We continue with Hazrat Inayat Khan’s talk about the path of the mystic. In the first part, he explains that although ‘mysticism’ has been trivialised by the world, it is a way of getting ‘to the centre of things,’ of gaining insight that would not be attainable in other ways.
Of course it makes the materialist wonder: What can be the source where all the knowledge of the world is accumulated? There is a very interesting story about Firdausi, the great Persian poet, who has written the Shahnama. One Shah of Persia once desired documents of the ancient history of Persia which no one could find; there was only this poet who offered to do so. Everyone wondered how that could be done, but he said: “Wait and you will see.” He went to the solitude for ten years and then he came back to the court with his book called Shahnama.
As he was still linked with the current of his solitary life he was not quite himself; and when one of the knights who was very critical asked where one could find that knowledge, Firdausi called him and said: “Come and sit by me, and close your eyes and see.” And then that skeptical man saw all the pictures of the ancient past pass before his eyes.
But a man may say: “If one is to become a mystic for the knowledge that mysticism gives, it is not worthwhile, because there is already so much knowledge in the world.” But it is not only knowledge that the soul seeks, there are other things, and one is the longing for a lasting happiness which man never has. Whatever his condition or occupation there is always something to complain of.
And this means that the home of the fish is water, and on earth, even on a tray of gold, it is not happy. The real home of man is the spirit of God, and elsewhere he will never be satisfied. Man cannot understand this, because he gets a little substitute called pleasure. Another thing is that this pleasure is momentary, and he must always suffer to get it; there is always pain attached to pleasure and one must pay a good price for it. The true happiness is never experienced by man until he has touched that happiness that lives in his own heart. If you ask me what that happiness is like, I will tell you that it is impossible to explain to someone who has never tasted sugar, to know what sugar is like. So one cannot explain this happiness except to someone who has felt it.
There is another thing mystics experience, and this is ecstasy, and this cannot either be explained to one who has not felt it. As there are many people who profess to be mystics, the real mystic keeps his experiences to himself. As now in the Western world these thoughts are coming to be known, many people make a profession of clairvoyance and spirit communication, a degeneration of real mysticism, which is the greatest thing. In the East these things are under the protection of religion.
Think of what loss the world has to face when mysticism degenerates into these forms, becoming commercialized and a sacrilege. Ecstasy is a well of light and love which rises from the bottom of man’s heart, and so high that it washes away all worries and troubles of life. The condition of man’s heart depends on its reflection of this Divine Light, as the condition of the sea depends on its reflection of the Cosmic Light. The cosmic changes make the sea agitated or calm. In one’s heart there are moments of calm so great that it charges the whole atmosphere, and moments when the forces rise in man, and wash away all troubles and worldly things. A poet or a gifted musician feels the same, and if you ask me why, I will say that it is that he could not create beauty, unless he were an instrument of Divine Beauty, which is the greatest creator.
Of course a mystic who dives deep, and makes his heart an instrument of the Divine Being, experiences a greater ecstasy. And as the sea responds to the cosmos more than the land, so the heart of the mystic responds to the Divine Light more than the heart of the average man. His heart is liquid, and that of the average man as frozen snow. Where does this freezing come from, since snow is also water? It comes from the thought of “I”, “my father, my mother, my beloved, my friend, mine, and separate from yours.” Whereas the first lesson of the mystic is, “Thou art, and not I.” It is not only complete surrender to God, it is self-effacement. And what does the symbol of the cross explain? That “Thou art, not me; my hands are not for me, my feet are not for me, my head is not for me, they are all Thine.”
The saying of the Hadith, “Die before death,” does not mean suicide, it means the death of the “I”, the separate self. It is an error of man to call his tent his home. It is not a home, it is a tent. The body is also a tent which is temporary, he calls it “I,” but it is not “I.” The pleasures of life make him forget what it is in him that says “I.” Think only of the helplessness, sickness and death of the body. Man never thinks of it, but acts as though he should live thousands of years on the earth. There is no condition, rank or wealth that can secure man’s life. What is it that makes him think he is something when he is really nothing? If he can only think of what is nothing, he will realize that what was, is, and shall be is one Being, God.
Living with God is immortality. The Bible from the beginning teaches us to look for immortality within ourselves. Therefore the mystic’s path is not one of study, but of meditation. In eastern language this is called Yoga, which means connection, yoke, and this is to connect oneself with the Divine Spirit. And what disconnects one is the realization of one’s separate entity, and what connects one is the thought of God. Sufis, as all other mystics, have had their schools in all ages of this inner cult. And it must be considered a privilege that East and West are coming closer together, that the poetry and music and philosophy of East and West are becoming known to each other. And the happiness of humanity lies in friendship and harmony between East and West. And there are many ways of doing this, but there is none better than the thought of God, and love between men. It is the essential spirit, and by this all can unite. No doubt the Movement of the Sufis is working to bring about a better understanding between races and peoples, but its essential work is to open the inner eyes of man.