Volume I - The Way of Illumination
Section IV - The Purpose of Life
The desire for knowledge can be traced in all living beings, in the lower creation as well as in mankind. If one notices the movements of the birds and animals in the forest, one sees that besides seeking for their food, playing with their mates, protecting themselves from their enemy, they are also interested in every sensation that comes to them through their five senses. Sound, color, touch, scent, every sensation, has an effect upon them. One can trace in the animals the natural desire to know something, and it is this desire, which in human evolution can be recognized as curiosity. From childhood this tendency seems predominant, and the more a child shows this tendency, the more promising the child is, because that shows that the soul part of the child is so much more to the fore. Among grown up persons, what strikes us most in their personality is that brilliance of intelligence, apart from all their goodness and virtue. If this is such an important thing in life, it must achieve a most important result. And what is that achievement? It is the knowledge of the ultimate truth which fulfills the purpose of life.
A curious soul begins by trying to know everything that it sees, that it comes in contact with. What it wants to know first is the name of an object: what it is called, what it is for, what it is, what it is used for, how to use it, how it is made, how to make the best of a thing, how to profit by it to the utmost. This knowledge is what we call learning. The different divisions of learning, called by different names, are the classification of this knowledge, which one gains by study of the outside world. But life is so short and the field of this knowledge is so vast, that a person may go on and on studying. He may perhaps study one branch of knowledge, and he may find that even one life is not sufficient to be fully acquainted with that one particular branch of knowledge. And there is another person: he is not satisfied with only touching one branch of knowledge. He wants to touch many branches of knowledge. He may become acquainted, to a certain degree, with different aspects of knowledge. It may, perhaps make him, if he reaches somewhere, what may be called an all-round man. Yet that is not the thing which will fulfill the purpose of his life. Farabi, the great Arabian scientist in ancient times, claimed that he knew many sides of knowledge. But when it came to showing his equipment in the knowledge of music, he proved to be lacking in the essential part, which was not the theory of music but the practice of music.
But knowledge can be divided into two aspects: one aspect is the knowledge which we call learning. The other aspect is knowing. Learning comes from the reason: 'It is so, because of this or that,' that is knowledge. But there is a knowing which cannot be explained by 'because.' It can only be said that it is so. It cannot be anything else. The knowledge with its 'because' attached, is contradicted a thousand times over. One scientist, one inventor, one learned person has one argument. Another comes and he says, 'This is not what I think. I have found out the truth about it, which the one who looked before did not perceive rightly.' It has always been and will always be so with the outer knowledge. But with that knowing, which is the central knowledge there has never been a difference and there will never be. The saints, sages, seers, mystics, prophets of all ages, in whatever part of the world they were born, when they have touched this realm of knowing, have all agreed on this same one thing. It is, therefore, that they called it Truth.
It was not because this was the conception of one person, or the expression of another person, or the doctrine of a certain people, or the teaching of a certain religion. No, it was the knowledge of every knowing soul. And every soul whether in the past, present, or future, whenever it arrives at the stage when it knows, will realize the same thing. Therefore it is in that knowledge that there is to be found the fulfillment of the purpose of one's coming to the earth.
And now one may ask, 'What is that knowledge? How can one attain it?' The first condition is to separate this outer knowledge from the inner knowing. False and true, the two things cannot go together. It is in separating the real from the unreal. The knowledge gained from the outer world is the knowledge of the cover of all things, not of the spirit of all things. Therefore, that knowledge cannot be essential knowledge. It is not the knowledge of the spirit of all things. It is the knowledge of the cover of all things, which we study and call learning, and to it we give the greatest importance. One may say, 'What is one to do when the call of the intellectual reason for knowledge and learning is such that it threatens one's faith in the possibility of knowledge by the self? The answer is to go on, in that case, with the intellectual knowledge till one feels satisfied with it or tired of it. For one must not seek after food if one is not hungry. The food which is sought in absence of hunger will prove to be a poison. Great as it is, the knowledge of self, if there is not that natural desire raging like fire does not manifest.
