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



The Smiling Forehead

The Heart Quality

The Heart - Aphorisms

The Four Paths


The Story of Hatim

The Difference between Will, Wish and Desire

Destiny and Free Will

Free Will and Destiny


Free Will - Aphorisms

The Seer


The Different Stages of Spiritual Development

The Prophetic Tendency - The Prophetic Mission

Points of View held by Spiritual Persons

Higher Spiritualism

The Process of Spiritual Unfoldment

The Awakening of the Soul

Sufi Teachings

The Dance of the Soul

The Deeper Side of Life

Man, the Seed of God

Sufi Philosophy

The Gift of Eloquence

Evolution of the World

Every Man has his own little World


Spirituality, the Tuning of the Heart

Optimism and Pessimism

Conscience - Questions and Answers

Justice and Forgiveness - Questions and answers

Pairs Of opposites used in Religious Terms


The Law of Attraction

The Liberal and the Conservative Point of View

The Law of Life

The Law of Action

The Soul, Its Origin and Unfoldment

The Unfoldment of the Soul

Divine Impulse

The Symbol of the Cross

The Mystical Meaning of the Resurrection

Spiritual Circulation through the Veins of the Universe

The Divine Blood Circulating Through the Veins Of the Universe



Vol. 14, The Smiling Forehead

The Unfoldment of the Soul

It is in unfoldment that the purpose of life is fulfilled, and it is not only so with human beings but also with the lower creation; even with all the objects that exist the fulfillment of their existence lies in their unfoldment. When the clouds gather the purpose of their gathering is shown when it is raining: it is the unfoldment of that gathering of clouds which shows itself in the rain. Not in the gathering of the clouds was a purpose accomplished, it was accomplished in the raining; the gathering was a preparation. One finds the same thing in nature which works the whole year long and brings forth its fruits in the autumn. Not only human beings but even birds and animals can watch and be delighted to see the purpose of nature's continual working fulfilled in the spring.

We learn from this that every being and every object is working towards that unfoldment which is the fulfillment of its purpose. There is a saying of a Persian poet, Sa'adi, that every being is intended to be on earth for a certain purpose, and the light of that purpose has been kindled in his heart.

In all different purposes which we see working through each individual, there seems to be one purpose which is behind them all, and that is the unfoldment of the soul. The ancient Hindus therefore held that object before them in all walks of life. Not only those who sought after truth were seeking for the soul's unfoldment, but an artist, a scientist, a learned man, a man of industry, of commerce, each one thought that through his particular occupation he was to come to that end. The great misfortune we find today is that humanity is divided in its different occupations and has lost that thread which binds humanity into one and gives that impetus which results in the benefit of all. When the scientist stands on his ground, strong and firm, the artist in his sphere, the industrial man in his world, and the man of commerce in the world of commerce, it is natural that their souls do not come in contact with one another giving them the force to combine for the betterment of the whole.

Although a degeneration caused by extreme materialism prevails throughout the whole world, yet it is not too late to find examples of personalities who through all walks of life still wish to arrive at the proper goal. Our modern poet Tagore brought out a translation of poems by Kabir, a man who was never educated, who from childhood was a weaver and whose livelihood depended upon his weaving. Through his work he arrived at that goal, and he gave his experience in his ordinary language in a book which today is taken by the people as a Scripture. This makes us wonder whether it would not be possible for a scientist to arrive through his scientific occupations at the same truth, or for an artist through the practice of art, or for a man of industry or commerce to arrive at that central truth which concerns every soul.

When we look at humanity we find that we can not only divide it into different races and different nations, but we can also divide it into people of different occupations. In this age of materialism, if there is anything that unites us, it is only our material interest. And how long can we be united by a material interest? A friendship formed in materialism is not a friendship which will endure, for in that friendship the one depends upon the other for his own interest. It is sacrifice which enables us to be friends and to Join with one another, and it is in sacrifice that the sign of spirituality is seen. We do not unite together in sacrifice today, our unity is in what we can gain by it. It is a matter for distress that in order to unite we are holding on to a lower ideal which will never prove a center of unity. It is the high ideal which can unite, and that is the hope in which we can unite-if ever we can unite.

Now coming to the main part of our subject: how can the unfoldment of the soul be defined? The soul can be likened to the rose, and as a rosebud blooms so the soul unfolds itself. For the rosebud to bloom five conditions are required: fertile soil, bright sun, water, air and space. And the same five things are required for the unfoldment of the soul.

