Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WILL, WISH, AND DESIRE
WILL IS the development of the wish. When we say that something happened according to the divine will, it means that it was a command; a wish which developed into action. When the wish develops into action it becomes will, it becomes command. One might think it is only one's wish, and indeed it is a wish as long as it is still; although it is there it has not sprung up, it is inactive just like the seed in the ground. But the moment the seed comes out of the ground as a seedling and is in the process of becoming a plant, then it is a will. Therefore wish and will are two different names for the same thing, in its undeveloped state and in the process of its development.
Desire is a weaker or a more primitive stage of the wish. When an idea or a thought that one would like a certain thing is not yet made clear in one's own mind, when one's own mind has not taken a decision, then it is a desire, a fancy. When it is a little more developed then it is a wish; then it stays there and is not dispersed like the clouds. It is tangible, it is there, and yet it is not fulfilled, because for fulfillment it must develop.
There are some people in this world who say that all their lives they have had bad luck; never have their wishes been fulfilled. Also, they very easily imagine that an antagonistic spirit is hindering them, or that God is against them, or the stars, or something else which has prevented their wish from being fulfilled. But generally this is not so. In the first place God wishes the same that we wish; if God wished differently from our wish we could not worship that God who was always against us. Besides there is no benefit in opposing the wish of man, and there is no advantage in opposing the wish of God. It is true that there may be planetary or cosmic conditions which oppose the wish; as it is said: man proposes, God disposes. God is then put in the place of the cosmic forces, but in reality God, with His mercy and compassion, never desires to oppose anyone's wish. And apart from God, even a kind-hearted man would never want to oppose anybody's wish; he would do everything possible to help a person's wish to come true.
What usually happens is that man proves to be the worst enemy of his own desire, for many reasons; and one reason is that he is never sure of what he desires. Among a hundred persons we will find perhaps one who really knows what he desires, while ninety-nine are not sure. One day they think they desire something and the next day they do not, and thus the desire disintegrates in the confusion of the mind.
There is another kind of person: those who have adopted a passive attitude. Such people say it is a sin to desire; and yet they cannot be without some desire. In this passive attitude they decide not to desire; they thwart any desire that was there. And there is a fourth kind: those who desire something but by lack of concentration cannot turn their desire into a wish, and therefore their desires always remain in their primitive stage. Finally there is the fifth kind of person who develops desire into a wish; he goes so far and no further. Thus the desire is not carried through, so to speak, and it never comes to its culmination, which only happens when the wish is developed into a will.
This question is of the greatest importance in the life of everyone. No person can exist in the world without wishing for something. And if there is anyone who has no wish, he should not stay in the world, he should avoid the crowd as he cannot exist there; he should go into the mountains, somewhere away from the world; and even there he should turn into a tree or into a rock in order to exist, because to be a living being without a wish is not possible.
There is a saying in the Gayan, which not everybody is able to understand, 'To repress desire is to suppress a divine impulse'. Those who distinguish between divine and not divine certainly make the greatest error, as either all is divine or nothing is. The only difference is the same as that between the machine and the engineer. The mind of God is working and at the same time the instrument, the machine of God is working; therefore that which arises as a desire has God as its source and is thus a divine impulse. The pious man in his ignorance has a false conception of this idea and makes of God a captive in heaven.
Another saying in the Gayan is, 'All that produces longing in the heart deprives it of its freedom.' The truth is that when there is a longing one is tied by a chain, a chain which is stronger than iron. To desire is to be bound; this is not a moral but a philosophical statement. On the other hand, one cannot live without desire; one might just as well be a rock. No doubt if one were free from desire one could have the same freedom as the rock; but even the rock is waiting for the day when it will feel desire. The desire of fulfillment will come with the development of the human form.
The difference between people is according to the wishes they have. One wishes for the earth, the other wishes for heaven. The desire of the one takes him to the height of spiritual progress, and the desire of the other takes him to the depths of the earth. Man is great or small, wise or foolish, on the right road or on the wrong road, according to the desire he has.
