With this instalment, Hazrat Inayat Khan begins a discourse on an essential theme for the spiritual seeker, telling us that the attainment of purity is none other than the fundamental purpose of life.
Purity of life is the central theme of all religions which have been taught to humanity in all ages. Purity of life has been their central idea, and they only differ in the way of looking at it. It seems that purity of life has not only sprung from religion, but is the outcome of the nature of life; one sees it in all living creatures in some form or other, so to speak working out its destiny. One sees this tendency in the animals, who look for a clean place to sit, and among the birds, who go to the lake or river to bathe and clean their feathers. In humanity one sees the same tendency even more pronounced. A man who has not risen above the material life, shows this faculty in physical cleanliness, but behind it there is something else hidden, and that which is hidden behind is the secret of the whole creation, or the purpose for which the whole world was made.
Purity is a process through which the life rhythm of the spirit manifests. It has worked for ages through the mineral, the vegetable, the animal, and the human kingdoms, passing through and arriving, with all its experience of the way, at that realization where the spirit finds itself pure in essence, in its pure and original condition. The whole process of creation and of spiritual unfoldment shows that the spirit, which is life and which in life represents the divine, has wrapped itself in numberless folds, and in that way has, so to speak, descended from heaven to earth. And the next process is to unwrap itself, and that unwrapping may be called the process towards purity.
The word Sufi, which means unfoldment of the spirit towards its original condition, is derived from the Arabic word “safa” or “saf,” which literally means pure – that is, pure from distinctions and differences. What does pure exactly mean? For instance, when a person says it is pure water, it means it is not mixed with sugar or salt; it is pure, it is original. Therefore ‘a pure life’ is the term used to express the effort on the part of man to keep his spiritual being pure or free from all impressions of worldly life. It is the search for one’s original self, the desire to reach this original self, and the means of getting to one’s original self which, really speaking, is called a pure life. But this can be applied with the same meaning in any part of man’s life. If it is used pertaining to the body, it means the same – that what is foreign to the body must not be there. This is cleanliness, the first stage of purity.
And so it is with mind. When a person says ‘pure-minded,’ what does it mean? It means what is foreign to the mind does not belong to it, but what is natural to the mind remains. And what is natural to the mind? What one sees and admires in the little child, the tendency to friendliness, ready to see or admire something beautiful, instead of criticizing, willing to smile in answer to anybody’s love or smile, and to believe without questioning. What is it? A child is a natural believer, a natural friend, responding and yielding, a natural admirer of beauty, without criticism, overlooking all that does not attract, knowing love, but no hate. This shows the original state of mind, natural to man. After the mind of man has come into this world, what is added to it is addition. It may seem good for the moment, it may be useful for the moment, but still it is not pure. A person may be called clever, a person may be considered learned, a person may be called witty, but with all these attributes it is not pure.
Beyond and above all this is the man of whom it can be said that he is pure-minded. Is it then desirable for a child never to learn anything which is worldly, and remain always a child? It is like asking, “Is it desirable for the spirit never to come to earth, but to remain in heaven always?” No. The true exaltation of the spirit is in the fact that it has come to earth and from there has risen to the spirit state and realized its perfection. Therefore, all that the world gives in the way of knowledge, in the way of experience, in the way of reason, all that one’s own experience and the experience of others teaches us, all that we learn from life, from its sorrows and disappointments, its joys and opportunities, all these contradictory experiences help us to become more full of love and kindness. If a man has gone through all these and has held his spirit high, and has not allowed his spirit to be stained, it is that person who may be called pure-minded.
The person who is considered pure-minded, but who has no experience of the world and who does not know good or evil, has no credit; he is a simpleton. He is no better than a rock. A rock does not know what is evil. The greatness of man is that he goes through all this which takes away that purity of mind with which man is born – and rises through it, not being pushed under – but holding to its original purity, rising above all that pulls him down and keeps him down on the earth. It is a kind of fight throughout life. He who has no cause to fight, he does not know life. He is perhaps an angelic person, perhaps a pious person, and that we can call him out of respect; but plainly speaking, he is a simpleton.
To be continued…