Memory is a mental faculty, a distinct aspect of the mind.
It is a recording mechanism that records all that falls upon
it through any of the five senses. What one sees, hears, smells,
touches and tastes is recorded upon the memory. A form, a picture,
an image, once seen, sometimes remains in the memory for the
whole of one's life, if it is well recorded. In the life of
the world, one hears so many words during the day, yet some
words that the memory has recorded remain for one's whole lifetime,
as living as ever.
So it is with music. Once a person has heard wonderful music
and it is recorded upon his memory, it remains forever and ever.
Memory is such a living machine that one can produce that music
at any time, it is all there. A good perfume, once experienced,
once perceived, is remembered. The feeling of taste remains,
also the feeling of touch. Memory holds it all.
It does not remain in the memory as in a notebook, for as
the notebook is dead, so what remains in the notebook is dead;
but memory is living. Whatever is recorded upon the memory is
also living and gives a living sensation. A record of a pleasant
memory is sometimes so precious that one wishes to sacrifice
this objective world for such a record.
I was very touched once by seeing a widow whose relatives
wished me to tell her to go into society, to mix with people,
to live a more worldly life. I went to advise her on that subject.
She told me gently, 'All experiences of this world's life, however
pleasant, do not afford me pleasure. My only joy is in the memory
of my beloved. Other things give me unhappiness, other things
make me miserable. If I find joy, it is in the thought of my
beloved.' I could not say one word to change her mind. I thought
it would be a sin on my part to take her away from her joy.
If her memory had been a misery for her, I should have preached
to her otherwise; but it was happiness for her, it was her only
happiness. I thought that here was a living Sati. I had only
a great esteem for her, and could not speak one word.
In the memory, the secret of heaven and hell is to be found.
As Omar Khayyam said in his Rubaiyat, 'Heaven is the vision
of fulfilled desire, and hell the shadow of a soul on fire.'
What is it? Where is it? It is only in the memory. Therefore,
memory is not a small thing. It is not something that is hidden
in the brain. It is something living, and it is something so
vast that a limited mind cannot conceive of it. It is something
that is a world in and of itself.
People may ask, 'What is it then, if a person has lost his
memory? Is it caused by disorder in the brain?' In the first
place, no one really loses his memory. A person may lose it,
but his memory does not lose him because the memory is his own
being. What happens is that the disorder of the brain makes
him incapable of distinguishing what the memory contains. Therefore,
a person who has lost his memory in his lifetime, owing to a
disorder in the brain, has memory just the same. That memory
will become clearer to him after death. Also, if he were to
lift himself off of his objective being, he would find his memory
intact. Only, the memory cannot function in a brain that is
out of order.
To have a good memory is not only a good thing, it is a bliss.
It is a sign of spirituality because it shows that the light
of the intelligence is clear and is illuminating every particle
of the brain. A good memory is a sign of great souls. Besides,
memory is the treasury where one's knowledge is stored. If a
person cannot draw the knowledge that he has collected from
his memory, then dependence upon books is of little worth.
One day, six months after I had been received by my Murshid
as his pupil, he began to speak on metaphysics. Being metaphysically
inclined myself, I jumped at the thought of it. During those
six months I was never impatient, I had never shown any eagerness
to know something more than what I was allowed to know. I was
quite contented at the feet of the master. That was everything
to me. Nevertheless, it was a great stimulus to my mind to hear
from him something about metaphysics. However, as soon as I
took out my notebook from my pocket, my Murshid ended the subject.
He said nothing. From that day I learned a lesson: By this he
meant that my notebook must not be the storehouse of my knowledge.
There is a living notebook, and that is my memory, a notebook
that I shall carry with me all through life and through the
No doubt, we always write down on paper things belonging
to the earth – the figures of 10, 20 and 100 – but things pertaining
to the spiritual order of things, to the divine law, are of
much greater importance. The notebook cannot contain them, it
is not made for them. It is in the memory that they must be
treasured, for memory is not only a recording machine, but also
a fertile ground at the same time. What is put there is continually
creative, it is doing something there. So, one not only possesses
something that one has deposited, but also its interest.
