There are two different attitudes that people adopt while going through this struggle of life. One struggles along bravely through life; the other becomes disappointed, heart-broken, before arriving at his destination. As soon as a man loses the courage to go through the struggle of life, the burden of the whole world falls upon his head. But he who goes on struggling through life, he alone makes his way. The one whose patience is exhausted, the one who has fallen in this struggle, is trodden upon by those who walk through life. Even bravery and courage are not sufficient to go through the struggle of life; there is something else which must be studied and understood.
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.
And now the question is: where should one begin and where should one end? Generally one starts by struggling with others, and then one struggles all through life, and never finishes. The one who is somewhat wiser struggles with conditions, and perhaps he accomplishes things a little better. But 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. Struggling with oneself is like singing without an accompaniment. Struggling with others is the definition of war, struggling with oneself is the definition of peace. In the beginning, outwardly, it might seem that it is cruel to have to struggle with oneself, especially when one is in the right. But the one who has penetrated deeper into life will find that the struggle with oneself is the most profitable in the end.
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 to practice. 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 question of 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.
Regarding the third aspect of this struggle, there are conditions which can be avoided, and there are conditions which cannot be helped, before which one is helpless. And again there are conditions that could be avoided, and yet one does not find in oneself the capability, the power, or the means to change the condition. If one studies these questions of life, and meditates in order that inspiration and light may fall on them, so that one may understand how to struggle through life, one certainly will find help and arrive at a stage where one finds life easier.
The Sufi looks upon the struggle as unavoidable, as a struggle through which he has to go. He sees from his mystical point of view that the more he takes notice of the struggle the more the struggle will expand; and the less he makes of it the better he will be able to pass through it. When he looks at the world what does he see? He sees everybody with his hands before his eyes, looking only at his own struggles which are as big as his own palm. He thinks, ‘Shall I also sit down like this, and look at my struggles? That will not answer the question.’ His work therefore is to engage in the struggle of others, to console them, to strengthen them, to give them a hand; and through that his own struggle dissolves and this makes him free to go forward.
How does the Sufi struggle? He struggles with power, with understanding, with open eyes, and with patience. He does not look at the loss; what is lost is lost. He does not think of the pain of yesterday; yesterday is gone for him. Only if a memory is pleasant does he keep it before him, for it is helpful on his way. He takes both the admiration and the hatred coming from around him with smiles; he believes that both these things form a rhythm within the rhythm of a certain music; there is one and two, the strong accent and the weak accent. Praise cannot be without blame, nor can blame be without praise. He keeps the torch of wisdom before him, because he believes that the present is the echo of the past, and that the future will be the reflection of the present. It is not sufficient to think only of the present moment; one should also think where it comes from and where it goes. Every thought that comes to his mind, every impulse, every word he speaks, is to him like a seed, a seed which falls in this soil of life, and takes root. And in this way he finds that nothing is lost; every good deed, every little act of kindness, of love, done to anybody, will someday rise as a plant and bear fruit.