THE PURPOSE OF LIFE
Every soul at times asks itself, 'Why am I here?' This
question arises according to the development of one's intelligence.
A man may say, 'I am here to eat, drink, and to make merry,'
but this even the animals do; therefore what more has he
accomplished by being human? Another might affirm that the
attainment of power and position is important, but he must
know that both of these are transitory. Power of any kind
has its fall as well as its rise. All things we possess
are taken from others, and others in their turn await with
outstretched hands to seize them.
A man may say, 'We are here to gain honor.' In this case
someone has to be humbled in order to give him the honor
he seeks; but he in his turn may have to be humbled by a
still more ardent seeker of honor. We may think that being
loved is all-important, but we should know that the beauty
in ourselves which makes another love us, is transient.
Furthermore the beauty we possess may pale in comparison
with the beauty of another. When we seek the love of another
we are not only dependent upon their love, but are ourselves
devoid of love. If we think that it is desirable to love
someone who deserves our love, we are mistaken, for we are
always liable to be disappointed in the object of our love,
who may perhaps never prove to be our ideal. One is led
to suppose and believe that virtue is the only thing that
matters in life, but it will be found that the greater number
of sufferers from moral hallucination are to be met with
among the self-righteous.
Then the only purpose of our life here on earth, if there
be any, is the successful attainment of life's demands.
It may seem strange at first sight that all which life demands
should be allowable and worthwhile attaining; but on a closer
study of life we see that the demands of our external self
are the only ones we know, and we are ignorant of the demands
of the true self, our inner life. For instance, we know
that we want good food and nice clothes, comfort of living
and every convenience for moving about; honor, possessions,
and all necessary means for the satisfaction of our vanity,
all of which for the moment appear to us as our life's only
demands; but neither they nor their joy remain with us constantly.
We then come to think that what we had was but a little
and that perhaps more would satisfy us, and still more would
suffice our need; but this is not so. Even if the whole
universe were within our grasp it would be impossible fully
to satisfy our life's demands. This shows that our true
life has quite different demands from those with which we
are familiar. It does not want the joy experienced by this
individual self only; it desires joy from all around. It
does not wish for a momentary peace, but for one that is
everlasting. It does not desire to love a beloved held in
the arms of mortality. It needs a beloved to be always before
it. It does not want to be loved only for today and perhaps
not tomorrow. It wishes to float in the ocean of love.
It is therefore that the Sufi seeks God as his love,
lover and beloved, his treasure, his possession, his honor,
his joy, his peace; and his attainment in its perfection
alone fulfills all demands of life both here and hereafter.
Then again it may be said, there is a purpose above each
purpose, and there is again a purpose under each purpose;
and yet beyond and beneath all purposes there is no purpose.
The creation is, because it is.
Life is a journey from one pole to another, and the perfection
of the conscious life is the final destiny of the imperfect
life. In other words, every aspect of life in this world
of variety gradually evolves from imperfection to perfection;
and if life's evolution were not so in its nature, there
would be no difference between life and death, for life
on the surface is nothing but the phenomena of contrast.
This, then, is another way of expressing what is the purpose
LIFE IN THIS WORLD
One may try to see from the point of view of another
as well as from one's own, and so give freedom of thought
to everybody because one demands it oneself; one may try
to appreciate what is good in another, and overlook what
one considers bad; if somebody behaves selfishly towards
one, one may take it naturally, because it is human nature
to be selfish, and so one is not disappointed; but if one
appears oneself to be selfish, one should take oneself to
task and try to improve. There is not anything one should
not be ready to tolerate, and there is nobody whom one should
not forgive. Never doubt those whom you trust; never hate
those whom you love; never cast down those whom you once
raise in your estimation. Wish to make friends with everyone
you meet; make an effort to gain the friendship of those
you find difficult; become indifferent to them only of you
cannot succeed in your effort. Never wish to break the friendship
If any one causes harm, one should try to think it is
because one has deserved it in some way, or else it is that
the one who harms knows no better. Remember that every soul
that raises its head in life gets much opposition from the
world. It has been so with all the prophets, saints and
sages, so one cannot expect to be exempt. In this is the
law of nature, and also God's plan working and preparing
something desirable. No one is either higher or lower than
oneself. In all sources that fulfill one's need, one may
see one source, God, the only source; and in admiring and
in bowing before and in loving anyone, one may consider
one is doing it to God. In sorrow one may look to God, and
in joy one may thank Him. One does not bemoan the past,
nor worry about the future; one tries only to make the best
of today. One should know no failure, for even in a fall
there is a stepping-stone to rise; but to the Sufi the rise
and fall matter little. One does not repent for what one
has done, since one thinks, says, and does what one means.
One does not fear the consequences of performing one's wish
in life, for what will be, will be.
Every being has a definite vocation, and his vocation
is the light which illuminates his life. The man who disregards
his vocation is a lamp unlit. He who sincerely seeks his
real purpose in life is himself sought by that purpose.
