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Volume XIV - The Smiling Forehead

Part I - The Smiling Forehead

Chapter II
The Heart Quality


THERE ARE people who look at life through their brain, their head, and there are others who look at life through their heart. Between these two points of view there is a vast difference; so much difference that something that one person can see on the earth the other sees in heaven, something that one sees as small the other sees as great, of something that one sees as limited the other sees the unlimitedness. These two persons become opposite poles; it is as if one is looking at the sky, the other at the earth.

No one will admit that he looks at things with his head; everyone will say, 'I look at life with my heart'. If he knew what it is to look at life from the heart, the best person in the world would say, 'I have not yet learned to look at life from the heart. I would like to know how to do it, I would like to learn it'. 

One might say that emotional and devotional people are flying in the clouds, while others with their reason and logic are standing on the earth. Yes, it is true. But angels ride on clouds; if the soul has the angelic quality the clouds are its sphere, not the earth. Now one may ask, 'Where is the place for practicality in life?' Yes, but what one calls practical in everyday life and one is very careful about – what is it, how long does it last, what is it worth? No doubt it is true that man is born on earth to bear the weight of his physical body and with it its needs: a roof over his head and a piece of bread to sustain him. If that is all there is to think about, man makes a great mistake if he devotes all his life to what he calls practicality, practical life, and never thinks of the heavenly treasure that is hidden in the heart of man.

The heart of man can be likened to water. Either it is frozen and then it is snow, or it is water and then it is liquid. When it is frozen it has turned into a crystal; when it is liquid it is in running order, and it is natural for water to be running.

Then there are two principal kinds of water: salt water and sweet water. The sea which is quite contented in itself, indifferent to everything else, has salt water because it is independent of anything else. It gives health, happiness and pleasure to those who walk along it, because it represents perfection. It asks nothing from anyone, it rises and falls within itself, it is independent, it is immense. In that way it shows perfection. But with that independent perfection its water is not sweet, and the ascetic who has closed his heart, with the perfection of God and with the realization of truth is like the sea, independent, indifferent to all things. His presence heals people, his contact gives them joy, gives them peace, and yet his personality is uninteresting: the water of the sea is salt water.

When the sea is calm it is a pleasure to travel on it, and when the sea is rough there is no worse illness than seasickness. So is the powerful mind, the mind of a soul that has touched perfection: it is with tranquility, calmness and peace that this mind gives everyone a way into it, as the sea lays itself with open heart before those who journey on it. Ships and boats pass through it, those who journey enjoy their traveling. But when the sea is disturbed by the wind, by storm, it is perfect in its annoyance, it can shake boats and steamers. And so the mind of the sage can have an effect upon all things in nature; it can cause volcanic eruptions, it can cause disasters, revolutions, all manner of things once its tranquility is disturbed. Knowing this nature of the sage's heart and knowing the great powers that a man who has touched divine perfection possesses, people in the East regard closely the pleasure and displeasure of the sage. They think that to annoy a sage is like annoying the whole of nature, to disturb his tranquility means to shake the whole universe. A storm in the sea is a very small thing, whereas the heart that has touched perfection, if once upset, can upset the whole universe.

The water of the river is sweet. It is sweet because it is attracted to the sea, it is longing to reach the sea. The river represents the loving quality, a quality that is seeking for the object it loves. A heart that loves God and His perfection is likened to the river that seeks the sea. It is therefore that the personality of the seeker is more pleasant than the personality of the one who is contented with what he knows. There is little danger in traveling on the river, there is great joy in swimming in the river, and there is a fine scenery along it to look at. So it is with the personality which is like the river: that running of the feeling of sympathy, that continual running, means a living sympathy. The river helps the trees and plants and the earth along it. So does the kind, sympathetic person whose feeling is liquid: everywhere he goes he takes with him that influence which nourishes, which helps souls to flourish and to progress.

