? Someone may be looking with open eyes, but what is he looking at? Upwards or downwards or sideways? He is looking in a certain direction and is conscious of that direction. To speak of the soul’s awakening therefore is for the sake of convenience.
What part in us is it that may be called soul? Is it our body with its flesh and bones and veins and blood? Is it our mind with its thoughts, imaginations, feelings and emotions? Neither of these. Then what is it? It is something which is beyond the body and beyond the mind. When one asks, “Is it conscious”, the answer is that it is, but its consciousness is not as we understand it, for we know it as intelligence, as being conscious of something. Everyone does not know what consciousness means, but everyone knows what he is conscious of.
For instance, a mirror with a reflection in it is not only a mirror, but it is a mirror in which something is reflected. This means that it is occupied, it is not empty. When a person says “consciousness “, he does not think of the original condition of it; he thinks only of the consciousness which is conscious of something. As soon as we distinguish between consciousness and that which it is conscious of we separate them, we see them as two things, just as we can separate the mirror from what is reflected in it.
As soon as we realize this we will come to the conclusion that the soul of the wise and the foolish, of the sinner and the virtuous, is one and the same. The wickedness of the wicked and the goodness of the good, the ignorance of the foolish and the wisdom of the wise are apart from the soul; the soul is only conscious of it. At the time when the soul is conscious of it one says, “Here is an ignorant soul”, but the soul is the same. It is not the soul which is ignorant or wise; what is reflected in it is ignorant or wise, wicked or virtuous. At the same time we should know that if an elephant looks into a mirror, the mirror is not the elephant, but one can see an elephant in the mirror. If a man does not know what a mirror is he can say, “Here is an elephant”, but it is only its reflection; free from this reflection it is only a mirror. The moment the reflection is removed, the mirror will be a mirror as it always has been.
So it is with the soul. Man makes it miserable, wicked, ignorant, wise or illuminated by being conscious of these things. The soul is neither the one nor the other. The soul is only soul. However there is the difficulty that very often people, having a certain conception of the soul, do not see the idea of the mystic and say, “a wicked soul, a bad soul, a foolish soul”. But the soul cannot be that, the soul is the soul, it is beyond any attributes.
Now one will ask, “Where does the soul come from? If it is conscious what is it then?” And the best explanation that can be given is: the soul is the essence of all things, it is life-but not life in the sense we understand it. What we call life is a suggestion of life. The soul is the real life. The reflection, which is only a suggestion of the soul, we call life and one who moves and sees and hears and acts we call a living being, but what is living in him is the soul. The soul is not seen, therefore life is not seen. Life has touched the person; so one sees the effect of that touch in the person and one says, “He is living, it is life”. But what we see is a suggestion of life which appears and disappears. Life is life, it never dies.
When one asks, “What is intelligence?”, we have the same problem as with consciousness. One knows intelligence as something which is intelligent, but there is a difference between intelligence and intelligent. The intelligence which has the reflection of a certain knowledge becomes intelligent. But intelligence need not know: it is the knowing faculty; just as consciousness need not be conscious of anything: it is consciousness itself, it cannot witness it.
For instance, if one keeps a person in a dark room with beautiful colours and pictures he cannot see them. His eyes are open, his sight is open, but what is before him is not reflected in his sight. What is there is sight, nothing reflected in it. So it is with consciousness, and it is the same with intelligence: intelligence which is consciousness, and consciousness which is the soul. Why do the materialistic and spiritualistic view differ? A materialist to-day says that even biology shows how man comes from the animal kingdom. There is a gradual awakening of matter to become conscious and through the awakening to consciousness matter becomes fully intelligent in man. So far science goes.
