The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Volume

Sayings

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

THE SUPPLEMENTARY PAPERS

Heading

Unity and Uniformity

Religion

The Sufi's Religion

The Aspects of Religion

How to Attain to Truth by Religion

Five Desires Answered by Religion

Law

Aspects of the Law of Religion

Prayer

The Effect of Prayer

The God Ideal

The Spiritual Hierarchy

The Master, the Saint, the Prophet

Prophets and Religions

The Symbology of Religious Ideas

The Message and the Messenger

Sufism

The Spirit of Sufism

The Sufi's Aim in Life

The Ideal of the Sufi

The Sufi Movement

The Universal Worship

Sub-Heading

-ALL-

Rama

Forms of Hindu Worship

The Basis of the Caste System among Hindus

Krishna

Buddha

Forms of Buddhistic Worship

Jainism

Abraham

Moses

Zarathustra

Zoroastrianism

Jesus

Muhammed

The Duties of the Faithful in Islam

The Four Grades of Knowledge in Islam

The Idea of Halal and Haram in Islam

Namaz

Idolatry

An Advanced Form of Idolatry

The Higher Form of Idolatry

The Sufi's Conception of God

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Prophets and Religions

Rama

Rama, the great Prophet and ideal of the Hindus, was at the same time the example of Godhead. The character of Rama is said to have been foretold by Valmiki; at the same time, the training which was given to Rama by a great Rishi whose name was Vashishta was a training to bring out that Kingdom of God which is hidden in the heart of man. In this respect Rama was not only an ideal for the Hindus of that particular age, but was a model to mold the character of those who tread the spiritual path in any age.

Rama was a prince by birth, but was given to be trained by a Sage, where he lived the life in the solitude, the life of study and play both together. He was not only taught to read and write, but he was trained in athletic exercises, in sports, and had a training in all the manner of warfare. This shows what education the ancient people had, an education in all directions of life. And, being trained thus, Rama completed his course of study about the time of the prime of his youth.

The story of Rama has been always considered as the most sacred scripture for the Hindus. It is called Ramayana. The Brahman recites this story in a poetic form, to which the devotees of the Master listen for hours without being tired of it. For they take it as their religious training.

The most interesting part of Rama's life is his marriage. In the ancient times there was a custom that the husband was chosen. This custom came owing to the tendency to warfare. At every little trouble the princes of the time were up in arms even in such matters as marriage. In order to avoid war, the father of Sita invited all the princes and potentates of his land and gave the right of selection to his daughter. There was a time appointed, when they all gathered in the royal gallery, adorned in their regal ornaments and decorations.

Rama lived a simple life; he had not yet known what princely life means, for he was being trained under a Saint, where he ate the same food as the Sage did, wore the same simple clothes as the Sage, and lived in the woods in the solitude. Yet the brightness of the soul shines out even without ornaments. When Sita entered this assembly, with a garland of flowers in her hands, her first glance fell upon Rama, and she could not lift her glance from that ideal of her soul to anyone else, for her soul recognized the pearl in its heart. Sita, without a moment's pause, came immediately and put the garland on the neck of that youth, so simple and unassuming, standing with an innocent expression behind all the shining hosts. Many marveled at this choice, but many more became as glowing fire with the thought of envy and jealousy. Among them, the one who was most troubled was the King of Lanka, Ravana. For Sita was not only known as the most beautiful princess of the time, but also was called Padmani, the Ideal Maiden. As Rama was an example in his character, so in Sita the ideal character was born.

Then came the separation of the two. Sita, who had followed Rama in his twelve years" Vanavasa, which means roaming in the forest, was once left alone in the woods, and Rama had gone to fetch some water. At that time Sita disappeared, and after a great difficulty and a great grief the trace was found. She had been taken prisoner by Ravana. She steadily lived for Rama in this captivity, and would not yield to Ravana's temptations and threatenings. In the end victory was won. Rama fought a battle with Ravana and brought Sita back home.

This story gives the picture of life being a struggle for everyone, in a small way or in a big way. The outer nature of the struggle may be different for everyone, but, at the same time, no one can live in the midst of this world and be without a struggle. In this struggle the one who wins in the end has fulfilled the purpose of his life; who loses in the end, has lost.

The life of Rama suggests that, spiritual strife apart, the struggle in the world is the first thing to face; and if one keeps to one's own ideal through every test and trial in life, one will no doubt arrive at a stage when he will be victorious. It does not matter how small be the struggle, but victory won in the end of every struggle is the power that leads man farther on the path towards life's goal. The life of man, however great and spiritual, has its limitations. Before conditions of life the greatest man on earth, the most powerful soul, will for a moment seem helpless. But it is not the beginning that counts; it is the end. It is the last note that a great soul strikes which proves that soul to be real and true.

Forms of Hindu Worship

The Hindu religion is one of the most ancient religions in the world, and to this almost all religions of the past may be traced. The world's primitive religion, sun worship, which came and went in the world, still exists among the Brahmans. They greet the sunrise after bathing in the river; and they are purified by its most inspiring rays. Besides the sun, they worship the moon and the planets, counting every one of them as a peculiar god, signifying a particular power of God.

The mythical religion of the ancient Greeks, the gods and goddesses of the old Egyptians--all that is found today in the religion of the Hindus. They have among their gods almost all animals and birds known to man; and all different aspects of life are explained in their myths, which teach man to see the Divine Being in all. The great powers of the Almighty are pictured as various gods and goddesses, attributed with special powers. Some worship these. Even such savage animals as lions, elephants, or cobras are considered sacred. By this the moral is taught, to love our enemies.

The fire worship of the Zoroastrians may be seen in the Yag and Yagna ceremonies of the Hindus. The idea of Trinity of the Christians may be traced in the idea of Trirnurti in the Hindu religion. The prostration at the prayers, which exists in Islam, may be seen in its complete form in the Pranarn and Dandavat forms of Hindu worship.

Besides all these objects of worship, they are taught the worship of the Guru, the Teacher. The first Guru they see in the mother and father; then every person with whom they come in contact, who teaches them anything, they esteem as their Guru, until they have developed in themselves the worshipful attitude, which in the end they show to the real Guru, who helps them in their spiritual awakening. The following verse, from the Hindi, gives an idea of what the chela thinks of his Guru:

I have enjoyed my life on earth, O Guru, by thy mercy. Thy words have drawn me closer to God. As with the rising of the sun darkness disappears, So thou hast cleared away the darkness of ignorance from my soul. Some adore the earthly beings and some adore the heavenly, But I revere thee, O holy Guru! (Sundar Dhas)

The Basis of the Caste System among Hindus

When the Aryans came and settled in Bharat Khand, which is today called India, they wanted to make the life there a life of solitude and self-sufficiency.

Those among them who were learned and pious, whose living was better in every way than the others, grouped themselves, and called themselves Brahmans, whose part of work was study, scientific investigation, music, poetry; and priesthood was their right. They taught people as teachers. At the wedding ceremonies and at births and deaths they took charge of the ceremonies with their religious rite. Their life was as the life of a hermit. The difference was that they married among their own people. Their living only depended upon Bhiksha -- free will offerings.

There were others among them who revered the Brahmans for their learning and piety, but held themselves superior for their warlike merits and for their control of the land that belonged to them. They were called Kshattriya (landowners, or warriors).

Those who were clever at commerce took refuge under the power and control of the Kshattriya, and took in their hands all concerning money. They were called Vaishyas. Business of all kinds was carried on by them.

Those remaining were the ones who labored, and, according to their labor, among them grades were formed. They were called Shudras. Among them were some whose work was of such a nature that their coming in the house, or touching another person when working, would be against the sanitary law. Brahmanism being the most scientific religion, it made a law that they should not be touched.

In this way these four castes were formed, and went on peacefully until the entry of foreigners into their land, which naturally interfered with their harmony, and the whole plan became a failure.

With all the wisdom in forming these four castes, there is a selfishness shown on the part of the high classes, as has been always the case with the human race; and that has been a great hindrance to the progress of Hindus in general, for every chance of progress was shut out for the lower classes. Their only consolation was to reincarnate and be born in a higher class. If not, there was no other way. This is the chief reason which gave the doctrine of reincarnation importance in the Hindu race.

Krishna

The life of Krishna is an ideal which gives the picture of the life of a perfect man. The real meaning of the word Krishna is God, and the man who was identified with that name was the God-conscious one who fulfilled His Message in the period in which he was destined to give His Message.

The story of Krishna, apart from its historical value and interest, is of great importance to the seeker after Truth. No one knows of the father and mother of Krishna. Some say he was of royal birth. It means of kingly origin, from that King Who is the King of all. Then he was given in the care of Yeshoda, who brought him up as his guardian mother. This is symbolical of the earthly parents, who are the guardians, the real father and mother being God. In the childhood of Krishna, it is said, he was fond of butter, and he learned, as a child, to steal butter from everywhere. And the meaning is, that wisdom is the butter of the whole life. When life is churned through a wheel, then out of that comes butter; wisdom is gained by it. He was stealing it; which means, wherever he found wisdom he learned it, from everybody's experience he benefited-that is stealing.

Plainly speaking, there are two ways of learning wisdom. The one way of learning wisdom is that a person goes and drinks to excess, and then falls down in the mud, and then the police take him to the police station, and when he recovers from his drunkenness he cannot find his clothes and he is horrified at his own appearance. This makes him realize what he has done. This is one way of learning, and it is possible that he does not learn. The other way of learning is that a young man is going along the street; he sees a drunken man, and sees how terrible it is to be in this position; he learns from that. That is stealing the butter.

But then the latter part of Krishna's life has two very important aspects. One aspect teaches us that life is a continual battle, and the earth is the battlefield where every soul has to struggle, and the one who will own the kingdom of the earth must know very well the law of warfare. The secret of the offensive, the mystery of defense, how to hold our position, how to retreat, how to advance, how to change position, how to protect and control all that has been won, how to let go what must be given up, the manner of sending an ultimatum, the way of making an armistice, the method by which peace is made -- all this is to be learned. In this life's battle man's position is most difficult, for he has to fight on two fronts at the same time: one is himself, and the other is before him. If he is successful on one front, and on the other front he proves to have failed, then his success is not complete.

And the battle of each individual has a different character. The battle depends upon man's particular grade of evolution. Therefore every person's battle in life is different, of a peculiar character. And no person in the world is free from that battle; only one is more prepared for it; the other, perhaps, is ignorant of the law of warfare. And in the success of this battle there is the fulfillment of life. The Bhagavad Gita, the Song Celestial, from the beginning to the end, is a teaching on the law of life's warfare.

The other outlook of Krishna on life is that every soul is striving to attain God, but God, not as a Judge or a King, but as a Beloved. And every soul seeks God, the God of Love, in the form it is capable of imagining. And in this way the story of Krishna and the gopis signifies God and the various souls seeking perfection.

The life and teaching of Krishna have helped the people of India very much in broadening the thought of the pious. The religious man, full of dogmas, is often apt to make dogmas too rigid, and expects the godly, or the God-conscious, to fit in with his standard of goodness. If they do not fit in with his particular idea of piety he is ready to criticize them. But the thought and life of Krishna were used by the artist and the poet and the musician, and out of it was made a new religion, a religion of recognizing the divine in natural human life. And that idea of considering a spiritual person exclusive, remote, stone-like, and lifeless ceased to exist. The people of India became much more tolerant toward all different aspects of life, looking at the whole life, at the same time, as an Immanence of God.

