Volume X - Sufi Mysticism
THE PROBLEM OF THE DAY
Especially after a war and the pain that the world has thereby experience, people begin to think again about the subject of reconstruction. But no doubt every person looks at it according to his own mentality, and in this way the ideas about the reconstruction of the world differ very much.
If we consider the condition of the world as it is today, we see that its financial condition, which is most essential for order and peace, has become so complex that many people of intellect and understanding are helpless before this most difficult problem. No doubt there are those who will tell us that there is no remedy for the betterment of humanity other than the solution of the financial problems. But at the same time it seems that these problems are becoming daily more and more difficult and bringing nations and races and communities towards a greater and greater destruction. Before a solution is reached it will be no wonder if a great deal of damage is done to many nations. And although absorbed by their own problems, men do not think enough about these things, nevertheless in the end the world in general will realize the weakness, the feebleness caused by this disorder and by the unbalanced condition of the financial world. Nations and people make profit out of the losses of the other nations and people, and even if for the moment they may think that they are benefited, in the end they will realize that we human beings, whether as individuals or as a multitude, all depend upon one another. For instance, if because of one part of one's body another part suffers, in the end there will prove to be an unbalanced state, a lack of health in the physical body. And just as health means that all the organs of the body are in good condition, so the health of the world means that all nations, all people, are in a good condition.
Leaving this financial question and coming to the problem of education, in spite of all the progress that has been made in this field, any thoughtful person will be struck by the amount of work which a little child is given to do considering its age and its strength. It seems that in the enthusiasm for making education richer and richer, a load has been heaped upon the minds of the children. And what happens? It is like a dish which was meant to be cooked for half an hour, but is being made ready in five minutes. It will perhaps be burnt, or perhaps it is underdone. The child knows too much for its age; it knows what it does not require, what it does not value, what is a load to it, what is forced upon its mind. And how few of us stop to think of this question, that childhood is kingliness in itself. It is a gift from above that the child is growing and that during the time of its growth it is unaware of the woes and worries and anxieties of life. These are the only days for experiencing the kingliness of life, the days when the child should play, when it should be near to nature, when it should absorb what nature gradually teaches.
The whole of childhood is devoted to study, study of material knowledge; and as soon as the child has grown into a youth, the burden of life is put on its shoulders, a burden that is becoming heavier and heavier for rich and poor. The result of this is that there is strife between the political parties. There is disagreement between labor and capital; and this life full of struggle to which the child opens its eyes never leaves it time to be one with nature, to dive deep within itself, or to think beyond this life in the crowd.
When we consider the problem of nations we become still more perplexed. The enmity, hatred, and prejudice which exist between one nation and another, and the antagonism and utter selfishness which are the central theme of the relationships and ties between nations, show that the world is going from bad to worse, and unrest seems to be all-pervading. There seems to be no trust between nations, no sympathy, except for their own interest. And what is the outcome of it? Its impression falls as a reflection, as a shadow upon individuals, turning them also towards egoism and selfishness.
Religion was meant to be the safest, the only refuge in the world; but at the present moment, with ever-growing materialism and overwhelming commercialism, religion seems to be fading away. A silent indifference toward religion seems to be increasing, especially in the countries foremost in civilization; and that being so, where can man find the solution of the problem of the day?
We can consider this question from a philosophical point of view. What is construction and what is reconstruction? A construction is that which is already made. A newborn child is a construction. But after a disorder in the body or in the mind, there comes a need of a reconstruction. In English there is an expression: to pull oneself together. The world needs reconstruction today, the world has to pull itself together. Education, the political, social, and financial condition, religion, all these things which make civilization, seem to have been scattered; and in order that they may come together again, the secret of life must be studied. What is the secret of healing power? It is making oneself strong enough to pull oneself together; and that is the secret of the life of the mystic. The world has lost its health, and if one pictures the world as an individual, one can see what it means to lose one's health. It is just like illness in the life of an individual; and as for every illness there is a remedy, so for every disaster there is a reconstruction.
But people have different ideas. There is a pessimist who says, 'If the world has got to this state of destruction who can help it, how can it be helped?' This is like a person who says, 'Well, I have been so ill, I have suffered so much, I do not care. How can I be well now? It is too late.' In this way he holds on to his disease and cherishes it, though he does not like it. And then there is the curious person, who is very anxious to look at the newspaper and see whether his investments have gone up or whether they have gone down, and to see whether there is the probability of war; and he will excite his friends about it. Then there is another person who says, 'Committees must be formed, there must be societies and leagues; congresses must be held, and many more meetings, many more discussions.' There seems to be no end to the discussions and disputes in order to find out the ways and means of how to improve conditions!
I do not mean to say that any effort, in whatever form, towards the reconstruction or towards the betterment of conditions is not worthwhile. But what is most needed is for us to understand that religion of religions and that philosophy of philosophies, which is self-knowledge. We shall never understand the outer life if we do not understand ourselves. It is knowledge of the self that gives knowledge of the world. The politician, the statesman, however qualified, will dispute about things for years and years, but he will never come to a satisfactory conclusion unless he understands the psychology of life and of the situation. And so the educator will try new schemes, but he will never come to a satisfactory conclusion unless he has a psychological knowledge of life, the knowledge which will teach him the psychology of human nature. But I do not mean by psychology what is generally understood by this word; I mean the understanding of the self, the understanding of the nature and character of the mind and of the body.
What is health? Health is order. And what is order? Order is music. Where there is rhythm, regularity and cooperation, there is harmony, there is sympathy. Health of mind and health of the body depend therefore upon the preserving of that harmony, upon keeping intact that sympathy which exists in the mind and body. Life in the world, and especially as we live it amidst the crowd, will test and try our patience every moment of the day, and it will be most difficult to preserve that harmony and peace which is all happiness. For what is the definition of life? Life means struggle with friends and battle with foes. It is continual giving and taking.
And where are we to learn this? All education and learning and knowledge is acquired, but this one art is a divine art, and man has inherited it. Because he is absorbed in the outer learning he has forgotten it, but it is an art which is known to the soul; it is his own being; it is the deepest knowledge that he has in his heart. No progress in any line that man can make will give him the satisfaction which his soul is craving for, except the one which is the art of life, the art of being, the pursuit of his soul.
In order to further the reconstruction of the world the only thing possible and the only thing necessary, before trying to serve humanity, is to learn the art of being, the art of life, for oneself and in order to be an example for others.