Then one sometimes sees a little stream. It runs, it is not a river, it is a small little stream running, and it is even more beautiful to look at for it expresses modesty, it expresses fineness of character, it expresses purity. For always the water of a little stream is pure. It expresses the nature of an innocent heart, the heart that cannot be prevented from being sympathetic, from being loving, by any experience of the world which makes water turn bitter. The bitter experience has not touched it, and it is pure and clear. It inspires poets, it uplifts a composer, it quenches the thirst of the thirsty one, it is an ideal spot for a painter to paint. With its modesty it has purity and with its purity it has life.

There is also the water of a little pool. It is sometimes muddy, sometimes dirty. Why? Because of its narrowness, because it is small. In the same way the narrowness of the heart has always mud in it. Because it is narrow and because it is not deep enough, all the elements of the earth enter it and take away its purity.

Then there is the water of a large pool, where water-lilies grow, where little fishes swim, where the sun is reflected and the moonlight produces a beautiful vision, where one would like to sit and look at it because it expresses to everyone that sees it the liquid nature of the heart, the heart that is not frozen, the heart that is like water. It is still, it is calm, it can make one's heart tranquil to sit by its side. One can see one's reflection in it, for it is calm, it is tranquil.

The water of the spring is most healing and most inspiring because it comes from above and falls on to the earth; that is the character of the inspirational mind. The heart that, like a spring, pours out water in the form of inspiration – be it in poetry, be it in music, in whatever form – has beauty, it has a healing quality, it can take away all the worries, anxieties, difficulties and troubles of those who come to it. Like the water of the spring it not only inspires but it heals. Then there is a fountain that rises and falls in so many drops. It is man-made as the personality also is man-made. When man has made a personality, then the feeling that rises from the heart through that personality is like the fountain: each drop falling from it comes in the form of a virtue.

The water that rises from the sea towards the sky in the form of vapor represents the aspiration of the heart. The heart that aspires upward, that wishes to reach upward, that heart shows the quality of vapor. It is the heart of the devotee, of the seeker, the heart of the one who is always conscientiously seeking the higher ideal, touching the higher principles. In the form of clouds that heart of aspiration forms itself and pours down just like the rain, bringing celestial beauty in the form of art, poetry or music, or of anything that is good and beautiful.

There are hearts that have been impregnated with fire for a long, long time; there comes a sulfury water from them, purifying and healing. The heart has gone through fire, it has gone through suffering and therefore it can heal those who suffer.

There are hearts with many different qualities, like water may contain different chemical substances: those who have suffered, those who have gone through the test of patience, those who have contemplated. These hearts all represent one or the other kind of the water that heals and so do the personalities. Persons who have had deep experiences of any kind – of suffering, of agony, of love, of hate, of solitude, of association, of success, of failure – all have a particular quality, a quality which has a particular use for others.

Knowing this we will come to this conclusion: 'Whatever has been my life's destiny, my heart through sorrow or pain, through joy or pleasure, has prepared a chemical substance that serves a certain purpose for humanity. And I can only give that chemical substance for the use of humanity if I can keep my heart awake and open'. Once the heart is closed, once it is frozen, once it has turned from a warm heart into a stone, the person is no longer living. It does not matter what he has gone through, for even the worst poison can be of some use. There is no person therefore, however wicked, who is of no use, if only he knows that there is one condition for being useful to humanity, and that is to keep the heart open.

Now coming to spiritual attainment: this is something that we can never absorb through the head; it can only be received through the heart. Let two persons listen to the teachings of a teacher, one with his heart and the other with his head. The latter will think, 'Is it so, or is it not so? And how is it, if it is so? How can it be, and if it is, why is it?' And there is never an end to the 'why'. The other person will listen with his heart; both logic and reason are at his disposal, but they do not trouble him. His heart is open, he listens to it and the quality of the heart is such that whatever falls upon an open heart becomes instantly revealed. When one says, 'I cannot understand you', it is just like saying, 'I have closed my heart to you'; there is no other reason for not understanding. And when one says, 'I have understood it all', it means the heart was open; that is why one has understood.

