IF one would ask what is the cause of all the misery in life, the answer would be that there is one cause only and that is the limitation of life. Misery, pain, or sorrow of any kind comes from limitation. There may be poverty or illness or disappointment, but it is all limitation; and this has been found out by all the prophets and teachers of humanity. When Buddha was young he saw that there was great pain in the world, and his first thought was to find out what was behind it; and so it has been with all the great teachers. They all wanted to solve this one question, to find out what is the cause of all misery.
The answer is this: if a person who lives in poverty is given all the money he wants, is he then perfectly happy? Or a sick man may have become well again, but is it enough for him to be well or does he want more? This shows that man is always searching for something, he does not know what. And when he tries to find out what he is looking for he thinks that it must be the thing, which he lacks in life. But if that which was lacking is given to him, then he wants something else. Well this shows that it is not only greed or a defect in man; it indicates a great mystery in his soul, and that mystery is that the soul of man has all that it needs, and yet it has lost it. The story of Adam’s exile tells us of this: by the exile of man is meant that which man lacks in life.
What remedy did the teachers of humanity find at last? They discovered that in the depths of man was the universe itself, that man was a universe in himself. And when we look at it more closely by throwing a spiritual light upon this question, we shall find that the entire mineral kingdom, rock, stone, diamond, or ruby, is all to be found in man. There is a kind of man who is just like a rock. There is the heart of man which is like a diamond, and there is the heart which is just like a ruby. The more you study this the more you will realize that everything that is to be found in the mineral kingdom you can also find in the mind of man. You will find the fire of sulfur in man’s mentality, and you will find the resonance of the metal of the gong or bell in the heart of man. You will find the quality of sandalwood in the character of man, and you will find the value of the pearl in his intelligence. Fruit and flower, everything there is in the world, all is to be found in a man’s character. And chemically speaking you will even find that in the body of man the essence of all things is to be found.
Also, when we think of the sun and the moon, and of the stars and planets, we find that even the essence of these is to be found in man. It is this science that was known to the ancient people as alchemy, from which the word chemistry is derived. But the science of the ancients was concerned with the understanding or the study of man, of his body and of his mind. All other sciences they studied came from this particular science called alchemy. They discovered that all that man searches for outwardly he can find inwardly through the knowledge of this science.
Of course, a person might then ask if we find all the objects or things that we can get in the world in ourselves. I will say, yes; even this is possible if one has come into touch with one’s self. I can give you an example of a man whom I have known who lacked a certain quality in his blood. The scientists and physicians had given up all hope of saving him, for without this quality he could not get better. By giving him injections they sometimes made him feel better, but his sensation of improvement was only outward, and therefore it could not last. Then this man began studying and practicing this science of which I am speaking, and after two or three years he found that that quality which had been lacking in his blood was now coming by itself.
Human nature is very much inclined towards what is called intoxication. The reason is that this intoxication gives a man a certain relaxation and temporary comfort. But to gain this comfort and relaxation he depends upon something from outside, and by doing so he becomes a slave to something which is outside himself. I have seen many mystical or spiritual people who practice this experience and they call it ecstasy; it is however not a real ecstasy or intoxication although it may seem to have the same effect, for a real intoxication does not take away one’s vitality and it never causes illness. On the contrary, it gives greater health and greater strength; that is why you will always find that the health and strength of a mystic who knows and practices this science are in perfect order.
The aim of this science is to come to the understanding that the whole universe is to be found in man. It is a science intended to make a person self-sufficient. For whatever man possesses, though he may be called rich or considered comfortable, this is only his possessions; it is not himself. The enriching of the self is the real riches; and to develop this power in oneself is the real, dependable power. Besides, what is called intellectuality today is mostly book-learning. A man goes on reading and reading for many years, and when his head has become tired he knows only what has been written in the books he has read. I have often seen people who have read a whole library, or had written many books, but if you asked them one question about life they could not answer it. It is not books that can teach us; it is life that is the greatest teacher, but when the mind is engaged with books then one is not open to read life.
