Hazrat Inayat: The Journey to the Goal pt III

We conclude today Hazrat Inayat Khan’s extensive talk on the Journey to the Goal, begun here and continued here.  In this final part, he touches the very centre of his subject with a story that is seldom told, and one that may seem fanciful or even bizarre.  Hazrat Inayat’s subtle explanation of the layers of meaning in the story has been left mostly unedited, in the conversational form in which he gave it.

In the Arabian Nights there is the story that a man loved a princess. His love increased so much that he thought that if he could see her only once that would be enough for his whole life. It was very difficult, for she was a king’s daughter, and you know that the zenana* is a place that cannot easily be entered. He went to a mystic and said to him, “I do not want to learn any philosophy nor any metaphysics nor anything. I only want to know how to reach my beloved.” The mystic said: “That is very difficult. She is a king’s daughter. But you can put your soul into the person of someone else, and so be near her.”

The man said, “How can I put my soul into someone else, and into what person? A human being will not be able to go where she is. There are the beasts and birds, but they cannot approach her.” He thought a bird would be best. There was a very beautiful parrot that had just died. He entered into the body of the parrot, and he flew straight to the king’s palace. When the princess saw the beautiful parrot she at once had it put into a cage, and stroked and caressed it, and fed it on sugarplums. One day he was very happy. Two days he was very happy. Three days he was very happy. But then he began to think, “I was a man and I am a parrot. I am in a cage. I cannot speak with the princess. She is different and I am different. If only I were a man again, even away from the princess. And perhaps by this time my body is buried and I can never be a man again.”

He escaped from his cage, and flew back to the mystic. The mystic had been preserving his body, thinking that he might want it. He said to the mystic, “I want to be a man again. But what can I do?” The mystic said, “Let me cut off the parrot’s head.” He cut off the head and the man became man again.

People may say, “What a foolish story. What a fable.” To a philosopher its meaning is very great. It shows us some very great lessons. It shows us first that no intellectual knowledge nor philosophy is needed, only love, devotion, the love of God which makes a person desire to draw near and see God. Until love is developed in him, he cannot see God. In order to do this, he becomes a bird–what does this mean? It means that he becomes a man of imagination and thought. The bird flies. The nature of thought is that it flies. It flies into the realm of imagination, of beauty. He becomes an idealist, that is, he worships God in His manifestation.

Think what the world would be if there were only manufacturers, traders, accountants, bankers, scientists, politicians. Where would be the beauty of life? When the musician feels the beauty of sound, he composes beautiful music. When the poet feels the beauty of words he writes beautiful poems. When the sculptor feels the beauty of form, he makes beautiful statues. When the painter feels the beauty of color, he paints beautiful pictures. When the architect is awake to beauty, he erects beautiful works.

But then, devotion is not enough. He desires union. And for this he must lose his external self, his parrot self. When that is gone, then he realizes that there is no other, that I am all and everything. Now I will explain its meaning as to the purpose of life, which is even more interesting. When God became manifest, He was deluded by the beauty of His nature. He felt, there is some beauty in My nature, and He wished to see and enjoy it. This whole manifestation was made for God’s admiration. The whole thing is the ideal of God, not the ideal of one person, or any persons, but the ideal of the Whole Being. To enjoy it He became first angel, then djinn, then man. Its meaning is very great. It gives the whole purpose of life.

The princess is this world. When He had become man, He had become the parrot. His desire as a man was to eat with the princess, to speak with the princess. But he is in the cage. What she gives him to eat, he eats. He likes the princess, but he is a parrot. He has become the servant of this world, so much that when the fever comes, he wishes to lie down. He does not control the fever, it controls him. He thinks, “I desire that this princess should be my servant. I do not desire to be her servant. I desire that she should be in my control. I do not desire that she should control me.” He wishes to control his temper, his jealousy, his anger. He wished to control this outer world, but he cannot. He is its servant, in the cage. He is a limited being.

God desires perfection. He desires that He should be fully satisfied. And there is this nature also in us. Therefore when we desire anything, we desire much of it, and more. We desire to be fully satisfied. In the stage of parrot He loses His true perfection. Therefore in the next inversion He perfects Himself by losing the mortal garb, which He had first adorned for the same reason; thus God arrives to Godhood from man, as the man was parrot and again the parrot returned to man. This is the perfection of which the Bible speaks, ‘Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.’ This perfection is the Abundance, the Amplitude.

The thought comes, “If I were God, I would say, let a million dollars come, and a million dollars would come. I would say to this house, fall down, and it would fall down. I am not God.” This illusion comes. Then the thought comes, “Thou art God and I am man. Thou art different and I am different.” But the thought comes, “Something there is in me; I do not desire subordination, I desire freedom, I desire perfection. I desire to have all my wishes fulfilled.” Then he realises that, “I am in the cage.” When this wisdom has come, then the princess, however charming she is, however great her attractions are, does not please him. He runs from her; that is, he renounces.

He renounces his self. He renounces all that makes him greedy, all that makes him selfish. Then when he has renounced all the world he takes away the self that remains. After that self has died by the zikar, he looks at himself and says, “I am not, but Thou art.” By the fikar he looks at his mind and says, “I am not, but Thou art.” In this way he takes away all his external self. He goes again to the mystic. That means, he returns to his pure intelligence. When that is there, without any stain, without any impression of the world, then he enjoys the pure existence of God.

This is why the mystic’s work is very great. For man to remind the Whole Being that He is God, what could be greater? The mystics are called saints, they are called sages. In the East great names are given to them. Their grade is very high. There are the words of Christ, “Ye are the salt of the earth, and if the salt hath lost its savor, wherewithal shall it be salted?” This is the meaning: the mystics are the salt of the earth. If wisdom is not found in them, from where can it be brought? Can it be brought from the dog, from the cat? Their work is great. It is to say, “You are not man, but God.” He says, “You have been man. You are not parrot. Become man again.” That is, you are God, not man. In order that you may recognize it, let me deaden the external self.

He deadens it by inactivity.  Repose, peace, rest, these are the things of death. The dead man never moves; the self-controlled man never moves. The dead man never speaks; the self-controlled man never speaks. The dead man never thinks; the self-controlled man never thinks. The dead man never feels; the self-controlled man never feels. Activity, thought, feeling, when these three things are taken out, then the external self is dead. Then nothing but God remains.

This is why the Qur’an says, Mutu Kubla anta mutu. Die before death.

God bless you.

*The inner apartments of a house or palace which are reserved for the women of the family.

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