PART I and II
IT WAS already announced earlier that as the world nowadays is more open for the understanding of mystical thought, many deeper lectures which Inayat Khan originally intended only for his disciples would be published in the near future. It is appropriate that this edition of The Gathas of Inayat Kan can now be brought out on the hundredth anniversary of his birth.
These Gathas are, with few exceptions, unpublished teachings given to his disciples in the early 1920’s. In his understanding and consideration of the individual’s needs and response Inayat Khan presented each of the seven subjects of The Gathas in three stages, each stage consisting of ten lessons. Whilst in the training courses of the Sufi Movement The Gathas have been offered in a slightly different order, the editors have chosen to publish them in accordance with the research made by Nekbakht Furnee and Sirdar van Tuyll van Serooskerken, whose records indicate Inayat Khan’s own publication intentions, and who together with other pupils and close associates of Inayat Khan compiled and prepared this version.
No attempt has been made to change the order of words or what might appear to be repetition for the purpose of producing conventionally acceptable syntax. No conjecture has been made as to the few missing words in Questions and Answers. In some cases alternative spelling has been used to conform with the first twelve volumes of the Sufi Message.
ETKAD, RASM U RAVAJ
Superstitions, Customs and Beliefs
Every country seems to have certain beliefs which are called beliefs by the believers and superstitions by those who do not believe. There are beliefs which arise from some subtle experiences of life, and some which spring from intuition, and they are believed by some who are inclined to believe and they are mocked at by some who cannot understand their meaning, and often by those who do not wish to trouble themselves to investigate the truth in them. It is easy to laugh at things, and it takes patience to endure and tolerate things that cannot appeal to one’s reason. And it is difficult to investigate the truth of such beliefs, for it requires something more than reason to probe the depths of life. Those from whom the beliefs come, naturally could not give the explanation of those beliefs to everybody; for the man who is capable of believing a thing is not necessarily capable of understanding it by an analytical explanation. There are natures which would be willing to believe a thing if it is for their good, if it comes from someone who they trust, but it is too much trouble for them to go deeply into the matter. For some among them it is better that they should not have an analytical knowledge of a belief, for to some the belief is helpful but its explanation confusing. It is a certain grade of evolution that enables man to understand a certain belief, and a man must not be told what he is incapable of understanding, for , instead of helping him, it puts him off.
There is a great deal of psychic law which can be traced in such beliefs, and in time such beliefs turn into customs. There is a vast field of knowledge in the beliefs of Indians. India has been a country where beliefs have existed for thousands of years unchanged, and some beliefs have become customs. At first sight an intellectual person who cannot look any further than the surface of things is apt to think that people in India are full of superstitions. Their whole life seems based on them; not only in religion do they have beliefs, but even in their domestic affairs. In their everyday life every move they make, every word they say is in accordance with some underlying belief.
No doubt a tendency of taking interest in superstition should always be avoided; for the more thought one gives to superstitions, the more he seems to be drowned in the thought of superstitions. Wherever the superstitious man looks he gets an impression of some fear, some doubt, some suspicion, which generally leads to confusion. But for the wise a disregard of superstitions is not satisfactory, for by wisdom man becomes capable of understanding them, and understanding them is better than to mock at them or even than to believe in them. For the one who believes in superstitions is, so to speak, in the water, and knows that he is in the water; but he who mocks at them is in the water, but he does not know that he is in the water. By understanding them man is capable of swimming in the water, and by mastering them he walks on the water. The man who knows all things and acts according to his knowledge becomes the master of life.
The term ‘belief’ is used of an idea that one believes and for which one cannot give reason. When such ideas are of an ordinary nature they are termed superstitions, and when they are of a sacred nature they are call beliefs.
Often man confuses belief with truth. Many people, without understanding their own belief hold it not as a truth but as the truth, and thereby ignore every other belief which seems to them different from the truth they possess. In reality belief is not the truth nor is the truth a belief. When a person has risen to the understanding of the truth it is no more a belief for him, it is a conviction.
The beliefs of a sacred nature, which come in the realm of religion, are as steps towards the goal which is called truth, and when man stops at a belief the belief holds him and he holds the belief. Neither can the belief push him onward nor can he advance. In many cases belief, which should serve as wings on which to soar toward the height, becomes as nails fixing man onto the earth. Every belief in the beginning is a step in the dark, but as man draws nearer to the goal, he at every step becomes more and more illuminated. Therefore there is hope for the believer, but the case of the unbeliever is hopeless.
There are souls who are capable of believing, even capable of understanding their belief, who yet for some reason or other are not willing to believe and reject a belief before the understanding comes. The wise course in life would be to try to become a pupil, a pupil of one teacher as well as a pupil of all beings; it is then that one will become the pupil of God. Then the wise course would be to investigate the truth of belief instead of giving up one’s belief, also to be patiently tolerant of the belief of another until one see from his point of view the truth of his belief. When man sees only from his own point of view, he sees with one eye and the other eye is close. The complete view is in seeing from both points of view, however contrary they may be. It is this tendency which will balance things and will give the right idea of things. In order to view a building one must stand in the street and view it, instead of standing inside it and wanting to see the outside.
In understanding beliefs one must be able to neutralize one’s spirit, and to the extent to which it is neutralized man becomes capable of seeing the belief in its right sense. When man says, on hearing something from another, ‘That is not what I believe’, he shows his weakness, he show his incapacity to view the belief of the other from the point of view of that other. Knowledge comes by readiness to learn, and when we refuse it in life it is by lack of readiness. No matter from what source knowledge may seem to come, it is from one source in reality, and when the mind becomes a free receptacle knowledge flows freely into the heart. There is some truth hidden in every religious belief, and often it is of greater value than it may seem to be. And believing in a thing without understanding is a first step forward to knowledge, and refusing to believe when a belief is presented means taking a step backward. When a person is content with his belief that is a comfortable state of being, but it is the understanding of the belief which is ideal.
There are many customs that have existed in different countries for ages which have some psychical significance, and yet scarcely anybody knows about it. Customs in the form of greeting one another, and asking after one another’s health, even such habits as that of talking about the weather, arise from a psychical basis. This shows that the ancient people, in the East or in the West, had more magic in their lives than the man of today. The world has lost the magical charm, so to speak, which was the inheritance of the human race, owing to the ever increasing material life and the ignorance of things that are beyond matter.
It is of late that science is discovering some psychological truths in human life. The process that science follows in discovering these truths is contrary to that of the mystics. The scientist wishes to climb the mountain from the level ground. The mystic, by the way of meditation, tries to reach the summit of the mountain, and from there he sees the whole beauty of the mountain. Therefore, naturally, the horizon before the eyes of the mystic is incomparably wider than the horizon before the scientist. Yes, the scientist may see things clearly, distinctly, and in detail, whereas the mystic has a general ideal things. Often the vision of the mystic is vague in comparison with the analytical examination of a scientist. And yet, while the mystic sees through objects the scientist can reach as for as their surface.
Owing to the greater activity in Western life all things change more quickly in the West, while in the East changes come very slowly. Therefore, one finds many customs of ancient origin in the East which show the development of Eastern people in psychical things. Even ordinary customs, such as that of shaking hands, or rising from one’s seat to receive someone, bowing, bending, waving the hands, or clapping the hands, have a psychical significance. When two people shake hands with one another magnetism is exchanged between them and a balance of life-force is made between them. The one who lacks strength, energy, or magnetic power gains, and through the one from who they overflow they are used for a better purpose. By rising to show respect to a person, and by walking a few steps to receive a person, a man makes himself ready to withstand the forces of the one who is coming. By standing up and walking a step or two he makes his pulsation regular and puts his circulation in order, thus making himself psychically and morally ready to defend himself if the one who is coming should happen to be a foe, and ready to meet him harmoniously and on the same level, physically, mentally, and morally, if he happens to be a friend. Bending the head in a bow quickens not only the circulation in the head but also the magnetic current in it, for the head is the chief moral and spiritual factor in man. You will always find that a person with a tendency to bow is thoughtful, and it often happens that the one who keeps his head erect and avoids bowing is foolish. Man’s life depends upon rhythm, rhythm in his breath, in the pulsation, in the beats of the heart and head, and it is irregularity of the rhythm of his heart or of his pulse that shows disorder in his health. It is regularity of rhythm that keeps man in a fit stage to go on through life. And when people applaud a speaker, a singer, or a player, it is a suggestion for him to continue his rhythm, physical, mental, or moral. Even the waving of the hand in parting from a friend suggests the same meaning: continue to be in a fit state to live and enjoy life. There is a custom in the East that when a person is yawning a friend by his side claps his hands or snaps his fingers. Yawning naturally makes the rhythm slow, it is going down, so to speak, and the clapping of the hands or the snapping of the fingers on the part of the friend is suggestive of continuing the same rhythm as before. Different peoples have different customs, and customs that one is not in the habit of seeing seem not only strange and meaning-less but often also ridiculous. It is the work of the seer to see into things and it is this way of viewing that is called insight.
There are different customs in greeting, and in every custom there is some suggestion that explains some psychical meaning behind it. The Hindus greet by joining the palms of the hands, which has the significance of perfection, since the right hand represents the positive power and the left hand the negative power, and when the positive and negative are joined together this sums up in perfection. The idol of Buddha, which is worshipped by millions of people in the world, signifies perfection – sitting crosslegged with the two palms joining, the eyes closed, all of which shows that the negative and positive powers are united and made into one. The greeting of the Chinese is the clasping of the hands, either touching the clasped hands of the other, which means that the perfection of power from both should meet. And for the same reason the Arabs shake hand with both hands, for giving one hand is like giving half of one’s magnetism, but by giving both hands you show that you keep nothing back. The Persians touch the heart, which suggests the friendly feeling expressed from the bottom of the heart, that the greeting is not merely superficial, that it comes from the very depth of feeling. Among a great many people belonging to different parts of the world there is a custom; of greeting by embracing one another, and no doubt there is a great psychical meaning in this. The two arms are the two directions of magnetic power, positive and negative, and in the breast is the center of these two powers. And the custom is that they embrace twice, distinctly on the right and left sides. This is also the exchange of Prana, the very life, the center of which is in the breast. There is a custom in Persia and in India that when a younger person greets an older one he bows his head, bringing it closer to his breast, and the elder person, taking his arms, raises him up, as if the younger person wanted from the elder person, love, light and life, and the elder person gives it to him and raises him with it. It also suggests a sentiment of modesty and humility on the part of the one, and help and encouragement on the part of the other.
Customs have sometimes been much exaggerated, and yet, if the sentiment is a true one, no external expression can ever be an exaggeration. Among people of religion and culture in all periods of civilization there has been a custom of kissing the hand. The custom has originated from a natural instinct in life. What smells good the animal wants to bite first, and everything that interests the infant it puts in its mouth first. That shows that the lips are the most sensitive part in man and they are capable of giving and taking life, which may be called magnetism. Therefore the greatest fondness that one can show to another in greeting can be shown by kissing the hands. This custom can be seen all over the world, in the East and in the West.
If a skeleton plan of man’s spirit be drawn one can draw it as a sun in the midst and five rays shooting out around, one straight upwards, two at the sides rising upwards, and two downwards, and it is this which make the five-pointed star. Man’s head, two arms, and two legs are the outward expression of these rays. The idea of the Hindus in touching the holy feet of the saint is to reach first the rays that can first be reached, and when one reaches these first two rays, the three other rays naturally fall over his head, when the saint puts his arms over his head and bends his head while blessing, looking at the center of the head of the one who is blessed.
There is a custom in the East of offering oil to Hanuman, the idol that is pictured in the image of a monkey, and this idol is worshipped by pouring oil upon it. This custom can be seen also at Indian weddings; maidens anoint with oil the head, shoulders, arms and hands, and knees and feet of the bride and bridegroom. One sees this custom in some churches, for instance in the Catholic church. In Russia there was a custom of anointing the Tsar’s forehead with oil on the day of his coronation.
Oil has the significance of softening. Leather, iron or steel is made softer or smoother by putting oil on it. Anointing, as is done in India, is a psychical suggestion to the bride and bridegroom that the hands and feet of each shall be ready to serve the other, and that they shall not show themselves stiff, one to the other, that if there were any hardness in their nature it should be softened, since harmony is the blessing of a home; it teaches that forgiveness is required for becoming friends and keeping friendship; as one’s mate is not so flexible and docile as one’s own imagination conceives.
The idol of Hanuman is suggestive of primitive nature in man, and in the pouring of oil in the service of Hanuman there is a lesson for the worshipper to learn. However great your evolution may be, regard and consideration for the primitive nature is necessary, for all adjusts itself in the wider scheme of nature. When man stands with his hands folded in humility before the image of a monkey, there is in this some lesson for him to learn: that life is such that with all your evolution you lack something if you have no regard to the primitive nature that is in man. Christ has taught, ‘Resist not evil’, and ‘If one sue thee for thy coat, give him thy cloak also’. This teaches the same lesson, that life becomes difficult without regard and consideration for the primitive nature. By resentment one partakes of it, by rebelling against it one gives fuel to that fire. One would soften it in oneself and in another by wisdom, patience, and gentleness.
The anointing of the forehead of the king signifies that he should have an easy expression, not frowning brows and a puckered face, but a smiling forehead, as the Persian phrase is. Poor and rich, all must come to the king in their troubles and difficulties, and his glance must comfort them and bring them ease. The great lesson one can learn from this custom is that the great education in life is to soften one’s feelings, one’s thoughts, words and actions, that they may give ease to ourselves and that we may create an atmosphere of ease that may benefit all who come in contact with us.
