- Author Hazrat Inayat Khan
When looking at the world with the eyes of the seer, we shall see that people who are called wise and people who are called foolish are much nearer to each other than they are ordinarily thought to be: because of their unbalanced state their different occupations are much nearer to each other than they usually appear. The person who sees the good in others will see more and more good. The person with a fault finding tendency will see so many faults that at last even the good seems bad in his eyes; the eyes themselves are bad.
There is much more chance of a fall for a person who is running than for one that is walking. The activity itself brings about a fall. The activity tends to grow more and more, and by this, balance is lost. Sometimes a person has no balance in telling the truth. He says, «I tell the truth,» and he is regardless of whether it is harmonious with his surroundings, whether people are prepared to receive it. He says, «I tell the truth, and I want to fight with everybody because I tell the truth!» therefore, the lesson of repose is the most important one to be learned.
Philosophy itself – the greatest, the highest thing in the world, the knowledge of God – has often been lost through lack of balance. This is why in the Bible, in the Vedanta, in the Qur’an the truth, told so plainly, is nevertheless told in a veiled manner. If the prophets, the masters had spoken the truth in plain words, the world would have gone to the left instead of the right. It has been my own experience that philosophy, when plainly expressed, is understood differently than when it is expressed in a veiled manner.
When we speak we become inclined to speak more and more, and we become so fond of speaking that we speak regardless of whether anyone wishes to listen. We say what we do not really wish to say. Afterwards we think, «Why did I insult that person? Why did I tell my secret to somebody else?» Sa’adi, the great Persian poet says, «O, intelligent one, of what use is thine intelligence, if afterwards thou repentest?»
Whatever we do, whether good or bad, increases in us more and more. If one day a person thinks about music for five minutes, the next day that thought will continue for half an hour. If one day he thinks about poetry for ten minutes, the next day that thought will continue for an hour. If a person has a little thought of bitterness, unconsciously the thought will grow until his mind is full of bitterness. Every sin comes about in this way. Zarathustra distinguishes three kinds of sin: the sin of thought, the sin of speech and the sin of action. To have a thought of bitterness, the thought of evil, is like doing evil; to speak evil is like doing evil. And when a person commits an evil action, then the evil is concrete.
We have balance of thought, when we can see things not only from our own point of view, with the ideas and feelings in which we are trained, but from all sides. The one-sided person has no balance.
Suppose you are very patriotic and se everything from the point of view of patriotism, and you go to an ironmonger and demand that he should sell you some things at a certain price. But the ironmonger is a poor man and, even for a patriotic purpose, he cannot sell the things at that price. After all he is an ironmonger and he thinks of his trade. He cannot be expected to see with your patriotic eyes. One person thinks only of patriotism. Another says, «God save the trade.» A third, who is a musician, says, «They are mad, crazy! Music is the only thing that matters.» The poet says, «poetry is the only thing in the world.» Each thinks only of that in which he is active. A pious person exaggerates his piety so much that there is nothing in him but piety, which at last becomes hypocrisy.
One will ask: What is balance; and how can we achieve it? First there is the balance of activity and repose, of sleeping and waking. If a person thinks that by sleeping very much he will become great and so sleeps very much, he will become a monster instead of a man, because the body, which is given in order to experience the world, is not used. If one does not sleep at all, in a few days one will have a nervous breakdown. If one fasts very much, certainly one will become very ethereal, one will see into the other world, into other planes. If one has learned the way of inspiration, inspiration will come. But this body, these senses will become weak, so that one will not be able to experience the world for which they were given. Extremity is undesirable in everything, whether good or evil. The madzubs, in India, are those mystics who go to the extreme of spirituality. Their external self is so much forgotten that they leave the experience of the world altogether.
To sleep and wake, to eat and fast, to be active and to be still, to speak and to be silent- that is to have balance. The Sufi teaches control of the activity of the body, the balance of the body, by pose, posture and movements, which include namaz, wazifa and dhikr. He teaches the balance of the mind by concentration. To sit at home and close the eyes is not concentration. Though the eyes are closed, the thoughts go on. The right object of concentration must be chosen.
By concentration and meditation a person experiences ecstasy, the greatest happiness and bliss. Guidance of the Murshid is needed for this; otherwise the balance will be lost. A disciple was taught a practice by the Prophet Mohammad, through which he experienced ecstasy. After some days he came bringing fruit and flowers, which he offered to the Prophet, thanking him greatly and saying, «The lesson that you taught me is of so great a value to me. It has brought me such joy. My prayers, which used to last a few minutes, now last all day.» The Prophet said, «I am glad you liked the lesson, but, please from today on leave it.»
By control of the self a person experiences the higher plane in which all beings are one. The guidance of the teacher, the Murshid, is needed. No one can accomplish this by themselves. And if anyone could, he would become so much interested in what he experienced there, that he would become absent from this world. Absent- mindedness, even lunacy and many other evil consequences would result.
Ecstasy is the greatest happiness, the greatest bliss. A person always thinks, «I am this which I see. This small amount of flesh and blood, bones and skin is I.» By ecstasy the consciousness is freed from this body, from this confinement. It experiences its true existence above all sorrow, pain and trouble. That is the greatest joy. To experience it, and to keep control of the body and the senses through which we experience all the life of this world is to have balance. That is the highest state.
