From An Interview with Shamcher Bryn Beorse
J=Jelaluddin Boru, S=Shamcher
J: Let’s talk about balance, Shamcher.
S: Yes. Hazrat Inayat Khan often said that “the message for today is balance”. And he meant that in many ways. For example the balance between heart and mind. This kind of balance emanates from yourself and not from adventuresome spirits on the other side.
He also meant by this balancing your being in the world with your work on yourself. Some people think that they can’t do anything for the world until they have perfected their work on themselves. Well, there is no way of perfecting yourself except through working in the world. That’s why we are here. If you don’t want to work in the world before you have perfected yourself, you might just as well have remained outside it. You didn’t have to be born. To me, this has become more and more clear the longer I live. You work on yourself by achieving the little things in your home, your face [?] among your coworkers etc. And yet so many teachers today are telling pupils to take long vacations or retreats and so on. In Inayat’s time we had a summer school which was like a vacation, but apart from that we had no retreats.
But I must admit at this point that when I was younger–around 18 or 19- (this was before I met Inayat Khan) I was a student at the university and very, very busy and suddenly I thought, “I can’t stand it anymore, I must go.” And so I put on my skis (I didn’t want any transportation–no buses or trains for me!), and walked into the mountains towards a white beautiful one I saw far, far away. These were the Trolheimin mountains, which means ‘home of the trolls…’
Anyway it took me weeks, and some would say later, “You went into the mountains in the wintertime? You must be crazy!” And in a sense I might have been crazy…
A dog came along who had the same kind of urge that I was having, and I saw this and tried to push him back but he kept with me anyway. And then we had a terrific snowstorm, and we had to go against it for days and days, usually not knowing whether we were going up hill or downhill the storm was so strong. Finally one day I thought to myself- “I can’t last anymore…Let me just go over to those rocks and lie down.”
(It is known to the people of those parts that it is very dangerous to go to sleep in a snowstorm in the mountains but I had no thought of this, none at all.) Anyway, I went to the rocks, but they turned out not to be rocks. I fell down and stood before a little door, and there was a cabin there. I knocked on the cabin door and heard bare feet running over the stone floor, and then the door was opened, and I was invited inside and slept in the hayloft. In the morning we had a beautiful breakfast of goat’s milk and things and so I said, “Now what should I pay you?” And they laughed and said they couldn’t use my money up there anyway, and they never went down into town, not for the last ten years when they first came up from the valley. But they said that I could pay them 25 cents if I wanted to feel that I had paid them something…
And so after tramping around in the mountains I returned to civilization, first sign of it being the smell of coffee. Though all the impressions of civilization are thrust at you again, you are a different person. For two or three weeks, I was what the sages call enlightened, that is, nothing affected me. Before this, when I looked at women, I would say, “How can I stand not coming very much closer to her?” But now there was no such question inside me… I enjoyed her beauty, she meant nothing more to me, everything in life was in calm balance. I needed this for my balance at that time, and maybe many people do need it, and I think they should obey the urge when it comes.
It is by knowing when I should go to the mountains or the beach, that all my life I have stayed not in good balance but fair balance all the time. But the balance that is required to root up your earthly desires, comes from looking at your person as something that you are not too much concerned about.
Later in life this came to me, and I realized that this person is not really “Mr. so and so”…
And through this I have gradually come to discover the numerous agents of the body that keep it in shape, and became friendly with them instead of opposing them. It is through this that you become a master of yourself and have balance. Everything is an attitude of the mind, and this “mind” that I am talking about of course is the mind and heart.
J: Shamcher, if disease is, as you say, an attitude of mind, why then are not all people who have faith and want to be healed, healed?
S: I have never met a person, including myself, who has faith in the complete sense. It is something one can develop but faith doesn’t mean to say “I believe in God”; that is not faith, that is not balance. The balance is to flow with the universal process…
J: Obsession in a sense is when one can’t tear himself away from the sense of physical pain of the body, or at least this is a good metaphor for it. . .
S: Yes, it is very difficult when you have physical pain. The war was a great test of that. Some were tortured, and it is worse in a sense when a person is imposing the pain, but some people even used this to help them develop. There was a person in Norway who was repeatedly tortured by the Nazis and knew he would be tortured again. And when I asked him how he could stand it he said, “There comes a point when all these things don’t matter to you.” “But the pain,” I said. And he answered me that half of the pain was the fear of death…
“I don’t fear death anymore so there is only half the pain. It is bearable. And I now know only one thing, I will never give out a name or anything else they want of me.”
What do you think of this man? I don’t know if he was a Sufi, but that is the kind of balance that is required.
J: A tremendous sense of balance! He had been at the extremes, and learned not to fear them. Perhaps we can say that such extreme things are very useful, in that when one returns from them your balance is so deep, because you have felt what it is like to be at the poles…
S: That is very true. There is of course not a single thing in this life which does not have a purpose and which does not help the soul in its development. Even the wildest kinds of obsessions, even those states of the mind that may cause you to be put in a hospital, are useful. Many psychiatrists say these days that they are not only useful, they are in a sense superior to ordinary experience, in what they help you become afterwards. They are looking at them insofar as they bring you to mystical balance…
Obsession, like everything else in life, helps the community and the individual advance and to realize the need for balance. For example schizophrenics and depressed maniacs, they are supposed to be so bad, but they are often actually helping themselves and those around them to reach the state of mystical balance by taking another path.
One time a friend of mine was in a hospital, and I heard a group of psychiatrists talking. They were talking about a physicist who had come in and told them, “You know, this table isn’t really a fixed table. I put my hand on it and I feel the sub-atomic particles running down from my hand meeting the particles running up from the table. And some interpret this as a calm solid surface but it really isn’t.” And these psychiatrists were laughing at this poor physicist for being off his mind! He was actually explaining the truth, but they didn’t realize it. He had ‘schizophrenia’ they said.
It is the same in the case of many others.
Fortunately it is realized now by many psychiatrists that schizophrenics have reached another end of the balance and together with what is called his ‘sane’ state, which is not so sane, he is working towards a new balance.
Excuse me, I was thinking of another question you asked me, the one about faith. Well, do we mean ‘faith’ in the sense that a person will visit a dear saints’ burial place and get in touch with him through the body that is left there? A lot of saints and sages in the past have left their bodies in a place where people can come. I don’t know why. . .
There is not much connection between a saint’s consciousness and the body that he has left. There is oftentimes a much better connection with a young mureed who has never seen the saint or the Body. And this running back to the burial place is not contributing too much to our development towards balance, though it is very popular nowadays. . . It is a looking back into the past, a long past expression of a teacher that you have come beyond. When I was in India, I visited Inayat’s burial place for only one reason: I knew that everyone would ask me when I came back if I had visited it. Only for that reason. It is not through the place that one contacts him. It is just like going to some rock where people know where a great saint has been, or you go to a place on the beach where he has left his footsteps and touch them, or you have a photograph…
Remember the story of Inayat Khan giving me his photograph? The moment when he sensed my reaction is a great example of balance. For he realized at once that there was something else that I should do.
There is not one path that everyone should follow. Everyone has his specific path, and everyone should be following that or finding out what it is, for that is what will bring him fastest into a state of balance.
This is why you can’t ask another, even some ‘great master’, to tell you what you should do.
J: Balance always emanates from the inner planes, and not from external authority, be it a ‘master’ or anything?
S: Right. Exactly! As Buddha says in his farewell address: “Look to the Light within yourself, look at no other person or teacher or connection outside of yourself!”
J: Speaking of Buddha, what is the ‘middle path’?
That is the path of balance.
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