The secret of the religious custom of having gongs and bells in temples and churches lies in the great science of the Hindus, which is Mantra Yoga. In the first place, this custom unites several religions, since bells are rung in Christian churches, in the temples of the Hindus, and in Buddhist pagodas. Many think that it is a call to prayer, but from a mystical point of view it is something more than that. The idea of the mystic is to make his heart capable of resonance, that every voice that rises on earth or descends from heaven may have its re-echo in his heart. The Sufi prepares himself by his exercises of Zikar and Fikar to make his heart capable of producing that resonance that may be caused on earth or descend from heaven. When the centers of the body and faculties of the mind are prepared to produce that resonance, then they respond to every sound, and every time the bells is rung it has its re-echo in the heart of the mystic, and every center of his being begins to think of God and to feel God. Vibration is a greater stimulant than wine. Wine gives intoxication to the brain, but vibration produces ecstasy in the heart. Therefore Sufis have called it wine.
The custom of having flowers in the house of prayer and the custom of burning incense in the place of worship also exists in almost all religions and has existed in almost all periods. Color and beauty also have a power, an influence upon the mind and body, and those who can enjoy the beauty of color and the delicacy of the flower receive help by the way of the eyes. Its effect opens the heart, which then responds to the blessing from above. This shows that the beauty of the earth can be best used to obtain the blessing from heaven. The perfume of flowers or incense has a deeper effect still, because color and beauty are only reflected upon the heart through the eyes, but perfume and incense, rising through the breath, touch the heart, making it capable of spiritual exaltation. But nothing has a greater influence on the human soul than sound. Therefore hymns are sung in all churches, prayers are offered, and chants are recited, all in order to wake the spirit within to life, which enables the soul to respond to the perfection of God.
This custom has a psychological meaning. Wine has an influence that takes away the worries and anxieties of life and makes one unconscious of one’s environment, and this only may be called the proper condition for concentration. Those who cannot concentrate will realize by studying the condition of their mind that they are either worried or anxious about something, or they are conscious of the environments of their life; it is that which keeps them back from concentration.
All those who have become great in the worldly, artistic or spiritual aspects of life have arrived at their destination by the power of concentration. It is by concentration that a person, from being poor becomes wealthy, it is by concentration that one invents things that the world has never known, it is by concentration that one arrives at a desired position in life, and it is by the power of concentration that man enters the world unseen.
The custom of drinking somebody’s health therefore proves to be based on a psychological idea, the idea that one holds a wish in one’s mind at a time when one’s mind is in a state of concentration, so that during the time that the mind is in that state the thought of the friend’s health will be predominant.
There is a custom of touching glasses, which is supposed to be a promise of friendship. It can be defined symbolically in this way that the cup is the symbol of the heart, for in the heart there is the capacity of holding the divine love, which is the sacred wine. So the cup touching the cup means heart united with heart. According to the mystical view it is two becoming one.
The custom of the seclusion of women has its source in mystical thought. There used to be the mystical orders of people in the East who contemplated in solitude and lived in seclusion. The magnetism and power of influence that they developed by seclusion was in itself a marvel. This gave power to their gaze, power in their word, and influence in their atmosphere. This custom of seclusion was then imitated by the kings and people of high rank.
They had two ways of veiling themselves when away from home. One was to put a covering over the back of the head, which was made to hang down in front, so that the eyes could be half-covered; and the other was to put a veil over the face. It was a sort of mantle that they put on their head. Every prophet of Beni Israel had this. In the ancient pictures of the prophets of the Semitic race one will always see the head covered with a mantle. In the Hindu race also many orders of Buddhists and Yogis wore a mantle over the head. The veil which the kings also used, which was called Makna, later became customary in the East, and ladies of high rank wore what is called in Turkish the Yashmak. For thousands of years it has been the custom among Parsis that during their religious services the priest covers his head with a turban together with a mantle, and the Parsi women have kept the custom of covering the head with a white cloth, though it is less observed at the present time. In India, among Hindus as well as among Mussulmans, there is a custom at weddings of veiling the faces of bride and bridegroom with a veil of jasmine flowers.
Under all these different customs of veiling the head and face one finds a mystical significance. Man’s form is considered by Sufis as consisting of two parts, the head and the body, the body for action and the head for thought. Since the head is for thought its radiance is incomparably greater than that of the body, and the hairs are as rays of that radiance in a physical form. It is a constant outpouring of light that one observes in man’s life. Every action of looking, or breathing, or speaking, robs so much of the radiance out of man’s life. By preserving this radiance the mystic develops within him that influence, power and magnetism which in the average person are wasted. For instance, closing the eyes, which is a custom among mystics, not only helps in concentration and repose of mind, but during the moment when the eyes are closed, it preserves the radiance from flowing out. These customs were helpful to the kings and commanders for developing their power and influence, and they were valued for ladies of rank for preserving their beauty and charm. We learn by this that a life but little exposed to the outer world, whether through seclusion, or silence, or a perfect state of repose with the closed eyes, clasped hands and crossed legs, has a great influence.
The custom of the seclusion of the mystics remains only in the mystical Orders, but one finds the seclusion of women prevalent in the East. When a custom takes root in a section of society certainly it can be used and abused as people may choose. No doubt jealousy, which is in human nature, is a proof of love, but jealousy can be the source of a great many crimes. Man has always guarded the treasures that he values most in all sorts of coverings, and since that which man can love most is woman he has often ignorantly tried to guard her in the same way as all things of value and importance. And the custom of seclusion has been in his hand a means that has enabled him to control his household in the manner he likes.
However, it is not true that this custom was the outcome of the teaching of the Prophet. There are only two places in the records where an utterance of the Prophet on the subject is to be found. In one place it is told that when some coarse dances were going on among the peasants of his land, he said that women must be clad properly. In the other place that when the ladies of the Prophet’s household were returning home after taking care of the Prophet and his army during a battle, they were disinclined to look at the battle-field and to show themselves to their enemies, and the only thing that could be advised by the Prophet was that now that peace had been made if they did not like to show themselves they might veil their faces.
In India one sees the custom that an aged woman covers her face, a widow covers her face and a bride veils her face. There is some little psychological meaning in it. It is the nature of every soul to wish to hide its sorrow, and by veiling her face the widow veils her sorrow from others. And the veil that one sees on the face of an aged woman is there for the reason that in age the emotions become more visible and one has little control so as to hide them from; others, and when the heart has become softened at every little touch, however gentle, it is easily moved, and the covering is as a shield over it. On the face of a bride the veil is for the preservation of her charm, of the magnetism; at the same time the finest beauty in human nature is modesty, in whatever form it appears.
From the physical as well as the occult point of view, woman is more impressionable than man. The task of woman as a mother is of a greater importance than that of man on any position. Woman with her thought and feeling moulds the character of the child, and as she is susceptible to outward impressions, her impressions always have their influence on her child. During the period before motherhood very great care must be taken, for any word spoken to her reaches the depth of her being, and it re-echoes in the soul of the child. If a word made her bitter at the time or cross at a moment, it can create bitterness or crossness in the child. Especially during that period woman is more sensitive and susceptible to all impressions, beautiful or ugly. Anything striking impresses her soul deeply. A color, lightning, thunder, storm, all make impressions upon her. Conditions of life, misery or joy, all tell upon her more than on every person. Having this in consideration, the custom of seclusion has been kept in the East, and still exists among certain communities.
No doubt there is another side to consider: that home and state are not two separate things. Home is the miniature of the state; and if woman performs a part equally important at home, why must she not perform an equally important part in the outward life. No doubt these ancient customs, even with their psychological importance, often make an iron bar before the progress of the generality. In the East, for the maid and mistress both, there are days set apart for rest in every month, in all different religions, among Hindus, Parsis, and Mohammedans. The life in the world is a constant battle, and a hard battle one has to fight, if one has any fineness of feeling, any decency of manner. The position of woman in this battle is worse than that of man. It greatly robs her of her womanly fineness and delicacy of sentiment. Man is more dependent upon woman than woman on man. From the first moment any child, whether boy or girl, opens his eyes in the world, he seeks the protection of woman. Woman, as his mother, sister, daughter, friend, or wife, in every form, is the source of his happiness, comfort and peace. In whatever form man may express it — in a crude custom like the seclusion in the East or in many different ways — to guard her against the hard knocks which fall on every soul living in this world of selfishness is the first duty of a thoughtful man.
There is a remarkable phrase in the Bible, here it says, ‘Eat My flesh and drink My blood’, says Christ. What does He mean by saying this? He means in the first place that what a living being loves most is his food, what he loves most he eats. It has been proved in ferocious and dreadful famines, by people eating their own children, that food is dearer than their own child. The word of Christ, therefore, ‘Find out, what it is in Me that you love, which may become your nourishment, which may become your food. It is not this, My flesh and blood; this will not be sufficient to satisfy your appetite. There is another part of My being, which is in abundance and can nourish My numberless devotees. Therefore before trying to eat My flesh and blood, try to find out on what plane I really exist and what is My true being’. The lives of all the great saints show that not only their adversaries and opponents but also their near and dear friends have proved to be among their worst enemies. There is a creature which loves its mate so much that it eats it.
Now as to the question: what it is that Christ speaks of as his flesh and blood. His flesh is the knowledge of God and His blood is the love of God; because it is love that has a tendency, so to speak, to excite the circulation, and it is knowledge which has the tendency to strengthen, making man firm of which flesh is the symbol. One thing without the other would be abnormal. For instance flesh without blood, or blood without flesh, both are not normal conditions. What gives normal health to the body and to the soul is flesh and blood both. In the religious custom of the sacrament of bread and wine it is this secret which is symbolically expressed.
There was a custom in the old, aristocratic times, which is even now observed in the East and somewhat in the Western part of the world, of taking steps backward when leaving someone who was respected. It was not only a custom but it had a psychological point of view. When two people are talking to one another, facing each other, a current of sympathy is established which chiefly runs through the breath and through the glance, and necessarily, one of them is expressive, the other receptive. When their backs are turned that current is broken, and the idea of the people of old was to retain that current, which they thought was valuable, as long as possible.
There was another custom of courtesy of the ancients which still exists in certain places, that in order to show respect to someone they bent their knees. This had a psychological reason: that every influence of love, affection, or sympathy, benediction, or blessing, is poured through the glance, through the breath, and through words, and if the receiver was taller than the bestower, the influence would go into the ground instead of touching the person. Especially the influence of the glance, which surrounds on with sympathy and good wishes, has, mostly, a downward direction, and it is naturally so with the breath also.
In the salutation made by putting one knee on the ground, the knee resting on the ground expresses readiness to receive the command and the knee that is up is ready to go forward to carry it out.
But besides their psychological influences, different manners of courtesy have been the outcome of human progress in the direction of refinement. And yet progress in every direction is like a wave in the sea — it rises and it falls. So it is with manners. This time seems to be the time when the wave is coming back. However, doing a thing is one thing, and understanding it is another thing. Whether one does a certain thing or does not do it, that is another question, but in the understanding of all things lies the purpose of life.
India, the land of mysticism and philosophy, has symbolism in all its customs. Even in the marriage ceremony everything that is done as a custom or rite is symbolical. Both bride and bridegroom wear on their hand a pearl-embroidered hear; they wear saffron-coloured garments for the ten days that the wedding ceremony lasts; they are anointed during the wedding ceremony on their heads, shoulders, elbows, and chins, and on their knees and feet. The bridegroom has a sword in his hand during all those ten days. On the last day of the wedding both bride and bridegroom are veiled with a low-flowing veil made of jasmine flowers and trimmed with roses, and after the conclusion of the marriage ceremony they are unveiled.
Now, the meaning of this veil of flowers is that a new phase of life begins for them. They are no more the same as before; new responsibilities, new hopes, and a new life they have to begin. The meaning of the sword in the bridegroom’s hand is that the bridegroom shall uphold the honor and dignity of his family, of his wife, that he shall stand in arms to defend the honor and dignity that the union of bride and bridegroom has completed. And the heart on the hand denotes that both of them shall let their action be directed by their heart. The annointing means that the hands and feet and head of either shall be ready to serve the other when occasion arises, that they shall not be stiff at any time when their service is called for. Saffron color, in the East, is considered to be the color of all sorts of good luck. It is the imperial sign. Love-letters are written in saffron color. The invitations for the wedding are written in this color, for this color represents light. Light in heaven and gold on earth, both are yellow. Therefore yellow is preferred to all other colors to be the omen on some good occasion in life.
The horse has been considered a lucky animal in all ages, for the horse represents energy, strength, activity, and life. The horse was conspicuous in Greek art, as also in the art of the ancient Persians. In the courts of the ancients kings in the East there used to be Chama, fans made of horse-hair; and the horse’s head was used as a decorative emblem in the palaces, and before every entertainment something was spoken about the horse first. The comedians of India have that custom still existing: the first item of their program is an imitation of a horse. A story of a horse is always interesting. A sportsman and thinker, who differ so much in their likes, unite in admiration of the horse. The Prophet Mohammed admired the horse as one of the objects worth attaining in life. The most interesting part of the Ramayana is where Lahu, the son of Rama, goes in pursuit of Kalanki the ideal horse. In the sacred book of the Hindus, Mahabharata, it is Krishna who is the charioteer of Arjuna, Hassan and Hussein, the great martyrs of Islam, whose day has been celebrated year after year for ages, are represented with their beautiful horses called Duldul.