A mystic does not deny this. He says, “It is quite true, but where does matter come from, and what is matter?” Matter is intelligence just the same, there is only a process. Just like the seed – which is the root – manifests within the heart of the flower, so in man intelligence manifests through the development of matter. But intelligence which is intelligent begins with intelligence and finishes in intelligence.(just as the seed begins as seed and finishes in seed. (editor’s note).) Spirit is the source and goal of all things; if matter did not have spirit in it, it would not awaken, it would not develop. Matter shows that life unfolds it, that life discovers it, that life realizes it: that consciousness which was so to speak buried in matter for thousands of years. By a gradual process it is realized through the vegetable and animal kingdoms, and in man it unfolds itself and takes its original condition. The only difference is that in this finishing of the spirit, this fulfilment of the spirit which manifests in man, there is variety: such a large number of human beings, millions and billions – and in their origin is one being. Spirit is one when unmanifested, and many in the realm of manifestation. Therefore the appearance of this world of variety gives man first the impression of many lives-which produces what we call illusion and keeps man ignorant of the human being. The root from where he comes, the original state of his being, man does not know. He is all the time under the illusion of the world of variety which keeps him absorbed, interested and busy, and at the same time ignorant of his real condition as long as he is asleep to one side of life and awakened to the other, asleep to the inner and awakened to the outer side of life. Awakening of the soul is what the mystic calls awakening to the source; it is the condition to awaken to the reality of life.
You may ask how one awakens to this reality, what makes one awaken, and whether it is necessary for one to be awakened. The answer is that the whole of creation was made in order to awaken. This awakening is chiefly of two kinds: one kind is called birth, the birth of the body, when a soul awakens in a condition where it is limited in the physical body. This is one awakening and by this man becomes captive. There is another awakening, which is to awaken to reality, and that is called the birth of the soul. First is the birth of the body, next the birth of the soul, as it is said in the Bible. One awakening is to the world of illusion, the other to the world of reality.
One must know that for everything there is a time, and when this is not considered one makes a mistake. When one wakens a person at two o’clock at night his sleep is broken; he ought to sleep all night, it was necessary for him. Not knowing this, people very often try to wake a person up, their wife, husband, friend or relation, their child or father. They are very anxious to awaken the other; often they feel too lonely and think, “This person is close to me, he should be awakened too”. It is the same with the one who smokes or drinks: he likes others to have the same experience, just as it is too dull for a person in a cheerful mood if the other one is so dull that he cannot laugh and see the joke. Naturally therefore the desire, the tendency of those who awaken to the higher life is to awaken others. They cannot help it, it is natural.6But very often one is too impatient with people and unreasonable. Very often we make great mistakes wanting to awake a person before it is time -when he ought to have a sleep. Also we sometimes presume to be more awake than another, while in reality the other may be more awakened.
There is a story of a wife who was religious and devotional. One day she arranged a feast and her husband asked, “What is it for? Is it a religious day?”. “It is more than a religious day”, she said, “It is the greatest day in my life. There was something which always kept me anxious and it has left me now”. The husband asked what that was, and she said, “Since I married you I thought that you had no inclination to anything spiritual or religious”. “Then what makes you think otherwise?”, asked the husband. She said, “To-day I have realized, now I understand, that you are spiritual”. “Do you? How do you know?” “Well”, she said, “do not ask me”. “No, tell it to me”. She then told him, “I heard you say the name of God while turning over in your sleep”. “Did I”, said he, “Alas”. He fell down and died instantly. The mystery was too sacred to him, something he could never say in words. His feeling of devotion and worship was so great that no church could contain it, it was vaster than any church, greater than the universe. When that mystery was broken it was as if a sacred seal was broken. He could not stand it and died.
The other day I was touched to see a play in which a student of the light of the higher ideals says the Word, the sacred Word, and dies. The beautiful part was that there was a prophet in the play who saw it and said, “He saw beyond and died”.(Hazrat Inayat Khan refers to Ansky’s play “The Dybbuk” (editor’s note).)
What does death mean? Turning. The soul is always awake, so it is always living. What is death? Death is turning: the soul turns from one side to another. If a beautiful voice comes from behind to which it wishes to listen then it turns, it is attracted to another direction. This is called awakening, awakening to a certain sphere to which it was asleep.
It is no use trying to awake everybody; everyone is awakening to something – if not to higher truth, then to lesser. The one who has the privilege of being awake can give a hand to the one who is trying to awake – to whatever plane it may be. In the language of the mystic giving a hand is called initiation.
In order to get a clear idea of awakening I should like to bring to your thought the condition which we call a dream. Many give little importance to it. When one says, “This person is dreamy”, it means that he is conscious of something which is nothing. But is there really anything which we can call a dream? The real meaning of dream is that which is past. Yesterday is as much a dream as the experience of the night: it is past. When a person is dreaming, does he think that he is in a dream? Does he think that it is unimportant? At that moment does he give it less importance than his everyday life? He looks at it as a dream when he is awakened to the other sphere, but while in the dream sphere he will not call it a dream. When a person is asked, “What about the experience of yesterday?”, he will say, “It was a dream, everyday life was a dream”.