The Worshipers of Krishna

Among Hindus some are called by this name; for all Hindus belong to one religion, and yet there are different gods and goddesses worshiped by different people among Hindus. The worship of Krishna is most prevalent among them, and it is as ceremonial as the ancient Church of Rome, and even more so. This teaches us that ceremony is a concrete expression of thought, and it has suited the masses better than a religion of thought alone.

In the temple of Krishna there is an image of Krishna lying in a cradle. Women who go there for worship will sing lullabies in a prayerful attitude. Then there is an image in the same temple of Krishna grown up, and with him the image of Radha, his consort. Men and women will go there and worship both. They will take flowers and sandalwood and a few grains of rice in order to make an offering to the god. Then there is an image of Krishna with a sword, cutting off the head of Kounsa, the monster. Then there are engravings in the temple of Krishna driving the chariot of Arjuna, the exiled King of India, when going to wage war against the Pandavas, the rulers of the time.

At first sight it surprises a stranger to think that God is worshiped in the man's form, and God is considered so small as to be rocked in a cradle, and to picture God Most High standing with his wife, and then to see God going to war, which any kindhearted person would refuse to do. But to a Sufi it gives a different impression, since he sees God in every form. First, he says that if the worshiper cultivates his patience by standing, in his joy and trouble, before a heedless god of stone that never answers or stretches out a helping hand, he can only be a steady worshiper of the true God, and will not fail, as many do when they have no help given by God, who then begin to disbelieve, or at least to doubt His existence. He thinks that when He is all and in all, what does it matter if one looks at heaven and the other looks at earth? To his mind both are looking at the same thing.

In ancient times many had thought that spirituality means to be alone in a forest, which thought is broken by seeing Krishna and Radha both, which means that both mean God, not one alone.

Many today question: "If there is God, why should wars and disasters take place?" And many give up their belief when they think more about it. The image of Krishna with a sword and going to war shows that it is God Who is in heaven, it is God Who is most kind, but it is the same God Who stands with a sword; that there is no name, no form, no place, no occupation, which is void of God. It is a lesson to recognize God in all, instead of limiting God only to the good and keeping Him away from what we call evil, which goes against the saying that "in God we live and move and have our being."

Buddha

India, a land of extremes, was once very much engrossed in idealism. Idealism gave to the people Brahmanism, an idealism which had reached its greatest heights, an idealism which made them recognize the Face of God in man, and to experience heaven on earth. And when this touched its zenith, then came another epoch, an epoch of reaction, and that was the period of Buddha. The mission of Buddha was quite peculiar in its character, and therefore it stands quite different from the many different religions of the world. And people sometimes wonder if all religions are one.

They can quite well see a similarity between the Hebrew religion and Islam, also the religion of the Christ; but they cannot understand that there could be a religion of Buddha, and that it could be also a religion, and that it could be one with all others. And the answer is this: that the work of all those who have served humanity in the form of religion has been of great importance--for the first reason, that they had to give the same Truth which every other Server of humanity has given; and for the next reason, that they had to answer the demand of the time in a form suited for that particular time; and in that they differed from their predecessors, who had done the work in other ways. It may not be forgotten that among Hindus idealism had reached its zenith, and it did not remain for Buddha to teach a greater idealism than they already had. In order, therefore, to bring about a balance, he had to give a pill of disillusion.

And in that way perhaps at that time, or even today, he might appear to be a teacher of quite a different philosophy and a religion which is different from all other religions, which are of idealism. And at the same time no one can show one word in the teaching of Buddha where Buddha has opposed any religion. Only his mission was to bring the birds of idealism, flying in the air, nearer to the earth, because the food of their body belonged to the earth.

Buddha, born as a prince, was recognized by the wise of that time as a soul which had the finest feeling that it could have, and the deepest depth in his heart. Being born in a family where he could be taken good care of, naturally they closed all the sorrows and distress and troubles of life away from him, and kept him in a surrounding where no sorrows, distress, and troubles of life could touch him, in order to give this soul the time to develop, without being depressed by worldly troubles. It was not only the love of the parents, but it was the wisdom of destiny, that brought him up in this manner, a soul who was born to sympathize with the world. And when the mind of Buddha, after the best education that he received, came to maturity, then he was one day allowed to go out and look at the world.

This soul, who was not allowed to see much of the world and who had not known pain and distress and trouble, was quite unaware of the experience that the life in the world shows to man. Then he went out for the first time; he looked at a person who was aged and only with difficulty could walk. And he said, "What is it?" They said, "It is age." And he sympathized. And then he saw another person, worn out and tired and downhearted. And he said, "What is the matter?" And they said, "It is illness." And he sympathized, and said, "There is such a thing as illness." There was another person who had lost his money and was in a great despair, and was in poverty. Buddha asked, "What is it?" They said, "It is poverty." And he sympathized, and he felt his condition. In short, this soul, whose heart was open to sympathize with everyone, felt that life has many limitations and every limitation has its despair. And the number of limitations that he saw was so great that he thought what must be the remedy for all these limitations.

In the first place he saw that human nature seeks for happiness. lt is not because happiness is outside of man; it is because happiness belongs to him. Then he saw that all these limitations make a barrier for man, thereby depriving him of the consciousness of this happiness which is his own. He also saw that all the manner of distress, and all the causes of distress, if they were removed, still man would not be free from distress, because the nature of man is to find happiness; he is not looking for distress. For no one in the world is seeking for a distress, and almost everyone in the world finds distress without seeking for it. He saw that the removing of these apparent limitations was not sufficient, but it is the study of life, observation, analysis, that is the most necessary.

He found in the end that it is the analysis of life, a thorough analysis, which clears one's reason from all darkness, and produces in it its own original light. Man is distressed by looking at the distress without having studied it. That is generally the case. Every distress that comes to man he is afraid of, and he partakes of it without first having faced it and studied it analytically. But at the same time Buddha saw that if there was a key to happiness, it came by throwing analytical light upon all the different situations of life. This Buddha taught in the form of religion more than two thousand years ago. And today the reasoning that is looking for a solution in the modern world is now finding the same solution which Buddha found over two thousand years ago; and they call it psychoanalysis. It is the beginning of that something which had reached to its highest top, and this analysis in itself had reached to the highest idealism.

Buddha was the title of Gautama. He was called Buddha because his spirit expressed the meaning of the word Buddh. The word Buddh in Sanskrit means "reason." In the Buddhistic terminology the Spirit of Guidance is named Bodhisattva, which means the essence of reason. Reason in its essence is of a liquid form: it is the cream of intelligence. When it is crystallized, it becomes rigid. Very often intellectuality explains a knowledge formed by reasons, most of them of rigid character. The fine reason is subtle; the finer the reason, the less it can be explained in words. It is therefore that people with fine reason cannot very well put their reason into words. Reason in its essence is the depth of intelligence. The intelligence knows, not because it has learned; it knows because it knows. In this higher reason the Spirit of Guidance is conceived, and from that fountain of reason all the great Prophets have drunk.

In the teaching of true Buddhism, Buddha has never been considered as an exclusive personality. Buddha has been known to the Buddhists who have understood his Message rightly as a man who attained the realization of that essence of reason in which is the fulfillment of life's purpose.

Worshiping Buddha does not mean that the Buddhist worships the personality of his spiritual Master. He only means by this worship that if there is any object that deserves worship most, it is a human being; it is the person from whose heart the essence of reason, Buddhi, has risen as a spring. By this knowledge he recognizes the possibility for every soul, whatever be his grade of evolution, of attaining that bliss, trusting that the innermost being of every soul is divine.

The honey of life is hope. If the knowledge of God does not give hope to attain the divine bliss which is attained in life, that knowledge is of no use. Man may believe in God for years and yet may not be benefited by the spiritual bliss; for the spiritual bliss is not only in believing, but it is in knowing God.

Buddhi, which is subtle reasoning, is the path which leads to the goal. The absence of that keeps a person in obscurity. As the sun is the source of light, which shows outwardly things in life, so Buddhi is the inner source of light, which enables the person to see life clearly, inwardly and outwardly. The true aim of the disciples of Buddha has not been only to adhere to Buddha, his name or his ideal, but, by taking Buddha as an example before him, their idea was to become Buddha some day. And the same idea is the secret of Sufism.

Forms of Buddhistic Worship

Buddhism is so named from Buddha; yet the meaning of the word denotes the knower, the seer, the word Buddhi in Sanskrit being the name of the faculty in man which knows, which sees, and thereby distinguishes and discriminates between things and beings. It is doubtful if Buddha taught his followers to worship his own image, as they do today. In every temple of the Buddhists, and in their monasteries, the statues of Buddha, of all sizes, in gold, silver, brass, and copper, are found, where Buddha is sitting cross-legged in the mystic posture. No home of a Buddhist, no sacred place, is without his statue. And though the four important scriptures of the Buddhistic faith are lost, and have vanished long ago, still the fragrance of his philosophy and moral could not be lost sight of. Although it seems to be idolatry, yet his image, as a symbol, inspires not only his devotees, but every thoughtful mind, as it shows balance, quietude, peace, the absorption within, purity of character, beauty of personality, gentleness, tenderness, a restful attitude, and perfect wisdom.

Jainism

As today in the modern civilized countries the statues of heroes, royalties, commanders of armies, politicians, poets, writers, and musicians are found exposed everywhere, and the Statue of Liberty reminds America of national freedom, so to a Buddhist the statue of Buddha speaks of spiritual liberation. Why should it be regarded as any worse if the Buddhists have the statue of their Inspirer between them, whose very image elevates their soul toward the highest ideals, and the life of renunciation and self-denial that their Teacher led?

Buddhism, being the rival and the child of Brahmanism, could not very well leave out the influence of its parent religion. Although Buddhism denies belief in all that is unproven by logic, such as God, soul, meditation, or harlot, yet the image worship of the Brahmans still exists among Buddhists in the worship of Buddha, and belief in reincarnation and the law of karma may be found inherent among the Buddhists.

Jainism is a religion vastly spread in India, the germ of which can be found in Buddhism. This aspect of Buddhism is most admirable, especially in its teaching, "Harmlessness is the only religion." The Jains are vegetarians, but, besides that, they do not harm even the smallest life. Many among them guard themselves against causing harm even to beetles, mosquitoes, ants, bees, scorpions, and snakes, which are so often found in a tropical country.

Their whole moral is based upon the principle of harmlessness, and their priests cause still less harm than the other followers of Jainism. In order to be least harmful, they avoid wearing shoes, avoiding two harms thereby: one being that the leather which is used to make shoes causes the death of so many lives, and the other that by walking with shoes one crushes and kills more lives than by walking barefoot. Some among them are seen with a little piece of cloth tied over their lips, for by walking with open mouth, as so many do, so many small lives are drawn into the mouth. A]so there is another reason, that is, to keep as much as possible from talking. Mostly inharmony and a great many other faults are caused by talkativeness, which is often needless.

Abraham

Abraham, whose name seems to come from the Sanskrit root Brahm, which means "the Creator", was the father of three great religions of the world. For it is from his descendants, who were called Beni Israel, that came Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Abraham was the first to bring the knowledge of mysticism from Egypt, where he was initiated in the most ancient Order of esotericism. And the place which, on his return, he chose to establish as a center, with the idea that some place must be the world center, was Mecca, whither not only in the age of Islam did people make pilgrimage, but at all times the sacred center of Mecca was held in esteem by the pious who lived before Muhammed.