The horse is the symbol of the mind. When the mind is under control it is like a horse broken in, when it cannot be controlled it is like a restive horse, when its rein is not well in hand it is like a wild horse roaming about in the wilderness. Then the horse is the symbol of life, representing its energy, activity, and beauty. The horse, with its strength and activity, is harmless, useful, intelligent, has feeling, and is different to the donkey. The horse is the comrade in war, and is the dignity of great warriors. The unity that is established sometimes between the soul of the rider and the spirit of the horse is most wonderful. The horseshoe is considered lucky in all countries, for it reminds one of the horse and conveys the impression of the horse’s vigour, activity, life, and beauty.
In ancient Greece often questions were asked of an oracle, which were answered by a woman, who sometimes gave a plain answer and sometimes one the meaning of which was veiled. It was the same thing that today is called a spiritualistic séance, a mediumistic answer, the interest of which is alive in all ages through in different forms. Among all the occult and mystical interests the interest in the medium has a very great attraction for the average mind. A woman was often chosen for this work, on account of woman’s sensitiveness, which always exceeds that of man, and this is the secret of intuition in human nature. Especially a celibate woman was chosen for this purpose, as in her is to be found more susceptibility to intuition. The question was supposed to be asked of a god, a god who was distinguished by a particular attribute, of poetry, of the sun, or any other attribute.
The secret of all this is that the priests, by their hypnotic power and suggestion, wakened in the woman that particular attribute of the Spirit within, Who is the possessor of all knowledge, especially that pertaining to the attribute with which He is identified. God is already in the heart of every person, only, to wake Him and to make Him rise, He should be called upon. He then, so to speak, takes birth from the heart of a sensitive woman, whose innermost can easily be touched. God has many attributes, He has many ears and many tongues to speak with, and through every form He answers whenever one reaches Him. Spiritualists call Him a spirit, but even through the spirit of an individual, dead or living, when God is called upon, God answers. Those who play with spiritualistic seances would give it all up in a moment if they only know that God always answers whenever He is called upon.
The little that is known of the Greek Mysteries has been very variously interpreted. Some have supposed them to have been a course of agriculture, taught secretly, others a mummery carried on for centuries by the priests. What is known with certainty is the high esteem in which they were held and the strict secrecy which attended them. The word means silence; to be initiated was ‘to be made silent.’
Access to the lesser mysteries was easy. Tens of thousands were initiated. The temples in which the rites were practiced were under the protection of the state. In them were enacted the lives of the gods in whose name the mysteries were celebrated, and great use was made of music. The mysteries were held to remove the fear of death and to give assurance of the survival of the departed. Those who had been initiated were believed to be happy after death, while others led a dismal life hereafter, clinging to their graves.
The preparatory training for the greater mysteries was very severe. Fasting was undergone, abstinence of all sorts, extremes of heat and cold had to be endured, and the candidates swam through water for days and had to walk through fire. The training often lasted many years. After initiation, in the beginning all was darkness, dread and dismay; then a marvelous light was seen and shining forms came to meet the initiate. The initiate experienced while on earth the state of the soul dissociated from the body. A Greek writer says, ‘Here all instruction ceases, one beholds the nature of things.’ Apuleius, who had received all the initiations of the mysteries, says, ‘I went to the boundary between life and death, I passed through the four elements, I stood on the threshold of Proserpina, at the time of deepest midnight I saw the sun shine in brightest splendour, I saw the greater and the lesser gods and revered them near at hand. The initiate was said to be received, while living on earth, among the immortal gods, and made as one of them.
This was really a Sufi institution, though not called by this name, for exactly the same thing is to be found today in the schools, of Sufis in India and Persia.
The lesser mysteries were Ilmi Rabbali, the mystery of gods, in other words the mystery of the different attributes of God. For when the proper name of God is repeated a certain number of times some particular effect is produced by it, resulting in a desirable object. Before Islam the different names of God were considered to be different gods known by different names and identified with different attributes and characteristics. By invoking the names of different gods a person accomplished his object in life, as now Wazifa is practised by the Sufis. The music which the ancient Greek knowers of mystery had as a means of their spiritual development, the same is used even now in the Chishtia schools of Sufis, where the Qawwali meeting, which is call Sama, is held, in which music is played and sung for awakening the emotional nature, which is the secret revelation.
The fasting and abstinence, and all these things, were taught in order to develop the will-power, which results in self discipline and which is the secret of all mastery; and it is by the power that the kingdom within is attained. Once man has touched his self within, the illusion becomes dissolved. The fear of death is caused by the consciousness of mortality. As long as one is unaware of one’s immortal self one has the fear of death. Once the immortality of the soul is realized and the realization is no longer in one’s imagination but has become a conviction, then one rises above the fear of death. His knowledge is gained fully when an adept is able to detach his soul from his body. It is this state which is called by Yogis Samadhi and by Sufis Nayat.
Every soul that treads the path of initiation takes his first steps through the darkness; as Ghazzali says, “The spiritual pursuit is like shooting an arrow through the darkness.” No doubt as one approaches the goal the light comes; as the Koran says, ‘God is the light of the heavens and of the earth.’ Then, once the sight has become keen, there is no further instruction needed. One gets insight into the hidden lows of nature, all things seem to speak to the seer of their character, nature and secret. This realization removes the boundary between life and death. One rises above the elements which have formed this mortal abode—the body and mind—for the soul’s experience, when one touches one’s true being, the soul. It is the soul-realized man who stands above all matter, and in this way the spirit gets victory over matter. Under all conditions of life which produce obscurity and confusion the soul-realized man sees the light, and to him all men, of lesser or greater degrees of evolution, are nothing but different forms of the Divine Immanence. In this way the man who has probed the depths of the mystery of life becomes God realized. When he no longer has his limited self before his view then only he experiences the state of which Christ has spoken: ‘Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.’
There is a very widespread belief that in certain families warning of the impending death of a member of the family is given always in the same way. In some families a certain bird is seen by some member of the family before a death, in others the church bell rings without being tolled, in another one or more flagstones of the pavement of the chapel are seen to be wet while the rest are dry, and the number of wet flagstones tallies with the number of deaths. In Ireland such warnings are particularly frequent, and often occur in the form of what is called the Banshee, a screech heard by members of the family, but inaudible to others.
This explains the truth that life is a revelation in all forms and is not restricted to any particular form. The death of an individual is apparently the death of one person having its effect to some extent upon that individual’s surroundings and on those concerned with him, yet inwardly the influence of the death of one individual reaches the whole circumference of the universe. No object, no being, is left untouched by it; only this manifests to those who are subject to be more affected by the death of someone they are related to. To them the warning of death takes some form that might be perceptible to them, and told by them to their relations and descendants, that particular form then becomes a special alarm clock of death for that particular family, and it continues for a considerable time, until someone is born in that family who ignores it absolutely by his disbelief.
One learns by this that life is revealing by nature; it is man who becomes blinded by nature. There is no creature in this world so absorbed in the outer life in the world as man; so man, with greater capability of knowing, knows least of all creatures. There are birds who give warning of death. Dogs, cats, and horses perceive the coming death of their friend or neighbor or of their master. If man is open to the knowledge that life reveals continually, his body and mind with his intuitive centers and perceptive faculties can know the secret and the meaning of life most.
Among the Hindus there has been an old belief, which is now taken to be a superstition, even in India. Every Brahman avoided or in other words took great care to keep himself, his shrine of worship, his food, woman during maternity period and the new-born child away from the shadow of a Shudra or outcast.
Now, the times being different, naturally that belief is seemingly meaningless; but in point of fact there was an occult meaning hidden behind it. Shadow is caused by the wall of a person standing against the sun, the sun which is life-giving to plants and human beings, to animals and to all, and the direct rays of which give all things new life. Places which are hidden from the sun, flat or mountainous, become the center all diseases. The personality that stands in the light of any person, causing thereby hindrance in the life of that person, is an example of this!
The difference between the true teacher and the false—both of whom have always existed in the world—had been distinct. The false one stood in the light of his pupil; the true one showed him the way standing on the side.
The psychology of the shadow is very complex. The shadow of an unholy person falling upon food will certainly take away the living substance from it; if it fell upon a person in a negative state, a woman sitting aside, or a child, it would produce exhaustion and lifelessness, also in the souls who are gong through a process of recuperation or growth. Very often a tree standing above a plant, keeping from it the light, hinders the growth of the plant; so is the shadow of the unholy. It can for the moment darken the soul of those passive and receptive of spirit. No doubt the power of darkness and illusion itself, as shadow, has no existence in reality. However, it is evident; so is the influence of immature souls.
The spiritual souls have a contrary influence to this. Their presence is a stimulus to intelligence; their influence is comfort giving and inspiring. The phenomenon of a spiritual personality is that in his presence the memory becomes keen, the waves of inspiration rise, the clouds of depression clear away, hope springs from the depth of the heart and the soul within begins to feel living, love manifests through thought and feeling, and all that was once dead lives again.
This shows that personality is a mystery. It gives life and causes death; it raises one to heaven, and throws another back to the depths of earth. The influence of personality may change one’s life, environment, and all affairs. Its influence can turn the wheel of life to the right or wrong side, turning thereby the trend of all the affairs of life.
Very often most innocent, good and pure-minded souls, owing to the lack of positiveness in their natures, become the victims of undesirable personalities, personalities that stand in their lives, obscuring the light for which they crave; and this may continue for a long period of time. Once a person is accustomed to being in the shade, then he is afraid to come out in the sunlight though inwardly he make be drawn to it.
The denser a person is, the grosser is his shadow. In other words, the more material a person is, the heavier is his influence.
The whole idea of life is to live freely; to look through space freely, having nothing to hide or conceal; the light of truth to shine from within and the light of the sun without; light all around, no shadow of any kind hindering the light, which is the soul of every being.
THERE IS a custom prevalent everywhere in the Western world of proposing toast, which is significant of a psychological truth behind it, which is to wish for a certain thing to happen at a time when one’s own wish is being granted, in a smaller or greater form. This shows that the moment when one’s wish is granted is that moment when one is satisfied. We should not, therefore, wonder why people go to spiritual souls for their blessing. Those who are spiritually blessed, their innermost wish has been satisfied, and a wish made by them acts as a quick blessing in the life of everyone.
But this also teaches one to catch the opportunity of getting the good wish of every person at the moment when his wish is being granted. Having known this psychological law, the people in the East look for such an opportunity of offering food to the hungry or a gift to the one who needed it, for the wish that naturally rises from the heart of a person while accepting it will certainly be granted.
Very few in the world know that great power is hidden in the wish of a person whose heart is in the state of dancing, so to speak—full of joy. We read in the legends of old of sages calling upon their friends, pupils or followers at a certain time and asking them to make a wish, for they knew the moment when the wish could be granted. There is a story of Hafiz, that near the home of the Shaikh there were eleven pupils whose name was Hafiz, but among them there was only one who use to engage himself in his night vigils, and the others used to rest all night. One evening the Shaikh called, ‘Hafiz’! There was only one Hafiz awake, all others asleep. The Shaikh was holding the bowl with the thought of the wish to be granted. With his eyes closed he gave it to Hafiz. But then as he knew there were ten more, he again called ‘Hafiz’! and as all others were asleep, the same Hafiz came again and received the bowl. Eleven times the teacher called, and the same Hafiz went again and again. In the morning ten were disappointed and that one Hafiz was found blessed with eleven-fold blessings.
It would not be an exaggeration if one said that even God has time when He grants wishes. And if one knows that time one certainly becomes benefited and blessed. Since Sufism teaches, look for God in the heart of man, the wise mureeds therefore see the pleasure and displeasure of God in everyone they meet, and they carefully regard the pleasure and displeasure of those they come in contact with, knowing that in doing so they regard the pleasure and displeasure of God.
Besides having one’s wish granted, the joy of giving another happiness, that itself is greater than a wish granted, if one has risen to that plane of human evolution when one can enjoy pleasure with the pleasure of another, when one can feel satisfaction in the satisfaction of another, when one can be happy in bringing happiness to another. No one will give another happiness and will not have the same come to him a thousandfold. There comes a stage of evolution in the life of man when he feels more satisfied by seeing another person satisfied with food than by his having eaten it himself, when he feels comfortable in seeing another person comfortable, when he feels richly adorned by seeing another person clothed nicely; for this stage is a stepping-stone to the realization of God.
Q Would we receive the curses of people as well as the blessings?
A Yes. One should always think that life is an opportunity. Every moment is an opportunity. Sometimes one can do good by not troubling much oneself; it is just by seizing the opportunity. If one is attentive and brings some pleasure and happiness, it is not always that it costs. What it costs is attention. If one keeps one’s attention fixed upon that idea, and is constantly seeking where one can do some little good to another. By giving one’s place in a bus or tramcar; by just having a little consideration for the aged, a little consideration for someone who is perhaps not honored or respected, if one can offer what a person is lacking in his life without him knowing, that is always a great …. To do good is the work of the sage. Sometimes people become over-enthusiastic, which does harm. It is a spell, a fit of goodness. That does no good. The real goodness is that which comes spontaneously. A thief is always on the look-out to rob something; so a good person is always looking for an opportunity to do good; he will always find it.
Q Can you tell something more of the time that God grants wishes?
