'Whatsoever road I took, it joined the street which
leads to Thee.'
- The Dabistan
I was born in Baroda, India, in the year 1882, when a
great religious reform began, not only in India itself,
but the entire world over, and which was the first source
of our present-day awakening. I am sure it was the planetary
influence which existed at that time that has kept me busied
all my life in seeking the divine truth, which is as the
garment of God's glory.
Music and mysticism were my heritage from both my paternal
and maternal ancestors, among whom were numbered Maulabakhsh,
whom people called the Beethoven of India and whose portrait
is in the Victoria and Albert Museum as South Kensington,
and Jumma Shah, the great seer of Punjab. I have ever felt
much embarrassed when I was compared with these masters,
and this humility brought the old saying to my mind, 'Have
pride in thine own merits rather than in those of thy ancestors.'
'I also came out as a brook from a river; and as
a conduit into a garden.'
My curiosity about the hidden secrets of nature was early
aroused, and I made frequent inquiries concerning the mysteries
of religion, such as, Where does God Live? How old is God?
Why should we pray to Him? And why should we fear Him? Why
should people die? And where do they go after death? If
God has created all, who was the creator of God?
My parents, Rahemat Khan and Khadija Bibi, would patiently
answer me in the simplest and most plausible manner possible,
but I would prolong the argument until they were wearied.
Then I would ponder upon the same questions.
'Mankind's great enemy is idleness. There is no friend
like energy, and if you cultivate that you will never
I was sent to school when quite young, but I fear that
I was more inclined to play than to study. I preferred punishment
to paying attention to those subjects in which I had no
interest. I enjoyed religion, poetry, morals, logic, and
music more than all other learning, and I took music as
a special subject at the Academy of Baroda and repeatedly
won the first prize there.
I had so much curiosity about strangers, fortune-tellers,
faqirs, dervishes, spiritualists, and mystics, that I would
very often absent myself from my meals to seek them out.
My taste for music, poetry, and philosophy increased daily,
and I loved my grandfather's company more than a game with
boys of my own age. In silent fascination I observed his
every movement and listened to his musical interpretations,
his methods of study, his discussions and his conversations.
My attempts at writing poetry without any training in the
art of meter and form induced my parents to place me under
the tutorship of Kavi Ratnakar, the great Hindustani poet.
I also began to compose, and sang a song of prayer to
Ganesh in Sanskrit before His Highness Sayajirao Gaekwad,
Maharaja of Baroda, who rewarded my song with a valuable
necklace and scholarship. This encouraged me to advance
further in music under the guidance of Maulabaksh, who inspired
me with music from kindred soul to soul.
'He was born the Lord of what is, who by His majesty
is the one King of the moving world that breathes and
closes its eyes.'
My kinfolk were Muslim, and I grew up devoted to the
Holy Prophet and loyal to Islam, and never missed one prayer
of the five which are the daily portion of the faithful.
One evening in the summer time I was kneeling on the
house-roof, offering my Namaz (prayers) to Allah the Great,
when the thought smote me that although I had been praying
so long with all trust, devotion, and humility, no revelation
had been vouchsafed to me, and that it was therefore not
wise to worship Him, that One whom I had neither seen nor
fathomed. I went to my grandfather and told him I would
not offer any more prayers to Allah until I had both beheld
and gauged Him. 'There is no sense in following a belief
and doing as one's ancestors did before one, without knowing
the true reason,' I said.
Instead of being vexed Maulabakhsh was pleased with my
inquisitiveness, and after a little silence he answered
me by quoting a sura of the Quran, 'We will show them our
signs in the world and in themselves, that the truth may
be manifested to them.' And then he soothed my impatience
and explained, saying, 'The signs of God are seen in the
world, and the world is seen in thyself.'
These words entered so deeply into my spirit, that from
this time every moment of my life has been occupied with
the thought of the divine immanence; and my eyes were thus
opened, as the eyes of the young man by Elijah, to see the
symbols of God in all aspects of nature, and also in that
nature which is reflected within myself. This sudden illumination
made everything appear as clear to me as in a crystal bowl
or a translucent jewel. Thenceforth I devoted myself to
the absorption and attainment of truth, the immortal and