As he concentrates on that search a light begins to clear
his confusion, call it revelation, call it inspiration,
call it what you will. It is mistrust that misleads. Sincerity
leads straight to the goal.
Each one has his circle of influence, large or small;
within his sphere so many souls and minds are involved;
with his rise, they rise; with his fall, they fall. The
size of a man's sphere corresponds with the extent of his
sympathy, or we may say, with the size of his heart. His
sympathy holds his sphere together. As his heart grows,
his sphere grows; as his sympathy is withdrawn or lessened,
so his sphere breaks up and scatters. If he harms those
who live and move within his sphere, those dependent upon
him or upon his affection, he of necessity harms himself.
His house or his palace or his cottage, his satisfaction
or his disgust in his environment is the creation of his
own thought. Acting upon his thoughts, and also part of
his own thoughts, are the thoughts of those near to him;
others depress him and destroy him, or they encourage and
support him, in proportion as he repels those around him
by his coldness, or attracts them by his sympathy.
Each individual composes the music of his own life. If
he injures another, he brings disharmony. When his sphere
is disturbed, he is disturbed himself, and there is a discord
in the melody of his life. If he can quicken the feeling
of another to joy or to gratitude, by that much he adds
to his own life; he becomes himself by that much more alive.
Whether conscious of it or not, his thought is affected
for the better by the joy or gratitude of another, and his
power and vitality increase thereby, and the music of his
life grows more in harmony.
To the view of a Sufi this universe is nothing but a
manifestation of the divine Being, and this divine manifestation
is called in Sufi terms Nur-Zahur. The supreme God,
from His existence as the single and only Being, has, so
to speak, journeyed as far as He could towards the surface.
Through His activity and His will behind it, He has manifested
on the surface, from the heavens He has descended upon earth.
From the most unconscious state of existence, blind, unaware
of His being, as is the rock, He has gradually awakened
to consciousness of the surroundings on the surface. Also
in the Quran, one finds the idea that the world was created
out of darkness. The gradual progress of the journey brings
the Inner Being to the condition of a plant, flower and
fruit, then to the state of worm, germ, and animal, until
He manifests as man, Ashraf al-Makhluqat, the ruler of this
universe and the controller of the heavens. In man He reaches
the final goal of His destiny, when He realizes Himself
as the whole being, which He has not done hitherto. God
has made man in His image, as is said in the Bible.
Hazrat Ali says, 'The secret of God can be studied in
His nature.' Every traveler on foot as a rule lights his
torch at the approach of night. So also this heavenly traveler.
Seeing darkness overwhelming Him in the lower spheres on
His path, He lights a torch. It is the light of this torch
which is called in the Quran Nur-i Muhammadi, that
has guided Him to the surface, whence He could clearly discern
and find His path back. To the knower's eye, this Nur, this
light, is the real Muhammad. This light it is which has
beamed forth through all the Masters of humanity and is
known as the Light of Guidance.
It is the nature of every luminous object to shed light
all around, and yet a particular beam of light coming forth
from it gives more illumination than light spread all around.
This may be seen in the light of the sun. The souls which
happen to be in the zone of the beam of the Light of Guidance,
whether by intention or accident, have been known to the
world as the chosen ones of God. They saw God sooner, they
heard Him more quickly than others, and they have been nearer
to Him than others. They may be called the elect of God
as it is said in the Song to the Soul of the Saint:
Before the righteous soul,
Servant of God, even the angels bend;
His lotus feet the long-desired goal
Where weary pilgrims find their journey's end
In pardon for their sin.
Thus, as the saint God comes, and man is healed,
And fortunate that happy one, within
Whose heart the mystic vision is revealed.
All souls since the creation of man who have been in
this light have been Masters, coming one after the other
connected by the link of the one current which first springs
from the innermost being and broadens and expands in this
The saints, sages, and mystics, who fare forth from the
highest spheres, are attracted by this light, and they seek
refuge in it from life's dark clouds. The invisible ones,
who floated in this light even before man was created, are
The divine light has shone upon the mineral and vegetable
kingdoms; and there too it has shown its phenomena, although
its full radiance has been reached only in man. It can be
seen in the developed intelligence, and this can be observed
in the cosmic system as well as in the mineral and vegetable
kingdoms. It is the light of the sun which shines upon the
moon and the planets; each star is but a reflection of the
same light; thus the whole cosmic system is illuminated
by the sun alone.
In the vegetable kingdom we see one little plant, a fruit
or flower, spreading its influence around it, covering that
part of the forest in time with the same sweet fruit or
with the same fragrant flower.
