Social Gatheka Number 43
Concentration is a simple word, in practice it is most
difficult. Everyone knows the word concentration; if he
knows how to do it he knows everything. Sometimes people
think to sit with closed eyes means concentration, but whether
you close your eyes or whether you open your eyes, concentration
has nothing to do with it. If you concentrate, you concentrate,
with open eyes or with closed eyes, in the midst of the
crowd or in the solitude; and if you do not, you do not.
But concentration is one state, a state which leads to contemplation.
And so one goes through the meditative process to achieve
that in which is the fulfillment of every soul's purpose
Therefore it is that the ancient people called
it 'alchemy' from which the words 'chemical,' or 'chemistry,'
or 'chimie' come. Only now there are simple persons (even
in the East we find many) who by alchemy understand the
turning of iron into gold. But when we consider it symbolically
the meaning that we find in alchemy is to turn this very
personality, which is human personality, from the baser
metal into gold. But by alchemy it is not the gold which
is made in order to possess, the gold of the soul is made,
one becomes oneself gold, and it is that gold which is incomparably
of greater value than the gold of this mortal world.
Then there are people who still remember the stories
of the ancient times, the stories of the alchemists, and
it is even till now most interesting to get the meaning
out of these symbolical stories, for they are always instructive.
There is a story of a king who was very fond of finding
out ways of alchemy, of turning baser metal into gold, and
everyone that professed knowing alchemy had a welcome at
the palace, but in the end of examination he found their
profession futile. And then they found someone, and they
said to the king, 'here is a real alchemist,' and to the
king's great sadness, when this alchemist came before the
throne, he said, 'no, King, I am not the man who knows the
alchemy which you are looking for.'
The king said, 'no,
you know it. I feel confident in my heart that you are the
person who knows it and you must teach the study to me.'
The man continued refusing; the king continued persisting.
And then he said 'do you know that I am a king, and here
I command you to do so, and if you still refuse, you know
what I can do. I give you forty days limit. If during this
time you did not tell me, then do you know what is waiting
for you? You will be beheaded.' The man was taken to a prison.
And the king visited him every morning, telling him, 'man,
change your mind. Remember life is greater than gold. You
can still teach me and save your life.' And at night the
same king came in the form of a working man, in the form
of a servant; and he swept the floor and he made the bed
for him and he cleaned the table for him and he served his
dinner, and he did every little thing possible to make this
prisoner feel comfortable.
And so every day this went on.
In the evening the king visited as a servant, and in the
morning he went as a king, and gave him a warning again
and again. And there comes that last day, the day after
which was waiting the death of this man, and the king gave
him the last warning and said 'now, tomorrow is the day,
be ready; for a king's command is his command.' And in the
evening this servant shed tears at the thought of this poor
prisoner being taken to be beheaded. 'Don't shed tears'
he said, 'life is such, but remember that which I refused
the king, to you I most willingly give, if you will keep
it in confidence.
And now you will see how great a trust
it is, how sacred the thing is to me which I have guarded
more than my life, that I have sacrificed my life in order
to guard this, that you will keep it in the same way.' This
servant said 'well, I appreciate most what you give me,
although I do not know its value, at the same time, for
you to be killed tomorrow, this I cannot bear, it tears
my heart to pieces.' 'Be not sad, man,' he said, 'life is
such. I give you this secret: gold that will make you gold.'
And he whispered in his ears, and enlightened him with his
secret. And the morning came and the king came for his last
There, soldiers were waiting to take him to be beheaded,
and there he was awaiting his death, and the king is there
to ask him for the last time if he will obey the command.
'No,' said this prisoner, 'find someone else, King; I am
not the person you are looking for.' But the king said 'but
you have given me that; don't you remember?' 'Did I' said
the prisoner, 'if I have given it, it is to the servant,
not to the king.' To the hungry food is given, and to the
seeker Truth is given. But one who is not hungry, even if
the food is given, he cannot eat; and one who does not seek
the Truth, even the most ultimate Truth given to him he
will not appreciate.
Those Great Ones who came to illuminate
souls and who lived on this earth, they have touched millions,
but did millions get that illumination? No. What remained
afterwards and was modified, lost its fragrance perhaps
after thousands of years. Then, when it was dust, people
began to talk, but at the time when it was given people
did not appreciate. It will always prove true, man is the
worst enemy of his best friend. Whom he strikes first is
his best friend. He has crucified him, he has imprisoned
him, he has killed him, he has beheaded him, he has flayed
him; and yet without meaning, without intending, with goodwill
and with reason, what he calls reason, in his head.
Now coming to the actual subject of this alchemy, what
is it and how is it made? What they say in legends is that
alchemists used to take mercury, and by putting some chemicals
they used to still it; and in stilling that mercury it turned
into silver; and then, but putting it into a fire, the silver
itself turned in the flame and took on that flame color
which we call gold. Coming to the question, what is this
mercury symbolically? The mercury is a condition of the
heart, the condition of the mind. It is never still. Automatically
one's mind takes up any impression and thought, and without
intention may hold it as a despair, as a depression, but
as soon as one intentionally takes up a thought the mind
goes on in its active way and loses it. As soon as man wishes
his mind to take up a thought the mind fails; and that is
the nature of mercury; Mercury is never still and the mind
is never still.
