- Author Hazrat Inayat Khan
There are two distinct paths through which one attains the spiritual goal, and they are quite contrary to one another: one is the path of resignation, the other the path of struggle. No doubt in the path of struggle there is also resignation, and in the path of resignation there is also struggle. But the one who is treading the path of resignation has only one thought: to be resigned; as to the one who strikes the path of struggle, his main object is to struggle.
These two paths are illustrated in a symbolical way by the words of Christ, «Take your sword and sheathe it.» The taking of the sword means struggle, the covering of it is resignation. The necessity of these two paths is so great that it is not possible that one of them is ignored and only one of them is accepted. People often think that Sufism means pacifism, but it is not «passivism,» it is activity and «passivism» both. It is the knowledge of the secret of man’s life on earth, of what he needs for his character, for his condition.
When we reflect upon these principles, we find that there are things in life to which we can only be resigned. It is easy to be resigned to things one cannot help, but if one has the power to struggle it is difficult to be resigned. A person who is resigned in easy conditions, not finding it difficult, does not know resignation. For instance, there is a person whose poor relations want a part of his capital, because they are in great need, but in spite of all their need he cannot be resigned to let them have that part. Then during the night robbers break into his house and go away with his fortune, and the next day this person resigns himself to it. This resignation is no virtue. To resign means that one has the power to manage, and yet resigns.
All the great ones have seen the value of resignation, and have taught it. Christ said that if someone wants you to walk a certain distance with him, [you should] walk with him a longer distance. What does it teach? Resignation. One might think that resignation is unpractical, that this selfish world will take the best of one. Yes, it is true, but the loss is much less when compared to the gain-if only the heart can sustain the loss. If one is not contented with what has been done, it is better not to resign. For instance, an acquaintance comes to your house and asks to take your umbrella and you say «yes.» Then comes the time when you want to go out yourself. It is raining and your umbrella is taken. Now you grumble about that acquaintance, «How stupid of him, how could he have the boldness to ask for my umbrella!» That resignation was no good; it bears no fruit. That is only virtue of resignation when you went out in the rain, yet you were satisfied, because the other person was safe from it. Only then would resignation be a virtue.
One who is really resigned does not show it. Resignation is not an easy thing. How many people in this world try to learn wonderful spiritual things, but this simple thing, resignation, is miraculous; for this virtue is not only beautiful, it is a miracle. There are little things in which we do not see resignation, and where yet it is. Those around us may ask us to do something that does not please us; those around us perhaps say something that we do not wish to take silently, we wish to talk back; then, in everyday life, there are the little pin-pricks from those around us. If we are not resigned, we shall feel excited every moment. To be resigned, therefore, is not a weakness, it is a great strength.
When one goes further one finds that one can be resigned even to cold and heat, to places congenial and uncongenial; one finds that all has a meaning, a benefit. Even if one had not formed a habit of being resigned, one could just as well resign oneself, for not having resigned oneself to an experience is the loss of an occasion.
There are two forces working: the individual power and the collective power. In Sufi terms the former is called qadr, the latter qadha. Often the individual power will not surrender, but if it does not do so it is crushed. For instance someone is called to arms in his country but says he will not join the army. In spite of all the beauty of his ideal he is helpless before the might of the whole nation. Here he must resign to the condition in which there is a conflict between a lesser and a greater power; here resignation is the only solution.
No doubt everything must be understood rightly. Resignation preached foolishly is of no benefit. There was a mureed who learned from a Murshid the lesson of resignation, and thinking on this subject the simple mureed was walking in the middle of the road when a mad elephant came from the other side. As he was walking in the thought of resignation he stayed in the middle of the road. A wise man told him to go out of the way, but he would not do so, because he was resigned to the elephant, until he was pushed away by its strength. They brought him to his Murshid who asked him how he came to be hurt so much. He answered that he was practicing resignation. The Murshid said, «Was there not somebody who told you to go away?» «Yes,» he answered, «but I would not listen.» «But,» said the Murshid, «why did you not resign yourself to that person?» often beautiful principles can be practiced to the greatest disadvantage. Nevertheless, resignation has proved to be the path of saints, because it develops patience in man. And what is patience? It is all the treasure there is. Nothing is more valuable, nothing is a greater bliss than patience.
There is a story about a prophet who was very ill. He suffered many years, and through his suffering his insight became clearer. His suffering was so great that those around him became tired of it and so, in order to relieve them from seeing his pain, he had to seek refuge with God in the forest. As his sight was keen and the ears of his heart were open, he heard from the trees, «I am the medicine of your disease.» The prophet asked, «Has the time of my cure come?» A voice answered: «No.» So he said, «Why shall I take you then?» Another time he had this experience again; he heard, «I am the medicine of your disease,» and asked, «Has the time of my cure come?» «Yes.» The prophet said, «Why shall I take you then?»
When we think of this extreme ideal we may ask: is it not unpractical, especially at this time where there are so many treatments, so many mechanical means? But a thoughtful person will see how many people have ruined their lives by going from one treatment to another, lacking the patience and resignation in which resides their absolute cure. The remedy is not always the answer. It seems as if man becomes more and more impatient every day owing to his superficial life; there is hardly any resignation to little things. Yet it is better to resign than to struggle.
When we throw a mystic light upon this subject we find that we form a harmonious connection with the Infinite by being resigned. How to learn it? Should we learn it by being resigned to God? No, that is a still greater lesson to learn. The first thing to learn is to be resigned to the little difficulties in life. What does this mean? It means not to strike out at everything that comes in our way. If one were able to manage this, one would not need to cultivate great power; then one’s presence would be healing. Such a person is in the world more precious than a branch of the rose, which may have many thorns and hardly one flower.
Question: How to attain peace when our life is often so difficult?
Answer: No doubt, life is difficult for many of us, but very often we make it even more difficult for ourselves. When we do not understand the real nature and character of life we make our own difficulties. I can assure you that in every man’s life five percent of his difficulties are brought about by the conditions of life, and ninety-five percent are difficulties caused by himself.
Now you will ask: When the difficulties come from ourselves, where do they come from? We do not like struggle in life, we do not like strife, we only want harmony, and we only want peace. It must be understood, however, that before making peace, war is necessary, and that war must be made with our self. Our worst enemy is our self: our faults, our weaknesses, and our limitation. And our mind is such a traitor! What does it: it covers our faults even from our own eyes, and points out to us the reason for all our difficulties: others! So it constantly deludes us unaware of the real enemy, and pushes us towards those others to fight them, showing them to us as our enemies.
Besides this, we must tune ourselves to God. As high we rise, so high becomes our point of view, and as high our point of view so wide becomes the horizon of our sight. When a person evolves higher and higher his point of view becomes wider and wider, and so in all he does he strikes the divine note, the note which is healing and comforting and peace-giving to all souls.