Although most people have an understanding of interest, the frequent mention of indifference in Sufi teachings is often perplexing. In this short series of lectures, Hazrat Inayat Khan clarifies the role of each of these qualities.
Very often spiritual people, in speaking about interest and indifference, give preference to indifference; and many who have not reached that stage begin to wonder whether interest or indifference is preferable. Very often people even lose their interest because they think that in principle indifference is the better thing. It is however a subject that one should study: what is gained by interest, and what is accomplished by indifference, all there is to be gained by interest, and all there is to be lost by indifference. And one must find out if one wants to gain or lose. If one is hungering after gain one should have interest. But if one feels a relief in losing one should have indifference. In other words, either one should keep one’s coins locked in the safe, or throw them away and feel relieved. Both ways are all right; it is simply according to one’s wish.
Interest can be described as of four kinds. The first is interest in the self. Even if a person is not interested in anybody or anything, he is certainly interested in himself. No person is loveless. When a person boasts that he loves no one, then one can be sure that he loves himself. Love must be used somewhere; it can very well be used for oneself.
Then there is interest in another. It has a different character because it is chiefly based upon sacrifice.
The third interest is in science or art, or in the attaining of a material object – wealth or power or possessions. This interest has nothing to do with a special person. It is for something which is to be gained, and this needs sacrifice also.
And the fourth interest is interest in spiritual things. That brings one again to interest in oneself but whereas the one interest is lower selfishness, the other is higher selfishness.
Indifference can also be divided into four classes: indifference to oneself as when a person says, ‘I do not care what people say; I am not interested in myself; I have other things on my mind.’ That is one kind of indifference.
And the next indifference is towards an individual or towards individuals. One does not mind whether one lives or dies, one does not mind what happens to one. One does not mind if they love or hate one, whether one profits by them or not. If they are happy, or if they are unhappy, it is all the same.
The third aspect of indifference is when one says, ‘What do I care whether I am rich or poor, whether my rank is high or low, whether I am this or that in the world. I am quite indifferent to it.’
Finally, the person who attains to the fourth kind of indifference says, ‘What does it matter whether I pray or do not pray. Whether in the hereafter it is good or bad, what does it matter? Whether I am received in paradise or not, it matters little.’ That is the fourth kind of indifference.
To be continued…
Dear Pir Nawab,
Coincidentally (synchronicity?) I’ve been contemplating lately ons the designnation “vairagya”. Hazrat Inayat says about this, among other things:
.) “The word vairagya comes from the Sanskrit and means indifference. By Sufis it is called fana, and it is shown in the cross, the symbol of the Christian religion.”
.) “This indifference comes to every being and is the first step to his annihilation, because not one atom can have its evolution without annihilation.”
.) “The word Vairagya means independence and indifference both in one.”
.) “Indifference and independence are the two wings which enable the soul to fly.”
The two wings of our symbol refer to these two concepts!! With Love, Alim
Thank you, dear Alim – that wisdom of the two wings is a precious treasure for us. Sending love, Nawab
Dear Pir Nawab,
I discovered that in Christian mysticism the word indifference is often translated into “imperturbability”. It also reminds me of “The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences” (Hsin Hsin Ming). With Love, Alim.
Dear Alim, thank you for persevering with this beautiful theme. There is a Buddhist verse that says, “With the tenth of an inch’s difference, heaven and earth are set apart.” If we concern ourselves about even such a small distinction, then we have to suffer the duality again. But indifference is not passivity, which is where some people go astray. With love, Nawab