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



Love, Harmony, and Beauty

Nature's Religion

The Personality of God

Silent Life

The Will, Human and Divine

Mind, Human and Divine


Developing Will-Power

Personal Magnetism

Love, Human and Divine


The Effect of Prayer

The Mystery of Breath

Character and Fate

Gain and Loss

Stilling the Mind

The Knowledge of Past, Present, and Future

The Planes

Spirits and Spiritualism

The Desire of Nations


The Freedom of Soul (1)

The Freedom of the Soul (2)

The Freedom of the Soul (3)

The Ideal Life

The Journey to the Goal

Intellect and Wisdom

Simplicity and Complexity


Friendship (1)

Friendship (2)

The Four Paths Which Lead to the Goal

Human Evolution



The Master Mind

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Spirits and Spiritualism

Spirit in its true sense is the essence. The spirit of anything means its essence. And when we consider the true essence there is only one. When we consider the true spirit there is only one spirit.

But of course in the world of variety one life is many lives and one thing has many manifestations. This manifestation makes us see many forms and many names of a one and only Being; and when we overlook the oneness of that Being and direct our attention to the variety of manifestation, we see that the spirit of each thing is its essence. The spirit of jasmine, the spirit of a rose, and so on; each has its own individuality, its own essence.

Spirit, as understood by the generality, is the remainder of man's existence. After man's body had died, what remains of him is considered to be spirit, which has a very beautiful name in Sanskrit: Bhut, that is, "the one who has been."

The spirit world distinguishes itself as different and distinct from the spirit experiencing the world through the body. The spirit of camphor is not the color or form of the substance, but the odor of camphor has existed in its spirit. The spirit of cinnamon is the fragrance and the effect that it has. The effect is still left after its form and substance have gone. Every object in this world, after it has vanished, leaves a mark of its essence just like the flower. When the essence is taken from the flower its external form is ruined, but it has left something which is its own. Both body and spirit are man. Man is a double spirit. Man in his cloak, his physical body, is more complete than a spirit alone. When the flower is living and its spirit has not been taken away from it, both the flower and its spirit are joined.

A person whose sense of discrimination and feeling is well developed may find that a visitor coming into the house brings with him a certain influence: good feeling or bad feeling, an irritable feeling or a blissful feeling. There is something with him besides his knowledge, besides his beauty; when he leaves the house his body leaves, and together with it his strength and beauty, all that is material in him; yet there is something left in that room for a certain time after he has gone. The whole atmosphere is charged and we feel that there is something left there. The more keenly we watch life, the more wonderful it is. All the miracles and phenomena are before us; our everyday life is a miracle. If we are only absorbed in things which are material and not in things of a delicate character, we do not see this because we blunt our sensitivity. It is then that we think that what we do not see or perceive does not exist. Consider, for instance, how infectious yawning is. This shows we can never say there is nothing beyond what the eyes and flesh can see.

Influence goes out from a living person and affects others in the vicinity. If the influence is so strong during life, shall it not exist after he is dead? Only the influence remains after he has left, yet how much greater must it then be! The light of the moon is the light of the sun.

There are two actions of sense, which are in fact two actions of the whole being: expressiveness and responsiveness. The whole universe works on these two principles. As soon as the expressing spirit expresses itself, the responsive spirit receives its impression, just as a person whose picture is taken by a camera yields his impression when the camera is properly adjusted. If the camera is not rightly placed, there will be no image on the plate. If a spirit has a fondness for someone and desires to be in the thought of this beloved one all the time, always near him, then, just like a camera taking a photograph of someone, this unconscious spirit of man naturally takes the impression coming from that spirit.

Child prodigies may be the result of influence; under this influence they may work, speak, write poems, dispute, and so on. If someone dies with the thought of revenge that he could not accomplish, or had not the courage to accomplish, he may find a living person, a youth perhaps or a child, who performs the act for the spirit without even knowing why. Murders may even happen in this way.

The brain may be deficient in thinking power; the body may react on thought, and sometimes the thought may react on the body. Could not the mind produce decay in the brain, or is it true that it is always bodily strain that brings strain of mind? Or does anger bring a strain on the body? The trouble usually comes from within. Hallucinations sometimes arise from thought and mind, either the same person or in some other person. We call it obsession when it comes from without.