When we watch the animal kingdom closely, we see the
special gift of intelligence in some animals. We find that
among all birds there is a leader for every flock. Among
the elephants of the forest especially, there is the wise
elephant who walks in front of the herd, carefully caring
the stem of a tree with his trunk. He uses it as a stick,
and examines with it the path he walks upon to discover
whether there are any pits in the way, for his own safety
as well as that of his followers. In the jungle a troop
of monkeys can be seen following the command of one among
them. After he has jumped, they all jump. The foxes and
dogs in the jungle have among them one who is most wary,
who gives the alarm before every coming danger. In a flock
of birds one wise and courageous bird leads the whole flock.
And this is the case with many other birds and beasts also.
This faculty of guidance, with the maturity of intelligence,
fulfills the purpose of manifestation in the evolution of
The Quran tells that man was destined to be the Khalif
of all beings, which can be rightly understood when we see
that all beings in the world serve man, are being controlled
and ruled by him. Obeying his command. The secret of their
nature is disclosed to him, that he may use them for the
purpose for which they are meant. Moreover it is man who
may rightly be called the seed of God, for in him alone
intelligence develops so perfectly that he not only appreciates
God's works and worships Him, but he is even enabled to
attain self-sufficiency and all-pervading consciousness
of the everlasting life of God. Man realizes his perfection
in God, and God realizes His perfection in man.
We see this tendency of guidance in a small degree in
parents, who, whatever their own life may have been, yet
wish their children to benefit by their experience – that
the children may live rightly. There are some people to
be found, in this world of selfishness, who warn their friends
against going astray; and we find a leader in a community
who sacrifices his own life and welfare for the benefit
of his fellow men, uniting them in the bond of love and
harmony. The same attribute of self-sacrifice, in its higher
grade of evolution, is seen among the Masters of humanity,
who act as officials of the infinite government and are
known in the world as messengers. Among them are holy beings
of different grades, designed by Sufis as Wali, ghaus,
Qutb, Nabi, and Rasul. They differ one from the other in
degree, according to the depth to which they penetrate into
the world unseen, or to the breadth of the space they occupy
in the universal consciousness, and also according to the
width of the circle of humanity that is placed in their
charge for its guidance. Nabi is the guide of a community,
Rasul has a message for the whole of humanity, and each
has a certain cycle of time for his message.
This can be seen by an intelligent study of the cosmos.
The laws of nature teach us and prove to the knower the
influence of each planet upon souls, both individually and
collectively, as families, nations, and races; and even
upon the whole world, the condition of each and all being
in accordance with the nature of the planet under whose
influence they are. Over birth, death, and every rise and
fall, and over all life's affairs the planet acts as ruler.
If planets, the reflections of the sun, have power upon
the external affairs of humanity, how much greater must
the power of the God-conscious, the reflections of the divine
light, of which the sun is merely a shadow! These are the
Awatads, whom the Hindus call Avatars, who are not in power,
as the earthly kings are, only for the time of their life
on earth, but remain in power even after they have passed
from this earthly plane. The knower therefore sees in the
Masters of humanity, not only the deliverers of the divine
message, but also the spiritual sovereigns, controllers
of the universe during their cycles.
Every aspect of the life of an individual and of the
life of the world has its cycle. In the life of an individual
the period from his birth to his death is the first part,
and from death to assimilation in the Infinite the second
part. The sub-cycles in man's life are from infancy to youth
where one part ends, and from youth to old age which is
the close. There are again under-cycles: infancy, childhood,
youth, maturity, senility; and there are the cycles of man's
rise and fall.
So there is a cycle of the life of the world, and the
cycle of the creation of man and his destruction, the cycles
of the reign of races and nations, and cycles of time, such
as a year, a month, a week, day, and hour.
The nature of each of these cycles has three aspects,
the beginning, the culmination and the end, which are named
Uruj, Kamal and Zaval; like, for example, new moon, full
moon, and waning moon; sunrise, zenith, and sunset. These
cycles, sub-cycles and under-cycles, and the three aspects
of their nature, are divided and distinguished by the nature
and course of light. As the light of the sun and moon and
of the planets plays the most important part in the life
of the world, individually and collectively, so the light
of the Spirit of Guidance also divides time into cycles.
And each cycle has been under the influence of a certain
Master with many controllers under him, working as the spiritual
hierarchy which controls the affairs of the whole world,
mainly those concerning the inward spiritual condition of
the world. The Masters have been numberless since the creation
of man; they have appeared with different names and forms;
but He alone was disguised in them who is the only master
Rejection of the stranger, and belief only in the one,
whom he has once acknowledged, has kept man in darkness
for ages. If he believed one message he would not accept
the succeeding message, brought by another Master, who was
perhaps a stranger to him. This has caused many troubles
in the lives of all the Masters. Man refused to believe
the Masters and their teachings, whether of the past or
future, if their names were not written in the particular
tradition he believed, or if he had not heard their names
in the legends handed down for ages among his people. Therefore
the people of that part of the world who have acknowledged
the Hebrew prophets do not for instance recognize Avatars
such as Rama, and Krishna, or Vishnu and Shiva simply because
they cannot find these names in their scriptures. The same
thing occurs in the other part of humanity which does not
count Abraham, Moses or Jesus among its Devatas,
as it does not find those names written in the legends with
which it is familiar. Even if it were true that Brahma was
the same Devata whom the Hebrews called Abraham, and if
Christ was the same Master whom the Hindus have called Krishna,
yet man would not recognize as one those whom he has distinguished
as different, having a higher opinion of one of them and
a lower opinion of the other.
