The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

Vol. 3, Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

Vol. 5, Metaphysics, The Experience of the Soul Through the Different Planes of Existence

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

Vol. 12, Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

By Date





















































The Art of Personality

Is Man the Master of His Destiny?




The Art of Personality

Beloved Ones of God,

I will speak this afternoon on the subject of "The art of personality." There is a difference between individuality and personality as there is a difference between nature and art. As much as nature is near to man's soul, art is closer to his heart. If it were not so, man would have preferred to live in the forest, he would have roamed about in nature and would have been quite satisfied in the wilderness, he would have found the greatest charm in the beauty which is to be seen in the forest. But instead of all that, man has created a world for himself, a world which he has made for himself and in that world he has made a nature of his own imagination, a nature which he calls art. If that is art, then on art much depends.

People may say: "Is it not an imitation of nature?" Yes, it is an imitation of nature. You might say: "Then it is not as great as nature." But I say: "Both nature and art, both are made by the same Artist." Nature is made directly by the Artist and art is made indirectly through the pen of the artist. Nevertheless, art is the finishing of that beauty which begins to manifest in nature. A person who has not come to this conception of art he does not yet know the divinity of art.

And now coming to the question what art has to do with personality. Personality is art itself and the greatest art. Once a person came to me and said: "My parents brought me up just like a plant in the wilderness, naturally growing." I said: "It is a great pity," and she was surprised. What is education, what is culture, what is Self development? It is all art, it is all the way for individuality to culminate into personality. In the ancient times, the religious education and human culture in every form, mainly had personal culture as the central theme of education. And today we are expected to learn mathematics, geography, history and something else, and never the art of personality which is of greatest use in life.

Apart from its spiritual significance, in our everyday life we see a salesman who is pleasant, who is courteous, whose manner is well, be a successful salesman. If a seller lacks manner, if he is repellent, he may have all beautiful things in his shop, he will have no success. If a clerk in the office, a secretary, an assistant, a supervisor, if his personality is charming, if he has a kindly manner, if he has a sympathetic attitude, he will win the affection of all, everything will be light, everything will go smoothly. If a person lacks the art of personality, with all qualifications he may have, the most capable person he may be, yet things will not run smoothly. And so it is at home.

A person may be a barrister, a solicitor, a doctor, a most qualified person; but if there is no art of personality, if that art is not developed, he will be disagreeable and unpleasant in his own home and in all walks of life. The art of personality is the main thing to develop, and if that is not developed, a person has missed a great deal. And if the love of this art has not been given, then what happens? The human being becomes not any better than the lower creation. Is a human being greater because he possesses wealth, or because he has read many books, or because he has learnt much? Is he therefore greater as a human being? No. Man is greater when from an individual he has become a person. Very few of us distinguish between individuality and personality. Individuality is that which we have brought with our birth. We are born as a separate entity; that itself makes us an individuality. But personality is something that is acquired; it has not come with us; it is something we gain.

If a tree from the forest grew in the garden in the same way, the gardener would say: "You are not welcome here, you do not fit in with the surroundings here; this is a garden, this is not a forest." But besides that, the art of personality is not only something that a person should learn in order to become pleasant to others, the art of personality fulfills the purpose of life.

And now comes a question: What is the art of personality? Do you call the art of personality, mannerism, is it putting on different ways of expression, an extra politeness, a society rhythm? Not at all. That is a falsehood that people adopt being unnatural and acting unnaturally. Instead of giving a better impression, they give a worse impression. It is something which spontaneously expresses itself. You do not need to act in a certain way, you do not need to put on something. It is the expression of your self which is the art of personality.

Besides, it is the sign of the great to express the art of personality. Whether knowingly or unknowingly a person may have developed himself to that manner and it is wonderful to watch.

In India I was very fond of seeing the celebrities known in our country. And one day I heard that a great wrestler was visiting our town. I never had approved of something that makes one win and the other fail, but because this man was a celebrity, I wanted to see him. One could have expected very little from the personality of a wrestler. But in this personality instead of all strength, muscular and nervous strength, there was such a kindly manner, such a sympathetic look, such an outgoing attitude, and there was such a serenity, that I thought, even a wrestler who does the most material and physical work, could show that it is his personality and not something material which has made him great; it is his personality.

