by Hazrat Inayat Khan
WHEN ONE inquires deeply into life one finds that what all souls seek is to know the meaning of life. The scientist looks and searches for it in the realm of science and the artist finds it in his art. Whatever different interests people may have, their only real inclination is to find the meaning of life. This shows that it is the nature of the soul and that the soul has come here for this purpose, that it may realize and understand the meaning of life. Thus in either a material or a spiritual way every soul is striving for what it longs for all the time, each in its own particular way.
One can see this in the behavior of an infant. The desire of an infant to look at a thing, to tear it to pieces and see what is inside it, shows that it is the soul’s desire to look into life, to understand life. No doubt the effect and the influence of life on earth are intoxicating. And through this intoxication man becomes so absorbed in himself and his own interests that he so to speak loses the way, the way, which is inborn in him. Not only in man, but even in the lower creation one finds the same attitude. In animals, in birds, the deepest desire is not looking for food or seeking for a comfortable nest. The deepest tendency is the wish to understand the nature of life. And this tendency culminates in man. A child will continually ask his parents, ‘What does this mean?’ and this shows a continual longing to know the meaning of life, a longing which continues all through life.
What does this teach us? It teaches us the principle that the source and goal of the universe are one and the same, and that the Creator created it all in order to know His own creation. But how does the Creator see and understand His creation? Not only in its highest and deepest aspect, but also through every thing and every being He is continually knowing and understanding His creation. For instance if a person should ask, ‘What is art? Is it not made by man?’ I would answer, ‘Yes, but made by God also, through man.’ And if that is so, then what is this whole mechanism of the universe doing? It is working. Working for what purpose? Working for the understanding of itself.
And what is this mechanism of the world. Is it living or is it dead? All that we call living is living, and all that we call dead is living too. It is for our convenience that we say ‘thing’ and ‘being.’ In reality there are no things. They are all beings. It is simply a gradual awakening from the witnessing aspect to the recognizing aspect. And no science, however material, will deny the truth of this. For the truth is to be realized from all things, from religion, from philosophy, from science, from art, from industry. The only difference is that one takes a shorter way and the other takes a longer way. One goes round about and the other takes a straight path. There is no difference in the destination. The only difference is in the journey, whether one goes on foot or whether one drives, whether one is awake or whether one is asleep and is taken blindly to the destination, not knowing the beauties of the way.
Destiny may be divided into two parts. One is the mechanism that activates the destiny, and the other part is the soul, which realizes this. Therefore the mechanism is the machine and the soul within it is the engineer who is there to work this mechanism and to produce by it what is to be produced. There are many methods and ways which man adopts in order to know and understand. And the mind is the vehicle, the tool, by the help of which he experiences life in the accomplishment of this purpose. In Sanskrit the mind is called Mana, from which the English word man is derived. And that means that man is his mind, not his body.
According to the readiness of its tool, the soul experiences and knows life. It is the condition of the mind, which enables the soul to see life clearly. The mind can be likened to water. When the water is troubled there is no reflection to be seen. When the water is clear then it shows the reflection. But in the pursuit of material gain, which is what he values most, man has become absorbed in that kind of life and has lost the benefit of life. As it is said in the Bible, ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’
When, as at the present time, one defines civilization as commercial or industrial progress, that becomes the ideal of every soul. And it becomes difficult for a soul to retain tranquillity in order to accomplish that purpose for which the soul was born. I do not mean by this that industrial or commercial development is not necessary for the life of man. Not at all, as long as it does not ruin or hinder the life’s purpose for which man was born. Otherwise in spite of all his progress he will have wasted his life, he will not have attained the purpose for which he was born.
There are superstitions in the East, and also in the West, that animals such as horses, dogs, cats, and birds, give warning when a person is about to fall ill or die, and many have found that there is some truth in these superstitions. Why is it then that man does not understand and perceive life as the animals do? The answer is that the animals live a more natural life. They are nearer to nature than man, who is absorbed in his artificial life.
So many of the things one thinks about and does and says are far from what is true, from what is natural. The more one can be at one with nature and at one with the deeper life, the more one realizes that what man does is to act continually against reality, not only when he does wrong or evil but even when he is doing good. If the animals can know this, man is even more capable of knowing it. And it is this knowledge alone which is the satisfaction of his life, not all the external things. As it is said in the Bible, ‘The spirit quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.’
Where is man’s wealth? It is in his knowledge. If his wealth is only in the bank and not in his knowledge he does not really possess it. It is in the bank. All desirable and great things, values and titles, position and possession, where are they? Outside? No, because outside is only that which one knows by the knowledge one has within. Therefore the real possession is not without but within. It is the self within, it is the heart which must be developed, the heart which must be in its natural rhythm and at its proper pitch. When it is tuned to its natural rhythm and pitch, then it can accomplish the purpose for which it is made.
There are five different ways by which the knowledge of life is perceived. One way is known to many of us, though to woman perhaps more than to man, and that is impression. Very often we come into a house or we meet a person, and before we have spoken to that person we get a kind of impression, either pleasant or unpleasant, a certain knowledge of that person’s being. Sometimes at the sight of a person we feel like saying, ‘Keep away’. Sometimes at the first glance we feel drawn to a person without knowing the reason. The mind does not know, but the soul does. It is not only that one gets an impression of a person one meets, but if one is sensitive to impressions one can also feel the impression of a letter that comes to one from a stranger. Many say that they can tell someone’s character by physiognomy or phrenology, but if they have not the sense of impression in their heart, even if they were to read a thousand books on physiognomy or phrenology they would never get the true impression. What does this show? It shows that true knowledge, from beginning to end, does not belong to the material realm.
There is another way, and that is the intuitive way, by which one knows before one does something whether it will be a success or a failure. The more intuitive people feel this before doing or undertaking anything.
But then there is a third way, and that is the dream or the vision. Some will say that dreams have a meaning, while others hold that there is no meaning in a dream. But in point of fact there is nothing in this world which has no meaning. There is no situation, no action, no word that has not its meaning. All that is done with intention and all that is done without intention has a meaning behind it, if one can only understand it.
The reason why one should see more clearly in a dream than when awake is that when a person is in a dream his mind is naturally concentrated. For when man is in his waking state all that is perceived through his senses calls his attention at every moment. No doubt the impression or intuition of a true dream is not manifested to every soul, and it is manifested to one soul more than to another. Neither does everyone live always in the rhythm in which he can receive impressions and intuitions. At different times his impression differs, and in accordance with his evolution he is able to experience the knowledge of life. The more evolved he is spiritually the more naturally he receives the knowledge of life from within.
The fourth way in which one can receive the knowledge of life is by what may be called inspiration. It may come to an artist, to a musician or to a poet. At the time when it comes he can write or compose or do something that he will afterwards be surprised at, and he will wonder if he really did it himself, or if it was done by someone else. If it had not been for inspiration that same poet might have striven for months on end and not have been able to write the verse, which he then wrote in a few minutes. What is the explanation of it? Is it by the development of his mind that a man receives inspiration? No, it is by the receiving quality of his mind, by the purity of his mind, his absorption in his art, the direction to which he has devoted his life. One might ask what would be the best way for an artist to receive inspiration: by waiting, by praying, or by continuing to work till inspiration comes? He should do all three together: wait for inspiration while working, and pray to God while waiting.
Where have the great souls whose inspirational works have become immortal, got them from? They have got them from inspiration. And how did they get this? They got it by forgetting themselves, by being absorbed in the object of their love. That is the meaning of sacrifice, sacrificing to the beauty of the ideal. One has to place the ideal before one, that is the way to get inspiration.
Souls get inspiration from outer life or from another person. In all names and forms there is a source of inspiration, if one only knew how to tap it. In point of fact, whether inspiration is received from outside or from within, it all comes from God. The only difference is that when it comes from within it is more direct. But the first step is to receive it from the outside.
All those who begin to receive inspiration receive it first from outer life. Man is created in such a way that he first looks outward. And then, when he is disappointed, when he cannot find all he wants in the outer life, he turns within. He wants to see if he can find it in the inner life, and thus he becomes connected with the source of inspiration, which is the Spirit of Guidance. And he who has once found the Spirit of Guidance will always be able to find it again if he keeps close to it. But when he goes astray, when the way of his life takes another direction, then he wanders away from the Spirit of Guidance.
And with still another step further there comes the realization, which may be called revelation. When the soul is tuned to that state then the eyes and the ears of the heart are open to see and hear the word that comes from all sides. In point of fact every atom of this world, either in heaven or earth, speaks, and speaks aloud. It is the deaf ears of the heart and the closed eyes of the soul which prevent man from seeing and hearing it. There is a verse of a Hindustani poet which says, ’0 self, it is not the fault of the divine Beloved that you do not see Him, that you do not hear Him. He is continually before you and He is continually speaking to you. If you do not hear it and if you do not see it, it is your own fault.’
It is for this purpose that every soul has been created and it is in the fulfillment of this that man fulfils the object of God. When the spark that is to be found in every heart, the spark that may be called the divine spark in man, is blown upon and the flame arises, the whole life becomes illuminated and man hears and sees and knows, and he understands. A Sufi poet says that every leaf of the tree becomes like a page of the sacred book, when the heart is open to read it and when the soul has opened its eyes.
THERE IS one aspect of life, which is known to us, our everyday life in which we are conscious of all that we do, and this aspect may be called the outer life. There is another part of our life of which we are very often unconscious and which may be called the inner life. To be without inner life is like being without an arm or a leg or an eye or an ear. But even that does not really illustrate the idea of the inner life. The reason is that the inner life is much greater and nobler and much more powerful than the outer life. Man gives great importance to the outer life, being absorbed in it from morning till evening and not being conscious of the other aspect. Thus all that matters to man is what happens to him in his outer life, and the occupations of his outer life keep him so absorbed that he has hardly a moment to think of the inner life.
The disadvantage of not being conscious of the inner life is incomparably greater than all the advantages that one can gain by being conscious of the outer life, for the inner life makes one richer, the outer life poorer. With all the riches and treasures that the earth can offer man is poor. And very often the richer he seems the poorer he is for the greater the riches, the more limitation he finds in his life. The inner life makes one powerful, whereas the consciousness of the outer life makes one weak because it is the consciousness of limitation. The consciousness of the inner life makes one powerful because it is the consciousness of perfection. The outer life keeps one confused. However intellectual or learned a person may be, his mind will never be clear, for his knowledge is based upon reasons which in turn are founded upon the outer things that are liable to change and destruction. That is why, however wise this person may seem to be his wisdom has limitations.
The inner life makes the mind clear, for it is that part of one’s being which may be called divine, the essence of life, the pure intelligence. And wherever the light of pure intelligence is thrown things become clear. Absorption in the outer life, without that which the inner life can give, makes one blind. All that one says, thinks, or does is based upon outer experiences. And one cannot realize to what extent the power gained by the inner life enables one to see through life. There is such a thing as belief in a third eye. In reality the third eye is the inner eye, the eye that is opened by one’s awakening to the inner life.
Inner life may also be called spiritual life. One can see it in the forest where it is the rain from above that makes the forest beautiful. This means that the forest alone does not have all that it needs, but that it needs something that comes from above: the light and the rain. It is the sun and the rain that make the forest complete. In the desert there is no rain, and therefore it is incomplete. There is the earth, but there is no water nor is there water from above. The water that gives life to the forest is not to be found in the desert. The desert is unhappy, and the man in the desert is unhappy too, looking for shade from the hot sun. For the desert is longing, and the man in the desert is longing too for something he cannot find. Whereas in the deep forest there is joy. There is inspiration, the heart is lifted up because the forest is a picture of the inner life-not just the earth, not just the trees and plants, but because something which it needs has been sent down to it. And so it is with man: man who is solely occupied with the things of the world is in the rnidst of the world, but he is in the desert. It is the inner life which produces in him, not artificial virtues and man-made qualities, but those virtues which can only arise from the inner life, and also the insight which makes the eyes see more than mortal eyes can see.
