Volume VIII The Art of Being by Hazrat Inayat Khan
Struggle and Resignation
There are two distinct paths through which one attains the spiritual goal, and they are quite contrary to one another: one is the path of resignation, the other the path of struggle. No doubt in the path of struggle there is also resignation, and in the path of resignation there is also struggle. But the one who is treading the path of resignation has only one thought: to be resigned; as to the one who strikes the path of struggle, his main object is to struggle.
These two paths are illustrated in a symbolical way by the words of Christ, "Take your sword and sheathe it." The taking of the sword means struggle, the covering of it is resignation. The necessity of these two paths is so great that it is not possible that one of them is ignored and only one of them is accepted. People often think that Sufism means pacifism, but it is not "passivism," it is activity and "passivism" both. It is the knowledge of the secret of mans life on earth, of what he needs for his character, for his condition.
When we reflect upon these principles, we find that there are things in life to which we can only be resigned. It is easy to be resigned to things one cannot help, but if one has the power to struggle it is difficult to be resigned. A person who is resigned in easy conditions, not finding it difficult, does not know resignation. For instance, there is a person whose poor relations want a part of his capital, because they are in great need, but in spite of all their need he cannot be resigned to let them have that part. Then during the night robbers break into his house and go away with his fortune, and the next day this person resigns himself to it. This resignation is no virtue. To resign means that one has the power to manage, and yet resigns.
All the great ones have seen the value of resignation, and have taught it. Christ said that if someone wants you to walk a certain distance with him, [you should] walk with him a longer distance. What does it teach? Resignation. One might think that resignation is unpractical, that this selfish world will take the best of one. Yes, it is true, but the loss is much less when compared to the gain-if only the heart can sustain the loss. If one is not contented with what has been done, it is better not to resign. For instance, an acquaintance comes to your house and asks to take your umbrella and you say "yes." Then comes the time when you want to go out yourself. It is raining and your umbrella is taken. Now you grumble about that acquaintance, "How stupid of him, how could he have the boldness to ask for my umbrella!" That resignation was no good; it bears no fruit. That is only virtue of resignation when you went out in the rain, yet you were satisfied, because the other person was safe from it. Only then would resignation be a virtue.
One who is really resigned does not show it. Resignation is not an easy thing. How many people in this world try to learn wonderful spiritual things, but this simple thing, resignation, is miraculous; for this virtue is not only beautiful, it is a miracle. There are little things in which we do not see resignation, and where yet it is. Those around us may ask us to do something that does not please us; those around us perhaps say something that we do not wish to take silently, we wish to talk back; then, in everyday life, there are the little pin-pricks from those around us. If we are not resigned, we shall feel excited every moment. To be resigned, therefore, is not a weakness, it is a great strength.
When one goes further one finds that one can be resigned even to cold and heat, to places congenial and uncongenial; one finds that all has a meaning, a benefit. Even if one had not formed a habit of being resigned, one could just as well resign oneself, for not having resigned oneself to an experience is the loss of an occasion.
There are two forces working: the individual power and the collective power. In Sufi terms the former is called qadr, the latter qadha. Often the individual power will not surrender, but if it does not do so it is crushed. For instance someone is called to arms in his country but says he will not join the army. In spite of all the beauty of his ideal he is helpless before the might of the whole nation. Here he must resign to the condition in which there is a conflict between a lesser and a greater power; here resignation is the only solution.
No doubt everything must be understood rightly. Resignation preached foolishly is of no benefit. There was a mureed who learned from a Murshid the lesson of resignation, and thinking on this subject the simple mureed was walking in the middle of the road when a mad elephant came from the other side. As he was walking in the thought of resignation he stayed in the middle of the road. A wise man told him to go out of the way, but he would not do so, because he was resigned to the elephant, until he was pushed away by its strength. They brought him to his Murshid who asked him how he came to be hurt so much. He answered that he was practicing resignation. The Murshid said, "Was there not somebody who told you to go away?" "Yes," he answered, "but I would not listen." "But," said the Murshid, "why did you not resign yourself to that person?" often beautiful principles can be practiced to the greatest disadvantage. Nevertheless, resignation has proved to be the path of saints, because it develops patience in man. And what is patience? It is all the treasure there is. Nothing is more valuable, nothing is a greater bliss than patience.
There is a story about a prophet who was very ill. He suffered many years, and through his suffering his insight became clearer. His suffering was so great that those around him became tired of it and so, in order to relieve them from seeing his pain, he had to seek refuge with God in the forest. As his sight was keen and the ears of his heart were open, he heard from the trees, "I am the medicine of your disease." The prophet asked, "Has the time of my cure come?" A voice answered: "No." So he said, "Why shall I take you then?" Another time he had this experience again; he heard, "I am the medicine of your disease," and asked, "Has the time of my cure come?" "Yes." The prophet said, "Why shall I take you then?"
