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. The Power of the Word

2. The Power of the Sacred Word

3. The Word that was Lost

4. Cosmic Language

5. The Word

6. The Value of Repetition and Reflection

Phrases To Be Repeated



Mastery of the Mystery

Perception of the Mystery

Power of the Spoken Word

Practices with Sound

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

5. The Word

Mastery of the Mystery

In the East it is believed by the Vedantists that the creation originated from what they called word, or sound. The same idea has prevailed among the Semitic religions from the earliest times. This word is described as Ismi Azam.

The fact that the mysterious always attracts, leads some people to make things out to be mysterious which are not, and thus they profess to know a secret which others cannot know. Here there is the greatest opportunity for deluding the unwary, but when one has come to understand the mystery of this word one understands the mystery of all religion, for all religion lies in this one word Ismi Azam.

Modern science is coming nearer to understanding this. On the one hand Professor Bose spoke about pulsations and showed that vibrations exist even in the vegetable kingdom, so that they can be recorded in graphic form. On the other hand investigators have demonstrated the forms which different vowels make on a glass plate, so that one sees various designs. The forms of various plants and their leaves can be shown in this way. On a recent visit to Paris I met Professor Frossard, who for years has been investigating the effect of the vibrations of the voice upon different parts of the human body, and has been able to demonstrate scientifically how these effects vary with different vibrations.

However, Yogis had worked with sound before any such researches were thought of or undertaken. The school of mantrayoga is concerned with this science. The one belief that started this was that vibration is creative and that the whole universe was produced by sound, by the word; as it is said in the Bible, first was sound and then was light. Herein lies the thought of the mystics that one may understand vibrations in two directions: when audible they become intelligible, and when taking form they become visible. Even if the word were neither audible nor visible it would have the capacity of being both. If our power of sight and hearing is not enough to help us, it is because the reality is beyond and beneath the range of our sight and hearing, and therefore it is not intelligible to us. We are not aware of it, but if our sight and hearing allowed us to hear and see it, we should know that all life is vibration.

Perception of the Mystery

There is another consideration. Whatever is continuous disappears from our perception, whereas anything that is momentarily tangible becomes visible to us. This is shown when we start on a sea voyage. At first the noise of the engines is almost unbearable, but as we go on we get accustomed to it, so that after four or five days we find that we do not notice the noise any more, while at the same time we can hear the least whisper of a friend speaking to us. The continuous noise is now no longer audible unless we stop, to pay attention to it.

It is just like this with the whole mechanism of the universe. It is audible all the time; it is visible both externally and inwardly - but we are so concerned with our own activities, with the things we ourselves are interested in, that our consciousness can only retain these and pays no attention to all the other things, loud as they are.

There are two things to consider: (1) the mastery of the mystery itself, and (2) the insight into the mystery, its perception. To gain insight into things the mystic enters into the depths of the whole mechanism of the universe by educating his senses to be keen enough to see and hear the working through it all, throughout the whole cosmic system. Taking these two senses as his means of investigation he dives deep into the universal life.

Power of the Spoken Word

But there is another way to take, and that is by the power of the word that one utters, which by means of its vowels and consonants enables the mystic to master life. How is it that he can master life by this means? It is because this is the only source of creation. Everything that has been created, and then constructed or destroyed, has come into being through vibration and through sound. So the mystic considers that this is the chief means for accomplishing everything.

All the religions of the past have used this, but they have only given the outcome to the world without making its mystery known. It has been a cult in every religion. The great mystics who understood it did not impart this knowledge to the masses. It would not be wise to give a loaded revolver to a person who might lose his temper in a moment of time. One needs to be sure that he has such control that he will only use it in the best way. So it has been with the mystics. They do not give initiation until they know that they can trust a person that he will make the best use of it.

It is not that they are afraid of somebody stealing the mastery they possess. If it were only that, the mystic would be no different from any worldly man who is clinging to his possessions. The mystic must be more generous with his knowledge than anyone else. He is aware that everyone can attain to his knowledge, and he must always help others. Out of the goodness and kindness of his heart he will deny no one his help in every possible way.