A God grants wishes at two times. One time is when your heart is free from every thought, or feeling, or emotion; in the most peaceful and tranquil condition; at that time every wish that is sown is just like a seed sown in fertile soil. If one had the patience to wait in the great power of God, whatever be the wish, it will certainly be granted. The other time when the wish is granted is when somebody is satisfied, had been made happy by you, and naturally, out of his heart, springs a kind of fountain which pours upon you a kind of blessing. It will be just like rain from above, which in time will bring its fruits and flowers.
Q Has one the right to wish for oneself?
A Yes, as long as the conscience says that the wish is right. But there is another stage, when a person has so advanced spiritually that he thinks: ‘God’s wish is my wish God knows better than me. I may wish something wrong’. The one who gives his life in that way in the hands of God is greater still.
Q When a man is poor, but can just live with the means he has, is it then good when he gives away material things, and so makes himself dependent upon others?
A You see, the question what is good is a very difficult question to decide. Good is peculiar to a person. It all depends upon what that person thinks. When he thinks it is right, it is good. That is the only question.
The story of Saint Alias, he was an ascetic, and for his food only a loaf of bread was enough every day. He would not keep anything for tomorrow. If he was given four people’s food in one day he would distribute it. If he had still more, he shared it all. Next day he was without. If one said, why did he make himself dependent upon people for the next day? he would say that: ‘We live in this life interdependent. As long as I do not go to anybody, do not force upon anybody—only people brought it—what does it matter? It is from Him. It is not depending upon others. It all comes from God. It all goes to the creatures of God. What does it matter’? It all depends upon the person and how the person looks at it.
Q The great creative spirits, which at this moment are so necessary for working in the world, if they have in their soul a longing for spirituality, how can they keep balance between their busy life and the concentration which is a necessity for the spiritual path? What must they sacrifice?
A In the first place I should say that if one object is the seeking of one’s soul, and the other object is life’s necessity, and if one object is to be sacrificed, it is better the one which is necessary, but keep to the soul’s seeking.
There is another point of view; in order to become spiritual, we should not become unworldly. We can just as well be in the world and yet not be of the world. We can be active in our everyday life, and yet be concentrative. A person who can concentrate well can manage the affairs of the world better. Those who have attained success in business, in worldly affairs, they had their concentration better. Therefore concentration is in no way a hindrance. A success gained through the power of spirituality is more secure and has a stronger foundation. Furthermore, there is one rule of life, which must be understood. That the success is gained by two ways; by the right way and by the wrong way. Wrong way means that which is against the spiritual idea. And when a person has started by one path, he must keep that path, in order to be successful. And if he finds that perhaps the other path will be better for the success, he will lose. A person who is going the wrong way, if he thinks that the right way will be better, he will lose. The person who is going the right way, he will not lose. His success will perhaps be slow, but it is secure, and he will all through be successful. The other had no danger, but his greatest danger is going into the right path; that is his loss.
There are superstitions and customs connected with the wedding observed in Europe, such as throwing an old shoe after the newly married couple as they go away, and throwing rice. The rice signifies flourishing, multiplication, prosperity, and Providence, whereas old shoes are the old times passed in life and a new life begun. The rings that bridegroom and bride put on each other’s finger is the sign of bond, which is the real meaning of marriage. The hands of the two joined by the priest is the possession of one another, suggesting that each holds the other.
The custom of the Greek church, where wreaths are put on the head of the bride and bridegroom is the exchange of thoughts and feelings and walking three times round the altar is suggestive of God between them, uniting them both in a divine link, the link which is everlasting as God Himself. And the custom of the bride’s kissing the hand of the bridegroom, which is still continued at the time when the rhythm of the world is quite changed, only explains the response from the side of the bride, in which is the secret of nature’s harmony, although what generally happens later is just the opposite, but that brings about the happy medium.
The human body represents the five elements, and nature’s law is that every element returns to its own origin. Naturally therefore the being which is the air part turns into air, the heat is absorbed by the heat—the fire-element has left already. The body belongs either to earth or to water. But the body, which is born on earth, not in the water, and has sought its comfort on earth, not in water, and has also been afraid of the water, an element foreign to it, had better be saved from it and had better buried.
Another point of view is that every living being, whether man or animal, has a fear of fire. A powerful animal like the lion is afraid of the fire; the elephant with all its large body and strength runs away from fire. If that is the nature of all living beings, to be afraid of fire, then imagine for a person who is not yet dead to know that as soon as he is dead his body will be put in the fire. Although his mind is separate from the body, yet his mind will have a shock just the same.
The reason of mummies is to suggest that if the body which is dead can be kept along, then the life, which is real life, is eternal. Besides among the ancient Egyptians there was a custom (the same tendency exists in the East) that at every banquet or feast a mummy was brought in. It was brought for a moment and taken away, in order to waken man in the midst of his great joy and enthusiasm and pleasure to the consciousness that there is such a thing as death, that there is something awaiting him and that he must not keep ignorant of that truth, absorbed in all the pleasures of the world. But at the same time they put the mummies also in the grave.
They say the swan sings once, just before it dies. The meaning of this is that a fuller expression given to one’s joy puts an end to life, for in the fullest expression lies life’s purpose. In the life of an artist one finished work of art, and in life of a musician his best piece of music, brings to him the warning of his departure. Sa’adi says, ‘Every soul is born with a purpose, and the light of that purpose is kindled in his heart’. It applies not only to the soul of every person but to every living creature, however small and insignificant; even to every object this rule can be applied.
There is a saying in the East that the elephant dies at the sight of fever. This explains that death robs one of that which one had made oneself. If this be explained in other words, one makes one’s death while making oneself. The flesh that the elephant gathers around itself naturally gives power to the fever that becomes the cause of its death. The same is to be seen in the life of man. Every difficulty, even death, man makes with the making of himself. It is to suggest this idea that Christ has said, ‘spirit quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing’.
The soul was born to be immortal, but mortality it usually earns for itself. Here is nothing that man would have been afraid of if he did not possess something which he is afraid of being robbed of. When the hermit Manchandra said to Gaurakha on their journey through the wilderness. ‘Gaurakha, I feel afraid’. Gaurakha answered. ‘Throw away the fear’, Manchandra answered, ‘How can fear be thrown away? Gaurakha said, ‘Throw away that which causes you fear’. Manchandra took out from his wallet two bricks of gold and said, ‘These bricks of gold, must I throw them away’? ‘Yes’, said Gaurakha, ‘What are they’? Manchandra threw them away, and as he went on his face turned pale. Gaurakha looked at him and said, ‘Why are you sad’? Manchandra said, ‘Now we have nothing’. Gaurakha said, ‘We have everything. Look before you, what do you behold’? And he beheld mountains of gold. Gaurakha said, ‘Take as much as you can, if that is your soul’s striving’. Manchandra’s soul awoke, and he said, ‘Nothing will I take for I know the riches of possessing nothing’.
For three days from the time that the child is born, and sometimes for six days, no friends are allowed to enter the room where the child is, only some relations who are most esteemed in the family. The meaning in this custom is that the mind of the newborn child is like a photographic plate and the first impression that it receives goes deeper in it and other impressions have less effect. Therefore the impressions of early childhood make the foundation for the whole life.
The mother does not appear before friends for the first six days, even some relations are kept away. The meaning of this custom is that in the negative state in which a mother is at that time. She is too sensitive to be exposed to inharmonious and coarse vibrations. In the case of the child it is not only that his mind is affected, but the first impression even influences the construction of his face and form.
At the birth of a son the occasion is celebrated by the beating of drums and gunfire. This custom no doubt comes from the ancient Rajputs, whose Dharma or sacred duty, was warfare. This first noise of drums and gunfire was meant as the child’s first experience, or as a first lesson in warfare. An entertainment is given in celebration of the birth of a child, at which there is singing, playing and dancing. It is meant by this that a joyous atmosphere works as a push given to a swing in the life of a child on earth at its commencement.
In the East the influence of the days of the week is considered by all, learned or illiterate. Every time has its peculiar influence and particular purpose. The mechanism of the cosmos has a certain action and again its reaction on the part of the planets, producing a certain effect in every hour of the day, in every day of the week, in every week of the month, in every month of the year, and in every year of a cycle.
The characteristic of Sunday is Godliness. Anything spiritual can alone be successful. Anything else, besides a spiritual thing, something of a worldly nature, begun on Sunday, or continued on that day, must come to naught.
Monday is a negative day, a day for things of a passive character. To receive teaching, to obtain information, to search for anything, this is the auspicious day.
Tuesday is a day of enjoyment, for amusement, joy and pleasure. For picnic, feast and wedding, for music and dancing, and for sports, this is a fitting day.
Wednesday is a day for business. It is a day for taking an initiative, and undertaking. All that is done on this day must bear fruit.
Thursday is a central day, to make a determination, to decide things, to settle in a new place. It is a day of inspiration, of revelation, because the influence of this day touches the summit.
Friday is a day of power and a day of aspiration. On this day prayer is granted and wishes are fulfilled, thoughts are materialized, and dreams become realized. However, this is not the day of sowing, it is the day of reaping. Friday is a day of exaltation.
Saturday is a winding day. If loss is wound it continues for days and days, if the mechanism of gain is wound it continues for weeks. It is a day of upliftment to those who raise their soul to a higher pitch, so that the machinery of the spirit may be wound and continued for a long, long time. Every planetary influence that begins on Saturday must always continue its effect upon one’s life.
The influence of the day is unavoidable upon every mortal, except upon souls to whom day and night is the same, those who are beyond the laws of this mortal world.
According to the Orientals, 3, 13, 9, and 18 are numbers which must be avoided in beginning some profitable act. There are some psychological reasons which prove these numbers to be best avoided.
Three denotes all. All means everything, and everything means nothing in particular. Things of the world, which are profitable, are something in particular. Three therefore annuls the distinction, for 3 resolves into 1. One is 3, and 3 is 1.
Thirteen destroys balance by unbalancing the rhythm, as it cannot be evenly divided. Besides, 12 hours of the day and 12 hours of the night complete the day and night. So the thirteenth has no place either in the day or in the night. Besides, after 12 o’clock comes 1, and it marks 13. Thirteen is a number which has no accommodation. Among Western people there is a superstition that the thirteenth person at table must die within the year. This also explains that the number 13 has no accommodation. That a person dies, means that the earth accommodates him no longer.
Nine falls short of perfection. Besides it is 3 times 3.
And so is 18 for 8 and 1 are 9. It has the same effect as 3.
All numbers besides 3, 13, 9, and 18 are considered in the East fit to be used.
The secret of what we call omen is to be found in the law of impressions. For instance there is a belief that if you are going to do something, if a cat crosses your way you meet with ill-luck. It is easy to understand. In the first place the swift action of the cat makes a great impression upon a person; it forms a line before you, a line of action, and that line impressed upon you gives you the thought of a cross. You are intending to go straight, and your line is crossed by a horizontal action against your vertical action, which means in action one’s hands nailed and feet tied. It gives the picture of the idea.
The whole mystery of omens, which used to be believed by the ancient people and are now considered to be superstitions, has behind it this mystery of impression. Naturally when a person is starting to accomplish a certain work and he happens to see beautiful flowers of fruits that gives a promise of his desire being fulfilled, of its bearing flowers for him—the sign of success. A person going forward with this impression will certainly meet with success. Whereas if a person sees burning wood, or a sack of coal, which all show destruction—fire which burns up—a person going to do something impressed by this certainly loses.
There use to be a custom that when someone in a family was going out to accomplish something, no one must say any word that would hinder his success. They did not even ask the person, ‘Where are you going’?, because even asking raises a question. The question stands before one, Why? Where? A person would become discouraged even in answering. The strength of will with which he is going may be exhausted in answering Why, and Where, and then he may not find the energy and power to accomplish what he is going to accomplish.
This is the inner psychology of mind, the knowledge of which makes things easy. One must not become impressed by holding different beliefs, but one must know the science, the mystery which is hidden behind all such things, which may seem small and little, but their result sometimes is most important.
It has been a custom among the people in the East to start every enterprise with the waxing of the moon, in order to follow the course of nature and to join forces with the increasing power and light of the moon. The sun represents divine light, the moon represents the human heart. To join forces with the waxing of the moon is like drawing divine light and power in one’s own heart to accomplish a certain thing. It is also considered lucky to rise with the sunrise, and better still to begin an enterprise with the rising of the sun. This is again an indication to follow nature’s tides. The sun represents divine power; therefore any spiritual action, a prayer-offering or a meditation, a devotional worship, it is more desirable to perform with the sunrise.
However, the night vigils are performed by the seers and the knowers of truth in the midst of the night, when the old day ends and the new day begins; for that is a time of Kemal which offers to the soul a perfect stillness. When the sun is at the zenith that is Kemal also, but it has not the quiet of midnight; and therefore it is considered by those who know things inauspicious for taking up any enterprise. As time has influence upon weather, upon the sea, upon the trees and plants, so it has a subtle influence upon living creatures. Man appears to be most independent of the influences and yet man is most under the influence of time; not only his body and mind, but with all affairs of life. Verily the one who knows the influence of time knows the secret of life.
Belief in planetary influences has been maintained in all ages by man. However many times a person may have been disappointed in finding truth in the horoscope, yet no one can be thoughtful and deny the fact of the influence that the planets have upon people’s lives. It is possible that every method is not a correct method of making a horoscope, every book on astrology is not the right book, and every astrologer is not a prophet; nevertheless there is as much truth in the influence of planets upon the lives of men as there is truth in the effects of drugs upon one’s physical body. The whole cosmic system is based upon a certain rhythm, a rhythm which relates planets, multitudes, and individuals, and manifests as a hidden law governing the action of the whole creation and yet silent and covered.
