The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

Vol. 3, Life's Creative Forces: Rasa Shastra

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

Vol. 5, Metaphysics, The Experience of the Soul Through the Different Planes of Existence

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

Vol. 10, Art: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

Vol. 12, Confessions: Autobiographical Essays of Hazat Inayat Khan

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

By Date



Unity and Uniformity


The Sufi's Religion

The Aspects of Religion

How to Attain to Truth by Religion

Five Desires Answered by Religion


Aspects of the Law of Religion


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


The Spirit of Sufism

The Sufi's Aim in Life

The Ideal of the Sufi

The Sufi Movement

The Universal Worship



What is the Message?

The way the Message is given

The Messenger

The instrument of the Message

The answer to the cry

The Sufi Message

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

The Message and the Messenger

What is the Message?

What is the Message? Where does it come from? How is it received by the souls who deliver it? These questions often arise in enquiring minds. And the answer is that the message is like rain, and rain fails where it is needed and when it is needed. But does the rain come from above? It seems to come from above, but it first rises from below. As the vapors rise first from the sea and turn into clouds, so every aspect of knowledge gained by all beings rises upwards like vapor, forming into clouds as ideas, and again falling from above like rain.

There are very many names for the seas, rivers, and streams, but they all contain water. And there are various names for religions, but they all contain the wisdom given at different times in different ways. There is lightning, there is thunder, and the rain falls; and there are wars and disasters before the message comes. Storms are very often warnings of what is to follow, and the different kinds of battles and revolutions are often warnings before the coming of peace.

It is sometimes asked why, if God is all-pervading, there is need of the special manifestation of a messenger such as Krishna, Buddha, or Jesus. The answer is given in the words of the Bhagavad Gita, where Sri Krishna says, "When Dharma is hindered, then I am born." This means that a manifestation which the people recognize as a savior or messenger, always comes when the necessity arises. In other words, it is necessity, it is the need of the world which causes the Spirit to arise in its true form.

Skepticism is the germ that causes decay at the heart of the tree of life. But always when one tree dies, another tree springs up; we see in our own lives, and especially at times when we are sunk in depression and sorrow, that some answer comes to the difficulty of the situation. It may come from a friend, from a brother, from parents, from a beloved; one may even get what is necessary at such a moment from one's enemy.

But why should a message only come in time of pain or after a great sorrow? Why should not a message come every day for one's guidance? There are two reasons for this: one is that there is constant guidance from above, but man, so absorbed in his life's activities, does not open his heart to listen to that message and to see where it comes from. And the other reason is that the deeper the sorrow, the higher the voice of the heart rises, until it reaches the throne of God; and that is the time when the answer comes.

In all ages and to all peoples the message of God has been sent. And that message has been kept by those who received it in the form of a scripture, and the name of the messenger and his honor have been held high by those who have followed that particular message. No matter at what time in the history of the world the message came, one thing is sure: that it has always penetrated the heart of man and left its impression and its influence, ever multiplying and spreading, proving it to be the message of God. And there is no better instance of this truth than the coming of Jesus Christ, and the fact that he gave his message to so few, mostly to fishermen. Even though the conditions in which the Master had to deliver his message were difficult, yet the message was God's, and it did not fail to make a lasting impression on the souls of men.

Since it is the message of God, whenever it comes it is from the same source. When it came a thousand years ago it was His message; when it came a hundred years ago it was His message; and if it came today it would be also His message. How ignorant man has been through all the ages! And he shows his ignorance even today, for whenever the message has come, man has fought and disputed and argued. Man has held fast to one prophet and ignored the others, because although he knew his religion he did not know the message. He has taken the book as his religion without recognizing the message.

If that were not the general tendency, then how could Jesus Christ with His most spiritual message have been crucified? There had been prophecies, and besides prophecies the Master himself was the evidence of his message, as the saying has it:'What you are, speaks louder than what you say." And how thickly veiled man's eyes must be by the religion, the faith, the belief he holds, for him to accept only one messenger and to reject the message given by other prophets, not knowing that the message is one and the same!

