Hazrat Inayat: The Path of Attainment

The path of attainment can be likened to a narrow and steep path that one finds on the mountain and that leads to the top. Therefore the path of attainment is difficult, for it is going uphill. But then, after the attainment, there follows another path which leads to the goal. It cannot very well be called downhill, yet the journey on this path is as easy as the one which comes down from the top of the mountain.

The path that goes uphill towards attainment requires a continual sacrifice, and the one who is not ready to sacrifice must remain standing, either at the foot of the mountain or at the place where he happens to find himself on the way. He cannot go further because he cannot sacrifice. And the path that comes after attainment is reached requires renunciation. Very often people confuse sacrifice and renunciation, but to mix up these two words is like confusing such words as pleasure and happiness, or intellect and wisdom. The one who has never made any sacrifice in his life, who has not yet gone through the path of sacrifice, would not speak of renunciation, for this is something quite different. Everything is right in its own time, but when a sacrifice is needed and one makes a renunciation one goes backward; and the one who makes a sacrifice when renunciation is necessary goes backward too.

Apart from the spiritual path, even in the things of worldly life such as starting a new business, going into a new profession, making one’s career, treading the path of love and friendship, working for one’s name and fame, whatever be the nature or character of the object one wishes to attain, what is demanded is a sacrifice, from the beginning to the end. We are apt to forget this, and therefore we all think that our own life asks for so many sacrifices: look how happy this man is in his profession, how that business man is enjoying his life; how that man who is making a career in the government is advancing! It is only because we do not see the sacrifice that each one of them has to make in order to arrive at the object which he wishes to attain.

Often a lazy man is preferable to a man who is unwilling to make sacrifices. By being lazy a man shows that he does not care enough to attain to something; he is quite content with life and enjoys his comfort, his convenience; but the man who wishes to attain to something and is not willing to make sacrifices, that man will have a difficult time, for he wants to purchase something without paying for it.

The nature and the character of the sacrifices one has to make vary according to the object we have in view. The greater the object of attainment, the greater is the sacrifice which is demanded; but one must understand rightly what sacrifice really means. It is not always that one has to sacrifice something that one possesses; one often has to sacrifice what one is, and it is then that the greatest difficulties arise. As a miser holds on to his last penny, so man, disinclined to sacrifice, holds tightly on to himself, thinking, “Anything can be stolen from me, but not my self.” It is a natural inclination in man, yet what the spiritual path demands from us is our very self: give the false self and obtain the real self. When the mystery of this is understood, then attainment is to be found already at the next step.

However, man is not readily inclined to give himself up. Anything but himself! What do I mean by this? People say, “My idea is my idea; my wish is my wish; my thought is my thought; my inclination is my inclination; my point of view is my point of view; it is all mine!” Of all these things they make greater possessions than the possessions they have outwardly, and thus it becomes more easy for them to give what they physically possess than to give up what they think and feel. If you say to someone, “But this is a wrong thing to do,” he will say, “Maybe, but I am made that way, I think like this, I feel like this.  Though I know it is to be wrong. I cannot do otherwise.”  In other words, he holds on to his possession, thinking that it is himself. But it is not himself; it is his false self. However small the object of your attainment and however great a sacrifice it asks from you, it does not matter; and if you have only attained a small object, then even by paying a greater price you have attained something.

And now coming to renunciation. Very often a person sees renunciation in a wrong light. He thinks that when the sacrifice is such that he is not willing to make it he therefore renounces the object of attainment. But this is a wrong conception of renunciation.  Very often in their lives people renounce objects only because they are unwilling to make enough sacrifices. They value themselves, or they value the sacrifice that it demands, higher than the object which they wish to attain; and because they cannot attain it they call this renunciation. It is very easy to renounce in this way!

The great heroes and the souls who have really done something worthwhile in the world, leaving impressions which can never die, have all begun their life with sacrifices. Sacrifice of comfort, of convenience, of pleasure and merriment, of joy. There is hardly one among them who did not have to pay a great price for having arrived at that attainment. The higher the attainment the greater the sacrifice it asks, but the one who understands this keeps his object always higher than the sacrifice he makes, whereas the one who does not understand it wishes to believe that the object of attainment is much less valuable than the sacrifice it would need. And he thinks that this is practical, that it is common sense! No doubt it is practical and common sense to pay only the exact price of the object when the object is material, but the high-minded person who has an ideal will show the other tendency; even if you called him impractical also in material things, he does not mind. The diamond ring that he likes, he will pay any price for it; the antique object that he wishes to possess, he does not care what is asked for it. Others will mock him and call him impractical, but he does not mind, for the pleasure he gets out of the things he has bought is greater than the value of the money if he had kept it in the bank. After all, life is but short. As Sa’di says, “Who has earned and who has spent and lived is greater than the one who has earned and collected at the sacrifice of the joy which one gains by sacrifice”.

But when it comes to higher things such as friendship or love or kindness, then you can never make enough sacrifices. To the one who has an ideal in his heart, any sacrifice is always small; whatever sacrifice he makes, it is always small. But the one who has no ideal will weigh and measure and see if it comes out even or uneven, and this practicality he calls wisdom, but it is not wisdom; it is cleverness. Wisdom stands high above it all; wisdom does not come through this practicality. When a person says, “I will guard my interests against every attempt made by others,” he is different from and not as great as the one who trusts, who risks, and who can make sacrifices.

And when we come to the spiritual path, it needs a greater sacrifice than anything else. It asks for one’s time, for one’s thought; when you are concentrating it does not allow you to think of anything else. The further you go, the greater is the sacrifice that is demanded. Also, the difference between those who advance quickly on this path and those who go slower, lies in their capacity for sacrifice. Sacrifice teaches renunciation, and there is no other way to self-effacement than through sacrifice. But the one who knows the path of friendship, who knows what real friendship means, need not be told the significance of sacrifice; he knows it. For friendship does not mean having a good time with somebody; friendship means sacrifice; and when once sacrifice is learned through friendship, then one begins to know what sacrifice is necessary on the path of spiritual attainment.

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