I observe that the most fortunate person in this worldly life is he who sees the world as a military guest-house, and submits himself, and acts accordingly. Seeing it in this way, he may rise swiftly to the rank of winning God’s pleasure, the highest rank. Such a person will not give the price of a lasting diamond for something as valueless as glass, doomed to be broken. He will pass his life uprightly and with pleasure.
Yes, matters to do with this world are like pieces of glass that will be broken, while the lasting matters of the hereafter are as precious as flawless diamonds. The intense curiosity, fervent love, terrible greed, stubborn desires, and other intense innate human emotions were given to gain the matters of the hereafter. To direct them fervently towards the transitory things of this world is to give the price of eternal diamonds for doomed fragments of glass. A point has occurred to me in connection with this, so I shall recount it. It is like this:
Passionate love is an ardent sort of love. When it is directed towards transitory objects, it either causes its owner perpetual torment and pain, or, since the ephemeral beloved is not worth the price of such fervent love, it causes the lover to search for an eternal one. Then passing love is transformed into true love.
Man possesses thousands of emotions, each of which has two degrees, one worldly, the other, true. For example, everyone feels anxiety about the future. A person is intensely anxious about the future but then sees that he has no guarantee that he will reach the future he is so anxious about.
Also, if it is his livelihood he is worried about, anyway it is promised, and the brief future is not worth such terrible anxiety. So he turns away from the future towards the true future beyond the grave, which is long-lasting and which for the heedless has not been promised.
Man also displays intense ambition for possessions and rank, then he sees that the transient property which has been put temporarily under his supervision, and calamitous fame and high rank, which are dangerous and lead to hypocrisy, are not worth such intense ambition.
He turns away from them towards spiritual rank and degrees in closeness to God, which constitutes true rank, and towards provisions for the hereafter, and good works, which are true property. Worldly ambition, which is bad quality, is transformed into true ambition, a lofty quality.
As these examples show, if man uses the faculties given to him on account of the soul and this world, and behaves heedlessly as though he were going to remain here for ever, they will be the cause of bad morals and will be misspent and futile.
But if he expends the lesser of them on the matters of this world and the more intense of them on spiritual duties and tasks pertaining to the hereafter, they become the source of laudable morals and the means to happiness in this world and the next in conformity with wisdom and reality.
My guess is that one reason the advice and admonitions given at the present time have been ineffective is that those offering them say: “Don’t be ambitious! Don’t be greedy! Don’t hate! Don’t be obstinate! Don’t love the world!” That is, they propose something that is apparently impossible for those they address like changing their inborn natures. If only they would say: “Turn these emotions towards beneficial things, change their direction, their channel,” both their advice would be effective, and they would be proposing something within those persons’ willpower.
Summarized from 9th letter from the Letters by Master Said Nursi