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 Story of the King of Balkh

The Son of the Murshid in Delhi




When the question of learning or understanding mystical or occult subjects arises, the first thought that comes to the mind of a person in the East is that of discipleship. In the Vedantic language there is the guru and the chela; in Sufic terms we speak of murshid and mureed. Just as in every civilization we meet with the regard (called "pahal" in the East) of people for their relations--between father and son, mother and daughter, friend and friend, lover and beloved, husband and wife, master and pupil--so in the East there is the special regard between the spiritual teacher and his pupil.

They say to have learned even one letter or one word from someone, demands respect and consideration for him. So a person who walks on the spiritual path recognizes the goal towards which he is travelling, and realizes that the wealth he will obtain is so great that there is no return he can make which is in proportion to what he has received from his teacher. Therefore the chela (mureed, pupil) in the occult and mystical is more grateful to his master than any person in any other walk in life is to any other. Why is this? It is because he recognizes that there is nothing more precious and worthwhile in life than spiritual wealth and the light of wisdom. Whoever be the one who helped him to receive this light and wisdom, he is surely the archgate of heaven, the final goal into which he desires to enter. It is to this archgate that he makes his first bow. You find this expression in Hafiz and Sa'adi, and in many Sufi poets of Persia, calling their teacher the "arib," the arch, the arch of that gate which is the shrine of God.

People sometimes say the Eastern temperament makes their language, actions, and words so exaggerated. It is their nature to exaggerate. They have far too much tendency to overstate things. There is a reason for this attitude. First, there is the respect in which the teacher of spiritual attainment is held. Then there is the fact that the way to reach high spiritual attainment is by crushing the ego. It crushes the ego to bow one's head before anyone out of respect. The ego wants to say, "Here am I: you may think you are something, but I am something too." But there is no room for wisdom as long as the ego is there, because the ego closes the doors, saying, "Yes, you have your thoughts, and I have mine." So whenever a chela has that attitude towards the teacher, he cannot learn. It is not till the ego is crushed that the simple faith and perfect humility and innocence comes, which you see in the face of your Master, your Savior. It is not only the teaching which attracts you to Jesus Christ, it is His face of innocence. Any artist who tries to paint a picture of Him by intuition will portray that simple innocence, that simple innocence in the face of the Lord.

Not fatherhood but sonship has won the heart of the world. This is the first thing for the disciple to acquire, and he does it by crushing his ego. Now there are different ways by which the ego can be crushed. Even today, among the yogis, there is the custom that when the chela approaches the guru, his first lesson is to take the beggar's bowl, go from house to house, and bring that which he gathers to the other chelas sitting there. The youngest chela brings the food which he has begged for the others, and does not beg for himself. In his heart he is already a monk who has taken the bowl for others, those who are meditating and learning the truth. Although the beggar's bowl is in his hand, he may perhaps be better than a king because he is void of greed, he is crushing his ego, he is not thinking of what people will say when they see that "I am taking the beggar's bowl."

The Story of the King of Balkh

A certain king went to a murshid with a desire to learn from him. He said, "Will you accept me as one of your disciples? I would so much like to be counted among your humble servants instead of staying any longer on my throne." The murshid agreed to take him on probation, saying, "Yes, and your first task will be to take the garbage of the house and throw it in a certain place outside the town." Now every one of the disciples knew that he was a king who had willingly resigned his kingdom. He was not exiled, he did not have to run away from the throne, he had left it willingly. They felt sympathy for him to be tried in this way, and they all said to the murshid in the course of time, "Pray do not expect this task of him anymore, he has been doing it for such a long time." But the answer was, "He is not yet ready for initiation." To one pupil who argued about the matter he said, "Well, you can test him in any way which you think good."

So as he was taking the basket one day, one of the young men came up beside him and by pushing him, upset the contents onto the floor. So this king looked at him and then said to him, "Had I still been a king as I was, I would have done to you as a king would, but now of course I am not that, so I must not show my temper." With that he gathered all the refuse together and put it back in the basket and took it all away. This was reported to the murshid, but he said, "Did I not tell you he is not ready yet?"

However, one of the pupils went to the teacher again and asked him to be kind to him and give him another task. But he answered, "Try him again." So he had to go through the same experience. This time the king said not a word, he only looked at the offender for a moment, and again gathered the refuse together, put it back in the basket and went on his way. However, when this report too was brought to the murshid, he again said, "Not ready, not ready!"

