Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE LAW OF LIFE
ALL THAT comes to a person, in reality he arrives at. By this I do not mean to say that a person cannot make something, create it, earn it, deserve it, or that it does not come to him by chance. What comes may come in any of the above five ways, but at the same time in reality it is he who arrives at it. These five ways are realms through which a certain thing comes, but what brings this about is man himself. This subtle idea remains hidden until a person has insight into the law of life and observes its inner working clearly. For instance, if one said that someone had gained a certain position or rank or wealth or fame by working for it, outwardly it might be true; but many work and do not achieve it. Besides one might say that all the blessings of Providence come to one if one deserves them; but one can see so much in life which is contrary to this principle, for there are many who do not deserve and yet they attain. With every appearance of free will, there yet seems to be helplessness in all aspects of life. And as to what man calls chance, there is much to be said against this idea too; for a deep insight into life will prove that what seems to be chance in reality is not chance at all; it only seems to be so, for illusion is the nature of life.
Every soul is, so to speak, continually making its way towards something, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. What a person does outwardly is an appearance of action, an action having no connection with his inner activity which is like a journey. Not everyone knows whither he is making his way, and yet everyone is making his way; whether it is towards the goal one desires, or whether it is towards quite the opposite goal which one has never desired, one does not know. But when the goal is realized on the physical plane, then a person becomes conscious and says, 'I have not worked for it, I have not created it, I have not deserved it, I have not earned it; how is it possible that it has come?' If it is an object which had been desired by him then perhaps he gives himself the credit for it; he tries to believe that he has made it in some way. And if it is not desirable then he wants to attribute it to someone else, or to suppose that for some reason or other it has happened like that. But in reality it is a destination at which one has arrived at the end of one's journey; one cannot say definitely that one has created it or made it or deserved it, or that it has happened by accident. What can be said is that one has journeyed towards it, either consciously or unconsciously, and has arrived at it. That is why in point of fact no one, whatever his experiences, has ever left the way towards his destined goal.
Nevertheless, what is most necessary is to connect the outward action with the inward journey, as the harmony of that journey will certainly prove to be a source of ease and comfort. It is this which is meant when it is said that one must have harmony within oneself; and once this harmony is established one begins to see the cause of all things much more clearly.
One might ask in what way harmony can be established between the inner journey and the outward action. What generally happens is that a person is so much absorbed in his outward action that his inner attitude becomes obscured from his view. And the first thing necessary is to remove that screen which hides the inner attitude from one's sight. Everyone is conscious of what he does, but not always conscious of his inner attitude; in other words everyone knows what he is doing, but not everyone necessarily knows where he is going.
No doubt the more one is conscious of one's action, the less it becomes. For although thought controls action, it only gives a rhythm, a balance to life. Compared with a person who is capable of running but does not know where he is going, the one who is walking slowly but knows where he is going is better off.
There are two distinct aspects of one's action: there is an action of the inner life and there is an action of the outer life, the inner being and the outer being. The outer being is our physical action and the inner action is our attitude. Both may be actions of free will, but in a certain way they both prove to be mechanical or automatic actions. The inner action has great power and influence upon the outer action. A person may be busy all day doing a certain thing, but at the same time, if his attitude is working against him he can never have success in his work. A person may deserve a great reward for his outer action, although he may not deserve it for his inner action; therefore if these two actions are contrary to one another, nothing constructive is done and the desired results are not attained. The true result, the result that is desirable, comes through harmony between these two activities.
There is another metaphysical side to this question. There are two kinds of experience in life: sensation and exaltation. Action is connected with sensation, and repose with exaltation. Both have their place in life, although our everyday pursuits and our interest cause us to become engrossed in what we call sensation. By sensation I mean every experience we have through the senses: looking at beautiful things, listening to music, enjoying line and color, smelling perfume, and experiencing life through touch – the softness, hardness, warmth, and coldness of objects. Our recreations, amusements, means of comfort and convenience, our sports and all activities from morning till evening are all connected with sensation. And that most important experience of all, exaltation, is left out. The only means of exaltation we know is by resting and sleeping; and we only rest and sleep because we cannot do any more. Many people would like not to rest at all if they could help it. Once a very busy friend of mine in New York told me he would be very glad if instead of twenty-four hours he had forty-eight hours in the day, because there was so much to do! Those who rest do not do it for the sake of resting, and it is the same with sleep: we do not call upon sleep; we cannot help it coming to us.
We never think about this most important subject in life: exaltation; and that is because sensation is movement, action, and that is what we prefer; whereas exaltation is lack of movement, lack of action. Sensation is created by a rhythm; it is rapidity of rhythm which brings about sensation. Exaltation is quite different; it means ease, repose, relaxation. One is not interested in it unless one knows what it brings about, yet all the prophets, teachers, and masters of every age have taught this art of relaxation, this art of repose, in different forms, whether in religious ceremonials, occult practices, or in the form of prayer or silence.