The question is, how are we to be sure that there is an inner life, what proof is there? And the answer is that there is not one moment in our life when we do not see the proof of the inner life. Only, we do not look for it. All the different means of communication such as telepathy and telephone and radio, all the new machines and inventions which make people marvel at what mankind has accomplished are, if man would only realize it, nothing but a poor imitation of what this human body is! Man is the center of joy, of happiness, of peace, of power, of life, and of light. Man is a phenomenon far greater than any other mechanism, if only he had the patience and perseverance to explore himself. But what we do is to explore others. We think it is very important to analyze things, and the analysis of human nature we call psychology. Man analyzes everyone except himself and therefore true psychology is never reached. Because the real psychology is to analyze oneself first, and when one’s self is analyzed, then one is able to analyze others.
If man only knew that besides what he says or does or thinks, and the effects which are manifest to him, there is another kind of action which also creates things in a person’s life and which makes his world! And perhaps in a week or in a month, or perhaps in a year or ten years, that which he has thus created one day comes before him as a world, as a world created by him. Such is the phenomenon of life. How insignificant a human being appears to be, just like a drop in the sea, yet what effects does he create by every thought, by every feeling, by every act! And what influence they spread what influence they have on the lives of others! If one only realized this one would find that the results of all one thinks, says, or does in the outer life are incomparably smaller than the results produced by what one thinks, says, or does in the inner life. Thus the consciousness of the inner life makes man more responsible than that of the outer life. The responsibilities of the outer life, compared with the responsibilities of the inner life, are much smaller. For the moment they might appear to be heavy burdens, but they are nothing compared with the responsibilities one has in one’s inner life. If one sees what one creates, the responsibility becomes much greater. There is a saying in the East that the donkey seems to be much happier than the Chakor, which is supposed to be the most intelligent bird. Man seems quite pleased in outer life, because his responsibilities are less, his outlook small, his horizon narrow, and what he sees of the world is very little. But when the horizon is opened up, when the heart has penetrated through the barrier that divides the here and the hereafter, when he begins to see behind the veil and all that appears on the surface becomes a. screen behind which something else is hidden, then he experiences life quite differently.
The view of the one who stands on top of the mountain is quite different from the view of the one who stands at its foot. Both are human beings, both have the same eyes, but their horizons are different. Inner life, therefore, means the widening of the horizon and the change in direction of seeing. A mystic is often called a seer. And a great Yogi has said, ‘In order to see what is before you, you must first see within yourself.’ This means that within oneself there is a mirror, and it is that mirror which may be called the inner world, the inner life. It is in this mirror that all that is before one is reflected. When the eyes are looking outward one turns one’s back to the mirror, which is inside. But when the eyes are turned inward then one sees reflected in this mirror all that is outside. By this process all seeing becomes so clear and manifests to such fullness that compared with it the outer vision is a blurred or confused vision.
Two persons may live together for twenty-five years, for forty or for fifty years, and may still not be able to understand one another because of the lack of inner life. Yet the inner life would enable them to understand one another in a moment. When it is said that the twelve Apostles began to understand the language of all nations, did they learn the grammar of all nations at that moment? No, they learned the language of the heart. The language of the heart speaks more loudly than words can speak. If the ears of the heart were open to hear that language, outer words would not be necessary.
Humanity, in spite of all its progress, is still most limited. And the more one sees the limits of this progress the more one finds that it is because of the absence of inner life. When one reads in stories and histories of the past how many thieves and robbers and highwaymen there used to be, and how many murders were committed, one feels that it was a dreadful time. And yet when one thinks more deeply about it one sees that the situation at present is much worse and that the days of robbers and highwaymen were much milder. Then one or two persons in a village were murdered. Now towns and countries are swept away. War has swept away a large part of humanity. Imagine if another war comes what will be the result? They say people have progressed, that they are more thoughtful, but with all this thoughtfulness they seem only to have progressed in order to cause destruction and disasters to a much greater degree. Does it mean that humanity is not progressing? It is progressing, but in which direction? Downward.
It is a condition of taking the path of the inner life that one should first be free. If the feet are pinned and the hands are nailed by beliefs, by preconceived ideas, by one’s thoughts, then one stands still. One may have every desire to go on, but one is not going on, because one is holding on to something. When a person is holding on to certain beliefs, he is not going forward. And with many good qualities and high ideals, with religious tendencies, with a devotional temperament, with all the spiritual qualities that one may have, yet one can still remain standing in the same place. Either these ideas are holding the feet as if with nails, or the hands are somewhere holding on to the railing and not letting one go further.
What the inner life requires first is freedom to proceed. The old meaning of freedom is very little understood, although everyone is seeking freedom. So much is said about freedom, but one can be free of everything except one thing, and that is the self -the last thing one thinks about. The conception of freedom is quite different at this time, and although seeking freedom man is anything but free because he is caught in the trap of his own self. This is the greatest captivity there is. There he remains like the jinn in the bottle.
The inner life also requires sacrifice. Man considers that his learning, his qualifications, everything in his life, are there in order that he may gain everything he can in the world-power, possessions, wealth, anything-and believing that sacrifice is quite contrary to gain, he thus develops in himself a nature for gaming instead of sacrificing. Besides sacrifice requires a large mind, it requires deep sympathies, great love. Sacrifice is the most difficult thing. Inner life is something, which is within oneself. It has been called a chamber of divine light in one’s heart. The door remains closed until an effort is made to open it, and that effort is sacrifice. The Bible speaks of self-denial. But this is often misinterpreted. Self-denial according to general belief means denying oneself all that is good and beautiful, all that is worth attaining. But in reality self-denial does not mean denying oneself all that is good and beautiful, it means denying the self. And that is the last thing one wishes to deny. And the automatic action of this denial is to open the door to the inner life.
The sages who have realized the inner life have realized it by contemplative means. Man from his infancy is unaware of that something in him, which is more than a faculty. By experiencing life only through the outer sense this faculty, which is the faculty of inner life, becomes closed through not being used, and this is just as if the door of a chamber of joy and light and life were closed. And as from infancy one has not experienced the joy and life and light of this chamber, which may be called a celestial chamber in the heart of man, one remains unaware of it.
Nevertheless one may sometimes have this feeling unconsciously. And sometimes when one is deeply touched, when one has suffered deeply, when life has shown its hideous side, or after an illness, or by the help of meditation, this feeling which is unconsciously working as a longing to unfold itself, becomes manifest. In what way? In love of solitude, in sympathy for others, in a tendency towards sincerity, in the form of inspiration coming from all that is good and beautiful. It may manifest in the form of emotion, love, affection, in the form of inspiration, of a revelation, of a vision, or as art, poetry, or music. In whatever form one allows it to express itself, or with whatever one happens to be occupied, it begins to manifest in that form.
Everything becomes spiritual once this door of the chamber of the heart is open. If a man is a musician, then his music is celestial. If he is a poet, then his poetry is spiritual. If he is an artist, then his art is a spiritual work. Whatever he may do in life that divine spirit manifests. He need not be a religious person, he need not be a philosopher, he need not be a mystic. It is simply that what was hidden in him and thereby was keeping his life incomplete begins to manifest to view, and that makes his life perfect. That enables a man to express life in its fullness. Every attempt made today to better the condition of humanity through politics, education, social reconstruction, and many other ways, all these, however excellently planned, can only be fulfilled if this something which was missing is added to them. But in the absence of this, all the efforts of many, many years will prove to be futile. For this something which is missing is the most essential of all. The world cannot remain a world without rainfall. The world cannot progress without a spiritual stimulus, a spiritual awakening. It need not be the first thing, it is natural that it should not be so. But it should at any rate be the last thing, and if it is not even the last then it is most regrettable.
How are the meditative souls awakened, how do they experience the inner life? In the first place the adept values his object of attaining the inner life more than anything else in life. As long as he does not really value it, so long he remains unable to attain it. That is the first condition: that man should value the inner life more than anything else in the world, more than wealth, power, position, rank, or anything else. It does not mean that in this world he should not pursue the things he needs. It means he should value most something which is really worth while.
The next thing is that when one begins to value something one thinks it is worth while giving time to it. For in the modern world it is said that time is money, and money today means the most valuable thing. So if a person gives his precious time to what he considers most worth while, more so than anything else in the world, then that is certainly the next step towards the inner life. And the third thing is that the condition of his mind should be relieved of that pressure which is always in a person’s heart, when he thinks that he has not done what he ought to have done towards his fellow-men, be it father, mother, child, husband, wife, brother, friend, or whoever it is.
If that pressure is troubling the mind, then that mind is not yet ready. A person may give his valuable time to contemplation, to a spiritual life, yet at the same time his mind is disturbed, his heart is not at rest, for he feels he has not done his duty, he has a debt to pay to someone. It is an essential point that the adept takes care that any debt to be paid in life does not remain unpaid. When we look at life, is it not a market-place? The give and take is to be seen in everything, and if one does not pay now the bill will be presented afterwards. And if one thinks that one has gained something without paying, in the end one will realize that one has to pay with added interest.
Man does not know in what form he has to pay, nor in what form he does the taking. Very often he does not know when he takes or what he gives. But every moment of his life is occupied in give and take, and all the injustice of the world adjusts itself in the end. A clear understanding of this condition will show that it all balances. If there were no balance the world would not exist. This ever-moving world, turning round and round, what holds it, what makes it stable? It is balance. And not only the world, but everything else too: the whole of life in its own way. Being occupied by our worldly life, we are not aware of that balance, but when the inner eye is open and one sees life clearly, one will find that there is a continual balancing process going on, and that we as particles of one mechanism are constantly busy keeping this balance. When once the heart is at rest through the feeling that one has paid, or is paying, one’s debts, then one comes to a balanced condition in life. Then the heart, which is likened to the sea, is no longer restless as it is during the storm, but like calm, undisturbed water; and it is that condition which enables man to experience inner life more fully.
Do we not often notice the disturbing presence of people who have not got that tranquillity, that peace, that calmness? It is a terrible influence upon themselves and a disastrous influence upon others . One can realize this in one’s everyday life. One may be sitting in an office with someone, one may be standing in a certain place, one may be staying in a house where other people are, and one can realize by their atmosphere whether they have reached a state of balance, tranquillity, calm, and peace, or whether they are out of rhythm, unbalanced. This shows that what we call happiness and unhappiness is a question of a balanced or an unbalanced state. When a person’s mind and heart are in the state in which they ought normally to be, he need not seek for happiness. He is happiness itself, he radiates happiness. When that state is disturbed he is unhappy. It is not that unhappiness comes to him, but that he himself is unhappiness.
The Hindu idea is that self means happiness, that the depth of the self is happiness. This means that all this outer structure, the physical body, the breath, the senses of perception, all of which help to make man, are most important; but his inner being can be called by only one name, and that is happiness. It is natural, therefore, that everyone should be seeking for happiness, though not knowing where to get it and always seeking for it outside himself. And instead of finding the happiness, which is his, own he tries to get the happiness of another. But what happens is that he can neither get happiness from another nor can he give it. By trying to get it from another he causes sorrow to that one, and the sorrow comes back to him.
The robbers who go into other people’s houses to steal are few in number, but there are many robbers of happiness, and they seldom know that they are robbing others of their happiness. The robber of happiness is more foolish than the robbers who go after wealth, for when they are successful, they at least get something. But the robber of happiness never gets anything. He only gives sorrow to others.
Inner life therefore, must not be considered, as many have thought it to be a life, which is spent in the forest or in a cave of the mountain or in retirement. Naturally certain people need to seek solitude-those who prefer to be away from the turmoil of the world, whose inspiration is stimulated and who find themselves by being alone. But it is not a necessity for attaining happiness. One can be in the midst of the world and yet stand above the world. Life has many woes, and the only way to get rid of them is to stand above them all; and this can be attained by one thing and one thing only-by the discovery of the inner life.