When we think of this extreme ideal we may ask: is it not unpractical, especially at this time where there are so many treatments, so many mechanical means? But a thoughtful person will see how many people have ruined their lives by going from one treatment to another, lacking the patience and resignation in which resides their absolute cure. The remedy is not always the answer. It seems as if man becomes more and more impatient every day owing to his superficial life; there is hardly any resignation to little things. Yet it is better to resign than to struggle.
When we throw a mystic light upon this subject we find that we form a harmonious connection with the Infinite by being resigned. How to learn it? Should we learn it by being resigned to God? No, that is a still greater lesson to learn. The first thing to learn is to be resigned to the little difficulties in life. What does this mean? It means not to strike out at everything that comes in our way. If one were able to manage this, one would not need to cultivate great power; then ones presence would be healing. Such a person is in the world more precious than a branch of the rose, which may have many thorns and hardly one flower.
Question: How to attain peace when our life is often so difficult?
Answer: No doubt, life is difficult for many of us, but very often we make it even more difficult for ourselves. When we do not understand the real nature and character of life we make our own difficulties. I can assure you that in every mans life five percent of his difficulties are brought about by the conditions of life, and ninety-five percent are difficulties caused by himself.
Now you will ask: When the difficulties come from ourselves, where do they come from? We do not like struggle in life, we do not like strife, we only want harmony, and we only want peace. It must be understood, however, that before making peace, war is necessary, and that war must be made with our self. Our worst enemy is our self: our faults, our weaknesses, and our limitation. And our mind is such a traitor! What does it: it covers our faults even from our own eyes, and points out to us the reason for all our difficulties: others! So it constantly deludes us unaware of the real enemy, and pushes us towards those others to fight them, showing them to us as our enemies.
Besides this, we must tune ourselves to God. As high we rise, so high becomes our point of view, and as high our point of view so wide becomes the horizon of our sight. When a person evolves higher and higher his point of view becomes wider and wider, and so in all he does he strikes the divine note, the note which is healing and comforting and
peace-giving to all souls.
Renunciation is in fact denial of the self, and it is that denial which will be of use. As all things in this world can be used and abused, so the principle of renunciation can be used and abused. If renunciation as a principle were a good thing, there would seem to be no purpose at the back of the whole creation. The creation might well not have been manifested if renunciation had been the principle. Therefore, renunciation in itself is neither virtue nor sin. It becomes a virtue or a sin according to the use one makes of it.
When one considers renunciation from the metaphysical point of view, one finds that this principle is used as a staircase by which to rise above all things. It is the nature of life in the world that all things we become attracted to in time become not only ties but burdens. If one considers life, one sees that it is an eternal journey. The more one is loaded with burdens on ones shoulders, the heavier the journey becomes. Think how the soul, whose constant desire it is to go forward, is daily retained by ties and continually more burdened. One can see two things: as the soul goes on it finds chains on its legs. It wants to go forward-and at every step it is more attracted; so it becomes more difficult to go forward.
Therefore, all the thinkers and the wise who have come to the realization of life have taken renunciation as a remedy. The picture that the sage makes of this life is the fable of the dog and the piece of bread. A dog carrying a loaf in its mouth came to a pool. It saw the reflection of the bread in the water and thought that there was another dog. It howled and barked and lost its bread. The more we see our errors in life, our petty desires, the more we find we are not far from the fable of the dog. Think of the national catastrophes of recent times. How these material things of the world, ever changing and not everlasting, have been pulled at and fought for! It shows that man, blinded by material life, disregards the secret, hidden things behind that life.
When one comes to reason out what one should renounce and in what way one should practice renunciation, there is a lesson to be learned: no virtue is a virtue if it is forced upon the one who is incapable of it. A person upon whom a virtue is forced, who is forced to renounce, cannot make the right renunciation. no virtue which gives pain is a virtue. If it gives pain, how can it be a virtue? It is called virtue because it gives happiness; that which takes away happiness can never be a virtue. Therefore, renunciation is rightly practiced by those who understand renunciation, and are capable of practicing it. for instance, there is a person who has only one loaf of bread. He is travelling in a train and fins somebody who is hungry and in need of his bread. He himself is hungry too, and he has only one piece of bread. If he thinks that I is his dharma to give and starve, and is unhappy about it, he would do better not to give it, because it is no virtue. If he did it once, the next time he would surely not do it again because he suffered by it. As the virtue brought him unhappiness, this virtue will never develop in his character. That person alone is capable of renunciation who finds a greater satisfaction in seeing another with his piece of bread.
