Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan:
What we need most is the understanding of that religion of religions and that philosophy of philosophies which is self-knowledge. We shall not understand the outer life if we do not understand ourselves. It is the knowledge of the self that gives the knowledge of the world.
One may ask, what should one study? There are two kinds of studies. One kind is by reading the teachings of the great thinkers and keeping them in mind, the study of metaphysics, psychology, and mysticism. And the other kind of study is the study of life. Every day one has an opportunity for studying; but it should be a correct study. When a person travels in a tramcar, in the train, with a newspaper in his hand, he wants to read the sensational news which is worth nothing. He should read human nature which is before him, people coming and going. If he would continue to do this, he would begin to read human beings as though they were letters written by the divine pen, which speak of their past and future. He should look deeply at the heavens and at nature and at all the things to be seen in everyday life, and reflect upon them with the desire to understand. This kind of study is much superior, incomparably superior, to the study of books.
If a person goes through his whole life most cleverly judging others, he may go on, but he will find himself to be more foolish at every step. At the end, he reaches the fullness of stupidity. But the one who tries, tests, studies and observes himself, his own attitude in life, his own outlook on life, his thought, speech, and action, who weighs and measures and teaches himself self discipline, it is that person who is able to understand another better. How rarely one sees a soul who concerns himself with himself through life, in order to know! Mostly, every soul seems to be busily occupied with the lives of others. And what do they know in the end? Nothing. If there is a kingdom of God to be found anywhere, it is within oneself.
And it is, therefore, in the knowledge of self that there lies the fulfillment of life. The knowledge of self means the knowledge of one's body, the knowledge of one's mind, the knowledge of one's spirit; the knowledge of the spirit's relation to the body and the relation of the body to the spirit; the knowledge of one's wants and needs, the knowledge of one's virtues and faults; knowing what we desire and how to attain it, what to pursue and what to renounce. And when one dives deep into this, one finds before one a world of knowledge which never ends. And it is that knowledge which gives one insight into human nature and brings one to the knowledge of the whole of creation. And in the end one attains to the knowledge of the divine Being.
~~~ The knowledge of self is the essential knowledge; it gives knowledge of humanity. In the understanding of the human being lies that understanding of nature which reveals the law of creation.