Sometimes the living person can be the expressive one while the spirit responds. We cover our spirit under our body. We cover our light under a bushel. We never allow the spirit to become conscious of itself.

We are not doing spirits any good by calling them back when they have no body. Why not let them forget the experiences of this world of illusion rather than attract them? What good will it do to them? One should only trouble others when one needs them very much. We should use ourselves as the vehicle of all experiences. We can communicate much better with another person who is clothed like us than we can with a spirit.

Is not God enough for our souls, and is He not sufficient to inspire us and to illuminate our wills and guide our souls? Is He any less than a friend here or in the spirit life? He is the great well-wisher. In Him mercy is complete. He is the Soul of all souls. When we devote ourselves to the thought of Him, all illumination and revelation are ours. God-communication is the best communication that true spiritualism can teach us.

If we give all our wealth to the universe as a whole, no single person receives much. But it is a great accomplishment actually to realize God; it means that a very high degree of spirituality has been attained. It is most difficult to attain such a conviction of God that there is not the slightest doubt; but if someone does reach it, even the thought of him will bring blessing; it becomes a privilege to be his friend. It is a privilege because he is the friend of God.

A person possesses the knowledge which he has attained as he possesses the wealth which he has acquired. And so when the soul is illuminated it will desire to find some other soul illuminated in like manner, and will find great joy and bliss in its society. Such a one will surely find others who are on the verge of illumination. Even a drunkard will find others to drink with; and so it is mystically. A very little light can be turned into a flame, and that flame into a very big flame.

Why is it better to become a mystic than to remain a drunkard? As a matter of fact a drunkard will never be satisfied. The mystic will look for what Omar Khayyam calls wine, the wine of the Christ, after drinking which no one will ever thirst. He will always seek the wine whose intoxication never wears off. It is the only wine: the intoxication of the divine love.

The Master Mind

In the first place what is the mind? Is it the intelligence of the brain, is it the activity of the brain, or is it something else? When a person limits the word mind to brain, he certainly puts cause and effect on the same level.

There are two ways of looking at things: one looking from the cause to the effect; the other from the effect to the cause. The first is like looking from the top of the mountain to the foot; the other is like looking from the foot of the mountain to the top. The one who looks from the foot often fails to see what is going on at the top. Therefore the mystic follows the other way. He perceives that a person who investigates a higher truth by standing at the foot of the mountain may sometimes succeed in seeing what is at the top, yet sometimes he will not; and even when he does see, he does not see fully. It is different when a person looks from the top of the mountain to the foot; and that is why the mystic goes to the cause, and sees from the cause to the effect.

But the great thing is to get to the cause. It is easy to agree with the teaching of Jesus Christ, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all things shall be added." This teaching may be applied even in the investigation of human life, for as soon as one reaches the root of the cause one can see the light, and the light guides one. But what is difficult is to get in when one is on the outside.

Humanity has striven after truth for ages; and yet there is no period in the history of the world in which some of mankind have not realized the truth. The only difference is that one says, "I have discovered something", and the other says, "There is nothing new under the sun." The mystic's view is, "What I have known today has been known before, and will be known afterwards." It has never been known by all, and will never be known by all; but as the sight becomes keen, so man will be able to see.

In the first place, what the master mind is, is really explained by the power of spirit over matter. When man sees that mountains are pierced through by the effort of man, that man has crossed the seas, and that he flies in the air, that in itself shows that he is the master of creation.

But what is man? Is man a physical being, or is there something else called man? If the physical being is man, then what of the elephant, who is twenty times bigger? Then the elephant would never have listened for one moment to what man says, and yet when he says, "Sit down", the elephant sits down; "Stand", and he stands; "Walk", and he walks. At the same time the elephant is conscious of his heavy body, and the strength that he has. Then not only the elephant, but the tiger and the lion--the kings of the forest as they call them in the East--we can see them mastered in the circus by one man. Although these most brutal animals keep killing other animals, and live by the terror they evoke, so conscious are they of their strength, yet man has mastered them. Evidently there is something hidden in man. The word man means mind, and when the time came for mind to develop, man came into being; the physical being had been developed as long as the animal being.