There are two aspects that constitute an individual; spiritual and material. The spiritual aspect remains untouched, while the material aspect is moved and turned by conditions brought about by planetary influences. The spiritual aspect, which remains untouched in every man, is as a witness of his life, a soul from within who knows not what it itself is, who identifies itself with this other aspect and therefore takes as a reality that which it witnesses, that which goes on before it as a course of life. When once this real aspect of man’s being is awakened then it begins to see that it has a voice in the matter too, and then it sees that it must fight for its rights, in order to gain liberty. It therefore fights with its own kingdom, which is the other aspect of man’s being which it so long witnessed; and so it gains that strength which enables it in the long run to battle with outer conditions caused by planetary influences. It might take one a lifetime to combat, and yet it would be short to gain the mastery which belongs to the soul.
It is the faculty of the soul to see, and the eyes are its instruments. It is not the instrument that sees, but it is the soul that uses the instrument to see. The eyes I have given as an example, but really the whole body is the instrument of the soul, to get the experience of life. The seeing of the soul through the ears is called hearing, through the tongue, tasting. It is the knowing by the soul of the external life; the soul uses different instruments to obtain different experiences.
Between the body and the soul there is another instrument which is recognized by scientists and mystics as inexplicable. That is the mind. The scientists call it the brain, but the brain is but the instrument of the mind, and the mind goes beyond it. Plainly speaking, it may be said that the mind is the instrument of the soul and the body is the instrument of the mind, but both mind and body is the instruments of the soul. Although these instruments give the soul knowledge of things clearly, these instruments at the same time limit the power of the soul.
There are two aspects of sight: one is penetration and the other expansion, i.e., the length and width of the range of sight. Through the eyes of the body one can see a short or long distance, or have a wide or narrow horizon. But by using the mind as its instrument the soul sees through another mind in the same way as the eye sees across the length and breadth of its range of sight.
When the mind takes the body in order to experience life, it limits the experience. For the body is not sufficient. But if the mind were free, it would see further. But, as from childhood man has the habit of using the body as the instrument of the mind, hardly anyone knows how to make use of the mind without the body. And as the soul has always taken the mind as its instrument, it also limits its sight and experience. If the soul could see independently of mind and body, it would see infinitely more.
As it is difficult for the mind to see independently of the body, it is more difficult for the soul to see independently of the mind. Therefore, the Sufi tries to make his mind independent of the body and his soul independent of mind and body. In order to accomplish this different concentrations and practices are given. It is like effacing the external form from the mind, and erasing from the soul the form of the mind. It is this experience which is called Safa.
There are three aspects of life, and by seeing the oneness of these three one comes to divine knowledge. To the mystic, therefore, the idea of the Trinity suggests this philosophy. This idea also exists in the Hindu religion, and is known as Trimurti. They have a religious instrument with three points (a kind of fork with three points) as a symbol of this, the idea being that it is the three different aspects of the one life which confuse man and prevent him from realizing the one life beneath these three aspects.
The first aspect is the knower, the second is the known, and the third is the knowing. In other words they may be called the seer, the seen or that which appears, and the sight. These three are three turnings on the same road. Which hide it and divide it into three aspects. Therefore, in the spiritual path this puzzle must be solved as the first and last thing. If the barriers, which divide these three aspects, are removed then the mystic realizes one life and not three.
Occult power is the power of knowing or seeing, the faculty of knowing or seeing. The seer is the greatest of these aspects, the second is that which is seen (appears), the seeing power is the third. The reason of this is that the seer is the source and origin of what is seen and of the seeing power. Therefore, Jesus Christ called Him ‘Father.’ That which is seen has in it the light inherited from the seer. Whether flower or fruit, it has radiance in it which makes it appear. There is a verse of a Persian poet, which explains this: ‘The nightingale has borrowed from Thee his beautiful song, and the rose has borrowed from Thee its color and fragrance.’ But the means that the seer takes as his instrument is the mind, which is the instrument of the soul, and the body, the instrument of the mind.
Therefore, the first lesson the mystic has to learn is to know the relation between himself and the thing he sees. As soon as a mystic sees life from this point of view, that he connects himself with the thing he sees, he can understand it much better than the average person can. Sufism is not a religion, because it does not give any doctrine or principle, but it is a point of view. The ancient Vedantists adopted their point of view in teaching the sacred words Tat Tvam Asi: ‘As Thou art, so I am.’ With this point of view, when the sight becomes keen, even objects become clear to the seer and speak to him, and what is called psychometry, or such phenomena, become as a play to the seer. The whole of life is as an open book. But there is nothing so interesting for the seer to see or know as human nature, and it is the seer who can see and know another person.
Ordinarily there exist many barriers between one person and another, such as prejudice, hatred, reserve, remoteness, and all aspects of duality. A person considers another his greatest friend in the world if he realizes that the other understands him. There is nothing that brings two people closer together than understanding. And what is this comprehension? It is trinity with unity. Often one wonders, ‘Why do I not understand this person?’ But one does not realize that one creates oneself the barriers, which separate one person from another. If these barriers are not created, the soul has freedom to see and nothing can stand in its way. Do you think the sages and saints try to see the thoughts of other people? Not at all, that does not concern them. But the thoughts of another person manifest themselves to the saint. Why? Because there is no barrier. This barrier creates duality.
The idea of the Sufi is to uncover himself, and this he can accomplish by contemplation upon the idea of God, which is the Absolute Oneness. When one realizes this in its immensity, all such sciences as physiognomy or phrenology begin to become like play, because by these sciences one sees a part, but by the light of the soul one sees the whole.
The glance of the seer is penetrating, and in this it differs from the glance of an ordinary man. It has three characteristics (qualities). The first is that it penetrates through the body, mind, and soul. The second quality of this glance is that it opens, unlocks, and unfolds things; it also possesses the power of seeking and finding. The third characteristic of the glance of the seer is more wonderful. It is this: as it falls upon a thing, it makes that thing, as it wants to make it. This is not actually creating, but it is awakening that particular quality, which was perhaps asleep.
This is quite natural, as we see in the ordinary course of life that by fear we create in others dreadful qualities, and when we love, we create kindness. It is possible to turn a friend into an enemy by thinking that he is an enemy, and also it is possible to change an enemy into a friend by expecting him to be a friend. Therefore, the tendency of the mystic is to turn everything into that which he wishes it to be. To turn what is ugly into beauty, and beauty into ugliness, this is what the vision can accomplish. This proves to a deep thinker that things are not what they appear to be, but we make them as they are. The whole life may be made into a thing of complete ugliness or it may be made into a sublime vision of perfect beauty. The lord of the yogis, Shiva, is pictured with a cobra on his neck, which means that death, which frightens everyone, is accepted by him as life. That shows that even death can be made into life, and it is only the difference of the point of view that makes life death.
The first characteristic of the glance of the seer, penetration, depends upon clearness of vision. The second characteristic, the uncovering of objects, depends upon the illumination of the soul. But the third, the greatest, comes from confidence in the self, called Iman.
The first thing in the study of human nature is observation of the external part of man. This has two aspects, one is the head of man, and the other is his form. And this can be seen from two points of view, the first is the analytical point of view, the second the synthetic. The former is understanding of the character of each organ and the meaning of its form, and the latter is the harmony of the different organs. And a person understands half if he considers one organ only and not its combination with other organs.
The study of physiognomy can help one as an interesting study, but one must have intuition also to help and guide him who wishes to judge. Nothing in life is so interesting as the study of human nature, and in attaining to knowledge of God, knowledge of human nature is the beginning. Therefore, in occult study one must begin by studying human beings, and the first lesson is to study their form.
The prominence of particular organs and muscles shows the vitality, which exists in these organs, and the lack of it is lack of energy in these organs. Therefore, the straightness of any organ suggests straightness in the nature, and curve, where it is natural, shows subtlety of nature, a point, wherever it is natural shows sharpness of nature, roundness makes for subtlety, and the oval form shows acute intelligence, proportion of head and body and of each part of the head and body shows balance, and lack of it shows lack of balance. Every organ represents a certain part of man’s nature that may have no connection with that organ. A particular mode of standing or sitting denotes a certain nature. Crookedness where there should be straightness shows lack of straightness in the nature. Organs which should be symmetrical and are not show lack of balance.
In every face and form there is always some resemblance to the lower creation, and a person with keen insight can recognize it, and intuition helps us to understand it. Sometimes in face or form, sometimes in movements, we show a sign of one or the other of the lower creatures, and this signifies some resemblance with the nature of that particular creature.
The more one observes from this point of view the clearer the view becomes and it shows the marvel of the Creator. It makes one tolerant and forgiving to everyone, by reason of understanding that none can act against his nature. Also he who looks at this marvel begins to see the divine evidence in every face, as a person can see the painter in his painting. And it is only natural to wish to study this part of occultism in order to recognize the divine part in the creature and worship Him.
Every atom of man’s body expresses his past, present, and future. The reason is that, in the first place, every impulse creates its vibrations and takes a particular direction of activity. This influences the heart, whence the blood is circulated through the whole body. In this way the thought is, so to speak, written on man’s face. Man’s continual agitation in regard to others, his satisfaction or dissatisfaction, his love or hatred, all shows in his appearance. Everyone can know it more or less, but he seer can read more correctly. It is difficult to tell definitely the marks of a person’s thoughts and feelings that are shown in his appearance. Nevertheless, partly by intuition and partly by experience, man reads them. There are some in whom self-control is developed, who are capable of hiding their thoughts and emotions, and yet it is impossible to feel deeply and to hide one’s feelings from the eyes of others.
No doubt form and movement speak aloud of one’s condition, but the expression of a man’s face speaks louder still. There come distinct changes at every impulse, at every change of emotion, making distinct marks which are an open book to a seer. The word Kashf means ‘opening,’ and it is used by the Sufis with meaning that the heart is, as a rule, a closed book and the one to whom it becomes open can read it like an open book. No doubt reading man’s condition of mind from his appearance is not such a difficult thing. Even dogs and cats can know this and sometimes they know better than man does. What gives one insight into another is, in the first place, his sympathy. The seer first develops the quality of love. He whose heart is kindled with the love of God is capable of the love of humanity. The heart thus kindled with love becomes a lighted lantern, which throws its light on every person the seer meets, and, as this light falls upon the person he meets, all things about that person, his body, heart, and soul, become clear to him. Love is a torch that illuminates all that come within its light, but it is the knowledge of God, which is the key, which opens the hearts of men.
Every movement that one makes suggests to the seer some meaning. A person is not always conscious of his movements, and not every movement is made intentionally, and many movements that man makes unconsciously and thinks nothing of, mean something to the seer.
The seer notices them from two points, the beginning and the end. No motion, to a seer, is without direction; in other words every movement is directed by a precedent cause. And no motion, to him, is without a certain result. The purpose seems to be in the cause, but in reality it is in the effect. It is born in the cause, but it is finished in the effect.
The first thing that the mystic understands by a movement that a person makes is the nature of the person, and the next thing that he understands is about the person’s affairs. And the law holds good about straightness suggesting straightness and crookedness suggesting crookedness, grace of movement suggesting beauty and lack of grace the lack of that element. Rhythm of movement suggests balance; lack of rhythm suggests lack of balance. The upward tendency of movement suggests rise, the downward tendency fall, and the horizontal spreading. The movement inward and outward are suggestive of within and without. Also the law of tendency of the five elements to different directions helps the seer to recognize the different elements working in man’s nature. The movement can be recognized in sitting, walking, lying, and in laughter or in crying.
The study of these laws of movement and direction is helpful only when the intuitive faculty is developed. If the study is intellectual it is limited and rigid, and one cannot probe the depths of human nature far enough by intellectual study alone.
The condition of the mind is expressed not only in the countenance but also in the movements. Every movement denotes a certain change of thought and feeling. The more one understands the language of movements the more one comprehends this. In every thought and feeling the waves of the mind, so to speak, rise and fall, and as by seeing the waves one can notice whether the sea is rough or calm, so by noticing the movements of a person one can read the condition of his mind.
Upward movement suggests wrath, revenge, conceit, or pride; downward movement depression, helplessness, or meekness. Movements towards the left and right also have their significance. To the right show struggle and power, to the left art and skill. A contracting tendency suggests fear, indifference, and coldness. A stretching tendency shows desire for action, strength and power. A tendency to turn shows confusion. A tendency to pinch and press shows uneasiness and agony of mind. Expansion and ease of movement show joy and happiness, and stillness without stiffness is expressive of calm and peace.
Man’s form can be divided into two parts, the head and the body. One part is for action, the other for thought. Therefore, the face can explain the attitude of mind and depict the nature and character more fully than the body and its movements. Every little movement of the eyes, the movements of the lips in smiling or in laughter, the movements of the eyebrows or of the head itself explain the condition of the mind.
The ends of the eyebrows turning upwards suggests egoism and shrewdness. The puckering of the lips suggests pleasure, as the twitching of the lips shows a tendency to humor or indicates pleasure. The rolling of the eyes towards the outer corners denotes a clever brain. The puffing of the cheeks denotes joy, the drawing in, sorrow.
