Life may be recognized in two aspects: the known and
the unknown. What is generally called life is its known
aspect as its other aspect is unknown to many. The unknown
aspect may be called immortal, the eternal life, and the
known aspect may be called mortal life. What we generally
know of life is its mortal part; the experience we have
through our physical being gives us the evidence of life,
and therefore, the life we know is the mortal life. The
immortal life exists, but we do not know it; it is our knowledge
which is absent, not the immortal life.
In this life known to us everything we have, whether
an object, a living being, a thought, a condition, a deed,
or an experience – all break and die away. Each of these
things has birth and death. Sooner or later what is composed
must be decomposed, and what is visible now will disappear.
This shows that there is a struggle between what we call
life and the life which is behind it. In Sufi terms we call
these two aspects of life qaza and qadr:
qaza, the unlimited aspect of life, qadr the
limited aspect. Qadr draws upon the life of qaza
for its existence, and qaza waits with its mouth
open to swallow what comes into it. Therefore, the thinkers
and wise men, those who are called mystics or Sufis, have
discovered the science of how to withhold the experience
of life – which alone gives us the evidence of life – from
the mouth of qaza, the ever assimilating aspect of
life. If we do not know how to withhold it, it will fall
into the mouth of qaza. For qaza is always
waiting with an open mouth. As an illness awaits the moment
when a person is lacking in energy, so in all different
forms of qaza is waiting to assimilate all that comes
to it, and which then is merged in it.
The question arises: how can we withhold, how can we
keep something from falling into the mouth of qaza?
And the answer is: by controlling our body and our mind.
Much is known about physical culture, but what is known
is what can be obtained by action, by gymnastics, by movements.
Very little is known about what can be obtained by repose,
by poise and posture.
I have seen in the East a man lifting a heavy stone on
one finger. One might think: how can a man's little finger
– these fine bones – stand such a heavy weight? It is the
power of the will alone which sustains the heavy stone;
the finger is only an excuse. I have seen myself those who
experiment in the field of spirit and matter jumping into
a raging fire and coming out safely, cutting the muscles
of their body and healing them instantly. It is not a story
that mystics know how to levitate; the demonstration of
this has been seen by thousands of people in India. I do
not mean to say that this is something worth learning or
following, I only wish to tell you what can be accomplished
by the power of will. And in order to obtain the reign of
will over the physical body the first thing necessary is
Among the different kinds of physical culture known to
the modern world there is nothing that teaches the method,
the way, the secret of sustaining an action. For instance,
to be able to sit in the same posture without moving, to
be able to look at the same spot without moving the
be able to listen to something without being disturbed by
something else, to be able to experience hardness, softness,
heat or cold, keeping even vibrations, or to be able to
retain the taste of salt, sweet and sour. Since all these
experiences come and go, man has no control over his means
of pleasure or joy. He cannot enjoy any experience through
any sense as long as he wishes to enjoy it. So he depends
upon outer things, and has no control sustaining the experience
he has. If there is any way of sustaining experience, it
is through control.
There is another side to this question. Being unconsciously
aware that every experience, which is pleasing and joyous,
will soon pass away, man is over-anxious and, instead of
trying to retain the experience, he hurries it and loses
it; so for instance his habit of eating hastily, or of laughing
before the mirthful sentence is finished. He is over-anxious
that his joy will pass away, but so his joy is finished
even before the mirthful sentence ends. In every experience
man loses the power to sustain it because of his anxiety
about losing the pleasure it gives.
The great joy of watching a tragedy in the theatre lies
in experiencing it to its fullness, but some people are
so thrilled that they have already shed their tears in the
beginning, and then there is nothing left for afterwards.
Once the zenith is reached, there is no more experience
to be had and so, instead of keeping it away from the mouth
of eternal life, man throws every experience he makes, without
knowing the secret of it, into the life behind.
The mystics, therefore, by sitting in different postures
and by standing in different poses, have gained control
over their muscles and nervous system, and this has an effect
on the mind. A person who lacks control over his nervous
and muscular systems has no control over his mind; he eventually
loses it. But by having control over one's muscular and
nervous systems one gets control over the mind also.
