Be Like the Hamsa

When Hazrat Inayat Khan talked to a group of Cherags about the Hindu religion in this recently posted address, he demonstrated several important points.  One is that, if we wish to serve in the work of the Universal Worship, we have a duty to understand something of the faiths represented on the altar.  A thoughtful host should have consideration for the nature and character and custom of different guests, especially if they come from other lands, and in the same way those who offer this service to humanity should be aware of the religions which it honours.  No doubt Hazrat Inayat recognised that his western students had very little knowledge of the Hindu religion, and what they did know was probably distorted by religious and cultural prejudices. Therefore, he provided them with a brief glimpse of another point of view.

Even more valuable, though, than his introduction to the complexities and paradoxes of the Hindu faith, is the manner in which he presents it. In Hindu mythology there is a bird of wisdom called the ‘Hamsa,’ usually identified as a swan.  The Hamsa represents pure spirit, a great white bird able to fly freely through the sky, and its subtlety and wisdom is such that if milk has been mixed with water, it can drink only the milk and leave the water untouched.  Every religion offers nourishment, but over time the followers of the followers have often mixed in their drops of water.  Like the Hamsa, Hazrat Inayat takes the milk of the Hindu religion, the living ideal behind the forms, and offers it to the Cherags.

When we focus only on the outer forms, we are on the path toward ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ approval and condemnation, the distinctions and differences that divide mankind, whereas when we seek the ideal behind a form or word or action, we have turned our back on the shadows and are travelling toward the light of unity.

Someone once said to Hazrat Inayat Khan, “You have nicely said to us, Murshid, how Sufism is one with all religions.  Now please tell us, what is the difference between Sufism and other religions.” Hazrat Inayat replied, “The difference is that it casts away all differences.”

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