The Supplementary Papers
Belief and Faith
Very often we confuse the word "belief" with faith. Belief is a settled thought. As long as a thought is wavering it is not a belief. When a person says, "I wonder is it so, or is it not so?" that does not mean there is belief. He may appear to believe, but he does not believe. Belief means the thought has settled in the mind and it is difficult to root it out. And yet belief is not necessarily faith, because faith is the culmination of belief. Faith is that belief which no longer is a settled thought, but it is the very being of the person. Although we use the words "faith" and "belief" in our everyday life, when we come to analyze it and understand it from the metaphysical point of view, belief and faith are quite different. People have used the word "faith" for a person's religion, but that is another thing.
It is very good to say that one has a Christian faith, another a Muslim faith, and another has a Jewish faith. If a Christian had a Christian faith, if a Muslim had a Muslim faith, if a Jew had a Jewish faith, what more do you want? Because faith no longer is Christian or Muslim or Jewish: once a person has reached faith, he no longer needs a faith, he is above all religions and he is of all religions. In the Hindustani language, they separate the word faith, which is used in everyday language, from the other word, which is used in connection with one's spiritual evolution. That faith is called "Yaqin" and that yaqin develops into what they call "iman." Yaqin is a settled belief; iman is the culmination of faith. When you say, "It is so," that means belief. But when you say, "It cannot be otherwise," that means faith. And when you say, "I wonder," it is imagination.
There are four stages of iman, which means four stages between belief and faith. The first stage is called by Sufis "iman mujmal," which means "faith of the crowd." Where there are ten persons standing, the eleventh person goes and stands with them also. And if there are fifty persons waiting for an airplane to come from the south, there may be nothing in that airplane, but because there are fifty persons standing, there will be a hundred in fifteen minutes' time. They have only to make up their mind, "There is something coming and we should wait for it," and then you will see a thousand persons standing by their side, not knowing whether it is coming or not coming, but because there are fifty persons standing, looking at the sky, that is quite enough. That is the psychology of the crowd, and so the crowd is attracted and so the crowd is led.
And when it comes to spiritual things, it is therefore that success before the crowd is not always the sign of spiritual progress. Besides, what is approved by the crowd to be something beautiful is not necessarily beautiful. What is approved by the crowd to be something most valuable may not be so valuable. If it is considered by the crowd that it is something good, it may not be good. Or what is considered great by the crowd, it may not be great, and yet it has the appearance of being great, because the crowd calls it great. But what the crowd holds does not remain long. Remember the day when the Kaiser was esteemed high. Can you imagine the belief of the people that day? Numberless souls were ready to give their lives for him.
Before the Czar was dethroned, every shop in Russia had the Czar and Czarina's picture; and the day when he went away, they made a crown and hammered it in the street and people looked at it and laughed. What was President Wilson one day in America? It did not take long for everyone to turn their backs to him. What was once praised was blamed at another time. That is the crowd. It does not take them long to raise a person, it does not take them time to throw a person down. Because it is not faith. They call it faith in the church, but the faith of the crowd is not faith. It is a fixed idea which can be unfixed. In connection with religion the faith of the crowd is won more rapidly.
The religion that appeals to the crowd, there is no end to the followers of that religion. It may not be deep, it may not be wonderful, it may not have philosophy, it may have no wisdom; as long as it appeals to the crowd, there will be numberless followers of it. But at the same time, it does not take long for them to go away. Prophet Muhammad had most wonderful experiences about it. When he began to be successful hundreds and thousands came and followed him. And one day they quarreled with somebody and they thought that everything was wrong, that it was a delusion, and they went away. It does not take one moment for them to come and it does not take one moment for them to go. And yet, that is one step, that is the first step. One rises step by step. If one did not take the belief of the crowd, then one might stay away from it. At the same time what I say tells us what it means, the belief of the crowd.
