ALL AFFAIRS of life depend upon man’s attitude, and the mechanical work that is psychologically done is such that before man steps forward to work he sees his attitude being reflected on his affair. For instance, a person starts to do something with doubt in his mind – on that affair he sees the shadow of doubt. When a person wants to do something w-hich he knows is not quite just-before he begins to work he sees the phantom of injustice before him.
The heart of man, as the Sufis say, is a mirror. All that is reflected in this mirror is projected upon other mirrors. When man has doubt in his heart that doubt is reflected upon every heart with which he comes in contact. When he has faith that faith is reflected in every heart. Can there be a more interesting study and a greater wonder than to observe this keenly? As soon as man is able to watch this phenomenon in life, it is just like a magic lantern that makes all clear to him. In this light, how foolish would appear the cleverness arid the crooked ways of the dishonest who for a moment thinks that he is profiting by them, and who for a moment may seem to be benefited by them.
In this life on earth, in which we cannot depend even on the morrow and in which worldly gains are snatched from one hand to an other, it is not worthwhile making the heart reflect an element that is foreign to it. That which is comforting and consoling through all this life of falsehood is only the feeling of purity in one’s own heart, when one feels that one’s own attitude in life is right and just. The one who experiences this will certainly say that it is greater than all the wealth of the world. It is the knowledge of this philosophy which seems to be lost from the heart of humanity at the present time. It is therefore that all things go wrong. If there is any preventive which can be used against it, it is to make one’s own life as much as one can an example of one’s ideal – although to make it perfectly so is most difficult. There is nothing like trying, and having failed once, another time one may be successful.
Someone may say, “Yes, for certain errors made here suffering has now come; I shall bear it”. No doubt he is brave and just, but personally I would prefer the man who would resist suffering by realizing that his birthright, as a divine right, is happiness alone. Pain and suffering are foreign to his soul; they do not belong to it. He does not want it, he will not have it.
Question: Is suffering necessary for our evolution?
Answer: Suffering is helpful for evolution, not necessary. Therefore we must not seek suffering in order to evolve. We must avoid it. To a wise person every failure is a teaching, but it is better if he avoids learning in this way.
Question: Would it be possible to gain the same degree of evolution in life without suffering?
Answer: Certainly possible, but most difficult.
The Law of Life
ALL THAT comes to a person – in reality he arrives at it. By this I do not mean to say that he does not make it, create it, earn it, or deserve it, or that it does not come to him by chance. All that comes may come to a person in the above five ways, but at the same time in reality he arrives at it. These five ways are realms through which a certain thing comes, but what brings it about is the person himself.
This subtle idea remains hidden until one has an insight into the law of life and notices clearly its inner working. For instance, if one said that a person had come to a certain position or rank, or into the possession of wealth or fame by working for it -yes, outwardly it is true, but many work and do not arrive at it. Besides one might say that all blessings of Providence come to one if one deserves them, but one can see so much in life which is contrary to this principle, for there are many in the world who do not deserve and yet they attain. With every appearance of free will there seems to be helplessness in every direction of life. And as to what man calls chance, there is so much against it too, for a deep insight into life will prove that what seems to be chance is not in reality chance. It seems to be chance, as illusion is the nature of life.
Now to explain more fully what I mean by arriving at a certain thing: every soul is so to speak continually making its way towards something, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. What a person does outwardly is an appearance of action, an action which may have no connection with his inner working. It is like a journey: not everyone knows towards what he is making his way, and yet everyone is making his way. Whether he is making his way towards the goal he has desired, or whether he is making his way towards quite the contrary goal which he has never desired, he does not know. But when the goal is realized on the physical plane then a person becomes conscious: “I have not worked for it; I have not created it; I have not deserved it; I have not earned it. How is it possible that it has come?” If it is an object desired by him then perhaps he gives the credit of it to himself; he tries to believe: “I have made it in some way”. If it is not desirable then he wants to attribute it to someone else, or to suppose that for some reason or other it has happened like that. But in reality it is a destination at which one has arrived at the end of one’s journey.
One cannot definitely say that one has created it, or made it, that one has deserved it, or that it has come by accident. What can be said is that one has journeyed towards it, either consciously or unconsciously, and has arrived at it. Therefore in point of fact in his desirable or undesirable experiences no one has departed from the destination at which he was meant to arrive.
