- Author Hidayat Inayat-Khan
I would like to tell you why our Message has a name, why it is called the Sufi Message. No institution and no activity which are intended for spiritual work can exist without a form. The form is as necessary as it is necessary for human beings to have four walls and a roof over their head in order to take shelter from excessive cold and heat; and this house must be in a certain town in a certain province, and it must have a number. Even if we did not like it there will be put a number on it just the same.
The Message which is being given is wisdom’s Message. It comes directly from within. It is intended to be given to humanity, specially at this time of the world’s need, and no matter how much opposition there is, it will be removed in the end. Truth will succeed; nevertheless, we have to work as a society, though in reality ours is not one among many societies. Its form as a society is a necessity. The Message has to be given, and for this a society is needed, but the society is a means, not the end. The end is a certain purpose that is to be fulfilled in this age, and it is our privilege to have been engaged in it. Therefore we must first make it clear in our minds what Sufism or what the Sufi Movement is.
Naturally, since my initiation in the outer planes took place in the order of the Sufis (my Murshid, who baptized me in the real sense of the word, was a Sufi) I have felt it to be the greatest necessity, the greatest honor and privilege, to give the Message which has been given the name «Sufi». But this does not make it separate and as one more creed, or even as one of the special Sufi schools. It is a world cause, it is a world Message, it cannot be linked to a certain institution.
You may ask, when did the Sufi Message begin in my own life? Even before my initiation, from the time I have first breathed on the earth, with every breath I have inhaled the Message, and at every stage. When I now look back on my life, at every stage of my awakening to the inner life the first thing I was awakened to was this Message which was to be given to humanity. No doubt every moment of my life I have become more and more awakened to it, and yet I can say that I am still not awakened enough, and I shall never be. Every moment there is a deeper insight, every moment there is a wider horizon before my vision, to learn from it and to interpret it before humanity in human tongue.
Therefore neither must we look at our success from the human point of view, nor at our failure. If I had looked at success from a human point of view I would have left the Western world and have run away back to my own country, disappointed and heart-broken. Continually knocking against iron walls, singing songs to the deaf for years and years, a human being could easily become heart-broken. But I did not consider the worldly success as a success, and I have always felt and believed, and will always believe, that only truth itself is success. And when no success is manifested from the worldly point of view it does not matter, for truth is the essence of success. Never, therefore, must we expect in our work success in the form in which people recognize it as such. And as to failures, I have learned to call failure a success. I never look upon a failure as a failure. It has only inspired me, only encouraged me, only taught me a new lesson. Every little seeming failure taught me a better way how to pursue God. Therefore I never felt discouraged or disappointed, but only a great enthusiasm. You will read in the Vadan, that every time the heart is struck, a switch is turned and the light goes on; that is why a seeming failure gave me greater force and inspiration than success did. I have always considered success and failure to be like the two wings of the Sufi emblem. Neither this matters nor that, as long as the attitude is right. And as long as we remain single-minded and strong in our pursuit, and full of conviction, so long shall we succeed in going forward and much further than we can imagine, until we come to the fulfillment of our task.
And now there arises a question for us as members of a pioneer Movement: what must we do? I say: we must leave the must out from our mind. There is nothing we must do, but there is much that we will do. For ‘must’ means the subordination to a principle, even if we do not want a principle to subordinate us. But much we will do; that should be our main object. In the first place through the practices which we do regularly we shall be in that power and inspiration which will help us in our everyday life and in our work for the cause. And the neglect of these practices is just like a soldier who never does his drill, and when there comes a war he will have a difficult time. And the soldier has to fight perhaps once in a life-time, but we have our struggle every moment of the day. We are soldiers who never get a rest; from morning till evening we have to put up with those who do not know. There is no end to our struggle, and therefore there is no end to the inspiration and power we need to struggle through life. However humble and unimportant our life may be, our struggle is great. If one is rich, riches only give greater struggle. If one has nothing to do, that is a struggle; if one has much to do, that is a struggle too. One cannot escape a struggle in life. And it is our meditations, our practices, which will enable us to stand firm in difficult times and to bravely face our struggles, whereas our neglect of them will bring us disappointment. It is like soldiers who are without arms in the middle of the war; it is an embarrassing position.
For us who have chosen the path of truth, our struggles are greater because we feel deeper. Difficulties can weigh upon us more heavily than upon those who have no interest for spiritual things, for we become sensitive when treading the spiritual path. Our feelings become more tender, our sympathies keener, our conscience becomes more living, our sense of justice more pronounced. We are ready to take ourselves to task before we take another to task. That is why our life is more difficult in every way compared to that of an ordinary person, and therefore we must have a battery, the strength to withstand all things in our life, in other words to give balance to our lives. The finer, the more tender, our feelings become, the stronger and the more powerful we must become in order to create a balance.
