EVERYTHING IS LEARNED BY
THE WAY OF REFLECTION
Everything that one learns and expresses in one's everyday life has been learned by the way of reflection. This can be well studied if one observes the lives of growing youths. The way of walking, of sitting, of speaking that a youth shows is always from a reflection, an impression which has fallen upon his heart. He has caught it and expresses it as his own manner, movement and way of expression. It is not difficult for careful parents to realize how a youth suddenly changes the manner of his movements, suddenly takes a fancy to a certain word that he has picked up from somewhere, suddenly changes the way of bearing himself. There are youths in whose lives you will see every day a new change; a change in voice, word and movement. Even he himself does not know where it has come from, and yet it has come from somewhere. The voice, word or movement, manner or attitude are changed in his everyday life. No doubt, as a person grows to be old there is less change, because that is the time of the collected impressions to appear in all that one says or does. But a child, a youth is especially impressionable, and all that he expresses is what he has caught from others.
There has been a custom in the East that no one was allowed to see a newborn infant for three days, except those esteemed in the family, whose impression was considered allowable, inspiring, a good influence. It has been experienced very often that a child has inherited its fostermother's qualities; not only physical elements but mental qualities. And it has been proved often that the fostermother's qualities are more pronounced in the child than even the qualities of his own mother. It does not mean that the infant does not possess the qualities of his mother more than the fostermother's. It means that the fostermother's qualities are on the surface and they are more pronounced.
Very few know or think about this question of what great influence a nurse, a governess has upon a growing child. It is the nurse's faculties which develop in the child unknowingly. And at this time of artificial life the parents who neglect their children so much that they give them absolutely in the hands of another person, do not know of what they deprive the child. They deprive the child of that influence of its own parents which would perhaps be more advisable. No doubt, in some cases the influence of the governess is better than the influence of the parents. In those cases it is just as well that the child should be given in the care of the governess. Nevertheless, the child takes impressions deeply, and it reflects an impression which has first fallen upon it in its infancy, whether it came from he fostermother or was gained from the nurse or governess who has taken care of it.
Now coming to the lives of the great personalities of the world, most of the great souls, poets, musicians, writers, composers, inventors, have had a reflection of some personality upon them. They maintained it consciously or unconsciously till it grew so much that it culminated in a great personality, for that reflection becomes just like a seed and brings the flowers and fruits according to its nature and character. Roses grow in the environment of roses, and thistles in the place of thistles. The shadows of great personalities produce great personalities. For what is it all? It is all a reflection, the whole phenomenon is of reflections, and therefore the reflection which is worthwhile must bring forth worthwhile results.
In the case of the sages of India known as Krishna and Rama and Mahadeva, and known as Avatars or incarnations of divine personalities, what was it? The divine personality reflected in them. The numberless great Avatars of whom we read in the tradition of the Hindus have been the manifestations of that reflection. In the case of the Christlike personalities which we find in the saints of the ancient times, what was it? It was Christ manifested in their hearts. The inspiration of the twelve Apostles, the Holy Spirit descending upon them, what was it? Was it not the reflection of Christ himself? We need not go far to find support for this argument. The Khalifs after the Prophet Muhammad - Omar, Siddiq, Ali, Usman - showed in their character, in their nature the fragrance of the Prophet's life. And when we come to the line of the great Murshids in the Sufi line, we see the reflection of Shams-e Tabris in his mureed Jelal-ud Din Rumi, the author of the MATHNAVI. Especially in the school of the Chishtis, which is the best known school of the ancient Sufis, we find perhaps more than ten great personalities at different times who prove to be the examples of souls who won the world by the divine manner of their personality.
Now coming to our everyday experience, we find that every little change in ourselves, in our thought and feeling, in our word and movement, is also caught by us unconsciously from someone else. The more intelligent person, the person who is more living, is more susceptible to reflections, and if that person happens to be more spiritual, then he has reflections from both sides, from the earth and from the other side. You will find in him a change every day and every moment, a sudden change which is again the phenomenon of reflection.
Question : Do we get reflections only if we love and admire?
Answer : We get reflections of both those whom we admire and of those whom we hate. One might say, "But in the latter case there is repulsion". Yes, but the repulsion comes after we have already got the reflection. Before we see ugliness, the ugliness has been already reflected in our eyes. The mind is just like the eye. We say, "This is ugly", but before we say it is ugly, ugliness is reflected in our eye already, we have received the impression of the ugliness. The effect is greater by allowing it to interest us. What one likes more, one catches.
Question : Is there not next to the passive attitude the active attitude to open oneself to the good and beautiful? How to do this?
Answer : By being one's own master in everything one does, by mastering one's life; and that comes by self-discipline.
Question : Does it always mean that a personality is spiritual when he gets reflections from the inner world, or is it sometimes due to an abnormal, negative state?
Answer : It can also be due to an abnormal, negative state. You will find in the insane asylums many cases of mediums. They are mediumistic; the physicians may not acknowledge it and they may call it some kind of hallucination, but it is really a mediumistic soul which is open to reflection from the other side. But as Omar Khayyam says,
A hair's breadth divides false from true.
Such is the condition between normal and abnormal, it is just a hair's breadth. It is the same faculty, the same condition of spirit that could make one illuminated, and just a little difference can make a person insane.
Question : Is there a certain characteristic alive in every person's character that he keeps throughout his life in spite of all reflections which change him continually?
Answer : Nobody has his peculiar characteristics, although everyone thinks, "I have a certain character", and everybody is pleased to say it. Everyone likes to think, "I like this. I believe this. I have this and to no one this belongs". The soul comes pure of all these things. It takes them as it comes.