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Volume VIII - The Art of Being

The Privilege of Being Human

Chapter XIII
Conciliation - Ittifaq

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 eyes.

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.


checked 26-nov-2015