Volume IX - The Unity of Religious Ideals
THE SUFI'S AIM IN LIFE
The aim of every individual is the same in the end, though it may be different in the beginning. In the end, man arrives at a stage when his object becomes the object of his soul, and until he has reached this stage, he has several objects before him. But the accomplishment of any motive concerning these objects is not satisfactory for long.
According to the philosophy of the Hindus, there are four motives in life. One motive is what they call Dharma, which means duty. Some consider that virtue lies in performing their duty, and when they perform the particular duty which is before them, they feel that this is the due accomplishment of their life. But when one duty is accomplished, another is waiting. Life is full of duties. When a girl is young she says that her mother or her father is her duty. Then a time comes when the pleasure of her husband becomes her duty. As time goes on, hers will be the duty of the mother towards her children. But even there, it does not end. Afterwards, comes the duty of the grandmother. There is no phase of life in which duty expires. It begins in one form and goes on in another.
For the one who considers duty a virtue, it is a virtue. But for the one who considers it captivity or a pain, it is a pain. That which becomes a virtue and a privilege for one, may become a crime for another.
In Sanskrit, the second motive is called Artha, which means the acquisition or collecting of wealth. It begins with the need for daily bread, and it culminates in millions. But, it never ends. The more one has, the less one feels one has. The attainment of wealth is never fully satisfying. There is always a lack somewhere.
A third motive is Kama, which is pleasure, love, or attachment. For this one neglects things and makes sacrifices. It is the main object in life. Yet pleasure is such that the desire for it is never satisfied. The more one experiences the pleasures of this earth, the more one wants to experience them. This pleasure is not lasting and it usually costs more than it is worth.
The fourth desire, Moksha, is of a different character. It is the desire for some reward in the hereafter, for the attainment of paradise. It is a desire for some kind of gain or happiness, some bliss or exaltation, which one does not know, but, which one hopes to experience one day. But even that desire, if it were granted, would not be fully satisfactory.
From this the Sufi deduces that in all these four different things that humanity is Pursuing there is no stage where he can say it is finished; there is no end to it. Therefore his effort is to rise above these four desires, and the moment he rises above them there remains only one desire, and this is the search for the truth. Not only a Sufi, but every person who is disappointed in this world or who has been through disillusionment, suffering, or torture, has only this desire.
The seeker after truth goes out into the world and he finds innumerable different sects and religions. He does not know where to start. Then he desires to find out what is hidden under these sects, these different religions, and he begins to seek the object which he wishes to gain through wisdom. Wisdom is a veil over truth, even wisdom cannot be called truth. God alone is truth, and it is truth that is God. And truth can neither be studied nor taught nor learned; it is to be touched, it is to be realized; and it can be realized by the unfoldment of the heart.
For a Sufi belief in God is not sufficient. A belief which has no foundation is just like a scrap of paper floating in the air: when there is no breeze it will fall to the ground. How many in this world hold to the belief when they are exposed to a strong influence from someone who does not believe? If belief is something which can be erased, then of what use can this belief be? In point of fact belief is not enough; the next step one takes after belief is love of God. In the one who only believes in God, God is not living; it is in the one who loves God that God is living. But even that is not sufficient, for what is human Love? The human being is limited, and so his love is limited. The more one has seen of the world, the more one knows human nature; the better one knows the falseness of human love.
How can one who cannot be constant in his feeling for a human being who is near him, be true in his love for the Beloved whom he has never seen? Therefore even what man calls the love of God is not sufficient; what is necessary is the knowledge of God, for it is the knowledge of God which gives the love for God, and it is the knowledge and love of God which give a perfect belief in God. No one can have knowledge of God and have no love for God, but one can have a love for God and no knowledge of God. No one can have Knowledge of God and love for God, and yet no belief in God; but it is possible to have a belief in God but no love for God.
Thus for the Sufi these three stages are necessary for the attainment of his aim in life. In the first place by his belief he attains respect for the belief of others. A complete believer is he who not only believes himself, but also respects the beliefs of others. For the Sufi there exists no one in this world, neither heathen nor pagan, who is to be despised, for he believes in that God who is not the God of one chosen sect but the God of the whole world. He does not believe in a God of one nation, but in the God of all nations. To him God is in all different houses where people worship Him. Even if they stand in the street and pray it makes no difference to him. The holy place is wherever He is worshipped. The Sufi leaves sectarianism to the sects. He has respect for all; he is not prejudiced against any and he does not despise any; he feels sympathy for all.
The Sufi is convinced that the one who does not love his fellow man cannot love God. He believes in what Christ has said, that one should love one's neighbor, even one's enemy. And what does this mean? It does not mean that we should love our enemy because we consider him as such, but because we are related to him in God. If humanity had believed in this simple and most valuable teaching, these wars would not have taken place. It is not for political or commercial people to make humanity understand this; it is for the Church, for religion; but as long as the religious authorities establish different sects and divide religion and look upon each other with prejudice, this truth taught by Christ will not be practiced.
We should realize that every change that takes place in the multitude in time also takes place among individuals. For instance, if two nations are opposed to one another, working to hurt one another, what will be the consequence? The result will be that in those nations there will be parties which will oppose each other; and then the same opposition will arise between families, and in time this spirit will be found in a family of two people – two people living in one house and each in conflict with the other. And it will culminate in every individual being in conflict with himself.
Where does the Sufi learn this? He learns it from the wisdom of God. The man who does not recognize God in His creation will never recognize the God in heaven. It was all right for Those simple believers in God and religion who went quietly to church and said their prayers, and came back with the feeling of exaltation and did not meddle with the world. But now conditions have changed, and a great battle is going on between truth and life. The illusion of matter lies in the fullness of the part it is performing in life, that is why the battle that life is fighting with truth is greater than any religion has ever had to fight. On one side science cries: matter, matter, matter! On the other side politics are crying: self, self, self-interest! The religions are crying: sect, sect, and sect! And where can man stop to think of the ultimate truth, which is the only thing that the soul seeks?
The Sufi Message, therefore, is not for a particular race, nation, or church. It is a call to unite in wisdom. The Sufi Movement is a group of people belonging to different religions, who have not left their religions but who have learned to understand them better, and their love is the love for God and humanity instead of for a particular section of it. The principal work that the Sufi Movement has to accomplish is to bring about a better understanding between East and West, and between the nations and races of the world. And the note that the Sufi message is striking at the present time is the note which sounds the divinity of the human soul.
If there is any moral principal that the Sufi Movement brings,
it is this: that the whole of humanity is like one body, and
any organ of that body which is hurt or troubled can indirectly
cause damage to the whole body. And as the health of the whole
body depends upon the health of each part, so the health of
the whole of humanity depends on the health of every nation.
Besides, to those who are awakening and feel that now is the
moment to learn more of the deeper side of life, of truth, the
Sufi movement extends a helping hand without asking to what
religion, sect or dogma they belong. The knowledge of the Sufi
is helpful to every person, not only in living his life rightly
but in regard to his own religion. The Sufi Movement does not
call man away from his belief or Church: it calls him to live
it. In short, it is a movement intended by God to unite humanity
in brotherhood and in wisdom.