Any efforts made in developing the personality or in
character-building must not be made for the sake of proving
oneself superior to others, but in order to become more
agreeable to those around one and to those with whom one
comes in contact. Conciliation is not only the moral of
the Sufi, but it is the sign of the Sufi.
This virtue is not always learned and practiced easily,
for it needs not only good-will but wisdom. The great talent
of the diplomat is to bring about by agreement such results
as are desirable. Disagreement is easy; among the lower
creation one sees it so often. What is difficult is agreement,
for it wants a wider outlook, which is the true sign of
spirituality. Narrowness of outlook makes the horizon of
man's vision small, and he cannot easily agree with another.
There is always a meeting-ground for two people, however
much they differ in their thought, but the meeting-ground
may be far off, and man is not always willing to take the
trouble of going far enough – as far as required in order
to come to an agreement. Very often his patience does not
allow him to go far enough: to where he can meet the other.
What generally happens is that everyone wants the other
to meet him in the place where he stands, and there is no
desire on his part to move from there.
This does not mean that in order to become a real Sufi
a person must give up his ideas so as to meet others in
agreement. There is no benefit in always being lenient with
every thought that comes from another, and there is no benefit
in always erasing one's own idea from one's heart. That
is not conciliation. The one who is able to listen to another
is the one who will make another listen to him. It is the
one who agrees easily with another who will have the power
of making another agree easily with him. Therefore in doing
so one gains in spite of the apparent loss which might sometimes
occur. When a man is able to see from his own point of view
as well as from the point of view of another, he has a complete
vision and clear insight: he, so to speak, sees with both
No doubt friction produces light, but light is the agreement
of atoms. When one seeks stimulus to thought it does not
matter so much if two people have their own ideas and argue
about them, but when a person argues for the sake of argument,
the argument becomes his game; he finds no satisfaction
in conciliation. Words then provide the means of
disagreement, reasons become fuel for that fire. Wisdom is there where
the intelligence is pliable, when one understands all things:
the wrong of the right, and the right of the wrong. The
soul who arrives at the perfect knowledge has risen above
right and wrong; he knows them and yet he does not know.
He can say much, and yet – what can he say? Then it becomes
easy for him to conciliate each and all.
There is a story that two Sufis met after many years,
having traveled along their own lines. They were glad to
meet each other after all those years of separation, for
they were both mureeds of the same Murshid. One said to
the other, 'Tell me, please, your life's experience. After
all this time of study and practice of Sufism I have learned
one thing: how to conciliate others. I can do this very
well now. Will you, please tell me what you have learned?'
the other one said, 'After all this time of study and practice
of Sufism I have learned how to master life. All that is here
in this world is for me, and I am the master; all that happens,
happens by my will.' Then came the Murshid whose mureeds
they were, and both spoke of their experiences during their
journey. The Murshid said, 'Both of you are right. In the
case of the first one it was self-denial in the right sense
of the word which enabled him to conciliate others. In the
case of the other one nothing was left of his will any more.
If there was any will, it was the will of God.'
Question: You said the other day that self-denial in
the right sense of the word is 'I am not, Thou art.' What
is self-denial in the wrong sense of the word?
Answer: The right meaning is always one, wrong meanings
are many. Among many wrong meanings the one which is most
often understood is that self-denial is denying oneself
the pleasures and happiness that the world can offer.