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



Individuality and Personality





The Art of Jesus

Learning the Art

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

5. The Art of Personality

Individuality and Personality

There is a difference between individuality and personality, just as there is a difference between nature and art. However much nature is near to man's soul, art is closer to his heart. If it were not so man would have preferred to live in the forest; he would have roamed about in nature and would have been quite satisfied in the wilderness; he would have found the greatest charm in what the wilderness can offer and in the beauty to be seen in the forest. Instead of all this man has created a world -- a world which he has made for himself -- and in that world he has made a nature of his own imagination, a nature which he calls art. If that is art then on this art much depends.

People may say, "Is it not an imitation of nature?" Yes, it is an imitation of nature. You might say, "Then it is not as great as Nature", but I say: both nature and art are made by the same Artist. Nature is made directly by the Artist, and art is made indirectly through the pen of the Artist. Art is the finishing of that beauty which begins to manifest itself in nature. A person who has not come to this conception of art does not yet know the divinity of art.

Now as to the question what art has to do with personality, personality is art itself, and the greatest art.

Once a lady told me, "My parents brought me up just like a plant grows in the wilderness." When I replied, "It is a great pity", she was surprised.

What is education, what is culture, what is self-development? It is all art, it is the way for individuality to culminate into personality. In ancient times the religious education and human culture in every form mainly had the culture of the personality as their central theme. Today we are expected to learn mathematics, geography, history and other things, but never the art of personality which is of the greatest use in life.

  • Apart from its spiritual significance, we see in our everyday life that a salesman who is pleasant, courteous and well-mannered is successful.
  • If he lacks manner he will be repellent; he may have all kinds of beautiful things in his shop, he will have no success.
  • If a clerk in an office, a secretary, an assistant, a supervisor has a charming personality, a kindly manner, a sympathetic attitude, he will win the affection of all; everything will be light, everything will go smoothly.
  • If he lacks the art of personality, he may have all qualifications, he may be a most capable person, yet things will not run smoothly.
  • A person, whether man or woman, may be a barrister, a solicitor, a doctor, a most qualified individual, but if the art of personality is not developed he will be disagreeable and unpleasant - in his own home and in all walks of life.

The art of personality is the main thing to develop; if not, a person misses a great deal.

The ancient people lived on tradition, and especially in the East they regarded their ancestors not for their titles or their great works, but for the art of their personality. To-day in modern civilization people have become regardless of this art which considers the equality of all men. Equality to-day is working in quite another direction: instead of rising upward toward the level of the best, people want to go downward and join the level of the worst.

When you hear the word equality it seems a beautiful thing, it sounds very nice, it seems a religious, a philosophical idea. But what is life, if it is not a symphony? And is not every person a note in this symphony? Suppose that you want to hear music and that all the notes are the same. How would you enjoy that music? If all notes are equal, there is no music; if all persons are the same, there is no symphony. The way to understand equality is different: it is rising to the best, to the highest pitch. And everyone can rise to that pitch if he wants to rise. But since man takes the way of the least resistance, he falls to the level of the average person.

It must be remembered that disregard of the principle, which is called the art of personality, may lead the present generation, the modern civilization, there where it can find nothing but disappointment, especially when materialism is prevailing all over and there is nothing to think about but matter; this in itself keeps man away from the art of personality. If this art is not introduced, and if there is no love for it, what then happens is that the human being does not become any better than the lower creation.

Is a human being greater than an animal because he possesses wealth, or because he has read many books, or because he has learned much? Does that make him greater as a human being? No, man is greater when from an individual he has become a person. Very few of us distinguish between individuality and personality. Individuality is that which we have brought with our birth. We are born as a separate entity; that itself makes us an individuality. But personality is something that is acquired; it has not come with us, it is something we gain. If a tree grew in a garden in the same way as it grew in the forest, the gardener would say, "You are not welcome here; you should fit in with the surroundings. This is a garden, it is not a forest." Besides this, the art of personality is not only something one should learn in order to become pleasant to others: the art of personality fulfills the purpose of life.

