1. Laila and Majnun
The legend of Laila and Majnun is a story, which is known
throughout the East, and the Sufi poets have used the characters
of Laila and Majnun to express, in this symbolical legend,
the philosophy of love.
Laila and Majnun, when young, were schoolmates, devoted
to one another. Whenever the teacher looked at Majnun's
slate there was the picture of Laila drawn upon it. And
when the teacher asked Laila to read from the book she repeated
the name of Majnun. So, disappointed with the school, the
parents had to take them back home. When difficulties arose
owing to the caste differences, so that they could not be
married to one another according to the caste ideas, in
order to make either forget the other, by changing direction
of their minds, someone asked Majnun, 'What is there especial
in Laila that you love her so much? There are many other
maidens in the world.' Majnun answered, 'In order to see
Laila you must borrow Majnun's eyes.'
With great difficulty Laila's people consented, on condition
that Majnun did not show himself odd in his love, but
would behave sensibly. On the first day for which the visit
had been arranged, for Laila's people to meet Majnun, Majnun
entered the room with his parents, who had told him to behave
sensibly. It happened that Laila's dog, which Majnun had
known for years, came into the room. Majnun could not for
one moment hold to his dignity. He bowed at the face of
the dog and kissed its paws, and the visit became a failure.
Disappointed at Majnun's action, his parents took him
to the Kaba, and told him to pray as they would pray.
He said yes. The multitude followed, to see what prayer
was going to take place. On hearing the name of Majnun,
Majnun's parents first prayed: 'God take away the love of
Laila from the heart of Majnun.' All the others listened.
Then they asked Majnun to come and pray as they did. He
said, 'Then shall I have Laila if I pray?' They urged him
to come and pray. He said, 'God give me Laila.' And all
present said, 'Amen.'
When the parents became hopeless, then they let Majnun
roam about as he wished. Majnun in the end arrived near
Laila's town and stayed outside the town in an old ruin
where nobody lived. Being tired he was taking shelter there,
under that worn-out roof. Laila, hearing that Majnun was
near the town, sent some of her portion of food by a confidential
maid, who was to carry it to Majnun. When the maid came
and looked in that place for the beloved of Laila there
were two persons there, one a person thin and drowsy, the
other person rather good looking. The maid thought certainly
this person must be the beloved of Laila. With the basket
of food in her hand, she asked this man, 'Are you Majnun?'
'What is it you have brought?' he asked. She said, 'Some
food for Majnun.' He said, 'I am Majnun, give it to me.'
He was glad to partake of it, and said, 'I shall be glad
to have it every day.' So Laila starved for days, sending
her food, and that food was given to this man, who for the time
became Majnun. One day Laila asked, 'How is my Majnun?'
The maid said, 'He is looking better every day.' Laila said,
'It cannot be.' The maid said, 'Certainly, be sure of it.
He is looking better every day.' Laila said, 'Today you
need not take the food. Take a knife and a saucer, and tell
my Majnun that I need a drop of his blood.' When she came
the man came with anxiety, with eagerness to have the dish,
but there was a knife. He said, 'What is this?' She said,
'Laila wants a drop of your blood.' He first looked perplexed,
then he said, 'I am not Majnun; that may be Majnun, he who
is sitting over in that corner.' By that time Majnun had
grown so thin; yet when she asked for a drop of his blood
Majnun tried by striking the knife on different parts of
his body, if he could get a drop of blood out to be sent
to Laila. 'Ah,' he said, 'there cannot be anything more
delightful for Majnun than to give a drop of his blood when
it is asked for by Laila.'
2. Laila and Majnun (Conclusion)
The end of the story of Majnun is that he sat a long
time under the shade of a tree and he grew in time to be
like the tree. Being near the tree, his body and the tree
became one. And when a woodcutter came and instead of cutting
the wood his axe struck Majnun, Majnun said 'Laila,' for
that was the only thought there. Laila, on hearing this,
when she had freedom for a moment, was drawn by some way
to Majnun at his last moment on earth, and called him, 'Majnun!'
