The Supplementary Papers
The Aim of Life (1)
This is the question that everyone asks, as soon as the intelligence develops, "Why am I here? What is the object of my life?" Every being has a different idea of what is the aim of life. Some think that the aim of life is to be virtuous and by the practice of virtue to be happy. But then, what is virtue? That which may seem to us very virtuous may not seem virtuous to others. What in one case is virtue, in another case may be sin. What seems outwardly very virtuous, inwardly may be very different.
If someone is sitting with a rosary on the steps of a sanctuary, the world will say, "He is very virtuous." If another is walking in the slums, or sitting in the cafes, he may be inwardly very virtuous, but from the mere fact of his walking in the slums, the world will never say that he is virtuous. There are the lovers of God, and there are the sellers of God. If there is one with a rosary and a long beard, sitting in the shrine, all the world will go to him, a holy being. He makes a show, a trade, of his piety. And there are the lovers of God. They do not make any profession of love of God. "Inwardly be a friend and outwardly it does not matter." This manner is little found in the world.
We see that the lovers in the beginning of their love, hide their love. She does not take his name before others. He does not take her name before others. How much more will he who begins to love God hide his love from others. He does not speak the name of God. Some think that the aim of life is power. But we see that some desire power and others do not at all desire it. It is impossible that the aim of God, of Life, should be that which is not desired by some. And, if power were the aim of life, the most powerful should be always happy. The tiger, the lion are the most powerful animals. If we go in the jungle where the tigers are, we see that the tiger is always restless, always moving up and down. His power is so great that it leaves him no rest. If we go amongst the lambs, who are weak, innocent, helpless, we see that the lambs are playing. One lamb never wants to fight with another. If you frighten it, it hangs its head, it hides itself. If you feed it, it comes at once and eats, it trusts you.
When it sleeps, it sleeps quietly. In the jungle where the tiger and the lion are, all night long there is roaring. The tiger will not let another tiger be near him. If another tiger comes, they will fight until one is killed and one is left. By day, if you go near them, you will see that the breath is always coming and going quickly. The breath that makes others quiet and calm, gives him no rest. He has no peace, no calm, no rest. Go to the tigers cage and see.
If power were the aim of life, the most powerful nations should be the happiest. Is this so? Some think that pleasure is the aim of life, to eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow we die. This is every person's idea when he finished his school education. "Let us be gay and merry, for tomorrow we may be dead." But he can never be satisfied. If today we go to a cafe, tomorrow we want to go to a much grander restaurant. If today we go in the bus, tomorrow we want a motorcar of our own. We want all the theaters, all the restaurants, to amuse ourselves in. And who has the health for all this enjoyment, or his pocket always full? The kings, the rich people, fail. How short a time the pleasure lasts. It is not possible that something so short, so imperfect, should be the aim of God.
Turning now to the traditions, we find that the Quran says, "Know thyself and know God ", and another Sura, "Know God in nature." But in nature we find nothing perfect, nothing that we can call God, no perfect man, no perfect woman. If he is very learned, he is not brave. If he is very brave, he knows nothing. If he has great imagination, he will not know how many pence there are in a shilling, and he is defective in this way. If she is beautiful, she has no intelligence or learning. If she has learning, she has no beauty. If she has a very great personality, she has no intelligence. If she has much intelligence, she has no charm of personality.
In what nature, then, can we see God? In your nature, in the ego, in the self. How can we see God in the ego? If, leaving the tradition, we see with our scientific view, we see that this self consists first of all, of flesh and blood, bones and skin and the breath that keeps all together. The breath is the life. When the breath is gone out of the body, the life is gone. The breath has formed the body.
And what is the breath? The breath is the sound. When it is heavy, it is a sound that our ears can hear. When it is light, it is a fine sound that our ears cannot hear. When a person is fast asleep, we hear the snoring, the breath. If you go near a horse or a cow and listen attentively, after a little while you will hear a fine sound, the breath. This shows us that the breath is the sound and that by the sound all has become. This is why by the Hindus it is called Nada Brahma, the sound God. In the Quran it is said, "kun fa yakun ", "Be, and it became."
