Life, a Continual Battle
In this continual battle of life the one who stands firm through it all comes out victorious in the end. But if with all power and understanding one gives up through lack of hope and courage, one has failed.
What brings bad luck in this life, in this battle? A pessimistic attitude. And what helps to conquer in the battle of life, however difficult? An optimistic attitude. There are some in this world who look at life with a pessimistic view thinking that it is clever to see the dark side of things. So far as it makes one see also the difficult side it is beneficial, but the psychological law is such that once the spirit is impressed with the difficulty of a situation it loses hope and courage. Once a person asked me if I looked at life with a pessimistic attitude or if I was an optimist. I said, "An optimist with open eyes". Optimism is good as long as the eyes are open, but once the eyes are closed optimism can be dangerous.
In this battle drill is necessary, and that drill is control of one's physical organs and control of the faculties of the mind, for the one who is not prepared for this battle, however courageous and optimistic he may be, cannot succeed.
Another thing is to know something about this warfare: to know to retreat and to advance. If one does not know how to retreat and always wishes to advance, one will always be in danger and will become a victim in life's battle. Many people who in the intoxication of life's battle go on battling, go on fighting, in the end will meet with failure. People, young, strong and hopeful in life, who have had few difficulties, think of nothing but battling against all that stands before them. They do not know that it is not always wise to advance. What is necessary is first to fortify the position and then to advance. We can see the same thing in friendship, in business, in our profession: a person who does not understand the secret of the law of warfare cannot succeed.
Besides this, one must protect one's own from all sides. Very often what a person does in the intoxication of the battle is to go forward and forward without protecting what belongs to him. How many people in the courts of law go on spending a lot of money for perhaps a very little thing! In the end their loss is greater than their success. Again, how many in this world will perhaps lose more than they gain only because of their fancy or pride! There are times when one must give in, there are times when one must let things go a little bit, and there are times when one must hold fast the reins of life. There are moments when one must be persistent and there are moments when one must be easy.
Life is such an intoxication that although everybody thinks he is working for his interest, yet you will find hardly one among a thousand who really does so. The reason is that people become so absorbed in what they are trying to get that they become intoxicated by it and, so to speak, lose the track that leads to real success. Very often in order to get one particular benefit people sacrifice many other benefits because they do not think of them. The thing to do is to look all around, not only in one direction. It is easy to be powerful, it is easy to be good, but it is most difficult to be wise - and it is the wise one who is truly victorious in life. The success of those who have power and of those who perhaps have goodness has its limitation. If I were to tell you how many people bring about their failure themselves you would be surprised. There is hardly one person in a hundred who really works for his real benefit, although everyone thinks that he is working for it, but most people do not realize where their real interest is.
The nature of life is illusive. Under a gain a loss is hidden, under a loss a gain is hidden. Under this illusion it is first very difficult for man to realize what is really good for him. Even of a wise person much of his wisdom is demanded by life and its battle: you cannot be gentle enough, you cannot be sufficiently kind. The more you give to life, the more life asks of you - there again is a battle. No doubt, the gain of the wise one is greater in the end although he has many apparent losses. Where an ordinary person will not give in, the wise will give in a thousand times. This shows that the success of the wise is very often hidden in apparent failure, but when one compares this success with that of an ordinary person the success of the wise is much greater.
In this battle a battery is needed, and that battery is the power of the will. In this battle of life arms are needed, and these arms are the thoughts and actions which work psychologically towards one's success. For instance, there is a person who says to himself every morning, "Everybody is against me, nobody likes me, everything is wrong, everywhere is injustice, all is failure, for me there is no hope". When he goes out he takes that influence with him. Before he arrives anywhere, at his business, his profession, or whatever he does, he has sent his influence before him and he meets with all wrongs and failures, nothing seems worthwhile, he finds coldness everywhere.
There is another person who knows what human nature is, who knows that one has to meet with selfishness and inconsideration everywhere. But what does he think of all this? He thinks it is a lot of drunken people, all falling upon each other, fighting each other, offending each other, and naturally a sober person with some thought will not trouble with those who are drunk. He will help them, he will not take seriously what they say or do. Therefore naturally in this world of drunkenness a person who is drunk has a greater fight than he who is sober, for the latter will always avoid it. He will tolerate, he will give in, he will understand, for he knows that these people are drunk, he cannot expect better from them.
Besides this, the wise one knows a secret of human nature, and that secret is that it is imitative. For instance, a proud person will always revive the tendency of pride in his surroundings; before a humble person even a proud one will become humble, because the humble one vivifies the humbleness in that person. So you can see that in this life's battle you can fight the proud with pride, and you can fight pride with humility and sometimes gain.