The person whose heart is full of happiness after his action, that person alone should make a renunciation. This shows that renunciation is not a thing that can be learned or taught: it comes by itself as the soul develops, when the soul begins to see the true value of things, which one sees as precious or not precious, is according to the way one looks at them. For one person the renunciation of a penny is too much, for another the renunciation of all he has is nothing. It depends on how one looks at things.
One rises above all things that one renounces in life. Man is a slave of the thing which he has not renounced; of the things that he has renounced he becomes king. This whole world can become a kingdom in his hand, if a person has renounced it. But renunciation depends upon the evolution of the soul. One who has not evolved spiritually cannot well renounce. For the grown-up person little toys, so valuable to children, are nothing; it is easy to renounce them. So it is for those who develop spiritually: all things are easy to renounce.
Now rises the question: how can one progress in this path of renunciation: by becoming able to discriminate between two things, and to find out which is the better one. A person with the character of the dog in the fable cannot renounce: he loses both things. Life is such that, when there are two things before ones view, it demands the loss of one of them. It depends upon mans discrimination what to renounce and for what. Whether to renounce heaven for the world, or the world for heaven, wealth for honor or honor for wealth; whether to renounce things momentarily precious for everlasting things, or everlasting things for things momentarily precious. The nature of life is such that it always shows two things, and many time it is a great puzzle to choose between them. Very often one thing is at hand and the other further from ones reach, and it is a great puzzle which one to renounce , or how to get the other. Very often man lacks the will-power to renounce. It not only requires discrimination between two things but also will-power to do what one wishes to do. It is not an easy thing for a man to do in life as he wishes. Many times he cannot renounce because his own self cannot listen to him. Think how difficult life is; when we ourselves cannot listen to ourselves, how difficult then for others to listen to us!
Renunciation can be learned naturally. One must first train ones sense of discrimination, and discriminate between what is most valuable and what is less valuable. One can learn this by testing, as gold is put to the test by comparing it to imitation gold: that which lasts for a little time and then turns black is imitation, that which always keeps its color is real. This shows that the value of things can be recognized by their constancy. One might ask: should we not recognize the value of things by their beauty, but we must recognize beauty by its durability. Think of the difference in the price of a flower and a diamond. The flower with all its fineness, beauty of color and fragrance falls short in comparison with the diamond. The only reason is that the beauty of the flower will fade the next day, while that of the diamond will last.
This shows our natural tendency; we need not learn it. We are always seeking for beauty and also for that which is lasting. Friendship that does not last, however beautiful it may be, what value has it? Position, honor that do not last, what value have they? Although man is like a child, running after all that attracts him and which is always changing, still his soul seeks constancy. In learning the lesson of renunciation one can only study ones own nature, what the innermost being is yearning for, and try to follow ones own innermost being. Wisdom comes by this process of renunciation. Wisdom and renunciation go together: by renunciation man becomes wiser, by being wise he becomes capable of renunciation.
The whole trouble in the lives of people, in their houses, in the nation and everywhere, is always their incapacity of renunciation. If civilization can be explained, it is only a developed sense of renunciation which manifests itself in consideration for each other. Every act of courtesy, of politeness shows renunciation. When a person offers his seat to another, or when he offers something that is good, it is renunciation. Civilization in its real sense is renunciation.
The highest and greatest goal that every soul has to reach is God. As everything wants renunciation, that highest goal wants the highest renunciation. But a forced renunciation even for God - is not proper, not legitimate. Proper renunciation one can see in those who are capable of doing it. There is a story in the Bible of Abraham sacrificing his son. Man today is likely to laugh at some of the ancient stories, reasoning according to his own point of view. But think how many fathers and mothers have given their children as a sacrifice in the war, for their nation, their people, their honor. This shows that no sacrifice can be too great a sacrifice for ones ideal. There is only the difference of ideal: whether it is a material or spiritual ideal, whether for earthly gain or for spiritual gain; whether for man or for God. As long as renunciation is practiced for spiritual progress so long it is the right way. As soon as renunciation has become a principle, renunciation is abused. Man, in fact, must become the master of life. He must use renunciation, not go under in renunciation. So it is with all virtues. When virtues control mans life, they become idols. It is not idols that man must worship, it is the ideal he must worship in the idol.
Sacrifice was taught to the world at different times, in different degrees suited to the stage of evolution that had been reached, just as we teach a child by its dolls.