But besides the breath if we look into ourselves, we see that there is something else. There is something that witnesses the breath. That is the consciousness which, in its individual aspect, we call soul. Then a person knows through his intellect that he is an invisible being. Then he says to his soul, "You have been so long deluded by this body. You have thought that you are the body. You are not. You are an invisible being."
But then the thought comes, "Perhaps I am not an invisible being. Perhaps it is an imagination. If I were an invisible being I could go to Russia, I could go to New York. I cannot go to Russia or New York, I must take the steamer and the train. If I want news, I must send a telegram." This is the perfection of which the Gospel speaks. "Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect", means this: that the spirit is conscious of the body, and the body is conscious of the spirit. When this is so, then man is perfect. The soul gives him everlasting life, the body becomes the means of experience for him. But men are either conscious of the body only or if they are conscious of the spirit they are conscious of the spirit only.
How to become conscious of the spirit? Our great Sufi poetess, Zebunnisa, says, "Thou art a drop in the ocean. But if thou wilt hold the thought of the ocean, thou wilt be the same." If we are conscious only of our self, we are like the animal, seeking all for ourselves, taking all for ourselves. There are some who are conscious of their little group, or of their family. Their family, their little group adores them. There are some who are conscious of their nation. Their nation adores them. Their nation's welfare is their welfare, their nation's downfall is their downfall. Some, the Masters, have the whole humanity always before their eyes. They are conscious of the whole humanity. They think, "If I have not eaten, but my brother has eaten, it is all right. It I have had nothing, but my brother has had, it is all right." By the consciousness of the whole, the soul gains its freedom. It is not bound to any place or any condition. The more we open ourselves, the more we fulfill the aim of life.
I myself have known in Hyderabad a judge, who was sitting all day in the law-courts, and at luncheon heard a boy singing in the street. In India the boys are very fond of singing in the street. The boy was singing a very vulgar song. The judge sent for the boy and made him sing the song. He made him sing it a second time, and then a third time, and again and again, a great many times. The song was a very common song. The words were not made by a poet, and the music was not made by a musician. It was a lover singing to a girl, "You look at me as if you would eat me up," a very vulgar expression. The judge saw all day how in the world each one tries to devour the other, to get the best of him, and the song moved him so much that from that day he took a life of retirement. He gave everything away, and became a dervish.
So that the judge interpreted that the world, the girl, looks at him as if it will eat him up. That means, the attractions and temptations of the world are such that finish a person's life before he could awake to realize the truth of his life. But this is not the true aim of life. The aim of life is liberation. That illumination only is important. That only is worthwhile. The time of life, all the effort should be given for that, to realize, to recognize God Who is within.
A Hindu poet, Hali, says, "O eyes longing to see God, look within, the God Whom you worship everywhere is within." That means, the eyes should be turned inward, to see God within ourselves. Man's aim should be to recognize that God, and by realizing Him, be free. To realize his life, independent and immortal, free from death and decay, free from the troubles and cares and sorrows of the world.
The Aim of Life (2)
Life itself directs man towards its aim, and it is man's fault when he cannot realize his life's aim. It is a confusion that arises on the awakening of the soul after man is born on this earth, by seeing the world of variety. He becomes puzzled and cannot make up his mind towards a certain direction with certainty, thinking that that is the right path for his journey. Therefore from youth to age, very often, man keeps in this puzzle. He sometimes thinks that the spiritual path is his path, sometimes that the commercial path is his path, sometimes the political, sometimes one, sometimes another. But at the same time this is not the fault of life or of that guiding spirit which is constantly guiding. In reality in the cradle and as an infant man begins to be shown his path in life, the way is shown in childhood. Confusion arises as man grows up, by his becoming attracted by various things in life, and then he does not know what is what, what is right, what wrong.
No doubt the first impression the world gives is the impression of falsehood. The child opens his eyes in truthfulness, and the first impression is that of falsehood. That confuses him, and he begins to take the course of denying even what is right and is against every religious truth. This is the revolt not of one person but of thousands and millions. The child denies, because the first impression is that of falsehood. He grows up in it and does not know what is right and what wrong, and sometimes this confusion lasts till the end of life.
On this subject, of distinguishing what is the object of a person's life, Sadi has a very instructive verse: "Every soul that comes on earth comes with a light already kindled in him for his work on earth", and if he does not know it, it is the fault of the world that surrounds him, not the fault of nature and the spirit.