Then the same thing was done the third time. This time the king was not only silent, but took up the garbage without even looking at the person who upset it. And now, when the Murshid heard about that, he answered, "Now he is right, the time has now come."

Sometimes the methods for crushing the spirit seems crude to us, and yet this has been the essence of religion through all the ages. Jesus Christ said, "Blessed are the meek, blessed are the gentle, blessed are the poor in spirit." What I have just told you shows what is meant by being poor in spirit. A person who is rich in spirit, high-spirited, would say to anyone even looking at him when not invited, "How dare you look at me this way, you are not even allowed to look thus in my presence; how dare you do this to me?" Such an one is rich in spirit. The others are poor in spirit.

So teachers have adopted different ways of crushing the ego. But it was not for their own gratification that teachers made their disciples show humility, as it were to make up for themselves having had to undergo the same process before they became teachers. No, such actions do not add to their own honor or greatness. The giving of such orders is nothing to them. If they are great, they are great without such training being demanded, without the deference implied. Whether a thousand people honor them or not, it does not mean anything to them. It is no satisfaction to them to have people bow before them, prostrate themselves before the teacher. In that case, why expect it of their pupils? It is for the pupil's sake. To blunt the sharpness of that piercing and stinging ego which disturbs every individual so that it shall not hurt anyone anymore, that becomes a great achievement.

In our everyday life we can see that it is this sharpness of ego, of "I," of "me," that hurts all the time, whether it be in someone closely related or not; whether it be son, or daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, or just a friend. If anything about them hurts us, it is just this ego. If one person hurts another, it is only because of that person's ego. If ever we experience suffering in this world it is through that ego. Sometimes it is the ego of the other person, but sometimes it is our own ego also. One may compare it with a thorn which is always pricking: it hurts whoever touches it. The more egoistic person is, the more it hurts. So the teachers of mysticism know they must humiliate this ego, and to do this adopt various methods.

The Son of the Murshid in Delhi

There was once a pupil, a young man who was son of a famous teacher who had a number of pupils all over India. Not only was he a very great teacher, but he had made many teachers. In fact there was one of his pupils who was now a teacher in every village and town in the land. Of course this son of his had received all kinds of attentions. Now this son as a boy had a dream one day, and in it he saw himself visiting all the saints. He dreamt that there was a great gathering of saints and spiritual teachers and many masters. He was going along with his father. But his father was admitted to the gathering and he himself was not allowed in. This was a severe humiliation. So when he woke up next morning, he went to his father and said, "I have had a very unhappy vision, for although I went with you to this gathering, you were allowed in and I was not." His father replied, "That is a true message for you. It is not enough for you to be my son to enter the spiritual path. It is necessary for you to become someone's disciple. You have to learn what discipleship means."

But the son kept thinking to himself, "I am the son of a great teacher; from childhood I have learned so many things, I have inherited my father's knowledge. However great any teacher was, yet when they met my father, they paid him such respect, such great respect. There cannot be anything better in them than there is in me." So he thought he ought to stay with his father and said, "Can there be anybody better than you, Father, that I should be his disciple?" But he answered, "No, I am no use for that. There must be some other person who is proper for that purpose." "Who?" asked the young man. The father replied, "That pupil of mine who was a peasant, and is now teaching among the peasants. Go to him and be initiated by him."

His son was very surprised because he knew that this teacher was not well-educated, he was illiterate. He was not of high birth, he had no special reputation, he was not famous in any way. He was just living in a village in humble guise. For all that his father sent him there. So he travelled on foot, not very willingly, till he came to the village where this peasant dwelt. It so happened that he was travelling on horseback from his own farm to another, and he saw the young man coming towards him. When he came up to the young man, he looked upon him as he bowed before him. But the teacher said, "Not enough." So he bowed to his knees. The peasant teacher again said, "Not enough." So he bowed down at his feet, and still the teacher said, "Not enough." Then he bowed down at the horse's knees. But still the teacher said, "Not enough." So the young man bowed again at the horse's feet, but this time touched the horse's hoof. Thereupon the peasant teacher said, "You can go back now, you have had your training." That was all! No exercises, no word to learn, nothing to study, no training course. He had learnt the lesson he had to learn; it was for that his father sent him, it was for that lesson he came. And now he was admitted to the circle of the mystics.

There is also the idea of sympathy.

The great lord of yogis, Mahadeva, says, "Do not initiate or welcome an insincere, ungrateful, or doubting pupil into the mystical cult."