At first men were taught to sacrifice a goat or a sheep, because at that time they cared so much for a goat that they were ready to kill another man for the sake of a goat. We see that the same ignorance still exists; then they were not sure that the trench would remain theirs.
A man who had so much cruelty in him that he could not refrain from killing and eating a goat was taught, "First sacrifice it. When you kill the goat, do it for God, do it for others." If he had been told, "Sacrifice yourself," he might have said, "How can I sacrifice myself when I cannot even sacrifice my inclination to eat the goat?"
Afterwards self-sacrifice was taught, which Christ explained so well in his life and in the Sermon on the Mount. This sacrifice, to turn the other cheek, to give the cloak away when the coat has been taken, could not be understood by the ordinary person, because it is the moral of sages and saints. This makes it very difficult for them to live in the world, and has made many people turn away from religion altogether. They said, "The teaching of the prophets and saints is too high for us. We cannot understand it." If one says to a businessman in his office, "Give whatever they claim from you, and give more," he will say, "No, I have a thousand claims in the law-courts; I will fight and win."
When Muhammad came, all that had been taught before the prophetic messages was united in his message. Both sorts of sacrifice were taught: the sacrifice of animals, that is of their property, for those who were in that grade of evolution; self-sacrifice for those who had reached a higher stage.
The moral of sacrifice was taught at a time when mankind in general was much nearer to the animal. The dog, even when it has had enough food and there is some remaining on its plate, will not let another dog take it. Even in this time we do not like another to share our profit, our benefit, even if it is our own brother. If he has his profit somewhere else it is all right, but he must not take the best part of ours. The dog does not like to let another dog have even the remains of his food, because it does not know whether it will get more at another time. Where we see our own benefit, there we are blind, and it is only this that keeps us imperfect.
If you see your own benefit, there may be a wife in your house, a child, a sister, a brother, a friend, or a servant but you will see only yourself. If you consider yourself as being the whole family, then you are the sister, the brother, the wife, the child, the friend, the servant. Then you are a perfect family: by opening yourself you have become a perfect family. If you can say, "I am the nation," you re greater; if you say, "If my nations honor goes down, I go down," you are the nation. If you can say, "I am the whole humanity," that is the greatest. Then everyone who comes before you is your sister or your brother. You are yourself all. When a man is his individual self, then he is narrow and imperfect; when he is all, then he is perfect.
I was reading this morning a verse of the Bible and was much touched by its meaning, "Ye are the salt of the earth." The salt is that which in water has the strongest flavor. So in the whole manifestation man is the strongest power on earth, and "if the salt hath lost its savior, wherewith shall it be salted?" If man loses his human quality, where shall it be found? The birds, the animals cannot give it to him; God Himself is helpless to give it to him. All mans perfection is within himself, if only he would uncover it and see it. The Kingdom of God is within man, and his will should rule it.
All godheads were really men, not different from us. What was in their soul is in our soul also. If we single out one man for our worship, it proves our ignorance, our ignorance of our own soul. We are as they were; it is only that the divine power, the divine wisdom was working through them.
The dog, as I said, does not like to let another dog take even the remains of its food, because it has no confidence in the sustaining power of nature; also its self is always before its eyes, and it is the idea of the self that blinds. We have read in books and we have understood intellectually that God is all, that we are the Whole Being. But when a little insult come to our self, to our pride, how angry we are! We think the whole world is altered. In reality there was no harm, it was just a little hurt to our pride. But if we are so angry, it is because we have understood only with our intellect that God is all; we have not realized it in our own life.
We cannot easily become saints they are the great ones; we cannot become prophets they are greater still. But we can ask ourselves every day whether we have considered his benefit as our benefit. There are many practices, but this is the greatest practice and the most difficult one. It does not require more study, more learning; but by this practice we can reach perfection.
There is a great teaching in the story of Abrahams sacrifice. It has often been misinterpreted and so its meaning has been lost. The great religions have often been misinterpreted by their followers and by historians, and this has caused their downfall for which otherwise there was no reason. I will tell you this legend in which there is a great revelation.
Abraham had a son whom he loved very much. At that time children were prized much more than they are in the present age. Now we have many other possessions besides children, and these other possessions distract our thought from the children. Then a child, a son or a daughter, was all. A son was valued more, because they thought a son keeps the name and a daughter does not.
Abraham loved his son very much. It is the nature of every human heart to love and especially of one chosen to be a prophet. That Power which draws all and everyone to itself became jealous of this love; for it is our nature that whatever we love is the whole world to us, whether it is a child, a brother, a friend. When we have it we think that we have the whole world, and when we lose if we think that the whole world is lost.