It is not only strength or nervous energy that enables man to stand on the earth. Besides muscular strength and nervous energy, there is balance. It is balance which enables man to stand and walk without falling. In the absence of balance man will not be able to stand or walk in spite of his muscular strength and nervous energy.
When we think of the mind – is it reasoning, is it far-reaching imagination, which makes man thoughtful? No, it is balance. There are many whose imagination reaches so far that they can float in the air for hours together, and there are others whose reason is so powerful that they can go round and round and round and end nowhere. If there is anything that makes man thoughtful, it is not great reasoning or far-reaching imagination: it is balance.
Is it the deep feeling of the heart, or is it living in a spiritual ecstasy that makes a person illuminated? No, neither of these things. A person can be in ecstasy, see visions phenomena and yet he may not be called spiritual. A person may have religious ideas, he may live a pious life, have lofty ideals, and even then he may not be called an illuminated soul. This shows that in order to make the body as it ought to be, to keep the mind in order, and to maintain it to that pitch, it is balance that is necessary.
When we study nature, we find that the growth of plants and the life of trees all depend upon balance. And when we think of the cosmos and study the condition of the stars and planets, the main thing we realize is that the one holds the other, thereby producing balance. All destruction caused in nature, such as volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, comes from lack of balance. As long as nature holds its balance, the abyss in the heart of the earth can remain as it is. People can walk over it without any damage. Storms and famine, all the difficult conditions caused by nature, show that balance is missing. All the different plagues that come to mankind are caused by the lack of that balance which is the security of the health of humanity.
What we call art also comes from a balanced sense of line and color, and what we call genius in science comes from the balance between perception and conception.
What do we learn from all this? That the secret of existence of the individual as well as of the whole cosmos lies in one thing and that is balance. It would not be exaggerated if I said that success and failure are caused by balance and by the lack of it. Progress and lack of progress can be explained as coming from balance and lack of balance.
There is another idea connected with what we call balance. Life is movement, balance is something that controls it, but perfect balance controls movement too much, bringing it to the pitch of inertia. For instance, if the strength of the right hand were equal to the strength of the left hand, if the right leg and the left leg were equal, man would not be able to work or to walk. If each of the two eyes had the same power of sight, a person would not be able to see. In this way balance controls everything. But, too much balance destroys it, because too much balance brings stillness. The ordinary balance, which is not complete, brings about success.
Now the main idea is to know how balance is to be obtained and to be retained. In answer to the first question, how balance is to be attained, I would say that balance is naturally there, so there is no need to attain it. The question is only how to maintain balance and not how to attain it. The influence of our way of life in this active world always puts us off balance. No matter what direction we take in life, no matter what our occupation, our business in life, there is always difficulty in maintaining balance.
The Sufis therefore, have found a key to it, and that key is to isolate oneself within and thereby, to gain a complete balance within oneself. I have already said that perfect balance means destruction of action, but when we think that from morning till evening our life is nothing but action, we naturally cannot keep that balance. By keeping a few minutes for a process of meditation, of silence, we can touch that complete balance for a moment, and then, naturally, in our active life a balance is maintained. Very often people make the mistake of thinking that by the help of meditation or silence they can bring about success in activity. If it brings about a successful result, it is only because complete balance in meditation makes one capable of maintaining the balance necessary for activity.
Success, failure, progress, standstill, one’s state of being, it all comes from the condition that a person is experiencing within himself. A man of common sense will say, «For this reason or for that reason you have met with success or failure.» A person who is clairvoyant will say, «Because a spirit or a ghost has said this or that, the conditions must be worse or better.» The astrologer will say, «Because this star is in its house or not in its house, you are experiencing such or such conditions.» But according to the Sufi idea the condition of life around one depends absolutely on the condition of one’s inner self. So what is needed to change the conditions in outer life, or to tune oneself, is to work with one’s inner self in order to bring about the necessary balance.
Once balance is lost, it is very difficult to bring it about again. In the first place it is often difficult to keep balance in everyday life, and once it is lost, there is very little hope of success, of happiness, or of progress. It is just like a clock getting out of order. It cannot work as long as it is not brought into a proper balance again. And the same is true for the conditions of the soul. If a person has lost his wealth, has become a spendthrift, has become thoughtless, all these things are signs of his loss of balance. To be too sad, to be too busy, to be too lazy, all these things are signs of lack of balance. All that can be called too much is always out of balance.
Balance is the security of life, not only in our outward life, but even in maintaining meditation and contemplation. People in the East have always considered balance to be the principal thing to maintain in life. All different exercises they have prescribed, whether in the form of religion or in the form of devotion, whether in the philosophical or in the psychical realm, are all meant to maintain balance.
Balance must be maintained between what is physical and what is eternal by being conscious of both. One must not dive so deep into eternity that one does not know what time it is, nor so immersed in the physical that one is unaware of immortality. As there is night and day, so there is the change of consciousness from the physical to the spiritual, and from the spiritual to the physical. By keeping a balance between these two conditions a person leads a complete life.
Balance is something, which is as rarely found among mystics as among others. When we become interested in something, it is our nature to want more and more of it, whether it is spirituality or something material. If we become very spiritual and are not material [enough], we lose the world. If we were not meant to live in this world, we would not have been sent here.