In the first instalment of this series, Hazrat Inayat Khan speaks of the difference between undirected thought, or imagination, and controlled thought, which can lead to concentration, the necessary first step toward meditation.
Another side of this question is that imagination also helps concentration. As soon as a person has imagined a running stream, he also imagines the rocks near by, and the beautiful scenery which is round the spring. From this we learn that concentration is not only something that is practiced by a mystic or a philosopher, but everybody – in business, in his art, in industry – practices concentration to some extent. At the same time it is concentration which makes a person a genius, it is concentration which brings success, and it is concentration which is the mystery of the accomplishment of all things.
And when one goes a little further on the same path, one finds that there is contemplation, which means the retaining of the same thought or thought-picture. The distinction between concentration and contemplation is that the former is the composition of form, and the later is the retaining of this impression, of this form. It is difficult to explain to what extent the power of contemplation works; those who are acquainted with the workings of contemplation can only call its results a phenomenon. The reason is that the mind is creative because the divine spirit is creative, and because the divine spirit is creative, therefore the mind inherits, as its divine heritage, the faculty of creating. No one, however material, will deny the fact that all beauty and art, through whatever realm it is manifested, through science or industry, is a phenomenon of the mind. All the wonderful things made in the world in the way of inventions, of architecture, of art, have come as a phenomenon of the mind. But they are mostly the phenomenon of an active mind, and one does not realize how great the phenomena are when produced by a controlled mind, controlled through concentration and contemplation.
And when we proceed still further we come to the aspect we call meditation, an experience which is brought about by a perfect control of the mind and by rising above the action of the mind, an experience by which the inner side of life begins to reveal itself. For instance, if you ask a person, ‘Tell me about your being, what you know about it,’ he will say, ‘I have a physical body composed of five senses, subject to sensation, pleasure, pain, decay, and disease. And if I have anything more, perhaps somewhere in my brain I have the faculty of thinking. Perhaps, as many scientists say, it is an impression in my brain of all the things I have seen; and that is what I know of my mind. If there is anything else I know about myself, it is a feeling which I may call love or sympathy, but I do not know where it is; perhaps it is a sensation like the other sensations which I perceive. Besides this I do not know anything about myself except the affairs that I have to attend to in my everyday life.’ This shows that the majority of people, and a very large majority, know very little about themselves; what they know about themselves is that limited part, which cannot be compared with the part that is to be found within.
Should not this part, then, which is much larger and of the greatest importance, be explored? And is it not great negligence on the part of man, which may be called sleep, that he goes on, day after day, without giving even a thought to that part of his being which is of much greater importance than the part he knows? In spite of all the wealth that one may earn, and in spite of all one’s success and the rank and position that one may attain, one has lost a great deal if life is lost, and if that part of oneself is not found which is so much higher and greater, and which can be called sacred or the heritage of the divine Being. It is the inner self, and it can be explored by the path of meditation. When once this part of oneself is discovered, then realization comes in the form of light, and this light becomes like the lantern of Aladdin, which was found with great difficulty, but when it was directed on to life it made life reveal itself.
To be continued…