By Mohammad Asif Reyaz, New Age Islam
23 Aug 2012
My experiment with truth is an autobiography by Mahatma Gandhi. This autobiography was originally written in Gujarati and translated into English by Mahadev Desai. The first edition of this autobiography was published in 1927.
In 1999, the book was designated as one of the "100 Best Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by a committee of global spiritual and religious authorities.
In the chapter “Childhood” Gandhiji has narrated a very interesting story. This story goes like this.
“There is an incident which occurred at the examination during my first year at the high school and which is worth recording. Mr Giles, the educational inspector, had come on a visit of inspection. He had set us five words to write as spelling exercise. One of the words was “Kettle”. I had misspelt it. The teacher tried to prompt me with the point of his boot, but I would not be prompted. It was beyond me to see that he wanted me to copy the spelling from my neighbour’s slate, for I had thought that the teacher was there to supervise us against copying. The result was that all the boys, except myself, were found to have spelt every word correctly. Only I had been stupid. I never could learn the art of copying”.
Gandhiji was an innovative man. In every situation, good or bad, Gandhiji used to come up with his own invented ideas and thoughts. In this context he was purely a leader by birth. His stupidity was in fact his power.
One who knows the art of copying never knows the art of living as a victor. A victor is he who keeps his originality and avoids imitating. A man is always great but his greatness falls when he starts imitating every Tom, Dick and Harry.
An eagle never imitates. It comes with its own planning and ideas and always proved to be a victor. You have to create the spirit of eagle in you, so that you could do what you are supposed to do here.
The great poet and philosopher Iqbal has described the characteristic of Eagle (Shahin) in this way:
Nahi Tera Nasheman Qasar-e-Sultani Kay Gumbad Par;
Tu Shahin Hai Basaira Kar Paharon ki Chaton Par
[Thy abode is not on the dome of a royal palace;
You are an eagle and should live on the rocks of mountains.]
--- Allama M. Iqbal (Bal-e-Jibril-139 Aik Naujawan Ke Naam)
You will never see an eagle eating meat that it did not kill. An eagle is not a scavenger. It hunts for and kills its own food. It hunts for the prey while it's warm and alive. In other words Eagle never imitates. It saves its natural power.
Allama Iqbal, the great poet and philosopher, provided philosophical basis for self-realization or self-respect when he published his first collection of poetry Asrar-e-Khudi (Secrets of the Self) in 1915. These poems emphasized the ‘self’ from a religious and spiritual perspective. To explain his philosophy of “Self”, Iqbal used a Persian word “Khudi” which is synonymous with the Arabic word “Rooh” as mentioned in the Quran. Rooh is a divine spark that exists in every human being and it is the same spark which existed in Adam for which Allah ordered all the angels to prostrate in front of Adam.
As for the divine spark that Allama Iqbal calls “Khudi”, we need to take a long voyage of self-realization to get deeply into its meaning. A similitude of this journey could be understood by the relationship of fragrance and seed. Every seed has the potential for fragrance within it. But to reach its fragrance the seed must go through all the different changes and stages. First breaking out of its shell. Then breaking the ground to come into the light developing roots at the same time. Then fighting against the elements to develop leaves and flowers. Finally reaching its pinnacle by attaining the fragrance that was hidden within it.
Similarly one has to go through multiple stages to attain one’s Khudi or Rooh. Perhaps, this is the highest stage of Khudi which is referred to in this famous Urdu stanza from Baal-e-Jibril. :
Khudi Ko Kar Buland Itna Ke Har Taqdeer Se Pehle
Khuda Bande Se Khud Puche, Bata Teri Raza Kya Hai
[Develop the self so much that before every decree
God ascertains from you: “What is your wish?”]
--- Allama M. Iqbal (Bal-e-Jibril-053, Khirad Mandon Se Kya Poochun Ke Meri Ibtada Kya Hai)
Iqbal did not only provide theoretical stimuli for it but also practiced it by going through higher spiritual stages. He set great value upon self-realization and severely condemned self-destruction. For him the sole purpose of life is self-realization and self-knowledge leading to God-realization. He charts the stages through which the "Self" has to pass before finally arriving at its point of perfection, enabling the knower of the "Self" to become the vicegerent of God.
Almost the same concept was introduced by Farid ud Din Attar in his "Mantaq-ul-Tair" in which he proved by various means that the whole universe obeys the will of the "Self."
The moral and religious ideal of man is not self-negation but self-affirmation, and he attains to this ideal by becoming more and more individual, more and more unique. The Prophet said, ‘‘تخلقوا بأخلاق اللھ’’ (Create in yourselves the attributes of God (Thus man becomes unique, creative and innovative by becoming more and more like the most unique Individual.
Gandhiji saved his natural power and avoided copying others, in other words, behaving like Iqbal’s Shahin or Superman, thus becoming Mahatma for the world.
It is imperative, therefore, that we learn not to copy, but try our own ideas. For, a man can never become a superman if he is merely a copycat. As it is said all the greats took chances and developed their own style and substance. They didn’t copy. What is copying? Copying is killing. It is destroying self.
Save yourself, try your own original ways. There is a mahatma in you if only you could discover.