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Volume X - Sufi Mysticism


Brotherhood (2)

Brotherhood is not something that is learned or taught. Brotherhood is a tendency, a tendency which arises from a heart that is tuned to the proper pitch. And it is in this natural tendency that real happiness lies from that which raises harmony and which culminates in peace. The message of brotherhood is a message of sympathy, a message of harmony. But the person who is not in harmony with himself cannot be in harmony with another, with all the teaching of brotherhood and with all his learning, he will not be able to observe the law of brotherhood.

In the whole system of the world's creation one sees a blind impulse working like a kind of mechanism of the universe. This impulse is more apparent in living creatures, and its most pronounced form is agitation. If we study the lives of the lower creatures we find that they not only have a desire for food or a desire to move about with their mates; their first desire is to sleep. But besides this there is an inclination that manifests as agitation and it is because of this agitation that the animals and birds fight among themselves. Their whole life is filled with that agitation. Furthermore, herbivorous animals are less agitated than carnivorous ones, while in the carnivorous animals there is more desire for fighting. The lion and the tiger are more inclined to fight than horses and cows, which shows that the herbivorous animals are a step more advanced than the carnivorous animals. The tendencies to eat or drink, to seek pleasure or enjoy comfort or become agitated, do not belong specially to the human being; he gets these characteristics from the animal. His special characteristic is sympathy, harmony; but this comes only when man rises above that agitation which, so to speak, buries the spirit of sympathy. No doubt man is educated, he is trained, he has some polish, he has been taught some manners, and therefore he does not always show his agitation. It is only at a time of weakness, when he cannot control his agitation, that it breaks out and manifests to his own view as well as to that of others, thereby proving that he is not yet ready to be called human.

One might ask if there is any time in a man's life when he rises above this. One person will get it under control sooner than another, but one will always master it when one really tries to. This spirit of agitation shows itself as intolerance, as rivalry, as jealousy, as a domineering spirit, as irritability, or as the tendency to patronize; all such qualities show agitation. When we study the lives of those who have served humanity, we see that this was the first thing that they had to conquer. When it is said that Krishna fought a battle with Kamsa, the monster-man, that monster was not outside of Krishna; that monster was inside him. It was this spirit of agitation. Krishna had to fight it, and it was only after conquering the spirit of agitation that he became the messenger of love.

In the Bible we read that Jesus Christ went for forty days into the desert, and that Satan was at his side. What is Satan? It is the same spirit that is the greatest enemy of the human race, the spirit of agitation. And Halima gives a symbolical, artistic, and picturesque description of an experience of the Prophet. She says that the breast of the Prophet was cut open and that some undesirable matter was removed. Symbolically this means that the spirit of agitation was taken away to make place for divine inspiration. This shows that man inherits the earthly characteristics, and among those earthly characteristics agitation is the principal one. A child sometimes shows it against its parents, a schoolboy against his friends, a youth against its companions, a grown-up against his neighbors – and everyone has a reason to justify this wrong attitude. Agitation, therefore, is the sign of the false ego, and when this false ego is broken, when this very agitation has crushed itself, just as fire burns itself out, then begins the process of purification.

Man does not really notice how far this spirit follows a person on the path of spiritual progress. A person may arrive at the very gate of the heavens, and even to that length this spirit will travel with him. It may become weaker, but it is there; only, this spirit has no entrance into the shrine of God, and the soul which carries this spirit with it has no entrance into that perfect abode. He may advance as far as the gate of the inner temple, but he is not allowed in; he is held back by the power of that same spirit of agitation. For the shrine of God is called Dar-i Salam, which is the same as Jerusalem. It means the door of peace, and agitation is not allowed to enter through the door of peace; it must stay outside. When the ancients said, 'You cannot follow two masters, God and Satan,' this meant that Satan is the spirit of agitation which is to be found within ourselves, while God is the spirit of peace in whom is our happiness; and we cannot follow both of these masters.

There are many movements and institutions for the promotion of brotherhood, and they are all doing what they can to further this ideal, for this is an ideal that is the essence of religion and the soul of spirituality. But how can one attain to it? By creating in oneself, and by trying to give to others, the idea of a natural sympathy; by strengthening ourselves, thereby giving power to others also to fight against this spirit of agitation which has always proved to be the worst enemy of mankind.

Where does this agitation come from? From disorder, either of the body or of the mind; if the body is not in its proper rhythm and proper tune, or if the mind is not in its proper rhythm and tune. And if the mind and body are not in tune with one another, if they are not in harmony, then also this agitation comes. Sometimes it is the reflection of the mind upon the body, and sometimes it is the reflection of the body upon the mind. How true it is that man is his own enemy; but where is that enemy? That enemy is this spirit; a spirit which is never contented, which does not appreciate, which does not respond, which does not sympathize, which does not agree, which does not endure, which does not tolerate, which does not harmonize. A spirit which stands against any influence of harmony, agreement, sympathy, or kindness.

Is this spirit a living being, is it Satan, a devil, or what is it? What is its explanation? What is its origin? The best explanation is that it is like a smooth silken thread which becomes tangled at one end and ties itself into a knot. But in the place where there is a knot it is very difficult to unravel, it is still the same silken thread. Only it is in a condition where it is difficult for it because it is not free. And it is difficult for others because they cannot unravel it. And so the same soul that has divine breath in it, which has come from heaven, which represents God on earth, when it is turned into a knot has difficulty with itself, difficulty with others, and others have difficulty with it. In this way it becomes inharmonious, and it creates inharmony; it finds itself in a kind of inharmonious condition. This only means that it has lost its natural, original condition, its smoothness and softness; and yet it remains silk; it has not turned into cotton, it is still silk. Call it Satan or devil or whatever you like, but if one knows the source, the origin, one cannot call it anything else but a condition. Thus what is most important in the work of brotherhood, is to develop that spirit in ourselves by getting above all knots and difficulties, in order that we may not only be able to follow the rules of brotherhood, but that all which comes naturally from ourselves may express brotherhood.

In working towards the establishment of brotherhood, the main object of the Sufi movement is to bring about a better understanding among the different classes, among the followers of different religions and the people of different races and different nations; but by this we do not mean mixing them up. If this were our idea, it would have been quite a different thing. We want to let the farms of wheat be farms of wheat; on the farms where rice grows, let rice grow; where there are woods, let there be woods, where there are gardens, let there be gardens – all are necessary. Our ideas have not reached to the extreme of wanting to cook everything in the same dish. We do not wish to stretch the fingers so as to make them all even, for their natural size is the proper size for them; our conception of equality does not conform to such an idea. Our only motive is that the East and West, the North and the South, instead of turning their backs upon each other, may turn their faces towards each other.

We do not wish all the people in the world to be of the same religion or the same education, or to have the same customs and manners; nor do we think that all classes must become one class, which is impossible anyhow. We wish that all classes may blend with each other, and yet every individual have his own individual expression in life. That all nations may have their peculiarity, their individuality, but at the same time express goodwill and friendly feeling towards one another. That different races may have their own manners and their own ideas, but at the same time understand one another; that the followers of different religions may continue to belong to their own religions, but at the same time become tolerant towards each other.

Therefore our idea of brotherhood is not in any way extreme. The motive is not to change humanity, but to help humanity on towards its goal. People may belong to one church and yet fight with one another; it is just as well that they should belong to different churches and yet understand each other, respect each other's religion, and tolerate one another. People may belong to one institution, and yet disagree with one another. Then what is the use of that institution? Therefore, it is not at all the mission of the Sufi movement to try and make the whole of humanity followers of one special movement, but to give to humanity what God has given us, so that we may serve in His cause.

checked 18-Oct-2005