Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE HEART QUALITY
THERE ARE people who look at life with their brain, or their head as they call it, and there are others who look at life with their heart. And between these two points of view there is a vast difference; so much difference that something that one sees on the earth the other sees in heaven, something that one sees as small the other sees as great, something that one sees as limited the other sees as unlimited. These two types of people become opposite poles. No one will admit that he looks at things with his head; everyone will say that he looks at life with his heart. But if one only knew what it is to look at life from the heart! The most evolved person in the world will only go as far as to say, 'I have not yet learned to look at life from the heart; I would like to know how to do it, I would like to learn it.'
One might say that emotional and devotional people are flying in the clouds, and that the others who act with reason and logic are standing on the earth. This is true; but in the first place angels ride on clouds, and if the soul has an angelic quality the clouds are its sphere, not the earth. One may ask where then is the place for practicality in life; but what is practicality, as one calls it, and all that one is so careful about? And how long does it last, what is it worth? No doubt it is true that man is born on earth to bear the weight of his physical body and its needs, a roof over his head, and a piece of bread to sustain him. But if man believes that this is all there is to think about, he is making a great mistake, devoting all his life to what he calls practicality, practical life, and never thinking of the heavenly treasure that is hidden in the heart of man.
The heart of man is like water. Either it is frozen and then it is snow or ice; or it is water and then it is liquid. When it is frozen it has turned into a crystal; when it is liquid it is in a condition to flow, and it is natural for water to be running. Then there are two principal kinds of water, salt water and sweet water. The sea, which is quite contented with itself, indifferent to all, has salt water because it is independent of all else. It gives health, happiness, and pleasure to those who are near it, because it asks nothing from anyone. It rises and falls within itself, it is independent, it is immense; and in that way it shows perfection. But with that independent perfection its water is not sweet. The ascetic who has closed his heart with the perfection of God and with the realization of truth, is like the sea: independent, indifferent to all things. His presence heals people, his contact gives them joy and peace, and yet his personality is uninteresting to others, as is the salt water of the sea.
When the sea is calm it is a pleasure to travel on it, and when the sea is rough there is no worse illness than sea-sickness. And it is through its tranquility and calmness and peace that the powerful mind, the mind of a soul which has touched perfection, opens itself to everyone, as the sea lays itself before those who journey on it with open heart. Ships and boats pass over it; those who journey enjoy traveling on the sea. But when the sea is disturbed by wind and storm it is also perfect in its annoyance, it can shake the boats and steamers; and in the same way the mind of the sage can have an effect upon all things in nature: it can cause volcanic eruptions, it can cause disasters, revolutions, all manner of things, when once its tranquility is disturbed. Aware of this quality of the heart and knowing the great powers possessed by a man who has touched divine perfection, people in the East give careful regard to the pleasure or displeasure of the sage. They believe that to annoy a sage is like annoying the whole of nature, to disturb his tranquility means to shake the whole universe. Compared with this a storm on the sea is a very small thing; the heart that has touched perfection, if once upset, can upset the whole universe.
The water of the river is sweet. It is sweet because it is attracted to the sea, it is longing to reach the sea. The river represents the loving quality, a quality that is seeking for the object it loves. A heart that loves God and His perfection may be likened to the river that seeks the sea; that is why the personality of the seeker is more pleasant than the personality of the one who is contented with what he knows.
There is little danger in traveling on the river, there is great joy in swimming in the river, and along its banks there is fine scenery to look at. And so it is with the personality which is like the river; that continual flowing of the feeling of sympathy means that the sympathy is living. As the river helps the trees and plants and the earth along it, so it is with the kind, sympathetic person whose feeling is liquid; everywhere he goes he takes with him that influence which nourishes, which helps souls to flourish and to progress.
And then one sometimes finds a little stream; it is not a river, it is only a small running stream; but it is even more beautiful to look at. It expresses modesty, fineness of character, beauty; for its water is pure. The little stream expresses the nature of an innocent heart, the heart that cannot be prevented from being sympathetic and loving by any experiences of the world which make water turn bitter. Bitter experiences have not touched it, and it remains pure and clear. It inspires poets, it uplifts the composer, it quenches the thirst of the thirsty, it is an ideal subject for the painter to paint. With its modesty it has purity, and with its purity it has life.
There is also the water of the small pool. It is sometimes muddy, sometimes dirty because of its narrowness, its smallness. In the same way the narrow heart always has mud in it. Because it is narrow and because it is not deep enough, all the elements of the earth enter it and take away its purity.