Nevertheless, what is most necessary is to connect the outward action with the inward journey, the harmony of which will certainly prove to be a cause of ease and comfort. It is this which is meant by saying that one must have harmony within oneself. Once this harmony is established one begins to see the cause of all things more clearly than in its absence.
One might ask in what way harmony can be established between the inner journey and the outward action. What generally happens is that a person is so much absorbed in his outward action that his inner attitude becomes obscured to his view. The first thing necessary is to remove the screen that hides the inner attitude from one’s sight. Everyone is conscious of what he does, but not conscious of his inner attitude. In other words, everyone knows what he is doing, but everyone does not necessarily know towards what he is going. No doubt the more one is conscious of this, the less becomes one’s action, for thought controls action – but it only gives a rhythm, a balance to life. Compared with a person who is capable of running without knowing where he is going, he is better off who is walking slowly but knows towards what he is going.
There are two distinct parts of one action: there is an action of our inner life and there is an action of our outer life, the inner being and the outer being. The outer being is physical action, and the inner action is our attitude. Both may be actions of free will, but in a certain way they both prove to be mechanical or automatic actions. No doubt the inner action has a great power and influence upon the outer action. A person may be busy all day doing a certain thing but at the same time, if the attitude is working against him, he can never have success in his work. By his outward action a person may deserve a great prize, but for his inner action he may not be deserving it. Therefore if these two actions are contrary to one another, there is no construction and there is no attainment of the desired results. The true result, the result that is desirable, comes through the harmony of these two activities.
The Law of Action
WHATEVER WE do comes back to us. It may not come back from the same side, it may come from another side. But how does it come? Suppose we speak very badly to a servant, we insult him, we hurt his feelings. We think, “I am quite safe; he cannot do me any harm”. But subconsciously our mind is impressed by the insult, the unkindness and that impression we take with us; we take it before whomever we meet and it calls forth the insulting tendency, the unkindness of him with whom we come in contact. The element attracts the same element, our coldness attracts his unkindness. We may meet many people who cannot insult us: their situation makes it impossible for them. But when we meet someone who can do so, our superior for instance, he will insult us, he will hurt our feelings.
If we do someone a kindness we ourselves are impressed by kindness and this impression draws out kindness from those before whom we come. The cruel will not be so very cruel with us because of this impression of kindness, and when we meet someone who is kind his kindness towards us will be increased a thousand times.
A sin without its reaction is just like a drop of poison in one’s system which awaits its chance until it is developed enough to break out throughout one’s life as a disease arising in time from that one drop. And such is the case with virtue, but an unanswered flame of virtue may enlighten one’s whole life so that the world may see the illumination.
We make sins and virtues according to our idealization. What we have been taught from our childhood as good, we think good. What we have been taught from our childhood as bad, we think bad. It is not that God, from there, without the experience of manifestation, has made certain things virtues and others sins. It is God who sees with our eyes, who hears with our ears.
Every thing we do, every little good deed or bad deed has its effect upon every soul. It has always been said, “If you wish to see your children happy, do good deeds, give to the poor, be charitable. If you wish to see your fathers, your ancestors happy in the life beyond, do good actions, because the effect of your deeds will reach them, is felt by them.”
The Soul, its Origin and Unfoldment
WHEN WE look at life and the process of its development either from a mystical or from a scientific point of view, we shall find that it is one life developing itself through different phases. In other words, there is one vital substance -call it energy, intelligence, force or light, call it God or Spirit -which is forcing its way out from the most dense aspect of nature towards the finest aspect of nature. For instance, by studying the mineral kingdom we shall find a life in it which is forcing its way out. When we look at it scientifically we shall find that from the mineral kingdom come substances such as gold and silver and precious stones, which means that there is a process by which the mineral becomes finer, finer and finer, until it begins to show that the spirit is radiance, intelligence, beauty, and that it even manifests through the precious stones.
This is a scientific point of view. When we come to a mystical point of view we see that if we go among the rocks, if we stand in the mountains, if we go into the solitude where there is no one else, we are alone and begin to feel an upliftment, we begin to feel a sense of peace, a kind of atonement with the rocks, hills and mountains. What is it? It is that the spirit which is in us is the same in the mountains and rocks. That spirit is buried in the rocks and less buried in ourselves. But it is the same spirit, and that is why we are attracted to mountains. Mountains are not as living as we are, and therefore we are more attracted to them than they to us. Besides, what can we give to mountains? Our lack of peace, discord, our inharmony, our limitations. What can the mountains give us? Harmony, peace, calmness, quietude, a sense of patience, of endurance. What do they inspire us with? The idea that they have been waiting perhaps for thousands of years for an unfoldment which comes by the development of nature from rock to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to man.
