Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
FROM LIMITATION TO PERFECTION (2)
EVERY kind of striving in man's life, whether for a material or for a spiritual object, is the result of his natural inclination to reach from limitation towards perfection. Whatever it may be, wealth or rank or name or comfort or pleasure, it is this limitation which keeps man discontented. Also, in all his learning, studying, practicing, acquiring, attaining, we see this same striving to go from limitation to perfection. The saying of the scriptures that God alone is rich and all others are poor, can be seen in everyday life. The greater the riches one has the more one wants. And it is interesting to find when observing the life of a poor person that he is more content with what he has than a rich person with all his wealth. Sometimes one also sees that a poor person is more generous in his giving than a rich person in parting with his possessions.
When we look at another aspect of life, we see that a person who is learned in a small degree believes that he has learned and read a great deal and he wishes to show it; whereas someone who has learned more begins to discover that it is really very little and that there is still very much to be learned.
There is still another picture to be seen: that of the foolish and the wise. The foolish man is ready to teach you without a moment's thought, ready to correct you, ready to judge you, ready to form an opinion about you. But the wiser a man is the more diffident he is to form an opinion about you, to judge you, to correct you. What does this mean? It means that whatever man possesses in a small degree he thinks he has much of, but when he possesses more he begins to feel the need and the desire for perfection, for completion.
There is an ancient story that a king wanted to grant a dervish his desire. And the desire of the dervish was to fill his cup with gold coins. The king thought that it would be the easiest thing in the world to fill the cup of the dervish. But when they tried to fill it it proved to be a magic cup: it would not fill. The more money was poured into it, the emptier it became. And the king was very disappointed and disheartened at the thought that this cup could not be filled. The dervish said, 'Your Majesty, if you cannot fill my cup you only have to say so, and I shall take my cup back. I am a dervish, and I will go, and I will only think that you have not kept your word.' The sovereign, with every good intention, with all his generosity, and with all his treasures could not fill that cup. And he asked, 'Dervish, tell me what secret you have in this cup. It does not seem to be natural. There is some magic about it. Tell me what is its secret.' The dervish answered, 'Yes, your Majesty, what you have found out is true. It is a magic cup. But it is the cup of every heart. It is the heart of man which is never content. Fill it with whatever you may, with wealth, with attention, with love, with knowledge, with all there is. It will never fill, for it is not meant to be filled. Not knowing this secret of life man goes on in pursuit of every object, or any object he has before him, continually. And the more he gets the more he wants, and the cup of his desire is never filled.'
The meaning of this can be understood by the study of the soul. Man's appetite is satisfied by food. But behind it is an appetite which is the appetite of the soul, and that appetite is never satisfied. That appetite is at the back of all the different forms of hunger and of thirst. And since man cannot trace that innermost appetite he strives all through his life to satisfy these outer appetites which are satisfied and yet remain unsatisfied. If someone is making a study of objective things, things of the objective world, he may gain a great deal of knowledge about them, and yet there is never an end to it. The one who searches the secret of sound, the one who searches the mystery of light, the one who searches the mystery of science, they all search and search and search, and there is never an end to it, nor is there ever satisfaction. And a thoughtful person wonders if that satisfaction is to be found anywhere, the satisfaction which so to speak fulfills the promise of the soul.
Indeed, there does exist a possibility for that satisfaction. And that possibility is to attain to the perfection which is not dependent upon outside things, a perfection which belongs to one's own being. This satisfaction is not attained. It is discovered. It is in the discovery of this satisfaction that the purpose of life can be fulfilled.
And now the question arises: how does one arrive at this perfection? Religion, philosophy, and mysticism will all help one, but it is by the actual attainment of this knowledge that one will arrive at this satisfaction.
Life can be pictured as a line with two ends. One end of the line is limitation, and the other end of the same line is perfection. As long as one is looking at the end which is limitation, however good, virtuous, righteous, or pious one is, one has not touched what may be called perfection. Are there not many believers in religion, in a God? There are many worshippers of a deity, and more among simple people than among the intellectuals and the educated. Do they all arrive at perfection before leaving this earth, by their belief in a deity or by their worship?
There are others who learn from books. I have known some people who had written perhaps fifty or a hundred books themselves, and had read maybe a whole library, yet they still remained standing in the same place where they were. As long as one's face is not turned away from that end which is the end of limitation, and as long as one does not look towards that ideal of perfection which is the real Kaba or place of pilgrimage, one will not arrive at that perfection.
What keeps this perfection, which belongs to his own life, which is his own being, hidden from man? A screen put before it; and that screen is one's self. The soul, conscious only of its limitation, of its possessions with which it identifies itself forgets its own being and becomes so to speak the captive of its limitation. Religion or belief in God, worship, philosophy, and mysticism, all help one to attain this. But if one does not search for perfection through these, even they will only be an occupation, a pastime, and will not bring man to the right goal.
Is there any definition of this perfection? What sort of perfection is it? Can it be explained in any way? It is only perfection itself, which can realize itself. It cannot be put into words, it cannot be explained. If anyone believes that truth can be given in words he is very much mistaken. It is just like putting sea-water into a bottle, and saying, here is the sea! Very often people ask, 'But what is the truth? Can you explain it?' Words cannot explain it. Often I thought it would be a good thing to write the word TRUTH on a brick, and give it into the hands of such a person, and say, 'Hold it fast, here is the truth!'
There is a great difference between fact and truth. Fact is a shadow of truth. Fact is intelligible. But truth is beyond comprehension, for truth is unlimited. Truth knows itself, and nothing else can explain it. What little explanation can be given lies in the idea of expansion. There is a man who toils all day in order to gain his livelihood, to give himself a little comfort or a little pleasure, and so life goes on. And there is another man who has a family, who has others to think about, who works for them. Sometimes he forgets his own pleasure and comfort for the comfort and pleasure of those who depend upon him. He hardly has time to think about his own comfort or about himself. His pleasure is in the pleasure of those who depend upon him, his comfort is in their comfort. And there is still another man who tries to be useful to his town, to improve its condition, to help the education of the people of his town. He is engaged in this work, and very often he forgets himself in striving for the happiness of those for whom he is working. There are also those who live for their nation, who work for their nation, who give their whole life to it. They are only conscious of their nation.
The consciousness of the latter is expanded. It becomes larger. There is very little difference in the size of men's frames but there is a great difference in the expansion of man's consciousness. There is one man who seems as large as he actually is. There is another who seems as large as his family, another who seems as large as his town, another who seems as large as his nation. And there are men who are as large as the world.
There is a saying of a Hindustani poet, 'Neither the sea nor the land can be compared with the heart of man.' If the heart of man is large, it is larger than the universe. Therefore if perfection can be explained in any terms, if perfection can be defined, it is in the expansion of man's consciousness. The man who strives after this perfection need not know or learn what is selfish or unselfish. Unselfishness comes to him naturally, he becomes unselfish. In the last few years humanity has gone through a great catastrophe. All nations have suffered and have shared in it. Every individual, even every living creature on this earth has been affected by it. One might ask, what was lacking? Was education lacking? There are many schools and universities. Was religion lacking? There are many churches still, and many different beliefs still exist in the world. What was lacking was the understanding of the true meaning of religion. What was lacking was the understanding of the real meaning of education.
Those who have found out that perfection is attained by realizing the self within have not attained it only by what man calls external worship; it was by self-abnegation in the true sense of the word. It is by going into that silence where one can forget the limitations of the self, that one can get in touch with that part of one's being which is called perfection; and this can best be attained by those who have realized the meaning of life.