Glimpses: My Mystical Life pt II

We continue with Hazrat Inatyat Khan’s recollection of his early life, begun in this post.

All this time my progress in school was very slow. I failed every examination, but they promoted me all the same, because I was older than the other boys, and they did not like to have older boys among the younger ones. So they promoted me whether I passed the examinations or not!

Once I did not get home at dinner time at all, and my parents were very cross, my father especially who said, “When he comes home he will get a good whipping; he must have gone somewhere with the boys, though it would be very unusual for him to do so.” Finally people were sent everywhere to look for me, thinking that perhaps I had been kidnapped or that I had run away. They wondered what could have happened. At last I got home, trembling because I had no idea what time it was; it was so late at night. They asked me where I had been, and I told them that I had gone to hear a lecture on philosophy. My father, who was ready to whip me, was amused at this; and then he wondered whether what I had said could be true. But my grandfather had also attended this lecture, so I told my father that he had seen me there. This surprised my father very much, but it got me out of all my trouble.

My grandfather, according to the custom of renowned people in the East, always had his drawing-room open to all visitors. So with all the great musicians, poets, artists, scientists, learned people and thinkers who came to visit him, the place was like a school. Discussions on morals, logic, religion, music, or poetry, were always going on. Nothing pleased me better than to be allowed to sit there in a corner and listen. They were all so surprised that a lad of this age should choose to sit there instead of playing with other children and their rubber balls. But my grandfather had great understanding, and so he allowed me to sit there; and listening to the discussions in his drawing-room where I spent most of my time every day, I developed great insight.

One day a subject came up which pleased me most of all. A poet, Kavi Ratnakar, was talking about a rare book of which only a few copies existed, by Shigr Kavi, and which explained human nature. This poet had received a reward of a lakh of rupees from the Mogul emperor. So I was very interested, wondering what sort of book this could be; to me human nature was such an interesting subject. When everybody had left I spoke to my grandfather about it and asked him if I could see the book. He said, “Yes, it is a book on human nature, but you cannot read it until you have learned all the things you have to learn first.” So he would not let me see it then. However, I watched from where he had taken the book, and when he had left the room and there was no one else there, I went to that place and took it from the shelf and out of the room. It was written by hand, and very difficult for me to make out. It took me a long time even to read one line. But I was so interested that I thought, “If only I could ask someone what this means!” There was only one patient one left, and that was my grandfather, whose manuscript I had stolen! No one else was patient enough to tell me the meaning of a certain passage, so I had to be honest and confess what I had done. My grandfather went to the shelf to get the book, and it is gone! Who could be the suspect! Then I told him that I was the one who had taken it, and that I could not understand it. He said, “How naughty of you! Why did you not ask me!” I said, “If I had asked you, you would not have given it to me.” “You must never do this again”, he said, and this I promised. But in his mind he was pleased. He was such a wise and thoughtful man. He thought, “This is his hunger; I will give him what his soul wants.” So he sent me to learn poetry from Kavi Ratnakar, and he brought me other poems and verses from different poets who had written verses on religion and philosophy and God. I was so interested in learning all these verses, but the difficulty was that I thought that everybody was interested in them too; so taking my book with me I would go up to any person who was sitting or sewing or even cooking, whatever they happened to be doing, and I would say, “Listen what a beautiful poem this is!” But they did not like it! They said, “Go off to your room and read it there; why bother us with it?” Many spoke like this, but some said, “Yes, read it out to me.” And then I would go on reading such a long time that they got tired and requested me to stop, saying, “Now this is enough! Go away and read by yourself for a while!” All this helped me to get to know the foundation, the form, of verses; and this gave me the material means for expressing my own thoughts whenever they came to my mind.

One Reply to “Glimpses: My Mystical Life pt II”

  1. Zora

    How touching are these reminiscences. Makes me reflect on how savagely we commodify children and stunt the flow of their own nature. Few burn too bright to quell. It makes me sad.


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