The more one thinks of it, the more one glances into the hereafter, and the more one will realize that what is behind the veil of death, is awakening to another sphere as real as this, even more real than this. What is real? Real is the soul, the consciousness itself. What is past is a dream, what will come is hope. What one experiences seems real, but it is only a suggestion. The soul is real, its aim is to realize itself. Its liberation, its freedom, harmony and peace, all depend upon its own unfoldment. No outside experience can make the soul realize the real.
Why cannot we see the soul? We can see the body and from our thoughts we can think that we have a mind, because thought manifests to us in the form of a mental picture. Why do we not see the soul? The answer is that as the eyes can see all things but themselves so it is with the soul. The soul is sight itself, it sees all, but the moment it closes its eyes to all it sees then its own light makes it manifest to its own view. It is therefore that people take the path of meditation, the path by which they get in touch with themselves, with their soul. They realize the continuity of life which is immortal life, they realize the independence of life by getting in touch with their soul.
Now one may ask, “What about those who come in this world in a miserable condition, while others come in good conditions? Is it not something innate in the soul?” No, it is something that the soul has carried along with it like the load on a camel: it is on its back, not within it. So it is with the load of the soul.
Another question is, “If the soul is awakened, how does it awake, and who awakens it?” We see that the time for nature to awake is the spring. It is asleep all winter and it awakes in the spring. There is a time for the sea, when the wind blows and brings good tidings, as if it awakes from sleep; then the waves rise. All this shows struggle, it shows that something has touched it and makes it uneasy, restless; it makes it want liberation, release. Every atom, every object, every condition and every living being has a time of awakening.
Sometimes there is a gradual awakening, and sometimes there is a sudden awakening. To some persons it comes in a moment’s time – by a blow, by a disappointment, or because their heart has broken through something that happened suddenly. It seemed cruel, but at the same time the result was a sudden awakening and this awakening brought a blessing beyond praise. The outlook changed, the insight deepened; joy, quiet, independence and freedom were felt, and compassion showed in the attitude. A person who would never forgive, who liked to take revenge, who was easily displeased and cross, a person who would measure and weigh, when his soul is awakened, becomes in one moment a different person. As the emperor of India Mahmud Ghaznavi has said in a most beautiful line, “I, the emperor, who have thousands of slaves awaiting my command, the moment love has sprung in my heart consider myself the slave of my servants”. The whole attitude becomes changed. Only, the question is what one awakens to, in which sphere, in what plane, to which reality.
Sometimes after one has made a mistake, by the loss that mistake has caused, the outlook becomes quite different. In business, in one’s profession, in worldly life, a certain experience just like a blow has broken something in a person and with that breaking a light has come, a new light. However, one is not always to be awakened by a mistake. No doubt awakening very often comes by a blow, by a great pain, a painful condition, but at the same time it is not necessary to look for a blow. Life has enough blows for us, we need not look for them.
There is a story of a peasant girl who was passing through a farm while going to another village. There was a Muslim offering his prayers on his prayer-rug in the open. The law is that no one should cross the place where anyone is praying. When this girl returned from the village this man was still sitting there. He said, “O girl, now what terrible sin have you committed!” “What did I do?” asked she. “I was offering prayers here, and you passed over this place”. The girl asked, “What do you mean by offering prayers?” “Thinking of God”, he replied. The girl said, “Yes? Were you thinking of God? I was thinking of my young man whom I was going to meet, and I did not see you. Then how did you see me while you were thinking of God?” That shows what awakening means, what sleep means. She was asleep to the Muslim and awake to the one she was going to meet. And he was awake to something else than to the object of his prayer. He was asleep to his object and she was awake. One’s heart is where one’s treasure is. If it values a treasure it is awakened to it. If it is not awakened to a treasure it may be awakened to some misery. If its treasure is on earth the heart is awakened rather to the earth than to something else.
