Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan
If anyone asked me what is the life of life, and what is the light of life, what gives one interest in life, I should answer him in one word, and that is: the ideal. A man with wealth, with qualifications, with learning, with comfort, but without ideal to me is a corpse; but a man without learning, without qualifications, without wealth or rank, but with an ideal is a living man. If a man does not live for an ideal what else does he live for? He lives for himself, which is nothing. The man who lives and does not know an ideal is powerless and without light. The greater the ideal, the greater the person. The wider the ideal the broader the person. The deeper the ideal the deeper the person, the higher the ideal the higher the person. Without an ideal, whatever a man may be in life, life for him is worthless.
The Sufi Message gives to the world the religion of the day; and that is to make one’s life a religion, to turn one’s occupation or profession into a religion, to make one’s ideal a religious ideal. The object of Sufism is the uniting of life and religion, which so far seem to have been kept apart. When a man goes to church once a week, and devotes all the other days of the week to his business, how can he benefit from religion? Therefore the teaching of Sufism is to transform everyday life into a religion, so that every action may bear some spiritual fruit.
We, with our narrowness of faith or belief, accuse others of belonging to another religion, another chapel or church. We say, ’This temple is better, that faith is better.’ The whole world has kept on fighting and devastating itself just because it can not understand that each form of religion is peculiar to itself. Therefore, the ideal life is in following one’s own ideal. It is not in checking other people’s ideals.
The man who has never had an ideal may hope to find one. He is in a better state than the man who allows the circumstances of life to break his ideal. To fall beneath one’s ideal is to lose one’s track in life. Then confusion rises in the mind, and that light which one should hold high becomes covered and obscured, so that it cannot shine out to light one’s path.
An ideal is something to hope for and to hold on to, and in the absence of an ideal hope has nothing to look forward to. It is the lack of idealism which accounts for the present degeneration of humanity in spite of all the progress it has made in other directions. There are many kinds of ideals: principles, virtues, objects of devotion; but the greatest and highest of all ideals is the God-ideal. And when this God-ideal upon which all other ideals are based is lost, then the very notion of ideal is ignored. Man needs many things in life, but his greatest need is an ideal.
~~~ To fall beneath one’s ideal is to lose one’s share of life.