IN RELIGIOUS terms one makes use of pairs of opposites
such as God and devil, heaven and hell, sin and virtue.
Man who begins to acquire knowledge by learning through
pairs of opposites cannot at once rise to that pitch where
he comprehends life without them. In one way it is not correct,
it is not right to conceive God who is all-powerful together
with the conception of another personality, an opposite
power, calling it devil. On the other hand it would puzzle
a believer in God, who considers God all good and all beautiful,
when he knew that also all that is bad or evil is contained
in God. Besides, a devotee, a worshipper of God, whose object
is to raise by devotion and worship his ideal of God as
high as he can, is hindered in his effort by being made
to see that all that he considers wicked and ugly also belongs
to God's part. On the other hand one has diminished God,
making Him limited, producing before Him a power which –
if not equal – exists as a power opposite to God.
No doubt whichever method the wise of the world have
taken to guide humanity, whether with the limited idea of
God opposed by another power, Satan, or with the other idea
that God is all powerful, the only Being, it has always
been wisdom's work to bring man to that pitch where he can
understand life more perfectly. No doubt when we give a
place to a power for wrong, for evil, when we picture it
as a personality and call it a devil, we certainly limit
the power of the One whom we always call almighty. Nevertheless,
it is picturesque, it is more comprehensible and tangible
to believe in the God of good and in the Lord of evil.
As to the idea of what is called heaven and hell – for
our comprehension these are two places: one where a person
is punished, the other where he is exalted, where he is
happy, where he is rewarded. This idea is clear, but where
do we experience all unhappiness and sorrow and discomfort,
and where do we experience all pleasure and happiness and
joy? Is it not on the same earth? It is under the same sun.
This explains to us that those two places were shown to
us as different because we are capable only of seeing them
as two different places. The wise of the world, at any time
of the world's civilization, could not do better than to
make the subtle ideas of life as simple and comprehensible
to man as possible.
For instance, if I were to say that the world of thought
and the world of action are different, it would be true.
Yet it is the same world in which we live – call it the
world of thought – and the very world in which we live is
the world of action. It is not only how it is said, but
it is also how we look at it. What is said is not wrong
but, if we look wrongly at it, it can be wrong. It is not
disbelieving in things which is wrong, but believing wrongly
is even worse than disbelief: it is the understanding of
all things from every point of view which enlightens, not
refusing to believe them or to believe them simply. Cannot
one's own mind be turned from hell to heaven and from heaven
to hell? Cannot one's own life's situation be turned from
hell to heaven and from heaven to hell? It is here where
one sees the difference and at the same time the oneness
of the two.
Now we come to what people call sin and virtue. In all
ages they have pointed out, 'This particular thing is sin,
that particular thing is virtue'. Whenever the wise have
done it they have done it rightly, and yet they differ from
one another. If a greater light is thrown upon this subject
it is possible to view sin in the light of sin and also
to view sin in the light of virtue. Very often one can also
see that under the cover of virtue there was a sin, and
under the cover of sin there was a virtue.
When people came to Christ accusing a person of wrongdoing
the Master did not think of anything else but forgiveness,
for he did not see in that person what the others saw. Looking
at right and wrong is not the work of an ordinary mind,
and it is amusing that the more ignorant a person, the more
ready he is to distinguish between right and wrong. Very
often it is the angle from which we view a thing that makes
it right or wrong, and therefore the very thing that we
would call wrong, if we were able to see it from different
angles, we would call right at the same time.
When people say that they distinguish between right and
wrong by their results, even then they cannot be sure if
in the punishment there was not a reward, or in the reward
a punishment. What does this show us? It shows us that life
is a puzzle of duality. The pairs of opposites keep us in
an illusion and make us think, 'This is this, and that is
that'. At the same time by throwing a greater light upon
things we shall find in the end that they are quite different
from what we had thought.
Seeing the nature and character of life the Sufi says
that it is not very important to distinguish between two
opposites. What is most important is to recognize that One
which is hiding behind it all. Naturally after realizing
life the Sufi climbs the ladder which leads him to unity,
to the idea of unity which comes through the synthesis of
life, by seeing One in all things, in all beings.