This was his advice to every mystic. Why was this? What concern is it of the mystic whether a pupil is grateful or not, sincere or not? Surely he has to do good to everyone. The idea is that unless a person is sincere, he is not ready to benefit and he will not do good. He must have sincerity and faith and sympathy. How true is that saying, "He who says evil of another knows him not; he who says good of another knows him better." This illustrates that sympathy is the only thing that discloses the secret of all things. For example, if you are fond of a certain composer's work, you will enjoy hearing one of his compositions far more than will a person who is prejudiced against that composer. Having closed his heart to that music, he will never enjoy it.

So too, if you are fond of a certain poet, you will remember everything that that poet has to say. Even if his words do not say it, his spirit does, and so you understand what the poet wanted to convey to you. Even if he failed to express it you will still read it in his words, for your heart is united with the heart of the poet. This being true, how can an enemy know an enemy? He can never get to know him because he says his enemy is so full of evil. It is only a friend who can know, not an enemy. It is love that builds a bridge during the interchange of feelings and thoughts. Hatred cannot do this, in fact not even the least doubt.

So a person who is thinking; "Let me see, what can mysticism teach me? What can this cult show me that I do not already know?" Would be wasting his time with it. Far better that he should spend his time on something in which he has faith. He is otherwise only creating a wall before himself, so whether he wishes to explore this teaching or not, how can he find out anything about it? This path is not for those who are only curious about it. They would never succeed with it. Nor is it for those who are always changing their mind about it, wondering whether they shall go on walking along this path: "Is it the right path? Is it the wrong path?" Such persons might go four steps forward and then come upon some manifestation of which they are frightened. So they run back ten steps! Then perhaps they may go forward again, but next time something like that happens, they go back twenty steps. Their journey would last thousands of years, and even then they would not be arriving.

No person who has no confidence in himself can ever get confidence in another. One cannot have faith in another if one has none in oneself. The "faith" taught by Christ as well as by other leaders of religions who laid great emphasis on it is not necessarily faith in a particular church or creed or scripture or religion or particular clergy. It is faith in oneself. He who has faith in himself can have faith in others. For a person to have a simple faith does not mean that he has no sense. Such a person may be the most sensible of all, whilst a person who thinks he is too clever to trust anybody, who will not be taken in, and is proud of his cleverness, may really be the most foolish. He prides himself on his skepticism, which makes him doubt every person he meets, thinking he himself is so clever. But when such cleverness prevents one from having any peace of mind and makes one always restless, going from one belief to another, one would much rather be without the cleverness.

Faith is a light that kindles the same "substance" in another person's heart. By trusting another person you also create in his heart the same attribute which is in yourself: trust. What peace it brings to have faith and trust! Consider two such people as these. One gives a jewel to a friend, asking him, "Please, keep it for me," and then thinks no more about it. Another person asks, "Will you keep my jewel," but as soon as he has left his friend he keeps on putting his hand into his pocket, wondering what his friend will do with the jewel. He feels in his pocket again, and then when he gets home his mind is still in his friend's house. In fact, he may be so uneasy that he may even go back to his friend on some excuse, though when he gets there he does not like to ask for the jewel back. Better for him not to have the faith, if it only means loss of peace of mind or the humiliation of his friend.

How can such a person learn occult or mystical knowledge and tread the path of spirituality if he has that attitude of mind? Having no sense of trust or of confidence in himself, how can he expect to succeed in the path? The first thing to learn, then, is to have confidence in oneself.

Another thing to remember about entering this path is that if a person is attracted only by the word "mysticism" or by any psychical cult, he is just interested in the name and does not know what he really wishes to discover. So he asks, "What is this path like?" as if it were a sort of delicious dish or drink to be tasted before wanting any more, just to see what it is like. No! This path is a life-long work. There is nothing more serious to enter upon.

One cannot attain something when one does not know what one is aiming at and is altogether undecided. How can one walk in the spirit without knowing wither he is travelling? He thinks he is walking in the mystical path, but he does not know his destination. If you should ask him about it, perhaps he might answer; "I want to travel this path to be good." But he could learn how to be good without using a mystical path at all. The mystical path does not teach any spiritual "goodness." It is only your love of goodness that will make you good. People do not have to be mystics to be good. All good people are not "mystics."

Another person may wonder whether he ought to realize what spirituality is before he can become spiritual. He may think he has to disconnect himself from matter; he may think that spirit is the exalted substance, matter only the lower. Another person may tell you that he is taking up the spiritual path because he wants to be able to communicate with spirits and ghosts. Another may say; "I want to see things and hear voices that other people cannot hear. I want to be able to discern fairies, or angels, or spirits, or other invisible things which other people cannot see; something mysterious, something others do not know of or see." But if that is the motive for coming to the mystical, the spiritual path, then it is not for them! Discipleship is not needed for that.

