Struggle for Realisation of Higher Ideals
That which gives worth to life is struggle for the sake of realisation of sublime and fruitful ideals. One must resolve to reach a station worthy of humanity and make every possible effort to develop himself, fulfil his duty, and offer ungrudging service to society. In the sweet words of Hafiz:
Though the world's wont, like the bud, is to be close-fisted, Yet you, like the spring breeze, be an opener of knots.
Dr. Schweitzer writes:
Often we hear people say, "I want to do some good in this world but the obligations of life and work are so exacting that I cannot score any success in this regard. I am sunk to my ears in the petty chores of life and there doesn't arise any opportunity for my life to become meaningful." This is a very common-and dangerous-mistake. Everyone finds opportunities at his doorstep to help others, so that his spirit may rise to the occasion and attain peace and joy. In order to attain this joy it is not at all necessary to neglect one's ordinary duties or to perform some dazzling feat.
I call this spiritual work your 'second duty'. All that you must do is to make use of the many opportunities that arise and carry out this duty. You will get plenty of excellent opportunities in this path and acquire a perfect ability to make use of them. At this point all the energies stored up in your being will swing into action.
That which the world needs today, and lacks, are people devoted to fulfilling others' needs. In this work, done for the sake of others, both the helper and the helped are blessed.
... We are gradually losing our personality under the strains of modern society. The urge for creativity and self-assertion is killed in us. Accordingly, the attainment of genuine civilisation is delayed. The big mistake of everyone of us is that we travel blindfolded through life and do not notice the good opportunities that arise. Once we open our eyes and look around we will observe many people who need our help, riot for big things but for very small things.
In altruism and sacrifice we must invest the best part of ourselves. The coin that a widow gives, which is all that she owns, has greater worth than all the donations of the rich. We often hear people say, "Were I rich I would do many things for people". But one can be rich in respect of love and charity. If we discover the real needs of those who require help and take steps to meet them, we would have spent the best part of ourselves in this path, which is love and compassion for others and which all the money in the world cannot equal.
You might think that my life in the equatorial forests of Africa is something wonderful. But you should know that you can live a more wonderful life by remaining where you are and, by impelling your soul to effort, engage in a thousand kinds of good and kindly actions. This task demands a spirit of sacrifice and courage and a strength of will, and the determination to love, which is the greatest test of a human being. But you must know that it is in this second and difficult duty that you can find true happiness. 1
Man is free either to obey or disobey the commands of his conscience. Every man is the master of his soul and his will. He may choose rectitude and purity, liberate himself from the bondage of lust and endless desires, make chivalrousness his motto, and abstain from injustice and cruelty. These qualities and virtues are within his reach and he may adorn himself with them through persistent effort. He may also take an opposite path, the path of decadence and vice, and dive into the ocean of variegated lusts and pleasures.
The power of will is a heavenly gift which must never be left idle or used for filthy purposes and inhuman goals instead of being employed in the path of duty. The lack of will and determination is the biggest obstacle in the way of fulfilment of duties. The employment of will power under the guidance of conscience and in the struggle against carnal urges and desires, against egoism and moral vices, is a difficult task at the beginning and requires self-denying effort. But through determination, persistence and perseverance, the soul gradually becomes stronger and its moral characteristics improve. Then, the performance of duty becomes a quite normal and easy matter.
If one's feeling of duty-consciousness be strong, he would not retreat in the face of hardship and obstacles. Even when such a person's effort remains fruitless due to obstacles, his conscience at least would be at peace and he would be able to hold his head high before himself because his defeat and failure have been for the sake of duty.
A father gives the following counsel to his son:
My son, let it be that you remain poor and penniless while others gather wealth and get rich in front of your eyes through deceit and treachery. Lead your life without position and glory and let others get into high positions through obsequiousness and servility. Put up with misery and loss and let others satisfy their desires by the means of flattery and sycophancy.
Refrain from associating with big people, to get near whom others are killing themselves. It is better for you to put on the garment of virtue and piety so that when your head turns white there isn't any blot on your honour and good name. At that time, thank God and surrender to death with an easy mind and a happy heart. 2
In the same way as admonishment, reproof and censure are beneficial in the struggle against vices, so also appreciation, commendation and encouragement are undeniably effective in producing better motivation for work and performance of duty. Evil is the state of a nation in which traitors are encouraged and worthy and duty-conscious servants are censured, humiliated and driven away from sensitive positions in society. Where deceit and imposture bring success and those who are totally devoid of human values attain their cherished goals, a nation in which those who wish to fulfil their human mission remain deprived as long as they continue to live in purity-in such a society there remain utterly no grounds for the growth of moral excellence.
Obviously, in such an environment the attraction and inclination for deceit, corruption and hypocrisy make way, on an extensive level, into the depths of the people's souls, and vice and corruption rapidly take the place of virtues and decent morals. In such an environment, many chaste souls may be compelled to turn their backs on piety and purity as a result of unbearable pressures, for there are few people who can heroically safeguard their souls in such a corrupt environment and preserve their piety and purity in the mire of social filth. Yet all people do not have such extraordinary qualities so as to continue with their sublime and majestic spirit to live amongst a base and decadent people.
In the course of his upbringing an ordinary individual stands in dire need of a society on which he can rely to offer him worthy examples that may acquaint him with practical patterns of conduct in life.
1. Kelidha-ye khushbakati, trans. from English into Persian by Ahmad Aram, Tehran: Shirkat-e Sahami-ye Intishar, Khurdad 1347, pp. 269-277.
2. Samuel Smith, Akhlaq-e Samuel, Persian trans. p. 8.
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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