DISCOURSES OF RUMI
Successive hearsay does the same work as actual seeing and exercises the same authority. Thus, you were born of your father and mother; you have been told that you were born of them; you have not seen with your own eyes that you were born of them, but by being stated so often it comes to be accepted by you as the truth, so that if you were now told that you were not born of them you would not listen.
Similarly you have heard successively from many people that Baghdad and Mecca exist; if they were now to say and swear an oath that they do not exist, you would not believe it. So we realise that when the ear has heard successively, it exercises the same authority as the eye. In the same way, from the external standpoint a statement when made successively is given the same authority as actual seeing. It may be that the statement of a certain person has the authority of being handed down successively, so that it is not a single statement but a hundred thousand; so one statement of his will be a hundred thousand statements. What is so surprising in this? The external king exercises the authority of a hundred thousand, though he is only one; if a hundred thousand should speak nothing would happen, but when he speaks something happens.
Since this happens in the external world, it follows all the more so in the world of spirits. Though you have gone about the world, inasmuch as you have not gone about it with God in mind, it is necessary for you to go about the world again.
'That journey was not on My account, it was for the sake of garlic and onions. Since you did not go about for His sake, it was for another purpose and that other purpose became a veil to you, not allowing you to see Me.' It is the same when you search earnestly for a person in the bazaar; you see nobody, or if you see people you see them as shadows. Or you are hunting up a problem in a book; your ears and eyes and mind are full of that one problem; you turn the pages, and you see nothing. Since therefore you had an intention and object in view other than this, wherever you went about you were full of that object and did not see this.
In the time of 'Umar, God be well pleased with him, there was a certain man who had grown so old that his daughter used to give him milk and looked after him like a child. 'Umar, God be well pleased with him, said to that daughter, 'There is no child to compare with you in these times in dutifulness to your father.' She replied, 'What you say is true. But there is a difference between me and my father. Though I fall not short in my service to my father, yet when my father was bringing me up and serving me he used to tremble for me, lest any harm should come to me; while I serve my father, and pray night and day asking of God that he may die, that the trouble he causes me may end. If I serve my father, whence can I get that trembling of his for me?' 'Umar said, 'This woman is wiser than 'Umar.' He meant, 'I judge by externals, whilst you spoke of the core.'
The truly wise and learned man is he who penetrates into the core of a thing so that he diagnoses the truth of it. God forbid that 'Omar should not have been apprised of the truth and secret of things; but such was the Companions' way, that they dispraised themselves and commended others.
There are many who have not the strength for 'presence'; they find 'absence' a pleasanter state to be in. In the same way, all the brightness of day is from the sun; but if a man stares at the sun's orb all day and every day it does him no good, and his eyes get dazzled. It is better for him to be occupied with some task or other, which is absence from staring at the sun's orb. Similarly, to mention tasty dishes in the presence of a sick person excites him to acquire strength and appetite, but the actual presence of those dishes does him harm.
Hence it is realised that trembling and passionate love are necessary in the quest for God. Whoever trembles not himself must wait upon tremblers. No fruit ever grows on the trunk of a tree, for trunks do not tremble; the tips of the branches tremble; yet the trunk of the tree strengthens the tips of the branches, and because of the fruit is secure from the blow of the axe. Since the trembling of the trunk of the tree will end in ruin, it is better for the trunk not to tremble, and it suits the trunk to be quiet so that it may serve the tremblers.
Since he is Mu'in al-Din, he is not 'Ain al-Din ('Essence of the Faith') because of the M which has been added to the 'Ain. 'Any addition to perfection is a diminution.' That addition of M is a diminution. In the same way, though six fingers are an addition, yet they are a diminution. Abad ('One') is perfection, and Ahmad is not yet in the station of perfection; when that M is removed it becomes complete perfection. That is to say, God comprehends all; whatever you add to Him is a diminution. The number one is in all numbers, and without it no number can be.
