Volume VIII: The Art of Being
PART I: HEALTH AND ORDER OF BODY AND MIND
by Hazrat Inayat Khan
Just as for every illness there is a remedy, so for every disaster there is a reconstruction. Any effort, in whatever form and however small, made towards reconstruction or towards the betterment of conditions is worthwhile, but what we need most is the understanding of that religion of religions and that philosophy of philosophies which is self-knowledge. We shall not understand the outer life if we do not understand ourselves. It is the knowledge of the self that gives the knowledge of the world.
What is health? Health is order. And what is order? Order is music. Where there is rhythm, regularity, cooperation, there is harmony, there is sympathy. Health of mind and health of body therefore depend upon preserving, that harmony, upon keeping intact that sympathy, which is going on in the mind and in body.
Remember that life in the world, and especially if lived amidst the crowd will test and try our patience every moment of the day, and it will be most difficult to preserve that harmony and peace which are all happiness. What is the definition of life? Life means struggle with friends and battle with foes. It is all the time giving and taking, and it is most difficult to keep the sympathy, to keep the harmony, which are health and happiness.
Where are we to learn it? All education, learning and knowledge are acquired, but this one art is a divine art and man has inherited it. Absorbed in outer learning he has forgotten it, yet it is an art, which is known to his soul, yet it is his own being, it is the deepest knowledge of his heart. No progress in whatever line will give a man that satisfaction his soul is craving for, except this art, which is the art of life, the art of being, which is the pursuit of his soul. In order to serve the reconstruction of the world the only thing possible and the only thing necessary is to learn the art of being, the art of life, for oneself and to be an example oneself before trying to serve humanity.
What is Sufism? It is that art which has just been spoken of, the art through which the music and symphony of life can be preserved, and through which man can enable himself to become the proper servant of God and humanity.
Health is an orderly condition caused by the regular working of the mechanism of the physical body. The regular working of the physical body depends upon the weather, diet, the balance between action and repose, and the condition of the mind.
Many think that it is some deformity of the body, a curve in the spine or cavity in the brain that affects the mind. Few realize that very often the mind produces an irregularity in the spine or in the brain, thereby causing an illness. The ordinary point of view regards an illness as a physical disorder, which can be cured by means of material remedies. Then there is another point of view: that of people who think deeply and who say that by not taking notice of an illness, or by suggesting to oneself that one is well, one can be restored to health.
This point of view can be exaggerated, when some people claim that illness is an illusion, that it has no existence of its own. The ordinary point of view can also be exaggerated when one thinks that medicine is the only means of cure and that thought has little to do with actual illness. Both these persons, the one who looks at it from the ordinary point of view and the other who sees from a deeper point of view, will find arguments for and against their idea. Some people go as far as to say that medicine must not be touched by those who have faith, and some affirm that an illness is as real as health. It is in the absence of illness that a person can easily call pain an illusion, but when he is suffering, then it is difficult for him to call it an illusion.
The question, who is more subject to illness, a spiritual person or a material person, may be answered thus: a spiritual person who discards spiritual laws. No doubt a spiritually inclined person is supposed to have less chance of being ill, because his spirit has become harmonious through spirituality. He creates harmony and radiates it. He keeps to the realm of nature, in tune with the Infinite. Nevertheless, a spiritual person’s life in the midst of the world is like the life of a fish on land. The fish is a creature of the water. Its sustenance, its joy, its happiness are in the water. A spiritual soul is made for solitude. His joy and happiness are in solitude. A spiritual person, set in the midst of the world by destiny, feels out of place, and the ever jarring influences of those around him and the continually striking impressions which disturb his finer senses, make it more likely that he will become ill than those who push their way in the crowd of the world and are ready to be pushed away.
A spiritual soul is an old soul according to the Eastern terminology. Even a spiritually minded young person shows the nature of the aged, but at the same time spirituality is perpetual youth. A spiritual person admires all things, appreciates all things, and enjoys all things to their fullness. Therefore, if one says that the spiritual person is like a young person, this is true also.
People have lost the conception of normal health these days when the standard of normal health is below the real conception of health. To be healthy is not only to be muscular: to be really healthy is to be able to enjoy and appreciate life fully. To be healthy means to be thoughtful; the one who can feel deeply shows the sign of health.
It is not surprising if a material prison becomes ill, nor is it amazing if a spiritual person is unwell. The former becomes ill because he has lost his rhythm, the latter is ill because he could not keep to a rhythm which is not his own. Be one spiritual or material, since one has to live in the midst of the world, one shares the conditions of all those who are far and near, and one subjects oneself to the influences, desirable or undesirable, coming from all around. One cannot close one’s eyes, nor can one close one’s heart, to the impressions, which continually fall upon one. The best one can do is to keep a careful watch against all that comes upon one causing irregularity, in harmonic and disorder, to be resigned to all one has to pass through, and to be courageous in order to overcome all that keeps one back from health and perfection.
Health is a most important subject. There is a Hindustani proverb: Health is a thousand gifts. The other interests of life should be sacrificed to health.
If the veins and tubes of the body are stopped up, this causes disease. If they are stopped up by water, it causes colds and coughs. If they are stopped up with air – that is by poisonous gases – one gets rheumatism and similar diseases. If they are stopped up by a sort of rust, there are circumstances, there are germs that cause disease, but the disease comes in proportion to the welcome one gives it.