IT IS by the inner life that self-realization is achieved. Life can be divided into two parts. One part is attending to our worldly needs, toiling, earning money, serving in different capacities in order to live ourselves and to provide for our families. That is one side of life. And the other side is realizing that there is something besides the worldly life, that there is a higher ideal, a greater happiness, a deeper insight into life, and a greater peace. This is another life. By inner life I do not at all mean a religious life. For a man may be religious and at the same time very worldly.
There is a story about Aurangzeb’s reign in India, that he issued an imperial command that everyone in his dominions must attend all the five prayers of the faithful. At that time, a sage lived there, although no one knew that he was a sage as he lived in solitude. This sage also received the command, but he forgot it or did not think about it . The police were sent to bring him to the house of prayer, and he came willingly and joined the congregation. When the priest who leads the prayers began his recitation the sage ran away from the congregation almost at once. The police went after him, and he was brought before the judge, for he had not only violated the law but disturbed the whole congregation. He said to the judge, ‘I would like to know what the leader of the prayers meant the congregation to do.’ The judge said, ‘Religion teaches that your thoughts should be united with the thought of your leader.’ The sage said, ‘But that is what I did! The teacher’s thought went to his house. He had forgotten his keys at home. So I could not remain in the house of prayer. I ran for the keys.’ In the end it was proved that it was so. He was a great sage and to him was known all that was going on in the minds of others.
To be religious, to be orthodox, or to be pious does not necessarily mean to be spiritual. To be spiritual is something quite different from being ‘prayerful,’ as one calls it.
The question is, how does one proceed in the inner life? The inner life can be considered as a journey to a desired goal. And there are certain conditions on this journey, which one should first know. In the first place the journey is hard because there are no electric trains. It is a journey we have to make on foot. This at once changes the character of the journey and makes it different from the journeys we are accustomed to. There is no modern equipment, and we have forgotten how one journeyed in the past. To go through the wilderness, over mountains, to swim rivers in order to get to the other side, to risk all sorts of dangers on the way, that is the kind of journey we have to make in spiritual attainment. The outer journeys are made easy today, but the inner journey has kept its difficulties.
The first condition of this journey is conscientiousness in regard to the customs on the way. For instance when one has to walk long distances one gives up all unnecessary burdens. We have to give up so many things in life in order to make this journey. We unconsciously make our life heavy for ourselves. And while outwardly it may not seem difficult, yet when we begin to journey inwardly we realize how difficult it is to carry a heavy load. When we have to travel on foot every little responsibility we take upon us, and every little habit, weigh upon us, little things which in everyday life we would never think about. We have become more and more addicted to comforts, more and more intolerant towards environment, more and more sensitive to jarring influences. Instead of becoming stronger we have become weaker every day, so that when it comes to journeying and facing the difficulties which we find on the journey, it becomes very difficult indeed.
Everyone at all periods of the world’s history who has tried to proceed on the spiritual path has met with difficulties. The moment he starts on this path he has more difficulties than the average person. From all sides come greater and greater temptations on his way, temptations, which perhaps had never come before. The moment he takes this path temptations of all kinds come. He is tested and tried at every step he takes. Besides, if he does not keep himself in hand, he is taken to task very seriously. Others are not taken to task so seriously, and this is natural. When a child breaks a glass one overlooks it, but when the maid does it one asks why she did it, why was she not more careful. For a grown-up person is responsible. The one who takes the spiritual path is responsible. That is why more is exacted from him. He has to answer for everything he does, either to himself or to life.
We have many debts to pay in our lives, debts we do not always know of. We only know our money debts, but there are many others: of the husband to his wife and of the wife to her husband. Of the mother to the child and of the child to the mother. The debts to pay to our friends and acquaintances, to those who stand above us and to those who are dependent upon us. There are so many different kinds of debts we have to pay. And yet we never think about them. In ancient times even those not taking the spiritual path, for instance noblemen and warriors, had the law of chivalry, and there were strict rules about paying one’s debts. The ancient people thought, ‘My mother has brought me up from infancy, she has sacrificed her sleep, rest, and comfort for me and loved me with a love which is beyond any other love in this world, and she has shown in life that mercy to me which is the compassion of God.’ The child thought a great deal about the debt it owed to its mother.
Someone went to the Prophet Mohammad and asked him, ‘Prophet, you said there is a great debt to be paid to one’s mother. Suppose that I gave my mother all that I have earned, would that pay her back?’ The Prophet said, ‘No, not in the least. If you served her your whole life, even then you could not pay the debt of what she has done for you in one day. She brought you up with the thought always in her mind that even when she was gone you would live. She has not only given her service and heart and love to you, but also her life. That you will live after her, that has been all her thought. And what is your thought? If you are a kind and good person your thought is, “So long as my poor mother is living, I will take care of her to the end. One day she will die, and then I shall be free.” It is a different thought from her thought.’
This is only one example. But there are many other debts, to our neighbors, to strangers, to those who depend upon us or who expect from us some help, some counsel, a word of advice, some service. They are all debts we have to pay. There is also much to pay to God, but God can forgive. The debt to the world, however, must not be forgotten before entering upon the spiritual path. The spirit feels a great release when it pays its debts as it goes further. Do people think of these simple things nowadays? As soon as a person starts thinking about spiritual matters the first question is what occult books shall he read in order to obtain the key to the path. He never thinks about these little things and how much depends upon them. But there is a condition that must be fulfilled, and that condition is our consideration for every soul.
We may ask, ‘What if they don’t deserve it, what if they are not worthy of it?’ It is not our concern whether they deserve it or not. We should not think about it. When there is money to be paid to a money-lender it must be paid whether he deserves it or not. And so it is on the spiritual path. Those we have to pay we must pay, in the way of attention, service, respect. All that is due to anyone, we have to pay. In the first place, apart from spiritual realization, we feel such a release at having paid our debt to everyone to whom it is due . It opens for us the light of the soul, straightening and illuminating the way, so that the confusion one always feels when striving to progress spiritually disappears.
We can now understand what is the next step on the spiritual path. It is to develop our tendency to trust. A person who wants to go along the spiritual path should have a greater desire to trust than the average man. No doubt the world is going from bad to worse today. Promises have no value. A ten-cent stamp is valued more than a word of honor. Since this is the state of the world it is difficult for a person to develop the tendency to trust. But when we begin to tread the spiritual path trust is the first thing necessary. Very often a person says, ‘I would like to trust people, but people are not worthy of trust.’ It may be practical to think about it like this in business, but when it comes to another kind of life, social life or the life of spiritual attainment, we should not look at it in this way. We can only develop the tendency to trust others by being ready to undergo every loss.
It is not always foolish to trust. On the contrary, it is the wise one who trusts more than the foolish one. Besides it is not a weakness to trust, it is a strength. The one who has less trust is weak, and every day makes him weaker. The one who does not trust people outside will soon not be able to trust his own relatives, his own friends. And finally that distrust develops to such an extent that he does not trust himself. That is the end.
There is a story of a great Sufi who in his early life was a robber. Once there was a man travelling through the desert in a caravan and he had a purse full of coins. He wanted to entrust them to someone because he heard that robbers were about.
He looked around and some way off he saw a tent, and a man was sitting there, a most distinguished looking man. So he said, ‘Will you please keep this purse, for I am afraid that if the robbers come they will take it.’ The man said, ‘Give it to me, I will keep it.’ When the traveler came back to the caravan he found that robbers had come and taken all the money of his fellow-travelers, and he thanked God that he had given his purse to someone to keep. But when he returned to that tent he saw all the robbers sitting there and among them was this most dignified man dividing the spoils. He realized that this was the chief of the robbers and thought, ‘I was more foolish than all the others, for I gave my money to a thief! Who can be more foolish than that!’ And he was frightened and backed away. But as soon as the thief saw him he called to him and said, ‘Why are you going, why did you come here?’ He said, ‘I came here to get my purse back, but I found that I had given it to the very band from which I wanted to protect it.’ The chief said, ‘You gave me your purse, is it not so? You entrusted it to me, and it was not stolen from you. Did you not trust me? How can you expect me to take it from you? Here is your purse, take it.’ This act of trustworthiness impressed the robbers so much that they followed the example of their chief. They gave up robbery. It moved them to the depths of their hearts to feel what trust means. And in his later days this chief accomplished great spiritual work. This shows that by distrusting people we perhaps avoid a little loss, but the distrust that we have sown in our heart is a still greater loss.
The third step in the inner life is to find someone whose guidance we can trust. We might find a spiritual teacher as great as an angel, and yet if we have no trust, he can do very little for us. Besides if we found in our life a spiritual guide who did not prove trustworthy, our loss would be smaller than the loss of the teacher. The loss of that teacher would be far greater. Nevertheless, the whole of the spiritual progress under the guidance of a teacher depends upon the extent of our trust in his guidance. Without this trust all the teachings and practice of occult laws will amount to nothing.
People seeking after truth should know the place of the teacher in their lives, the importance of a spiritual guide and of his guidance. They should value it and consider it sacred . If that knowledge is not there, then nothing is there and they are like lost sheep. Moreover the tendency of going from one thing to another, from one teacher to another, is an offence to the teacher, to God, and to oneself. In this way one accomplishes nothing.
Many wonder why it should be necessary to seek the guidance of someone else in order to arrive at spiritual attainment. If a person is self-sufficient, if he is satisfied and guided by the light from within he need not seek any such personality. But I have never seen a child born who had already learnt how to speak and who never needed help from his mother or father. And just as it is necessary for an infant to learn how to speak from someone, so also one must learn the heavenly language from someone who knows it.
In my youth my interest in the spiritual path was great, and I came in contact with the teacher by whom I was destined to be initiated. And one thing my teacher said was, ‘No matter how great a teacher comes, once you have received this initiation, this blessing from my hands, your faith may not change.’ Having had a modern education I wondered what to think about this. I did not doubt but I asked myself what does it mean? But with every step further in my life I found out more surely that this alone is the right way. When the mind is disturbed, when a person is distrustful and he goes first to one teacher and then tries another method, what can one find in him? There is no ideal there. In a university one may study first under one professor and then under another, and so on. That is all right for a university; it is a different kind of education. But when it comes to spiritual education, idealism is necessary.
In a village there was once a young peasant who was known to be a great seeker after truth. A great teacher came to that village, and it was announced that for whoever came into the presence of this teacher, the doors of heaven would be opened, and he would be admitted without having to account for his deeds. The peasants were very excited about this, and they all went to the teacher except this young man. The teacher said, ‘Everyone from the village came to me except that young man. I shall go to him myself.’ So he went to the cottage of this young man and said, ‘What is it? Is it that you are antagonistic to me, or that you doubt my knowledge? What is it that has kept you from coming to see me?’ And he said, ‘There was nothing that kept me back except this one thing: I heard the announcement that everyone in your presence would be admitted to heaven without question. And I do not seek this admission, because although I had a teacher once I do not know where he is, in heaven or in hell. If I went to heaven and he was in the other place it would be terrible for me! Heaven would become hell for me. I would rather be with my teacher wherever he is.’
That is the ideal of the seekers after truth about their spiritual teacher. And that idealism enables them to progress and gain the confidence of their teacher. Today the tendency is different. A pupil begins to weigh and measure the teacher before he has started on the spiritual path. He wants to know whether the teacher fits in with his idea or whether he does not fit in, and if the teacher does not fit in with his idea he does not come to learn. But when it comes to teaching it is quite different. They say they are seeking a teacher, but they believe they are teachers themselves. It is this attitude which is keeping thousands of people back.
It is not only the faith and devotion one has for one’s teacher which counts, but also the effacing of one’s self, because the teacher’s work is like that of a goldsmith who melts the gold and then makes an ornament out of it. Therefore the teacher has to test and to try, to mould and to melt before he can use the pupil for a better purpose. If a pupil cannot give himself to that molding, then he will have a difficult time.
