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Biography, Autobiography, Journal and Anecdotes

Part I - Biography


Inayat was grown-up for his age and people called him Buddhi Arwah, the Old Soul. In his family he preferred to be in the company of older people rather than with children of his own age. He was by nature playful, but his interest in any childish play never lasted. When his playmates were playing with kites or pigeons, he would be sitting talking to his grandmother or some older person of things beyond his age.

Inayat was always curious to know about the life of the people of the West and he was very much interested to hear about it. He read books on the subject and also heard lectures concerning it. His uncle Dr. Alaoddin Khan, was being sent to England to study music and there was talk of one or two students being sent together with him. Inayat was most eager to be one of them although nobody thought him old enough to make that journey. Inayat silently continued in his desire of journeying to Europe, but did not know when it would be.

Dr. Alaoddin Khan (Dr. A. M. Pathan), the younger son of Maula Bakhsh, Inayat's maternal uncle, was the hope of his father. Most intelligent, at the same time obstinate by nature, he was studious and enthusiastic. He always was opposed to become an artist, seeing the degeneration of the life of the artists and art in India and seeing how shamefully they were treated. He therefore, being of a proud nature, wished to strike out another line through his life, which was so different to the line of India where every profession is learned by virtue of family tradition. Every rank, position and work remained in the families in India for thousands of years, so he could not very well give up the line of music, nor could he be an artist, so he first helped his father Maula Bakhsh at the Academy of Music. He was most inclined to learn European music and his wish was granted at last and he was sent to England by the State of Baroda to learn European music.

He studied for five years in London at the Royal Academy of Music and took the first place among many candidates, to their great surprise, in obtaining the degree of Doctor of music. Also at the Guild Hall he passed his examination of Band Master. He acquired a great qualification in the theory of music and had several degrees given to him by the London College of Music of Licentiate and Associate and also from Germany and other places. He then traveled throughout Europe, in France, Germany and Italy, to gain more experience of European music before he returned to India. On his return to Baroda Maharaja Gaekwad appointed him as superintendent of all the different departments of the State of Indian and European music, including the military bands and orchestras, which took away his thought from art to administration, for which also he was most efficient by temperament.

Inayat was from childhood very fond of his uncle and copied his modern ways readily. He was affectionate and kind towards his nephews, yet his way of managing them sometimes seemed hard to sensitive and independent Inayat, although it all helped him towards the purpose for which Inayat was being prepared. His coming to Baroda brought a great change to all the young men in the family. For they all, to the distress of the old people of the family, under his influence turned against the Indian musical profession, for which they had been trained from childhood and which was the only art they knew. Inayat was too enthusiastic in anything he did and this troubled his uncle very much. He often could not keep a proper control upon Inayat; besides there was much which was not in common between Inayat and his uncle. Maheboob, being wholeheartedly responsive to his influence, was his uncle's favorite. Ali Khan was closely attached to him.

Alaoddin Khan was a genius in music and a most efficient organizer and administrator, also a wonderful teacher of music. He was sociable, yet proud and would not have anyone walk over his head, whatever be his power or position. After some years' service in Baroda State, Dr. Alaoddin Khan retired from his post and was called away by the State of Nepal, where he is still working as director of music. [Dictated summer 1922]

Inayat's love for the West was the token of his work there in the future. Inayat was very much inclined to learn English, although he never liked to study. When he began to speak a little he was eager to talk with foreigners. He would go and talk to a soldier or to a missionary. Once he met English travelers, Mr. and Mrs. Cotton, who were looking for the State Library and they became friends with him and he took them to the Library and invited them to see the School of Music where he was a student. They were very much impressed by their enthusiastic little friend and when after many years Inayat visited England meeting them again, he reminded them of that incident and they remembered it.

In 1893 there was some talk of Maula Bakhsh, his grandfather, going to Chicago to represent Hindu music at the exhibition to be held there. Inayat was wondering in his mind with much eagerness whether his grandfather would think him old enough to accompany him. No occasion occurred for Inayat to make the journey to Europe, but much later the return of his uncle Dr. Pathan from England brought a new stimulus to his desire of going to the West. Inayat asked endless questions about the West and the life there and every day his interest grew greater and greater.