One way is giving too much sympathy. If a child has a headache, and the mother says: “Oh poor child, you must lie down on your bed and I shall bring you an apple and an orange,” the apple and the orange are brought to the headache, the bed and the sympathy are given to the headache to welcome it. If it is given such a welcome, it will make its abode there. There are some people, who love themselves so much that they say, “Oh, poor self, what a pity it is that you should be ill, that you should suffer.” Self-pity is a great cause of disease.
Then there is fear. If there is a dog in your street, and you show the dog that you are afraid, it will attack you. So it is with disease. I know this through my own experience. When I used to go about in India to give concerts, I used to think, “What will happen if I have a cold on the day of the concert? If it comes before it does not matter, but if it comes on the day of the concert, it will be terrible.” And on the day of the concert the cold came and went into my throat. Until I learned the way of it the cold would always come. Another thought is “What will become of me I am well this week, but how shall I be next week? I may be ill. I am well this year, but next year I may be ill. I must take some precautions.”
A rich lady whom I knew in Paris once wrote to me saying, “Murshid, I cannot come to your lecture.” I went to see her, expecting to find her very ill. She said, “I cannot go out of the house or see anyone; the doctor forbade me.” I asked, “Have you any paint?” “No”, she answered, “I do not know; but the doctor told me not to go out.” I said, “Is your doctor a god, is he a prophet or a messenger of God, that he has brought you a message of sickness?”
Question: Why does illness come upon us?
Answer: Illness comes because we allow it to come. We allow it either consciously or unconsciously, and it stays where it finds a welcome, sympathy, a bed prepared for it, a doctor to attend to it.
Illness always comes from something bad: bad atmosphere, bad food, and bad surroundings.
I once asked a very great Murshid, which was best suited for psychic and occult powers, strength or weakness of the body. No doubt there are people who, when they are sick and weak, found themselves able to see things which, being well, they could not see. But this kind of psychic power has no scope for development, because there is no strength. We sometimes think that in order to have psychic powers we should become ethereal, delicate and weak, but physical strength is needed. If it were not so, God would not have manifested Himself as man. If this physical world were not needed it would never have been created. At whatever time of life, a person, whatever his constitution, should spend twenty minutes a day developing his bodily strength. How to develop physical strength is a very extensive subject and it would take a long time to study it.
Physical weakness produces many bad effects and prevents a person, however great his spiritual progress may be, to do what he wishes. There is weakness of the heart, of the body and of the brain. Weakness of the heart makes a person at one moment very happy, at another very sad. To make the heart strong one should eat living food: that is fresh food. By drinking alcohol, which is dead matter, the worst matter is put into the heart, and its condition becomes very bad.
Weakness of the body makes a person unable to keep still, to have repose. To make the body strong a balance of activity and sleep is needed, a balance of work and repose, and physical exercises should be done. When you work there must be activity and no slowness, and when you rest there must be slowness and no activity. How many useless words do we speak, how much energy do we waste in useless actions. We should expend our energy on what is worthwhile, and not waste it in useless actions.
Good and righteous actions, good feelings – all the things people teach their children – are necessary. In reality, it does not matter to God whether you are good or bad, righteous or unrighteous, but by a pious and good life man keeps himself, his body and brain, in good condition.
Weakness of the brain produces heat. In such a condition, however nice, however good a person may be, he is at once moment very hot tempered, and then cold as snow, then hot again. To worry very much, to repent very much, to sorrow very much, and to think that life is a great burden upon us, to make a great thing out of every small event, of every small responsibility – it all weakens the brain. Normal deeds and actions and normal rest strengthens the brain.
Remember that all things pass. If worry comes – it is a passing thing. Keep it away, and if it is already there, help it to go. Do not hold on to it. If you are good, the world will not understand you and the better you become, the less the world will understand you. So you have a choice: to be like the world, or to be good and let the world misunderstand you. Let your joy and your satisfaction be within you.
The Sufis have ways of exciting the heart and making it quiet. They excite it when there is benefit in exciting it; they make it quiet when there is benefit in making it quiet. They let the brain be active, and let it rest.
There are two tendencies: the tendency towards activity, which has brought man from the unconscious to the manifestation, and the tendency towards inactivity, which takes him back there. It is a mistake, often made by ascetics, to give all attention to the inactive tendency and to neglect the physical altogether. Our physical body is our means of experiencing this world, and it is necessary to keep it in good order. To do this three things are needful: one is to keep the circulation in good order by physical practices, another is purification, and the third is development of the muscles.
It is very necessary to keep the circulation in good order. There must be balance: so much activity, so much sleep, so much eating, and so much activity. If there is too much activity the circulation cannot be good. There must be a balance of activity and repose, and there must be a balance of eating and work. I do not say, “Eat very little,” I say, “Eat much and do much work.”
It is a mistake to think out of an idea of delicacy that by eating little we shall become very wonderful. We should not think that we can only eat at certain hours. If it is wanted, we should be able to eat at any hour. We should not think that we cannot eat certain things. We should not think, “This is too heavy for me, I cannot eat it.”
We should do whatever movement occurs in the course of our occupations, not thinking, “I shall be tired,” but thinking that we are able to do it.
It is necessary to keep our life pure, and the five purifications should be done very carefully: the purification by air, the purification by water, the purification by earth, the purification by fire, and the purification by ether. A person is often inclined to neglect that which does not bring an immediate result that he can see with his eyes. But these purifications should be done very exactly. Washing face and hands is not enough: every tube and vein of the body must be kept clean. The postures and positions that are taught, the posture of the dhikr, of the fikr, of shaaqhl, have the effect of making the blood flow through certain veins. If this is done there is no disease.
