By Hazrat Inayat Khan
There are two aspects of life: the audible life and the silent life. By audible life I mean all experiences, all sensations that we experience through our five senses. This is distinct from the life which I would call the silent life. And when one asks what benefit one derives from getting in touch with the silent life, the answer is that the benefit is as abstract as the silent life itself. The life of sensation is clear; its benefit is clear; and yet as limited, as is the life of sensation, so limited is its benefit. That is why in the end we find all our experiences of little value. Their importance lasts as long as we experience them. But after that the importance of the life of sensation is finished.
The value of silent life is independent. We are inclined to attach a value to something which concerns our outer life. The silent life does not give us a special benefit but a general benefit. In other words, if there is a minor wound on the body an external application of a certain medicament can cure it. But there are other medicines which can cure the general condition, and this is more satisfactory than the external cure, though it is less spectacular.
One cannot say exactly what profit is gained by concentration, but in reality every kind of profit is to be attained through concentration, in all directions. There are two kinds of concentration: automatic concentration and intentional concentration. Automatic concentration is found in many people who do not know that they concentrate and yet they do. They concentrate automatically, some to their disadvantage, some to their advantage. Those who concentrate to their advantage are the ones whose mind is fixed on their business, on their art, on any occupation they have. They are the ones who because of their concentration can work more successfully. Be it a composer, a writer, or a musician, according to his power of concentration so will be his success.
Sometimes concentration works to a disadvantage. There are some people who always think that they are unlucky, that everything they do will go wrong, who think that everybody dislikes them, that everybody hates them. Then some begin to think that they are unable to do anything, that they are incapable, useless. Others out of self-pity think that they are ill. In that way even if they are not ill they create illness. Some by concentration cherish illness, always think of it. No physician could be successful with them. An old physician once said, 'There are many diseases, but there are many more patients.' Once a person has become a patient through concentration, he is difficult to cure. And there are many such cases of automatic concentration to the disadvantage of man.
Thinkers, philosophers, and meditative people teach intentional concentration. The whole of mysticism, of esotericism, is based upon the idea of concentration. This mystical concentration can be divided into four different grades. The first is concentration, the next contemplation, the third meditation, the forth realization.
The definition of the first grade is the fixing of one's thought upon one object. One should not concentrate upon just any object that comes along, for what one concentrates upon has an effect upon one. When one concentrates on a dead object it has the effect of deadening the soul. When one concentrates on a living object it naturally has a living effect. The secret of the teachings of all prophets and mystics is to be found in this.
This concentration is achieved in three different ways. The first way is by action. One makes a certain movement or performs an action which helps the mind to concentrate on a certain object. Another way is with the help of words. By the repetition of certain words one learns to think automatically of a certain object. The third way is with the help of memory. Memory is like a builder's yard. From this the builder takes anything he likes: tiles, pillars, bricks, whatever he wants. The man who concentrates in this way does the same as children who have bricks to build toy houses with. He collects things in his memory and with them he composes objects in order to concentrate on what he wishes.
As to contemplation, it is only when a person is advanced enough that he can contemplate. Because contemplation is not on an object, it is on an idea. No doubt a man can think that he is ready to do anything and that after concentration he can contemplate; but the nature of the mind is such that it slips out of one's hands the moment one tries to hold it. Therefore before one really starts to think the mind has already thrown off the object of concentration like a restive horse. Mind is not always so unruly; it proves to be unruly when it wants to rule itself. It is like the body: one may feel restful sitting naturally, but as soon as one keeps quite still for five minutes, the body begins to feel restless. And it is still more difficult to make the mind obey. Mystics therefore find a rope to tie the mind in a certain place where it cannot move. What is that rope? That rope is breath. It is by that rope that they bind the mind and make it stand where they wish it to stand. It is like the bird which uses its saliva to make its nest. So it is with the mystic who out of breath creates atmosphere, creates light and magnetism in which to live.
One characteristic of the mind is that it is like a gramophone record: whatever is impressed upon it, it is able to reproduce. And another characteristic of the mind is that it does not only reproduce something, but it creates what is impressed upon it. If ugliness is recorded, it will produce disagreement, disharmony. The learning of concentration clears the record, makes it produce what we like, not what comes automatically. In this world one is so open to impressions. One goes about with eyes and ears open, but it is not only the eyes, not only the ears that are open. The lips are open to give out what the eyes and ears take in. That is the dangerous part.
The third part of concentration is meditation. In this grade one becomes communicative. One communicates with the silent life, and naturally a communication opens up with the outer life also. It is then that a man begins to realize that both the outer and the inner life, everything in fact, is communicative. Then a man begins to learn what can never be learnt by study or from books, that the silent life is the greatest teacher and knows all things. It does not only teach, but gives that peace, that joy, that power and harmony which make life beautiful.
No one can claim to be meditative for a meditative person need not to say it with the lips. His atmosphere says so, and it is the atmosphere alone that can say whether it is true or false. Once I asked my spiritual teacher what was the sign of knowing God. He said, 'Not those who call out the Name of God, but those whose silence says it.' Many go about looking, searching for something worthwhile, something wonderful, but there is nothing more wonderful than the soul of man.
Realization is the result of the three other grades. In the third kind of experience man pursued meditation; but in this, meditation pursues man. In other words, it is no longer the singer who sings the song, but the song sings the singer. This fourth grade is a kind of expansion of consciousness; it is the unfoldment of the soul; it is diving deep within oneself; it is communicating with each atom of life existing in the whole world; it is realizing the real 'I', in which is the fulfillment of life's purpose.
(Excerpted from Mental Purification and Healing, by Hazrat Inayat Khan [“The Sufi Message”, vol. 1V])
URL of Part 61: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/the-sufi-message--excerpts-from-hazrat-inayat-khan’s-discourses-on-the-unity-of-religious-ideals--61--on-strength-for-positive-living/d/87329