The family of Jesus Christ is traced in the ancient tradition from the family of Isaac, and Muhammed came from the family of Ishmael. The prophecies of Abraham have always been living words, though various people make their different interpretations according to their own ideas. But to the mind of the seer the prophecies of Abraham have a very deep meaning.

With his great knowledge of esotericism, he has been a great patriarch among his people. He was interested in everybody's trouble and difficulty. He was thrown in the midst of worldly responsibilities, to learn all that he might learn from it, and then to teach his knowledge and experience to those who looked to him for the bread of knowledge. No doubt the stories of the ancient times very often strike our modern ears as most childish. But it is the way they were told, and the kind of people that told them; all that makes a great difference. In the first place, there was such a scarcity of lettered people in those days; therefore, the stories were told by the unlettered, and certainly they must have improvised upon every legend they told, and pictured it according to the artistic development of their particular age. Nevertheless, Truth is there, if we only knew how to lift the veil.

Abraham's life does not only make him a Prophet, but a Murshid at the same time. He was a mystic; he gave counsel to those who came to him in need. He examined them, treated their minds, healed their souls according to their needs. The most remarkable thing one notices in Abraham is that, besides being a Prophet and a mystic, he lived the life of an ordinary human being, one with his fellow men in their times of pleasure and sorrow.

One story of the life of Abraham has been the source of great argument in the East, which is the sacrifice of Isaac. It is not only an argument in the East, but alarming to a Western mind. They can put a thousand questions to give a proper reason and justification to such an act. But at the same time, if we looked from the ideal point of view, no sacrifice for a beloved ideal can be too great. There are numberless souls whose dear ones, their beloved husbands or sons, have been sacrificed in this recent war. They could do nothing else; they had to surrender their will to the ideal of the nation, and offer the sacrifice for the cause of the nation, without thinking for one moment that it was unusual.

When we think deeply on the problem of life, there is no path in the world, whether spiritual or material, which we can tread successfully without a sacrifice. Sometimes the sacrifice is great, and sometimes small; sometimes the sacrifice is made first, before achieving the success, and sometimes afterwards. As sacrifice is necessary in life, it is made by everyone in some form or other, but, when it is made willingly, it turns into a virtue. The greater the ideal, the greater the sacrifice it demands, and if one saw wisely the process of advancement through life in any direction, it is nothing but a continual sacrifice. And happiness comes from the understanding of this nature of life, and not being hurt or troubled by it, but knowing that it is by sacrifice, made to the end, that man attains to the desired goal.

The idea of sacrifice has existed in every religion of all ages in some way or another, and has been taught sometimes as having to part with one's possessions for the love of a higher ideal, which means that when man claims to show love for his higher ideal, and yet is not willing to give up something he possesses for it, then there is doubt about his devotion. Although sacrifice of a possession is the first step, the next is self-sacrifice, which was the inner tone of the religion of Jesus Christ. Charity, generosity, even tolerance and forbearance, are a kind of sacrifice, and it seems that every sacrifice in life, in whatever form, means a step forward, which leads to the goal of every soul.

Moses

Moses, the most shining Prophet of the Old Testament, gave to the world the Divine Law, the Ten Commandments, which in reality was the interpretation of the Divine Law that he perceived, expressed in the words of those who stood before him at that time of the world's civilization. It is interesting to notice the Sufi saying which comes from the ages, which says: "Be the follower of love, and forget all distinctions"; for in this path of spiritual attainment to claim that "I am So-and-so" is meaningless.

Moses was found by the riverside by a princess, who knew not what family he came from, or who was his father and mother. Only the Name of God came to the mind of every thoughtful inquirer as to the Father and Mother of Moses. When people compare the teachings of different religions, and readily form their opinions upon them, they are often mistaken; it is premature to make such distinctions. There comes a stage in the evolution of an illuminated soul when he begins to see the law hidden behind Nature, the true psychology. To him the whole life reveals the secrets of its nature and character, and when he gives an interpretation of these secrets to others, they become limited, for they take the color of his own personality, and the form of the thought of those to whom the Message is given. The story of Moses, as told by Sufis, is most interesting and helpful to the traveler on the path. Moses has been the favorite character of the poets of Arabia and Persia, and, in the poems of the Persian Sufis, Moses is as often mentioned as Krishna is mentioned in the poetry of the Hindus.

Moses was walking in the wilderness seeking the light when he saw from a distance smoke rising on the tope of a mountain. So he climbed to the tope of the mountain, in order to find that fire. But on arriving at the top of the mountain he saw a glimpse of the lightning which was so powerful that it went throughout his whole being. Moses fell down unconscious on the ground and when he recovered his senses, he found himself with illumination. From that time Mount Sinai was the place where he often went and communicated with God. The story is very enlightening when one can think that it is possible, that all the illumination that is desired, can come to a soul in a moment. Many think that spiritual attainment can be achieved by a great labor. No, labor is necessary for material attainment; for spiritual attainment what one needs is the seeking soul like that of Moses.

Moses" falling down upon the ground may be interpreted as the Cross, which means: "I am not; Thou art." In order to be, one must pass a stage of being nothing. In the Sufi terms it is called Fana, when one thinks "I am not (what I had always thought myself to be)." This is the true self-denial, which the Hindus called Layam, and in Buddhism is termed annihilation. It is the annihilation of the false self, which gives rise to the true self; once this is done, from that moment man approaches closer and closer to God, and stands face to face with his Divine Ideal, with whom he can communicate at every moment of his life. The law of God is endless, as limitless as God Himself, and, once the eye of the seeker penetrates through the veil that hangs before him, hiding from his eye the real law of life, the mystery of the whole life manifests to him, and happiness and peace become his own, for they are the birthright of every soul.

Zarathustra

The life and teaching of Zarathustra give an example, to those who tread the spiritual path, of the manner in which to begin the spiritual journey. Zarathustra is said to have been born from the Haem-tree. The interpretation of this idea is that the Spirit of Guidance does not come direct from Heaven; he is born from the human family; the tree is the family.

It has been a great error of some religious people that out of their devotion for their Master they placed him, through their imagination, on a pedestal, where they themselves could not ever prove him to be when it came to reasoning. It can only stand in the horizon of faith. No doubt faith is in the foundation. Faith is the lamp which lightens the path, but reason is the globe over it to make its light appear.

The purpose of this whole creation is fulfilled in attaining that perfection which is for a human being to attain. All the Saints, Sages, Prophets, and Masters of Humanity have been human beings, and divine perfection they have shown in fulfilling the purpose of being human.

Zarathustra's spiritual attainment came by his communication with Nature first. He appreciated, adored, and worshiped the sublimity of Nature, and he saw wisdom hidden in the whole creation. He learned and recognized from that the being of the Creator, acknowledged His perfect wisdom, and then devoted his whole life to glorifying the Name of God. To those who followed him in the path of spiritual attainment, he showed the different aspects of Nature, and asked them to see what they could see behind it all. He pointed out to his followers that the form and line and color and movement that they saw before them, and which attracted them so much, must have been accomplished by an expert artist. It cannot all work mechanically and be perfect. The mechanism, however much perfected, cannot run without the help of an engineer. Therefore he showed to them that God is not an object which the imagination has made, though He is molded by man's imagination outwardly. In reality, God is the Being: such a perfect Being that, if compared with other living beings of this world, He is beyond comparison. He is the Only Being.

The Zoroastrian Way of Worship

The way of worship taught by Zarathustra was to worship God by offering homage to Nature. For Nature suggests to the soul the Endless and Unlimited Being hidden behind it all.

The source of Zoroastrianism is the same as the source of Hinduism, although Hinduism has been practiced in India and the followers of Zoroastrianism have been in Persia. The original source of these sister religions of the Aryans was sun worship. These are the direct descendants of the parent religion of sun worship, though this is the ancestor of the religion of the Hebrew prophets also. No religion can escape from this ancestry.

The Symbol of Zunar among Zoroastrians

The Zoroastrians, even today, worship the god Ahura Mazda by looking and bowing to the sun. The symbolical meaning of this is the worship of the light, and especially one Light which has not its like anywhere, which shines upon all things, and by which all things are reflected, and upon which the life of the whole universe absolutely depends. This was the lesson given in ancient times to prepare men's minds to become fond of light, that the soul may unfold some day, and the light from within, the Eternal Sun, the reflection of which on the surface is the sun, may be vouchsafed and be worshiped.

People have called the Zoroastrians fire worshipers. It is a fact. They keep in their place of worship a constantly burning fire, but it is an object they keep before them when thinking of God, as fire purifies all things, and the light within purifies all souls. It is, in fact, a great comfort to have fire in the cold climate, and especially incense burning, which takes away the dampness of the place and gives a facility to the free and deep inhaling and exhaling of breath.

Another thing is that, on earth, it is fire which is the substitute of the sun, for its flame gives light. It is again awakening the mind to the light within.

They worship before the running streams of water and the different scenes of Nature which speak to the hearer of the Divine Immanence in them.

They have in their houses the pictures of Zarathustra, their Prophet, with a torch in his hand, somewhat in the likeness of Christ. The garb is different; it is of old Persia. As the Teacher of every community is pictured in some way, it always inspires those who look at it with that attitude of mind.

Every Zoroastrian woman or man wears in the vest a cord of silk, and considers it the most sacred thing for its religious significance. This is the custom that has been observed by Zoroastrians from the beginning of their religion, as Zarathustra himself wore this sacred thread, and it is seen till now with Parsis -- those that have left Persia, their original land, for ages, and have adopted mostly the customs of India, the land where they took refuge after leaving their country, where a Brahman wears a thread crossways over one shoulder.

This thread they purify with water, fire, and air, and untie and tie it several times during the day, and, every time they do it, they consider it as the most important part of their prayer. It is true that few among them will be found who know the real meaning of this prayer with the thread, but it is mostly so with the followers of different religions.

The moral meaning of Zunar is service. A soldier, a policeman, a postman, or a gatekeeper, when on duty, has a belt on, which expresses that he is on duty--not free to do everything he wishes, but only that which he is appointed to his post to accomplish. This explains that man, as the most intelligent of God's creatures, is not supposed to lead his life as he wishes to lead it, but to consider the duty for which he is born and the service that he must render to God and His creatures. As man is apt to forget all that is not to his immediate interest, the loosing and the tying of the thread reminds him of his duty, as the belt reminds the soldier that he is on service. The idea is that we are all servants of God, and we must do all things for Him, Who has created us, supports us, and has engaged us in His service.

But the mystical meaning of Zunar is still greater. It makes the vertical figure of man, against the horizontally-worn Zunar, a cross. That means, as the Sufi understands, self-denial -- "I am not." When that first "I," the false "I," is so denied, then the next "I," which is the real "I," awakens, when God Himself realizes His Being, and accomplishes thereby the purpose of creation.

Zoroastrianism

A keen student of the Zoroastrian Scriptures, with illuminated mind, will be able to notice that every invocation that the holy Zarathustra has used is as if he prayed to the Light within to guide him by all evidences that Nature presented before him; to strengthen the conviction that all is of God, created by God and ruled by God. The mystical meaning of Ahura Mazda, upon whom Zarathustra called, is the Universal Breath.