A voice came from the Divinity to Abraham, "Sacrifice your son to Us." Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son to God. He asked the mothers consent; she gave it. Then he asked his son. He was also resigned to the will of God for his own sacrifice. He said, "Yes, I may be sacrificed." Then Abraham took a knife and cut his sons throat. As he cut it his son was taken away and he saw him standing before him, safe. A goat was put in his place.
The meaning of this legend has often been misunderstood; it has been said that the goat, the life, should be sacrificed. The meaning is much greater. Abraham is the spiritual teacher, the father. We still call the priest father. He who shows the way to God is the father of the spirit. Ismail (in the Islamic tradition it was Ismail rather than Isaac (Ishaq) whom Abraham offered for sacrifice) is the pupil, the child to whom the Murshid shows this way to sacrifice: the sacrifice of the self, of the individuality. This is the greater sacrifice, the annihilation of the self. By shaghl and amal (mystical concentration with breathing exercises) and other practices the self is made to disappear, it is lost. When the self is gone from before us then all other selves can come, then illumination comes. Then, when the individual self disappears, the spiritual self appears. Only the illusion is lost; the self is not lost, but the beginning is annihilation. This is all the secret of mysticism, all that the prophets and mystics have taught.
Sacrifice has been much misunderstood by those who practice it. It is thought that God will be pleased with the life of a goat that is offered and which the sacrificers then keep for themselves. The bankbook is not sacrificed, property is not sacrificed, nor the house, the furniture, but a goat is brought and killed, and they make a feast.
It was taught to say when sacrificing: Allahu akbar, il ilaha ill Allahu God is great, none exists but God. This shows that the sacrifice of our animal self is meant by the law of sacrifice. We should sacrifice our time, our sleep, thinking, "Before my birth I slept and I do not know where I was. In the grave sleep is waiting for me. Now only is the time when I can work." Then the thought comes, "That day I felt as I should not feel, that time I spoke as I should not speak, that year I acted as I should not act. So many months and years, so much of my life is past, and nothing is done that was worthwhile." This makes us think that it is not too late to awaken.
If we can sacrifice our sleep to work for humanity, we should do it. If by having not such good food we can share with another, we should do it. If by having not such a nice dress we can give a dress to one who needs it, we should do it. If by having one dish instead of many, we can share with someone who needs it, we should do that. If we can sacrifice our pleasures, our theatres, to give to others we should do it. We can sacrifice our pride. We can bow to those who think little of us. There are many sacrifices that do not cost one penny. We can give sine of our time if we cannot afford a great generosity. We can give our patience to those who need our patience. To those who want some liberty very well, we can give liberty. I think all this is worthwhile sacrifice: we should do it.
Sacrifice is only legitimate when, through every cost or loss, it is willingly done. The one who sacrifices may feel the reward much more than the cost or pain he has endured or suffered in sacrificing. The law of sacrifice is that it is only valuable when it gives pleasure to the one who sacrifices. The sacrifice must be done whole-heartedly. Sacrifice is like a bath in the Ganges; it can be more sacred than anything in the world.
When a person does not do it for a principle, but only for the good he may receive in return, then it is useless. When it is done for the joy of sacrifice, in that case the joy is great.
The law of sacrifice depends upon the degree of evolution. One sees this among children. A child who grows up understands life better and is perhaps more ready to make a sacrifice than the child who knows only the object he wants and nothing else. In this world it is not the difference of years but the evolution of every soul which keeps it young: the more grown-up the more ready to sacrifice, and the younger the less ready for the joy of sacrifice.
Apart from the point of view of the benefit hidden in the idea of sacrifice, it is not a thing that every soul can understand. One person will do something and consider that there is great wisdom in his sacrifice, while another who is not evolved enough to understand it will say, "How very foolish!" Remember therefore that not only to the wise person the man of little sense seems foolish, but even to the foolish person the wise one seems foolish. The points of view of both are different: one looks from the top of the tower, the other standing on the ground. So there is a vast difference in the range of their sight.
It is a mans outlook on life which makes him broad or narrow, and it is the grade of his evolution which gives man the illumination of sacrifice. What a man was not inclined to do last year, he may be inclined to do this year; the sacrifice one could not make yesterday, one can make today, for the rate of speed of mans evolution cannot be limited to a particular standard. A broad outlook enriches man and a high point of view ennobles the soul.
This whole manifestation has ambition as its underlying motive and, as everything in the world has two swings, it also has a forward swing and a backward swing. When a race or a nation has reached the furthest point of the forward swing, it recognizes that all is valueless, and it begins the backward swing which means annihilation, the return to God.