One might ask: "If a person has a personality, why must he develop it?" But even a diamond must be cut. It has the light in it. Yet cutting is required. It cannot show that glow and that brilliancy before it has been cut. The same thing with personality. Then one may ask: "How is personality regarded, in how many different aspects?"

Personality in Action

The first aspect of personality is the action, the movement. Very often, before a person has spoken a word, he has achieved a movement which has caused a jar upon the delicate sensibility of a person who sees it and who may have formed an opinion of that person, before he has known about him, only by his movement. In one movement a person shows his state of mind, unless he has the power to control. One can show stubbornness, weakness, foolishness; all things can be traced when a person walks, or sits, or stands up. Those who can recognize a person in the twinkling of an eye, for them it is not necessary to study physiognomy. One movement to them shows whether a person is evolved or unevolved. And when his movements are not directed when this science is not taught, not understood, a person may make such movements that will make an impression upon his spirit and turn his whole being into wrong. Very little attention has been given to this by education.

Personality in Speech

And now coming to the other aspect of personality which belongs to speech. The more we understand about this, the more we shall know that for every word there is a time and for every word there is a place. And everything you say in its own place and which is a fitting thing, it will be good. It becomes wrong when it is spoken in a place which is not its place. People generally do not think about it. Very often people are outspoken, they do not mind when they speak, what they speak, where they speak. A person who has no control over his speech becomes like a kind of machine which goes on and goes on and goes on, without any will at the back of it.

Remember that not only they do not gain the affection of others, the approbation of others, but they repel others, they cannot keep any secret because they have to say it, they have the habit to say, they have no control about it.

Once a woman went to a healer and said: "Can you help me, I am in a distress." The healer asked: "What is the matter?" She said: "When my husband comes home, he is in such a state that there always is a disagreement." "O," said the healer, "that is the easiest thing to do. I will just give you these magnetized lozenges. When your husband comes home, you take one in the mouth and keep it." When the husband came home, tired and fatigued, he was inclined to war as usual, but she was quiet and did not answer. He was grumpy for a little while but then became quiet. And so the home became more harmonious.

Then, before the lozenges were finished, she went to the healer and said, "Give me one more packet of these," and he answered: "Lady, learn from this that it is not the lozenges, it is the keeping quiet, it is the closed lips. When your husband is tired, he does not know his mind. And when you do not encourage him to quarrel, he will not quarrel."

The art of personality is not so difficult to learn. It is to learn to be thoughtful. Those who say much, very often say so little. Others who say little, they say much. It depends upon how it is said.

In the Bible is said: "First was the Word and the Word was God."

That shows what power the word has. If we control our speech, if we know how to use a word, we know the chemical science of life and use it to the best purpose in life. Sometimes a person can change a situation by one word and others cannot change it by a hundred hammers. There is a way to hammer and break a rock and there is the way of the water. If the rock is in the way, the water will not hammer; the water will surround it, will run smoothly over it and make its way on the top of the rock and in this way the waves will proceed.

If one only knew the art of personality. If a person is upset, among ten people who want to console him, there are nine who will upset him more and there is rarely one who will console him. That also belongs to the art of personality.

Sympathetic and right thinking

And then we come to another aspect of the art of personality and that is sympathetic and right thinking. By right thinking all that one says and does naturally becomes right, because the root of every speech and action is in the mind. Naturally by right thinking one speaks rightly and acts rightly, one cannot do otherwise. But what generally happens is that one never thinks about right thinking in connection with oneself, always one thinks about it in connection with others. If there is any wrong, it is in the other one. And the most wonderful thing is that the one who is most in the wrong, is the one who sees most the wrong in others.

