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Volume XIV - The Smiling Forehead

Part I - The Smiling Forehead

Chapter I
The Smiling Forehead

By forehead is meant man's expression. The smiling forehead is the pleasant expression; it depends solely upon man's attitude to life. Life is the same for the saint and for Satan, and if men are different it is because of their outlook on life. The same life is turned by the one into heaven and by the other into hell. There are two attitudes: to one all is wrong, to the other all is right. Our life in the world from morning to evening is full of experiences, good and bad, which can be distinguished according to their degree. And the more we study the mystery of good and bad the more we see that there really is no such thing as good and bad. It is because of our attitude and the conditions that things seem good or bad. It is easy for an ordinary person to say what is good or bad, just or unjust – it is very difficult for a wise man. Although everyone, according to his outlook on life, turns things from bad to good and from good to bad, everyone has his own grade of evolution and reasons accordingly.

Sometimes one thing is subtler than others and then it is difficult to judge. There was a time when Wagner's music was not understood, and another time when he was considered the greatest of musicians. Sometimes things are good, but our own evolution makes them less good for us. What we considered good a few years ago may not seem good at a later degree of evolution. At one time a child appreciates a doll most, later it will prefer the work of great sculptors. This proves that at every step and degree of evolution man's idea of good and bad changes. Therefore a thinker will understand that there is no such thing as right or wrong. If there is wrong, all is wrong; if there is right, all is right.

No doubt there is a phase when man is a slave of what he has himself made right or wrong, and there is another phase in which he is master. This mastery comes from his realization of the fact that right and wrong are made by his own attitude to life, and then right and wrong, good and bad, will be his slaves, because he knows that it is in his power to turn the one into the other. It is this attitude that the ancient Sufis called mantiq (i.e. logic).

This opens the door to another mystery of life which shows that as there is duality in each thing so there is duality in every action: in everything that is just something unjust is hidden, in everything that is bad something good. Then one begins to see how the world takes all men's actions: one person sees only the good, another only the bad. In Sufi terms this particular attitude is called hairat, bewilderment. And just as to the average man moving pictures, theatres, bazaars are interesting, so to the Sufi the whole of life is interesting, a constant vision of bewilderment. He cannot explain this to the world because there are no words to explain it.

Can one compare any joy to that of taking things quietly, patiently and easily? All other joys come from outward sources, but this happiness is one's own property. When a person arrives at this feeling it expresses itself not in words, but in the 'smiling forehead'.

There is another side to this subject: man is pleased to see the one he loves, admires and respects, and if he frowns at someone it is because it is someone he does not admire or respect. Love is the divine essence in man and is due to God alone. Love for man is a lesson, it is a first step forward to the love of God.

In human love one begins to see the way to divine love, as the lesson of domestic life is learned by a little girl playing with her dolls. One learns this lesson by loving one person, a friend, a beloved, a father, mother, brother, sister, or teacher, but the use of love becomes wrong when that love is constantly developing for one only and not spreading. The water of a pond may turn bad, but the water of a river remains pure because it is progressing. By sincerely loving one person therefore one rears the plant of love and makes it grow and spread. Love has done its work when man has become all love – his atmosphere, his expression, every movement he makes. And how can such a man love one and refuse another? Such a countenance, such a presence becomes a blessing.

In the East, when we speak of saints or sages, it is not because of their miracles, it is because of their presence and their countenance which radiate vibrations of love. How does this love express itself? In tolerance, in forgiveness, in respect, in overlooking the faults of others. Their sympathy covers the defects of others as if they were their own; they forget their own interest in the interest of others. They do not mind what conditions they are in; be they high or humble, their foreheads are smiling. To their eyes everyone is the expression of the Beloved, whose name they repeat. They see the divine in all forms and in all beings.

Just as the religious person has a religious attitude in a temple, so the Sufi has that attitude before every being, for to him every being is the temple of the divine. Therefore the Sufi is always before his Lord. Whether a servant, a master, a friend, or a foe is before him, he is in the presence of God. For the one whose God is in the high heavens there is a vast gulf between him and God, but the one who has God always before him – he is always in God's presence, and there is no end to his happiness.

The idea of the Sufi is that however religious a person may be, without love he is nothing. It is the same with one who has studied thousands of books; without love he has learned nothing. Love is not in a claim of love; when love is born one hears its voice louder than the voice of man. Love needs no words; they are too inadequate to express it. In what little way love can express itself, it is in what the Persians call 'the laughing forehead'.

checked 22-Oct-2006