Glimpses: A Visit to Leeds

In May 1917 the Sufi magazine published the following article about a visit by Hazrat Inayat Khan to the northern English city of Leeds.  He made the journey on the invitation of the Theosophical Society, and it is interesting to compare this report with the excerpt from his personal journal published here.

Inayat Khan’s Visit to Leeds

Inayat Khan has recently visited Leeds, on the invitation of the Theosophical Society. Every evening he addressed a crowded and appreciative audience, and in the afternoons he was at home to all who wished to see him.

On the day of his arrival he addressed The Lotus Group of Children, saying, “It is just as necessary for children to learn the music of life as it is for them to learn how to sing. Every child must try to realise how  musical he can be in his thought, speech and action. To have beautiful thoughts is like playing a beautiful melody on the piano; to speak a kind and good word is like singing a sweet little song; to have refinement in all our actions is like graceful dance. All the music of life can be learnt by developing a loving nature; to be loving and obedient to our parents, most gratefully remembering what troubles they have borne for us, and to be respectful to our elders, relatives and friends, all of which is the outcome of a loving heart.”

A little boy from among the group of children rose from his seat and asked, “How can we love the Germans?” Inayat Khan was taken aback at the wit and spirit of the child, a thing so rarely met with in the East. He answered, “You should not love those actions which seem to you unjust and cruel, but you must show your love in wishing that God may guide those who are astray. In this way you do not hate anybody, and at the same time your fulfil the words of Jesus Christ, who said, ‘Love your enemies.'”

In the afternoon many questions were asked by the visitors, and were answered by Inayat Khan. Some of the people asked how they should address him, what title they should use suitable to his revered position? He answered, “No title should be used, for I have not come among you as a teacher of supernatural claims, but as one among you, your brother, and just as you would address your brother in your home, so you should address me by my name.”

A lady asked him, “If every soul had a particular note,” and if so, could he tell her what was her note? He answered, “It is true that every soul has a particular note, but I will not tell you what is the note of your soul, because I have not come here to excite your curiosity in superstitions; if I had told people their auras, colours, notes, characters and fortunes I should have made out of it a very profitable business, but the Message I bear is Divine Wisdom only; it is to tell you why you are here, what is your origin, where is your abode, how you can journey toward it, and how you can reach your eternal goal.”

A venerable clergyman asked Inayat Khan how missionaries were regarded in India? He replied, “The inhabitants of India are chiefly Hindus and Musulmans, among whom the Musulmans are first Christians and then Musulmans, for they regard the Christ with as much reverence as would a true Christian, and Hindus are usually respectful to every religious soul. Personally I have greeted with respect and reverence and with the air of friendship every servant of God, whatever religion he may profess, as long as his motive was true.  Humanity today needs servants of God, faithful workers, but the pity of it is there are so few to be found.”

Inayat Khan was then asked by the same clergyman if he possessed occult and psychic powers? He answered, “If I possess such powers, they are not to be spoken of in order to attract attention and gain publicity and thereby to satisfy vanity; if I do not possess such powers the loss is not great to a God-loving heart and a truth-seeking soul.”

Someone from among the enquirers remarked, “We hear a great deal about the wonder-workers and the wisdom-teachers in the East, but when we go there we do not see any.”  Inayat Khan smiled and answered, “You expect to find them under a signboard, and thus it is impossible for you to discover them. If you happen to find any in this way, they are generally imposters. The true wonder worker never works a wonder, considering such to be but child’s play; in the same way all other affairs in life to which we give such importance are to them as nothing. Sometimes a wonder might manifest from them accidentally, but never to attract others or to gain publicity. The teachers of wisdom are those who, instead of showing themselves super-wise, act as simply as an innocent child. The doubting mind which seeks to test them is blind and will never be able to recognise them, for it is the eye of trust which can alone behold their blessed vision.”

A member of the Society asked in what way Sufism differed from Theosophy? Inayat Khan answered, “In the first place, difference is the very thing from which a Sufi wants to be free, and how can he possibly differ from the wisdom which is his own?  The word Theosophy has its origin in the Oriental word ‘Tassuf,’* which is the correct name for Sufism; from the latter part of which word the name Sufi is derived  In the East we never call it Sufism but Tassuf.” He was asked if Sufis believe in karma and reincarnation, on which two doctrines the whole of Theosophy is based?  He answered, “The Sufi is free from the restrictions of beliefs and disbeliefs, his work is to purify the intelligence that it may become a magnifying glass so that every problem focused under it should disclose clearly its secret.  Free thinkers should therefore free themselves from the restrictions of belief before they teach to others freedom of thought.  Beliefs and disbeliefs have divided man into so many sects, blinding his eyes from the vision of the singleness of the whole of existence.” The final question asked was, “Do you expect the coming of a world Teacher?” He replied, “For a Sufi the self within, the self without, the kingdom of the earth, the kingdom of Heaven, the whole Being is his teacher and his every moment is engaged in acquiring knowledge. For some the teacher has already come and gone, for others the teacher may still come, but for a Sufi the teacher has always been and will remain for him forever.”

On the day of Inayat Khan’s departure, he thanked the audience of Leeds, who he liked so much, for their welcome, appreciation and response, and he expressed his gratitude for the invitation of the members of the Theosophical society. Theosophists, he said, were the first to open the doors in the West for the air of Eastern wisdom to blow. He specially attributed to Mr. and Mrs. Best and to the President the credit of the present state of development of the Society in Leeds.

*The Persian word ‘Tassawuf” means Sufism, and by a slight alteration in spelling, it can be pronounced ‘Tassuf.’

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