He answered, 'Laila.' She said, 'I am Laila.' But he said
'I am Laila.' And so Majnun fell and died, and Laila followed
The path of the Sufi is the path of devotion, and therefore,
Laila and Majnun is the symbol that a Sufi takes for God
and man. The soul who journeys in the path of God does not
need much learning. What he writes on his slate is the name
of God, what he reads in his book is His name. That is the
only learning which is most essential in the path of God.
And no one can distract the mind of the godly toward anything,
however attractive; though he may find not one reason to
give for his devotion to God, he can only say, 'In order
to become the lover of God you must borrow my eyes.' While
people think of the differences of their religions and creeds
the godly bows before the humblest person, as Majnun to
Laila's dog. And when the prayers of different
people will be for themselves, the prayer of the godly
is only to attain to the presence of God; and therefore,
whatever be his religion,
his prayer will be followed by every sincere soul. Besides,
the path of God and of love both, if sincerely trodden,
need sacrifice from beginning to end; and the one who is
not ready for sacrifice is like that pretended lover of Laila who was ready for the food but was not willing to
suffer. Verily, who pursueth the world will inherit the
world, but the soul that pursueth God will attain in the
end to the presence of God.
But to what does the love of God lead? It leads to that
peace and stillness which can be seen in the life of the
tree, which bears fruit and flowers for others and expects
no returns, not even thanks in return. It serves, and cares
for nothing else, not even for appreciation. That is the
attribute of the godly. And the godly in the end of his
attainment of God forgets himself, as Majnun said even to
Laila, 'I am Laila.' And what happens then? Instead of man
pursuing God, God follows man.
3. The Symbology of Religious Ideas
Christ Walking on the Water
The phenomenon of Christ's walking on the water, from
a mystical point of view, is suggestive of a much greater
philosophy than only a phenomenon. The whole universe in
all its forms is one single vision of a continual activity.
From beginning to end every aspect of life represents motion,
and it is the perpetual motion of the whole universe which
is called life. Therefore, the universe is, so to speak,
an ocean of vibrations, and every movement represents a
wave. Therefore, the wise have called it, in Sanskrit,
Bhava Sagara, the Ocean of Life, and the great devotees
have constantly prayed to be liberated, that they may not
sink in this ocean but that they may be able to swim in
it, which is called Taran. And it is the master-spirit
that can rise above these waves of the enormous ocean of
life, in which generally souls are drowned. To be in it
and to be able to stand above it and to walk on it is the
phenomenon of Christ's walking on the water.
4. The Symbology of Religious Ideas
Shaqq us Sadr, the Opening of the Breast of the Prophet
There exists a legend in the world of Islam, and some
believe that it really did occur – some say once, and some
say it happened more than once – that the angels from heaven
descended on earth and cut open the breast of the Prophet;
they took away something that was to be removed from there,
and then the breast was made as before.
According to the Sufi point of view this is a symbolical
legend. It explains what is necessary in the life of man,
to allow the plant of divine love to grow in the heart.
It is to remove that element which gives the bitter feeling.
Just as there is a poison in the sting of the scorpion,
and there is a poison in the teeth of the snake, so there
is poison in the heart of man, which is made to be the shrine
of God. But God cannot arise in the shrine, which is as dead
by its own poison; it must be purified first and made real
for God to arise. The soul who had to sympathize with the
whole world was thus prepared, that the drop of that
poison which always produces contempt, resentment and ill feeling
against another, was destroyed first. So many talk about
the purification of the heart, and so few really know what
it is. Some say to be pure means to be free from all evil
thought, but there is no evil thought. Call it evil or call
it devil, if there is any such thought it is the thought
of bitterness against another. No one with sense and understanding
would like to keep a drop of poison in his body, and how
ignorant it is on the part of man when he keeps and cherishes
a bitter thought against another in his heart. If a drop
of poison can cause the death of the body, it is equal to
a thousand deaths when the heart retains the smallest thought
In this legend, cutting open of the breast is the cutting
open of the ego, which is as a shell over the heart. And taking
away that element is that every kind of thought or feeling
against anyone in the world was taken away, and the breast,
which means the heart, was filled with love alone, which
is the real life of God.
5. The Symbology of Religious Ideas
Miraj, the Dream of the Prophet
A story exists in Islam about the dream of the Prophet,
a dream which was an initiation in the higher spheres. Many
take it literally and discuss it, and afterwards go out
by the same door by which they came in. It is by the point
of view of a mystic that one can find out the mystery.
