It happens very often that we find that a person who
has been successful in life goes on being successful, and
that one who has once failed goes on failing. Looked at
from a psychological point of view, the reason is that the
first person was impressed by his success and so he continued
to be successful, and the other, who was impressed with
his failure, continued to have failures because that impression
suggested failure to him. But it is not because of the displeasure
of God that unfortunate souls continue to be unfortunate
in everything they do. It is that the suggestion of misfortune,
of misery, keeps them miserable throughout their lives.
There was a wealthy man who had lost all his money and
had become poor, yet he would not admit it. He said, 'No,
I have not lost it. I have still got it in my mind somewhere.'
And in six months time he became as rich as he was before.
He did not allow his failure to suggest itself to him. And
so it is with one's character. Often a person says, 'I am
stupid. I cannot think,' and when he has said this several
times naturally he becomes stupid. Sometimes he says it
out of modesty, humility, or politeness; but this virtue
will prove to be a sin. Also, many have lost their memory
through suggestion. When they have forgotten something,
which is a natural thing for a human being to do, they repeat
to themselves, 'How stupid! How forgetful on my part!' and
that idea repeated twice or three times deepens their forgetfulness.
There are many different drawbacks of this kind, as when
a person says, 'When I am among people I become nervous.
I become timid. When I am asked to speak or to do something,
I cannot do it.' All these things are suggestions. Napoleon
never liked to say, 'I cannot.' When a person says, 'I cannot,'
he has made a suggestion to himself, he has weakened his
power of accomplishing what he could otherwise have accomplished.
To admit to oneself, 'I have no force, I have no power,
I have no thought, I have no intelligence,' only means working
Often people who are disappointed with the world say,
'My heart has grown cold.' But it is actually they who suggest
to themselves that their heart has become cold. Others may
say, 'I can no longer love.' But we have come from love.
We are love itself. We are made of love. How then, can we
no longer love? All these suggestions which are undesirable
and foolish work against our life. Then there are people
who imagine that nobody likes them, that everybody hates
them, that everybody is jealous of them. Nobody may hate
them, nobody may even dislike them, but naturally when such
a thought develops in their own minds, it reflects upon
others and creates in them the tendency to hate and dislike.
We should always remember that man is not created by
God as wood is carved by the carpenter, for the carpenter
is different from the wood, but that man is created out
of the self of God. Therefore, all that is in God is in
man. All the different powers and qualities that we need
in life are attainable if we do not deny their existence
in ourselves, but when we deny that they exist in us, then
naturally life will deprive us of that gift which is our
own. How can a man be fortunate when he believes and thinks
that everything he touches goes wrong? How can a man be
loved when he carries in his heart the thought that everyone
who sees him dislikes him, hates him, avoids him, works
against him? Nobody is his enemy except he himself; by such
an attitude one becomes one's own worst enemy.
This psychological idea should not, of course, keep us
from cultivating the principle of modesty. If a person without
learning says, 'I am learned,' it does not mean that he
will become learned. If, without having a voice he claims
to be a tenor, this will not make him a tenor. If he has
not got those qualities he should not profess them, though
he may anticipate them and expect them. He should say, 'I
am entitled to all that opens the door to progress.' But
as soon as a person admits to himself that he has not got
that quality, that intelligence, that power, that gift in
him, he drives his spirit out of that world.
The following story is an example of modesty together
with suggestion. A slave named Ayaz was so highly favored
by the Sultan that the Sultan made him his treasurer. The
most precious jewels and gems were given into his charge.
And those around the Sultan felt angry about it, to think
that a slave was raised to their rank and that he was given
such a trust. They were always trying to point out faults
in the slave to the Sultan. One day a courtier said, 'Ayaz
goes every day to the treasure-house, even when there is
no need to, and he sometimes remains there for hours. He
certainly steals precious jewels from the treasury.' Every
day the Sultan was hearing something against Ayaz, and at
last he said, 'If this is really so, I will go and see it
with my own eyes.' He went and had a hole made in the wall
so that he could see and hear what his slave did there.
The Sultan was standing outside, looking into the room,
and Ayaz entered and closed the door. First he opened the
chest in which the precious jewels of the Sultan were kept.