And there is a second step. The second step in belief is belief in authority. They do not say, "Because this person says this and that person says that, therefore I believe it." But they say, "Someone in whom I have trust, that person says it, and therefore I believe it; or, "Some scripture in which I have trust, in that scripture it is written and therefore I believe it." Among these people there has come a division. There are one kind of people who will believe anything that history tells, geography tells, mathematics tells, or any book in the library of the university tells them. But they will not believe anything that tradition tells them, that religion tells them, that the priest tells them, that the Prophet has told. They do not see the reason in one thing and they see the reason in the other thing. This shows that today the authority has changed. The material authority is considered to be something, but a spiritual authority is not recognized by the intelligent.
And now coming to the third stage of belief, and that belief is that it is not because someone says so, nor is it because the crowd says so, but, "I think so, that is why I believe it." That is a wonderful belief. But if a person who is simple and unevolved, if he thought, "What I believe or what I reason is the right thing," and did not believe in the authority or in the crowd, instead of going upwards, he would be going downwards. And very often it happens that a simple one is more fixed in his idea than a person who is reasoning. Very often a simple person has no reason and yet he is fixed in his idea; and you may bring before him any reason, he will not listen to it. He says, "That is what I believe, what the crowd believes, I do not care."
If it is written in the scripture, in history, by professors, scientists, priests, or clergy, they say, "I do not believe." That becomes a kind of illusion, a kind of madness. Because a person who believes in his reason, independently of the crowd and of the authorities, must be ready to understand the reason of another and must be simple enough to give up his reasoning when another person's reasoning appeals to him. Very often reasoning becomes rigid in the case of a simpleton, because he covers the reasoning with his personality. He calls his reason his own reason and the reason of another another person's reason, and there is no relation between another person and himself. He thinks, "Another person's reason is his property, my reason is my property, "And therefore he is not ready to understand.
And then we come to reason. Reason is as a cover, a cover behind which there is another cover. And if we go on penetrating one cover after another cover, there are numberless covers we can penetrate, and yet there will be another behind it. And now coming to the fourth belief, which is called "inul iman," which is the perfect belief. This belief is as good as if one has seen something with one's eyes and one cannot deny it. When someone sees that this is a table, he cannot say, "This is not a table." And when he begins to see the truth from the inner eye, he cannot deny it, he sees it. But even that iman, that belief culminates into a belief where you do not have to hold a belief, you yourself become truth. Truth becomes your being. Your belief is no longer your idea, your belief is your own self. That is the perfection of belief. It is that which is called "faith," and it is those who have reached that stage, who are called "faithful" in the spiritual sense of the word.
Now I would like to speak about what attitude one has to have towards the teacher on the spiritual path, towards the clergy on the spiritual path, towards the prophet on the spiritual path, because there are these three directions. The priest is one direction, the initiator is another direction, and the prophet is another direction. And towards these three the attitude must be distinct, peculiar, and different. Towards the priest there ought to be an attitude of respect, also not only respecting the person, but respecting what is taught, the direction that is given by the priest. By this I do not mean to say the priest of this particular religion, or that particular religion. I am especially telling you these three different persons who come in one's life.
One is the authority of religion, the other is the authority of esotericism, and the third is the prophet. Only when on the spiritual path, what one has to be careful of is this, that too much conventionality and rule and direction of life may bury a soul. Because very often where people regard the rigid rules and conventionalities they become so narrow and so external that everything must be just like this, and if it was not like this, then it is a sin. Hands must washed at a certain time, feet must be washed at a certain time, the clothes must be in this way, one must stand in that way, look in that way, act in a certain way. And if it is not done, then it is not right, it is a sin. And in all parts of the world you will see that the minister will have his whip raised when a person has not done things that they ought to do rightly in their lives.