According to the Sufis there is Qaza, universal will, universal power; and Qadr, the individual power. Certainly the individual power compared with the universal power is like a drop compared with the sea. It cannot stand against the sweeping waves of the sea that come and destroy it. Nevertheless the drop, being from the same source as the sea, has also a certain amount of strength, and it has the individual will to hold out against opposing forces.
If we want to make this question of the individual will and the universal will more clear, it is in small things that we can do so. A person who is walking in the street and says, 'I feel hungry, I should like to go to a restaurant and have a meal', shows individual will. Another person who goes into the street and sees a poor man says, 'This man seems poor, can I not do something for him? I want to see him looking happier', and as soon as he thinks of the good of another person his will at once becomes the universal will. The reason is that the boundary that limits the will of an individual is the thought of the self; as soon as one has forgotten the thought of self, as soon as one thinks of another, that boundary breaks down and the will becomes stronger. Where did the masters of humanity, those who have been able to do great things in the world, get their will from? It was their own will which was extended by the breaking down of the boundaries of the thought of self. This does not mean that one should entirely give up the thought of self, that one must never think of oneself, never think of one's lunch and dinner. The self is there, one has to think about it. But at the same time in order to expand, in order to let the will grow, the more one forgets oneself the more one is helped.
There are some who take the path of resignation, doing good neither to themselves nor to others. They take the attitude that it will come from somewhere or that somebody will do it, that if they are hungry or in need somebody will come and feed or help them. Their wish is inactive, they do not let their wish become a will, they remain where they are, they are passive. There is no doubt that an intelligent passiveness and resignation can also bring about a wonderful result. But many of these people practice it intellectually. The quality of the saints is to be resigned to all that comes, but then they do not even form a wish. They take all that comes, flowers or thorns; everything that comes they accept. They see thorns, and look upon them as flowers. They are contented with both praise and blame, with both rise and fall; they take life as it is. That is the intelligent way of doing it; the unintelligent way is to say that everything is difficult, and that somebody else will come and do it. This is nothing but a kind of laziness, not passiveness.
In India there is a story of a man who was lying under a cherry-tree, and some ripe cherries were falling near him. But he did not move. When he saw a man coming from a distance, he called out, 'Please come here, will you put this cherry in my mouth?' There are many to be found like this, who give in, who have no enthusiasm, no courage. In this way their will power is broken down, and in the end they are helpless. There is no comparison between the saintly spirit and the spirit of the helpless, although both become resigned. But the latter is not resigned; he would like the cherry in his mouth, but only if the other gives it to him. The saint does not care if he eats it or not; it is just the same to him.
Then there are others who are over-anxious for their wish to come true. This destroys their wish because they put too great a pressure upon their wish. It is just like guarding a plant against the sun and the rain. If one guards it against the very thing which should help it to grow, then the plant cannot prosper, and it is the same with the wish. If one is too eager about one's wish, and at the same time always afraid that perhaps it will not come true, then one is thinking with doubt and fear and suspicion, and in that way one will destroy one's own wish.
And, again, there is the person who is willing to sacrifice anything or to persevere as much as necessary for even a small wish, which in reality he does not value very much. Yet he gives every thought to it, and he does everything in his power to make that wish come true. That person is taking the same path as the path of the Master. He will meet with success, and it is success which brings further success. If once a person is successful, this success attracts more success; but if once a person fails then this failure attracts further failure. It is the same when one is on the path of accomplishment: each accomplishment gives one a greater power to go forward, and when one is on the downward path then every step leads one downward.
