Hazrat Inayat Khan continues with his consideration of the essential relationship between the mystic and the ideal. The first post in the series is here.
As there is great joy and satisfaction in the worship of God, so there is great joy and satisfaction in adhering to one’s ideal. When a person says that he will not let anyone come between him and God, he does not know what he is saying, for in the ideal it is God who is made intelligible for our own limited mind to grasp the divine ideal. If one denies the existence of the ideal, one certainly denies the reality of God, for it is really only after having attained to spiritual perfection that one may say anything – but then one does not say anything. When people say things without having thought about them, they speak before they have arrived at perfection.
No devotion given to our ideal is too great. However high we believe our divine ideal to be, it is certainly higher than that. However beautiful a picture of our ideal we make, the ideal itself is still more beautiful. And, therefore, a devotee always has scope for expansion, for advancement. And an adept who advances on the mystical path, with all his striving, his study of life, and his meditation, will still need a spiritual ideal to carry him through all the difficulties of the path, and to bring him to the destination which is attainment.
A mystic is an idealist in every sense of the word: one who has no ideal cannot be a mystic. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the one who has no ideal lives without life. If there is anything in the world which we can say we live for, it is one thing only – the ideal; and when there is no ideal there is nothing to live for. In Sanskrit religion is called dharma, which literally means duty. To give a definition of what religion is, one can say that it is an unswerving progress towards the ideal. But then what is the ideal? Any ideal or every ideal that we have before us is the ideal for that moment.
Ideal can be divided into five aspects, of which the first is the ideal which one has for oneself. It might begin to show itself as a whim, as a dream, as an imagination, even as the expectation of a child. If a child says, ‘When I am grown-up I will have an elephant to ride upon, or a beautiful horse’, this is an ideal. And this first aspect of the ideal can again be divided into three classes. The first is when one says, ‘I shall possess this or that – so much wealth, so many gardens, so many palaces’, or, ‘I shall surround myself with so much grandeur that I shall appear quite different from anyone else.’ The next is when one says, ‘I shall be the Prime Minister or the President of the country or have a throne and crown’. And the third class is when one says, ‘I shall keep to this particular virtue, I shall be pious’, or, ‘I shall be good in every sense of the word’, or, ‘I shall be that which I consider good and beautiful in myself’.
There was a young man in Indian history, whose name was Shivaji, and whose story is an example of this first aspect of ideal. He began his life by living on robbery, and one day he came into the presence of a sage, to ask his blessing for success in his robbery. The sage saw in his face, in his eyes, in his voice that here was a real jewel, that there was an ideal in him, although not yet awakened. The sage asked him, ‘How many men have you in your gang?’ He said, ‘No one. I work alone.’ The sage said, ‘It is a pity. You must form a small band and keep together.’ He was glad to take this advice, and he formed a small band of robbers, and continued in his pursuit. He was more successful, and when he visited the sage again the latter said, ‘How many are there now in your gang?’ He said, ‘Only four or five.’ The sage told him that this was too few, that he should have at least fifty or a hundred men to do something really worthwhile. And then Shivaji, by the charm of his personality, gathered some more robbers to accompany him, and they did many really daring things. They attacked caravans, and they risked their lives, and were very successful. And one day the sage said to him, ‘Do you not think that it is a great pity that you, such a hero, who are willing to risk your life and who have won all these friends and made them your companions, do not try to throw out the Moguls [who were occupying the country at that time] at least from our district?’ Shivaji agreed. He was prepared, he had drilled, this was something for him to think about. The first attack brought him victory. Then he made a second attack and a third, till he was the chief of the whole province. And he went to the sage to express his gratitude. ‘Yes,’ the sage said, ‘be thankful but not contented, for what you have done is not enough.’ And one reads in the history of India that this man nourished the desire to form an Indian empire, but he did not live long enough to achieve it, although during his life he became a wonderful king and a splendid hero whom India will always remember.
To be continued…