- Author Hazrat Inayat Khan
I would like to speak a few words on the subject of our attitude as members of the Sufi Movement towards others. Our attitude towards societies such as occult, mystical, or philosophical societies should be a Sufi attitude; otherwise we shall be the same, and act the same, as everybody else. If we look at them with a critical eye there are then many things that we will criticize, and by doing so we shall hurt their members in some way or other. Then there are those who look at these societies with the friendly idea that they would like to change their minds. But we will always be answered in the same way as we speak; to throw a stone in the mud is to get splashed oneself. Also, there is some good in everything; nothing can exist without there being some good in it, for it is the power of good which allows everything to exist. Even the one whom we call a devil cannot exist if there were not some good in him; it is the little good that makes him exist. If he were altogether a devil he could not exist. The fact that there is a society, it may be a small one or a movement with hundreds or thousands of members, means that there is some good there. If it is not honey it is gum or glue; it will be something. If you do not look at it as honey, others do; let them take it.
Besides by proving that we respect others. We do not need to follow the teachings of other societies or of other people. We do not need to admire them; we do not need to be insincere about them, nor say good things about people we do not know. Nevertheless we should always avoid speaking against them. And if people speak favorably about our movement and about the teachings given there, so much the better if they are pleased; but if they speak unfavorably about it, then it is time that we are put to a test, to see whether we can prove that we are better than these people think. If we fail it proves that their criticism was right; we ought to prove what we are by our example, by our actions, and not by words. If they do not know us, if they cannot understand us, they might live three hundred years without knowing or understanding us. We only have to accept it all, to assimilate it all.
There are two qualities: the quality of earth and the quality of sky. If it is earth, whatever you put into it the earth brings out again. It may be flowers or grain or thistles, but everything comes out, for it is hidden beneath our feet. But the sky which stands over our heads, its character is different. Whatever goes into it is assimilated; it is gone. Man is both, as well earth as heaven. His earthly part gives back everything as it comes, but his heavenly part assimilates everything that is undesirable. It does no longer exist, it has disappeared, it has gone.
The other day I was asked at a dinner I attended, «What do you mean by spiritual attainment?» It was a deep question to be put at a dinner table! Instead of giving an explanation in big, heavy words of occultism and psychology and mysticism I answered in the appropriate words for the evening and said, «Spiritual attainment for a man is to become a person.»
A soul is born as an individual, but that individual is not necessarily a person. It is the evolution of the individuality which culminates in personality. You might say, «But is personality such a great thing as that? What we have read in books is that we should get away from personality!» We should do that too; but away from which personality? From the false conception of personality. Developing the true personality is going towards the fulfillment of the purpose of life. Our great poet Ghalib says, «No doubt everything is difficult, however simple it may seem; it is even difficult for a man to become a person.»
To become a hermit, a monk, or an orthodox person, to know about dogmas and rituals, all these things are for some purpose; but the way is not the goal. I do not mean that none of these ways are right, that they do not lead to something. But if in spite of taking all kinds of different ways a person does not arrive at the goal he has lost his time, he has fooled about and lost his opportunity. The further one advances the more one comes to the understanding that there are many opportunities in life, but that life itself is the greatest opportunity. And the further we advance on the path the more we are able to view the time we have passed with repentance. This is the real repentance; it is to ask oneself, «Why did I not realize the value of opportunity?»
Childhood, youth, middle age, age, it is all an opportunity, whatever be the conditions, poverty, riches, failure, success. A person may even sometimes profit more by pain than by joy if he takes the opportunity given to him, if he appreciates it. Therefore on the path of spiritual attainment life becomes such an opportunity that its value is much greater than one can conceive, and to lose that opportunity through meaningless doubt, useless thought, fanciful feelings, or worthless actions, is undesirable.
The more we value the opportunity of life the more we can profit by it. From morning till evening we should be conscious of the fact that we are placed in life to fully profit by it, and if we can watch for this opportunity in all situations of life the purpose of our life becomes fulfilled. For those who do not understand this principle life is a burden, but for those who understand it this burden is easy, because they consider it their opportunity.
One may ask what opportunity is, what comes out of it; but as soon as a person begins to know his opportunity there can only come benefit out of it. Whatever comes out of it will be his benefit. As the wise have always said, «All that happens always happens for the best.» Sometimes things seem worthless, sometimes they happen against our desire, and sometimes they are as we wish them to be; yet in point of fact they are all fulfilling the message of destiny. But this we only realize if we are awakened to the secret of life.