One can get a full conception of the character by studying the full countenance and not a part only. The study of a part always gives only partial knowledge. Complete knowledge is gained only by a study of the whole. Keen observation with the desire to understand helps a person to read the condition of man’s mind, his nature and character, yet the view is often colored by the personality of the one who sees. His favor or disfavor, his liking or dislike, stands between the eyes of the one who sees and the one who is seen. Therefore, sometimes, innocent people have a better understanding of a person than clever people with deceitful minds do. There is a saying of Sa’di, ‘O my subtle cleverness, Thou often becomest my greatest deceiver.’
Man’s expression is more indicative of his nature and character than his form or features. In the Koran it is said that man’s eyes and gestures will confess what he tries to hide in his heart. The strength, the weakness, the power, the fear, the happiness, the joy, the uneasiness, the praise or blame, the love or hatred, all these are shown by the expression. The more capable one becomes of reading the expression the more clearly one can read character.
This shows that there is a mystery that lies behind movement. There are certain vibrations, which take a particular direction under certain conditions, and the visible signs of all vibrations can be seen in man’s movements or the expression of his countenance. It does not take one moment for the expression to change from pleasure to pain, from calm to horror, from love to hate. That shows that all the atoms of man’s body, the veins, tubes and muscles, and the lines formed by their movements, are under the control of the heart. And every change that takes place in the heart shows on man’s face, so that one who knows the language can read it. People who see each other often can read such changes from the expression, because each grows accustomed to know and to recognize the changes of facial expression in the others, but it is the development of intuition which gives the clearness of vision by which one can see more completely.
The eyes are more expressive of thought and feeling than anything else. A person who can read the language of the eyes, their appearance and their movement, has the key to character. The eyes can ask and answer questions, and it is in the grade of speed and direction of the glance that the mystery of expression lies.
As there are different qualities of the sight, such as long and short sight, so there are different qualities of mind. There are minds, which can see a certain distance and no further, and others that can see a longer distance. And what are called foresight are not a supernatural, superhuman faculty but a long range of sight. When a person can see the action of another person, the seer can see the reason of the action too, and if the sight is keener still, he can see the reason of the reason. One cannot give one’s sight to another. He can tell what he sees, but that is not sufficient, for in order to be sure every soul wants its own experience.
The faculty of seeing through life can be developed by observation, which is called study. And the focusing of the mind upon the object of study is called concentration. As by making a habit of lifting one thing, a person can learn to lift several weighty things, so by observing one object of study a man becomes capable of observing any object in the same way. Keeness of observation is a phenomenon in itself. In the first place, the sight penetrates, so to speak, the object one sees. And the next thing is that the light of the sun has the power to open the buds, so the power of keen observation commands the objects observed to unfold themselves and to reveal their secrets.
Every object has a soul in it, which may be called its spirit. In ancient times the seers recognized the spirit of all things, the spirit of mountains, trees, stars, and planets, of the rivers, lakes, pools and seas. And penetrating through objects means touching their spirit. No doubt it is easier to touch the spirit of man than to touch the spirit of the objects, for the very reason that man is more living than any other form of creation.
The person whose eyes are not steady cannot observe fully. So also, the mind that is not steady also cannot observe things well. Therefore, the mystics prescribe certain postures in order to make the body stable. And steadiness of body reacts on each other. So a self-mastered person who has control over his body and mind, has balance and wisdom. Wisdom comes from steadiness and insight follows wisdom.
Every line which is deeply engraved on the surface of the mind may be likened to a vein through which the blood runs, keeping it alive, and while the blood is running it is productive of offshoots of that deep-set line. There are moments when a kind of congestion comes in a line where the blood is not running, and there are no offshoots. This congestion can be broken by some outer influence; and when the congested line is touched by an outer influence related to that line, then this sets the blood running again and offshoots arising, expressing themselves in thoughts. It is just like a waking or sleeping state of the lines. As one note of music can be fully audible at a time so one lone offshoot can be intelligible at a time, and it is the warmth of interest that keeps the blood running in that particular line. There may be other lines where the blood is alive also. Still, if they re not kept warm by one’s interest they become congested and thus paralyzed. And yet, the blood is there, the life is there, it awaits the moment to awaken. The sorrows of the past, the fears of the past, the joys of the past, can be brought to life after ages, and could give exactly the same sensation that one had experienced formerly.
The more one knows the mystery of this phenomenon, the more one learns to understand that there is a world in one’s self, that in one’s mind there is a source of happiness and unhappiness, the source of health and illness, the source of light and darkness, and that it can be awakened, either mechanically or at will, if only one knew how to do it. Then one does not blame his ill fortune nor complain of his fellow man. He becomes more tolerant, more joyful, and more loving toward his neighbor, because he knows the cause of every thought and action, and he sees it all as the effect of a certain cause. A physician would not revenge himself on a patient in an asylum, even if the patient hit him, for he knows the cause. Psychology is the higher alchemy, and one must not study it only without practicing it. Practice and study must go together, which opens the door to happiness for every soul.
The mind can be likened to a record of the talking-machine. But, as it is a living mechanism, it does not only reproduce what is impressed on it, but it creates as well as reproduces. There are five different actions of the mind, which can be distinguished:
1) Creating of thoughts; 2) the sense of discrimination; 3) memory; 4) the factor of feeling; 5) the principal faculty, the feeling of I-ness, or ego. Every thought which mind creates has some connection with some idea already recorded, not exactly similar, but akin to it. For instance, one deeply engraved line on the mind may have several small lines shooting out from it like branches from the trunk of a tree.
The Sufi, therefore, learns and practices to discern the more deeply engraved lines by the observation of their offshoots. Therefore, he is able to learn more from a person’s thought than anybody else, just as by looking at a leaf of a tree one can find out what kind of tree it is. As a rule, every thought a person expresses has at bottom a connection with some deep feeling. The reading of the deep-set line is like reading the cause of the person’s thought. The knowledge of the cause can give greater understanding than knowing only the thought. It is just like standing on the other side of the wall. Thought is like a wall; behind it – the cause. Often the difference between cause and effect is like that between sour and sweet. It is often confusing, yet simple, that the same fruit may be sour when unripe and sweet when ripe. When one begins to understand life from his point of view, the opinion one forms of thought becomes different. There is a great difference between reading a thought externally and reading it from the inside, the source. The one who forms an opinion of the shade has not seen the reality. The effect of a thought is but a shade, the reality is the cause, the source.
What are these deep lines from which offshoots come? These deep lines are the deep impressions which man gets in the first part of his life. In the East, considering this theory, they observe certain rules in the family concerning the expectant mother and the child to be, so that no undesirable impressions may touch their minds. This shows how important it is that this question must be studied. The word ‘man’ comes from the Sanskrit Manas, which means mind. This shows that man is principally his mind, rather than his body. And as mind is naturally impressionable, that means that man is naturally impressionable too. Most often his illness, health, prosperity, failure, all depends upon the impressions on his mind. They say ‘Lines of fate and death are on the head and palm,’ but I would say that it is the impressions man has on his mind, which decide his destiny. The lines on head and palm are but reimpressions of the mind, there is no need of the lines on hand or face.
Can this language be learned like shorthand? No, the method is different. The method is that, whereas to understand a person every man in his reasoning goes forward from the thought of another, the Sufi goes backward. All impressions of joy, sorrow, fear, disappointment, become engraved on the mind. This means that they have become man’s self. In other words, man is the record of man’s actions will be reproduced on the Last Day, and that angels write down all the good and ill done by each one. What we learn from this allegorical expression is that all is impressed on the mind; although forgotten, it is always there and will one day show up.
Every habit makes a line in man’s mind, and the continuation of that habit wakens that line from sleep; in other words it gives the line sensitiveness, which is the feeling of life; and in time man indulges in his habit. If a person takes a liking to a certain phrase of music its every repetition gives him a renewed joy. When someone enjoys certain poetry it cannot be repeated to him too often. If anyone likes a certain dish, in time he has a craving for it. Not only praise or flattery does man enjoy, but even insults, if they have made a deep line on his mind. He will try to tease others or offend somebody, in order to receive an insult. He may not outwardly seem to enjoy it, and yet he will revel in it. If a person becomes accustomed to sit on a certain rock in a garden he forms a habit of going and seeking the same rock every day. If someone has a liking for the scenery of a certain place he longs to see it every day. Of course it depends upon the depth of the line. The deeper the line, the more one lives in it. When talking, a businessman explains things in terms of his compass and tools. Every person has his own language and that language is made of his words, which come from the deeply engraved line of his mind.
Therefore, the work of the mystic is to be able to read the language of the mind. As the clerk in the telegraph office reads letters from the ticks, so the Sufi gets behind every word spoken to him and discovers what has prompted the word to come out. He therefore reads the line, which are behind man’s thought, speech, and action. He also understands that every kind of longing and craving in life, good or bad, has its source in deep impression. By knowing this root of the disease he is easily able to find out its cure. No impression is such that it cannot be erased.
The mystics have two processes in dealing with these lines. One process is to renew this line by putting in some other color and therefore changing one impression into another impression. No doubt this needs great knowledge of mental chemistry. Another way that the mystic takes is to rub out the line from the surface. But often, when the line is deep, it takes the rubbing out of a great portion of the mind to destroy one line.
Naturally, the mystic becomes tolerant of every sort of dealing of others with him, as he sees not only the dealing as it appears, thoughtful or thoughtless, cold or warm, but the cause that is at the back of it.
By reading the human mind a mystic gets insight into human nature and to him the life of human beings begin to appear as a mechanism working. The mystic learns from this that life is give and take. It is not only that one receives what one gives but also one gives what one receives. In this way the mystic begins to see the balance of life. He realizes that life is a balance, and if the gain or loss, the joy or pain of one outweighs that of another, it is for the moment, but in time it all sums up in a balance, and without balance there is no existence possible.
Everything one expresses in his art, painting, verse, music, is the reproduction of the mind. Not only that, but his choice, his likes and dislikes, his habits, all show what is the state of his mind. Everything man says or does shows the lines already traced in his mind. There is no exaggeration in the saying that man’s face is the mirror of his heart. It seems as if the mind begins to speak through every particle of the body. Since the head is the more predominant factor, the expression of man tells most about the condition of his mind.
No doubt it is difficult to give a certain rule of reading this language expressed in the face, form, or movements but two things can help one to understand it: keen observation to study human nature, and developed intuition. Then one begins to have a sort of key to this language. But if you ask him, he cannot express it. From different compositions of composers one can imagine their character, their life and state of mind. As in the science of sound there is a tone and an overtone, so in the music of a certain composer there is a sense which stands together with the music. The one, who hears the notes, he only enjoys the music. The one, who understands the sense, he knows the mind of the composer. So the verse is the soul of the poet. For the poetry is not only poetry, it has its music behind. The one, who reads the verse, he only enjoys the poetry. But the one who comprehends the sense in it enjoys the music of this poetry. One who asks a question of himself on hearing a certain word, on seeing a certain movement, on observing a certain expression in a face, must receive an answer from his intuition, telling him the cause of this effect, which manifests outwardly. In this way the Sufi makes his way for his journey in the inner world.
Beneath the five senses there is one principal sense that works through the others. It is through this sense that one feels deeply, and distinguishes between the impressions which come from outside. Every impression and experience gained by this sense is recorded on the mind. This record is made up of deep lines, and the nature of these lines deeply set in the mind is to want the same thing that has already been recorded, according to the depth of the line. And it is according to the depth of the line that one needs the thing that one has once experienced. For instance, the liking for salt, sour, or pepper are acquired tastes, and the sign of this acquisition is the deep line that is on the mind. Each line so produced wishes to live upon its impression, and the lack of that experience is like death to that line. Unpleasant flavors such as fish, or vinegar, or cheese, become pleasant after the line is formed. Tastes even more unpalatable than these may become excessively agreeable once the line is well engraved on the mind.
The same rule is applicable to notes of music. A certain combination of notes, or a certain arrangement, when once impressed upon the mind, may become very agreeable to it. The more one hears the music, which has once been impressed on our mind, the more one wants to hear it. And one never becomes tired of it, unless another, deeper line is formed. Then the first line may be neglected and become a dead line. It is for that reason that the music that belongs to a certain people, whether evolved or unevolved, is their ideal music. Therefore, it is not the music written without; it is the music written within the mind that has influence. This is the reason why composers resemble each other in their music, for the lines that are impressed upon their minds have been created by what they have heard, and as the first lines are inherited from other composers, there is a resemblance in their music. I this way the music of every people form its own character.
The same law works in poetry. One enjoys poetry from one’s previous impressions. If the poetry that one reads is not in harmony with the first impressions one will not enjoy it so much. The more one reads a certain poetry the more one enjoys it, because of the deep impression on the mind.
From this we learn that not only what is desirable but also what is undesirable may become a favorite thing. Even things that one would never like to have, such as pain, illness, worry or death, if they are deeply impressed on one’s mind, one unconsciously long to experience again.
It is very interesting to find that if a man has formed an opinion about a certain thing or person and after a time there has been everything to disprove that opinion, he will still hold on to his impression and will not like to change his opinions. This is because of the
Deep lines impressed on his mind. How true is what the mystic says, that the true ego of man is his mind! And it is still more amusing to find that after spending his life under the influence of the deep impressions on his mind man still boasts of what he calls free will.
