The Supplementary Papers
CLASS FOR MUREEDS V
The Divine Presence
Our relation to God is understood in five different ways:
Every sincere and earnest believer in God experiences this stage. It is the stage in which he stands before God in humility and gentleness or with repentance for his sins and for his faults, or looks to heaven and asks for pardon. Whether the being or person he idealizes is much greater or only comparatively greater than himself, he understands that he is a mere drop in relation to the ocean, that he is most limited compared to a most unlimited God, that he is most feeble while the other is Almighty. He realizes that there is a Being filled with all the virtues and goodness and justice and mercy and compassion imaginable. Whatever be his religion, everyone experiences this first stage, being a faithful believer in God.
This is the ideal taught from childhood on, even in ancient times. Today some teach it and some do not. Education has taken a different turn, with the result that idealizing God has been disappearing from the stage of life. However, in the East, this ideal has been taught to little children by instilling in them a respect for the father, the mother. And the children are taught to consider your elder brother, your elder sister, the friends of your father, the friends of your mother. The child is brought up to have the idea of respect in this way; he is given a kind of ideal to look up to and understand. He will be shown that he must not contradict his father, because his father's words are used in a sense whose meaning he is not old enough fully to understand. For instance he could not understand that it may be better to say an untruth than a truth in a case where the former would make for harmony and the latter for disharmony. Many things seem to be untrue for the moment, yet as we grow up to understand better we find that from one point of view they are true. Therefore a child must consider his elders.
Muhammad rebuked his grandson for not calling a servant "uncle." The servant being older must know more than he. Gentleness, sense of respect, and veneration make man different from animals. If men were not animals, the past war would have been impossible. Dogs bark at each other. Not only one prophet, but all prophets have brought the message that man should show himself higher than the animals in this respect and men should give in to one another instead of barking at each other. The first lesson to humanity has been that of idealizing. It is not only the Bible that says, "blessed are the humble, the gentle, the meek," it is also said in the Quran and other sacred books. It was even taught in the old Roman civilization. Each nation that has arrived at the point of understanding and acting according to true humanity has come to understand that man is different from animals only to the extent to which he idealizes. This is greater than art, greater than religion, greater than anything, and is the source of great joy. Before we can enjoy life we must become delicate, sensitive, and evolved. When this is attained, a person experiences a kind of joy in bowing his head such as is not found in ordinary people.
All the various modes of expressing veneration and respect and worship were given to one Being, in recognition that there is only one Being worthy of such expression. By practicing it continually we get to reproduce the same attitude in ourselves. But if this were the end of our way of life, what then shall we think of those who take the other four steps? For, truly, this "sherif" is only the first step!
Recognizing is the second step; it is called "tariqat." At this stage the believer in God thinks of Him not only as in heaven, where all praise, worship, honor, and respect are due to Him, but he recognizes that He is on earth also. For instance, take a person called "John." If you ask him the name of each part of him, he can give a certain name for each, for every part of his body has its name. But which is "John?" Which part of his being is "John?" How shall I recognize "John?" If I recognize him from his head, why not call his head "John" instead of "head?" If I recognize him from his hand, then why do you not call his hand "John," why call it "hand?" If I recognize him from his body, why do you not call his body "John" instead of "body?" But if the body is John and the body is dead, where is John? There where the dead body is, is John there? No, surely John is different from his body: yet at the same time he represents himself with his body. It is his inner self that is really John. Yet it is not his inner self which he shows to our external eyes, which are limited; it is his limited self – which we call "John" – which he shows thus. John is behind his limited self. Our eyes are only the vehicle for seeing, and we can see something beyond our eyes. We, the ones who see, are the seer.