In spiritual awakening the first thing that comes to man is the lifting of a veil and this is the lifting of an apparent condition. Then a person does not see every condition as it appears to be, but sees behind every condition its deeper meaning. Generally man has an opinion about everything that appears before him. He does not wait one moment to look or to have patience, he immediately forms an opinion about every person, about every action he sees; whether wrong or right, he immediately forms an opinion without knowing what is behind it, ready to contempt. It takes a long time for God to weigh and measure; for man it takes no time to judge! But when the veil of immediate reason is lifted, then one reaches the cause, then one is not awakened to the surface but to what is behind the surface. There comes another step in awakening when a man does not even see the cause, but comes to the realization of the adjustment of things: how every activity of life, whether it appears to be wrong or right, adjusts itself. By the time he arrives at this condition he has lost much of his false self. That is what brings him there, for the more one is conscious of the false self, the further one is removed from reality. These two things cannot go together. It is dark or it is light; if it is light there is no darkness. As much as the false conception of self is broken up, so much more light there is. On this path therefore a person sees life more clearly.
Another form of awakening is the awakening of the self; one begins to wonder, “What does my thought mean, what does my feeling mean, what does wrong and what does right mean? What is it after all?” A man then begins to weigh and measure all that springs within himself. The further he goes the more he sees behind all things, not only living on the surface of life, but attached to all planes of existence. This is a new awakening. Then a person has only to be awakened to the other world; he need not go there. He need not experience what is death, but he can bring about a condition where he rises above life. This brings him to the conclusion that there are many worlds in one world. He closes his eyes to the dimensions of the outer world and finds within his own self: “You are the centre of all worlds”. And the only thing necessary is turning; not awakening, but turning.
Man has become motionless, stagnant by fixing himself to this world in which he is born, in which he has become interested. If he makes his soul more subtle in order to turn away from this world he can experience all that is said of the different worlds, of the different planes of consciousness. He will find the whole mystery within himself only by being able to make his soul so subtle that it can turn and move.
One may ask, “How can we make the soul subtle?” The character of the soul is like water. By being stagnant it becomes frozen like ice which does not move, and so it is with the soul bound to the world of which it is conscious. It is not unable to move, but that consciousness holds it; it is like captivity. A Sufi poet shows the way out of it when he says, “You yourself have made your self a captive, and you yourself will try to make your self free”.
The Dance of the Soul
ONE OFTEN wonders what it is in the lower creation, in a horse coming from a good race, in a peacock and more animals, which gives them the tendency to dance. What we generally call a beautiful horse is a horse which shows that tendency and those who understand the qualities of animals judge them by their tendency to dance. Once I was looking at a procession of the Maharaja of Nepal. When the whole of the procession had passed and the horse of the Maharaja approached, it seemed as if the horse by his dancing tendency was answering the eagerness of the people to see the Maharaja and pay homage to him. A person standing near me made the remark, “It seems as if the horse were conscious of his master”. In that remark lies the secret of the dance.
This tendency is found throughout the lower creation, although it be an unconscious one; it is as it were the rising of the deepest part of being. If there are two horses, one with an inclination to dance every moment, the other with an inclination to stand still like a log of wood, we may say that the deepest self of the latter is covered and the deepest self of the former is open and wanting to express the vibration which animates it. The desire to dance arises in the peacock because it is impressed by beauty, which it also shows in its own wings and feathers. The whole nature expresses its deep touch with its own source. Life is a swing; there is one swing where life touches its innermost being and brings that out to the material world, striking every heart. In the waxing and waning of the moon, the changing tides of the sea, the alternate seasons there is a period when nature breathes downward and dives up something that is most beautiful and appealing to the heart.
When we consider the human race we find that the whole nature represents itself in an individual being, and this individual being reflects the whole nature. The infant has moments of smiles when it is happy and moves its hands and legs while there seems to be no reason why it should do so. Although every man is not a philosopher, every soul is a philosopher, and in the East it is said that when a child smiles it sees the angels. As the sun gives joy by its reflection, so that inner spirit when reflected in a human being produces joy and happiness. By that smile of the infant everybody is drawn; it is a magic for everyone who looks at it. Words can never explain what the child feels. Grown-up persons lose that touch through their artificial life, yet they are drawn to the child’s happiness. As the infant grows into a child it still has its moments when it is moved to sing and dance, not knowing where that tendency comes from, but enjoying paradise on earth. It wants a mind that is in touch with the infinite to perceive that joy invaluable in comparison to all other sensations of life in this world.
