Volume X - Sufi Mysticism
THE PROBLEM OF THE DAY
The Problem of the Day (2)
There has been a great upheaval in the world, beginning at the time of the Reformation and culminating in our own times. It seems that there is continual unrest in every direction of life. There seems to be a great turmoil; and in spite of all the progress which has been make during the last years civilization does not seem to have succeeded. The difficulty has been the adjustment of the new idea of democracy to the foundation of aristocracy on which it is based. The outcome of this difficulty is felt now more than ever before; there seems to be confusion and chaos rather than the understanding of how to live life to its best advantage. The reason is that the character of aristocracy and democracy is not generally understood from the point of view of the mystic, and as long as this lack of understanding remains, a thousand democracies or aristocracies would always fail in the end.
When we study nature we find that there is a model of life, a design for us to follow: the interdependence of the stars and planets, and how they are sustained in heaven by each other's gravity. Also, how the light of the sun functions in the moon and how the light of the sun is reflected by all the different planets. And at the same time how the planets differ in their light and character and how every planet in the universe fulfills the scheme of nature. Call it aristocracy or call it democracy, there is a model of life that nature has produced before our eyes.
To some people the word aristocracy, when not understood, often sounds very unpleasant. But the real aristocracy is not necessarily the picture of its abuse, its degeneration. And what is democracy? Democracy is the fulfillment of aristocracy; in other words democracy means complete aristocracy. But when democracy is sought without aristocracy having been understood, then democracy cannot be fully understood either, for then it is not complete. Man is born in this world ignorant of the kingdom that is within himself, and true aristocracy is the attainment of that kingdom. To recognize that kingdom in another person is aristocracy, and to see the possibility of that kingdom in oneself and to try to fulfill that ideal of life is true democracy. Aristocracy means that one person is king, democracy means that all are kings; but when a person does not know one king, he does not know all kings. What I mean by this is that we should realize that the object of life does not lie in revolting against someone who is more advanced than ourselves, and by this revolt pulling him down to our level – that is not democracy. Real democracy means recognizing the possibility of advancing just as others have done, trusting in that possibility, and trying to advance to the same level as that of the others.
The problem of the day should be studied by all sections and classes of humanity. It seems that through being absorbed in a more comfortable life, many have neglected their part in all the different aspects of life both at home and outside. There are certain classes who have been unaware of the tasks that life demands at home and in the world. Now the time has come when they meet with difficulties because they find themselves more dependant on the very things which they have neglected in their lives. They have always shown unwillingness to do certain things that seemed beneath their idea of dignity. Now humanity is being turned upside down; what has happened is that one class is being submerged by the other class and its place is being taken by the other. In this way instead of more comfort, chaos is being manifested.
The way out of it would be to imitate some of the ideas of the ancients. If this is not done, although life will perhaps become settled in a certain way, it will become a hotel life and there will be no more of that joy and happiness and pleasure which is found in home life. The difficulties of modern living will before long bring about a situation where in every district there will be a kind of hotel arrangement, and in that way all individual progress, culture, and joy will be hampered. Man's individual choice will be sacrificed to the mechanism of living.
The method I mentioned which might be followed is a method that was used in ancient times by the Hindus, and even now some part of it exists. Among the different communities of Brahmins, a Brahmin may be in a high position and be very rich, yet he knows how to cook for himself. The women in the household, even in the home of the Prime Minister, attend to the kitchen themselves. There is nothing in the home that they do not like to do. In ancient times they were trained to sew, to knit, to weave, and to cook, keeping the house neat, decorating it, cleaning it, painting it, all these things were accomplished by everyone. No one possessed a house at that time who did not know everything about taking care of the house, quite independently of the housekeeper. Perfection of life means perfecting oneself, not only spiritually but in all the different aspects of life. The man who is not capable of attending to all life's needs is certainly ignorant of the true freedom of life.
The more we study the problem of the day, the more we shall realize that it is the strict division of work at the present time that has made people helpless. What is most necessary now is to introduce into education the spirit of providing for oneself all that one needs, and arranging for oneself all that is necessary in one's everyday life. The mechanical life of our times may show progress, yet it is not a complete progress. Imagine a person living from the morning till evening in a factory and only making needles! Perhaps he does this for twenty years and what does he know of life? Only how to make a needle. Perhaps the benefit goes to the owner of the factory; but what benefit goes to this man who has been making needles all his life?
The ideal of life and its progress is to become self-sufficient, and the key to the secret of democracy is self-sufficiency. Spiritual perfection is the second step, and the one who has first made himself self-sufficient is entitled in the end to spiritual perfection.
The unrest which one finds throughout the world, the difficulties among the nations, the hatred existing among people, the cry of misery which comes more or less from all sides, the commercial catastrophes, the political problems; all these make one wonder what may be done to find a solution for the general cry of humanity. What happens today is that the different institutions try to extinguish the fires burning here and there, but that can never really solve the problem of the world.
The first thing that should be remembered is that all activities of life are connected with each other, and if one does not heed this one finds that while one thing is put in order another thing goes wrong. It is just like a person who is ill and who needs sleep and a good diet: it he gets sleep without that diet it will not do him good, nor will a good diet without sleep help him. While trying to straighten out commercial difficulties political problems creep in. While considering the social questions moral difficulties appear. The desire to serve humanity in the work of reconstruction is the duty and responsibility of every sensible soul whatever be his rank or position or qualifications in life. The first question to be studied is what remedy can be found for all the maladies that manifest on the surface of life today.
There is one principle remedy and that is the changing of the attitude of humanity. It is this alone that can help in all aspects of life. This attitude can be changed by moral, spiritual, and religious advancement, and the work that the Sufi message has to accomplish lies in this particular direction, for it is a method which enables man to have another outlook on life.
The chief thing that the Sufi movement tries to avoid is sectarianism, which has divided man in all ages of the world's history. The Sufi message is not opposed to any religion, faith, or belief; it is rather a support to all religions, it is a defense for religions which are attacked by the followers of other religions. At the same time the Sufi movement provides humanity with that religion which is in reality all religions. The Sufi movement is not supposed to take the whole of humanity in its arms, yet in the service of the whole of humanity lies the fulfillment of the Sufi message. The Sufi movement, therefore, does not stand as a barrier between a member and his own religious faith, but as an open door leading to the heart of faith. A member of the movement is a bearer of the divine message to the followers of whatever church or sect he may belong to.
The work of the Sufi movement is not to collect all the rain water in its own tanks, but to make a way for the stream of the message to flow and to supply water to all the fields of the world. The work of the Sufi message is sowing; reaping we shall leave to humanity to do, for the fields do not belong to our particular movement; all the fields belong to God. We who are employed to work on this farm of the world must do what we have to do and leave the rest to God. Success we do not trouble about; let those who strive for it seek some other direction. Truth alone is our success, for the only lasting success is truth.