In the attainment of the inner life there are five things
necessary. The first thing that is necessary is the mastery
of mind; and this is done by unlearning all that one has
learned. The inner knowledge is not gained by adding to
the knowledge one has already achieved in life, for it requires
a rock foundation. One cannot build a house of rocks on
a foundation of sand. In order to make the foundation on
rocks, one has to dig into the sand and build the foundation
on the rocks below. Very often therefore it becomes difficult
for an intellectual person, who through life has learned
things and understood them by the power of intellect, to
attain to the inner life. For these two paths are different:
the one goes to the north and the other goes to the south.
When a person says, 'I have now walked so many miles to
the south, shall I therefore reach sooner something that
exists in the north?' He must know that he will not reach
it sooner, but later, because as many hours as he has walked
to the south he must walk back in order to reach the north.
Therefore, it must be understood that: all man learns
and experiences in this life, in the world, all that he
calls learning or knowledge, is only used in the world where
he is learning, and bears the same relation to himself as
the eggshell does to the chick. But when he takes the path
to the inner life that learning and knowledge are of no
use to him. The more he is capable of forgetting that knowledge,
of unlearning it, the more capable he is of attaining the
object for which he treads the spiritual path. It has been
a great struggle for those learned and experienced in the
outer life, to think that after their great advancement
in worldly knowledge they have to go back again. Often they
cannot understand; many among them think it is strange,
and are therefore disappointed. It is like learning the
language of a certain country, when wanting to go into another
country where that language is not understood, nor the language
of the latter country understood by oneself. Just as there
is the North Pole and the South Pole, so there is the outward
and the inward life. The difference is still vaster, because
the gap between the inner life and the outer life is vaster
than the distance between the North Pole and South Pole.
The one who advances to the south is not getting nearer
to the north pole, but on the contrary he is going further
from it; in order to reach it he must turn right round.
However, it is not difficult for the soul that is an earnest
traveler on the path. It is only using the enthusiasm in
the opposite direction; to turn the enthusiasm one has for
learning something of the world into forgetting and unlearning
it, in order to learn something of the inner life.
Now the question is, how does one unlearn? Learning is
forming a knot in the mind. Whatever one learns from experience
or from a person, one makes a knot of it in the mind; and
there are as many knots found as there are things one has
learned. Unlearning is unraveling the knot; and it is as
hard to unlearn as it is to untie a knot. How much effort
it requires, how much patience it requires, to unravel when
one has made a knot and pulled it tight from both sides!
So it requires patience and effort to unravel the knots
in the mind. And what helps the process? The light of reason
working with full power unravels the mental knots. A knot
is a limited reason. When one unravels it, its limitation
is taken away, it is open. And when the mind becomes smooth
by unlearning and by digging out all impressions, of good
and bad, of right and wrong, then the ground of the heart
becomes as cultivated ground, just as the land does after
plowing. All the old stumps and roots and pebbles and rocks
are taken off, and it is made into ground which is now ready
for the sowing of the seed. But if there are rocks and stones
and bricks still scattered there, and still some of the
old roots lying there, then it is difficult for the seed
to be sown; the ground is not in the condition the farmer
wishes it to be.
The next thing in the attainment of the inner life is
to seek a spiritual guide, someone whom a man can absolutely
trust and have every confidence in; someone to who he can
look up, and with whom he is in sympathy, which would culminate
in what is called devotion. And if once he has found someone
in life whom he considers his Guru, his Murshid, his guide,
then to give to him all confidence, so that not a thing
is kept back. If there is something kept back, then what
is given might just as well be taken away, because everything
must be done fully, either have confidence or not have confidence,
either have trust or no trust. On this path of perfection
all things must be done fully.
Now there are the particular ways of the guide, which
depend upon his temperament and upon his discrimination
in finding for everyone who is being guided a special way.
He may lead them to their destination by the royal road,
or through the streets and lanes; down to the sea or through
the town, by land or by water; the way that to him seems
the best under certain circumstances.
The third thing necessary for spiritual attainment is
the receiving of knowledge. This being the knowledge of
the inner world, it cannot be compared with the knowledge
one has learned before. That is why it is necessary to unlearn
the former. Man cannot adjust what he receives in this path
to the ideas which he has held before; the two things cannot
go together. Therefore there are three stages of receiving
knowledge which the one being guided has to go through.
