Volume X - Sufi Mysticism
Very often, a man is apt to think that it is study, meditation and prayer, alone, that can bring him to the way leading to the goal. However, it must be understood that action also plays an important part. Few indeed know what effect every action has upon one's life, what power a right action can give and what effect a wrong action can have. Man is only on the lookout for what others think of his actions, instead of being concerned with what God thinks of them. If man knew what effect an action produces upon himself, he would understand that although a murderer may escape the hands of the policeman, he has not escaped from the fault he has committed, for he cannot escape himself. The greatest judge is sitting in his own heart. He cannot hide his acts from himself. No doubt it is difficult, almost impossible, for a man to judge the acts of other people, for he does not know what their conditions are. Man can best judge himself. However wicked he may be, he will not be really pleased with his wrong actions; or, if he is pleased for a moment, this pleasure will not last.
But what is right and what is wrong? No one can stamp a deed as right or as wrong; but there is a natural sense in man that distinguishes between right and wrong, just or unjust, a sense which is to be found even in a child. The child also sees the line and color in art or decoration, it notices when the tablecloth is not laid out straight on the table, when a line that should be straight is not straight. Even a child knows when things should be harmonious, and a child normally loves harmony. There is a natural tendency in the heart of man, the same natural instinct that masons use when building a house.
Different religions have taught different morals, which were right for the people at that time. No doubt the law of the masses must be respected; but the real conception of right and wrong lies in one's deepest self. The soul is not pleased with that which is not right. The soul's satisfaction lies always in something that gives it complete happiness. The whole of Sufism is based on the practice not only of thought, but of action, as all religions have been based not only on truth, but on action. Things both material and spiritual have been accomplished by action. To the mystic, therefore, action is most important.
During my travels from place to place, when I have come in contact with different people and have had the opportunity of staying with them, I have met some who had perhaps never in their lives read a book on theology or studied mysticism, their whole lives having been spent in work, business and industry. Yet I felt a spiritual advancement made naturally by their right actions in life. They had come to a state of purity which perhaps someone else might find by means of study or meditation.
One might ask, what is the best path to take in everyday life to lead one to life's ideal? The best way is to consider harmony as the first principle to be observed. In all circumstances, situations and conditions, one should try to harmonize with one's fellow creatures. It is easy to say, but most difficult to live. It is not always easy to harmonize. But if we question ourselves as to why it is so difficult, the answer is that it is not always that other people are difficult and not pliable; it is we ourselves who cannot bend. The palm tree that grows straight up cannot harmonize with other trees whose trunks are not so straight and strong.
There are many good people, but they are not always harmonious. There are many true people, but their truth is not always comforting. They may utter a truth which is like a slap in the face to someone. They are just like the palm tree, straight and righteous, yet at the same time, not in harmony. A harmonious person can bend, is pliable, and he can meet others. There is no doubt that in order to harmonize one has to make sacrifices, one has to bend to people one does not want to bend to. One has to be more pliable than one is by nature. One has to be more clever than one really is. And all these attempts will not succeed unless one makes a great effort, unless one realizes that harmony is the most essential thing in life.
Why does a mystic attribute such great importance to harmony? Because to a mystic, his whole life is one continuous symphony, a playing of music, with each soul contributing his particular part to the symphony. A person's success therefore depends upon the idea he has of harmony. Very few people in the world pay attention to harmony. They do not know that without it, there is no chance of happiness. It is only the harmonious ones who can make others happy and partake of that happiness themselves; and apart from them, it is hard to find happiness in the world.
The fighter has no peace, as his battles will be ever increasing. It is the peacemaker who is blessed. No doubt in order to make peace he will have to fight with himself; and in that way, he will be able to make peace with others. Whatever a person's education or position in life, he may possess all he wants, but if that one thing is lacking in his life and heart, then nothing can bring him peace.
Therefore, if a man does not show through his actions some of the characteristics of a human being, characteristics that are not to be found in animals, then he has not awakened to human nature. There are certain actions such as eating, drinking, sitting and walking, that are not different from those of the animals. Yet, these very same actions can become especially characteristic of human nature when they have a guiding light behind them.
For instance, when a man thinks he must not return a push when he is pushed by somebody while walking and instead says, 'I am sorry,' he shows a tendency which is different from that of an animal, for animals will fight one another and will lower their horns instead of bowing to one another, while their greeting will be a howl. Man can be different.
The special characteristics of man are consideration, refinement, patience and thoughtfulness. And when once he has practiced these, it leads to another action: to the practice of self-sacrifice which in turn leads to a divine action. When man sacrifices his time and his advantages in life for the sake of another whom he loves, respects or admires, then this sacrifice raises him higher than the ordinary standard of human beings. His is then a divine nature, not human anymore. Then a human being begins to think as God thinks, and his actions become more and more divine. They become the actions of God, and that makes him greater than the person who merely believes in God.
The awakened soul sees all of the doings of grown-up people as the doings of the children of one father. He looks upon them as the Father would look upon all human beings on the earth, without thinking that they are German or English or French. They are all equally dear to him. He looks upon all full of forgiveness, not only upon those who deserve it, but also upon the others, for he understands the reason behind it all. By seeing good in everybody and in everything, he begins to develop that divine light that expands itself, illuminating the greater part of life and revealing it as a scene of divine sublimity.
The mystic develops a wider outlook on life, and this wider outlook changes his actions. He develops a point of view that may be called a divine point of view. Then he rises to the state in which he feels that all that is done to him comes from God, and when he himself does right or wrong, he feels that he does right or wrong to God. To arrive at such a stage is true religion. There can be no better religion than this, the true religion of God on earth. This is the point of view that makes a person God-like and divine. He is resigned when badly treated, but for his own shortcomings, he will take himself to task, for all his actions are directed towards God.
The conception that the mystic has of the Deity is not only that of a King or a Judge or a Creator; the mystical conception of God is that of the Beloved, the only Beloved there is. To Him all the love of this world is like that of little girls playing with their dolls, loving them. In that way, they learn the lessons they have to practice later in life when taking care of the home. The mystic learns the same lessons by proving to be sincere and devoted to all kinds of creatures. This he must do in order to awaken himself to the Beloved, the only Beloved there is, to whom all love is due.