The Supplementary Papers
The Knowledge of Truth
This subject can be studied according to five various points of view; the love of truth, the search for truth, the attainment of truth, the realization of truth, and the expression of truth. In the first place, the love for truth is inborn when the soul is mature, and the love for truth is a natural outcome of one's whole study. Very often people ask, "What is the nature of truth, is it a theory, a principle, a philosophy, or a doctrine?" All theories, philosophies, principles, and doctrines are only a cover over the truth. The ultimate truth is that which cannot spoken, for words are too inadequate to express it.
It is as difficult, not to say as impossible, for a person to explain the truth in words as it is to try and point out God. That is why Sufis have called God "the Truth," and truth "God." In the Sanskrit language, truth is called Sattya; and Sattya is the highest attainment for the seeking souls. The knowledge of truth is the ultimate object of all religions; it is the seeking of all philosophies; it is the spirit of all doctrines. But it is the nature of man that he becomes disappointed with these forms of truth; he wants to find truth outside him when it is really hidden within him in his own heart.
The fact that man learns everything by study and observation causes him to think that the knowledge of truth is also to be gained by this method. But no. Another method has to be applied in the case of truth, a method which is quite contrary to the methods we adopt when acquiring knowledge about the external world. All that which is before us, which we recognize by name and form is the opposite of what may be called ultimate truth. Therefore if it is by study that we have to search after knowledge about all that has name and form, it follows that some other means altogether has to be adopted when seeking to attain ultimate truth.
Every soul exhibits a love for truth to a greater or less degree. Every soul wishes others to treat him fairly, and wishes others to be honest with him; every soul wishes his fellow man to act truthfully towards him. But when it is his own turn to act in that way, he will not do it. That is his own fault, for it is his nature that he should seek for the truth. It is in the very nature of man that he should love and admire and idealize the truth, and the truthful souls. That is why people have followed great Teachers, such as Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, or any other great Teacher of this world. It is the love of truth that accounts for this. Wherever a man has found the spring of truth, he has been attracted and impressed by it, and has remembered it. The impression of ultimate truth has been kept in the human soul for ages. In every soul there is a constant search for the truth. At first it manifests as simple curiosity about the secrets of the nature of things. In this way, he gradually gains the knowledge which is called "science."
After seeking out the law which is hidden under the visible objects, the next step in the search after truth consists in the endeavor to realize the hidden law of human nature. Man first begins by ascertaining the law of human character and human personality. Then he arrives at a time when he experiences the need to solve the mystery behind birth and death: why man comes, roams about for a while, and then departs, whither he goes, and whence he came. And since the quest springs from the soul, he begins to seek for religion. "What is the true religion?" he asks.
But unless a person tries to find out this ultimate truth from within himself he will never succeed in finding it. He cannot find it out from the objects and things at which he looks. It is because of the absence of the knowledge of the ultimate truth that man gropes in the darkness, has many beliefs, many different faiths and lights for his own religion, saying, "Mine is the right religion, yours is the wrong one: my doctrine is right, yours is wrong." When one realizes the ultimate truth, one comes to understand that one single underlying current to which all the different religions, philosophies and faiths are attached. These are all only different expressions of the same truth, and it is the absence of that knowledge which causes all to be divided into so many different sects and religions.
In India there is a well-known story exemplifying this fact: that some blind men were very anxious to see an elephant. So a kind man one day took them to see one. There, standing by its side, he said, "Now, here is the elephant, see what you can make of it." Each one tried to make out by touch what the elephant looked like, and afterwards when they met together they began to discuss its appearance. One said, "It looks like the big pillar of a palace," another said, "It looks like a fan." And so they differed and discussed amongst one another, then they quarreled so much as to come to a hand-to-hand fight. Each one said, "I have seen it, I know what it is; I have touched it." Then the man who took them to the elephant came and said, "You are every one of you right, but you have each seen only a part of the elephant." So it is with the religions. A person says, "This religion is the one, this doctrine is the only one, this truth is the only truth possible."
