There is a story told that once a Sufi was healing a child that was ill. He was repeating a few words, and then gave the child to the parents saying, “Now he will be well.”
Someone who was antagonistic to this said to him, “How can it be possible that by a few words spoken, anyone can be healed?”
From a mild Sufi an angry answer is never expected, but this time he turned to the man and said, “You understand nothing about it. You are a fool.”
The man was very much offended. His face was red. He was hot. The Sufi said, “when a word has the power to make you hot and angry, why should not a word have the power to heal?”
Why is it so great a privilege to be man? There is a legend which explains this very clearly.
The angels once rebelled against God, saying, “Why should man be made higher than all the other creatures? Man has the animal attributes. Man needs to eat; we do not. Man needs to drink; we do not. Man needs to sleep; we do not.”
God said, “We will decide this question after a trial.” And God said to one of the angles, “Go upon earth and see what man’s life is.”
The angel flew down to earth. He saw a tree. He was so delighted with the tree that he climbed down upon it and began to eat its fruit. He was so enchanted that he thought, “This is the best place to live. I was a miserable creature when I did not have this.”
The he saw a young girl passing beneath the tree, selling fruit. He was charmed by her beauty and asked her to sell him the fruit. They became friends; they became lovers; they married and had children.
At first the angel was very, very happy; but when the freshness, the newness went, the charm and the happiness wore away. He began to find that those who had been his friends yesterday were not his friends today, that those who had been kind once were kind no longer. Life became very difficult. All the burdens and cares of life fell upon him. He felt oppressed, suffocated, and he grew very unhappy and complained of his life on earth.
Then God said to another angel, “Go and see what your brother is doing.” The angel went down to earth. He too was delighted with the earth, its trees and fruits. But when the other angel told him of his life and all its difficulties and troubles, he flew back, and so was saved from these experiences.
When the angels appeared again before God, God said, “When even the angels are tempted by the earth and forget Me, should I not be proud of man when he, having all the troubles and difficulties and burdens of life on earth, sometimes remembers Me, thinks of Me?”
Some time ago there was in Delhi a mystic or murshid whose name was Shah Alam. One day he was having a haircut. He was looking in a little looking glass, such as are used in India, while the barber was cutting his hair.
Suddenly he dashed the mirror on the ground so hard that it broke into pieces. His mureeds, who were with him, were astonished. The barber also was amazed, wondering what had caused him to throw down the mirror with such violence.
Afterwards he told them what had happened. At that time one of his mureeds was travelling by sea from Arabia to India. A storm had struck the ship he was sailing in, and he was in grave danger. He called upon his murshid for help, and the murshid saw his peril in the mirror and saved him.
I remember my teacher at school telling us that the leaves of the nim tree had great healing qualities. That did not interest me very much, but what did interest me was that, as he told us also, these leaves were so bitter that one could not drink a brew of them.
And the first thing that I did was to gather some of the leaves. Nobody understood why I did it, but I made a tea of them and drank it, and to my great satisfaction I did not even make a face! For four or five days I continues this and then I forgot all about it.
It is fighting against all that one cannot do that gives one mastery. But generally one does not do that; one fights against things that prevent one from getting what one wants. Man should fight only with himself, against the tendency of rejecting; this would lead him to mastery.
As a general principle in life there is no use in forcing anything. It is a process, not a principle.
My murshid, Abu Hasim Madani, once said that there is only one virtue and one sin for a soul on the Sufi path: virtue when he is conscious of God, and sin when he is not.
No explanation can fully describe the truth of this except the experience of the contemplative. When he is conscious of God it is as if a window facing heaven were open, and when he is conscious of the self the experience is the opposite.
For all the tragedy of life is caused by being conscious of the self. All pain and depression are caused by this. Anything that can take away the thought of the self helps to a certain extent to relieve man from pain; but God-consciousness gives perfect relief.
I was very much interested in what Mme. Montessori told me when I was in Italy: that besides all the activities that she gives to children, she makes them keep silence; and after a little time they like it so much that they prefer silence to their activity.
And it interested me still more to see a little girl of about 6 years of age who, when the time came, went and closed all the windows and closed the door, and put away all the things that she was playing with. The she came and sat in her little chair and closed her eyes, and she did not open them for about three or four minutes. You could see on her innocent face an angelic expression. It seemed she preferred those five minutes of silence to all the playing of the whole day.
I knew a person whom a physician had examined and had told that he would die in three months. No doubt if that person had been imaginative he would have taken that impression. But he came to me and he said. “What nonsense! Three months! I am not going to die even in three hundred years.”
And to our great surprise within three months the doctor dies, and this man brought me the news!
We must learn to respect the human being and realize that a human soul is beyond birth and death, that a human soul has a divine spirit in it, and that all illnesses and pains and sufferings are only his tests and trials. He is above them, and we must try to raise him above illness.
Once I was with a man who was in the habit of meditating. While we were sitting near the fire and talking about things he went into the silence, and I had to sit quiet until he opened his eyes.
I asked him, “It is beautiful, is it not?” And he said, “It is never enough.”
Those who experience the joy of meditation, for them there is nothing in this world which is more interesting and enjoyable. They experience the inner peace and the joy that cannot be explained in words. They touch perfection, or the spirit of light, of life, and of love – all is there.
Once when I was sailing in a boat, a sailor gave me some interesting advice. I asked him if he knew any remedy against seasickness, and he said, “No, they have tried for a longtime to find something, but nothing is any good. You must fix your eyes on the horizon; that will keep you from being seasick.”
I was greatly benefited by that advice, and it was a stimulus to my imagination, showing that the wider the outlook, the less are the troubles in life. If we fix our eyes on the horizon, as far as we can see, then we are saved from the little things which make our life unhappy.
God is the horizon, as far as our sight extends and even further, for we can neither touch the horizon nor can we touch God.
Someone came to me and said, “I was very sympathetic once, but somehow I have become hardened. What is the reason for it?”
I said, “You tried to get water from the bottom of the earth. But instead of digging deep down you dug in the mud, and you were disappointed. If you have patience to dig till you reach water then you will not be disappointed.”
I once met a young man who said to me, “I do not believe in God, the hereafter, or the soul.”
I told him that I did not wish to make him believe in these things, that this was not my intention at all. But then the young man asked me what I believed, for he wanted to continue our conversation.
I said, “It is very difficult to put one’s belief into words, but I would very much like you to tell me first what you believe.”
He said very easily, “I believe in eternal matter.”
I said, “My belief is not very far from yours, for the very same thing that you call eternal matter, I call eternal spirit. It is a difference of words; we really believe the same thing.”
Matter cannot be eternal, but if the young man wished to call that which is eternal matter; I had no objection; I was quite willing to call it matter too.
I was once talking to a businessman, a man who had spent nearly fifty years of his life in commerce and had made a success of it.
He had never believed in any religion, he had never studied any philosophy except that sometimes he read the works of great poets. But after we had talked for about an hour on subjects concerning the inner life, he discovered that he was not very far from my own beliefs; that after all, the patience which is required to make money, the sacrifices one has to make in order to be successful, and the experiences one has to go through with those whom one works with daily in business, had been for him both a practice and a study.
And I found that he was not very far from the conclusions to which a wise man, a philosopher, a mystic would come. It is he whom I would call a wise man, for by his wisdom he had reached the truth which is studied by the philosopher and which is attained by the mystic through meditation.