It is said that the Prophet was taken from Jerusalem
to the Temple of Peace, which means from the outer
temple of peace to the inner temple of peace. A Buraq was brought for the
Prophet to ride on. Jabril accompanied the Prophet on the
journey to guide him. Buraq is said to be an animal of heaven
which has wings, the body of a horse and the face of a human
being. It signifies the body together with the mind. The
wings represent the mind, and the body of the Buraq
represents the human body; the head represents perfection.
Also this is the picture of the breath. Breath is the Buraq
which reaches from the outer world to the inner world in
a moment's time. Jabril in this story represents reason.
It is said that the Prophet saw on his way, Adam, who
smiled looking to one side and shed tears looking to the
other side. This shows that the human soul when it develops
in itself real human sentiment rejoices at the progress
of humanity and sorrows over the degeneration of
humanity. The Buraq could not go beyond a certain point,
which means that breath takes one a certain distance in
the mystical realization, but there comes a stage when the
breath cannot accompany one. When they arrived near the
destination Jabril also retired, which means that reason
cannot go any further than its limit. Then the Prophet arrived
near that curtain which stands between the human and the
divine, and called aloud the name of God, saying, 'None
exists save Thou,' and the answer came, 'True, true.' That
was the final initiation, from which dated the blooming
of Muhammad's prophetic message.
6. The Symbology of Religious Ideas
The Flute of Krishna
Krishna is pictured in Hindu Symbology with a crown of
peacock feathers, playing the flute. Krishna is the idea
of divine love, the god of love. And the divine love expresses
itself by entering in man and filling his whole being. Therefore,
the flute is the human heart, and a heart which is made hollow,
which becomes a flute for the god of love to play. When
the heart is not empty, in other words when there is no
scope in the heart, there is no place for love. Rumi, the
great poet of Persia, explains the idea more clearly. He
says the pains and sorrows the soul experiences through
life are holes made in a reed flute, and it is by making
these holes that the player makes out of a reed a flute.
Which means, the heart of man is first a reed, and the suffering
and pain it goes through make it a flute, which can then
be used by God as the instrument to produce the music that
he constantly wishes to produce. But every reed is not a
flute, and so every heart is not His instrument. As the
reeds need to be made into flutes, so the human heart can
be turned into an instrument and can be offered to the God
of love. It is the human heart which becomes the harp of
the angels, it is the human heart which is the lute of Orpheus.
It is on the model of the heart of man that the first instrument
was made, and no earthly instrument can produce that music
which the heart produces, raising the mortal soul to immortality.
The crown of peacock's feathers leads to a further revelation,
that it is the music of the heart which can be expressed
through the head. It is the knowledge of the head and the
love of the heart that expresses the divine message fully.
Peacock's feathers have in all ages been considered as a
sign of beauty, as a sign of knowledge because they are
in the form of an eye. It is by keen observation that man
acquires knowledge. Knowledge without love is lifeless.
So with the flute the crown of peacock's feathers makes
the symbol complete.
Questions and Answers (July 20th 1923)
Q: What is the meaning of peacock feathers?
A: The peacock feathers are considered by the poets and
mystics as a symbol (sign) of beauty, and a sign of vanity.
And they are included in all the kingly grandeurs. And the
peacock is the bird upon which rode the goddess of music
and literature, Saraswati. Also the peacock feathers are
used at the tombs of the Sufis, by the guardians of the
tomb. Also by the healers, that by the pass of the peacock
feathers, which is the pass of harmony and beauty, the bad
influences may be taken away. Also in India they use peacock
feathers in the necklace of a child, and that is a little
psychological trick. A child who is susceptible to evil
eye is saved from its severe influence, because it is natural
that the first glance of a person, instead of falling upon
the child, will fall upon the peacock feathers, because
it attracts the curiosity of everyone. In that way the first
severe glance is, so to speak, shielded by the peacock feathers.
And the same thing is done by the lion's nails which are
put in the necklace of a little child.
Q: Why can we only have knowledge of God through the
heart? What part of the mind does the heart represent?
