Interest and Indifference August 18, 1925
I would like to speak this evening on the subject of interest and indifference. Those who move about on the surface of life, for them interest and indifference are like their right hand and their left hand. And souls who have touched the depth of life, for them interest and indifference are just like two poles of the world. One has to turn one’s back to the North Pole in order to go to the South Pole, and one has to turn one’s back on the South Pole in order to go to the North Pole. Generally man says today, ”I am interested in something,” and tomorrow he says, ”I have lost my interest.” Or he says, ”I could be interested in something,” and before he can be interested in something he has become indifferent. Interest is necessary to tread the path of attainment; indifference is needed to attain the goal of renunciation. If one is deep, if one is sincere, and yet one does not know these opposite poles, in spite of the depth he has and in spite of the sincerity he has, he will be pulled from both sides by interest and by indifference.
Interest may be called life; indifference, death; interest, light; indifference, darkness. And yet through the darkness there is a goal to be reached, as there is something to be attained through the light. A person who is one day interested and the next day indifferent has not depth either to his interest or to his indifference. Neither can he attain something by his interest, nor can he reach something by his indifference. It is the power motive which stands as the greatest power, as a secret behind this creation; and it is the absence of that power which very often gives indifference, stands as a mystery behind that life which is assimilating.
When a person says, ”I could not attain the object of my desire,” it means he lacked interest; it was caused by indifference. When one says, ”I would like to rise above things, but I cannot,” it is because he lacks the power of indifference. Renunciation is the ultimate goal of indifference, and attainment is the result of interest. These two things wrongly used bring wrong result, rightly used bring right result. The one who does not give himself heart and soul to the object of his attainment–however small the object may be–till he has attained it, he is not entitled to take the path of indifference, he is not entitled to utter the name of renunciation. He cannot renounce, because he does not know what renunciation means. Renunciation is a great thing, but when? At the end of attainment, not at the beginning. As freedom is a great thing to achieve–but not in the beginning, in the end; one must begin with discipline. One who begins with freedom ends in discipline; one who begins with renunciation ends in interest. But it is a wrong beginning and therefore there is a wrong end.
In Arabian Nights there is a most interesting mystical story that gives us a little idea what the path of attainment means. It is the story of Aladdin, who, on asking for the hand of the princess, was told he should bring the magic lantern first, in order to attain the daughter. And he went. Then the story goes on, telling how many forests, how many rivers he crossed, how he went through the wind and storm, through all troubles and difficulties, over the tops of mountains and to the depth of the earth. He went through the water, through the air, through fire, through all tests and trials, till he reached the end of his ordeal and found at last that lantern, that magic lantern, by which he attained his object. And this is the rule, always to keep in mind that nothing in life can be attained which is of some worth without going through tests and trials and difficulties, persevering through it all with patience and endurance. It is that which in the end brings victory.
The picture of indifference is shown in a story of when Emperor Akbar went to pay a visit to a dervish who lived in the mountains. His grand vizier accompanied him. When he arrived near the rock where the dervish was lying, his legs stretched, the Emperor and vizier bowed before him. And the dervish answered by nodding his head. The vizier could not understand this manner in which the Emperor was received by that dervish–the Emperor, who at every moment was shown proper courtesy by thousands and millions of people. The vizier asked in sarcasm, ”How long is it, dervish, that you have stretched your legs?”
The dervish answered, ”It is since I have folded my arms.” The meaning was that, ”If my arms were stretched in meed, I would have given the same courtesy to the Emperor as all others give. Since I have taken back my stretched arms, folded them together, I stretched my legs. What does it matter who comes?” It is such personalities, such souls, who are entitled. Souls with a thousand anxieties, a million worries, and twenty thousand problems before them, when they think of renunciation, when they speak of indifference, they make a mistake. Can one have interest and indifference at the same time? Never. Can one be on the land and in the water at the same time? Never. Neither one thing nor the other.
God Bless You!
Interest and Indifference August 18, 1925
Hazrat Inayat Khan