Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul
Part I: The Vision of God and Man and other Lectures
THE TRAGEDY OF LIFE
WHEN we look around us we cannot but notice how everyone has something to complain about: lack of wealth, lack of comfort, lack of kindness from those around him, from his relatives. Everywhere there are heartbreaks, disappointments of one kind or another. In the Quran this is expressed by the saying: 'God alone is rich; everyone else is poor'. People may live in palaces or in cottages, they may enjoy wealth and fame, money or good positions; no matter what they possess, they are still poor for all that.
The more we study life, the more we see how poverty is everywhere, how everyone is poverty-stricken no matter how much he may possess. How is this? What is the meaning of it? Only one thing can explain this situation, and that is limitation.
This one word explains the reason for the gradations from king to pauper, from the very great to the most insignificant. There is the limitation of poor physical health and of mental power, the limitation of wealth, and so forth. Nothing but limitation explains the real cause of all these grievous things.
A seer or thinker may well find it amusing to watch how the whole world is busily active from morning till night, in body as well as in mind. Everyone is trying to get relief from this poverty, trying to overcome all the things he has to complain about, trying to gain the means of conquering all those conditions of poverty. So he who watches all this sees the people always striving, striving for this, striving for that; yet in spite of all their striving they only find still more poverty. The objects they desire are limited, but their desire is unlimited; in any case limited objects can never satisfy limitless desire.
There is a Hindustani poem which says, 'When you have ten lakh or twenty, or fifty, or a hundred, you will still want a thousand; if you obtained them you would still want more.' In fact you would want the whole world, and even if you had that your desire would not come to an end. The reason for this is that whatever man desires is always limited, whereas his desire itself knows no limits. When one desire is satisfied there is another and then another, and so on and on. Man's desire remains much greater and vaster and wider than every object that can be desired, and since the one who desires does not know his own value, nor the value of the objects sought by him, he remains in a state of poverty. This poverty degrades his life; the degradation of all human life proceeds from this one thing.
A Persian poet has said, 'Though I see myself in the greatest and highest and most perfect Being, yet I find myself in poverty, limitation, and distress. The reason for this is just my own ignorance of myself, of my true self. It is the delusion of the limitation of life.'
Whereas so many people are constantly endeavoring to get relief from this limitation which is called poverty, the Sufi strives to overcome the source of the poverty hidden within the life of everyone. The source of this poverty is limitation, and he breaks this limitation by raising his light. In the Bible we are advised to raise that light which so far we have hidden under a bushel. When we raise the light we remove the poverty.
We may ask: But how do we raise the light? What do we see with this light when it has been raised? The answer is that the intelligence is light. Raise the intelligence, and when the intelligence experiences life through the medium or vehicle of the body and mind then, no doubt, it remains limited. If we reflect that this body and this mind occupy two different planes, then we will understand that there is more limitation on the one than on the other. For example, if we want to go to a particular street or place with our body it will take a certain time, but if we go there in our mind we can get there in a moment's time. That is the difference between the two planes in regard to the accomplishment of things. It may take much time and effort to accomplish something in the physical world, but it takes less time and effort to accomplish it when we work mentally. When the intelligence works through the mind less effort and less time are needed, whereas when it works through the physical body more time and effort are needed. This is because the physical world has more limitations and the mental world has fewer. So when the intelligence can be raised above and beyond the mental world, we gain interest on all planes of existence. There is a greater playground for the intelligence there.
Two of the principal sources of pleasure in the physical world are good food and bodily comfort, yet one single beautiful thought or one charming mental image may provide more pleasure and joy than all the beauty there is in the whole physical world. So we can see that when we raise the intelligence from the physical plane, and then even higher, we will come to a state of realization where we see that life is not really limited at all; that it too is unlimited. It is when our experience is confined to the lower phases of existence that we find that our life is limited. Herein lies the whole tragedy of life.
So if we want to see happy people, full of joy and peace, people who are generous minded, people with a desire to serve, a desire for generosity and charity, we will find them if we look among those who do not have worldly wealth or fame or a great name. We will find them among them the people who do not care for the world and its spirit; here we will find those who are kings in themselves. In the East they are called dervishes or faqirs or sanyasins. All these have lifted their intelligence above the sphere of limitation.