So many people want to dabble in these matters, and there are many who are waiting to fool them. So when they come in contact with others of like mind, there they are waiting to fool them. The world is full of all sorts of people, but few of them are ready for the path of discipleship. Real discipleship has just the same implication as lies in the word "baptism." It is a real baptism in itself, not just a ceremonial, an external. Spiritually it means to be our natural selves, neither exalted, nor pious, nor good, nothing but to be just our natural self. But a person may say, "I have not a natural self." The more we look upon ourselves, the more we think, "I have not a natural self." But it is the lack of realizing our natural self that accounts for our depression, our disappointments, our weakness, and everything that is undesirable in us. We are only conscious of our false self and do not know our real self. The idea is to disclose that self which is our real self, our natural self, and we do this by uncovering the different planes of mortal being which hide the self. All the yoga practices, their meditations and concentrations are aimed at uncovering this real self.

Well, then people will ask, "How does one attain this? Must we take up some study?" The answer is, "No, no. You would never understand, even if you studied all life long." To take an example, supposing you were to study a textbook of music which takes up everything from theory to counterpoint, and suppose you read a thousand of such books, would you be able to sing nicely, or play piano? No, you have to train your ears, you must know which note is which, you must recognize the chords. It is just the same with life itself. It is not a business of reading, it is a matter of realizing. One must live the life!

You may now ask, "Does meditation help?" The answer is, "Yes, it does, it helps a great deal." If you study also at the same time, it will add to your realization. So it is not that study is useless, it is only that it is of no use without practicing meditation. Meditation is like practicing singing. By playing the piano your ears become trained in the intervals and the notes; then by further study and reading you become a master of music. It is just the same with the music of life, which is called "mysticism." Although it can be studied, it is no use unless there is practice also. What is more, if a person asks, "Suppose I play and practice with a book, can I become a great singer?", he would have to be told; "No, you need a teacher to show you how to use your voice, how to make music." If you have a teacher you can accomplish in ten years what you could never learn alone, by yourself, in a hundred years. That is the part which the guru plays.

More than this, the presence of the guru is an example to the pupil. Nothing can help study or meditation as much as the mere presence, the contact, the association with the teacher. By this means the pupil understands how the teacher would act under various circumstances. It is true that sympathy itself is a very great thing, because by it the pupil intuitively knows what the answer is to this problem or that. Truth can not be spoken in words, apart from the teacher. So if the real essential truth cannot be expressed in words or in writing, how could you learn it? It must be learned by contact. How can you learn it by contact? Well, you see this in your daily life. If your sensibilities are delicate, you can tell whether a person is pleased or displeased without him speaking a word. You can tell if he is inclined favorably or unfavorably to you. When this is so, there is an exchange of thought between yourself and the other person. More than this, there is an exchange of spiritual vibrations. Just by study or practice one cannot realize that truth, that feeling, that peace, that joy, that is beyond words, which belongs to being ourselves, our natural self. In the East we call this "tawajjeh," which means "Presence, contact, association with." It is in that way that one learns what cannot be learnt any other way.

The disciples of Christ learnt what no study or practice would have ever taught them, namely, by His presence. In the time of Mahomet Ali Mooman, his disciples, being in his presence, gained very great benefit from his presence. There then comes a time when the external presence is not needed. After having travelled along this path, the inner presence of the master, the teacher, will inspire. Strictly speaking, then we learn by contact with, or association with a teacher what words cannot teach, what study will not bring, and, even practices cannot help. That is what the path of discipleship is.

There are four different paths to follow: abstinence (hatha yoga), devotion (bhakti yoga), learning from the experiences of life (raja yoga), and the fourth one, dhyana yoga or mantra yoga, which means attaining spirituality by wisdom. But in every one of these paths a teacher is needed. It is his blessing, his guidance that helps; it is the contact with him that is important. A real teacher is only an instrument of God. It is his presence, his wish for you that helps, not the words which he is saying.

When I asked my teacher, "What is the sign of a real guru?", he replied; "It is not his form, it is not his appearance, it is not what he says. It is his atmosphere, it is what his presence conveys to you, it is what his atmosphere tells you. That which he may say, that is nothing." So there is the saying in the English language, "Actions speak louder than words;" or; "That which you are speaks louder than what you say."

God bless you all.