Again, there is the water of the large pool, where water-lilies grow, where fish swim, where the sun is reflected and where the moonlight produces a beautiful vision, where one would like to sit and look at it, because it expresses to everyone that can see it the liquid nature of the heart, the heart that is not frozen, the heart that is like water. It is still, it is calm. Sitting by its side can make one's heart tranquil and because of its stillness one can see one's reflection in it.
Spring water is most healing and most inspiring, because it comes from above and runs downhill. That is the character of the inspired mind. The heart that like a spring pours out water in the form of inspiration, in poetry or music, or some other form, has beauty, has a healing quality. It can take away all the worries and anxieties and difficulties and troubles of those who come to it, like the water of the spring; it not only inspires but it heals.
There is also the fountain which rises and falls in so many drops. This is man-made, in the same way that personality also is man-made. When man has made a personality of himself, then the feeling that rises from the heart through that personality is like a fountain. Each drop falling from it takes the form of a virtue.
Then the water that rises from the sea towards the sky in the form of vapor represents the aspiration of the heart. The heart that aspires upward, that wishes to reach upward, that heart shows the quality of vapor. It is the heart of the devotee, of the one who is always conscious of seeking the higher ideal, touching the higher principles. That heart of inspiration forms itself as clouds, and pours down just like the rain, bringing celestial beauty in the form of art or poetry or music, or of anything that is good and beautiful.
There are hearts which have been exposed to fire for a long, long time, and there comes a sulfury water from them, purifying and healing; for it has gone through fire, it has gone through suffering, and therefore it heals those who suffer.
There are hearts with many different qualities, like water with different chemical substances: those who have suffered, those to whom life has taught patience, those who have contemplated. They all represent one or other kind of the water that heals, and so do their personalities. People who have had deep experiences of any kind, of suffering, of agony, of love, of hate, of solitude, of association, of success, of failure, all have a particular quality, a quality which has a special use for others. And when a person realizes this, he will come to the conclusion that whatever has been his life's destiny, his heart has prepared a chemical substance through sorrow and pain, through joy or through pleasure, a chemical substance that is intended for a certain purpose, for the use of humanity, and that he can only give it out if he can keep his heart awakened and open. Once it is closed, once it is frozen, man is no longer living. It does not matter what he has gone through, for even the worst poison can be of some use. There is no person, however wicked, who is of no use, if only he realizes that the first condition for being useful to humanity is to keep his heart open.
As to spiritual attainment, it is something that we can never absorb through the head; it can only be received through the heart. Let two persons, one with his heart and the other with his head, listen to the teachings of a teacher. The latter will be thinking, 'Is it so or is it not so?' or, 'How is it, if it is so? How can it be; and if it is, why is it?' And there is never an end to the 'why'. But another person will listen with his heart; and while both logic and reason are at his disposal they are not troubling him. His heart is open, he listens to it; and the quality of the heart is such that whatever falls upon an open heart becomes instantly revealed. When one says, 'I cannot understand you', it is just like saying, 'I have my heart closed to you'; there is no other reason for not understanding another person. But when one can say that one has understood it all, it means one's heart was open; that is the reason why one has understood it.
Thus understanding does not depend upon the head; it depends upon the heart. By the help of the head one can make it more clear, it becomes intelligible and one can express it better. But to begin with it must come from the heart, not from the head. Besides a person who only uses his head says, 'It must be so because I think it is so', whereas the person who has the heart quality says, 'It is so because I believe it to be so'. That is the difference. In one person there is a doubt, in the other there is conviction.
There is in Arabic a word which is very difficult to translate: Iman. It is not exactly faith or belief; the nearest word one can find for it is 'conviction', a conviction that cannot be changed by anything, a conviction that does not come from outside. One always seeks for conviction, but nothing convinces and nobody convinces; conviction is something that comes from one's own heart, and it stands above faith and belief; for belief is the beginning of that same thing of which faith is the development and conviction the culmination.
Spiritual attainment is nothing but conviction. A man may think, 'Perhaps it is so'. He may think about the best doctrines or about the highest ideas that there are, but he will still think, 'It is so, perhaps'. There is always 'perhaps' attached to it. But then there is another person who cannot use the word 'perhaps' because he does not think about it. He cannot say, 'It may be so', when he knows that it is so. When a person arrives at the stage when the knowledge of reality becomes a conviction, then there is nothing in the world that will change it. And if there is anything to attain to, it is that conviction which one can never find in the outside world; it must rise from the depths of one's own heart.