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Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings


THE PROPHETIC tendency exists throughout the whole of manifestation. It exists among the jinns and the heavenly beings, and also in every part of nature, in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms and among the animals as well as among men.

There would be no diamond mines if there were not a spark in the diamond. One spark of a diamond may cause any other atom of the earth with which it comes in contact to become a diamond; it is the same with the ruby. The diamond wants to make everything else become a diamond, and the ruby wants to make every other atom into a ruby.

As for the plants, if one goes into the jungle – not where man has planted and sowed, but in the real jungle which has not been touched – one will see that where there is one mango tree, many mango trees will grow. If there is one fragrant flower, a thousand fragrant flowers will be near it; if there is a sweet fruit, there will be hundreds of sweet fruits.

Among the animals too there are many examples of this phenomenon. For instance, in India the monkeys sometimes come to a village from the forest and destroy all the roofs of the houses. There is always one among them which is the leader. When he jumps, all the other monkeys jump after him. When he wants to go back to the forest, they all go back to the forest.

In the northern provinces near Nainital and Nepal, at the foot of the Himalayas, there is jungle in which there are elephants. The natives have many different ways of catching these elephants, and one way is to dig a pit and cover it over with a net and branches; then they hang their hammocks up in the trees, and there they stay for some days watching for the elephants. They are quite happy in the trees, because the climate is pleasant. If a herd of elephants happens to go that way, one elephant puts his foot in the net and falls into the pit; he cannot help himself. When he cries out, the other elephants look on from a distance, but are afraid to go near, and the men have a kind of firework with which they frighten them away if they do.

Now in a troop of elephants there is always one which walks in front. He holds a stout branch in his trunk, and he knocks on the ground with it before every step to see whether there is a pit. Then, if the ground is safe, he goes forward and all the others follow him. He knows about a thousand other dangers. The herd have such confidence in him that wherever he goes, they go too. This shows that the quality of leadership exists among elephants, and also the tendency to self-sacrifice. The elephant that is the leader goes first, realizing that if there is a pit he may fall in and the other elephants will be safe. He is careful, however, not to go anywhere where it is not safe, and if an elephant is caught it is generally some small elephant which has no sense and does not follow the leader.

In Nepal, the Maharaja had an elephant which was just such a leader. He lived in the Maharaja's palace, and the Maharaja gave orders that no one should ride him but himself, because he honored the elephant, recognizing his qualities. I have seen this myself. Whenever Maharaja Bir Shamsher went into the forest elephant hunting, this elephant was taken too. The Maharaja had named him Bijili, which means 'lightning'. He was very small, but if they failed to make a catch, Bijili was sent out, and he always came back with another elephant, such was his magnetism. He did not like to catch elephants, because he possessed the quality of mercy, he would never go unless he was forced by the mahouts, and when he saw the other elephants, at first he turned his head away. This shows that even among animals the prophetic tendency exists.

Sometimes we see this prophetic tendency in parents. Whatever way they themselves have had to follow, they wish to train their child for the best way, for a higher way. Sometimes we see it in a friend. Whatever undesirable experiences he may have had himself, he wishes to save his friend from them. It is only the chosen ones, the blessed souls who have this tendency; it is not found in all parents, nor in every friend. To have such parents, such a friend, is the greatest blessing.

What was the object of the prophetic mission? The evolution of man has been such that he was very much nearer to the animals in ancient times than now. Then he thought only of eating and drinking and his chief aim was to take whatever he wanted from other people, caring nothing about the result of his actions, until he was awakened from this animal existence.

The prophets were sent to awaken man; just as someone who cannot wake up of his own accord in the morning is wakened by the alarm-clock. The prophets were this alarm. Sometimes power was needed to arouse people, and in such a case the prophet was a king, like Solomon. Sometimes beauty appealed, and thus Joseph came, whose appearance, whose face was so beautiful that all hearts were melted by his magnetism.

It has always been the way of the divine Power to send that prophet who was needed at the time. When a venerable life was needed there was Jacob, in whom everything was so worthy of veneration that all bowed before him. At a time when music was deeply felt and admired David came; gifted with a beautiful voice and playing the harp, he gave his message in songs. In this way every prophet came in the guise that the people of the age could understand. At first, however, the people's intelligence would not be sufficiently developed for this, and their self was too much before their eyes. The prophets had renewed their own self, and that is why they were prophets. When the self is before the eyes of the soul, then the soul is blinded.

There is a saying that the words of the prophet are as seals on the secret of God. This means that just as the seal protects the contents of a letter, and when that seal is broken the matter which one wants to read is disclosed, so it is with the words of the prophet. The seal is not a letter; it is only a seal; and so are the prophet's words. And again there comes a moment in one's life when one is able to open that seal. It may be opened after one month, after five months, five years, or more, but the time will come; and when the seal is opened, then everything is disclosed, just as in an opened letter.

Once I put to music a verse of an inspired poet of Persia, and I sang it with great joy for the words had a beautiful meaning; yet at the same time I always felt that the verse had a meaning beyond the apparent one, which I did not understand. I had a distinct feeling that something was sealed and hidden there. And after fifteen years it happened, when my mind was searching for a simile for a certain revelation, that a voice came, bringing it to my mind. There was no end to my joy in opening that seal which had been closed for fifteen years! For everything there is an appointed time; and when that time comes it is revealed. That is why, although on one hand we may be eager to attain to a certain revelation, yet on the other hand we must have patience to wait for the moment of its coming.

Although the tongue of God is continually speaking through all things, yet in order to speak to the deaf ears of many among us, it is necessary for Him to speak through the lips of man. He has done this all through the history of man, every great teacher of the past having been this guiding spirit living the life of God in human guise. In other words, their human guise has been various coats worn by the same being, who only appeared to be different in each. Shiva, Buddha, Rama, Krishna on the one side; Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad on the other; and many more, known or unknown to history, have always been in reality one and the same person.

