Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
Our Life's Experience
Consciously or unconsciously we call to us that element which makes us what we are. What we experience in life, therefore, has either come from what we have already called to us in the past, or from what we call at the present moment. It is very difficult for a person to hear something for the first time and accept it immediately. No person in this world is desirous of calling for something that he does not wish to have, so, as Emerson has said, think beforehand of what you want.
The principle of the whole of creation is based on this; even the fruits and flowers, the plants and trees, in order to be what they are, call for that element which makes them. If fragrance belonged to all flowers then every flower would have fragrance; but it is only a certain flower which has fragrance; it is that flower which calls for it. Every flower has a different color. Why? Because each flower calls for it. Every seed or herb which possesses medical value shows that its peculiarity belongs to it, and it calls for it. The life of little insects will also show us proof of the same fact. Their green or blue or red color, and their beautiful or ugly form, are all based on and controlled by what they have called to themselves. Insects moving among beautiful flowers show beauty in their color, in their construction; for they live in beauty and so they call for beauty. Insects living in the mud show a different quality again. Why? Because they call for it. The more we study science, be it natural science or chemistry, we shall find that each being and each object with a certain peculiarity shows that it is like that because it has called for that particular element.
One might ask how, if it is true that the flowers and plants call for the element that makes their color, it happens that there is sometimes little difference in the colors of flowers and leaves, and that all roses have more or less the same scent. The answer is that the rose's past is behind it; and since the seed of the rose had conceived those properties which the rose shows, it has maintained as its heritage that fragrance and color. But at the same time it takes from the air and the sun that substance which makes it the perfect rose. In other words, there is perhaps in some garden another plant, a flower which is without fragrance. It has the same sun, it has the same air, it is in the same soil; but it is the rose which calls for the properties that make it a rose. Though that flower is in the same place it does not call for them, it calls only for those properties which keep it as it is. And of people one may say symbolically, that one creeps on this earth, another walks gently, a third runs, and a fourth flies; yet they are all on the same earth and under the same sun. No quality can exist without being maintained by what it attracts every moment of the day. As our physical body depends upon physical sustenance for its existence, and as our mind depends on the sustenance of its own sphere, so each quality has its food, a food which it calls for and on which it lives. As the body would cease to exist if its sustenance were not given to it, so every quality, however great it may appear in a person, would cease to exist if there were no sustenance within reach. If we observe keenly the life around us we will find a thousand proofs of this. How many are there with an inclination to sing, with a desire to do some good, who themselves cannot find their qualities, or whose qualities vanish once they are starved of that food on which they live!
Man who is so to speak the finished product of creation shows this doctrine in its fullness. His success, his failure, his sorrow, his joy, all depend upon what he calls, and what he has called to himself. Many will say, 'But is it not the case that he is experiencing that which he was meant to experience?' That is the idealistic point of view, and a good point of view to take; it is also consoling. Yet when we come to the study of metaphysics we shall find that the secret behind creation is what the Hindus call the dream of Brahma. Since each being represents Brahma, the Creator, so each being in his sphere is a creator of his own life. It is ignorance of this fact which keeps man back from his progress towards perfection; and it is knowledge of this which alone can be called divine knowledge. For if ever anyone attained to a higher realization it was by this knowledge.
There is another side to this question to be considered. One may say that there are many undesirable things which one should never have desired, but one did not desire them as one sees them now; it was, as one saw them before, in another form, that one desired them. Very often happiness shows itself in the guise of unhappiness, very often pain shows itself in the guise of pleasure. He who does not seek after pain will seek after pleasure; but he does not know that perhaps behind that pleasure the pain was hiding. A seeker after success may not see failure hiding behind it, and at that time the very seeking for success would lead him to failure. For that success was only a success in appearance; in reality it was a failure.
Life is a comedy, and the more you look at it the more you can smile at it; smile not at other people but at yourself. Life is always different from what one thinks it to be, and this applies to pain, pleasure, happiness, success, and failure, everything.
People often wonder why some souls are born in miserable circumstances and others are not. There is a saying in the Quran which even sages have sometimes misinterpreted: 'The creation has come out of the darkness.' The soul does not always come to earth with its eyes open. It generally comes with closed eyes, as is shown by the infant which does not open its eyes immediately. But to compare one condition with another one needs to be familiar with those conditions, and that time comes after being born. If one considered this question more deeply, one would come to a very great realization of the secret of life, and especially of the secret of good and bad fortune. Then one would realize that it is not always by design that a soul is so limited that it cannot get out of a certain condition, but that every soul makes for itself a condition, even after coming to the earth. There are many who live in misery, in bad conditions, because they know no better. If they had known better they could have managed to better themselves.
