It is a question that rises in the mind of every thoughtful soul when a soul begins to realise the beauty of goodness and refinement, such as patience, endurance, thoughtfulness, consideration, yielding, when one has to deal with people of various natures, various dispositions, people of various grades of evolution in the world. And it is right that only learning to be good and refined through life is not sufficient. A step farther is necessary to know, that can be made practicable when one has to live in the world. For the sages who lived in the forest, in the caves of the mountains, where nobody could touch them, for the kings and sovereigns who are always in the palaces, surrounded by the most cultured and refined souls waiting on them, it is easy; but for those who have to make their life in the world, coming against all sorts of different temperaments, some hot, some cold, some warm, some lukewarm, some high, some low in their character and manner, in their personality, some facing the South, others North, some looking up, others looking down, it is most difficult to make a standard of action to fix one’s attitude in one’s thought, speech and deed.
It is therefore that while a religious person makes a kind of law for action, the Sufi sees its impossibility. The standard of the Sufi is what he makes at every moment of his life; change for him is not a new thing; life changes, he changes. Every experience in life brings a new change with an inspiration which directs the action of the Sufi. If you say to a Sufi, “This does not agree with what you have spoken the day before yesterday,” he will say, “That was for the day before yesterday, this is for just now. For tomorrow, I will speak to you tomorrow.” A fresh inspiration every moment, which Hafiz explains so beautifully in his first poetry in the Divan …”O singer of delightful voice, sing a song every moment new, new, fresh, fresh.”
What is necessary therefore, in life, is not only learning of goodness and fineness of manner, for that is only the alphabet, that is not the book. After learning that alphabet you must read the book of life and see the demands of every moment, what every moment in life demands of us, what every moment in life asks of us, and how to deal under different circumstances. There comes a moment when silence is good; there comes a moment when an advice is desirable; there is a moment when you can be yielding; there is a moment when you must become indifferent; there is a moment when a serious expression is needed; there is a time when the face must be smiling. If one does not do what is asked of him by the circumstance, by the moment, he certainly loses the opportunity offered to him by life, which will never come again, once it is offered. Every moment is an opportunity and it is only once offered. If it is lost it is lost. If one has made use of it one has gained. Therefore no teaching on the subject can be sufficient, words can never fully express how one must deal in life.
If there is any source from where one can get the direction on how to act in life, it is to be found in one’s heart. The exercises of the Sufi helps to get to the source where one can get the direction, the right direction, where there is a spark of the Spirit of Guidance. Those who care to be guided by the spirit, they are always guided; but those who know not whether such a spirit exists or does not exist, they wander through life as a wild horse in the woods, not knowing where it goes, why it runs, why it stands. It is a great pity to be thirsty and remain thirsty when the spring of fresh water is within one’s reach. There can be no loss so great in life as having the spark glittering in one’s heart and yet groping in the darkness through life.