Hazrat Inayat Khan continues with his explanation of the interconnection of these two qualities. In the first paragraph below, he mentions the sage sitting with legs outstretched, a posture that is considered to be uncouth and disrespectful in the East, especially before such an exalted personage as an emperor. The previous post is here.
During the reign of Akbar there lived a great sage in Delhi. One day the emperor heard about him and wanted to go and pay him homage. This sage was sitting on a rock with legs stretched out and arms folded. The emperor had Birbal, his friend and minister, with him. And the latter did not like the way the emperor was received by this sage, for though the sage knew quite well that it was the emperor, he remained in the same position. So Birbal asked the sage sarcastically, how long he had been sitting in this way. And the answer of the sage was, ‘Since I folded my hands.’ This means, ‘As long as my hands were held out in need, my legs stood up. But since my hands do not ask for anything any more, my legs remain stretched out. It makes no difference if a king or emperor comes.’ In other words, ‘As long as I had interest, my legs were functioning, but since I have no interest any more I sit in the way I like to sit.’
That is the indifference of the sages. But how does this indifference come to them? How is it practiced? There comes a day in the life of a person, sooner or later, the day when he no longer thinks about himself, how he eats, how he is clothed, how he lives, how anybody treats him, if anybody loves him or hates him. Every thought that concerns himself leaves him. That day comes, and it is a blessed day when it comes to a man. That day his soul begins to live, to live independently, independently of fear. As long as man is bound by such thoughts as, ‘I am treated badly or wrongly. People do not love me or like me. People do not treat me justly or fairly,’ he is poor. Whatever his position in life, he is poor. The moment he begins to forget about it his power becomes great.
From a worldly aspect there may be a man who looks after himself, who is self-conscious, who thinks of himself, who concerns himself solely with himself. One can say that the ego counts in that person, but that is all that one can admire. Then there may be another person, who has outgrown that thought of self. You cannot help respecting him. The respect comes by itself, as soon as a person has emerged from that thought of self. And when a person has lost interest in holding, in possessing others, then his charm is such that without his holding or possessing, all becomes his own. You can feel that person to be above the average in the world.
From the point of view of the sages no one really belongs to himself. In the East it is said that it displeases God when the parents think that their children are their own. God has created all creatures, and providence has brought about situations in which they are connected, as parents, as master, as servant, as friend, or in whatever relation it may be. And when we think that we possess, that we own or hold them, then God is displeased. And when human beings are not pleased either, then they arrive at that stage where one does not possess or own anything or anyone. That also is a stage of indifference.
To be continued…