Hazrat Inayat Khan continues to describe the stage of ‘recognising’ God, telling two insightful stories to illustrate the thought. The previous post may be found here.
Think of how the followers of all the different religions have fought one another! So convinced were some that there were a thousand, or millions or numberless multitudinous gods, whereas others were convinced there is but One. To the mind of the Sufi, both are right. Both are opposite to one another in knowledge. One religion desires to teach that all these infinite varieties are just one God, and desires to impress the idea that this is God. Those who have learned that there is one God cannot conceive the idea of many gods! So they fought through all their lives, without ever recognizing who really is their God. They teach that someday they will be taken before Him for judgment, when they are actually before Him all the time, all day long, all night long! Understand this once, and a great change of outlook will come; one’s thoughts of God will change so much that the whole moral standpoint changes. The following little story will illustrate the manner of the change.
A great king of Persia named Jamshed had a certain wrestler named Rustam. He was the greatest of all the wrestlers in the kingdom, and he became so proud of his strength and power and bravery that the king thought he would humble him in some way. But he could not find anyone able to be developed and trained so as to be capable of matching Rustam. He was the only one of his kind in the whole land.
Then it happened that Rustam went to Arabia, and during his absence a son was born in his house in Persia. The child’s mother died soon after, and this was the king’s opportunity. He took the child into his own palace, and no one knew he was Rustam’s son. In the course of time, when he became a youth, he became a great fighter, so strong and powerful that no one in the land could match him. And then, after many years, Rustam returned. Jamshed did not tell the youth that Rustam was his father; he only said that a strong and powerful wrestler had come from the Arabs, and that he must fight him.
Now it was the custom that every wrestler carried a dagger. Whoever was brought down had either to surrender or be killed. So everybody went to see the wrestling match in the arena. The king felt sure that the son would kill Rustam. Well, they wrestled, and finally as the young boy had great energy, with youth and power, he brought Rustam down. But Rustam, being so proud of his great power and strength throughout all his life, did not wish to surrender, so he must be killed. So his son unsheathed his dagger, and Rustam said, “It does not matter. Someday, when my son grows up, he will vanquish you.” The youth said, “Who is your son?” Rustam said, “Who are you?” Then the secret came out that this boy was Rustam’s son, and now there was no end to the son’s sorrow, it was so great. He made obeisance at his father’s feet saying, “Father, I would rather be the one to be killed with the sword than to be called your conqueror, when as they say I am your son.” His father said, “It does not matter, for now I am glad at least to know I have not been conquered by someone else than by my own son, my own self.” What a tragedy this was.
The same tragedy and the same attitude comes into the life of every man from the time that he begins to discover his Heavenly Father on earth. You cannot subscribe to “love thine enemy” unless you first recognize in him your Father in heaven. One may recognize one’s own Father in a friend, but when we recognize Him in the enemy too, then we can love him also! That is the lesson. We flee from God like Cain, till we discover He is here. Yes, just think what a change there would be in the attitude of man once he realized his Heavenly Father, the only One to Whom reverence is due, in his fellow man!
The life of the Sufi in the East is the life of a true disciple of Christ. People may recognize the teachings of Christ in a scripture or a church or a chapel, yet to the Sufi nothing of that is Christ. The only true disciple of Christ is the one who sees God as Father, God as Mother, in all his fellow men. So in India, Arabia, Persia, they call a faqir, a sage, a dervish “bawa,” “father;” or a lady “mother,” seeing both aspects of God in all things. Naturally there are degrees – fana-fi-shaikh, fana-fi-rasul, fana-fi-Allah – but they recognize their teacher in everyone. That is the first step.
One day I was walking in the city and met a dervish with a beautiful personality. He was clothed in rags, but his speech, his voice, his thought, his movement, his atmosphere were so winning. At that time I was very young in the pursuit of philosophy. Youth is a time when pride has full play. So, as we were walking along and he called me ‘Murshid’ [teacher] I was very glad. He addressed me as Murshid every time he spoke to me! Presently we met another person who seemed to be without any education, seemingly without any knowledge of philosophy or religion or anything out of the way. But he called him Murshid also! So my pride was broken, for next he came across a policeman and called him Murshid too! So then I asked my teacher what could be the meaning of all this, and he said, “Your dervish shows you the first step towards recognizing God: to recognize all beings as your teacher. A foolish person can teach you, a wise person, a learned person, a student, a pious person, a wicked person, even a little child: everyone can teach you something. Therefore have that attitude towards everybody. Then it may be said that you recognize God. When the chela [student] is ready, the guru appears.” That is, when you are ready to discern it, you find your teacher beside you. We can even learn love from doves, and faithfulness from dogs.
To be continued…