The means by which life draws its power is breath. With
every breath one draws in, one draws life and power and
intelligence from the unseen and unknown life. And when
one knows the secret of posture, and draws from the unseen
world energy and power and inspiration, one gets the power
of sustaining one's thought, one's word, one's experience,
one's pleasure, one's joy. Thought-power is necessary with
both posture and breath in order to gain physical control.
One must rise above one's likes and dislikes, for they
cause much weakness in life. When one says, 'I cannot stand
this, I cannot eat this, I cannot drink this, I cannot bear
this, I cannot tolerate this, I cannot endure' – all those
things show man's weakness. The greater the will power the
more man is able to stand all that comes along. It does
not mean that one has no choice. One can have one's choice,
but when one gives in to one's choice, then life becomes
difficult. There is a false ego in man, called nafs
by the Sufis, and this ego feeds on weakness. This ego feels
vain when one says, 'I cannot bear it, I do not like it,
I do not look at it.' All this feeds the ego and its vanity.
It then thinks, 'I am better than others,' and thereby this
ego becomes strong, and so man's weakness becomes strong.
But the one who has discrimination, distinction, choice,
while at the same time having these all under his control,
the one who enjoys sweet but can drink a bowl of something
bitter – that person has reached mastery.
Someone asked a wise man what was the cause of every
tragedy in life. The wise man answered, 'Limitation. All
miseries come from this one thing, limitation.' Therefore
the mystics have tried by exercises, by practices, by studies
to overcome limitation as much as possible. There is no
worse enemy of man than helplessness. When a person feels,
'I am helpless, I cannot help it,' it is the end of his
joy and happiness.
Impulses also weaken a person, when he helplessly gives
in to them. For instance, when he has an impulse to go to
the park, instead of waiting till it is the right time to
go to the park, he quickly puts on his hat and goes along.
He follows his impulse immediately and loses power over
himself. The one who subordinates his impulses, controlling
them, utilizing them for the best purpose, attains mastery.
Besides, indulgence into every comfort, seeking convenience,
always looking for the path of least resistance, also brings
weakness. However small the work may be, if a person takes
it seriously and finishes it with patience, he gains much power
over himself. Patience is the principal thing in life, although
patience is as bitter, as hard, as unbearable as death.
Sometimes one prefers death to patience.
It is a great difficulty that the people in this land
of America are losing this quality of patience more and
more every day, because Providence has blessed them so much.
They have conveniences, they have comforts, they are the
spoilt children of Providence, and when it comes to having
patience, it is very hard for them. Individuals have to
practice this spirit, for we do not know what may come to
follow. We live in this world of uncertainty, and we do
not know in what condition we may be placed tomorrow; if
we have no strength of resistance we may easily break down.
Therefore, it is most necessary for the human race to develop
patience in all conditions of life, in all walks of life,
in all positions in life. Whether we are rich or poor, high
or low, this is the one quality that must be developed.
It is patience that gives endurance, it is patience that
is all-powerful, and by lack of patience one loses so much.
Very often the answer to one's prayer is within one's reach.
The hand of Providence is not very far off – but one has
lost one's patience and so lost the opportunity.
All such things as mastery and patience are acquired
by physical cuture. Physical control can build a foundation
for character and personality, a foundation to be built
in order to bring about spiritual attainment.
Question: Would you, please, explain something more about
Answer: The fantasy of the whole creation lies in the
direction of every movement; it is in accordance with this
direction that fantasy takes form. Where do all the opposites
such as sun and moon, man and woman, pain and joy, negative
and positive, come from? Since the source is one and the
goal is one, why such differences? They belong to the direction;
the secret of every difference is direction. It is an activity;
an energy of working in a certain direction which makes
a certain form. So it makes a difference whether you sit
this way or that way, whether you sleep on the right side
or on the left, whether you stand on your feet or on your
head makes a difference.
Mystics, therefore, have practiced for many, many years,
and have found out different postures of sitting while doing
certain breathing exercises. They have made a great science
out of this. There is a warrior's posture, an artist's posture,
a thinker's posture, an aristocratic posture, a lover's
posture, a healer's posture: different postures in order
to attain different objects. By those postures it becomes
easy for man to attain these objects, for then he has arrived
at the science of direction. Posture does not denote anything