It is one thing to love and another thing to understand. The one who loves the messenger is a devotee; but the one who knows the messenger is his friend. There is a tendency in the human race which has appeared in all ages: it leads man to accept every expression of the message which has been given him, to be won by it, blessed by it, and yet to fail to recognize who the messenger is. The followers of each form of the message profess devotion to their Lord and Master, by whatever name he had in the past, but they do not necessarily know the Master. What they know is the name and the life of the Master that has come down to them in history or tradition; but beyond that they know very little about him. If the same one came in another form, in a garb adapted to another age, would they know him or accept him? No, they would not even recognize him, because it was not the message but the form that they accepted in the past; a certain name or character; a part but not the whole.

There is a story about a great Sufi in India, whose name was Usman Haruni. He was a murshid to whom came thousands of disciples, among them many of the most learned and philosophical people of the time. He taught them the deepest truths of mysticism, and most of all to worship the nameless and formless God. But there came a time when he said to them, "So far I have worshipped according to tradition, but now I feel that I must go and prostrate myself before the image of the goddess Kali in all humility." His pupils were aghast. That he, whose conception of God had been so lofty, should go and bow before the hideous image of Kali, to worship whom was to break the law of their religion, was beyond anything they could conceive, and caused them to fear that their master had lost his reason. Some even thought that he was treading the downward path.

So when the teacher went to the temple of Kali, only one of his pupils went with him, a youth whose devotion to his master was very great. As they went, the teacher said to this disciple, "You should go back. They are many, and are surely in the right; I am perhaps in the wrong." But the young man still followed. When the temple was reached, the teacher was so greatly moved by the thoughts that the image of the goddess suggested to him that he prostrated himself in humility. And the disciple, standing by, looked on with sympathy at the thought of how many followers his master had had, and of how in one moment all had turned from him. When the teacher arose he said, "Do you still follow me?" And when the disciple said that he did, the holy man asked him further, "But perhaps you do not understand why you follow me?" Then the youth said, "You have taught me the first lesson of the spiritual path: that none exists save God. How then can I exclude this image of Kali, if you choose to bow and prostrate yourself before it?'

The way the Message is given

The ways in which the message is given are different because the mentality of mankind differs at each period. Every prophet had to speak in the manner of the time in which he lived, and according to the evolution of that time. Also, the custom of each country differs from that of other countries; the manners and life differ. If the messenger is born in one country and has to give his message in another country, surely he has to consider the way in which the people there look at life, and to give his message accordingly. But the message is always from God. This is the reason why the external study of Buddhism will make one feel that Hinduism is different from Buddhism, and the external study of Christianity and Islam will make one feel that Christianity is different from Islam; but if one saw that underlying thread that connects all religions, one would see that all religion is one, as truth is one, as life is one, as God is one.

Truth is the soul of religion. When Jesus came to earth he did not say, "I have brought you a new religion never heard of by you or your ancestors." He said he had not come to give a new law but to fulfil the law; in other words, "I have come to continue giving you that which you have received before and have not understood.'

There are scriptures that mankind regards as religious scriptures, but imagine how little of that message a book can contain, and how much more must have been given that was never written in a book! If books were sufficient, then the book of Abraham or the earlier books that were kept as scriptures could be sufficient, but it was not the book. The messenger, whenever he came, came to give the life, the living spirit, the divine light that can shine like the sun during the day, so that no soul with the slightest spark of sincerity could ever doubt the truth and unity of the message.

With all the opposition to the Master, at the time when the Jews demanded his crucifixion, did those who were present sincerely think the Master was guilty? No, each one of them was more or less impressed by the truth of the message, yet torn by convention and custom, bound by laws, held fast by the religious authority that was in power. They could not express their sincere feelings, and so law governed instead of love. And this state of things has existed in all ages. Blinded by conventions and by the laws of his time and the customs of his people, man has ignored and opposed the truth. Yet at the same time the truth has never failed to make its impression upon the soul, because the soul of all is one soul, and truth is one truth under whatever religion it is hidden.