When I left India and went straight to New York my greatest astonishment was to see that in every train, bus, or car, every man had a newspaper in his hand. And what is a newspaper generally for? To amuse the most ordinary man in the street. Once a reporter came to see me and asked me about my philosophical ideas, I explained some of them to him; but the next day when I read his newspaper, I saw that everything that I had said was turned upside down. I was most disappointed. I went to the journalist and said, ‘What did I tell you, and what did you make of it?’ He said, ‘If I had written in the paper what you said nobody would understand it. We have to please the man in the street.’ Now imagine a professor, a doctor, a lawyer, a businessman, all reading the same thing that the man in the street reads! This shows where man’s thought is today. What he calls education is only book-learning; but what we need today is learning from life, for if we want to gain a thorough education it can only be gained by a keen observation of life.
The most important subject to study in this whole life is ourselves. What we generally do is to criticize others, speak ill of them, or dislike them; but we always excuse ourselves. The right idea is to watch our own attitude, our own thought and speech and action, and to examine ourselves to see how we react upon all things in our favor and in our disfavor, to see whether we show wisdom and control in our reactions or whether we are without control and thought. Then we should also study our body, for by this we should learn that the body is not only a means of experiencing life by eating and drinking and making ourselves comfortable, but that it is the sacred temple of God.
Besides, this breath which we breathe from morning till evening, we hardly consider what mystery is behind it. This one subject is of such great importance that if we really studied this science we would be able to understand the whole being. Yet this is the very thing of which everyone seems to be ignorant. People never think about it; they think we breathe and that is all, and they do not know how and why. In point of fact there is something in the breath which connects the body with the soul, and the day when the breath leaves the body this connection is broken. The body remains on the earth, and the soul goes on; and therefore that which links the soul and body together must be of the greatest importance. The man who knows how to breathe and how to communicate with his soul begins to realize that the universe is within himself, and it is through realizing the universe in himself that man comes to real spirituality. Even in the Bible there is a hint about this science, though it is generally not interpreted in this way. I mean where it is said, ‘Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ If there is the possibility for the soul to attain perfection that perfection lies in realizing the universe in man.
The secret of this is that we are as small and narrow as the horizon of our consciousness. And if our consciousness rises above these barriers which make us small we naturally become wide, and we naturally become great. Therefore spiritual perfection is attained by concentration and meditation. In the Western world today there is the school of the Sufi Movement, so that people need not go to the East in order to search for these things; and so that the same mystery, in a modified form – in order not to hinder their busy life – may be given to the Western people who can be trusted with it. For a Western person has many responsibilities in his life; he does not have time to meditate and to concentrate. Yet if a man of the West finds time for cricket or billiards, he can just as well find time for meditation and concentration, If he only believed in its benefits he would certainly do his best to spare some time for this most valuable thing. No doubt it is not at all our wish to awaken those who are asleep. Those who are asleep had better sleep, because for them sleep is good; they need sleep and they should sleep. But to those who are tossing in their beds, who are trying to get up, we offer our hands to help them to rise. It is this wish we call initiation in the esoteric school of Sufism. Sufism is not something secret; only, as not everybody can understand it, we do not wish to give it to everybody to ridicule it. It is only entrusted to those serious people who will steadily go on in the path of divine wisdom.
The Sufi Movement is a society of members from all the nations of the world, and the task they have is to serve in the cause of bringing people together, making them meet in wisdom. If we come together it is not for the sake of business or politics or industry, for that is a transient, not a stable unity. The stable unity lies in the understanding of the truth of life, in which we can all become friends. Two people who understand life well become closer than brothers; they become greater friends than any other friendship can produce. There is nothing that divides them, neither nationality nor race nor any other difference. But this task is only intended for those who are seriously inclined towards the understanding of the deeper side of life.