One might ask if it is not weakness to be so passive. Yes, if one were passive from weakness it would be weakness. But if one is passive from will-power then it is strength, for it requires great strength to dominate one’s own self. One’s self has a silent influence as is shown in the story of Daniel. It was the power of his self that tamed the lion. But it is easy to tame a lion compared with the taming of one’s self. One’s self can be horrible, more horrible than a lion. One may think, ‘How I have melted, how gentle, how thoughtful I have become!’ But then there may be moments when one acts quite differently, to one’s own astonishment. Really to dominate the crude nature is a melting process. Then when the gold is melted one can turn it into any ornament one likes.
And when we go still further on the spiritual path it becomes the path of power, of concentration. The mind is just like a restive horse that will not stay quiet, that cannot be controlled. Once a person begins to practice concentration he finds an even greater difficulty in making his mind obey. As long as he does not try he is unaware of this, but the moment he begins he realizes how very difficult it is to concentrate the mind.
In concentration lies the secret of all things. What is meant by concentration is the change of identification of the soul, so that it may lose the false conception of identification and identify itself with the true self instead of the false self. This is what is meant by self-realization. Once a person realizes his self by the proper way of concentration, of contemplation, of meditation, he has understood the essence of all religions. Because all religions are only different ways that lead to one truth, and that truth is self-realization.
IT IS the lack of knowledge about the interdependence of life within and without which causes man to live in confusion, in a mist. One asks for the cause of everything, and one does not get to know the cause. The first thing to understand in connection with this subject is that an individual is a mechanism as well as an engineer. There is a part of his being which is merely a mechanism, and there is another part, which is an engineer. If the former dominates and governs that part in him which is the engineer, then that person becomes like a machine, working under the influence of all that he comes in touch with. The influences of both the finer world and the grosser world, influences of all kinds acting upon that person, keep him every moment of the day in working order, whether these influences act in his favor or to his disadvantage, whether against his will or according to his will. If it is according to his will he calls it a happy chance. If it is against his will it is a misfortune. Will has an important part to play in life, but when the will is hidden under that mechanism it has no more power over life. The mechanism works automatically, influenced by different forces coming from the finer and the grosser worlds.
Why are there in the world so many people who believe that something is wrong with them, and so very few who think that all is well? Even among ten thousand people there is hardly one who will say, ‘All is well with me.’ It is very easy to blame destiny and to call it misfortune or ill luck, but it cannot be remedied by calling it by these names. On the contrary, it grows with the years. Besides the more the mechanism gains hold of a person’s life, the more that part which is called the engineer is suppressed. It never gets a chance. A person with only a little will, with only a few desires and wishes, is pushed downward by the force of this automatic working in life. He calls this automatic working ‘conditions’ or ‘circumstances.’ He may see some reason for it, and he may find an answer when he looks at it from a logical point of view, but it is never wholly satisfactory. It does not give the fullest satisfaction because there remains the feeling that underneath there is some other solution and some other meaning in every problem.
Everything one sees, hears, or perceives through any sense or experience has a distinct and definite effect upon one’s soul, upon one’s spirit. What one eats, what one drinks, what one sees, what one touches, the atmosphere in which one lives, the circumstances one faces, the conditions one goes through, all these have a certain effect upon one’s spirit. Whether a person eats grosser food or finer and purer food is manifested outwardly. Even if one does not heed it, it is manifested outwardly. The body shows the nature it has inherited from the earth to which it belongs. For the nature of this earth is such that when it receives the seed of a flowering plant it produces flowers, and when the seed of a fruit-tree, it produces fruits. And when it receives the seed of poison it produces poison.
Sometimes benefit is derived from bad experiences, while it may happen that good experiences result in a loss. Sometimes out of good experiences something good is received, and out of bad experiences something bad. For instance, when a person has had a bad experience in friendship, and because of it there has developed in him a kind of coldness, a pessimistic view of life, a kind of indifference, and he shows contempt, hatred, prejudice, or unwillingness to associate with anybody else, this means that he has received the bad effects of his experience.
There is another person who through having been disappointed has learned something, has learned how to be tolerant, how to be forgiving, how to understand human nature, how to expect little from others and how to give more to others, how to forget himself, and how to be open to sympathize with another. It is one and the same experience that makes one man go to the North and another to the South. The effect of the experiences of life is different upon each person. A certain drug or herb has a certain effect, favorable to one and unfavorable to another. And so it is with the outer experiences of life.
Man’s contact with the outer world is such that there is a continual mechanical interchange going on. Every moment of his life he is partaking of all that his senses allow him to receive. Therefore very often the man who is looking for faults in others, who is looking for evil, even though he may not be a wicked person, is yet partaking unknowingly of all that is evil. Once deceived, a person is always on the look-out; even with someone who is honest he will look for deceit, as he holds that impression within himself. Thus a hunter who comes from the forest where he has just received a blow from a lion, will shrink even from the caress of his mother. And when we consider how many impressions, agreeable and disagreeable, we receive from morning till evening, we realize how someone may become wicked without meaning to. For in point of fact nobody is born wicked. Although the body belongs to the earth, yet the soul belongs to God, and from above man has received nothing but goodness. With the wickedest person in the world, when one can touch the deepest depths of his being one finds nothing but goodness there. So if there is any such thing as wickedness or badness, it is only what man has acquired. And he has not acquired it willingly but simply because he is open to all impressions, as it is natural for every man to be open to impressions.
The science of physiognomy or phrenology goes as far as saying that what one acquires helps to form the different muscles and bones of the features and the head, according to what one’s mind has taken in. It is written in the Qur’an that every part of man’s being will bear witness to his actions; and the words of Christ, ‘Where your treasure is there will your heart be also,’ mean that man creates in himself all that he values. No doubt when a person is an admirer of beauty, he will always partake of all that he sees as beauty: beauty of form, of color, of line, and beyond that the beauty of manner and attitude, which is a greater beauty still.
Every race and every creed has its principles of right and wrong, but there is one fundamental principle of religion in which all creeds and all people can meet, and that is to see beauty in attitude, in action, in thought, and in feeling. There is no action with a stamp on it saying that it is right or wrong, but what we think wrong or wicked is really that which our mind sees as such because it is without beauty. All the great ones who have come into the world from time to time to awaken humanity to a greater truth, what did they bring? They brought beauty. It is not what they taught, it is what they were themselves. Words seem inadequate to express either goodness or beauty. One can speak of it in a thousand words, and yet one will never be able to express it. For it is something which is beyond words, and the soul alone can understand it. And the one who will always follow the rule of beauty in his life, in every little thing he does, will always succeed. And he will be able to discriminate between right and wrong and between good and bad.
We are placed in the world in such a condition that we are always subject to outer influences. It is as if a soul were thrown into life susceptible to being moved to the South, North, East, or West depending absolutely on the way the wind blows. The soul turns accordingly. If there were not this little spark in our soul which may be called the engineer, and which we recognize as free will, we would never realize for one moment that we are beings. There would be no difference between things and beings. And the more we realize the existence of will in us and are conscious of it, the more we are able to stand firm in all winds. From whichever side the wind comes we can stand against it.
Even from a material point of view the strength, which enables a person to stand on the earth, on this ever-moving earth, is not his mechanical body. It is his will. If he lost his will which holds his body man could not stand on the earth. Not knowing what the will is nor where it is, we very often overlook its existence in us and become absorbed in the causes that are outside us, causes of all the things that bring us joy and distress. The outer conditions move the spirit, and the condition of the spirit moves the outer conditions of life. Never, therefore, be surprised that good luck and ill luck rise and fall. Both are directed by the will behind them. But man, accustomed to look at everything according to logic and reason sees them in a different form from what they actually are. The saints and the wise therefore wish to find this faculty which is called the will. And on finding it they work with it. And when one becomes able to work with it properly one gains mastery over it.
Very often a thinking person asks whether there is freewill or destiny, as it seems to him that these two cannot both exist at the same time. It is with them as with light and darkness: in reality there is no such thing as darkness. There is less light and more light. Only when they are compared do we distinguish them as light and darkness. In the same way one can look at freewill and destiny: that destiny is always at work with freewill, and freewill with destiny. They are one and the same thing. It is a difference of consciousness. The more one becomes conscious of one’s will, the more one sees that destiny works around it and that destiny works according to it. And the less conscious one is of that will, the more one finds oneself subject to destiny. In other words, either a person is a mechanism or an engineer. But if he is a mechanism then in him there is a spark of engineer, and if he is an engineer then the mechanism is a part of his being.
In spiritual realization we do not need to renounce things. Self-denial as described in the Bible has a different meaning: it means to deny one’s self its wrong conception of itself, to take that wrong conception away from it. That is true self-denial. When man once recognizes that part of him which is called will as a divine spark in his heart, and blows on it in the hope of turning it into a flame and then into a blaze, it is he who gives himself life. A life, which may be, called the birth of the soul.
One cannot say that there is no destiny. There is the plan of an individual, and there is the plan, which is the divine plan, although mostly the plan of an individual is not really different from the plan of God. It is not true, however, that destiny does not change. As we change our plans so the Creator changes His plans also.
Everything we make inspires us to complete it. We may make a wrong thing or a right thing, a good thing or a bad thing. But its effect upon us will be that we shall wish to complete it in some way or other. If we create ill luck for ourselves we complete it. We may be against it but still we make it complete. That is the tendency of man: to complete what he has made. Often he does not know this, but when the will is hidden by the mind he sees himself in the hand of conditions. Then what little power his will exerts is used to fulfil the demands of the conditions around him, and to complete that destiny which may be called good luck or ill luck.
It is in the consciousness of the free will and in the understanding of that definite plan which one really wishes to complete, to fulfil, that one can find life’s ultimate purpose.
VERY often spiritual people in speaking about interest and indifference give preference to indifference. And many who have not reached that stage begin to wonder whether interest or indifference is preferable. Very often people even lose their interest because they think that in principle indifference is the better thing. It is however a subject that one should study: what is gained by interest, and what is accomplished by indifference, all there is to be gained by interest, and all there is to be lost by indifference. And one must find out if one wants to gain or lose. If one is hungering after gain one should have interest. But if one feels a relief in losing one should have indifference. In other words, either one should keep one’s coins locked in the safe, or throw them away and feel relieved. Both ways are all right. It is simply according to one’s wish.
Interest can be described as of four kinds. The first is interest in the self. Even if a person is not interested in anybody or anything he is certainly interested in himself. No person is loveless. When a person boasts that he loves no one then one can be sure that he loves himself. Love must be used somewhere. It can very well be used for oneself.
Then there is interest in another. It has a different character because it is chiefly based upon sacrifice.
The third interest is in science or art, or in the attaining of a material object, wealth or power or possessions. This interest has nothing to do with a special person. It is for something, which is to be gained, and this needs sacrifice also.
And the fourth interest is interest in spiritual things. That brings one again to interest in oneself but whereas the one interest is lower selfishness, the other is higher selfishness.
Indifference can also be divided into four classes: indifference to oneself as when a person says, ‘I do not care what people say; I am not interested in myself. I have other things on my mind.’ That is one kind of indifference.
And the next indifference is towards an individual or towards individuals. One does not mind whether one lives or dies, one does not mind what happens to one. One does not mind if they love or hate one, whether one profits by them or not. If they are happy, or if they are unhappy, it is all the same.
The third aspect of indifference is when one says, ‘What do I care whether I am rich or poor, whether my rank is high or low, whether I am this or that in the world. I am quite indifferent to it.’
Finally the person who attains to the fourth kind of indifference says, ‘What does it matter whether I pray or do not pray. Whether in the hereafter it is good or bad, what does it matter? Whether I am received in paradise or not, it matters little.’ That is the fourth kind of indifference.
