We generally confuse truth with fact, and we often use
the word fact for truth. When we look at it from the mystic's
point of view we find that words are too intricate ever
to explain what is truth. All that is given to man as truth
and that he has received as truth in all ages has been a
kind of re-echo of the realization of truth, which language
has always limited and made subtle. In reality everything
is subtle and complex, but nothing is simpler than truth.
Things are complex and difficult because man makes them
so. Truth is simple and plain.
In the Sufi terminology there is one word, Haqq,
which means God and also truth. This term itself explains
that God is truth and truth is God. Truth is that which
cannot be pointed out, because all things that can be compared
have their opposite, but neither God nor truth has an opposite.
Names are to point out forms, and words are to distinguish
one thing from another, while definitions come from the
pairs of opposites or at least from differences. That which
is all-pervading and is in all things and beings, that which
every word explains and yet no word can explain, is God
and is truth.
Men have differed in all ages because they have called
their Deity by different names. There have existed wars,
fights and family feuds for ages, men dividing themselves
merely for the difference of the names they gave to their
Deity. Man always sees just what he sees; he cannot see
beyond it. With the ideal of his Deity, with the separate
names of man's Deities, with all the different attitudes
of worshipping his Deity, man remains separate from God,
for God is truth and truth is God.
In past ages people have founded new religions, formed
in the name of God; they have built churches, founded in
the name of God and Truth; they held their scriptures in
esteem and honor, and revered the names of their leaders,
of the prophets and seers of the religion to which they
belonged. And with all his progress man does not seem to
have progressed any further than the religions as known
today. Bias and bigotry exist in the followers of different
creeds, in their temples and churches, in the houses of
their prayers, in their congregations of particular communities.
The consequence is that religion and the religious spirit
has been enfeebled. This even has reacted upon the minds
of others who stay away from religion and yet partake of
that tendency towards difference, definition and separation
which divides mankind into different sections called nations,
races or communities. The reaction culminates into results
still worse than the action. All wars, disasters and unhappy
experiences that humanity has seen, are the outcome of this
spirit of intolerance, division and separation, which naturally
comes through lack of wisdom and understanding and through
the ignorance of truth.
Then the question arises: what is the way to attain the
truth? Can it be attained through study? The answer is that
the source of realizing the truth is within man. But man
is the object of his realization. There are words of Hazrat
'Ali, saying that the one who knows himself truly knows
Man, absorbed from morning till evening in his occupations
which engage his every attention to the things of the earth
and of self interest, remains intoxicated. Seldom there
are moments in his life, brought about by pain or suffering,
when he experiences a state of mind which can be called
soberness. Hindus call this state of mind sat, which
is a state of tranquility. Man then begins to become conscious
of some part of his being which he finds to have almost
been covered from his eyes. When we look at life from this
point of view we find that an individual who claims to be
a living being is not necessarily living a full life. It
is only a realization of inner life which at every moment
unveils the soul, and brings before man another aspect of
life in which he finds fullness, a greater satisfaction,
and a rest which gives true peace.
Can he speak about this to his fellow men? And if he
does, what can he say? Can he say, 'I am purer,' or 'more
exalted than you' or 'I understand life better than you?'
As life unfolds itself to man the first lesson it teaches
is humility; the first thing that comes to man's vision
is his own limitedness. The vaster God appears to him, the
smaller he finds himself. This goes on and on until the
moment comes when he loses himself in the vision of God.
In terms of the Sufis this is called fana, and it
is this process that was taught by Christ under the name
of self-denial. Often man interprets this teaching wrongly
and considers renunciation as self-denial. He thinks that
the teaching is to renounce all that is in the world. But
although that is a way and an important step which leads
to true self-denial, the self-denial meant is the losing
oneself in God.
Then the question arises: How can one lose oneself in
God? The body is a person, the mind is active, there are
feelings of joy, pleasure, love and hatred, and there is
the existence with which we identify ourselves and which
we call by a certain name and where we feel pain and pleasure.
How can one deny oneself and lose oneself in God?
There is also another question which arises from the
heart of the intellectual: 'How can I even accept the idea
that there exists a Deity? How can I lose myself in someone
whom I do not know and cannot point out?' By reasoning with
oneself and by trying to study oneself analytically it is
possible to get nearer to the true knowledge of one's being.
If we consider that every part that constitutes our being
has its own name – the hand, the foot, every part of our
being has a different name, quality and purpose, and even
a separate form – what is it then in man which says 'I'
and identifies itself with what it sees? It is not our head,
hand or foot which says 'I' nor is it the brain. It is something
that we cannot point out which identifies itself with all
these different parts and says 'I' and mine and knows itself
to be the person who sees. This in itself is ignorance,
and it is this which the Hindus have called avidya.
How can you be that which you possess? You cannot be
the horse and rider at the same time, nor can you be carpenter
and tool at the same time. Herein lies the secret of mortality
and immortality; it is the mortal being that, through illusion
It is more important to find out the truth about oneself
than to find out the truth about heaven and hell, or about
many other things which are of less importance and are apart
from oneself. However, every man's pursuit is according
to his state of evolution, and so each soul is in pursuit
of something but he does not know where it leads him. The
first sign of realization is tolerance towards others. There
are the words of Christ: 'In the house of my father are
many mansions' and those of the Prophet: 'Each soul has
its own religion' This means that according to his evolution
so man knows the truth and the more a man knows, the more
he finds there is to learn.