Saiyid Burhan al-Din was discoursing learnedly. A fool interrupted him as he was speaking to say, 'We need some words without likenesses.' The Saiyid answered, 'You who have no likeness, come and listen to words without likeness!' After all, you are a likeness; you are not this of your own self, this person is the shadow of you. When anyone dies, people say, 'So-and-so has departed.' If this body was he, then whither has he departed? So it is realised that your external form is the likeness of your internal being, that men may be guided by your external to your internal. Every thing that is visible is visible because of density. Thus, the breath in hot weather cannot be perceived; but when it is cold, it becomes visible out of density.
It is incumbent upon the Prophet, peace be upon him, to manifest the power of God, and by preaching to waken men. It is not incumbent upon him, however, to bring a man to the stage of being ready to receive God's truth; that is the work of God. God has two attributes: wrath and lovingkindness. The prophets are theatres of both; to believers they are a theatre of God's lovingkindness, and to unbelievers they are a theatre of God's wrath.
Those who acknowledge the truth see themselves in the prophet and hear their own voice proceeding from him and smell their own scent proceeding from him. No man denies his own self. Therefore the prophets say to the community, 'We are you, and you are we; there is no strangeness between us.' A man says, 'This is my hand'; nobody asks him to furnish proof, for it is a conjoined part of him. But if he says, 'So-and-so is my son,' proof is demanded of him, for that is a disjoined part.
Some have said that love is the cause of service. This is not so. Rather it is the inclination of the beloved that is the requisite of service. If the beloved desires that the lover should be occupied with service, then service proceeds from the lover; if the beloved does not desire it, then the lover abandons service. The abandonment of service is not contrary to love; after all, even if the lover does no service, love does service in him. No; on the contrary, the root of the matter is love, and service is the branch of love.
If the sleeve moves, that happens because the hand moves. On the other hand it does not necessarily follow that if the hand moves the sleeve also moves. For instance, a man has a large gown, so that he rolls about in his gown and the gown does not move. That can happen; but what is not possible is that the gown should move without the person himself moving.
Some people have deemed the gown itself a person, have considered the sleeve a hand and imagined the boot and breeches a foot. This hand and foot are the sleeve and boot of another hand and foot. They say, 'So-and-so is under the hand of So-and-so,' and 'So-and- so has a hand in so many things,' and 'You have to hand it to So-and-so when he speaks.' Certainly what is meant by that hand and foot is not this hand and foot.
That prince came and assembled us, and himself departed. In the same way the bee united the wax with the honey and itself departed and flew away. Because his existence was a condition, after all his continuance is not a condition. Our mothers and fathers are like bees, uniting the seeker with the sought and assembling together the lover and the beloved. They then suddenly fly away. God most High has made them a means for uniting the wax and the honey, and then they fly away; but the wax and honey remain, and the garden. They themselves do not go out of the garden; this is not such a garden that it is possible to go out of it; but they depart from one corner of the garden to another corner of the garden.
Our body is like a beehive in which are the wax and honey of the love of God. Though the bees, our mothers and fathers, are the means, yet they too are tended by the gardener; the gardener also makes the beehive. God most High gave those bees another form; at the time when they were doing this work they had another garment appropriate to that work, but when they departed into the other world they changed garment, for there another work proceeds from them. Yet the person is the same as he was in the first place. Thus for example: a man went into battle, and put on battledress, girded on armour and placed a helmet on his head, because it was the time of combat. But when he comes to the feast he puts off those garments, for he will be occupied with another business. Yet he is the same person. But since you have seen him in that garment, whenever you bring him to mind you will picture him in that shape and that garment, even though he may have changed garments a hundred times.
A man has lost a ring in a certain place. Though the ring has been transported from that place, nevertheless he circles around that place, implying, 'It was here that I lost it.' So a bereaved person circles around the grave and ignorantly circumambulates about the earth and kisses it, implying, 'I lost that ring here'; yet how should it be left there?
God most High has performed so many wonderful works to display His omnipotence. It was here for the sake of Divine wisdom that He composed for a day or two spirit with body. If a man should sit with a corpse in a tomb even for a moment, there is fear that he may go mad. How then, when he escapes from the trap of form and the ditch of the bodily mould, how should he remain there? God most High has appointed that to strike fear into men's hearts and as a token to renew that striking of fear again and again, so that a terror may be manifest in the hearts of men because of the desolation of the tomb and the dark earth. In the same way, when a caravan has been ambushed in a certain place on the road, two or three stones are placed together there to act as a waysign, as much as to say, 'Here is a place of danger.' These graves too are a visible waysign indicating a place of danger.