The muscles develop during the whole of life, while the bones do not continue to grow. They become solid, while the muscles develop. Whatever your age may be, you should have ten minutes or quarter of an hour each day in which to do physical exercises. All physical practices, like standing on the hands or head, on both feet, or on one foot, taught by the Sufis, are taught for this purpose.
Control of the Body
A person’s body usually goes quite out of control. If he wishes to hold up one foot, his foot will not obey him. For one moment it will go up, but after that it will not obey him any more. If he goes to the photographer who says, “steady,” he begins to move at once. The word “steady” alone makes him shake because it reminds him of his helplessness. Without the word “steady” he was all right, but his word brought his weakness before him and weakness of the body expresses weakness of the mind.
In India you will see people standing upon their heads, walking upon their hands, standing on one foot for hours. A person may say, “What a crazy practice! Of what use can this be? They must be mad. “No, they have seen the madness of the whole world, and they try another madness. Their “madness” is knowledge. They remain in the same posture for hours and hours. If one of them folds his arms he remains for hours with his arms folded. If he holds up his hand, he remains holding up his hand for hours. If he closes his eyes, he remains with his eyes closed for hours. If he does not speak, he does not speak for days and days.
When a person has been alone for some time, he begins to move. He moves his foot or his hand, or he drums on the table. He wants to feel that he is alive, and the consciousness realizes that it is alive by its activity, the activity of the body and of the mind. When the activity of the body is made to cease and the activity of the mind is stopped, then the consciousness has a chance of realizing that it is alive without the life of the body and of the mind. When the body is brought under control, and when the mind is controlled so that we can keep it on one thought as long as we like and we make it blank as long as we like, then the soul, which is imprisoned in the body is set free. It is not bound to mind and body. The whole world is open for it.
Then we realize that we are not this limited self, that we are not separate from God, not different, but that we are the same as God, that we have the same existence, the same immortal unchanging life beyond all the changes of this material world. In this way we can become perfect, as the Father in heaven is perfect.
When looking at the world with the eyes of the seer, we shall see that people who are called wise and people who are called foolish are much nearer to each other than they are ordinarily thought to be: because of their unbalanced state their different occupations are much nearer to each other than they usually appear. The person who sees the good in others will see more and more good. The person with a fault finding tendency will see so many faults that at last even the good seems bad in his eyes; the eyes themselves are bad.
There is much more chance of a fall for a person who is running than for one that is walking. The activity itself brings about a fall. The activity tends to grow more and more, and by this, balance is lost. Sometimes a person has no balance in telling the truth. He says, “I tell the truth,” and he is regardless of whether it is harmonious with his surroundings, whether people are prepared to receive it. He says, “I tell the truth, and I want to fight with everybody because I tell the truth!” therefore, the lesson of repose is the most important one to be learned.
Philosophy itself – the greatest, the highest thing in the world, the knowledge of God – has often been lost through lack of balance. This is why in the Bible, in the Vedanta, in the Qur’an the truth, told so plainly, is nevertheless told in a veiled manner. If the prophets, the masters had spoken the truth in plain words, the world would have gone to the left instead of the right. It has been my own experience that philosophy, when plainly expressed, is understood differently than when it is expressed in a veiled manner.
When we speak we become inclined to speak more and more, and we become so fond of speaking that we speak regardless of whether anyone wishes to listen. We say what we do not really wish to say. Afterwards we think, “Why did I insult that person? Why did I tell my secret to somebody else?” Sa’adi, the great Persian poet says, “O, intelligent one, of what use is thine intelligence, if afterwards thou repentest?”
Whatever we do, whether good or bad, increases in us more and more. If one day a person thinks about music for five minutes, the next day that thought will continue for half an hour. If one day he thinks about poetry for ten minutes, the next day that thought will continue for an hour. If a person has a little thought of bitterness, unconsciously the thought will grow until his mind is full of bitterness. Every sin comes about in this way. Zarathustra distinguishes three kinds of sin: the sin of thought, the sin of speech and the sin of action. To have a thought of bitterness, the thought of evil, is like doing evil; to speak evil is like doing evil. And when a person commits an evil action, then the evil is concrete.
We have balance of thought, when we can see things not only from our own point of view, with the ideas and feelings in which we are trained, but from all sides. The one-sided person has no balance.
Suppose you are very patriotic and se everything from the point of view of patriotism, and you go to an ironmonger and demand that he should sell you some things at a certain price. But the ironmonger is a poor man and, even for a patriotic purpose, he cannot sell the things at that price. After all he is an ironmonger and he thinks of his trade. He cannot be expected to see with your patriotic eyes. One person thinks only of patriotism. Another says, “God save the trade.” A third, who is a musician, says, “They are mad, crazy! Music is the only thing that matters.” The poet says, “poetry is the only thing in the world.” Each thinks only of that in which he is active. A pious person exaggerates his piety so much that there is nothing in him but piety, which at last becomes hypocrisy.
One will ask: What is balance; and how can we achieve it? First there is the balance of activity and repose, of sleeping and waking. If a person thinks that by sleeping very much he will become great and so sleeps very much, he will become a monster instead of a man, because the body, which is given in order to experience the world, is not used. If one does not sleep at all, in a few days one will have a nervous breakdown. If one fasts very much, certainly one will become very ethereal, one will see into the other world, into other planes. If one has learned the way of inspiration, inspiration will come. But this body, these senses will become weak, so that one will not be able to experience the world for which they were given. Extremity is undesirable in everything, whether good or evil. The madzubs, in India, are those mystics who go to the extreme of spirituality. Their external self is so much forgotten that they leave the experience of the world altogether.