One might ask, 'Then why should we not try to get to the bottom of all outside things. Shall we not by this way reach the same knowledge?' That is not possible. The easiest way and the possible way is to attain to the knowledge of the self. It is the after-effect of this attainment that will give one keen sight into outside things, into the spirit of outward things. The question is about oneself, the knowledge of oneself, what that knowledge is. Do we know ourselves? None of us, for one moment, will think that we do not know ourselves. That is the difficulty. Everyone says, 'I know myself better than I know anybody else. What is there to be learned in myself? Is it the anatomy of the body?' Yes, the first thing is to understand the construction of the body. That is the first lesson.
By the study of this one will find that there are five different aspects which constitute our physical body. The mystics, for convenience, call them earth, water, fire, air, and ether. But these must not be compared with the scientific terms; it is only for the convenience of the mystic. Then one will see the different senses the organs of the senses. Each sense represents one of these elements. And coming to the natural tendencies and needs of life, every action one does has a relation to one of these five elements. This study of the mechanism will make a person understand that something, which he always called himself, is nothing but a mechanism; a mechanism made of the five elements, the elements which are borrowed from the outer world. And he will find that his mind, which experiences through all organs of the senses, still remains aloof as a spectator who conceives and perceives the outside world through the mediumship of this mechanism which he calls his body. This knowledge will waken a deep thinker to the fact that he is not his body. Although, consciously or unconsciously, there is perhaps one among a million persons, who clearly realizes, 'My body is my instrument. I am not my body.' The one, who has come to realize, 'My body is my instrument,' is the controller of this prison. He is the engineer of this machinery.
And then there comes the next stage of knowing oneself, and that is to explore what one calls the mind. By a minute study of the mind, one will find that the different qualities such as reason, memory, thought, feeling, and the ego, all these five things constitute the mind. One will find that there is a surface to this and there is a depth to it. Its depth is the heart. Its surface is the mind. Each quality of mind represents one of these five elements. This again takes us to the thought that even the mind, which is above the physical body, is a mechanism. And the more one is acquainted with the mechanism, the more one is able to manage it to its best advantage. It is the ignorance of the secret of this mechanism that keeps man unaware of his own domain. This knowledge makes one think, 'I am neither my body nor am I my mind; I am the engineer who has these two possessions, these two machineries, to work with to the best advantage of life.' Then one begins to ask, 'What am I?' For to a certain degree, even the mind is a mechanism which is borrowed from the outer sphere, as the body is a mechanism, which has been borrowed from the physical plane, which has been gathered together and constructed. Therefore, neither mind nor body is the self. One thinks, 'It is myself,' only because one cannot see oneself. And so one says of everything one sees, 'This is myself.' The self becomes acquainted with everything but itself. So that mind, which the self has used, has become a kind of cover upon the light which fulfills the purpose of life.
When this is intellectually realized, although it does
not fulfill the purpose, it begins one's journey in the
search of truth. This must be realized by the process of
meditation, the process by which the self can separate itself
from the body and afterwards from mind. For the self, deluded
all through life, is not ready to understand, is not prepared
to understand truth. It rejects truth. It fights truth.
It is like the story, told in my Divan, that a lion once
saw a lion cub wandering through the wilderness with the
sheep. The lion was very surprised. Instead of running after
the sheep, he ran after this lion cub. And the little lion
was trembling and very frightened. The father lion said,
'Come, my son, with me. You are a lion.' 'No,' said the
cub. 'I tremble, I tremble, I am afraid of you. You are
different from my playmates. I want to run with them, play
with them. I want to be with them.' 'Come, my son, with
me,' said the lion, 'you are a little lion.' 'No,' said
the cub, 'no, I am not a lion. You are a lion. I am afraid
of you.' The lion said, 'I will not let you go. You must
come with me.' The lion took him to the shore of the lake
and said; 'Now look in it and see with your own eyes if
you are a lion or if you are a sheep.' This explains what
initiation means and what the initiator teaches to his disciple
as meditation. Once the image is reflected in the lake of
the heart, self-knowledge comes by itself.