Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
HARMONY is that which makes beauty, beauty in itself has no meaning. An object which is called beautiful at one time or place may not be beautiful at another. And so it is with thought, speech, and action. That which is called beautiful is only so at a certain time and under certain conditions which make it beautiful; so if one could give a true definition of beauty it is harmony. Harmony in a combination of colors, harmony in the drawing of a design or a line, that is what is called beauty; and a word, a thought, a feeling, or an action which creates harmony is productive of beauty.
Whence comes the tendency towards harmony and whence comes the tendency towards inharmony? The natural tendency of every soul is towards harmony, and the tendency towards inharmony is an unnatural state of mind or affairs; the very fact that it is not natural makes it devoid of beauty. The psychology of man is such that he responds both to harmony and inharmony. He cannot help it, because he is naturally so made; mentally and physically he responds to all that comes to him whether it be harmonious or inharmonious.
The teaching of Christ, 'Resist not evil', is a hint not to respond to inharmony. For instance a word of kindness, of sympathy, or an action of love and affection, finds response, but a word of insult, an action of revolt or of hatred, creates a response too, and that response creates still more inharmony in the world. By giving way to inharmony one allows inharmony to multiply. Where does all the great unrest and discord that one now sees pervading the world come from? It seems that it comes from the ignorance of this fact that inharmony creates inharmony, and that inharmony will multiply. If a person is insulted his natural tendency is to reply by insulting the other person still more. In this way he gets the momentary satisfaction of having given a good answer. But he has responded to that power which came from the other, and these two powers, being negative and positive, create more inharmony.
'Resist not evil' does not mean to take evil into oneself. It only means: do not return the inharmony that comes to you, as a person playing tennis would send back the ball with his racket. But at the same time it does not suggest that one should receive the ball with open hands.
The tendency towards harmony may be likened to a rock in the sea: through wind and storm the rock stands firm; waves come with all their force and yet it still stands bearing it all, letting the waves beat against it. By fighting inharmony one increases it; by not fighting it one refrains from adding fuel to the fire which would otherwise increase and cause destruction. But no doubt the wiser we become, the more difficulties we have to face in life, because every kind of inharmony will be directed towards us for the very reason that we will not fight it. We should realize, however, that all these difficulties have helped to destroy this inharmony which would otherwise have multiplied. This is not without its advantages, for every time we stand firm where there is inharmony we increase our strength, though outwardly it may seem a defeat. But one who is conscious of the increase of his power will never admit that it is a defeat, and after a while the person against whom one has stood firm will realize that it was actually his defeat.
The Sufi avoids all unrhythmic actions; he keeps the rhythm of his speech under the control of patience, not speaking a word before the right time, not giving an answer until the question is finished. A contradictory word he considers to be a discord unless spoken in a debate, and even at such times he tries to resolve it into a consonant chord. A contradictory tendency in a man finally develops into a passion, until he will contradict even his own idea if it happens to be pronounced by another. The Sufi in order to keep harmony even modulates his speech from one key to another; in other words he falls in with another person's idea by looking at the subject from the speaker's point of view instead of his own. He makes a basis for every conversation with an appropriate introduction, thus preparing the ears of the listener for a perfect response. He watches his every movement and expression, as well as those of others, trying to form a consonant chord of harmony between himself and another.
The attainment of harmony in life takes longer to acquire and more careful study than does the training of the ear and the cultivation of the voice, although it is acquired in the same manner as the knowledge of music. To the ear of the Sufi every word spoken is like a note which is true when harmonious and false when inharmonious. He makes the scale of his speech either major, minor, or chromatic, as the occasion demands; and his words, either sharp, flat, or natural, are in accord with the law of harmony.
Life in the world has a constantly jarring effect, and the finer we become the more trying it will be to us. And the time comes when the more sincere and full of goodwill, the more kind and sympathetic a person is, the worse life becomes for him. If he is discouraged by it he goes under, but if he keeps his courage he will find in the end that it was not disadvantageous, for his power will some day increase to that stage, to that degree, at which his presence, his word, and his action will control the thoughts and feelings and actions of others. Then his rhythm will become powerful and will cause the rhythm of everybody else to follow it. This is what is called in the East the quality of the mastermind. But in order to stand firm against the inharmony that comes from without, one must first practice standing firm against all that comes from within, from one's own self. For one's own self is more difficult to control than other people, and when one is not able to control oneself and one has failed, it is most difficult to stand firm against the inharmony outside.
What is it that causes inharmony in oneself? Weakness. Physical weakness or mental weakness, but it is always weakness. Very often, therefore, one finds that bodily illness causes disharmony and inharmonious tendencies. Besides there are many diseases of the mind which the scientists of today have not yet discovered. Sometimes people are considered sane whose mind in fact is ill, and as not enough attention is paid to the defects which are inherent in the diseases of the mind, man has never had a chance to notice them in himself. He is continually finding fault with others; whether he works in an office, somewhere in a good position, at home, or anywhere else, he causes inharmony. Nobody realizes this, for to be treated as insane one must first be recognized as insane.
The cause of every discomfort and of every failure is inharmony; and the most useful thing one could impart in education today is the sense of harmony. To develop harmony in children and to bring it to their notice will not be as difficult as it appears; what is needed is to point out to the young the different aspects of harmony in all the various affairs of life.