To sleep and wake, to eat and fast, to be active and to be still, to speak and to be silent- that is to have balance. The Sufi teaches control of the activity of the body, the balance of the body, by pose, posture and movements, which include namaz, wazifa and dhikr. He teaches the balance of the mind by concentration. To sit at home and close the eyes is not concentration. Though the eyes are closed, the thoughts go on. The right object of concentration must be chosen.
By concentration and meditation a person experiences ecstasy, the greatest happiness and bliss. Guidance of the Murshid is needed for this; otherwise the balance will be lost. A disciple was taught a practice by the Prophet Mohammad, through which he experienced ecstasy. After some days he came bringing fruit and flowers, which he offered to the Prophet, thanking him greatly and saying, “The lesson that you taught me is of so great a value to me. It has brought me such joy. My prayers, which used to last a few minutes, now last all day.” The Prophet said, “I am glad you liked the lesson, but, please from today on leave it.”
By control of the self a person experiences the higher plane in which all beings are one. The guidance of the teacher, the Murshid, is needed. No one can accomplish this by themselves. And if anyone could, he would become so much interested in what he experienced there, that he would become absent from this world. Absent- mindedness, even lunacy and many other evil consequences would result.
Ecstasy is the greatest happiness, the greatest bliss. A person always thinks, “I am this which I see. This small amount of flesh and blood, bones and skin is I.” By ecstasy the consciousness is freed from this body, from this confinement. It experiences its true existence above all sorrow, pain and trouble. That is the greatest joy. To experience it, and to keep control of the body and the senses through which we experience all the life of this world is to have balance. That is the highest state.
It is not only strength or nervous energy that enables man to stand on the earth. Besides muscular strength and nervous energy, there is balance. It is balance which enables man to stand and walk without falling. In the absence of balance man will not be able to stand or walk in spite of his muscular strength and nervous energy.
When we think of the mind – is it reasoning, is it far-reaching imagination, which makes man thoughtful? No, it is balance. There are many whose imagination reaches so far that they can float in the air for hours together, and there are others whose reason is so powerful that they can go round and round and round and end nowhere. If there is anything that makes man thoughtful, it is not great reasoning or far-reaching imagination: it is balance.
Is it the deep feeling of the heart, or is it living in a spiritual ecstasy that makes a person illuminated? No, neither of these things. A person can be in ecstasy, see visions phenomena and yet he may not be called spiritual. A person may have religious ideas, he may live a pious life, have lofty ideals, and even then he may not be called an illuminated soul. This shows that in order to make the body as it ought to be, to keep the mind in order, and to maintain it to that pitch, it is balance that is necessary.
When we study nature, we find that the growth of plants and the life of trees all depend upon balance. And when we think of the cosmos and study the condition of the stars and planets, the main thing we realize is that the one holds the other, thereby producing balance. All destruction caused in nature, such as volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, comes from lack of balance. As long as nature holds its balance, the abyss in the heart of the earth can remain as it is. People can walk over it without any damage. Storms and famine, all the difficult conditions caused by nature, show that balance is missing. All the different plagues that come to mankind are caused by the lack of that balance which is the security of the health of humanity.
What we call art also comes from a balanced sense of line and color, and what we call genius in science comes from the balance between perception and conception.
What do we learn from all this? That the secret of existence of the individual as well as of the whole cosmos lies in one thing and that is balance. It would not be exaggerated if I said that success and failure are caused by balance and by the lack of it. Progress and lack of progress can be explained as coming from balance and lack of balance.
There is another idea connected with what we call balance. Life is movement, balance is something that controls it, but perfect balance controls movement too much, bringing it to the pitch of inertia. For instance, if the strength of the right hand were equal to the strength of the left hand, if the right leg and the left leg were equal, man would not be able to work or to walk. If each of the two eyes had the same power of sight, a person would not be able to see. In this way balance controls everything. But, too much balance destroys it, because too much balance brings stillness. The ordinary balance, which is not complete, brings about success.
Now the main idea is to know how balance is to be obtained and to be retained. In answer to the first question, how balance is to be attained, I would say that balance is naturally there, so there is no need to attain it. The question is only how to maintain balance and not how to attain it. The influence of our way of life in this active world always puts us off balance. No matter what direction we take in life, no matter what our occupation, our business in life, there is always difficulty in maintaining balance.
The Sufis therefore, have found a key to it, and that key is to isolate oneself within and thereby, to gain a complete balance within oneself. I have already said that perfect balance means destruction of action, but when we think that from morning till evening our life is nothing but action, we naturally cannot keep that balance. By keeping a few minutes for a process of meditation, of silence, we can touch that complete balance for a moment, and then, naturally, in our active life a balance is maintained. Very often people make the mistake of thinking that by the help of meditation or silence they can bring about success in activity. If it brings about a successful result, it is only because complete balance in meditation makes one capable of maintaining the balance necessary for activity.
Success, failure, progress, standstill, one’s state of being, it all comes from the condition that a person is experiencing within himself. A man of common sense will say, “For this reason or for that reason you have met with success or failure.” A person who is clairvoyant will say, “Because a spirit or a ghost has said this or that, the conditions must be worse or better.” The astrologer will say, “Because this star is in its house or not in its house, you are experiencing such or such conditions.” But according to the Sufi idea the condition of life around one depends absolutely on the condition of one’s inner self. So what is needed to change the conditions in outer life, or to tune oneself, is to work with one’s inner self in order to bring about the necessary balance.
