By Hazrat Inayat Khan
THE inner life is a journey, and before starting to take it there is a certain preparation necessary. If one is not prepared, there is always the risk of having to return before one has arrived at one's destination. When a person goes on a journey, and when he has to accomplish something, he must know what is necessary on the path and what he must take with him, in order that his journey may become easy and that he may accomplish what he has started to accomplish. The journey one takes in the inner life is as long as the distance between the beginning of life and death, it being the longest journey one ever takes throughout life; and one must have everything prepared, so that after reaching a certain distance one may not have to turn back.
The first thing that is necessary is to see that there is no debt to be paid. Every soul has a certain debt to pay in life; it may be to his mother or father, his brother or sister, to his husband or wife or friend, or to his children, his race, or to humanity; and if he has not paid what is due, then there are cords with which he is inwardly tied, and they pull him back. Life in the world is fair trade, if one could only understand it, if one knew how many souls there are in this world with whom one is connected or related in some way, or whom we meet freshly every day. To everyone there is something due; and if one has not paid one's obligations, the result is that afterwards one has to pay with interest.
There is the inner justice which is working beyond the worldly justice, and when man does not observe that inner law of justice, it is because at that time he is intoxicated, his eyes are closed, and he does not really know the law of life. But that intoxication will not last; there will come the day when the eyes of every soul will be opened; and it is a pity if the eyes open when it is too late. It is better that the eyes are open when the purse is full, for it will be very difficult if the eyes open at a time when the purse is empty. To some consideration is due, to some respect, to some service, to some tolerance, to some forgiveness, to some help. In some way or another, in every relationship, in every connection, there is something to pay; and one must know that before starting the journey that one has paid it, and be sure that one has paid it in full, so that there is nothing more to be paid. Besides this it is necessary that man, before starting his journey, realises that he has fulfilled his duties, his duty to those around him and his duty to God. But one who considers his duty to those around him sacredly does his duty to God.
Man must also consider, before starting on his journey, whether he has learned all he has desired to learn from this world. If there is anything he has not learned, he must finish it before starting the journey. For if he thinks, 'I will start the journey, although I had the desire to learn something before starting', in that case he will not be able to reach his goal; that desire to learn something will draw him back. Every desire, every ambition, every aspiration, that he has in life must be gratified. Not only this, man must have no remorse of any kind when starting on his journey, and no repentance afterwards. If there is any repentance or remorse, it must be finished before starting. There must be no grudge against anybody, and no complaining of anyone having done him harm, for all these things which belong to this world, if man took them along, would become a burden on the spiritual path. The journey is difficult enough, and it becomes more difficult if there is a burden to be carried. If a person is lifting a burden of displeasure, dissatisfaction, discomfort, it is difficult to bear it on the path. It is the path to freedom, and to start on this path of freedom, man must free himself, no attachment should pull him back, no pleasure should lure him back.
Besides this preparation one needs a vehicle, a vehicle in which one journeys. That vehicle has two wheels, and they are balanced in all things. A man who is one-sided, however great his power of clairvoyance or clairaudience, whatever be his knowledge, yet is limited; he cannot go very far, for it requires two wheels for the vehicle to run. There must be a balance, the balance of the head and the heart, the balance of power and wisdom, the balance of activity and repose. It is the balance which enables man to stand the strain of his journey and permits him to go forward, making his path easy. Never imagine for one moment that those who show lack of balance can ever proceed further on the spiritual journey, however greatly in appearance they may seem to be spiritually inclined. It is only the balanced ones who are capable of experiencing the external life as fully as the inner life; to enjoy thought as much as feeling; to rest as well as to act. The centre of life is rhythm, and rhythm causes balance.
On this journey certain coins are necessary also, to spend on the way. And what are these coins? They are thoughtful expressions in word and in action. On this journey man must take provision to eat and drink, and that provision is life and light. And on this journey man has to take something in which to clothe himself against wind, and storm, and heat, and cold; and that garment is the vow of secrecy, the tendency to silence. On this journey man must bid farewell to others when starting, and that farewell is loving detachment; before starting on this journey he has to leave something behind with his friends, and that is happy memories of the past.
We are all on the journey; life itself is a journey. No one is settled here; we are all passing onward, and therefore it is not true to say that if we are taking a spiritual journey we have to break our settled life; there is no one living a settled life here; all are unsettled, all are on their way. Only, by taking a spiritual journey you are taking another way, one which is easier, better and more pleasant. Those who do not take this way will also come in the end: the difference is in the way. One way is easier, smoother, better, the other way is full of difficulties; and as life has no end of difficulties from the time one has opened one's eyes on this earth, so one may just as well choose the smoother way to arrive at the destination at which all souls will sometime arrive.
By 'inner life' is meant a life directed towards perfection, which may be called the perfection of love, harmony, and beauty; in the words of the orthodox, towards God.
The inner life is not necessarily in an opposite direction to the worldly life, but the inner life is a fuller life. The worldly life means the limitation of life, the inner life means a complete life. The ascetics who have taken a direction quite opposite to the worldly life have done so in order to have the facility to search into the depths of life; but going in one direction alone does not make a complete life. Therefore the inner life means the fullness of life.
In brief, one may say that the inner life consists of two things: action with knowledge, and repose with passivity of mind. By accomplishing these two contrary motions, and by keeping balanced in these two directions one comes to the fullness of life. A person who lives the inner life is as innocent as a child, even more innocent than a child; but at the same time wiser than many clever people put together. This shows as a development in two contrary directions. The innocence of Jesus has been known through the ages. In his every moment, in his every action, he appeared to be as a child. All the great saints and sages, the great ones who have liberated humanity, have been as innocent as children and at the same time wiser, much more so, than the worldly-wise. And what makes it so? What gives them this balance? It is repose with passiveness. When they stand before God, they stand with their heart as an empty cup; when they stand before God to learn, they unlearn all things that the world has taught them; when they stand before God, their ego, their self, their life, is no more before them. They do not think of themselves in that moment with any desire to be fulfilled, with any motive to be accomplished, with any expression of their own; but as empty cups, that God may fill their being, that they may lose the false self.
Therefore the same thing helps them in their everyday life to show a glimpse of the quiet moment of repose they had with God. They show in their everyday life innocence and yet not ignorance; they know things and they do not know. They know if somebody is telling a lie; but do they accuse that person? Do they say, 'you are telling a lie'? They are above it. They know all the plays of the world, and they look at them all passively; they rise above things of this world which make no impression on them. They take people quite simply. Some may think that they are ignorant in their […] [worldly?] lives, that they take no notice of things that are of no importance […] [Those] who live the inner life all direct their activity with wisdom; every moment, every action, every thought, every word is first thought out, is first weighed, and measured, and analyzed before it is expressed. Therefore in the world everything they do is with wisdom, but before God they stand with innocence; there they do not take worldly wisdom.
Man often makes mistakes, either by taking one way or the other, and therefore he lacks balance and does not come to touch perfection. For instance, when he takes the way of activity in the path of God, he also wishes to use his wisdom there; in the path of God also he wishes to be active, where he does not need action. It is just like swimming against the tide; where you must be innocent, if you use your wisdom there it is the greatest error. Then there are others who are accustomed to take passivity as a principle with which they stand before God in their innocence; and they wish to use the same principle in all directions of life, which would not be right.
[Extracted from Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Way of Illumination (The Sufi Message, Vol. 1)]