Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
The Struggle of Life (2)
The only difference between spiritual attainment and the continual struggle of life is that in worldly life one struggles in another direction. In worldly life, be it in business or politics or industry or whatever be life's path, if a person proves to be lacking in that power which enables him to struggle along, he meets nothing but failure. He may be a good person, a saintly person, a spiritual person, but that does not count. It is for this reason that many in the world lose faith in goodness and in spirituality, when they see that this goodness does not seem to count in life. It is absurd for a spiritual person to say that by spirituality, goodness, and piety one's worldly struggle will be helped. One should have the inspiration and power to answer life's demands in life's struggle. The seeker on the spiritual path should not forget that floating in the air is no good; standing on the earth is the first thing necessary. There are many who dream, who live in the air, but that does not answer our purpose. When they complain that they are doing spiritual work, yet are in bad circumstances, they forget that the language of these paths is different, the law of these paths is different. That is why I distinguish between these two paths, in order to make it clear that the one has little to do with the other. This does not mean that the wicked person will succeed or that success is gained by evil; if it were so, it would only be a mortal success. Nevertheless one should not blame the spirit for failure in worldly things, for worldly things belong to another inspiration; if it were not so all great sages would be millionaires.
The worldly struggle is outward struggle. The struggle on the spiritual path is inward struggle. No sooner does one take the spiritual direction than the first enemy one meets is one's own self. What does the self do? It is most mischievous. When one says one wants to fight it, it says, 'I am yourself. Do you want to fight me?' And when it brings failure, it is clever enough to put the blame on someone else.
Do all those who have failed in life accuse themselves? No, they always accuse another person. When they have gained something they say, 'I have done it.' When they have lost something they say, 'This person got in my way'. With little and big things, it is all the same. The self does not admit faults; it always puts the blame on others. Its vanity, its pride, its smallness, and its egotistical tendency which is continually active, keep one blind.
I remember a Persian verse made by my murshid which relates to the self: 'When I feel that now I can make peace with my self, it finds time to prepare another attack.' That is our condition. We think that our little faults, since they are small, are of no consequence; or we do not even think of them at all. But every little fault is a flag for the little self, for its own dominion. In this way battling makes man the sovereign of the kingdom of God. Very few can realize the great power in battling with and conquering the self.
But what does man generally do? He says, 'My poor self, it has to withstand the conflicts of this world; should I also battle with this self?' So he surrenders his kingdom to his little self, depriving himself of the divine power that is in the heart of man. There is in man a false self and a real self. The real self contains the eternal; the false self contains the mortal. The real self has wisdom; the false self ignorance. The real self can rise to perfection; the false self ends in limitation. The real self has all good, the false self is productive of all evil. One can see both in oneself: God and the other one. By conquering the other one, one realizes God. This other power has been called Satan; but is it a power? In reality it is not. It is and it is not. It is a shadow. We see shadow and yet it is nothing. We should realize that this false self has no existence of its own. As soon as the soul has risen above the false self, it begins to realize its nobility.
But then there is the practical aspect. How does it show? What form has it? It rises up in support of its own interest. It defends itself from the attacks of others. It feels exclusive towards everyone. It knows itself as an entity separate from friend and foe. It concerns itself with all that is transitory; it is blind to the future and ignorant of the past. It manifests in the form of self-pity. It expresses itself in the form of vengeance. It lives by feeding upon bitterness and its life is always spent in obscurity. Its condition is restlessness and discontent. It has a continual appetite for all that is there; it is never satisfied. It has no trust in anyone, no thought for anyone, no consideration for anyone. It lacks conscientiousness and therefore manners. The little self thinks only of its own advantage and its own comfort. Giving to others, giving to those around it is dreadful to the self, for it knows no sacrifice. Renunciation for it is worse than death. That is the little self.
When we blame another person, when we dislike somebody, we overlook the same element in ourselves. There is no soul in the world who can say, 'I have not this in me'. If only he were just! For mostly it is the unjust person who blames another. The more just we become, the more silent will we be in all circumstances. If outwardly we see faults in others, inwardly there is the sum total within ourselves. For instance the little child cannot help loving. If a thief comes, or a robber, the child wants to love him and smiles at him. Why is it? Because a thief is not awakened in the child. The child is from heaven, the thief from the earth. There is no place for him there; that is why he is no thief to the child. We accept something because we already have it in us. If we consider our knowledge, a thousand things we seem to have experienced, we find that other people have told us most of them and we believed them at once. As soon as a person tells us about someone wicked, we think, 'Now we know, we can be quite sure about it'. But when a person comes along and says, 'I have seen a most wonderful thing; this man is so good', everyone thinks, 'Is it really true? Is it possible to be as good as that? Is there not anything bad in him?' Good is unnatural to many people.
One might ask whether the spiritual path is a tyranny over oneself. No, for it is by treading it that one molds one's character, that one makes one's personality. In this is all religion. When a person begins to think, 'I must not bring harm to or hurt anyone I meet, worthy or unworthy, friend or foe', only then does he begin his work in the spiritual direction. Spirituality is not wonder-working. Spirituality is attained by right attitude.
Where is the shrine of God? It is in the heart of man. As soon as one begins to consider the feelings of another, one begins to worship God. One might say that it is difficult to please everyone. No doubt it is. It is more difficult still if one has in oneself the inclination to please everyone. There is a story of a murshid who was going with his mureeds to visit some village. And he was keeping a fast. The mureeds also had taken a vow of fasting. They arrived at the peasants' home where there was great enthusiasm and happiness and where a dinner was arranged for them. When they were invited to the table, the murshid went and sat down; but the mureeds did not dare because they had taken a vow of fasting. Yet they would never mention it to the murshid. They thought, 'Murshid is forgetful; Murshid has forgotten the vow.' After dinner was over and they went out the pupils asked, 'Did you not forget the vow of fasting?' 'No,' was the murshid's answer, 'I had not forgotten. But I preferred breaking the fast rather than the heart of that man who with all his enthusiasm had prepared the food.'
The thirst for life makes us overlook little opportunities of doing good. Every moment of life brings an opportunity for being conscious of human feeling, in prosperity, in adversity, in all conditions. It costs very little; only a little thought is necessary. A person may be good but at the same time not be conscientious about little things. There is no greater religion than love. God is love; and the best form of love is to be conscientious regarding the feelings of those with whom we come in contact in everyday life.
The further one goes, the more difficulties there are; one finds greater faults in oneself as one advances along the spiritual path. It is not because the number of faults has increased; but the sense has become so keen that one regards differently faults which formerly one would not have noticed. It is like a musician: the more he advances and the better he plays, the more faults he notices. He who does not notice his faults is in reality becoming worse. There is no end to one's faults. To think of them makes one humble.
To say, 'God is in me' before one has realized this other metaphysical aspect of truth, is not humble but profane. God is in the depth of the heart, but to know this is of no use when the doors of the heart are not open. It is the realization of the innumerable faults which makes one humble and effaces the little self from one's consciousness. And it is in the effacement of the self that real spiritual attainment lies.