Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
The Deeper Side of Life
When we consider life deeply, we can divide it into two parts and call one the lighter side of life and the other the deeper. The importance of both these sides may at times seem equally great. When a person is thinking of the lighter side of life, at that moment that side is more important, while the other side, of which the person is not conscious, seems to have no great importance. But then there are other moments which come in life, perhaps after suffering, or after a loss or some other experience, when a person suddenly awakens to a different realization of life; and when one is awakened to that the deeper side of life seems to have more importance than the lighter side. No one, neither clergyman nor mystic nor any authority, can say which side is more important. It depends upon how we look at it. If we raise its value, though it may be a small thing, yet we shall attach a greater value to it. There is nothing in this world which has a permanent value attached to it. If there seems to be such a thing, it does not stay in the same position always. If something like money is subject to change, then what is there in this world which does not change in importance?
As it is necessary to have repose after action so it is necessary to have a glimpse of the deeper side of life after having performed one's everyday duties. That is why religions have taught prayers, and why churches were built where people could go every day to be in a right atmosphere and to be silent. Now religion has become a secondary thing and man's life has developed with more struggles; naturally a man has hardly time to go to a solitary place or into a church to sit down in silence. Those few who have the time and who care to continue with their religion go once a week to a service. Therefore if I would suggest a way at the present time, it is the way of esotericism which means on the one hand studying, on the other hand practicing, and also meditating: doing these three things.
One may ask, what should one study? There are two kinds of studies. One kind is by reading the teachings of the great thinkers and keeping them in mind, the study of metaphysics, psychology, and mysticism. And the other kind of study is the study of life. Every day one has an opportunity for studying; but it should be a correct study. When a person travels in a tramcar, in the train, with a newspaper in his hand, he wants to read the sensational news which is worth nothing. He should read human nature which is before him, people coming and going. If he would continue to do this, he would begin to read human beings as though they were letters written by the divine pen, which speak of their past and future. He should look deeply at the heavens and at nature and at all the things to be seen in everyday life, and reflect upon them with the desire to understand. This kind of study is much superior, incomparably superior, to the study of books.
Then there is practice, the practices which the Yogis and Sufis in the East have performed for many, many years; and they have transmitted their thousands of years of experience as a tradition from teacher to pupil: ways of sitting, ways of standing, of breathing properly, of being in silence, ways of relaxing, of concentrating, of feeling inspired, joyful, or more peaceful. Of course for such practices the help of a teacher is necessary.
And the third thing is the practice in everyday life; to practice the principles one has esteemed in life, to uphold the ideal one has always held in one's heart. These things and many others besides, such as one's attitude to others, one's manner with others, everything one does from morning fill evening, all these things help one's development, till one arrives at a stage when one can see the deeper side of life naturally. There are numberless people, unhappy, depressed, or in great despair, perhaps wanting to commit suicide, who after having done this have eventually realized that life is worth living after all.
We can picture the lighter and the deeper sides of life in our present experience. We are traveling together, some from one country, some from another country, coming from different parts of the world. Yet we are gathered together. By what? By destiny, which gave us a common destination where we all wish to go and which brings us together for a few days in this ship.1
It is our happy disposition, our favorable attitude to one another, our desire to be kind, friendly, and sociable, which alone makes us understand one another and which will help us to make one another happy; it brings us still closer together than destiny did. It is a little picture of life. When we consider the life of a community a nation, a race, even of the whole world, what is it? Is it not like a large ship on which all are traveling, whether knowingly or unknowingly, all moving, all changing?
There are two types of traveler. Those who know where they are traveling to, and those who do not know where they are coming from or where they are going. When these open their eyes, they only realize that they are in this ship, that they come from somewhere and that they are in a ship which is moving and is going somewhere. There are many people like this living in the world today. They are so absorbed in their everyday activity that they are ignorant of where they come from and where they are going.
Imagine the difference between these two travelers: the one who knows where he comes from and what his goal is, and the one who only knows where he is, what his present activity is, what the things in his immediate surroundings are. The one who does not know where he is going is not prepared to arrange, to face his destination; he does not know what is in store for him, and that is why he is not prepared for it.
Buddha was asked one day by his disciples what he meant by ignorance. And he answered by describing how a person was once clinging in distress to the branch of a tree in the utter darkness of the night, not knowing whether there was earth or a ditch or water beneath him. All night long he trembled and wept and was clinging fast to that branch. And with the break of day he found he was not one foot away from the earth beneath his feet.
Ignorance can be defined as fear, doubt, passion, confusion. Where do all these come from? They all come from our ignorance of one side of life, its deeper side. We may be clever in making the best of what we call the lighter side of life, but that is not all.
