The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan      

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Social Gathekas

Religious Gathekas

The Message Papers

The Healing Papers

Vol. 1, The Way of Illumination

Vol. 1, The Inner Life

Vol. 1, The Soul, Whence And Whither?

Vol. 1, The Purpose of Life

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound and Music

Vol. 2, The Mysticism of Sound

Vol. 2, Cosmic Language

Vol. 2, The Power of the Word

Vol. 3, Education

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

Vol. 3, Character and Personality

Vol. 4, Healing And The Mind World

Vol. 4, Mental Purification

Vol. 4, The Mind-World

Vol. 5, A Sufi Message Of Spiritual Liberty

Vol. 5, Aqibat, Life After Death

Vol. 5, The Phenomenon of the Soul

Vol. 5, Love, Human and Divine

Vol. 5, Pearls from the Ocean Unseen

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

Vol. 6, The Alchemy of Happiness

Vol. 7, In an Eastern Rose Garden

Vol. 8, Health and Order of Body and Mind

Vol. 8, The Privilege of Being Human

Vol. 8a, Sufi Teachings

Vol. 9, The Unity of Religious Ideals

Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

Vol. 10, The Path of Initiation and Discipleship

Vol. 10, Sufi Poetry

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

Vol. 10, The Problem of the Day

Vol. 11, Philosophy

Vol. 11, Psychology

Vol. 11, Mysticism in Life

Vol. 12, The Vision of God and Man

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

Vol. 12, Four Plays

Vol. 13, Gathas

Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

By Date



1. Mysticism

2. The Mystic

3. Realization

4. The Nature and Work of a Mystic

5. The Secret of the Spirit

6. The Mystical Heart

7. Repose

8. Action



Vol. 10, Sufi Mysticism

4. The Nature and Work of a Mystic

There is a difference between a philosopher, a wise man, a mystic, and a sage. From a mystical point of view the philosopher is a person who knows the nature and character of things and beings, who has studied this, who has reasoned it out, and who understands it. A wise man is he who has been the pupil of life. Life has been his teacher; its sorrows and troubles and experiences have brought him to a certain understanding of life. A mystic, however, need not have had experience of life to teach him, nor the study of life to make him intellectual enough to understand it better. The mystic is born with the mystical temperament. His language is a different language, his experience a different experience; he so to speak communicates with life, with conditions, things, and beings. But the sage has all three of these qualities. The sage is a philosopher, a wise man, a mystic, all three combined.

It is possible that a mystic may be no philosopher; though the mystic always has a clear vision and understanding, he may not have the philosopher's means of expression. The difference is like that between short sight and long sight. The mystic may not see the outline of things distinctly, a philosopher may observe only the detail, while the wise man may not be a philosopher but has learnt wisdom from life, and he may be different from the mystic as well.

And yet, when they arrive at the stage of the culmination of knowledge, they all come closer together. For instance, I was once talking to a business man, a man who had spent nearly fifty years of his life in commerce, and had made a success of it. He had never believed in any religion, he had never studied any philosophy, except that sometimes he read the works of great poets. But after we had talked for about an hour on subjects concerning the inner life, he discovered that he was not very far from my own beliefs; that after all, the patience which is required to make money, the sacrifices one has to make in order to be successful, and the experiences one has to go through with those whom one works with daily in business, had been for him both a practice and a study. And I found that he was not very far from the conclusions to which a wise man, a philosopher, a mystic would come. It is he whom I would call a wise man, for by his wisdom he had reached that truth which is studied by the philosopher and which is attained by the mystic through meditation.

The meaning of philosophy has changed in modern times. People generally understand by philosophy that which one finds in the books written by European philosophers and which are read and studied at universities. But spiritual philosophy is different; it is a different kind of knowledge, an understanding of the origin, the nature, and character of things and beings. It necessitates the study of human nature, the study of conditions of life. It is the deeper insight into life which makes one a philosopher.