Then there is another question, and that is that we are not meant to experiment with wonder-working. There are many societies who occupy themselves with spirit communications and psychic experiments, who are intellectually interested in the Mahatmas of the Himalayas and in past incarnations. We leave these things to the many people who are interested in them. Then what is our main object of interest in life: It is to express through our spirit, through our personality, the divine Being. And if we do not do that, then neither have we accomplished the other thing which excites so many people, nor have we accomplished this. They say in the East that the angels were created to glorify the name of God, and that the animals were made to eat, drink, and sleep. But what is man made for? He is neither created to live as an angel, praising the Lord every moment of the day, nor is he made only to eat, drink, and make merry, passing his life in that way. Man is made to express God, to develop in his spirit the divine, so that he may express God in his thought, speech, and action; in everything he says and does. That should be our main object, and that is the ideal which we have to work out in our lives. Spirituality does not mean to be a juggler or wonder-worker or story-teller; spirituality means the expression of the divine Spirit.
And now coming to the question which attitude we must have towards others, our attitude towards those who sympathize with us should be one of appreciation, but we should also try and make strangers our friends and never turn friends into strangers. We must value friendship, and once we make a friend we must always try to continue the friendship. This is the secret of spirituality. We need not urge upon others our faiths or beliefs, but we must prepare them to appreciate another outlook. Even if we accomplished this in ten years, even if in ten years one person looks at the Message from our point of view, it is something accomplished. But by trying to urge we antagonize. Would you believe that in my experience in working for the cause I discovered that many of those who work with enthusiasm and sincerity, giving their thought and time to the cause, are apt to antagonize others in spite of all their good intention of bringing them closer to the Message? And thus instead of good a great deal of harm is being done.
Also, there are many who, not knowing human psychology, would say a word of praise for the cause or for Murshid, something about the greatness of the Message or about a subtle principle of Sufi philosophy, thereby antagonizing a person who is incapable of understanding it immediately. Therefore it is so very essential for us who are doing pioneer-work just now to be so careful not to spoil them for ever, and not to antagonize them in any way, but to wait patiently. I have seen a person coming to me ten years after he had heard me but once, because he had left without being antagonized. But if you antagonize a person then this person is lost for ever, to us as well as to the Message and to himself. That is the greatest pity, not that he does not become a member of our society. What is it after all! Besides, our relatives and those near and dear to us, whom we would so much like to take part in our interest, leave them alone. Trying to interest them may antagonize them.. Once a person is antagonized he is lost for ever, but if you go slowly there will come a day that he will appreciate what we say, and it is our own conviction that will make him appreciate it more than anything else in the world. And those who want to leave us, let them leave with smiles, so that if they greet us today, tomorrow they will come.
I was very amused one day. A member who used to go from one society to another came to the Sufi Movement from the Theosophical Society. This lady had some influence in Holland, and therefore her leaving the Theosophical Society was very disappointing to many of its members. It was also a tender spot in her heart, for after having come to the Sufi Movement she had kept a great sympathy for the Theosophical Society. Then Mrs. Besant was visiting The Hague, and with a guilty conscience she went to see Mrs. Besant. She said, «I regret I had to leave, but you will understand, I was meant for discipleship and I went to Inayat Khan». And Mrs. Besant said, «Go. Many like you have come and gone from our society; your leaving is no loss to us.» And would you believe, from that day all the little sympathy she had for the Theosophical Society was wiped out, and the slight pricking of her conscience because of her having left the Theosophical Society was taken away by Annie Besant. She came smiling to me and said, «I am very happy that she has spoken to me like this.» You can see the psychology of this. If Mrs. Besant would have controlled herself more, the other would have kept her sympathy for the Theosophical Society, as she had a tender spot for it in her heart; but just by that one crude answer she antagonized her for her whole life. She never looked at the Theosophical Society anymore. Imagine!
This has nothing to do with the teachings, only with the attitude of the worker, with the way it acts upon a person. In our everyday life a psychological consideration is of the greatest importance in spiritual work. You would be surprised if I were to tell you my spiritual experiences; every day, there is no end to them. And such amusing experiences! Some come and say, «I don’t like a personal thought for any teacher; I only want to study the teachings.» Another comes and says, «It is you who are the Sufi Order or Movement; if you were not the teacher I would not have thought of joining. I would have been against it; it is only you.» And a third person comes and says, «Murshid, if you were to teach me I would learn from you all my life, but I cannot stand the other members.» And the fourth says, «Yes, I believe in all you teach, but I don’t want to become a Sufi.» I told this person, «Then you do not want to become wise, for Sufi means wise!» Again another says, «I am most interested in learning to walk on the spiritual path, only I don’t want to be bound by any discipline.» And another says, «I don’t want to join a society.» But you accept membership of a nation! You cannot exist without a nation, without being a citizen, and you do not want to have the privilege of a community. You want to have the highest privilege of life which is wisdom, and you cannot join a group. Imagine!