If you inquire into the greatest and worst tragedy in life you will find there is no greater tragedy than this. All the happiness, all the wealth, all that this world can give is all nothing. The soul is constantly striving to find its way, and when the soul finds its way closed, all that the world can offer is nothing. All this gives us an illusion – power, possession – we think that the person possessing these is blessed. But nothing the world can offer can suffice. What really suffices is the blessing of Heaven, that light by which man begins to see his path in life.
Before we judge the attitude of another person we must stop and think what right we have to judge whether he is going the right way or a wrong way. We can only judge ourselves as to whether we are going a right way or a wrong way, when we can see our own way before us. As Jesus Christ has said, "Judge not." According to the ideas of the Hindus there are four seeming objects toward which man generally feels attracted, feeling that this is his way: Dharm, Ardh, Karm, Moksha.
1) Dharm, duty. A person sometimes gives his whole life and all he has for someone he loves, a brother, a sister, mother, father, son or daughter, a prophet, teacher, inspirer, someone towards whom he considers he has a duty. For the nation, in war, he gives his life; that he considers his virtue. Perhaps the same way may be a right, desirable good and virtuous path for one, for another the same path is wrong. But has anyone the right to call the path of another wrong? However evolved a man may be, has he the right to judge the way of another? He cannot have the right to do so, for everyone has to solve his own puzzle in life.
2) Ardh, earth, all that the earth can offer, wealth, possessions, position or power, all that the world can give, a person works for it, strives for it. He thinks, "This is the wide way, the practical way, the other does not know the wise way, the right way!" And if we can see the other side, the greatest charities come from those who have worked in this way and then given. How can one judge and say that is not the right way. Perhaps that way by which one has risen to that position or wealth from which he commands for the generality of humanity cannot be called wrong.
3) The way of happiness, comfort, pleasure. A person who seeks after happiness, pleasure, comfort, very often thinks of others, for such a one at least understands about others' wants. One who is sleeping in the forest on stones does not know what the world wants, but that person who seeks for happiness can share his happiness with others. A person who is torturing himself cannot share happiness with others, because he is torturing himself. If we can see from this point of view, tolerance and forgiveness will arise in us towards all.
4) That to which all religious, pious people advance, Moksha. They strive for some reward, some happiness in a future life. They think, "If the life in this world is discouraging, if our devotion, our service cannot be of use here, in the hereafter there will be a reward." To whatever religion, to whatever faith they belong, so long as they are keeping to their path, no doubt they are accomplishing something, perhaps more than the person who is awaiting a reward tomorrow. Think of the patience they have and the good deeds they do. And while a person who does good and expects a reward here may leave the good path, on the contrary he who expects a reward hereafter keeps on his path.
The words of Christ, "Judge not," come to help us in probing the depth of this problem. The more insight we have the more we see that the paths are according to temperaments. One goes on one path, one on another, but all are going towards one goal. The goal is not different, the path is different. And those disputes and fights between people of different religions, each saying, "My path is right," how can that be right, how can that be the idea of Christ? As soon as we have judged a person we have broken, not only the teaching, but the life of Christ. He not only taught, he lived it. People with all different kinds of faults were brought to him, to all he showed tolerance and forgiveness. He said, "Call me not good."
The greatest responsibility we have in life is to find out our own path, our own object in life, instead of bothering about others. Suppose a person has a better object in life, if he happens to be our friend, we need not pull him back. If a person has what seems to be a worse object, let him have it, we need not pull him towards us. If it seems to us at the moment a wrong object, never mind, even from a wrong object, perhaps, he has his lesson to learn. We learn in life much by our faults and mistakes. If a person falls, he learns by his fall. If a person has thought of an object wrongly, if the object is followed sincerely, surely in the end he must arrive at the goal towards which the soul directs every individual.
One thing must be understood. It is that as a rule man shows childishness in his nature. That childishness is dependence. He wants another person to tell him what is his object in life, what is good. In the first place, another person has no right to tell him. And if, by chance, that person happens to be his father, mother, or teacher, then the first duty of that person must be to awaken in him the spirit of realizing what is his life's aim, instead of telling him. "This is your life's aim," for the soul is free. Jalaluddin Rumi says, "The soul is imprisoned in the mortal body, and its constant aim is to be free and to experience that liberty which is its very nature." And as long as a person in the position of a father, or mother, or teacher, or guardian has not understood this one principle, that every soul must be free to choose, he really does not understand how to help another.