Mysticism is neither taught nor learned. A mystic is born; it is a temperament, it is a certain outlook on life, it is a certain attitude towards life that makes a man a mystic. His chief characteristic is that he knows the meaning of every action, whether it is by intuition or by accident, although to a mystic nothing is an accident. Every action, every condition, everything that happens has a meaning and a purpose. Very often people find that a mystic has a queer temperament. He may suddenly think during the night, "I must go to the North", and in the morning he sets out on his journey; he does not know why, he does not know what he is to accomplish there, he only knows that he must go. By going there he finds something he has to do and sees that it was the hand of destiny pushing him towards the accomplishment of that purpose, which inspired him to go to the North. Or a mystic will tell a person to do or not to do a thing. If that person asks the reason he cannot tell him. His feeling comes by intuition, a knowledge which comes from the world unseen, and according to that knowledge he acts. Therefore the mystic's impulse is a divine impulse, and one can judge neither his action nor his attitude. One will find that there are various aspects of the mystic temperament.

But there is a knowledge which a mystic attains by means of the head and which prepares him to find his way to the truth. Reasoning is a faculty which the mystic uses, and which he may develop like any man of common sense, any practical man; the difference is only that the mystic does not stop at the first reason but wishes to see the reason behind all reasons. Thus in everything, whether right or wrong, the mystic seeks for the reason. The immediate answer, however, will be a reason which does not satisfy him, for he sees that behind that reason there is yet another reason. And so he progresses in the knowledge of all things, which is far greater than the knowledge gained by one thing. This is why neither wrong nor right, good nor evil, excites the mystic very much, neither does it greatly shock or surprise him. For everything seems to him to have its own nature, and it is understanding this which makes him feel at one with all that exists. And what can one wish for more in life than understanding? It is understanding that gives one harmony in the home with those near and dear to one, and peace outside the home with so many different natures and characters. If one lacks understanding one is poor, in spite of all that one may possess of the goods of this world, for it is understanding which gives a man riches.

If life could be pictured, one would say that it reminds one of the sea in a storm, the waves coming and going--such is life. And it is the understanding of this which gives man the weight which enables him to endure through rain and storm and all vicissitudes. Without understanding he is like a jolly-boat on the sea which cannot weather the storm. Through understanding a mystic learns. He learns tact; he is tactful under all circumstances; and his tact is like a heavily laden ship, which the wind cannot capsize and which rides steady in the midst of the storm.

The nature of life is such that it easily excites the mind and makes man unhappy in an instant. It makes man so confused that he does not know where to take the next step. In contrast with this the mystic stands still and inquires of life its secret; and from every experience, from every failure or success, the mystic learns a lesson; thus both failure and success are profitable to him.

The ideal of a mystic is never to think of disagreeable things. What one does not want to happen one should not think of. A mystic erases from his mind all the disagreeable things of the past. He collects and keeps his happy experiences, and out of them he makes a paradise. Are there not many unhappy people who keep part of the past before them, which causes them pain in their heart? Past is past; it is gone. There is eternity before us. If we want to make our life as we wish it to be, we should not think disagreeable thoughts and ponder over painful experiences and memories that make us unhappy.

It is for this reason that to some extent life becomes easy for a mystic to deal with. For he knows every heart, every nature, whereas those who are untouched by the mystic's secret suffer from their difficulties both at home and outside. They dread the presence of people they do not understand; they want to run away from them, and if they cannot escape they feel as if they" are in the mouth of a dragon; and perhaps they are placed in a situation which cannot easily be changed. The consequence is that they heap confusion upon confusion. And how very often one sees that when two people do not understand one another, a third comes and helps them to do so, and the light thrown upon them causes greater harmony! The mystic says: whether it be agreeable or disagreeable, if you are in a certain situation, make the best of it; try to understand how to deal with such a situation. Therefore a life without such understanding is like a dark room which contains everything you wish: it is all there, but there is no light.