It is this whole gradual unfoldment of the spirit which is buried in all these different aspects of nature and at each stepfrom rock to plant, from plant to animal, and from animal to man – the spirit is able to express itself more freely, is able to move more freely. In this way the spirit finds itself in the end. What does it show? It shows that there is one purpose working through the whole creation. The rocks are working out the same destiny as man, the plants are growing towards the same goal as man. What is that goal? Unfoldment. The spirit is buried in the creation and wants to make its way out. At each step of evolution there is a new unfoldment, a greater opening.
From the animal, Darwin says, man has come. It might have seemed at the time that it was a new scientific discovery, but it was not so. There are proofs of this in books of Persian poets. A poet who lived seven hundred years before Darwin says in his poetic terms, in a religious form, that God slept in the rock, dreamed in the plant, awoke in the animal, and realized Himself in man. Perhaps this poet has not said in detail from where man has come, but he has given his outlook so many years before. And twelve hundred years ago the Prophet Muhammad in giving the Qur’an has expressed the same: that first was the rock, from that came the plant, afterwards the animals and from them man was created.
Now the difference between the scientifical or biological point of view and the mystical or prophetic point of view is this: a materialistic scientist says, “Here is a rock. By a process of development a kind of life has come to it. Then vibrations increased. From animals came man; man is a developed animal. So from perfect denseness intelligence has developed”. The mystical conception is different. A mystic does not trace the origin of life in the rock; he traces it in spirit. One may ask, “What is spirit?” Spirit is intelligence. One might think, “We do not see intelligence in a rock, in animals”. The answer is that we must first distinguish between spirit and matter, understand what difference there is between the two. Spirit is finer matter, matter is dense spirit. In other words, water is snow and snow is water. When water is not frozen it is water and when frozen it is snow; when heated again it becomes water. It is the same with spirit and matter. There are many in this world inclined to say, “Matter does not exist”. It is easy to say, but difficult to prove. Besides, is that not only a conception? Others say, “Spirit does not exist”. What is needed is to understand the relation between the two and the difference beteen the two.
When I was travelling to America there was a young Italian with me on the ship. Looking at me he thought that I was a priest, and being himself an atheist he began to ask me, “What is your belief?” I said, “Nobody can tell his belief, it cannot be put into words. But may I ask what is yours? Perhaps you can explain it better”. “Well”, said he, “I believe in eternal matter”. “Then my belief is not very far from yours. What you call eternal matter, I call eternal spirit. The dispute is over words; if you do not stick to preconceived words there is no difference”. 10
Many in this world argue over words. If one reaches the sense no dispute is left. If someone sees the eternal aspect in matter which is ever changing, let him call it eternal. It does not matter, it is the eternal aspect of life we are looking for.
Now we come to the idea of the mystic’s conception of the soul. The mystic sees a development of material life from rock to plant, from plant to animal and from animal to the human physical body. That is one thing, it is a part of the mystical conception. Then there is something else: the divine Spirit, the Light, the Intelligence, the All-Consciousness. The first part makes the earth, the other makes heaven; it is that Sun, the divine Spirit shining and projecting its rays – and each ray becomes a soul. It is therefore not true to say that man has come out of a monkey. One is degrading the finest specimen of nature that God has created by calling it an improvement of a monkey. It is a materialistic, limited conception. The soul comes direct from the divine Spirit, it is intelligence itself, it is consciousness. But it is not the consciousness we know, for we never experience the pure existence of our consciousness. What we know of our consciousness is what we are conscious of; so we only know the name consciousness and do not know what it is in reality.
There is no difference between pure intelligence and consciousness. We call pure intelligence consciousness when that intelligence is conscious of something. But what we are conscious of is something that is before us. We are not that: we are the being who is conscious, not that which we are conscious of. The mistake is that we identify ourselves with what we see, because we do not see ourselves. Therefore, because he does not know himself, man naturally calls his body himself; as he cannot find himself, what he identifies himself with is his body. In reality man is not his body, man is his soul. The body is something man possesses; it is his tool, his instrument with which he experiences life, but the body is not himself. Since he identifies himself with his body, he naturally says, I live”, I die”, I am happy”, I am unhappy”, “I have fallen”, “I have risen”. Every condition of his limited and changeable body makes him think, “I am this”. In this way he loses the consciousness of the neverchanging aspect of his own being.
