Hazrat Inayat: The Way of Water

The following address was given by Hazrat Inayat Khan to Cherags of the Universal Worship, which is to say, those who are trained and ordained to perform this worship service, but it contains wisdom that can be relevant to everyone’s life.

I wish to speak to my Cherags on the subject of the attitude they must have in life. Will they live in the world like a religious priest, like a clergymen, or like a person living a worldly life? The answer is: they will live like everybody else, an unpretentious life, without any apparent show of a religious position, no outward form which could show anyone that this person is different from me. To do one’s everyday duty at home or outside the home, whatever be one’s profession or business, and then to perform the function of a Cherag as one’s contribution to humanity, as one’s service to the cause. For spirituality is an inner ideal; the less shown the better it is, and you can come closer to a person by being like him rather than by appearing more religious than that person is.

The psychology of human nature, especially today, is such that if a man is not closely connected with religion, his first tendency is to be antagonistic towards any sign of religion or spirituality; as soon as he sees it, he says: I have run away from my own church, and now some other priest wants to get hold of me. He shakes like a turtle and wishes to hide himself in the hard shell he has built round himself as a defense that will not allow him to be touched. You may have the best intention to serve him, but it will be depreciated and you will be discouraged. Human psychology is such that there is something in every soul that hardens as soon as the soul thinks that there is a battle. There is a soldier part in every soul; it may be guarding something to its own disadvantage, but nevertheless it fights. As soon as friendly conversation takes place, then there is established a way between two hearts. If you appear to him like everyone else, as an ordinary person, he will come closer to you and listen to you with greater response, because he will know that you are in the same boat as he, subject to all problems and difficulties; and once he opens his heart to you, you have a ground before you to sow some seeds of wisdom in which is the fulfillment of your life’s mission.

I was traveling one day and met an Italian on the boat. He was a modern student, quite opposed to the church, and he knew nothing but matter. He looked at me in my robe with the certainty that I was a priest, and yet he had some curiosity about me, which gave him an inclination to speak a word with me. His first question was: Are you a priest? and he was much consoled when I said: No. Then what are you? I said: I am a human being. But he said: You are dressed like a priest. I said: This is the dress of my country, you will find many priests and others dressed like this. This broke the monotony and we became friends. Then he asked: What are you, what is your work? I said: My work is anything I like to do. Then he still thought: He certainly is a priest. Maybe in order to test me he said: I do not believe in God. I said: But you believe in something. Yes, he said, I believe in eternal matter. I said, My belief is not far from yours. He was surprised–he expected me to be cross, to defend my God ideal. He said, I mean what I say. I said, What you call eternal matter, I call spirit. Matter cannot be eternal; you call it eternal, but it is the same aspect that I call spirit.

He was touched but not ready to accept. We talked on many different points of materialism that might create revolt in me, but I went along with him in his material discourse, till I brought him to a point where, though he would have thrown away any book on religion, yet he was very pleased to read my book through all the voyage to America. He did nothing but read, and the outcome was that he said: May I have the honor to make you my guest when you come to Milan, I am sure my people will be very glad to welcome you. Many subjects arose on which we could have disputed all the way, but that would not have brought a fruitful result. Our way is not the way of the rock which breaks everything that falls upon it; our way is the way of the water that surrounds the rock; if the mountain does not open its heart, the water surrounds it, and takes it into its own heart.

Arguments and disputes have no end. No two persons can think alike, the evolution of two beings is never equal. Even if they think alike on four points, on one point they differ. The success of our religious work is in unpretentious working, to keep our knowledge in humble guise, and to make use of it in establishing friendship. There is only one way of teaching spiritual things and that is the way of sympathy. Build a bridge of sympathy with every person you come in contact with, then a channel is established through which your ships may pass, loaded with the treasure of spiritual Ideas.

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