We continue with the series of teachings by Hazrat Inayat Khan on the silent life, which, he explains in part I, is distinct from the outer life of name and form that we experience through our senses.
When one comes to the essence of the teachings of Christ, one will see that, from beginning to end, the whole attitude of the Master is to tell mankind that there is a life beyond, which is higher than this which one calls life, and which yet is not life; that is to say, higher in quality, not beyond in time.
The life one recognizes outwardly is only the mortal aspect of life. Very few have ever seen or been conscious of the immortal aspect at all. Once one has realized life, that which one has hitherto called life is found to be only a glimpse or shadow of the real life that is beyond comprehension. To understand it, one will have to raise one’s light high from under the cover that is hiding it like a bushel [i.e a large basket]. This cover is man’s mind and body; it is a cover that keeps the light active on the world of things and beings. ‘Do not keep your light under a bushel’ means that we are not to keep the consciousness absorbed in the study of the external world, and in its pleasures and enjoyments.
Man is always apt to say that the religious thinker is a dreamer, lost in vague ideals, having no proof of what he believes, and far from what he himself would call the reality. He never thinks that what he calls real has in its turn become unreal to the one to whom the silent life has become reality. Can you call this life real which is subject to such changes every moment? Every activity and the object of everyone’s life – riches, power, love, friendship, childhood, youth, health, pleasure, displeasure, happiness, and poverty – all change sooner or later. Can anybody think that such things are reality? What can one call all this, that is subject to change, whose source is unseen and whose end is unseen, and which is subject to death and destruction, after which it is seen no more? Is that reality? Or are not the realities perhaps really behind the scene, from whence everything came and to which everything goes?
Perhaps many of us have experienced at some time or other, in our own home, or in a church, a temple, or other religious place, how there is a kind of silence as we sit there. Compared with a bazaar, a market, or a factory, there is no activity. If under such circumstances we noticed the condition of our own self, of our mind, of our thoughts, of our body, and have felt any comfort, have we then asked ourselves why we felt comfort and rest? Then, take another experience: we may be a few moments or a few hours in the woods, away and apart from everybody. It may seem as if even the trees and the leaves are keeping silence. The feelings that we have at such a time cannot be expressed in words. These feelings cannot be called pleasure, because what we are accustomed to in pleasure or in joy is not the same. We can only say, ‘That peculiar pleasure, that peculiar joy’. There is no name for it, and yet it is a true experience of the soul.
Then there is a still greater and deeper experience: when a person is in a wilderness, near rocks in the desert, where there is no sound even of birds or beasts, when there is absolute silence. In the East, did not all the prophets – from the time of Abraham, Moses, David, and in the time of Christ and Mohammed, all the prophets of the Old Testament and the New, and of the Qur’an – receive their inspiration from the same source? The history of Moses on Mount Sinai, the Prophet of Nazareth in the wilderness, the Prophet Mohammed on Ghar-e Hira, did they not all drink from the silent life? Though God is in all activities and forms and names, it is His other aspect, solid, firm, eternal, all-sufficient and powerful, all-intelligent, undivided and inseparable, from which the inspiration came as a perfect inspiration, so that the world could take it as the sacred Word, in all ages and in all times.
To be continued…