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Volume XI - Philosophy, Psychology and Mysticism

Part III: Mysticism

Chapter IX

When considering virtue the natural tendency is to disregard the laws which govern human nature. The mystic, therefore, does not take the point of view of some preachers who urge and impose upon all those who come to them that they should be good, that they should be kind, and that they should be just. A mystic recognizes that man's first response is to react in accordance with what strikes him. We already see this tendency in a child. When we smile at the child it will laugh, but if we show it a hand as if we were going to strike it the child will do the same, unless it is afraid. At least its desire would be the same. It would want to hit back. Therefore, there is nothing to be surprised at if Moses stood before the multitude and told them, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' What else could he have said to them? 'Be ye kind and saintly and most loving?' Would they have listened to that?

Even on the mystic path, the first step of an adept is to recognize fully the law of reciprocity. The difference between an adept and an ordinary person is that an ordinary person does automatically what the mystic begins to do consciously. In considering the law of reciprocity one must not overlook human nature: how a man always sees written before him in big letters what he has done, but in very small letters what the other has done. He always overestimates his own goodness, his generosity, his kindness, his service to another person. And he blinds himself to the kindness, goodness and generosity of the other. Thus, it is seldom that people live the law of reciprocity, although everyone is sure that he returns love for love and hate for hate. Perhaps he returns hate for hate, but whether he returns love for love is another question. The reason is that the first thing man thinks of is himself, what he feels, what he thinks, what he says, what he does. And it is only his second thought that he gives to what another person says, thinks, feels, or does. So that which one thinks, says, feels, or does stands clearly and fully before one, and all that another person feels, thinks, says, or does is something that one sees from a great distance. And when it is something which concerns himself, a person very often views it with only his own interest in mind.

Once a man has begun to recognize the law of reciprocity, from that moment he begins to open his eyes to what is called justice. We have wrongly given the name justice to man-made laws.

Justice is a sense; and when we recognize justice as a sense we begin to see justice as a living spirit. To explain this in ordinary terms: if the carpet is not laid properly there is a sense in us which tells us that it is not right, a kind of discomfort comes over us only from looking at it; or if the lamp is not standing in its usual place on the table there is a sense in us which gives us discomfort, which makes us think that it is not right, that it ought to be the other way. And it is the same with justice. It is a sense of seeing the right proportion, the right weight, the right measure. No one can live without it and be a saint. This is the first step he must take, and if he does not take this step then he will surely fall into a ditch before he arrives at saintliness. There are two ends to a line: one end is ignorance, the other end is innocence, and in between is wisdom. And as the two ends are similar, so innocence and ignorance seem to be the same; only, the difference is that in order to go from ignorance to innocence we have to cross wisdom. Very often people confuse the ignorant and the innocent soul.

Reciprocity does not mean allowing a larger measure to the other, or giving a greater weight for the money he pays. By reciprocity is meant just dealing in all the different walks of life, remembering at the same time the weak point in human nature: that man always thinks he is just though he is often far from being so.

This naturally produces in the mystic a friendly tendency. In the same way that plants grow, so this tendency grows and blossoms into beneficence. Man begins to think less of himself and of all that he does for others, and he begins to appreciate more what others do. He can even arrive at the stage where he entirely forgets all that he does for another, only remembering what the other has done or is doing for him. There are some few souls here and there in the world who may not be recognized as such, but who in reality are saintly souls, in whatever guise they live. Their number is small, but they are to be found everywhere, those who do good to another, who render their services, who are kind, generous, loving, without any thought of appreciation, of thanks, of return. One might think from a practical point of view that such a person is on the losing side. He may seem to be, but he derives pleasure from it, a pleasure that cannot be compared with the pleasure of the one who exacts his share. And no one can experience this pleasure unless he has practiced this law in his own life. One awakens to the law of beneficence by being able to admire and appreciate, by sympathy, by being grateful. The person who thinks, 'I have done some good to another. I have rendered a kind service to another. I have been of great help in the life of another,' cannot understand the law of beneficence. It means to do and to forget, to serve without desiring any appreciation, to love without wishing for any return, and to do kindness even if there is no recognition on the part of the other. If we look at them from the point of view of the law of reciprocity, those who do this are not unhappy, although it might seem that they should be. There is a saying that there are some who are happy in taking and others who are happy in giving, but in the case of the latter the reward is greater and they are happier in the end.

In the law of renunciation the mystic finds the rest and peace which is the object of his journey on the spiritual path. There is nothing so difficult as renunciation. To pursue an object, to persevere on a path, and to attain to a certain thing, all these are easy in comparison with being able to renounce something which one really values. Sometimes renunciation is like death. But having once renounced, one finds oneself standing above death. Renunciation, in other words, may be called sacrifice, although sacrifice is a small word for it. Sacrifice is the beginning of renunciation, and it is its point of perfection which may be called renunciation. The saints and sages and prophets all had to go through this test and trial, and in proportion to the greatness of their renunciation, so great have these souls become. Renunciation is the sign of heroes, it is the merit of saints, it is the character of the masters, and it is the virtue of the prophets. No one can come to this unless he has passed through the laws of reciprocity and beneficence.

What must be renounced? Nothing must be renounced: it is renunciation itself. It is as  Fariduddin Attar, the great Persian poet, says, 'Renounce the good of the world, renounce the good of heaven, renounce your highest ideal, and then renounce your renunciation.' Is the only way to perfection through renunciation? The way to perfection is not limited. There are many ways. No one can make a rule that one can only pass through this way and not by another way. The mystic, therefore, instead of imposing upon others or upon himself great principles and high morals, tries to pass through the laws of reciprocity and beneficence in order to arrive at the idea of renunciation.

checked 18-Oct-2005