Hazrat Inayat: Some Ideas of the Sufis pt III

With this post we conclude the talk given by Hazrat Inayat Khan to students of the University of Southern California in 1926, begun here and continued here.  When he finished speaking, Hazrat Inayat took questions from his audience, and from the number he accepted we can surmise that he enjoyed the exchange. The questions deal largely, but not exclusively, with the theme of exaltation, a topic which dominated the latter part of his address.

Q.: What is exaltation?
A.: Exaltation has different grades. The soul for a Sufi is a current that joins the physical body with the source. And the art of repose naturally makes it easy for the soul to experience its freedom, its inspiration, its power because it is loosened from the grip of the physical body. As Rumi says in his great work Masnavi, “Man is a captive on earth. His body, his mind are as his prison-bars. And the soul unconsciously is continually craving to experience once again that freedom which originally belonged to it.” Therefore, the Platonic idea to reach the higher source is the same. By this exaltation the soul, so to speak, rises above the fast hold of the physical body even for a few moments, and in those moments experiences a freedom which man had never experienced before.

Q.: What is the object of exaltation?
A.: A moment of exaltation in every grade is a different experience. About the supreme exaltation a hint is given in the Bible, “Be ye perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.” If you ask a religious man to be perfect he says, “It is impossible for man to be perfect.” But at the same time, it is said in the Bible just the same. This gives the key. All the knowers and seers have in all times understood that there is a stage, by touching that particular phase of existence one feels raised above the limitations of life and given that power and peace and freedom and light and life which belongs to the source of all beings.

Q.: In that moment of supreme exaltation is one united with the source of all things?
A.: Yes. In other words, not only united, but we are dissolved in the source of all things. Because at the same time the source is ourself. As the great poet Khusrow [Hazrat Amir Khusrow, whose tomb is in the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya –ed] of India says, “When I become thou and thou becomest me, neither thou canst say that I am different, nor thou canst say that thou art different.”

Q.: The Yogi holy man in his attempt gets something negative. Does this man experience a negative sort of exaltation, not the true exaltation?
A.: The whole secret of life whether spiritual or material is balance. And whether we are spiritually working or materially, when we lose balance, we fail. Many go in the spiritual path in a negative attitude, which is as harmful as to be too positive. With a great power and influence, to be most positive is a great thing. But we do not know that both things are necessary. In the electric light there is positive and negative. One eye is positive, the other negative. The same with the ears; with the nostrils the same. If it is not so, we have no balance.  As much negative quality is necessary, as much positive is needed. Balancing of the both brings about perfection.

Q.: You spoke of different grades of exaltation.
A.: The different grades of exaltation are as different notes of music. As we distinguish one lower and another higher note, so are the different grades of the experience of exaltation. Even to read a beautiful poem and to have effect by it is exaltation; nice music is exaltation, to feel a joy. Because it all breaks congestion. One does not know, but it is so. There are fine cells of the nerves which become free and the body experiences relaxation. I am not speaking of jazz-band. That makes an effect quite on the contrary.

Q.: But if you call exaltation what we experience through the reading of poetry, then where is the difference between sensation and exaltation? Is not reading an experience made by the senses?
A.: When we come to the words, there always comes a confusion. If I may say that, “It is the fusion of all sensation which is exaltation.” As you have said is true also, and if you say, “Through the sensation exaltation is experienced,” it is true also. But it is only a difference of words. In reality what we can experience through the senses is called sensation, and that which we experience without the help of the senses is exaltation. But to that exaltation we have to go by the help of sensation. It is sensual but at the same time we are lifted up by it. Then there comes a time that poetry is not so necessary. That life itself gives us the same effect as music or a good poetry would, and beauty would; then man becomes independent of the sublimity of that part of nature which is only experienced by the senses. It is this experience of enjoying life and being independent of sensation which is exaltation.

Q.: Where does sensation finish and exaltation begin?
A.: For instance we take a beautiful form or colour or line which we put in an idea. That is the first step. In the first place it is sensation: the beauty of the flower. In the second place there is the idea we have of the flower, which is independent of the body of the flower. But we can experience more in the idea rather than the material form of the flower.

Q.: Was Omar Khayyam a Sufi?
A.: No doubt. There are two temperaments of Sufis. One temperament which is not only freethinking but also uses free expression. The other type has regard for religions, creeds, principles, opinions. He does not wish to shock and he has consideration. The other wants to give free expression to his ideas. One is called salik, the other rind. Omar Khayyam is rind.

Q.: Behind what he says there is ideal?
A.: Yes, the highest ideal. When he says, “Beloved”, it is his spiritual beloved; it is his devotion to the spiritual ideal. All he says has a separate meaning.

Q.: What takes care of exaltation? Is there an organ for it?
A.: Yes, if we were only bodies! But we are something else.

Remark: We are not mind!
A.: We are soul, body, and mind, sir.

Q.: Is there a seat of exaltation?
A.: Yes, there is a seat; just like the brain is the seat of thought, the head is the seat of thinking, the heart is the seat of feeling. But at the same time, it is not the plane of feeling, it is only the seat of feeling. The plane of feeling is different from the seat of feeling.

Q.: What difference is there between soul and mind?
A.: If I were to call the soul a light, the mind is the globe, and the body is the cover over it. As the light shines through the globe and cover both, so the soul shines through mind and body both.

Q.: On the soul depends wisdom and inner light?
A.: The soul is intelligence itself, consciousness itself, light itself. But when the soul is buried under mind or under body, naturally it feels uncomfortable. It is light itself. The discomfort comes by being buried under mind and body. But the moment when a person is released from the bondage of body and mind, he begins to feel its inspiration, power, and peace.