The soul is the ray which in order to experience life needs this instrument: the vehicles of body and mind. The soul with its two vehicles, body and mind, could be called spirit – that other word we use for soul. Through the body it experiences outward conditions, through the mind it experiences inner conditions of life. So the soul experiences two spheres, the physical and the mental sphere: the mental sphere through the mind, and the physical sphere through the body with its five senses.
When we come to the evolution of the world according to the point of view of the mystic, we shall see that it is not man who has come from the plant, the animal and the rock. But man has taken his body, his physical instrument, from the rock, from the animal, from the plant. He himself has come direct from the spirit and is directly joined to the spirit. He is, and always will be, above this instrument which he has borrowed from the earth. In other words, man is not the product of the earth but man is the inhabitant of heavens. It is his body which he has borrowed from the earth. Because he has forgotten his origin, the origin of his soul, he has taken the earth for his origin, but this is only the origin of his body and not of his soul.
Now we come to the law of gravitation, of which many say that it is a theory which was not known to the ancients. I say that the law of gravitation was already explained thousands of years earlier, even by Buddha, and in the Qur’an we find a Sura saying that the soul has come from God and is bound for Him. What science tells to-day is that the body of clay which has come from the earth is attracted to the earth because of the law of gravitation: earth attracts earth. But prophets and mystics and seers and sages always knew and taught that the soul is attracted to the Spirit. In other words, by the law of gravitation the body is attracted to the earth and the soul to the Spirit. When a person is unaware of this he only knows of one attraction which is of the earth. Then he does not know of the other attraction, and that does not help to give release to the soul, for the soul is attracted to the Spirit.
If it were a virtue to be spiritual – if it were only a virtue – I would be the first person to refuse it. But it is the greatest necessity of the soul; we cannot help it. Very often people think, “Is it necessary to be spiritual? What do we gain by it?” We do not need to gain anything by it, it is a natural attraction, we cannot help it! Those who are conscious of it begin to look for it. Those who are not conscious of it are unconsciously attracted to something which they do not know.
During my travellings of so many years through East and West I have met most intelligent people, maybe not at all religious, not interested in spiritual subjects, and at the same time, after having become more familiar with them, what have I found? There was a secret seeking. Outwardly it is out of fashion to think about spirituality, but inwardly they were all the time seeking for it. In schools the name of God and any mention made of religion has been erased from the textbooks. Nevertheless, scientists come who after all the research of science begin to think about these things. They themselves would like to avoid it, but they cannot help it. When people ask, “Did you find response during your travellings in the Western world?”, I say, “Whether it is West or East, North or South, there is response from every man. Maybe he does not know it, but every man in the world is my customer”.
Every man has interest as soon as one tells him about life and its deeper side. No doubt some are sleeping, some are half awake, and some on the point of awaking. It is those on the point of awaking who must be helped. Those who are half awake -let them awake; they will see. Those who sleep – after their sleep is over they will wake up and look for it. It is cruel to wake up a person. If he does not care for food, let him sleep; when he awakes he will feel hungry, he will ask for food. That is the time to give it to him.
Now we come to the question of the soul’s natural unfoldment towards spiritual attainment. Spirituality apart, at every stage in one’s life – infancy, the time from infancy to childhood, from childhood to youth, from youth to middle age – at every step further there is a new consciousness. Childhood is quite a new consciousness compared to infancy; youth is quite a different consciousness compared to childhood. If that is true then every soul, no matter in what stage of life he is, has gone through so many different unfoldments which have given him a new consciousness every time, whether he knows about it, whether he thinks about it, or not.
There are experiences such as failure in business, or misfortune, or illness, or a certain blow in one’s life, whether an affair of the heart or of money or a social affair, whatever it may be – there are blows which fall upon a person and a shell breaks, a new consciousness is produced. Very few will see it is an unfoldment, very few will interpret it as such, but it is so. Have you not seen among your acquaintances how a person with a disagreeable nature, a most uninteresting man to whom you were never attracted, perhaps after a blow, a deep sorrow, after some experience, awakened to a new consciousness and suddenly attracted you, because he had gone through this process? As we unfold at every step in our life, so we do with every experience. The deeper the experience touches us, the greater the unfoldment. In this way we unfold gradually towards that which is called perfection.