Zarathustra has considered three aspects of sin and virtue: Manashni, Gayashni, and Kunashni; thinking, speaking, and doing--that a sin can be committed, not by action alone, but even by intending to commit it, or by saying, "I will do it." And the same is the nature of virtue.

The Teachings of Holy Zarathustra

The chief point in the teachings of holy Zarathustra is the path of goodness; and he separates goodness from badness, calling God the All-good and Satan the All-bad. According to this point of view of the Master, God was, as He is always, the Ideal of worship; and nothing but good can be praised, and none but the good worshiped, and all which is bad naturally leads man astray and veils from his eyes all good. The spirit of evil was personified by the Master, as it had already been personified by the ancients, as Satan.

As the point of view makes all the difference in every teaching, so it made a difference in this teaching of Zoroaster. So that many, instead of taking the true spirit of this idea, have drawn a line between good and bad, and produced, so to speak, two gods: God, the All-good, and Satan, the Lord of Evil; which helped morally to a certain extent, but deprived many, who could not catch the real spirit of the Master, of the realization of God, the Only Being. The good God is named by Zoroaster Ahura Mazda, the first word meaning literally "indestructible", the next word meaning "supreme God."

Jesus

The Christ spirit cannot be explained in words. The omnipresent intelligence, which is in the rock, in the tree, and in the animal, shows its gradual unfoldment in man. This is a fact accepted by both science and metaphysics. The intelligence shows its culmination in the complete development of human personality, such as the personality, which was recognized in Jesus Christ by his followers. The followers of Buddha recognized the same unfoldment of the object of creation in Gautama Buddha, and the Hindus saw the same in Shri Krishna. Those who followed Moses recognized it in him too, and they have maintained their belief for thousands of years; the same culmination of the all-pervading intelligence was recognized in Muhammad by his followers.

No man has the right to claim this stage of development, nor can anyone very well compare two persons recognized by their followers as the perfect Spirit of God. For a thoughtless person it is easy to express his opinion and to compare two people, but a thoughtful person thinks whether he has arrived at that stage where he can compare two such personalities.

No doubt it is different when it concerns a question of belief. The belief of the Muslim cannot be the same as that of the Jewish people, nor can the Christian belief be the same as that of the Buddhists. However, the wise man understands all beliefs, for he is one with them all.

And the question if a person was destined to be a complete personality may be answered that there is no person who is not destined to be something. Every person has his life designed beforehand, and the light of the purpose that he is born to accomplish in life has already been kindled in his soul. Therefore, whatever be the grade of a person's evolution, he is certainly destined to be so.

When a person compares one particular teaching of a prophet with the teaching of another prophet, he also makes a great mistake, because the teachings of the prophets have not all been of the same kind. The teachings are like the works of a composer who writes music in all the different keys, and who puts the highest note and the lowest note and all the notes of different octaves into his music. The teachings of the prophets are nothing but the answer to the demands of individual and collective souls. Sometimes a childlike soul comes and asks, and an answer is given appropriate to his understanding; and an old soul comes and asks, and he is given an answer suited to his evolution.

It is not doing justice to either to compare a teaching, which Krishna gave to a child with one which Buddha gave to an old soul. It is easy to say, "I do not like the music of Wagner; I simply hate It," but I should think it would be better first to become like Wagner and then to hate if one still wants to. To weigh, to measure, to examine, to pronounce an opinion on a great personality, one must first rise to his stage of development; otherwise the best thing is a respectful attitude. Respect in any form is the way of the wise.

Then there are simple people who hear about miracles, who give all the importance to what they have read, perhaps, in the traditions about the miracles performed by the great souls, but that is the way they limit the greatness of God to a certain miracle. If God is eternal, then His miracle is eternal; it is always there. There is no such thing as unnatural, nor such a thing as impossible. Things seem unnatural because they are unusual; things seem impossible because they are beyond man's limited reason. Life itself is a phenomenon, a miracle. The more one knows about it, the more one lives conscious of the wonderfulness of life, the more one realizes that, if there is any phenomenon or miracle, it is man's birthright. Who has done it? It is man who can do it and who will do it. But what is most essential is not a miracle; the most essential thing is the understanding of life.

The soul who realized the truth even before he claimed to be Alpha and Omega, is Christ. To know intellectually that life is eternal, or that the whole of life is one, is not sufficient, although it is the first step towards perfection. The actual realization of this comes from the personality of the God-conscious soul like a fragrance in his thought, speech and action and affects the world like incense put on the fire.

There are beliefs such as that of salvation through Christ, but the man who is prejudiced against religion closes the doors of his heart before having had the patience to understand what it really means. It only means that there is no liberation without an ideal before one. The ideal is a stepping stone towards that attainment which is called liberation.

There are others who cannot conceive the idea of Christ's divinity. The truth is that the soul of man is divine, and that divine spark deserves to be called really divine when with the unfoldment of the soul it reaches the point of culmination.

There are also many different beliefs about the immaculate birth of Jesus. In point of fact when a soul arrives at the point of understanding the truth of life in its collective aspect, he realizes that there is only one Father, and that is God; that this world, out of which all the names and forms have been created, is the Mother and that the Son, who becomes worthy through his recognition of the Mother and the Father, by serving them and thus fulfilling the aim of creation, is the Son of God.

Then there is the question of the forgiveness of sins. Is not man the creator of sin? If he creates it he can also destroy it. If he cannot destroy it his elder brother can. The one who is capable of making is also capable of destroying. He who can write something with his pen can rub it out with his eraser from the surface of the paper. And if he cannot do it, then his personality has not yet reached that completeness, that perfection which all must attain. There is no end to the faults in man's life, and if they were all recorded, and there were no erasing of them, life would be impossible to live. The impression of sin in metaphysical terminology may be called an illness, a mental illness and just as the doctor is able to cure illness, so the doctor of the soul is able to heal. If people have said that through Christ sins are forgiven, it can be understood to mean that love is that shower by which all is purified. No stain remains.

What is God? God is love. When His mercy, His compassion, His kindness are expressed through a God-realized personality, then the stains of one's faults, mistakes and wrong doings are washed away, and the soul becomes as clear as it has always been. For in reality no sin or virtue can be engraved or impressed upon a soul; it can only cover the soul. The soul in itself is divine Intelligence; and how can divine Intelligence be engraved with either sin or virtue, happiness or unhappiness? For a time it becomes covered with the impression of happiness or unhappiness; but when these clouds are cleared from it, then it is seen to be divine in its essence.

The question of the crucifixion of Christ, apart from its historical aspect, may be thus explained: that the life of the wise is a continual crucifixion. The wiser the soul becomes, the more it will realize the cross, for it is the lack of wisdom which causes the soul to commit all actions, good or bad. As it becomes wise, the first thing that happens is that its action is suspended, and the picture of that suspension of action becomes a picture of helplessness: the hands nailed and the feet nailed. Such a soul can neither go forward nor backward. It cannot act, nor move. This outward inaction may appear as helplessness, but in point of fact it is the picture of perfection.

As to the belief that Christ gave his life to save the world, it explains the real meaning of sacrifice: that no man in this world going towards the goal will escape from the test to which life will put him. And that test is sacrifice. At every step towards the final goal, the attainment, a greater and greater sacrifice will be demanded of him, until he arrives at a point where there is nothing, whether body, mind, action, thought, or feeling, that he keeps back from sacrifice for others. It is by this that man proves his realization of divine truth. In short, the Christ-ideal is the picture of the perfect man; and the explanation of what the perfect man is and what are his possibilities can be seen in the verse of the Bible, 'Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.'

THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST

The belief in Christ is in the Church, the book of Christ is with the clergy, the spirit of Christ is in the illuminated soul.

The spirit of Christ can be traced in Christ's own words where he said, 'I am Alpha and Omega,' I am first and last. By this he meant, 'I was before Jesus was born, and I shall be after Jesus has gone.'

'I am Christ' means 'I am now, and I shall be till the end.' In this the Master identifies himself with that light of which we read in the Vedanta, and which existed thousands of years before Christ, the divine light which is recognized by the Sufis as the Spirit of Guidance, and which is also mentioned in the Quran. This light of Christ is symbolized by the lantern in the story of Aladdin, in the Thousand and One Nights. And it is this same light which the Hindu legend speaks of when it says that there exists a cobra with a light in its head, and when it searches for food it takes that light in its mouth and by its illumination it can go about in the forest. It is the light of life of all men and all beings, seen and unseen. In reality it is the essence of light.

Where is this light to be found? It is to be found in the sun and in the higher intelligence; but this phenomenon of light occurs in all different forms. Even the spark that comes from the heart of the stone when it is struck represents the same light. Also the light that manifests in the blossoming of plants, in the ripening of fruit, in the light that we see on a moonlit night, and in the rising and the setting of the sun, it is all one and the same light manifesting from the unseen to the seen, yet existing in the unseen to a much greater extent than can be seen with our eyes.

One might ask why, if God is all-sufficient, should He have made the Christ Spirit? An example will explain this. A farmer wanted to go to a place, which was at a great distance from his farm. And he thought how during dark nights with storms and winds and fogs one very often loses the way. Therefore he made a lantern to light him in case there should be a dark night, so that it could guide him on the path. It was his creation; he made, he prepared the lantern for himself in order to be guided by it.

This creation is nothing but the manifestation of God, and man is the culmination of that manifestation. God did not make man as a carpenter makes a chair, for the carpenter uses wood, something different from himself, in order to make the chair. But God made man out of Himself; in other words God manifested as man, and in His manifestation the One has become many, the unity has become variety and has become a puzzle. Thus life on earth for man is in the first place a puzzle: he does not know where to go and where not to go, he does not know what to do and what not to do. From the beginning till the end he is puzzled as to what is right and what is wrong. The wiser a man becomes the more difficulties there are. This shows that there are storms and winds, mists and fogs on this life's path which his eyes do not see but which the soul experiences. And in order to make these difficult times easier, a lantern is given which is God's own spirit, and which He made for His creation in order that man may take this lantern to guide him on his path.

Not only human beings have this lantern, even beasts and birds have it. In herds of animals there is always one that guides them. In flocks of birds there is one that guides and sees from which way the wind blows. The one that leads knows which way to go and the other birds follow him.

In India a beautiful story is told about elephants by those who live in the forest. They say that in a herd of elephants there is one which is the leader and takes the branch of a tree in its trunk and goes ahead examining the ground where it walks in order that those which follow may not fall into a ditch. It is also alert to the sound of gun and arrow, and detects any atmosphere, which may be unwholesome for elephants. But sometimes there is an unwilling elephant. It goes astray and is lost, and in order to catch it men dig pits in the ground so that when this lost elephant goes near one it may fall into it, and after two or three days they come and capture him.

This is a beautiful picture of the work of the Christ spirit. When one understands this one cannot blame those who say, 'Christ is our Savior,' or, 'Christ is our God.' They may not see what the Spirit of God is in our interpretation, but there is nothing wrong about it except that they do not know themselves what they are saying.

  • If one sees divinity in Christ, there is nothing wrong about it. If divinity does not manifest through man, then where is it to be found? Is divinity to be found in the heavens alone?
  • And if on the other hand someone else calls Christ man, he only raises the standard of man to the highest point; and in this there is truth also.