The modern psychologist adopts a system of psychoanalysis in order to investigate the state of mind of his patient, and the barrister in the law court cross-examines in order to investigate the truth of the case. All these methods are more or less useful, when they are rightly practiced. But the chief thing for getting to the mind of a person is to see the person, in his form, in his expression, in his movements, in his words, in his imagination and in the way of his action. The principal thing, which helps in seeing the mind of another person, is the light of intuition. Nothing else, neither the rules, nor studies, nor standard of understanding can help, without the development of intuition. But one thing must be remembered that man shows the line engraved upon his mind in this form, expression, in his movements, words, in his imagination and action. And it is possible to detect a man from his word before his action, or from his movement before his action, or from his expression before his words, or from his form before even he had time to imagine. Therefore, the knowledge of this can save a great deal of trouble in life, if man only knows beforehand how to act with different people.
The person who acts in the same manner with every person, however good or kind he may be must always meet with disappointments. As the direction of the fire is upwards and that of the water is downwards so the direction of one person is different from that of the other. Therefore, if you expect a person who is going to the south to take your message to the north, you will find yourself mistaken in the end. Generally a person dealing with others thinks of the affair more than of the person. Really the person must be the chief object of study, not the affair, for the affair depends upon the person. In the East there is a superstition of a dog or cat or horse being lucky or unlucky for the person who possesses it, but the reality of this idea can be most seen in every human being with whom one comes in contact through one’s everyday life. He must surely bring something with him, pleasure, and displeasure, and happiness, good or bad influence. Every man in himself is a world. Every new contact is a New World opened before us.
When a person is thinking, you can see his thought in his eyes, in his expression, in his movements. Things such as: opening or closing the eyes, looking up or looking down, looking out the corners of the eyes, turning the head to the right or left, raising it or bowing it, scratching the fingers, rubbing the hands, turning the thumbs, a half-smile, puckering the face or the forehead, sitting stiffly or at ease, sitting upright or leaning back, or leaning to one side or to the other, all show to the seer the line of thought. Especially when a person is asked a question, before he answers the seer knows what will be his answer from his attitude.
The Hindus believe that the creation is Brahma’s dream, which means the Creator’s dream – in plain words, what the Creator has thought, He has made. So, in proportion to his might, man makes what he thinks. What materializes, we call happening, but what has not been materialized we don’t know, and what we don’t know still exists in the thought-world. In the Koran it is said, ‘The organs of your body will give evidence of your action on the Last Day.’ Really speaking, not of the action only but evidence even of the thought is given by every atom of the body immediately. The nature of the manifestation is such that there is nothing hidden except that which one cannot see, and what one cannot see is not hidden in itself, but from one’s eyes.
The aim of the Sufi, therefore, is to see and yet not be interested. Suppose you were climbing Mount Everest, and were interested in a certain place, which you liked, to admire it, or in the part, which you disliked, to break it. In both cases you have allowed your feet to be chained to that place for more or less time, and by that, have lost time and opportunity. Whereas, you could have gone on forever and perhaps seen and learned more than by stopping there. Those who trouble about others’ thoughts and interest themselves in others’ actions most often lose their time and blunt their inner sight. Those who go farther, their moral is to overlook all they see on their way, as their mind is fixed on the goal. It is not a sin to know anybody’s thought, but it is a fault no doubt if one professes to do so. To try to know the thought of another for one’s own interest is neither just nor beneficial. At the same time to sit with closed eyes is not good either. The best thing is to see and rise above, never to halt on the way, and it is this attitude that, if constantly practiced, will lead men safely to his soul’s desired goal.
The activity of mind can be recognized in three different aspects, mobile, rhythmic, and chaotic. And the activity of mind can be seen by the speech and action of a person. If, in speech and action a person shows a friendly attitude, love and kindness, the activity is mobile, and every impulse prompted by this activity will manifest in the form of gentleness, generosity, gratitude and goodwill. If the activity of mind is rhythmic it will make a person more reasoning. He will be exacting, weighing, measuring, loving and hating. Liking and dislike will be balanced. This is not an easygoing person. This person will be more businesslike. All that manifests from him in speech or action will be more substantial, reasonable, also progressive in a worldly sense. But the person the activity of whose mind is chaotic will be agitated, confused, suspicious, horrified, and all that will manifest in his speech and action will be anger, passion, intolerance, imprudence, and will be difficult for himself and for others.
No soul is by nature fixed to any of these three aspects of activity. It is what he allows himself to be or what the condition of his life makes him to be. Therefore, the principle of Sufi teaching is to regulate the rhythm of man’s mind. Then the Sufi becomes his instrument. He can play on it any music of any rhythm and nothing will affect it, for he is no longer in the hand of his mind, his mind is in his hand.
What one dislikes in line, form, color, smell, taste, or sound, or in sense or idea, is not disliked because it deserves to be so, but because it is foreign to one’s nature. Once a person becomes accustomed to anything he develops love for it in himself. Therefore, often some people have a liking for certain things, which many others dislike, or a dislike of certain things, which many others like. Often when travelling in the train a person feels more comfortable if no one else comes into his compartment, but once someone has come and sat there, if they have spoken together and become acquainted, then they wish to travel together. All things have their beauty, and so has every person his goodness, and one’s dislike of a person very often comes from lack of knowing that person or from lack of familiarity with him. What makes one-dislike things and despise men is a certain barrier, which very often the one who dislikes does not know and also the one who is disliked does not know.
The work of the Sufi is therefore, to investigate the truth about all the things or persons whom he likes or dislikes. By a keen observation of life he gets to that barrier and understands what it is that makes him disliked or makes him dislike others. All fear, doubt, suspicion, misunderstanding, bitterness, and spite become cleared as soon as one touches that barrier which keeps souls apart. It is true that one need not force one’s nature. It is not necessary to dislike what one likes or to take a liking to something that by nature one dislikes. Only one must know why one likes if one likes a certain thing, and the reason why one dislikes if one takes a dislike to a certain thing. After observation one will come to understand. ‘All I like in the world is what I have always liked, and all I dislike is what I have always disliked in life.’ It can be said in other words, ‘What I know to be loveable I have always loved and all that I don’t know I cannot love at once.’ This shows that ignorance becomes a cover over all that is beautiful and ugly, and knowledge uncovers it. Liking comes from knowledge and dislike from ignorance, although both are necessary. Also it is possible that through ignorance one may like a certain thing and by knowledge one may rise above that liking. However, the higher knowledge must always give liking for all things. And things that do not deserve liking, above them a soul will rise by the help of knowledge.
In man’s speech and in his action the seer sees designs: a straight line, a round, a crooked line, zigzag, oval square, a triangle. For instance there is a person who speaks straight to the face of all he feels. There is another person who proceeds in a roundabout way. There is a person who has a crooked way of mentioning a thing. There is a person who will touch two opposite angles before he will arrive at a desired point. There is another person who will go about in a zigzag way, you can’t know whether he is going to the south or to the north until he has arrived at a certain point. These figures represent the lines on the mind of man. Man does not feel comfortable in acting differently from the lines already engraved upon his mind. Therefore, a crooked person enjoys his crookedness as much as a straightforward person enjoys his straightforwardness.
A most interesting study of this subject can be made by studying the art of different ages and of different nations. Every nation has its typical lines and typical forms. Every period shows the peculiarity of expression of the art of that period. So one finds in the imagery of poets and in the theme of musicians. If you study one musician and his lifelong work you will find that his whole work is developed on a certain line as the basis of his work. Also by studying the biography of great people you will find how one thing has led to another, different but of similar kind. Therefore, it is natural that a thief in time becomes a greater thief. So the righteous after some time may become a saint.
It is not difficult to slide on the line already made on one’s mind, the difficulty is to act contrary to the line which is engraved there, especially in the case when it happens to be an undesirable line. Shiva, the great Lord of Yogis, has given a special teaching on the subject, which he calls Viprit Karnai, ‘Acting contrary to one’s nature,’ and he gives great importance to this method of working with oneself, that by this method in the end one arrives at mastery.
Mind is most capable of expressing itself in a fitting form. Very often man expresses his thought in any conversation that may be going on, which perhaps has nothing to do with his thought. And as his nature is, man looks for a scope for expression of his thought, and he easily gets it. In a serious conversation one can find scope for a joke, even in tragedy one can find comedy. And in comedy one can find tragedy, if one’s mind happens to dwell on sad thoughts. This shows that the mind always seeks for a scope for expression, and situations outside generously offer the scope.
The same thing one finds with the mind. In every situation, every condition, man easily finds out a reason for it from the mind. The one who does right and the one who does wrong both find the reason for their action. Two people disputing against each other both have reason at the back of their discussion. This shows that the mind provides reason, as the sun shines and the rain falls, for the sinner as well as for the virtuous. Not knowing this fact, man always reasons with another. But it is not a dispute between reason and no reason, it is a dispute between two reasons contrary to one another. This shows that reason has not sprung on the soil of heaven, reason is earth born, upon which man so confidently fixes his argument.
Therefore, every conversation is not always on a pre-designed plan. Most often it is an outcome of instantaneously arising impulses. It is most interesting when one can get to the back of a conversation and find out what it is founded upon. And it is still more interesting to find what a very obedient servant reason is, which is ready to respond to the call of its master, although the truth is coined by itself. It is when the seer begins to look behind reason that he begins to get a glimpse of truth upon which he can depend. Insight makes life interesting. One who drifts along with the waves of insight will not enjoy life so much as one who has insight into life and yet stands firm on his own feet.
The word is a body of the idea and the idea is the soul of the word. As the body represents the soul so the word represents the idea. The idea can only be expressed in the word, so the soul can only be seen in the body. And those who deny the existence of the soul must also deny the existence of the idea. They must say that only the word exists, without an idea, which in reality is impossible. Behind every word there is an idea veiled in one or a thousand veils, or clearly represented by the word. However, the word is a key to the idea, not the idea itself. It is not the word, which is in itself an idea, but only an expression of it. The ears hear the word, the mind perceives the idea. If the idea were not there, the word would not convey anything to the listener. If one said to a child, ‘Sarcasm is an abuse of the intellect,’ what will the innocent child understand by it? The word ‘sarcasm’ will be known by the one who is capable of being sarcastic. This opens up another idea, that those who accuse others with authority of some fault must necessarily know the fault themselves. Man, however evolved, will now and then show childishness in expressing his opinion about another, prove thereby guilty of the same fault in some proportion. No one can tell another, ‘You told a lie,’ who did not tell a lie himself once at least in his life.
No doubt the idea is vaster than the word, as the soul is wider than the body. Every idea has its breadth, length, height, and depth. Therefore, as a world is hidden in a planet, so a world of idea is hidden in a word. Think, therefore, how interesting life must become for the one who can see behind every word that is spoken to him its length, breadth, height, and depth. He is an engineer of the human mind. He then does not know only what is spoken to him, but he knows what is meant by it. By knowing words you do not know the language. What you know is the outside language, the inner language is known by knowing the language of ideas. So the language of ideas cannot be heard by the ears alone, the hearing of the heart must be open for it. The seer must understand from a word spoken to him what even the one who speaks does not know, for every human being thinks, speaks, and acts mechanically, subject to the condition of his body, mind, and situation in life. Therefore, as a physician finds out more about a complaint than the patient himself, so the mystic must comprehend the idea behind every word that is spoken to him. One might think with the continual growth of such a perception the life of a Sufi must become very much troubled, for when the average person would be seeing a yard’s distance a Sufi may be seeing the distance of a mile. Yes, there is no doubt it could be troublesome if the mystic did not develop all around. The elephant’s strength is required to carry the load of an elephant. It is not enough to become a seer alone, but what is needed is to develop that strength which takes all things easily, the power that endures all things, and the might which enables one to surmount all difficulties in life.
Actions such as a smile, or staring, or frowning, or nodding, or moving the eyes or the head, have ideas behind them. Externally it is a light movement. Behind it there is a mountain of thought. No movement is possible without a thought at the back of it. Sometimes it is known to the person and sometimes the person himself does not know why he smiled. The eyes express more than anything else does, by their movements, the ideas behind them. Very often intuitive people say, ‘I perceived from that person’s look pleasure,’ or ‘displeasure,’ or ‘his favorable’ –or ‘unfavorable – attitude.’ And yet many do not know what movement, what expression, suggested to them what they perceived. Every expression of the eyes, the eyes, which change their expression so many times in one minute, suggests the idea behind. This shows that the mind is an engineer and the body is a mechanism, which it works. If the engineer becomes conscious of his working the engineer also becomes a mechanism.
There used to be courtiers in the ancient times in India who at every moment would know the state of mind and the attitude of the king, even to such an extent that very often everything was arranged as the king liked without him having uttered one word about it. There were nine courtiers attached to the court of Akbar. Every one of them knew the state of mind of the Emperor at every moment. The Sufi, whose duty in the world is to live in the presence of God and who recognizes His presence in all His creatures, His personality especially in man, he fulfills his duty of a courtier with every man. A person who lives as dead as a stone among his surroundings does not know whom he has pleased, whom he has displeased, who expects of him thought, consideration, who asks of him sympathy or service, who needs him in his trouble or difficulty. People think insight comes by psychic development. Yes, it does come, but it comes most by the development of the heart quality. A loving person is a living person. No doubt the more living one is, the more difficult it is to live, and yet no difficulty is too great a price for living a real life.
The method, which a mystic takes to perceive the mentality of another, is that he takes the movement of the person and his expression as a guide to arrive at his thought, and he takes his thought as a guide to his nature. By realizing the nature of man, he comes to know about the very depth of his being, and instead of having a part of the knowledge about a person he gets to know that one is wise or foolish is not sufficient. To have a complete knowledge of a person one must know if he does right why he does right, and if he does wrong, why he does wrong. If he is wise, what makes him wise, if he is foolish what is the reason of his being foolish. Not only this, but also if there were a possibility of making the best of what the person is and trying to improve the person without him knowing it. A foolish person cannot get along with his own friend whereas a wise person can get on even with his enemy. The difference is that one knows life, understands human nature and acts according to it, whereas the other, even if he wanted to act rightly, always fails and becomes disappointed in the end.
