How the words “love”, “harmony”, and “beauty” delight the heart of everyone who hears them! One may wonder what it can be in these words that is able to exert such a natural power upon the human soul.
The answer is that if there is anything in life which appeals to the human soul, it is love and beauty. If one asks, “And what besides those?” then the answer is, “There is nothing else.” Why is this? Because they are the very nature of life. Love is the nature of life, beauty is the outcome of life, harmony is the means by which life accomplishes its purpose, and the lack of it results in destruction.
When we reflect upon this whole creation we cannot but see that its purpose is to express an ideal of love, harmony, and beauty. Love could not have manifested itself if there were nothing to love, eyes could not have seen if there were nothing to see. What could love have done if there were no beauty? Love would have been silent. Love can only be said to exist after it has passed from silence into expression.
Now comes the question: what has made beauty? The answer is that it is love that has made beauty. When a Sufi calls you “Beloved ones of God” he has this idea in his mind. Whatever God has created, He has created out of His love, He has created to be loved by Him, and therefore whatever He has created and all His creatures are His beloved ones.
We human beings have our prejudices; we like one, dislike another; we consider one worthy of high esteem, and another only worthy of low esteem, but to God they are all alike; they are His creation. It is just as it would be for a poet to have the little scrap of paper on which his song is written thrown away, or lost and not esteemed. How could he sing without his voice? So it is with the Creator; He cannot be pleased when His little scraps of paper are not appreciated.
God is love, and He has created man out of His love. How then can He be pleased if one has hatred or prejudice against a fellowman, because one forgets that however unworthy he may seem to be, he is nevertheless the beloved one of God? He has created him in order to love him. Therefore God, the Father and Mother of all beings, is equally pleased with all His creatures.
But is not one thing more beautiful than another, one person more than another, in either external or internal being? What is the reason of this?
The reason is found when we consider the work of an artist, of a poet, of a composer of music, of a writer. We can see that one composition is much more beautiful than another. One picture may perhaps be the best the artist has painted in all his life. The poet may wonder, “Have I written this verse? where can it have come from? It is so superior to all the others; it is marvelous how these words came to me.’
Just as we see this in the individual, so also do we see it in the work of the Creator. At the same time, love is the only power that has created, or that can create.
In this way God becomes the lover and the manifestation or object of love at the same time. In Sanskrit this is called by mystics Shiva and Shakti, or Purusha and Prakriti, or Ishwara and Maya, these three pairs of words. The one part is love, and the other part is beauty. Love has created beauty in order that it may be able to love. God is love; that is why He is called the Creator. The lover alone has the power to create, and that which he creates is for the purpose of receiving his love.
The Prophet has said, “God is beautiful, and He loves beauty.”
Now the word “beautiful” does not refer to the form of God. God is formless. He has no personality until He manifests Himself to Himself. Therefore it is not His personality which is beautiful, for God is beyond that which in the ordinary sense of the word is called personality.
What then is the source of God’s beauty? God is beautiful because He has created beauty.
If there were no beauty in God, there could have been none in His manifestation. If there were no beauty in the thought of the poet, he could not write beautiful verse; if there were no beauty in the thought of the artist, he could never have painted the picture. One cannot see the beauty in the heart of the painter except in the beauty of the picture he has made. It is not only the picture which is beautiful, the heart of the painter was beautiful first.
Consequently we become able to see the beauty not only in manifestation, but also before it was manifested; and before it was manifested it existed in love. In other words, we can see that the beauty was hidden in love; beauty is hidden in love, and the beauty that love has before it to love is its own beauty. Therefore, to whatever extent beauty is beautiful, so is love beautiful; even more so, for the Creator is more beautiful than the thing He has created.
All things that we make are the work of our hands. We are their creator, and we are greater than our hands. So it is with love. Love is greater than beauty, became love is the creator of the beauty that love loves in its life.
No doubt by loving, love becomes limited, limited as beauty; but then that is the purpose of love. If there were no beauty, His love could not have realized the latent joy of its own nature. The joy of its existence would die out.
