Concentration is a simple word, in practice it is most difficult. Everyone knows the word concentration; if he knows how to do it he knows everything. Sometimes people think to sit with closed eyes means concentration, but whether you close your eyes or whether you open your eyes, concentration has nothing to do with it. If you concentrate, you concentrate, with open eyes or with closed eyes, in the midst of the crowd or in the solitude; and if you do not, you do not. But concentration is one state, a state which leads to contemplation. And so one goes through the meditative process to achieve that in which is the fulfilment of every soul's purpose in life.

          Therefore it is that the ancient people called it 'alchemy' from which the words 'chemical,' or 'chemistry,' or 'chimie' come. Only now there are simple persons (even in the East we find many) who by alchemy understand the turning of iron into gold. But when we consider it symbolically the meaning that we find in alchemy is to turn this very personality, which is human personality, from the base metal into gold. But by alchemy it is not the gold which is made in order to possess, the gold of the soul is made, one becomes oneself gold, and it is that gold which is incomparably of greater value than the gold of this mortal world.

          Then there are people who still remember the stories of the ancient times, the stories of the alchemists, and it is even till now most interesting to get the meaning out of these symbolical stories, for they are always instructive. There is a story of a king who was very fond of finding out ways of alchemy, of turning base metal into gold, and everyone that professed knowing alchemy had a welcome at the palace, but in the end of examination he found their profession futile. And then they found someone, and they said to the king, "Here is a real alchemist," and to the king's great sadness, when this alchemist came before the throne, he said, "No, King, I am not the man who knows the alchemy which you are looking for."

          The king said, "No, you know it. I feel confident in my heart that you are the person who knows it and you must teach the study to me." The man continued refusing; the king continued persisting. And then he said, "Do you know that I am a king, and here I command you to do so, and if you still refuse, you know what I can do. I give you forty days limit. If during this time you did not tell me, then do you know what is waiting for you? You will be beheaded." The man was taken to a prison. And the king visited him every morning, telling him, "Man, change your mind. Remember life is greater than gold. You can still teach me and save your life."

          And at night the same king came in the form of a working man, in the form of a servant; and he swept the floor and he made the bed for him and he cleaned the table for him and he served his dinner, and he did every little thing possible to make this prisoner feel comfortable. And so every day this went on. In the evening the king visited as a servant, and in the morning he went as a king, and gave him a warning again and again. And there comes that last day, the day after which was waiting the death of this man, and the king gave him the last warning and said, "Now, tomorrow is the day, be ready; for a king's command is his command." And in the evening this servant shed tears at the thought of this poor prisoner being taken to be beheaded.

          "Don't shed tears," he said, "life is such, but remember that which I refused the king, to you I most willingly give, if you will keep it in confidence. And now you will see how great a trust it is, how sacred the thing is to me which I have guarded more than my life, that I have sacrificed my life in order to guard this, that you will keep it in the same way." This servant said "Well, I appreciate most what you give me, although I do not know its value, at the same time, for you to be killed tomorrow, this I cannot bear, it tears my heart to pieces." "Be not sad, man," he said, "life is such. I give you this secret: gold that will make you gold." And he whispered in his ears, and enlightened him with his secret. And the morning came and the king came for his last warning.

          There soldiers were waiting to take him to be beheaded, and there he was awaiting his death, and the king is there to ask him for the last time if he will obey the command. "No," said this prisoner, "find someone else, King; I am not the person you are looking for." But the king said, "But you have given me that; don't you remember?" "Did I?" said the prisoner. "If I have given it, it is to the servant, not to the king." To the hungry food is given, and to the seeker Truth is given. But one who is not hungry, even if the food is given, he cannot eat; and one who does not seek the Truth, even the most ultimate Truth given to him he will not appreciate.  Those Great Ones who came to illuminate souls and who lived on this earth, they have touched millions, but did millions get that illumination? No. What remained afterwards and was modified, lost its fragrance perhaps after thousands of years. Then, when it was dust, people began to talk, but at the time when it was given people did not appreciate. It will always prove true, man is the worst enemy of his best friend. Whom he strikes first is his best friend. He has crucified him, he has imprisoned him, he has killed him, he has beheaded him, he has flayed him; and yet without meaning, without intending, with goodwill and with reason, what he calls reason, in his head.

          Now coming to the actual subject of this alchemy, what is it and how is it made? What they say in legends is that alchemists used to take mercury, and by putting some chemicals they used to still it; and in stilling that mercury it turned into silver; and then, by putting it into a fire, the silver itself turned in the flame and took on that flame colour which we call gold. Coming to the question, what is this mercury symbolically? The mercury is a condition of the heart, the condition of the mind. It is never still.