We can see this in the East. The wish of every person there is to do without. They will rather eat with thier fingers than with fork and knife; they will rather eat on the floor than at a table; they will rather go bareheaded than to wear a hat, and they will rather go barefoot than wear shoes. All their present backwardness is because they have lost the ambition for advancement. When they had ambition they too progressed and at one time they were first in civilization.
When the wise people had reached that point the time of renunciation began, and the reflection of the wise fell upon the foolish. Not only the wise men who had some reason for it practiced renunciation, but also the foolish. They had no reason for it, but the influence of the wise affected them. They are all in a dream, without ambition, lazy. If one would say to them, "Your are always dreamy and lazy. Have some ambition, be active!" They would answer, "I am happy in my dream. What else could you teach me?" If anyone wishes to walk over their head, they allow it; they say, "There will be a third one, stronger than he, who will one day walk all over his head." There are many in India who do not kill insects, as the Jains. A Brahmin does not kill a snake. How then could he take a weapon in his hand and stand against a man?
I have met a Brahmin, a great musician, and I was much astonished for he was in his dhoti wearing only a towel, which covered his back. But when he began to speak it was evident that his knowledge was so great that he was the greatest musician of his time. In the West the ambition for worldly things drives a man so far that he often forgets his parents, he neglects his duties. His self is always before his eyes. I have seen that it is always so in the life of business, of commerce, of trade. The worldly ambitions are so strong that a man has no time for spiritual knowledge. Very often he would have a tendency to realize the truth through his intelligence, but the ambitions of the world are too strong.
If one says, "Shall we renounce and become as they are in the East, living in a dream, and rather lazily? Shall we allow whatever nation to walk into our country?" I shall answer that there cannot be one principle for everyone, because everyone is not in the same stage of evolution. Therefore the Sufi prescribes no common principle for all. He does not say, "Renounce. Do not be cruel." The Sufi has been blamed for this many times, because to have no principles in ordinary language means to be very bad. We recognize that what is a right principle for one is not always right for another. To a lord who has so many millions of pounds we shall not say, "Do not give a great dinner or a ball in your house." He would say, "All the other lords do it." He cannot have the same principles that a Murshid prescribes for himself. My Murshid once refused the initiation to the Nizam of Hyderabad because the Nizam could not follow the principles that the Murshid would prescribe.
A person must not choose the way of renunciation as long as any ambition within him remains unfulfilled. Vairagya, the thought of renunciation, comes to every wise person, to every righteous person. Sometimes a man thinks, "I want to renounce all, because I am disgusted." Another time he thinks, "But if I were given a little bungalow and a little garden, I would not renounce it." Sometimes he thinks, "I will renounce the whole world," and another time he thinks, "But if I were Mr. Asquith* or Mr. Asquiths secretary, I would not renounce." (Former Prime Minister of Great Britain during WWI).
If one says, "I have renounced the Tsars throne," what does that mean? Only the Tsar may say, "I renounce the throne that has been given to me."
It is only when every ambition has been satisfied that a person should take the way of renunciation. Until then let him use his power. Whilst any desire remains he must not renounce it; it is not right. You might ask, "Then shall we never renounce?" Yes, when your ambition is unjust, when it is cruel, then renounce.
The satisfaction of every soul lies in its recognition. Every person desires that there would be in the world someone who understands him well, at least as well as he understands himself. A wife says, "I have a comfortable home and a good husband; I only wish that he would understand me better." The servant says, "I get good pay and the master is kind; I only wish that he would know me well." An artist is satisfied when his art is admired by the knower. This is the usual seeking of every soul.
There is a story about a mimic who was performing his skill of imitating different birds and animals in the street in front of the window of a palace from where the king was looking on. At the end of his performance a golden shawl was thrown to him from the palace window as a reward from the king, and an old blanket was presented to him by a shepherd. The mimic adorned himself with the ragged blanket of the shepherd and kept the shawl of the king under his arm. The king disliked this behavior on the part of the mimic and asked him why he insulted the palace by adorning himself with the shepherds gift, hiding the reward of the king. He answered, "Because the shawl was given as a token of your Majestys greatness, and the blanket was given purely in deep admiration for my imitation of the cow twitching its skin, which no one but the shepherds could understand so well."
From this story we learn that there is no greater reward given or love shown than in recognition. As this is the desire of every soul, so it is also the desire of the Soul of souls. He puts forward His hand to such suitor who comes before Him with full recognition.