In reality there cannot be many religions; there is only one. There cannot be two truths; there cannot be two masters. As there is only one God and one religion, there is one master and there is one truth. And the weakness of man has been that only what he is accustomed to consider as truth he takes to be truth, and anything he has not been accustomed to hear or think frightens him. Just like a person in a strange land, away from home, the soul is a stranger to the nature of things it is not accustomed to. But the journey to perfection means rising above limitations, rising so high that not only the horizon of one country, of one continent, is seen, but that of the whole world. The higher we rise, the wider becomes the horizon of our view.

Many intellectual people, with their various ideas, differ from one another in their opinions and in their way of looking at things, in their speculations, but do the prophets differ from one another? No, they cannot differ. The reason is that it is the various minds which differ, not the souls. The one who lives in his mind, is conscious of his mind; the one who lives in his soul is conscious of the soul.

The Messenger

Spiritual means spirit-conscious. There is a line of a song, "The night has a thousand eyes, the day but one." When a person is living in his mind, he is living through the darkness of the night. The moment he rises above his mind and awakens in the light of the soul he becomes spiritual. And if a thousand spiritual people speak, they will say the same thing, perhaps in different words but with only one meaning, for they have one and the same vision. This is why spiritual realization is called the truth. There are many facts but only one truth. The facts can be put into words but not the truth, for God is truth, the soul is truth, the real self of man is truth. Since truth is unlimited and incomparable, it alone knows, enjoys, and realizes its own existence.

The key to the secret of the messenger is given in the Bible, but very few will ponder upon it and reason it out for themselves. The key is in the words, "I am Alpha and Omega", "I am the first and the last." Can that mean, "I came only for a time, and then I was called Jesus, and only then did I give a message; I spoke neither before nor after that time'? Alpha and Omega means First and Last; always, continually present; never absent from the beginning of creation to the end.

A question arises in the enquiring mind: who may this Alpha and Omega be? What was he before Jesus Christ? What would he be after the time of Jesus Christ? For those who put the water of the ocean in a pitcher, that water is from the ocean; but really only the ocean is the ocean. When those of various creeds, who have different dogmas and forms of worship, say that only this or that is the teaching of Christ, it may be partly true; but it is not all the teaching of Christ. It is as true as saying, "This is the ocean", if one brought some water from the ocean in a pitcher.

This shows that there was a personality called Jesus Christ who brought the message; it was the personality that was Jesus. This is the secret of that Alpha and Omega spirit of Christ. If one could only see that spirit hidden behind different personalities one would be constantly in the vision of Christ.

As many souls as there are in the world, so many are their fancies and their phantasies. Many look favorably at a certain teacher, but as many do not. And there has never been one teacher in the world whom everyone regarded with favor. Praise cannot exist without blame, for nothing has existence without its opposite, just as pleasure cannot exist without pain. No one can be great and not small; no one can be loved and not hated. There is no one who is hated by all and not loved by someone; there is always someone to love him.

If one would realize that the world of God, His splendor and magnificence, are to be seen in the wise and the foolish, in the good and the bad, then one would think tolerantly and reverently of all mankind, knowing that it represents the messenger, as the messenger represents God. For no one has seen God at any time, but if there is anyone who represents God, it is the man who speaks His word. God is seen in the one who glorifies Him.

But if our hearts are closed, even if we wait for a thousand years for the messenger to show himself, we shall never find him. For he who is always there has said, "I am Alpha and Omega. I exist every moment. When you call me, I am there. Knock at the door, and I will answer you." And those whose eyes are open do not need to go to a church and look at a picture or statue of the Lord. In the eyes of every infant, in the smile of every innocent child, they receive the blessing of Christ.

