Volume VIII: The Art of Being
PART I: HEALTH AND ORDER OF BODY AND MIND
by Hazrat Inayat Khan
The Control of the Mind
In Sanskrit the mind is calledmanaand from this word comesmanuwhich means man.
Also the word man is much the same asmanu, and from that we gather that man is his mind. Man is not his body, nor is he his soul; for the soul is divine, it has no distinction, and the body is a cover. Man, therefore, is his mind.
Once we begin to look into the minds of men we begin to see such a phenomenon that no wonder in the world can be compared with it.
Looking in the eyes when they are afraid, when they doubt, when they are sad and want to hide it, when they are glad; seeing how men from lions turn into rabbits, when they have a guilty conscience. As flowers emit fragrance so minds produce atmosphere. Apart from seeing it in the aura, even in the expression of man, we can see clearly the record of his mind. Nothing can show man’s mind better than his own expression. Mind therefore, is the principal thing. We distinguish men as individualities, and it is the culture of the mind, which develops individuality into personality.
The difference between mind and heart is that the mind is the surface of the heart, and the heart the depth of the mind: they are two different aspects of one and the same thing. The mind thinks, the heart feels. What the heart feels the mind wants to interpret in thought; what the mind thinks, the heart assimilates expressing it in feeling. Neither is the mind the brain, nor is the heart a piece of flesh hidden under the breast. Those who do not believe in such a thing as the mind think that thoughts and impressions are in the brain that a person thinks with his brain. It is not true. The brain only helps to make impressions clear to man’s material vision.
The mind does not belong to the same element as the body; the body belongs to the physical, the mind to the mental element; the latter cannot be measured or weighed or made intelligible by physical instruments. Those in the world of science who are trying and hoping one day to produce machines which make thoughts and impressions clear, if ever they were successful, will only be so in the sense that the impressions of thoughts affecting the physical body will be felt by their instruments, but not the thoughts from the mental sphere; for the mind alone is the instrument that can take reflections from the mind.
The mind can be seen as five different faculties working together: in thinking, remembering, reasoning, identifying and feeling.
Thinking is of two kinds: imagination and thought. When the mind works under the direction of the will there is thought, when the mind works automatically without the power of the will there is imagination. The thoughtful person is he who has a rein over the activity of the mind; an imaginative person is the one who indulges in the automatic action o the mind. Both thought and imagination have their place in life. The automatic working of the mind produces a picture, a plan which is something more beautiful than a plan or idea carefully thought out under the control of the will. Therefore, artists, poets, musicians are very often imaginative, and the beauty they produce in their art is the outcome of their imagination.
The secret is to be understood about imagination is this: everything that works automatically must be prepared first, then it works; just like a watch must be prepared first, then it works automatically. We must wind it up, then it can go on; we need trouble about it no more. This shows that we need prepare the mind to work automatically to the best advantage in life. If people become imaginative without having prepared their mind, it leads them to at least an unbalanced condition, and maybe to insanity; for when an imaginative person becomes unbalanced, and has no control over his mind, it may lead to insanity.
Now the question arises: how to prepare the mind? The mind is like a film taking all the photographs to make a moving picture, and it produces the same that was once taken in. The one who is critical, who looks at the ugly side of human nature, who has love for evil, love for gossip, who has the desire to see the bad side of things, who wishes to find the bad points of people, prepares a film in his mind. That film projected onto the curtain produces undesirable impressions in the form of imagination.
The great poets who gave us beautiful teachings in moral, in truth, where did they get them from? This life here is the school in which they learned, this life is the stage on which they saw and gathered. They are the worshippers of beauty in nature and in art. In all conditions of life they meditate upon beauty and find good points in all those they see. They gather all that is beautiful, from the good and the wicked both. Just like the bee takes the best from every flower and makes honey from it, so they gather all that is beautiful and express it through their imagination in the form of music, poetry, art, as well as in their thoughts and deeds in everyday life.
I began in my early life, a pilgrimage in India – not to holy shrines, but to holy men, going from place to place and seeing holy men of different characters and natures. What I gathered from them all was their great love nature, their outgoing tendency, their deep sympathy and their inclination to find some good. In every person they see they are looking for some good, and therefore, they find it in the wicked person. By doing so they themselves become goodness because they have gathered it: we become what we gather. In their presence there is nothing but love, compassion and understanding – of which so little is found in this world.
In our domestic life, in our social or political life, in business, in commerce, in national activities – if we had that one tendency, it would make life different for us, more worth living than it is today for so many souls. The condition today is that people are rich, they have all convenience and comfort – but what is lacking is understanding. Home is full of comfort, but there is no understanding, there is no happiness. It is such a little thing, and yet so difficult to obtain. No intellectuality can give understanding. This is where man makes a mistake: he wants to understand through his head. Understanding comes from the heart. The heart must be glowing, living. When the heart becomes feeling then there is understanding, then you are ready to see from the point of view of another as much as you can see from your own point of view.
The other aspect of thinking is thought, which is heavier, more solid, more vital than imagination, because it has a backbone which is will power. Therefore, when we say, “This is a thoughtful person,” we make a distinction between the imaginative and the thoughtful person. The latter has a weight about him, something substantial; one can rely upon him. The imaginative person one day may come saying, “I love you so much; you are so good, so high, so true, so great,” but it is just like a cloud of imagination which has arisen. The next day it is scattered away, and the same imaginative person, who yesterday followed this cloud, would try to find some fault, and nothing is left in his hands. How very often this happens! Those are angelic people perhaps, but they ride on the clouds. For this dense earth they are of no use, one cannot rely upon them. They are as changeable as the weather. The thoughtful person, on the contrary, takes his time to express both his praise and his blame. The mind of the thoughtful is anchored and under control.
The one who learns how to make the best of imagination and how to control his thought shows great balance in life. How is this to be achieved? By concentration. In India there is a sacred Hindu legend relating that two sons of God (sons of Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu) were in a country where the younger one saw a horse which was set out free by the government. The one who would catch the horse would become king of that country. This youth was so attracted to the horse, and to the idea that was behind it, that he ran after it. He could not catch it, for the horse would sometime slow down, but ran away as soon as the youth nearly reached it. His mother was worried and asked the elder brother to go find him. Then the older brother came and saw that his brother was pursuing the horse. So he said to him, “That is a wrong method. You will never be able to catch the horse that way. The best way of catching it is not to follow, but to meet it.” Instead of following the horse the youth met the horse, and so caught it. The mother was very pleased and proud that her son had been able to catch the horse, and he became entitled to the throne and crown of his father.
The horse in this story is the mind. When the mind is controlled then mastery is gained and God’s kingdom attained. The younger brother is the pupil, the elder brother the guru, the teacher. The way of controlling the mind is not by following it, but it is by concentrating: by concentrating one meets it.