This rule applies to many people in life. Most of the reasons for their misery are to be found in their own ignorance. If they knew how to right, how to get out of their misery, there would be many ways of doing so. But whatever be the condition of a person, it is never unfair, for his gains will always equal his losses and his losses his gains. Only, we do not always see what is the real value of every loss and gain, and outward conditions count little in reality.
Thus one person has difficulties and troubles and another is at peace. But it all evens up. Even when with great difficulty one finds a happy man, it is not easy to prove that he is happy. Happiness consists of one thing only: the realization of God; and to realize God means to lose one's self. No doubt as in the light of the sun the dim candle-light fades, so in the happiness of God-consciousness the longing for minor pleasures falls away. At the same time, finding God does not mean looking for unhappiness and renouncing all the pleasures of life. Life becomes even more pleasant the more one progresses in the realization of God.
All conditions are illusory, and in the end the sum total of every person's difficulties is the same; that is to say the sum total' is the horizon, but if we have to point out where the horizon is, we cannot. As we go towards the horizon, however, we find the distinction between cause and effect becoming paler and paler, and everything balances more and more in our life. The further we go the closer we come to that equilibrium which is expressed by the symbol of the serpent with its tail in its mouth. There is neither tail nor mouth; mouth and tail are only there as long as the serpent is straight; they are no longer there when the serpent has curled itself up and put its tail in its mouth.
There was once a man who hated his neighbors and fought and quarreled with them. This bred much ill-will, until in the end the heart of one person melted, and he said, 'What are we quarrelling about? It is just a misunderstanding about a single word I said'. And their whole world of hatred crumbled from that moment, and they became friends. There comes a time when there is a summing up of the situation or event. That is the end of it; and the further we go the more it disappears. All our disputes, high or low, will pale and fade away; and when no color is left in them, then that white light comes which is the light of God. It is that attainment which was called by Buddha Nirvana. To our ordinary senses colors appear as a reality, but in the realism of truth they fade away, they have no existence.
There are however blessed souls, souls who are really satisfied and whose hunger is stilled by seeing another person eating or who are happy seeing another person adorned with beautiful clothes. It might seem to us a great renunciation or self-denial; but they have been given a cross to bear and have risen above it. Sacrifice gives no pain; it only gives pleasure.
The spark of this Nirvana is in every soul. I once said to a child, 'Wouldn't you rather give your toy away to that other poor child?' It had just received the toy and had not even played with it. I added, 'You should not give your toy away if you wouldn't be really glad to see that other child playing with it.' It was just like watching a match bursting into flame. That child consented at once and gave its toy, and you should have seen its face; it was beaming with happiness. Therefore this Nirvana need not be learnt by study; it is in us. It is a star in us whose brilliance consumes all the impurities of life, and it turns them all into purity which is the divine light.
If there were no pain one would not have the experience of joy. It is pain which helps one to experience joy. Everything is distinguished by its opposite and the one who feels pain deeply is more capable of expressing joy. If there were no pain, life would be most uninteresting; for it is by pain that penetration takes place, and the sensation after pain is a deeper joy. Without pain the great musicians, athletes, discoverers, and thinkers would not have reached the stage they have arrived at in the world. If they had always experienced joy, they would not have touched the depths of life. For what is pain? Pain in the true sense of the word is the deepest joy. If we have imagination we can enjoy tragedy more than comedy: comedy is for children, and tragedy is for grown-ups. It is by pain alone that somebody becomes what is called an old soul, one who may be young in age but whose thoughts are deep.
If sorrow and sadness have no reality, why then did Christ say, 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful?' We must distinguish between the human side of the Master's life and the divine side. If the human side were not human, then what would be human? Why does God send His message to humanity by a man and not by angels? Because only a human being knows human beings. He knows them from having experienced human limitation.
That he felt sadness is the most beautiful side of the Master's life. If he had not, how could he have sympathized with those who are sorrowful? If we were all born perfect there would be no purpose in human life. The purpose of life is that we grow towards perfection; from the greatest limitation we grow towards perfection. Its beauty is in acquiring wisdom, in living at the cost of all our failures, our mistakes. It is all worthwhile, and it all accomplishes the purpose of our coming to the earth.
