Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE AWAKENING OF THE SOUL (1)
THERE IS a process of awakening from childhood to youth, and from youth to maturity; and during this development one's point of view, one's outlook on life, is changing. One finds, too, that sometimes one goes through an illness or great suffering, and at the end of it one's whole outlook on life has changed. It also sometimes happens that someone who has traveled far returns apparently quite altered. Again, there often comes a sudden change of outlook after a person has formed a friendship, or has been somebody's pupil, or has married. There are even some cases where the change is so marked that one can say he has become an entirely new person.
We can divide such changes or developments into three classes, of which the first is connected with the physical development, the next with the development of the mind, and the third with the development of the soul. Though few will admit it, many people can recollect experiences in their childhood when in one moment their whole outlook on life changed. Ripening is a desirable result, and it is the aim of every object in life to ripen and to develop; therefore in the awakening of the soul one may recognize the fulfillment of life's purpose.
The first sign of the soul's awakening is just like the birth of an infant. From the time of its birth the infant is interested in hearing things, whatever sound may come, and in seeing things, a color or light or whatever it may be; and thus a person whose soul has awakened becomes awake to everything he sees and hears. Compared with that person, everyone else seems to have open eyes and yet not to see, to have open ears and yet not to hear. Though there are many with open ears yet there is rarely one who hears, and though there are many with open eyes yet there is hardly one who sees. That is why the natural seeing of the awakened soul is called clairvoyance and its natural hearing clairaudience. The simple English word 'seer' conveys that such a man has eyes, but as well as eyes he has sight.
The moment the soul has awakened music makes an appeal to it, poetry touches it, words move it, art has an influence upon it. It no longer is a sleeping soul, it is awake and it begins to enjoy life to a fuller extent. It is this awakening of the soul which is mentioned in the Bible: unless the soul is born again it will not enter the kingdom of heaven. For the soul to be born again means that it is awakened after having come on earth; and entering the kingdom of heaven means entering this world in which we are now standing, the same kingdom which turns into heaven as soon as the point of view has changed. Is it not interesting and most wonderful to think that the same earth that we walk on is earth to one person and heaven to another? And it is still more interesting to notice that it is we who change it from earth to heaven. This change comes not by study, nor by anything else but by the changing of our point of view. I have known people seek after truth, study books about it, even write many books on philosophy and theology themselves, and in the end they were standing in the same place as before. That shows that all outer efforts are excuses; there is only one thing that brings one face to face with reality, and that is the awakening of the soul.
All the tragedy of life, all the misery and disharmony, are caused by lack of understanding; and lack of understanding comes from lack of penetration. When one does not look at life from the point of view that one should, then one is disappointed because one cannot understand. It is not for the outer world to help us to understand it better, it is we ourselves who should help ourselves.
Then there is a further awakening, a continuation of what I have called the awakening of the soul. And the sign of this awakening is that the awakened person throws a light, the light of his soul, upon every creature and every object, and sees that object, person, or condition in this light. It is his own soul which becomes a torch in his hand; it is his own light that illuminates his path. It is just like directing a searchlight into dark corners which one could not see before, and the corners become clear and illuminated; it is like throwing light upon problems that one did not understand before, like seeing through people with x-rays when they were a riddle before.
As soon as life becomes clear to the awakened soul, it shows another phase of manifestation, and this is that every aspect of life communicates with this person. Life is communicative, the soul is communicative, but they do not communicate until the soul is awakened. Once a soul is awakened it begins to communicate with life. As a young man I had a great desire to visit the shrines of saints and of great teachers, but although I wanted very much to hear something from them and to ask them something, I always held back my questions and sat quietly in their presence. I had a greater satisfaction in that way, and I felt a greater blessing by sitting quietly there, than if I had discussed and argued and talked with them, for in the end I felt that there was a communication which was far more satisfactory than these outer discussions and arguments of people who do not know what they discuss. It was enlightening and refreshing, and it gave the power and inspiration with which one can see life in a better light.