Only, the two do not understand each other's meaning, and they each say that the other is wrong; and this arises because they do not believe that he who is often called Christ, the Savior, is in reality the savior spirit. With elephants that savior spirit is the one that guides the herd; and a loving mother, a kind father, an innocent child, a helpful friend, and an inspiring teacher, all represent to a greater or lesser degree that savior spirit. The one who saves a man's life by jumping into the water does not do such a great work as the one who saves a soul who was groping in the darkness.

But then, one might say, what about the whole world, the whole of humanity? Each soul is connected with the other, and there is not one soul, which does not undergo the influence of the whole cosmos, consciously or unconsciously. Every cell sooner or later has an effect upon the whole body. Therefore, if one looks at it rightly, there is no exaggeration in calling a liberated soul the Savior of the world; but if one only holds it as a belief, one does not know what it really means.

Naturally the liberated soul is like the living drop of blood. Scientists have discovered that blood transfusions can give new life. A soul who has risen to great illumination can inspire and invigorate the whole of humanity, just as one powerful man can influence a whole nation. He is then called the man of the day, and he may have an influence, which can raise man to the height of heaven. If a material man can do this to the whole nation, why then should not a spiritual man have such an influence upon the whole world? Whether we recognize it or not, it does not matter. But there are souls in the world whose influence is greater than that of the so-called man of the day about whom so much is written in the newspapers.

If Christ existed before he was known as Christ, what was he? And if Christ will be after he has been known as Christ, what will he be? We are too limited as human beings to determine this; to try to do so would be nothing but folly. But at the same time, have we not known inspirers of humanity before Jesus? Have there not been prophets like Moses and Abraham and Zarathushtra, inspirers like Krishna and Buddha, whose influence has been felt all over the world? What were they? If truth is one, if wisdom is one, if human personality is one, if God is one, then what are they if not the same spirit? Those who saw them have called them Buddha or Krishna; but they were all one and the same, the same lantern, the same light although in different globes.

After they have gone the light comes in another form to illuminate humanity. Does not that light work in our everyday life? In our deepest distress, in our greatest confusion, a friend, a relation, or a teacher comes and tells us something he himself does not know to be the message of wisdom. And sometimes it comes in such a queer way; perhaps in the form of a change, and we do not understand from whence it comes, so that we do not even believe it. But at the same time the inner guidance comes just at the moment when we have need of it. It comes perhaps from an innocent child, the word that is the message of God. For the light is hidden.

Those who say that after Jesus Christ they have not seen the light being kindled any more, limit Christ. Those who see the Christ spirit in all the various globes which are the light, they are the ones who really see Christ.

Christ identified himself with the Spirit of Guidance instead of with the personality, which was known as Jesus. And people have limited that divine wisdom, that Spirit of Guidance, to the personality, which came as Jesus. And they forgot that he himself said, 'I am Alpha and Omega,' which means all the prophets and seers who came before Jesus whether it were Abraham or Zarathushtra or Buddha or Krishna. He identified himself with them. That is why he said he had not come to give a new law, but to fulfill the law, by which he also indicated that the guidance would continue afterwards. It was really a declaration of that identity in which Jesus lived, but not that in which the people recognized him.

Jesus Christ also said to some, 'I will come,' and to others, 'The son of man will come.' It was one answer to two mentalities: to the souls who could recognize his identity he said, 'I will come,' and to those who could not realize his real identity he said 'Someone else will come; whenever wisdom is lost, Christ will come.' The real meaning of this is, 'I will come in another form, which is myself just the same.' It is a puzzle of words only for those who want to puzzle themselves. For those who wish to get out of the maze it is easy and simple. But human nature enjoys complexities and prefers to make the truth as difficult as possible.

There are two questions which come to the mind. What is, then, the meaning of the Sacrament, which is said to be symbolical of the Flesh and Blood of Christ? It teaches that those who give importance to the Flesh and Blood of the Master are mistaken; that the true being of the Master was bread and wine. If he had any flesh and blood, it was the bread and wine. And what is bread and wine? The bread is that which is the soul's sustenance; the soul's sustenance is the knowledge of God; it is by this knowledge that the soul lives the eternal life. And the Blood of Christ is the love element, the intoxication of which is a bliss; and if there is any virtue, it all comes from that principle.

The Philosophy of the Sacrament

The true meaning of the sacrament, which is said to be symbolical of the flesh and blood of Christ, shows that those who give importance to the flesh and blood of the Master, are mistaken; that the true being of the Master was bread and wine. If he had any flesh and blood, it was the bread and wine. And what is bread and wine? The bread is that which is the soul's sustenance, and the soul's sustenance is the knowledge of God. It is by this knowledge that the soul lives the eternal life. And the blood of Christ is the love element, the intoxication of which is a bliss. And if there is any virtue, it comes from that principle.

Man is not made only of flesh, skin, and bone, but is also composed of many fine and gross elements, and therefore, for him to live, many different properties are needed. But man generally considers only his food to be that which nourishes his physical body, and seeks for a stimulant for that body, not realizing that besides this much of his being is starved for food all through his life. Man's ignorance of this other part of his being allows it to die, at least to his consciousness. The words of Christ, 'The spirit quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing,' indicates this.

We trace in the Bible Christ's saying to his followers: "Eat my flesh and drink my blood." What does it mean? It does not mean: "Eat the flesh of my physical body and drink its blood." It means: "The being in which I am living (God's being), have this as the food to nourish your fine being; drink this to stimulate your spiritual being."

There is a verse of Abdal Qader Jilani of Baghdad, "I am the bird of the spiritual spheres dwelling at present in earthly spheres, but my food is the knowledge of God and my drink is His beauty in manifestation."

Those who are conscious of the earthly spheres live on earthly food and stimulants; but those who become conscious of the higher world are nourished by the thought of God which is their bread. And that which stimulates them like wine is their vision of God in the sublimity of nature. This is the real sacrament, given symbolically in churches as bread and wine.

Baptism

The custom of baptism has a mystical significance which should be studied from the ideal of the Sufi, and which he calls Fana. Sinking the whole body into the water means being as not being, or even living as not living. In other words, it may be said: living, not as the dead are living, but as the really living ones.

The water symbolizes the ocean in which there are so many waves, yet it is one ocean. Baptism means immersion in this spiritual ocean, which is the Spirit of God, and becoming as nothing, in the love of God, in the knowledge of God, and in the realization of God. From that time one understands the meaning of the saying, 'I exist no more as myself, as a separate entity; and yet I exist, and this existence is the existence of God.'

This is the main teaching of Sufism: to sink into the Consciousness of God, that no trace of one's limited being may be found, at least in one's consciousness. That is really the ideal, the path and the goal of all. There is a verse of the Ghalib that gives a beautiful picture of this. 'I degraded myself in the eyes of the world by dying. How well it had been, had I been sunk in the water! No one could have seen my funeral; no one would have found my grave!'

The Beatitudes

The essence of all that can teach man to bring out the good that is in his soul is in the Beatitudes as taught by Jesus Christ, the Murshid of Murshids; and, if anybody wants to see it practiced, one may go today and see it in the life that the Sufis live in the East. It is they who have known it properly and have practiced it to their utmost ability. Therefore the real treasure of Christ's teaching is Sufism, though the latter is not called Christianity. However, the name makes no difference so long as the sense is right.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." "Poor in spirit" means mild in ego, and the ego is, as its nature, tyrannical, and all the tyranny there is in the world is only caused by the ego. When the ego is placed before God--in other words, when the ego is illuminated with the knowledge of God--it becomes faded; for it denies its limited being and it realizes the being of God. So it loses all its tyranny and becomes mild, which is being poor in spirit. This makes man's whole life heaven, here and in the hereafter.

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." All things are given to those who demand, and they only deserve them, and they only can enjoy them. The infant cries when he is hungry and to him the food is given, and it is then that he enjoys it most. So it is with the lovers of God, with the seekers of Truth; when their desire becomes so deep that it makes them mourn, it is then that they are comforted.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." There is a saying in Persian, "If your word is sweet, you can win the world." The world is too small when meekness can even win the hearts of men--the heart that can contain a thousand such words.

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." There are only two paths--the path of light and the path of darkness. The former leads to all joy, while the latter leads to all sorrow. And yet every man does not understand it. The one who understands it, goes after it in its pursuit, for he knows that the only sustenance of his soul is righteousness.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." The warmth in one's feeling draws out the coldness from another person's heart. Therefore one cannot receive mercy either from the earth or from Heaven unless one has himself awakened mercy in his soul.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This purity of heart is not only in thought, feeling, and action, but it is the purity which in the Eastern language is called Safai, from which word "Sufi" has been said to come--to make the heart pure from all that is besides God. In other words, the heart must see and realize all as God, and God as all.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." They only make peace in life who are unbiased, or unselfish, or impartial, and this is the Nature of God, before Whom we all, rich and poor, foolish and wise, are equal; and His mercy is upon all, and He bestows His gifts on all, deserving and undeserving. Therefore those who follow the way of the Heavenly Father are really His deserving sons.

"Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness" sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." It is easy to be righteous when everything is smooth in life, but when a person is tried, it is difficult to keep to it, for the more righteous you are, the more losses you have to suffer, and, though there may not be a seeming gain by righteousness, still the goal of the righteous is Heaven in the end.

The Meaning of the Symbol of the Cross

The symbol of the cross represents three great secrets. By understanding these secrets one can understand the whole Nature.

1. The first secret is the secret of form--that every form has been built up on a perpendicular and a horizontal line. Fruit, flower, leaf, in everything one can see the cross as its basis. It becomes fully manifest in the form of man, this being the perfect form. It is perfect because every form of the mineral, vegetable, or animal kingdom has evolved gradually and developed in the human form. One can notice this by studying the indistinct human form even in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms. Not only the animals have a resemblance to man's form and face, but even in the rose you can see man's face indistinctly. In the pebbles by the seashore, in the rocks, in mountains, one sees an indistinct human form. And when one distinguishes the human form in its real aspect, it is nothing but a cross.

2. There are two spaces, one known to all, and the other known to a mystic. The first space is the one which we see, which we can measure; the other space is that which accommodates within itself this space. For instance, a space of ten, twenty, or even fifty miles can be accommodated--in other words, can be reflected--in the eye, which is hardly one inch wide when measured according to this external space. This shows that the space that the eye has is a different space from the space that it can accommodate within itself. The eye is the representative of the soul. If the eye can accommodate so much space, how much more can the soul accommodate! It can accommodate the whole universe. Therefore this space which we call space in the terms of the mystic is the horizontal space, but that space in which this is reflected is the perpendicular space. It is these two spaces that are termed, in the language of religion, this world and the next world, and it is these two lines that show the sign of the cross.

3. In the beginning, the traveler on the path of morals understands that the whole life is a fight against destruction, a continual destruction that stands before his life. The picture of activity (construction) is the perpendicular line, and the picture of destruction (hindrance) is the horizontal line. But when a person advances from the moral to the spiritual plane, then he sees two paths of attainment, and both necessary at the same time for perfection. One is the expansion of the spirit from a single being to the whole universe, which signifies the horizontal line, and the other is the journey of man to God, from the limited state of being to the Unlimited, which represents the perpendicular line, and in this cross is hidden the secret of perfection.