That shows a lack of knowledge of the ultimate truth. As soon as one comes to the realization of the depth of truth, one begins to discern that it is the same truth which the great ones have tried to express in words. They could not put it fully into words. They have done their best to help humanity to evolve and reach to a point at which it is able to understand what can never be explained in words.
Religion is the help to realize the truth, whereas it is made into the truth by people who do not see that the means to attain an object is not the very object itself; that the path cannot be the goal. The goal is further still. The path is the means of reaching the goal. But when people argue over the path they take, and dispute over the differences, when can they reach the real realization? Life is an opportunity, and this material frame is the means which enables the soul to come to a realization of the ultimate truth. If one does not make use of this frame – that is, the human body – for the purpose for which it was created, then whatever one attains by living on this earth, will only be an utter disappointment in the end, because that is not reached that which the soul has always longed for and searched after. If there be an object to be really called the real object of every soul, it is just this very "seeking after truth."
Although one cannot explain and point out the truth, at the same time even a faint shadow of the truth makes it appeal to human nature. Think what effect sincerity has upon mankind. The personality of a sincere man, so to speak, emits a fragrance which one can feel, assuring you that "here is a sincere person." His reliance can give you ease. What is the explanation? It is that we have in him not the ultimate truth, but a shadow of the truth.
Think, too, of what an honest person brings you – the sense of confidence, the desire to trust. It draws out from you yourself something which even the falsehood of humility senses in your nature, namely, the readiness to trust, the willingness to give someone confidence. What an ease then comes into one's nature, and that is just a little glimpse of "truth." That which we call real, or imitation, simply in regard to objects – for instance, real gold compared with imitation gold, a really precious stone compared with an imitation one - think of the difference one experiences in looking at them.
What impression a really precious stone makes as compared with the impression on the soul produced by an imitation gem. Can we ever compare an imitation with a real flower? It can never give the same satisfaction because our soul is always seeking for truth, truth in all things, in objects, in personality, in character, in everything. Consciously or unconsciously, man seeks the reality in all things, and it is the reality, which is the only answer to the soul. The man who is insincere, or dishonest or keeps truth far away from him, never gives comfort either to himself or to others. He cannot give ease to others, still less to himself.
This all shows that the secret of happiness, the secret of peace, and the secret of everything that man seeks, is "truth." But the truth which we see in the form of honesty, sincerity, goodness, trustworthiness, is like the horizon, the further we go towards it, the further it recedes. So with ultimate truth, all things which appear as ultimate truth are steps to it only; they lead us to the ultimate truth, but ultimate truth is still greater; it is the greatest of all things.
Now coming to the subject of attainment of truth. No doubt as already mentioned, the first step to the attainment of the truth cannot be taught in books, or be imparted by a teacher. It must come spontaneously, namely through the love for truth. The next step is to search for it; The third step is the actual attainment.
How can one attain? In order to attain truth one must make one's own life truthful. This is life in its moral aspect. The more truthful one is in one's every day life the more one practices this moral despite its great difficulty, the more one approaches the only religion which there is. But it is the most difficult to practice this moral in this world of falsehood, where every move one makes is touched by some unreality which impresses one. Every moment of a person's life is touched by falsehood which is likely to impress him.
The love of truth gives one an appreciation of truth, and all the little shadows of truth become reflected in such a person's heart more and more until at length he expresses trueness in his nature. Seeking after truth enables one to learn to appreciate all that comes from truthful hearts. Passing from the state of natural man, through the state of being a lover of truth and a seeker after truth, one begins to express truth.
The intellectual side of this is that when one loves the truthful life, naturally the intelligence – the torch by which to see both the world seen and the world unseen – begins to help one, and the clouds of illusion within and without begin to become scattered. Man then begins to see with his own light in his hand. It is a hint towards this process which we find in the words of Jesus Christ, "Raise your light high, let no one keep his light under a bushel." The act of raising the light on high is to hold the torch of intelligence in one's hand in order to see into the external world – that which is seen – and also into the world which is within and unseen.