It only means changing one's outlook on life, and recognizing the divine in man. But man has ignored the divine spirit that manifests in humanity, and always prefers an idol, a painting, a picture, to the living God, who is constantly before him. For the sage, the seer, the saint, and the yogi who begin to see the master, and see him living, there is no place where he cannot be seen. Then everywhere the beloved master is ready to answer the cry of the soul coming from friend, father or teacher. And if we go a little further forward, we will find that the teacher speaks aloud, not only through living beings, but through nature. If the eyes and ears are open, the leaves of the trees become as pages of the Bible. If the heart is alive, the whole life becomes one single vision of His sublime beauty, speaking to us at every moment.

There is also the metaphysical side of this, for it is metaphysics which makes things distinct and intelligible to those whose reason asks questions; man and the study of man is the study of the whole universe.

As Ali says, "Know thyself, if thou wouldst know God."

The secret of this is the knowledge that when man comes to earth, he is both soul and body, or as others would say, spirit and body, and that the action and reaction of soul and body produce what we call mind. And in the same way it is the action and reaction of God and His creation which have produced the Spirit of Guidance, and it is that spirit which is the soul of Christ. One may understand this better by an example: in the case of an individual, the affairs of his everyday life bring him to a realization and understanding of what his actions have brought about, and it is this understanding of life which becomes his Spirit of Guidance which is called Buddha in Vedantic terms. Again, the Prime Minister of a country stands between his country and the world; his experience guides him to direct the affairs of the nation.

The medium between soul and body is called spirit. In the collective spirit it is that spirit of the messenger; and that is why the divine message brings an answer to every soul. It is not necessarily a law for the multitude or a religion for the world, but it brings an answer to every existing soul; and before the soul has expressed its cry it has reached the heart of the messenger.

Can anyone claim the message falsely? How could anyone ever dare to do such a thing! If it is already so difficult for the true messenger of God to stand steadfast in all the winds of destruction, how could falsehood ever withstand such a wind? Only the true messenger can stand firm whenever the message is given to the world. Truth alone is victorious.

There is great expectation all over the world just now that the teacher is coming again. And the expectation seems to be as if the teacher will come direct from the sky, and as if the whole world will accept and expect him, that the lawyers, scientists, materialists, and teachers of the different sects will fall on their knees before him when he comes. But if we only think of the coming of Jesus Christ in that humble garb, and how no one accepted him during his life! In his unassuming life, preaching to simple men, was he accepted as Christ, or is he not Christ today? If we look at the lives of different prophets and teachers, were they ever accepted at once? Mohammed was three times chased out of Mecca, his own city, and had to flee in the night; and during the long life struggle of Moses, in the end he could only work because of the permission of Pharaoh. Krishna passed his whole life unknown, until, in the war described in the Mahabharata, Arjuna asked for his blessing and fought; it was only then that the moment of his message came.

In order to recognize a world-message, people in all ages have pointed out and predicted a messenger coming from this or that corner of the world. But can man ever authorize a messenger of God? Has he the power to authorize a man, and say: this will be the Messenger of God, or: this is the Messenger of God? God alone can send His messenger. Things are happening now such as have never happened before; people talking so freely about the messenger and the message. They discuss the most sacred things, things that if one really knew them would keep one's lips sealed. There could not be a worse degeneration of religion than this. Has the messenger ever been advertised? Can any man come forward in the world and make a claim of this kind, and also be true? No, the message is like a spring of water: it rises and fails and makes its way by itself, so that no one can make an imitation of it. If the message is true, it will always make its way to the end of the world. It is always so with the message of God.

But those who wait, may wait. It is their destiny to wait, and one cannot help them. They waited while Jesus Christ came and went, and they still wait and will wait for ever. And yet he has always come; to the individual, to the multitude, to the nation, to the race." He came, and spoke to the whole world; but did he come with drums and trumpets? No, he came in the humblest guise, in the most unassuming manner; as our brother, our servant, our friend, our equal. Man, because of his devotion, has called him Lord; but he said, "Call me not good. I am like unto you." It is not his absence that keeps man in ignorance; it is man's own closed eyes. The Master has always been present, but man knew him not.

