In the recently posted notes for a Universal Worship sermon, Inam Anda addresses the question of why we should want to build a temple for the Sufi Message. It is not a superficial question, and it is not the first time it has been asked. Reading between the lines of a number of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s lectures from the years 1924-26, it is evident that the mureeds of that time were not overwhelmingly welcoming to the idea. Hazrat Inayat longed to have a ‘Universelle’ – as it was called in that French context – something as fine and prominent and symbolic as the magnificent, hill-top Basilica of the Sacré Coeur which had been consecrated in 1919. As we know, he had to be content with the laying of a ceremonial corner stone at the end of the Summer School of 1926, but the stone remained no more than a symbol for well over half a century. Evidently the students hadn’t caught the wish of the Master.
Why would we doubt or hesitate at the idea of building a temple? Is it simply the physical challenge? The assembling of sufficient resources, the puzzling out of where to put the windows, and the hard work of raising a roof? Those are significant hurdles, of course, and they multiply geometrically with the size of the project, but anyone who has built even something as simple as a garden shed will know that there is a feeling of satisfaction awaiting us when the task is accomplished. Perhaps a bigger obstacle is the reluctance to become visible.
The Sufi path is an inner journey, and the further we go, the more modest and unassuming does the manner become. The real Sufi does not seek to sell the path to others; the very idea is repellent. But evolution also brings with it a duty of service; the more we understand, the more we see the need to help the world in some way or other. Throughout history, spiritually devoted people have found ways of doing this, sometimes building schools and teaching children, for example, or sometimes building hospitals and caring for the sick. The method depends upon the need of the day. In our age, the greatest sickness is spiritual starvation, the result of unrestrained materialism. Therefore, our duty, or our service, should be, without seeking to draw anyone into the Sufi path, to remind people of their own spiritual nature, their own Divine inheritance.
To accomplish this, we need to work in the world of manifestation. We must become more visible, and we must provide a capacity where the breath of the Spirit can be felt. That is what a temple can be – but it can only fulfil its purpose if we have first built the temple in our own hearts. Our own heart is the starting point, as Inam notes, and we will not convince anyone with fine architecture if we are not living in that inner temple every day.