There is also the question as to whether every man can really claim to be human, or as to what a human mind should be. This is shown by the story that one day Diogenes went searching in the market-place with a lighted lantern at midday, and when they asked him what he sought, he answered, "A man." And Ghalib, a Hindustani poet of Delhi, has said in his verse, "There seems to be a difficulty in all things; it seems difficult even for a man to claim to be a man."

The question is, what is the difference between man and animal? Is it not in the form of the man? But if only the form is man, strictly speaking all natural forms in this world gradually change into the human form. The more we study the life of birds, insects, creatures, or even the vegetable kingdom, the more plainly we shall see how the face of man has emerged, step by step, from the primitive preparatory stages, through all the different manifestations, until it has appeared as man. Thus if it were only the form that makes man man, he would never have been called mind; so it is something beyond form that makes man.

The whole matter is explained by Rumi in his Masnavi, "Our life on earth is as a captivity, an imprisonment." An imprisonment in what? In a physical body which covers the light of the soul. And the mind is also helplessly attached to the body. It is the bodily desires, passion, anger, appetite, all the different desires and needs, that make the mind helpless and make man hold on to them. All the worries, anxieties, depressions, and despairs arise from them. There is not a single moment in which the mind is able to stand aloof so as to reflect the light within, the light of the soul, so limited has it been made by the limited existence on earth. In reality this is the whole tragedy of human life.

The one and only thing that hinders man from advancing spiritually, or at least from advancing towards the goal for which he is destined and which he is longing to attain, is this: that the mind is so absorbed by the demands and wants of the physical body that it has hardly a moment to give itself entirely to the reflection of the light of the soul.

  • Not only do you believe in these two things, but you believe in being left alone when you are tired, in being left in peace and having rest.
  • You believe in understanding things you cannot yet understand."

    So he believes in four things. He may not believe in inspiration, revelation, or some higher spirit coming and instructing him, yet he believes in trying to understand things that puzzle him; in seeking to remove that cloud of confusion which veils the light that would guide him to the understanding of those very things which at present confuse him. So there is a longing in him to find out about something he does not know.

    In every person, therefore, whether spiritual or material, whatever his outlook, there are these four inclinations or desires:

    • to live, to save his life even to the extent of risking it in order to defend himself against being killed;
    • to be happy, enjoying the theater, music, dancing, singing, a game, sport, something that pleases;
    • a desire to know;
    • and a desire to have peace, to rest, to be left alone.

    Whether he believes in God, in spirit, in heaven, in a scripture, in a hereafter or not, he certainly believes in these four things. They develop gradually. As one studies more and more the way to acquire these things, that study itself becomes a form of religion; and attainment to the root of the four things is spiritual perfection. The difference is only that one takes a religious path, another the path of wisdom, another the path of devotion, and another the path of the form or ceremonial of worship. Whichever way it be, the constant pursuit of these four things brings the attainment of the same goal in the end, the goal for every soul. Some paths lead there sooner than others, that is all.

    If we think more about the desire for happiness, we see that although every soul seeks after pleasure, or wealth, or position, or power to become happy, he finds that everything in life is changeable. Whatever pleasure, or success, or achievement he gains, are all forms of desire for happiness, and these can only be held like air. How long can one hold that? Is it not always slipping from one's hands, be it wealth or position? The most difficult thing in life is to hold it when one has it. It is true it is difficult to acquire, but how much more difficult to keep! Thousands of people are after it. "How can we get it from him?" they ask. Relatives, friends, enemies, thieves, everybody is contemplating his wealth; while he holds it tight, more and more worried about it every day. So on the one side there is the happiness of holding something which is not his own, and on the other the strain of keeping safe that which does not really belong to him, and which is changeable and temporary. This takes away his happiness.

    All the things that give happiness seem so great a prize beforehand; but, however much pleasure and comfort they may give, when it comes to paying the cost of having them one begins to understand that there is no comfort or pleasure that is really worth while. As Omar Khayyam says, when man is seeking for happiness, all pleasures and comforts seem to be a blessing for that moment; but in the end everything is dust.

