Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
CHARACTER AND FATE
When a person hears that an influence is exerted on fate by character, he at once wonders how far this can be true with regard to those whom he sees to be well off and in favorable circumstances. He dare not think that their degree of rank and wealth could be attained by good character and its effects.
This is the first stumbling-block which man meets with. When he begins to idealize or admire a character, he has his practical benefit before his eyes. And when he asks himself, 'Shall I gain anything from a practical point of view?' The heavenly bliss is disregarded. The first thing he thinks about is his fate: 'If only I could have good fortune!' If he gets all he wants by having a good character, he is at once disturbed by the disappointment of finding that the actual facts do not agree. If it is in business, for instance, surely it is constant application which brings success, and not the personal character.
If we considered that good fortune lies in the achievement of worldly power, or of wealth or position, this would be the poorest fortune. However high a person is in rank, however great the wealth he possesses, and whatever position in life he occupies, these have nothing to do with his happiness and satisfaction of mind. It is fate that has to do with happiness and satisfaction.
Even if a person be living in a palace, his heart may still be in torment from morning to night. Is that enjoying a good fate? He has a thousand difficulties; his own longings are his enemies. Is that good fortune? Happiness may exist in a cottage. Yet one who suffers from lack of money says, 'What good fortune the rich man has!' But the rich man says to himself, 'All they want is to get what they can out of me. They are waiting till I close my eyes in order that they may inherit what I possess. Many minds are constantly working against me.' And is health good luck? Is a healthy man also the possessor of a mind at rest? Is his heart satisfied?
But if good fortune does not consist of these things, are they then desirable? Surely they are desirable; but can we say they are the only good fortune that we can attain? Can we say that they are the only things that can satisfy our need in life? It is only when we lack wealth or health that we say good fortune lies in them. Yet when we attain them we find we are still not satisfied. Therefore it must be something else that constitutes good fortune. It is not being very religious or pious. It consists in the attainment of what we wish, what we desire, and what we would choose to have.
What do we desire? All things that seem to us best according to our evolution; these we think we desire and wish to have and consider to be good fortune. But when it comes to giving away these things, we are not willing to do so. The whole secret lies there. If we could only grasp the fact that it is for us to give to others that which we expect them to give to us. We like to be in the company of a good or calm person, and our desire is to deal with such a one; in our profession or in business we always think, 'If I could have a righteous and just and reliable person to deal with.' But when we are put to the test, when it comes to being righteous ourselves, we fail miserably. When others expect us to treat them well, fairly, and kindly, and to be stable and reliable, we forget that it is for us to show these characteristics. We think so much of our own wishes that we forget what it is that we ought to do for others.
The seer, therefore, teaches that all the things that we desire and think beautiful, we ought to produce within ourselves instead of expecting them from others. What a task that is! What great self-sufficiency there would be if every country always itself produced that which it seeks from others; what an independent life it would be to produce within ourselves what we expect to obtain from others! Instead of depending on them for something we ourselves can give them, we should experience the joy of giving, the joy of being kind to others. What joy and freedom we should ourselves find in being kind to another. However natural it may be to have someone love and admire us, are we not dependent? The wife is dependent on her husband's love; the friend is dependent on the friend's love. But in the other case we would be free and independent; for our joy would lie in the love itself, and not in the person. We should enjoy life by doing kindness to others. Receiving kindness from others only makes the recipient expect more. He keeps saying, 'He is doing this for his own benefit; he is not considering me; he is blaming me; he did not help me; he did not deal fairly with me.' His life becomes full of grudges because he expects from everybody all the good that he wants, and he does not know that he ought to have it all in himself; that he should become independent. Therein lies the secret of character.
It is a wonderful thing that all that we possess in the way of character we transfer not only to our surroundings, but also to such animals and birds as may be pets in the house. If we could see exactly to what extent our character itself acts on our surroundings we should be surprised, the effect is so great. According to science we see that the law of attraction is such that it always attracts the same elements. When we emit goodness, we cannot receive anything else but goodness; and even those who have not that element know it to be of God. All attributes and all goodness that are in the original spirit of God are in man's spirit also. However wicked a man may be, however lawless, however degenerate, if we are quite the opposite our power will be greater than his; his power will not have any influence on us. The power of goodness conquers badness. Badness is weakness; goodness is strength.
A man who has the habit of losing his temper cannot control another person with the same temperament, because he has that weakness himself. Therefore the other person loses control also. If a man has control over himself, he will smile and be patient even if he is exposed to rages a thousand times. He will just wait. He who has spiritual control has great control; but he who has it not can control neither spiritual nor physical events. He cannot control his own sons and daughters, for he never listens to himself first. If he listened to himself, not only persons but even objects would listen to him. The self will never guide unless we allow it to do so. We always go astray when we are not guided by the intuitive self. Confusion always follows when we have disappointed our intuition, and failure always comes when the control has been lost.
