More about Vanity

In a recent post, Hazrat Inayat Khan responded to a question about vanity, and now a mureed stimulated by this text and the word vanity has come forward with a question about the following saying from Gayan, Alankaras:
Vanity! Thou art the fountain of wine on the earth, where cometh the King of Heaven to drink.

The lyrically poetic thought seems paradoxical.  How can the King of Heaven be ensnared by vanity? Should we not expect the Divine Presence to be above such an interest? Can God become intoxicated?

To find some clarity on the subject, we must first consider how Hazrat Inayat understood this word.  ‘Vanity’ definitely had significance for him, as it appears in more than a dozen sayings from the Gayan-Vadan-Nirtan, a frequency roughy equivalent to his use there of the words ‘smile’ or ‘tears’  (but somewhat less than his references to ‘roses’). As he explained in the posted reply, Hazrat Inayat distinguished vanity from the dense self-centredness of ego or conceit, seeing in it the possibility of something beautiful.  Chivalry, for example, in its best expression, is a noble quality, and originates from vanity.  But in truth Hazrat Inayat declared that everything we do arises from vanity, as we read in another saying from the Gayan:
Vanity is the impetus hidden behind every impulse, that brings out both the worst and the best in man.
And also:
Vanity is the sum total of every activity in the world.

It seems that human beings cannot escape from vanity. There is vanity in taking a photo of oneself in front of a natural wonder (for which one can claim no personal credit) or with a celebrity whom one has never met, but there is also vanity in the parent caring for the child, or in the compassionate feeding of a homeless person.  For this reason, Hazrat Inayat warns us in Gayan, Boulas, with this saying:
Keep your goodness apart, that it may not touch your vanity.
And also this saying from Gayan, Chalas:
Vanity is the crown of beauty, and modesty is its throne.

This could perhaps be understood to mean that the power of beauty to rule is found in vanity, but it is incomplete without the veil of modesty.

Therefore we are–or should be–well acquainted with vanity in the human context, but still the question remains: ‘What can vanity have to do with God?’ It is a question that seeks to exalt God above our limitations, but it also sets Him apart from His creation, hiding Him somewhere in a distant heaven while we mortals struggle here on earth.  If God is the only Being, what could be outside of Him? And if God is present in His Creation, He should be most perceptible (to the human eye) in all that is beautiful, including beauty of character, in qualities such as generosity, kindness, hospitality, courage and chivalry–all of which have vanity as the impetus that brings them into view.

And as for the question of intoxication, has it not been said the God, Who is love itself, made the world with love, from love, to love?  And what is love if not intoxication?


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