Notwithstanding all our efforts from morning till evening we do not know what we shall arrive at, what we gain by it. If we consider wealth, position, fame, name, or anything else, it only confuses us, for life is moving; it is all moving. We cannot hold it. A person may have riches one day and the next be poor; he may be successful one day and yet perhaps sooner or later he will meet with failure. Such powerful nations as Russia and Germany, who could ever have thought that they would fall down in a moment; nations which took hundreds of years to become strong and to build themselves up? But when their time came their downfall did not take long. If such great powers are subject to falling in a moment and their whole construction can be broken, if that is the nature and character of life, no thoughtful person will deny the fact that there must be some mystery behind it, some secret of which he would like to find the key. At least he would want to know what life is and what is behind it.
Those who have studied life and thought long enough about this subject, have arrived at the same point as the thinkers who lived as much as eight thousand years ago. Buddha has said and has realized the same things that a really wise man would realize and say today. This shows us that wisdom is the same in all ages. We may be evolving or going backward, but wisdom never changes and will always be the same. The same realization will come to all those who think deeply and try to realize what life is. In order to realize life it is not necessary for us to follow a certain religion. It is not necessary for us to be great or good, pious or spiritual. The first and most necessary thing is that we become observant. We should look at life more keenly than we do instead of living superficially. It would cost us nothing. It only takes us away from our everyday occupation for a few minutes. Life always gives an opportunity of thinking, however busy we may be.
It is not necessary for us to leave our occupation, our work in life, and go into the forest and sit in silence and meditate upon life. We can meditate upon life in the midst of life if only we want to. What happens is that a man begins his life by action and the more active he becomes, the less he thinks. Then his action becomes his thought. But if he considered what exists besides the action and thoughts which are connected with everyday life, if he also gave thought to the deeper side of life, he would have more benefit.
The ideal life is at least to try to live up to one's ideal. But in order to have an ideal one must first awaken to an ideal. Not everyone possesses an ideal; many people do not know of it. It is no exaggeration to say that the wars and disasters we have gone through, the unrest that all feel, and the disagreement among the people which is sometimes seen and sometimes not seen, are all caused by one thing and that is the lack of an ideal. We are progressing commercially, industrially. But in all walks of life progress will be stopped one day or another if the ideal is destroyed. If there is anything which can be said to be the means of saving the world, it is the awakening of idealism. It is the first task that is worth considering.
Besides for the average man to consider even one thing, that he must live a life of balance, would already be of great importance, and it is not very difficult. When a person is working he should realize that recreation is also necessary. When a person tires himself it is necessary to take repose; when a person thinks too much it is necessary to rest the mind at certain times, during which he must try not to think. But life is an intoxication, it is like drink, whatever be man's motive, whether he is compelled and thrown into it or not. It is all an intoxication, going at his object with all his might and thought and feeling, till either he has accomplished what he wants, or he is destroyed. If he used balance in everything he did, he would find the key to a life of greater happiness.
People often fight and argue and discuss. Over what? Over a reason. When two persons dispute, each has a reason. Each thinks his reason the right one. They may dispute for years and yet will arrive nowhere because the reason of each is different. Therefore to think more is to see behind the reason. And the moment we have begun to see behind the reason, we will look at life quite differently. Then we find that behind what we blame the other for there is perhaps something to praise; and where there is something to praise there is perhaps a reason for blame. We shall begin to see what is beyond all appearances and that will give us the proof that the whole of life is a kind of unfoldment. The deeper we look into life the more it unfolds itself, allowing us to see more keenly. Life is revealing. It is not only human beings who speak; if only the ears can hear even plants and trees and all nature speak, in the sense that nature reveals itself, reveals its secret. In this way we communicate with the whole of life. Then we are never alone, then life becomes worth living.
The thoughtful of all ages have considered the source of creation to be one and the same. A scientist will tell us today that the cause behind creation is motion, vibration. So far he will go. But if from motion and vibration this manifestation has come into our view then that motion is not lifeless. If that motion is life itself, then it is intelligent. It is of course not intelligent in the sense we understand this word. We know the limited side of it; we call the function of the brain intelligence. We say that one thing is intelligent because it is living, and another thing where we do not distinguish life we call unintelligent. But an Indian scientist has pointed out that even trees breathe. If that is true, then the trees are living. And if today it is proved that trees are living, it will also be found that stones are living. Then one will realize that all life comes from one source which is the very life of all things, and not only life but intelligence also; this is what religion calls God. Whatever we call it, it is the same. The difference is only in name.
1) Hazrat Inayat Khan gave this lecture on board the S.S. Volendam crossing from New York to Rotterdam on December 2nd, 1925.