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Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings


AS SOON as the soul touches the inner kingdom, which is the divine kingdom, its true nobility becomes manifest in the form of graciousness or Khulq as the Sufis call it. Kings and those belonging to aristocratic families were trained to be gracious, yet it is a quality born in the heart of man. This means that every soul shows the aristocratic manner from the moment it touches the inner kingdom. Thus true aristocracy is the nobility of the soul: when the soul begins to express in every feeling, thought, word, and action that graciousness which belongs to God Himself. Graciousness is quite different from a patronizing attitude, which is a wrong manner. A gracious person, before expressing that noble attribute, tries to hide himself even from his own eyes.

The reason why the great ones, the truly noble people, are gracious, is that they are more sensitive to all the hurt and harm that comes to them from those who are unripe and try therefore out of kindness to keep themselves from doing the same to someone else, however lowly his position.

There is a great truth in what Christ has said in the sermon on the mount, 'Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.' This will always prove true whatever be the age and whatever the evolution of the world. Whether it be a time of aristocracy, or whether it be a time of democracy, the value of that nobility of nature which is expressed in graciousness will always command its price. It is easy to use this word, but it is most difficult to practice it through life, for there is no end to the thought one has to give to every action in life in order to achieve it. It needs judgment and a sense of fairness, of weighing and measuring all one does; besides it needs a fine sense of art and beauty, for in perfecting the personality one attains to the highest degree of art. Verily, the making of the personality is the highest form of art there is. The Sufi considers the cultivation of human attributes, in which lies the fulfillment of the purpose of his life, as his religion.

A young man one day showed some impatience with his aged father, who could not hear very clearly any more and asked him two or three times to repeat what he had said. Seeing the irritated expression on his face, the father said, 'My son, do you remember that there was a day when you were a little child and you asked me what a certain bird was and I told you: a sparrow? You asked me perhaps fifty times, and I had the patience to repeat it to you again and again without being hurt or troubled about it; I was only pleased to tell you all I knew. Now when I can no longer hear so well, you can at least have patience with me and explain something twice if I did not hear you the first time.' What is needed most in order to learn that noble manner of life is patience, sometimes in the form of endurance, sometimes in the form of consideration, and sometimes in the form of forgiveness.

In dealing with people who lack education one should keep in mind that real civilization means progress. Those who are not educated should be educated to understand life better. There are only two possibilities: to go forward or to go backward. Either one will begin to think like those who are not educated, or one must help the one who is uneducated to advance; one must take the one who is uneducated gently by the hand and lead him towards more beautiful ideas.

Once in India I was staying near a Hindu temple, and there were two porters who took care of that temple. They were Afghans, proud and rough, and rigid in their behavior; yet in their expression there was honesty and goodness. Often I passed that way and every time they ignored my entering and leaving, lest they should have the trouble of observing the conventional politeness. One day one of them came to me with a message from his master. I got up from my seat and received him most cordially; and since that day, every time I passed I was very well received, with smiles and a very cordial welcome, and they ignored me no more. This happened because education was given to him without hurting his feelings, and as that gave him pleasure he thought he would return the politeness.

To force a virtue upon anyone is pride; to let him see the beauty of good manners is an education. We should consider it our sacred task to approach the people who need improving with such gentleness and with such a manner that culture and beauty are developed in them, which will then be shared by us both.