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Volume X - Sufi Mysticism


Brotherhood (1)

One can see the beginning of the spirit of brotherhood when one looks at flocks of birds flying together in the sky, or at the herds of animals in the fields and the swarms of insects all living and moving together. No doubt this tendency of brotherhood is more pronounced in man, for man is not only capable of realizing the spirit of brotherhood, but also of fulfilling the purpose which is hidden in this natural tendency. There is one secret behind all this diversity which we call good or bad, right or wrong, sin or virtue. The secret is that all that leads to happiness is: right, good, and virtuous. And all that leads to unhappiness is: wrong, bad, and evil. If there is any sin, it is the latter which may be called sin. Brotherhood is not something which man has learned or acquired; it is something that is born in him, and according to his development of this spirit he shows the unfoldment of his soul.

Coming to the religions that have been given to the world, we read for instance in the Bible the words of Jesus Christ, admonishing us from beginning to end to love our fellow man, our neighbor. It was the moral of brotherhood that the Master taught and repeated constantly. If one studies what is the central theme of all the different religions which exist in the world, with their millions and millions of followers, we will find that it is brotherhood: to love one another, to serve one another, to be sincere to one another.

But while man is capable of loving his friend, he is still more capable of hating his neighbor. The first tendency, that of brotherhood, of love, brings satisfaction to him and happiness to the other. The other tendency of hating his brother brings dissatisfaction to him, and unhappiness to the other. Brotherhood creates happiness, and the spirit that is contrary to it produces sorrow.

When we read the scriptures of the great world religions, whether the Bible, Kabbala, the Quran, the Gita, or the Buddhist scriptures, we find that in some form or another, in the manner best suited to the people to whom the religion was given, it was the same moral, the same symphony, the same music which was performed before them. Were the great teachers specially engaged in giving mystical or occult teachings to the world? Were they engaged in discussing philosophical problems? Not at all, although they were mystics and knew philosophy and occultism, that was not the principal thing that they had to give. What they gave to the world was that simple philosophy which is never new to anyone and which even a child knows: to love one another, to be kind, to be sincere, to serve one another.

But if such a simple thing, so simple that even a child knows it, why was it necessary for the great ones, the godly souls, to come and teach it? Life is most simple and yet it is most difficult to live, and man will not accept any teaching from someone who does not live it, or if he accepts it, he will not hold on to it for long. Therefore they came on earth with love from above, and they lived that simple moral, that simple philosophy of brotherhood. A Mogul emperor, Ghasnavi, who was also a great poet, wrote, 'Born in a palace, and having reigned from the first day that I came to earth, I saw nothing but thousands and thousands of people bowing before me. But on that day in my life, when I learned my first lesson of love, my proud head bowed as a servant before every slave that I saw standing before me. Then I felt that I was their slave,' What does this show? It shows that coldness of heart hardens one's feelings and closes one's eyes to that light which illuminates the path of brotherhood.

There are many relationships, there are many connections in this world, by blood and also by law, but the greatest relationship is friendship; and it is the culmination of friendship that is called brotherhood. Brotherhood means perfect friendship.

But now comes the question: how may this principle of brotherhood be lived, how may it be practiced? It is very difficult to teach this principle to anyone. The best way of teaching it is my living it oneself. The parents, either father or mother, who show their children that feeling of brotherhood, can best express themselves to their children in this way, and the children too are able to express themselves best to their parents through this feeling. A father may be most kind, a mother most loving. But as long as he or she maintains the attitude of considering himself or herself only as father or mother, as beings which are different from the child, it will perhaps grow to love them but it will never look upon them as friends. The child will look for friends elsewhere. And a teacher may be respected by his pupils, he may bear himself with great dignity before his pupils, but at the same time there cannot be established that communication of inspiration, of love, of sympathy, of understanding until he has practiced the manner of brotherhood with his pupils.

