The Inner Lifeby Hazrat Inayat Khan
The Indian Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882–1927) was the first teacher to bring Sufism—Islamic mysticism—to the Western world. His teaching was noted for its stirring beauty and power, as well as for its applicability to all people, regardless of religious or philosophical background. This book gathers together three of Inayat Khan
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The Indian Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882–1927) was the first teacher to bring Sufism—Islamic mysticism—to the Western world. His teaching was noted for its stirring beauty and power, as well as for its applicability to all people, regardless of religious or philosophical background. This book gathers together three of Inayat Khan's most beloved essays on the spiritual life from among the fourteen volumes of his collected works:
- "The Inner Life": Inayat Kahn's sublime portrait of the person whose life is a radiant reflection of the Divine
- "Sufi Mysticism": in which the author identifies and shatters the common misconceptions about mysticism to reveal its true meaning
- "The Path of Initiation and Discipleship": What it means to set out on the spiritual path and how to find and maintain the right relationship with a teacher
"Inayat Khan is masterful, patient, and exacting in teaching the way of 'getting to the center of life."—Yoga Journal
"Inayat Khan brought one of the strongest and sweetest lineages from India to the West: the music and open heart of Sufism as it blends with Persian poetry and Western intellect. He is a source and a great joy."—Coleman Barks, author of Open Secret and The Essential Rumi
- Shambhala Publications, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt
Realization of the Inner Life
The principle of the one who experiences the inner life is to become all things to all men throughout his life. In every situation, in every capacity, he answers the demand of the moment. Often people think that the spiritual person must be a man with sad looks, with a long face, with a serious expression and with a melancholy atmosphere. Really speaking, that picture is the exact contrary of the real spiritual person. In all capacities the one who lives the inner life has to act outwardly as he ought in order to fit the occasion; he must act according to the circumstances, and he must speak to everyone in his own language, standing upon the same level, and yet realizing the inner life.
For the knower of truth, the one who has attained spiritual knowledge and who lives the inner life, there is no occupation in life which is too difficult; as a business man, as a professional man, as a king, a ruler, a poor man, a worldly man, as a priest or monk, in all aspects he is different from what people know and see of him. To the one who lives the inner life the world is a stage, on which he is the actor who has to act a part in which he has sometimes to be angry and sometimes loving, and in which he has to take part both in tragedy and comedy. So also the one who has realized the inner life acts constantly;
and like the actor who does not feel the emotions he assumes, the spiritual man has to fill fittingly the place in which life has placed him. There he performs everything thoroughly and rightly, in order to fulfill his outer mission in life. He is a friend to his friend, a relative to his relatives. With all to whom he is outwardly related he keeps the right relationship with thought, with consideration, and yet in his realization he is above all relationships. He is in the crowd and in the solitude at the same time. He may be very much amused and at the same time he is very serious. He may seem very sad and yet there is joy welling up from his heart.
Therefore the one who has realized the inner life is a mystery to everyone; no one can fathom the depth of that person, except that he promises sincerity, he emits love, he commands trust, he spreads goodness, and he gives an impression of God and the truth. For the man who has realized the inner life every act is his meditation; if he is walking in the street it is his meditation; if he is working as a carpenter, as a goldsmith or in any other trade or business, that is his meditation. It does not matter if he is looking at heaven or at the earth, he is looking at the object that he worships. East or west or north or south, upon all sides is his God. In form, in principle, nothing restricts him.
He may know things and yet may not speak, for if a man who lives the inner life were to speak of his experiences it would confuse many minds.
There are some individuals in the world who from morning until evening have their eyes and their ears focused on every dark corner, wanting to listen, or to see what they can find out; and they find out nothing. If someone were to tell such people wonders, he would have a very good occupation, the whole world would seek him. But such is not the work of the self-realized man. He sees and yet does not look; if he were to look, how much he would see! There is so much to be seen by one whose every glance, wherever it is cast, breaks through every object and discovers its depth and its secret. And if he were to look at things and find out their secrets and depths, where would it end, and of what interest is it to him?
The inner life, therefore, is seeing all things and yet not seeing them, feeling all things and not expressing them, for they cannot be fully expressed;
understanding all things and not explaining; how far can such a man explain,
and how much can another understand? Each according to the capacity he has, no more. The inner life is not lived by closing the eyes; one need not close one's eyes from this world in order to live it, one can just as well open them.
The exact meaning of the inner life is not only to live in the body, but to live in the heart, to live in the soul. Why then does not the average man live the inner life when he too has a heart and a soul? It is because he has a heart and yet is not conscious of it; he has a soul and knows not what it is. When he lives in the captivity of the body, limited by that body, he can only feel a thing by touching it, he sees only by looking through his eyes, he hears only by hearing with his ears. How much can the ears hear and the eyes see? All this experience obtained by the outer senses is limited. When man lives in this limitation he does not know that another part of his being exists, which is much higher, more wonderful, more living, and more exalted. Once he begins to know this then the body becomes his tool, for he lives in his heart. And then later he passes on and lives in his soul. He experiences life independently of his body, and that is called the inner life. Once man has experienced the inner life, the fear of death has expired, for he knows death comes to the body, not to his inner being. When once he begins to realize life in his heart and in his soul, then he looks upon his body as a coat. If the coat is old he puts it away and takes a new one, for his being does not depend upon his coat. The fear of death lasts only so long as man has not realized that his real being does not depend upon his body.
Therefore the joy of the one who experiences the inner life is beyond comparison greater than that of the average man living only as a captive in his mortal body. Yet the inner life does not necessitate man's adopting a certain way of living, or living an ascetic or a religious life. Whatever his outer occupation be, it does not matter; the man who lives the inner life lives it through all. Man always looks for a spiritual person in a religious person, or perhaps in what he calls a good person, or in someone with a philosophical mind, but that is not necessarily the case. A person may be religious, even philosophical; a person may be religious or good, and yet he may not live the inner life.
There is no distinct outward appearance which can prove a person to be living the inner life, except one thing. When a child grows toward youth, you can see in the expression of that child a light beaming out, a certain new consciousness arising, a new knowledge coming which the child has not known before. That is the sign of youth, yet the child does not say so; he cannot say it, even if he wanted to he cannot explain it. And yet you can see it from every movement that the child makes; from his every expression you can find that he is realizing life now. So it is with the soul; when the soul begins to realize the life above and beyond this life, it begins to show. And although the man who realizes this may refrain from purposely showing it, yet from his expression,
his movement, his glance, his voice, from every action he does and from every attitude, the wise can grasp and the others can feel that he is conscious of some mystery.
The inner life is a birth of the soul, as Christ said that unless the soul is born again it cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore the realization of the inner life is entering the kingdom of heaven; and when this consciousness comes to the human being it shows itself as a new birth, and with this new birth there comes the assurance of everlasting life.
Meet the Author
Hazrat Inayat Khan was trained as a musician and a Sufi of the Chishti order and gave concert tours of Indian classical music in the United States and Europe.
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