The Supplementary Papers
Purity of Life
Purity of life is the central theme of all religions which have been taught to humanity in all ages. Purity of life has been their central idea, and they only differ in the way of looking at it. It seems that purity of life has not only sprung from religion, but is the outcome of the nature of life; one sees it in all living creatures in some form or other, so to speak working out its destiny. One sees this tendency in the animals, who look for a clean place to sit, and among the birds, who go to the lake or river to bathe and clean their feathers. In humanity one sees the same tendency even more pronounced. A man who has not risen above the material life, shows this faculty in physical cleanliness, but behind it there is something else hidden, and that which is hidden behind is the secret of the whole creation, or the purpose for which the whole world was made.
Purity is a process through which the life rhythm of the spirit manifests. It has worked for ages through the mineral, the vegetable, the animal, and the human kingdoms, passing through and arriving with all its experience of the way at that realization where the spirit finds itself pure in essence, in its pure and original condition. The whole process of creation and of spiritual unfoldment shows that the spirit, which is life and which in life represents the divine, has wrapped itself in numberless folds, and in that way has, so to speak, descended from heaven to earth. And the next process is to unwrap itself, and that unwrapping may be called the process towards purity.
The word sufi, which means unfoldment of the spirit towards its original condition, is derived from the Arabic word "safa" or "saf," which literally means pure, i.e., pure from distinctions and differences. What does pure exactly mean? For instance, when a person says it is pure water, it means it is not admixed with sugar or salt; it is pure, it is original. Therefore a pure life is the term used to express the effort on the part of man to keep his spiritual being pure or free from all impressions of worldly life. It is the search for one's original self, the desire to reach this original self, and the means of getting to one's original self which really speaking is called a pure life. But this can be applied with the same meaning in any part of man's life. If it is used pertaining to the body, it means the same, that what is foreign to the body must not be there. This is cleanliness, the first stage of purity.
And so it is with mind. When a person says "pure-minded," what does it mean? It means what is foreign to the mind does not belong to it, but what is natural to the mind remains. And what is natural to the mind? What one sees and admires in the little child, the tendency to friendliness, ready to see or admire something beautiful, instead of criticizing, willing to smile in answer to anybody's love or smile, and to believe without questioning. What is it? A child is a natural believer, a natural friend, responding and yielding, a natural admirer of beauty, without criticism, overlooking all that does not attract, knowing love, but no hate. This shows the original state of mind, natural to man. After the mind of man has come into this world, what is added to it is addition. It may seem good for the moment, it may be useful for the moment, but still it is not pure. A person may be called clever, a person may be considered learned, a person may be called witty, but with all these attributes it is not pure.
Beyond and above all this is the man of whom it can be said that he is pure-minded. Is it then desirable for a child never to learn anything which is worldly, and remain always a child? It is like asking, "Is it desirable for the spirit never to come to earth, but to remain in heaven always?" No. The true exaltation of the spirit is in the fact that it has come to earth and from there has risen to the spirit state and realized its perfection. Therefore, all that the world gives in the way of knowledge, in the way of experience, in the way of reason, all that one's own experience and the experience of others teaches us, all that we learn from life, from its sorrows and disappointments, its joys and opportunities, all these contradictory experiences help us to become more full of love and kindness. If a man has gone through all these and has held his spirit high and has not allowed his spirit to be stained, it is that person who may be called pure-minded.
The person who is considered pure-minded, but who has no experience of the world and who does not know good or evil, has no credit; he is a simpleton. He is no better than a rock. A rock does not know what is evil. The greatness of man is that he goes through all this which takes away that purity of mind with which man is born – and rises through it, not being pushed under – but holding to its original purity, rising above all that pulls him down and keeps him down on the earth. It is a kind of fight throughout life. He who has no cause to fight, he does not know life. He is perhaps an angelic person, perhaps a pious person, and that we can call him out of respect; but plainly speaking, he is a simpleton.
There are so many phases through which one has passed through during life that the phase through which one has passed seems of no importance. The phase which one is passing through, is of importance. The outward purity matters little when a person goes through the inward purity of life. But the first purity is the purity of the physical world, where one keeps to the laws of cleanliness, to the laws of health, from the psychic, from the physical, from the hygienic point of view; and in doing so a person takes one step onward towards spirituality.
Then the next is what is called in general purity of life. That purity of life is the purity of one's conduct in dealing with others, and very often a man takes to the purity of life in one direction and in another direction forgets it. The churches, the religions, the national and social laws very often make rigid principles about purity of life, and a man begins to know man made purity, which the individual soul has to break through to find that of a higher plane.
It seems as if the whole life is tending towards freedom, towards the unfoldment of something which is choked up by coming on earth. This freedom can be gained by true purity of life. Of course it is not for everybody to understand what action, what thought brings remorse or causes discomfort. Another thing, the life of the individual is not in his control. Every rising wave of passion or of emotion or of anger or of wrath or of affection carries away his reason, blinds him for the moment, so that he can easily give in to mistakes, and in a moment's impulse can give way to an unworthy thought or action. Then comes remorse. But still, a man who wishes to learn, who wishes to improve himself, a man who wishes to go on further in his progress, at the thought of his faults and mistakes will go on, because every fault will be a lesson, and a good lesson. Then he does not need to read in a book or learn from a teacher, because his life becomes his teacher.