    There is a beautiful story illustrating this idea. In the palace of a Mogul king there was a housemaid, and once when making the bed she was overpowered by the sense of the beauty of the king's room, the fragrance all round, the windows open allowing the cool breeze to come in, so grateful when the summers are as hot as in the East. She felt she would like to sit on the bed a moment and see how it felt. How very soft and nice and how very fragrant, she thought. And she sat there, and then felt she would like to lean back on the cushions. But unfortunately she fell asleep. Then the king and queen happened to come in. He said, "What impertinence", and the queen was very displeased too.

    In a moment a whip fell on her back, and she got up in horror, and looked hither and thither and then smiled. And the king and queen were astonished to see her smile on receiving the whip. Said the queen, "Why do you smile?" She said, "O, it was a thought." The king said, "Tell me the thought." She said, "The thought was that it is so fragrant in this room, and the cool breeze so balmy and this bed so soft and comfortable, I thought I should like to see how it felt, and I slept; perhaps I did not sleep for more than half an hour and you came, and I received the whip. By sleeping there for half an hour I receive the whip, so I do not know what you will receive. You have been sleeping here for years together!'

    This is a lesson. There is no pleasure to be gained without a cost; it may be at the cost of wealth or of time; it may even be at the cost of life. Man, absorbed as he is in the pleasures and comforts of life, thinks very little of this, and goes on until the time comes when it is too late to think of it. Life has been nothing but a captivity to this constant longing for happiness and pleasure, which when it comes he finds himself unable to enjoy.

    So this teaches that the source of real happiness lies somewhere else. It is not in a building of sand that comfort can be got. The building in which one can get comfort is in oneself. Having discovered the nature of pleasures one may well think, "After all, these pleasures were just like lips touching the wine and not drinking it. The wine is somewhere else." But in the end even the pleasure-seeker comes to the same goal, that of the truth.

    The third thing is the constant desire to live. Every bird, every animal, even the smallest insect in the world, as soon as we try to touch it, it wishes to save its life; it runs away, it wants to live; even if it lives in the dirt its desire is to live. How dear life is to every creature. How much everybody wishes to live! At the same time there is this force of destruction in the form of diseases and death, which sweep away so many; yet still the desire in every heart is to live. This thought teaches that it is not believing in God, in spirit, in religion, that is the secret; it is the desire for life in every heart. This, too, man can find by searching within himself. The life is hidden within him, and when he begins to find then he feels he is safe.

    If we think about the desire for understanding, we notice how everyone wishes to learn, to read, to study, to learn about things in every possible way. But the desire cannot be satisfied until the light within is disclosed by which he may understand. We come then to the truth that all things can be accomplished by mastery of mind. And so the question arises, "How can the mind be mastered?" The answer is that the mind cannot be mastered until a man is master of the body. The difference between a master mind and a person without mastery is the difference between a man sitting on a saddle horse, holding the reins in his hand, and a man trying to ride bareback while the horse is bucking and going wherever it likes, and there is the fear that it will throw him at any moment; he is not able to control it.

    A person may realize all the various weaknesses in himself, and be very sorry about them, and he would like to give them up if he could; but he finds that whether he likes some little weakness or not, he cannot hold himself back from doing certain things, whether it is weakness of mind or weakness of action. This shows that though the desire of the soul is always to direct man on the right path, on the path of virtue, on the good path, yet at the same time he has lost his control, and he is led away by some force he cannot control. This weakness of character is shown when a person says, "I do not wish to be angry; after being angry I am very sorry, but at the same time I cannot help it. I do not wish to hurt others, but when the moment comes I cannot help myself, I am abrupt." Then even vices such as drink, or thieving, or any weakness, are all caused by weakness of mind. When the mind has no control over its thoughts and feelings, when it is not mastered, all these things come to pass.

