Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
THE PATH OF ATTAINMENT (1)
THE secret of life is the desire to attain something; the absence of this makes life useless. Hope is the sustenance of life; hope comes from the desire of attaining something. Therefore this desire is in itself a very great power. The object which a person wishes to attain may be small compared with the power he develops in the process of attainment. The Hindus call attainment Sadhana; the power gained through attainment is called in Sanskrit Siddhi, and it is this which is the sign of spiritual mastership.
By learning the mystery of attainment one learns the divine mastery which is suggested in that phrase of the Bible, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' This phrase is a veil which covers the mystery of attainment. On coming to earth, man, who is the instrument of God, loses connection with that divine power whose instrument he is, thus keeping not only himself but even God from helping His will to be done. When man, who is born to be the instrument of God, does not perform his mission properly he naturally feels dissatisfied. It does not mean that he does not accomplish what he desires, but it is the reason why he is unhappy. This condition is like a hand out of joint: it is not only the hand that suffers, but the person whose hand it is, not being able to use it, suffers also. Therefore in accomplishing the work he undertakes, in attaining to the aim he has in life, man not only helps himself but he also serves God.
The way in which spiritual attainment is reached must be considered from quite another point of view. It cannot be done in the same way as material attainment. And it is discouraging when after striving perhaps for many years one does not seem to have arrived anywhere. The one who strives to attain the things of this world finds the proof of having attained them by holding them. He says, 'This is mine,' because he possesses it. Spiritual attainment on the contrary wants to take possessions away. It does not even allow one to possess oneself. This can be a great disappointment for a person whose only realization of having attained something is in possessing it. Spiritual attainment, however, comes by not attaining.
Then there is the question of the difference between a spiritual person and a person who possesses nothing. The difference is indeed great, for the spiritual person without any possessions is still rich. Why? Because the one who does not possess anything is conscious of limitation, but the spiritual person who does not even possess himself is conscious of perfection. But how, one asks, can a limited man be conscious of perfection? The answer is that the limited man has limited himself. He is limited because he is conscious of his limitation. It is not his true self which is limited. What is limited is what he holds, not himself. That is why Christ said, 'Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.'
Spiritual knowledge does not lie in learning something, but in discovering something; in breaking the fetters of the false consciousness and in allowing the soul to unfold itself with light and power. What does the word 'spiritual' really mean? Spiritual means spirit-conscious. When a person is conscious of his body, he cannot be spiritual. It is like a king who does not know his kingship. The moment he is conscious of being a king, he is a king. Every soul is born a king. It is only afterwards that he becomes a slave. Every soul is born with kingly possibilities, but they are taken away from him by this wicked world. This is told in many symbolical stories, as in the story of Rama, from whom the beloved Sita was taken away. Every soul has to fight for this kingdom and to conquer. It is through that fight that the spiritual kingdom is attained. No one will fight for one, neither one's teacher nor anybody else. While those who are more evolved can help one, each man has to fight his own battle, and find his own way to that spiritual goal.
An intellectual thinks that by adding to his knowledge he may attain spiritual knowledge. This is not so. The secret of life is boundless but knowledge is limited. Eyes see only a very short distance, and the human mind is just as limited. Those who see can see by not seeing, learn by not learning. The way of spiritual attainment is contrary to the way of all material attainment. For material attainment one must take. For spiritual attainment one must give. In material attainment one must learn. In spiritual attainment one must unlearn. If a person is conscious of his body and thinks it is all that can be known of him, his spirit is covered up. In English one says: he has lost his soul. But it is only covered for how can anything that is possessed be lost? If a man thinks so he is limited. Neither objects nor beings are lost. They may be temporarily covered up, but they are still there. Nothing made can ever be destroyed. It is only a covering and an uncovering. No relations and connections are ever separable. The separation is outward. Inwardly there is never separation. They are separated from one's consciousness, but when the consciousness accommodates them, then nothing in the world can separate them. What does one learn by this? That spiritual attainment is to be reached by the raising of the consciousness from limitation to perfection.
There is another side to this question. There is no one, wise or foolish, who is not progressing slowly or quickly towards the spiritual goal. The only difference is that the one is attracted by it, and faces his goal, making his way towards it. While the other has his back turned to it and is drawn towards the goal without being conscious of it. Poor man, he does not know where he is being taken, but he goes just the same; his punishment is that he does not see the glory he is approaching, and his torture is that he is being drawn towards the opposite pole to that which he desires. His punishment is not different from that of the infant which walks into the water of the lake and whose mother pulls it back by its shirt; but it is looking all the time at the lake.