But when there is an insolence and contempt and prejudice towards a religious authority, it means that this person is not respecting that which is something spiritual. It is a step higher. And if one has no respect for it, it only means the person is going downhill. The soul who is guided from within will always find instinctively a desire to respect a religious man, no matter what religion he belongs to, be he a rabbi, a Catholic priest, or a clergyman from the Protestant Church; no matter of what religion he is, you cannot but feel respect towards that person, intuitively there is a leaning towards religion. And if we have to criticize them, of course there are many faults, but have we not great faults ourselves? Can a human being be perfect? God alone is perfect.
If we look at their faults, we gain nothing; except the faults which we have looked at, we collect them. But we can just as well look at the good side of it. Besides, in respecting a religious man, it need not be that we are respecting every belief or dogma or idea he has to teach. It is not enough even to think of religion as something sacred, and have a respectful attitude towards every person who is doing the work of religion. It is also necessary to think that those in our Sufi Movement who are made cherags and sirajs, if we ourselves will not respect them and will not appreciate their devotion to the Cause and their service towards it, it is just like a child who is not inclined to respect the elder ones in his own family. It is for the dignity of the Cause, it is for the honor of the Message, of the Movement, that those who are ordained as cherags, those who are made sirajs, that they may be given due consideration. There is no pleasure in not doing it, but in doing it there is a great pleasure.
I will tell you my own experience of childhood. In the different kingdoms in India, especially the orientals have more conventionality, more bowing and bending and greeting. And with new ideas in my head I thought, "Is it necessary?" It was a question. But at the same time one cannot help it; where there is a conventionality so much spread one cannot keep from it. But the moment I began to greet people in that conventional way, I began to enjoy it; the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it. Because it brought joy to another, but to yourself just the same, for the very fact that you give joy to another, you get it ten times back. It is automatic. That proudness, that conceit, that hardness, that rigidness of, "Oh no, I shall not respect, I shall not bow or bend before anyone," it only makes him as a brick, he is turned into a rock, more rigid every time.
And now coming to the question what attitude one must have towards his initiator. If a person will not stand like a child before his initiator, he will not derive benefit out of his teaching. The one who comes before his initiator with a thought that, "I have brought before him certain knowledge which I already had and now I want more to be added," he is wrong, he should throw it away. The one who comes to his initiator with the thought that he must find out if it is right or wrong or he must find out what will happen, he is wasting his time and fooling himself. He will never gain by it. He could just as well have gone and done some business and got some money. What the initiator gives as an instruction, as an exercise, it must be taken just like the prescription of the doctor.
And if one says, "No, I will not do it today, I am tired now and I do not know how it can do me any good," his mind is not in its right place. He should not have taken the trouble of going to the initiator and having given him the trouble. He could have spared himself and the initiator both. And if a person did the practices and had no faith in it, nor in the initiator, then he will not receive benefit just the same. It is very easy to say, "I know this." But it is very difficult to say, "I know nothing." And the moment one says, "I know nothing," that is the moment he begins to learn and to know what is worth knowing. Never go to your initiator, therefore, with knowledge. No matter how much knowledge you have, it is of no use, it is not wanted there. It is not the path that requires knowledge to be taken to the initiator. The best thing is to put it away and go like an empty cup that may be filled.
The cup that is already full with something will not be filled. One might ask, "Are they not all initiated in the Sufi Order, whoever comes? Are they examined, are they tested, are they tried before their coming, that they come without anything?" It must be known that the method of the Sufi Order is different. The method of the Sufi Order is that the first initiation is to welcome, to admit, but after that every step one takes one is examined more and more. He does not know it, but it is so. Besides that, it must be understood that what you can take from the initiator by sympathy, you cannot take by discussion. It is your sympathy which draws out the sympathy of your initiator, and through that what comes is the real knowledge. The spiritual knowledge is never taught: even the initiator cannot teach it in words. It is imparted, it is given and that comes without words. It comes by the current of sympathy from the teacher to the pupil. Those who understand the real meaning of esoteric teaching, the initiator and the pupil, they know that this is the most blessed friendship there is. A friendship in the path of God, in the path of light, in the path of truth. And besides that, every worldly point of view must be kept away in connection with your initiator. One must know that what comes to me from the initiator cannot be valued, it cannot be priced, it cannot be made limited; and therefore there must not be a thought of reckoning, of give and take.
