Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
ONE OFTEN wonders what the word 'holy' means. Sometimes people understand it as meaning spiritual, pious, pure, religious; but none of these words can fully explain its meaning. Holy is the next degree beyond pious. God-realization is pious, self-realization is holy. The first step to self-realization is God-realization; it is not through self-realization that man realizes God.
Holiness is the spark of divinity in man, and no soul should be regarded as being deprived of this spark of divinity. This spark is light itself, and though it also exists in the lower creation, among animals and birds, in trees and plants and in any form of life, it is in man that it has the opportunity to blaze into a flame. At first this light is buried in the heart of man, but as soon as this spark of divinity begins to shine from his heart he shows the sign of holiness. This is because holiness is not a human heritage; it is inherited by every soul from God. But it manifests only when the heart is open, and when out of that divine spark there rises a tongue of flame which illuminates the path of man in life's journey towards the spiritual goal. It is lack of understanding of this subject which has made man accept a certain teacher in whom he or his friends or ancestors recognized divinity, and at the same time reject another with all his apparent holiness. Holiness does not belong to a particular race, community, or family. It manifests naturally in the life of some; in the life of others it has to be dug for. The fire is there, but it is buried; it needs to be brought to the surface. Sometimes blowing is needed to help the flame to leap up.
Holiness has different meanings according to its connection. Religious holiness is morality, philosophical holiness is truth, spiritual holiness is ecstasy, magical holiness is power, heroic holiness is bravery, ascetic holiness is indifference, poetical holiness is beauty, and lyric holiness is love.
Many stories are told about holy people who live in caves in the Himalayas. One reads of them in books. No doubt souls who reach a higher realization naturally feel inclined to get away from the world and its strife, and to seek a corner where nobody can reach them, though many extremely meditative people can be found in the midst of the crowd. I have seen illuminated ones in all kinds of guises: as beggars, as rich men, as paupers, as kings, as religious men, or as irreligious men. Spiritual vibrations were emanating continually from them all, and the universal brotherhood which naturally inspires the soul that is conscious of its self, showed in their everyday life.
For nine years of my life in India I traveled from south to north and from west to east on a pilgrimage to the holy souls, and never did the thought enter my mind that the holy ones belonged to any particular religion or denomination. The Hindu bows before his deity, the Muslim cries out to his Lord, the Parsi worships the fire, but the devotee seeks the sacred dwellings of the holy men. It is through the lips of the holy man that the God of the devotee speaks, while the God of the orthodox is hidden in theories, the God of the idolaters is concealed in the shrine, and the God of the intellectual seeker is lost in obscurity. The love of spiritual realization which was born in my heart has kept me in the pursuit of these sacred beings all through life. He who seeks, finds; and so I found the souls I sought after. And I met them not only in the heart of the forest or in the mountain caves, but even in the midst of the crowd.
There is the question whether a man's holiness can be recognized by his actions. The answer is that it can certainly be seen in his actions, but who can judge the action when it is already difficult for the wise to judge the action of the worst sinner? Who would be ready to judge a holy man except a fool? No doubt holiness can be recognized in goodness, and yet no one can fix a standard of goodness, for what is good for one is bad for another; sometimes that which is poison for one is a remedy for another. The goodness of every person is peculiar to himself. If he wanted to, the worst person in the world could accuse the best person of lack of goodness, for no man's goodness has ever proved, nor will it ever prove, to be to the satisfaction of everybody. But holiness in itself is goodness; even if it is not in accordance with people's standards of goodness. Holiness is a continually rising fountain of light, a phenomenon in itself; it is illumination and it is illuminating. Light has no other proof than itself. Holiness needs no claim, no pleading, no publicity. It is its own claim, it pleads for itself, light itself is its publicity.
Many in this world seem to be confused between false and true. But there comes a moment when one can distinguish without any difficulty between false and true. Because what is false cannot stand for any length of time all the tests that come from all sides. It is the real gold that stands all tests, and so it is with true holiness. Holiness is enduring, knowing, forgiving, understanding, and yet it stands beyond all things, above all things. It is unbreakable, unshakable. It is beauty, it is power, and it is divinity when it reaches its perfection.