Then there is the question of your attitude towards those around you, towards those who do not appreciate your point of view, who do not value your efforts on the spiritual path, who cannot understand you although you are near them in your home or at the place where you work. You must not urge your point of view upon them; you must not make a show of your attitude. That are wrong tactics. To show in every way that you are more evolved than they, that you are different from them, that your ideals are loftier than theirs, to be exclusive, is not the right thing to do. If your ideal is loftier, if your feelings are deeper, your thoughts higher, be thankful that you have them, but do not show your treasures, saying, «Look at my diamond» or «my ruby» or «my emerald.» You need not say, «This diamond is so valuable», you need not talk with others about it. If your qualities are greater or better you may just as well not show them. By acting as they all do, by being their friend or equal, you will certainly win the others« affection, and in that way you will do much more good than by keeping aloof and exclusive, showing that you are different from the others. The more we are evolved the more we must bend like a tree laden with fruit. The tendency of the tree which bears fruit is to bow low.
Then there is your attitude towards those to whom you have a certain duty. If you consider it only a duty it is nothing but slavery, captivity; but if that duty becomes your pleasure then it is a virtue. Then if you please others you are satisfied yourself. And if you do not consider something to be your duty you must awaken to the fact that it may be your duty. It is no use ignoring that there is such a thing in life as duty. You have a duty towards all, no only towards your relations and friends, but towards strangers and towards everyone you meet and with whom you have to do in life; towards all these you have a duty. Moreover, you should accept it all smoothly and with great pleasure; then you will look at it differently and you will find pleasure in duty.
It is very easy to say, “I do not like duty, I turn away from it”. It is also easy to say, “I do not consider that I have a duty towards this person”. But that takes nothing away from the fact that somewhere you are bound by duty. In reality it only means a regard, a regard to what is right. And if one asked, “Well, but what is right?” the answer is that whatever you consider right at a certain time, that is right; and it is not necessary that the right of today is the right of tomorrow. In this world we are evolving every day from one conception of right to another, and when we sincerely think that a thing is right, then it is right.
And now coming to the question of our attitude towards those who belong to the Sufi Movement. This attitude necessarily should be more tender, more gentle, and more sympathetic, for the very reason that destiny has brought us together. That is the reason behind it. Destiny has not brought us together without a purpose. And our sympathetic attitude towards each other will become a power. We should not look for struggle; life itself is a struggle, and if we allow the struggle to become greater it only means that we are going backwards.
Among Mureeds there is this opportunity of practicing right manner, right attitude. You will find some who appeal to you, and some who do not come up to your ideal there will be some who seem to have shortcomings, and some who think much of their talents and their evolution. But you should realize that they have all come together to be benefited by one another’s evolution. If you are more evolved you may be thankful that they can share your evolution, and if you are less evolved you can share theirs.
The sign of the evolved one is modesty, humility, gentleness. By this a person shows evolution, not by saying, “I have read twenty thousand books”, and by arguing about everything he has read in them.
Sympathy is the key to all things. If we awaken that heart quality in us in our every day life we will so much profit by it that words cannot explain it, for by sympathy and goodwill we partake of all that is worth while in the world; from morning till evening we are making a profit though we do not know what it will amount to. A person can calculate the interest which comes from his money in the bank, but he does not know the interest of the sympathetic attitude that he shows to all who are around him. No wealth can be compared with it. No one can steal it, it is your own; you can depend upon it. It is a living wealth which is a phenomenon in itself.
My Mureeds, therefore I wish to emphasize again to you that this is not a movement of occult powers or of psychic phenomena. These are all secondary things, and we are not pursuing them. But we have been bound together by the initiations of the Sufi Order, that we may one day come to that stage, quickly or slowly, however it happens, where we begin to express that divine personality, the spark of which is hidden in our hearts.
If we have attained this we have fulfilled the purpose of being a human being; and what else would you want? We do not wish to perform wonders; that is not our wish or aim. Our aim is to become that which our deepest feeling wants us to be one day. We must become that towards which our soul is guiding us, that which our soul is yearning to be one day. We must work towards the fulfillment of that particular purpose.
Yes, you will continue your practices, your meditations, and your studies; and you will use them in your everyday life and know that the blessing of your Murshid is always with you.