The instrument of the Message

As to the instrument of the message, in reality the whole universe is an instrument, and every object and every being in it is an instrument. Through whichever instrument He chooses, God gives His message.

There is a saying of Jelal-ud-Din Rumi, "Fire, water, air, and earth are God's servants, and whenever He wishes them to work for Him, they are ready to obey his command."

If the elements are the obedient servants of God, cannot man be a greater and better instrument?

In point of fact God Himself is the messenger. In the aspect of God He is God, but, in the form of the messenger, He is the messenger. The tide of the sea surges, and when the sea has that motion it is called tide, but in reality the tide is the sea itself.

It is not solid wood that can become a flute, but the empty reed. It is the perfection of that passiveness in the heart of the messenger which gives scope for the message from above; for the messenger is the reed, the instrument. The difference between his life and the life of the average man is that the latter is full of self. It is the blessed soul whose heart is empty of self, who is filled with the light of God.

The messenger has five aspects to his being: the divine, the ideal, the prophet, the message-bearer, and the teacher. Four of these aspects have already been mentioned, so there remains only the last, which is the aspect of the teacher.

The claim of Risalat in man's lifetime is a great burden, heavier than earth and larger than heaven. It is the fulfillment of the message which must identify his name with the Spirit of Guidance. Man, however great, should never claim perfection, for the limitation of his external being limits him in the eyes of men. The claimant of Christhood, living on earth, must be searched by numberless searchlights constantly falling upon him. Most men can only see the limitations of his human life, and can never probe the heights of his divinity; comparatively few can do this.

The claim of Christhood seemed to the people too great for Jesus; that is why he was crucified by the intolerant world. Christ was not crucified because the people of his time were unevolved, but because it is always difficult to live among people above whose standard of goodness one has risen. If Christ appeared today with the claim of Christhood, even today he would be crucified. Christ cannot be without the cross, nor can the cross be without Christ. Christ and cross both stand together.

What is asked of a messenger is to be as free as a silken thread, that he may tune his lute as high as he chooses; and yet to be as strong as the gut string, so that he may endure the wear and tear of life in the world. To be so tender as to respond to every call for sympathy, and to be so firm as to bear all things. To be in the world and yet not of the world. To live and not to live, for the Lord God alone lives.

What does the prophet bring? Does he bring new doctrines, new teachings, and new laws? He does, and yet he does not; for there is nothing new under the sun, and it is ever the same law which he comes to fulfil. When the need is there, the prophet cries aloud that which has always been whispered gently by the lips of the wise of all ages. Beyond and above the words, he brings the light which clears things, making them simple and as if they had always been known to the soul on earth; he brings life, revivifying the hearts and souls which otherwise are like dry bones in the grave of the human body. Yes, the prophet brings a religion, but that is not all: what he really brings to earth is the living God, who is otherwise hidden in the heavens.

And who is the Master? He is seen by all, and yet not really seen. He is known to many, and yet recognized by few. He speaks to all; yet his silence quickens every soul. Most attached is he, and yet detached; most interested, and yet indifferent. Sad of disposition, and yet most joyful; poor as man can be, and yet so rich. King in his soul, he yet walks with the bowl of the beggar in his hand from door to door. Warning of danger and consoling the broken-hearted; comrade of the youthful and friend of the aged. Master of life within and without, yet the servant of all. Such is the being of the Master. He is man in the sight of man, but God in the Being of God.

The answer to the cry

The message is the answer to the cry of individual and collective souls. The voice of God is speaking all the time, but no one listens; therefore God has manifested as man, that He might speak with a yet louder voice. But even then man does not listen. In the time of Christ the inspiration was there, the voice was there and the divine power; but how few were those who listened and understood! It has always been so, and it always will be so. It is no wonder that Jesus had so few disciples, and even among them perhaps not one who had a true understanding of the Master. At the hour when Mohammed was passing away, when hundreds of his disciples were there, he pointed out one and said, "I am wisdom and Ali is the door." Great perplexity has arisen as to why this was so when the Master had the power to make everyone understand. But it was not meant to be so. Each has his own puzzle to solve. How uninteresting the world would be if all men were perfect; it would be like a piano in which all the notes were the same.