If the Masters were not the same in their mortal garb,
yet in spirit they were one; if it were not so, how could
one and the same truth be disclosed by them all? The Masters
of humanity have been the elder brothers who guided the
younger ones out of their brotherly love, and owing to their
love of the Father. It is humane to sympathize with one's
fellow man when he is striving for something and cannot
gain it, and to help him to the attainment of the ideal
for which he strives.
This is very well illustrated by the myth of Ramachandra.
It is said in the Purana that once Sita, the consort of
Ramachandra, was staying in the guardianship of Vashita
Rishi with her sons. The younger son Lahu, one day went
to see the neighboring town. He saw Kalanki, a most beautiful
horse, running about the city without a rider. When he inquired
whose the horse was, people told him that this horse had
been let loose so that whoever was able to catch it should
be made the king of that kingdom. This tempted the youth,
and he ran after the horse in order to catch it. He continued
running a long time, and met with nothing but disappointments.
Every time he came close to the horse, thinking now he would
catch it, it slipped from his hand. When he reached the
point of utter disappointment, he saw his brother coming
in search of him, sent by his mother, and he told him that
he would not come back till he had caught the horse. The
brother said, 'That is not the way to catch a horse; in
this way you will perhaps run forever and will not be able
to catch it. Therefore, instead of running after the horse,
run to meet it.' This caused the younger brother to succeed
in a moment's time. Then both brothers were taken to the
presence of Ramachandra, their father, who embraced both,
acknowledging the guidance of the one and the achievement
of the other.
All the Teachers who came before taught for whatever
community or group of people they were born, and prophesied
the coming of the next Teacher, foreseeing the possibility
and the necessity of the continuation of the Message until
That the Messengers came successively did not mean that
they were to give different messages, but that they should
correct the corruption made in the message of the past by
its followers. Also to revive principles in order to suit
the evolution of the period, and to recall the same truth
to the human mind which had been taught by the past Masters
but had become lost from memory. It was not their personal
message, but the divine message. They were obliged to correct
the errors made by the misinterpretation of the religions,
thereby renewing the same truth given by the past Masters
which had in the course of time been changed from its real
character. Man has ignorantly quarreled about the names
and forms of Masters, traditions, principles, and their
limited groups, forgetting that they are one in that which
Their messages differ from one another in their outer
appearance, each message being given in accordance with
the age of man's evolution, and also in order to add a particular
part in the course of divine wisdom. Certain laws and principles
were prescribed by them to suit the country where the message
was given, the climate, the period, customs, manners and
It was most necessary for the Messengers to claim some
exceptional position which might attract humanity to receive
the message they had to give. Some were called Avatar; an
incarnation of Brahma, such as Vishnu, Shiva, Rama, and
Krishna, while others were called Payghambar, prophet,
and intercessor. Their followers have had foolish disputes
about the greatness of their assumption, or about what they
did and taught, or about the sort of life they led while
admiring and hating according to their personal liking.
The divine message has always been sent through those
fitly endowed. For instance when wealth was esteemed the
message was delivered by King Solomon; when beauty was worshipped,
Joseph, the most handsome, gave the message; when music
was regarded as celestial David gave his message in song.
When there was curiosity about miracles Moses brought his
message. When sacrifice was highly esteemed Abraham gave
the message. When heredity was recognized, Christ gave his
message as the Son of God. When democracy was necessary,
Muhammad gave his message as the Servant of God, one like
all and among all. This put an end to the necessity for
more prophets, because of the democratic nature of his proclamation
and message. He proclaimed la ilaha illa-llah (none
exists but God). God constitutes the whole being, singly,
individually and collectively, and every soul has the source
of the divine message within itself. This is the reason
why there is no longer the need for mediation, for a third
person as a savior between man and God. For man has evolved
enough to conceive the idea of God being all and all being
God, and has become tolerant enough to believe in the divine
message given by one like himself, who is liable to birth,
death, joy, and sorrow, and all the natural vicissitudes
All Masters from the time of Adam till the time of Muhammad
have been the one embodiment of the Master-ideal. When Jesus
Christ is represented as saying, 'I am Alpha and Omega,
the beginning and the end,' it is not meant that either
the name or the visible person of Jesus Christ is the Alpha
and Omega, but the Master-spirit within. It was this spirit
which proclaimed this, moved by its realization of past,
present, and future life, confident of its eternity. It
is the same spirit which spoke through Krishna, saying,
'We appear on earth when Dharma is corrupted,' which was
long before the coming of Christ. During his divine absorption
Muhammad said, 'I existed even before this creation and
shall remain after its assimilation.' In the holy traditions
it is said, 'We have created thee of Our light and from
thy light We have created the universe.' This is not said
of the external person of Muhammad as known by this name.
