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?




Is Man the Master of His Destiny?

My subject this evening is "Is Man the Master of his Destiny?" Often a person wonders if man was meant to be the master of his destiny, for life's experience has taught men to say, "man proposes, God disposes", but I will still say that man is the master of his destiny. For the very reason that man may be resigned to destiny, but he cannot be happy with that destiny which he does not wish to have. If man was meant to be the slave to his destiny, then he would have been content with it, he would have been happy in it. For the very reason that he does not wish to be contented, for the very reason that he cannot be contented with his destiny shows that he is seeking mastery, and it is in order to get the key to this mastery that man strives through a right way or a wrong way.

By going the wrong way he has the same motive, but he does not accomplish it because then, in that way, he goes through an illusion. He thinks that he is striving in order to master his destiny, but he goes the wrong way. The one who goes the right way, he finds that key to that mastery, the mastery over his destiny. Well, now is the question how far is man granted that power of mastering his destiny and how far he stands in this life helpless? And the answer is, that it differs with every man. Every man has a certain degree of that power. But this must be seen in this way. That a soul is born on earth helpless, and out of this helplessness it grows, and then learns to help itself. As a soul grows from infancy to youth, from helplessness he becomes able to help himself, so is the soul; the person as he evolves, so he develops to help himself.

Do you not hear sometimes a relation or a friend say about his friend 'he is a child.' 'He is a child' means that he is still helpless. And this shows that in man there are both things, there is a part of his being which is helpless and there is a part of his being which has the mastery. The external part is the part which represents the helplessness of man, it is the inner part of man which represents the mastery. And since every man is conscious of his external being and rarely one is conscious of his inner being, so rarely is man a master, but everyone experiences helplessness through life. And after all, it is the consciousness of a thing which makes the person possess it, and if the person is not conscious of it, it may belong to him and yet he does not possess it. For an instance, there may be a large sum of money put in the name of a child in the bank; the child still does not possess it, he is not conscious of it, he cannot utilize it - it belongs to him, not to others - to him it is nothing, it does not belong to him.

And now you will ask me what explanation have I to give about that belief which has always existed and believed by the wise and foolish, that there exists some such a thing which is called "predestination." And I will explain it. That there was an artist and he planned in his mind, he made in his mind, planned that he wants to produce it on a canvas. And no sooner he took the colors and brush in his hand and began to paint his picture, every line he made and every color he put, it suggested him something, and that altered altogether his plan; the very plan with which he began then became an obscurity to his mind, and what was produced before him was quite a different thing than he had thought before.

What does it show? This shows the three stages of the picture.

  1. The first stage of the picture is that plan which, before bringing on the canvas, the artist had designed, the artist had planned;
  2. and the other aspect is that action of producing that picture which went as changes, right and wrong and right and wrong, and so on it went;
  3. and the third aspect is the completion of that plan, the completion of that picture which stood quite different from the plan first conceived.

Therefore, what may be called "predestination" is that plan which is made beforehand,
and what may be called "Karma" as they say in the Hindustanic tongues, is that process through which the picture is made;
and the completion of that picture is what may be called "mastery."

It does not always happen that the picture is altogether different from what it was planned, and yet it often happens. And however much different the picture may be from the plan yet the foundation remains there as first planned. And therefore, how much different the life may be from that mark of predestination which was before, and yet the life is built, the life is erected upon the same plan which has been first made. No doubt the astrologers and the fortune-tellers, the future-tellers, the prophets will not always say the thing that is really coming, they may make a mistake, and yet the predestination is there; the mistake is in their reading, not in the predestination.

And still that saying of the old that the feet of the infant tell what he is going to be will always prove true. It is the lack of seeing, that men cannot see, but the one who can see, can see from infancy what the child is going to be. And that old saying that the fate of the child is written on his forehead, it is the same in reality; every part and particle of the infant is expressive of what he is going to be. The one who can read the eyes and the ears and the features and the forms as letters, he can read an infant - a human being - as a letter.

He need not consult with planets and mathematics; he need not know other sciences; that intuitive sense can see what the soul is going to be like. And the eyes which are open to see this, they are also open to see the process, that middle part of life's journey, how the person is developing, how the person is going through changes. They can see in the failure of a person a success; there can be in the success of a person a failure. And the one who is capable of doing this, also can see that how, when this picture will be complete, what sort of picture it will be. What the picture is going to be, he can see it beforehand.

