The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      



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



1. The Silent Life

2. Vibrations

3. Harmony

4. Name

5. Form

6. Rhythm

7. Music

8. Abstract Sound





Hindu Rhythms




Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

6. Rhythm


There exists in all people, either consciously or unconsciously, a tendency toward rhythm. Among European nations the expression of pleasure is shown by the clapping of the hands. A farewell sign is made by the waving of the hand, which makes rhythm.

All labor and toil, however hard and difficult, is made easy by the power of rhythm in some way or other. This idea opens to the thinker a still deeper scope for the study of life. Rhythm in every guise, be it called game, play, amusement, poetry, music or dance, is the very nature of man's whole constitution.

When the entire mechanism of his body is working in a rhythm, the beat of the pulse, of the heart, of the head, the circulation of the blood, hunger and thirst - all show rhythm, and it is the breaking of rhythm that is called disease.

When the child is crying and the mother does not know what ails it, she holds it in her arms and pats it on the back. This sets the circulation of the blood, the pulsations and the whole mechanism of the body in rhythm; in other words sets the body in order, and soothes the child. The nursery rhyme "Pat-a-cake", which is known all the world over in some form or other, cures a child of fretfulness by setting its whole being in rhythm.

Therefore physicians depend more upon the examination of the pulse than on anything else in discovering the true nature of disease, together with the examination of the beat of the heart and the movement of the lungs in the chest and back.

Rhythm plays a most important part not only in the body, but in the mind also. The change from joy to sorrow, the rise and fall of thoughts, and the whole working of the mind show rhythm, and all confusion and despair seem to be accounted for by the lack of rhythm in mind.

In ancient times healers in the East, and especially those in India, when healing a patient of any complaint of a psychological character known either as an obsession or an effect of magic, excited the emotional nature of the patient by the emphatic rhythm of their drum and song, at the same time making the patient swing his head up and down in time to the music. This aroused his emotions and prompted him to tell the secret of his complaint, which hitherto had been hidden under the cover of fear, convention and forms of society. The patient confessed everything to the healer under the spell produced by the rhythm, and the healer was enabled to discover the source of the malady.

The words "thoughtful" and "thoughtless" signify a rhythmic or unrhythmic state of mind, and balance, which is the only upholding power in life, is kept by rhythm. Respiration which keeps mind and body connected, and which links the mind and soul, consists in keeping rhythm every moment when awake or asleep; inhaling and exhaling may be likened to the moving and swinging of the pendulum of a clock. As all strength and energy is maintained by breath, and as breath is the sign of life and its nature is to flow alternatively on the right and left side, all this proves rhythm to be of the greatest significance.

As rhythm is innate in man and maintains his health, so upon rhythm depend all a man's affairs in life; his success, his failure, his right acts and his wrong acts, all are accounted for in some way or other by a change of rhythm.

The instinct of flying in the bird is a rhythmic movement of the wings, and it is the same tendency of rhythmic contraction which makes the fish swim and the snake glide.

A keen observation shows that the whole universe is a single mechanism working by the law of rhythm; the rise and fall of the waves, the ebb and flow of the tide, the waxing and waning of the moon, the sunrise and the sunset, the change of the seasons, the moving of the earth and of the planets - the whole cosmic system and the constitution of the entire universe are working under the law of rhythm. Cycles of rhythm, with major and minor cycles interpenetrating, uphold the whole creation in their swing. This demonstrates the origin of manifestation: motion has sprung from the still life, and every motion must necessarily result in a dual aspect.

As soon as you move a stick, the single movement will make two points: the one where it starts and the other where it ends, the one strong and the other weak. To these a music conductor will count "one, two"; one, two: a strong accent and a weak accent, one motion with two effects, each distinct and different from the other. It is this mystery that lies hidden under the dual aspects in all phases and forms of life. And the reason, cause and significance of all life is found in rhythm.

There is a psychological conception of rhythms used in poetry or music which may be explained thus: every rhythm has a certain effect, not only upon the physical and mental bodies of the poet or on him for whom the poetry is written, on the musician or on him to whom the song is sung, but even upon their life's affairs. The belief is that it can bring good or bad luck to the poet and musician, or to the one who listens. The idea is that rhythm is hidden under the root of every activity, constructive or destructive, so that on the rhythm of every activity the fate of the affair depends. Expressions used in everyday speech such as: "he is too late", or "it was done too soon", or "that was done in time", all show the influence of rhythm upon the affair. Events such as the sinking of the Titanic, and the amazing changes that took place during the late war, if keenly studied, can be accounted for by rhythm working in both mental and physical spheres.

There is a superstition among Indians that when somebody yawns, someone else who is present must either snap his fingers or clap his hands. The hidden meaning of this is that a yawn is significant of the slowing down of the rhythm, and that by clicking the fingers or clapping the hands one is supposed to bring the rhythm back to its original state.

A Muslim child when reading the Qur'an moves his head backwards and forwards; this is popularly supposed to be a respectful bow to the sacred words that he reads, but psychologically speaking it helps him to memorize the Qur'an by regulating the circulation and making the brain a receptive vehicle, as when filling a bottle one sometimes must shake it in order to make more room. This also may be seen when a person nods the head in accepting an idea, or shakes it when he cannot take it in.

The mechanism of every kind of machinery that works by itself is arranged and kept going by the law of rhythm, and this is another proof of the fact that the whole mechanism of the universe is based on the law of rhythm.