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. Man, the Purpose of Creation

2. Character-Building

3. Human Nature

4. Self-realization

5. The Art of Personality

6. Man is likened to the Light

7. Truth

8. Selflessness - Inkisar

9. Indifference - Vairagya

10. Independence and Indifference

11. Overlooking - Darquza

12. Graciousness - Khulq

13. Conciliation - Ittifaq

14. Consideration - Murawwat

15. Tact

16. Spirituality

17. Innocence

18. Holiness

19. Resist not Evil

20. Resignation

21. Struggle and Resignation

22. Renunciation

23. Sacrifice

24. Ambition

25. Satisfaction

26. Harmlessness

27. A Question about Vegetarianism

28. Unselfish Actions

29. Expectations

30. Be a Lion Within

31. Humility

31. Moral Culture

33. Hope

34. Patience

35. Confidence

36. Faith

37. Faith and Doubt

38. The Story of Orpheus

39. Happiness

40. The Privilege of Being Human



Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

23. Sacrifice

Sacrifice was taught to the world at different times, in different degrees suited to the stage of evolution that had been reached, just as we teach a child by its dolls.

At first men were taught to sacrifice a goat or a sheep, because at that time they cared so much for a goat that they were ready to kill another man for the sake of a goat. We see that the same ignorance still existS; for the sake of a trench men killed so many men, and even then they were not sure that the trench would remain theirs.

A man who had so much cruelty in him that he could not refrain from killing and eating a goat was taught, "First sacrifice it. When you kill the goat, do it for God, do it for others." If he had been told, "Sacrifice yourself", he might have said, "How can I sacrifice myself when I cannot even sacrifice my inclination to eat the goat?"

Afterwards self-sacrifice was taught, which Christ explained so well in his life and in the Sermon on the Mount. This sacrifice - to turn the other cheek, to give the cloak away when the coat has been taken - could not be understood by the ordinary person, because it is the moral of sages and saints. This makes it very difficult for them to live in the world, and has made many people turn away from religion altogether. They said, "The teaching of the prophets and saints is too high for us. We cannot understand it." If one says to a business-man in his office, "Give whatever they claim from you, and give more", he will say, "No, I have a thousand claims in the law-courts; I will fight and win."

When Muhammed came, all that had been taught before in the prophetic messages was united in his message. Both sorts of sacrifice were taught: the sacrifice of animals, that is of their property, for those who were in that grade of evolution; self-sacrifice for those who had reached a higher stage.

The moral of sacrifice was taught at a time when mankind in general was much nearer to the animal. The dog, even when it has had enough food and there is some remaining on its plate, will not let another dog take it. Even in this time we do not like another to share our profit, our benefit, even if it is our own brother. If he has his profit somewhere else it is all right, but he must not take the best part of ours. The dog does not like to let another dog have even the remains of its food, because it does not know whether it will get more at another time. Where we see our own benefit, there we are blind, and it is only this that keeps us imperfect.

If you see your own benefit, there may be a wife in your house, a child, a sister, a brother, a friend, or a servant, but you will see only yourself. If you consider yourself as being the whole family, then you are the sister, the brother, the wife, the child, the friend, the servant. Then you are a perfect family: by opening yourself you have become a perfect family. If you can say, "I am the nation", you are greater; if you say, "If my nation's honor goes down, I go down", you are the nation. If you can say, "I am my race", that is still greater. And if you say, "I am the whole humanity", that is the greatest. Then everyone who comes before you is your sister or your brother. You are yourself all. When man is his individual self, then he is narrow and imperfect; when he is all, then he is perfect.

I was reading this morning a verse of the Bible and was much touched by its meaning, "Ye are the salt of the earth." The salt is that which in water has the strongest flavor. So in the whole manifestation man is the strongest power on earth, and "if the salt hath lost its savoir, wherewith shall it be salted?" If man loses his human quality, where shall it be found? The birds, the animals cannot give it to him; God Himself is helpless to give it to him. All man's perfection is within himself, if only he would uncover it and see it. The Kingdom of God is within man, and his will should rule it.

All godheads were really men, not different from us. What was in their soul is in our soul also. If we single out one man for our worship, it proves our ignorance, our ignorance of our own soul. We are as they were; it is only that the divine power, the divine wisdom was working through them.

The dog, as I said, does not like to let another dog take even the remains of its food, because it has no confidence in the sustaining power of nature; also its self is always before its eyes, and it is the idea of the self that blinds. We have read in books and we have understood intellectually that God is all, that we are the Whole Being. But when a little insult comes to our self, to our pride, how angry we are! We think the whole world is altered. In reality there was no harm, it was just a little hurt to our pride. But if we are so angry, it is because we have understood only with our intellect that God is all; we have not realized it in our own life.

We cannot easily become saints - they are the great ones; we cannot become prophets - they are greater still. But we can ask ourselves every day whether we have considered the other as ourself, whether we have considered his benefit as our benefit. There are many practices, but this is the greatest practice and the most difficult one. It does not require more study, more learning; but by this practice we can reach perfection.