It is also told that a Sufi had a pupil who said to him, “Teacher, I cannot concentrate on one thing. If I try to concentrate on one object, other objects appear; then they become so muddled that I do not know which is which. It is difficult to hold the mind on one object.” The teacher said, “Your difficulty is your anxiety. The moment you begin to concentrate, you are anxious that your mind might wander away. If you were not anxious about it, your mind would have poise; your anxiety makes it more active. If you just take what it gives you, instead of looking behind it in order to see where it goes, if you change this tendency and meet the mind face to face, seeing how it comes to you and with what it comes, you will be able to concentrate better.
From this story a great lesson is to be learned, for this is always the case! The moment one sits down to concentrate the mind changes its rhythm for the very reason that the person is anxious to keep it under control. The mind does not wish it; it wants its freedom. As you stand for your right, so the mind stands for its right. The best way is to greet the mind as it comes to meet you. Let it bring what it brings when you stand face to face with our mind, and be not annoyed with what it brings. Just take it, then you have the mind under control, for when it comes to you, it will not go further; let it bring what it brings. In this way you make a connection with your mind, and as soon as you begin to look at it, you have your mind in hand. The photographer has his subject in hand when he has focused the camera on his subject. It is the same thing with a person and his mind: as soon as he has focused himself on the mind he has got it under control.
Concentrations can be considered as different stages of evolution. The first concentration is on a certain designed object and is divided into two actions. One action is making the object and then holding it in the mind. It is just like a child who takes little bricks, pillars, and different things making a little house out of them. The first action is this making of the house; the second action is looking at it. This is one kind of concentration, and another kind is that there already is an object which the mind must reflect by focusing itself on that object.
The next stage of concentration is improving on the object. For instance, one imagines a tiger, and then one also imagines the background of the tiger: rocks behind it, a mountain, trees, forest, and a river. That is improvement: holding at the same time the background and changing it according to the activity of the mind. Even if the tiger changes, it does not matter as long as one has that particular kind of concentration.
The third concentration is on an idea. The idea has some form, which is inexpressible – but the mind makes it.
Now coming to the realm of feeling – feeling is such an important thing that our whole lives depend upon it. A person, once disheartened, sometimes loses enthusiasm for his whole life. A person, heart-broken, loses self-confidence for all his life. A person, once afraid, sustains fear in his heart forever. A person, who has once failed, keeps all through life the impression of his failure.
In the East they love bird fights. Two men bring their birds to fight, and as soon as a man sees that the bird of the other man will win in the end, he takes his bird away while it is in the action of fighting – before it has accepted defeat. The man admits defeat while the two birds are fighting, but he does not allow his bird to go so far as to be impressed by defeat. Once impressed by it the bird will never fight again. This is the secret of our mind, and once we learn to take care of our mind – just as the man took care of his bird – going to any sacrifice but not giving the mind a bad impression, we will make the best of our life.
Besides this, we read of the lives of great heroes and great personalities, how they went through all difficulties and sorrows and troubles, and yet always tried to keep their heart from being humbled. This gave them all their strength; they always escaped humiliation.
I will tell you an amusing anecdote. I once was in Nepal, near the Himalayas, and I wanted a servant, so I sent for one. He was of the warrior’s caste, Kshatriyas, of a fighter’s tribe in the mountains. I asked him what work he wanted to do, and he said: “Any work you like, anything you like.” I asked: “What about pay?” “Anything you will give,” he answered. I was amused to find that he wanted to do any work I would give him and to accept any pay. “Well,” I said, “then there is no condition to be made?” He said: “One. You will not speak a cross word with me.” Imagine! He was ready to accept any money, willing to do any work, but no humiliation. I appreciated that spirit of the warrior beyond words; this was what made him a warrior.
Friends, our failure and our success all depends upon the condition of our mind. If the mind fails, failure is sure, if the mind is successful, conditions do not matter: we shall be successful in the end.
Question: Is it possible, when humiliated, to spare our mind the injury of humiliation by seeing that the person who humiliates us is beneath us?
Answer: that is not the way, because as soon as we accept humiliation we are humiliated, whether we think I or not. It does not depend upon the other person, it depends upon ourselves. No sooner do we admit humiliation, there is humiliation. If the whole world does not accept our humiliation, it does not matter as long as our mind feels humiliated, and if our mind does not accept humiliation, it does not matter if the whole world takes it as such. If a thousand persons come and say to a man, “You are wicked, he will not believe it as long as his heart says, “I am not wicked.” But when his heart says, “I am wicked,” if a thousand persons say, “You are good,” his heart keeps him down just the same. If we ourselves give up, then nobody can sustain us.
Question: is it possible then to develop a state of mind that lifts us out of humiliation?
Answer: Well, the best thing would be to avoid humiliation, but if a person cannot avoid it, then he must be as a patient who must be treated by a physician, then he needs a person powerful enough to help him, a master-mind, a spiritual person. He then can be doctored, attended to, and get over that condition. When a person is a patient he cannot very well help himself. He can do much, but then there is the necessity of a doctor.
Question: Can that condition be treated by counter-irritation?
Answer: Yes, it can be met with that.
Question: What do you do when the feeling of humiliation has entered the mind?
Answer: To take it as a lesson, to take poison as something that must be. However, poison is poison. What is put in the mind will grow. It must be taken out. Every impression, if it remains, will grow: humiliation, fear, doubt. When it is there it remains; there will come a time when the person will be conscious of it. It will grow, and because it is growing in the subconscious mind it will bear fruits and flowers.
Question: Would the study of mathematics be good for an imaginative person?
Answer: Yes, it can bring about a balance. I have seen this in the case of one of my pupils who were extremely imaginative. He could not stay on the earth. But later on he got into a business where he was obliged to count figures, and after some time he obtained a great deal of balance.
I have given this as a title in order to make my idea intelligible, but when explaining the subject, instead of using the word mind, I shall use the word spirit. The word mind comes from a Sanskrit root, which means mind and also man. In this way the name itself explains that man is his mind. Since the word, mind, is not understood in the same way by all those who use it in their everyday language, I think it best to use the word spirit instead.
The spirit can be defined as consisting of five different aspects: mind, memory, reason, feeling and ego, and each of these five aspects is of two kinds.
The mind is creative of thought and imagination. Out of the work of the mind, directed by the will, comes thought, and out of the automatic working of the will, comes thought, and imagination. So the thoughtful person is different from the imaginative. Thought is concrete because it is constructed; it is made by will power. The thoughtful person therefore, is dependable and more balanced, because he stands on his own feet. The imaginative person, on the contrary, floats in the air; he rises and falls with his imaginations. He may touch the heights of heaven, and he may fall deep down on to the bottom of the earth. He may float to the north, the south, the east or the west. However, both thought and imagination have their proper places.
The automatic working of the mind, which produces imagination, has its power, inspiration and beauty peculiar to itself. Poets, musicians, painters, and sculptors create out of their imagination, and they reach further than the ordinary man does. This only shows that the power of the automatic working of the mind is very great, although there is always a danger of being unbalanced. So often one sees a great genius, a composer, a poet, a great artist with a wonderful skill, and yet unbalanced, because the imagination makes the spirit float in space. The one, who by floating takes the risk of falling, also has the chance of rising further than anyone else rises. To a practical and thoughtful man of common sense an artist or a composer seems to be very impractical, sometimes he seems to be very ignorant and childish. And looking at them from this point of view he is right, for however large a balloon may be, it is a balloon, it stays in the air. It is not a wagon one can rely upon to stay safely where one has put it. A balloon will fly; one does not know where it will take one. Nevertheless, the wagon remains on earth, it never touches space. It does not belong in the air. Being a wagon, it misses the joy of rising upwards.
