The mastery of
The difference between a scientist and a mystic is that the former analyses the things he is interested in, studying them by different methods in order to ascertain as much information about them as he can: the ways in which they can be of benefit, their uses and their nature. The mystic does the same but, instead of using some technical instrument or a special scientific process, he first aims at lighting that light within himself by which he can see in this world of darkness and illusion. It is said, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God". So his first task is to light the candle within.
The story of Aladdin illustrates this truth. Aladdin could only attain to the princess, if he first obtained the lantern which she desired. He goes out into the world but cannot find the lantern there. So he goes into the forest and there he meets with someone who is able to show him the way to reach it. This person cannot himself give it to him, which means that just emotion does not suffice to bring it. Aladdin is told to go to a certain mountain and to repeat certain words which will cause the side of the mountain to open. He does this, and the caves open up. But when he is within them he begins to suffocate, because there is no air. Nevertheless, persevering he goes on into the caverns and in time he comes upon the lantern.
It is with this lantern that the mystic gains the knowledge within himself. As soon as he has possession of this candle, all things disclose their secret and he gains a wisdom greater than that possessed by any scientist. It may be thought that a mystic cannot find out all that the scientist knows. The details found by the scientist may appear different, yet the mystic perceives the same truths which the scientist is seeking for. He does not use the same words or terms, he does not know about the processes in the same way as the scientist, yet he finds the outlines of the whole of what the scientist gets to know by his laborious methods.
Some scientists have happened to be Sufis. Avicenna was one, Luqman, the Greek, was another, and their knowledge was great because they had the candle within. Perhaps, even without the technical information, the mystic may have more knowledge. He may not know exactly how to make a chemical substance like the scientist may claim to know, but he can see the secret behind every object and the purpose which underlies every object.
The mystic can analyse the whole world very easily, and understand it through the vehicle of one individual body. It is true that he cannot realize all things at once, but if he sets about knowing some particular thing, he will do so much sooner than anyone else can, because he has the light within him.
His method is meditative. It is like opening oneself, opening the vehicles, the senses and the various unseen faculties of the mind, the abstract faculties which are beyond the perceptive faculties. These vehicles are opened by way of meditation, and now the soul works through all parts, seen and unseen, instead of only blindly through one part of the being as hitherto.
Even the bodily senses become more sensitive. The sense of touch becomes more acute, the sense of sight becomes more keen, as also the sense of hearing. Taste also becomes more keen. In fact, activity as a whole, vigour of action, enthusiasm, all increase after meditation. When the bodily energy and sensitiveness are greater, it shows that the other faculties, which are not seen, are also increased: the reason, the imagination and its power of creation, the memory and its power of retaining thought. The ego is also developed.
Then, after all these have developed, begins the development of a still higher part of one's being, the abstract being which is linked up with the others. The person's mind becomes the mind of another person, his thought becomes the thought of someone else. The mystic is now beginning to work through objects and not merely through the people around him. From this time on, the objects work as he desires them to work.
The mystic's experiences are now more than phenomena, his dreams are a phenomenon. And when a thought comes to him, it grows to something more than a mere imagination; it is a force acting through his mind to achieve an effect, be it constructive or destructive. Whatever arises in his mind becomes a reality. The further he develops, the more real becomes his kingdom.
It is better to receive personal help than to practise yoga. There can be no system of training in which each pupil receives the same, for each needs a different method which is adapted to his condition of life, his type of mind, his environment, his age, his education, the spiritual development to which he has attained, his devotional tendency. Is devotion the best method or is it study, or is a practice best? This depends on the pupil's needs and capabilities. It is exactly the same as when a physician prescribes for a person; he must use different medicines according to the individual type and personality. Patent medicines will not do.
Man must realize that he has a power in him which is greater than all other powers. This power is his will. Anger is a power, for it is a part of the energy that manifests as anger. Excitement, passion and other emotions are manifestations of one energy. Yet all such powers are in the hands of one single power: the will. They are ruled, controlled and utilized by it. A person cannot be angry unless his will is at the back of it. He has to have the will-power to defend himself, otherwise the anger would be helpless. The anger is there, but the will-power is greater. If the will-power is not behind it, the faculty will not work, even if it is not suppressed. As long as the will-power does not help, the faculty, although present, is ineffective.
The one power, the will-power, is within. Should this power work with the consent of wisdom, everything becomes allowable: anger, calmness, war, fighting, peace, love, hate. For instance, there is a time when anger helps; there is a time when peace helps, when calmness helps. We have to understand the rhythm, for it is like in music. If we do not keep the time right, it is because we do not understand the rhythm, but when we understand it, it will not matter what we do, things will turn out all right. All is right when wisdom, counsel and will-power are harmonious. But if the will is under the control of anger or passions, so that they may manifest regardless of wisdom and come into play at their own time, then a person will get cross every day. He gets cross because he has made it a habit, and his will has submitted. If this happens every day for eight days, it will happen on the ninth, or else perhaps he may fall ill. The power which should be obedient to the will controls it instead, and so the will works without wisdom in spite of the fact that wisdom is the only reliable power that God has given to man.