Fear makes its mark on men; though it does not necessarily follow that it should be realised. For instance if people say to you, 'So-and-so is afraid of you,' without any act issuing from him, an affection manifests in you in regard to him without doubt. If on the contrary they say, 'So-and-so is not in the least afraid of you,' and 'There is no terror of you in his heart,' by the mere fact of this being said an anger towards him appears in your heart.
This running about is the effect of fear. All the world is running; but the running of each one is appropriate to his state. The running of a man is of one kind, the running of a plant is of another kind, the running of a spirit is of another kind. The running of the spirit is without step and visible sign. After all, consider the unripe grape, how much it runs until it attains the blackness of the ripe grape; the moment it has become sweet, at once it reaches that station. Yet that running is invisible and imperceptible; but when it reaches that stage, it becomes realised that it has run very much until it arrived there. Similarly a man enters the water, and nobody has seen him go; when suddenly he brings his head out of the water, then it is realised that he entered the water, for he has reached this point.
Lovers have heartaches which no cure can mend, neither sleeping nor faring abroad nor eating, only the sight of the beloved. 'Meet the friend and your sickness will end'; this is true to such an extent, that if a hypocrite sits in the company of believers, under their influence he becomes a believer that very instant. So God most High declares:
How then, when a believer sits with a believer? Since that has such an effect on a hypocrite, consider what benefits it confers on the believer! Consider how wool, through being in the vicinity of an intelligent man, has become a figured carpet; and this earth, through the vicinity of an intelligent man, has become such a fine palace! The society of an intelligent man has had such an effect on inanimate things; consider then what effect the society of a believer has on the believer!
Through the society of a partial soul and a miniature intellect inanimate things have attained this rank, and these are all the shadow of a partial intellect. One can deduce a person from his shadow. Now deduce from this what manner of intellect and reason is required for yonder heavens, and the moon and sun, and the seven layers of the earth to become manifest through it, and all that lies between earth and heaven. All these existing things are the shadow of the Universal Intellect. The shadow of the partial intellect is proportionate to the shadow of its person; the shadow of the Universal Intellect, which is the whole of existing things, is proportionate to That.
The saints of God have beheld other heavens besides these heavens; for these heavens are disregarded by them and appear lowly before them; they have set their foot upon them and transcended them.
What is there so wonderful in the fact that a certain man out of the whole of mankind should discover this particular quality, that he can set his foot upon the head of the seventh heaven? Were we not all congeners of the earth? Yet God most High implanted in us a faculty whereby we became distinguished from our genus, we in control of that and that under our control. We control that in whatever manner we desire, now lifting it up and now setting it down; now we fashion it into a palace, now we make it a cup and a goblet; now we stretch it out, now we shorten it. If in the first place we were this very earth and its congener, God most High distinguished us by means of that faculty. In like manner, what is there so wonderful in the fact that out of the midst of us, who are all congeners, God most High should distinguish a certain one, in relation to whom we are as some inanimate thing, he controlling us, we being unaware of him whilst he is aware of us?
When I say 'unaware,' I do not mean utterly unaware. On the contrary, everyone who is aware of one thing is unaware of another thing. Even earth, inanimate as it is, is aware of what God has given it. For if it were unaware, how would it have been receptive to water, and how would it have nursed and nourished every seed accordingly? When a person applies himself earnestly and attentively to a particular task, his attentiveness to that task means that he is unaware of any other. But by this inattention we do not mean total inattention. Some people wanted to catch a cat, but found it impossible to do so. One day that cat was preoccupied with hunting a bird, and became inattentive through hunting the bird; so they caught it.
So it is not necessary to become wholly preoccupied with worldly affairs. One must take them easily, and not be in bondage to them, lest this should fret and that should fret. The treasure must not fret; for if these things should fret, that will transform them; whereas if that frets (we seek refuge with God!) who then will transform that? If for instance you have many kinds of cloth of every sort, when you are absorbed, why, which of them will you clutch? Though all are indispensable, yet it is certain that in the bundle you will lay hands on something precious and to be treasured; for with one pearl and a single ruby one can make a thousand decorations.