If we study this more and more carefully, we come to see that God is the creator, and must consider He must have something to create from. When a sculptor sets to work he has something in mind before he starts. He has to have a piece of rock or stone to work on. Every worker has a certain thing besides himself to create from. So one may ask, "Was there anything besides this world for God to make it from? Where did God get the things to make the universe from?" If He created out of something already made, then that substance out of which He made the Universe must have been made by some other god, or perhaps a thousand gods – and even then we may not have come to the end! But this cannot be. The whole creation is from one Being whose wisdom is unlimited, one Being Whose art is unlimited, Whose power is unlimited. He creates of Himself, with His own power. Therefore the creation and the Creator are not two, just as man and his body are not two. They are two, but at the same time they are not. When you recognize a man you recognize him not from his body only, but from his spirit as well. If you recognize God, you can recognize Him not only in Heaven, but on earth also. Those who recognize Him, see Him in all.
A Hindustani song goes:
Ah! how desirous I was to see the divine Beloved!
It is the fault of you who recognize Him not. Everything, whatever you see, is nothing else but The Presence of God!
But if you say, "All the world is the presence of God," then what is in heaven? I do not say, "The body is John." I say, "Behind the body is John, even though the body too is John." So God is in heaven, but His manifestation is also God.
Think of how the followers of all the different religions have fought one another! So convinced were some that there were a thousand, or millions or numberless multitudinous gods, whereas others were convinced there is but One. To the mind of the Sufi both are right. Both are opposite to one another in knowledge. One religion desires to teach that all these infinite varieties are just one God, and desires to impress the idea that this is God. Those who have learned that there is one God cannot conceive the idea of many gods! So they fought through all their lives, without ever recognizing who really is their God. They teach that someday they will be taken before Him for judgment, when they are actually before Him all the time, all day long, all night long! Understand this once and a great change of outlook will come; one's thoughts of God will change so much that the whole moral standpoint changes. The following little story will illustrate the manner of the change:
The Story of Rustam
A great king of Persia named Jamshyd had a certain wrestler named Rustam. He was the greatest of all the wrestlers in the kingdom, and he became so proud of his strength and power and bravery that the king thought he would humble him in some way. But he could not find anyone able to be developed and trained so as to be capable of matching Rustam. He was the only one of his kind in the whole land.
Then it happened that Rustam went to Arabia, and during his absence a son was born in his house in Persia. The child's mother died soon after, and this was the king's opportunity. He took the child into his own palace, and no one knew he was Rustam's son. In the course of time when he became a youth he became a great fighter, so strong and powerful that no one in the land could match him. And then, after many years, Rustam returned. Jamshyd did not tell the youth that Rustam was his father, he only said that a strong and powerful wrestler had come from the Arabs, and that he must fight him.
Now it was the custom that every wrestler carries a dagger. Whoever is brought down has either to surrender or be killed. So everybody went to see the wrestling match in the arena. The king felt sure that Rustam, the son, would kill Rustam. Well, they wrestled, and finally as the young boy had great energy, with youth and power, he brought Rustam down. But Rustam, being so proud of his great power and strength throughout all his life did not wish to surrender, so he must be killed. So his son unsheathed his dagger, and Rustam said, "It does not matter. Someday when my son grows up he will vanquish you." The youth said, "Who is your son?" Rustam said, "Who are you?" Then the secret came out that this boy was Rustam's son, and now there was no end to Rustam's sorrow, it was so great. He made obeisance at his father's feet saying, "Father, I would rather be the one to be killed with the sword than to be called your conqueror, when as they say I am your son." His father said, "It does not matter, for now I am glad at least to know I have not been conquered by someone else than by my own son, my own self." What a tragedy this was.
The same tragedy and the same attitude comes into the life of every man from the time that he begins to discover his Heavenly Father on earth. You cannot subscribe to "love thine enemy" unless you first recognize in him your Father in heaven. One may recognize one's own Father in a friend, but when we recognize Him in the enemy too, then we can love him also! That is the lesson. We flee from God like Cain till we discover He is here. Yes, just think what a change there would be in the attitude of man once he realized his Heavenly Father, the only One to Whom reverence is due, in his fellow man!