Thought has its place; it is solid, it is concrete, it is distinct. A thoughtful man seldom goes astray, for he has rhythm, he has balance. Maybe he cannot fly, but he walks and you can depend upon him.
Now as to the spiritual aspect in connection with thought and imagination, there are two kinds of seekers after spiritual truth: the thoughtful and the imaginative. The imaginative at once jumps into religion; he does not walk he jumps into it. He revels in superstitions, he cherishes dogmas and beliefs, he interests himself in amusing and bewildering stories and legends connected with religion, he maintains beliefs that are impressed upon him. And yet, with all faults and weaknesses, the imaginative person is the one who is ever able to make a conception of God and of the hereafter. The one who has no imagination is not able to reach the zenith of the spiritual and religious ideal. Often an intellectual or materialistic person without imagination stands on the earth like an animal compared with a bird: when the bird flies up the animal looks at it and wishes to fly, but it cannot, it has no wings. The imagination, therefore, is as two wings attached to the heart in order to enable it to soar upwards.
The thoughtful seeker after the spiritual ideal has his importance too, because superficial beliefs and dogmas do not lead him. One cannot fool him, he is thoughtful and every step he takes may be slow, but it is sure. He may not reach the spiritual ideal as quickly as the imaginative, but if he wishes to reach it, he will arrive there, slowly and surely.
The second aspect of the spirit is memory, which again has two sides. There are certain things we need not look for; they are always clear in our memory, such as figures, and the names and faces of those we know. We just have to stretch out our hand and touch them. We can recall them at any moment we wish they are always living in our memory. But then there is a second side to the memory, which is called by some the subconscious mind. In reality this is the depth of the memory. In this part of the memory a photograph is made of everything we have seen or known or heard, even just once in a flash. This photograph remains located there, and some time or other, maybe with difficulty, we can find it.
Apart from these two sides of our memory there is still a deeper sphere to which it is joined. That sphere is the universal memory, in other words the divine Mind, where we do not only recollect what we have seen, or heard, or known, but where we can even touch something that we have never learned, or heard, or known, or seen. All that can be found there also; only for that the doors of our memory should be laid open.
The third aspect of the spirit is reason, of which there are two kinds. One kind is affirmation, and the other is both affirmative and negative. Affirmative reason is the one we all know. When a person is bankrupt we have reason to think that he has no money for the very fact that he is bankrupt. When a person shows his bad side we know that he is wicked, because people call him bad. Every apparent reason makes us reach conclusions that things and conditions are so and so. This is one kind of reason.
The other kind is the inner reason, which both contradicts and affirms at the same time. This means that, if a person has become poor, we say, “Yes, he has become poor – and rich.” If a person has failed, we say, “Yes, he has both failed – and gained.” Here is a higher reason which one touch. The higher reason weighs two things at the same time. One says, “This is living,” and at the same time one says, “This is dead,” or one says, “This is dead and at the same time living.” Everything one sees gives a reason to deny its existence and at the same time to affirm its opposite – even to such an extent that when one has a reason to say, “This is dark,” by that higher reason one may say that it is light.
When one arrives at this higher reason, one begins to unlearn – as it is called by the mystics – all that one has once learned to recognize as such and such, or so and so. One unlearns and one begins to see quite the opposite. In other words, there is no good which has not a bad side to it, and nothing bad which has not a good side to it. There is no one who rises without a fall, and no one who falls without the promise of a rise. One sees death in birth and birth in death. It sounds very strange and it is a peculiar idea, but all the same it is a stage. When one climbs above what is called reason, one reaches that reason which is at the same time contradictory. This explains the attitude of Christ. When a criminal was taken to him he had no other attitude towards him than that of the forgiver. He saw no evil there. That is looking from a higher reason.
Feeling is the fourth aspect of the spirit. Feeling is different from thought and imagination. It has its own vibrations and its own sphere. Thought and imagination are on the surface; feeling is at the depth of spirit. Feeling also has two sides: one is likened to the glow, and the other to flame. Whether one loves or whether one suffers, there is intense feeling, a feeling which cannot be compared with the experience of thought and imagination. A feeling person has a different consciousness; he lives in a different sphere. A person, who is feeling, has a world of his own. He may move among the crowds and live in the midst of the world, and yet he does not belong to the world. The moment feeling is awakened in man, his consciousness becomes different. He is raised up, he touches the depth, he penetrates the horizon, and he removes what stands between man and the deeper side of life.
Is there anyone in this world who will own that he has no feeling? And yet there are hearts of rock and of iron, of earth and of diamond, of silver and of gold, of wax and of paper. As many objects as there are in this world, so many kinds of hearts there are. One heart is not like another. There are some objects that hold fire together; there are others, which burn instantly. There are objects, which will become warm and cold in a moment; others, as soon as the fire touches them will melt, and others again one can mold and turn into ornaments. So is the heart-quality. Different people have different qualities of heart, and by the knower of hearts, each is treated differently. But since we do not think about this aspect of feeling, we take every man to be the same. Although every not is a sound, all notes are not the same, they differ in pitch, in vibrations; so every man differs in pitch, in the vibrations of his heart. According to the vibrations of his heart he is either spiritual or material, noble or common. It is not because of what he does, nor because of what he possesses in this world – he is small or great according to how his heart vibrates.
All my life I have had a great respect for those who have toiled in the world, who have striven all through life, and reached a certain greatness, even in a worldly sense, and I always have considered it a most sacred thing to touch their presence. This being my great interest, I began to make a pilgrimage to great people in the East, and among these wonderful visits to writers, sages, philosophers, and saints I came in contact with a great wrestler, a giant man. Since I had this admiration for great toil, I thought that I should go and see this man too. And would you believe it: this in appearance, giant-like man, with that monstrous muscular body, had such a sympathetic outgoing nature, such simplicity and gentleness connected with it, that I was surprised and thought, “It is not his giant-like look that has made him great. What has made him great is that which has melted him and made him lenient.”
Feeling is vibration. The heart which is a vehicle, an instrument of feeling, creates a phenomenon, if one only watches life keenly. If one causes anyone pain, that pain returns. If one causes one pleasure, that pleasure returns. If you give love to someone, love comes back, and if you give hatred, that hatred comes back to you in some form or other. Maybe in the form of pain, illness, health, success, joy, or happiness – in some form or other it comes back, it never fails. Generally one does not think about it, and when a person has got a certain position where he can order people about and where he can speak harshly to them, he never thinks about those things. Every little feeling that arises in a man’s heart, and directs his action, word, and movement, causes a certain reaction and rebounds; only it sometimes takes time. But do not think that you can ever hate a person – even have the slightest thought of it – and that it does not come back. It surely comes back some time. Besides, if you have sympathy, love, affection, a kind feeling for a person, even without telling him so, it returns in some form or other.