Harmlessness is a good moral, but the difficulty is that we cannot be good to one without being harmful to another. For instance, we are good to our cat and we give it lambs meat to eat; so we are harmful to the lamb. Or we sacrifice the vegetable for the sake of being good to the lamb. We harm the mineral when for the sake of some flowers we put clay in water, bend and knead it and then put in the fire in order to make a bowl to hold the flowers. How many things do we make out of iron, how much do we torment it in order to make ourselves comfortable? How many things do we make out of wood? The lives of how many animals do we sacrifice in order to make ourselves comfortable and happy? As to ourselves, how much do we sacrifice the benefit, the comfort of our fellow beings for our own benefit? We do not ponder upon it, but it is so.
How many things do we make out of the bones of animals? Our shoes are made out of the skin of animals; the furs of animals cover us warmly. The flesh of animals we use for our food. Fishes, which never dreamed of harming us, we catch in nets. We load burdens upon horses, camels and elephants, and we take from the calf its share in the form of milk and butter upon which our everydays livelihood depends. This shows that what we have built up and have comforted ourselves with is nothing else than tyranny of which we never stop to think for a while.
We are so placed that we cannot live one instant without being harmful. In Persian it is said: Bandagi vecharagi bondage is helplessness. Man cannot help being harmful, and without being that, he is helpless. It is this dependence, this helplessness, which makes him the servant of God. The Quran speaks of abdAllah, the servant of God, and this is the highest title that can be given to man.
The moral is rather to be harmful to the lower creation for the sake of the higher, rather than to be harmful to the animal than to man. If a man has stolen your dog, rather let him have the dog, than have him sent to prison, because the man is more valuable than the dog. If your child has hurt the cat a little, and if you shake the child and hurt it, it is a mistake, because the child is of more value than the cat. If an animal has eaten your corn, your flowers and fruits let the corn go, do not break the back of the animal. By this moral a person becomes so harmless that in the end he is not harmful any more not even to the mineral. Harmlessness is the essence of moral.
A Question about Vegetarianism
Question: Is vegetarianism advisable for the sake of not killing animals?
Answer: There are two things to be considered in this connection. One is harmlessness. It is a human tendency to hurt and harm; man has inherited it from the lower creation. It is this tendency which prompts him to kill poor creatures and make his food out of them in spite of all the vegetables and cereals, fruits and nuts which are provided for him by nature. The other point is that for the purification of the blood, for the health of the muscles, and for general purity of the body the vegetable diet is far preferable to flesh food.
At the same time the training of the Sufi is a spiritual treatment and, as a physician sees in every case what is best for that particular person, so the Murshid prescribes for his mureeds what is best for them. There may be a person for whom a vegetable diet is not sufficient or not good. Meat for him may be like a medicine. There is no such restriction, therefore, in Sufism; the need of every individual is according to his health. We do not make a dogma out of vegetarianism.
In connection with the same question I may make another remark. In ancient times shepherds used to clothe themselves with tiger skins in order to secure their lives from the danger of wild animals, when taking care of their herds they moved about in the forests. When a wise person who is good and kind lives in this world of different natures, it is more difficult for him to live in the gross vibrations than for others who perhaps are more or less of the same kind. Very often, therefore, one hears people say of a person who has died young that he was good and there is some truth in it too. Many souls, fine, good and beautiful, come on earth and cannot withstand the coarseness of the ordinary human nature.
What is diet? Diet is not food for the soul; it is only for the body. The body is a cover, a blanket, and if the body is covered with armor, then it can stand the struggle of life. If ever the great ones allow themselves to partake of flesh food, which in reality is meant for the average person, it is for that reason.
A person is apt to think, "Why should I perform actions that bring me no return? Why should I be kind, where no kindness is shown to me, where there is even no appreciation?" In this way he commercializes his kindness: he gives in order to receive. This blindness comes upon man, and it makes him blind even towards God. He thinks, "Why should I be grateful to God?" There is nothing to be grateful for. If the sun shines, it is natural. If I have what I need for my living, I work for it all day;" or else, "I belong to such a family where it is natural that everything should be provided for me."
Man never sees how helpless he is in himself. If there were no ground, he could not stand. If there were no air, he could not breathe. If there were no parents, he could not have been brought up. All things that keep him alive are those upon which his existence depends, for which an unbounded amount of thanks is due. But he thinks, "If I perform any kind of action, God should do a thousand kindnesses to me. If I do anything for others, God should do a thousand times as much for me." Then he wishes to give only when there is a return. He speaks a kind word in order that kind words may be spoken to him; this is flattery. He says, "I like you because you like me. I am your friend, because you can help me. I am your enemy because you have done me harm."