As has already been said, truth is the very self of man. Truth is the divine element in man. Truth is every soul's seeking. Therefore as soon as the clouds of illusion are scattered, that which man now begins to see is nothing but the truth which has been there all the time. He finds that the truth was never absent; it was only covered by clouds of illusion. By changing his own nature, by making himself more truthful, he disperses the clouds of falsehood within and without, and begins to see life as it really is both inwardly and outwardly. From this time onwards, the meaning of religion becomes clear.
One begins to understand what the great teachers have taught. Then one becomes tolerant to the various religions. Nothing seems strange any more. Nothing surprises. For now one begins to know the innermost nature of man; one sees the cause behind every action. Therefore tolerance and forgiveness and understanding of others come naturally. The person who knows the truth is the most tolerant. It is the knower of truth who is forgiving; it is the knower of truth who understands another person's point of view. It is the knower of truth who does not readily voice his opinion, for he has respect for the opinions of others.
When man gains insight into himself, he also gains insight into the hearts of others. All this desire for learning occult or mystical powers or psychic powers now disappears, because he begins to see all this power in one truth – loving truth, seeking truth, looking for truth, living the truthful life. That it is which opens all doors. He does not need to learn how to read thoughts. He does not need to learn secret or occult powers or psychic powers in order to penetrate into the heart of man. The heart of every person is open to him.
When our heart is closed, it is shut to all other hearts. It is the lack of knowledge of ourselves which makes us ignorant of them and closed to us. To say a person "does not open his heart" means that his heart is not open. Were he to understand himself, that understanding would itself help him to understand another. Once he is open himself, the other person no longer seems closed. It is the action and reaction between two hearts. The opening of the one heart has an influence on the other, and it opens. When one's own heart is closed, the other person's heart, though open, will also close.
Lack of reality and lack of truth causes one to wander away from truth all the time, but at the same time there is a great desire to understand and learn truth. But though prompted by that desire, when the person comes to search for truth, he seeks to find it in complexity of things, things which he cannot understand. The simple words of great teachers as Christ and Buddha are too simple for many, who say,"This is only something we have always heard in churches, something which the old people have always said." He thinks it is not new, and he can only give his mind to something that is new and complex, something that he cannot understand. So he gropes on into darkness, into one subtlety after another. It is like going into a maze. Children enjoy going to a place where they cannot find their way, for they know they are safe with their parents all the time. So, too, the soul which is not mature, continues to seek after complexities, and is not satisfied with the ultimate truth.
If one were to describe the truth in simple words, they would reply, "That is too simple," "We know that," "We know it already." But though the real knowledge of truth is already within every person, everyone is not conscious of knowing it. If he is made conscious of it now, one is after all only making him conscious of something which is already there; that is why he does not think that what he hears is something new. It is true. It was there already all the time.
True spiritual teaching does not consist in imparting something to another, but in awakening a sense within him which requires to be awakened. No spiritual teacher imparts new knowledge to his pupil unless he wants him to play with a puzzle Parents often make a great game for their children by perplexing them with puzzles.
When a person really wants to find the way, it is not very far from him. It depends on the sincerity of the desire to find it whether it is far or not. What is necessary for finding it is not much reading, or discussion or argument, but a practical study of self. One questions one's own self: what am I? Am I a material body, or a mind, or something behind a mind? Am I myself or my coat? Is this object "me," or something different? Is this body my cover, or myself?
Truth can be attained by reflecting thus, "For what am I toiling from morning till evening? What is the purpose of my life, to work for wealth, or for honor, or for position? If that is my life, how shall I be able to hold it? Shall I part from what I have gathered together? If that is so, then it does not belong to me; so it is not really my own property. That which can be snatched from my hand is not really my property, and therefore I must seek something – in myself, perhaps – which can be depended on, and is also valuable." Once a person realizes the falsehood of things, he will cease to consider them important; their color fades, and their real values appear. It is just like a child going into a theater and seeing a palace on the stage.