Q.: If our object should be releasing the soul from the body, then the body is a hindrance to the soul. Then of what use is the body? We could just as well make a suicide.
A.: Well a knife can be the source of cutting the finger. It only depends how we use it. Poison can be used for medicine. Then it is nectar. Its purpose makes a great difference. In the same way the life of sensation. Body and mind are vehicles to be used by the soul. Lack of knowledge makes the soul to be buried under mind and body. But it only makes it buried for that moment. It can be released from it in order to handle body and mind as instruments. Suppose a clay was needed. The potter thought, “It is not easy to make pots.”  First he had to dig in the ground and bring the earth. And then perhaps  a longer process was needed in order to make the earth ready for making pots. In the same way the creation is a process, a process which has made a clay for the spirit to use. For instance, if there were no human beings, the spirit would have taken clay of animals, produced animals. If there were no plants, the spirit would have taken the clay of rocks and made rocks. The further evolution has gone, the more ready and the more prepared and usable this clay has become. It has prepared in man that clay from which the most intelligent being was produced. But at the same time the soul has gathered around it atoms which make it a kind of garb which we call mind and body.

Q.: Which attitude would you advise toward a sin that can never be forgiven?
A.: For me there is no such a thing as sin that can never be forgiven. For me one thing is fitting, the other thing is not fitting. That makes it wrong or right. So with ourselves and with the life outside. All that we say, think and do, when it fits and when it results in happiness is right. And when it does not fit in and does not result into happiness it is wrong. It is not wrong because it is a certain action, but because it does not fit in. Therefore, we cannot stamp certain things as being good actions. A good action or right action is good or right when it is in its right place. When it is not in its right time and right place it is wrong. Very often people said to me, “Are you not passivist?” I said, “As much it is useful to be active in the right time, in that time one must be active, so there is a time when one has to be passive.” Why take just one thing as a principle? All things are right in the right time and in the right place.

Q.: But if a person has done an action which he considers sinful, what to do?
A.: Only to go from little good to greater good, from small beauty to greater beauty. Only to continue it. And not to think of it [i.e. the sinful action –ed.] at all.

Q.: Is there a philosophy which you would call the philosophy of truth?
A.: As soon as there is a question of truth one cannot confine it to a certain philosophy.

Q.: What is meant by the hereafter?
A.: The soul as a current has two kinds of atoms, distinct atoms and mental atoms. If one garb is thrown away, the other garb is not free from individuality. It goes on living; it lives longer than the physical body. Life is limited for the very reason that substance is limited. Mind, feeling have their own life, they do not belong to the brain, but to the original condition. Therefore mind lives longer than the body. The hereafter means living in the inner garb. One still continues one’s life in the hereafter because soul is consciousness itself.

Q.: Why do we need to go back to the source?
A.: We do not need to go back to the source. We are in and with the source.

Q.: What is the characteristic of the source?
A.: The source is greater than we can put in words. But we can make a conception in this way, that a seed has been the source of the flower, and leaf, and stem, and branches, and fragrance. And at the same time, if we take the seed alone we do not see in the seed the leaves––but in the seed, they are. But at the same time we cannot even compare the seed with the source, because the seed depends upon the sun and water and earth for fertilizing. But the ultimate source does not depend upon anything. It is all that is strong and powerful, intelligent. It is beyond words and beyond our limited conception to even think of the source, except that with greater inspiration, peace, joy, magnetism, we appreciate things much better. In this way we understand a little how great the source must be. The greater we are, the closer we reach to that source.

Q.: What is the result of trying to unite with the source?
A.: Perfect realization is one aspect of the result one achieves. The deeper one thinks the closer one comes to unity. The foolish person is an enemy to everybody and himself. One cannot be wise if one is not harmonious. The first sign of the really wise person is that he is immediately in harmony with everybody he meets. It is a natural result. The not-wise person is inharmonious.

Q.: Is it necessary to go into solitude in order to experience exaltation?
A.: The one who is accustomed to experience exaltation, he can experience it in the crowd, in the solitude, everywhere. But for he who is not accustomed, the solitary method is preferable.

Q.: Are not the followers of Christ nearer to the highest ideal than those belonging to other religions?
A.: Four girls were disputing about mothers. One said, “My mother is most beautiful.” The other said, “My mother is kindest.” The third maintained, “You do not know, my mother is better than all other mothers.” The fourth girl said, “I do not want to dispute. Mother is always kind, whether it is your mother or my mother.” For one, Christ is the ideal. Another one says, “I will give my life for my flag,” “for my king,” or “for my teacher.” What does it matter? Everyone has his ideal; he gives his life, his devotion to his ideal. If one person says, “Christ was God,” there is nothing wrong about it. God is too small for a person who has devotion. Besides, in man there is everything. Man is divine when holiness is wakened in him. When the worst is wakened in man, he may be a devil. The worst is in man and the best. And if a person thought that, all the best that is there  is in a certain man, there is nothing wrong about it. It is our conception. The followers of each religion, they all believe in something higher which is useful for them, which is a stepping-stone to the ultimate realization of truth. Therefore, I never distinguish too much about it. If a Muslim says “Muhammad is my ideal”, if a Buddhist says “Buddha”, if a Jew says “Moses”, if a Hindu says “Krishna”, it does not matter. They are only different names. It is only one and the same Being which comes and goes in different forms. Why discuss about their histories that we ourselves do not know? The best thing is, let people have their own ideal, let them worship what is good for them. If they have none I am sorry for them.

2 Replies to “Hazrat Inayat: Some Ideas of the Sufis pt III”

  1. Ganesh

    ‘We do not need to go back to the source. We are in and with the source.’

    This is the most touching sentence for me. It’s a most comforting answer.
    Thank you for sharing. It is like I heard Murshid speaking to me.


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