The more you wish the mind to become still,
the more active the mind becomes. And therefore, that precise
object: this mind can become still, it is that process which
is called concentration, and it is by this process that
this mercury can be turned into silver. The Sufis have different
ways of postures, different ways of standing or sitting.
All these different things are in order to still that mercury,
not only in the mind but also in the body, which keeps mind
always active, moving, restless. Hardly one thinks how little
power man has upon his body. As soon as you tell a man to
sit still, the moment he knows that he must control his
body, the body will begin to move and be restless. And since
mind and body are connected on with the other, the stilling
of the mind needs stilling of the body at the same time.
There are just now many Movements, schools, where they will
teach the way how to move gracefully. But it is not the
stilling of the mercury, the stilling of the mercury is
how to sit restfully. That is another subject in life to
learn, and much more important too. As essential it is to
keep awake, so essential it is to sleep; and as important
it is to move, so important it is to take a repose. But
once one's mind is controlled, one's body is made still,
it has made man valuable, it has made that personality precious.
And yet it is not gold, for the gold is gold because it
has light in it. This tranquility which one has learned
is in order to make one a vessel, a pitcher which can hold,
but that pitcher must hold divine light in it. And when
the pitcher has that divine light, then there is a value
of that pitcher.
This shows that it is not only an intellectual conception
of God or of life which is sufficient for man, the first
thing is that one must develop that tranquility in one's
body and mind, so that this vessel may contain in itself
the life and the light of God. Sometimes it amuses me very
much when I meet people who tell me, 'well, what is your
conception of God? Please tell me.' Here for years and years
people have to train their bodies and their mind in order
to get in tune, in order to find a glimpse of that Truth
of which a person, with his intellect, comes and asks 'please
tell me how do you believe in, what way do you consider
As in other theories and different things he reads
and learns in books everything he thinks that even God is
a conception, an idea which can be explained in a sentence.
Sometimes a person comes and asks me 'well, do you believe
in a personal God or do you believe in an abstract God?'
and before the answer he tells himself that, 'I do not believe
in a personal God. I only believe in an abstract. I can
only believe in that idea.' He comes with his preconceived
ideas of which he is not sure, he is asking only to be sure
whether that fits in with his ideas, if it does not fit
in, then he goes away. Another man comes, he says 'what
do you think of the here after? What is your idea?' He wants
in one sentence what will be after death; whereas in order
to die that death here in life people spent days and years
in studying, in practice, in meditation, in order to experience
themselves what is after death; and they have experienced
by dying a death here on earth. It is not impossible to
know it, but it is not so easy to know as a person thinks.
In order to keep man quiet the wise had to tell them a thousand
things in order to fit in with their particular conceptions.
That cannot be the Truth, and if they say the Truth, they
cannot say it; Truth cannot be said in words. What is Truth?
Truth is life itself, and it is the realizing of life that
is the discovering of the Truth. If Truth is such a small
thing that it can be spoken in words, then Truth is no Truth.
And what are words? Words are something that covers Truth.
When one comprehends beyond words, it is then that one realizes
Truth. To become gold is to become light, and the light
in this precise sense is Truth itself. Light and life are
two words, in point of fact it is one. In the essence it
is one, call it light because it is knowing, call it life
because it is living.
To a dervish a person went and said
'please tell me what happens after death.' The dervish said
'go to someone who is going to die, who is mortal, he will
tell you what happens after death. Neither do I die nor
do I know what happens after death.' And that explains the
central thought of Sufism and that thought is that life
lives, it is death that dies. In spite of all the great
Master Jesus Christ had to teach to the people to satisfy
their fancies, to help them in their lives, the central
theme of the Master's teaching is one, and that is to distinguish
the immortality of the soul.
The Sufi, therefore, is the pupil of wisdom and since
he is the pupil of wisdom he is the pupil of the All-Wise.
He sees the source of wisdom in all its forms; in religious
form, in philosophical form or in mystical forms and scientific
or artistic form; in all its forms it has one Source, and
it is that Source which is the Master. And therefore he
is not in any disagreement with any religion, with any sect
or with any community. People have adored their own Teachers
and their own Scriptures that they worship and respect;
for the Sufi they are all the same.
The Sufi's church, therefore,
is in every place where he stands, the dome of that church
is the sky, and the floor of that church is his thoughts.
The whole Scripture of the Sufi is all this life that teaches
lessons from morning till evening. Therefore the literature
of all those great prophets and Teachers for him is the
interpretation which they have taken from this life, interpreted
in the language of the people of that time. And yet that
wisdom for the Sufi is not limited to a certain period,
that wisdom has always been, therefore is and will always
be, for he finds the Source of that wisdom, which he considers
most sacred, is to be found in the heart of man.