In this continual battle of life the one who stands firm through it all comes out of it victorious in the end. Even with all power and understanding, if one gives up through lack of hope and courage, one has failed. What brings bad luck in this life, in this battle, is a pessimistic attitude; and what helps man to conquer in the battle of life, however difficult, is an optimistic attitude.
In this battle drill is necessary. And that drill is the control over one’s physical organs and over the faculties of mind. For if one is not prepared for this battle, however courageous and optimistic one may be, one cannot succeed. Another thing is to know something about this warfare; to know when to retreat and when to advance. If one does not know how to retreat and wishes always to advance, one will continually be in danger and become a victim of life’s battle.
There are times when one must give in; there are times when one must relax things somewhat; 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 that he is working in his own interest, hardly one among thousands is really doing so. And the reason is that people become so absorbed in what they are trying to get that they become intoxicated by it, and they lose the track that leads to real success. Very often people, in order to get one particular benefit, 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 difficult to be wise – and it is the wise who are truly victorious in life.
The nature of life is illusive. Under a gain a loss is hidden; under a loss a gain is hidden; and living in this life of illusion it is very difficult for man to realize what is really good for him. Even with a wise person, much of his wisdom is demanded by life and by its battle. One cannot be gentle enough, one cannot be sufficiently kind; the more one gives to life, the more life asks of one. There again is a battle.
In this battle a battery is needed. And that battery is the power of will. In this battle of life arms are needed. And these arms are the thoughts and actions which work psychologically towards success. For instance a person 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, profession, or whatever he does, he has sent his influence before him, and he meets with all wrongs and all failure; nothing seems worthwhile, there is coldness everywhere. And there is another person who knows what human nature is, who knows that one has to meet with selfishness and ill consideration everywhere. But what does he think of it all? He thinks it is like a lot of drunken people. He thinks they are all falling upon each other, fighting each other, offending each other; and naturally a sober person who is thoughtful will not trouble with those who are drunk. He will help them, but he will not take seriously what they say or do. In this world of drunkenness a person who is drunk naturally has to fight more 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 the others are drunk, and he cannot expect better from them.
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 immediately, who loses his temper suddenly, 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 for tolerance, who has depth enough in his heart to assimilate all things, whose mind reaches far enough to understand all things, whose very desire is to understand others and to help them understand.
If together with sensitiveness one has not developed one’s willpower, it is certainly dangerous…There must be a balance between sensitiveness and will-power. Will-power should enable one to endure all influences, all conditions, all attacks that one meets from morning till night. And sensitiveness should enable one to feel life, to appreciate it, and to live in the beauty of life. It is true that by the cultivation of will-power one sometimes persuades oneself wrongly; 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. One must acquire balance between power and wisdom.
What is most advisable in life is to be sensitive enough to feel life and its beauty and to appreciate it, but at the same time to consider that one’s soul is divine, and that all else is foreign to it; that all things that belong to the earth are foreign to one’s soul. They should not touch one’s soul.
There is no doubt that what we lack most in life is to be tuned with the infinite and to be in rhythm with the infinite; in other words to be in rhythm with the conditions of life and to be in tune with the source of our existence. Our perpetual complaints against all things in life come from our not being in rhythm with the diverse conditions of life that we have to face. And then we think that if these conditions would only change into something that we wish, it would make our Life easier; but that is an inexperienced expectation.
And now the question is how can one become at one with the rhythm of life, in other words with the conditions of life? One’s condition of life and one’s own desire are generally two conflicting things. If desire gives in to the condition, then the condition gets the upper hand; and if the condition is mastered, then no doubt desire has the upper hand. But the condition is not always master when there is a conflict, a struggle; only one needs caution in fighting a condition in life. If harmony can be established peacefully it is better to avoid battling, though it is a fact that those who complain most about life and those who are most disappointed and troubled with life are the ones who struggle most with life’s conditions. Therefore in achieving at-one-ment with the conditions of life one need not always use a weapon; one should first try to harmonize with a particular condition of life.
A condition as bitter as poison will be turned into nectar if we can get into rhythm with that condition, if we can understand it, if we will endure that condition with patience, with courage, with hope. When there is a favourable condition we are very often afraid that it may pass, but when there is an adverse condition we do not generally think that it will pass; we think that it will last for ever. This comes from fear, from agitation, from the desire to get out of this condition, and thus we lose even hope, the only source that keeps us alive.
The best thing is to go through every condition that life presents with patience, with understanding, with open eyes, and so try to rise above it with every little effort we can make.
Tuning ourselves to the infinite is achieved by the way of silence, by the way of meditation, by the way of thinking of something which is beyond and above all things of this mortal world; by giving some moments of our life to the thought of getting in tune with that which is the source and goal of all of us, realizing that in that source alone is the secret of our happiness and peace.
The nature of being in tune with the infinite is this: comparing our soul to a string of an instrument, it is tied at both ends; one is the infinite, and the other is the finite. When a person is conscious all the time of the finite then he is tuned to the finite, while the one who is conscious of the infinite is tuned to the infinite. Being in tune with the former makes us limited, weak, hopeless, and powerless; but by being in tune with the latter we obtain the power and strength that will pull us through life in whatever adverse conditions may arise.
The work that a Sufi considers to be his sacred task has nothing to do with any particular creed, nor has it to do with any particular religion; it is only this simple thing: to be in rhythm with life’s conditions and to be in tune with the infinite. And when one asks how one can arrive at being in accord with life instead of being frightened by life’s conditions, the answer is: by meeting it and observing it keenly, and then by trying to harmonize oneself for the time being with that condition, while the next effort is to rise above it if it is an adverse one.
Never expect that the events of life are favourable all through. You will have to make a continual struggle and fight with others, whether you like it or not, whether you love them or not. You will find that this fight must be encountered on every side. So you must face it patiently. Do not turn your back to it. Face the conflict with courage and bravery and tranquillity. Since you know that you are on the path of truth you can go on trustfully. Although there is a great responsibility in this worldly life, it is through this responsibility that you are enabled to evolve spiritually. In fact your evolution will become much greater even than that of the saints who have renounced the world. The reason for this is that, when you pursue your life’s journey steadily and with tranquillity through all the struggles and conflicts you have to undergo, success will surely come in time. This success will perhaps enable you in your turn to bring great success to the lives of many other souls too.
By Hazrat Inayat Khan