All around the world, people find novelty and complexity to be intoxicating – this is true of experiences, of goods and possessions, and of people, whether we tag them as names or celebrities or personalities or influencers. We also seek for novel and ever more complicated approaches to spirituality, assuming, apparently, that some exotic new method will give us what we have so far been unable to find. But as the wise king Solomon said, ‘There is nothing new under the sun,” and a thousand years after him, Jesus confirmed the same thing to the people of Palestine, when he said, “I have not come to bring a new law.” More recently, Hazrat Inayat Khan, in Vadan Boulas, says,
Nothing new I say when I speak;
I only renew the memory of things
which may not be forgotten.
In spite of our hunger for change, nothing is new. If the truth is true, then it was, is, and will always be. Our task is only to recognise what has been there all along, hiding in plain sight.
How to do that? The brief quatrain by Shaikh Abu Saeed, posted here, could provide us with a lifetime’s worth of advice: let go of wanting and having, and be content. As a philosophy, as an attitude, this means not hungering for the new, and not putting out heart outside of the circle of the present.
The discipline of contentment also leads us to let go of our efforts to force-fit the world to our agenda. It does not end our duties, our responsibilities, but we see with a more compassionate view, and instead of trying to dominate, we learn to harmonise.
When we focus on having and getting, it puts veils between us and the One – we only look at what we are busy with, and not at what really is. The wise have always spoken of the advantages of poverty, because having little means having so many fewer veils between us and that which we truly long for.
To be content with whatever life gives us brings a sense of freedom that cannot be described, and it also, inevitably, improves our relationships with those around us. It is our desires that provoke our expectations of others, and since they often do not fulfil them, this gives rise to tension and conflict. The one who is contented no longer has to quarrel.
The words of Abu Saeed can not only ease the suffering of our outer life, but also heal our inner life, for they in fact give a picture of meditation. Many techniques and methods are taught in different traditions, but they usually come down to what one Sufi called, ‘giving up desires.’ If we can really let go of all wanting, it allows what Hazrat Inayat Khan called ‘relaxation’ on the inner plane, so that we drop all pretence and become one with whatever we encounter there.
If we have dropped enough veils, what we will surely encounter in the inner world is the welcoming embrace of infinite Light and Life, the source of all contentment.