A: The heart is the principle center, not the heart in
the body, but the heart which is the depth of the mind,
for the mind is the surface of the heart. The heart and
mind are as one tree: the root is the heart and the branches,
fruits, flowers, and leaves represent the mind. The heart
is at the bottom of thought, imagination, and all. Feelings
always belong to the heart, thought to the mind. So what
belongs to the mind can be expressed in words, what to the
heart cannot. Everything in the mind is intelligible, but
what is intelligible but not expressible, or beyond what
is intelligible, that is the heart. Deeper feelings, mirth,
kindness, sympathy, all fine feelings which cannot be expressed
in words are all activities of the heart. The heart is like
the sea, and the waves are its emotions. The brain is all
over the body, this fact is admitted by modern science.
The brain is that susceptibility which is sensitive, such
as nerves which are the sensitive feelers of the brain.
7. The Symbology of Religious Ideas
Tongues of Fire
The symbolic meaning of the legend – of the myth – is
that there is a period when the soul of the earnest seeker
is seeking; which means that it has not yet found the object
it is seeking after. In the lifetime of Jesus Christ, the
beauty of the Master's wonderful personality, the great
intoxication of His presence, and the constant outpouring
of the Message that He had to give, was so much for his
disciples that it was beyond what may be called a joy or
happiness or something which is explainable. All the blessing
that they received and experienced during His presence was
covered by the Master's personality. And the time of realization
of that which they had constantly gained came in their lives,
after that great change when the external person of the
Master ascended and the capacity of realization became open.
But after the resurrection, when they had had sufficient
time to recover from the feeling that had overtaken their
hearts, the seeming separation from their beloved Lord prepared
them, so to speak, in time and opened the doors of the heart,
giving capacity for that illumination, which was constantly
pouring out from the Spirit of Guidance, the Alpha and Omega,
Who always was and is and will be.
The symbolic interpretation of the tongues of flame rising
from their foreheads is the light of the Message, the rays
of the Christ-spirit in the form of thoughts, which were
expressed in words. There is a stage in the life of a seer
when the tongue of flame becomes not only an interpretation
of the reality but a reality, his own experience. The head
is the center of knowledge and when the center opens, the
light, which was covered, becomes manifest, not only in
idea, but even in form.
And the phenomenon that was shown the next day, when
the apostles spoke all different languages, can be rightly
interpreted in this sense, that every soul hears its own
language. For every soul has its own word, as every soul
has its own language. For every soul has its own word, as
every soul has its peculiar illusion. And it is, therefore,
that one person cannot understand another person in this
world, and it becomes more than a miracle when one friend,
perhaps one person in the world, can understand one fully.
Which means, in this world the language of each one is not
understood by another, and if someone understands a little
one feels at-one-ment with that one. It was the illumination
of the Christ-spirit which brought exaltation in their lives,
so that they began to see in every soul the Master and
they became at one with every soul, inspired by sympathy
and love of Christ. And they understood the souls as they
saw them, and so they spoke with souls whose language was
never understood. Plainly speaking, they heard the cry of
every soul and they answered every soul's cry.
The Message means the answer to the cry of every soul.
Every great prophet or teacher had in his life many followers
attracted to his personality, to his kindness and love;
but those who became as the instrument of his Message, whose
hearts became as a flute for the Master to play his music,
have always been some chosen few as the twelve apostles
8. The Symbology of Religious Ideas
The Story of Lot's Wife
The ancient method of giving the mystery of life was
to give it in the form of a legend. The legend of Lot's
wife is that it was to Abraham that Lot was related, and
it as by the love and help of Abraham that the two angels
were sent to Lot, to warn him of the coming destruction
of two cities and to advise him to go to the mountains.
And Lot was not willing to leave the cities, but in the end
he agreed to. His sons-in-law failed him by not accompanying
him, but his wife and him two daughters accompanied him on the
journey to the mountains. And they were told that his wife
must not look back. And when she did, she was turned into
a pillar of salt. Lot and his two daughters remained, and
they reached the cave of the mountain, which was Lot's destination.
The two towns that were to be destroyed represent the
North Pole and the South Pole, the two poles of the world.
For all the treasures of the earth, all possessions and
power and fame that belong to the earth are subject to destruction.
