By Hazrat Inayat Khan
THE position of the person living the inner life becomes like that of a grown-up living among many children. At the same time there seems outwardly no such difference as is apparent in the ages of the children and the grown person, the difference lying in the size of his outlook, which is not always apparent. One who lives the inner life becomes much older than those around him, and yet outwardly he is the same as every other person. Therefore the man who has arrived at the fullness of the inner life adopts quite a different policy from the one who is just beginning to tread that path, and also a different one from that of the man who knows intellectually something about the inner life, but who does not really live it. The action again is different in the world, for the latter person [i.e. the man who knows intellectually something about the inner life, but who does not really live it] will criticize others who do not know what he thinks he knows, and will look upon them with pride and conceit, or with contempt, thinking that they have not risen to the mystery, to the height, to which he has risen, and which he understands. He wishes to disconnect himself from people, saying that they are backward in their evolution, and that he cannot go with them. He says, 'I am more advanced; I cannot join them in anything; they are different, I am different.' He laughs at the petty ideas of those who surround him, and looks upon them as human beings with whom he must not associate, with whom he must not join in all the things they do, because he is much more advanced then they are.
But for the one who comes to the fullness of the inner life it is a great joy to mingle with his fellow man, just as it is for parents to play with their little children. The best moments of their lives are when they feel as a child with their children and when they can join in their play. Parents who are kind and loving if a child brings them a doll's cup, will pretend that they are drinking tea, and that they are enjoying it; they do not let the child think they are superior, or that this is something in which they must not join. They play with the child, and they are happy with it, because the happiness of the children is theirs also. That is the action of the man who lives the inner life, and it is for this reason that he agrees and harmonizes with people of all grades of evolution, whatever be their ideas, their thoughts, their belief, or their faith; in whatever form they worship or show their religious enthusiasm. He does not say, 'I am much more advanced than you are, and to join you would be going backward.' The one who has gone so far forward can never go backward, but by joining them he takes them along with him, onward. If he went on alone he would consider that he avoided his duty towards his fellow man, which he should perform. It is the empty pitcher that makes a noise when you knock upon it, but the pitcher which is full of water does not make any sound; it is silent, speechless.
So the wise live among all the people of this world, and they are not unhappy. The one who loves all is not unhappy. Unhappy is he who looks with contempt at the world, who hates human beings and thinks he is superior to them; the one who loves them thinks only that they are going through the same process that he has gone through. It is from the darkness that he has to come into the light. It is just a difference of moments; and he, with great patience, passes those moments while his fellow men are still in darkness, not making them know that they are in darkness, not letting them feel hurt about it, not looking upon them with contempt; only thinking that for every soul there is childhood, there is youth and maturity. So it is natural for every human being to go through this process. I have seen with my own eyes souls who have attained saintliness and who have reached to great perfection; and yet such a soul will stand before an idol of stone with another, with a fellow man, and worship, not letting him know that he is in any way more advanced than other men, keeping himself in a humble guise, not making any pretense that he has gone further in his spiritual evolution.
The further such souls go, the more humble they become; the greater the mystery they have realized, the less they speak about it. You would scarcely believe it if I were to tell you that during four years of the presence of my Murshid, hardly more than once or twice I had a conversation on spiritual matters. Usually the conversation was on worldly things, like everybody else's; nobody would perceive that here was a God-realized man, who was always absorbed in God. His conversation was like that of every other person; he spoke on everything belonging to this world, never a spiritual conversation, nor any special show of piety or spirituality; and yet his atmosphere, the voice of his soul and his presence revealed all that was hidden in his heart.
Those who are God-realized and those who have touched wisdom speak very little on the subject. It is those who do not know who try to discuss it, not because they know, but because they themselves have doubts. When there is knowledge, there is satisfaction, there is no tendency towards dispute. When one disputes, it is because there is something not satisfied. There is nothing in this world, wealth, rank, position, power, or learning, that can give such conceit as the slightest little amount of spiritual knowledge; and once a person has that conceit, then he cannot take a further step, he is nailed down to that place where he stands; because the very idea of spiritual realization is in selflessness. Man has either to realize himself as something or as nothing. In this realization of nothingness there is spirituality. If one has any little knowledge of the inner laws of nature and is proud of it, or if one has any sense of thinking, 'How good I am, how kind I am, how generous, how well-mannered, how influential, or how attractive', the slightest idea of anything of this kind coming into the mind closes the doors which lead into the spiritual world. It is such an easy path to tread, and yet so difficult. Pride is most natural to a human being. Man may deny a virtue a thousand times in words, but he cannot help admitting it with his feelings, for the ego itself is pride. Pride is the ego; man cannot live without it. In order to attain to spiritual knowledge, in order to become conscious of the inner life, a person does not need to learn very much, because here he has to know what he already knows; only he has to discover it himself. For his understanding of spiritual knowledge he does not need the knowledge of anything except himself. He acquires the knowledge of the self which is himself, so near and yet so far.
Another thing the lover of God shows is the same tendency as the human lover's: he does not talk about his love to anybody; he cannot talk about it. Man cannot say how much he loves his beloved; no words can express it; and, besides, he does not feel like talking about it to anybody. Even if he could, in the presence of his beloved he would close his lips. How then could the lover of God make a profession, 'I love God'? The true lover of God keeps his love silently hidden in his heart, like a seed sown in the ground; and if the seedling grows, it grows in his actions towards his fellow man. He cannot act except with kindness, he cannot feel anything but forgiveness; every movement he makes, everything he does, speaks of his love, but not his lips.
This shows that in the inner life the greatest principal that one should observe is to be unassuming and quiet, without any show of wisdom, without any manifestation of learning, without any desire to let anyone know how far one has advanced, not even letting oneself know how far one has gone. The task to be accomplished is the entire forgetting of oneself and harmonizing with one's fellow man; acting in agreement with all, meeting everyone on his own plane, speaking to everyone in his own tongue, answering the laughter of one's friends with a smile, and the pain of another with tears, standing by one's friends in their joy and their sorrow, whatever be one's own grade of evolution. If a man through his life became like an angel he would accomplish very little; the accomplishment which is most desirable for man is to fulfill the obligations of human life.
[Extracted from Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Way of Illumination (The Sufi Message, Vol. 1)]
URL of Part 30: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/the-sufi-message--excerpts-from-hazrat-inayat-khan’s-discourses-on-the-unity-of-religious-ideals--on-the-aim-of-the-sufi-journey-–-30/d/12881