However one should not for one's personal experience wish for the lesson. If one was wise, one could learn the lesson from others, but at the same time one should not regard one's fault as one's nature. It is not one's nature. A fault means what is against one's nature. If it was in one's nature, it could not be a fault. The very reason that it is against one's nature makes it a fault. How can nature be a fault? When one says, "I cannot help being angry and I cannot help saying what I want to say when I feel bitter," one does not know that one could if one wished to. I mean to say, that he does not wish to, when he says, "I cannot help." It is lack of strength in a man when he says, "can't." There is nothing which he can't. The human soul is the expression of the Almighty and therefore the human mind has in his will the power of the Almighty, if only he could use that power against all things which stands in his way as hindrances on his journey to the goal.
By regarding some few things in life as faults, one often covers up little faults, which sometimes are worse than the faults which are pointed out by the world. For instance, when a younger person is insulting to an elderly person, people do not call it a very great fault. Sometimes such a little fault can rise and make a worse effect upon his soul than the faults which are recognized faults in the world. A person by a sharp tongue, by an inquisitive nature, by satiric remarks, by thoughtless words, can commit a fault which can be worse than so-called great sins.
You do not know what is in an action. You cannot always judge a thing from the action. The judge has to see what is behind the action, and when a person has arrived at this stage of judgment, then he never dares to form an opinion, to judge. It is the ordinary person, the person who makes a thousand mistakes every day and overlooks them, who is ready to judge others. We have seen what purity of the body and purity of the mind means. However there is a further purity, which is the purity of the heart. This is reached by making the heart pure or free from all impressions which come from outside, which are foreign to one's nature. This can be done by overlooking the faults and shortcomings of others, by forgiving the faults of one's friends. By an increase of love one gives way to desirable impressions, which come upon one's heart and collect there, and in that way one keeps one's heart pure.
If during the day an ill feeling comes to a person, towards a friend or relative a feeling of hatred, a feeling of annoyance, a feeling of criticism, a feeling of bitterness, and he wishes to protect his heart from such an impression, he should not think about it, he should not let it enter, knowing it to be poison. It is just like taking a poison into one's blood, introducing a disease. Any bad impression coming from outside and kept in one's heart produces disease. The bitterness that one takes from others who perhaps have done something one did not like, or to whom one feels bitter, is kept in one's heart, and this is just like injecting poison into one's heart. That poison develops there till it breaks out as a disease in one's physical being. It is such illnesses which are difficult to be healed because they did not rise from a physical source, but from an inner source. It is taking the poison of another into one's own self, and that becomes more lasting, even incurable.
Eternal purity or cleanliness does not have much effect on the purity, but inner uncleanness such as bitterness and spite against another causes disease both inwardly and outwardly. However when one has gone through this process and has tried to keep one's body and mind, one's life and character pure, then there comes a stage of still greater, higher purity, and that is attained by a good ideal, by a righteous path, by good action, by good thoughts. One has to train oneself to become free from an foreign impressions. In that phase of one's journey one has to keep one's mind away from all but God. Then all that one thinks about, all that one feels, an that one sees and admires, all that one touches and perceives, is God. This is the greater purity, in which no thought or feeling are allowed to come into the heart but God alone. For instance, in the picture of an artist such a person sees God, in the merit of the artist he sees God, in the color and brushwork of the artist, in the eye of the artist, which observe nature, in the faculty of the artist, which produces the picture, such one sees the perfection of God. And therefore to him God becomes all and all becomes God.
When he has arrived at this purity, there are many things, which will come in his life to test him: his enemy, who annoys him; those whom he cannot bear; those whom he does not like; those who are intolerant to him. He will come in contact with situations that are difficult. There always comes an occasion for him to give up that purity for a moment, and every moment that purity becomes poisoned, it is that moment in the life of a sage which for him is a sin. I remember the words of my murshid, who said, "Every moment that God is absent from one's consciousness is a moment of sin," and when God is continually in one's consciousness, every moment is virtue.
Therefore when a person has arrived at that pitch, he lives in virtue. For him virtue is not a thing which from time to time he expresses or experiences, but his life itself is virtue; what he says and does and what is done to him is all virtue; and that shows that virtue is not one little experience. Virtue is purity of life. Really I would not consider virtue a worthwhile thing if it came and went away. It is only worthwhile when it lives with us, when we can depend upon it and when we can live and move and have our being in it. That is worthwhile. If it only came for a moment, and if it visited us for one minute, it is not a virtue and we would rather not have it. We would rather prefer poverty to the wealth which came for a moment and went away. Therefore, this is the stage when man begins to understand what virtue means. He begins to see a glimpse of virtue. What he knew before he thought to be virtue, but now life in its entirety becomes virtue to him; he lives in it and life to him means virtue. Properly speaking, it is lack of life which is sin.But then there is a further purity, and that is the purity of freedom from the thought of oneself. (And by thought of oneself I do not mean the thought of one's real self, but of one's limited self.) Thought of one's limitation covers what is true in one's being, one's true self. It is this limitation which makes one feel at times, that, "I am good," or "I am bad." In this final phase one realizes, "I am perfect, nor does bad make me imperfect." Good and bad do not exist when one is above them. It is purity from all shapes and colors, from all forms of life. It is like rising above heaven and hell and it is like touching the throne of God. It is just like bathing in the truth of God. This is real exaltation, when one has risen above one's limitation and has become conscious of that perfection Whom we call God, Whom we worship and Whom we love, and Who is the ultimate purpose of our life.
God bless you.