Hazrat Inayat : Illusion and Reality pt I

Few things are more frustrating than to be told, when we are suffering from some pain or other, whether physical, mental or emotional, that it is only an illusion, that we are imagining it. With this post Hazrat Inayat Khan begins a philosophical consideration of the distinction between what is real and what is illusion.

When a spiritual man talks about all being illusion, the materialistic man says, ‘Show me then where reality is!’ Very often people use the word illusion without having studied this question fully. When a person says to another, who is in pain, ‘It is all illusion,’ the one who is suffering will say, ‘It is reality to me. If you were the one who is suffering you would not say that it is an illusion!’ And when this problem is not solved, a person may try to call an illness an illusion as long as his patience is not exhausted, but the moment his patience gives out he can no longer call it an illusion, he begins to call it reality. When one begins from the end, one ends at the beginning, and to call something that our senses perceive an illusion, we must first understand its nature and character, in order to prove to ourselves and to others that it is an illusion.

Through any study we take up, no matter what it be, we shall be able to find out that when we look at things they first appear in a certain form, but as we go on looking at them they appear different. A certain chemical is called by a certain name, but when we see what its origin is, where it comes from, we trace at its root something quite different. When we find its origin we begin to think, ‘Why do we call it by that name? Its name should be quite different.’ In studying a mechanism and the various names and forms connected with it, we find when we get to the bottom of it that what makes it work is something quite different from its outward appearance. All this shows that the surface of all things covers the secret of their origin from our eyes; and yet we recognize all things from their surface. In order to know the secret of things we must dig deep and get to the bottom of them.

When we study modern biology we begin to wonder about the origin of man; and even if the missing link between man and monkey were to be found, we should still not have probed the depths of human origin. If such is the character and nature of things on the surface, how can we stamp them with names which we invent from our limited knowledge of them? The deeper we go into things, the less we shall think we can call them so and so, or such and such. Everything in the world is under a cover, and when it is uncovered, there is another cover; so one thing is found inside the other thing, and one cannot get at the bottom of things unless one knows the secret of how to get there. It is for this reason that the learned of this world, who study and study all their lives, go only so far and no further. We may ask the most learned man in the world, who has perhaps propounded a thousand theories, what is at the bottom of it all, and he will answer, ‘I do not know, but I would like to know if I could.’

To understand the nature of illusion, there are two points to be considered: first, that what is changeable is an illusion, and secondly, that what is unstable is also an illusion; for what is unstable and changeable is and at the same time is not. Then there are two laws: one law is that a thing changes. And the other law is that a thing is dissolved, destroyed, decomposed. The only difference is that although both are changes, it is only in one process that we can pursue that which changes. When coal has turned into a diamond we can pursue it, but when camphor has dissolved we cannot pursue it easily.

To be continued…

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