It refers to the spirit which spoke through all the blessed
tongues and yet remained formless, nameless, birthless and
But the blind world, absorbed in its phenomena and impressed
by a certain name and form, has clung to the name, forgetting
the true being. It is this ignorance which has divided the
children of men into so many divisions and separated one
from the other by their own delusions: whereas in reality
there exists one religion and one single Master, the only
God. Man has considered his faithfulness to the Master in
whom he believed his true religion; and to believe in the
next teacher he considered a breach of faith. This is pictured
in the following allegory.
THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY
There was a man living with his wife and children in
a little village. He was called away by the inner voice
of his soul, and he renounced his life with his wife and
children and went into the wilderness, to a mountain called
Sinai, taking with him his eldest son, the only one of his
children who was grown up. The children having a faint remembrance
of their father wondered at times where he was, and longed
to see him; they were then told by their mother that he
had gone away long ago, and perhaps had passed from this
earth. At times in answer to their longing she would say,
'Perhaps he will come or send word, for so he promised before
his departure.' Sometimes the children grieved at their
father's absence, their father's silence, and whenever they
felt the need for him to be among them they would comfort
themselves with the hope, 'perhaps some day he will be with
us as he has promised.'
After some time the mother also passed away, and the
children were left with guardians who were entrusted with
their care, together with the care of the wealth left by
After some years, when their brother's smooth face had
become bearded and when his cheerful look had given place
to a serious expression, and his fair skin, now in the strong
sun for years, had turned brown, he came home. He went away
with his father in grandeur; he returns in poverty and knocks
at the door. The servants do not recognize him, and do not
allow him to enter. His language is changed; the long stay
in a foreign country has made him forget all. He says to
the children, 'Come, O brothers, ye are my father's children.
I have come from my father, who is perfectly peaceful and
happy in his retirement in the wilderness, and has sent
me to bring you his love and his message, that your life
may become worthwhile, and that you may have the great happiness
of meeting your father, who loved you so greatly.'
They answered, 'How can it be that thou comest from our
father who has been gone so long, and has given us no sign?'
He said, 'If ye cannot understand, ask your mother. She
will be able to tell you.' But the mother had already passed
away; only her grave was left, which could never tell. He
said, 'Then consult your guardians. Perhaps they will be
able to tell you from the recollections of the past; or
things that our mother may have said to them might bring
to their memory the words of our father about my coming.'
The guardians had grown careless, indifferent, blind, quite
happy in the possession of all the wealth, and enjoying
the treasured gold left in their charge, and using their
undisputed power and complete hold over all the children.
Their first thought on hearing he had come was of annoyance.
When they saw him they were quite heedless, for they found
in him no trace of what he had been like before, and as
they saw he was without power or wealth, and was altered
in looks, in dress, in everything, they cared not for him.
They said, 'By what authority claimest thou to be the son
of our father, of our master, who has long since passed
away, and may perhaps be dwelling in the heavens by now?'
He then said to the children, 'I love you, O children of
my father, although you cannot recognize me, and even if
you do not acknowledge me as your brother, take my helping
word for your father's word. Do good in life and avoid evil,
for every work has its reward like unto it.'
The older ones, who were hardened in their ways, paid
no heed, and the little ones were too young to understand;
but the middle ones who hearkened to his words followed
him quietly, won by his magnetism and charmed by his loving
The guardians became alarmed at the thought that the
children in their charge might be tempted and carried off.
They thought, 'Some day even the remaining ones may be charmed
by his magic; and our control over them, with the possession
of their wealth and our comfort in their home, and our importance
and honor in their eyes will all be lost if we let this
go on any longer.' They made up their minds to kill him
and incited the remaining brothers against him, declaring
before them the pity of their dear brothers being led astray
and carried away from their home and comfort, and how unfounded
was the claim the made.
They came up to this man and arrested him, and bound
his arms and legs threw him in the sea. But those children
who had looked upon him as their guide and brother grieved
and lamented at this. The brother consoled them, saying,
'I will come to you again, O children of my father. Do not
give up hope and the things that you have not understood,
being young will be taught to you fully; and as these people
have behaved so harshly towards me, it will be shown them
what it is to be heedless of our father's message brought
by his own son; and you will be enlightened, O children
of my father, with the same light which I came to help you.'
This man was a master swimmer. The sea had no power to
drown him. He seemed to them to have sunk, but then he drew
his hands and feet out of the knots, rose upon the water
and began to swim in a masterly way, as he had been taught.
