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Volume VIII - The Art of Being

The Privilege of Being Human

Chapter XVII


Innocence is so much idealized that a person may ask whether intellect is not a thing to be avoided. The world has advanced very much in intellect: how to get all for oneself, how to get the best of another diplomatically, how to get the best of another politically, how to get the best of another politely and with charming manners, is thought wisdom. This is not wisdom, it is intellect.

If a person has not developed his intellect, the world will take the best of him and he will not realize it. The Sufi should develop his intellect – not in order to use it in the same way as an intellectual person would use it, but in order to see the world as it is. On all sides you will see the selfishness of the world, and the more you develop spiritually, the more you will see it. Sometimes one may wonder whether there are not only animals in the world and no human beings at all. Sometimes one may wonder whether this is not a world of devils. Everywhere one voice is heard, 'I want to eat you!' I want to take you!' And you cannot go away, go out of the world. You cannot run away to the mountains and jungles. There are very few wise men in the world, and very many intellectual persons.

Another thing is that you may not be innocent as the child is innocent. The child, if it has a diamond brooch and a thief wants to take it, will give it and not know what it is giving. You should be like the king in a story which tells that a king was sitting in his room in which were carved chairs, made like tiger's heads. The eyes of the tigers were diamonds and very beautiful. The king went to sleep. When he awoke, he saw that a thief had come into the room and was stealing the eyes of the tigers. The thief said, 'Hush! Don't tell anyone I am stealing the diamonds.' The king was much amused at his boldness and confidence, saying this to the king from whom he was stealing. So, knowing that he was a thief, he let him take the diamonds.

You should not do a kindness to an undeserving person, thinking that he deserves your kindness, for the next day you will discover that he does not deserve it, and you will repent. You should do a kindness to a person knowing that he does not deserve it. Then your kindness is very great and there is no repentance.


The way of attaining spiritual knowledge is quite opposite to the way by which one attains worldly knowledge. As the sky is in the direction opposite to the earth, so the source of knowledge of spiritual things is opposite to the knowledge of the world. As a man becomes intellectual he knows things of the world, but this does not mean that he becomes spiritual. He goes, on the contrary, further away from spirituality through the thought, 'I understand worldly things.'

What is the best way of attaining spiritual knowledge? First one must develop in one's nature that little spark which is divine and which was shining in one's infancy, showing something pure, something of heaven. What attracts us most is innocence. It is innocence which gives an impression of purity, but we must not understand this wrongly. Knowledge of the world is more than necessary; it is needed to live in the world, to make the best of our life, to serve God and humanity – it is not needed to attain spiritual knowledge: innocence is necessary for that.

When one sees among one's friends, one's relatives, something which attracts one most it is perhaps the side of their nature which is innocence. People forgive those who are dear to them, they tolerate their faults. They say, 'He is wrong, but he is innocent.' There is a purity which is divine and which attracts everyone. Innocence is like a spring of water purifying all that is foreign to heart and soul.

How can we attain innocence? Innocence is not foreign to our nature; we all have been innocent, and by being conscious of that nature we develop it. By admiring, by appreciating that nature we develop it too, for all things which we admire become impressions. Those who have a bad nature but have collected good impressions will in time turn their nature.

During my travels in India, the purpose of which was to pay homage to the sages of that land, what appealed most to me was that the greater the soul, the greater was his innocence. It is innocence one sees in them, not simplicity. The one who is simple does not understand. We see this in everyday life: he closes his eyes. Innocence is to understand and to rise above things. Every person sees another through his own glasses. Prejudice often stands between them; for insight, unity is necessary. When innocence is developed one has attained spirituality. A man becomes wise after having been intellectual, when he rises above the intellect. Then he sees cause behind cause and understands the way of his enemy.

Would it be practical to live altogether according to the principle of innocence? A principle is to be used, not to guide our life. When people make a chain out of principles, it becomes captivity. Life is freedom. One cannot force oneself to innocence. But if there is any sign of piety or spirituality, there is no better sign than innocence together with all understanding.


checked 26-nov-2016