          Automatically one's mind takes up any impression and thought, and without intention may hold it as a despair, as a depression, but as soon as one intentionally takes up a thought the mind goes on in its active way and loses it. As soon as man wishes his mind to take up a thought the mind fails and that is the nature of mercury; mercury is never still and the mind is never still. The more you wish the mind to become still, the more active the mind becomes. But this mind can become still - it is that process which is called concentration, and it is by this process that this mercury can be turned into silver.

          The Sufis have different ways of postures, different ways of standing or sitting. All these different things are in order to still that mercury, not only in the mind but also in the body, which keeps mind always active, moving, restless. Hardly one thinks how little power man has upon his body. As soon as you tell a man to sit still, the moment he knows that he must control his body, the body will begin to move and be restless. And since mind and body are connected one with the other, the stilling of the mind needs stilling of the body at the same time. There are just now many Movements, schools, where they will teach the way how to move gracefully.

          But it is not the stilling of the mercury, the stilling of the mercury is how to sit restfully. That is another subject in life to learn, and much more important too. As essential as it is to keep awake, so essential is it to sleep; and as important as it is to move, so important is it to take repose. But once one's mind is controlled, one's body is made still, it has made man valuable, it has made that personality precious. And yet it is not gold, for the gold is gold because it has light in it. This tranquillity which one has learned, is in order to make one a vessel, a pitcher which can hold, but that pitcher must hold divine light in it. And when the pitcher has that divine light, then there is a value of that pitcher.

          This shows that it is not only an intellectual conception of God or of life which is sufficient for man, the first thing is that one must develop that tranquillity in one's body and mind, so that this vessel may contain in itself the life and the light of God. Sometimes it amuses me very much when I meet people who tell me, "Well, what is your conception of God? Please tell me." Here for years and years people have to train their bodies and their mind in order to get in tune, in order to find a glimpse of that Truth of which a person, with his intellect, comes and asks, "Please tell me how do you believe, in what way do you consider God?"

          As in other theories and different things he reads and learns in books, everything he thinks - that even God is a conception, an idea which can be explained in a sentence. Sometimes a person comes and asks me, "Well, do you believe in a personal God or do you believe in an abstract God?" And before the answer he tells himself that, "I do not believe in a personal God. I only believe in an abstract. I can only believe in that idea." He comes with his preconceived ideas of which he is not sure, he is asking only to be sure whether that fits in with his ideas, if it does not fit in, then he goes away.  Another man comes and says, "What do you think of the here after? What is your idea?" He wants in one sentence what will be after death; whereas in order to die that death here in life people spent days and years in studying, in practice, in meditation, in order to experience themselves what is after death; and they have experienced by dying a death here on earth. It is not impossible to know it, but it is not so easy to know as a person thinks. In order to keep man quiet the wise had to tell them a thousand things in order to fit in with their particular conceptions. That cannot be the Truth, and if they say the Truth, they cannot say it. Truth cannot be said in words. What is Truth? Truth is life itself, and it is the realizing of life that is the discovering of the Truth. If Truth is such a small thing that it can be spoken in words, then Truth is no Truth. And what are words? Words are something that covers Truth.

          When one comprehends beyond words, it is then that one realizes Truth. To become gold is to become light, and the light in this precise sense is Truth itself. Light and life are two words, in point of fact it is one. In the essence it is one, call it light because it is knowing, call it life because it is living. To a dervish a person went and said, "Please tell me what happens after death." The dervish said, "Go to someone who is going to die, who is mortal, he will tell you what happens after death. Neither do I die nor do I know what happens after death." And that explains the central thought of Sufism and that thought is that life lives, it is death that dies. In spite of all the great Master Jesus Christ had to teach to the people to satisfy their fancies, to help them in their lives, the central theme of the Master's teaching is one, and that is to distinguish the immortality of the soul.

          The Sufi, therefore, is the pupil of wisdom and since he is the pupil of wisdom he is the pupil of the All-Wise. In philosophical form or in mystical forms and scientific or artistic form in all its forms it has one Source, and it is that Source which is the Master. And therefore he is not in any disagreement with any religion, with any sect or with any community. People have adored their own Teachers and their own Scriptures that they worship and respect; for the Sufi they are all the same.

          The Sufi's church, therefore, is every place where he stands, the dome of that church is the sky, and the floor of that church is his thoughts. The whole Scripture of the Sufi is all this life that teaches lessons from morning till evening. Therefore the literature of all those great prophets and Teachers for him is the interpretation which they have taken from this life, interpreted in the language of the people of that time. And yet that wisdom for the Sufi is not limited to a certain period, that wisdom has always been, therefore is and will always be, for he finds the Source of that wisdom, which he considers most sacred, is to be found in the heart of man.