As soon as we can think in this way, we come to see that the lover is vaster, incomparably vaster than the object he loves. The real love, the real beauty, is in the lover. The object that he loves is much smaller, although for the moment the lover is not aware of the difference. The lover thinks, “You are the object before which I bow. You are the object of which I think day and night, before which I am helpless. You are the object that I admire, that I adore.” Yet he does not realize the vastness of his love, and indeed, strictly speaking, love is vaster than the lover.
When people begin to learn the lesson of love they are apt to be frightened at the pain and difficulties and troubles which they will have to face on behalf of love. When they compare their condition with that of the beloved, they think the beloved is much better off than they:
“The one who takes my thought, who gives me pain, who wounds my heart, is much happier. When I compare myself with the beloved I think he is much the happier.” And they go on thinking, “If I were the beloved it would be much better.”
Every soul experiences that thought, but once he has risen above it, then he begins to know love. The soul that has not escaped from this fails to realize the fullness of love.
There is another side to love, and that is selfishness, and the lover must escape from this. The true lover says,
“I will give everything, I will endure all things, all tortures, all torments that may have to be faced in life. I will bow in humility before whatever befalls me. I will give all that I have. I will bear all things, believe all things, hope for all things, and endure all things.”
But the other side of love says,
“Are you crazy? Have you lost your senses? You are foolish. Why this complaining? See how happy the beloved is. Be happy Like him, and be in his exalted position, instead of in this humility and degradation. Enter into this greatness and not into that destruction!”
Then he [the selfish lover] proceeds to reason, and at length he understands. The one thing leads to destruction, the other promises safety. But in destruction there is the hand of God, while in safety there is the hand of Satan. All things that are selfish are taught by that power and by that knowledge which is the enemy of mankind. Satan is an enemy because he leads man away from the purpose of his life. He seeks to make the lover change places with the beloved and say, “Your position is better than mine; now I would like to be like you.” And perhaps he will wait all his life to gain that coveted position, and it never comes because the beloved would not surrender the wealth when the chance was there.
The life of a person is quite changed after being melted in the fire of love. The fire of love will exalt him so that his power will even influence animals and birds; the wise and foolish will be attracted to him alike. Once he is purified, burned in the fire of love, he will become the attraction of every soul, of every being, invisible as well as visible. It is only the advice of Satan that keeps him from that. The master is he who suffers. We often reflect upon how Jesus Christ washed the feet of his disciples. What beauty there is in that service, in that humility! Should we find that beauty in a proud man? Could a proud man win the hearts of the world for centuries and centuries? The proud man is led by Satan; he becomes egoistic, selfish, cold; everyone in his presence will freeze, for his presence is like ice and cannot impart comfort.
But how forgiving is he who has been through all suffering! Was there anything else in Christ’s life but forgiveness and tolerance? Always forgive, always tolerate, he said. It was became the love in the heart of the Master was so great that it appealed to everyone. Love was all the philosophy that his fishermen could understand, and if love were placed before philosophy and religion how devoted would the devotees become. The animals and the birds would be attracted by the power of man’s heart aflame with love. As it is, man only frightens love away at the least suspicion of its appearance, and so love never wants to come nearer.
How often is the word “love” used in everyday life for what is nothing but an amusement, a pleasure, a pastime, a degraded thing. Love is so much higher. It is not a thing that you can give to a person, or of which a person may say, “I can develop it.” He cannot learn it, he cannot study it in a book; there is only this one thing to be done: to allow it to grow in the heart.
A person cannot live without his heart, and the heart cannot exist without love. However loveless and cold a person seems to be, however wicked and cruel, he nevertheless has love, though it is hidden. There is a thick wall built round it. It has no means of coming out; it is continually kept within this shell, and it is uneasy and restless. That is why man becomes cold and unhappy, always wanting he knows not what, because he does not understand the only true inclination. The power of love has become captive in a thick shell, a shell of coldness, the frozen part of love, and this shell refuses outlet to the stream of love, the divine power which seeks to emerge through the heart.