And there is an attitude that one can have towards the prophet. The attitude towards the prophet must be so sacred that you cannot put it into words. An idea which you cannot express before another person. As soon as you express your idea before another person and put it into words, you only limit it. For instance, a Buddhist who, in order to convince a Hindu, says, "Lord Buddha was the World-Teacher," do you think he is raising Buddha? No, he is pulling him down. What is the world? The universe is greater than the world. He cannot raise his prophet high enough. And as soon as one makes efforts by words, if a Muslim says that Muhammad was one of the many great prophets, only he was a little greater than the others, he brings him lower in his estimation. Why compare? Comparison is not necessary.
Our mouth is too small to compare great ones. We are not entitled to fix them as so and so, saying that there are four masters coming, or ten masters coming, or eight masters in the world, and that each master we assign them an area on the map of the world. It is all insolence. At all times, whenever the message was given, the thoughtful have always refrained from limiting their prophet by words. And if there ever came a question of comparing one teacher with another they have said, "Is it not one Soul, one Spirit, the Spirit of Guidance?" No matter in how many names and in how many forms the Spirit of Guidance comes, it is the same. Why compare the outward appearances? And what are we to compare with our limited knowledge? Those who happen to live in the time when the prophetic message is given and those who are brought into the presence of the prophet to listen to the living words, if they will not seal their lips, who should seal them? Hafiz says, "Think of the shell in the sea. No sooner the dewdrop from Heaven falls into it, it closes its lips; and what comes out of it after a time? A pearl, which is most valuable."
We first see this tendency of guidance in a slight degree in the parents who, whatever their own life may have been, still wish their children to be benefitted by their experience, that the children may live aright. There are to be found some rare people in this world of selfishness who warn their friends from going astray. We find a leader in a community who sacrifices his life and benefit for that of his fellow men, uniting them in the bond of love and harmony. The same attribute of self-sacrifice in its higher grade of evolution is seen among the masters of humanity who act as officials of the infinite government and who are known in the world as messengers, avatars, or god-heads. Among them are to be found holy beings of different grades, recognized by Sufis as Wali, ghaus, Qutb, Nabi, and Rasul. They differ from each other according to the extent of their reach in the world unseen, and how vast a space they occupy in the universal consciousness, also how large a circle of humanity is given under their control for guidance.
Nabi is the guide of a community. Rasul has a message for the whole of humanity, each having a certain cycle of time for his message. The mystic therefore sees in the masters of humanity not only the deliverers of the divine message, but sees them as the spiritual sovereign, controllers of the universe during their cycles. There is a cycle for every aspect of the life of an individual, and the life of the world. In the life of an individual the period from his birth to his death is the first half, and from death to assimilation in infinity is the second half. The sub-cycle in man's life is from infancy to youth, where ends the half, and from youth to age, where it finishes.
There is again an under-cycle of infancy, of boyhood, of youth, of age, and the cycle of man's rise and fall. So there is the cycle of the life of the world; and the cycle of the creation of man and his destruction; the cycle of the reign of the races and nations; and cycle of time such as a year, a month, a week, a day, and an hour. The nature of each of these cycles shows three aspects: the beginning, the culmination, and the end – which are named "uruj," "kamal," and "zaval" – such as new moon, full moon, and waning moon; the sunrise, the zenith, and the sunset. These cycles, sub-cycles, and under-cycles, and the three aspects of their nature, are divided and distinguished by the nature and course of light.
And as this light of sun and moon and of planets plays the most important part in the life of the world, individually and collectively, so the light of the spirit of guidance also divides time into cycles. Each cycle therein has been under the influence of a certain master, with so many controllers of the whole world under him, working as a universal government to control the affairs mostly concerning the spiritual condition of the world inwardly. Numberless have been the masters since the human creation, who appeared in a certain name and form, but He alone was disguised in them Who is the only Master of Eternity.