Now arises the question: what is the art of personality? Is it mannerism, putting on different airs of expression, a special politeness, a society rhythm? Not at all; it is falsehood, which people adopt by being unnatural and acting unnaturally. Instead of giving a better impression of themselves, they give a worse impression. The art of personality expresses itself spontaneously. One need not act in a certain way, one need not put on something: it is the expression of oneself which shows the art of personality. Expressing the art of personality is the sign of the great. Knowingly or unknowingly a person may develop that manner in himself and it is wonderful to watch it.

When in India I was very fond of seeing the celebrities known in our country. One day I heard that a great wrestler was visiting our town. I had never approved of something which made one person win and the other fail, but because this man was a celebrity I wanted to see him. One would expect very little from the personality of a wrestler, but in this personality, in spite of all muscular and nervous strength, there was such a kindly manner, such a sympathetic look, such an outgoing attitude and such a serenity that I thought, even a wrestler, who does the most material and physical work, can show that it is his personality, and not something material, which has made him great.

One may ask: If we have a personality, why must we develop it? But even a diamond must be cut! It has light in it, yet cutting is required to awaken it. It cannot show its glow and brilliancy before it has been cut. It is the same with the personality.


Then one may ask: what are the different aspects of the art of personality? Its first aspect is action, or movement. Very often, before a person has spoken a word, he has achieved a movement which causes a jar upon the delicate sensibility of the one who sees it, and who may form an opinion about that person before he knows him - only because of that movement. In one movement a person can show his state of mind; unless he has the power to control it, he can show stubbornness, weakness, foolishness. All these things can be traced in a man when he walks, sits, or stands up. Those who can recognize a person in a twinkling of an eye need not study physiognomy: one movement shows them whether he is evolved or unevolved. When the science of movement has not been taught, has not been understood, and a person's movements are not directed, these may be such that they impress themselves upon his spirit and turn his whole being into a wrong personality. Education has given very little attention to this.


Another aspect of the art of personality belongs to the realm of speech. The more we understand about this, the more we shall know that for every word there is a time, and for every word there is a place. Everything we say, which is in its own place and which is fitting, will be good; it becomes wrong when it is said in a place which is not its own. People generally do not think about it. Often they are outspoken; they do not mind when to speak, what to say, where to speak. A person who has no control over his speech becomes a kind of machine that goes on and on and on without any will at the back of it. Remember that not only those persons do not gain the affection, the approbation of others, but they repel others. Being talkative they cannot keep any secret. They have to tell it; they have the habit to speak, they have no control over it. The art of personality is not so difficult to learn; it is learning to be thoughtful. Those who speak much, very often say so little; others who speak little say much. It depends upon the way in which things are said.

In the Bible it is said, "First was the word and the word was God." This shows what power the word has. If we control our speech, if we know how to use a word, we know the chemistry of life and how to utilize it to the best purpose. Sometimes a person can change a situation by one word, which another cannot change by using a hundred hammers. One can hammer at a rock and break it - that is the way of the hammer. And there is the way of the water. If the rock is in the way the water will not hammer at it, will surround it, will run smoothly over it and make its way over the top of the rock, and so will its waves proceed.

If someone is upset, among ten people who want to console him, there are nine who upset him more, and there is rarely one person who consoles him. This also belongs to the art of personality - if only one knew it!


Another aspect of the art of personality is sympathetic and right thinking. By right thinking all one naturally says and does becomes right, because the root of every speech and action is in the mind. So by right thinking one naturally speaks and acts rightly; one cannot do otherwise. But what generally happens is that one never considers it in connection with others: if there is any wrong it is in the other. And it is very wonderful that the one who is most in the wrong, is the one who sees most wrong in others. You will see that the person who is full of wrong knows a thousand wrongs about a thousand people.

Besides, our experiences make us so pessimistic that if anyone says, "I have seen someone who is such a nice, kind and good person", we begin to doubt. Unconsciously our first thought is, "Can it be true? No, it cannot be true; there is no such thing as good in the world." And as soon as someone says, "I have seen such a wicked person", everybody is interested, because people believe that. It shows that, as we always experience wrong things, we hardly expect that ever there can be something right.