Is it perhaps, one might ask, God's way of making us immune to sorrow when He sends us troubles and difficulties? Everything is the way of God: when He sends troubles and sorrows, and when He sends joy and pleasure. If we would see in everything the hand of God, we would be thankful for both. Some people are very much impressed by the doctrine of Karma, and in a way it is a virtue to take everything patiently and call it Karma; but that is not sufficient. We should realize that happiness is our birthright. God does not rejoice in our sorrow, God is not pleased by our pain; and therefore we must do everything in our power to escape from illness and other difficulties, instead of lying patiently waiting, as if under a rock, 'because it is our Karma'.
On the other hand it is good to look for the cause of our sorrows in our own thoughts and actions. Sometimes it is not only the conditions of life which cause us sorrow, but we allow them to create sorrow for us. A part of sorrow comes from life, and a part we make ourselves. Also a part of joy comes from life, and a part we make ourselves. If one helps life to give one a little joy, it will do so; if one does not allow it, life becomes helpless. Out of a hundred things in everyday life that we take too seriously, we should perhaps take only one seriously, and realize that the other ninety-nine matter little.
To some extent there must be attachment and illusion, although as little as possible. For if there were no illusion and attachment, it would be as if it were day all the time and never night. Also in illusion and attachment there is a motive power, and by that motive power a purpose of life is accomplished. And if there were no illusion and attachment, the soul would not be able to hold the body, even to a small extent, because this it can only do through attachment. Many people who are very ill, sometimes for years and years, continue to be ill without dying; the reason is the attachment of the soul to the body.
But, we may ask, as the world that we see has no reality, as it is an illusion, why do we see that illusion; what is the cause of that illusion which torments us? One uses the word 'illusion' conventionally, but its true meaning is not realized until the reality of life is understood, until the innermost or eternal life is realized. It is when we understand this that everything seems an illusion; illusion is something which seems to exist but yet does not exist in any form. The nature of all things which seem to exist and do not last is like this: their existence is transitory, and to a certain extent the effect produced by them upon our soul is intoxication. We are so hypnotized by all we see, that momentarily we forget it is not lasting. Therefore the way of the mystic is to close his eyes and also his heart to that which is not lasting, in order to have a chance of finding out that there is a life which is not transitory. He practices every kind of meditation and concentration to free his mind of this intoxication which is continually coming over him. Man spends all his efforts to gain this intoxication, and in the end there is only disappointment.
We cannot claim that there is no joy and no pain. In saying so we defeat our own argument. One can say there is nothing but illusion; but putting this idea into words weakens it for those who do not look at it in the same way. It is realization which is needed, not the claim. Real virtue is learnt by the study of reality; then it comes by itself. When a person becomes conscious of reality the light of reality shines before him, the lamp of Aladdin, the guiding light.
There are two ways of calling, of attracting, that which makes up one's self. One way is by calling that which is outside of one's life in order to make one's life complete, be it wealth, power, position, or anything else. But there is another way of calling, and that is to call the very self. By calling one's real self one naturally harmonizes one's spirit, and it may become so harmonized that both with friend and foe one would feel harmony. Once we have communicated with our self, once we have called our self, our real self, we become naturally harmonized with pain and pleasure, and we become contented with success and failure. For in spite of all the different experiences of our external life, there rises in the depth of our heart a harmony, a peace, and a power which keep us centralized. To avoid being wet in the rain we cannot stop the rain; all that we can do is to have an umbrella which is waterproof. By developing ourselves materially or spiritually we cannot stop the natural consequences of life. When we are in the midst of the world we are exposed to all the agreeable and disagreeable experiences which life gives us.
If there is a way of making life easy for ourselves it is only by harmonizing within ourselves so that we can harmonize with all the different conditions and experiences of life. If we complain, there is no end to our complaints. In order to have no complaints we must not complain. But we should be conscious of the fact that all that we experience is called, is attracted by us, and that all we shall experience will be called by us also. Thus at each step in our life we must be wise, in order to recognize, among all the things that we desire, those that we should call to ourselves and those that we should not. The past has passed, it is no use mourning over it. It is just as well to forget the past except for beautiful impressions and good memories. It is the present for which we are responsible, for it is the present which will be our future. The most essential thing, therefore, is to harmonize in such a way that by centralizing our thought within ourselves, by finding our real self, the future may become harmonized. There is a prayer in the East: 'We thank Thee, God, for all we have experienced; the only thing we ask is make our end the best experience of all.'