By Hazrat Inayat Khan
The Masters have been numberless since the creation of man; they have appeared with different names and forms; but He alone was disguised in them who is the only master of eternity.
Rejection of the stranger, and belief only in the one, whom he has once acknowledged, has kept man in darkness for ages. If he believed one message he would not accept the succeeding message, brought by another Master, who was perhaps a stranger to him. This has caused many troubles in the lives of all the Masters. Man refused to believe the Masters and their teachings, whether of the past or future, if their names were not written in the particular tradition he believed, or if he had not heard their names in the legends handed down for ages among his people. Therefore the people of that part of the world who have acknowledged the Hebrew prophets do not for instance recognize Avatars such as Rama, and Krishna, or Vishnu and Shiva simply because they cannot find these names in their scriptures. The same thing occurs in the other part of humanity which does not count Abraham, Moses or Jesus among its Devatas, 1 as it does not find those names written in the legends with which it is familiar. Even if it were true that Brahma was the same Devata whom the Hebrews called Abraham, and if Christ was the same Master whom the Hindus have called Krishna, yet man would not recognize as one those whom he has distinguished as different, having a higher opinion of one of them and a lower opinion of the other.
If the Masters were not the same in their mortal garb, yet in spirit they were one; if it were not so, how could one and the same truth be disclosed by them all? The Masters of humanity have been the elder brothers who guided the younger ones out of their brotherly love, and owing to their love of the Father […]
All the Teachers who came before taught for whatever community or group of people they were born, and prophesied the coming of the next Teacher, foreseeing the possibility and the necessity of the continuation of the Message until its fulfillment.
That the Messengers came successively did not mean that they were to give different messages, but that they should correct the corruption made in the message of the past by its followers. Also to revive principles in order to suit the evolution of the period, and to recall the same truth to the human mind which had been taught by the past Masters but had become lost from memory. It was not their personal message, but the divine message. They were obliged to correct the errors made by the misinterpretation of the religions, thereby renewing the same truth given by the past Masters which had in the course of time been changed from its real character. Man has ignorantly quarrelled about the names and forms of Masters, traditions, principles, and their limited groups, forgetting that they are one in that which unites them.
Their messages differ from one another in their outer appearance, each message being given in accordance with the age of man's evolution, and also in order to add a particular part in the course of divine wisdom. Certain laws and principles were prescribed by them to suit the country where the message was given, the climate, the period, customs, manners and requirements.
It was most necessary for the Messengers to claim some exceptional position which might attract humanity to receive the message they had to give. Some were called Avatar; an incarnation of Brahma, such as Vishnu, Shiva, Rama, and Krishna, while others were called Paighambar, prophet, and intercessor. Their followers have had foolish disputes about the greatness of their assumption, or about what they did and taught, or about the sort of life they led while admiring and hating according to their personal liking.
The divine message has always been sent through those fitly endowed. For instance when wealth was esteemed the message was delivered by King Solomon; when beauty was worshipped, Joseph, the most handsome, gave the message; when music was regarded as celestial David gave his message in song. When there was curiosity about miracles Moses brought his message. When sacrifice was highly esteemed Abraham gave the message. When heredity was recognized, Christ gave his message as the Son of God. When democracy was necessary, Muhammad gave his message as the Servant of God, one like all and among all. This put an end to the necessity for more prophets, because of the democratic nature of his proclamation and message. He proclaimed la ilaha illa-llah (none exists but God). God constitutes the whole being, singly, individually and collectively, and every soul has the source of the divine message within itself. This is the reason why there is no longer the need for mediation, for a third person as a savior between man and God. For man has evolved enough to conceive the idea of God being all and all being God, and has become tolerant enough to believe in the divine message given by one like himself, who is liable to birth, death, joy, and sorrow, and all the natural vicissitudes of life.
All Masters from the time of Adam till the time of Muhammad have been the one embodiment of the Master-ideal. When Jesus Christ is represented as saying, 'I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end,' it is not meant that either the name or the visible person of Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, but the Master-spirit within. It was this spirit which proclaimed this, moved by its realization of past, present, and future life, confident of its eternity. It is the same spirit which spoke through Krishna, saying, 'We appear on earth when Dharma is corrupted,' which was long before the coming of Christ. During his divine absorption Muhammad said, 'I existed even before this creation and shall remain after its assimilation.' In the holy traditions it is said, 'We have created thee of Our light and from thy light We have created the universe.' This is not said of the external person of Muhammad as known by this name. It refers to the spirit which spoke through all the blessed tongues and yet remained formless, nameless, birthless and deathless.
But the blind world, absorbed in its phenomena and impressed by a certain name and form, has clung to the name, forgetting the true being. It is this ignorance which has divided the children of men into so many divisions and separated one from the other by their own delusions: whereas in reality there exists one religion and one single Master, the only God. Man has considered his faithfulness to the Master in whom he believed his true religion; and to believe in the next teacher he considered a breach of faith.
There has been one Teacher only, and He alone will be. All the names which the world has fought over, are His names, and all the physical forms that have won the adoration of the truth-seeking world are His forms. Therefore, though the foolish reject the message, there are wise ones who accept it.
[Extracted from Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Way of Illumination (The Sufi Message, Vol. 1)]