There is a passage in the Qur'an which says, "Awake in the middle of the night, before the dawn, and repeat the Name of the Lord. Then thine enemy will be crushed. Thou wilt then be taught that which thou hast never before known". What speculations this passage has aroused! The solution of its mystery is that the desire for comfort controls the will so much, the will-power has become so subjected to the desire for comfort, that comfort controls the will. The will is a slave to the experiences of the joy and pleasure that we obtain out of all kinds of comfort. The joy and sense of pleasure make the will into a slave. There is no greater comfort than sleep. So when you have to get up before dawn, you do not wish to get up to repeat the Name of the Lord. Every day you have to fight the greatest comfort you can experience. Once you begin to fight, you begin to crush the power on the surface which is pleasure, comfort. It is this ego, fed on pleasures and comforts of all kinds, which is your enemy. Therefore, once you crush this ego, your will becomes the ruler over your pleasures and, when the will is master, you are the master. The variety of your past life is now submitted to the unity of your being. There is one part of your being which you can call "myself", and that one part must control the many beings - the nose, eyes, ears etc. - which belong to you. Once they have come under control, you can proceed without interference by them; you can keep them out, whenever you please. From that time light comes and you come to know and understand all the things you never knew before. The light has now become disclosed to you by God.
Ghazali has said in his “Alchemy of Happiness” that the spiritual path is like shooting an arrow into the darkness. You cannot know where it falls or what it strikes, you are going along blindly, not knowing what you really seek or what you have achieved. There is only one commendable procedure: if your walk along the spiritual path makes you able to manage your thoughts better and makes you feel stronger on your feet, you will be able to realize what can be accomplished, by patience and by hope. If you paid attention to this all your life long and watched what you do, you would see your own progress, and what encouragement that would be!
Some persons keep complaining that nothing is ever manifested to them on their spiritual path - no forms, no ghosts, no colours, no voice, no word. Even if they had such manifestations, these could have been no help to them, but still they are discouraged because they have not received any. Because they are aiming at things that do not matter, a teacher might easily lead them astray from the path, and a real teacher will not encourage them to seek such things.
The words do not matter form a sort of principle to adopt in one's life. Of course there are things which obviously do matter. It matters a great deal if you do not follow your ideal, if you make a slip of the tongue or any other shortcoming. But it does not matter if somebody else does not follow the same ideal as you. You cannot alter his plan of life or his opinions, so they cannot matter to you.
The spiritual path may be natural and it may be unnatural. When man attaches his thought and mind to the external world, he comes to partake of earth rather than of Heaven, of matter rather than of spirit. By partaking of the qualities and habits and limitations of matter he forgets all the qualities of spirit. Whatever qualities he partakes of, those qualities draw man to the substance to which they belong, and such a man, therefore, is drawn more to earth than to Heaven as he proceeds. Such a person would rather not go to Heaven, but prefer to stay on earth in spite of all the struggles, difficulties and illnesses that belong to life on earth. Man is so attached to it! He does not know the joy and peace, the pleasure, happiness and comfort of the other side, because he has no experience of spirit whatsoever.
All the same, there are some people who feel a kind of call from the spirit, and yet they are attached to the objective world in so many ways. It is as if they are woven into the web of this world, so intimately that it is very difficult to get away from it. For every step they take towards Heaven, they are drawn backwards ten steps to the earth. Whoever sets out on this path is, therefore, in a constant warfare. He has to encounter trouble from his relatives, from his friends and acquaintances. He experiences trouble with those who misunderstand his aims; they misuse him, they misjudge him and blame him for doing and thinking things in a certain manner which for him is justified.
Think of Christ, whose thoughts were so contrary to the religious thoughts of that time. How difficult to pass from the thought of an ordinary person to the thought of Christ! What difficulties there are to face! But once you fight these difficulties and the further you advance, the more you are drawn to the spirit by the spirit. This goes on up to a certain limit, and all this time the difficulties are great. Once you reach the limit, everything becomes easy. If only the will-power is in control, it will overcome all inertia.
There is an anecdote about dervishes who sometimes do funny things. There was a certain dervish sitting in the shade of a tree, who was always very kind and helpful to those who came to see him. But one day a young man, a soldier, passed by and said something to the dervish which made him cross. So they had a few words. Thereupon the soldier began to bully him and give him blows on his back and neck, without the dervish making any protest. The soldier then went on his way. A wise man sitting nearby thought to himself, "What a funny thing! This dervish is always good and kind and hospitable. Why should that soldier be so cross as to punch him in the neck and all over the body?" So he observed attentively and noticed that the dervish said to himself after several blows, "Is it enough or do you want some more?" Then the wise man asked himself, "Do you want more?"
The explanation is that the ego always wants feeding, and the more you feed it, the more energy it has. What do you feed it with? You feed it by your inclinations, by getting praise from people, attention, benefits, help or love. Whether these come justly or through injustice, rightfully or not, this ego is never satisfied, it continues to want satisfaction. As a result it begins to rule over the higher faculties of inspirational power, wisdom, reason and justice, all the beautiful faculties. This nafs or ego or Satan - for this ego is Satan - governs all these faculties and one cannot become saintly until one has crushed it. There is no other way whatever than this. The saintly personality cannot come into being until all this is achieved.