That person who is full of wrongs, you will see, that person knows thousand wrongs about a thousand people. Besides, our experiences make us so pessimistic that if anyone said: "I have seen someone, such a nice and kind and good person," we begin to doubt; unconsciously our first thought is: "Can it be true, it cannot be true; there is no such a thing as good in the world." And as soon as a person says: "I have seen such a wicked person", everybody is interested, because they believe it. That shows that we hardly expect any experience that can ever be right.

Personality in Feeling

And now coming to the fourth aspect of the art of personality, which is feeling. The great drawback of modern civilization is that man today thinks what is balanced and what is practical, is to think with the brain, to reason out things. But to feel with the heart, he thinks: that is not practical, that is not common sense. Therefore today a normal and balanced person is the one who lives in his brain and the one whose heart is developed, is called a fanatic or unpractical. Imagine, after reading in the Bible that God is Love, we come to realize that the one who has less God in him is more practical and who has more God in him, he is good for nothing. When there is a discussion among intellectual persons it is understood to keep apart sentimentality: "just discuss on the point, that keeps your reasoning clear." But this takes away the beauty of life.

The art of personality is in that profound deep feeling which directs every thought, speech and action of man. When Jesus Christ said to the fishermen: "Come hither and I will make you the fishers of men", He spoke to those who were absorbed in catching fishes at the sea shore: "Come here, I will teach you, (in other words), the art of personality." It is therefore not a subject which I bring before you, it is a subject which Christ taught. It is the art of personality which the Prophets proved in their own lives to be of the greatest importance. The impression Buddha has left upon millions of people in the East who keep his image in the temple and see the expression of God in Buddha, what is it? Is it the theories and dogmas and teachings he has given? No, it is his personality which has given such a deep impression upon people that for centuries they have held it sacred. It has proved to be more precious than anything in the world.

It is not a subject of which one can say: it is no better than any other subject. On the contrary, it is a subject of the greatest importance. There are millions of Muslims, on hearing the name of the Prophet, their eyes are full of tears. What is it? Is it the teaching the Prophet has given? What touches is the personality of the Prophet; his personality has given the deep impression which never can be erased, which remains there still. The art of personality therefore is a magic. The fishermen among whom Jesus Christ had to walk were incapable of knowing the greatness of the Master and not ready to understand the Message He had brought. And yet they used to stand spellbound in the presence of the Master, they used to be deeply impressed by the personality of the Teacher. What was it? It was not a new teaching they received. It was the example before their eyes.

The Sufis of all ages considered the art of personality of the greatest importance. The yogi-theory of asceticism has nothing to do with it (the art of personality). It is another thing. But the wise of all ages who taught that God Himself has manifested in the form of man who from an individual develops into a person, they see in this the fulfillment of life's purpose.

Learning the Art of Personality

And now one might ask: how does one learn the art of personality? In the same way as one learns the art of painting or drawing. In the first place one learns how to draw a straight line, a horizontal line, a circle, a curve. And in learning the art of personality it is the same. How to say a thing, and how not to say a thing, and how to avoid to say a thing, and how to say a thing without saying it.

Then one learns the art of light and shade which is the next thing. And that light and shade is how to hide a certain part in conversation and to make the other part brought to prominence. And then there is coloring. There is a great variety of colors. Every feeling, every thought, every idea has its particular color. And when a person knows how many of these colors there are and when he composes with them all he says and does in life, then it becomes an art of personality. It is nothing if a person has collected diamonds, or if he has got pearls or if he has got rubies. What is it if he has not developed in his personality that precious quality which makes a person precious. What is it? All those things are nothing.

There are four grades through which one develops in the art of personality.

  1. One grade is when a person has become thoughtful. Then he begins to observe his thoughts, to see his actions.
  2. The second grade is that not only he observes his thoughts and sees his actions, but is able to control them.
  3. The third grade is that a spontaneous outflow of sympathy comes from the person, that it is natural; that his attitude is outgoing, that his personality attracts and that his personality becomes a blessing.
  4. And the fourth grade is a grade where no effort has to be made by the artist to make the art of personality. In this grade the artist becomes art itself and whatever he does, it all becomes a beautiful picture.