There is a Sura in the Qur’an which explains this a little, but few understand its true meaning: “Have you known the night of power? During that night angels descend, spirits are attracted, trees and mountains fall in prostration, submitting to the divinity of God”. From the beginning to the end of that night there is inexplicable joy and profound peace. The prostration of trees and mountains means that they do not exist for the soul at that time. The soul has risen above them, from all worries and anxieties the mind is empty. Then the night of joy comes. An artist may paint pictures all his life, but there will only be a few moments when without making any effort his brush does what the soul wants it to do. The greatest musicians like Beethoven, Bach, whose music always has a living influence on the heart of man, did not create their music from the brain; it was not merely a play of technicality, there was something else. They are the musicians who caught the moments of the dance of the soul and responded to it.
In a musician the soul dances in the realm of music, in a painter the soul dances in the realm of colours, in the poet it dances in the realm of poetry. In sculpture and architecture we also find that it was the dance of the soul which produced it; the Taj Mahal in India for instance was a product of the dance of the soul. In all these aspects the soul shows its beauty, and in all these different realms the dance of the soul is one and the same. When one bell is rung, by the sound of that one bell other bells will also vibrate. So it is with the dancing of the soul; it produces its reaction and that again will make other souls dance.
How can we get to the secret of this dance? We want the key to be able to wind the soul to make it dance. A story of Tansen, the singer of king Akbar, tells that Akbar said to him, “You are such a great musician. I wonder how great your teacher must be”. Tansen answered, “There is no comparison, my Lord, we are different. He is infinitely greater”. Akbar was very much inclined to hear this master’s music, but Tansen told him that his master lived in a cave, that it was a very long journey, and even then he did not know if his master would sing before a king. Akbar however was persistent and arrived with Tansen at the cave. The master saw who was his visitor but did not mind, and when he felt moved he began to sing. As he sang Akbar and Tansen went into ecstasy and both lost their consciousness. The master disappeared and they found themselves alone and as in a dream. When they had recovered their senses they went home. Akbar asked, “Why has the master disappeared?” And Tansen answered, “So that next time you might not know him”. Akbar then asked Tansen to sing again the song of the master, but Tansen was not able to produce the same effect. He explained this to Akbar saying, “While I sing to thee, my master sings to God”
This explains our condition of to-day. In music, in painting, in poetry man’s first thought is, “How will it take? What will the people say of it?” When inspiration is sacrificed to the material world how can the soul ever dance – for the dance of the body is death to the soul. In his absorption in the external world man has lost touch with his own self.
Looking at this subject from a metaphysical point of view the soul is dancing when it is charged with the battery of infinite life. In the life of the infant, of the bird, free from responsibility, we find the natural life which is in touch with the battery of infinite life, and they become charged by it. As man grows, the more he is successful in worldly affairs, the more he loses contact with his inner being; he is kept in the spider’s web he spun himself. Inharmonious conditions, the artificiality of life cause unrest, man is confused and knows not where lies his happiness. The battery which is the depth of every life may be called the divine Being, or divine Life. Every soul is connected with this battery, but when it is not responding to it, not conscious of it, it loses its chance.
In Krishna’s dance, spoken of in every house in India as it is considered a sacred story, the secret of this philosophy is hidden. Krishna was a most charming youth, popular in his village. Every girl wanted once to dance with him and he promised that on a full moon night he would dance with everyone of them. When the night came all the girls arrived at the place where they were to dance and the miracle is told that really Krishna danced with every girl, for so many girls as there were, so many Krishnas appeared to dance.
Krishna is the innermost spirit whose life rises and dances through the artist. The different minds are represented by the gopis, the girls, and Krishna is the source of life within the individual. The different minds are considered as gopis, because the mind must already have its own beauty to be able to reflect that greater beauty. For instance, if a man had no idea of language and his soul began to dance no gopi would be there, no possibility for poetry to flower from him, as his mind was not prepared. Our souls are only created to dance; it is their nature to dance and it is the tragedy of life when the soul is kept from dancing. Our craving for comfort and outward satisfaction, our ambition, our desires are nothing but the longing to experience that dance – as we know it. Paradise is pictured by every teacher as a place where there is music and dance. Music itself is dance, poetry is the dance of words, singing the dance of the voice. Only when inspiration comes naturally it is a life coming from the depth of the individual.