The mystics have in all ages recognized the virtue of
purity which is represented by innocence. A man filled with
earthly knowledge – and what he calls learning is often
only the knowledge of names and forms – has no capacity
for the knowledge of truth or God. It is the innocent and
pure soul who has a capacity for learning. When a person
comes to take a lesson on any subject, and he brings his
own knowledge with him, the teacher has little to teach
him, for the doors of his heart are not open. His heart
that should be empty in order to receive knowledge is occupied
by the knowledge that he already had acquired. In order
to know the truth or to know God earthly qualifications
and earthly wisdom or learning are not necessary. What one
has to learn is how to become a pupil.
We often start our lives as teachers, and then it is
hard to become a pupil. From childhood on we start to teach
our parents. There are seldom souls who have more inclination
for pupilship than for teaching, and there are many whose
only difficulty in life is that they are teachers already.
Man thinks that perhaps his reading or study of different
religions and doctrines has qualified him and made him capable
to understand the truth and to have the knowledge of God,
but he forgets that there is only one teacher, and that
is God Himself. We all are pupils, and what we can do in
life is to qualify ourselves to become true pupils.
It is the receptivity of our heart and the passivity
of our mind, it is the eagerness, the thirst and hunger
after truth, it is the direction of our whole life to that
Ideal from who all light and truth come, that alone can
bring us truth and the knowledge of God. All knowledge of
the earth is as clouds covering the sun. It is the breaking
of these clouds and clearness of the sky, or in other words
the purity of heart, which give the capacity for the knowledge
The question may be asked: Is any effort required for
realizing the truth? The answer is yes. There is a work
that one can do, which is as the work of a farmer, it is
to cultivate the heart. But where man makes a mistake is
that when he cultivates the heart he wishes to sow the seed
himself instead of leaving the sowing of the seed to God.
As to the way how to cultivate the heart, the first condition
is explained in a story. A young man went to a great seer
in Persia and asked him for guidance on the spiritual path.
The seer asked him, 'Have you loved in your life?' 'No'
he said, 'not yet.' The seer answered, 'Go and love, and
know what love is. Then come to me.'
According to the belief of a Sufi the heart is the shrine
of God, and when the doors of the shrine are closed it is
just like a light being hidden under a bushel. The pupil
sees that God is Love. If He is love He does not stay in
the heavens. His earthly body is the heart of man. When
that heart is frozen and when there is no love but bitterness,
coldness, prejudice and contempt, unforgiving feelings and
hatred – which all come from one source: want of tolerance,
the feeling 'I am different and you are different' – then
that spirit and that light of God, that divine essence that
is in the heart of man, is buried as in a tomb. The work
that one has to do is to dig it up, as one would dig the
ground until one touched the water underneath.
What the Sufi calls Riyazat, a process of achievement,
is nothing else than digging constantly in that holy land
which is the heart of man. Surely in the depth man will
find the water of life. However, digging is not enough.
Love and devotion, no doubt, help to bring out frequent
merits hidden in the soul, as sincerity, thankfulness, gentleness
and forgiving qualities, all things which make a man a true
man, all things which produce an harmonious atmosphere,
and all things which bring men in tune with life, the saintly
life and the outer life. All those merits come, no doubt,
by kindling the fire of love in the heart. But it is possible
that in this process of digging one may only reach mud and
lose patience. So dismay, discontentment may follow and
man may withdraw himself from further pursuit. It is patient
pursuit which will bring the water from the depth of the
ground; for until one reaches the water of life, one meets
with mud in digging. It is not love, but the pretense of
love, that imposes the claim of the self. The first and
last lesson in love is, 'I am not – Thou art' and unless
man is moved to that selflessness he does not know justice,
right or truth. His self stands above or between him and
There is a well known Eastern legend giving the idea
of a soul who had found truth. There was a wall of laughter
and of smiles. This wall existed for ages and many tried
to climb it, but few succeeded. Those who had climbed upon
it saw something beyond, and so interested were they that
they smiled, climbed over the wall and never returned. The
people of the town began to wonder what magic could there
be and what attraction, that whoever climbed over the wall
never returned. So they called it the wall of mystery. Then
they said, 'We must make an enquiry and send someone who
can reach the top, but we must tie him with a rope to hold
him back.' When the man they had thus sent reached the top
of the wall, he smiled and tried to jump over it, but they
pulled him back. Still he smiled, and when the people eagerly
asked, 'what did you see there?' he did not answer, he only
This is the condition of the seer. The man who in the
shrine of his heart has seen the vision of God, the one
who has the realization of truth, can only smile, for words
can never really explain what truth means.
The nearest explanation one can give is that truth is
realization. At every step of man's evolution his realization
changes, but there is a stage where man arrives at the true
realization, a realization which is a firm conviction that
no reason or logic can change or alter. Nothing in the world
can change it any more, and that conviction is called by
the Sufis Iman.
The realization which is attained is that there is nothing
to realize any more. The process of this attainment is a
sincere research into truth and life, and the understanding
of 'what I am the other is', together with the contemplation
of God, a selfless consciousness, and a continual pursuit
after the receiving of the knowledge of God.
Question: Is suffering beneficial?
Answer: Suffering is always a blessing. If it is for
higher ideas, for God, for an ideal, it takes a person at
once to the highest heaven. If it is for lower ideas, for
the ego, for pride, for possessions, it takes a person to
the lowest depth of hell. But there, after much suffering,
after a long, long time, he loses these ideas and is purified.
That is why the Christian religion shows the symbol of the
cross, of suffering. How high our ideal may be, how low
our ideal may be, in the end each pain has its prize.