And that was taught to Lot, the human soul, who was the
relation of Abraham - the human soul which is from
Brahma, the Creator. The relationship of Lot with Abraham
represents the relation of the human soul to the Creator.
The two angels were the angels of light and of reason. When
the light comes to man its first teaching is to warn the
soul of the disaster that awaits all that is subject to
death and destruction. It is this lesson that is called
in Sanskrit the lesson of Vairagya – when man's eyes open
to see all that he loves and likes and wishes to hold and
possess is subject to destruction and death.
There are five bodies considered by the mystics of old
to be the vehicles of the soul, which are called:
Anandamayakosha, body of Joy,
Vignanamayakosha, body of Wisdom,
Manamayakosha, body of Mind,
Pranamayakosha, body of Ether,
Annamayakosha, body of Earth.
This last is the receptacle of food. It lives on earthly
food; and if it is starved of that, it dies, for it is made
of earth, it lives on earth. Another is the receptacle of
ether. That part of man's being lives by breath and by taking
in the air. If it is starved of air it cannot live. These
two bodies form the material part, the physical part, of
man's being. And it is these two receptacles which are termed
in the legend the sons-in-law.
Then there is Manamayakosha, which is mind, the mental
body. And this body has its action and reaction on both
sides; it acts and reacts on the earthly bodies, and it
acts and reacts upon the soul. Therefore, when Lot left
the two cities, which represent the physical plane, to journey
toward the goal of immortality, his wife was still with
him. For it is not necessary that the mental body should
stay behind when the journey towards illumination is begun.
It is capable of going with the soul towards eternity. And
yet its attachment to earth and the physical plane is great,
because it is made, it is built, of physical impressions,
of all impressions that come from the physical world; and
of necessity it wants to turn to see if the physical
being or the spiritual being is leading it aright. The
of mind is doubt, whether one is doing right or wrong. And
doubt and faith are enemies. While faith leads to the destination,
doubt pulls back. When the mind was so pulled back, attracted
by all the impressions of earthly life, it could neither
take hold of the earth nor journey with the spirit, and
remained, neither earth nor water, but salt.
The only two bodies which are close to the soul followed
the soul. Naturally, they would follow, for they are closely
related to the soul, Vignanamayakosha, the body of Wisdom,
and Anandamayakosha, the body of Joy. The soul bound towards
the eternal goal – as it is called, the top of the mountains
– then proceeded towards the mountains. And before they
reached the top of the mountains there was the cave, which
is called heaven – in metaphysics capacity, in Sanskrit
Akasha – which has the power of holding the soul from going
to the top and using the soul for some purpose. And the
soul, which was bound for the eternal goal remained, so
intoxicated by the ecstasy that it received from the plane
of joy and the plane of wisdom. And as it ever happens,
that ecstasy produces purpose, so this joy resulted in a
great purpose, in the birth of the Messenger, which in Sanskrit
is called Bodhisattva. The Messenger was born of the soul's
experience, the knowledge and the happiness, to bring good
tidings to the world.
A question may arise, why Manamayakosha should be the
mother, and Anandamayakosha and Vignanamayakosha should
be the daughters. And the answer is that they are born of
mind, born of mind and soul. If there were only the soul there would
be neither joy nor wisdom. Mind and soul both produce joy
and wisdom. Therefore, the latter are the daughters, because
mind is the mother. The two lower planes are represented
by the sons-in-law because they were not directly born of
mind and soul. It was a separate substance mind and soul
have taken into their life.
By this story the process is taught how the soul can
journey from mortality to immortality and what experiences
the soul has to have on its way. But when the Messenger
so created then the father, the soul, rests in peace. It
is, therefore, that the Messenger was called the Son and
the original soul the Father.
9. The Symbology of Religious Ideas
The idea that is meant in the Bible by the words of Christ,
'Eat my flesh and drink my blood,' is suggestive of the
inner being of the Master. It is the eternal life, which
he meant by his blood, and it is the omnipresent existence,
which he meant by his flesh. The idea of the Master was
to make his disciples know that his physical form that they
were attracted to was not his being, his true being was
the all-pervading, everlasting life of God. And this is
the meaning that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one.