But how can we walk along this path in the course of our practical life with all the responsibilities inherent in the life in the world? The servants take advantage of a saintly person. Selfish persons and those who are wicked and blind to justice take every advantage of a person who behaves kindly, considerately and helpful towards people. The answer is very simple. This development is really for yourself, and once you have attained it, the course of action is in your hands. For example, suppose you take the role of a king on the stage and your part calls you to become angry with a servant. You do not really become angry, you just play the part of the king who is cross. You can be cross without being actually angry. It is just like that in the development of the saintly personality. Once the nafs is crushed, you will never find it necessary to be angry, but you can act the part of an angry person and pretend to be angry. So, if it is necessary to show anger, this does not mean the fire of hell for you, as it would be for others, because you are only using an instrument and that instrument is not your master. In the same way you are justified in whatever course you find before you in life, as long as you have really freed yourself from being controlled by the nafs.
There is a story about a great Sufi master who lived in Arabia. One day during a certain war he fought with an enemy. In those days battles were hand to hand fights and his enemy was in his power, and he was about to kill him. But before he did so the enemy spat in his face. The master immediately withheld from touching him and did not kill him. The enemy was greatly surprised and said, "You were about to kill me. Why did you not do so?" He replied, "The reason is that your action was such that it would rouse my anger, and if I had killed you while under the influence of anger, I would have been acting against my principles. Therefore, as soon as I caught myself in this fault, I became unable to carry through my first intention". This shows how a person can even fight and yet keep control over his anger and pain. As long as he is the master, he can be blamed for nothing.
But that is just the question: to be the master. Suppose a person is cross and you get cross with him. It may bring a certain satisfaction to give an outlet to that anger at the moment, but if only you would discover the joy of being able to smile when the other person is cross, what a difference it would be from the satisfaction one derives from the other act. The joy is so much greater because you keep buoyant.
It is just like not giving more fuel to a fire. Sudden outbursts of emotion are controlled by developing the habit of exercising one's will-power suddenly, promptly. If we return anger or jealousy or hatred or prejudice or any other bitterness, we only keep the flame of the emotion lighted. It is just the same when one keeps love in another's heart by adding a little affection and love all the time. If we withhold it, it will die, because there is nothing to stimulate it. When a person is always offended or when he dislikes this or that, he is keeping the fire going, whereas once you pass it by and smile, you raise yourself above it and it will die out, for it has no more food to live on.
"Resist not evil", the scripture says. The resistance to evil lies in the other person. Do not become angry with him. When you foster the same evil emotion, you add to his and you also increase the same fire in yourself. It is like catching a contagious disease yourself instead of curing it. Anger and bitterness will die out in time.
We cannot expect all people to be just. When they are children, how can we expect them to behave as grown-ups? We cannot expect all kinds of fruit to ripen at once. It takes time, in time they will be sweet. So wait with patience and it will become plain to them in time. Why blame others when they are not up to our ideal? How can a disagreeable person be agreeable, if his evolution prevents him from being otherwise and wisdom does not permit him to act differently? Help him in whatever way you can, without expecting him to be different. Why should you ruin your own life over it? Your own life is very precious. When you do not worry about others or judge them, you can meditate, think, be silent and be serviceable to the world. There is plenty in our own selves to judge, enough to keep us fully occupied all our life long.
Jesus Christ said, "My Father's house has many mansions". Mansions are places of being, paths of attainment, roads to travel on. Once you are on the real road, you will keep on learning every moment of your life, during your sleep in dreams and at any time. An owl cannot see in the daytime; it is in the night that he learns of this and that; but that is only a partial inspiration. The mystic gains experience in every aspect of life; when eating, sitting, or walking, in all actions. All these are channels of learning. The real road is to be followed at all times, and it is the one, who has seen the Master, who is really the one who is taught. Once you have linked yourself with love, a flood of inspiration is revealed to you, whatever the subject, whatever the problem in life may be. Whatever it be that your eye casts its glance upon, it will disclose itself. Then you are on the real road and what a joy this is.
Breadth of heart is what is needed for all this. The weapon is the thought nothing matters. It takes bravery to say “nothing matters”. It is the breadth of his heart that makes a man great, whereas it is narrowness of heart that makes him small. The great heart does not think, "How troublesome this person is. Why should I be bothered with this". It is only the narrow heart that thinks, "I will cause him some trouble". It may be justified, but still it is a narrow thought. The one with a broad heart thinks, "This is a small thing. I can put up with it. Not much harm will come from it".
The Nizam of Hyderabad wrote this verse:
The width of the land and the water cannot be
compared with the width of man's heart.
The heart becomes wide by forgetting the self, and narrow by thinking of the self and pitying one's self. To gain a wide and broad heart you must have something before you to look upon, to rest your intelligence upon, and that something is the God-ideal. This is the prescription for killing the self. Then, by keeping your self before your consciousness, and resting your consciousness on God, God who is unlimited will come to you. And so your knowledge and your powers will become unlimited also.