A person's weakness spoils his affairs for all the different spheres in which his affairs lie – family, daily life, business, profession, industry, and so on – are all affected by every lack in his character. Do not think that a person of high position is always an ideal character; he would have come to a ten times higher position if his character had helped him.
It is the character that is our teacher. We do not need to speak to people about being virtuous, kind, righteous, for our own righteousness is enough to make them so; our goodness is sufficient to make our surroundings good. People are forever seeking psychic power and control when all the time it is within themselves. Our self is the greatest enemy we have. The horse wants to go where its rider does not; it is the self that will not listen to us and does not act according to our wish. It is not what another person says, or a priest says, or a Church says; the great teacher is both within and without. If we are willing to be guided, everything can teach us a lesson. If we wish to see the advantage of sobriety, we shall see it among sober people. If we wish to see the disadvantages of lack of sobriety, we shall see them among people who are not sober; if we wish to see the advantage of guidance, we shall see it among those who are guided. It is all a matter of experience and study; and our own guide towards our true ideal will never fail to guide us aright.
We should do all that we wish others to do to us; and we should not only do what we please to others, even if they do not wish for more. All that we expect from the world we desire for ourselves. But if we acted otherwise, we should become great personalities in the world; instead of being examples of selfishness we should give our best in our dealings with our nearest relatives, children and friends.
Life in general is like a plant with thorns. Wherever we wish to take hold, there we find a thorn. The more our eyes are opened, the more, wherever we put our hand, do we get thorns, the thorns of selfishness; for every ego wants what is best for itself and is not ready to give. Yet if we tried out of curiosity to become a rose instead of a thorn, we would make our life worthwhile.
When we begin to see our own faults, then we see how much more we should deserve the name of human beings. Ghalib said, 'For man even to become man is the most difficult of all the other difficulties in life.' One day a majzub (that is, a man who has devoted his entire life to spiritual realization, living always far from the crowd, who think him crazy) was coming from one side of the market-place when he met another coming from the opposite side. They made a little bow to one another. And it surprised a bystander to see two crazy people greet one another thus. What brotherhood there is between crazy people, he thought. He then went to the place where the one majzub lived, and sat there waiting along time until it should please the majzub to explain himself. At last the mood of the majzub became such that he would speak to him; and he placed his hand upon the head of this man, saying, 'My child, go into the bazaar, and look at it; and come back and tell me what you see.' So the man went back to the city, and looked at the crowd, and returned full of surprise. He was bewildered beyond expression, and said, 'Every face that I see has the appearance of some animal; not a human face can I see throughout the whole city, except that of the man to whom you bowed, and of your holy self; of only these two!'
It does not mean that the faces were changed; it does not mean that the features became different. It means that the garb of humanity, the appearance of the human beings, is not enough. If we can distinguish ourselves from other beings, it is only in the things that animals do not do that man can be different from them. When it comes to eating, do not both eat? Both sleep; both seek comfort. Man does all the things that animals do; man can only be greater than animals in things that they do not do. And what are those things? Building houses? Birds can do this. Ability to fight? Animals and birds fight. The showing of art and skill, animals can show these things. Think of the spider and how it weaves its web; it is wonderful.
Man was created in order that he might overcome that which animals have not overcome. And what is that? It is the ego. It is the ego that makes him selfish, that makes him try to get the best of his neighbor This is the only real cause of all the disturbances of life, of all unrest, of all that we suffer, of all the harm that comes to us. The great enemy is the ego, the selfishness, manifested in husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, neighbor, or servant.
Seeing how man's selfishness is torturing the world, the greatest need is to understand that no one is better than anyone else, and that no one can rightly think or imagine he can be better than anyone else, or more helpful to children or family or surroundings until this one thing is achieved: the suppression of ego, of selfishness. Do we not fight with one another unjustly, all because of vanity? We say, 'That is my thought; that is mine.' 'Me' is such that everything but 'me' is wrong; what I have, no one shall touch. This is the one thing against which all religious teachers preach.
Many people think it is very necessary to hold to self and self-interest. Yet even if man does differ from animals, he resembles them in this, that where there are two dogs and one has a bone before him, he does not want the other dog to touch his bone. Even though he is satisfied and does not require the bone himself, he still does not wish the other dog to come and touch it. 'This is my bone,' he thinks, 'I will have it.' And as long as the other dog is afraid, it is all right. But if the other dog is bigger, he will come and take the bone, and bite the first dog too. That is the picture of life.
Yet we see that in similar circumstances one man will say of the other, 'O, he was so good, I went to him at lunch-time and he was so kind as to ask me to have lunch with him.' This is a man's feast; the other was a dog's feast. This is where man should be different from an animal. An animal will not recognize his mother, or father, or his birthplace, but man will. After he has grown up he will consider, 'My mother took care of me when I was an infant and was so kind to me; and now she is aged, so I will do everything in my power for her.' He dwells on all the respect he can show her, and how worthy she is of it. At once he shows himself to be man; the animal does not act in this way. Hence, in the case where a man does the same as an animal, and does not care for those who did all they could for him in his youth, he shows his lack of humanity. Forgetfulness and lack of appreciation of the care bestowed during childhood are characteristic of the animal.
