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
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.
How does the Sufi Struggle? He struggles with power, with understanding, with
open eyes, and with patience.
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, favourable or unfavourable, 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
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
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.