The fifth aspect of the spirit is the ego, and again there are two sides to the ego: the false and the real. They are just like the two ends of one line. If we look at the line in the center, it is one line. If we look at the line on the ends, it has two ends. So the ego has two sides: the first one is the one we know, and the next one we must discover. The side we know is the false ego which makes us say, “I”. What is it in us that we call “I?” We say, “This is my body, my mind, these are my thoughts, my feelings, my impressions, this is my position in life.” We identify our self with all that concerns us and the sum total of all these we call “I.” In the light of truth this conception is false, it is a false identity. If the hand is broken off, or a finger is separated from this body, we do not call the separate part “I,” but as long as it is connected to the body, we call it so. This shows that all the false ego imagines to be its own self is not really its self.
Besides, it must be remembered that all that is composed, all that is constructed, all that is made, all that is born, all that has grown, will be decomposed and destroyed, will die and will vanish. If we identify our ego with all these things which are subject to destruction, death and decomposition, we make a conception of mortality, and we identify our soul which is immortal, we identify our self, with all that is mortal. Therefore, that is the false ego.
Now, coming to the most important truth about spiritual attainment: those who are thought wise, those who go into the spiritual path, do not take this path in order to perform wonders or to know curious things, to perform miracles or other wonderful things. That is not their motive. Their motive is to rise above the false ego and to discover the real. That is the principal motive of spiritual attainment. For no one will consider it wise to be under a false impression, to be under the impression that “I exist,” when one has nothing to depend upon in one’s existence. Therefore, striving in the spiritual path is breaking away from the false conception that we have made of ourselves, coming out of it, it is realizing our true being and becoming conscious of it. No sooner do we become conscious of our true being and break the fetters of the false ego, than we enter into a sphere where our soul begins to realize a much greater expansion of its own being. It finds great inspiration and power, and the knowledge, happiness, and peace, which are latent in the spirit.
The Mystery of Sleep
We see in our daily life that the greatest friend of the child is the one who helps him go to sleep. However many toys we may give him, however many dolls and candy, it is when the child is helped to go to sleep, that he is most grateful. When the mother with her blessed hands puts him to sleep, it is of the greatest benefit for the child; it is then that he is the happiest.
Those who are sick and in pain, are happy if they can sleep; then all their pain is gone. If only they can sleep, they say they can endure all else. They ask the doctor, “Give us something, anything to make us sleep.” If you were offered a king’s palace and every enjoyment, every luxury, the best surroundings, the best dishes, on the condition that you should not sleep, you would say: “I do not want it, I prefer my sleep.”
What is the difference between the happy and the unhappy one? The unhappy one cannot sleep. His sorrow, care, anxiety, and worry at once take sleep away from him. Why do people take to alcoholic drinks and drugs of all sorts? Only for this: when a man has drunk alcohol, because of the intensity of the stimulant, a light sleep comes over him. His feet and hands are asleep, his tongue is asleep. He cannot speak plainly. He cannot walk straight and falls down. The joy of this sleep is so great that, when he has drunk once, he wants to drink again. A thousand times he decides that he will not drink any more, but he does it all the same.
There is a poem of our great poet, Rumi, where he says, “O sleep, every night thou freest the prisoner from his bonds!” the prisoner, when he is asleep, does not know that he is in prison, he is free. The wretched is not wretched; he is contented; the sufferer is no more in pain and misery. This shows us that the soul is not in pain or misery. If it were, it would also be so when the body is asleep. The soul does not feel the misery of the body and the mind, but when a person awakes, then the soul thinks that it is in pain and wretched. All this shows us the great bliss of sleep.
This great bliss is given to us without price, like all that is best: we do not need to pay for sleep. We pay thousands of pounds for jewels, for gems that are of no use to our life – bread we can buy for pennies. Man does not know how great the value of sleep is, because the benefit it gives cannot be seen or touched. If he is very busy, if he has some business that brings him money, he will rather be busy, if he has some business that brings him money, he will rather be busy in that and take from his sleep, because he sees, “I have gained so many pounds, so many shillings;” he does not see what he gains by sleep.
When we are asleep we generally experience two conditions: dream and deep sleep. The dream is the uncontrolled activity of the mind. When we are awake and our mind works without control, it shows us pictures that come from its store of impressions, and we call this imagination. When we control the activity of the mind, we call it thought. The imaginations that come during sleep we call dreams. We do not call them real, because our waking state shows us something different, but as long as we are not in the waking state the dream is real.
During the deep sleep a person is usually conscious of nothing. When he wakes up, he feels refreshed and renewed. What are we doing while we are fast asleep? The soul is then released from the hold of the body and mind. It is free, it goes to its own element, to the higher spheres, and it enjoys being there. It is happy, it experiences all the happiness, all the wisdom of those spheres, and it enjoys all bliss and peace.
Besides the dream and deep sleep there are visions. These are seen when the soul, during sleep, is active in the higher spheres. What it sees there, the mind interprets in allegorical pictures. The soul sees the actual thing plainly, and the mind takes from it store of impressions whatever is like that which the soul sees. Therefore, it is seen as a picture, as an allegory, a parable which the wise one can interpret, because he knows the language of those spheres. If he sees himself going downstairs or walking up a mountain, he knows what it means. If he sees himself in rags or very richly dressed, in a ship, or in the desert, he knows what it means. The ignorant one does not know what it means, he thinks it is merely a dream, it is nothing.
In a vision a person sees either what concerns himself, or what concerns others in whom he is interested. If he is interested in his nation or in the whole of humanity, he will see what concerns his nation or the whole of humanity.
In a dream a voice may be heard, or a message given in letters. This is the higher vision. Sages and saints see in the vision exactly what will happen or what the present condition is, because their mind is controlled by their will. Even in sleep it does not for one moment think that it can act independently of their will. And so, whatever the soul sees, the mind shows it exactly as it is seen. Sages and saints see visions even while awake, because their consciousness is not bound to this earthly plane; it is awake and acts freely upon the higher planes.
Besides the dream, the vision and the deep sleep, the mystics experience two other conditions: the self-produced dream and the self-produced deep sleep. To accomplish this is the aim of mysticism. It is so easy that I can explain it to you in these few words, and it is so difficult that I should like to bow my head before him who has achieved it. It is accomplished by concentration and meditation.
Can you hold one thought in your mind, keeping all other thoughts away? Can you keep your mind free from all thoughts, from all pictures? We cannot: a thousand thoughts, a thousand pictures come and go. By mastering this the mystic masters all. He is awake upon this plane and upon the higher plane. Then the one becomes sleep and the other the wakeful state.
People may say that mystics, Sufis, are great occultists, very psychic people. That is not their aim. Their aim is the true consciousness, the real life, the Consciousness which lies beyond: Allah. When this consciousness is open to them, and then all wisdom is open to the soul and all the books, all the learning in the world becomes to them mere intellectual knowledge.
You might say, “Then lazy people who are always sleeping are all saints.” No, the soul also must have experience on the earth. It must learn what virtue is, it must learn to be virtuous.
