Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part I: The Vision of God and Man and other Lectures
MAN'S AIM IN LIFE
IF we have studied the chapter on the Silent Life in 'In an Eastern Rose Garden' it may seem contradictory to speak of the other aspect of life. We might ask: Why did creation take place? Why is man on earth? Is it to seek the silent life, or what is the reason of all this happening? Are we to throw out everything that we call life, our position, our rank, our strength and everything we have so far thought worthy of pursuit? Shall we continue to seek to attain these things, or should we discard them all in favor of the pursuit of the silent life?
The answer to these questions is found in the words of the Lord's prayer: Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. We can extend this to: Thy perfect will be done on earth as well as in heaven, or: That which Thou desirest in heaven we must do on earth, or: I will do as Thou desirest me to do. Yet at the same time the mystic thinks, 'My soul is not separate from Thy spirit; therefore my will is not separate from Thine; therefore my will be done on the earthly plane as Thine is done on the heavenly plane, namely on that of my mind. Thus that which I have been thinking to do will happen on the plane of the earth.'
Omar Khayyam said, 'Heaven is the vision of fulfilled desire; hell is the shadow of a soul on fire.' The fulfillment of desire, however small or great it be, is the first step towards perfection. Unfulfillment of desire, however high or low, is a going back.
We may ask: But what if the desires we have are not worthwhile? Our desires may indeed be imperfect ones; they may not be right; but what of it? We cannot desire things which lead to our destruction. Is there no good desire in our hearts? Is not the heart the vehicle of good through which one desires? So we see that our desire is God's desire, and that creation's whole purpose is the fulfillment of that desire. As the Vedanta say, this life is the dream of Brahma. The creative faculty or power desired what Brahma desired; it produced what He desired. This is why the Sufi regards as the first lesson to learn through concentration and meditation: that my desire shall be accomplished.
Religion reaches the same in the Lord's prayer: Give us our daily bread. In another place the Gospel says: 'Knock and it shall be opened unto you', and again: 'If his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?' If you tell yourself that you do not desire anything, you go back. Your progress lies in desiring whatever you wish. Fulfillment of your desire is the first proof that your concentration is successful. This is called Vilayat. A person may be able to see into things and yet not be the master; to be a master implies being master of all situations in life. Although a seer is one who can see, yet unless he has mastery also he can only see and nothing else. Mastery is greater than seer-ship, because the master both sees and accomplishes.
This whole creation is the result of desire. The purpose of creation, therefore, must be the fulfillment of this desire. Thus your first step towards accomplishment or attainment, whether it be spiritual or worldly, will also be to proceed with purpose towards the goal of you desire.
You may think, 'But if I keep on with the pursuit of my material desires, perhaps I may never reach the spiritual goal and will never get beyond my desires.' The answer to this is that if you let the desire go unfulfilled and you lack the patience needed to accomplish the desire, your progress will be arrested. This failure will keep you back from spiritual progress. When once you have accomplished one desire, you will have that something which is needed for the accomplishment of something greater. Every desire you accomplish is one step further towards that final goal which every soul ultimately has to reach.
Thus the way to go is this, even for attaining spiritual perfection. Those who renounce their desires for God, for spiritual perfection, bury their own desires in their heart. It is more than renouncing; it is killing them and burying them; but they are there all the same. The are entombed in the heart, and there they will produce all sorts of germs and worms, and they will decay. There will only be pain and nothing else and so spiritual accomplishment cannot be attained in this way.
The steps you take towards the goal by accomplishing your desires, your patience in doing this, your perseverance with it, these are what teach you. One may compare it with playing with dolls. The child who plays with a doll is learning to be a mother; learning how to be kind to children, putting them to bed, waking them up and dressing them. When once a little girl has learned this she will later be a good mother; this means she will accomplish her desire.
The man, who has become rich or powerful, material though this may be, has attained something all the same; something has been accomplished; the mind gets strength and confidence. Then he can take the next step, which is the spiritual step.
A person has prepared himself for renunciation when he has risen above the object he demands. He is only entitled to say that he does not want the sweet when he has so much of it that he cannot eat any more. If he is still longing, well, he may say 'No', but it will be only a formality; perhaps it would not be good etiquette to say 'Yes', but he longs for it just the same!
So it is that you have to rise above everything that you renounce. You have not really renounced until you have done that. You go on seeking as long as you have a desire for a thing.