From a religious point of view it seems very unjust of the divine Judge that one should be deprived of that perfect bliss which is spiritual attainment. But from the point of view of metaphysics no soul will be deprived of this knowledge at any time in eternity.
What does Sufism teach on this subject? Sufism avoids words, words from which differences and distinctions arise. Words can never express the truth fully. Words promote argument. All the differences between religions are differences of words. In sense they do not differ, for they have all come from one source and to the same source they return. This very source is a store for them, it is their life, light, and power. Therefore the way of the Sufi is that if he does not agree with somebody in a particular idea, he takes a step higher instead of differing on the lower plane. For the wise person there is no difference. The main things that Sufism teaches is to dive deep within oneself, and to prepare mind and body by contemplation so as to make one's being a shrine of God, which is the purpose for which it was created.
What is needed first, both for worldly and spiritual attainment is to gain self-discipline. Many experience, although few know why, that things go wrong when one's self is not disciplined. Those who give way to anger, passion, or emotions may seem for the moment successful, but they cannot continually succeed in life. Very often misfortunes follow, and illness or a failure. The reason is that one weakness gives way to another, and so the person who goes down continues to go down. It is natural sometimes to take a step downward, for the path of life is not even. But the wise way is to ensure that if one has gone down one step the next step should be taken upward. No doubt it means resisting the force that pulls one downward, but only that resistance ensures the safety of life.
What generally happens is that man does not mind a little mistake. He does not take notice of a small weakness. He underestimates a little failure, and in this way in the long run he meets with a great failure. It is wise, therefore, no matter how deep one has fallen, to raise one's eyes upward and to try to rise instead of falling. It is very interesting to observe that when one points towards God in heaven it is always upward, although in reality God is everywhere and so is heaven. What makes one think that God or heaven is above is a natural impulse in man, a divine impulse which gives him an inclination to rise. This shows that success and its attainment are God's pleasure. Failure and its experience are God's displeasure.
People who blame destiny for their failure take the way of least resistance. But there are no difficulties that are really insurmountable, because they will become less for the man who struggles with life as he goes forward. The man who takes his path easily finds that the difficulties become more numerous as he goes on. This does not mean that one should choose a path in life that is without difficulties. It only means that on the path of attainment difficulties should not be counted. Difficulties rise over the head of him who looks at them with awe. But the same difficulties fall at the feet of him who takes no notice of them. The man who fails in the world will fail to attain spiritual bliss.
Man is the king of his domain. His coming on earth takes away his kingdom. During that trial he is tested, to see if he uses that human virtue which helps him to regain mastery over his kingdom. Whatever a man's life may be he will not be satisfied, for his soul's satisfaction is in fulfilling its purpose. The day when he arrives at that mastery, the day when he has regained the kingdom he had lost, he can say, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' And in this lies the fulfillment of his being born on this earth.
What is it to have self-discipline? It is to be able to say, 'I can' and not 'I cannot.' No doubt the words 'I cannot' are often used when a person does not think it would be wise or just to do a certain thing. In that case it is different. But when there is something he believes to be just, to be good, to be right and he still thinks, 'I cannot,' it is then that self-discipline is lacking. When a person says, 'I cannot tolerate, I cannot endure, I cannot bear, I cannot forgive,' these are all signs of lack of self-discipline.
Some people say, 'I cannot rise above my faults.' The only way to overcome one's faults is by struggle, struggle in the spiritual path. Such a struggle is faced for instance by a person who during a disagreeable conversation has an inclination to retort. He does so, but at the same time the power to fight, to give back, has left him. By dispersing his force in returning insult for insult he has lost his power. By controlling this inclination his power would have been a thousand fold greater, although at the moment when something like this happens, and one humiliates oneself and crushes one's pride and one's self, one feels crushed both ways: by not answering and then by the crushing of one's self. And to be able to say, 'I have answered him back!' gives one a certain pride, a certain satisfaction.
In order to see this question more clearly one must picture oneself as two beings, one the king and the other the servant. When one of them expresses a wish, it is the king who wishes. And the part that says, 'I cannot,' is the servant. If the servant has his way, then the king is in the place of the servant. And the more the servant has his way, the more the servant rules and the king obeys. In this way naturally conflict arises and that reflects upon the outer life; one's whole life becomes unlucky. One may be pious or good or religious, it makes no difference. If man does not realize the kingdom of God within himself nor realize his spirit to be a king, he does not accomplish the purpose of life.