Volume X - Sufi Mysticism
THE PROBLEM OF THE DAY
The Problem of the Day (1)
The hustle and bustle of life leaves a man very little time to think of his general condition. The only news he receives is from the newspapers, and so he depends upon the papers for his ideas; and the intoxication of life leaves him very little time to think about the real meaning of life. When he looks around him and considers the condition of the nations today, he finds that in spite of all the progress, there is an increase in ill-feeling between them. Friendship only exists for self-interest. A nation only thinks about its own interest whether it has to deal with friend or enemy. If one considers the world as a body, he can say that poison has been put into its heart, owing to the hatred which people feel towards one another.
No period like this can be traced in the history of the world; this age has accomplished a much greater destruction than ever before. It reminds one of a spider, which weaves a web for its own comfort but cannot get out of the web it has made for itself. And if one goes to the root of this subject one sees that all this disorder has been caused by the spirit of materialism. Money seems to be the only gain and the only aim. It is undeniable that when one is continually thinking of such a subject all one's thoughts and energy will go in that direction. Perhaps, in the end, man awakens and finds that all his life he has given his thoughts to something which does not last, which does not even exist, and which is only an illusion.
No doubt this pessimism is only the bridge from one optimism to another, and it may be said to be disinterestedness, or vairagya, as it is called in the Vedanta terms. It is not the man who leaves the world, who is great, but rather the one who lives in the world, understanding the difficulties and troubles that belong to humanity. It is he who sees not his little self, but the whole. Jesus Christ taught us to think of our fellow men, to love our fellow men. And what do we see today? Difficulties arising between masters and workmen; peace conferences where nothing can be decided concerning peace. And all this because the point of view which makes people say, 'I will do something for you and you will do something for me,' is absent. 'No,' says everyone, 'I will look after myself and you will look after yourself.' To serve one another, to love one another, to work for one another, should be the aim of life; but man has lost hold of this altogether.
Look at the central theme of education today. Only a short time is given to the child to prepare him for the kingliness of life and the freedom of the spirit. And as the child's intellect grows, every year more and more it sees the life before it like an ocean which it has to cross, like something dark awaiting it. And later when the child has become a man, he gives all his time to his work, to his office, and there is no time even for love or friendship; yet at the end he cannot take all these things with him. After sacrificing all his life to these things, what has he really gained? Through his external life in the world, the complications of life have only increased.
In spite of all the progress of modern civilization that has been made in all departments of life, such as commerce, industry, politics, and economics, the question still remains whether we have really progressed. If one observes the superficiality of the life which man lives today in the so-called civilized parts of the world, one will certainly find that he is far removed from nature both within and without, and he has become an exile from the ideal state of life. The more laws that are made, the more crimes are committed; the more mechanisms that are prepared, the more work increases, and yet little is being done; the more lawsuits that are brought in court, the more cases occur; the more physicians, the more diseases. Cupidity has come to the fore, so that whether one has an aristocratic or a democratic system, justice seems to be absent.
Also, in spite of the regard for the rights of women that have been established in this age, woman's responsibility in life has much increased. She has to fight her battle in the open field, which naturally exhausts her energy and courage, causing her to lose her inherently fine nature, as she has constantly to rub against the rough edges of life.
The prejudice, hatred, and distrust that exists between nations whether friends or foe, every nation being absorbed in its own interest regardless of the people in general, have reflected on the mentality of individuals and have made life difficult for both rich and poor. Everywhere one turns one sees material strife; every ideal, every principle has to be sacrificed to it. And yet no man can be deprived of his human inheritance – the treasure in himself which has to be found. Religion should have helped man, but the religious authorities have very often failed to uphold the inner qualities of their religion. The question is not what religion one follows, but how to live one's religion. When religion has lost its hold on the inner life and faith, there is nothing left. Many people, especially among the intellectuals, have lost their religion; and among the younger ones there are a good many who even dread the name of God.
What is needed today is an education that will teach humanity to feel the essence of its religion in everyday life. Man is not put upon this earth to be an angel. He need not be praying in church all day long, nor go into the wilderness. He needs only to better understand life. He must learn to set apart a certain time in the day to think about his own life and doings. He must ask himself, 'Have I done an honest deed today? Have I proved myself worthy in that place, in that capacity?' In this way, he can make his everyday life a prayer. Among politicians, doctors, lawyers, merchants it might be possible to have love as the battery behind every deed, every action, together with a sense of harmony behind all these activities.
We need today the religion of tolerance. In daily life we cannot all meet on the same ground, being so different, having such different capacities, states of evolution, and tasks. So if we had no tolerance, no desire to forgive, we could never bring harmony into our soul; for to live in the world is not easy and every moment of the day demands a victory. If there is anything to learn, it is tolerance; and by teaching this simple religion of tolerance to one another we are helping the world. It is no use to hold on to the idea that the world is going from bad to worse that the germs of disease will spread and bring greater calamities. Every man's being is good; in the depths of this heart there is something definitely good.
There are teachings about healing, but the best way is the way of character healing, healing one's own character. In this way instead of accomplishing miracles, one's whole life can become a miracle. The lack of religion today has created strange beliefs about communicating with ghosts or fairies, and things one does not and cannot understand; but all that has very little to do with religion. The Bible is full of simple things and one would be happy if one could accomplish one of them. There has been a great demand for knowledge and for occult powers, but with all his intellectuality what has man achieved beyond the destruction of his brother?
The need of the world today is not learning, but how to become considerate towards one another. To try and find out in what way happiness can be brought about, and in this way to realize that peace which is the longing of every soul. And to impart it to others, thereby attaining our life's goal, the sublimity of life.