In the first instalment of this series, Hazrat Inayat Khan speaks of the training of morality and religious duty in the home, which constitute a child’s first education.
Thus the heart, developed by religion and morality, becomes first capable of choosing and then of retaining the object of devotion without wavering for a moment. Yet in the absence of these qualities it remains incapable of either choice or retention.
There have been innumerable devotees in the East, bhakta or ashiq*, whose devotional powers are absolutely indescribable and ineffable. To the ignorant the story of their lives may appear exaggerated, but the joy of self-negation is greater than that of either spiritual or material joy.
Devotion sweetens the personality, and is the light on the path of the disciple. Those who study mysticism and philosophy while omitting self-sacrifice and resignation grow egoistic and self-centered. Such persons are apt to call themselves either God or a part of God, and thus make an excuse for committing any sins they like. Regardless of sin or virtue, they misuse and malign others, being utterly fearless of the hereafter. Yet they forget that ‘strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life’, as the Bible says.
The fire of devotion purifies the heart of the devotee and leads to spiritual freedom. Mysticism without devotion is like uncooked food and can never be assimilated. ‘I am the heart of my devotees,’ says Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. And Hafiz says, ‘O joyous day when I depart from this abode of desolation, seeking the repose of my soul and setting out in search of my Beloved.’
Philosophy, which is the fourth stage of development, has five aspects: physical, intellectual, mental, moral and spiritual, These cannot be learned by the mere perusal of books, and by listening to the discussions of philosophers. For philosophy is not a study which is taught in the universities alone; it contains quite an opposite path to knowledge, and it can only be truly studied under the guidance of a Murshid. In him the mureed has perfect trust and confidence, as complete discipline, even to the sacrifice of free will, is required. At first this appears to be a loss of individuality, while the ego rebels at being thus crushed and submerged beneath the stronger laws of will and reason. But the battle against self gives a mastery over self in the end, which in other words is a mastery over the whole universe.
But it is well to remember that such utter trust should never be reposed in a Murshid until the self has gained entire confidence in him, and every doubt has been subdued. When once this confidence is given, there should be nothing on earth, which could break or cast it down for the whole gamut of eternity. There are some who consider it most humiliating to be guided by another, but they are greatly mistaken, for in the light of truth there is but One. The intercourse between Murshid and mureed is preferable to any other fellowship in the world, when one considers that a friendship in God is the only true friendship, which endures forever. ‘Sprinkle with wine thy prayer-rug if thy Pir-o-Murshid says so. The guide is not unmindful of the customs and ways of the Path,’ says Hafiz.
A Murshid is a gateway unto the unseen Master and a portal unto God, the Unknown. But yet in the end neither God, Master nor Murshid appears in the most dazzling light of divine wisdom, which alone is ‘I Am.’
*Both words mean ‘lover’; bhakta would be a person associated with yogic traditions, and ashiq one with Islam.
To be continued…