Does happiness depend upon the conditions of life or
upon our outlook on life? It is a question that is often
asked and most difficult to answer. Many who have some philosophical
knowledge will say that this material world is an illusion
and its conditions a dream; yet there are very few who can
make themselves believe it. To know a thing in theory is
different from practicing it. It is most difficult in this
world to rise above the effects that conditions produce.
No doubt, there is only one thing that helps us to rise
above conditions, and that is a change of outlook on life.
This change is made practicable by a change of attitude.
In the language of the Hindus life in the world is called
samsara. It is pictured as life in a mist; one thinks
and says and does and feels, and yet one does not fully
know why. If a person knows one reason for it, another reason
is hidden behind it which he does not yet know. Very often
conditions in life show a picture of captivity; often it
seems as if one had to walk between water and a pit. To
rise above conditions, one needs wings attached to the soul:
one is independence and the other is indifference – which
not everyone has got. Independence needs a great deal of
sacrifice before one can feel independent in life. Indifference
is against one's nature of love and sympathy; it is like
cutting one's heart asunder before one can practice indifference
throughout life. No doubt once the soul is able to spread
its wings, one sees the conditions of life as far removed;
then one stands above all conditions that make man captive.
There is no difficulty which cannot be surmounted sooner
or later. But even when a person has achieved something
he desires in life, something else seems to be unfinished.
So if he goes from one thing to another, achieving all he
desires, the objects of his desire will multiply and there
will never be an end to his desires. The more he has to
do in life the more difficulties he must meet with. If he
keeps away from the life of the world, then his being here
will be purposeless. The more important the task, the more
difficult is its accomplishment. So evening follows every
day, and this goes on till eternity.
For a Sufi, therefore, not only patience to bear all
things is necessary, but to see all things from a certain
point of view that can relieve him for that moment from
difficulty and pain. Very often it is his outlook which
changes a person's whole life. It can turn hell into heaven,
it can turn sorrow into joy. When a person looks from a
certain point of view, every little pin-prick feels like
the point of a sword piercing his heart. If he looks at
the same thing from a different point of view, the heart
becomes sting-proof, nothing can touch it. All things which
are sent forth at that person as bullets drop down without
ever having touched him.
What is the meaning of walking upon the water? Life is
symbolized as water. There is one person who drowns in the
water, there is another who swims in the water, but there
is still another who walks upon it. The one who is so sensitive
that, after one little pin prick he is unhappy all
the day and night is the man of the first category. The
one who takes and gives back and makes a game of life is
the swimmer; he does not mind if he receives one knock,
for he derives satisfaction from being able to give two
knocks in return. But the one whom nothing can touch is
in the world and yet is above the world. He is the one who
walks upon the water; life is under his feet, both its joy
and its sorrow.
Verily, independence and indifference are the two wings
which enable the soul to fly.