"Thy Will be Done, on Earth as it is in Heaven"

In the prayer of the Christian Church there is a sentence: "Thy Will be done, in earth as it is in Heaven." This gives a great key to metaphysics. It gives a hint to the seer that His Will, which is easily done in heaven, has difficulty in being done on earth. And who stands against His Will? Man. And where lies the Will of God? In the innermost being of man. And what stands as an obstacle? The surface of the heart of man. And this means struggle in man himself. In him there is the Will of God, as in Heaven, and where there is the obstacle to it, there is the earth. By this prayer man is prepared to remove the obstacle which stands before the Will of God.

How can we distinguish between these two aspects of will--the Will of God, and the obstacle, which is the will of man? It is easy for a person with a clear mind and open heart to distinguish, if he only knows the secret of it. For to that which is the Will of God, his whole being responds, and in doing His Will his whole being becomes satisfied. When it is his will, only one side of his being is, perhaps, satisfied for a certain time, and there comes a conflict in himself. He himself finds fault with this idea or action; he himself feels dissatisfied with his own being. The wider the scope in which he sees his idea or his action, the more dissatisfied he will become. When in this manner, by the ray of intelligence, one sees life, one begins to distinguish between his will and the Will of God. The kingdom of God, which is heaven, then comes on earth. It does not mean that it disappears from heaven, but it only means that not only heaven remains as a Kingdom of heaven, but even earth becomes a Kingdom of heaven. The purpose behind all this creation is that heaven may be realized on earth; and if one did not realize it on earth, he cannot realize it in heaven.

One may ask: What do I mean by heaven? Heaven is that place where all is the choice of man and everything moves at his command. Heaven is the natural condition of life. When, on earth, life becomes so entangled that it loses its original harmony, Heaven ceases to exist. And the motive of the soul is to gain in life the Kingdom of heaven which it has lost. Nothing does one attain in life which will give that satisfaction which can only be attained by bringing heaven on earth.

Muhammed

Muhammed is the one among the Prophets the account of whose life is to be found in history. Born of the family of Ishmael, Muhammed had in him the prophetic heritage, and, before him, that purpose to be fulfilled, the prophecy of which had been made by Abraham in the Old Testament. The Prophet became an orphan in his childhood, and had known what it is in the world to be without the tender care of the mother and without the protection of the father, when a child. And this experience was the first preparation for the child who was born to sympathize in the pain of others.

He showed traces of the sense of responsibility in his boyhood, when looking after his cows. A cowherd came and said: "I will look after your herd, and you may go to the town and enjoy yourself. And then you must take charge of my cows, and I will go there for some time." Young Muhammed said: "No, I will take charge of your herd. You may go, but I will not leave my charge." The same principle he showed through his life.

Some say once, others say twice, others say three times, a miracle happened -- that the breast of the Prophet was cut open by the angels, and some say they took something away, and instantly his breast was healed. What was it? It was the poison which is to be found in the sting of the scorpion and the teeth of the serpent; it is the same poison which exists in the heart of man. All manner of prejudice, hatred, bitterness, in the form of envy and jealousy, are the small expressions of this poison, which is hidden in the heart of man. And when this poison is taken away in some form or other, then there is the serpent with its beauty and wisdom, without its poisonous teeth; and so it is with man. Man meets with hardships in life, sometimes too hard to stand for the moment, but often such experiences become as higher initiations in the life of the traveler on the path. The heart of man which is the shrine of God, once purified of that poison, becomes the holy abode where God Himself resides.

As a youth Muhammed traveled with his uncle, who went to Syria on a business trip; and he knew the shortcomings of human nature, which have a large scope to play their role in the world of business; he knew what profit means, what loss means, what both mean in the end. This gave him a wider outlook on life, where he saw how one is eager to profit by the loss of another: that human beings live in this world no better than the large and small fishes in the water, who live upon one another.

When the time came to defend the country against a powerful enemy, young Muhammed stood shoulder to shoulder with the young men of his land to defend his people in their most terrible strife. His sincerity in friendship and honesty in his dealings endeared him to all those far and near, who called him by the name Amin, which means trusty, or trustworthy. His marriage with Khadijah showed him a man of devotion, a man of affection, an honorable man as a husband, as a father, and as a citizen of the town he lived in.

Then came the time of contemplation, that time of the fulfillment of that promise which his soul had brought in the world. There came moments when life began to seem sad, with all the beauty and comfort it could offer. He then sought refuge from that depression in the solitude. Sometimes for hours, sometimes for days, for weeks, sitting in the mountains of Gare Hira, he tried to see if there was anything else to be seen. He tried to hear if there was anything to be heard. He tried to know if there was anything to be known. Patient as Muhammed was, he continued in the path of the search after Truth. In the end he began to hear a word of inner guidance: "Cry on the Sacred Name of Thy Lord"; and as he began to follow that advice, he found the re-echo of the word his heart repeated in all things of Nature; as if the wind repeated the same name as he did; the sky, the earth, the moon, and the planets, all said the same name that he was saying. When once in tune with the Infinite, realizing his soul one within and without, the call came:

"Thou art the man; go forward into the world and carry out Our command; glorify the name of God; unite them who are separated; waken those who are asleep, and harmonize one with the other, as in this is the happiness of man."

Often Khadijah found Muhammed had covered himself with a mantle, that he might not see himself, trembling at the sight of the responsibility that was thrown on him. But she kept telling him: "You are the man, a man so kind and true, so sincere and devoted, forgiving and serving. It is your part of work to perform; fear not; you are destined to it by the Almighty; trust in His great power; in the end success will be yours."

The day when Muhammed gave his Message, to his surprise, not only the enemies, but the friends who were near and dear to the Prophet, turned against, would not listen to a new gospel taught. Through the insults and the harm and injury they caused him and those who listened to him, he still continued, in spite of being exiled from home three times; and proved in the end, as every real Prophet must prove, that Truth alone is the conqueror, and to Truth belongs all victory.

The God of Islam

Islam has in every period held the idea of a formless God; but especially in the period when the Prophet Muhammed came -- whose Message, since his coming, was named by the same name, Islam -- great stress was put upon the idea of a formless God. It is difficult for man to make God intelligible if he does not give Him any form; and yet a step higher in the realization of God is to make Him intelligible beyond the limit of form. God, therefore, in Islam, was made intelligible by His attributes. As Creator, as Father, as Mother, as Sustainer, as Judge, as Forgiver, as the Source and the Goal of this whole manifestation, One Who is always with His creature, within him, without him, Who notices all his feelings, thoughts, and actions, Who draws the line of man's fate, before Whom man must appear to give his account, is the God of Islam.

Islam believed in One Only God with many attributes, and yet beyond any attributes; invisible, and beyond the comprehension of man; Almighty; Incomparable; no one save He having any power beside Him; the Knower of all things, and pure from all impurities; free from all things, and yet not far from all things; in Him all abiding, and He living in all. The whole essential teaching of Islam (which is called Kakamat) tends to explain clearly the oneness of God; and yet the attributes are suggested, not in order to explain God, but with a view to make God intelligible to the human mind.

These attributes form the external part of God, which is intelligible to man, which is named Sifat; but that which is hidden under attributes, and that which cannot be intelligible to the human mind, that part of the Divine Being is the real Being, and that Being is called Zat. The whole tendency of Islam has been to disentangle man's heart from such thoughts of God as limit and divide Him, and to clear man's heart from duality, which is the nature of this illusory world, and to bring him to that atonement with God which has been the real aim and intention of every religion.

The form of Islamic worship shows the improvement on the form of worship in the human evolution, for Islam prefers Nature to art: to see in it the Immanence of God when at worship.

The call of the muezzin for prayer before sunrise, and his call when the sun is at its zenith; his call at sunset; the prayers in the afternoon, in the early evening, and at midnight, all suggest to the seer that, while worshiping God, a revelation from Him through the tongue of Nature was sought.

It is said in the Qur'an: "Cry in the name of thy Lord, the most beneficent, Who hath by His Nature's skillful pen taught man what he knew not," which means: "Who has written this world as a manuscript by His pen of Nature."

If you desire to read the Holy Book, read it in Nature. There are several suras which support this thought.

As is said in the Qur'an: "By the night when it covers, by the day when it brightens, by what created the male and female, verily your aims are diverse."

Read in the manuscript of Nature that diversity is natural; the very covering and brightening of the light in Nature, and the difference between male and female, show that your aims should be diverse.

The laws of cleanliness are strictly observed in Islam: that no one is to offer prayer without an ablution, which is taught as a preparatory part of his worship.

The worship of Islam embraces in it a universal code of humility -- that the customs existing in all parts of the world of bowing and bending and prostrating are all devoted to the One Being only, Who alone deserves it, and no one else. The beauty in this is that, when man -- the most egoistic being in creation, who keeps himself veiled from God, the Perfect Self within, by the veil of his imperfect self, which has formed his presumed ego -- by the extreme humility when he stands before God and bows and bends and prostrates himself before His Almighty Being, makes the highest point of his presumed being, the head, touch the earth where his feet are, he in time washes off the black stains of his false ego, and the light of perfection gradually manifests. He stands then first face-to-face with his God, the idealized Deity, and when the ego is absolutely crushed, then God remains within and without, in both planes, and none exists save He.

The Duties of the Faithful in Islam

There are four duties of the faithful as taught in Islam. The number four conveys mystically squareness and balance.

  1. The first is Salat, the prayers five times a day, the continual balance between work and rest, and rest especially in God, in Whom is the only rest of every soul. The life in the world is such that it absorbs every moment of man's time, and the innate yearning for peace that every soul has is never satisfied. Therefore the prayer five times a day is not too much, considering how far the life in the world removes a soul from God. In my mind, if it were a hundred times a day it would be too little.

  2. The second is Zakat, charity. However pious and godly a person may be, however much time of his life he devoted to piety, he cannot deserve the blessing of God unless he is charitable, for charity is the only test of selflessness. All love and friendship is proved by service and sacrifice, and to the extent one is able to do it, one is selfless. And, self being the only barrier that stands between man and God, charity is the only means to break down that barrier, that man may be face to face with God.

    Once someone asked the Prophet: "Who is the most blessed, the prayerful, the fasting, the pilgrim, or the charitable?" The Prophet answered: "The charitable; for he can pray, and he can build a mosque for others to pray; he can fast, and he can help those who fast by giving them rest and peace, by providing for the families that depend on them for maintenance; he can make pilgrimage, and he can send many on pilgrimage. Therefore all these four blessings are involved in one, the charitable."

  3. The third duty is Roza, fasting. Man is so dependent on food that even in his infancy, when he is an angel, a king in himself, he hungers after food. This shows that what man needs most in life is food. He will give his diamonds and gold and all his treasure when the time comes that there is lack of bread. Therefore abstaining from food is as abstaining from the dearest thing in life, and sacrificing all comfort, joy, rest, and happiness. As renunciation of lower things is the only means of attainment of higher objects, there can be no better means to attain spiritual life than fasting. Fasting crushes not only the appetite, but the root of all desire that binds the soul, which is the bird of Paradise, to earth's lower regions. Jesus Christ went to the mountain and fasted for forty days against the temptations of the Devil, whom, at the end of fasting, he conquered.

  4. The fourth duty of the faithful is Hajj, pilgrimage. Abraham, the father of the nations, and the fountain from which the streams such as Moses, Christ, and Muhammed came, had made a prayer, as it is said in the Qur'an, when leaving his son Ishmael in the barren desert of Arabia. His heart was broken, and there came out of it a prayer: "O Lord, bless this land, that it may become the attraction of the whole world."