When the occasion of the Paris exhibition came, there was talk of some students being sent from Baroda State to study different things and Inayat was most inclined to be among them. He went to his mother and said that he had for so long desired to go and that seemed to be the opportunity for him to travel to the West; would she mind if he went. His mother, who was always kind and wise, said to him: "Child, if it is for your good I have nothing to say in the matter. I will bear all for your happiness in life and whatever seems best for you, you may do, I shall never oppose it. But as to me, the pain of separation I am afraid will be unbearable and I should not be surprised if you would not find me living on your return." Hearing this Inayat said: "There is nothing in the world, however profitable and attractive, that will take me away from you and I could never be happy wherever I went, not even in Paradise, if I had the slightest thought that you were unhappy on my account. Therefore, mother, be at rest, I am ready to sacrifice all my prospects in life if it were necessary to keep you happy, which I hold to be my first duty."

Inayat was very much interested in the Sanskrit language, although in school he was taught Sanskrit as a second language. He made friends with Professor Kaushik Ram, who was very well versed in Sanskrit, from whom he learned.

Inayat was fond of speaking and when eleven years old he formed a children's association and called it "Bala Sabha", he being the youngest among all the members. Inayat spoke with great interest on topics concerning homelife and schoollife and life in general. Many boys were invited in this Sabha from his school, but among them the most willing speaker was Inayat himself.

Once Inayat's father met in the street an aged Brahman, a well-known and learned man, a Shastri, and the Brahman asked Inayat's father how his friend was. The father wondered whom he was inquiring after and looked with a smile of surprise at the Brahman. The Brahman said: "Your little son, he is a wonder to me and he has been a consolation to me especially since I have lost my own son. Your son and I have talked about life and death and we have had such interesting times together. Remember me kindly to him. May God bless him."

Inayat talked with his father very often about woman's rights and on religion and in spite of his father's always trying to avoid discussions on delicate subjects such as these, Inayat always dragged them from him by his great eagerness in these questions.

Inayat was always first in his studies and practices in music at the Gayanshala, the Academy of Music and he worked as one of the foremost students and was the first to take part in every concert given at the school. There he learned and advanced more quickly than anyone could imagine and in his ear-training, in his improvisation, he surpassed all in the class.

Once a great musician of Karnatic, Subramani Ayar, was visiting the school and asked different questions of the students and tested their voices and ear. Inayat's turn came and the musician sang a phrase and asked him to tell the notes. Inayat sang the phrase in notes, in sa ra gam. The musician then gave him a more difficult phrase and he sang that correctly also, and as they went on, the musician gave him more and more difficult phrases, until they arrived at the point of rivalry and Inayat answered his very last question. The musician struck his hands on the table with pleasure and surprise and asked who this lad was. They said: "He is the grandson of Maula Bakhsh." The musician then said: "Now I am not surprised."

A guest was one day expected at the palace in Baroda and Maula Bakhsh was speaking with his friends about arranging a musical program and making a song in his honor. Inayat heard it somehow and before anyone thought of composing the song, Inayat had already composed it and brought it before his grandfather to sing and asked him if it was worth singing before the guest. His grandfather very much appreciated his talent and enterprise and always tried to encourage him.

Inayat very much liked to tease a singer who had come from Jeypur, who used to smoke hashish and was very sensitive to teasing. And he did it in this way: whenever this musician sang a new song and said it was by his great Guru Vallabha Charya, immediately after hearing it Inayat went into another room and composed exactly the same form of song with new words and coming back to the musician said: "Will you sing it again? Do you call it a new song I have not heard? Here I have known it for many years." Everyone looked with great surprise and the musician would become very confused and annoyed and when he said: "Show me if you know it," Inayat would readily sing the song which he had just composed and it would surprise everyone and a roar of laughter would arise on every side at seeing the musician so confused.

Inayat did this often for amusement and once when he was going into the other room to compose, after hearing one of the songs, the musician caught hold of him and made him sit before him, not letting him go away. Inayat immediately took the pencil in his hand and said: "Wait, let me call it to mind, I think I know this song also." He then and there composed and sang in answer to the musician's song. The musician said: "This young fellow is a Jinn, no sooner do you repeat a word than he knows it already." Then Inayat told him that he did not doubt for one moment that it was a new song, but he was in fun and liked to tease him. Then the musician told his master about Inayat and the latter became very anxious to meet him. When later Inayat went to Jeypur, the Guru gave him a very warm welcome and said to his friends: "Here is the divine gift," pointing to Inayat, "a thing that can never be learned and it is the very thing that gives man the belief in God."