He went to the father in the wilderness and told him all
his experiences on his long journey, and showed his love
and desire to obey his father's will and fulfill all his
commandments. To go to the children of his father
again with renewed strength and power, in order to bring
them to that ideal which was the only desire of the father.
A bearer of the message of their father appeared again
after a few years. He did not insist on proving himself
to be the son of their father, but tried to guide them and
help them towards the ideal set for them by their father.
The guardians disturbed already by one who came and went,
insulted him, stoned him, and drove him out of their sight.;
but he, renewed in his power, strength, and courage, and
coming fresh from the mighty influence of his father, withstood
it courageously with sword and shield, and sought refuge
among those of the brothers who responded to him and sympathized
with him on his last coming. They said, 'Surely he who came
before was from our father, whom our brothers did not recognize
and have sunk in the sea, but we are awaiting his coming,
for he promised us that he would come.' He answered, 'It
is myself who promised, and went to our father, and now
I have come, for the promise given to you was of two natures:
'I will come again' was said to those who could recognize
me in a different garb, suited to the time and the situation.
'I will send another' or 'Another will come' was said to
those who were likely to be confused by the external garb.
It was said to them so that they might not refuse the word
of guidance sent by our most loving father.' They understood
his word better, but refused to acknowledge him to be the
same as the first, whom they had formerly seen and now expected.
He spoke, and he showed in his works the signs of their
father, but they clung to the person whom they had seen
at first, forgetting his word and their father.
But the little ones, who had not known him before, felt
the tie of the blood relationship, for neither were their
hearts hardened nor were they set strongly in their ideas.
They loved him, and they recognized him more than had ever
been his experience at his former coming, while the other
brothers, under the influence of the guardians, fought and
rebelled against all that this man did. But, in spite of
all their resistance and the suffering caused to him, he
guided the children of his father, as many as he could,
until the name of his father was again glorified and his
brothers were guided, directly or indirectly, through the
puzzles of the world and the secrets of the heavens.
This story illustrates what has happened in the lives
of the messengers, especially of Jesus Christ and Muhammad,
though the terms Father, Son, Brother, are merely metaphorical.
There has been one Teacher only, and He alone will be. All
the names which the world has fought over, are His names,
and all the physical forms that have won the adoration of
the truth-seeking world are His forms. Therefore, though
the foolish reject the message, there are wise ones who
SOME ESOTERIC TERMS
There are two aspects of intelligence: intellect, and
Intellect is the knowledge of names and forms,
their character and nature, gathered from the external world.
It shows in an infant from birth, when he begins to be curious
about all he sees; then, by storing in his mind the various
forms and figures he sees he recognizes them as an addition
to his knowledge of variety. Man thus gathers the knowledge
of numberless forms of the whole world in his mind and holds
them; some of them stand out luminously and predominate
over, and cover, others. He also retains those forms which
interest him. The nature of forms is to overpower one another
in proportion to their material concreteness. The more concrete
they are, the more luminous they appear; so the intellectual
person takes an interest in their variety and law of change,
and as knowledge is the food of the soul, he at least becomes
increasingly interested in the knowledge of names and forms,
and calls that 'learning'. This becomes his world, although
it neither gives him a sense of unchanging comfort, nor
does he thereby gain an everlasting peace.
Wisdom is contrary to the above-named knowledge.
It is the knowledge which is illumined by the light within;
it comes with the maturity of the soul, and opens up the
sight to the similarity of all things and beings, as well
as the unity in names and forms. The wise man penetrates
the spirit of all things; he sees the human in the male
and female, and the racial origin which unites nations.
He sees the human in all people and the divine immanence
in all things in the universe, until the vision of the whole
being becomes to him the vision of the One Alone, the most
beautiful and beloved God.
In giving a definition for some terms used in esotericism,
one may say that consciousness is the wakeful state
of the knowing faculty. Knowledge is that of which
the consciousness is conscious. Conscience is a sense
which is born when consciousness holds before itself a scale,
on the one side an action and on the other side an ideal.
Intelligence is the grasping faculty of consciousness
which by every means recognizes, distinguishes, perceives,
and conceives all that is around it.
Ignorance is the state of the mind when it is
When mental vibrations flow into the astral plane, without
conscious direction, it is called imagination; when
they do so under conscious direction, it is called thought.
When the imagination is experienced during sleep it is called
Impression is a feeling which rises as a reaction
on receiving a reflection coming from the external world
(physical, mental, or astral).
Intuition is an inner message, given in the nature
of warning or guidance, perceived by the mind independently
of any external source.
Inspiration is the rising of a stream from the
depth of the heart of the jinns and manifests in the realm
of poetry, music, painting, sculpture, or any art.
Vision is a spiritual dream which is witnessed
either when awake or asleep. It is called a dream because
the radiance of the vision brings about a semi-sleep to
the seer, even when awake.
Revelation is the disclosing of the inner self.
