The Sufi prayer Saum speaks of the ‘Lord God of the East and of the West,’ which is a way of saying ‘All – from one horizon to the other.’ But it also may relate to the different directions in which humanity develops, and Hazrat Inayat Khan, having lived in both eastern ad western society, understood that well. Although the world has changed externally very much since this was written, his fundamental insights still apply.
All that I, as a Sufi, a universal being, have learned from my experience in both East and West is that I can now appreciate the merits and also understand the defects of both impartially.
Although the East has progressed to an inconceivable extent in certain aspects of life, this has never been fully recognized. In other words it has not been sufficiently fruitful, because its progress has been individualistic and not general. Also self-satisfaction, linked with laziness and recklessness, retard it from material advancement to a great degree. It is sad to see that Eastern students usually adopt the most undesirable qualities of the West, such as extravagance, excessive gaiety, and exclusiveness, instead of its courage, power of organization, and its most wonderful knowledge of administration.
In many cases Westernized Orientals grow indifferent towards their own people, owing to the varied direction of thought which retards their unity. The present unbalanced condition of the East is such that the man with intellect is, as it were, unbalanced in body, while the sane in body are unstable in mind. The spiritual person is lost in the spirit, and the material person is absorbed in matter; thus the one is an angel while the other is an animal. No doubt the unbalanced state of the East has deprived it for the present of both the world and God.
The East can learn a lesson of order from the West, for the lack of this is at the root of its downfall. She can also learn balance and moderation in most things, and cooperation among all classes regardless of caste or creed. Although the East has taught the lesson of brotherhood to the world, yet her children seem to forget to practice it among themselves; the brother drags his brother down and selfishness is on the increase, especially in India.
The East should also imitate the regularity of Western methods of work and rest, as well as its commercial activity, together with its love of research.
The independent spirit of the West is most praiseworthy among women as well as men. Their love of travel, the neatness and convenience of their homes, and the companionship of man and wife – all these are very praiseworthy, and especially at the present time when two extremes, either a great adoration or the complete subordination of woman, exist in the Orient.
'Man is placed in the prison of the earth, to prove him bankrupt towards God.' - Rumi
On the other hand, the West should adopt the East’s adaptability to circumstances and its simplicity of living. At a time when modern civilization is increasing the needs of artificial life to such an extent, and the richer a man gets the more avaricious he becomes, then the most worthy and needful lesson for the West is the Eastern code of morality, which European travelers often overlook under its mantle of simplicity.
Eastern morals extol tolerance, renunciation, confidence, faith, and trust, together with innocence, contentment, patience, modesty, sympathy, hospitality, and a love for humanity which can even rise to the utmost heights of self-sacrifice. These merits, although they are to be found all over the world, are especially idealized and reach their highest culmination in the East. If the above truths could be fully understood by those students who are busied with the interchange of ideas and thought-forms in either part of the world, the Great Harmony which is prophesied for us all upon the morrow would assuredly come today!
To be continued…