    And so it happened in the course of time that the Word of God was born among the descendants of Ishmael, Muhammed, who glorified the name of the Lord of Abraham aloud, which was heard from the depths of the earth to the summit of heaven, and re-echoed from the north to the south pole; which shook the nations and stirred up races, and so pierced through the hearts of men that the desert, which bore no fruit, no treasure of any kind -- no beauty of scenery, no charm of climate -- became a center of attraction for numberless souls, who came from all parts of the world and assembled in that land of bliss, king and pauper standing shoulder to shoulder, both recognizing the equality of men in the Presence of God. The strong and weak, rich and poor, high and low, civilized and uncivilized, all come year by year on pilgrimage to Mecca in this land, clad in one piece of cloth, for all to look alike, and to show to God and humanity the equality of the human brotherhood. This is called Hajj in Islam.

The Four Grades of Knowledge in Islam

In Islam there is no caste, as the Message was meant to be for uniting humanity in one brotherhood, and yet it was found necessary to train the individuals according to their evolution in life. A training was given in four classes, namely, Shariat, Tarikat, Haqiqat, and Marifat.

Since the world of Islam became busy in national and social affairs, the Shariat was held fast by the religious authorities and Tarikat only with a few pious ones, who sought the door of a Sufi, wanting an initiation in the inner light which was contained in the two remaining classes, Haqiqat and Marifat.

The two immediate disciples of the Prophet, Ali and Sadik, were initiated by the Prophet, and were the great Masters of the inner teachings of the knowledge of God. Besides, the Sufis who existing during the time of the Prophet were benefited by the presence of the Prophet and the inspiration they gained in Sufism, to which one soon reaches through the path of Shariat, Tariqat, Haqiqat, and Marifat.

Shariat means the law that it is necessary for the collectivity to observe, to harmonize with one's surroundings and with one's self within. Although the religious authorities of Islam have limited it to restrictions, yet a thousand places in the Qur'an and Hadith one can trace where the law of Shariat is meant to be subject to change to suit the time and place. The law of Shariat, unlike any other religious law, deals with all aspects of life, and it is therefore that the Prophet of Islam had to experience personally all aspects of life. The Prophet as an orphan, as a warrior, as a politician, as a merchant, as a shepherd, as a king, as a husband, as a father, as brother, as son and grandson, had to play different parts in the world's various aspects of life before he was prepared to give this divine law.

Tariqat is the understanding of law besides following it, that we must understand the cause of all things that we must do and must not do, instead of obeying the law without understanding. Those who are not evolved are supposed to have faith and to submit to the law. It is for those whose intelligence does not accept things that cannot answer their reason.

Haqiqat is to know the truth of our being and the inner law of Nature. This knowledge widens the heart of a person. When he has realized the truth of being, he has realized the One Being; he is different from nobody, distant from no one: he is one with all. That is the grade where religion ends and Sufism begins.

Marifat is the actual realization of God, the One Being, when there is no doubt anywhere.

When these four classes are accomplished, then the full play of Sufism comes. Sufi means Safi, pure--not only pure from differences and distinctions, but even pure from all that is learnt and known. That is the state of Allah, the pure and perfect One.

The Idea of Halal and Haram in Islam

In Judaism there has existed an idea concerning eating and drinking and everything that is done, that certain things are allowed and certain things forbidden, and the same ideas were perhaps developed a little more in Islam. Those who have followed them have obeyed the law of religion, and those who have understood them have found the truth. Of edible things, flesh in particular, the flesh of certain beasts and birds and of certain creatures living in the water was forbidden. The only reason underlying this law was the protection of man against eating anything that he might like, which may perhaps hinder his spiritual evolution.

As all things that man eats and drinks have their cold and warm effect on man's body, and to a certain extent on man's mind, so, especially with animal food, it is natural that man should partake of the quality of the animal he eats. The pig was particularly pointed out, both by Judaism and Islam, as the forbidden animal. Besides many other reasons, the chief reason was that if one can observe, comparing the life of the pig with that of other animals, it will prove to be the most material, regardless of what it eats, blind in passion, and without the faculty of love and affection. The dog also, and the cat, and all carnivorous animals, were considered, from the hygienic point of view, Haram, unwholesome, and the people who have made use of their flesh as food have realized that its effect upon their bodies and minds is harmful.

Then there has been a law among Islamic and Judaic people that the animal that is used for food should be made Zebah, which means that it should be killed in a certain way. People believed in this as a religious faith, and did not understand the truth at the back of it, and refused to eat meat coming from people who did not follow their religion. The reason was that people should not eat dead animals or birds, considering their flesh to be as wholesome as that of freshly killed animals. And behind it there is a philosophy--that it is not only flesh that benefits man as a desirable food, but the life that still exists in the flesh is the secret of the vigor and freshness that flesh food gives man; when the life is gone out of it, to eat it is like eating dead flesh; it is flesh, and yet there is no life in it. That is why it was made a religious custom--so that if they did not understand its scientific and philosophical point, they might at least follow it because it is their religion.

Then intoxicating drinks were made Haram, especially during the time of the Prophet, who accepted milk, it is said in a tale, from an angel who had brought before him two bowls, one of wine, the other of milk. Milk is considered, even by Vedantists, as a Sattvic food, a food that gives rest, comfort, and wisdom, whereas wine is considered as a Rajasic food, which gives joy, pleasure, confusion, excitement, and happiness for the time. As its results have shown its weak part in all ages to all peoples, that explains why it was forbidden. But, besides that, the philosophical fact is that all things that are made of decayed substance, whether flesh or herb or fruit, have lost the life from them; and the idea is to touch the life in eating and in drinking and in everything that is done, until one is able to touch the Life Eternal, which alone is the innate yearning of the soul.

Namaz

Narnaz, prayer, is an inherent attribute in every soul. Whatever and whoever appears to man beautiful, superior, precious, wins him, and he surrenders himself, conscious of his imperfection and dependence upon the object or being that has conquered him. It is therefore that there have been so many objects, such as the sun, moon, planets, animals, birds, spirits, and men, that different individuals have worshiped -- whichever appealed to them, according to their evolution. But the inspired souls have from the first day of creation realized that all the objects and beings which bowed down the head of the admirer are in appearance many, but in existence One. Therefore the One is idealized as the Supreme Being, as the Sovereign of both worlds, as God. While all worshiped many, they only worshiped the One, and have taught, under whatever religion it may have been, the same truth, bowing to that One Who alone deserves all kinds of worship.

As there have been so many kinds of people in the world, so many customs and manners, so one bowed differently from the other. In one country people bent down; in the other country they folded the hands; in one country people knelt down; in the other they prostrated themselves. The Namaz, therefore, was a form adopted to reconcile all and combine all customs in one form of worship, that they may not fight on the forms of worship when they all worship One and the Same God.

For the rise of every object or affair, its highest point should touch the utmost depth. The soul, which has descended on earth from its existence in the heavens and which has presumed for the time that it is this material body, rises again to its pristine glory on laying the highest part of the presumed self upon the ground. The mechanism of the body is kept in order by the regular action of the breath through every part of the body and by the regular circulation of the blood in all parts of the body, which can be properly done by the highest part of the body, the head, being placed on the ground.

The world is constituted, in its living beings, of egos, one ego assuming several forms and becoming several egos. Among this variety of egos everyone claims perfection, for it is the nature of the real ego within. Upon examination, this ego proves to be imperfect, for it is the imperfect division of the perfect ego. It is not perfect, yet it claims perfection in its ignorance, and longs for perfection when wise. This perfection the imperfect ego can only attain by practicing in the way of worship and of life in the world, in which he may show such humility, meekness, and gentleness that this false presumption which has formed the imperfect ego may be crushed; then what remains will be the perfect ego. Narnaz is the first lesson for this attainment.

Idolatry

Idolatry seems to have been prevalent through all ages as a principal form of religion, though the names of the gods have differed among different people. The idea of gods and goddesses came from the two sides of man's nature -- one idealism and the other veneration. Man, however primitive in his evolution, had, it seems, a desire to look up to some object or some being, as higher and better than himself. Sometimes he created an ideal from his own nature, and sometimes he was helped to such an ideal by another. There is no race in the world that can say, "We never had idolatry among our race" -- although many there are who would today look at it with contempt.

Man has known God more from goodness than from greatness, for no man admires power. Man surrenders to power -- that is all that is due to it -- but man admires goodness. Therefore there are two things that have brought about the ideal of worship: praise of goodness and surrender to a greater power. Support, protection, providence, mercy, compassion, forgiveness were counted as goodness. The creation and destruction of everything and all things were accounted as power. Combining these two, goodness and greatness, man completed the idea of God, and, since God is one, he could not make Him two; though as many men as there are, so many gods there are, since each person's ideal is peculiar to himself.

Man, who could not complete the ideal without forming an idea of personality, could only be satisfied by some certain form, which he would naturally prefer to make rather like his own, or at least he would make a combination of different likenesses, or any likeness that his mind could grasp. As one man has differed from others in his ideas and thoughts, so each differed from his fellow men in his choice of the ideal idol. Therefore, if one called a particular idol "my god," and his friends and followers and relations also accepted that god, then the one who was opposed to that person said, "My god is different from yours," and he made another god. If any disadvantage came from idol worship, it was only this: that instead of bowing to one God, and uniting with his fellow creatures in the worship of one God, men have taken different and separate routes in the name of different idol-gods, and many idolators turned their backs on one another.

Idol worship has been taught to mankind that man might learn to idealize God even if he were not developed enough to understand the ideal of God in its true sense. This was a training, as a little girl receives her first training in domestic life by playing with dolls. Man can only idealize God as man, for, in the first place, every being sees in another himself. A rogue would be afraid of the roguery of another, and a kind person would be expecting kindness from his fellow man. Man has always thought of ghosts, spirits, jinns, fairies, and angels as being in human form! Although sometimes, to make them different, he has added to them wings or horns or a tail, yet he has kept them as close to the human form as possible. And so it is no wonder that his highest ideal he has pictured in the form of man, and has called it the reverse; instead of saying, "I have created God in my own image," he says, "We have created man in Our own likeness." Even such ideals as the idea of liberty are pictured by the man of today in the form of a woman or man, the sign of which exists in the port of New York and on the postage stamps of France.

Man has in all ages been dramatic. He is an actor by nature, and it is his great pleasure to make his life a drama and play a part in it himself. It is this spirit also that is hidden under the church and nation, and it is this spirit which wears a crown and accepts the patched robes of a dervish. And when this same natural attitude plays its part in religious or spiritual life, its first tendency is to place before itself a Lord, a King, a Master, before whom to bow; and it is this that has given man a tendency to idealize God in a human form or to idealize a human name and form as God.

Though there exists, and there has existed, and there will exist, diversity of religions, faiths, and beliefs, yet human nature will remain always the same everywhere, in all parts of the world and in all ages; and the knower of this nature will understand the religion of all, and all he will consider as belonging to his religion, the only Religion of Wisdom.