By sleep we understand the covering of ourselves from the world of which we are conscious, but we do not realize that, when we are awake, we are covering ourselves from another world which, in fact, is more real. It is the self, which is covered. The difference between the sleeping and the waking state is that, when we cover ourselves from what, in fact, is real, we say, “I am awake” and, when we cover ourselves from what is unreal and illusion, we say we are asleep.
The reason for this is that in the state in which we are conscious of all things around us we are able to point to things about which we have no doubt. We recognize the objects around us, therefore, we say that we are awake, and during the time of sleep we think we are dreaming, we do not know where we are or what we are doing. In reality that is the very time when we are experiencing our real life.
What does our real life consist of? Our real life consists of natural happiness, peace and purity. By purity I mean that our heart, our mind, our intelligence are pure from all worries, anxieties, pains and tortures, from bitterness or sweetness, such as we experience in the world. Otherwise our heart reflects on these things all the time and accordingly brings us suffering.
How valuable is the peace we obtain in sleep! We cannot realize this until we long for sleep, which will not come. At such a time we shall realize that everything we possess in the world is worth sacrificing for the peace which sleep brings and the happiness we experience then. All the pleasures in the world afford only a glimpse of that happiness which is within us, in our innermost being. In our everyday external life that happiness is buried. If there is a time when happiness is experienced by the soul, it is the time during which we are asleep. The little happiness we experience in this world is not real, but only a shadow which we call pleasure, whereas, the true happiness which we experience by our natural life we do not call happiness, for we do not know what it is. Only its after-effects remain with us, and we feel happy when we come to the wakeful state after having had a good sleep.
The peace we experience during sleep cannot be compared with the peace we experience in the form of rest in a comfortable chair or on a couch, in the form of material comfort at home or elsewhere. The life we experience during sleep is outside a wall, a prison wall. The pains and diseases for this world are within the prison during this time. In the waking state we are in the prison, our life is unhappy. When fast asleep we are free. The moment sleep comes to a person who is in pain and suffering all his disease is left behind. At that moment he is above all suffering and pain. This shows that during sleep we experience a life, which is beyond this mortal existence.
Although man experiences sleep every day, the never realizes it as the greatest blessing of existence, until he suffers from lack of it. Man disregards all natural blessings, and not regarding them as blessings he remains discontented. A person who can see the blessing, which is life itself will be so thankful that whatever may be lacking in his outward life will seem insignificant. The inner blessing is so much greater, compared with what is lacking in the outer world, that, indeed, there is no comparison between them.
All this shows that what develops a person and helps him to advance along the spiritual path, should be sought no further than along the natural lines of the mystery of sleep. Once this mystery is solved, the deeper question of the inner cult and yet, at the same time, it is so far beyond our reach!
In Sufi terms there are five stages of consciousness:Nasut, Malakut, Jabarut, Lahut, and Hahut.
Nasutis the consciousness that depends upon the senses. Whatever we see by means of the eyes, or hear by means of the ears, whatever we smell and taste, all these experiences which we gain by the help of the material body, prove to us that this is a particular plane of consciousness, or a particular kind of experience of the consciousness.
Malakut is a further stage of consciousness working through our mental plane. By means of this higher consciousness we experience thought and imagination – which are beyond our senses. Very often it happens that a person does not notice a passer-by, so deeply is he thinking upon some subject. You may speak to him, but he will not listen, so deeply is he absorbed in his subject. Through his ears are open he cannot hear, though his eyes are open, he cannot see. What does this mean? It means that at that moment his consciousness is experiencing life on a different plane. Though he is sitting before you with open eyes and ears, his consciousness is on another plane, working through a different body.
The plane ofMalakutis experienced by every person not only when absorbed in thought, but also in dreams. While the different sense organs are resting, the mind is free to work, and it works with the aid of the same mechanism, which it has collected during the experience of theNasutcondition. In other words, all the experiences, which a man gathers during the day, are assembled during the night, and the mind works with that mechanism. Whatever has been collected during the day is at work during the night. Therefore, if a person has acquired an impression of fear, fear will manifest itself in the dream in different forms. If a person has acquired an impression of fear, fear will manifest itself in the dream in various forms. If of success, the dream will show success in different forms. So the mind prepares a cover for every impression that it receives, it prepares an outward appearance for it. That is what accounts for the meaning of dreams.
Suppose that a person goes to a wise man saying, “I have seen flowers in my dream. What will be the result of it?” the wise man will answer, “Love, happiness, success.” Why? Because the wise one knows that the mind disguises itself and the impression it receives into something beautiful, when something beautiful is going to happen, and into something ugly, when something bad is going to happen.
It is, however, not only so that the mind adorns itself with a certain form in order to tell you that you are going to have a good or a bad experience. There also is the natural outcome of things, there is action and reaction: what we take from the outer world is prepared in the mind, and it reacts again in another form. This gives us a sort of key by which we can understand what the next step will be. In that form the dream is a warning.
There is no need to take it as a warning in a spiritualistic form and to claim that a spirit, a ghost, or an angel came to tell you the future. It is your own mind which disguises itself as a spirit, a ghost or an angel, in whatever form you wish it to come to you, or in whatever form you are accustomed to. It will never come in a form strange to you, such as you have never known. It will only come in a form to which you are accustomed. For instance, if you were to see a dog with wings, it would still be the form of a dog with which you are familiar. Only the mixture or combination of forms is curious. Although wings are attached to the dog, the form is not actually new. You are seeing something you recognize.
In the dream, the state of the mind has two different aspects. When the mind is not expressive but responsive and is not acting in a positive but a negative rhythm, then it becomes visionary. That mind is visionary which is apt to catch the reflection of whatever other mind falls upon it. Thus it may catch the reflection of a living person’s mind, or of a deceased person’s mind, of a spiritually advanced person, or a very ordinary person. That mind lies open like a piece of uncultivated ground, which a person may turn into a farm or into a garden. In that soil he may sow seeds of flowers or only seeds of thorns.
This accounts for people having different experiences in their dreams from those they had in their waking life. When people say, “I learn something from my dreams, I am inspired by them, I have received new ideas, new lessons in my dreams,” it is because their mind was exposed to the given impressions. However, a mind open to impressions in this way may reflect a satanic as well as an angelic impression, a wrong one as easily as a right one. It is open to whatever comes into it. Such a person is likely to be led astray as to be helped. The result, therefore, is only good as long as the impressions to which the mind responds are good ones.
What then is the way in which one can be sure to have the mind focused upon good things, and so to receive only good impressions? There are three considerations.
First, one must be able to keep all the ever-moving thoughts away, which come into one’s mind. One must develop that mental strength, that will power that will keep all thoughts away, which come into one’s mind during concentration and take one’s mind away from the object on which one focuses it.
Secondly, the mind will always focus itself upon the object, which it loves. If one does not have love for the divine Being, for God, if one does not have that ideal, and then it will certainly be difficult, for it cannot be done by the intellect. The person who only uses his intellect keeps asking, “Where shall I direct my mind, on what object shall I focus it? Please, picture it for me, and point out where it is.” It is the lover of God whose mind cannot wander anywhere, save always directly to God.