As to the word,

  • Vowels and Consonants
  • We see that there are vowels and consonants. Each vowel represents one of the five elements: earth, water, air, fire and ether; and there are the companions of the vowels which together with them make words.

  • Letters
  • Every letter is related to the planets and the planetary influences.

  • Directed to Parts of the Body
  • Besides, words have a practical effect, a scientific power working on the body, especially on its different centers as recognized by the mystics: the head, the breast, the solar plexus, et cetera. The consciousness must be awakened to each center.

    For instance, a musician accustomed to the piano seems to have his consciousness in his hands; the violinist has his in his finger-tips, so that it seems as if the whole of life comes through them.

    This shows how our consciousness, energy, and life can be directed to a certain place, so as to make the best use of that part of our being. Every center of a person's being is a vehicle for perceiving the life within as well as the life without. Thus it is possible at will to send this consciousness and energy to that particular center. One can then gain more insight into life, and one can gain more hold, more control over life. Then, when the person repeats the word, its vowels and consonants have some connection with a particular part of the body.

  • The Meaning of the Word
  • When we consider the part played by the mind we come to see that every word spoken with the mind has a greater action and effect. Furthermore, there is the value attached to the meaning of the word. A person may continually call his son or daughter "Wise"; if they keep on hearing him call them "Wise", they really will become wise. If, however, he calls them "Stupid", the very fact of hearing this makes them stupid in the end. The repetition of the word suggests it to them. That is why it is a great mistake to give nicknames which either have no meaning or only a silly meaning. Even when given in fun, as a joke, they still exert their influence. We see then that the meaning of a word has a great deal to do with its action, and when both the word itself and its meaning are used for contemplation they become very powerful. 

  • The Language of the Word
  • You may ask: "Has the language any relation to the power of the word? Does it matter which language one uses? Must the word be Latin, or Hebrew, or Zend, Eastern or Western?" The answer to this is that in the East each keeps to his own language. Brahmins offer their prayers in Sanskrit, although this is no longer in everyday use; all the same they use Sanskrit for their mantras. A Parsi may live outside his original country, but he repeats his mantras according to the tradition of ancient Persia, though their religion almost passed away a thousand years ago.

    So you see it does not matter to a mystic what language he is using. He sees the source of all languages in the human heart. Whatever the language - Arabic, Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi - it is still human. The more you study this subject, the more you will see how the source of all languages is one. Even the English language contains words related to Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. Many names would never be suspected of being Persian in origin, and yet they are. So many names are Semitic, so many are Sanskrit. People never suspect how many of their own words belong to other languages. No language in the world today can claim to be so pure as to have no admixture from others. Any language is really a mixture of many languages. It is unfortunate that every later language is just a corrupted form of a former one.

    Hardly anyone would understand me if I spoke of Dar-es-Salam, but if I say "Jerusalem" everyone can. We see how true this is when we study some words of the Bible. "Alleluia", for instance, is really "Allahu". The order of the letters is changed, and this makes it seem a different word; the spelling is altered because different countries spell their words differently. The vowels and the vibrations, therefore, change to a certain extent, and so the mystics prefer, when possible, to adhere to the original form of the word. It is not because it belonged to a certain language of the past, but because there is actually more benefit to be obtained by using the word in its original form.

  • The Word of Nature
  • There are also words which no language can claim for its own. This is true of the word Ismi Azam, which means: the word of power. No one can claim this word as belonging to his language. It is a word which belongs to no language. Why is this? It is because it is a word of nature. Art has reproduced it, but art has not produced it. All other words have been made from it, for Ismi Azam is the spirit of all words; it is the root of all other words.

Practices with Sound

While the different schools of Sufism understand all this and use different methods in teaching it, they do not restrict themselves to one particular practice. The Sufi regards practices as prescriptions which are not given indiscriminately to everyone, but are chosen separately, one for this pupil, another for that. These practices are only preparations for receiving the truth. There is no such thing as giving truth to one person, and then his giving it to another, for truth by its very nature cannot be uttered, cannot be given. One cannot give that which cannot be put into speech. So the teacher gives a method for finding the truth, for unfolding it, for unlocking that which seems to be in one's heart. No real teacher, no true mystic, has ever claimed to be able to give one anything like this. It is clearly impossible for anyone to impart his knowledge to another person; he can only show him how to unfold his own knowledge to himself. Everybody possesses a kingdom, but he has to find it. The seeker will find it easy to find the truth when he has the help of someone who has himself trodden the path towards it.