There was a cycle of spiritual meditation during the minority of the world's life, and when it came to full age that was the period of the coming of Muhammad. For all who came before – Abraham, Moses, Christ – promised the world that someone else would come, as the guardian of a child would say, "I have to go, but another guardian will be appointed," for the child was yet a minor. By Muhammad's plain declaration of the sacred statement, "la ilaha illa-llahu, none exists save God," he entrusts the world with the knowledge of unity which so far was constantly and gradually being uncovered step by step. It was by the declaration unveiled fully. This is what is meant by the seal of prophecy, that after this culmination there begins the new era when the spiritual government so established hitherto may work without an open claim, and teachers may advise as an adviser, not as a guardian or a mediator.
The Sufi, by being in at-one-ment with the spiritual hierarchy, has considered that belief in Christ is belief in Moses, and in believing in Muhammad he believes in Christ, for one is the successor of the other. But not believing in the successor for the sake of the predecessor is to him a disregarding of the law of hierarchy for one's personal fancy, which neither pleases the predecessor nor satisfies the successor. No king would like it that for love of him his people should reject his successor.
A keen study of the spiritual government will show to a seer that before the coming of Christ there existed saints and holy beings among the Jews. But after the coming of the Master, the saints of remarkable character were found among Christians. After the coming of Muhammad, a just seeker of truth will without doubt confess that there have been saints in Islam of all grades active among the spiritual government. When people asked Muhammad, "O Prophet, there are still many who have not yet recognized you and your message, waiting for some other master to come," the Prophet said, "Let them wait, but if any ever Came, it will be from among us."
The idea of God is understood in two ways – God idealized and God analyzed. The former makes a person a believer and the latter makes him an unbeliever. Yet there are two classes of believers and two of unbelievers.
Among the believers are:
Among the unbelievers are:
The believer who idealizes believes in God so long as his intelligence is not sufficiently developed, as development of the intelligence dims the idealized belief. A lover would love a beauty as long as its faults are unmanifested, but on closer contact the defects of the beloved become manifest, and thus would dim the love of the lover. But the believer who realizes is one who acts as an extraordinary lover, who, not depending upon the beauty of the beloved, creates the beauty from his loving heart and thus beautifies the vision of the beloved in his view.
One generally finds people who are less responsive to nature's beauty and less sympathetic, who are prone to criticize rather than admire. They develop with age a non-venerating tendency, and it becomes intolerable for them to see any being in a more exalted position than they are themselves. This in time increases so that they cannot even bear to believe that there exists any being such as God. Another unbeliever is a person who is born with reason and logic and believes in ideas so far as the objective world may prove their identity to his view. In his advancement of intelligence he may arrive at last to a perfect thought, he may realize the changeability of nature and the essence of all being one and the same. He may even realize that there is an immortal life behind the scene of the visible world. Still the lack of idealization does not make him believe in the identity of God as an object of worship.The Sufi by his experience of idealizing as well as analyzing becomes balanced. He does not by his analyzing stand against the numberless creatures who have believed in God since ages, but his analysis of God he calls Sufism, the knowledge of purity. He never claims that he is God, neither does he feel that he is a separate identity from Him. His veneration is for the harmony of the world and for the sweetness of personality, and his analysis is to realize the truth of nature and things as they ought to be. His idealization is for love, Harmony and Beauty, and his analysis is for illumination. He bows before God, not considering Him as a separate Supreme Being, but the Sufi's homage is to the consciousness, the unmanifested God within, who watches this temporary manifestation which exists for today but tomorrow will be no more. The Sufi by his bow trains the world by showing them the right path. At the same time he purifies consciousness from its delusions. The Sufi, by repeating the name of Allah, kindles the fire of his heart that all aspects of the Beloved – God in the manifestation – either good or bad, are beautified, at least for his view. Thus he creates Heaven within himself.