The consciousness throughout manifestation facing towards
the surface, turns its back to the world within, the sight
of which is therefore lost to it. But when it begins to
look within, the world unseen is disclosed, and Choudatabaq,
the fourteen planes, consisting of the seven heavens and
the seven earths, are revealed. 'The veil shall be lifted
from thine eyes and thy sight shall be keen', as it is said
in the Quran. And annihilation (Fana) is equivalent
to 'losing the false self (Nafs)', which again culminates
in what is called Eternal Life (Baqa).
In the life of Bullah Shah, the great saint of Punjab,
one reads a most instructive account of his early training
when he was sent to school with boys of his own age. The
teacher taught him Alif, the first letter of the Arabic
alphabet. The other boys in his class finished the whole
alphabet while he was mastering the same letter. When weeks
had passed, and the teacher saw that the child did not advance
any further than the first letter Alif, he thought that
he must be deficient and sent him home to his parents, saying,
'Your boy is deficient, I cannot teach him.'
The parents did all in their power for him, placing him
under the tuition of various teachers, but he made no progress.
They were disappointed, and the boy in the end escaped from
home, so that he should no longer be a burden to his own
people. He then lived in the forest and saw the manifestation
of Alif which has taken form in the forest as the grass,
the leaf, the tree, branch, fruit, and flower; and the same
Alif was manifested as the mountain and hill, the stones
and rocks. He witnessed the same as a germ, insect, bird
and beast, and the same Alif in himself and others. He thought
of one, saw one, felt one, realized one, and none else besides.
After mastering this lesson thoroughly he returned to
pay his respects to his old teacher who had expelled him
from school. The teacher, absorbed in the vision of variety,
had long ago forgotten him; but Bullah Shah could not forget
his old teacher who had taught him his first and most inspiring
lesson which had occupied almost all his life. He bowed
most humbly before the teacher and said, 'I have prepared
the lesson you so kindly taught me; will you teach me anything
more there may be to learn?' The teacher laughed at him
and thought to himself, 'After all this time this simpleton
has remembered me.' Bullah Shah asked permission to write
the lesson, and the teacher replied in jest, 'Write on this
wall.' He then made the sign of Alif in the wall, and it
divided into two parts [making the sign of Alif]. The teacher was astounded at this
wonderful miracle and said, 'Thou art my teacher! That which
thou hast learnt in the one letter Alif, I have not been
able to master with all my learning,' and Bullah Shah sang
Oh! friend now quit thy learning,
One Alif is all thou dost need.
By learning thou hast loaded my mind,
With books thou hast filled up thy room.
But the true knowledge was lost by pursuing the false,
So quit now, oh friend, the pursuit of thy learning.
Every form seems to be derived from another, all figures
being derived from Alif which is originally derived from
a dot and represents zero, nothingness
2. It is that
nothingness which creates the first form Alif. It is natural
for everyone when writing to make a dot as soon as the pen
touches the paper, and the letters forming the words hide
the origin. In like manner the origin of the One Being is
hidden in His manifestation. That is why Allah, whose name
comes from Alif, is hidden under His own manifestation.
The same form of Alif is the figure one in English, and
in both aspects this form reveals its meaning. This meaning
in its various forms is seen in all aspects of nature. As
Omar Khayyam says.
A hair perhaps divides the false and true;
Yes, and a single Alif were the clue,
Could you but find it – to the treasure house,
And, peradventure, to the Master too.
My soul said, 'I desire the mystic knowledge:
Teach me if it be in thy power.'
I said, 'Alif.' She answered, 'Say no more;
If one is at home, a single letter is enough.'
SAMA, THE MUSIC OF THE SUFIS
It is very well known to all who have any knowledge of
Sufis and Sufism, that music plays a great part in their
spiritual attainment. The Chishtis, a particular school
of Sufis, take a special interest in music. They call it
Ghiza-i-ruh, the food of the soul, and they listen
to the Qawwali, the special songs sung at their Sama
the contemplative musical assembly. It seems as if some
potent life were there which is rarely met with elsewhere.
The atmosphere is charged with magnetism, harmony, and peace
which are emitted by the illuminated souls present. The
Shaikh, the teacher, sits in the midst, and the other Sufis
sit around him, and invoke one after the other the sacred
names of God, and repeat surahs of the Quran turn by turn.
This is an introduction which tunes the heart of each one
present to its proper pitch, the hearts that are already
prepared by zikr, the esoteric contemplation.
Their way of contemplation sets the heart in rhythm,
which makes even the circulation of the blood regular, and
the pulsation and the whole mechanism of the body become
rhythmic. When the mind is also set in rhythm by its awakened
response to tone, the Sufi's whole being becomes musical.
This is why the Sufi can harmonize with each and all. Music
makes all things in the world living to him and makes him
alive to all things, and he begins to realize how life is
dead to many in the world, and how many are dead to life.
There are different grades of progress, and the verses
that are sung by the Qawwals are also of different kinds.