In the story from The 1001 Nights about Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves we find the mystery of the word portrayed by Ali Baba. It was at a time when Ali Baba was in great distress for lack of money; he badly wanted a change of circumstances. He was even wondering whether he should commit suicide, and then he thought he would try to obtain what he needed, try if he could find a place where his desire could be fulfilled. After traveling some time he arrived at a certain place where a dervish was sitting. He began a conversation with him, and the dervish said: "Yes, I will give you the key to what you want. Go to such and such a place, and there you will find a rock. Then, standing in front of this rock, repeat such and such a word." So Ali Baba went to the place indicated by the dervish and, after he had found the rock, he repeated the word before it. Then the rock broke open and revealed a path opening up before him.

The rock is the heart of man. The dervish is the Murshid, the spiritual guide, and the word he gives you to utter is this mystery: that by the help of the word the treasure can be found and a door opened by which one can enter into the kingdom in one's heart.

Self-confidence, faith, trust, perseverance and patience are all necessary. As long as you tell yourself that it is not possible for a dervish to give you a word, or that this word cannot possibly do what he says, then, even though you were to go near that rock, you might just call out the word and find that the rock would not open. So then you might think: "It is no use. I shall go home again", or you might think: "This is a rock. How can it possibly be opened or split?" True, it will never be opened in this case: the word has no power. The word is the sword, and the sword needs an arm to wield it. The arm to wield it is faith. If there is no faith there is no arm either. The sword is there, but there is no one to wield it. Someone must be there to hold the sword, and it is faith that will hold it.

The power of the word has shown itself to me throughout all the experiences of my life. Every moment has been full of wonder; every successive moment a greater and greater wonder. It is true that some people may achieve various phenomena in another way, but this is not the way of the sage. The way of the sage is: to understand for oneself. It is as when a person turns over on to the other side in his sleep - then he wishes to live with a different purpose.

To such a person only the sage might say: "Would you like to observe the phenomena? Then come with me." The sage would never go about indiscriminately saying to people: "Look at these phenomena which I have learned!" No, even to his own pupils he will say: "I will show you how to see for yourself what the phenomena of life can reveal to you. If I were to show you these phenomena it would still not be you who is producing them. Even if my showing the phenomena were to give you faith, it would be a much stronger faith if you could observe the phenomena yourself. If you were only trusting in my phenomena you would only believe it to be true for a few moments." This cannot be spoken of before anyone or everyone; it is only understood in the heart and kept there. That is why it is called mysticism.

So let me impress this on my mureeds: You must all keep in mind during the time of your initiation, when you are practicing your exercises, that you should keep all your experiences to yourself. Whatever you come to understand, whatever you think of during this time, keep all this in your heart. Do not open your heart before persons not capable of understanding, persons who would argue with you, would disapprove of your way of thought and thus hinder you instead of encouraging you. Keep all this close to your heart, and only open your heart to those in need, who are able to understand. Throughout all this you must be patient in your practices, with what you have to learn, and with all that you will have to face in everyday life.

Never expect that the events of life are favorable all through. You will have to make a continual struggle and fight with others, whether you like it or not, whether you love them or not. You will find that this fight must be encountered on every side. So you must face it patiently. Do not turn your back to it. Face the conflict with courage and bravery and tranquillity. Since you know that you are on the path of truth you can go on trustfully.

Although there is a great responsibility in this worldly life, it is through this responsibility that you are enabled to evolve spiritually. In fact your evolution will become much greater even than that of the saints who have renounced the world. The reason for this is that, when you pursue your life's journey steadily and with tranquillity through all the struggles and conflicts you have to undergo, success will surely come in time. This success will perhaps enable you in your turn to bring great success to the lives of many other souls too.