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    Responding with Beauty...

          ... What's in your purse?

There is an old saying "You are what you eat", which reminds us that everything which we take in becomes a part of our being. This is true not only for food, but also for what we see, what we hear and what we think about. The movies and television that we watch become a part of us. The music and spoken word that we listen to also become a part of us. The games that we play become a part of us. And our thoughts, particularly those held with great emotion, also become a part of us.

If we have been taking in scenes of violence and strife, listening to words of hatred, or thinking thoughts of unkindness or distress, then we have actually been creating an unwholesome foundation upon which our daily conduct will be built. And, if the very foundation of our life is unwholesome, how can our actions be much better?

In order to produce a beautiful harvest, we must plant beautiful seeds. If we allow thorns and weeds to be planted in our consciousness, then we will have an unpleasant harvest. Therefore, we should strive to sow seeds of  love, harmony and beauty in the garden of our consciousness so that the resulting harvest may be blessing to all whom we encounter.

Being such a blessing is exemplified in this story as related by the great Sufi teacher Attar:

As Jesus and his disciples entered a village, some of the villagers began to harass Jesus, shouting unkind words and harsh accusations.

But Jesus answered them by bowing down and saying prayers for their happiness and well-being.

A disciple said to him: 'You prayed for these men, aren't you filled with anger toward them ?'

Jesus answered: 'I could only spend from what I had in my purse.'

Attar, The Way of the Sufi, Idries Shah, p63

When the situation is pleasant and comfortable, it is easy to be nice. But when we're faced with an unpleasant situation, then we begin to react from the very foundation of our being and automatically draw from of the depths of our purse. If, in such difficult situations, we respond in an unwholesome manner with anger, fear, hatred or violence, then that shows all too clearly what our purse really contains.

So, my dear fellow traveler, what's in your purse?

We must each take responsibility for what is in our own purse. Whenever we find something undesirable in our purse, we must root it out and replace it with something beautiful.

Here are a few inspiring thoughts on this topic from Hazrat Inayat Khan:

In Sufi terms the divine manner is called Akhlaq-i Allah. Man thinks, speaks, and acts according to the pitch to which his soul is tuned. The highest note he can be tuned to is the divine note, and once man has arrived at that pitch, he begins to express the manner of God in everything he does. And what is the manner of God? It is the kingly manner, but a manner, which is not known even to kings, for only the King of heaven and of the earth knows it. This manner is expressed by the soul who is tuned to God; it is devoid of narrowness and free from pride and conceit, it is a manner which is not only beautiful but is beauty itself. The soul which is tuned to God also becomes as beautiful as God, and begins to express God through all that it does, expressing the divine manner in life.

Why is it a kingly manner? By the word kingly we only mean someone who possesses great power and wealth. But the soul tuned to God, before whom all else fades away and in whose eyes all the little things which are so important to everyone else are lessened, that soul begins to express the divine manner in the form of contentment. ... Nothing frightens the soul who reflects God. He is above all fear, for he possesses nothing; and fear is always connected with man's possessions. ... in every form of human love and affection, the self is somewhere hidden, asking for appreciation, for reciprocity, for recognition; but the divine manner is above all this. It gives all and asks nothing in return.

            from The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Volume IX

In order to help the poor we ought to be rich, and in order to take away the badness of a person we ought to be so much more good. That goodness must be earned, as money is earned. That earning of goodness is collecting goodness wherever we find it, and if we do not focus on goodness we will not be able to collect it sufficiently. What happens is that man becomes agitated by all the absence of goodness he sees. Being himself poor he cannot add to it, and unconsciously he develops in his own nature what he sees. He thinks, 'Oh poor person! I should so much like you to be good', but that does not help that person. His looking at the badness, his agitation, only adds one more wicked person to the lot. When one has focused one's eyes on goodness one will add to beauty, but when a man's eyes are focused on what is bad he will collect enough wickedness for him to be added himself to the number of the wicked in the end, for he receives the same impression.

Besides, by criticizing, by judging, by looking at wickedness with contempt, one does not help the wicked or the stupid person. The one who helps is he who is ready to overlook, who is ready to forgive, to tolerate, to take disadvantages he may have to meet with patiently. It is he who can help.

A person who is able to help others should not hide himself but do his best to come out into the world. 'Raise up your light high', it is said. All that is in you should be brought out, and if the conditions hinder you, break through the conditions! That is the strength of life.

You are love – you come from love – you are made by love – you cannot cease to love.

           from The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Volume XIV

No one has ever proved to be our ideal; but we may make an ideal in our imagination, and, whenever we see that goodness is lacking, we may add to it from our own heart and so complete the nobility of human nature. This is done by patience, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness. The lover of goodness loves every little sign of goodness. He overlooks the faults and fills up the gaps by pouring out love and supplying that which is lacking. This is real nobility of soul. Religion, prayer, and worship, are all intended to ennoble the soul, not to make it narrow, sectarian or bigoted. One cannot arrive at true nobility of spirit if one is not prepared to forgive the imperfections of human nature. For all men, whether worthy or unworthy, require forgiveness, and only in this way can one rise above the lack of harmony and beauty, until at last one arrives at the stage when one begins to reflect all that one has collected.

All these riches of love, kindness, tolerance, and good manners a man then reflects, and he throws this light on to the other person and brings out those virtues in him, just as watering a plant makes the leaves and buds open and the flowers blossom. This brings one nearer to the perfection of God, in whom alone one sees all that is perfect, all that is divine.

            from The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Volume IX


Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,