You may believe that the world has evolved, that humanity
has always evolved, or you may believe that it has gone
up and then down, going round and round in circles, or whatever
may be your belief. But in whatever age the wise were born,
they have always believed the same: that behind all is oneness,
and in the understanding of that oneness is wisdom. A person
who awakens to the spirit of unity, a person who sees the
oneness behind all things – his point of view becomes different
and his attitude therefore changes. He no longer says to
his friend, 'I love you because you are my friend'; he says,
'I love you because you are myself'. He says, as a mystic
would say, 'Whether you have done wrong or whether I have
done wrong, it does not matter. What is wanted is to right
Question: If I have well understood your philosophy
and idea of religion it seems to me that it starts from
doubt, not making a distinction between good and evil, sin
and virtue, justice and injustice. Do you seek to establish
a triangle system on which you seek to find the center of
Answer: Yes, you are quite right, but I do not
mean that we start by not distinguishing between the two.
We do not need to start by it, because life starts by distinguishing
between the two; life starts us in this way. If we did not
distinguish between the two and we arrived at that conception
of unity of which I have spoken, we would be missing a great
deal in life. It is after distinguishing these that, without
becoming congested, we may come to the idea of unity which
raises us above it all. For instance, when a person says,
'I will not look at the fault of another' and closes his
eyes, he has missed a great deal. But the one who has seen
it and risen above it has really closed his eyes; he is
the person who deserves to close his eyes from the other
The purpose of our life on earth is to come and see all
the distinctions and all the differences, but not to be
congested by them and so to be thrown downwards. We should
go on rising above them all, at the same time experiencing
them all. For instance a man may say, 'I have never thought
about anyone who has done me any good, and I have never
considered any harm that has ever come to me from anyone;
I have always had just that one idea before me and after
that idea I kept going'. He may be advanced, he may be spiritual,
he may be pious, and yet he has missed a great deal. But
the one who has received all the good that has come to him
with grateful thanks and felt it, and who has also felt
the harm done to him and forgiven and pardoned it, he is
the one who has seen the world and is going beyond with
Question: What do you mean exactly by the idea
Answer: Everything in the world can be defined
except one, and that is the idea of God. If it could be
defined it could not be the idea of God – and that is God.
Because God is greater than His name and higher than our
comprehension of Him. It is our fault to call Him God, but
if we would not call Him God then what would we call Him?
By giving a name to the nameless, by making a conception
of Someone who is beyond conception we only make Him limited.
At the same time when we would not do it, we would not do
what we ought to do. The idea is that in order to respect
a great man we ought to have a conception of greatness,
and this conception is not that person, it is the idea we
have made of that person.
If there are twenty admirers of a great personality each
one of them has his own conception of that personality,
I might say that each one of the twenty has his special
great person. Therefore there are twenty great personalities
instead of one, and only the one name makes the twenty persons
unite in it. If the Hindus have said, 'So many men, so many
Gods', it was not an exaggeration; it expressed only the
idea that every man has his God in his conception, and each
one – if he can ever express it – can best express his own
conception of God. It is necessary first to have a conception
of God in order to reach that stage where comes a realization
of Him. If a person does not have a conception of God he
cannot have the realization of Him. I mean to say: fuller
realization of Him. If a person does not think a personality
great, he will not see into the greatness of that personality;
he must first have the conception that in him there is something
great. In other words we first make our God before we come
to the realization of Him.
Question: What do you mean by 'God has no opposite'?
Answer: There is the sun and there is the moon,
there is man and woman, there is night and there is day.
The colors are distinguished by their variety and so are
the forms. Therefore to distinguish anything there must
be its opposite; where there is no opposite we cannot distinguish.
There must be health in order to distinguish illness; if
there were no health and only illness then it would not
have been illness.
Furthermore in ancient times many have tried to help
the imagination of the God-seekers by giving them a belief
in a Satan: that God is all goodness and Satan all badness.
It was to answer those who could not understand better.
In reality badness is only the shadow of goodness; as shadow
is nonexistent, so evil is non-existent. There is always
going forwards. What is left behind – that is less good;
what we gain in the journey forwards – that is more good.
When we compare them then we call one thing evil and
the other good. Therefore people have called the devil all
evil, to whom one should turn one's back, and God all goodness,
to whom one should turn one's face. It was a convenient
method to teach the people of those times. In reality God
has no comparison. No doubt God can be compared if we make
God good, as many do. But if we have a wider conception
of God we cannot confine God to what we call goodness. What
is our idea of goodness? It is very small. Perhaps it is
good for us, but it is not something to judge God with.
God is not kind only to a few, to those who are good.
We can see that He sends the rain to all the trees and plants,
not to a few only; the sun shines upon all, all are given
food – because His kindness is perfect.
Question: How could the almighty God allow so
much bloodshed in the recent war?
Answer: The answer to this question is that nothing
that gives pain and causes harm through life is from God.
