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Volume XIII - The Gathas

Part VII
Tasawwuf: Metaphysics


1.   Forgiveness

They say, 'Forgive and forget', which is very expressive of the process of forgiveness. It is impossible to forgive unless you can forget. What keeps man from forgiving his fellow man is that he holds the fault of another constantly before his view. It is just like sticking a little thorn in one's own heart and keeping it there and suffering the pain. It may also be pictured as putting a drop of poison in one's own heart and retaining it until the whole heart becomes poisoned. Verily, blessed are the innocent, who do not notice anybody's fault, and the greater credit is to the mature souls, who, recognizing a fault, forget it and so forgive. How true are the words of Christ, 'Let those throw a stone who have not sinned.' The limitations of human life make man subject to faults; some have more faults, some have less, but there is no soul without faults. As Christ says, 'Call me not good.' 1

Forgiveness is a stream of love, which washes away all impurities wherever it flows. By keeping this spring of love, which is in the heart of man, running, man is able to forgive, however great the fault of his fellow man may seem. One who cannot forgive closes his heart. The sign of spirituality is that there is nothing you cannot forgive, there is no fault you cannot forget. Do not think that he who has committed a fault yesterday must do the same today, for life is constantly teaching and it is possible in one moment a sinner may turn into a saint.

At times it is hard to forgive, as it is hard to take away the thorn that has gone deep into one's heart. But the pain that one feels in taking away the thorn deepest in the heart is preferable to keeping the thorn in the heart constantly. The greater pain of a moment is better than the mild pricking going on constantly. Ask him who forgives what relief there is in forgiveness. Words can never explain the feeling of the heart when one has cast out the bitter feeling from one's heart by forgiving and when love spreads all over within oneself, circulating like warm blood through one's whole being.

2.   Endurance (1)

The human being is, physically and mentally, so constructed that he can endure only a certain degree of vibrations, audible or visible. Therefore noise distracts his mind and strong colors also make an uncomfortable effect. All that is called noise is beyond the range of his power of endurance. Generally soft colors appeal to him more, for the vibrations of soft colors are soothing and do not demand endurance on the part of man. But atmosphere demands the greatest strength of endurance. One can endure color or sound, but it is difficult to endure atmosphere, which is not congenial. Man prefers to endure a color or a sound, which is difficult to endure, rather than the personality of another person, because human activity has a more jarring effect than color or sound. Man does not need to speak or act in order to create a jarring effect upon another. If his mind is in that state, he has a jarring effect upon others without having to speak or act. If there is a thing most difficult to endure, it is man. And yet the soul most longs for the association of mankind. If a person were in a forest where he did not see a human being, after a few months, when his fancy were satisfied to some extent, he would long to see the face of a human being; trees and plants and animals and birds are not sufficient. This shows that it is not only that like attracts like, but like needs like. The position of man is a strange position in life. Man is uncomfortable with his kind and unhappy without his kind, and he does not know what course is best to take. The Sufi, therefore, learns the lesson of endurance, to take the right course. For if one does not endure a devil one cannot endure an angel, if man is not happy on earth he cannot be happy in heaven. A person who has no endurance, his need will not even be answered in paradise.

Although it is difficult, at times, to endure, yet if one will not make an effort to endure he will have to endure, then, at all times. The world is what it is, it cannot be changed. If we want it to be different, we must change ourselves. If we become susceptible to jarring effects, jarring influences, not only human activities around us but even the moving of the leaves will make us uncomfortable. To a miserable person the midsummer day is worse than a dark night. All seems gloomy, everything seems wretched, and he himself melancholy. This tendency is developed by not making an effort to endure but by avoiding situations, which ask for one's endurance. In all walks of life success is assured for an enduring man, and with the lack of this quality, whatever be man's qualification, he is kept back from success. By endurance I do not mean loving and admiring all things and beings whon one likes or dislikes. Endurance means to be able to stand, to tolerate, to overlook all that is not in accordance with one's own way of thinking. All the troubles among friends, families, nations, are the result of lack of endurance. And if this spirit of endurance would spread from individuals, in time it would become the spirit of the multitude, and the conditions would become much better than they are at present.