    From all this it is plain that man has two aspects of being: the servant aspect and the master aspect. When only the servant aspect is nourished and the master aspect is not, then the master aspect of his being longs to be master, and cannot be; and the whole conflict in life depends on that. When a person is interested in the master aspect and wishes to be master, then he becomes master of himself, and he becomes not only master of his thoughts, feelings, and actions, but he becomes master of his affairs. Then the key to what we call fate is in his hands; he becomes the king of the kingdom that has been given to him from God; and when he has arrived at that stage, then comes a still greater and more exalted stage which may be understood in the following way.

    Sometimes we notice that a person is guided by someone, or listens to him, or gives in to him. Why does he do this? The answer is, that the one who does not give in is the one with the master aspect alive in him; the person who gives in has the servant aspect alive in him. To understand this secret is to understand the secret of the spiritual hierarchy. It is the secret of the coming of the prophets and of the master mind, of what is called the superman. The picture of this is shown in Hindu symbology, where the Devatas have four hands, two hands for the body, and two for the mind. The four make a perfect man. When there are only two external hands, material hands, and the other hands are not yet attached to the mind, the mind is not active and cannot control. There are these four different forces: the two physical arms and the two arms of mind, which make life complete; the four arms that make the perfect man, the master mind.

    Having these, he becomes responsible for his affairs as well as the affairs of others; and the people who have been leaders of nations, leaders of humanity, and have led humanity to the spiritual, the right, the religious path, have not done so just through their intellect. No, there was some other power behind.

    There are many intellectual people who from morning till evening spend every moment of their time in using their cleverness and polish of mind. But this is only an activity; it is not the power of mind. The power of mind is such that without speaking words the mind speaks. Without the help of words, the mind reflects what is in this mind or that. Things that the outer arms cannot accomplish the arms of the mind can. Means are procured for the accomplishment of every object. In the ancient fairy-tales about the jinns it is said that one day a village teacher was teaching a class. Among them was a jinn, and he had taken the form of a boy. But the village teacher did not know that he was a jinn. One day he wanted something at a distance, and he asked the boy to bring it. This boy, instead of getting up, just stretched his hand and got it. And the teacher was so frightened that next day he would not admit him to the school.

    This story tells us of the master mind. It is not necessary to be of a certain age to have this mastery. Sometimes a child may have greater mastery than a grown-up, and greater will. Therefore it is not dependent on age. "Where there is a will, there is a way."

    For a man to say, "Beware of me, I cannot keep a secret; I cannot control myself, I must tell it; I cannot manage this; I cannot remember that" -- all these weaknesses denote lack of mastery of mind. The master mind shows mastery in everything: in speech, in listening, in understanding, in doing all things.

    Is this to be attained by contemplation, by concentration, by meditation? No, actually it is in our everyday life, in our simple everyday actions that we develop the power of mind by this simple law: when we are doing some work and the desire comes, "No, I must go and rest and sleep", and we go and rest, we give in to our desire. We go and rest, but the work is not accomplished. Then a person may say, "I must not be abrupt, inconsiderate; I must have consideration from now on." Next day something happens in which he should be considerate and gentle, but he thinks, "In this case it does not matter; it is a small thing; it is a very small thing", and gives in. The excuse comes to the rescue; but as soon as he gives in to a slight weakness, next time he falls down again because the weakness wins every time. So every person seeking to attain mastery will find some weakness waiting for him; if it is not one weakness, then it will be another.

    The one who does not think of this law is neglectful. He may think it does not matter; it is only a little finger. But if the finger fails, next time his hand will fail; and in time he will be in the mouth of weakness until he is swallowed up by it. Then it has become too late. And when his power has gone, there is no strength.

    So what is the religion of a sage? Every religion is his religion, and yet no religion is his religion. His religion is that of wisdom. He masters the mind not only by all these things, but at the same time he practices this mastery by means of contemplation, by learning how to concentrate, and by learning how to live; for if he does not master his mind, concentration will not help him. If the small things are not controlled, how can he manage contemplation? How many people say, "When we sit down to concentrate our minds go to a thousand things; we seem to be sitting in a chair, but our mind seems to be jumping all over the place." Where is the concentration?

    Therefore it is helpful to concentrate, and it is helpful to be guided by someone who knows the path of concentration; but at the same time if a person will not practice the law of mastery in his everyday life and in everything he will not be able to accomplish this great work.