Whenever the spirit of God has come forth in its true form, the world has been against it. Why has this been so? It is because man has two sides to his nature, one false and the other real; and before the true messenger can penetrate to the reality of a man's being, he first touches the false or unreal part, and that revolts. And in the case of a man who does not revolt, even though the light reaches him his heart is covered, and it only touches the cover. Such a man is attracted, yet he doubts.

There are egos who are not willing and ready to accept all that attracts them. The more something attracts them, the more they rebel against it, suspecting it of being a temptation. Even if they see the reality of something that attracts them they consider the tendency of being attracted to be a weakness. There are egos who refuse to accept what their friend has accepted, and refuse to admire fully what that friend has admired.

And even if they really wish to accept something that their friend has accepted, they will refuse to do so. For the tendency of that ego is to swim against the tide; it is the strength of that ego. Against this strength Christ has said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." It is mostly this same strength of mentality which has stood out against the messengers, building a fortified wall between the messenger and the souls who long for guidance. There are, however, those who are like lighted candles: they can light other candles and they can inspire others. But the other candles must be of wax; if they are of steel they cannot be lighted. The heart must be like wax; it must melt; if it is like steel, it cannot be illumined.

It is easier for the idealistic devotee to enhance his ideal when the ideal is not present; its presence often hinders the devotee in strengthening his ideal. For the ideal which grows and expands in the imagination of the devotee will always excel the ideal personality who is living the life of limitations on earth.

The souls who believe in a messenger because of his miraculous powers, or because they see the belief of his adherents, are followers; but the souls to whom the presence of the messenger is the evidence, to whom his words are a proof, and to whom their own belief is a conviction, are the foundation of the world's new temple.

His disciples are to the teacher as all the objects of heaven and earth are to the sun. Some are responsive to the light of the sun, and become hot or cold. Some grow and thrive, and bring out their color and fragrance. Some close their eyes or become blind in the light of the sun. Some begin their life's activities as the sun rises; and some await the rising of the sun during the dark, depressing night in pain and suffering. Some look forward to the clearing of the clouds and the smiles of the sun. But the stars and planets in heaven are still more responsive and more closely connected with the special current of the sun; and so are the disciples who are close to the spirit of the teacher. They are his special apostles; they give out the light of the sun that is reflected in their heart.

There are three stages of action which the sincere followers of the message have to pass through, and the difficulty is that each stage has a tendency to hinder them from going on to the next stage. And the reason is that there is no end of interest and happiness at every stage that they have to go through in their lives. Another reason is that one stage is quite different from another, and therefore each stage has a kind of contrary action to the previous one. These three stages may be called receiving the message, assimilating the message, and representing the message.

  1. For a sincere mureed the first stage can be so interesting that he may think he can never have enough of it, the receiving of that endless knowledge; and the heart of the seeker after truth which is never full may receive it for ages and yet it is never enough. When the receiver of the message is at that stage, then the activity of the further stages remains unaccomplished.

  2. The next stage, which is the stage of assimilation, is most necessary, and very few can imagine how long it takes for the spirit to assimilate knowledge of truth. One assimilates it by the power of contemplation. It is by pondering over the subjects that one has heard, by practicing the teachings in one's life, by looking at the world from the point of view which one has been taught, by observing one thing in its thousand different aspects, that one assimilates.

    Many people before assimilating the knowledge wish to reason about it, wish to discuss it, wish to justify it and see how it fits in with their own preconceived ideas. In this way they disturb the digestive fire of the spirit, for just as the mechanism of the body is always working to help to assimilate food, so the spirit is constantly working to assimilate all that one learns throughout life. Therefore it is a matter of patience, of taking life easily without troubling the mind too much over things, and of allowing the knowledge which one has received as a food of the spirit to have time to be assimilated. By trying to assimilate knowledge too soon, man loses his normal health; it is just like taking drugs to help to digest food, which is not beneficial in the end.