Inayat was taken to Patan when eleven years of age, by his uncle Murtaza Khan, who had been invited by a well-known citizen of the town, Bhartiji, in whose house sages from different places and of different mystical orders met. And to Inayat this was the most congenial association he ever had in his life. Every sage there was most attracted to the lad and Inayat became friends with all. The impression of this meeting always remained with him and from this time he began to study comparative religions.

In order to make a diversion in Inayat's life, his father took him and Maheboob both with him to Idar in Kathiawar (Gujarat), to the Court of the Raja Kesri Singh. Inayat enjoyed this journey very much, and traveling for part of the journey on the back of a camel through hot sand, especially interested him. Raja Kesri Singh was very much impressed by the youth, who readily answered questions about the music of India before it was necessary for his father to utter a word. This visit gave Inayat some insight into the kind of life that the Rajas live, which revealed to him the main cause of the downfall of India. His father observed that every day Inayat looked more and more behind the surface of things. Inayat happened to hear that there was a Yogi lecturing in his town. He hastened to attend these lectures and was very much interested in all the Yogi said. This was Swami Hamsasvarupa. Inayat thought that life was only worth living if man arrived at the stage of such an understanding of life. Yet he could not link the religion of the Hindus with that of his own people, the Muslims. Inayat personally was more inclined to Hinduism than to Muslim faith, as was also his grandfather Maula Bakhsh. His father also took interest in the philosophy of Hinduism, being always in the society of Hindus. Having learnt his first lesson in the Hindu school, naturally Inayat was more inclined to Hinduism, but nevertheless he was as interested in hearing the wise waiz, the preaching of the Muslim Maulavi and was regular in his prayers and had an inborn love for Muhammad.

One day Inayat was praying on the roof of the house, offering his prayers and he thought to himself that there had not been an answer yet to all the prayers he had offered to God and he did not know where God was to hear his prayers and he could not reconcile himself to going on praying to the God whom he knew not. He went fearlessly to his father and said: "I do not think I will continue my prayers any longer, for it does not fit in with my reason. I do not know how I can go on praying to a God I do not know." His father, taken aback, did not become cross lest he might turn Inayat's beliefs sour by forcing them upon him without satisfying his reason and he was glad on the other hand to see that, although it was irreverent on the child's part, yet it was frank, and he knew that the lad really hungered after Truth and was ready to learn now, what many could not learn in their whole life.

He said to him: "God is in you and you are in God. As the bubble is in the ocean and the bubble is a part of the ocean and yet not separate from the ocean. For a moment it has appeared as a bubble, then it will return to that from which it has risen. So is the relation between man and God. The Prophet has said that God is closer to you than the jugular vein, which in reality means that your own body is farther from you than God is. If this be rightly interpreted, it will mean that God is the very depth of your own being." This moment to Inayat was his very great initiation, as if a switch had turned in him, and from that moment onward his whole life Inayat busied himself, and his whole being became engaged in witnessing in life what he knew and believed, by this one great Truth. It was like a word that was lost and he found it again.

The intensity of the call Inayat felt even in his early age. He used to get a feeling of despair at the falsehood of all things and it would manifest as a depression with the spirit of indifference and independence which can be explained in one Oriental word : vairagya. Although this feeling was not clear either to himself or to his surroundings, yet once it manifested to the great astonishment of his people.

With all the love Inayat had for his people, he was most drawn to solitude. He loved the stories of the ascetics who lived in the mountains and forests and he longed to go there. And a feeling every now and then showed in him the nature of the deer which retreats from the crowd, though on the other hand he had also the most sociable tendency. He attracted others about him and was pleasant to others and he derived pleasure from association with people. These two contradictory moods came and went like the ebb and flow of the tides.