3.   Endurance (2)

It is endurance that makes things valuable and men great. Gold and Silver are not necessarily more beautiful than the delicate and fragrant flowers, which are much superior in their color, fragrance, and delicacy to gold and silver. Why are the flowers the slaves of gold and silver coins? Because gold and silver are durable and flowers have not that quality. In this ever-changing world, full of sensitiveness, endurance is very rarely to be found.

A person without endurance is night and day in torture. For life can be pictured as the waves of the sea, always slapping and knocking against what is standing firm. One who is susceptible of being moved by this continual motion of life has no rest for a single moment. It is said: 'There is no peace for the wicked' – it is really not 'for the wicked' but 'for the weak', because wickedness is the extension of weakness. Endurance is an exercise of strengthening the will power. The nature of life will always remain the same; it is man who can change himself. But generally people wish life to become still, because they are disturbed. It is just like traveling on the sea: man wants the sea to stay calm instead of building his boat so that it may travel on the waves and stand all storms. All the great persons of the world, whatever their mission in life, proved their greatness by this one quality of endurance. The enduring personality is like a ship that can stand storms and winds under all conditions, and saves itself and others. Such blessed personalities, showing the strength of God, have been called the saviors of humanity.

4.   Will Power

Will power is not mental power, but it appears in the form of a mental power: the mind, as a globe, gives out the light of the will. Will power, plainly speaking, is soul power. Therefore the more one realizes its source, the more one develops the power of will. No doubt the mind is an instrument, also the senses are instruments of the will power, and if these instruments are not sound and well developed, the will power cannot work properly. It is just like a blunted sword in the hand of a skillful warrior. It is therefore that in the Sufi cult practices are given to make the mind as well as the senses proper tools for the will power to use. As the plant is sprung from the earth, but is nourished by the rain falling from the sky, so the will power springs from within, but is developed by external activities. It must be remembered that the inner life reflects on the outer life and the outer life reflects on the inner life. Both parts of life are interdependent.

Will power is like a battery of life, and as difficult as it is to deal with a strong mechanism, and as dangerous as it is to work with a battery of enormous power, so difficult and dangerous it is to develop and to work with the will power. In the first place, power is blinding, beauty is revealing. Wrong and unjust and unreasonable tendencies may rise from power, and one may destroy oneself in its expression. Christ has given a hint on this subject where he says, 'He who taketh the sword shall perish by the sword.' But by this it is not meant that one must not develop will power. It only means that one prepares, before developing will power, knowledge and strength to control it when it is once developed, and the knowledge and the clearness of vision to utilize it rightfully.

Will power in man is the secret of God, and in this secret the mighty power of God is hidden. Therefore in the East, where mystical ideas are generally known, people always say, we do not know, behind this limited human form what is hidden. This makes them respect and consider what is hidden in every person they meet. Hafiz says, 'Do not let yourself be fooled by the patched sleeve of the dervish, you do not know if under this patched sleeve a mighty arm is not hidden.' What we call miracle is the outcome of the same power, except that what is above human limitation cannot be called natural, it is supernatural. Therefore the miracles are not done by man, but by the superman, who in the religious term is called the divine man. Man is inferior in his selfishness. When he rises above self, he is superior. Therefore the right to develop will power is the right of the superior man. The difference between what they call white magic and black magic lies only in the use made by the inferior man or by the superior man of the same will power. It is just as by the strength of arm you can take man's life or you can save man's life; both things are accomplished by the same power.

No better use of will power can be made than for self-control, for control of the body, and control of the mind. One who controls his body will control his mind. The one who controls his mind will control his body. The best use one can make of will power is to use this power for self-discipline, on passion, on anger, on all things which abide in man's nature as his great enemies. In other words, by will power one must build up a force to fight with oneself, with that part of oneself which offends us. It is rarely that a man lives on earth who things, speaks and acts as he wishes to. If any man does so, he is no doubt a Master. Doing a miracle apart, if one can make oneself obey one's own will one will surely rise to a greater exaltation. In the spiritual path the development of will power is the college education. The moral education is the school education, which comes before. But after finishing the development of the will power, then there comes a work, a duty that one has to perform toward God and toward humanity, by expending the thus-developed power of will.