The world is after all a wonderful place, in spite of so many souls wishing to leave it. For there is nothing which cannot be obtained in this world; everything is there, all things good and beautiful, all things precious and worth while; they are all there, if only one knows their nature, their character, and how to obtain them.

If you ask some people what is the nature of life, they will say, "The further we go in striving for happiness, the further we are removed from it." This is true. But the one who does not know that unhappiness does not really exist, takes the wrong way. Besides happiness is more natural than unhappiness, as good is more natural than evil, and health than illness. And yet man is so pessimistic. If we tell him how good someone is he cannot believe this to be true, but if we tell him how bad a person is he will readily believe it.

The work of a mystic, therefore, is to study life. To the mystic life is not a stage-play or an entertainment. For the mystic it is a school in which to learn, every moment of one's life; it is a continual study. And the scripture of the mystic is human nature; every morning he turns a new page of this scripture. And the books of the great ones who have brought the Message to the world from time to time, and which became sacred scriptures and were read for thousands of years, generations of people taking their spiritual food from them, are the interpretations that they gave of this scripture which is human nature. That is why all the sacred scriptures always have the same sacred feeling.

The mystic respects all religions and he understands all the different and contradictory ideas, for he understands everyone's language. The mystic can agree, without having to dispute, with both the wise and the foolish. For he sees that the nature of facts is such that they are true in their own place; he understands every aspect of their nature. The mystic sees from every point of view. He sees from the point of view of each person and that is why he is harmonious with all. A man comes to a mystic and says, "I cannot believe in a personal God, it means nothing to me." Then the mystic answers, "You are quite right." Another man says, "The only way of making God intelligible is in the form of man." The mystic says, "You are right." And another person says, "How foolish of these people to make of this man a God; God is above comprehension." And the mystic will agree with him too. For a mystic understands the reason behind all the opposing arguments.

Once a missionary came to a Sufi in Persia, desiring to have a discussion and to prove his opinion on some Sufi teaching to be the right one. The Sufi was sitting there, in his silent, quiet attitude, with two or three of his pupils at his side. The missionary brought up some arguments, and the mystic answered, "You are right." Then the man went on to dispute but the Sufi only said, "That is quite true." The man was very disappointed as there was no opportunity for argument. The Sufi saw the truth in all.

The truth is like a piano: the notes may be high or low, one may strike a C or an E, but they are all notes. So the difference between ideas is like that between notes, and it is the same in daily life with the right and the wrong attitude. If we have the wrong attitude all things are wrong, if we have the right attitude all things are right. The man who mistrusts himself will mistrust even his best friend; the man who trusts himself will trust every one.

Things which seem to be apart, such as right and wrong, light and darkness, form and shadow, to the mystic appear so close that only a hair's breadth divides right and wrong. Before the mystic there opens an outlook on life, an outlook which discloses the purpose of life. The question which the mystic puts to himself is, "Which is my being? My body? No. This body is my possession. I cannot be that which I possess." He asks himself, "Is it my mind?" The answer comes, "No. The mind is something I possess, it is something I witness. There must be a difference between the knower and the known." By this method the Sufi eventually comes to an understanding of the illusory character of all he possesses. It is like a man who has a coat made: it is his coat, it is not himself.

Then the mystic begins to think, "It is not myself that thinks, it is the mind. It is the body which suffers, it is not myself." It is a kind of liberation for him to know, "I am not my mind." For an ordinary man wonders why one moment he has a good thought, another moment a bad thought, one moment an earthly thought, the next moment a thought of heaven. Life for him is like a moving picture in which it is he who sees and it is he who is dancing there.

By seeing this the mystic liberates his real self, which owing to his illusion was buried under mind and body, what people call a lost soul, a soul which was not aware of the mystical truth that body and mind are the vehicles by which to experience life. And it is in this way that the mystic begins his journey towards immortality.