As he continues his description of the journey to mastery, Hazrat Inayat Khan explains the need to adopt the principle of ‘No, it does not matter.’ The previous post may be found here.
Imam Al-Ghazali has said, in his “Alchemy of Happiness,” that “the spiritual path is like shooting an arrow into the darkness.” You cannot know where it falls or what it strikes. You are going along blindly, knowing not what you really seek, nor what you have achieved. There is only one commendable procedure: if your walk along the spiritual path makes you feel stronger on your feet, you will be able to realize what can be accomplished by patience and by hope. If you only paid attention to this all your life long, and you watched what you do, you would see your own progress, and what encouragement that would be! Another person keeps complaining that nothing is ever manifested to him on his spiritual path – no forms, no “ghost,” no color, no voice, no word. Even if he had had such manifestations they would have been no help to him, but he is discouraged because of not having received any. His teacher might easily lead him astray from the Path, simply because he is aiming for things that do not matter, but a real teacher will not encourage him to seek such things.
The words “No, it does not matter,” form a sort of principle to adopt in one’s life. Of course there are things which obviously do matter; it matters a great deal if you do not follow your ideal, if you make a slip of the tongue, or any other shortcoming. But it does not matter if somebody else is not following the same ideal. You cannot alter his plan of life or his opinions, so they cannot matter to you!
The spiritual path may be natural, and it may be unnatural. When man attaches his thought and mind to the external world, he comes to partake of earth rather than of heaven, of matter rather than of the spirit. By partaking of the qualities and habits and limitations of matter, he forgets all the qualities of the spirit. Whatever qualities he partakes of, those qualities draw man to the substance to which they belong, and such a man is therefore drawn more to earth than to heaven as he proceeds. Such persons would not [choose to] go to heaven, but would prefer to stay on earth, in spite of all its struggles, difficulties, and illnesses that belong to life on earth. Man is so attached to it! He does not know the joy, the peace, pleasure and happiness and comfort of the other side, because he has no experience of the spirit whatsoever.
All the same, there are some people who feel a kind of a call from the spirit, and yet they are attached to the objective world in so many ways. It is as if they are woven into the web of this world so intimately that it is very difficult to get away from it. For every step that he takes towards heaven, he is drawn backwards ten steps to the earth. Whoever sets out on this path is therefore in a constant warfare. He has to encounter trouble from his relatives, from his friends and acquaintances; he experiences troubles from those who misunderstand his aims; they misuse him, they misjudge him, and blame him for doing things and thinking in a manner for which he is, in reality, justified.
Think of Christ, whose thoughts were so contrary to the religious thought of that time. What a difficulty to pass from the thought of an ordinary person to the thought of Christ. What difficulties there are to face! But once you fight this difficulty, and the further you advance, the more you are drawn to the Spirit by the Spirit. This goes on up to a certain limit, and all this time the difficulty is so great. Once you reach the limit, everything becomes easy. If only the will power is under control, it will overcome the inertia.
Here is an anecdote about dervishes, who sometimes do humorous things. There was a certain dervish sitting in the shade of a tree, who was always very kind and helpful to those who came to see him. But one day a young man, a soldier, was passing by and he said something to the dervish which made him cross. So they had a few words. From that the soldier began to bully him, and give blows on his back and neck, without the dervish making any protest. The soldier then went on his way.
A wise man sitting near by was thinking to himself, “What a funny thing! For this dervish is always good and kind and hospitable. So why should that soldier be so cross as to punch him in the neck and over the body?” So he observed attentively, and noticed the dervish saying to himself, after several blows, “Is it enough, or do you want some more?” Then the wise man asked himself, “What does he mean by: ‘Do you want more?’ ”
The explanation is that the ego always wants feeding, and the more you feed it the more energy it has. What are you feeding him with? You feed him by your inclinations, by getting praise from people, attention from people, benefits, help, love. Whether these come justly or by injustice, rightfully or not, this ego is never satisfied; it keeps on wanting attention. As a result it begins to rule over the higher faculties of inspirational power, spiritual power, wisdom, reason, justice – all the beautiful faculties. This nafs, or ego, or Satan (for the ego is Satan) governs all these faculties, and a man cannot become saintly until he has crushed it. The only way to crush it and annihilate it is by starving it. There is no other way than this whatever. The saintly personality cannot come into being until all this is achieved.
To be continued…