Once balance is lost, it is very difficult to bring it about again. In the first place it is often difficult to keep balance in everyday life, and once it is lost, there is very little hope of success, of happiness, or of progress. It is just like a clock getting out of order. It cannot work as long as it is not brought into a proper balance again. And the same is true for the conditions of the soul. If a person has lost his wealth, has become a spendthrift, has become thoughtless, all these things are signs of his loss of balance. To be too sad, to be too busy, to be too lazy, all these things are signs of lack of balance. All that can be called too much is always out of balance.
Balance is the security of life, not only in our outward life, but even in maintaining meditation and contemplation. People in the East have always considered balance to be the principal thing to maintain in life. All different exercises they have prescribed, whether in the form of religion or in the form of devotion, whether in the philosophical or in the psychical realm, are all meant to maintain balance.
Balance must be maintained between what is physical and what is eternal by being conscious of both. One must not dive so deep into eternity that one does not know what time it is, nor so immersed in the physical that one is unaware of immortality. As there is night and day, so there is the change of consciousness from the physical to the spiritual, and from the spiritual to the physical. By keeping a balance between these two conditions a person leads a complete life.
Balance is something, which is as rarely found among mystics as among others. When we become interested in something, it is our nature to want more and more of it, whether it is spirituality or something material. If we become very spiritual and are not material [enough], we lose the world. If we were not meant to live in this world, we would not have been sent here.
Balance in Solitude
All the prophets, all the great ones have sought solitude. Christ was in solitude for a long time in the caves of the mountains. Moses was in solitude on Mount Sinai. Buddha had to have solitude for a long, long time before he could give his message to the world. The Prophet Mohammad was for a long time in solitude on Mount Hira. Why this solitude?
You may see by the experience of your own life what solitude does. If you try to go out all day to talk with acquaintances and friends, you will find that each day so much is gone from your speech, first because of your exaggeration, for to speak, you begin to exaggerate. Then, if you speak to amuse people, you may say what is not true: you add to what you are saying. Then out of politeness you embellish what you say: you say what you do not mean.
To everyone the wish comes to go home, to be with one or two people whom one likes, or to be alone. When you are silent thoughts are less, feelings are less, and the mind has a rest. When people come – people whom you like or undesirable people – the impression of their words or actions fall upon you and your peace of mind is broken.
A part of your time should be given to solitude. The more you cultivate solitude, the more you will like it, but when very much time is spent in solitude, people become unbalanced. Themadzubs in India are very great people; often they are Nabi or Qutb. They attain a very high degree of spirituality. They have control over the elements, but part of their power, as the world demands it of them, is lost to the external world. I think that it is most desirable to be well balanced: to spend so much time with others, and so much time in solitude.
Balance in Greatness
One way of being great is to take all we can. The more we take the greater we become, and all the world will call us great. Another way is to give all we can. In the Bible we read, “If a man takes away your coat, give him your cloak as well.”
The question arises: how much can we give? The more we give the more will be taken from us. When Shams-e-Tabriz had given his skin, the worms and germs also took his flesh and blood. They did not say, “This man has given his skin, let him have the comfort that he may still have;” they took all.
We who are giving the message of liberty cannot give a message from which the world will run away. If we say, “Give all,” the world will run away from such a message. The world will say, “If I give all, I shall have nothing to eat, I shall have nothing with which to cover myself. I must at least have something to eat and I must be covered.”
There is a story told of our Murshid Farid Shakr Ganj who was worshipping in the jungle. His was of worship was the ascetic way. He hung himself up in a well by his feet, head down, and in this way he practiced. The animals did not come near him, but the birds came and ate his skin and flesh. He let them eat, because he was practicing this moral, but when they came near his eyes he warded them off with his hand and said, “O bird, I would also give thee mine eyes, if thou wouldst bring them first in the presence of the Beloved, that they might have a glimpse. Then thou couldst eat.”
We must not give away the soul, the intelligence, and the power of distinguishing. If we give these, we are like the tree: everyone may eat of its fruits. Our arms were not given to us that we should fold them, but that we should work. Our feet were not given to us that we should be motionless, but that we should walk. Our power of distinguishing is given to us that we may distinguish, and by distinguishing we also may learn not to distinguish. We must take a middle course: we must distinguish when to give when not to give, to whom to give, to whom not to give.
By life’s mechanism I mean environment. Life’s mechanism has a great deal to do with one’s success or failure. This is not unknown to individuals who think about it. Nevertheless, not everyone thinks deeply enough to know to what extent one should treat oneself as a patient and cure oneself of one’s weaknesses, but condition is something which is to be thought of also from a practical point of view. This is not only a practical ideal that I give you, but it is supported by the words of Christ. One should not wonder why a man cannot accomplish soon enough what he wishes to accomplish in life, when it is even difficult for the Creator to do so. It is to teach this philosophy and secret that Christ has said, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” What does it mean? It means: Thy will is easily done in heaven, and I wish people would help so that it should be done as easily on earth.
If one had to swim across the sea, to journey by swimming, it would take great courage, great perseverance and great faith to make that journey. And one would not even know when one would arrive at one’s destination. But when a ship is made it becomes convenient to journey. Then one does not need to exhaust one’s faith and perseverance to such an extent: there is a means enabling one to attain one’s object. A mechanism, therefore, is the most necessary thing for the attainment of every object. If one wishes for comfort in the home, one wants a mechanism for it. If one has a business or an industry, a certain amount of organization improves the conditions. In a state a government answers the purpose of keeping order and peace. When it is cold one needs warm clothes, while in summer one needs a different environment.
