Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE SOUL'S DESIRE
THE DESIRE of the soul is always for the right way, not for the way of darkness. One does not like to be without a candle, a light in one's house. One likes a good light; and this shows that the desire of the soul is for light.
What is lacking with man is that he knows only the passing, the momentary joys, and does not know the greater joys. And for experiencing a passing joy, a joy that lasts only for a few minutes or for a few days, there will be a bill to pay; and the paying of that bill may take ten years. Then man discovers that this passing joy is not what he really wants, that he wants something better, something more lasting. He seeks something else and turns to mysticism. But mysticism may not be for him. He may not be ready or prepared for it. Then he turns to religion, but its dogma and ceremonial do not necessarily satisfy his mind. If he is a devout person he may be satisfied, otherwise he will not.
The work of the Sufi is to help those who are seeking for something else. First there is the improvement of bodily health. Very often weakness or ill-health of the body is the cause of the poor condition of the mind and soul. A very weak man, however intelligent he may be, will give way whenever a strong man addresses him in a commanding tone.
In our fondness for animal food we have gone so far that we do not enquire whether the animal whose flesh we eat was in good condition, nor what were its qualities; yet these act upon us. We see that plants which are supplied with certain substances acquire certain qualities. So it is with animals and fish; and so it is with us. One has only to look at the condition of the Brahmin, who eats nothing but vegetables, and only certain vegetables at that, and who fasts a great deal. His intelligence is very clear.
We see that the effect of opium and of alcohol is so strong that the most intelligent person becomes weak when he takes these; even tea and coffee have an effect. There are many Sufis who while doing certain spiritual practices do not eat at all, not in obedience to any principle but in order to make the body a fitting instrument.
The founders of the different religions have always prescribed what should be eaten and what avoided, as they knew the effect of different foods. As to the question of vegetarianism and the killing of animals, there are two things to be considered in this connection. One is harmlessness. It is a human tendency to hurt and harm, and man has inherited it from the lower creation. That tendency prompts him to kill defenseless creatures and use them as food, in spite of all the vegetables, cereals, fruits, and nuts which nature has provided for him.
The other point is that for the purification of the blood, for the health of the muscles, and for the purity of the body in general, a vegetable diet is far preferable to flesh food. At the same time, the training of the Sufi is a spiritual one, and as a physician sees in every case what is best for that particular person, so the murshid prescribes for his mureeds what is best for them. There are perhaps people for whom a vegetable diet is not sufficient and not suitable; for them meat may be a medicine. So the Sufis do not have such restrictions, and no dogma is made of vegetarianism, for the need of every individual is according to his health.
In ancient times shepherds used to wrap some of their flock in tiger skins in order to protect them from wild animals when moving about in the open. When a kind and good person lives in this world where there are so many different natures, it is more difficult for him to live among the gross vibrations than for others who are perhaps more or less of the same kind. When someone has died young, one often hears it said that he was a good person; and there is generally some truth in this. Many souls coming to the earth from where it is good and beautiful, cannot bear the coarseness of ordinary human nature.
In point of fact what is diet? Diet is not for the soul; it is only for the body. And what is the body? The body is a cover, a blanket. If the body is covered with armor then it can stand the struggle of life; and it was for this reason that the great ones also allowed themselves to partake of flesh food, which in reality was meant for the average person.
Then there is the improvement of the mind. At the present time great attention is paid to physical health, not indeed in an ideal way, since it is only considered from a physical point of view. Much could be done by considering it from a mystical point of view. Doctors tell us about different diseases of the body and how to guard against them, but they tell us little of the diseases of the mind, of the faults that we see so easily in others and not in ourselves.
While we are very young our parents tell us our faults, although there are few parents to be found in the world who are perfect themselves. But later no one tells us our faults. People only think, 'This person is unpleasant, we do not wish to associate with him.' And we do not see our faults ourselves; we are all the time pointing out the faults of others. Our faults may grow so much that when we are old our own children do not wish to be with us any more and that our friends desert us. While youth lasts there is a certain magnetism, a certain amount of charm which covers the faults, but when we are old nothing covers them. Riches or power can cover the faults, but a man's servants will always be watching for a chance to uncover them.
Let us not look at the fault of another; let us not think that a person is stupid or disagreeable; let us look at ourselves. If each person is occupied with his own black record, he will have enough to do, and it is after this that comes the improvement of the soul for everybody. The soul is the faculty of knowing. In its collective aspect it may be called the consciousness, while in its limited aspect it is the intelligence of each individual being. And it is the desire of the soul to know. The soul is very inquisitive. When it sees the sea, it desires to know what the sea is, from whence it comes. It sees a tree, and it wishes to know what the tree is, what are its fruits, how they taste. We are all the same. We want to know about every new flower we chance to find. When the soul is active, a person wants to see what science he can learn, what language, what music. He wants to know about history and geography. He wants to read the newspapers, to know what is happening in other parts of the world. And then his body becomes dim before his consciousness.
The soul may possess knowledge of everything else, but it can never be satisfied without the knowledge of itself: what it is, whence it is. This is the secret of knowledge. The world is always running after the knowledge of outside things, but what the soul needs is the knowledge of itself. When a man has gained this, God Himself is proud of him, the one who, being man, yet has realized God.