5.   Keeping a Secret

The power of keeping a secret is the digestive power of the mind, and one who cannot keep a secret is like a person who cannot digest his food. As indigestion is a malady of the body so giving out of a secret is a disease of mind. Mind is a fertile ground, and it is the product of the mind, all this that we see before us, created and produced. Therefore the mind which conceives a secret will prove to be a fertile land, and the mind which cannot assimilate a secret is like a barren desert. Those who have accomplished something in life have accomplished it by this power, the power of keeping a secret. Those who have wasted their lives have wasted them by the lack of this power. With all the intelligence, learning and goodness they might have, they have proved to be shallow. The more one knows the secret of the world the more one feels inclined to keep it secret. And the more one keeps secret what one knows the more life unfolds its secrets to one.

One naturally keeps secret all that is bad, ugly, and undesirable, and one feels naturally inclined to expose all that is good, valuable, and beautiful. Yet even that, if kept secret, will show in time the phenomenon of a seed hidden in the ground, which will spring up, when the hour comes, with its leaves, fruits and flowers. Therefore sometimes Sufis have taken a contrary way: to keep secret all the good one does and to let one's faults be known. There exists in Persia a sect of Sufis who are called Rind, who still practice this principle. There is a saying of a Rind: be a lover from within and become indifferent outwardly; this is a becoming manner, rarely seen in the world. When a person arrives at a stage of spiritual advancement, when he regards the fault or weakness of another as his own fault, when he sees himself standing in the position of another, when he sees in another his own self, then he feels inclined to cover the fault of another as he would his own.

In all ages there has been talk about the sacred word, and it has always been considered a great secret: that secret is the tendency of keeping a secret. It is not in everybody's power to keep a secret. For the secret is heavier than an elephant to lift, the weak-minded is weighed down by the heavy weight of a secret. The person who has not developed this power feels as if it were a congestion of the heart, from which relief can only come when he has given out the secret; till then he is in pain. Also, it must be remembered that the power of the body is nothing in comparison with the power of the mind. And the power of the one who keeps a secret is greater than the power of the giant who lifts a mountain. All that one holds is preserved, all that one lets go is dispersed.

6.   Mind

Mind develops to its fullness in man, although it exists in its primitive stage in all the different aspects of creation. Man, therefore, is so called from Manas, which in Sanskrit means mind. Many psychologists have thought that mind is the possession of man only, that the animal has no mind, but it is not so, even the plants have a mind. Where there is feeling there is mind.

There is no difference between heart and mind, although 'heart' expresses more than 'mind'. The heart is the depth, and the surface is called mind. Plainly speaking, the depth of mind is heart, and the surface of heart is mind. Mind is a receptacle of all to which it is exposed. It is like the photographic plate; and therefore all conditions, happy or unhappy, all actions, good or bad, all that is beautiful or void of beauty, become impressed upon the mind. Its first impression is on the surface, and as the impression is retained in the mind so it reaches the depth of the heart. It is like a photographic plate; once it is developed, the impression becomes clear and deeply engraved. But the photographic plate is not creative and the heart is creative. Therefore every impression which once reaches the heart becomes as a seed in a fertile ground. The heart reproduces all it has received.

Therefore it is to the great disadvantage of the fault-finding man that he wishes to find fault with all he sees, for if he is not able to throw away immediately the undesirable impression received, which is not always so easy, he begins in due time to reproduce what he has received. Human nature is such that all the bad things man sees in another seem to him worse than they are, but when he himself does the same, he always has a reason to defend his fault. It is like partaking all that one dislikes in another only by the habit of faultfinding. For the wise, who have risen above the ordinary faults of human life, it matters little if they find fault, but they are the ones who do not criticize. They, as a rule, overlook all that seems undesirable, and that action of overlooking itself prevents all the undesirable impressions from penetrating through their hearts. There is a natural tendency in man as in the animal to protect his heart from all hurt or harm, but that is the external heart. If man only knew what harm is brought to one's being by letting any undesirable impression enter the heart, he also would adopt the above-mentioned policy of the wise, to overlook.