Now that is easy to understand, but it is most difficult to make the right mechanism. In the first place there are so many who do not have their object fairly in mind. They will go on day after day not knowing what they really want, thinking differently every day about what they want. That deprives them of the mechanism, which can only be produced after knowing one’s definite object in life. Then again by too much enthusiasm, by too much arranging of the mechanism, one spoils one’s affair, defeats one’s purpose. And at other times through lack of mechanism one falls short, for the mechanism does not answer the purpose one holds.
No one can ever say that he has sufficient knowledge of this subject, for in treating oneself one must have one’s own knowledge, but in arranging a mechanism one has to deal with many different natures. And how much more knowledge of human nature and of life must one possess in order to make the right mechanism! People have often come to me and said, “I have been able to keep up my concentrations and meditations as I was told, yet I am not near to reaching my purpose.” What is lacking is not practice or self-training, but what is lacking is the mechanism – which is another necessity. For instance if a person says, “I have been able to discipline myself, and now I can meditate fairly well. Shall I now sit at the seaport and meditate that I am in New York? Shall I arrive there?” Or a person with self-discipline will meditate, “All the wealth that is in the bank is in my house.” Will it come? Even if he continued for a thousand years to meditate upon the bank he will not get its wealth.
In this objective world there is a necessity of an objective mechanism in order to produce certain results, and if people going on the spiritual path will not see this side of it, with all their goodness and spirituality they will prove to others their lack of balance, and then the practical man has no reason to laugh at the mystical minded person.
Therefore, the work of the Sufi movement is not only to guide souls towards the higher ideal, but also to keep their eyes open on the way in order that they may see it with open eyes. We shall only give an example to those who have no belief in spiritual ideas by striking a balance throughout our lives. A person may take good care of himself and concentrate upon good health, and yet his environments may cause him illness. That cannot be helped; it is not lack of spirituality in that person: it is lack of materiality. Does that not show that we ought to balance the two? There is no great exaltation when a person has become so spiritual that he levitates in the air, if he is then no better than a balloon. If he can stand very well on the earth, then he has accomplished something. It is not of every man that we can say that he stands on his own feet. Nothing is worse in this world than to be dependent, and if spirituality will make a man more dependent – in other words, at the mercy of other people in the practical things of life – then spirituality is not to be wished for. Spirituality is mastery, both materially and spiritually to be able to manage oneself and to be able to keep the mechanism right.
Now, what I have to say to my mureeds is: that it is very easy to make your Murshid contented and pleased – even with as small a number as we are just now – only by knowing that it is our sacred duty and our spiritual responsibility to make ourselves, as much as we can, an example of the teaching that the Sufi movement wishes to spread. In order to become examples of this I do not ask you to work wonders, or to be so good that it would be difficult for you to live in the world. Only, as an example, you should strike a balance. You should talk about higher things standing on the earth, standing upon your feet. It is then that people will listen to you, and then they will trust the movement.
At this time when a reconstruction of the world is necessary it is our humble service at this juncture to contribute what is most needed for this reconstruction. Therefore, we should all consider ourselves soldiers for this cause, discipline ourselves and make the mechanism in life, which is necessary for the attainment of our object. For the very reason that we are few we are more responsible for our existence. We must stand by one another; we must do for one another all we can in every way, that we may not easily be blown away by the wind. In order to arrive at that balance and force the stability we must not only meditate, but we must practice these things in our everyday life.
It is harmony, which makes beauty; beauty in itself has no meaning. An object which is called beautiful at a certain place and time is not beautiful at another place or another time. And so it is with thought, speech and action: that which is called beautiful is only so at a certain time and under certain conditions which make it beautiful. So if one can give a true definition of beauty, it is harmony. Harmony in a combination of colors, harmony in the drawing of a design or a line is called beauty, and a word, a thought, a feeling, an action that creates harmony is productive of beauty.
The question arises from where comes the tendency to harmony and from where comes a tendency to disharmony. The natural tendency of every soul is towards harmony, and the tendency towards inharmony is an unnatural state of mind or affairs. The very fact that it is not natural makes it void of beauty. The psychology of man is such that he responds both to harmony and inharmony. He cannot help it, because he is naturally made so; mentally and physically he responds to all that comes to him, be it harmonious or inharmonious.
The teaching of Christ, “Resist not evil,” is a hint not to respond to inharmony. For instance, a word of kindness, of sympathy, an action of love and affection finds response, but a word of insult, an action of revolt or of hatred creates a response too. And that response creates more inharmony in the world. By giving way to inharmony one allows inharmony to multiply. At this time one sees in the world the greatest unrest and discomfort pervading all over. Where does it come from? It seems to come from ignorance of this fact that inharmony creates inharmony and will multiply inharmony.
A person, who is insulted, has the natural tendency to think that the proper way of answering is to insult the other person still more. By this he gets the momentary satisfaction of having given a good answer. But he does not know what he has done by his good answer. He has given response to that power which came from the other and these two powers, being negative and positive, create more harmony.
“Resist not evil” does not mean: receive evil into yourself. “Resist not evil” only means do not send back the inharmony that comes to you, just as a person playing tennis would send back the ball with his racket. But at the same time it does not suggest that you should receive the ball with open hands.