From a certain tree sweet fruit materialises; though that fruit is a part of it, yet God most High has chosen and distinguished that part above the whole, for in it He deposited a sweetness that He did not deposit in the rest; and by virtue of that, that part became superior to that whole, and proved the pith and purpose of the tree. So God most High declares:
A certain man said, 'I have a certain state in which neither Muhammad nor the angel near the Throne is contained.' The shaikh replied 'Is it so amazing that a man should have a state in which Muhammad is not contained? Muhammad does not have a state in which a stinking creature like you is not contained!'
A certain jester desired to restore the king to his humour. Everyone engaged with him for a certain sum, for the king was greatly vexed. The king was walking angrily along the bank of a river. The jester was walking on the other side level with the king. The king paid not the slightest attention to the jester; he kept staring in the water. The jester, becoming desperate, said, 'O king, what do you see in the water, that you are staring so?' The king replied, 'I see a cuckold.' The jester said, 'Your slave is also not blind.'
So now, since you have a time when Muhammad is not contained, why, Muhammad does not have a state in which such a stinking creature is not contained! After all, this degree of spiritual state which you have discovered is due to his blessing and influence. For in the first place all gifts are showered on him, then they are distributed from him to other men. Such is the rule. God most High said, 'O Prophet, peace be upon thee, and God's mercy and blessings!' 'We have scattered all gifts upon thee.' Said Muhammad, 'And upon God's righteous servants!'
God's way is exceeding fearful, blocked and full of snow. He was the first to risk his life, driving his horse and pioneering the road. Whoever goes on this road, does so by his guidance and guarding. He discovered the road in the first place and set up way marks everywhere, posting pieces of wood to say, 'Do not go in this direction, and do not go in that direction. If you go in that direction you will perish, even as the people of 'Ad and Thamud; and if you go in this direction you will be saved, like the believers. All of the Koran expounds this, for therein are clear signs -- that is to say, upon these ways We have given waymarks. If any man attempts to break any of these pieces of wood, all attack him, saying, 'Why do you destroy the road for us, and why do you labour to accomplish our destruction? Perchance you are a highwayman.'
Know now that Muhammad is the guide. Until a man first comes to Muhammad he cannot reach unto Us. Similarly, when you wish to go to a certain place, first reason leads the way, saying, 'You must go to a certain place, that is in your best interests.' After that the eyes act as a guide, and then the limbs begin to move, all in that order; though the limbs have no knowledge of the eye, neither the eye of the reason.
Though a man is inadvertent, others are not unaware of him. If you labour strenuously in pursuit of the world, you become unaware of your real concern. It is necessary to seek God's approval, not the approval of men; for approval and love and affection are only on loan in men, being placed there by God. If God so wishes, He gives no composure or enjoyment; with all the means of ease and bread and luxury provided, everything becomes pain and affliction. Therefore all secondary means are as it were a pen in the hand of God's omnipotence; God is the mover and the writer. Until He wishes, the pen does not move. You fix your eye on the pen; you say, 'There must be a hand to this pen.' You see the pen, but you do not see the hand. You see the pen and remember the hand; where is that which you see, and that which you say? They however always see the hand, and they say, 'There must also be a pen'; but beholding the beauty of the hand, they do not care to behold the pen. They simply say, 'Such a hand cannot be without a pen'; whilst you are so delighted with beholding the pen that you do not care for the hand, they are so delighted with beholding the hand, how could they care for the pen? Whilst you find such pleasure in barley bread that you do not remember wheaten bread, since they have wheaten bread how could they remember barley bread? Since He has bestowed upon you such joy upon earth that you have no desire for heaven, which is the true place of joy, and since earth derives its life from heaven, how should the inhabitants of heaven remember earth?
So do not regard happiness and pleasure as coming from secondary causes, for those realities are merely on loan to the secondary causes. It is He who hurts and profits, for all hurt and profit come from Him. Why do you cling so to secondary causes?