As a fertile soil is required for the roseplant in order to grow, so it is necessary for the child to be given education in the spiritual ideal from the moment it is born. When a child is deprived of that most important education in its childhood, then the soil is taken away from the roots of the roseplant. How many people there are who, with every possibility, with every tendency to become interested in all that is spiritual, in everything that is lofty and high, yet are afraid of the terminology in which it is expressed. What does this show? It shows that in childhood something was removed from them, and now that they have grown up they feel a desire for it, they want it but, when they look at it in a form they are not accustomed to, they are afraid of it. I have sometimes been amused more than words can express hearing someone say, "I am so interested in all you have to say, but I cannot make myself believe it."

Is there one soul, however materialistic, which does not wish to unfold? There cannot be. Every soul has been born to unfold itself; it is its innate tendency, it cannot help it. Only, if the soul is deprived of the necessary conditions, then it ceases to develop. There are many people who do not believe in any particular religion, do not profess any particular faith, do not adhere to any form, but who at the same time have great spiritual qualities.

One might ask what is meant by that education. Is it a religious or a moral education that is meant by it? One might say that today we give more education than ever, even so much that a child who goes to school is busier than a workman going to the factory. Every year it is more difficult to get a degree in a university. Every year a greater and greater burden is put upon the student, a burden which is of no use to him or to anybody else. Education therefore can be divided into two parts: a real education and a superficial one. An education which comes from book knowledge, from learning is a superficial, outward education. The other education gives a deeper insight into life, and that alone can be called a real education. What we recognize as education today, what we mean by it, is the outward education significant of a certain degree or title. But the outward education ends; this inner education never ends because it is unlimited. It is as vast as the ocean, as wide as the horizon. No soul is too young to receive this education, and no soul is too old to receive it, for it is unlimited. There are mothers, impressed by the modern conditions, who ask advice saying, "What shall I do for my child? He receives all the education that school or college gives. I have not sent him to any religious place fearing that he will receive something different. Will you tell me what I must do to inspire this child which is constantly searching after something higher?" The answer is that for a really important education there is no institution; it is an education which one should acquire oneself and one should impart it to a little child.

Now one may ask what is meant by the water that nourishes the rose. That water is the love element. If that element is kept away in a person's life, with all his intellectual knowledge and with every desire to seek after truth, he will remain backward. And unfortunately this element seems to be missing in the life of culture. A learned man will say that it has no place in the world of reason, and this separates outer learning from the religious ideal which calls God love.

What is it that takes the part of the sun in the life of a person, as the sun takes part in the growing of the rose? It is intelligence. Everyone may not seem to be intelligent, but the soul itself is intelligence. When the intelligence is covered by the mist of impressions and ideas of this earth, that intelligence becomes drowned in something, buried under something. When it is discovered then it is as bright as the sun. The mission of Buddha was mainly intended for that purpose. All Buddha wished to teach his disciples was to discover that pure intelligence which is above all reasoning and which is the essence of all reason.

What place does the air take in the growing of the soul? The air is symbolical of the inspiration which comes to the heart that is prepared for it. It is not only by outward learning, but by what one learns through inspiration, that the soul is elevated towards unfoldment.

What is meant by the space which is needed around the roseplant in order to let it grow? Symbolically it means a wide outlook on life. A person may live a hundred years, and with a narrow outlook will never see the light. In order to see life clearly the outlook must be wide. There is much to fight with in life in order to keep our outlook wide, because the nature of our life in the world is such that it drags us down and puts us in a sphere where we cannot but be narrow. A great person is not great because of his merits, qualities or reputation; the greatest thing that he can show proving his greatness is his vast outlook. And it is wonderful to notice how, even unconsciously, people who have arrived at a stage of being great in whatever walk of life automatically begin to show a vast outlook on life. What manures the plant and makes roses bloom is, symbolically, that teaching given by the great masters of humanity.

How can this development of the soul in which the purpose of life is fulfilled be recognized? What are its indications, its signs? The soul becomes like a rose and begins to show the rose quality. The rose holds together many petals, and so the person who comes to the unfoldment of the soul begins to show many different qualities. These qualities emit fragrance in the form of a spiritual personality. The rose has a beautiful structure, and so the personality which proves the unfoldment of the soul has also a fine structure in manner, in dealing with others, in speech, in action. It is like the perfume of the rose that the atmosphere of the spiritual being pervades all.

The rose has in its heart its seeds, and so the developed-souls have in their heart that seed of development which produces many roses. The rose comes and fades away, but the essence that is taken from the rose lives and keeps the fragrance that it had in its full bloom. Personalities who touch that plane of development may live on the earth for a limited time, but the essence which is left by them will live for thousands and thousands of years, ever keeping the same fragrance and giving the same pleasure that once the rose gave.