The fourth aspect of the art of personality is feeling. The great drawback of modern civilization is that man today thinks that it is balanced and practical to think with the brain, to reason things out. But to feel with the heart he thinks is not practical, is not common sense. Therefore today is considered normal and balanced the person who lives in his brain, and the one whose heart is developed is called fanatic or unpractical. Imagine, after having read in the Bible the lesson that God is love, one comes to realize that he who has less God in him is more practical, and he who has more God in him is a good for nothing! When there is a discussion among intellectual persons, it is understood between them to keep sentiment apart: to discuss keeping to the point, just to recite facts, "that keeps reasoning clear." But this takes away the beauty of life! The art of personality is in the profound, the deep feeling which directs every thought, speech and action of man.

The Art of Jesus

When Jesus Christ told the fishermen, "Come hither and I shall make you fishers of men", he said, in other words, to those who were absorbed in catching fishes at the sea-shore, "I shall teach you the art of personality." This is, therefore, not a subject which I bring before you, it is a subject which Christ taught. It is the art of personality which the prophets proved with their own lives to be of the greatest importance.

The impression Buddha left upon millions of people in the East, who keep his statue in their temples, seeing the expression of God in Buddha - what is it? Is it the theories and dogmas and teachings he gave? No, it is his personality which made such a deep impression upon people that for centuries they held it sacred; it has proved to be more precious than anything else in the world. This is not a subject of which one can say that it is no better than any other. On the contrary, it is a subject of the greatest importance.

There are millions of Muslims whose hearts are touched, whose eyes fill with tears on hearing the name of the Prophet. What is it that touches them? Is it the teaching that the Prophet gave? What touches them is the personality of the Prophet, his personality has made the deep impression which still remains, which never can be erased.

The art of personality, therefore, is a magic. The fishermen among whom Jesus Christ had to walk were incapable of knowing the greatness of the Master, and not ready to understand the message he brought. Yet they used to stand spell-bound in the presence of the Master; they used to be deeply impressed by the personality of the Teacher. What was it that impressed them? It was not the new teaching they received, it was the example before their eyes.

The Sufis of all ages considered the art of personality of the greatest importance. The Yogi principle of asceticism has nothing to do with it; it is another ideal. The wise ones of all ages thought that God manifested Himself in the form of man and, from an individual to a person, developed as a soul, and that herein lies the fulfillment of life's purpose. Therefore this was not only the main purpose of education, but also the central theme of religion and of life as a whole. What is religion taught for if not in order to make of man a personality? For every man is not a personality!

There is a metaphysical point to this subject, which distinguishes two aspects of man: the machine and the engineer. When man's machine part covers the spark which may be called the engineer, man is subjected to all outer influences such as cold and heat, wind and storm. These all condition his success or failure. The other part of man is a divine spark. It is that spark which makes him the engineer and gives him command over the machine. Instead of allowing the machine to be subjected to outer influences, the engineer part gradually gains his own influence over the instrument. Herein lies the secret of the art of personality. One condition is slavery, the other mastery. In the first condition one is placed by nature, to the next one is brought through development of the personality.

Learning the Art

Now you may ask: How does one learn the art of personality? In the same way as one learns the art of painting or drawing. First one learns how to draw a straight line, a horizontal line, a circle, a curve. In the same way, learning the art of personality, one learns how to say a thing and how not to say a thing, how to avoid saying a thing, and how to say a thing without saying it. Then one learns the art of light and shade. This art of light and shade is knowing how to hide a certain part in conversation and how to bring another part to prominence. Then there is the coloring. There is a great variety of colors. Every feeling, every thought, every idea has its particular color, and when a person knows how many of these colors there are, and when he composes with them all he says and does in life, then this becomes an art: the art of personality.

If a person has collected diamonds, or if he has got pearls or rubies, what is it, if he has not developed in his personality that precious quality which makes a person precious? What is it all? All those things are nothing.

  • The first grade is when a person becomes thoughtful, and so begins to observe his thoughts, to see his actions.
  • The second grade is when he not only observes his thoughts and actions, but is able to control them.
  • The third grade is when a spontaneous out-flow of sympathy comes from that person, when it is natural that his attitude is outgoing, that his personality attracts and becomes a blessing.
  • And the fourth grade is a grade where no effort has to be made by the artist to realize the art of personality. In this grade the artist becomes art itself, and whatever he does - it all becomes a beautiful picture.