'The best words are those which are few and telling.' The best words are those which convey a lesson, not those which are many. Though the Sura say, He is One is little in form, yet it is superior to the Sura of the Cow though that is very long, from the standpoint of conveying a message. Noah preached for a thousand years and forty persons rallied to him; it is well known how long Muhammad preached, yet so many climes believed in him, so many saints and 'pegs' appeared because of him. Much and little therefore are no criterion; the true object is the conveying of a lesson.
With some men it may be that few words convey the lesson better than many. In the same way, when the fire of a stove is extremely fierce you cannot derive any benefit from it and are unable to go near it; whereas you derive a thousand advantages from a feeble lamp. Hence it is realised that it is benefit gained which is the true objective. With some men it is beneficial not to hear any words at all; it is enough for them to see; that is what profits such a man, and if he hears any words it actually harms him.
A certain shaikh from India was seeking to come to a great saint. When he reached Tabriz and came to the door of the saint's cell, a voice came to him from within the cell, saying, 'Return! In your case the benefit is that you have come to the door. If you see the saint, that will harm you.'
A few words which convey a lesson are like a lit lamp which kissed an unlit lamp and departed. That is enough for him, and he has attained his purpose. After all, the prophet is not that visible form; that form is the steed of the prophet. The prophet is that true love and affection, and that is immortal; just as the she-camel of Salih, his form is the she-camel. The prophet is that true love and affection, and that is eternal.
Someone asked the question, 'Why do they not praise God only upon the minaret? Why do they also mention Muhammad?' He was answered, 'Well, praising Muhammad is praising God. It may be compared with a man saying, "God give the king a long life, and him who showed me the way to the king, or told me of the king's name and attributes!" Praising the man is in reality praising the king.'
This Prophet says, 'Give me something. I am in need. Either give me your cloak, or your wealth, or clothes.' What would he do with your cloak and wealth? He desires to lighten your garment, so that the warmth of the sun may reach you.
He does not want wealth and cloak only. He has given you many things besides wealth -- knowledge, and thought, and wisdom, and vision. He means, 'Expend on Me a moment's regard and thought and consideration and reason; after all, you have acquired wealth by means of these instruments which I have given.' God desires alms alike from bird and snare. If you are able to go before the sun naked, that is better; for that Sun does not burn black, it makes a man white. Or at least make your clothes lighter, that you may enjoy the feel of the Sun. You have become accustomed for a while to bitterness; at least make trial of sweetness too!
Every science that is acquired in this world by study and application is the science of bodies; that science which is acquired after death is the science of religions. To know the science of 'I am God' is the science of bodies; to become 'I am God' is the science of religions. To see the light of the lamp and the fire is the science of bodies; to burn in the fire or in the light of the lamp is the science of religions. Everything that is sight is the science of religions; everything that is knowledge is the science of bodies.
You may say that the only verity is seeing and vision; all the other sciences are the science of fantasy. For instance, an architect has thought and pictured the building of a school; however much that thought may be right and correct, yet it is a fantasy. It becomes reality when he actually raises and constructs the school.
Now there are differences between fantasy and fantasy. The fantasy of Abu Bakr and 'Umar and 'Uthman and 'Ali is superior to the fantasy of the Companions. Between fantasy and fantasy there is a great difference. The expert architect built a house, and a man who was not an architect also conceived a fantasy; the difference is great, because the architect's fantasy is closer to reality. Similarly on the other side, in the world of realities and vision, there are differences between vision and vision, and so on ad infinitum.
So when it is said that there are seven hundred veils of darkness and seven hundred of light -- all that belongs to the world of fantasy is a veil of darkness, and all that belongs to the world of realities is veils of light. But between the veils of darkness, which is fantasy, no difference can be made or seen because of their extreme subtlety; and despite a vast and enormous difference in realities, that difference also cannot be comprehended.
The inhabitants of Hell will be happier in Hell than in the world, for in Hell they will be aware of God whereas in the world they are not aware; and nothing can be sweeter than the awareness of God. So their desire to return to the world is in order that they may do something whereby they may become aware of the manifestation of Divine grace, not because the world is a happier place than Hell.