Inayat one day set out on a journey with the idea of leaving home for good for the sake of devoting his life to contemplation, study and solitude. He told nobody at home, except his brother Maheboob, who was most attached to him and did not like to leave him for one moment, and two friends very devoted to him. Maheboob tried his best to keep him from leaving home, but it was all in vain and Inayat refused to take Maheboob with him for he thought it would mean the loss of two sons to the family instead of one. There was boundless pain in the heart of Maheboob, who had a dreadful task before him, namely to conceal his feelings from his parents and to allow his brother to leave home. When Inayat separated from him he was most touched by his brother's unhappiness. His two devoted friends also tried to stop his going, but they could not influence him against his wishes. In the end they decided they would not let him go alone and would follow him wherever he went. Inayat said that since he was not clear about the purpose of his going away and as he would be traveling without any means and not knowing why and whither, it was better for his friends to let him go alone and answer his call. The friends would not listen and they followed Inayat; but after walking a few miles away from the city, one of them felt drawn towards home and he influenced the other, who they supposed knew the way and so they took a route which instead of taking them farther away from the city, would bring them closer to it. There was a panic in Inayat's home and people were sent all about the city to find him. One of them at length found Inayat and brought him home against his wishes. On coming home Inayat learned how much pain his absence would have caused his parents and he resolved that however deep the impulse, he would always resist it, so as not to cause pain to his parents whom he loved most.

Once Inayat was with his grandfather at a religious ceremony in honor of Ganesh, the God of Luck, and during the ceremony he sang the well-known hymn to Ganesh, in the raga Hamsadhvani, composed by Dikshitar. It created such an atmosphere on that occasion that the Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda gave him a reward and granted him a scholarship, to encourage him in his studies in music.

The access to the palace of Baroda from childhood, was the great education for Inayat, to become acquainted with all the functions which took place there, which he loved very much, being by nature inclined to refinement.

The administrative efficiency of Maharaja Gaekwad, who was the unique ruler, Inayat observed keenly, which became useful to him later in his work of organizing his Movement.

Together with his love of beauty and response to all that is good and beautiful, Inayat saw the futility of all things, which strike the young mind and attract young souls. His father was often amazed to see his love of beauty and at the same time his ascetic indifference.

Inayat's father disclosed to him some part of his own experience of life. He showed him how dependent the life of man is on woman and that of woman on man. He showed him how much more a child is indebted to his mother than to his father. He told him how impossible it was for any soul to be happy in life, who, when grown-up, proved ungrateful to his parents, after he had received all kindness and love and tender care from them.

He taught him how worthless was the path of asceticism and that mastery lay alone in being in the world and yet above the world. Inayat's father saw that he had a great tendency towards vairagya, a solitary and ascetic life in the forests or caves of the mountains and that he always longed for that, and by showing the great importance of the life in the world, he brought about that balance in Inayat's thought which prepared him for his work in the future. He told him that the man who thought deeply on life and helped his fellow men, was greater than the one who dwelt in the forest and thought deeply for himself. He showed Inayat how much more beautiful it was to love one's fellow man, to accommodate him, to serve him, to be united with him, than to leave the world and go away into a cave in the mountain. He said the world was created for some purpose and that purpose can best be fulfilled by living for one's fellow man and loving him and in this way living for God and loving God. He taught him that family life was an attribute of the Creator and it brought all blessings, in this way expanding in loving others so that the whole humanity may become for him one family. He said to him: "You must give proof of your love for your fellow men by loving your brother first. Be sincere and true to everyone and try to fulfill your duties to everyone, in whatever relation you stand to him."

Inayat's father taught the lesson of speaking the truth and of living a pure life, not only by words but by the example of his own life. Besides this moral, he taught Inayat faith and trust in God, that those who trust God, were always provided for in their need; however great the need was, the Divine Providence was greater still. This teaching went through the very depths of Inayat's being. It was as though something that was in his nature were brought to the surface.

His father taught him the blessing of a simple life and of sharing one's good with another. He taught contentment in all conditions of life and he taught him to hide one's difficulties in life from others. He said that no poverty, however great, must ever be told even to friends or relations, for God alone must know of it. It is only happiness that we must make others share with us.

He taught Inayat to take care of his brothers, and taught them that their strength in life was in standing by each other in all times of hardship and difficulty. He taught him that no poverty was worse for man than dishonor and he warned him constantly to have regard to honor at the cost of anything in life.

Inayat was very much impressed by a moral his father taught by quoting to him a saying: "Neki kar pani me dal, badi kar pallu me bandh." [Literally: "Good that you have done, put that in the water, Bad that you have done, tie that in the border of your sari."] (Forget all the good you do, but remember your every fault.) His father held this principle very firmly, that dignity is man's honor and not necessarily pride, and he pointed out to young Inayat the beauty of dignity in all walks of life and the moral degradation of the undignified. He taught him to realize that man's honor was his dharma, and his self-respect his virtue. Modesty, he said, was the best thing in life, but humiliation was the worst.