7.   Thought

Thought is a wave of the mind. The difference between thought and imagination is that the former is an activity of the mind directed with intention, an imagination is an activity, which is not directed intentionally but rises mechanically, like the waves of the sea. Therefore imagination has less power than thought. No doubt the imagination of a man with a powerful mind will also have an influence and an outcome; but thought, intentionally directed, has strength of will with it, and therefore its power is great.

A clear mind can have a clear thought, and therefore clearness of thought depends upon the cleanliness and the awakening of the centers. When the organs of the body, and especially the centers, are not in a clean and normal condition, then one's own thought is unclear to oneself, and the thought of others still less clear. Man in reality is by nature a mind reader, and the state of body and mind is abnormal when he cannot read thought. To one to whom his own thought is clear, the thought of another person will be clear also. It is he who does not know himself, who does not know others. It is the knowledge of self, which enables man to know others. Man's thought may be likened to a rubber ball. It can be directed to any point one wishes to hit, but there is also a likelihood that the thought so directed will rebound and hit oneself. A thought of love sent to another must rebound and bring love to oneself, and likewise the thought of hate.

Thought depends upon mind, as the plants depend upon the soil in which they are sown. Fruits and flowers grown in one kind of soil are sweet and fragrant, in another kind of soil they may lack that sweetness and fragrance. Therefore the wise know the mentality of a person by his thought, they know from which soil that thought comes. As water is found in the depth of the earth so love is hidden beneath every heart, only the difference is that in one part of the earth the water is far down below the earth, in another part of the earth it can be found quite near. And it is that water that makes the earth flourish; and so it is the love element, which makes the ground which we call the mind a fertile ground. Every thought coming from a fertile and flourishing ground must bear some fruit. A loving person's life itself is a garden. But otherwise, if it is a barren soil, from there you expect nothing but volcanic eruptions, the volcano that destroys itself and its surroundings. Every element in the form of a thing or being, which is destructive, must of necessity destroy itself first.

In order to make thought fruitful mental culture is necessary. First the digging of the ground. The inner culture of the Sufis begins with the digging of this ground. What is meant by zikr is this digging process. But it is not only the exercise, it is living the life. Digging the ground is what may be called consideration. It is constant consideration, which cultivates the mental ground. Then one must water this ground, and this water is the love element, to give and to receive love. Give more and take little is the principle. And when in a ground so cultivated and so watered the thought-plants will spring, they must necessarily bring forth sweet fruits and fragrant flowers.

8.   Tawakkul; Dependence Upon God

Dependence is nature and independence is the spirit. The independent spirit becomes dependent through manifestation. When One becomes many, then each part of the One, being limited, strives to be helped by the other part, for each part finds itself imperfect. Therefore we human beings, however rich with the treasures of heaven and earth, are poor in reality, because of our dependence upon others. The spiritual view makes one conscious of this, and the material view blinds man, who then shows independence and indifference to his fellow man. Pride, conceit and vanity are the outcome of this ignorance. There come moments when even the king has to depend upon a most insignificant person. Often one needs the help of someone before whom one has always been proud and upon whom one has always looked with contempt. As individuals depend upon individuals so the nations and races depend upon one another. As no individual can say, 'I can get on without another person', so no nation can say, 'We can be happy while another nation is unhappy.' But an individual or a multitude depends most upon God, in Whom we all unite. Those who depend upon the things of the earth certainly depend upon things that are transitory and they must some day or other lose them. Therefore there remains only one object of dependence, that is God, Who is not transitory, and Who always is and will be. Sadi has said, 'He who depends upon Thee will never be disappointed.'