Understanding, therefore, does not depend upon the head, it depends upon the heart. By the help of the head one can make things more clear, they become intelligible, one can express them better, but understanding must begin to come from the heart, not from the head. Besides, with his head a person says, 'Yes, it must be so because I think so', but with his heart he says, 'it is so because I believe it to be so'. That is the difference: in one person there is doubt, in the other conviction.

In an Eastern language there is a word which is very difficult to translate: iman. It is not exactly faith or belief; the nearest word one can find for it is conviction, a conviction that cannot be changed by anything, a conviction that does not come from outside. One always seeks for conviction, one asks, 'Will anybody convince me, will this thing convince me?' Nothing convinces, nobody convinces. Conviction is something that comes from one's own heart and it stands above faith and belief, for belief is the beginning of the same thing of which faith is the development and conviction the culmination.

What is spiritual attainment? Spiritual attainment is conviction. A man may think, 'Perhaps it is so'; he may think about the best doctrine or about the highest idea that there is, and he will think, 'it is so – perhaps'. But there is 'perhaps' attached to it. Then there is another person who cannot use the word 'perhaps' because he does not think about it; he cannot say, 'It may be so' when he knows that it is so. When a person arrives at the stage where the knowledge of reality becomes his conviction, then there is nothing in the world that will change it. If there is anything to attain to, it is that conviction which one can never find in the world outside; it must rise from the depth of one's own heart.


The scientists say that the body is formed around the heart; from the mystical point of view it is symbolical that the personality is formed around the heart. For a materialist the heart is a piece of flesh hidden in the breast; for the mystic the heart is the center around which the personality is formed. Consciously or unconsciously man loves to hear the word 'heart' and if we asked a poet to leave the word 'heart' out of his poems he would never succeed to satisfy himself or others. Few people think about it and yet almost all poets who have appealed to humanity have used the word 'heart' most. For what is man? Man is his heart. And what is heart? Heart is man: a dead heart – a dead man, a living heart – a living man.

People look for phenomena, for something wonderful, something surprising, something that amuses them. If only they knew that the greatest surprise and wonder can be found in their own heart. If there is anything that can tune man to a higher pitch or to a lower pitch, that can loosen the strings of his soul or tune them to the right note – it can only be done by the tuning of the heart. The one who has not reached his heart cannot reach God, and the one who has not reached the heart of his fellow man has not reached him. People may become friends, they may become acquaintances, relations, they may become connected through industry, political friendship, partnership in business or any collaboration, and yet they may be separated. Nearness in space does not bring the nearness of real friendship. There is only one way of coming near to one another and that is by way of the heart.

If there is anything most wonderful in heaven or on earth it is the heart. If there is anywhere a phenomenon, a miracle to be found it is in the heart. When God Himself is to be found in the heart what else is there that is not in it? As the Nizam of Hyderabad 1 , the mystic poet, said, 'They speak of the largeness of the sea, the largeness of the ocean, the largeness of the land – if only they knew how large is the heart that accommodates them all!' The greatness of man, the smallness of man does not depend upon outer things. Be he rich or poor, whatever be his position in life, whatever his rank, if his heart is not great he cannot be great. And no matter what be his circumstances, if the heart is still great it remains great. It is the heart that makes man great or small.

One may see hearts of different qualities: there is a golden heart, a silver heart, a copper heart and there is an iron heart. The golden heart shows its color and its beauty; it is precious and at the same time it is soft. The silver heart shows itself inferior compared to the golden heart; yet it is of silver that the current coins are made, so it is useful. There is the heart of copper of which pennies are made, and pennies are useful in everyday life; one has to use them more than gold and silver. Copper is hard and strong; it needs many hammerings to bend and shape it, to make something out of it. And then there is the iron heart which must be put into the fire before one can do anything with it. When in the glowing fire the iron has become hot then one can make something out of it. But how long does the heat of the fire last with it? A very short time! The blacksmith must be always ready; as soon as the iron begins to glow he must make something of it, for if he lets the moment go the iron will turn cold.