Each person we see in everyday life has either the one or the other, interest or indifference: either one of the four kinds of indifference or one of the four aspects of interest mentioned above. One might ask which is desirable and which is undesirable. All that is natural is desirable, and all that is unnatural is undesirable. When one is interested in something but says, ‘I do not want it. I do not like to take an interest in it although it captivates me, although I am attracted by it,’ that is not right. Or when a person feels that he should look after himself, feed himself, look as nice as he can, and he says that in principle it is not good to pay attention to oneself, that also is wrong. When a person says that all earthly things are unimportant and valueless compared with spiritual ones and that one should not heed them, and yet at the same time is inwardly attracted by the world, then he should not say such things. His interest is preferable to his indifference. One should evolve naturally. One should not think that to take an interest in the things of the world is wrong because in principle it is greater to be without worldly interests. But if one is indifferent to them by nature, even if the whole world reproaches one for this it does not matter. One should say, ‘I am indifferent to your opinion too.’
Sometimes interest is required, sometimes indifference is profitable. For instance you may be in a situation where you want to accomplish something, and people laugh at you. Or perhaps people do not like you or are apt to criticize you. If you are interested in all these things you will lose your way. In that situation you should be indifferent. But if you have a business, and in order to promote it you have to see someone to get connections, all this will only succeed according to your interest. If you are indifferent about it you will defeat your own ends.
I was very much amused once when visiting a certain town in India. I went into a shop to buy something, and the owner was sitting cross-legged on some cushions, smoking his pipe. I asked him whether he had a certain thing I wanted. He thought for a minute or two and said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I asked, ‘Where can one get such a thing?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ He would not budge. He remained sitting quite comfortably where he was. I saluted him and thanked him for his kind silence and indifference.
It is all right, indifference, when one sits in meditation in the forest. But if one has a shop what is needed is interest.
People often say that indifference is a philosophy. There are Yogis, ascetics, adepts, mystics who say that indifference gives great power. But interest also gives great power. The whole of manifestation is a phenomenon of interest. All that we see in this world of art and science, the new inventions, the beautiful houses, all this world that man has made, where has it come from? It has come from the power of interest. The power of interest is behind it all, and it is that power which has enabled man to create it.
To go still further, it is the interest of the Creator, which has made this creation. Even the Creator would not have been able to create if there had been no interest. The whole creation and all that is in it is the product of the Creator’s interest, the Creator as Spirit, or as human being, as a living being.
It is the interest of the bird, which enables it to build its nest, and in the same way it is the interest of man, which enables him to make all that he makes. If man did not have this faculty of taking interest the world would never have evolved. This is why the secret of manifestation and the mystery of evolution are to be found in interest. But at the same time I do not deny the power of indifference. The power of indifference is a greater one still, provided that the indifference is not an artificial one. When a person chooses indifference only because he thinks it is a good principle, then it is not a virtue. And also there will be no power, for such a man is a captive: on one side he is drawn by interest, and on the other side he wants to show indifference. It is a mistake on his part, for he neither accomplishes anything by the power of interest, nor does he gain the advantages that can be derived from indifference.
Seen from the point of view of metaphysics, why is the power of indifference greater than the power of interest? Because although motive has a power, yet at the same time motive limits power. Man is endowed at birth with much greater power than he ever imagines, and it is motive that limits this power: any motive and every motive. Yet it is motive that gives man the power to accomplish things. If there were no motive there would be no power. But when one compares the original power of man with the power of motive, one will find it is just like the difference between the ocean and a drop. The motive reduces the power to a drop. Without a motive the power of the soul is like an ocean. But at the same time that ocean-like power cannot be used without a motive, while as soon as one wants to use it for a purpose it becomes less.
Indifference releases that limitation automatically. The limitation is broken, and the power automatically becomes greater. One can see this even in worldly things. There are people who run after money, and there are people after whom money runs. And they are not necessarily spiritual people. Sometimes they themselves do not realize their condition.
Some people are worshippers of beauty. There are others before whom beauty worships. There are some who wish to wield power, what little power they can get. And there are others upon whom power is heaped though they do not want it. We also see many examples in this world of how interest often limits man’s power, and how indifference makes it greater. But at the same time indifference should not be practiced unless it springs naturally from the heart. There is a saying in the Hindi language, ‘Interest makes kings, but indifference makes emperors.’
During the reign of Akbar there lived a great sage in Delhi. One day the emperor heard about him and wanted to go and pay him homage. This sage was sitting on a rock with legs stretched out and arms folded. The emperor had Birbal, his friend and minister, with him. And the latter did not like the way the emperor was received by this sage, for though the sage knew quite well that it was the emperor, he remained in the same position. So Birbal asked the sage sarcastically, how long he had been sitting in this way. And the answer of the sage was, ‘Since I folded my hands.’ This means, ‘As long as my hands were held out in need, my legs stood up. But since my hands do not ask for anything any more, my legs remain stretched out. It makes no difference if a king or emperor comes.’ In other words, ‘As long as I had interest, my legs were functioning, but since I have no interest any more I sit in the way I like to sit.’
That is the indifference of the sages. But how does this indifference come to them? How is it practiced? There comes a day in the life of a person, sooner or later, the day when he no longer thinks about himself, how he eats, how he is clothed, how he lives, how anybody treats him, if anybody loves him or hates him. Every thought that concerns himself leaves him. That day comes, and it is a blessed day when it comes to a man. That day his soul begins to live, to live independently, independently of fear. As long as man is bound by such thoughts as, ‘I am treated badly or wrongly. People do not love me or like me. People do not treat me justly or fairly,’ he is poor. Whatever his position in life, he is poor. The moment he begins to forget about it his power becomes great.
From a worldly aspect there may be a man who looks after himself, who is self-conscious, who thinks of himself, who concerns himself solely with himself. One can say that the ego counts in that person, but that is all that one can admire. Then there may be another person, who has outgrown that thought of self. You cannot help respecting him. The respect comes by itself, as soon as a person has emerged from that thought of self. And when a person has lost interest in holding, in possessing others, then his charm is such that without his holding or possessing all becomes his own. You can feel that person to be above the average in the world.
From the point of view of the sages no one really belongs to himself. In the East it is said that it displeases God when the parents think that their children are their own. God has created all creatures, and providence has brought about situations in which they are connected, as parents, as master, as servant, as friend, or in whatever relation it may be. And when we think that we possess, that we own or hold them, then God is displeased. And when human beings are not pleased either then they arrive at that stage where one does not possess or own anything or anyone. That also is a stage of indifference.
Besides this there is the stage of indifference where even rank and position and honor and power do not matter very much. For all these are also false claims. In order to occupy a certain position one has to deprive others of it. But when a position or rank no longer makes any difference then one has reached a still higher stage. And when one arrives at the stage where even paradise has no more attraction for one, when one is willing to meet whatever the hereafter may bring, then one’s point of view becomes the point of view of the sage, of the master.
A great Persian poet has said, ‘Be thou a friend within, and indifferent without.’ This manner is very becoming and yet very rare. It really is the manner of the madzub, but one need not go as far as the madzub to find this manner. Very often one finds it among friends and relatives. There may be a father, full of affection for his children, with great kindness and love, but yet without any outward expression of it. It is never expressed in a form one recognizes. One often finds this manner too among friends, who may feel great friendship and warmth but yet it is never apparent.
The question arises, how can one learn indifference? By learning interest. If in our life we do not learn interest, we cannot learn indifference. A person who is born with no interest in life is only an idiot. The child which does not hold on to the toy in its hands gives no promise of progress. It is natural for the child to hold on to the toy and claim it as its own. That is the first lesson it should learn. It is normal for a child to say the toy belongs to it and to hold on to it. In that way one develops interest, interest in one’s wellbeing and in one’s progress in life, so that one can accomplish one’s purpose in life. All this is natural and normal. It is interest in other people, in their affairs, in those one loves and likes, which develops the character.
By interest in things of the world one helps the world. By interest one contributes one’s service to the world. If one had no interest one would not do so, one would not render service to the nation or to the cause of the world.
Evolution goes on step by step, not hurrying. Indifference is attained by developing interest, and by developing discrimination in one’s interest. Instead of going backward one should go forward in one’s interest. Then one will find that a spring will rise naturally in one’s heart, when the heart has touched the zenith in the path of interest. Then the fountain of interest will break up gradually, and when this happens, one should follow this trend, so that in the end one may know what interest means, and what indifference means.
THE ROCKS, the trees, the animals, and man all in their turn show an inclination to seek perfection. The tendency of rocks is to form into mountains reaching upward. And the waves are ever reaching upward as if they were trying to attain something, which is beyond their reach. The tendency of birds is the same. Their joy is flying in the air and going upward. The tendency of many animals is to stand on their hind legs. And man, who is the culmination of creation has this tendency from infancy to stand up. An infant, who is not yet able to stand, moves his little hands and legs showing the desire to do so.
This all shows the desire for perfection. The law of gravitation is only half known to the world of science, which believes that the earth attracts all that belongs to it. It is true. But the spirit also attracts all that belongs to it, and that other side to the law of gravitation has always been known to the mystics. The law of gravitation is working from two sides: from the side of the earth which draws all that belongs to the earth, and from the side of the spirit which attracts the soul towards it. Even those who are unconscious of this law of gravitation are also striving for perfection, for the soul is being continually drawn towards the spirit. They are striving for perfection just the same. In the small things of everyday life a man is never satisfied with what he has. He always wants more and more, be it a higher rank, wealth, or fame. He is always striving for this.
This shows that the heart is like a magic bowl. However much you pour into it, it only becomes deeper. It is always found to be empty. The reason why man is never satisfied is that he is unconsciously striving for perfection. Those however who strive consciously after perfection have a different way. Nevertheless, each atom of the universe is meant to struggle and strive in order to become perfect one day. In other words, if a seer happens to be in the mountains he will hear the mountains cry continually, ‘We are waiting for that day when something in us will awaken. There will come a day of awakening, of unfoldment. We are silently awaiting it.’ If he went into the forest and saw the trees standing there they would tell him that they too were waiting patiently. One can feel it. The more one sits there the more one feels that the trees are waiting for the time when there will be an unfoldment. So it is with all beings. But man is so absorbed in his everyday actions and his greed that he seems to be unaware of that innate desire for unfoldment. It is his everyday tasks, his avariciousness, his cruelty to other beings, that keep him continually occupied, and that is why he cannot hear the continual cry of his own soul to awaken, to unfold, to reach upward, to expand, and to go towards perfection.
It is the nature of God to wish to realize His own perfection. An artist wishes to bring out the best that is in him. Therein lies his satisfaction. In every soul there is a longing to bring out, to bring to a culmination, what is waiting within. And as soon as it has realized this longing the purpose of that soul’s birth on earth has been fulfilled.
As is the nature of the creatures, so is the nature of the Creator. His satisfaction also lies in the realization of perfection. It was to this end that everything was created. By going through this entire process His nature was perfected, wherein lies the fulfillment of His own desire.
All that is in our nature is in the nature of God. The only difference is that God is great and we are small. We are limited and God is unlimited. We represent imperfection, God represents perfection. As we sleep God sleeps too. If we can be unconscious, there is also God’s unconsciousness. It is said in the Bible, that in God’s image was man created. If one wishes to study God, one must study man.
Is it possible for man to reach perfection? When one sees how limited man is one can never believe that he is entitled to perfection. There is no end to his limitations and he cannot even comprehend what perfection means. One becomes pessimistic when it is a question of perfection. Yet we read in the Bible the words of Christ, ‘Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ This shows that there is indeed a possibility of it. All philosophies, all religious and sacred teachings, are intended to bring about that
realization which is called perfection. Any philosophy or religion that does not show this path to perfection has been corrupted and fails. There is something missing in it. But if we look at religion as one and the same religion in all the ages, given by different masters of humanity yet inspired by one and the same Spirit of Guidance, one and the same light of wisdom, we see that they have all given the same truth. It is only when it is interpreted to suit people of different ages, periods, and races that it varies. In this way it differs. But the underlying truth of all religions is one and the same, and whenever a preacher teaches that perfection is not for man, he corrupts the teaching that is given in all the religions. He has not understood it. He professes a certain religion, but he does not understand it, for the main object of every religion is the striving toward perfection.