Seen from a wise point of view human nature is childish. If one stands in the crowd and looks at it as a spectator, one will see a lot of children playing together. They are playing and they are fighting and they are snatching things from each other's hands; they are bothering about very unimportant things. One finds their thoughts small and of little importance and so is their pursuit through life. And the reason for life's battle is often very small when it is looked at in the light of wisdom. This shows that the knowledge of life does not always come by battling; it comes by throwing light upon it. He is not a warrior who becomes impatient in one moment, who loses his temper in one moment, who has no control over his impulses, who is ready to give up hope and courage. The true warrior is he who can endure, who has a great capacity to tolerate, who has depth enough in his heart to assimilate all things, whose mind reaches far enough to understand all things, whose every desire is to understand others and to make them understand.
Sensitiveness is no doubt a human development, but if it is not used rightly it has a great many disadvantages. A sensitive person can lose courage and hope much sooner than another. A sensitive person can make friends quickly, and quickly runs away from his friends. A sensitive person is ready to take offence, ready to take all things that come to him, and life can become unbearable for him. Yet if a person is not sensitive he is not fully living. Therefore the idea is to be sensitive and not to abuse it. Abusing sensitiveness is yielding to every impression and every impulse that attacks one. There must be a balance between sensitiveness and will-power. Will-power must enable one to endure all influences, all conditions, all attacks that one meets with from morning till evening, and sensitiveness must enable one to feel life, to appreciate it, and to live in the beauty of life.
What is most advisable in life is to be sensitive enough to feel life and its beauty, to appreciate it, but at the same time to consider that your soul is divine and that all else is foreign to it. All the things that belong to the earth are foreign to your soul; they must not touch your soul. All things come before the eyes and when they are before them, they come into the eyes; when they are gone the eyes are clear. Therefore your mind must retain nothing but beauty, all that is beautiful, for you can search for God in His beauty. All else must be forgotten. By practising this every day, forgetting all that is disagreeable and ugly, and remembering only all that is beautiful and gives happiness, you will attract to yourself all happiness that is in store.
Question: By the cultivation of will-power does one not sometimes persuade oneself wrongly? One is not infallible!
Answer: Yes, there is that danger, but there is danger in everything. There is even danger in being healthy, but that does not mean that one must be ill.
What I have said is that we must acquire balance between power and wisdom. If power is working without the light of wisdom behind it, it will always fail because power will prove to be blind in the end. But what is the use of a wise person without the use of his hands and feet, a person who has no power of action, no power of thought? This shows that wisdom directs - but by power one accomplishes. Therefore for the battle of life both are necessary.
Question: Does not sensitiveness bring us surprises which come upon us too fast to avoid the evil they may cause?
Answer: What is sensitiveness? Sensitiveness is life itself, and as life has its good and evil so sensitiveness has its good and evil. And if one expects to have all life's experiences, so all these experiences must come from sensitiveness. However, sensitiveness must be kept in order, if one wants to know and understand and appreciate all that is beautiful, and does not want to attract all the depression, sorrow, sadness and woes of the earth.
Once a person has become so sensitive as to be offended by everybody and to feel that everybody is against him, trying to wrong him, then he is abusing his sensitiveness. He must be wise together with being sensitive. Before being sensitive he must realize that in this world he is among children, among drunken people, and as he would take the actions of children and of the drunk, so he must take all that comes to him from all sides. Then sensitiveness can be beneficial. If together with sensitiveness one has not developed willpower, it is certainly dangerous. No doubt spirituality is seen in a person who is sensitive to others. No one can develop spiritually without being sensitive.
Question: How can we distinguish between the wisdom of the warrior and his lack of courage in the battle of life?
Answer: Everything is distinguished by its result. There is a very well-known saying in English, "All is well that ends well". If at the end of the battle the one who was apparently defeated has really conquered, of course that shows wisdom, not lack of courage. Very often apparent courage leads to nothing but disappointment in the end. Bravery is one thing, knowledge of warfare another. Brave is brave, but not always victorious. The one who is victorious knows and understands; he knows the law of life.
Question: In what measure can free will counteract a condition of karma such as ill health?
Answer: I must tell you that the difference between human and divine is the difference between two ends of the same line. One point represents limitation, the other point the unlimited. One point represents imperfection, the other perfection. If we take all human beings of this world, they do not all stand near the same point, they fill the gap between the one extreme and the other. Just now the world is going through a phase of what they call equality, where the nobility of the soul, even its divinity, is ignored. The whole arrangement of life is like this: when there is one vote for everybody in the state then it is the same at home and everywhere. But when we come to understand the spiritual life of things, we shall always realize that just like on the piano all notes are not the same, so all souls are not the same.
Man starts his life as a mechanism, a machine, and he can develop to a state where he is the engineer. The restriction of karma is for the machine. Every soul has to be a machine first in order to become an engineer later. A man does not turn at once into an engineer, but he gradually changes from machine into engineer. Therefore the influence of karma is not the same on every soul. At the same time one must realize that it is the ignorance of the divine part of one's soul that keeps one away from God - not only from God, but from the birthright of one's power. When one becomes conscious of the divine power, then one rises above being a machine, then one becomes the engineer.