The life of the Sufi in the East is the life of a true disciple of Christ. People may recognize the teachings of Christ in a scripture or a church or a chapel, yet to the Sufi nothing of that is Christ. The only true disciple of Christ is the one who sees God as Father, God as Mother, in all his fellow men. So in India, Arabia, Persia, they call a faqir, a sage, a dervish "bawa," "father;" or a lady "mother," seeing both aspects of God in all things. Naturally there are degrees – fana-fi-sheikh, fana-fi-rasul, fana-fi-Allah – but they recognize their teacher in everyone. That is the first step.
One day I was walking in the city and met a dervish with a beautiful personality. He was clothed in rags, but his speech, his voice, his thought, his movement, his atmosphere were so winning. At that time I was very young in the pursuit of philosophy. Youth is a time when pride has full play. So, as we were walking along and he called me "Murshid" (teacher) I was very glad. He addressed me as "Murshid" every time he spoke to me! Presently we met another person who seemed to be without any education, seemingly without any knowledge of philosophy or religion or anything out of the way. But he called him "Murshid" also! So my pride was broken, for next he came across a policeman and called him "Murshid" too! So then I asked my teacher what could be the meaning of all this, and he said, "Your dervish shows you the first step towards recognizing God: to recognize all beings as your teacher. A foolish person can teach you, a wise person, a learned person, a student, a pious person, a wicked person, even a little child: everyone can teach you something. Therefore have that attitude towards everybody. Then it may be said that you recognize God. When the chela is ready, the guru appears." That is, when you are ready to discern it, you find your teacher beside you. We can even learn love from doves, and faithfulness from dogs.
Communicating with God
When an ordinary person, or an illiterate person, meets a poet, perhaps a great poet, he sees the man part and not the poet part. But if he is told the person is a poet, he may see the poet part when he meets him. He now sees the poet in his actions, in his words – in everything about him he sees the poet! But an ordinary person would not see the poet. On the other hand, a great poet may go among a crowd, and the people only see the man in him, they do not see the poet in him; they do not know how profound his thoughts are. So, once you begin to recognize God in man, you do not see man anymore, but God. The man is the surface, while the God is deep in him. Such recognition brings you in touch with everyone's inmost being, and you know more about them than they know themselves. You know his sorrow, his joys, his secrets. Such a person is called a "seer." The seer sees God with his own eyes, and also recognizes his divine Beloved in every form, in every name. He reaches Him and touches the God part in every being, however limited that individual appears to be on the surface. From now on there comes a softness in his nature, a magnetism, a charm, a beauty in him rarely to be found. Those people who have attained to this stage are able to meet people with awakened minds, and meeting such wish to be with them forever. A very well-known seer went to see Jalaluddin Rumi when he was a chief judge in the city Kazi. It was Shams-i-Tabriz. He came before the judge in the appearance of a savage. The first thing he did in coming before him was to throw his manuscripts into the pond.
Rumi looked at him, wondering about his action and why he should throw away all that knowledge, and asked him the reason for his action. The seeming vagrant said, "Because you have been reading all you life, and now you should do something more. You ought to understand what you are, and where you are. Everything before you is made of letters. If you could read them, then you could read life, and it would be greater than any scripture, better than any tradition that you can hear. It would disclose the secret of all being." Rumi, after having looked at this person and his expression, and having heard all he said, was so won by him that he wrote down in his diary, "The God whom I have been worshipping all my life has today appeared to me in the form of a man."