Then, purity of mind is necessary. The mind must be pure from all fear, worry and anxiety, and from every kind of falsehood, for all this covers the mind from the vision of God. When the mind, full of faith, love, purity and strength, is focused upon the ideal of God, man will receive teaching, inspiration, and advice directly and for every case he meets with in life.
The simple teaching of all the religions during every age, the essence of all religion and philosophy, is contained in these words: Go and stand before God in simple faith, being as a little child before God. At that moment you will say, “I know nothing, I have not learned anything, I am only an empty cup waiting to be filled. I have only love to offer You, and because my love is too insufficient, I ask to be given even more. I have only faith, and yet that is insufficient, I ask to be given more. I have only faith, and yet that is insufficient; so I ask that it be strengthened and developed so that it will be strong enough to hold me before You. Purity I need, but I do not have it, or at least, if I have it, it is only Your own essence which is within my being, and I wish to keep it as clean as possible. With these three things I come, as a simple child, with no knowledge of my own, leaving aside all doubts and questions or whatever can come between us.” Here is the essence of religion.
It is so simple that even a child could do it, should he wish so. He does not need much learning to be able to do it. Once it is explained to him he will understand it. We need not have learning or great intellectual knowledge to be able to do it.
The next stage, beyond the plane ofMalakut, brings us toJabarut, the plane of consciousness where the experience is like that of a person in deep, dreamless sleep – who is said to be sound asleep. The blessing here, is greater still. In this higher experience there is God’s own being through whom we experience the life, peace and purity, which are within us. Moreover, whilst anyone may experience this blessing during sleep, the person who follows the path of spiritual development will experience it while awake. Yogis call this stateSushupti.This joy of life, peace and purity the mystic experiences with eyes wide open, wide awake. Others can touch it only during sleep.
A still further experience of consciousness isLahut. This raises a person from the material to the immaterial plane. In this plane the state of being fast asleep is not necessary. There is greater peace and joy, and nearness to the essence, which is called divine. In Christian terms this state is called communion. In Vedantic terms it is calledTuriyavastha,and the further step to this is calledSamadhiwhich may no doubt be described as merging in God. In other words, in this stage we dive into our deepest selfhood; God is in our deepest self. In this state we have the ability to dive so deep as to touch our deepest being, which is the home of all intelligence, life, peace, and joy, and where worry, fear, disease, and death do not enter.
Hahutis the experience, which is the object of every mystic who follows the inner cult. In Vedantic terms this stage is called Manan; the equivalent in Christian terminology is at-one-ment.
From these considerations it may be seen that the work of the Sufi is to aim at ennobling the soul. When initiated into the Order, we take the path of ennobling the soul – there is no wonder working, no communication with spirits, no performing of miracles, no developing of magic or magnetic powers, no clairvoyance or clairaudience, nor anything of the kind. The one single aim is to become humane, to live a healthy life, to try and better the moral conditions of our life, to ennoble our character, and to meet not only our own needs, but also those of our neighbors and friends. Our work is to try and develop that spark which lies in every soul, whose only satisfaction lies in the love of God and in approaching towards God, with the intention of one day having a glimpse of that truth that cannot be spoken of in words.
1 The Nature of the Dream
There is a Hindustani saying calling this world the dream of life. In the Vedanta this world is called the dream of Brahma, the dream of God. It makes a person afraid to think that all our affairs, to which we give so much importance, should be unreal, should be a dream. When people came to talk to me, I have several times experienced their great disappointment when they said, “Do you mean to say that all this is a dream, that it is not real? Now here you are standing, I am sitting, you are speaking. Is it all a dream?” They meant, “What a foolish idea to call this life a dream.” To him who has experienced only materially through his five senses, without even a glimpse of an idea of something else, this life seems real and we cannot blame him for thinking it real. It is only when he awakens from this life that he sees that it is unreal. If, while you are dreaming, someone comes and tells you, “Do not believe it, it is a dream,” you will never believe him, you will think that it is real.
The dream is recognized as a dream because of its contrast to physical life, as everything is recognized by its contrast. We recognize woman because there is man. Day is recognized because there is night, but to find the contrast to the dream of life is very hard. Let us see what makes a dream to be called a dream. There are three things: its changing character, its momentariness, and its deluding nature. Life in this world has the same attributes. If we consider ourselves – our body, the body of another – we see that at every moment we are changing. At one moment we find ourselves so angelic, so good, so mild, at another we find ourselves so rebellious that we would fight with Satan. As to the momentariness, the transitory nature – where are those who were so great as Dara and Sikandar whose glory promised to last always? Nothing is left. Then, as to its deluding nature, how jealous are we if our rival gets what we hoped for. It may be a passing joy. Tomorrow the joy and the rival may not be, but whilst they last how jealous we are! If great riches come into our hands, we think it so great a thing. It promises us all. It all passes away, but while it is there we are so happy or so sad. This is life’s deluding nature.
Why is this world called the dream of Brahma, the dream of God? Because each of us experiences only part of the dream, and only God, the Whole Being, experiences all the time the whole of the dream.
God lost in the manifestation is the state, which we call waking. The manifestation lost in God is realization. In my language I would call the latter awakening and the former a dream.
In the physical world you are here, everything else is outside of you, and you are contained in space. In the dream all you see is contained within you. You may dream that you are in Paris, but if you really were in Paris, the Parisians would know that you were there. If they knew nothing of it, then you were not in Paris. Paris and everything else in the dream is within you. In that state you are so great – but you call it a dream, an imagination, and you think that imagination is nothing.
Question: is it better to be always in a dream or always awake?
Answer: This is a very interesting question and one that should be asked of great people. If a person wishes to be always in a dream, he should go to the caves of the mountains, to the wilderness, because in the world people will not only take all he has, but they will eat his bones, his skin, his flesh. We see at what point people have come by being always awake! If such a person wishes to eat, the thought comes, ‘What can I gain, what business can I do,” and will not let him eat. If he wishes to sleep, the thought, “What benefit can I have,” will not let him sleep. The politician who is always thinking, “What office can we take, what territory can we gain, how can we get more than others can,” can never have any rest.
The best course for those who are seeking the truth – not for everybody, but for those who are on the way of truth – is to be just so much awake as is needed to carry out their responsibilities in life, not allowing themselves to be quite trodden upon, and to be so much in the dream as they can without neglecting their life’s responsibilities.
2 How Dreams are Formed
Let us now consider how the dreams that we dream every night are formed. Our mind is made of vibrations, or let us call them atoms. These have the property of receiving impressions; they are just like a photographic plate. They are continually receiving impressions: impressions of heat or cold, of friends or enemies. These are stocked in the storehouse of the mind – so many thousands, so many millions of impressions, more than can be counted. When you are asleep, when your body is resting but your mind is active, these pictures appear before you, just like a moving picture on a screen. Then, when your mind is fully exhausted, deep sleep comes.