Besides these different aspects there is a heart of rock, and there is a heart of wax. The heart of rock must be broken, it must be cut in order to make something out of it; nothing reaches it, cold or heat, sun or water have little effect upon it. The heart of wax melts as soon as it is heated. You can shape it without breaking it; it is soft, you can turn it any way you like. There is also the heart of paper you make a kite with. It flies and goes up; if the wind is in the north it goes to the north, if the wind is in the south it goes to the south. You can control it as long as the wind does not blow it out of your hands and as long as the wind is strong enough to hold it in the sky. But when there is no more wind it will drop down, and so you will try it again – like a kite.

Are these sufficient examples for the heart of man? There are numberless hearts, each different in quality, and once we begin to look at them and to distinguish their peculiarities and qualities we begin to see a living phenomenon, a miracle, every moment of our life. Is there anything we can compare the heart with? It is something that dies and then lives again, something that is torn and can be mended again, something that can be broken and be made whole again, something that can rise and something that can fall, and after falling can rise again, and after rising can fall instantly if it was to fall. There is a heart that can creep and a heart that can walk; there is a heart that can run and a heart that can fly. We cannot limit the various actions of the heart.

Imagine how the heart can be illuminated in a moment and how it can be darkened in a moment, how the heart becomes a maze for us to enter without ever being able to get out again, how it can become confusion and how it can become paradise. If one asked: Where is the soul? Where can we see the soul manifest to view? Where is paradise? Where is heaven? Where is joy and pleasure? If one asked: Where is love? Where is God? We can answer each of these questions by saying: it is in the heart.

Imagine how wonderful and at the same time how obscure to our view! If we call the heart the spark of fire then we can see its different aspects: as sympathy in the form of heat, as longing in the form of fire, as affection in the form of glow, as devotion in the form of flame, as passion in the form of smoke that blinds the eyes.

That which gives courage to stand firm in the battlefield, that which enables man to struggle throughout his life, that which gives him the strength to endure all that comes and strengthens him to have patience – what is it? It is the heart. If the heart falls, man falls, if the heart rises, man rises.

When the heart is directed towards one ideal, one object, one point, it develops, but when the heart goes from one point to another it is weakened, for then the fire element of the heart dies. For instance, a little spark can be brought to a blaze if one blows upon it, but the flame is put out by the wind. Why? Because blowing directs the air to one single spark, but the wind goes all around it and extinguishes the flame.

When man begins to say, 'I love everybody', you can be sure he loves nobody. But when he says, 'I love my mother, my father, my son, my daughter, my friend, or my beloved, then you can believe that he has taken his first step on the path of love. Can anyone in the world claim love and at the same time know love? The moment one knows what love is one loses the claim. One can only say, 'I love', as long as one does not know what it is. Before saying, 'I love', one must first show it by jumping into the fire. As Amir Minai, the great Hindustani poet, says, 'Your first initiation in the order of lovers is to become nothing'. And another poet says, 'Oh love! You have taught me that lesson first which many others learn at the end'.

When a person says, 'If you will be good to me, I will be good to you; if you will be kind to me, I will be kind to you; if you will be nice to me, I will be nice to you; if you will respect me, I will honor you' – it is like saying, 'if you will give me ninepence, I will give you a shilling'; it is business. When a person says, 'I wish there was somebody who loved me, a friend, someone!', he is very mistaken. He will never be loved; he may wait for eternity. Love never asks love of someone else; love is more independent than anything else. It is love which makes one independent.

There is love that is like an infant. It must be taken in the arms, it cannot stand; if it is not taken in the arms it cries. It is not mature, it is not developed, it is not yet love. There is love which is like a wobbling child that has not yet learned to walk. It likes to walk but it likes to hold the cupboard, the chair, the table, someone else, in order to go so far. That love too is undeveloped. Then there is love that stands on its own feet and walks by itself. That is independent love, and you can depend upon it.

