There is a story of a peasant girl who was passing through a farm while going to another village. There was a Muslim offering his prayers on his prayer-rug in the open. The law is that no one should cross the place where anyone is praying. When this girl returned from the village this man was still sitting there. He said, ‘O girl, now what terrible sin have you committed!’ ‘What did I do?’ asked she. ‘I was offering prayers here, and you passed over this place’. The girl asked, ‘What do you mean by offering prayers?’ ‘Thinking of God’, he replied. The girl said, ‘Yes? Were you thinking of God? I was thinking of my young man whom I was going to meet, and I did not see you. Then how did you see me while you were thinking of God?’ That shows what awakening means, what sleep means. She was asleep to the Muslim and awake to the one she was going to meet. And he was awake to something else than to the object of his prayer. He was asleep to his object and she was awake. One’s heart is where one’s treasure is. If it values a treasure, it is awakened to it. If it is not awakened to a treasure, it may be awakened to some misery. If its treasure is on earth, the heart is awakened rather to the earth than to something else.
In spiritual awakening, the first thing that comes to man is the lifting of a veil, and this is the lifting of an apparent condition. Then a person does not see every condition as it appears to be, but sees behind every condition its deeper meaning. Generally man has an opinion about everything that appears before him. He does not wait one moment to look, or to have patience, he immediately forms an opinion about every person, about every action he sees; whether wrong or right, he immediately forms an opinion without knowing what is behind it, ready to give contempt. It takes a long time for God to weigh and measure; for man it takes no time to judge! But when the veil of immediate reason is lifted, then one reaches the cause; then one is not awakened to the surface but to what is behind the surface.
There comes another step in awakening, when a man does not even see the cause, but comes to the realization of the adjustment of things: how every activity of life, whether it appears to be wrong or right, adjusts itself. By the time he arrives at this condition, he has lost much of his false self. That is what brings him there, for the more one is conscious of the false self, the further one is removed from reality. These two things cannot go together. It is dark or it is light; if it is light, there is no darkness. As much as the false conception of self is broken up, so much more light there is. On this path therefore, a person sees life more clearly.
Another form of awakening is the awakening of the self; one begins to wonder, ‘What does my thought mean, what does my feeling mean, what does wrong and what does right mean? What is it, after all?’ A man then begins to weigh and measure all that springs within himself. The further he goes, the more he sees behind all things, not only living on the surface of life, but attached to all planes of existence. This is a new awakening. Then a person has only to be awakened to the other world; he need not go there. He need not experience what is death, but he can bring about a condition where he rises above life. This brings him to the conclusion that there are many worlds in one world. He closes his eyes to the dimensions of the outer world and finds his own self within: ‘You are the center of all worlds’. And the only thing necessary is turning; not awakening, but turning.
Man has become motionless, stagnant, by fixing himself to this world in which he is born, in which he has become interested. If he makes his soul more subtle in order to turn away from this world, he can experience all that is said of the different worlds, of the different planes of consciousness. He will find the whole mystery within himself only by being able to make his soul so subtle that it can turn and move.
One may ask, ‘How can we make the soul subtle?’ The character of the soul is like water. By being stagnant it becomes frozen, like ice which does not move, and so it is with the soul bound to the world of which it is conscious. It is not unable to move, but that consciousness holds it; it is like captivity. A Sufi poet shows the way out of it when he says, ‘You yourself have made your self a captive, and you yourself will try to make your self free’.