  3. But the third process is also necessary, and those who care little for this stage, the one of representing, miss a great deal in life. A person who, alone, has seen something beautiful, who has heard something harmonious, who has tasted something delicious, who has smelt something fragrant, may have enjoyed it, but not completely. The complete joy is in sharing one's joy with others. For the selfish one who enjoys himself and does not care for others, whether he enjoys things of the earth or things of heaven, his enjoyment is not complete. So it is only in this third stage that the following of the message is fulfilled, when a soul has heard and has pondered upon it, and has passed the same blessing on to others.

The Sufi Message

The word "Message" in itself conveys a different meaning from that of an intellectual philosophy. There are two ideas prevailing in the world: one is that man has evolved through years and centuries, and the other that, as Solomon has said, there is nothing new under the sun. And this explains to us that divine truth has always been and always will be the same. No one can improve upon it, and nobody can give a new message. It is the divine tongue which at times has spoken louder, and at times in a whisper, and it is the consciousness of the divine spirit which made Christ say, "I am Alpha and Omega." Those who limit Christ to the historic period of the life of the Prophet of Nazareth surely limit the message, in spite of his open declaration that he is the first and the last.

According to this point of view, the message has been given each time in a form suited to the evolution of the people in that particular age. Man divides, God unites, humanity. Man takes pleasure in thinking and feeling, "I am different from you; you are different from me" in nationality, race, creed, or religion. In animals this feeling is still more pronounced. But as man evolves, his tendency is to unite, to become one.

Did Jesus Christ come to form an exclusive community called Christian, or Buddha to found a creed called Buddhism? Or was it Mohammed's ideal to form a community called Mohammedan? On the contrary, the Prophet warned his disciples that they should not attach his name to his message, but that it should be called Islam, the Message of Peace. Not one of the masters came with the thought of forming an exclusive community, or to give a certain religion. They came with the same message from one and the same God. Whether the message was in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Zend, or Arabic, it had one and the same meaning.

The difference between religions is external; their inner meaning is one. If man had only understood this, the world would have avoided many wars, for war has mostly been caused by religion, religion which was given to the world to establish peace and harmony. What a pity that war and disaster should come from the same source!

The Sufi message is a reminder to humanity, not to any one nation but to all; not to one but to every creed. It is a reminder of the truth taught by all the great teachers of humanity: that God, truth, religion are one, and that duality is only a delusion of human nature. Think then what a great task lies before this message, at this time when nation is against nation and race against race; when the followers of one religion are constantly working against the followers of another religion, and class against class; competition, hate, and prejudice prevailing everywhere. What will be the outcome of it all? What can poison produce? Not nectar; only poison.

The message is not for one nation, race, or community; it is for the whole of humanity. Its one and only object is to bring about a better understanding between the divided sections of humanity by awakening their consciousness to the fact that humanity is one family. If one person in the family is ill or unhappy, this must certainly cause unhappiness to the whole family. Yet even this is not the most appropriate simile. Humanity is one body, the whole of life being one in its source and in its goal, its beginning and its end. No scientist will deny this. And if part of the body is in pain, sooner or later the whole body is affected; if our finger aches, our body is not free from pain. Thus no nation, race, or community can be considered as a separate part of humanity.

Today in education, in politics, in all directions of life, there seems to be an individualistic view, but where will such a tendency end, where will it lead humanity? If each one thinks he must get the better of another, where will be the harmony and peace for which all are longing, no matter to what race or religion they belong?

No doubt this condition has been brought about by a long continued materialism and commercialism, which have taught every soul the spirit of competition and rivalry, the whole life of each being absorbed in guarding his own interests, and in trying to take the best in life for himself. Life is one continual battle, and only one thing can ease this battle: consideration for others, reciprocity, unselfishness instead of selfishness.

With selfishness as the central theme, the world's progress will never lead to the soul's desire and aim. It must culminate in destruction. At one time the call was to guard self-interest; now the moment has come for mankind to be given a message of understanding and consideration for one another, since individual peace and happiness depend upon the peace and happiness of the whole of humanity.