Hypocrites are consigned to the lowest reach of Hell because faith came to the hypocrite, but his unbelief was strong and so he did nothing; his punishment will be more severe so that he may become aware of God. To the unbeliever faith did not come; his unbelief is weak, and so he will become aware through a less punishment. So as between the breeches with dust upon them and the carpet with dust upon it, in the case of the trousers it is sufficient for one person to shake them a little for them to become clean, whereas it takes four persons shaking the carpet violently for the dust to leave it.
When the inhabitants of Hell cry:
God forbid that they should desire foods and drinks; it means, 'Pour upon us too of that thing which you have found and which shines on you.'
The Koran is as a bride who does not disclose her face to you, for all that you draw aside the veil. That you should examine it, and yet not attain happiness and unveiling, is due to the fact that the act of drawing aside the veil has itself repulsed and tricked you, so that the bride has shown herself to you as ugly, as if to say, 'I am not that beauty.' The Koran is able to show itself in whatever form it pleases. But if you do not draw aside the veil and seek only its good pleasure, watering its sown field and attending on it from afar, toiling upon that which pleases it best, it will show its face to you without your drawing aside the veil.
Seek the people of God, for
God does not speak to everyone, just as the kings of this world do not speak to every weaver; they have appointed a vizier and a deputy to show the way to the king. God most High also has chosen a certain servant, so that whosoever seeks God, God is in him. All the prophets have come for this reason, that only they are the way.
Siraj al-Din said: I spoke on a problem, but something within me ached.
The Master answered: That is something put in charge of you which does not allow you to speak. Though that controller is imperceptible to you, yet when you feel yearning and compulsion and pain you know that there is a controller. For instance, you enter the water; the softness of the flowers and fragrant herbs reaches you. When you go to the other side, thorns prick into you. It thus becomes known to you that on that side is a thorn-bed, and discomfort and pain, whilst on the other side is a flower-bed and ease; though you perceive neither. This is called emotion, and it is more apparent than anything perceptible. For instance, hunger and thirst, anger and happiness -- all these things are imperceptible, yet they are more apparent than anything perceptible. For if you close your eyes you do not see the perceptible, whereas you cannot by any device drive hunger away from yourself. Similarly hotness in hot dishes, and coldness, sweetness and bitterness in foods, these are imperceptible, yet they are more apparent than anything perceptible.
Why now do you regard this body? What connexion have you with this body? You subsist without it. You are always without it. If it is night, you have no care for the body; while if it is day, you are preoccupied with your affairs. You are never with the body. So why do you tremble over this body, seeing that you are not with it for a single hour, but are always elsewhere? Where are you, and where is the body? 'You are in one valley, and I am in another.' This body is a great deception; it thinks that it is dead, and it is dead too. Why, what connexion have you with the body? It is a great hoodwink. Pharaoh's magicians, inasmuch as they had paused like a mote, sacrificed their bodies, for they perceived themselves to be subsisting without this body and that the body had no connexion with them. In the same way Abraham and Ishmael and all the prophets and the saints, having paused, were indifferent to the body and whether it existed or no.
Hajjaj, having taken being, had rested his head against the door and was shouting, 'Do not move the door or my head will fall off!' He had supposed that his head was separate from his body and only subsisted through the medium of the door. Our situation and that of all men is like this: they suppose that they are connected with the body or subsist through the body.
'He created Adam in His likeness.' All men are seeking manifestation. There are many women who are veiled, but they uncover their faces to try the object of their desire, as you try a razor. The lover says to the beloved, 'I have not slept and I have not eaten, I have become like this and that without you.' The meaning of this would be, 'You are seeking a manifestation; I am your manifestation, to which you may vaunt your belovedness.' In the same way all scholars and learned men are seeking manifestation. 'I was a hidden treasure, and I desired to be known.'
'He created Adam in His likeness,' that is, in the likeness of His rules. His rules are manifest in all creation, because all things are the shadow of God, and the shadow is like the person. If the five fingers are spread out, the shadow too is spread out; if the body bows, the shadow also bows; if it stretches out, the shadow also stretches out. So all men are seeking after a sought-for and beloved One, for they desire all to be His lovers and humble ones, enemies to His enemies and friends of His friends. All these are the rules and attributes of God which appear in the shadow.