Many people seeking for knowledge say, ‘What we want in the world today is greater harmony, greater peace, better conditions. We don’t want spiritual perfection.’ But Christ has said in the Bible, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ The tendency of every man is to seek everything else first and to keep the kingdom of God for the last. That which should be sought first is left to the last. That is why humanity is not evolving towards perfection.
Occupations such as war and preparation for war cannot be called civilized occupations. It is a pity that in this period of civilization man should have wars. And yet we think that we are more civilized than the people of ancient times! Ages before Christ Buddha taught, ‘Ahimsa paramo dharma ha’-harmlessness is the essence of religion. And he taught people to be friendly even to the smallest insect. He taught them the brotherhood of all things. And we occupy ourselves with wars! Under the conditions existing today we can expect war anywhere in the world. Why is this so? It all comes from seeking perfection in the wrong way. Instead of seeking spiritual perfection earthly perfection is sought. But what the earth holds is limited, and when everyone struggles for earthly perfection the earth will not be able to answer the demands. Whether we get what we want or not, there will be a continuous struggle.
The main way of seeking for perfection is through religion. Religion has five different aspects, and its principal aspect and foundation is belief in God. What is God? To many the thought of a personal God does not appeal, though they might accept the idea of an abstract God. But they forget that something abstract cannot be a living being. You cannot call something abstract like space, God. Space is space. You can neither call space God, nor can you call time God. Space is a conception of our own, and in the same way time is a conception. In reality they do not exist.
What is unlimited cannot be comprehended, and what cannot be comprehended is nameless. We can give a name to what is intelligible. If it is unintelligible we cannot give it a name, because we do not know it. And when we consider those who believe in a personal God, many of them merely believe in a certain law given in the name of God. They do good works for the sake of God, but at the same time they only know that there is a God somewhere.
Neither of these types of believer in God has a conception of the real meaning of the God-ideal. They merely have belief in God, and this does not take one much further. The God-ideal is in reality a stepping-stone towards the knowledge of spiritual perfection. It is through the God-ideal that higher knowledge can be gained. And those who wait to see if they will be shown a God before their eyes, or who want a proof of the Being of God, are mistaken. That which cannot be compared, which cannot be named, cannot be shown.
For instance you see light. Light is intelligible to you because there is darkness opposed to it. Things are known by their opposites. Since God has no opposite, God cannot be known in the same way that the things of the earth can be known. Besides to explain God is to dethrone God. The less said the better. And yet the knowledge of God is necessary for those who seek after perfection.
Different religions have different conceptions of God. But not only religion, every man has his own conception of God. We cannot think of any being without making a conception in our mind of that being. For instance if someone told us a fairy tale, the first thing we would do would be to make a conception of a fairy, what it looks like. If someone talks to us about an angel we make a conception of it. It is a natural tendency to make a conception according to one’s own experience and therefore very near to one’s own self. A human being does not think of an angel or a fairy as being like a bird or an animal, but as something like himself. If this is true then it is not a fault when someone has his own idea of God. But it is a great fault on the part of those who want to take away that idea and wish to give that person another idea. It is not right. No one can give to another his own conception of God, because each one must make it real for himself. The prophets of all ages have given some ideal to help man to form a conception of God. It has been said, ‘If you have no God, make one.’ That is the right way and the easiest way of realizing the unlimited truth.
In the story about the Eastern Romeo and Juliet, Leila and Majnun, someone said to Majnun, the young lover, ‘Leila is not beautiful. What is she? Why do you love her so much?’ And Majnun said humbly, ‘In order to see Leila you must borrow Majnun’s eyes.’ The conception of God is different and distinct for every person and one cannot give one’s conception of God to another.
There is another story told about a house-wife who was preparing a great feast. When her husband came home he said: ‘My good wife, why have you prepared a feast? Is it a birthday? What is it?’ She said, ‘It is more than a birthday, it is a great day for me.’ But he insisted, ‘What is it?’ She replied, ‘My husband, I never thought that you believed in God.’ He asked, ‘And how did you find out?’ She said, ‘While turning over in sleep you uttered the name of God, and I am so thankful.’ He said, ‘Alas. That which was so sacred and secret in my heart has today been revealed. I can no longer sustain it and live.’ And he dropped down dead. His conception of God was too sacred for him.
There is outer expression and inner expression, and we do not always know which is which. We may think many people are far removed from the God-ideal while they are much nearer to God than ourselves. It is difficult for anyone to judge who is near to God and who is not. It is difficult to know even in our own lives what pleases our friend and what does not please him. The more conscientious we are in wanting to please our friend, the more we find how difficult it is to know what will please him and what will not. Not everyone knows it, but then the light of friendship has not been kindled in everyone. Sometimes it remains a word in the dictionary. One who has learned friendship has learned religion. The one who has learned friendship has attained spiritual knowledge. The one who has learned friendship need learn very little else. Morals in Persian are called friendship.
When we cannot understand the pleasure and displeasure of our own friends in this world, how can we understand the pleasure and displeasure of God? Who on earth can say that God is pleased with this or that? No one could ever have the power of making rules and laws, saying God is pleased with this or displeased with that.
Another aspect of religion is the aspect of the teacher. For instance, Christ. There are those who see divinity in Christ. They say, ‘Christ was God, Christ is divine.’ And there are others who say, ‘Christ was a man, one like all of us.’ When we come to look at this question, we see that the man who says, ‘Christ is divine’ is not wrong. If there is any divinity shown it is in man. And the one who says, ‘Christ was a man’ is not wrong either. In the garb of man Christ manifested. Those who do not want Christ to be a man, drag down the greatness and sacredness of the human being by their argument, by saying that man is made of sin, and by separating Christ from humanity. But there is nothing wrong in calling Christ God or divine. It is in man that divine perfection is to be seen. It is in man that divinity is manifested. There are Christ’s own words, ‘I am Alpha and Omega.’ Many close their eyes to this, but the one who said, ‘I am Alpha and Omega’ existed also before the coming of Jesus, and the one who says, ‘first and last,’ must exist also after Jesus.
In the words of Christ there is the idea of perfection. He identified himself with that spirit of which he was conscious. Christ was not conscious of his human part, but of his perfect being when he said, ‘I am Alpha and Omega.’ He did not identify himself here with his being known as Jesus. He identified himself with that spirit of perfection, which lived before Jesus and will continue to live to the end of the world, for eternity. If this is so then what does it matter if some say, ‘Buddha inspired us,’ and millions are inspired by Buddha? It is only a difference of name. It is all Alpha and Omega. If others say Moses, or Mohammad, or Krishna, what difference does it make? Where did the inspiration come from? Was it not from one and the same spirit? Was it not the same Alpha and Omega of which Jesus Christ was conscious? Whoever gives the message to the world, whatever illuminated human beings have raised thousands and millions of people in the world, they cannot but be that same Christ whom the one calls by this name and the other by another name. Yet human ignorance always causes wars and disasters on account of different religions, different communities, because of the importance they give to their own conception, their own corrupted conception which differs from another. Even now on the one hand there is materialism and on the other there is bigotry. What is necessary today is to find the first and last religion, to come to the message of Christ, to divine wisdom, so that we may recognize wisdom in all its different forms, in whatever form it has been given to humanity. It does not matter if it is Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism. It is one wisdom, that call of the Spirit, which awakens man to rise above limitation and to reach perfection.
The third aspect of religion is the manner of worship. There have been many in different ages who have worshipped the sun, but they have believed in God just the same. The sun was only a symbol. They thought, ‘This is a light which does not depend upon oil or anything else, something which remains.’ And then there were others who worshipped sacred trees and holy places, rocks and mountains of ancient traditions. And again, others, who worshipped heroes of great repute or teachers and masters of humanity. Nevertheless, all had a divine ideal, and the form in which they worshipped does not matter.
The Arabs in the desert, where there was no house, no building to go to, stood in the open air and bowed low in the open space at sunset and sunrise. It was all worship of God. It was given in that form. The Hindus made idols of different kinds in order to help man to focus his mind on particular objects. These were all different prescriptions given by the doctors of souls. They were not pagans or heathens. They were only taught differently by the wise. Different thoughts, different ways were given to them just as a doctor would give different prescriptions to different patients in order to obtain the same cure. Therefore difference in worship does not make a different religion. Religion is one and the same in spite of a thousand different kinds of worship.
The fourth aspect is the moral aspect. Different religions have taught different moral principles. But at the same time there is one human, moral principle on which all is based, and that is justice. And this does not mean justice in principle and in rules and regulations, but it means that one, true, religious law that is in man, that is awakened in man. As his soul unfolds itself this law becomes more and more clear to him: what is just and what is unjust. The most wonderful thing about this law is that a thief or a wicked or unrighteous man may be most unjust to others, but if someone is unjust to him he will say, ‘He is not just to me.’ This shows that he too knows justice. When he is dealing with others he forgets it, but when it comes to himself he knows justice very well. We are all responsible to ourselves according to that religious law. If we do not regard it, it naturally results in unhappiness. Everything that goes wrong goes wrong for the one reason that we do not listen to ourselves.
The fifth aspect of religion is self-realization. This is the highest aspect, and everything we do leads to it: prayers, concentration, good actions, good thoughts. And how is it gained? Some say that we realize God by self-realization. But it is not so, for we can only realize self by the realization of God. Whenever someone tries to realize self while omitting God, he makes a mistake.
It is very difficult for man to realize his true self because the self he knows is a most limited self. The self to which he is awakened from the time of birth, the self which has made within him a conception of himself is most limited. However proud and conceited he may be, however good his idea of himself yet in his innermost being he knows his limitation, the smallness of his being. He may be a most successful general, he may be a king. But he discovers his limitation when the time comes for him to lose his kingdom. Then he knows that he is not really a king. Earthly greatness does not make him great. If there is anything that can make him great it is only the effacing of himself and the establishing of God instead. The one who wants to begin with self-realization may have many intellectual and philosophical principles, but he will get into a muddle and arrive nowhere. These are wrong methods.
There are people who say, ‘I am God.’ This is insolence, stupidity. It is foolish to say such things. They insult the greatest ideal that the prophets and saviors of humanity have always respected. Such people can never reach spiritual perfection. In order to reach spiritual perfection the first thing is to destroy this false self. First this delusion must be destroyed. And this is done by the ways taught by the great teachers, ways of concentration and meditation, by the power of which one forgets oneself and removes one’s consciousness from oneself, in other words rises from one’s limited being. In this way a person effaces himself from his own consciousness, and places God in his consciousness instead of his limited self. And it is in this way that he arrives at that perfection which every soul is seeking.
EVERY kind of striving in man’s life, whether for a material or for a spiritual object, is the result of his natural inclination to reach from limitation towards perfection. Whatever it may be, wealth or rank or name or comfort or pleasure, it is this limitation which keeps man discontented. Also, in all his learning, studying, practicing, acquiring, attaining, we see this same striving to go from limitation to perfection. The saying of the scriptures that God alone is rich and all others are poor, can be seen in everyday life. The greater the riches one has the more one wants. And it is interesting to find when observing the life of a poor person that he is more content with what he has than a rich person with all his wealth. Sometimes one also sees that a poor person is more generous in his giving than a rich person in parting with his possessions.
When we look at another aspect of life, we see that a person who is learned in a small degree believes that he has learned and read a great deal and he wishes to show it. Whereas someone who has learned more begins to discover that it is really very little and that there is still very much to be learned.
