The one who does not know the struggle of life is either an immature soul, or a soul who has risen above the life of this world. The object of a human being in this world is to attain to the perfection of humanity, and therefore it is necessary that man should go through what we call the struggle of life.
Because life means a continual battle, one’s success, failure, happiness, or unhappiness mostly depends upon one’s knowledge of this battle. Whatever be one’s occupation in life, whatever be one’s knowledge, if one lacks the knowledge of the battle of life one lacks the most important knowledge of all.
As soon as a man loses the courage to go through the struggle of life, the burden of the whole world falls on his head. But he who goes on struggling through life, he alone makes his way.
One must study the nature of life, one must understand the psychology of this struggle. In order to understand this struggle one must see that there are three sides to it: struggle with oneself, struggle with others, and struggle with circumstances. One person may be capable of struggling with himself, but that is not sufficient. Another is able to struggle with others, but even that is not sufficient. A third person may answer the demands of circumstance, but this is not enough either; what is needed is that all three should be studied and learnt, and one must be able to manage the struggle in all three directions.
The one who struggles with himself first is the wisest, for once he has struggled with himself, which is the most difficult struggle, the other struggles will become easy for him.
What is the nature of the struggle with oneself? It has three aspects. The first is to make one’s thought, speech, and action answer the demands of one’s own ideal, while at the same time giving expression to all the impulses and desires which belong to one’s natural being. The next aspect of the struggle with oneself is to fit in with others, with their various ideas and demands. For this a man has to make himself as narrow or as wide as the place that one asks him to fill, which is a delicate matter, difficult for all to comprehend and practise. And the third aspect of the struggle with oneself is to give accommodation to others in one’s own life, in one’s own heart, large or small as the demand may be.
When we consider the struggle with others there are also three things to think about, of which the first is to control and govern people and activities which happen to be our duty, our responsibility. Another aspect is how to allow ourselves to be used by others in various situations in life; to know to what extent one should allow others to make use of our time, our energy, our work, or our patience, and where to draw the line. And the third aspect is to fit in with the standards and conceptions of different personalities who are at various stages of evolution.
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.
The worldly struggle is outward struggle. The struggle on the spiritual path is inward struggle. No sooner does one take the spiritual direction than the first enemy one meets is one’s own self. What does the self do? It is most mischievous. When one says one wants to fight it, it says, ‘I am yourself. Do you want to fight me?’ And when it brings failure, it is clever enough to put the blame on someone else.
The balance of life lies in being as fine as a thread and as strong as a steel wire. If one does not show endurance and strength to withstand all the opposing and disturbing influences among which one always has to be in life, one certainly reveals a weakness and lack of development.
Every circumstance, favorable or unfavorable, in which a man finds himself, and every person, agreeable or disagreeable, in whose presence he is, causes him to react. Upon this reaction depends the man’s happiness and his spiritual progress. If he has control over this reaction, it means that he is progressing; if he has no control over it, it shows that he is going backward.
When a person progresses towards spirituality he must bear in mind that together with his spiritual progress he must strengthen himself against disturbing influences. If not, he should know that however much he desires to make progress he will be pulled back against his will by conditions, by circumstances
All such things as passion and anger and irritation one looks upon as very bad, as evil; but if that evil were kept in hand it could be used for a good purpose, because it is a power, it is an energy. In other words evil, properly used, becomes a virtue; and virtue wrongly used becomes an evil. For instance, when a person is in a rage, or when he really feels like being angry, if he controls that thought and does not express it in words, that gives him great power. Otherwise the expression has a bad effect upon his nerves. His control of it has given him an extra strength which will remain with him. A person who has anger and control is to be preferred to the person who has got neither.
The only difference between spiritual attainment and the continual struggle of life is that in worldly life one struggles in another direction. In worldly life, be it in business or politics or industry or whatever be life’s path, if a person proves to be lacking in that power which enables him to struggle along, he meets nothing but failure. He may be a good person, a saintly person, a spiritual person, but that does not count. It is for this reason that many in the world lose faith in goodness and in spirituality when they see that this goodness does not seem to count in life. It is absurd for a spiritual person to say that by spirituality, goodness, and piety one’s worldly struggle will be helped. One should have the inspiration and power to answer life’s demands in life’s struggle. The seeker on the spiritual path should not forget that floating in the air is no good; standing on the earth is the first thing necessary.
The point is to meet one’s condition with understanding and with complete resignation. Thus the first thing is to meet the condition as it is and the second is to better the condition. The more one can avoid conflict the better; at the same time we cannot always avoid a conflict, and we must not turn our back on it if it comes to us. After all, life is a struggle and we must be ready to struggle. Only, struggle must not make us drunk so that we lose the way of peace which is the first thing to consider.
The only way to live in the midst of inharmonious influences is to strengthen the will power and endure all things, yet keeping fineness of character and nobility of manner, together with an everlasting heart full of love.
The end and the sum total of all mysticism, philosophy, and meditation, of everything one learns and develops, is to be a better servant to humanity. Everything from the beginning to the end in the spiritual path is a training to be able to serve mankind better, and if one does not do it with that intention, one will find in the end that one has accomplished nothing.
By Hazrat Inayat Khan
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