Another says, «Murshid, I cannot do a mechanical practice like repeating a word; it bores me.» A person who goes to a voice producer, he makes such faces with open mouth in order to improve his voice; for developing his voice he makes all sorts of grimaces. But when it comes to the highest and most important and valuable thing, he cannot sit and repeat something a hundred times; he says, «It makes me agitated!»
They will not join, they will not accept discipline, they will not respect the teacher, they will not have regard for the other members, they will not study nor practice- but they want to be spiritual! Do I not meet such examples every day? And how many you cannot imagine. Yet at the same time I accept them all. One by his finger, one by his wrist, one by his hand, one by his leg; some way or other they are got in. And after some time they understand. Therefore, my Mureeds, our difficulties are many. It is a pioneer work and most difficult to carry out, specially at this moment when we are only beginning. The only thing that strengthens us is our faith in the truth of the Message, which will help us all through life. The more we join hands, the more we feel for the truth of the cause, the better we will be able to do our duty.
All these things are like different threads, and the person who does not want to be tied thinks, «I can loosen it», but after having loosened it he still finds himself bound. It is human nature. A man wants to be free, but in order to be free he is too careful. It is that people have a wrong idea of freedom. The other day in New York there came to see me some representatives of a society, the Humanity League which was founded by Lady Montague. Al the time they talked to me about their ideas. They said, «We want you to be a member of our society, what do you say?» I said, «Most willingly. I appreciate your ideas and principles. I am your member!» And do you know the result of this willingness? They have chosen me to be the leader of their society for seven years from now. There was an archbishop there but they have put me in that place. I thought, «All right, put me wherever you like. It will not take me away from the Message I have to give to the world.»
People become extra sensitive about this. By joining anything one is not really bound. The real meaning of freedom is quite different. A person may be in the midst of the crowd and be free of all, and another may be in the forest and yet be a captive. Captivity belongs to our thought, not to conditions.
There is a story of a very great Madzub. A Madzub is a kind of sage who always tries to act as someone who is not all there. And therefore some recognize him, about which he does not care, and others think that he is out of his mind. Something like this exists in Ireland, where such people are called ‘God’s fool’! In the East it is a well-known thing; there are many great souls found to be in this guise. I have known this Madzub of whom I am speaking myself. Once he was walking in the street during the night and a police-officer saw him. The law of the city was that after ten o’clock no one should be in the street. So the officer asked first, «Why are you walking about at this time of the night?» This sage did not know what time it was. he was walking in complete peace and rest of mind, and he did not answer. The officer said, «Why do you not answer? Are you a thief?» He smiled and said, «Yes»; so the policeman took him to the police station, as he had no discrimination. This Madzub sat there in prison all night long. He was quite happy, as if he was a king sitting in a palace. In the morning the chief of police came, and this police-officer was quite proud of having arrested a thief. But when his chief saw this sage sitting there he was cross with the police-officer. He said, «What did he do? Why did you arrest him?» «He said he was a thief», replied the officer. Then the chief begged the sage’s pardon and let him go.
The meaning of this is that for a great sage, whose consciousness is the All-Consciousness, there is nothing that is not. His consciousness is raised to such heights that he is all that exists. There is nothing that he is not. Call him a thief, he is a thief; call him a king, he is a king; saint, he is a saint; devil, he is a devil — any name. He will answer that he is all. For such examples of real freedom captivity is no captivity, no prison; make them captive here, and at the same time they are in heaven. This is the freedom they seek. It is sought by deeper knowledge, by greater insight in life, by the knowledge of truth, by the raising of the consciousness. To go towards this aim they do not occupy themselves with what they were in their last incarnation, nor with what they will be afterwards. This is all a question of «I».
People all the time want to inquire about the very thing they should forget. In San Francisco I went to visit a friend whom I had seen twice before. And every time I saw her she asked me the same question, a question about reincarnation. Each time I gave her the same answer, but she never heard it and she would not have heard it if I had answered her a hundred times. What she heard was the question in her mind, which was talking louder than the answer; that is why she knew nothing but her question. As it is said in the Vadan, «Why? Is an animal with a thousand tails. At every bit you give it, it drops one of its curved tails and raises another. It’s hunger is never satisfied so long as it’s mouth is open.» The ‘why?’ is continually there, as long as it is not satisfied. There may be a thousand answers, but people like this have no faith; the answers do not reach them. There is a continual ‘why?’