Even angels bow to Christ, and Christ is the ideal man. Angels bow to the ideal man. Even when standing on the earth below, he is higher than heaven and the angels, if only he can be man, if only he exhibits humanity. Christ said, 'Ye are the salt of the earth, and if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?' This explains that man is the ideal manifestation, higher than mineral, vegetable, animal, and other kingdoms, and even higher than the angels. If he loses the sense of humanity, who is to come and teach him? He is the one who is able to teach.
Man is the father of humanity. If the father loses his way, where will the children go? How much depends on the preceding generation! It is to this that we always look for prosperity, for success, for the future of the nation, country, race, or family.
The real welfare to be sought is not the keeping of so much money in the bank, so many houses built, such and such an education at the university; it is the benefit to the future that is the guide. Parents should think of the welfare of the child even before it is born. The child will show what he has inherited; but how few parents think of that.
Our rest, our peace, our harmony, our tendency to all good and beautiful actions and things are the wealth that we can reserve for the child. The parents should know what psychic influences they can transmit to their children. The father and the mother are just like the planet which controls the souls and the spirits of that planet; but they are the living planet, their influence is much greater upon their children.
The father thinks that if he does a certain thing, the child should do the same. 'I must make my child follow in my footsteps,' he thinks. This is fate. Is it not the fate of nation, race, family, or the individual, to consider that which belongs to their generation as ideal, believing that that is the best fate for the next generation?
People give their lives for the new generation, for the new hope. Should one not see that what matters is that the lives of the children should become better? The leaders of a town, of a country, are looked to as an example which the people may follow. How can one prove oneself fit for all these positions? The position of leadership can only be filled after training oneself, and not someone else.
What an atmosphere one can create by one's character; what influence one person can have on another's character! 'Where are you going?' asks a father; 'I am going to the library,' says the son. His answer expresses truth and conviction. But another who is going where he knows his father does not want him to go replies with hesitation, and he falters out the same words; 'I am going to the library.' The same words are used, but there is no strength in them, no effect.
What power character gives; what power truthfulness gives; what power is lost when the character of the prospective act is in doubt! What fear the murderer goes through! He is himself half murdered before he commits the act, and after committing the act he is in a worse condition than the one he has murdered. His fear, his conscience, his kindness, his justice, his reason are all in conflict.
The power of character is like the power of an army. With Christ there was an army of angels. With Muhammad there was also an army of angels. He stood, while thousands of people were running away. When an enemy came near to the great Khalif to behead him, the enemy was afraid. But this fear was simply a result of the Prophet's power of control. Personality shows what has been sown in it. One cannot pretend to be righteous and good unless one's spirit has practiced it and that strength has really come. One's appearance and one's atmosphere can tell what one is, because man is the picture of his thoughts. Whatever he thinks, whatever he is about, that speaks in his atmosphere, in his voice, in his movements. In everything he expresses himself as he is, how far he has evolved, and how far he has not evolved. Whatever he is, he shows.
How great an influence can be! There is the story of a boy who was sent to Baghdad across the desert, after his mother had sewn a few gold coins in his blanket, telling him to keep it safe and not open it till he reached the city. This was a precaution against robbers, for there were no trains or cars or caravans; it was necessary to travel alone and on foot. When this lad came to the desert, robbers met him. Thinking he would not have much money, being only a little boy, they asked him all the same, 'Have you any coins, any gold, any silver?' Having been trained to tell the truth, he answered, 'Yes I have.' His conscience would never permit him to answer 'no.' 'Where are they?', they asked. 'They are sewn in this blanket,' he said. But the very fact of his telling them won the robbers' hearts and made them act rightly themselves. They said, 'We would have stolen them had you not told the truth,' and they let him go free.
If a person thinks that God is all, but the whole world is vile, he does not worship God, for God is all and God is beautiful. 'God is beautiful and he loves beauty,' the Prophet said. And as His being is in us, we are supposed to love beauty also. What is beauty? Not only the external beauty, but the beauty of personality, the beauty of character, that is the real beauty. If we did not worship it, we should not admire it in other people. We cannot appreciate anything without beauty of character.
All gains, whether material, spiritual, moral, or mystical, are the outcome of one's own character; and if we have gained nothing, it is only by reason of our own character.
Truth comes to man's soul, and yet truth is not the exclusive property of creed, caste, or race. We are all the children of God, the Father-Mother Spirit of all that exists. And we ought to have such a feeling of brotherhood that we exchange helpful thoughts with one another all the time. We can take love and guidance from one another. Speech is not as great a help as contact; but the privilege of meeting one another is great. When souls meet, what truth they can exchange! It is uttered in silence, yet surely always reaches its goal.
When God wants to destroy a thing, He gives it into unworthy hands.