It comes from the limited, not from the unlimited. In essence
it is God power which is working through all powers, but
when analyzed it is the power called Qadr working
through human beings which has been wasted through these
wars causing so much bloodshed and disturbance in the whole
cosmos and disharmony in all spheres on this planet.
God is not to be blamed for this. It is we human beings
who are at fault; instead of seeking the pleasure of God
we have sought our own pleasures. It is beyond the power
of man to judge the actions of God from his own moral standard
and from his limited point of view. A just person will certainly
accept the fact that it takes a long time and much practice
to develop the sense of justice which after a great many
tests and trials makes man just, and it is not the man who
is ready to weigh and measure the action of his fellow man
and to form an opinion who is really just. No man with any
sense may dare try to trace the cause of war to the divine
Spirit of God, when the whole life on earth is laid before
us like an open book wherein we can read distinctly its
Question: As evil cannot come out of good, how
came the wickedness and miseries of humanity?
Answer: The miseries and wickedness of humanity
did not come from good, but good came out of wickedness
and miseries. If it was not for wickedness and miseries
and wrong we would not have appreciated what good and right
means. It is these two opposite poles which make us distinguish
between the two. If there had been just one thing, we would
have called it goodness or wickedness, but it would have
been just one. Calling it by two different names helps us
to distinguish them.
Many have been cross with God for having sent any misery
in their lives – but we always get such experiences! Becoming
cross one says, 'Why, this is not just', or 'This is not
right', and 'How could God who is just and good allow unjust
things to happen?' But our sight is so limited that our
conception of right and wrong and good and evil is only
for us – not according to God's plan. It is true that, as
long as we see it as such, it is so for us and for those
who look at it from our point of view, but when it comes
to God the whole dimension is changed, the whole point of
view is changed.
It is therefore that the wise in all ages, instead of
trying to judge the actions of God, have so to speak put
aside their sense of justice for the time being and have
learned only one thing, and that was resignation to the
will of God. By doing this they have come to an understanding
which was the greatest blessing in their lives: that they
could see from the point of view of God. But if they would
express that point of view before the world, the world would
call them mad. Therefore they have called themselves Muni,
which means the people who keep silent.
Question: Why do people who do evil, who do wrong,
succeed, while there are people who do right without ever
Answer: That is not a rule. The rule is that the
one who succeeds through wrong will only succeed through
wrong; by doing right he will fail. The one who succeeds
by right will always succeed by doing right; if he does
wrong he will fail. Furthermore for him who ascends, all
– right and wrong – becomes as steps to ascend and for him
who descends, all – good or evil – becomes a step to descend.
Yet what is consoling is that this takes one to the ideal:
there must be an ideal before one in order to ascend; then
even one's error will help.
For instance, when a person is to be cured, both taking
medicine and not taking medicine will help him towards his
cure. And the one who is not meant to be cured, neither
medicine nor its absence will help him. It teaches us to
find out what we are seeking, what is our ideal. Do we ascend?
How do we descend? A picture of this is a person who is
climbing a staircase. If he is going upwards and his foot
slips, even then he will go upwards because he is bound
to go upwards. The one who is going downwards, if he slips,
will go down because he is bound to go down. There is no
man in this world who can say, 'I am faultless' Does this
mean that he is not destined to reach what he is bound to
It is a great pity if a person does right or good because
he wants to progress or to become spiritual, for what is
goodness after all? It is a very small price to pay for
spirituality. And the man who depends upon his goodness
to attain spirituality may just as well wait a thousand
years, for it is just like the picture of a man who is collecting
all the sand he can to make a hill in order to mount to
heaven. If one is not good for the love of goodness, if
one does not do right for one's love of justice, for one's
own satisfaction, there is no meaning in doing right, there
is no virtue in doing good.
To be spiritual is to become nothing; to become good
is to become something. To be something is like being nothing,
but to be nothing is like being all things. It is this claim
of being something which hinders the natural perfection.
Self effacement is a return to the Garden of Eden.
Question: Is there no risk that a person endeavoring
to become selfless will become a prey to all the conditions
Answer: On the contrary, for all strength and
wisdom lies in perfection. The absence of perfection is
the tragedy of life. The person who holds on to himself
is a burden even to the earth. The earth can easily bear
mountains upon its back, but the person who is egoistic
is heavier. And what happens in the end? His own soul cannot
bear that person, and that is why many commit suicide. The
claim of the self has become so heavy upon the soul that
the soul wants to depart from it. A hint was given by Jesus
Christ when he said, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit'. What
does poor in spirit mean? It means the ego that is effaced.