Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE UNFOLDMENT OF THE SOUL
IT IS IN the unfoldment of the soul that the purpose of life is fulfilled. And it is not only with human beings, but also with the lower creation, even with objects of every kind, that the fulfillment of their existence lies in their unfoldment. The clouds gather, and the purpose of this is shown when it starts raining. It is the unfoldment of that gathering of clouds which shows itself in rain; that purpose was not accomplished in the gathering of the clouds, which was only a preparation. One sees the same thing in nature, which works the whole year round, and in the appropriate season it brings forth its fruits. Not only human beings but even the birds and animals watch and delight in seeing the purpose of nature's continual activity being fulfilled in the spring. We learn from this that every being and every object is working towards that unfoldment which is the fulfillment of its purpose. As Sadi has said, 'Every being is intended to be on earth for a certain purpose, and the light of that purpose has been kindled in his heart.'
But behind all the different purposes which we see working through each individual, there seems to be one purpose, and that is the unfoldment of the soul. Knowing this, the ancient Hindus held this ideal before them in all walks of life. Not only those who sought after truth were seeking the soul's unfoldment, but an artist, a scientist, a learned man, a man of industry, of commerce, each one believed that through his particular occupation he would be able to reach that goal. The great misfortune today is that men are so segregated in their different occupations that they have lost the thread which binds humanity into one, and gives that impetus from which all derive benefit. When the scientist stands on his ground strongly and firmly and the artist is absorbed in his sphere, the industrial man in his world, and a man of commerce in the world of commerce, it is natural that their souls do not come in contact with one another, giving them a combined force for the betterment of the whole.
Although a degeneration caused by extreme materialism prevails throughout the whole world, it is not yet too late to find examples of personalities in all walks of life who still wish to arrive at the proper goal. Rabindranath Tagore translated into English a book of verse by Kabir, an uneducated man, a weaver from childhood whose livelihood depended upon his weaving; but through his continual seeking after unfoldment he arrived at the goal. He told his experience in everyday language, but his book is looked upon today by the people as holy scripture.
This makes us wonder whether it is possible for a scientist to arrive through his scientific studies, or an artist through his art and a man of commerce through his trade, at that central truth which concerns every soul. When we look at humanity we find that we can not only divide it into different races and different nations; we can also divide it into people of different occupations. In this age of materialism, the only thing that unites us is our material interest; but how long can we be united by a material interest? A friendship formed in materialism is not a friendship which will endure, nor can such friends depend upon each other. It is sacrifice which enables us to be friends and to co-operate with one another, and in sacrifice the sign of spirituality is seen; but we do not unite together in sacrifice today; our unity is in what we can gain in one way or the other. It is a matter for distress that in order to unite we are holding fast to a lower ideal which will never prove a center of unity. It is only the high ideal which can unite and in which we can hope to be united.
Haw can one define the unfoldment of the soul? The soul can be likened to the rose; as a rosebud blooms, so the soul unfolds itself. For the rosebud to bloom five conditions are required: fertile soil, bright sun, water, air, and space; and the same five things are required for the unfoldment of the soul. As a fertile soil is required by the rose-bush in order to grow, so education in the spiritual ideal should be given to the child from the moment it is born. When a child is deprived of that most important education in its childhood, then the soil is taken away from the roots of the rose. I can recall having met so many people who had every possibility and tendency to become interested in all that is spiritual and lofty, but who at the same time were afraid of the terminology in which it is expressed. What does this show? It shows that in childhood something was denied them, and now that they have grown up, although they feel a desire for it, although they want it, when they look at it in a form they are not accustomed to they are afraid of it.
Is there even one soul, however materialistic, which does not wish to unfold? There cannot be. Every soul has been born to unfold itself; it is its innate tendency, it cannot help it. Only, if the soul is deprived of the right conditions then it ceases to develop. Very often I have met people who did not believe in any particular religion, did not profess any particular faith, nor adhere to any outward form, but at the same time I have seen great spiritual qualities in them.
The water that nourishes the rose is the love element. If that element is absent from anyone's life, however great his intellectual knowledge and his desire to seek after truth, he will still remain backward. Unfortunately this element often seems to be missing in cultural life. A learned man will say that it has no place in the world of reason, and thus he separates the outer learning from the religious ideal which is called the love of God.
What is it that takes the part of the sun in the life of man, as the sun takes part in the growing of the rose? It is intelligence. Everyone may not seem to be intelligent, but the soul itself is intelligence. When the intelligence is covered by the mist of impressions, of ideas of this earth, that intelligence becomes drowned in something, buried under something. When it is discovered, then it is as bright as the sun. The mission of Buddha was mainly intended for this purpose. All that Buddha wished to teach his disciples was to discover that pure intelligence which is above all reasoning and which is the essence of all reason.
The place that air occupies in the growth of the soul is this: air is symbolical of the inspiration which comes to the heart that is prepared for it. And it is not by outward learning but by what one learns through inspiration that the soul is raised towards its unfoldment.
The space which is needed around the rose-bush in order to let it grow, means symbolically a wide outlook on life. A person may live a hundred years, but with a narrow outlook he will never see the light. In order to see life clearly the outlook should be wide. There is much to fight with in life, in order to keep our outlook wide, for the nature of our life in the world is such that it drags us down and places us in conditions where we cannot but be narrow. A great person is not great because of his merits, his qualities or reputation; the surest proof that a person can give of his greatness is his vast outlook. And it is wonderful to notice how, even unconsciously, people who have arrived at that stage, in whatever walk of life, automatically begin to show a vast outlook on life. What manures this plant and makes roses bloom is, symbolically, the teaching given by the great masters of humanity.
How can one recognize this development of the soul in which the purpose of life is fulfilled? What are its indications, its signs? The soul becomes like a rose, and begins to show the rose quality. Just as the rose consists of many petals held together, so the person who attains to the unfoldment of the soul begins to show many different qualities. These qualities emit fragrance in the form of a spiritual personality. The rose has a beautiful structure, and the personality which proves the unfoldment of the soul has also a fine structure: in manner, in dealing with others, in speech, in action. The atmosphere of the spiritual being pervades the air like the perfume of the rose.
The rose has seeds in its heart, and so the developed souls have in their heart that seed of development which produces many roses. The rose blooms and fades away, but the essence that is taken from the rose lives and keeps the fragrance that the rose had in its full bloom. Personalities who touch that plane of consciousness may live for a limited time on the earth, but the essence which is left by them will live for thousands and thousands of years, always keeping the same fragrance and giving the same pleasure that the rose once gave.