Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
THE LAW OF ACTION
TO SAY that results are according to deeds sounds simple, for almost everyone knows it. But not everyone always follows it; and the reason is that knowing a law does not necessarily enable man to observe that law. Besides the nature of life is so intoxicating that, absorbed in the activity of life, one mostly forgets this rule. It is natural, however, that this most simple thing should be very difficult to practice, because one generally neglects to think seriously about it. In order to prove this theory, that the results of a deed are similar to the deed, one need not go far. One can see numberless examples in one's own life and in the lives of others. For it is like an echo; what one does has an echo, and in that echo is the result.
Zarathushtra says that actions may be divided into three kinds: deed, speech, and thought. One may not do wrong, but one may speak wrongly. One may not speak wrongly, but one may think wrongly. And the wrong is done just the same. And how many people excuse themselves by saying, 'I only said it, but I did not do it!' A person can even excuse himself by saying, 'I did not say it, I only thought it.'
According to the ideas of the mystics the world in which we make our life is an Akasha, and Akasha means capacity. It is pictured by them as a dome; and whatever is spoken in it has its echo. Therefore no one can do, say, or think anything for one moment which will become non-existent. It is recorded; and that record is creative. It is not only what one does, says, or thinks that is recorded in the memory or in the atmosphere, but that record also creates at every moment, so that every line and letter of it becomes the seed or the germ that produces a similar effect.
I once heard a sculptor say that every man is the sculptor of his own image. Not only is this true, but every man is also the creator of his own conditions, favorable or unfavorable. The difficulty is that man never has the patience to wait till he sees the result. For the result takes some time to manifest, and before that he may meet with contrary effects. For instance a man who has just robbed another person may have the good luck to find in the street a purse full of gold coins. Naturally he will think, 'What a good result after good work! Now that it is shown that I have done good work, I must continue it! It is the simple ones who say things against it, but I have seen the good results in my own experience!' Life is so intoxicating that it gives man no time to think that the result of one's deed is perhaps waiting. That what happens today may be the result of something else further back.
When we consider the law of action we see that it can be divided into five different aspects. One aspect is the law of the community. For this law is made for the comfort and convenience of the members of that community. Another aspect can be called the law of the state. It is the law by which different classes of people and different communities are governed as one whole. No doubt this aspect of the law is as limited as the mind of man. Naturally, therefore, many laws are rejected, and many new laws are made and brought into practice. And as time goes on people will see that the members of the community or the state will always wish for changes to be made in the law. This has always been and will always be.
The third aspect of the law is the law of a Church; a law which perhaps comes from tradition; a law that people accept, not only because it is a law by which they are governed, but because it is a law that is concerned with their faith, with their belief, which is sacred to them. It is this law which builds a conscience, more than any other aspect of the law.
But then there is another aspect and that is the law brought by the prophets from time to time. And what is this law? It comes as an interpretation of the hidden law which a prophet has been able to see. But a law given by a prophet is also related to the period in which he lived, to the people of that period and their particular evolution. Thus this law is brought about by two actions. One action is the condition of humanity at that specific time, reflected in the heart of the prophet. And the other is the light of God, shining from above to make that condition so clear that a solution can be found for it. It is this solution which can be called the divine law, given by the prophet.
When we study the religions given by various prophets to different people in this world, in different periods of the world's history, we shall find that the truth which is behind all the religions is the same. If the teaching differs it differs only in the law they have given. People have always disputed in vain over this difference in the laws that the different teachers have given to their people, not realizing how much that law depended on the people who received it and on the time when it was given.
But these four laws mentioned above: the law of the community, of the state, of the Church, and of the prophet, all have their limitations. There is, however, one law which leads man towards the unlimited. And this law can never be taught and can never be explained. At the same time this law is rooted in the nature of man, and there is no person, however unjust and wicked he may seem, who has not got this faculty in his innermost being. It may be called a faculty, for it is the faculty of discerning between right and wrong.
But what determines that something should be called right or wrong? Four things: the motive behind the action, the result of the action, the time, and the place. Wrong action with the right motive may be right; and a right action with wrong motive may be wrong. We are always ready to judge an action, and we hardly think of the motive. That is why we readily accuse a person for his wrong, and excuse ourselves readily for our wrong, because we know our motive best. We would perhaps excuse another person as we excuse ourselves if we tried to know the motive behind his action too. A thought, a word, or an action in the wrong place turns into a wrong one, even if it was right in itself. A thought or word or action at a wrong time may be wrong although it may seem right. And when we analyze this more and more we shall say as a Hindu poet has said, 'There is no use in feeling bad about the wrong deed of another person. We should content ourselves with the thought that he could not do better.' To look at everything, trying to see what is behind it, to see it in its right light, requires divine illumination, a spiritual outlook on life. And this outlook is attained by the increase of compassion. The more compassion one has in one's heart, the more the world will begin to look different.
There is another side to this question. Things seem to us according to how we look at them. To a wrong person everything looks wrong, and to a right person everything looks right. For a right person turns wrong into right, and a wrong person turns right into wrong. The sin of the virtuous is a virtue, and the virtue of a sinner is a sin. Things depend very much upon our interpretation, as there is no seal on any action, word, or thought which determines it to be wrong or right.
