In the journey to the perfect, which is innate in every soul, Hazrat Inayat Khan explains to us that we must leave behind the world of limitations. The previous post in the series is here.
Every kind of striving in man’s life, whether for a material or for a spiritual object, is the result of his natural inclination to reach from limitation towards perfection. Whatever it may be, wealth or rank or name or comfort or pleasure, it is this limitation which keeps man discontented. Also, in all his learning, studying, practicing, acquiring, attaining, we see this same striving to go from limitation to perfection. The saying of the scriptures that God alone is rich and all others are poor, can be seen in everyday life. The greater the riches one has the more one wants. And it is interesting to find when observing the life of a poor person that he is more content with what he has than a rich person with all his wealth. Sometimes one also sees that a poor person is more generous in his giving than a rich person in parting with his possessions.
When we look at another aspect of life, we see that a person who is learned in a small degree believes that he has learned and read a great deal and he wishes to show it; whereas someone who has learned more begins to discover that it is really very little and that there is still very much to be learned.
There is still another picture to be seen: that of the foolish and the wise. The foolish man is ready to teach you without a moment’s thought, ready to correct you, ready to judge you, ready to form an opinion about you. But the wiser a man is the more diffident he is to form an opinion about you, to judge you, to correct you. What does this mean? It means that whatever man possesses in a small degree he thinks he has much of, but when he possesses more he begins to feel the need and the desire for perfection, for completion.
There is an ancient story that a king wanted to grant a dervish his desire. And the desire of the dervish was to fill his cup with gold coins. The king thought that it would be the easiest thing in the world to fill the cup of the dervish. But when they tried to fill it it proved to be a magic cup: it would not fill. The more money was poured into it, the emptier it became. And the king was very disappointed and disheartened at the thought that this cup could not be filled. The dervish said, ‘Your Majesty, if you cannot fill my cup you only have to say so, and I shall take my cup back. I am a dervish, and I will go, and I will only think that you have not kept your word.’ The sovereign, with every good intention, with all his generosity, and with all his treasures could not fill that cup. And he asked, ‘Dervish, tell me what secret you have in this cup. It does not seem to be natural. There is some magic about it. Tell me what is its secret.’ The dervish answered, ‘Yes, your Majesty, what you have found out is true. It is a magic cup. But it is the cup of every heart. It is the heart of man which is never content. Fill it with whatever you may, with wealth, with attention, with love, with knowledge, with all there is – it will never fill, for it is not meant to be filled. Not knowing this secret of life man goes on in pursuit of every object, or any object he has before him, continually. And the more he gets the more he wants, and the cup of his desire is never filled.’
The meaning of this can be understood by the study of the soul. Man’s appetite is satisfied by food. But behind it is an appetite which is the appetite of the soul, and that appetite is never satisfied. That appetite is at the back of all the different forms of hunger and of thirst. And since man cannot trace that innermost appetite, he strives all through his life to satisfy these outer appetites, which are satisfied and yet remain unsatisfied. If someone is making a study of objective things, things of the objective world, he may gain a great deal of knowledge about them, and yet there is never an end to it. The one who searches the secret of sound, the one who searches the mystery of light, the one who searches the mystery of science, they all search and search and search, and there is never an end to it, nor is there ever satisfaction. And a thoughtful person wonders if that satisfaction is to be found anywhere, the satisfaction which, so to speak, fulfills the promise of the soul.
Indeed, there does exist a possibility for that satisfaction. And that possibility is to attain to the perfection which is not dependent upon outside things, a perfection which belongs to one’s own being. This satisfaction is not attained. It is discovered. It is in the discovery of this satisfaction that the purpose of life can be fulfilled.
To be continued…