The Hindus speak of Indra as the king of paradise; the dancers in his court are called apsaras. A much loved story in the East tells us of a dancer of the court of Indra who loved a being of the earth and brought him with her to heaven. Indra’s wrath was aroused; he separated them and they were sent into the desert. The reason is that the dancers who were especially for Indra were not supposed to neglect their duty for the love of other beings. Our souls are dancers to God; born to dance to God they must enjoy beauty in its perfection. When we forget that dance in our absorption in earthly joys we neglect our duties for which we were created.
The object in the life of the Sufi is to keep his heart like a compass pointing to one goal, the centre, Indra for whom every soul is created to dance. We need not go to the forest or the wilderness; we can be in a crowd, but we should be like the compass, always pointing to the one goal of our existence.
Studies and practices are given to prepare the pupil to look at that goal. It is known to many that there are people in the East who for thousands of years have given their whole life to the search of the truth. The Sufi message represents that thought which can draw East and West together in the understanding of life. An opportunity has been given to the friends of these thoughts to bring man home to this secret of life.
We see in the life of an infant that there comes a moment when it smiles to itself and moves its little feet and legs as if dancing, bringing delight to the one who looks on and creating life in the atmosphere. What was it that sprang into being in the heart of the tiny infant, ignorant of the pains and pleasures of life? What is it that suddenly springs from its heart, that gives expression to its eyes, that inspires its little movements and voice? In ancient times the old people said, “This is the spirit coming”. They thought it was an angel or fairy speaking to the child, but in reality it is the soul which at that moment arises to ecstasy which makes all things dance. There are many delightful experiences in life, but joy is something greater and deeper than delight, it springs from the innermost being. There can be no better description of the springing of joy than the dance of the soul.
One finds in the life of every person, sorrowful or happy, wise or foolish, that there are moments when he begins to sing or move. Joy may be expressed also by a smile, it may even be expressed in tears of joy, but in one and all it is the dance of the soul. This heavenly bliss is not only for mankind, it comes to all beings. Man lives his life in an artificial world and seldom has a chance to see the beauty of nature. This ecstasy is to be found in the forests, in the wilderness where the great Yogis, sages, saints, seers and prophets received their inspiration. If you could only see what is called in the East the dance of the peacocks, the peacocks expressing the impulse of joy, inspired and blessed by the sublime beauty around them. Birds and animals all have their moment of joy, and in these moments you can hear their words, their song, but the greatest expression is in their dance. To nearly every animal there come moments when the blessing of heaven descends upon them, and they respond in dance.
This blessing is revealed in every aspect of life, even in inanimate objects, in trees and plants; even there we see in the spring the rising of life. Flowers and plants are but different expressions of the one life, the source of all beauty and joy and harmony. Someone asked the Prophet for a definition of the soul, and he answered in one sentence: “The soul is an action of God”. There could be no more expressive words to explain this philosophy. It is the action of the inner or divine Life, and when this shows itself in any form it is the reaction to the action of God; it is this which may be called the dance of the soul.
It is this which has inspired the great musicians and poets. Why do the music of Wagner or Beethoven and the words of Shakespeare live so long and continually give new joy and inspiration? Why has not all music and poetry the same effect? Because poetry is one thing, and the dance of the soul another. The dance of the soul is beyond mere poetry, and when music expresses itself as the dance of the soul it becomes something higher than music. Man becomes so accustomed to external knowledge! He wants to learn and understand this thing and that, but beauty does not come so naturally because beauty is beyond all knowledge: it is intended to prepare man to express his soul.
How often do we confuse these two things, inspiration and education. Education is the preparation for inspiration. Education prepares the mind to be a better means for the expression of the natural spring in the heart. When education becomes a hobby and inspiration is forgotten then the soul becomes choked, and where there is no life man is mechanical, unreal. He may write poetry, compose music and paint pictures, but they are all lifeless, for he himself is a machine. The soul in itself is life, knowledge and beauty.
As an instance I will speak of two poets in India. Kalidasa was the most learned poet of the Sanskrit age and was never educated. As far as language goes Kabir’s language was most ordinary and yet, when the people in India who laid importance on the delicacy and convention of Hindi heard his words, they forgot conventions, for his poetry brought life, it sprang from the soul, it was spirit. Grammar was faulty, but nevertheless the verses made that impression. Why? Because the words were living, the soul was dancing.