The tendency toward harmony may be likened to a rock in the sea: through the wind, through the storm the rock stands in the sea; each wave comes with all its force and yet the rock remains still, it stands, it bears all, letting the waves beat against it.
By fighting inharmony one increases it, by not fighting it one does not give fuel to the fire, which would rise and cause destruction. No doubt the wiser you become, the more difficulties you have to face in life, because every kind of inharmony will be directed at you for the very reason that you will not fight it. However, with all these difficulties you must know that you have helped to destroy that inharmony which would otherwise have multiplied. This is not without advantage, for every time you stand against inharmony like the rock in the sea, you increase your strength, although outwardly it may seem a defeat. But the one who is conscious of the increase of his power will never admit that it was a defeat, and as time passes the person against whom he has stood firm will realize that it was he who was defeated.
Life in the world has a constantly jarring effect. The finer one becomes the more trying it will be, and the time comes when, if a person is sincere and good-willing, kind and sympathetic, life becomes worse for him. If he is discouraged by this, he goes under. If he keeps his courage, then he will find in the end that it was not disadvantageous, because his power will some day increase to that stage, to that degree at which his presence, his word, his action will control the thoughts and feelings and activities of all. He will get that heavy rhythm, the rhythm that will make the rhythm of everybody else follow it. This is the attribute, which in the East is called the quality of the mastermind.
In order to stand firm against the inharmony that comes from without, one must first practice to stand firm against all that comes from within, from one’s own self; for one’s own self is more difficult to control than other people, and when one is not able to control oneself and one has failed to do so, it is most difficult to stand firm against the inharmony from without.
Now the question arises: what is it that causes inharmony in oneself? It is weakness; physical weakness or mental weakness, but it is always weakness. Very often, therefore, one finds that it is bodily illness that causes inharmony and inharmonious tendencies. Besides there are many diseases of the mind which the scientists of today have not yet discovered. There are two cases: a person, who is perhaps very ill, is considered insane, and, on the other hand, illnesses of the mind are not taken into account. Persons who suffer from these illnesses are considered sane, and no attention is given to the defects, which come from these diseases of the mind. So they never have a chance to notice the disease in themselves, and they are continually finding faults with others. If they are in an office, if they are in a good position, if they are at home, everywhere they cause inharmony. Nobody understands the cause, for to be treated as insane the person must first be recognized as insane.
Health of the mind is so seldom discussed. In fact, as there are more solicitors, more lawyers, more barristers, more courts and more judges, so there are more cases. Consequently, prisons increase, and what is the outcome? After a person has gone to prison and has come out of it, he has forgotten where he was; he follows the same path again, for the disease has not been found out. In court a person is judged, but what is the matter with him psychologically, what caused him to do what he did, is not discovered. There are thousands of people in prison, because something is wrong in their mind. If they were kept in prison for a thousand years they would not improve. Nothing but injustice is awarded to them by putting them in prison. It is just like putting a person in prison because his body is ill.
The cause of every discomfort and of every failure is inharmony. What would be the most useful thing in education at the present time is to give the sense of harmony to children, and to develop it in them. It will not be so difficult as it appears to bring harmony to their notice. What is necessary to point out to the youths the different aspects of harmony in the different aspects of life’s affairs?
The work of the Sufi message, a message of love, harmony and beauty, is to awaken in humanity the consciousness of the true nature of love, harmony and beauty. The training, which is given to those who become initiated in the inner cult, is to cultivate these three things which are the principal factors in human life.
Question: How should we deal with criminals?
Answer: I would suggest that those who are accused of a certain fault should first – before being brought before the judge – be taken to a jury of psychologists in order to see what is the matter with them. Then, after a person is judged, he should be taken again to the this jury.
Question: In what way could they be cured of their fault?
Answer: Instead of being sent to a prison, I think that they should be sent to a special school intended for criminals.
Question: At what age should we begin to develop harmony in a child?
Answer: At the very beginning of a child’s growth.
Question: By what means does one develop the sense of harmony in a child?
Answer: I would develop harmony in a child’s manner, in his action, in his speech, first by believing that he naturally has love for harmony. The inharmony he shows is not in his nature, and it is not difficult to put out what is not in his nature. With my personal experience, not only with children but also with persons of all ages and of great variety, I should like to say that: never for a moment I think that anything wrong belongs to anyone’s nature. I think that it is only something outside which has got hold of him and which can be taken off some time or other. Therefore, I believe that there is hope for everyone, and if a person were accused of being the very worst individual yesterday, today I would look at him with hope and think he has gone far from yesterday.
Besides, I consider that to accuse a person to a fault, or to think of a person that he is wrong or inharmonious, creates in him that which you are thinking of. But I must tell you that it is difficult even for me. It is denying something which is before you, and which is not only standing still but also active. It is just like saying of a person, who is cross by nature and who is cross with you, “No, he is not cross.”
Question: That will change it?
Answer: It is the same with Christian Science. Of course a person who practices Christian Science likes so much to put his science into words that he makes people revolt against him. But as far as the idea goes, it is a most splendid idea. Denying a thing is destroying a thing, and to admit a certain thing is giving it a root. Even saying, “I have an enemy, and he is so bad to me,” is really giving that enemy a strength from your own spirit. But when you put it out of your mind thinking, “Well, I have a good wish for everyone, I do not wish to look at anything that is disagreeable,” it does not give the other that strength.
Question: Could you please give us a more definite idea about the way in which harmony in reasoning and action should be developed in children?