In what way did the great ones, the prophets, the seers, the mystics, treat their pupils, their disciples? The story is known to all of Jesus Christ calling the fisherman to come and sit and talk with him. The Master never felt comfortable when they called him good. He said, 'Call me not good.' What he meant was, 'Do not consider me superior to you, I am one of you.' Think then of the master washing the feet of his disciples; what does it teach us? It teaches us brotherhood. No miracle, no great power, no great inspiration, occult or mystical, can equal the phenomenon of that humility, of that fraternity, of that brotherhood with which the great ones have become one with all men.

The world appears to be going from bad to worse; it seems that the suffering that has been caused to humanity has not yet ended. No doubt life in the world is so intoxicating that man hardly stops to think about life. Life, such as it is now, has so many responsibilities; everyone, whether rich or poor, is so absorbed in his affairs that he hardly has a moment to think of what is going on in the world. Nevertheless illness is illness, and the world is ill. A person may neglect his illness and engage his mind in something else, but if that illness is not attended to, it remains just the same. When we look for the cause of all these disasters we may be able to find a thousand causes, yet there is one principle cause and that is the lack of brotherhood.

One could have endured the absence of anything else; but the world can never be happy, nor can order or peace ever be maintained, in the absence of brotherhood. This brotherhood can be learned, and every person has facilities for learning it in his life. The master who is kind and loving to his servant, who considers his servant as his brother, is blessed. A family in which all the members, whatever their relationship, realize the idea of brotherhood in sharing pain and pleasure with one another, how happy, how blessed that family will be! How blessed would be a nation, in which, whatever its government, whatever its constitution, there were this spirit of brotherhood between people of different position, of different rank or occupation! From whence does injustice come, from whence unfairness? It all comes from the lack of brotherhood. Think of the conditions today, the courts full of cases, the prisons full of prisoners! How many disagreements there are between people and inharmony between nations, all caused by the lack of brotherhood.

When we consider this question from a still deeper point of view, we shall find that in the spirit of brotherhood is hidden a way to illumination. A man who may live by great principles, or who prays all day or meditates in the caves of the mountainside, if he does not show the spirit of brotherhood, is no good to himself or to others, because brotherhood is the way to develop spirituality. It is not exclusiveness, it is not running away from the world which is the way of the really spiritual ones. Their way is to consider one's obligations, to keep one's word, one's honor, and to prove sincere in whatever minor capacity one may be working, faithful to friends and true to everyone. These are the merits, which develop by themselves when the spirit of brotherhood has matured in man.

But when we come to the metaphysical point of view we see that an element attracts its own element. For instance, two streams of water will be attracted to one another. But although there will come a time when they join together, efforts will have to be made by both. When fires start at two sides of a certain place, each fire will be attracted to the other and in the end they will meet and become one. In the same way, an artist is attracted to an artist, a thinker to a thinker, a scientist to a scientist, and the man of action to the man of action. They are not only attracted because there is the same element in both of them, but because there is a comfort, a happiness in being attracted by the same element. Think of the joy when two people of the same thought meet together. It is greater than a joy, greater than a satisfaction, it is that happiness which is promised in heaven.

But behind all this world of various names and forms there is one life, there is one spirit. This spirit which is the soul of all beings is attracted towards unity, and it is the absence of this spirit which keeps the world unhappy. To a person who has just had some unpleasantness with his brother or sister, his food is tasteless, the night without sleep, the heart restless, the soul under a cloud. This shows that we do not necessarily live on food; our soul lives on love, the love that we receive and the love that we give. The absence of this is our unhappiness, and the presence of it is all we need. Nothing in the world is a greater healing power, a greater remedy, a greater happiness, than to be conscious of brotherhood and to be able to give that feeling to one's child, master, neighbor, and friend.

The humble efforts made by the Sufi movement in the service of God and humanity are towards brotherhood. In the form of devotion, of philosophy, of mysticism, of metaphysics, art, or science, in whatever form the Sufi movement presents the ideal to the world, the central theme is always brotherhood.

checked 18-Oct-2005