There is a great teaching in the story of Abraham's sacrifice. It has often been misinterpreted and so its meaning has been lost. The great religions have often been misinterpreted by their followers and by historians, and this has caused their downfall for which otherwise there was no reason. I will tell you this legend in which there is a great revelation.

Abraham had a son whom he loved very much. At that time children were prized much more than they are in the present age. Now we have many other possessions besides children, and these other possessions distract our thought from the children. Then a child, a son or a daughter, was all. A son was valued more, because they thought: a son keeps the name and a daughter does not.

Abraham loved his son very much. It is the nature of every human heart to love and especially of one chosen to be a prophet. That Power which draws all and everyone to itself became jealous of this love; for it is our nature that whatever we love is the whole world to us, whether it is a child, a brother, a friend. When we have it we think that we have the whole world, and when we lose it we think that the whole world is lost.

A voice came from the Divinity to Abraham, "Sacrifice your son to Us." Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son to God. He asked the mother's consent; she gave it. Then he asked his son; he also was resigned to the will of God for his own sacrifice. He said, "Yes, I may be sacrificed." Then Abraham took a knife and cut his son's throat. As he cut it his son was taken away and he saw him standing before him, safe. A goat was put in his place.

The meaning of this legend has often been misunderstood; it has been said that the goat, the life, should be sacrificed. The meaning is much greater. Abraham is the spiritual teacher, the father. We still call the priest father; he who shows the way to God is the father of the spirit. Ismail is the pupil, the child to whom the Murshid show this way to sacrifice: the sacrifice of the self, of the individuality. This is the greater sacrifice, the annihilation of the self. By shaghal and amal and other practices the self is made to disappear, it is lost. When the self is gone from before us then all other selves can come, then illumination comes; then, when the individual self disappears, the spiritual self appears. Only the illusion is lost; the self is not lost, but the beginning is annihilation. This is all the secret of mysticism, all that the prophets and mystics have taught.

Sacrifice has been much misunderstood by those who practice it. It is thought that God will be pleased with the life of a goat that is offered - and which the sacrificers then keep for themselves. The bankbook is not sacrificed, property is not sacrificed, nor the house, nor the furniture, but a goat is brought and killed, and they make a feast.

It was taught to say when sacrificing: Allahu akbar, la ilaha ill Allahu - God is great, none exists but God. This shows that the sacrifice of our animal self is meant by the law of sacrifice. We should sacrifice our time, our sleep, thinking, "Before my birth I slept and I do not know where I was. In the grave sleep is waiting for me. Now only is the time when I can work." Then the thought comes, "That day I felt as I should not feel, that time I spoke as I should not speak, that year I acted as I should not act. So many months and years, so much of my life is past, and nothing is done that was worthwhile." This makes us think that it is not too late to awaken.

If we can sacrifice our sleep to work for humanity, we should do it. If by having not such good food we can share with another, we should do it. If by having not such a nice dress we can give a dress to one who needs it, we should do it. If by having one dish instead of many we can share with someone who needs it, we should do that. If we can sacrifice our pleasures, our theaters, to give to others we should do it. We can sacrifice our anger when anger comes upon us. We can sacrifice our pride. We can bow to those who think little of us. There are many sacrifices that do not cost one penny. We can give some of our time if we cannot afford a great generosity. We can give our patience to those who need our patience. To those who want some liberty - very well, we can give liberty. I think all this is worthwhile sacrifice: we should do it.

Sacrifice is only legitimate when, through every cost or loss, it is willingly done, The one who sacrifices may feel the reward much more than the cost or pain he has endured or suffered in sacrificing. The law of sacrifice is that it is only valuable when it gives pleasure to the one who sacrifices. The sacrifice must be done whole-heartedly. Sacrifice is like a bath in the Ganges; it can be more sacred than anything in the world. When a person does not do it for a principle, but only for the good he may receive in return, then it is useless. When it is done for the joy of sacrifice, in that case the joy is great.

The law of sacrifice depends upon the degree of evolution. One sees this among children. A child who grows up understands life better and is perhaps more ready to make a sacrifice than the child who knows only the object he wants and nothing else. In this world it is not the difference of years, but the evolution of every soul which keeps it young: the more grown-up the more ready to sacrifice, and the younger the less ready for the joy of sacrifice.

Apart from the point of view of the benefit hidden in the idea of sacrifice, it is not a thing that every soul can understand. One person will do something and consider that there is great wisdom in his sacrifice, while another who is not evolved enough to understand it will say, "How very foolish!." Remember therefore that not only to the wise person the man of little sense seems foolish, but even to the foolish person the wise one seems foolish. The points of view of both are different: one looks from the top of the tower, the other standing on the ground. So there is a vast difference in the range of their sight.

It is a man's outlook on life which makes him broad or narrow, and it is the grade of his evolution which gives man the illumination of sacrifice. What a man was not inclined to do last year, he may be inclined to do this year; the sacrifice one could not make yesterday, one can make today, for the rate of speed of man's evolution cannot be limited to a particular standard. A broad outlook enriches man and a high point of view ennobles the soul.