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Volume VIII - The Art of Being

The Privilege of Being Human

Chapter VII

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 God.

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 claims immortality.

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 of God.

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 God.

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 smiled.

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.

checked 24-Mar-2006