Answer: There are two faults that a child commits in speaking, not knowing that they are faults. One fault is that it sometimes likes to reason in a way in which a child should not reason: when there is no consideration of manner. In that way it creates inharmony, because it says something in a form in which a child ought not to speak. Secondly the child gets into a habit of saying something which psychologically is not right, which has no good results. This idea is very much considered in the East, but it is an idea that should be considered wherever humanity exists. There are many words, which have power behind them; there are many words, which cause bad effects. A child in its play does not feel backward to reason about somebody’s death or illness, which psychologically may be wrong, besides being suggestive. If in play a child says to another child, “I shall cut off your head,” another will perhaps take a knife and do it!
Now as to action – a child is full of activity, and in a moment one child is like a hundred children. He is always active, without knowing what to do. So he is destructive, he spoils things, if you stop him from doing one thing, he goes to another, and in order to stop that in him which is destructive and would make him do wrong things, you should awaken harmony in him.
Besides, for a child to consider others, the comfort of others, the importance of the word of others, all are necessary things. There is a saying in the East: good manner in a child means good luck, bad manner means bad luck. One can easily understand the reason of it: good manners attract love, affection and goodwill from all sides, and that helps the child to be good. Whenever a grown-up person sees a child with good manners, his first impulse is to think, “May he be blessed, may he succeed in life.” That goodwill coming from grown-up people is not taken by a child if he disturbs them; he is deprived of that blessing.
It seems to me that the first lesson of religion should teach children to consider another, the friend, and the well beloved people at home. If children are not trained in this, they cannot understand religion when they grow up. I mean religion in the true sense of the word, not a special form of religion. Religion in the world of today is the betterment of the soul. A good time will only come when the coming generations will try to strive after the improvement of the soul.
If you are the master of a great factory, and all the machines work by your will, are you happy, restful and peaceful when you come home? You may be the master of a whole army or of a whole nation, or of many nations – when you are at home, are you peaceful and happy? The answer is “no”, and this shows us that another mastery is needed. A man may be the master of a whole army, but if he has a stroke or paralysis all of his mastership is gone and he can do nothing. It shows us that this mastership is passing. Mastery of the self is needed. It is not more difficult to gain than the other mastership, but a man will never give as much will power and spend as many pounds tomorrow. The results of the other mastery are much subtler, much less perceptible.
This mastery is taught by those who are born to be masters, to those who are inclined this way. It is taught by repose and by control of the activity, which keeps everything in this universe in movement.
This mastery is difficult to gain in the world. At every step it becomes more difficult, but you cannot run away to the caves and mountains; you must stay where you are. If you ran away and lived in the caves and mountains, the attractions of the world would draw you back again. In running away there is no safety; you would try to be content in the mountains, but your eyes would long to see the world again, your taste, which was used to different food, nice food, would not be satisfied with leaves and fruits.
Life in the world, which brings a person into contact with all sorts of undesirable people and affairs, makes spirituality more difficult, but at the same time it affords a test of will and of spirituality. One may be more spiritual in a cave in the mountains, in silence and in solitude, but there one will never be able to test one’s spirituality: whether it is strong enough to bear the contact of a contrary environment. To be ready for all responsibilities and all activities, to have a family and enemies, to say to the worldly person, “I can do all that you do, and more than that,” and at the same time remain spiritual – that is the greatest spirituality.
To be without cares or occupations may make spirituality easier, but when the mind is not occupied very undesirable thoughts and desires come. It is mostly those who have no work and no occupation, or who have a master, whom they must please, has less opportunity to following what is not desirable.
Reading the life of Shiva, the Lord of all Yogis, one will see that after a long, long time of Yoga he was tempted. Likewise, Vishvamitre Rishi, after a very long time of Yoga in the wilderness, was tempted by the fair ones from Indra, the decree of whose court has always been to hinder the advancement in spirituality of the rare ones. Though Machandra was a very great Yogi, he also was tempted and taken away form the desert by Mahila, a Hindu queen. Brought to her court he was married and made king, and among the flattering surroundings and luxurious environments he lost all his great powers
achieved in the heart of the wilderness. It is easier to gain mastery in the wilderness, away from all temptations, but the mastery you gain in the world is of much more value; for the former is easily thrown down by a slight stroke, while the latter, achieved in the crowd, will last forever.
The world will always call you away, because whatever a person does he wants to take his friend with him. If he drinks, he will say, “Come and drink with me.” If he gambles, he will say, “Come, let us gamble together, and enjoy ourselves.” If he goes to the theatre, he will say, “Come with me, let us go to the theatre, we shall enjoy it.” So the world, busy with its selfish, unimportant occupations, will surely drag you towards itself.
This can only be overcome by the will. A person must have a will, and he must have confidence in his will. This idea is pictured by Hindu poets as a swimmer swimming against the tide. They picture the world as Bhavasagara, the sea of life, and the swimmer in it is the mystic, who attains perfection by swimming against the tide, who in the end arrives on the shore of perfection.
In all our business and occupations we should keep our thought fixed on God. Then, in all our business, whatever it is, we shall see only God. Our mistake is that we take responsibility for the sake of responsibility, and recognize cares and business as ours – losing the thought of God.
The Sufis, considering their life as a journey toward the spiritual goal, recite in order to awaken their group to this idea, “Hosh bar dam, nazr bar gadam, khilwat dar anjuman”
Which means: let the breath be God-conscious at each swing; watch thy steps and realize who walks, keeping thine eyes lowered that the tempting world may not attract them; realize thyself amid this crowd of the world of variety.