Some verses are on praise of the beauty of the ideal which
Sufis in the grade of Fana-fi-Shaikh enjoy. In this
grade are those who see the divine immanence as the ideal,
walking on earth.
There are verses which speak about the high merits of
the 'ideal-in-name-and-not-in-form,' which appeals to those
who are in the grade of Fana-fi-Rasul. These have
not seen the ideal, neither have they heard its voice, but
hey have known and loved that ideal which alone exists as
far as they know.
Then there are verses which speak of the ideal beyond
name and form. To these verses those respond who are in
the grade of Fana-fi-Allah; these are conscious of
their ideal as beyond name and form, qualities and merits
which cannot even be confined in knowledge, being beyond
all limitations. Sometimes the coming of the ideal is pictured
in verses which describe the sweetness of voice, the beauty
of countenance, the grace of movement, the praise, the merits,
the qualities, and the winning ways of the ideal. There
are verses also in which are pictured the lover in love,
his agony in separation, his caution in the presence of
the beloved, his humility, his envy and rivalry, and all
the natural vicissitudes of a lover. It is poetry, music,
and art combined. It is not a simple song; it creates the
whole vision in the realm of music before the mind of the
Sufi who is capable of visualizing it against positive environments.
In other words the Sufi produces his ideal vision in his
imagination, by the help of music.
In the Qawwali the nature of love, lover, and beloved
is expressed. In this the poetry of the Sufi excels the
love poems known to the world, for in it is revealed the
secret of love, lover and beloved, the three in one. Apart
from the philosophy of the whole being, one can see the
delicacy and complexity of their poems, rich with conventions
and adorned with metaphor. Hafiz, Rumi, Jami, and many others
among the Sufi poets have expressed the secret of the inner
and outer being in the terminology of love.
The Qawwals, the singers, sing these verses distinctly,
so that every word may become clear to the hearers, that
the music may not hide the poetry; and the tabla
players who accompany the singers emphasize the accents
and keep the rhythm even, so that the being of the Sufi,
already set to music, joins with the rhythm and harmony
of the music. On these occasions the condition of the Sufi
becomes different. His emotional nature at this time has
its full play; his joy and feeling cannot be explained and
language is inadequate to express them. This state is termed
Hal or Wajd, the sacred ecstasy, and is regarded
with respect by all present in the assembly. (Wajd means
'presence', Hal means 'condition'.)
This state of ecstasy is not different from the natural
condition of man when touched on hearing a kind word spoken,
or moved to tears either on separation from the one he loves.
Or on the departure of his object of love. Or when overjoyed
on the arrival of his long-expected beloved.
In the case of a Sufi the same feeling becomes sacred,
his ideal being higher.
A pilgrimage is the same as an ordinary journey the only
difference being in the aim. In a journey the aim is earthly,
whereas the pilgrimage is made for a sacred purpose. Sometimes
on hearing music, the Sufi is seen to be deeply touched,
sometimes his feeling finds vent in tears, sometimes his
whole being, filled with music and joy, expresses itself
in motion which in Sufi terms is called Raqs.
When man analyzes the objective world and realizes the
inner being, what he learns first and last is that his whole
vision of life is created of love; love itself being life,
all will in time be absorbed in it.
It is the lover of God whose heart is filled with devotion,
who can commune with God; not the one who makes an effort
with his intellect to analyze God. In other words, it is
the lover of God who can commune with Him, not the student
of His nature. It is the 'I' and 'you' which divide, and
yet it is 'I' and 'you' which are the necessary conditions
of love. Although 'I' and 'you' divide the one life into
two, it is love that connects them by the current which
is established between them; and it is this current which
is called communion, which runs between man and God. To
the question, 'What is God?' and 'What is man?' the answer
is that the soul, conscious of its limited existence, is
'man', and the soul reflected by the vision of the unlimited,
is 'God'. In plain words man's self-consciousness is man,
and man's consciousness of his highest ideal is God. By
communion between these two, in time both become one, as
in reality they are already one. And yet the joy of communion
is even greater than the joy of at-one-ment, for all joy
of life lies in the thought of 'I' and 'you'.
All that man considers beautiful, precious and good is
not necessarily in the thing or the being; it is in his
ideal; the thing or being causes him to create the beauty,
value and goodness in his own mind. Man believes in God
by making Him an ideal of his worship, so that he can commune
with someone whom he can look up to, in whom he can lay
his absolute trust, believing Him to be above the unreliable
world, on whose mercy he can depend, seeing selfishness
all around him. It is this ideal when made of stone and
placed in a shrine which is called an idol of God. When
the same ideal is raised to the higher plane and placed
in the shrine of the heart, it becomes the ideal of God
with whom the believer communes and in whose vision he lives
most happily, as happily as could be, in the company of
the sovereign of the whole universe.
When this ideal is raised still higher it breaks into
the real, and the real light manifests to the godly; the
one who was once a believer now becomes the realizer of