Volume V - Spiritual Liberty
Part V: PEARLS FROM THE OCEAN UNSEEN
THE PURPOSE OF LIFE
There are two classes of people in the world: the spectators of life and the students of life. The former class may be compared to those people who go to the theatre and see acted either comedy or tragedy, and are moved by it to laughter or tears. The latter may be compared to those who go up in an airplane and view at a glance a whole city, where hitherto they had only seen one street at a time. The students of life understand the reason of the comedy and tragedy, while the spectators of life get only a passing impression of them.
About this the Quran says, 'We have removed from you your veil, so your sight shall be keen.' When this happens the spectator of life becomes the student of life. We sometimes ask ourselves, 'What is the purpose of life? Is it to eat, drink, and to make merry?' Surely not. The animals do this, and man is a higher creation than the animals. Is life's purpose then to become an angelic being? This likewise, cannot be the case, for the angels were created before man, and are near to God, and continually praise Him.
Man must be created therefore for something other than either the animals or the angels. For if man by reason of his piety became like an angel, he would not have fulfilled the purpose for which he was created. Man is created that he may awaken within himself humanity, sympathy, brotherhood, love, and kindness for his fellow man.
He may think that he is kind and sympathetic, but in thinking so he makes the greatest possible mistake, for kindness is comparative. This may be illustrated by a story that is told in India of an Afghan soldier who was once traveling with a Brahmin. The Brahmin, who was a mild and harmless man careful not to injure the smallest of God's creation, was repeating to himself the word Daya which means kindness. The Afghan, who was a warrior and understood only the rough side of life, asked him what the word meant. The Brahmin explained that the word was the same as Rahm in his language. 'Ah,' he exclaimed, I understand very well now what it means. I remember I was kind once in my life, for on the field of battle I saw a wounded man writhing in agony, and I was touched, and I put my dagger through him and ended his suffering.'
The claim to be kind and sympathetic is like a drop of water saying, 'I am water,' but which, on seeing the ocean, realizes its nothingness. In the same way, when man has looked on perfection, he realizes his shortcomings. It is then that the veil is raised from before his eyes and his sight becomes keen. He then asks himself, 'What can I do that I may awaken this love and sympathy in my heart?'
The Sufi begins by realizing that he is dead and blind, and he understands that all goodness as well as all that is bad comes from within. Riches and power may vanish because they are outside of us, but only that which is within can we call our own. In order to awaken love and sympathy in our hearts, sacrifices must be made. We must forget our own troubles in order to sympathize with the troubles of others.
To relieve the hunger of others we must forget our own hunger. Everybody is working for selfish ends, not caring about others, and this alone has brought about the misery in the world today. When the world is evolving from imperfection towards perfection, it needs all love and sympathy. Great tenderness and watchfulness is required of each one of us. The heart of every man, both good and bad, is the abode of God, and care should be taken never to wound anybody by word or act. We are only here in this world for a short time; many have been here before, and have passed on, and it is for us to see that we leave behind an impression of good.