With this post we begin an extensive series of teachings by Hazrat Inayat Khan on the longing of the soul for freedom, and the obstacles to be overcome during our journey to the goal.
Freedom is such that it is desired by every creature. From this we see that it is the soul’s tendency and the spirit’s longing to become free. Animals and birds, however carefully educated and tended by us, still have the instinct to avoid being confined.
Where does the desire for freedom begin? Its beginning is explained in a very beautiful way in some of the ancient stories. The stories from the Hebrew and Arabic scriptures tell us that when God made Adam, He commanded the spirit to enter the body of Adam, which he had made out of clay and water. When the spirit was commanded to enter, it refused, saying, ‘No, I will never become a captive in this dark prison, I who have always been free, dwelling anywhere without bondage, without barrier. I will never become captive in this place’. Then God said to the angels, ‘Sing’. And when they sang, the spirit fell into ecstasy, it became intoxicated by the beauty of the singing. While in this state of intoxication it did not know whither it was going, and thus it was that it entered the required place. So when Adam opened his eyes, the spirit was there; Adam was alive.
Rumi said, ‘The bamboo flute, which appeals to you so much, mourns over its separation from its home, the original bamboo’. In Persia and in India the reed flute is taken from the plant; so it says, ‘I am taken away from my source, my home; made into a piece, instead of the whole which I was at first’. And this pain in its heart is the only thing that appeals to the heart of those who listen. It touches them and moves them to listen to its longing. There is a very beautiful truth in this.
When we inquire into the tragedy of life, the very first of all causes is this separation from freedom. This tragedy can be seen in all kinds of people. From rich to poor, from the most illiterate to the most educated, every one has this grudge. Maybe one confesses it while another does not, but the grudge is in everybody’s mind just the same: that he has entered this objective world, for this entry seems to be the cause of all the tragedy of life, the tragedy that man’s spirit cannot be satisfied in it, cannot have lasting happiness, as long as he stays in it.
But if you ask someone you meet what the cause of his life’s tragedy is, he may say, ‘O, that I long to have more money; I am very poor, and without resources I am so unhappy’. Another person may say, ‘O, I have everything I want, but my relatives are quarrelsome and very unkind to me’. Another says, ‘I have everything I want but good health’. A fourth says, ‘I have everything, but I long to have a certain peace’. Another, ‘I long to accomplish this art; that big purpose in life; not having done so makes me unhappy.’
And if you were to supply to each his life’s need, giving money to the poor man, harmony to the man without harmony, position to the man who has not got it, a beautiful palace to the one who longs for that, health to him who has it not, then see how long each would remain happy! It would be only for that moment when the desire was fulfilled, and then he would again feel the hunger for he knows not what. He asks his mind, ‘What more do I want?’ and his mind says, ‘You feel so unhappy’. And as soon as he asks, ‘For what?’ his mind answers that he cannot have that which he seeks.
It is in this way that all through his life a man runs after things which are not the real desire of his soul. Sometimes he thinks it is his bodily appetites and passions which demand satisfaction, sometimes that it is his intellectual powers; but even if they were satisfied he would still find himself unhappy. ‘Perhaps’, he thinks, ‘it is wealth, position, or honors that are lacking’. Or he thinks, ‘It is not that I have not got the things I need, but I have not enough of them’. If he has a motor-car, he is unhappy because he has no chauffeur.
His mind, his reason, always puts forward some other cause for his unhappiness, rather than the real one, in order that he may be kept in illusion all his life; in order that all his life he should run after things which are not the real aim of his soul. Throughout his whole life he seeks after things, trying first this, then that. One day he buys this, another that, and after getting these things he still thinks, ‘O, there is still something else, that is why I am unhappy’; and as long as he has not got it, he considers that is the cause. If he has ten things he wants twenty; if he acquires twenty he seeks thirty; if he has thirty he desires fifty; and so on. Indeed if he had thousands and billions, he would want a kingdom; after that a whole universe; and if the whole universe were given him, his heart would not be satisfied, because the demand of his soul has still not been understood. He goes through life mourning and sorrowing for things he cannot get, not understanding in what lies true gain and true loss.
Therefore, when a seer or one who has realized life looks at this world, he sees that, however old a person may be–aged, young, middle-aged—he is still like a child. Children become very unhappy because they have not got, or cannot get a toy, a toy to which grown-ups would not attach any importance. To the seer, the desires of ordinary grown-up people are also like toys. The things that matter to the world do not matter to him. This is the sign that he has realized the aim of his soul.
For the aim of his soul is freedom. Freedom is the soul’s true nature. It is a captive in mind and in body. The whole tragedy of the soul is its captivity. Words such as nirvana, or mukti, salvation, or liberation–all these names are those of the one aim or ideal of the soul throughout our whole life; yet hardly anyone knows what it is he aims at. All that he does know is that there is such a longing, that there is this hope constantly there.
To be continued…