With this post we begin a short series of teachings by Hazrat Inayat Khan on a topic about which we might think it is impossible to disagree – the knowledge of the Truth.
This subject can be studied according to five various points of view; the love of truth, the search for truth, the attainment of truth, the realization of truth, and the expression of truth. In the first place, the love for truth is inborn when the soul is mature, and the love for truth is a natural outcome of one’s whole study. Very often people ask, “What is the nature of truth, is it a theory, a principle, a philosophy, or a doctrine?” All theories, philosophies, principles, and doctrines are only a cover over the truth. The ultimate truth is that which cannot spoken, for words are too inadequate to express it.
It is as difficult, not to say as impossible, for a person to explain the truth in words as it is to try and point out God. That is why Sufis have called God “the Truth,” and truth “God.” In the Sanskrit language, truth is called satya; and satya is the highest attainment for the seeking souls. The knowledge of truth is the ultimate object of all religions; it is the seeking of all philosophies; it is the spirit of all doctrines. But it is the nature of man that he becomes disappointed with these forms of truth; he wants to find truth outside him, when it is really hidden within him, in his own heart.
The fact that man learns everything by study and observation causes him to think that the knowledge of truth is also to be gained by this method. But no – another method has to be applied in the case of truth, a method which is quite contrary to the methods we adopt when acquiring knowledge about the external world. All that which is before us, which we recognize by name and form, is the opposite of what may be called ultimate truth. Therefore if it is by study that we have to search after knowledge about all that has name and form, it follows that some other means altogether has to be adopted when seeking to attain ultimate truth.
Every soul exhibits a love for truth to a greater or less degree. Every soul wishes others to treat him fairly, and wishes others to be honest with him; every soul wishes his fellow man to act truthfully towards him. But when it is his own turn to act in that way, he will not do it. That is his own fault, for it is his nature that he should seek for the truth; it is in the very nature of man that he should love and admire and idealize the truth and the truthful souls. That is why people have followed great Teachers, such as Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, or any other great Teacher of this world. It is the love of truth that accounts for this. Wherever a man has found the spring of truth, he has been attracted and impressed by it, and has remembered it. The impression of ultimate truth has been kept in the human soul for ages.
In every soul there is a constant search for the truth. At first it manifests as simple curiosity about the secrets of the nature of things. In this way, he gradually gains the knowledge which is called “science.” After seeking out the law which is hidden under the visible objects, the next step in the search after truth consists in the endeavour to realize the hidden law of human nature. Man first begins by ascertaining the law of human character and human personality. Then he arrives at a time when he experiences the need to solve the mystery behind birth and death: why man comes, roams about for a while, and then departs, whither he goes, and whence he came. And since the quest springs from the soul, he begins to seek for religion. “What is the true religion?” he asks.
But unless a person tries to find out this ultimate truth from within himself, he will never succeed in finding it. He cannot find it out from the objects and things at which he looks. It is because of the absence of the knowledge of the ultimate truth that man gropes in the darkness, has many beliefs, many different faiths and lights for his own religion, saying, “Mine is the right religion, yours is the wrong one; my doctrine is right, yours is wrong.” When one realizes the ultimate truth, one comes to understand that one single, underlying current, to which all the different religions, philosophies and faiths are attached. These are all only different expressions of the same truth, and it is the absence of that knowledge which causes all to be divided into so many different sects and religions.
In India there is a well-known story exemplifying this fact: that some blind men were very anxious to know an elephant. So a kind man one day took them to see one. There, standing by its side, he said, “Now, here is the elephant, see what you can make of it.” Each one tried to make out by touch what the elephant looked like, and afterwards, when they met together, they began to discuss its appearance. One said, “It looks like the big pillar of a palace,” another said, “It looks like a fan.” And so they differed and discussed amongst one another. Then they quarrelled so much as to come to a hand-to-hand fight. Each one said, “I have seen it, I know what it is; I have touched it.” Then the man who took them to the elephant came and said, “You are every one of you right, but you have each known only a part of the elephant.”
So it is with the religions. A person says, “This religion is the one, this doctrine is the only one, this truth is the only truth possible.” That shows a lack of knowledge of the ultimate truth. As soon as one comes to the realization of the depth of truth, one begins to discern that it is the same truth which the great ones have tried to express in words. They could not put it fully into words. They have done their best to help humanity to evolve and reach to a point at which it is able to understand what can never be explained in words.
To be continued…