Sometimes memory is weakened by too great a strain put upon
it. When one tries to remember, this puts a strain upon a process
that is natural. It is the nature of memory to remember; but
when you put a strain upon it that it must remember, then it
will forget. The very fact that you have strained it will make
it forget. One must not try to impress one's mind more deeply
than it naturally becomes impressed. One's attention is quite
enough. Will power must not be used to remember things. It is
a wrong method that people are applying at present when they
say that in order to remember things, one must will it. By willing
it, one weakens the memory. Besides, a balance between activity
and repose is necessary.
Memory is never lost. What happens is that, when the mind
is upset, then the memory becomes blurred. It is the stillness
of the mind that makes one capable of distinguishing all that
one's memory contains. When the mind is upset, when a person
is not tranquil, then naturally – in spite of all the record
the memory has – one is not able to read it. It is not true
that memory gives away what is stored in it. It is only man
who loses the rhythm of his life by over-excitement, nervousness,
weakness of nerves, anxiety, worry, fear, confusion. It is that
which causes a kind of turmoil in the mind, and one cannot distinctly
find the things that were once recorded in the memory. One need
not work with one's memory in order to make it clear. What is
required is to make oneself tranquil, rhythmical and peaceful
in order to make the memory distinct.
Question: Should one then not use the brain when trying to
Answer: It is not necessary to use the brain when trying
to remember something because by using the brain, one only strains
it. The memory is at the command of the person. If he wants
to know about something instantly, without his straining the
brain, then it must come. It is an automatic mechanism and it
must bring before him automatically all that he wishes to know.
Question: What should a person do who cannot easily learn
Answer: He should make his mind tranquil. This is the first
thing. It is the mental way of making memory better. A physical
way of making the memory better is to eat less and sleep normally.
One should not work too much, not worry very much, and keep
all anxiety and fear away.
Question: Through what vehicle does the memory function after
Answer: The mind is distinctly different from the body. It
is something apart, standing independent of the body. The mind
depends upon the body for perceiving the outer experiences,
which it takes in through the senses. However, the mind is independent
of the body for holding its treasures that it has collected
through the outer world and retaining them. As we are accustomed
to experience everything through the vehicle of the body – even
our feelings – this makes us dependent for some time upon the
body. This does not mean that we cannot experience all that
belongs to the mind without the help of the body.
Question: Is there not a danger in losing oneself in the
memory of that which lies behind us?
Answer: There is an answer to this in the Gayan, where it
is said, 'If you live in the vision of the past, dream on, do
not open your eyes to the present. If you live in the eternal,
do not worry about the morrow. But if you live for the time
to come, do all you can to prepare for the future.'
Question: How should one erase from the record a living memory
of something of the past?
Answer: That is what we learn on the Sufi path. It is the
work which we accomplish by concentration and meditation. It
is not an easy thing to do; it is the most difficult, but also
the most valuable thing there is. That is why we keep our teachings
free from speculations, beliefs, doctrines and dogmas, for we
believe in actual work with ourselves. What if you were told
a thing one day and you believed it one day, and the next day
you doubted and did not believe it anymore? If you were told
that there is a house in the sixth heaven and palace in the
seventh, what would that do for you? It would only answer your
curiosity; it would take you nowhere. It is, therefore, by the
way of meditation that we attain to this, that we can erase
from the memory what we wish to. In this way, we are able to
make our heaven ourselves.
The whole secret of esotericism lies in controlling the mind
and in working with it as an artist would work on a canvas producing
whatever he likes. When we are able to produce on the canvas
of our heart all that we wish and to erase all that we wish,
then we arrive at that mastery for which our soul craves. We
fulfill the purpose for which we are here. Then we become the
masters of our destiny. It is difficult, but that is the object
that we pursue in life.