No doubt it is the most difficult thing to depend upon God. For an average person, who has not known or seen, who never had any idea of such a personality existing as God, but has only heard in church that there exists someone in the Heavens Who is called God and has believed it, it is difficult to depend entirely upon Him. A person can hope that there is a God, that by depending upon Him he will have his desire fulfilled, a person can imagine that there can be Someone Whom people call God, but for him also it is difficult to depend entirely on God. It is for them that the Prophet has said, 'Tie your camel and trust in God.' It was not said to Daniel, 'Take your sword and go among the lions.' One imagines God, another realizes God. There is a difference between these two persons. The one who imagines can hope, but he cannot be certain. The one who realizes God, he is face to face with his Lord, and it is he who depends upon God with certainty. It is a matter of struggling along on the surface of the water, or courageously diving deep, touching the bottom of the sea. There is no greater trial for a person than dependence upon God. What patience it needs, besides the amount of faith it requires, to be in the midst of the world of illusion and yet to be conscious of the existence of God! To do this man must be able to turn all what is called life into death, and to realize in what is generally called death – in that death, the true life. This solves the problem of false and real.

9.   Piety

People very often mean by piety, orthodoxy, a religious appearance, or a great goodness. Really speaking piety means purity. Piety is the healthy state of mind, the person of healthy mind is really pious. That mind is pious which fears not, which is beyond life's anxieties and worries, which is above reproaches, which by its innermost joy makes even the body feel light. The pious feels exalted, for piety is purity from all things and conditions of earthly life which pull man down to the earth. When man feels light in his body and joyful in his heart his soul becomes exalted, and that is the sign of piety. If there is not this feeling in man, however much good there be in him, it is of no use, his learning is of no value, his religion, his prayer, all in vain.

Religion, prayer, or meditation, are all methods by which the joy, which is within man, which is man's divine heritage, may be brought to the surface. Sufis have used different words from those of the orthodox in expressing their spiritual ideas. Therefore instead of calling man pious they call him Khanda Peshani, the smiling forehead. It means that if his lips do not smile, his forehead smiles. How true it is that before man cries or laughs his eyebrows give warning of what is coming. That is what is meant by the word 'expression' in the English language. There is an inner joy, a divine feeling, which rises up as water from a fountain and shows itself in many forms, in smiles, in tears, in words, in silence. Man expresses it in dancing, in singing. His voice, his word, his gesture, all express piety. Hafiz has said in sarcasm to the long-faced pious, who have become so out of orthodoxy and who look at singing or dancing with contempt, 'If the heads of the pious would hear my words sung, they would get up and begin to dance.' Then he goes on, saying, 'Hafiz says things sometimes through drunkenness which he ought not to have said. O pious one, I pray you will overlook it all.' The Sufi's piety is the divine joy which is the soul's real treasure, and it does not matter in what way it is achieved, religiously or irreligiously, as long as it is achieved. It is the thing the Sufi values most.

10.   Spirituality

It is amusing how many different meanings people attach to the word spiritual. Some call spirituality great goodness, some mean by it melancholy, some by it mean a miserable life, some think spirituality lies in communion with spirits, some consider wonder-working and the art of the conjuror a kind of spirituality, every good or bad power, so long as it is a power, people often imagine to be a spiritual power, many connect the idea of spirituality with a religious authority. Whereas it is the simplest idea, if one cares to understand it by rising above complexity. Spirituality is contrary to materiality. One who is conscious of matter alone is material, one who becomes conscious of spirit also is spiritual. He who thinks, 'I am my body', and sees no further, is material. He may as well say, 'I am my coat', and when the coat is worn out he may say, 'I am dead.' The one who is conscious of the spirit, to him his body is a coat, and as by taking off one's coat one does not die, so even by the death of this body the spirit realized soul does not die.

It is the spiritual person who will attain in time immortality. He does not need to study much to prove to himself that he is spirit, for study will never convince him. It is the spirit itself, which must realize itself. The soul is its own evidence; nothing else will make the soul realize its own being. The whole work of the Sufi, which he calls inner cult, is towards soul-realization. It is realized by rising above matter, and yet the condition is that one can only realize it by getting through matter. As a fountain is necessary for the water to rise, so the material body is necessary for the soul to realize itself. The water, which remains still in the depth of the fountain, sees itself rising and falling within itself, and there lies its joy. The same picture illustrates the condition of spirit and soul. The spirit which rises upward is the soul, it falls again in its own being, and the realization of the spirit of this joy can alone be called spirituality.

1. - Mark 10:18 - 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.


checked 11-nov-2015