Some pictures we develop very much by keeping them often before us. The pictures of enemies, for instance, or of friends of whom we often think. Other pictures are very little developed; they just come and go. That is why sometimes in the dream we see the faces of our friends just as they are, sometimes we see forms that seem familiar but whom we do not recognize, and sometimes we see pictures that seem quite strange. Two or three of the pictures that are little developed join and form one picture which seems familiar.
If asked whether we can dream of what we have never seen, I would say: No, all that we dream we have seen. The Jinn, who have never manifested themselves on earth, cannot form a picture of things of this world. The imagination is just the same as the dream.
Dreams go by affinity, which means that like attracts like. If at the beginning of the night we have a sad dream, all night sad dreams come. If at the beginning of the night we have a joyful dream, all night pleasant dreams come. If there is one tragic dream, then all night tragedy goes on and on. If there is one comic dream, then all night comedy goes on.
Question: Is there any means of keeping an undesirable dream away?
Answer: There are a thousand ways of keeping an undesirable dream away, but if it is a warning then it will be very difficult to keep it away, or if one particular dream is kept away, another unpleasant dream will come.
3 Dreams of Three Kinds
The dreams we dream every night are of three kinds. There is a fourth sort of dream, but that is more a vision.
There is a dream in which a person sees during the night what he has been doing during the day. When his mind has been very much engaged in all thoughts, occupations, and cares of the day, these appear before him in the dream. This dream is calledKhwab-I-khayali. It does not have much effect upon the mind, because it is not very deep.
The second kind of dream isKhwab-I-ghalti,in which one sees the opposite of what really happens: when one sees someone dead that person recovers from his illness, or one sees someone as one’s enemy who in reality is a friend. When the mirror of the mind is distorted, and then the image falling upon it is distorted too, just as in some mirrors everything appears reversed. If you are thin, you appear as fat and round as a ball, and a short person appears tall and thin as a column.
The third kind of dream isKhwab-I-ruhi,in which events are shown exactly as they are. This dream comes to the upright, pure mind, to the righteous, pious person. It is seen either in a dreaming or half-waking condition. If something is lacking in the person’s piety, he may see something reversed in the dream. He may see the death of the father when it is the death of the mother, or the illness of the daughter, when it is the illness of the son, but if he is absolutely pious he sees the exact event. This dream comes only to the few, to the chosen ones, but we should remember that in all of us the soul is the same. It is only its cover that is different. So we may all dream this dream at times.
Many years before the Prophet Mohammad came forward as a master, as a prophet, his wife knew he was a prophet, because every morning he used to tell her what he had dreamt in the night, and it was always that which happened the next day. Whilst he himself was not yet sure of his message, she believed that he was the chosen one, and she encouraged him. If there was a first disciple of Prophet Mohammad, it was his wife.
The three kinds of dream are the most wonderful subject of study in life. The kind of dream, which is the exact picture of a reality which a person may sooner or later experience in his so called real life, teaches us that the incidents which we experience unexpectedly in life were pre-ordained for us. It also teaches us that, although here in the physical plane we appear to be separate from one another, in the plane of the dream the whole world exists upon the surface of the individual’s mind. He who is one single being on the physical plane inverts into the whole world on the plane of the dream, although even there where he is alone he still holds fast his individuality.
The nature of the second kind of dream, in which everything appears to be the reverse of what may happen, is the opposite of manifestation: a person seen dead in this dream will have a long life, and the sickness of a friend seen in the dream would, on the contrary, bring him good health. It is because of their negative nature that things like the printer’s block, the photographic plate, and all other things of negative character, will show their opposite before they produce the right image.
The kind of dream produced before the view of man, in which he sees what he has been doing during the day, is of little consequence. It is either caused by unbalanced activity of the mind, or by physical disorder. Such dreams as a rule have no importance and, although they create before man a moving picture, they are surely a waste.
This kind of dream, caused by the activity of his mind, is given to each person in his everyday life. The second kind generally manifests itself before the view of those who possess the attribute of humanity, who first think of the world and its responsibilities, together with the thought of God. The third kind of dream generally is vouchsafed to the spiritual person. It is, of course, seldom seen by the average man.
The first thing that happens in the spiritual development of a person is that his dreams change. First he dreams a thing and that thing happens exactly as he dreamed it. Then God gives him warnings in pictures, just as the first writings were picture writings. Then, when his soul discloses itself more, he hears a voice and sees angelic beings. Then, when his soul opens still more, he realizes the true being of God. When the true being of God is realized in the waking condition, then he is a saint.
All through the long history of the human race there are records of the practice of healing by magnetic, mental and spiritual methods. The great messengers have practiced the art themselves and have enjoined it upon their disciples. Even among the most primitive races we find traces of such ministration.
It is true that there was a time, when to be ill and weak was accounted a sign of saintliness, when those who were seeking to tread the spiritual path neglected and ill treated their bodies, starved and ill-used them until they were living skeletons, reduced to the lowest possible state of misery and distress, and quite incapable of constructive thought and action. These days are past, wiser counsels now prevail. The mind of man has come to a saner and wiser opinion. He realizes that the body, which is the temple of God, should be a fitting habitation for its heavenly Guest, and that the instrument through which man functions should be as perfect a machine as possible.
The engineer in charge of a delicate piece of machinery sees to it that it is kept clean, well oiled and free from dust in order that it may fulfill his will and carry out his commands. He well knows there is a danger unless these conditions are fulfilled. Yet, man, who is using as an instrument the human body, the most delicate piece of machinery that has come from the hands of the great Engineer, often neglects and misuses it and fails to keep it in good working order.
It is often asked why people are ill. Many answers might be given. Probably none of them will satisfy the engineer wholly, until he can hear within his heart the “still small voice” telling him in no uncertain language the cause of the trouble in his own case. It is certainly true that at the back of every apparent cause there is lack of harmony. Some part of man’s being is out of tune, and the note sets up vibrations, which affect the whole system. It may be that there is some habit or weakness in his life, which is poisoning the springs of his being. No one who is holding in his consciousness anything which falls below his own ideal can be in a state of harmony. For all the time, whether he is aware of it or not, the struggle for mastery between the higher and lower self is going on.
But then it may be asked why people, who are quite frankly living a life devoted to material pleasures, are so often well and happy, while they deny themselves nothing that will minister to their own physical and emotional satisfaction. May not the answer be: because in their case there is no struggle, the soul is not yet awake, the higher consciousness is sleeping. They are travelling along the line of least resistance; there is no conflict as yet for them.
Then again, it is asked why so often good people are ill, and we may perhaps answer that question by asking another: What is goodness? Some people who are called good are very negative. They allow their minds and bodies to be open to every sort of influence that comes to them from without. The garden of their soul is not guarded and tended by the wise gardener, and the winds blowing from north and south, from east and west, carry all sorts of seeds: seeds of weeds and thistles and thorns which fall upon the soil, take root and spring up very quickly. Often they choke the flowers that are also growing in that garden, and then, in a sensitive personality, there is struggle for mastery. Disharmony results from it and consequently weakness and illness.