Spiritual unfoldment is the ultimate goal of every person. It comes at a moment when a man begins to be more thoughtful, when he begins to remember or to realize this yearning of the soul. Then consciously or unconsciously a feeling comes, “Is this all I have to do in my life: to earn money? Whether I have a high rank or a position, it is all a play. I have become tired of this play. I should think of something else. There is something else I have to attain”. This is the beginning; it is the first step on the spiritual path. As soon as a person has taken this first step his outlook has changed, the value of things becomes different and things to which he had attached great importance become of less importance; things with which he concerned himself so much he no longer concerns himself with. A kind of indifference comes. Nevertheless, a thoughtful person keeps to his duty just the same; he is even more conscientious and this brings about a greater harmony, because he begins to pity others.
When he goes another step forward there comes bewilderment. He begins to wonder, “What is it all?. Much ado about nothing!” It gave me much to think about when once I saw in India a sage whom I knew to be very deep, a man of high attainment, who was laughing at nothing. I wondered what he was laughing at. Then I stood there and looked around myself, thinking, “I must see from his point of view what makes him laugh so much”, and I saw persons hustling and bustling. For what? Was it not laughable? Every person thinking his particular point of view to be the most important, pushing others away because he finds his action the most important! Is it not the picture of life? It is the way of the evolved and the unevolved. And what do they reach? Nothingness! Empty-handed they leave this world; they come without anything, and they go without anything. It is this outlook which gives the soul bewilderment. He does not feel proud to laugh at others, but it is no doubt amusing. As much as he is amused at others, he is amused at himself.
When a person goes another step forward an understanding comes that changes his outlook and manner. Generally what happens is this: from morning till evening he reacts against every good and bad thing. But good he sees very rarely and bad things he always sees, or he meets someone who is nervous and excited, or dominant or selfish, and so all the time a continually jarring effect comes from everyone he meets. Then without knowing it his continual reaction is of despise, of hatred; the thought to get away is all the time before him. If he can say, “I don’t like”, “I dislike”, he can say it from morning till evening with everyone he meets, for there is rarely one person about whom he will not say such words. And this reaction he expresses in words or thought, by feeling or action.
When one reaches this third stage, the stage of understanding, one begins to understand instead of reacting. Then there is no reaction: understanding comes and suppresses it. It is just like a boat which is anchored; it produces tranquillity, stillness, weight in the personality. It does not move with every wind that blows, but stays like a heavy ship on the water, while a light ship moves with every wave that comes. That stability a person reaches in this third stage of unfoldment; he is ready to tolerate, to understand both the wise and the foolish – all.
Is it not amusing to think that the foolish person disagrees more with others than the wise? One would think that he knows more than the wise one. The wise one agrees with both the foolish and the wise; he is ready to understand everybody’s point of view. It may not be his idea, his way of looking, but he is capable of looking at things from the point of view of others. It is not one eye that sees fully; to make the vision complete two eyes are needed, and so the wise one can see from two points of view. If we do not keep away our own thoughts and preconceived ideas, if we cannot be passive and desirous of seeing from the point of view of another, we make a great mistake. This third stage gives a tendency to understand every person we meet.
Then again there is a fourth stage of unfoldment. In this stage we not only understand, but sympathize; we cannot help but sympathize, for we can see that life in the world is nothing but limitation. Whether a person is rich, in a high position, or in a wretched condition – whatever condition he is in, or whatever he is-he has to experience this limitation and that itself is a great misery. Every person therefore has his problem before him, and when we begin to see that every person on this earth has a certain problem and weight to carry through life, we cannot help but sympathize.
The one who can awake to the pain of mankind, whether it is his friend or his foe, cannot help sympathizing with him. Then he develops an outgoing tendency; he has always a feeling that he should go out to every person he meets and then, naturally, by his sympathy he looks for good points, for when one looks at a person without sympathy one will always touch his worst point.
When one goes a step further still, then a way is open to communicate. Just as there is a communication between persons who love each other very much, so the sympathy of a person whose soul has unfolded itself is so awakened that not only every person but even every object begins to reveal its nature, its character and secret. To him every man is a written letter.
We hear stories of saints and sages who talked with rocks and plants and trees. They are not only stories; it is reality. It is also told of the apostles that at the moment when the Spirit descended upon them they began to speak many languages. When they understood so many languages, they understood the language of every soul. It means that the illuminated soul understands the language of every soul. And every soul has its own language. It is that which is called revelation.