Then out of the same chest he took something which he kept
there. He kissed it and pressed it to his eyes, and then
he opened the package. And what was it? It was the same
garment which he had worn when he was sold as a slave. He
took off his courtier's clothes and put on that garment
and he stood before the mirror and said, 'Ayaz, do you remember
today what you were before? Nothing; a slave brought before
the king to be sold. The king appreciated something in you.
Perhaps you do not deserve it. But try your best to be faithful
to the king who has made you what you are, and never forget
the day when you wore this garment, that you may not raise
your head in pride above the others who work under you.
And never allow your feeling of gratitude to leave you,
for prosperity is always intoxicating. Keep yourself sober
and thank God, and pray God to grant the Sultan a long life,
and be grateful for all that has been given to you.' Then
he took off his garment and put it back in the chest and
closed the doors and came out. The Sultan approached him
with open arms and said, 'Ayaz, until now you were the treasurer
of my jewels, but now you are the treasurer of my heart.
You have taught me a lesson of how I must stand before my
King, before whom I was nothing and am nothing.'
This must be the attitude. It was not a suggestion of
his misery as a slave, it was a suggestion of the realization
that he had come from that state to his exalted position,
and also, that he should prove worthy of it. When we become
conscious of our unworthiness, of our limitations, it certainly
helps us, yet it can only really help us when we hope to
become better. But if we stop there, then we might just
as well stay there forever. When a person says that he is
too weak to become any better, he stays where he is, but
when he admits to himself, 'Yes, today I am weak, but tomorrow
I will be better. I will try to be better,' that is the
right attitude. We should never allow that spirit of mastery
which is in us to become blunted by a feeling of inability,
for the essence of life is hope, and when we hope for the
better, we shall be better. It cannot be otherwise. Hopelessness
is worse than death. It is better to die than to lose hope.
We are able to do anything if we choose to make the effort.
The difficulty is that often we do not choose to make an
effort. And why not? Because we do not believe. What is
generally lacking in man is belief. He does not believe.
Another interesting thing is this: suppose there were ten
people sitting in meditation and Providence granted them
a boon – to ask for as much wealth as they would wish. Will
all ten ask for the same amount? No, because no two will
agree as to how much can be obtained. One will ask for a
hundred, another for a thousand, a third will ask for a
million, and a fourth for nothing because he will not believe
that any can be obtained.
Although the river is flowing with clear water, the different
people who go to it will not all be able to take the same
quantity of water. The one who has a glass will take a glass.
Another who has a pitcher will take a pitcher. A third who
has a rubber bag will fill that, and the one who has brought
a tank will take a tankful. But no one will take the same
quantity as another. And so it is with all of us in our
lives: what we obtain is what our belief allows us to obtain,
either wealth or virtue, power or rank or spirituality.
What our belief does not allow us to attain to we do not
attain to. We cannot attain it. It is difficult to say to
what extent our belief allows us to attain, for we live
in this world of limitation and we cannot believe beyond
what we can see. What keeps us from believing is that we
are impressed by the limitations around us, and we can never
think of or believe in anything different from what we see.
How can one get belief? This is the most difficult question
anyone can ask; for it cannot be learned, it cannot be taught,
it is a grace of God. Belief is essentially the same thing
as faith, but only when belief has become a conviction does
it turn into faith. I remember my murshid giving me, in
blessing me, this wish, 'May your faith be strengthened.'
Being a young man, I thought, 'Is that all he is saying
to me?' – not, 'May you be inspired, or illuminated, or
prosperous,' or something else? But when I think of it now
I know that in that blessing there was all. When belief
is strengthened, then there is everything. All that we lack
in life is mostly because of our lack of belief. But again,
it is not something that one can learn or teach or that
one can give to anybody. This comes from the grace of God.
To affirm a belief is one thing, and really to believe
is another. Many will say that they believe, but few really
believe. Yes, there are moments when a person is under the
spell of belief, but then there come other moments when
he is under a spell of unbelief. If this condition vanishes
and there comes a steady flow of belief, then, as a river
reaches the sea, that soul reaches perfection.