Love shows its quality by constancy. Where there is no constancy there is no love. People have wrongly understood the meaning of love; very often they do not know it. The real meaning of love is life itself, the feeling of life, the feeling: I live. That feeling itself is love. So what is love? Love is God. And what is God? God is love.

As long as one is involved in selfish thoughts and actions in life one does not understand the meaning of love. Love is sacrifice, love is service, love is regard for the pleasure and displeasure of the beloved. That love, once it is understood, can be seen in all the different aspects of life: love for those who depend upon one, for those with whom one comes in contact in one's everyday life, love for those of one's country, of one's race, for humanity. It can expand even to such an extent that there can be love for every little creature in the world, for the smallest insect. This expansion is like a drop of water expanding into an ocean. Man – limited as he is – the more he sympathizes the more he expands and the further he reaches heavenward: thus he can become as great as the Absolute.

Therefore, instead of teaching the lesson of indifference, as many mystics have done, the Sufis have learned the lesson of love, of devotion, of sympathy, and have called it the cultivation of the heart. It is known by the word suluk, which means the loving manner. What we call refined manner is only a manner behind which there is no life. When manner is directed by the heart quality then it becomes living manner, the manner that comes from love, and all such attributes as kindness, gentleness, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy and compassion – they all spring from this loving manner.

The great teachers and prophets, and the inspirers of humanity of all times have not become what they were by their miracles or wonder-workings; these belong to other people. The main thing that could be seen in them was their loving manner. Read the lives of the prophets. First of all see the way Jesus Christ had with all those who came to him. When sinners who were condemned and expelled by society were brought to the master, he received them with compassion. He was not on the side of those who accused them, he was on the side of the accused. That was loving manner. The fishermen (the first disciples of Jesus Christ) could never understand the master – even the most educated men would not have understood him, let alone the fishermen. Yet the master lived with them, moved with them and won their hearts in the end. That is loving manner.

Think of the Prophet whose beloved daughter was killed by an Arab, and when this man was brought before him and said, 'Will you forgive me?' the Prophet forgave him. When his worst enemies were brought before him in rows, arrested, waiting his command, he was king, conqueror and judge, the one who could do anything he liked to them. When they asked, 'What are you going to do with us, Prophet?' he said, 'You are my brothers. God may forgive you. I pray for you'.

The compassion of Buddha went to every living creature, to the smallest insect; this shows the expansion of his love. Remember therefore that for higher attainment on the spiritual path study is secondary; all knowledge of occult and psychic law, all magical powers, are secondary. The first and most important principle is the cultivation of the heart quality.

One may ask: How to cultivate the heart quality? There is only one way: to become selfless at each step one takes forward on this path, for what prevents one from cultivating the loving quality is the thought of self. The more we think of our self the less we think of others, and as we go further the self grows to become worse and worse. In the end the self meets us as a giant which we had always fought; and now at the end of the journey the giant is the stronger. But if from the first step we take on the path of perfection we struggled and fought and conquered this giant which is the self, it could be done only by the increasing power of love.

What do I mean by love? It is such a word that one cannot give one meaning. All attributes like kindness, gentleness, goodness, humbleness, mildness, fineness, are names of one and the same thing. Love therefore is that stream which when it rises falls in the form of a fountain, and each stream coming down is a virtue. All virtues taught by books or by a religious person have no strength and life because they have been learned; a virtue that is learned has no power, no life. The virtue that naturally springs from the depth of the heart, the virtue that rises from the love-spring and then falls as many different attributes, that virtue is real. There is a Hindustani saying, 'No matter how much wealth you have, if you do not have the treasure of virtue, it is of no use'. The true riches is the ever increasing spring of love from which all virtues come.

1. The Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Mahbub 'Ali Khan (1866-1926) was an esteemed poet and patron of poets. The Biography of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan and other literature include accounts of the Murshid's meetings with Indian monarchs and representatives of the Mogul tradition of culture and civilization. Eventually Hazrat Inayat Khan gave up his contacts with the court in order to concentrate fully on mystical life and the tuition of his own initiator.

checked 22-Oct-2006