All the teachings that the great prophets and teachers have given are only interpretations of what they have seen. They have interpreted in their own language what they have read from the manuscript of nature: that trees and plants and rocks spoke to them. Did nature only speak to those in the past? No, the soul of man is always capable of that bliss if he only realized it. Once the eyes of the heart are open, man begins to read every leaf of the tree as a page of the sacred Book.
The Unfoldment of the Soul
IT IS in unfoldment that the purpose of life is fulfilled, and it is not only so with human beings but also with the lower creation; even with all the objects that exist the fulfilment of their existence lies in their unfoldment. When the clouds gather the purpose of their gathering is shown when it is raining: it is the unfoldment of that gathering of clouds which shows itself in the rain. Not in the gathering of the clouds was a purpose accomplished, it was accomplished in the raining; the gathering was a preparation. One finds the same thing in nature which works the whole year long and brings forth its fruits in the autumn. Not only human beings but even birds and animals can watch and be delighted to see the purpose of nature’s continual working fulfilled in the spring.
We learn from this that every being and every object is working towards that unfoldment which is the fulfilment of its purpose. There is a saying of a Persian poet, Sa’adi, that every being is intended to be on earth for a certain purpose, and the light of that purpose has been kindled in his heart.
In all different purposes which we see working through each individual, there seems to be one purpose which is behind them all, and that is the unfoldment of the soul. The ancient Hindus therefore held that object before them in all walks of life. Not only those who sought after truth were seeking for the soul’s unfoldment, but an artist, a scientist, a learned man, a man of industry, of commerce, each one thought that through his particular occupation he was to come to that end. The great misfortune we find to-day is that humanity is divided in its different occupations and has lost that thread which binds humanity into one and gives that impetus which results in the benefit of all. When the scientist stands on his ground, strong and firm, the artist in his sphere, the industrial man in his world, and the man of commerce in the world of commerce, it is natural that their souls do not come in contact with one another giving them the force to combine for the betterment of the whole.
Although a degeneration caused by extreme materialism prevails throughout the whole world, yet it is not too late to find examples of personalities who through all walks of life still wish to arrive at the proper goal. Our modern poet Tagore brought out a translation of poems by Kabir, a man who was never educated, who from childhood was a weaver and whose livelihood depended upon his weaving. Through his work he arrived at that goal, and he gave his experience in his ordinary language in a book which to-day is taken by the people as a Scripture. This makes us wonder whether it would not be possible for a scientist to arrive through his scientific occupations at the same truth, or for an artist through the practice of art, or for a man of industry or commerce to arrive at that central truth which concerns every soul.
When we look at humanity we find that we can not only divide it into different races and different nations, but we can also divide it into people of different occupations. In this age of materialism, if there is anything that unites us, it is only our material interest. And how long can we be united by a material interest? A friendship formed in materialism is not a friendship which will endure, for in that friendship the one depends upon the other for his own interest. It is sacrifice which enables us to be friends and to join with one another, and it is in sacrifice that the sign of spirituality is seen. We do not unite together in sacrifice to-day, our unity is in what we can gain by it. It is a matter for distress that in order to unite we are holding on to a lower ideal which will never prove a centre of unity. It is the high ideal which can unite, and that is the hope in which we can unite – if ever we can unite.
Now coming to the main part of our subject: how can the unfoldment of the soul be defined? The soul can be likened to the rose, and as a rosebud blooms so the soul unfolds itself. For the rosebud to bloom five conditions are required: fertile soil, bright sun, water, air and space. And the same five things are required for the unfoldment of the soul.
As a fertile soil is required for the roseplant in order to grow, so it is necessary for the child to be given education in the spiritual ideal from the moment it is born. When a child is deprived of that most important education in its childhood, then the soil is taken away from the roots of the roseplant. Hove many people there are who, with every possibility, with every tendency to become interested in all that is spiritual, in everything that is lofty and high, yet are afraid of the terminology in which it is expressed. What does this show? It shows that in childhood something was removed from them, and now that they have grown up they feel a desire for it, they want it but, when they look at it in a form they are not accustomed to, they are afraid of it. I have sometimes been amused more than words can express hearing someone say, I am so interested in all you have to say, but I cannot make myself believe it”.