He thinks, "How beautiful; I would like to live there in that palace." But take him in the daytime, and let him see it was really only a painted curtain, and not a palace at all. Then he will lose the value he attached to that scene. So it is with all things. Everything we value, all we long for and toil for, from morning till evening, all these things so often cause us to lose sight of honesty and truth. We are very often placed in positions in which honesty and truth are lost, where one person plots against another, and where there is reciprocity in falsehood. One's whole life becomes folded up and covered in by falsehood. The soul must be unfolded so that reality can come to view.
This does not mean that we are obliged to give up everything that seems false and everything that seems real. That would be impossible. We cannot live in the world and overlook its need and all that is necessary for life. We must work for such things. But at the same time we must have a realization of the true and the false, we must discriminate between what is our soul's need and what our body's need, what our soul seeks for and what will always stay with us, and what will leave us. It is a matter of discriminating between the true coin and its counterfeit. It is not a matter of retiring away from the world and "going to live in a forest."
Lastly, there is the question, "What is the expression of truth?" "How can truth be expressed?" The psychology of life is such that every soul expresses what it is impressed with. If a soul is impressed with grief in its surroundings, it will express grief, sorrow, disappointment in action, thought, speech and atmosphere. If a soul is experiencing joy, it will express joy. That shows that the law of life is always action and inaction. Whatever we experience during the day we see at night in our dreams, which shows that our soul may be compared with a gramophone record; it produces whatever is placed upon it. So if the record made is one of illusion and falsity, it will produce only falsity and illusion. There is nothing to be done but take that record away and commence another.
Again, it is as a person holding a sunglass before the sun. It immediately partakes of the heat of the sun. Immediately it responds to the sun and reacts in the same way as the sun. So with human nature. In the Bible it is written, "Where your treasure, there your heart." If the heart is exposed to the world of illusion, to the impression of things which come and go, then it will always reproduce the same complaints, sorrows and disappointments. One's life's real need will never be satisfied by things which cannot be depended upon; such things must always bring disappointment. At any hour of the day one may meet human beings with a thousand complaints. How is this? It is because the heart is constantly exposed to a world of falsehood, one hears falsehood. One expresses the same falsehood because it is reproduced upon the record of the mind. Therefore such a person does not make others happy, nor can he himself be happy.
There is also the teaching of Christ, "seek ye the kingdom of God first, and all things will be added." What does that mean? It means that we are to focus the heart upon that spiritual ideal which is the perfection of truth; let that reality be reproduced in the heart, so that in its turn it may sing the song of reality. In the terminology of the Sufis, there is what is called shari'at – "the divine moral." This divine moral cannot be learned or taught; it can only come spontaneously. A person may lay down the principles of this divine moral, saying that "this particular attitude or method of working in life is the right thing, the divine moral." When the heart is exposed to God, like the sunglass is exposed to the sun, the divine moral comes into it. When the heart partakes of the divine outlook and divine attitude and divine love, then it expresses them externally, either as an action in the outer world, as a manner, as a glance.
Some people say Christ was divine, others say he was a man. Both are right and yet both only understand half. Strictly speaking, in the human there is the divine. He is human who has the divine expression. Therefore if it is right to say Christ was human, it is also right to say Christ is divine. The soul of every human being is divine, could we realize its real nature. The mission of the Sufi, the Sufi Message to the world, is the realization of this principle, the understanding of the divinity of the human soul. Did man realize that although his external is human and limited his inner being is divine and unlimited, and if man knew how to dive deep within himself, he would find God. For God is not far away, as people of various religions believe; He is closer to us than anyone else. Such a person will realize that God is the one end of a line, and he himself is the other end. One line has two points; one life has two points. The one is man, and the other is God.
God bless you.