When a man does not give this love an outlet he becomes a burden to others; his presence becomes disagreeable to his surroundings, his influence becomes a burden to himself. For this reason some people even go mad. Not knowing what they want in life, they always blame others for not having loved them, and sympathized with them, or been kind to them. They do not realize that the key lies in themselves; in their heart lies the power to open and melt anyone’s heart. It is our own power that can bring another to our feet.
Whoever learns this truth ceases to blame anyone for being cold to him, unkind to him, unsympathetic towards him. He finds that the cause lies in himself. By seeking the sympathy and good feeling of another person he covers up his own heart and stops it from expressing itself. The power of love is ever wishing to come out to impress itself upon its surroundings, and yet it is as if the doors were being ever closed to prevent God from coming out to fulfil the purpose of His own creation.
How beautiful are the words of the Prophet: “The shrine of God is the heart of man.”
How true that is! Is God to be found in a mosque, or temple, or church, or in any place where people sing hymns and offer their prayers? Can He be found where there is no love? He is not to be found in the houses that men have built for worship. These are only schools for children, and their playgrounds. Children like playing with toys, and yet they are preparing themselves for something else. When man has come to know the real beauty of God, he will find that it dwells only in one place: in the heart of man. God is love, and He is found in the heart of man.
He who understands this can worship God even in man, for when he abides by this philosophy he will always be aware that in every aspect and at every moment he may be injuring or hurting the feelings of God, that he is in danger of breaking the shrine of God in breaking the heart of his fellow-man.
It might be thought that the philosophers and mystics and sages, who are so near and close to God, might take too much liberty with the world. But they are, on the contrary, the most tender and sensitive towards mankind. They are ready to share anyone’s trouble, to share anyone’s sorrow, to share everyone’s depression and despair. They are ready to console any and every person with their words, to help with their service, and to give their sympathy always to those who need it. They shrink at no sacrifice of time, money, pleasure, or comfort. As Christ teaches, “Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
What does all this teach us? It is all a lesson in sympathy for one’s fellow-man, to teach us to share in his troubles, in his despair. For whoever really experiences this joy of life, finds that it becomes so great that it fills his heart and his soul. It does not matter if he has fewer comforts or an inferior position than many in this world, because the light of his kindness, of his sympathy, of the love that is growing, the virtue that is springing up in his heart, all fill the soul with light. There is nothing now that he lacks in life, for he has become the king of it.
Such a person becomes a healer, a real healer. He heals a person with his glance, with a kind word, with his hand, by his comfort, by his nature. What a healing that is! Unpretentious, unassuming; the real healing is when a man is in sympathy with another’s trouble and gives him a helping hand. He is the possessor of the true wine. He who can send from his eye the glance that proves the sympathy and help he is anxious to give, what a healing power he has! Is it not like a young bird being taken in beneath the brooding wings? There cannot be a more beautiful process of healing than this among all the different methods by which people have endeavored to heal.
Some may ask what, then, should be the object which one should love in this life? Is there any particular object that a man can be recommended to love? Is it best to love one’s parent or friends; to love one friend only or to love just one beloved of the opposite sex? Should one love something in the abstract, some spirit, some ideal, some name, or something which is beyond man’s nature? Or should one love something idealized as the God whom one worships?
- There are many who say that there is no love which is useful but the love of God; all other forms are worthless.
- Another says that he or she can love no one who is of the opposite sex, having once been disappointed in this way.
- Another will say, “I will love no human being; I can love my dog or my cat better. They do not disappoint me, whereas I was once disappointed in man.”
- Another says, “I love my money, because if I am in need that is the only friend that comes to my rescue. The deposit I have in my bank does more for me than anyone can do. Why then should I not love my money?”
- And still another person says, “If God is all, if He is to have all love, then why not love the chair, or the table, or a book, or the work that a person does — a work of art, a piece of music; is it not the same?”
But all these questions are voiced by hearts which have once been disappointed, once broken. They broke and became closed, and once the doors of the heart are closed there is no light to guide its path. That is what is so beautiful in the little English song, “The light of a whole life dies when love is done.” There is no light when love is done. When love is done, the heart is closed.