Is there one soul (Hazrat Inayat Khan, characteristically, often uses the words “man” and “soul” indiscriminately.), however materialistic, which does not wish to unfold? There cannot be. Every soul has been born to unfold itself; it is its innate tendency, it cannot help it. Only, if the soul is deprived of the necessary conditions, then it ceases to develop. There are many people who do not believe in any particular religion, do not profess any particular faith, do not adhere to any form, but who at the same time have great spiritual qualities.
One might ask what is meant by that education. Is it a religious or a moral education that is meant by it? One might say that today we give more education than ever, even so much that a child who goes to school is busier than a workman going to the factory. Every year it is more difficult to get a degree in a university. Every year a greater and greater burden is put upon the student, a burden which is of no use to him or to anybody else. Education therefore can be divided into two parts: a real education and a superficial one. An education which comes from book knowledge, from learning is a superficial, outward education. The other education gives a deeper insight into life, and that alone can be called a real education. What we recognize as education to-day, what we mean by it, is the outward education significant of a certain degree or title. But the outward education ends; this inner education never ends because it is unlimited. It is as vast as the ocean, as wide as the horizon. No soul is too young to receive this education, and no soul is too old to receive it, for it is unlimited. There are mothers, impressed by the modern conditions, who ask advice saying, “What shall I do for my child? He receives all the education that school or college gives. I have not sent him to any religious place fearing that he will receive something different. Will you tell me what I must do to inspire this child which is constantly searching after something higher?” The answer is that for a really important education there is no institution; it is an education which one should acquire oneself and one should impart it to a little child.
Now one may ask what is meant by the water that nourishes the rose. That water is the love element. If that element is kept away in a person’s life, with all his intellectual knowledge and with every desire to seek after truth, he will remain backward. And unfortunately this element seems to be missing in the life of culture. A learned man will say that it has no place in the world of reason, and this separates outer learning from the religious ideal which calls God love.
What is it that takes the part of the sun in the life of a person, as the sun takes part in the growing of the rose? It is intelligence. Everyone may not seem to be intelligent, but the soul itself is intelligence. When the intelligence is covered by the mist of impressions and ideas of this earth, that intelligence becomes drowned in something, buried under something. When it is discovered then it is as bright as the sun. The mission of Buddha was mainly intended for that purpose. All Buddha wished to teach his disciples was to discover that pure intelligence which is above all reasoning and which is the essence of all reason.
What place does the air take in the growing of the soul? The air is symbolical of the inspiration which comes to the heart that is prepared for it. It is not only by outward learning, but by what one learns through inspiration, that the soul is elevated towards unfoldment.
What is meant by the space which is needed around the roseplant in order to let it grow? Symbolically it means a wide outlook on life. A person may live a hundred years, and with a narrow outlook will never see the light. In order to see life clearly the outlook must be wide. There is much to fight with in life in order to keep our outlook wide, because the nature of our life in the world is such that it drags us down and puts us in a sphere where we cannot but be narrow. A great person is not great because of his merits, qualities or reputation; the greatest thing that he can show proving his greatness is his vast outlook. And it is wonderful to notice how, even unconsciously, people who have arrived at a stage of being great in whatever walk of life automatically begin to show a vast outlook on life. What manures the plant and makes roses bloom is, symbolically, that teaching given by the great masters of humanity.
How can this development of the soul in which the purpose of life is fulfilled be recognized? What are its indications, its signs? The soul becomes like a rose and begins to show the rose quality. The rose holds together many petals, and so the person who comes to the unfoldment of the soul begins to show many different qualities. These qualities emit fragrance in the form of a spiritual personality. The rose has a beautiful structure, and so the personality which proves the unfoldment of the soul has also a fine structure in manner, in dealing with others, in speech, in action. It is like the perfume of the rose that the atmosphere of the spiritual being pervades all.
The rose has in its heart its seeds, and so the developed souls have in their heart that seed of development which produces many roses. The rose comes and fades away, but the essence that is taken from the rose lives and keeps the fragrance that it had in its full bloom. Personalities who touch that plane of development may live on the earth for a limited time, but the essence which is left by them will live for thousands and thousands of years, ever keeping the same fragrance and giving the same pleasure that once the rose gave.
10. The reasons for maintaining this personal recollection which already appeared in Chapter VIII of the present volume, “Spirituality, the Tuning of the Heart”, have been explained in the preface to Sufi Teachings, Volume VIII revised, page X.