There is still another side to it: how much our favor and disfavor play their part in discerning right and wrong. In someone whom we love and like and admire we wish to see everything wrong in a right light. Our reason readily comes to the rescue of the loved one. It always brings an argument as to what is right and what excuses his wrong. And how readily do we see the faults and errors of the one whom we disfavor. And how difficult it is for us to find a fault, even if we wanted to, in someone we love! Therefore, if in the life of Christ we read how he forgave those who were accused of great faults or great sins, we can now see that it was natural that the one who was the lover of mankind could not see faults. The only thing he could see was forgiveness. A stupid or simple person is always ready to see the wrong in another and ready to form an opinion and to judge. But you will find a wise person expressing his opinion of others quite differently, always trying to tolerate and always trying to forgive still more. The present is the reflection of the past, and the future will be the echo of the present; this saying will always prove true.
The Sufis of Persia have classified the evolution of personality in five different grades. The first is the person who errs at every step in his life and who finds fault with others at every moment of his life. One can picture this person as someone who is always likely to fall, who is on the point of tumbling down; and when he falls he at once catches someone else and pulls him down with him. This is not rare if we study the psychology of man. The one who finds fault with another is very often the one who has the most faults himself. The right person first finds fault with himself. The wrong person finds fault with himself last. Only after having found fault with the whole world does he find fault with himself. And then everything is wrong, then the whole world is wrong.
The next grade of personality is that of the one who begins to see the wrong in himself and the right in the other. Naturally he has the opportunity in his life to correct himself because he finds time to discover all his own faults. The one who finds fault with others has no time to find fault with himself. Besides he cannot be just. The faculty of justice cannot be awakened unless one begins to practice that justice by finding the faults in oneself.
The third person is the one who says, 'What does it matter if you did wrong or if I did wrong? What is needed is to right the wrong.' He naturally develops himself and helps his fellow men also to develop.
Then there is the fourth man, who can never see what is called good without the possibility of its becoming bad, and who can never see what is called bad without the possibility of that bad turning into good. The best person in the world cannot hide his faults before him and the worst person in the world will show his merit to his eyes.
But when man has risen to the fifth grade of personality, then these opposite ideas of right or wrong, good or bad, seem to be like the two ends of one line. When that time has come he can say little about it, for people will not believe him, while he is the one who can judge rightly, yet he will be the last to judge.
There are three different ways that man may take in order to progress towards human perfection. But a person who is not evolved enough to adopt the third way or the second way, should not be forced to attempt them. If he were forced at this stage it would mean that he was only taught a manner. For these three ways are like three steps towards human perfection.
The first degree is the law of reciprocity. It is in this degree that one learns the meaning of justice. The law of reciprocity is to give and to take sympathy, and all that sympathy can give and take. It is according to this law that the religion and the laws of the state and of the community are made. The idea of this law is that you may not take from me more than you could give me. I will not give you more than I could take from you. It is fair business: you love me, I can love you. You hate me. I can hate you. And according to this law if a person has not learned the just measure of give and take, he has not practiced justice. He may be innocent, he may be loving, but he has no common sense, he is not practical.
The danger in this law is that a person may value most what he himself does and may diminish the value of what is done by another. But the one who gives more than he takes is progressing towards the next grade.
It is easy for us to say that this is a very hard and fast law. But at the same time it is the most difficult thing to live in this world and to avoid it. One must ask a practical man, a man with common sense, if it is possible to live in this world and not to observe this law of give and take. If the people of the world did no better than keep this law properly there would be much less trouble in this world. It is no use thinking that people will become saints or sages or great beings. If they became just it would already be something.
And now we come to the next step. This is the law of beneficence. And this law means being unconcerned with how another person responds to us in answer to what we do to him in love and sympathy. What concerns one is what can one do for the other person. It does not matter if a favor is not appreciated. Even if the favor were absolutely ignored, still the satisfaction of the beneficent man comes from what he has done, not from what the one who has received it has expressed. When this sense is born in man, from that day he begins to live in the world. For his pleasure does not depend upon what he receives from others but depends upon what he does for others. His happiness is not dependent on anything. His happiness is independent. He becomes the creator of his happiness. His happiness is in giving, not in taking.
But what do I mean by giving? We give and take every moment of the day. Every word we speak, every action we do, every thought and feeling we have for one another, is all giving and all taking. But it is the man who gives who will forget his sorrow, it is he who will forget his miseries, it is he who will rise above the pains and miseries of this world.
Then comes the third law, and that is the law of renunciation. To the one who observes this law giving means nothing. For he is not even conscious of the fact that he gives; he gives automatically. He never thinks 'I give'; he thinks that it is being given. This person may be pictured as someone walking on the water. For it is he who will rise absolutely above the disappointments, distresses, and pains of life which are so numberless. Besides renunciation means independence and indifference. Indifference to all things, and yet not by the absence of sympathy. And independence in regard to all things, and yet not independence in the crude sense of the word.
Renunciation, therefore, may be called the final victory. Only one in a million can attain to this ideal. And the one who has attained this ideal is he who may be called elevated, liberated.