Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE MATURITY OF THE SOUL
THE MATURITY of the soul may be pictured as when a little girl, beginning to grow up, no longer gives the same importance and attention to her dolls: her sentiments and her desires have changed. It does not mean that she did not have love or sentiment before; she had those; but with maturity her consciousness developed, and the result of that development was that all the toys and dolls and the various things that she used to pay so much attention to, did not matter any more.
This maturity does not depend upon a certain age, but it does depend upon certain surroundings; it is just like a fruit which ripens when put in a warm place. Environment helps the maturing of the soul; nevertheless the ideal is that the fruit should ripen on the tree, for that is the place for fruit to ripen. All the different attempts to make the soul ripen may help, though it is like fruit no longer on the tree but put in some warm place.
There are people who think that by renouncing the world one will arrive at the maturity of the soul. There are others who think it can be achieved by inflicting all kinds of torments and suffering upon oneself. Often people have asked me if some kind of suffering, some kind of torture, would help to mature their soul. I told them that if they wanted to torture themselves I could tell them a thousand ways, or they might themselves think of a thousand things, but that as far as I knew there was no necessity. If one wants to torture oneself for the sake of torture one may do so, but not for spiritual perfection.
As fruit ripens in the course of nature, so it is in the course of nature that the soul should mature; and it is no use being disappointed or disheartened about ourselves and about those near and dear to us, worrying because our husband, wife, father, or mother does not look at spiritual matters in the same way as we do. In the first place no man, however wise or pious, has the right to judge another soul. Who knows what is hidden behind every action, appearance, speech, and manner? No one. And when a person begins to know what is hidden in the human soul, in spite of all deluding appearances he will have respect, a respect for mankind, as he realizes that in the depth of every soul is He whom one worships.
No one knows what is a person's inner religion, his inner conception. And one will find many true souls whose heart is enclosed in a kind of hard shell, and no one knows that the very essence of God is in their heart, as the outer shell is so hard that no one can understand it. That is why a Sufi from Persia said, 'I went among the pious and the godly and was so often deceived; and I went among those who were looked down upon by others and among them I found real souls.' It is easy to blame, it is easy to look down upon someone, but it is difficult really to know how deep someone's soul is.
No doubt there are signs of maturity, but who knows them, and how does one recognize them? The signs of maturity are like the subtlety one sees between youthful lovers. For the soul to mature a passion must have awakened it, a passion for the incomprehensible, for that which is the longing of every soul.
Life on earth is just like Gulliver's travels, where all the people seem to belong to a different world, to be of a different size. Before the traveler there are numberless little children, and before him there appear many drunken people, drunken souls. There is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad that there will appear in the hereafter, on the Day of Judgment, a being in the form of a witch, and man will be frightened at the sight of this witch and will cry out, 'O Lord, what a horrible sight is this! Who is this?' And he will receive the answer from the angels, 'This is the same world, the world which attracted you throughout your life, which you have worshipped, adored, and esteemed as most valuable, and which was all you desired. This is the same world that is before you.' All people's desires, whether they concern wealth, rank, possession, position, honor, or pleasure, all these fade away with the maturity of the soul. All claims to love such as 'I am your brother, or your sister, or your son, or your daughter', mean very little to the mature soul. A mature soul does not need to wait for the day in the hereafter when he sees the world in the form of a witch; he sees it now. No sooner has the soul matured than he sees the unreality of the world which man has always considered real, and all such words that one uses in everyday language become meaningless.
All distinctions and differences, such as sect and creed and community, mean little to the soul who has awakened. The experience of the mature soul is like the experience of the man who watched a play performed on the stage at night, and in the morning he saw the same stage in the sun and saw that all the palaces and gardens and the actors' costumes were unreal.
When a soul has arrived at this stage, at this maturity, what happens? It is the same as when a person grows up: he takes either the right way or the wrong way. His reaction to this realization of life has three aspects. One reaction is that in answer to every claim of love and attention and respect, he says, 'O, no! I don't believe you, I have had enough. I understand what your claims are. I don't belong to you. I won't listen!' About that which attracts him he thinks, 'You are a temptation. Go away, leave me. I want to be alone. I know what you are.' And by this he becomes more and more indifferent to the world, and isolated in the crowd. He feels solitary; he goes to the cave in the mountain or into the forest; he retires from the world and lives the life of an ascetic, at war with the world although at peace with God.
There is another aspect of this reaction, and it is that a man who understands the reality of all things becomes more sympathetic to his fellow men. It is this man who out of sympathy sacrifices his love for solitude, his love for being exclusive, and goes into the crowd among those who do not understand him, continually trying to understand them from morning till evening. And the more he advances on this path the more he develops love. He mourns over the unreality, over the falsehood of life, but at the same time he is there, he is in the midst of it. His work is to help those who may be disappointed at the results of all the little expectations they had of their love and devotion. For such people every disappointment, every heartbreak is a surprise, a shock, something that suddenly comes upon them, while for him it is normal, it is the nature of life. He stands beside the disappointed ones, he comforts them, he strengthens them. In the realm of religion for instance, if he happens to be among those who have a certain belief or dogma, he may be above it, but he will stand beside them in that particular belief or dogma; he does not consider that he is different or above them. If he happens to be in business, in some industry, in worldly affairs, although he does not aim at any profit he stands with the others in order to keep harmony. He will even sacrifice his life in this way, and he enjoys doing all things while caring nothing for them.
This is the manner of an actor on the stage. If he is made a king he is not very proud of his kingship; if he is made a servant he is not impressed by that, for he knows and understands in his king's robe or servant's livery, that he is neither a king nor a servant; he is himself. In reality it is such souls who come to save the world. They are like the elder brothers of humanity who help the younger. To them there is no feeling of position, title, or spiritual grade. They are one with all and they take part in the pain and joy of all.
But then there is a third reaction upon a soul, and that is the thought, 'If all that I touch, all that I see, and all that I perceive are unreal, I must find out as best I can what is the real.' Such a person is a warrior, for he has a battle before him to fight. And what is this battle? It is seeking after the truth. It is just like a person swimming, making his way: at every stroke he advances, at every effort he makes in going forward, the waves come to push him back; and in the same way life is a continual struggle for the seeker for truth.
Even in things that might seem to be covering the truth the seeker may be deluded. For there is a very important thing that he has to consider. Christ has said, 'I am the way and the truth...' This shows that there are two things: there is the way and there is the truth. The way may lead a person to the goal, but the way may also become like a maze to him. It shows how careful one has to be, that even through the way that seems to lead to the truth one may become puzzled. For in reality life is a maze, a continual puzzle, and it is for love of the puzzle that man goes into it; even a seeker after truth does so, as it is his nature to go into the maze first. If a knower of truth were to call a seeker and tell him, 'Here is the truth', he would say, 'This is something unheard of! Truth at the first step! How is it possible? It should be many years before I can arrive at it. One life is not sufficient, I must live a thousand lives in order to realize the truth!' But verily, for the lover of the puzzle, even a thousand lives are not enough. Besides every man is not ready to accept the bare truth; he is not accustomed to it. On hearing the truth he says, 'It is too simple, I want something which I cannot understand.'
In point of fact truth is simple; it is man who makes it difficult for himself. For all other aspects of knowledge he has to get from outside, but truth is something which is within man himself. It is something which is nearest to us though we imagine it to be farthest; it is something which is within, though we imagine it to be outside; it is knowledge itself we want to acquire. Thus the seeker is engaged in a continual struggle: struggle with himself, struggle with others, and struggle with life. And at the end of the journey he always finds that he has traveled because it was his destiny to travel, and he discovers that his starting-point is the same as his final goal.