What is the heart? It seems very central to our life; some would even say it rules us. Its condition makes our existence a sunlit landscape or a storm, a paradise or an inferno–but what exactly is it? How can it be described?
Yogis use the term chakra for various points associated with regions of the body and with certain forms of experience or of consciousness; thus, people speak of the ‘heart chakra.’ It is a word that means wheel, which is to say something centrally oriented, and if we remember the spokes of a cart-wheel extending from the hub, we might also think of something that radiates–in this case, a luminous radiance.
Hazrat Inayat Khan often refers to the heart as a capacity, a space, like the volume contained by a cup or the space in the center of an apple. This emptiness might sound unrelated to the image of a radiant chakra, but if we shift our attention from light to sound, we can begin to see the similarity.
Suppose that we wish to listen to the musical tones of a plucked string. If the string is attached to something that has a space inside, like the shell of a dried gourd, the sound will be be able to resonate there and will be much more audible; microtones and overtones will become more perceptible, the musician will be inspired, and the music will penetrate our consciousness more deeply. In this case, the beautiful sound spreading outward from the string depends, paradoxically, upon the emptiness of the gourd.
In the same way, the beautiful music of life can really only be heard from a heart that has become like an empty gourd. The gourd grew in the garden very naturally, rooted in the soil, drinking rain-water and dreaming in the sun – but when at last it ripened, and lost its interest in the earth and the rain, then the musician could carve it according to his purpose, and begin to play. This is the lesson of renunciation.
O Wanderer, if, as you journey,
you begin to hear
celestial music arising behind your breast-bone,
hold faithfully, faithfully to the strings
awakening your empty heart,
and never imagine for a moment
that the melody proceeds from you.
The Musician plays
what He chooses;
be grateful when He lifts you and begins His song.