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Volume VIII - The Art of Being

The Privilege of Being Human

Chapter XXXII
Moral Culture


We distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong by our own experiences. One man has a good experience from a certain thing and at once calls it good; another has a bad experience from the same thing and calls it bad. A person who may seem very bad to some is called good by his friend. In a person who leads a merry life one may be sure, by looking carefully, to find some good, such as may not be found in persons of great repute for their holiness and spirituality.

Man is born with such a critical tendency and has so much developed this tendency that he easily seeks what is bad in everything. The Sufi takes the contrary way; he seeks for what is good in everyone and everything. The way of morality is to think that if someone has done us some good it is very great, and if we have done good to someone to think that it is very little and that we might have done more. If a person has done something bad to us we should forget it as soon as possible, and if we have done something bad we should think of it as a great fault. If we see something that seems bad to us we should overlook it, disregard it, forgive it. This is the only way to happiness and peace.

We must never think, 'You did so much good to me, I do so much good to you.' That makes all goodness and kindness a commercial transaction: you give me a hat, and I give you a pair of gloves!

If someone finds fault with another, he will try to get us to agree with him. He will say, 'That person is doing this. Is it not dreadful?' If we say, 'Yes it is terrible,' our fault will be as great or greater than his will.

Whatever is said or done echoes in the world as in a dome, and what good or bad a person does comes back to him. It may not always come back from the same person to whom he did good or harm. It may come from quite another side, because the universe is not many beings, but one Being. If a man does harm to a person who did nothing to him, that person is receiving back what bad he once did to another. However, that does not justify you, as an individual, in doing harm. When good is done, it also comes back as good, maybe from another side.

Only the Murshid who is responsible for his mureeds, or the father, who is responsible for his children, may say to the face of the mureed or the child, 'My child, this is not right for you,' but he may not tell it to others.


The morals of humanity have three aspects: morality with regard to God, morality regarding friends and morality with regard to those whom we do not like and to enemies.

Morality with regard to God has three parts. The first is to idealize, to see all the good attributes in God, all the beautiful qualities, all His mercy and kindness. You may ask, 'Why should we not also see the bad attributes in God? Why should we not say God is cruel?' For instance, a child may be ill and the mother may say, 'I pray to God to make my child well.' Then, if the child is not better, the mother may say, 'God is unjust, God has no justice. This little child, what has it done that it should suffer so much?' In reality the child is not our property; we have no right to it. It belongs to the spirit. The moral is: if you are sorry – not to complain to God; if you are sick – not to blame God; if you are unfortunate – not to say that it is God's fault. This is called adab.

The second part is praise. Wherever we see something beautiful – to give the credit to God. Whenever we see some kindness – to say that it is the kindness of God. When we perform some act of mercy – to give the credit to God.

The third part is thanks. God does not need man's worship or man's thanks. Nothing can be given to Him by man's worship, nor can anything be taken from Him. If one goes to King George's Palace and says, 'I wish to thank the king,' the sentry will say, 'Thank him at home. You cannot thank the king here.' Man's worship, man's praise are needed for man himself in order to produce in him the attributes of humanity.

The morality regarding those we like, our friends, firstly is to be sincere, not to say what is not true. In the world everybody says, 'How kind you are, how good you are,' and not a word of it is meant. People in towns are polite and polished, but the heart does not feel much. If one goes to villages where there are two or three hundred houses, one will find people not so polished but with more heart, more ready to sympathize. This is so all over the world. I used to think that it was so in India, but now I have seen that it is so everywhere.

Secondly, always be a friend. If once you have formed a friendship, keep it up. However circumstances and cases may change, keep up the friendship. Do not be one day a friend and the next day an enemy. Do not expect your friend to do what you do. He may not be worthy, or he may not be able to do what you do, and if you expect a kindness in return for a kindness it becomes commercial: I give you a book, you give me a pencil. That is not friendship, it is trade.

Thirdly, do not increase the friendship. If one increases it, friendship becomes so heavy that it cannot last. It becomes a spell, an intoxication; when the intoxication is gone the love and friendship are gone and hatred remains. A story is told about the emperor Mahmud Ghaznavi. He was riding his horse outside the city where a drunken man was sitting by the roadside. When he saw the emperor on his horse he said, 'O man, will you sell me that horse?' The emperor was amused at his confidence and boldness; he smiled at him and rode on. Later, when the emperor came back, he saw the man still sitting by the roadside, his drunkenness gone. The emperor said to him, 'Are you the man who wants to buy the horse?' The man replied, 'The buyer of the horse has gone, the servant of the horse remains.' This was a very good and nice answer, and the emperor was pleased with it. The moral is: have a little friendship and keep it up.

The morality towards those, whom we dislike, towards enemies, is more difficult, and it is much greater. For it is easy to be kind to those whom we like, who please us. In those whom we dislike even merits do not seem merits; we cannot see their merits because of our dislike. We should pity those who cannot attract our liking, and we should not think that we are different from them. We can see on the face of the man who takes a dislike to another that his own soul despises him, because in disliking the other he dislikes his own soul. His own soul is not a different soul; it is the same soul as that of the other, the same soul as the soul of the prophet, the same soul as the soul of the greatest sinner, the same soul as the Soul of the whole world.


The most essential lines of a poem of Hafiz are these: 'To friends be faithful and loving, to enemies serviceable and courteous. This is the secret of the two worlds.'

This was taught in all ages by all the prophets, saints and those who have served the world, and it is because we have forgotten it that we suffer all the ills we suffer; all our lacks come from forgetting it. It is the secret of happiness and peace. What is done for a return is not service, otherwise all the people in the city working with their machines would be called servants of God. That which is done, not for fame or name, not for the appreciation or thanks from those for whom it is done, but only for love, is service of God.

Muhammad's claim was: Muhammad Abduhu wa ar-Rasuluh, Muhammad, His servant and prophet. He was prophet because he was servant. Mahmud Ghaznavi, the emperor, says in a poem, 'Mahmud Ghaznavi, who has a thousand slaves, since love gushed from his heart, feels that he is the slave of slaves.' No one can be master who has not been servant.

Someone went to Muhammad and asked him, 'How long must I serve my mother before I have fully repaid her what she has done for me?' The Prophet said, 'If you served her all her life you could not do enough, unless in her last days she said: I forgive you what you owe me.' When he asked for more explanation the Prophet added, 'You serve your mother thinking that she will live for some years and then it will be over. She served you thinking: May my child grow and prosper and live after me. The mother is much greater.'

You should ask your soul whether you have always been kind to enemy and friend. If your soul will answer 'Yes,' then I will say that you are a saint. Although you may not know any mysticism or philosophy, although you may not be a very spiritual person, although you may not see any phenomena or work wonders, this kindness in itself is enough to make you a saint. This kindness is the moral taught by all religions.

You must see in the heart of another the temple of God. God is peeping through the heart of another. In whatever way you can, in act, in speech, in feeling, at whatever sacrifice, you should please the heart of the other and do nothing that can hurt it.


checked 2-dec-2015