It is said, "By the vision of God, their self becomes God." and again, "Their self will become God." That happens when we come to see God in everybody. We develop goodness in our actions. Our words become God's words, because we are impressed with all around us, with the mirror all around us. It reflects only goodness. Then we become a museum or picture of goodness. We reflect it all from morning to evening. We reflect forgiveness; we reflect tolerance; we reflect all these lovely qualities, because "If my Beloved is in every kind of man, how thoughtful I ought to be to all." The lover is always very careful when he is with his Beloved. He becomes thoughtful and tender. Now there remain only two more steps:
It is after feeling the presence of God and after being in communication with Him that we come to realize Him. When you can touch God in everybody, then God tells you about Himself, because He sees you have no hate, no prejudice. You have seen your Beloved, and your Beloved tells you all. Realization is still difficult, for it involves discerning the difference between me and you. What is the difference? It is a great question or problem. Your "I" and "you" is just like a pair of compasses with which we draw circles on drawing paper. The one point of the compass is the "I," the other point is the "you," and where it joins there is no "I-you." The "I" and "you" only remain as long as we see ourselves. But when we rise above them or beyond them, the thought brings us nearer and nearer to God in that consciousness in which we all unite. We are like the two points of the compass. Where they meet there is no "I" or "you." Self-realization is where the word is silent. The sage cannot say more than this because the subject is so vast. When we come to this conception, we find it is altogether too subtle, too vast to express.
Perfection and annihilation is that stage at which there is no longer "I" and no longer "you," where there is what there is, and so...God bless you.
Questions and Answers
Q. To which path does the Sufi give preference? A. The Sufi does not give preference to any particular path. Take whichever path suits your temperament best. However, in my own experience, I have found it better to take one path in particular as a special one for oneself, but also use the other three. Thus you lack nothing. If bhakti yoga suits you specially, you should also learn to understand something about hatha yoga, and also about the others if you can. By understanding these others also you gain great strength and perfection.
Q. Please say something about doctrines. A. The Sufis have never given out any special doctrines; they only consider moral conceptions. So they never ask their mureeds to accept any doctrines. The Sufi never gives out a doctrine because he considers that the sole work is to blow upon a little spark or small flame to make it into a big flame, and then that flame will show you the path. The Sufi does not interfere and say, "This is the doctrine you must accept, because I believe this or that" – for instance, about the life hereafter, the life after death, the continuity of life. The Sufi master does not concern himself with the laws of nature and assert that this doctrine is the truth or that speculation is the truth. All he says is, "Find it out for yourself. My work is only to tell you in what way the faculty will be awakened; you will then see for yourself. Then whatever you see for yourself, you will believe."
Q. Well then, why do we have lessons? If there are not tenets, what are lessons for? A. The answer is, it is like learning the alphabet, that is one stage. When he can read a book, that is another stage. He needs books in order to practice reading. It does not matter what book you take up to read, you can practice reading with it. You do not have to take it as being an inspired scripture. Similarly, the exercises which are given in the form of lessons or instructions are just lines of thought to follow along till you get accustomed to the different lines of thought when you are enquiring into the different matters of metaphysics and spiritual things. But you do not have to accept them as rigid tenets or doctrines or principles and then make out that Sufism is limited to them. Therefore I do not restrict my pupils or my friends to the exercises. They are only exercises. After that, life itself is the scripture to read. It is the only real scripture. You must get to understand it. What you do not understand at the first reading, you must read again and try to understand it then. Raja yoga is the best one for life in the western world. This is because life in the West is so full of responsibility. There is so little time to devote to solitude and practices. You have to practice wisdom and deep thought in all your affairs, from morning till night; in this way you make your life a teaching for yourself. Therefore whatever your work or business or profession, let that be your mode of progress, so that you advance through your every duty. At the same time if you will only devote ten or twenty minutes to a practice, it will prepare you for something better, and it will also help you in you work. Raja yoga, the yoga of life's experiences, is certainly the best for Western life. But if a person chooses a life of retirement, let him take it.
Why does one need yoga? Because in the first place it does not interfere with western education. The church has still less influence. Necessary though discipline, reverence, and respect are, they are allowed to lapse, and life becomes empty, drab, lacking. Dharma is the one thing needed for the spiritual path, as both Shiva and Buddha say. One must get the tendency to respect and to revere, and this comes from worship. This one thing that is needed is developed by devotion. That is why it is better, if possible, to add a little of the color of beauty to raja yoga, and thus beautify your life.