A Place in the King’s Stable

The recent post of a text by Hazrat Inayat Khan about the kingly character of God tried to put into human terms a certain aspect of the Divine Presence, although the image may seem remote to us–few now have any experience of absolute royal rule.  A king’s comportment towards those around him is–or was–not always straightforward, for he had the duty to consider more than the individual.  Generosity and courtesy might be shown to one who did not appear to deserve it, and intimate friends might not be advanced as one might expect, all because the king had insight into the needs of the whole country.  This is meant to illustrate the reality that our experience in life is not a valid measure of our progress on the inner path.   A life of comfort and ease is not necessarily a sign of spiritual evolution, and a life of hardship does not mean that God is displeased with us.  ‘Blessings’ don’t always fall according to our understanding.

Kwajah Abdullah Ansari, whose poem “That is not difficult for God” was recently posted in the Jewelled Garden, said that there are three ways of receiving blessings.  The first way is to rejoice in the blessings because of the comfort and pleasure they bring us, without any consideration of their origin.  This is not only self-centred but short-sighted as well, for without a doubt every comfort will one day be taken from us, and if we have been thinking only of our own satisfaction, we will cry like children whose sweets have been snatched away.

The second way of receiving blessings is to see them coming from God, and rejoice on that account.  The consciousness of the divine grace in the blessing, says Ansari, is more precious than the blessing itself.  In human terms this is easy to see: if someone close to us gives us a little gift, our pleasure in the gift is beyond the measure of the gift itself, simply because it came from our friend or loved one.

And the third way of receiving blessings is seen in the person who rejoices purely in the Divine Presence, without concern for the comforts and without being distracted by the actions of Divine Grace.  Speaking of this degrees of understanding, Ansari refers to a tradition that God said to David, “O David, say to the truthful: Let them rejoice in Me, let them find joy in My invocation.” In other words, let the ‘truthful’ invoke the pure Presence, and not the goodness of manifestation.  In this connection, we can think of the verse of Rabia al-Adawiyya, the Iraqi mystic of the 8th century:
If I adore You out of fear of Hell, burn me in Hell! 
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise,
Exclude me from Paradise.
But if I adore you for Yourself alone,
Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.

Returning to the metaphor of the king, then, we are best to ignore the turmoil of the court, with the anxious concern that courtiers have for advancement, and degrees of status and prestige; let it pass.  If we only have a place in the King’s stable, that is satisfaction enough for the one who is truly conscious of the Ruler.

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