To sum up, this shadow is unaware of us, but we are aware. But this awareness of ours in relation to God's knowledge is in the predicament of unawareness. Not everything that is in the person shows in the shadow, only certain things. So not all the attributes of God show in this shadow, only some of them show, for
Jesus, upon whom be peace, was asked, 'Spirit of God, what is the greatest and most difficult thing in this world and the next?' He replied, 'The wrath of God.' They asked, 'And what shall save a man from that?' He answered, 'That you master your own wrath and suppress your rage.'
That is the proper way: that when the soul desires to complain, a man should go contrary to it and give thanks and exaggerate the matter to such a degree that he acquires within himself a love of the other. For to give thanks lyingly is to seek love of God.
So says our great Master, God sanctify his spirit: To complain of the creature is to complain of the Creator. He also said: Enmity and rage in your unconsciousness are hidden from you. It is as if you see a spark leaping from a fire: extinguish it, so that it may return to non-existence whence it came. If you assist with the match of an answering word and the expression of a reprisal, it will find the way and move again and again out of non- existence, and then only with difficulty can you send it back to non-existence.
so that you may triumph over your enemy in two ways. One way is this: that your enemy is not his flesh and skin, it is the evil thought; when that is repelled from you by an abundance of thanks, it will inevitably be repelled from him also. The first way is in accordance with instinct, for 'A man is the slave of beneficence.' The second is that he sees no advantage. So it is with children: when they shout names at one of them and he calls bad names back, they are all the more encouraged, saying, 'Our words have had an effect.' But if the enemy sees no change and no advantage, no inclination remains in him. The second way is this: that when the attribute of forgiving appears in you, it becomes realised that the other man's reproaches were a lie and that he saw crooked, not seeing you as you truly are. It also becomes realised that he is the one to be reproached, not you; and no proof puts an adversary to shame more than that, that his lying should become manifest. So by praising and giving thanks to him you are administering poison to him; for whilst he is manifesting your deficiency, you have manifested your perfection. For you are beloved of God --
He who is loved by God can hardly be defective. Praise him, so that his friends may conceive the idea, 'Perhaps he is at odds with us, for there is so much agreement with him.'
May God assist us to that!
Between a man and God there are just two veils, and all other veils manifest out of these: they are health, and wealth. The man who is well in body says, 'Where is God? I do not know, and I do not see.' As soon as pain afflicts him he begins to say, 'O God! O God!' communing and conversing with God. So you see that health was his veil, and God was hidden under that pain. As much as a man has wealth and resources, he procures the means to gratifying his desires, and is preoccupied night and day with that. The moment indigence appears, his spirit is weakened and he goes round about God.
God most High granted to Pharaoh four hundred years of life and rule and kingship and enjoyment. All that was a veil which kept him far from the presence of God. He experienced not a single day of disagreeableness and pain, lest he should remember God. God said, 'Go on being preoccupied with your own desire, and do not remember me. Goodnight!'
The Master said: This that men say, that in the human soul there is an evil which does not exist in animals and wild beasts -- it is not from the standpoint that man is worse than they; it is explained by the fact that that evil character and wickedness of soul and the vilenesses which are in man are according to a secret essential element which is in him. Those characteristics and vilenesses and evil are a veil over that element. The more precious and venerable and noble that element is, the greater are its veils. So vileness and evil and bad character are the cause of the veil over that element; and these veils cannot be removed save with great strivings.
Those strivings are of various kinds. The greatest of them is to mingle with friends who have turned their faces to God and turned their backs on this world. For there is no more difficult striving than this, to sit with righteous friends; for the very sight of them dissolves and naughts that carnal soul. It is for this reason that they say that when a snake has not seen a man for forty years it becomes a dragon; that is, because it sees no one who would be the means of dissolving its evil and vileness.
Wherever men put a big lock, that is a sign that there is to be found something precious and valuable. So you see, the greater the veil the better the element. Just as a snake is over the treasure, so do you not regard our ugliness, but regard the precious things of the treasure.
The difference between birds and their wings, and the wings of the aspirations of intelligent men, is that birds fly on their wings towards a certain direction, whereas intelligent men fly on the wings of their aspirations away from all directions.
Every horse has its stable, every beast its pen, every bird its nest. And God knows best.