The Ultimate Peacefullness
A short talk given by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen from Questions of Life, Answers of Wisdom Volume 2.
Question: I wondered-in the quest for the ultimate peacefulness which does not come or go-is a human being entitled to seek situations from which he is relatively free of distress? Or should he subject himself continually to that which comes to attack his peacefulness, accepting that even though the work is harder, it should nevertheless be pursued in that fashion? What would be wisdom’s understanding of this?
M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: When the rain falls, all the rainwater flows toward the sea. Some of the water may collect in ponds or lakes. As more rainwater continues to flow into these ponds, it pushes out the water already there, and the new water remains in its place. The water that was there earlier is very happy as it makes good its escape, saying, “I am free! I have escaped from the stench and the dirt. How much I had to suffer! Dogs’ urine, jackals’ urine, cows’ urine-I had to endure so much filth and smell! Now I am free from all that!” So saying, the pond water runs toward the vast ocean.
On the other hand, the dry earth feels very happy and comforted as it soaks up the rainwater. It goes on drinking and drinking that water, until finally, when it cannot drink any more, it turns into muddy sludge, filled with decaying leaves and debris. Earlier, people could lie on that earth, cows and goats could sleep on it, but now no one can even walk on it. Its beauty is gone.
And what of the fresh rainwater that displaced the stagnant water in the pond? Worms, insects, reptiles, and odors will come into that water all too soon, and it too will lose its beauty and take on a stench. This fresh water that helped the old water to escape from its suffering, soon will suffer the same fate-to become stagnant, dirty, and smelly. When it was on its way, it was joyful in anticipation, and when it first arrived it was still happy. But as it experiences being in the pond, it will begin to understand the difficulty and suffering that goes with it.
There is a Tamil story about a quarrel between two sisters-Moodevi and Seedevi. One represents right, the other represents wrong. Now, both right and wrong must exist in this world. Darkness and light are also necessary. But even though darkness and light both have to exist in the world, neither one need suffer or cause pain to the other.
These two sisters, Moodevi and Seedevi, were involved in a violent argument as to who was greater. “I am the elder, so I am greater,” said Moodevi. So, one day the two went to the Qutbiyyat (RAL.) who asked them, “What is the argument about? Why are you fighting?” Moodevi said, “Am I not prettier than my sister? To all the world, I am the elder. After all, I am the one connected to karma, creation, and everything. So I am more beautiful, am I not?”
Now, since ignorance comes before wisdom, it is older. And since wisdom develops later, it is younger. In the same way, karma and arrogance are there before goodness develops.
The Qutbiyyat (RAL.) then looked at the two and saw that they were different. And yet he had to give an answer that would not hurt either one. So he said, “Both of you are beautiful, but in order to decide between you, I need to observe you coming and going. Please walk over that way.” After they walked a short distance away from him, he asked them to turn around and come toward him. Then he told Moodevi (the elder), “You look beautiful when you are going, and you, Seedevi, look beautiful when you are coming.” So both went away happy, shaking their hips. The meaning of this story is that it is beautiful when ignorance leaves us, and it is beautiful when wisdom and truth come to us.
Similarly, in the world, good and bad do come and go. But when our older quality of ignorance leaves us, it is both good for us and beautiful. And when truth and God’s qualities come to us, it is truly beautiful. There need be no pain to either. Without hurting the older one (ignorance), you must tell it to go away from you. And without causing any pain to the younger one (wisdom), you must invite it to come to you. If you can be like this, if you can treat each one appropriately, you will be at peace.
So, whenever trouble comes toward you, you should say, “I surrender to the will of God (tawakkul-‘alallah).” Then it will not stay. It will go away. And when no trouble befalls you, when things are fine, you should still hand it over to God, saying, “All praise be to God (al-hamdu lillah).” Then there will be no need to hold on to either. Neither will stay. Let them come and go. Once the older one goes and the younger comes, only one will be there, and there will be no fighting. Not two, only one. In that state, only God is there. The ‘I’ is gone. Karma is gone. Arrogance is gone. Illusion (maya) is gone. If nothing is retained, then That will come. Once That comes, there will be no suffering, no sadness, no ‘I’, no differences. Only That will remain. Nothing else. That is how you have to be. If you can understand this state, there will be no bundles to tie up, no burdens to carry along, nothing to hold on to inside, nothing to show. Only That will remain.
1. Moodevi is said to be the goddess of misfortune, bringing bad luck, poverty, sickness, unhappiness, and depression. Seedevi is the goddess of fortune, bringing happiness, wealth, and health to the house where she chooses to stay.