And in order to support the argument of the fatalist we do not need to go far to find examples. Everyone has examples near him. There are men most qualified and yet fail; there are people most clever, and yet always lose. In order to support the argument of the one who thinks freewill is something, there are reasons too, because it is the active, it is the persevering, it is the courageous who attain to the success, and those who lack it can sit and wait, and wait forever. And this teaches us that it is a great mistake to divide destiny from free-will, because behind destiny there is a free-will, and behind a free-will there is destiny. What we call destiny is a kind of cover upon the free-will, it is the free-will working in the form of free-will and yet the spirit of destiny is working.

I am now coming to a question, how does a mystic look upon this question? The mystic thinks that in the being of man there are two aspects: one aspect of his being is like a machine, the other aspect of his being is like an engineer. The machine-part of his being is dependent upon climatic changes, upon what is given to it, what is put into it, upon what it depends in order to keep in working condition. And there is another machine of fine mechanism which works as the inner part of this machine, that is finer than its outer part. And that fine part feels atmosphere, feels vibrations, feels pleasures and displeasures, enjoys comforts and rejects discomforts; every kind of feeling exists there.

Then the mystic looks on life in this manner: that this machine is made for the use of the other part of one's being, which is the engineer. But as long as that engineer is asleep, and that engineer is unaware of this machine, he does not run it, it is just left to conditions and environment; they run it. And so it means illness, with depressions, with fears, with his failures, with his helplessness, when this engineer-part of his being is asleep and the outer part of his being is subject to conditions. On the day when this engineer-part of man begins to waken, that day he begins to feel mastery over this machine; he begins to know on that day that this machine was made for him to work it to the best advantage.

I am coming to a still deeper side of metaphysics. We shall find that God Himself, for His own experience, manifests and experiences life through all its aspects, and specially through man. For what is this whole manifestation? This is nothing but the sublime vision of Divine Being. And with all the beauty that one sees in manifestation, the greatest and the most important thing is the fulfillment of this whole creation, and that is to be found in man. And this object is only fulfilled when man has wakened to this part of his being which represents the Master; in other words God Himself. But as long as man is interested in borrowing all that is necessary for this mechanism, which he calls his mind and body, from the external world, he depends upon it and he lives in it.

And since this becomes his occupation, and this becomes his nourishment, this outer world, then he becomes mortal. In other words: the immortal being becomes mortal by borrowing all that he needs from the mortal world. The more he depends upon the external life, the more he forgets the inner life, and there comes a time when he entirely forgets that there can exist a life which is above, which is beyond this external life. We do not need to go to see the example of this very far, when we see just now the condition of the world. We see that, with all this progress, there is materialism every day on the increase, and all the suffering that humanity has gone through, and just now humanity is going through, has been caused by this ever-increasing materialism.

What man believes in is in all that is external, that which he can touch, which he can see, which he can possess externally. In connection with him it may be said, quite contrary to what is said in the Bible, that he lives and moves and makes his life with what is in the material world. And when a person will live like this, his eyes will keep closed to that part of mastery which needs blowing, and by hat blowing it can be risen to a blaze which can lighten, which can illuminate the path of man's life.

Therefore, the object of the Sufi Movement just now in this world, and its work, is only to waken in humanity the importance of that side of life which is much more important than the earth-side of life. The Sufi Message, therefore, is not a Message of a particular creed, it is the Message of understanding life better. And the question how can one attain to it, is to be answered that it is not one day's work, or two days' work. It is the work of a whole life. As every art and science is the same if one says that "in ten years I will accomplish learning music", he does not know what music means. If a person says "in ten years I will be a great poet", he does not know what poetry means. A whole lifetime is not sufficient.

If these things are so difficult to attain, one cannot suppose to attain in one day the knowledge of the deeper side of life, and there are some enthusiastic persons who will talk enthusiasm one day and another day will run away, because they did not see something wonderful. When a person takes the spiritual path he must understand first that he has taken a path for eternity. If eternity he does not know, he should not take his first step, because he is not entitled to take his first step in the spiritual path. And the one who wants to seek that truth, he must not seek it superficially, for truth is not sought, it is discovered. For truth is not something that is to be attained or to be possessed. Truth is the self of one's own being, and it is one's self that is to develop into truth.

Very often people think that sorrow or pain, that is the sign of spirituality. One must not mistake spirituality for sorrow or pain. Yes, in many cases sorrow or pain becomes a source or a process of attaining quickly spirituality, but for that one must not ascribe to oneself a sorrow or pain, for life has enough sorrow or pain. Why does man seek for happiness? Because in reality his real self is happiness. He has lost that self and therefore is unhappy. The greatest tragedy in life is helplessness, limitedness, and the idea is to rise above this limitation in every way possible. And this rising is climbing towards spiritual ideals from materialism. It is the summit of this spiritual ideal which must be climbed, and in the climbing there is the fulfillment of life's promise.