Man is accustomed to believe in the reality of things that he can touch and perceive, and any ideal, that is beyond his touch and perception, he believes in and yet cannot be certain of its existence. Not only that, but the absence of that ideal prevents his expression of worship. He doubts and wonders to whom he is praying, whether there exists such a being as God; and, if there exists such a being as God, what He looks like. And, as every person is not capable of a beautiful imagination that could please him, so everyone is not capable of picturing in his mind the ideal of his worship. Therefore it is musicians who have composed music, though everybody can sing or hum a little to amuse himself; and it is the painter who paints a picture, though everybody can draw a little to amuse himself; and so it is the imaginative--those whose imagination reached above the height of the ordinary imagination--who gave a picture of their imagination to the world in the form of a myth which was reproduced by art and made into an idol. This was the only way that in ancient times it seemed best to adopt for the upliftment of humanity.

The Hindus were the first in the world to form the conception of three aspects of the Divinity, which they called Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva -- the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Destroyer. How true it is that these three powers in life seem to keep the balance of the whole universe, and those three aspects work in everything in the world!

  • The picture of Brahma was made with four arms, which signifies that, besides the physical arms, there are mental arms, which are necessary in the scheme of creation.
  • And Vishnu is pictured seated on a cobra. This indicates the power of destruction that is waiting like a cobra to devour every activity; to take away fame from the famous, wealth from the rich, and power from the powerful. He who can rest upon this power is the sustainer of all activities and interests in life.
  • The picture of Shiva is that of an ascetic, from whose head spring rivers, whose neck is a cobra, ashes on his body, a bull his vehicle. In this picture the cobra signifies destruction accepted -- all that men fear is wrapped round one's neck; ashes are significant of annihilation -- everything that has gone through a perfect destruction turns into ashes; rivers from the head show a constant spring of inspiration, as the inspiration of the mystic is limitless; the bull signifies one with simple faith, who, without reasoning, accepts the truth, which by intellect one can readily accept.

There are three goddesses who show the other aspect of these natures:

  • Saraswati, the goddess of Brahma, who rides on a peacock, with four hands, two holding a vina, in one hand a rosary, in the other a book; which means that music is creative, learning is creative, contemplation is creative, and in art is the beauty which the peacock represents.
  • The goddess of Vishnu is Lakshmi, who is standing on a lotus, with a crown of gold, with four hands, in one hand a chakra, an ancient weapon, in another kawel, a lily, which represents that wealth has all the beauty of life at her feet, and delicacy and tenderness in her hands. The weapon represents the power that is needed to hold wealth: two arms, one to collect, the other to give; the crown of gold signifies that the honor of the wealthy is his wealth.
  • The third goddess is Parvati, the consort of Shiva.

These are lessons given to humanity to study the different aspects of life with the thought of sacredness.

The Universe, to the eyes of the wise in all ages, has become one single Immanence of the Divine Being; and that which cannot be compared, or which has no comparison, was difficult to explain in the human tongue. Therefore, the idea of the wise in all ages has been to allow mankind to worship God in whatever aspect they may be capable of picturing Him. One can trace back in histories and traditions that trees were worshiped; animals and birds; rivers and seas; planets, the sun and moon, were worshiped; heroes were worshiped, of all kinds; there has been worship of ancestors, of spirits, both good and evil; and the Lord of Heaven was worshiped by some as the Creator; by some as the Sustainer; by some as the Destroyer; by some as the King of all. And the wise have tolerated all aspects of worship, seeing that they all worship the same God in different forms and names, and yet do not know that another person's god is the same God Whom each has worshiped.

Therefore the religion of the Hindus was to see these many gods in one God, and to recognize that one God in all His myriad forms.

There came a time when God was raised from idol to ideal, and it was an improvement, no doubt. And yet even in the ideal He is still an idol, and unless the question of life and its perfection were solved by the ideal of God, by one's love and worship of Him, one has not arrived at the object for which religion stands.

The need of the God-Ideal is like the need of a ship to sail through the Ocean of Eternity; and as there is danger of sinking in the sea without a ship, so there is danger of falling a prey to mortality for the man without the God-Ideal. The difficulty of the believer has always been no less than the difficulty of the unbeliever. For a simple believer, as a rule, knows God from the picture that his priest has given him--God the Good, or Cherisher, or Merciful; and when the believer in the Just God sees injustice in life, and the believer in the Kind God sees cruelty around him, and when the believer in the Cherisher God has to face starvation, then comes the time when the cord of his belief breaks. How many in this late war have begun to doubt and question the existence of God, and some became quite unbelievers.

Idolatry, in a way, has been a lesson to practice one's faith and belief patiently before heedless gods of stone, and to prostrate oneself and bow before the idol god whom man's own hands have made. No answer from him in man's distress, no stretching out the hand in man's poverty, no caress or embrace of sympathy comes from that heedless god; and yet faith and belief is retained under all circumstances, and it is such belief, which is rounded on the foundation of rocks, that stands in the rains and storms unshaken and unbroken. And, after all, which is the abode of God? It is man's belief. And upon what is He seated? His throne is man's faith. So idolatry was the primary stage of strengthening faith and belief in God, the ideal which alone is the source of the realization of Truth.

An Advanced Form of Idolatry

When the world evolved to such a stage that a believer in God was able to see even in the idol his God, and communicate with Him by the power of his faith, then came the next lesson for the faithful, which one sees in the series of Prophets coming one after the other to Beni Israel. From Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Christ, the lesson came which culminated in the Message of Muhammed. The idea was to learn the next lesson--of turning the idol into an ideal rising from the worship of form to the abstract: By prayer, by praising the Lord, by glorifying His name, by contemplating upon His attributes, by admiring His righteousness, and by realizing His goodness, man created his God in his heart. Idolatry was meant for this, but it was the first lesson; the second was to free one's mind from the form; since there are numerous forms, and when God is recognized in one form, then all other forms are left out, being recognized as His forms also.

Man has in his nature a weakness, and that is that when anything is given to him for his good, and when he likes it, he becomes attached to it until he gets its bad results; and, once he is attached, he never wishes to leave it. If a physician gives a drug to his patient and the patient likes it, he indulges in it, and wishes to continue it, until, instead of a medicine for his cure, it turns into a vice for his destruction. So idolatry became a vice, until the Messengers had to fight it and break it with the hammer. But in cases where it has remained as a first lesson, it has made a great improvement, and has made people much more capable of receiving the second lesson of the God-Ideal, which for many has been difficult to learn.

The Higher Form of Idolatry

No doubt it is true that God cannot be worshiped without idolatry in some form or other, although many people would think it absurd. God is what man makes Him, though His True Being is beyond the capacity of man's making, or even perceiving. Therefore the real belief in God is unintelligible; only that part of God is intelligible which man makes. Man makes it in the form of man, or in the attributes which seem to him good in man; and that is the only way of modeling God, if man ever does so. To make a statue of stone in some form and to worship it as God is the primitive stage of worship; but to picture God in a human form, in the form of some Hero, Prophet, or Savior, is an advanced kind of worship. But when man Worships God for His goodness--in other words, impressed by the sublimity of His nature--when man holds the vision of Divine "Beauty, recognizing the beauty in merit, power, or virtue; and when he sees this in its perfection, and he calls it God, Whom he worships, then it is a higher kind of worship. This stage of God-realization is a step forward from the realization of the Deity in a limited human form.

This influence was brought in the Hindu religion mostly during the time of Shankara Charya, who did not interfere with the others who were in the primitive stage and worshiped idols, but tried throughout his life, in a very intelligent and gentle way, to make the Truth known wisely in his land, which was spread slowly; yet its influence has been helpful. In the Semitic races this higher form of worship is known to have been introduced by Abraham, and it is this idea which was called Islam, which sometimes disappeared and sometimes appeared during the time of different prophets mentioned in the Bible, and became materialized more during the time of Muhammed, when a nation formed and was made the custodian of a religion, the main spirit of which was this idea; and it was called by the same name as its origin, Islam. There cannot be a greater proof of this fact than the name of the holy city, Dar-as-Salaam (which is known in the West, in a corrupt form, Jerusalem ), Gate of Salaam, or Islam, Peace. This name existed very long before the coming of Muhammed. Therefore the word Islam has its origin in this ideal, although afterwards it became the name of a nation that held this ideal.

The Sufi's Conception of God

The idea of God is a means for the Sufi to rise from imperfection to Perfection, which is suggested in the Bible: "Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is Perfect." There is a vast gulf between the state of imperfection and the state of Perfection, and God is the boat in which one sails from the port of imperfection to Perfection.

To a Sufi, God and man are not two; the Sufi does not consider God separate from himself. The Sufi's God is not in Heaven alone; He is everywhere. He sees God in the unseen and in the seen; he recognizes God both within and without. Therefore there is no name which is not the Name of God, and there is no form which is not the form of God, to the eyes of the Sufi. As Jelal-ud-Din Rumi says: "The Beloved is all in all; the lover only veils Him; the Beloved is all that lives; the lover a dead thing." In other words, he means that this dual aspect of love which is expressed as lover and beloved, is in fact one, and that one will die and one alone will live. The one that will die is the imperfect self which covers Perfection; the One that will live is the Perfect Self.

The Sufi recognizes both these aspects in himself, the imperfect and mortal aspect of his being and the Perfect, the Immortal, Aspect of his Being. The former his outer self represents; the latter is his innermost self. Since the imperfect self covers his soul and confines it in a limited being, he recognizes at the same time the greatness of the Perfect Being, and calls himself "I," a servant of God, and God the Lord of the whole existence. In the Sufi schools in the East this idea is expressed in a Qur'anic allegory which moves those who enjoy its poetic delicacy. In the Qur'an it is related that, when the first man was made, he was asked: "Say, who is thy Master?" and he answered, "Thou art my Lord."

Philosophically, this idea is the picture of human life. Man begins his life on earth by accepting somebody's command, fearing lest he cause him any displeasure, looking upon someone as his support, protector, or guide, be it in the form of father or mother, a relation, friend, master, or king, which shows that man begins his life in the world with his imperfection, at the same time recognizing, surrendering, and bowing to perfection in whatever form. When man understands this better, then he knows that all sources that demanded his surrender, or recognition, were limited and powerless in comparison to that perfect ideal which we call God. Therefore, it is the same attribute that the ordinary man has toward another who is greater than he in strength, power, or position, that the Sufi learns to show toward his God, the ideal of Perfection, because in God he includes all forms in which he recognizes beauty, power, greatness, and perfection. Therefore the worship of the Sufi is not alone worship of the Deity; by worship he means to draw closer to perfection; by worship he tries to forget his imperfect self in the contemplation of the Perfect One.

It is not necessary that the Sufi should offer his prayers to God for help in worldly things, or by thanking Him for what he receives, although this attitude develops in man a virtue that is necessary in life. By the thought of God, the whole idea of the Sufi is to cover his imperfect self even from his own eyes, and that moment when God is before him, and not his own self, is the moment of perfect bliss to him. My Murshid, Abu Hashim Madani, once said that there is only one virtue and one sin for a soul on this path: virtue when he is conscious of God and sin when he is not. No explanation can be sufficient to describe the truth of this except the experience of the contemplative, to whom, when he is conscious of God, it is as if a window is open which is facing Heaven, and, when conscious of the self, the experience is the opposite. For all the tragedy of life is caused by consciousness of self. Every pain and depression is caused by this, and anything that can take away the thought of the self helps to a certain extent to relieve man from pain; but God-consciousness gives a perfect relief.

Forms of Islamic Worship