Those who knew the messenger when they saw him, recognized him in whatever form or guise; those who could only see the coat went astray. To the Sufi, therefore, there is only one teacher, whatever name he may be given at different periods in history; and he comes constantly to awaken humanity from the slumber of this life of illusion and to guide man onward towards divine protection. As the Sufi progresses in this view he recognizes his Master not only in the holy ones, but in the wise and in the foolish, in the saint and in the sinner, and he has never allowed the Master, who is the one and only Master and who alone can be and who ever will be, to disappear from his sight.

Is not the source of all truth hidden in every man's heart, whether he be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Jew? Are we not all part of that life which we call spiritual or divine? To be only this or that, is the same as not going further than this or that. The bliss found in the solitude is hidden within every human being; he has inherited it from his heavenly Father. In mystical terms it is called the All-pervading Light. Light is the source and origin of every human soul and of every mind.

The Sufi looks upon all life as one life, upon all religions as his religion: call him a Christian and he seeks to be that, call him a Muslim and he is that, a Hindu and he feels he is that; call him whatever you like, he does not mind. A Sufi does not desire to be called anything. Who calls him a Sufi? It is not he. But if he does not call himself something, someone else is sure to find a name for him.

Man is the aim of creation, and he is the highest being because he is man. He alone knows the purpose for which he was manifested, the reason why he is here. Cats and dogs do not know this. Every other being in manifestation wants to become man. The jinns want to become man, and also the rocks, the plants, and the animals.

But it is not man as he usually is that the divine Power wishes to produce; the man that God wants is not the man who only eats, drinks, and sleeps like the animals. If a man wishes to know what he should be he should compare himself with the animals. If he eats, they also eat; if he drinks, they also drink; if he sleeps, they also sleep. They have their passions and hatred and anger just as he has. If he is only that, then he is not man. Only in man do we find kindness, sympathy, discipline, self-sacrifice, meekness and such qualities; and if we see any of them in the animals, in dogs and cats or horses and cattle, such as faithfulness in the dog, and obedience and courage in the horse, it is only through the reflection of man, through association with man. If we go to a river-bed and pick up pebbles, how many pebbles do we not find that show the likeness of a human face! Sometimes the nose is absent, sometimes the lips, but we very often find marks and lines resembling a face. What a wonderful thing this is, for it shows us that everything is striving to become like the human face, in fact to become man.

It is also true that man alone has the sense of responsibility. The animals do not have it. Regarding this the Quran says, 'We offered our burden to the heavens, to the earth, and to the mountains, but they refused to bear it and were afraid of it; then we offered our burden to man, and he accepted it.' This means that only man has accepted the responsibility for his actions. Then the sura goes on to say, 'Verily, man is cruel and foolish.' Foolish, because he has taken upon himself that which is God's. There are, for instance, many who run away from marriage, because they think a wife and children are a responsibility. They do not realize that a wife and children are God's, and that He takes care of what is His. And man is cruel because he uses his will and power, which in reality are God's, to harm others. Our will, our strength, are God's and yet we say 'my' and 'mine'; we claim them for ourselves.

The watchman calls from evening till morning. In the day the alarm-clock is not needed, because it is day. The prophets were sent during the night. They came with the same message under different names; the same divine wisdom spoke in each of them. But if a Hebrew had been asked, 'Do you recognize Krishna and Rama?' he would have said, 'I never heard of Krishna and Rama; I recognize Moses, because that is written in my book.' If a Hindu were asked, 'Do you recognize Moses or Christ?' he would say, 'No, I recognize Rama and Krishna and Vishnu and the Vedanta. You may keep Christ and Moses, I will keep Rama and Krishna and Vishnu.' There are some who prefer the Kabbala to the Bible and recognize only the Kabbala. If you ask a Roman Catholic, he will say, 'There is only one Church, and that is mine.' They have all recognized the name, the personality, but they have not recognized the truth. They want to keep Krishna in the temple, Christ in the church, and Moses shut up in the synagogue. That is why there are so many now seeking for truth.

In each age the message was revealed more and more clearly according to the capacity of the world to bear it; and this went on until the last and clearest revelation, the message of Muhammad, the seal of the prophets. After this no more prophets were needed; the world was awakened to the understanding of true reality. This is not the time to wait for the coming of another prophet; now is the time to awaken to the truth within ourselves. And if there is a friend who has gone this way already, now is the time to ask his advice.

It is not the Sufi's work to interfere with anyone's religion, nor to force a belief upon anyone. He does not tell one to believe this or that. The murshid is a friend and guide. He advises, he does not force anything upon one. I was not born in a Christian family, but no Christian could be more touched than I am by the words of Christ that I read. If they are rightly understood, they alone are enough to make one a saint. It is written that finally he was crucified; but from his birth onward every moment of his life was a crucifixion. The world is too rough for the souls of the prophets; their hearts are too tender for it.

No Brahmin has studied the Vedanta with more interest than I have. If one knows Brahma one knows God, and one is in fact Brahmin, although whether the Brahmin recognizes this or not is another matter. The Sufi says, 'You wish to know about revelation? You wish to know about inspiration? This is the way for you to follow: believe as much as your intelligence allows you to believe, as much as you can reach; do not believe what your intelligence does not allow you to believe.'

He recognizes one divine wisdom in all the prophetic messages. He sees the same infinite Being through all, in different forms through all ages. It is just as if one had the photographs of one's sweetheart at different ages: at twelve years, at twenty, at thirty, at forty. The photographs are different, but it is the same sweetheart.