Besides the childish nature there is another fault in human nature. It seems a natural fault, no doubt. Man generally does not know what is the matter with him. If you ask a physician he will tell you that out of a hundred patients hardly one knows what is the matter with him. They leave it to the physician to find it out, which is an impossible thing. No other person can know one's own want, pain, ambition, desire, one's constant longing. The work of one who helps, advises, guides another must be to make that person capable of knowing himself. A thorough physician will make that person capable of telling, of perceiving, of realizing what is really the matter with him. As long as man has not fully realized what is the matter he cannot be really helped.
And finally, what does this subject teach and suggest to us? That we must cultivate in ourselves that sense which can realize our need, our trouble, our work, our aim. No doubt the different objects, whether they be good or seem bad, are passing objects. The true object is the one object and goal of all souls, whether they be good or seem to be evil, whether they be wise or seem to be foolish, there is that inward longing and the soul's impulse towards the one single goal, the achievement of the spiritual ideal. A Hindu poet says, "There is nothing in the world which will satisfy you perfectly, although there are things which will satisfy you momentarily." Therefore the perfect satisfaction, or the final satisfaction, remains always dependent upon the spiritual ideal. And what does it matter by which name it is called, whether God or Bhagwan? He is the one Spirit, by Whom and in Whom we live and move.
And if we take that spiritual ideal as our recognized aim, that ideal will help us in all our wants and needs and all our troubles, and at the same time it is that ideal that will raise us from the denseness which at times keeps one bound. It does not matter by what way the soul is progressing, whether by devotion, by religion, or by another way, as long as that spiritual ideal is before us we have really that port before us to which all boats go, that peace, constant happiness, that Friend never separated, that Father, always a Father here and in the hereafter, that Mother, the Mother of all humanity, that Ideal of perfect beauty. And keeping that ideal before us, that in our heart that ideal may be reflected, is really the best method of accomplishing the real object of human life.
The Journey Towards the Goal
"Every being is from God and will return unto Him." This Sura of the Quran tells us the fact that for all, good and bad, wise and foolish, believers and unbelievers, pious and infidel, there is one goal in the end, that which has been the origin of all. You may call it God, consciousness or the first cause of all causes. Also the above Sura explains that the journey from the original source to the manifestation is as necessary as the return from manifestation to the origin. Either by an effort or without it the circle will be accomplished by both willing and unwilling, developed and undeveloped, the difference only lies in time, in sooner or later, which seems not different and yet it makes a vast difference.
The various aspects of the manner of reaching or attaining can be described as a person journeying on foot, or on horseback, or on a bicycle, or in a motor, or in the electric train, or in a balloon, or he may reach his destination in an airplane. There is no fixed period for the time of arriving, for some it needs but a moment of time for their upliftment, while for others a thousand such lives would not be sufficient. The speed of accomplishment depends alone on the proportion of one's illumination. Generally speaking there are five paths chosen by the seekers after truth: devotion, morality, wisdom, power and annihilation.
Although each one of them is equally important and necessary, yet the attainment of self-realization is necessary, and without self-realization they are not of great use for perfection. Of course one helps the other, the heartfelt devotion causes morality to spring forth in the nature, and the development of morals illuminates a person, making him wise and it is wisdom which gives unchallengeable power and it is that power which fights against delusions and conquers the mortal self.
This Sura explains that the original source, the true self of all the selves has journeyed through different planes in order to manifest in the universe, and its necessary re-action is the journey back towards the goal. Therefore man, beast bird, insect, all things and beings are attracted to Him. All are journeying toward the goal unconsciously, with the exception of man, and yet man has to go also without the knowledge of his journey for some time through life until he has found the true cause of his life's miseries. There is an innate yearning for something comforting, agreeable and beautiful, but at first man seeks the object to satisfy his yearning among the seeming objects on earth. This goes on until at each earthly attainment he experiences either a momentary satisfaction or a disappointment for certain. He then chooses the freedom from dependence upon the objects without and seeks the true object which always attracted and which was within himself.
God bless you.