Christ said to the fishermen, 'I will make you fishers
of men,' which meant, 'As you spread the net and the fishes
come into it, so by spirituality your personality will spread
in the atmosphere, and the hearts of men hungering for love
will be attracted to you as fishes.' The love of Christ
for the lamb symbolically expresses that to the Master that
soul made a greater appeal, which was simple and harmless
as a lamb. And the crown of thorns represents tolerance
of the thorn-like personalities of which there are so many
in the world, constantly pricking their thorns, consciously
or unconsciously, and it is this which makes the sensitive
annoyed with life in the world. But the teacher, whose heart
represents the divine mother and father both, cannot but
be tolerant, and can take willingly all the thorns that
would come to him, for that is his crown, the sign of his
sovereignty in the kingdom of the soul.
Christ said to Peter, 'Thou wilt deny me three times
before the cock crows.' It explains human nature. The faith
of man is generally dependent upon the faith of the multitude.
If the multitude calls the pebble a diamond, then man calls
the pebble a diamond, everyone will begin to consider it
and say it. And if the multitude thought that the diamond
was a pebble then everyone would follow the belief of the
multitude. The soul of the Messenger, that comes from above
(which the dove represents), which is not made by the world
nor known by the world, remains unrecognized till the cock
crows and the sun rises. His words shine and spread the
light to the world. And the souls privileged with some little
recognition, but with a great deal of doubt, may believe
for a moment, impressed by the power and grace of the Master's
personality, and yet may deny a thousand times, and doubt
and suspect, being impressed by the influence of the multitude.
How true it is, the saying in Hindustani that, 'Generally
a soul follows the multitude.' There are rare souls who
believe in their conviction, and remain steady even if it
were that the whole world was against their own inner conviction.
Verily to the faithful belongs every blessing.
10. The Symbology of Religious Ideas
The Ten Virgins
There is a story in the Bible about ten virgins, the
five wise virgins and the five foolish. It was said that
the bridegroom was to come and they were to light their
lamps. And five were in time and brought the oil and lighted
their lamps, and the other five waited until the bridegroom
came, and when the bridegroom came then they went to the
five who had lighted their lamps and asked of them oil and
were refused. This story is a symbol of receiving the Message
of God. By virgin is meant the soul, which is awaiting illumination,
innocent and responsive to the light. And by five is meant
the multitude. And there are two classes of people; one
class are those who have prepared themselves and made
ready to receive the Message of God, which is pictured
bridegroom; and the five foolish are that class in mankind
who wait and wait until the Message has come and gone. In
all ages there have been these two kinds of souls, one kind
who are called in the scriptures believers, the others who
are known as unbelievers.
In every age the prophecy has been seen by the Messenger
of the time as to the next advent. Sometimes it is said,
'I will come,' and sometimes, 'He will come.' 'I will come,'
has been told to those who would recognize the same Spirit
of Guidance in every coming of the Messenger. 'He will come,' has
been told to those to whom name and form make a difference,
and who cannot recognize the same Spirit in another name
and another form. For example, the coming of Jesus Christ
was the coming of that Spirit, which was expressed in this
myth as the bridegroom, and how few at that time recognized
Him and how few received illumination. Only those whose
lamps were ready to be lighted. Oil in this parable is love
and the light is wisdom. And when their lamps were lighted,
then, so many came afterwards. But that blessing and privilege,
which had come with the personality of the Master, had then
gone. They had to take the benefit of the light that came
from the lamps of those whose lamps were lighted, but the
chance of lighting their own lamps was lost.
The same is with all things in life. Every moment in
our lives is an opportunity which brings a benefit and blessing.
And the one who knows how to be benefited by it and how
to be blessed by it receives the benefit and the blessing.
Everyone seems living and awake, but few souls really are
living and awake. There are opportunities of benefit and
blessing on every plane of one's life, on the physical plane,
on the mental plane, on the spiritual plane, and every opportunity
is invaluable. But often one realizes the truth when it
is too late. There is no greater and better opportunity
than the moment that can give a spiritual illumination,
a moment when one can receive the blessing of God. It is
a priceless moment. Who knows it and understands it and
tries to be benefited by it, is blessed.