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



1. Voices

2. Impressions

3. The Magnetism of Beings and Objects

4. The Influence of Works of Art

5. The Life of Thought

6. The Form of Thought

7. Memory

8. Will

9. Reason

10. The Ego

11. Mind and Heart

12. Intuition and Dream

13. Inspiration



The Physical Ego

The Mental Ego

The Spiritual Ego

Questions and Answers

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

10. The Ego

The Physical Ego

When we think of that sense, that feeling, or that inclination which makes us affirm the word "I", we realize that it is difficult to point out what this "I" is, what is its character. For it is something which is beyond human comprehension. That is why a person who wishes to explain, even to himself, what it is, points to what is nearest to him declaring: "This is the one whom I have called "I."" Therefore every soul which has, so to speak, identified itself with anything, has identified itself with the body, its own body, because that is the thing which one feels and realizes to be immediately next to one, and which is intelligible as one's being.

So what a person knows of himself as the first thing is his body. He calls himself his body, he identifies himself with his body. For instance if one asks a child: "Where is the boy?", he will point to his body. That is what he can see or can imagine of himself.

This forms a conception in the soul. The soul conceives this deeply, so that after this conception all other objects, persons or beings, color or line, are called by different names, and the soul does not conceive of them as itself, for it already has a conception of itself: this body, which it has first known or imagined to be itself. All else that it sees, it sees through its vehicle which is the body, and calls it something next to it, something separate and different.

In this way duality in nature is produced. From this comes "I and you." But as "I" is the first conception of the soul, it is fully concerned with this "I"; with all else it is only partly concerned. All other things that exist, besides this body which it has recognized as its own being, are considered according to their relation with this body. This relation is established by calling them "mine", which is between "I" and "you': "You are "my"" brother, or "my" sister, or "my" friend." This makes a relationship, and according to this relationship the other object or person stands nearer to or farther from the soul.

All other experiences that the soul has in the physical world and in the mental spheres become a sort of world around it. The soul lives in the midst of it, yet the soul never for one moment feels with anything that it is "I." This "I" it has reserved, and made captive in one thing only: the body. Of everything else the soul thinks that it is something else, something different: "It is near to me, it is dear to me, it is close to me, because it is related. It is mine, but it is not me." "I" stands as a separate entity, holding, attracting, collecting all that one has got and which makes one's own world.

The Mental Ego

As one becomes more thoughtful in life, so this conception of "I" becomes richer. It becomes richer in this way, that one sees: "It is not "my" body only, but it is also the thought that I think which is "my" thought; the imagination is "my" imagination; my feelings are also a part of my being. Therefore I am not only my body, but I am my mind also." In this next step that the soul takes in the path of realization it begins to feel: "I am not only a physical body, but also a mind." This realization in its fullness makes one declare: "I am a spirit", which means: body, mind and feeling, all together with which I identify myself -- it is these which are the ego.

The Spiritual Ego

When the soul goes further in the path of knowledge it begins to find: "Yes, there is something which feels itself, which feels the inclination to call itself 'I'." There is a feeling of "I"-ness, but at the same time all that the soul identifies itself with is not itself. The day when this idea springs up in the heart of man he has begun his journey in the path of truth. Then analyzing begins, and he begins to find out: "When this is 'my' table and this is 'my' chair, all that I can call mine belongs to me, but is not really myself." Then he also begins to see: "I identify myself with this body, but this is 'my' body, just as I say 'my' table, or 'my' chair. So the being which is saying 'I' in reality is separate. It is something which has taken even this body for its use; this body is only an instrument." And he thinks: "If it is not this body which I can call 'I', then what else is there that I can call so? Is it my imagination with which I should identify myself?." But even that one calls "my" imagination, "my" thought, or "my" feeling. So even thought, imagination, or feeling is not the real "I." What affirms "I" remains the same even after having discovered the false identity.

We read in the tenth Sufi thought that perfection is achieved by the annihilation of the false ego. The false ego is what does not belong to the real ego, and what that ego has wrongly conceived to be its own being. When that is separated by analyzing life better, then the false ego is annihilated. A person need not die for it. In order to annihilate this body, in order to annihilate the mind a person has to analyze himself and see: "Where does 'I' stand? Does it stand as a remote, exclusive being? If it is a remote and an exclusive being then it must be found out." The whole spiritual process is to find this out.

Once this is realized, the work of the spiritual path is accomplished. As in order to make the eyes see themselves one has to make a mirror to see the reflection of these eyes, so in order to make this real being manifest, this body and mind have been made as a mirror: that in this mirror this real being may see itself and realize its being independent. What we have to achieve by the path of initiation, by the way of meditation, by spiritual knowledge is to realize this by making ourselves a perfect mirror.

In order to explain this idea the faqirs and dervishes have told a story. A lion roaming through the desert found a little lion cub playing with the sheep. It so happened that the little lion had been reared with the sheep, and so had never had a chance or an occasion to realize what he was.

The lion was greatly surprised to see a young lion cub running away with the same fear of the lion as the sheep. He jumped in among the flock of sheep and roared: "Halt, halt!", but the sheep ran on, and the little lion ran also. The lion pursued only the cub, not the sheep, and said: "Wait, I wish to speak to you." The cub answered: "I tremble, I fear, I cannot stand before you." "Why are you running about with the sheep? You are a little lion yourself!" "No, I am a sheep. I tremble, I am afraid of you. Let me go. Let me go with the sheep!"