The purpose of life is to become more living, to allow the soul to live more, and that is the limit given by Christ when he says, “Raise your light high”. This means allowing the soul to express itself. It does not matter what your life is, what your pursuit is; in order to fulfil the purpose of life you need not be in a temple or a church. Whatever your life’s pursuit – art, poetry, sculpture, music, whatever your occupation may be – you can be as spiritual as a priest or clergyman, always living a life of praise. Your work in life must be your religion; let the soul express itself in every aspect and it will surely fulfil the purpose of life. The soul’s life comes naturally if we open ourselves for the spirit to rise.
There is an old story in India that expresses this philosophy. In the belief of Hindus there is a heaven or paradise called Indraloka where the God Indra is king, and there are angels or fairies whose work is to dance before Indra. There was a fairy from Indraloka who once descended on earth and loved an earthly being. By the power of her magic she brought this earthly being to paradise. When this became known to Indra she was cast out from paradise and they were separated.
This legend is symbolic of the human soul, which originally belonged to Indraloka, the kingdom of God, the sphere full of peace, joy and happiness. Life there is nothing but joy, it is a dance. Life and love come from God and raise every soul till it dances. It is therefore that the Yogi term atma means the soul of man as joy itself. In its pure condition it is a joy, and when it is without joy its natural condition is changed: it depends upon the names and forms of the earth and is deprived of the dance of the soul. Therein lies the whole tragedy of life. The wrath of Indra, the God of paradise, is nothing but breach of law (the law that the highest love must be for God alone. (editor’s note).), as it is natural that the soul is attracted to the Spirit and that the true joy of every soul is the realization of the divine Spirit.
Absence of realization keeps the soul in despair. In the life of every poet, thinker, artist or scientist there come moments when ideas or words are given to him; they are given at that moment and at no other. This is the moment when unconsciously the soul has an opportunity to breathe. Man does not usually allow his soul to breathe; the portal is closed up in the life of the earth. Man closes it by ignorance, he is absorbed in things of much less importance. So when the door opens and the soul is able to breathe even one breath, it becomes alive in that one single moment, and what comes out is beauty and joy making man express himself in song or dance. So heavenly beauty comes on earth.
The things that catch man’s mind are always living things. The poems of Rumi which are called Masnavi, have lived for eight hundred years, they are living, they bring joy and ecstasy whenever they are sung or recited. They are everliving life, expressing an everlasting beauty. It is the power of God, and for man ever to presume it possible to produce that by study is a mistake. It is impossible. It is the power of God above which brings out the perfection of beauty. Man can never make the soul dance, but he can make himself a fit instrument for the expression of his soul. The question is, in what way can he so fit himself?
It appears that the soul is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God lives within the shrine of the heart; this shrine can be closed or it can be open. There are some things in life that open it and some that close it. The things that close the heart are those which are contrary to love, tolerance and forgiveness, such as coldness, bitterness and ill-will, and a strong element of duality. The world is more upset to-day than ever before; in many ways man seems to go from bad to worse, and yet he thinks that he is progressing. It is not lack of organization or of civilization; both these things he has. What he lacks is the expression of the soul. He closes his door to his fellow-man, he closes the shrine of the heart and by doing so he is keeping God away from himself and others. Nation is set against nation, race against race, religion against religion. Therefore to-day more than ever before there is a need for the realization of this philosophy. What we need is not that all religions should become one nor all races; that can never be. But what is needed is undivided progress, and making ourselves examples of love and tolerance.
By talking about it, by discussing and arguing it will not come, but by self-realization, by making ourselves the examples of what should be, by giving love, taking love, and showing in our action gentleness, consideration and the desire for service for the sake of God in whom we can all unite beyond the narrow barriers of race and creed.
6. Lacunae in this lecture’s shorthand MS have prevented a complete and entirely consistent rendition of the original wording.
For the sake of completeness: the original shorthand-in addition to the advice against subjective enthusiasm for wakening those who are still meant to sleepcontains the following paragraph:
`In this instance he is most busy in this work. If not he would have said, “Well, I experience it, I enjoy it, is that not enough? Why must I trouble with others who stand before me like stone walls?” Such people have toiled and toiled their whole life and they have been exiled, flayed, martyred and crucified, and when they have awakened to a certain sphere where they enjoy and experience harmony and peace, they wish that others also experience it, may enjoy it in the same way. It is not much different from one who drinks and wants the other to be as happy as he is in drinking. It is exactly the same.’