So often one meets with people who complain that the love on the part of the lover failed to satisfy and caused their despair and distress. What does the Sufi, what does the sage learn from this? He learns that it is those who love who gain. Those who have loved and not gone forward are those who have lost. The reason why they have gone back before reaching their destiny has been that they were dependent upon the object of love which disappointed them. The Sufi is aware of this great pit on the path. Whenever the lover, who was attracted by beauty, falls from his love, it is because he depended on the beauty. It was the beauty that he loved, and he could only stand as long as that beauty remained his ideal.
The lover rises again when he consults with himself and says, “I will make such an ideal as will allow my life to become self-sufficient. The ideal will be my excuse, but in reality I will raise my love. Whenever love was broken it was only because the ideal did not prove to be as the lover expected it to be. I will therefore avoid blinding my eyes with the external life, but will build the path on which to travel in my own heart. That ideal will suffice and provide everything that the beloved may lack.” This lover is the real lover, because love has a beauty too, and he produces from his own love the beauty which perhaps the beloved lacks, and he no longer notices the lack in his beloved. From this time on, the beloved becomes his love because he has made a beloved in his thought, in his imagination, and he can continually add to the beauty of the manifestation.
In this manner the song of love and beauty has been sung in all periods of history. Sa’di of Persia, Dante of Italy, and all the great ones who have loved and appealed to the heart of man, all of them have left words which still pierce through our hearts today because of the greatness of their ideal. They have themselves created their ideal in their own hearts. For all such there can no longer be any question of the beloved proving unworthy of love. The lover has become the creator of the love. Did not God create love? Have not we inherited this beauty of God? Can we not create love also? That which one can create can always be depended on.
There is another side to this question, and it is that the ideal of love which is created by man is according to his evolution. If he is material, he will appreciate material beauty in a person or object. He cannot help this. It is not his fault. It is right for him to admire that which directly appeals to him. One person will prefer beauty of mind, of virtue, of personality, of some good manner, of some goodness which appeals to him; he values a beautiful personality, a sympathetic presence. Another person will perhaps like a soul because he finds in it his ideal of inspiration, intuition, peace of mind, and joy.
Therefore one cannot point to any particular object as the only object worthy of love, because beauty is only according to a person’s evolution. He who is of lower evolution cannot love a higher object. But a person of higher evolution can love the lower as well as the higher. He who once loves cannot hate. The one who hates is he who cannot appreciate. Hatred is found in the lower grades of evolution, not in the higher; and the higher the evolution develops, the less the hatred and prejudice become. In the higher realm there is no poison, for the object is higher, the standard is higher, the sphere is greater. As high as one sets one’s ideal, so high does one reach, and it is by raising the standard of beauty step by step that one rises up and up into the highest heaven.
It is by walking along and keeping ever on the path of love that even from the lowest depths the soul can reach the highest heaven. Man can even raise his ideal to that height in which he becomes able to love God the Formless, God the Nameless, who is above all goodness and virtue; not even He can be restricted to virtue, for He is beyond goodness.
There are sages who are moved to tears just by saying to themselves one word of essential truth, of abstract truth. What could have this effect? Is there some pain concealed in it? Is anything said to evoke sympathy? No, it is their ideal that is so high that they see the ideal beauty in the truth. The truth of being has become beautiful to them. Their beloved has become God, and when a word of truth is spoken in their hearing they are moved to tears. To these sages everything is a real manifestation of the beauty of God.
- If they hear music, in that music they feel God, in that music they see God.
- If they are standing before a picture, in the beauty of that picture they see their Beloved.
- If they are standing in a crowd, with all manner of faces, to them the whole picture is one harmony, one vision of the sublime, and they can see the whole beauty there.
- Whether it be desert, or sea, or sky, or land, whatever it is that is before their eyes has a vision of beauty to offer to them.
And it is in this way that the whole of manifestation has become for them an immanence of the beauty of God.