Let us strive for wisdom, that we may know what to take in and what to cast out. For when wisdom guards the threshold we shall become strong and steady like the waterwheel which revolves at such a rapid rate that it resists and throws off any object, however heavy, that is thrown against it.
Above the portal of a small convalescent home in an English country village these words are written, so large that all who enter may read them and take heed:
For good may ever conquer ill
Health walks where pain has trod
As a man thinketh so is he
Rise then and think with God.
We read in the Christian scriptures: “Whatsoever things are good, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report – think on these things.” Thought is creative, thought has a dynamic power: “as a man thinketh so is he.” We are taught that every thought has its birth and death, and that the life of every thought is far longer and more enduring than the life of the human being.
Hundreds of wireless messages are passing by us during every hour of the day, but only the instrument that is tuned to the right note can receive them. The discovery of wireless telegraphy has been to the thinker a most illuminating example on the physical plane of what is always happening in the spiritual spheres. Distance is no longer any obstruction, and just as in the physical world a receiver is necessary, so also in the spiritual world. For the law is universal both in the spiritual realm, the realm of reality, and in the physical world, which is only the shadow of the real one.
Let us see to it that our hearts and minds are tuned to the higher vibrations, so that only those things that are good, pure, holy, and of good report can enter and dwell there. Let us keep out the idle thoughts, the unkind thoughts, the envious thoughts that come knocking at the door of the heart and which, if we admit them, will result in speech and action, and produce in our bodies illness, weakness, and weariness. Then when this happens, man in his ignorance of the true cause goes to the doctor or surgeon who perhaps performs an operation and often the patient may be no better but rather worse, for the real cause of the trouble is untouched.
One may ask: is pain always an evil thing? – And I would answer: far from it. Sometimes pain comes to us as a kindly warning. It is the moving finger pointing to us and bidding us to give heed to our ways, to take account of our doings. There are different kinds of pain: pain of the body which is often hard to bear, pain of the mind which is far worse, and pain of the heart, the deepest part of man’s being, which may be agony. Yet the cry of agony, which comes from the depth of the heart, may be a sound of the greatest beauty, for pain has its beautiful aspect. Think of the pain expressed in the most perfect music, the finest poetry. There are moments of intense feeling when pain and joy meet, and one cannot distinguish where one ends and the other begins. They have their meeting place in the heart of man. Pain is like the herb in the hands of the great Transmuter, the divine Alchemist. Falling on the melted silver of the heart, it turns it into the purest gold, and renders the heart of man more fitting to be the altar of God.
Who are those to whom people go for sympathy when they are in trouble? Surely those who have suffered much, those who, having gone through great tribulation, have overcome and have learned by experience that true happiness comes from within and is independent of outward circumstances. They can feel not only for others but with others, and out of the depth of their own experience teach them how to find courage, faith, and hope. They can help them to bind up their wounds, and heal their broken hearts. If suffering can develop in us the blessed gift of sympathy, then surely we have not suffered in vain. We may well thank God for every pang, which we have endured.
What of the pain endured by all the great Saviours and Masters of humanity? We feel here that we are touching a most sacred mystery which words cannot express – but may we not reverently believe that, by taking to themselves the burden of pain of the whole world, they transmuted it by the process of alchemy, and sent it out as a fountain of love and power springing up into everlasting life?
However, while pain is one thing, disease is quite another thing. Disease must always be contrary to the divine Will, and it is our duty to combat it by every means in our power and to order our lives along the lines of the sane, healthy living, obeying the laws of health in matters of diet, sanitation and clothing. Disease is largely the product of over-civilization. People of less highly evolved civilization know how to keep themselves in health by simple nature remedies, such as herbs. It is said that the North-American Indian, when he comes home tired after a long day’s hunting, will fling himself down upon the ground, relax every sinew and muscle, and draw into himself fresh stores of energy from the magnetic currents of the earth, so that after an hour’s rest he is ready to rise up and to go forth again, if necessary, with renewed strength and vigor.
Among wild animals in their natural state there is very little disease. They die of old age, of accidents, or of the attack of enemies stronger than themselves.
We in the West have lost the knowledge of the use of simple nature remedies, and there is scarcely one who really knows how to relax. We should do well to try to get back this lost knowledge, for health is more likely to be gained in this way than by use of drugs or the surgeon’s knife. Man is the microcosm of the macrocosm. Every substance in the earth is to be found in the body of man, even to the lately discovered radium. Therefore, it is in a very true sense that we speak of Mother Earth, and the closer we live to nature, our great Mother, and the simpler we make our manner of living, the healthier shall we surely become.
What is health? Health is surely wholeness of body, heart and mind, complete harmony of the whole being. Wholeness is also holiness. Nothing short of this should content us, if as Sufis we are endeavoring to tread the path which leads to the culmination of love, harmony and beauty – that perfect trinity which is the goal of all life. God alone is the healer. Those who minister will only truly heal when they keep this truth always before them, for it is not the solid wood that makes the flute, it is the empty reed. The healer is only the instrument which God, Himself, is using and, in so far as he can put aside his own lower personality and dedicate and consecrate his life to the great service, will he be successful in the work he has undertaken. He should endeavor to cultivate an attitude of calmness, serenity, and poise, of harmony within and without. For just as the waters of the lake, when tossed to and for and broken up by the winds of a great storm, cannot reflect the clear blue sky, neither can the heart of the one who is disturbed and distracted by the turmoil of the world and confused by the sound of earth’s many voices, reflect the will of the God and Father of us all.
It has been said that we grow into the likeness of that which we habitually contemplate. Therefore, constant and habitual contemplation of the perfect ideal, dwelling in thought upon the attributes of divine beauty, keeping the heart tuned to the note of love and harmony, and making this the practice of daily life, the mind still and calm, the heart pure and open so that it can reflect the perfect Will – this should be the aim of life of the one who aspires to serve humanity as a spiritual healer.
We are told that one of the properties of radium is that, if for a time you shut up certain substances in an appropriate receptacle with even a tiny portion of the radium, these substances will acquire some of the properties of the radium and will show its power. After some time they lose these properties and have to be replaced close to the radium in order to be recharged. We read of the great masters that, when exhausted after days of teaching and ministering to the sick, they retired into the mountains and forests to commune with the Almighty God, and came forth again charged with fresh power to resume their work of healing and inspiring. If even for the great ones these times of quiet were necessary, how much more for us. The action of the radium is a parallel of the Almighty Father’s power; it speaks to us of the refreshment, which comes from quiet communing with the Supreme.
What should be the attitude of the patient? He must have a living faith; he must do his part in the work. We read of Jesus Christ that in one place even he could do no mighty works because of the unbelief of the people, and again in another place people came to him with all manner of diseases and he healed them all. The patient must believe in the power of God to heal and he must have confidence and trust in his healer. God holds His blessings out to us, but we must take them from His hands. If we refuse to co-operate in the work of healing, we cannot receive the blessing. If we set up obstacles, we can obstruct even the river of life itself.
So the patient must have confidence and trust in the healer. He must open himself to receive the healing currents for the conveyance of which the healer is only the channel, for life and health are the gifts of God Himself.