The first stage is the receiving of the knowledge, when
he does nothing but receive. The next stage is the period
after this; and that stage is the assimilating of what has
been learned. Man thinks upon it, he ponders upon it, in
order that it may remain in his mind. It is just like eating
food and then assimilating it. The third stage is the reasoning
it out by oneself. Man does not reason it out as soon as
he has received it; if he did, he would lose the whole thing.
Because it is like a person who has learned A and B and
C at one stage, and then would ask how about words that
did not begin with those letters. He would reason it out
much sooner than he ought, for he has not yet learned the
other letters. There is a time which must necessarily be
given to receiving, as one gives time to eating. While one
is eating one does not run about in the street in order
to assimilate the food. After a person has finished his
dinner, then he does everything possible to help digest
it. Assimilating is clearly understanding, feeling and memorizing
knowledge within oneself; not only that, but waiting until
its benefit and its illumination come as a result of achievement.
The third part, then, to the receiving of knowledge is
reasoning, to reason it through: why was it like that? What
benefit has come to me from it? How can it be made practicable
in life? How can it benefit myself and others? That is the
third stage. If these stages are confused, then the whole
process becomes confused, and one cannot get that benefit
for which one treads the spiritual path.
The fourth grade of attainment of the inner life is meditation.
If one has unlearned all that one has learned, if one has
a teacher, and if one has received the knowledge of the
inner life, still meditation is a thing which is most necessary,
which in the Sufi words is called Ryazat. In the
first place meditation is done mechanically, at an hour
which one has fixed upon as the hour for devotion or concentration.
The next step is to think of that idea of meditation at
other times during the day. And the third stage is continuing
meditation throughout the day and night. Then one has attained
to the right meditation. If a person does meditation only
for fifteen minutes in the evening and then forgets altogether
about it all day, he does the same thing as going to church
on Sunday and the other days of the week forgetting all
Intellectual training no doubt has its use in the achievement
of the inner life, but the principal thing is meditation.
That is the real training. The study of one year and the
meditation of one day are equal. By this meditation is meant
the right kind of meditation. If a person closes his eyes
and sits doing nothing, he may just as well go to sleep.
Meditation is not only an exercise to be practiced; in meditation
the soul is charged with new light and life, with inspiration
and vigor; in meditation there is every kind of blessing.
Some become tired of meditation, but that does not mean
that they meditate, they become tired before having arrived
at a stage where they really experience the effect of meditation,
like those who become weary of practicing the violin. They
are tired because they have not yet played the violin; if
once they played, they would never be weary. The difficulty
is in playing the violin, and the difficulty is having patience
with one's own playing.
Patience is required in meditation; a person gets tired
because he is accustomed to activity throughout the day.
His nerves are all inclined to go on and on in that activity
which is not really for his benefit. Yet, it is giving him
the inclination to go on; and when he sits with his eyes
closed he feels uncomfortable, for the mind which has been
active all day becomes restive, just like a horse after
having had a long run. Then if you want that horse to stand
still, it is restive. It cannot stand still, because every
nerve has been active, and it becomes almost impossible
to keep that horse still.
And so it is with man. Once I was with a man who was
in the habit of meditating, and while we were sitting near
the fire and talking about things he went into the silence,
and I had to sit quiet until he opened his eyes. I asked
him, 'It is beautiful, is it not?' and he said, 'It is never
enough.' Those who experience the joy of meditation, for
them there is nothing in this world which is more interesting
and enjoyable. They experience the inner peace and the joy
that cannot be explained in words; they touch perfection,
or the spirit of light, of life and of love, all is there.
The fifth necessity in the spiritual path is the loving
of the everyday life. There are no strict morals which a
spiritual guide enforces upon a person, for that work has
been given to the outward religions. It is to the exoteric
side of spiritual work that the outer morals belong, but
the essence of morals is practiced by those treading the
spiritual path. Their first moral principle is constantly
to avoid hurting the feeling of another. The second principle
is to avoid allowing themselves to be affected by the constantly
jarring influences which every soul has to meet in life.
The third principle is to keep their balance under all different
situations and conditions which upset this tranquil state
of mind. The fourth principle is to love unceasingly all
those who deserve love, and to give to the undeserving their
forgiveness; and this is continually practiced by them.
The fifth principle is detachment amidst the crowd; but
by detachment I do not mean separation. By detachment is
only meant rising above those bondages which bind man and
keep him back from his journey towards the goal.
checked 18-Oct-2005 rev 8-May-2019