What is missing in modern education, in art and science, in social, political, and commercial life, is the ideal, the ideal which is the secret of heaven and earth, the mystery hidden behind both man and God. With all he possesses in the objective world, man is poor in the absence of the ideal, and it is this poverty which creates irritation, conflicts, and disagreements, thereby causing wars and disasters of all kinds.

Man's greatest need today is for the exploration of the human personality, in order to find there the latent inspiration and power upon which to build the whole structure of his life. For life means not only to live, but to ennoble oneself and reach that perfection which is the innate yearning of the soul.

The solution to the problem of the day is the awakening of the consciousness of humanity to the divinity of man. The undertone of all religions is the realization of the one life which culminates in the thought of unity. It is towards raising humanity to this consciousness that the efforts of the Sufi Movement are directed.

Very often people divide the esoteric or inner part of life from the exoteric or outer form of religion. But although to divide them in a conception is possible, to divide them in reality is like separating the head from the body. As the head linked with the body makes the form complete, so religion together with inner life makes the spiritual ideal perfect. Nevertheless, the thoughtful and wise of all ages, with their philosophical minds, with their scientific tendencies, with their intellectual strife, often thought of separating religion from the inner life. But when they are separated, it is just like bread without butter, it is like milk without sugar, it is like food without salt.

And the reason why this tendency often appears, especially among thoughtful people is a natural one. When life leaves the body, even those who loved the one who died begin to think that they should bury the body as soon as possible; for the one whom they loved is gone from it, and what is left is only a corpse. And so when the inner life, which is just like the breath in the body of religion, departs from it, then the religion becomes like a dead body; then even its most faithful adherents begin to feel that it is a corpse.

In all ages and in all periods of history we notice that there has been a limit to the number of years that a religion has lasted. During that time the religion prospered and was of benefit to humanity. Why? Because it had breath, it had spirituality. But when that inner life departed it was left like a corpse. Still the faithful kept to it, but those with intelligence could not do so any longer.

As the rain falls year after year, and gives new life and new sustenance to the earth, so it became necessary that the new message of spiritual upliftment should come. But whenever it has come, people have fought against it, not knowing that it is the same truth, the same breath, the same soul of religion that had come again, not understanding the secret of religion. The rainfall of last year is not different from this year's; it is the same water, the same sustenance, the same energy. As vapor it rises and as raindrops it falls. It has always been the same message, only brought in different bottles and with new labels.

The most important philosophical point in religion is that besides all the moral principles and ethics that religion teaches, there is the central theme which can be traced as the nature of life, of spirit, and that is to make the perfect Being intelligible to the limited mind of man. To do this the ideal of God is preached. The central theme of every religion the messengers have brought was the God-ideal, and every one of them has tried his best to make a picture of that ideal, in order that the people of that time could easily grasp it and benefit by it, to fulfil the purpose of spiritual perfection.

It is true that the different pictures that the great prophets of the world have drawn very often differ from one another. But one finds that in order to make one clear photograph there have to be many different processes; a plate has to be made and has to be developed, and then the picture is transferred to paper; then it is touched up, and all these different processes go to make a photograph complete.

And so it has been with those who have tried to make a picture of the Deity, a picture which cannot be made fully, because it is beyond man's power to do so. They have done their best; artists have painted that picture. When three artists paint the portrait of one person, the three pictures are different. They only differ because they are different artists; and so it is with the prophets, though all have one and the same motive: to make that picture intelligible to the limited mind of man, who only knows what he knows about himself and about his fellow-man. Thus the best picture he can make of God is that of a man.

  • In the ancient religions of the East, God was first pictured in the form of man;
  • then in the pictures of later days man was pictured as God.
  • After that came a reformation by which man and God were separated in order to break with the confusion caused by these two opposite ideas, that God was man and man was God.

But the present message, which comes from the need of humanity, is that God is in man and man in God, and yet God is God and man is man.