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



Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

7. Memory

Memory is a mental faculty, a distinct aspect of the mind. It is a recording mechanism which records all that falls upon it through any of the five senses. What one sees, hears, smells, touches and tastes is recorded upon the memory. A form, a picture, an image, once seen, sometimes remains in the memory for the whole of one's life if it is well recorded. In the life of the world one hears so many words during the day - yet some words which the memory has recorded remain for one's whole life, as living as ever.

So it is with music. Once a person has heard wonderful music, and it is recorded upon his memory, it remains for ever and ever. Memory is such a living machine that one can produce that music at any time; it is all there. A good perfume once experienced, once perceived, is remembered; the feeling of taste remains, also the feeling of touch. Memory holds it all.

It does not remain in the memory as in a notebook. For as the notebook is dead, so what remains in the notebook is dead, but memory is living, and so whatever is recorded upon the memory is also living and gives a living sensation. A record of a pleasant memory is sometimes so precious that one wishes to sacrifice this objective world for such a record.

I was very touched once by seeing a widow whose relatives wished me to tell her to go into society, to mix with people, to live a more worldly life. I went to advise her on that subject, but when she told me gently: "All experiences of this world's life, however pleasant, do not afford me pleasure. My only joy is the memory of my beloved; other things give me unhappiness, other things make me miserable. If I find joy, it is in the thought of my beloved", I could not say one word to change her mind. I thought it would be a sin on my part to take her away from her joy. If her memory had been a misery for her, I should have preached to her otherwise, but it was happiness for her, it was her only happiness. I thought that here was a living Sati. I had only a great esteem for her, and could not speak one word.

In the memory the secret of heaven and hell is to be found.

As Omar Khayyam said in his Rubayat: "Heaven is the vision of fulfilled desire, and hell the shadow of a soul on fire."

What is it? Where is it? It is only in the memory. Therefore memory is not a small thing. It is not something which is hidden in the brain. It is something living, and it is something so vast that a limited mind cannot conceive it. It is something which is a world in itself.

People might ask: "What is it then, if a person has lost his memory? Is it caused by disorder in the brain?" In the first place no one really loses his memory. A person may lose it, but his memory does not lose him, because the memory is his own being. What happens is that the disorder of the brain makes him incapable of distinguishing what the memory contains. Therefore a person who has lost his memory in his life-time, owing to a disorder in the brain, has memory just the same. That memory will become clearer to him after death. Also, if he lifted himself off his objective being he would find his memory intact. Only, the memory cannot function in a brain which is out of order.

To have a good memory is not only a good thing, it is a bliss. It is a sign of spirituality because it shows that the light of the intelligence is clear and is illuminating every particle of the brain. A good memory is a sign of great souls. Besides, memory is the treasury where one's knowledge is stored. If a person cannot draw the knowledge that he has collected from his memory, then dependence upon books is of little worth.

One day, six months after I had been received by my Murshid as his pupil, he began to speak on metaphysics. Being metaphysically inclined myself I jumped at the thought of it. During those six months I was never impatient, I had never shown any eagerness to know something more than what I was allowed to know. I was quite contented at the feet of the master. That was everything to me. Nevertheless it was a great stimulus to my mind to hear from him something about metaphysics. But as soon as I took out my notebook from my pocket my Murshid ended the subject. He said nothing, but from that day I learned a lesson: "By this he means that my notebook must not be the storehouse of my knowledge. There is a living notebook, and that is my memory, a notebook which I shall carry with me all through life and through the hereafter."

No doubt we always write down on paper things belonging to the earth: the figures of ten, twenty and hundred - but things pertaining to the spiritual order of things, to the divine law, are of much greater importance. The notebook cannot contain them, it is not made for them. It is in the memory that they must be treasured, for memory is not only a recording machine. It is a fertile ground at the same time. What is put there is continually creative, it is doing something there. So one does not only possess something that one has deposited, there is its interest also.

Sometimes memory is weakened by too great a strain put upon it. When one tries to remember, this puts a strain upon a process which is natural. It is the nature of memory to remember, but when you put a strain upon it: "You must remember!", then it will forget. The very fact that you have strained it will make it forget. One must not try to impress one's mind more deeply than it naturally becomes impressed. One's attention is quite enough. Will-power must not be used to remember things; it is a wrong method that people are applying at present when they say that in order to remember things one must will it. By willing one weakens the memory. Besides this, a balance between activity and repose is necessary.

Memory is never lost. What happens is that, when the mind is upset, the memory becomes blurred. It is the stillness of the mind which makes one capable of distinguishing all that one's memory contains. When the mind is upset, when a person is not tranquil, then naturally - in spite of all the record the memory has - one is not able to read it. It is not true that memory gives away what is stored in it. It is only man who loses the rhythm of his life by over-excitement, nervousness, weakness of nerves, anxiety, worry, fear, confusion; and it is that which causes a kind of turmoil in the mind: one cannot distinctly find the things which were once recorded in the memory.

One need not work with one's memory in order to make it clear. What is required is to make oneself tranquil, rhythmical and peaceful in order to make the memory distinct.

Question: Should one then not use the brain when trying to remember something.
Answer: It is not necessary to use the brain when trying to remember something, because by using the brain one only strains it. The memory is at the command of the person. If he wants to know about something, instantly, without his straining the brain, it must come. It is an automatic mechanism; it must bring before him automatically all that he wishes to know.

Question: What should a person do who cannot easily learn by heart.
Answer: He should make his mind tranquil. This is the first thing. It is the mental way of making memory better. A physical way of making the memory better is to eat less and sleep normally. One should not work too much, not worry very much, and keep all anxiety and fear away.

Question: Through what vehicle does the memory function after death.
Answer: The mind is distinctly different from the body; it is something apart, standing independent of the body. The mind depends on the body for perceiving the outer experiences which it takes in through the senses, but the mind is independent of the body for holding its treasures which it has collected through the outer world, and retaining them. As we are accustomed to experience everything through the vehicle of the body - even our feelings - this makes us dependent for some time upon the body. But this does not mean that we cannot experience all that belongs to the mind without the help of the body.

Question: Is there not a danger in losing oneself in the memory of that which lies behind us.
Answer: There is an answer to this in the Gayan where it is said: "If you live in the vision of the past, dream on, do not open your eyes to the present. If you live in the eternal, do not worry about the morrow. But if you live for the time to come, do all you can to prepare for the future."

Question: How should one erase from the record a living memory of something of the past.
Answer: That is what we learn in the Sufi path. It is the work which we accomplish by concentration and meditation. It is not an easy thing to do; it is the most difficult, but also the most valuable thing there is. That is why we keep our teachings free from speculations, beliefs, doctrines and dogmas, for we believe in actual work with ourselves.

What if you were told a thing one day and you believed it one day, and next day you doubted and did not believe it any more? If you were told that there is a house in the sixth heaven and a palace in the seventh, what would that do for you? It would only answer your curiosity; it would take you nowhere. It is therefore by the way of meditation that we attain to this: that we can erase from the memory what we wish to. In this way we are able to make our heaven ourselves.

The whole secret of esotericism lies in controlling the mind, and in working with it as an artist would work on a canvas producing whatever he likes. When we are able to produce on the canvas of our heart all that we wish, and to erase all we wish, then we arrive at that mastery for which our soul craves. We fulfil the purpose for which we are here. Then we become the masters of our destiny. It is difficult, but that is the object that we pursue in life.