There are two kinds of men, one who speaks subject to his impulse, the other who speaks just like hitting a target. This first one may strike a wrong note, and may work against his own interest, but the other one will become the master of his own destiny. The one who knows while speaking to whom he is speaking, the capacity of mind of his hearer, the lines on the mind of his hearer, he will speak the words which will pierce through the mind of the listener. It is just like looking for a track before running the cart in a given direction.
Many, content with their honesty, speak just as they like at the moment. They do not mind what effect it will produce as long as they are sure that what they say is true. The truth that strikes like a hammer on the head of the listener is not desirable, one would be better off without it. This shows that it is not only a thing to consider that what one says is true, there is another consideration, which is most necessary, and that is what effect it will make on the other. The seer sees the lines made on the mind of his listener he first takes the road which is already made there, and when once he has entered the mind of his listener then he will make another road, not before. It is just like the person is going to buy something in a shop and saying before entering, ‘I have not got more than four pence,’ instead of going into the shop and finding out what he can buy with four pennies. Action is one thing, and prudence is another thing. Even the animals are active, even they work for what they need in life. What one expects in man is prudence. Man must have forethought, before he utters one word about its effect upon another. Some say spiritually wise is not worldly-wise, some think that these two worlds are different. But it is not so. The worldly-wise is capable of being spiritually wise, but spiritually wise is already worldly-wise. He may not care for worldly things, therefore, he may be lacking in experience in worldly affairs. Yet for him, worldly wisdom is not a foreign thing, he has only to open his eyes and see. Those who know nothing of the world and those who are called spiritual, are known more for their goodness than for their balance. The complete spiritual life is not a dreamy one, but wide-awake, full of thought and consideration.
The word has magic in it, it can turn friends into your enemies, and it can make your enemies your friends. The mystery of all success in every direction of life is in the word. The word has power to turn the mind of the listener warm or cold. The word can produce the effect of earth, water, fire, air, or ether. The word can produce depression or joy. The one who knows the chemistry of the word does not need drugs or herbs. He has medicine for every disease in the world, not only for bodily disease, but also for the disorders of the mind, which still remain unexplored by science. By a constant study of life, by special thought given to one’s word, by careful watching of the effects of one’s speech upon others, one arrives at a state of realization where one can heal hearts.
One can easily trace the past of man from what he says and from how he expresses it. The past is ringing in the heart of man like a bell. The heart of man is a talking-machine record, which goes on by itself or, if it has stopped, one has only to wind the machine, then it goes on again. Man’s present is the re-echo of his past. If he has been through suffering, even if he is better, he will vibrate the same. Outer conditions will not change his inner being. If he has been happy, even in troublous time his heart will vibrate the past. People, who have been against one another, if by chance they become friends, will still feel in themselves the beating of the pulse of hostility of the past. Great kings who have been dethroned, imprisoned –still one can feel their past vibrating in their atmosphere.
The past lives and one cannot easily destroy it, however greatly one may wish to close it. It gets hold of the human tongue to express itself. As every heart is eager to tell its story, so the past is most eager to sing its legend. It only seeks the way how it shall express itself. A Sufi, therefore, does not need spirit communication to learn the past, or astrological science to discover what has happened. To him every person explains his past without even one word spoken. But by the speech of a person about the past, the Sufi can tell what is hidden behind, what is being said and what remains unsaid. He need not trace the past in history or in traditions. He who can read has but to open his eyes and all is written before him.
As there is a shadow of every form and as there is a re-echo of every sound and as there is a reflection of every light so there is a re-impression of everything one sees, hears, or perceives. But as it wants the musician’s ears to sense the overtone of a sound and an artist’s eyes to recognize the form from its shadow, and as it requires a keen sight to distinguish the degree of the reflection of light, so it wants the soul of a seer to see thorough all things in life. The seer’s eye is in the heart of every soul, but it is the attitude that keeps every man looking down to the earth instead of raising his eyes upwards. The average tendency is to see on the surface.
It is not true that the average person cannot see any further. But the average man does not think that there is anything further, so he does not give himself the trouble to see any further. There are many who are intelligent enough to perceive all that is behind things, but he first thing that makes their view limited is the narrow range of their interest. They are not enough interested to take trouble about things they neither know nor believe. They would be glad to have intuition if it came without them taking any trouble. There are many who can think, but they do not wish to take the trouble of thinking.
There are two things necessary in order to perceive: one thing is openness, the other thing is effort made in that direction. When contemplating upon anything the mind must be free from all else that stands in the way; that is-called openness. Also some must arrive, by the help of concentration, at focusing one’s mind on a certain object. The next thing is to be interested enough in all things that one comes in contact with and one cares to know about, that one may penetrate below the surface and find out what is hidden in all things.
The presence of man speaks of his past, present, and future. When a visitor comes to your house he brings to you either his joy or his sorrow. He brings you the effect of his good or bad deeds. He brings you the influence of his high or low mind. He tunes the vibration of the sphere of your home to his pitch. He charges the sphere with his own vibrations. If you can only perceive – he need not tell you one word about himself – you can know if he is experiencing heaven or hell. For one need not wait for heaven or hell in the hereafter. It is here also, only after death it will be more felt. Therefore the contact of a heavenly person can bring to you the air of heaven and the contact of the other can bring you the air of the other place.
This shows that every individual is a tone, a rhythm. And a tone which draws the tone of every other person to its own pitch, a rhythm which compels every other person to follow the same rhythm. That is where one feels the pull in life. That is what scares the sage from the life of the world and makes him feel inclined to run away from this world and take refuge in a forest or in a desert. Why the average person does not feel it is because, just like children absorbed in play, the people in the world are pulling each other’s rope. Therefore they do not feel much. For they are pulled, but they also pull the rope of another. But the one who is tuned to a different pitch altogether from the average person and whose rhythm in life is quite different from the other’s naturally must feel the pull too much. And the only way how the sages manage to protect themselves from this is by the practice of Vairagya (the word Vairagya means independence and indifference both in one), which cannot be learned or taught, it comes by itself. It is not lack of love, or bitterness, it is only rising above love and hate both.
Every soul radiates an influence with charges the atmosphere all around. The more powerful the influence the wider it spreads, forcing its way even through the walls. There is no barrier of water or space, which can keep that influence from spreading. The stronger the influence the longer it lasts. It is not difficult for a sensitive person to perceive, on coming into a room or in a house what influence it has, or to perceive, on sitting on a chair, who was sitting there before him. The character of this influence is just like light or heat, which silently spreads its warmth according to its power of radiance. It is not that man’s influence is felt in his presence only, but even after he has left the place it remains. The influence of some persons can remain for hours, of some for days, of some for weeks or months or even years. Atmosphere is a silent music. It has its effect upon the listener, exciting or peaceful, whatever it may be. The atmosphere remains not only in the place but also in objects, such as a chair, or a sofa, or a cushion, or a carpet, or a mat. An influence can remain with the clothes that one has worn in one’s life. It is something real, not tangible but perceptible. Music comes through the ears to the heart, but atmosphere comes direct. A walking stick can have the atmosphere of the person who held it. A rosary, a necklace, brooch, or a ring can have atmosphere. A pen or an inkstand can have an atmosphere of the person who has used it. Everybody perceives it, consciously or unconsciously, but the more sensitive a person, the more he can realize it.
It is not easy for everybody to break anybody’s influence, although it is possible to rise above it. A person who is fine of nature and sensitive, pure and good, for him the influence from all around in this world can become so troublesome that he would always find himself in the midst of the battle going on constantly around him. Therefore, it will not do for a person to become fine and sensitive, and yet not learn how to combat all influences around him. The more one studies this question the more one comes to realize that life is not only a battle outwardly but also inwardly. And there are two things that can be done for self-defense, either to become a most well equipped fighter, to fight out all influenced attacking one with the power of one’s own influence, or to rise above all influences; which means, to live and not live, to be and not be, to come down to act and to rise up to keep in security.
There are three important things to be considered in the development of insight. The steady gaze of the eyes and of the mind, which helps one in penetration. Another thing is losing everything else from one’s sight except the object through which one wishes to penetrate. And that comes by sufficient interest in penetration. But the third thing, which helps most is losing for the moment the thought of one’s self. When one’s body and mind are not before one, it is then that one has the proper insight into things one wishes to know and understand. Sufis therefore have different concentrations by which they are helped not only in keeping their gaze steady, but standing firm upon one thought. When a person cannot take interest in any object or being, then his mind is not steady, for there is nothing that it takes interest in. it is the interest which makes the mind steady. A certain thought which is inspiring or helpful in some way, or a certain form which is inspiring when once one has concentrated upon it then the mind becomes steady also, then it can easily hold an object before it without wavering.
The character of the mind is as the character of the eyes, the eyes which take in all that comes under their horizon. So the mind jumps from one thing to another, upon all thoughts which may be standing within its horizon. And as it is not always easy to keep the gaze steady so it is with the mind. To keep the mind firm upon one thought, form or image is not easy. But the third thing is the most difficult, and that is to lose oneself in the thought of the object that is before one. In this way the self, which stands in the way between the soul and its object of penetration, is lost from view for the time being. Thus the person is able to penetrate through all things, knowing thereby the nature, character and secret of all things.
There is no other cause of all depression and despair that the inability of seeing through life. There may be many reasons apparently seeming to be the different causes of unhappiness, but this one is the greatest reason, the reason of all reasons. Even animals in whose nature is the tendency of fighting is pronounced become friends when they come to know one another by association. Many troubles in the life of individuals and of the multitude might be avoided if keen insight were developed, for all confusion is caused by misunderstanding. Not only human beings, but all things of this world which seem of use or of no use, which seem to be easy or difficult to obtain, all are for the use of man. Therefore, penetration into things is the secret of the success of science, art, philosophy and religion, all.
Q : Suppose a person had for years some interest very near to his heart, which has developed his power of concentration. And that interest ceases. Is that person more capable of strong concentration on a new interest, because of his previous experience?
A Yes, certainly. All our experiences are nothing but preparation for something else. Nothing that belongs to this world, however precious, must hinder one’s path of progress. For every step in the direction to that spiritual gain must be the aim of every soul. And the concentration upon the object is just a step.
Q A feeling of deadness seems to come….?
A Here is the question of concentration, and not of its effect. The question of effect is quite a different subject again. Then the question comes: of what object? Something to steady the mind. It may be a tree, a flower, the sun or a star. Of course, according to the object a reaction is produced. And according to the reaction an object is produced. Every belief and every experience for a wise person is a step of a staircase. He has taken this step, there is another step for him to take. The steps of the staircase are not made for one to stand there. They are just made for one to pass, to go further. Because life is progress. Where there is no progress there is no life. One should go on. Death and disappointment; two things are one. And if there is a hereafter, then the death was a passing stage; and so is disappointment. Two things are one. And if there is a hereafter, then the death was a passing stage, and so is the disappointment. It only has made one more steady, more wise, more……
Q Does the staircase never end?
A The end is not very desirable. The interest is in the staircase, in going on.
Q ….when a soul has reached perfection?
A After perfection there is no interest. If there is no self, there is no interest, there is perfection.
The most important thing in life is the opening of that clear vision which is opened by the help of insight. The effect of every emotion covers the insight, just as clouds cover the sun. it is therefore that most clever and qualified people often do things, especially at the moment of passion or anger, which they would not have done otherwise. The reason is that the mind loses its rhythm under the strain of passion or emotion, and so it upsets the rhythm of the body, it makes man perplexed and unable to see any condition or situation clearly.
It is therefore that the seers, the sages, try to keep their tranquility at every cost, for life in the world brings up many things everyday and hour to disturb that tranquility which is the secret of insight. Every little noise or disturbance in oneself and outside can upset a person who keeps the rhythm of his whole being in the proper order. It is therefore that the sages have chosen solitude and a life away from the world. But the best way of keeping one’s tranquility is to keep his rhythm under the control of one’s own will. By doing this one preserves one’s tranquillity in the midst of life’s greatest turmoil. In the terms of Vedanta life is likened to the sea, where there is a continual rising and falling of the waves. Every man by nature seeks peace and in peace alone is his satisfaction. But often he seeks it wrongly, therefore instead of producing peace he creates more struggle in life. The secret of peace is in the will power. Instead of resisting the forces, which jar and disturb one’s life, if one would only stand firm against them, then one can attain to that tranquillity which is most necessary to have a greater insight into life.
Man is made of atoms gathered together around the intelligence, physical atoms and mental atoms which make his body and mind. The power which has gathered them and which controls them and which uses them for their best purpose is the will power. When this power is absent the body and mind both go to pieces, broken by every jarring effect coming from whatever direction. This is the reason hidden under most of the illnesses and weaknesses. Every mistake, failure, and every disappointment in life has this reason behind it: the lack of control, the lack of steadiness and strength against the disturbing influences, which come from within, and without.
The great lesson which one learns, which helps one most in keeping that tranquillity in life which helps insight, is to be able to become like the ebb and flow. When the first is needed then to become the ebb, when the next thing is needed then to make oneself in that way. When it is necessary to express then to express, when it is necessary to respond, then to respond, at will. In this manner one will always manage to preserve tranquillity in life.