This whole manifestation has ambition as its underlying
motive and, as everything in the world has two swings, it
also has a forward swing and a backward swing. When a race
or a nation has reached the furthest point of the forward
swing, it recognizes that all is valueless, and it begins
the backward swing which means annihilation, the return
We can see this in the East. The wish of every person
there is to do without. They will rather eat with their
fingers than with fork and knife; they will rather eat on
the floor than at a table; they will rather go bareheaded
than to wear a hat, and they will rather go barefoot than
wear shoes. All their present backwardness is because they
have lost the ambition for advancement. When they had ambition
they too progressed and at one time they were first in civilization.
When the wise people had reached that point the time
of renunciation began, and the reflection of the wise fell
upon the foolish. Not only the wise men who had some reason
for it practiced renunciation, but also the foolish. They
had no reason for it, but the influence of the wise affected
them. They are all in a dream, without ambition, lazy. If
one would say to them, 'You are always dreamy and lazy.
Have some ambition, be active!' They would answer, 'I am
happy in my dream. What else could you teach me?' If anyone
wishes to walk over their head, they allow it; they say,
'There will be a third one, stronger than he, who will one
day walk over his head.' There are many in India who
do not kill insects, as the Jains. A Brahmin does not kill
a snake. How then could he take a weapon in his hand and
stand against a man?
I have met a Brahmin, a great musician, and I was much
astonished for he was in his dhoti wearing only a
towel, which covered his back. But when he began to speak
it was evident that his knowledge was so great that he was
the greatest musician of his time. In the West the ambition
for worldly things drives a man so far that he often forgets
his parents, he neglects his duties. His self is always
before his eyes. I have seen that it is always so in the
life of business, of commerce, of trade. The worldly ambitions
are so strong that a man has no time for spiritual knowledge.
Very often he would have a tendency to realize the truth
through his intelligence, but the ambitions of the world
are too strong.
If one says, 'Shall we renounce and become as they are
in the East, living in a dream, and rather lazily? Shall
we allow whatever nation to walk into our country?' – I
shall answer that there cannot be one principle for everyone,
because everyone is not in the same stage of evolution.
Therefore the Sufi prescribes no common principle for all.
He does not say, 'Renounce. Do not be cruel.' The Sufi has
been blamed for this many times, because to have no principles
in ordinary language means to be very bad. We recognize
that what is a right principle for one is not always right
for another. To a lord who has so many millions of pounds
we shall not say, 'Do not give a great dinner or a ball
in your house.' He would say, 'All the other lords do it.'
He cannot have the same principles that a Murshid prescribes
for himself. My Murshid once refused the initiation to the
Nizam of Hyderabad because the Nizam could not follow the
principles that the Murshid would prescribe.
A person must not choose the way of renunciation as long
as any ambition within him remains unfulfilled. Vairagya,
the thought of renunciation, comes to every wise person,
to every righteous person. Sometimes a man thinks, 'I want
to renounce all, because I am disgusted.' Another time he
thinks, 'But if I were given a little bungalow and a little
garden, I would not renounce it.' Sometimes he thinks, 'I
will renounce the whole world,' and another time he thinks,
'But if I were Mr. Asquith
1 or Mr. Asquith's secretary, I
would not renounce.'
If one says, 'I have renounced the Tsar's throne,' what
does that mean? Only the Tsar may say, 'I renounce the throne
that has been given to me.'
It is only when every ambition has been satisfied that
a person should take the way of renunciation. Until then
let him use his power. Whilst any desire remains he must
not renounce it; it is not right. You might ask, 'Then shall
we never renounce?' Yes, when your ambition is unjust, when
it is cruel, then renounce.