There is still another picture to be seen: that of the foolish and the wise. The foolish man is ready to teach you without a moment’s thought, ready to correct you, ready to judge you, ready to form an opinion about you. But the wiser a man is the more diffident he is to form an opinion about you, to judge you, to correct you. What does this mean? It means that whatever man possesses in a small degree he thinks he has much of, but when he possesses more he begins to feel the need and the desire for perfection, for completion.
There is an ancient story that a king wanted to grant a dervish his desire. And the desire of the dervish was to fill his cup with gold coins. The king thought that it would be the easiest thing in the world to fill the cup of the dervish. But when they tried to fill it it proved to be a magic cup: it would not fill. The more money was poured into it, the emptier it became. And the king was very disappointed and disheartened at the thought that this cup could not be filled. The dervish said, ‘Your Majesty, if you cannot fill my cup you only have to say so, and I shall take my cup back. I am a dervish, and I will go, and I will only think that you have not kept your word.’ The sovereign, with every good intention, with all his generosity, and with all his treasures could not fill that cup. And he asked, ‘Dervish, tell me what secret you have in this cup. It does not seem to be natural. There is some magic about it. Tell me what is its secret.’ The dervish answered, ‘Yes, your Majesty, what you have found out is true. It is a magic cup. But it is the cup of every heart. It is the heart of man, which is never content. Fill it with whatever you may, with wealth, with attention, with love, with knowledge, with all there is. It will never fill, for it is not meant to be filled. Not knowing this secret of life man goes on in pursuit of every object, or any object he has before him, continually. And the more he gets the more he wants, and the cup of his desire is never filled.’
The meaning of this can be understood by the study of the soul. Man’s appetite is satisfied by food. But behind it is an appetite, which is the appetite of the soul, and that appetite is never satisfied. That appetite is at the back of all the different forms of hunger and of thirst. And since man cannot trace that innermost appetite he strives all through his life to satisfy these outer appetites, which are satisfied and yet remain unsatisfied. If someone is making a study of objective things, things of the objective world, he may gain a great deal of knowledge about them, and yet there is never an end to it. The one who searches the secret of sound, the one who searches the mystery of light, the one who searches the mystery of science, they all search and search and search, and there is never an end to it, nor is there ever satisfaction. And a thoughtful person wonders if that satisfaction is to be found anywhere, the satisfaction, which so to speak fulfils the promise of the soul.
Indeed, there does exist a possibility for that satisfaction. And that possibility is to attain to the perfection which is not dependent upon outside things, a perfection which belongs to one’s own being. This satisfaction is not attained. It is discovered. It is in the discovery of this satisfaction that the purpose of life can be fulfilled.
And now the question arises: how does one arrive at this perfection? Religion, philosophy, and mysticism will all help one, but it is by the actual attainment of this knowledge that one will arrive at this satisfaction.
Life can be pictured as a line with two ends. One end of the line is limitation, and the other end of the same line is perfection. As long as one is looking at the end which is limitation, however good, virtuous, righteous, or pious one is, one has not touched what may be called perfection. Are there not many believers in religion, in a God? There are many worshippers of a deity, and more among simple people than among the intellectuals and the educated. Do they all arrive at perfection before leaving this earth, by their belief in a deity or by their worship?
There are others who learn from books. I have known some people who had written perhaps fifty or a hundred books themselves, and had read maybe a whole library, yet they still remained standing in the same place where they were. As long as one’s face is not turned away from that end which is the end of limitation, and as long as one does not look towards that ideal of perfection which is the real Ka’ba or place of pilgrimage, one will not arrive at that perfection.
What keeps this perfection, which belongs to his own life, which is his own being, hidden from man? A screen put before it; and that screen is one’s self. The soul, conscious only of its limitation, of its possessions with which it identifies itself forgets its own being and becomes so to speak the captive of its limitation. Religion or belief in God, worship, philosophy, and mysticism, all help one to attain this. But if one does not search for perfection through these, even they will only be an occupation, a pastime, and will not bring man to the right goal.
Is there any definition of this perfection? What sort of perfection is it? Can it be explained in any way? It is only perfection itself, which can realize itself. It cannot be put into words, it cannot be explained. If anyone believes that truth can be given in words he is very much mistaken. It is just like putting sea-water into a bottle, and saying, here is the sea! Very often people ask, ‘But what is the truth? Can you explain it?’ Words cannot explain it. Often I thought it would be a good thing to write the word TRUTH on a brick, and give it into the hands of such a person, and say, ‘Hold it fast, here is the truth!’
There is a great difference between fact and truth. Fact is a shadow of truth. Fact is intelligible . But truth is beyond comprehension, for truth is unlimited. Truth knows itself, and nothing else can explain it. What little explanation can be given lies in the idea of expansion. There is a man who toils all day in order to gain his livelihood, to give himself a little comfort or a little pleasure, and so life goes on. And there is another man who has a family, who has others to think about, who works for them. Sometimes he forgets his own pleasure and comfort for the comfort and pleasure of those who depend upon him. He hardly has time to think about his own comfort or about himself. His pleasure is in the pleasure of those who depend upon him, his comfort is in their comfort. And there is still another man who tries to be useful to his town, to improve its condition, to help the education of the people of his town. He is engaged in this work, and very often he forgets himself in striving for the happiness of those for whom he is working. There are also those who live for their nation, who work for their nation, who give their whole life to it. They are only conscious of their nation.
The consciousness of the latter is expanded. It becomes larger. There is very little difference in the size of men’s frames but there is a great difference in the expansion of man’s consciousness. There is one man who seems as large as he actually is. There is another who seems as large as his family, another who seems as large as his town, another who seems as large as his nation. And there are men who are as large as the world.
There is a saying of a Hindustani poet, ‘Neither the sea nor the land can be compared with the heart of man.’ If the heart of man is large, it is larger than the universe. Therefore if perfection can be explained in any terms, if perfection can be defined, it is in the expansion of man’s consciousness. The man who strives after this perfection need not know or learn what is selfish or unselfish. Unselfishness comes to him naturally, he becomes unselfish. In the last few years humanity has gone through a great catastrophe. All nations have suffered and have shared in it. Every individual, even every living creature on this earth has been affected by it. One might ask, what was lacking? Was education lacking? There are many schools and universities. Was religion lacking? There are many churches still, and many different beliefs still exist in the world. What was lacking was the understanding of the true meaning of religion. What was lacking was the understanding of the real meaning of education.
Those who have found out that perfection is attained by realizing the self within have not attained it only by what man calls external worship. It was by self-abnegation in the true sense of the word. It is by going into that silence where one can forget the limitations of the self that one can get in touch with that part of one’s being which is called perfection. And this can best be attained by those who have realized the meaning of life.
THE secret of life is the desire to attain something. The absence of this makes life useless. Hope is the sustenance of life. Hope comes from the desire of attaining something. Therefore this desire is in itself a very great power. The object, which a person wishes to attain, may be small compared with the power he develops in the process of attainment. The Hindus call attainmentSadhana. The power gained through attainment is called in Sanskrit Siddhi, and it is this, which is the sign of spiritual mastership.
By learning the mystery of attainment one learns the divine mastery which is suggested in that phrase of the Bible, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ This phrase is a veil, which covers the mystery of attainment. On coming to earth, man, who is the instrument of God, loses connection with that divine power whose instrument he is, thus keeping not only himself but even God from helping His will to be done. When man, who is born to be the instrument of God, does not perform his mission properly he naturally feels dissatisfied. It does not mean that he does not accomplish what he desires, but it is the reason why he is unhappy. This condition is like a hand out of joint: it is not only the hand that suffers, but the person whose hand it is, not being able to use it, suffers also. Therefore in accomplishing the work he undertakes, in attaining to the aim he has in life, man not only helps himself but he also serves God.
The way in which spiritual attainment is reached must be considered from quite another point of view. It cannot be done in the same way as material attainment. And it is discouraging when after striving perhaps for many years one does not seem to have arrived anywhere. The one who strives to attain the things of this world finds the proof of having attained them by holding them. He says, ‘This is mine,’ because he possesses it. Spiritual attainment on the contrary wants to take possessions away. It does not even allow one to possess oneself. This can be a great disappointment for a person whose only realization of having attained something is in possessing it. Spiritual attainment, however, comes by not attaining.
Then there is the question of the difference between a spiritual person and a person who possesses nothing. The difference is indeed great, for the spiritual person without any possessions is still rich. Why? Because the one who does not possess anything is conscious of limitation, but the spiritual person who does not even possess himself is conscious of perfection. But how, one asks, can a limited man be conscious of perfection? The answer is that the limited man has limited himself. He is limited because he is conscious of his limitation. It is not his true self, which is limited. What is limited is what he holds, not himself. That is why Christ said, ‘Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’
Spiritual knowledge does not lie in learning something, but in discovering something; in breaking the fetters of the false consciousness and in allowing the soul to unfold itself with light and power. What does the word ‘spiritual’ really mean? Spiritual means spirit-conscious. When a person is conscious of his body, he cannot be spiritual. It is like a king who does not know his kingship. The moment he is conscious of being a king, he is a king. Every soul is born a king. It is only afterwards that he becomes a slave. Every soul is born with kingly possibilities, but they are taken away from him by this wicked world. This is told in many symbolical stories, as in the story of Rama, from whom the beloved Sita was taken away. Every soul has to fight for this kingdom and to conquer. It is through that fight that the spiritual kingdom is attained. No one will fight for one, neither one’s teacher nor anybody else. While those who are more evolved can help one, each man has to fight his own battle, and find his own way to that spiritual goal.
An intellectual thinks that by adding to his knowledge he may attain spiritual knowledge. This is not so. The secret of life is boundless but knowledge is limited. Eyes see only a very short distance, and the human mind is just as limited. Those who see can see by not seeing, learn by not learning. The way of spiritual attainment is contrary to the way of all material attainment. For material attainment one must take. For spiritual attainment one must give. In material attainment one must learn. In spiritual attainment one must unlearn. If a person is conscious of his body and thinks it is all that can be known of him, his spirit is covered up. In English one says: he has lost his soul. But it is only covered for how can anything that is possessed be lost? If a man thinks so he is limited. Neither objects nor beings are lost. They may be temporarily covered up, but they are still there. Nothing made can ever be destroyed. It is only a covering and an uncovering. No relations and connections are ever separable. The separation is outward. Inwardly there is never separation. They are separated from one’s consciousness, but when the consciousness accommodates them, then nothing in the world can separate them. What does one learn by this? That spiritual attainment is to be reached by the raising of the consciousness from limitation to perfection.
There is another side to this question. There is no one, wise or foolish, who is not progressing slowly or quickly towards the spiritual goal. The only difference is that the one is attracted by it, and faces his goal, making his way towards it. While the other has his back turned to it and is drawn towards the goal without being conscious of it. Poor man, he does not know where he is being taken, but he goes just the same; his punishment is that he does not see the glory he is approaching, and his torture is that he is being drawn towards the opposite pole to that which he desires. His punishment is not different from that of the infant which walks into the water of the lake and whose mother pulls it back by its shirt; but it is looking all the time at the lake.
From a religious point of view it seems very unjust of the divine Judge that one should be deprived of that perfect bliss which is spiritual attainment. But from the point of view of metaphysics no soul will be deprived of this knowledge at any time in eternity.
What does Sufism teach on this subject? Sufism avoids words, words from which differences and distinctions arise. Words can never express the truth fully. Words promote argument. All the differences between religions are differences of words. In sense they do not differ, for they have all come from one source and to the same source they return. This very source is a store for them, it is their life, light, and power. Therefore the way of the Sufi is that if he does not agree with somebody in a particular idea, he takes a step higher instead of differing on the lower plane. For the wise person there is no difference. The main things that Sufism teaches is to dive deep within oneself, and to prepare mind and body by contemplation so as to make one’s being a shrine of God, which is the purpose for which it was created.