"Come along", said the lion, "Come with me. I will take you and I will show you what you are before I let you go." Trembling and yet helpless, the lion cub followed the lion to a pool of water. There the lion said: "Look at me, and look at yourself. Are we not closer, are we not near? You are not like the sheep, you are like me."

Through the whole spiritual process what we learn is to disillusion this false ego. The annihilation of this false ego is its disillusionment. When once it is disillusioned then the true ego realizes its own merit. It is in this realization that the soul enters the kingdom of God. It is in this realization that the soul is born again, a birth which opens the doors of heaven.

Questions and Answers

Question: Must the true self have mind and body in order to be conscious of itself?. The true self need not have mind and body for its existence. It does not depend upon mind and body for its existence, for its life, just as the eyes do not depend upon the mirror to exist. They only depend upon the mirror to see their reflection. Without it the eyes will see all things, but they will never see themselves.

Another example is the intelligence. The intelligence cannot know itself unless it has something intelligible to hold; then the intelligence realizes itself. A person with poetic gift who is born a poet, never realizes himself to be a poet till he has put his idea on paper, and his verse has struck a chord in his own heart. When he is able to appreciate his poetry, then is the time that he thinks: "I am a poet." Till then there was a gift of poetry in him, but he did not know it.

The eyes do not become more powerful by looking in the mirror. Only, the eyes know what they are like when they see their reflection. The pleasure is in realizing one's merits, one's gifts, what one possesses. It is in realizing that the merit lies. No doubt it would be a great pity if the eyes thought: "We are as dead as this mirror", or if in looking in the mirror they thought: "We do not exist except in the mirror." So the false self is the greatest limitation.

Question: Is not our Murshid our mirror?
Answer: No. The Murshid stands in the place of the lion in the fable. But the pool of water is necessary.

Question: Though the soul feels apart from the different bodies, does it not feel one with God. Answer: Not even with God. How could it? A soul which is captive in a false conception, which cannot see a barrier lifted up between itself and its neighbor, how can this soul lift its barrier to God whom it has not known yet? For every soul's belief in God is a conception after all - because it is taught by a priest, because it is written in a scripture, because the parents have said that there is a God. That is all. That soul knows that somewhere there is a God, but it is always liable to change its belief, and unhappily the further it advances intellectually, the further it goes from that belief. A belief which a pure intelligence cannot always hold will not go far with a person. It is by the understanding of that belief that the purpose of life is fulfilled. It is said in the Gayan: "The uncovering of the soul is the discovering of God."

Question: How does the true self dismiss mind and body in death. Answer: It is not easy for the true self to dismiss mind and body, when a person cannot dismiss in life his thoughts of depression, sorrow and disappointment. The impressions of happiness and of sorrows in the past one holds in one's own heart: prejudice and hatred, love and devotion, everything that has gone deep in oneself. If that is the case, even death cannot take them away. If the ego holds its prison around itself, it takes this prison with it, and there is only one way of being delivered from it, and that is through self-knowledge.

Question: Does a person immediately after death identify himself with his mental body, or still with the dead corpse? Answer: The mental body is just as the dead corpse. There is no difference, because the one is built on the reflection of the other. For example, one does not see oneself different in the dream when the mind is in a normal condition. If the mind is abnormal one can see oneself as a cow, or a horse, or anything. But if the mind is normal one cannot see oneself different from what one knows oneself to be. Therefore the mental being is the same as one sees oneself in the dream. In the dream one does not see the loss of the physical body. One is running and eating or enjoying in the dream; one does not realize the absence of this physical body. The same thing is in the hereafter. The hereafter does not depend upon a physical body to experience life fully. The sphere in itself is perfect, and life is experienced perfectly.

Question: Is the ego completely destroyed by annihilation?
Answer: The ego itself is never destroyed. It is the one thing that lives, and this is the sign of eternal life. In the knowledge of the ego there is the secret of immortality. When it is said in the Gayan: "Death dies, and life lives", it is the ego which is life, it is its false conception which is death. The false must fall away some day; the real must always be. So it is with life: the true living being is the ego, it lives. All else that it has borrowed for its use from different planes and spheres, and in which it has become lost, all that is put away. Do we not see this with our own body? Things that do not belong there do not remain in it, in the blood, in the veins, anywhere. The body will not keep them, it will repel them. So it is in every sphere. It does not take what does not belong to it. All that is outside it keeps outside. What belongs on earth is kept on earth, the soul repels it. The destroying of the ego is a word; it is not destroying, it is discovering.

Often people are afraid when reading Buddhist books, where the interpretation of Nirvana is given as "annihilation." No one wants to be annihilated, and people are very much afraid when they read "annihilation." But it is only a matter of words. The same word in Sanskrit is a beautiful word: mukti. The Sufis call it fana. If we translate it into English it is "annihilation," but when we understand its real meaning it is "going through" or "passing through." Passing through what? Passing through the false conception, which is a first necessity, and arriving at the true realization.