The Sufi says, "Ishk Allah, Mahbood Allah God is love and Beloved." This word love we have so altered, so degraded in our ordinary life. We say, "I love you, because you love me. I am your friend, your well-wisher, because you are my friend and well-wisher." This friendship lasts a short time and then it is gone. It is as if we say: "I like this flower because it is beautiful," and when its beauty is gone, it is thrown away.
Question: What is the best way to learn not to look for appreciation and reciprocity?
Answer: To develop independence in nature. When one loves one must love for the sake of love, not for a return. When one serves one must serve for the sake of service, not for acknowledgement. In everything a person does, if he does not think of reciprocity or appreciation in any manner or form, he may perhaps seem a loser in the beginning, but in the end that person will be the gainer, for he has lived in the world and yet held himself above the world; it cannot touch him.
Furthermore, the tendency to doubt, to be depressed, the tendency towards fear, suspicion and confusion, the tendency to puzzle where does it all come from? It all comes from the thought of getting something in return: "will another give me back what I have given him? Shall I get the just portion back, or less?" if that is the thought behind ones acts there will be fear, doubt, suspicion, puzzle and confusion. For what is doubt? Doubt is a cloud that stands before the sun, keeping it from shining its light. So is doubt: gathering around the soul it keeps its light from shining out, and man becomes confused and perplexed. Once selflessness is developed, it breaks through the cloud saying, "What do I care whether anyone appreciates it; I only know to give my service, and that is all my satisfaction. I do not look forward to get it back. I have given and it is finished; this is where my duty ends." That person is blessed, because he has conquered, he has won.
Then it is lack of knowledge of the divine justice when man doubts whether he will get his just portion, or whether the other will get the best of him. If he looked up and saw the perfect Judge, God Himself, whose justice is so great that in the end the portions are made equal and even there is only a question about the beginning, not about the end if only he saw the justice of God, he would become brave, he would trust and not trouble about a return. God is responsible for returning a thousandfold what man has ever given.
The Quran says, "Man is cruel and man is foolish." He is cruel because he is harmful at each move he makes throughout life, and he is foolish because he does not know his true benefit.
Whatever you wish to obtain, live only for that, think only of that. If you wish to be rich, think only of riches, be with rich people, be always playing with money: then you will certainly be rich. But if, when you have ten pounds, you think you want a diner party, and a theatre party and a new dress, you cannot be rich. If you want fame and think only of fame; work and praise and flatter, think only how your name and fame may come out.
Man does not know what he really wants, what his true benefit is. Sometimes he thinks that satisfying the senses is his benefit; sometimes he thinks that material comforts are his benefit; sometimes he thinks that fame or money will satisfy him. His true benefit is to be independent of all these momentary satisfactions, but great renunciation is needed for this. He must renounce even what is necessary for life, as food, sleep, praise and attention. Then he sees, "I can live without this, I can live without what is needed for life." Then comes the realization that he is not a physical being but a higher being, and by this realization he is liberated and exalted.
Resignation to the will of God is the highest stage. A person must first work with the idea of benefit for the self, before he can arrive at that stage. This means that he must pass through selfishness in order to arrive at unselfishness. You might say, "The world is full of people working for the self;" but those have not realized what is the real benefit of the self. That which gives momentary pleasure, a pleasure that lasts a few days, is no benefit for the self. To abuse another gives a pleasure for a moment; it is not of real benefit to the self. Those actions are not even selfish actions, they are foolish: the intelligence has not understood what the self is.
Be a Lion Within
Life is such that if we lay our hand here, there is a stone, if we lay our hand there, there are thorns. We can rely upon no one, not upon a relation, nor upon a friend. Whether friend or relative, whether master or servant, husband or wife, they do not care how we fare, they want so much work done by us. Whether it is a friend or a brother, he wants his own benefit from us, however dear he may be. How could we expect the contrary, when we cannot rely upon our own mind and our own body to be always the same? After many experiences a person learns this. It takes a long time, because hope always remains. Man always thinks, if I cannot rely on this one, then upon that one, if not upon his friend, then on that other one.
Then, from a lion, man must become a sheep. In the world each one is a lion, and behind each lion there is a bigger lion, and a machine gun ready to devour him. Man becomes a sheep he becomes humble, meek. You might think, "The lion is greater than the sheep. Why, from a lion, should I become a sheep, from better become worse?" The lion is lion outside; to others he is a lion, in his own soul he is a sheep, because he has not the courage to fight his own passions. His anger rules him; he does not control his anger.
In order to be the lion of God you must be a lion within, towards yourself. Then you are brave enough to stand against any evil, any power, because there is no guilt, there is no weakness. Great humility is needed for this way.