What is needed first, both for worldly and spiritual attainment is to gain self-discipline. Many experience, although few know why, that things go wrong when one’s self is not disciplined. Those who give way to anger, passion, or emotions may seem for the moment successful, but they cannot continually succeed in life. Very often misfortunes follow, and illness or a failure. The reason is that one weakness gives way to another, and so the person who goes down continues to go down. It is natural sometimes to take a step downward, for the path of life is not even. But the wise way is to ensure that if one has gone down one step the next step should be taken upward. No doubt it means resisting the force that pulls one downward, but only that resistance ensures the safety of life.
What generally happens is that man does not mind a little mistake. He does not take notice of a small weakness. He underestimates a little failure, and in this way in the long run he meets with a great failure. It is wise, therefore, no matter how deep one has fallen, to raise one’s eyes upward and to try to rise instead of falling. It is very interesting to observe that when one points towards God in heaven it is always upward, although in reality God is everywhere and so is heaven. What makes one think that God or heaven is above is a natural impulse in man, a divine impulse which gives him an inclination to rise. This shows that success and its attainment are God’s pleasure. Failure and its experience are God’s displeasure.
People who blame destiny for their failure take the way of least resistance. But there are no difficulties that are really insurmountable, because they will become less for the man who struggles with life as he goes forward. The man who takes his path easily finds that the difficulties become more numerous as he goes on. This does not mean that one should choose a path in life that is without difficulties. It only means that on the path of
attainment difficulties should not be counted. Difficulties rise over the head of him who looks at them with awe. But the same difficulties fall at the feet of him who takes no notice of them. The man who fails in the world will fail to attain spiritual bliss.
Man is the king of his domain. His coming on earth takes away his kingdom. During that trial he is tested, to see if he uses that human virtue which helps him to regain mastery over his kingdom. Whatever a man’s life may be he will not be satisfied, for his soul’s satisfaction is in fulfilling its purpose. The day when he arrives at that mastery, the day when he has regained the kingdom he had lost, he can say, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ And in this lies the fulfillment of his being born on this earth.
What is it to have self-discipline? It is to be able to say, ‘I can’ and not ‘I cannot.’ No doubt the words ‘I cannot’ are often used when a person does not think it would be wise or just to do a certain thing. In that case it is different. But when there is something he believes to be just, to be good, to be right and he still thinks, ‘I cannot,’ it is then that self-discipline is lacking. When a person says, ‘I cannot tolerate, I cannot endure, I cannot bear, I cannot forgive,’ these are all signs of lack of self-discipline.
Some people say, ‘I cannot rise above my faults.’ The only way to overcome one’s faults is by struggle, struggle in the spiritual path. Such a struggle is faced for instance by a person who during a disagreeable conversation has an inclination to retort. He does so, but at the same time the power to fight, to give back, has left him. By dispersing his force in returning insult for insult he has lost his power. By controlling this inclination his power would have been a thousand fold greater, although at the moment when something like this happens, and one humiliates oneself and crushes one’s pride and one’s self, one feels crushed both ways: by not answering and then by the crushing of one’s self. And to be able to say, ‘I have answered him back!’ gives one a certain pride, a certain satisfaction.
In order to see this question more clearly one must picture oneself as two beings, one the king and the other the servant. When one of them expresses a wish, it is the king who wishes. And the part that says, ‘I cannot,’ is the servant. If the servant has his way, then the king is in the place of the servant. And the more the servant has his way, the more the servant rules and the king obeys. In this way naturally conflict arises and that reflects upon the outer life. One’s whole life becomes unlucky. One may be pious or good or religious, it makes no difference. If man does not realize the kingdom of God within himself nor realize his spirit to be a king, he does not accomplish the purpose of life.
THE secret of the working of the whole universe is in the duality of nature. In all aspects of nature two forces are working, and it is their action which balances life . Therefore in the path of attainment the power which manifests as enthusiasm or action is not sufficient. Knowledge and the capacity for work are also necessary. Very often a person fails to succeed with all his enthusiasm and power of will. And the reason is that either by the power he possesses he pushes his object along like a ball, or with his strength he breaks up the rock which he really needs whole, and not in pieces. Power is no doubt most necessary in attainment, but in the absence of knowledge power may prove helpless.
By power I mean power in all its aspects. All power that one possesses in outer life, and the power of mind and body. It is the power of mind which is called will-power. No doubt many will fail through lack of knowledge, but the lack of power also brings failure.
If an object is pulled from both sides by power and knowledge, then also there will be no success. It is the co-operation of these two powers which is the secret of all success. Success, be it of a material character or of some other nature, is always success. Success, however small, is a step forward to something greater. And failure, however small, is a failure and it will lead to something worse.
Success should not be valued according to its outer value. It must be valued according to what it prepares in oneself. And failure, however small, gives an undesirable impression within oneself. This shows how very necessary it is to keep the balance between power and knowledge. It is of great value to try to develop power and knowledge in attaining one’s object. There are two people who become tired of life in the world: the one who has risen above the world, and the one who has fallen beneath it. The former has attained his object, but the latter, even if he left the world would not be satisfied by any other life. His renunciation of worldly things means nothing. It only means impotence. It is the conqueror of the life of the world who has the right to give up the struggle of the world if he wishes to. But he from whose hands the life of the world is snatched away by his fellow-men and who is incapable of holding it, who cannot progress, who cannot attain in life what he wishes to attain, if he left the world it would not be renunciation, it would simply be poverty.
It is not by any means selfish or avaricious to want to succeed in life. But often by success man closes his eyes to what lies beyond on his path. He stands still. And that standing still is like death. When the many successful people whom we see in this world do not progress spiritually, it means that they did not continue in the path of success. In reality all roads lead to the same goal: business, profession, science, art, religion, or philosophy. When people do not seem to have arrived at their proper destination it is not because they have preferred one path to another, it is that they have not continued on their path.
Very often people who are lacking in knowledge and have more strength than is necessary, destroy their own purpose. While wanting to construct they cause destruction. The greatest fault of human nature is that every man thinks that he knows best. When he speaks to another he thinks that the latter knows but half. And when he is speaking about a third person he thinks that that person knows only a quarter. Some few who do not rely upon their knowledge are then dependent upon the advice of others. Therefore their success or failure, and also their thinking, depend upon the advice of others. It is most difficult in life to possess power and knowledge, and together with these to have clear vision. And the best way of keeping the vision clear is by retaining the balance between power and knowledge.
Man generally gets unbalanced, for when there is power he wants to exert it. Also, man is always involved in reasoning. In that way he easily loses his balance. Then one must try to judge whether he attaches too much importance to power, not cultivating knowledge enough. Take for instance a man who is perhaps very enthusiastic in a certain business. And just with his will-power he wants to get as much money as he can, without any thought of how it will be used. He has only the strength of the purpose ‘I must succeed,’ and he gives all his energy to it without thinking about it. In that way he might achieve success. But still there is always a danger. And then there is another man who is thinking out a thousand things before taking a step in an affair, contradicting everything with his own knowledge. What one should do is this: if one takes one step in power, one should then another step in knowledge, and then there will be balance, then one’s life becomes rhythmic. Just like the accent in musical two-four time: there is the strong accent, and then comes a weak accent. Now there is power, then there is thinking.
There are many in this world who from enthusiasm push along the object of their attainment like a football. They mean to grasp it, but unintentionally they push it on, and this happens when a man is too enthusiastic to attain a certain thing for which he has not prepared himself. One should remember that in the path of attainment one must first feel strong enough to bear the burden of what one wishes to attain. The wisdom one sees working behind nature has intended and arranged that every being and every thing shall bear the weight that it can sustain. Very often man’s ambition outruns his power or wisdom. Before thinking whether he is entitled to a certain thing or not, he tries to attain it; and it is this which very often causes failure. Man must first become entitled to have what he wishes to have. This makes it easy for him to gain what he wishes to gain, and it attracts towards him what he wishes to attract.
Desiring is one thing, and imagining is another. Lying in a grass hut one might desire a solid wall around one’s hut, but one can imagine a palace standing before one. However, it is not imagination, which helps in the attainment. It is the earnest desire.
There are things which are within one’s reach and there are things which are beyond it. One must first prove to one’s own self one’s capability of attaining what is within one’s reach. This gives one sufficient self-confidence to attain that, which seems beyond one’s reach. In the path of attainment one must keep the eye of justice open. One must be able to know what is right for one to attain, and which attainment one does not deserve. There is no soul in this world who is not striving after something. To one the object of his striving is distinct, to another perhaps it is perplexing. Yet there is no one alive who is not striving after something. If the object is clear to one, then it is easier to attain.
In the process of attainment there are four stages. In the first place, the object one wishes to attain must be concrete in one’s mind. Next it must be reasoned out how the desire can be materialized. Thirdly, what material is to be obtained and used for it. The fourth stage is the composing or the building of that object. The central theme of the whole of creation is attainment. In the striving of all souls in the world there is only one impulse, and that is the divine impulse. Yet for the man who strives ignorantly after something and goes about it wrongly, it ends in disappointment. And disappointment not only to himself but even to God. The one who knows his affairs, and who accomplishes them rightly, fulfils the mission of his life and the wish of God. No matter what man accomplishes, it is only a step towards something else. As a man goes on accomplishing in the path of attainment, in the end he arrives at the purpose of his life. In the final attainment lies the purpose of all souls, although in the beginning they may seem different.
The secret of all attainment is in the realization of the self. Both the impulse to attain a thing and the control of that impulse are necessary. Very often a man loses the chance of attaining something through his over-enthusiasm which puts his life out of balance. At the same time the power of impulse is a great power and the person who has no strength in his impulse must certainly lose. One should strike a balance between impulse and control. There must be an impulse, but it must be under control. A person who is over-joyous at having riches must realize that he may very soon lose some of them. And it is the same with everything.
The balance should be kept by realizing that nothing, which the earth can offer, is more precious than one’s soul. From the one who runs after things, those things run away, frightened of his pursuit. But the one who does not go in pursuit of objects will find that they inevitably become his own. When God becomes one’s own, what will not become one’s own?
For the very reason that God is divided on earth into different beings, and reunites Himself in one Being, His power is unlimited. The real object of all people on earth is the same as the object of God in heaven. But this object can only be attained if man will yield up his desire to the desire of God, if man will give himself up to the Self of God. That is the meaning of the sacrifice of Abraham. That is the real meaning of the crucifixion: to crucify the lower self.
In the path of attainment confidence is necessary. It is according to one’s confidence that the object of attainment is drawn closer. It is not by over-enthusiasm; for over-enthusiasm is intoxicating. A person intoxicated by enthusiasm is liable to do the wrong thing instead of the right thing. It is always the inner power, which is the secret of attainment. A person who allows his power an outlet only wastes it. It is the conserving of this power which makes a reservoir of power with which all things can be accomplished. For the person who has attained to the mystery ofSadhana, there is nothing in this world which cannot be attained. All is within his reach, his power, his grasp. As high as one’s object of attainment is, so high one rises. And as low as the object of attainment is, so low one stands. If the object is honor giving one will be honorable; if the object is painful one will be sad. If the object is pleasant one will be joyous. If the object is exalting one will be holy. Therefore a person should know what object to keep before his view, what object he should pursue in life.
There are many childlike people who do not know what is their object in life. One minute they think it is one thing, another minute they think it is another thing. In the end they come to nothing because they have no object set before their view. No one can depend upon a person like this. Even the birds are frightened to sit upon a moving branch. The person whose object is set is the one whose life is settled, whom one can call serious, on whom others can depend. The person who does not know his own mind cannot help his fellow men. He will only upset them. He can neither attain for himself nor can he help another. One should therefore remember continually to keep one’s mind so clear that one can see one’s object before one: its character, its nature, its value. And then to exert every effort to pursue that object patiently till one has attained it. No matter how small the object, the attainment of it builds a step towards the final goal.