The question arises as to which desire and wish one should give up, and which one should nourish. One must have discrimination; if there is no discrimination, then one will take a wrong path. It may lead to success but it will be a wrong kind of success. If one fostered every desire and wish, and believed they should all be accomplished, then it might sometimes be right and sometimes not. The sense of discrimination should first be developed in order to understand what leads one to a lasting happiness, a greater peace, a higher attainment. But once a person has discrimination and has chosen a wish, then he should not analyze it too much. Many have formed a habit of analyzing everything all day long. If a person holds a wish for ten years and analyzes it every day in his mind, he acts against it; he looks at it every time from a new point of view and tries to find what is wrong with his own wish, and thus in the end he crushes it in every possible way. In ten years time his wish, which should have come true, will be broken to pieces. There are many intellectual people, people who doubt, people with analytical minds, who are the greatest enemies of their own wishes.
Some think that it is wrong for a person to express his wish in prayer since God knows everything. Why should one tell God that something should happen? God knows the secret of every heart. Besides is it not selfish to bring our wish before God? If it is a good wish it must come true of itself! The answer is that prayer is a reminder to God, prayer is a song before God, who enjoys it, who hears it, who is reminded about something. But how can our prayer, our insignificant voice, reach God? It reaches God through our ears. God is within us. If our soul can hear our voice God can hear it too. Prayer is the best way, because then the wish is put in a beautiful form which harmonizes with God, and which brings about a closer relationship between God and man.
Furthermore, one can never think too often or too much of the wish one has. One should dream about it, imagine it, think about it, keep it continually in mind, and do everything possible towards its fulfillment; but one should do this with poise, with tranquility, with patience, with confidence, with ease, and not by thinking hard about it. The one who thinks hard about his wish destroys it; it is just like overheating something or giving too much water to a plant. It is destroyed by the very thing which should help it. If a person worries about his wish he certainly either has no patience, or he has some fear or some doubt; all these things destroy the wish. A wish must be cherished easily, with comfort, with hope, with confidence, and with patience. Doubt is like rust to the wish: it eats into it; and fear is still worse: it destroys it. And when a person has no discrimination, and is not sure whether it is a right wish or a wrong wish, whether it should come true or not, one day he will say, 'I should so much like it to come true', another day he says, 'I do not care if it comes true or not', after a week he says, 'I wish it would happen now', and after a month, 'I do not care any more.' It is just like making a fire and then putting it out; every time one extinguishes the fire it is gone, and one will have to make it anew.
The question whether a wish is desirable or not depends upon our stage of evolution. A person whose evolution is such that he has no wish other than for the needs of his daily life, must not think that he should wish for something higher. If his heart is inclined to that kind of wish he should not worry about it. But if he feels in his heart, 'No, I really cannot wish for this, I can think of something much higher', then he must accept the consequences. And the consequences will be that he will have to go through tests and trials; and if he does not mind this, so much the better.
There are many things in this world which we want and which we need, and yet we do not necessarily think about them. If they come it is all right, and if they do not come we may feel uncomfortable for a time, but that feeling passes. We cannot give our mind and thought to them if we are evolved and are thinking of something higher and greater than what we need in everyday life, and that slips from our grasp. This is why great poets, thinkers, and saints very often lacked the things of everyday life. With the power they had, they could command everything, even gold to come to their house, or the army to come or to go – they had only to command. Yet they could not give their mind to it, they could only wish for something which was in accordance with their particular evolution.
So each person can only wish for something equal to his evolution; he could not properly wish for something which is beneath his evolution, even if he were told to do so. Very often to help a person in a certain situation I have said to him, 'Now concentrate on this particular object.' But being more evolved, he thought with his brain; his heart was somewhere else and so it never came true. One can give one's heart and mind and whole being to something which is on a par with one's evolution, but if it is not on a par one cannot give one's whole being to it, maybe only one's thought. What is thought? Thought without feeling has no power; if the soul and the spirit are not at the back of it, there is no power.
It must be understood that our higher wish should be apart from what we need in everyday life. We should never mix it, but always think of what we need in everyday life as being something practical, though if it really is our wish, then it is all right. But we should cherish and maintain our higher wish as something sacred, something given to us by God to cherish, to bring to fulfillment. For it is in the fulfillment of one's highest and best and deepest wish that the purpose of life lies.