Those who are awakened become guiding lights not only for themselves but also for others. And by their light, often unknowingly, their presence itself helps to make the most difficult problems easy. This makes us realize the fact that man is light, as the scriptures have said, a light whose origin, whose source, is divine. And when this light is kindled, then life becomes quite different. Furthermore, when the soul is awakened, it is as if that person were to wake up in the middle of the night among hundreds and thousands of people who are fast asleep. He is sitting or standing among them, he is looking at them, hearing about their sorrows and miseries and their conditions, hundreds of them moving about in their sleep, in their own dream, not awakened to his condition although he is near them. They may be friends or relations, acquaintances or enemies, whatever be their relationship, but they know little about him as each one is absorbed in his own trouble. This awakened soul, standing among them all, will listen to everyone, will see everyone, will recognize all that they think and feel; but his language no one understands, his thoughts he cannot explain to anyone, his feelings he cannot expect anyone to feel. He feels lonely; but no doubt in this loneliness there is also the sense of perfection, for perfection is always lonely.
When it was said that upon the descent of the Holy Ghost the apostles knew all languages, it did not mean knowing the languages of all countries. I knew a man in Russia who spoke thirty-six languages, but that did not make him spiritual. The apostles, however, knew the language of the soul; for there are many languages which are spoken in different lands, but there are also numberless languages which are spoken by each individual as his own particular language. And that helps us to realize another idea of very great importance: that the outer language can only convey outward things and feelings, but that there is an inner language, a language which can be understood by souls which are awakened. It is a universal language, a language of vibrations, a language of feeling, a language which touches the innermost sense. Heat and cold are different sensations which are called by different names in different countries, and yet they are always essentially the same sensations. Also love and hate, kindness and unkindness, harmony and disharmony, all these ideas are called by different names in different countries, but the feeling is the same with all men.
When in order to know the thought of another person we depend upon his outer word, we probably fail to understand it, for perhaps we do not know that person's language; but if we can communicate with another person soul to soul, we can certainly understand what he means, for before he says one word he has said it within himself; and that inner word reaches us before it is expressed outwardly.
Before the word is spoken the expression says it; before the thought has formed, the feeling speaks of it. And this shows that a feeling forms a thought, a thought that manifests as speech; and even before a feeling manifests it can be caught when one is able to communicate with the soul. This is what may be called communication: to communicate with the innermost being of a person. But who can communicate thus? The one who knows how to communicate with himself, the one who, in other words, is awakened. The personality of an awakened soul becomes different from every other personality. It becomes more magnetic, for it is the living person who has magnetism; a corpse has no magnetism. It is the living who bring joy, and therefore it is the awakened soul who is joyous.
And never for one moment think, as many do, that a spiritual person means a sorrowful, dried up, long-faced person. Spirit is joy, spirit is life; and when that spirit has awakened, all the joy and pleasure that exists are there. As the sun takes away all darkness, so spiritual light removes all worries, anxieties, and doubts. If a spiritual awakening were not so precious, then what would be the use of seeking it in life? A treasure that nobody can take away from us, a light that will always shine and will never be extinguished, that is spiritual awakening, and it is the fulfillment of life's purpose. Certainly, the things a person once valued and considered important become less important; they lose their value, and those which are beautiful lose their color. It is just like seeing the stage in daylight: all the palaces and other scenery on the stage suddenly mean nothing. But it puts an end to the slavery to which everyone is subjected, for the awakened man becomes master of the things of this world; he need not give them up. Optimism develops naturally, but an optimism with open eyes; power increases naturally, the power of accomplishing things, and he will go on with something until it is accomplished, however small it is.
It is very difficult to judge an awakened soul, as they say in the East, for there is nothing outwardly to prove its condition. The best way of seeing an awakened soul is to wake up oneself, but no one in the world can pretend to be awake when he is still asleep, just as a little child by putting moustaches on its face cannot prove itself to be grown-up. All other pretenses one can make, but not the one of being an awakened soul, for it is a living light. Truth is born in the awakening of the soul; and truth is not taught, truth is discovered. The knowledge of truth cannot be compared with the knowledge of forms or ideas; truth is beyond forms and ideas. What is it? It is itself and it is our self.
Very often people make an effort, though in vain, to awaken a friend or a near relation whom they love. But in the first place we do not know if that person is more awakened than we ourselves; we may be trying for nothing. And the other point is, it is possible that a person who is asleep needs that sleep. Waking him in that case would be a sin instead of a virtue. We are only allowed to give our hand to the one who is turning over in his sleep, who desires to wake up; only then a hand is given. It is this giving of the hand which is called initiation. No doubt a teacher who is acquainted with this path may give a hand outwardly to the one who wishes to journey, but inwardly there is the Teacher who has always given and always gives a hand to awakening souls, the same hand which has received the sages and masters of all time in a higher initiation. Verily, the seeker will find sooner or later, if only he keeps steadily on the path until he arrives at his destination.