By Hazrat Inayat Khan
The tendency to be worried over nothing, to become anxious about little things, to be fidgety and restless, to be afraid, to be confused, the tendency of moving about without any reason, the tendency of speaking without purpose, the tendency of being sad without motive, all these things come through lack of control of the mind. Have they also any other effect besides the effect that is made upon one's own personality? Yes; all weakness, errors, and mistakes that man makes against his own wish, all these come from lack of control over his own mind. And if there is a secret of success the key to it is the control of the mind. Intuition, inspiration, revelation, all come when the mind is controlled. And all worries, anxieties, fears, and doubts come from lack of control.
What is the mind? One part of humanity considers mind as something inexplicable, and another part of humanity considers mind as an action of the brain. It is a very limited conception of mind. The voice reaches through wireless for thousands of miles, but the mind is much finer than the voice. It cannot be limited and restricted to the brain, although the brain is the medium by which thoughts are made clear. Mind according to the mystic is the real man; the body is only a garb which man wears. This word has a Sanskrit origin. In Sanskrit it is called Mana, and from that is derived Manu, which is nearly the same as the English word man. In other words, man means mind; and one sees that this is true when someone calls another person sad and downhearted, or courageous and enthusiastic, or well balanced, for all these attributes belong to the mind. Man is not his body, but he is his mind. There is a saying that what you are speaks louder than what you say. This means that the voice of mind reaches further than the spoken word and has greater effect.
It is mind which creates atmosphere. One often wonders why it is that one feels uncomfortable in the presence of someone without his having done any harm; or that one feels excited in the presence of someone, or that one gets out of tune, or tired, or confused in the presence of someone else. Why is it? It is the effect of the person's mind. The mind that is on fire creates fire in the atmosphere, and everyone within its atmosphere is burning too in the same fire. The mind which is restful and peaceful gives rest and peace to those who come within the atmosphere of the mind.
Once I asked my spiritual teacher how we could recognize the godly man. And my teacher replied, 'It is not what he says and it is not what he seems to be, but it is the atmosphere that his presence creates. That is the proof. For no one can create an atmosphere which does not belong to his spirit.'
It is said in the Bible that first the earth was created and then, after the earth, the heavens, which means that the body was finished first and then the mind. An infant is born, so to speak, with a vision of mind, a skeleton of mind, and then the flesh and skin are put on it.
There is no mind without body; that is to say, before the body was made the mind was only an Akasha, an accommodation. The experience it has gained through the body as its vehicle has become its knowledge; and it is knowledge that makes mind. The Akasha which becomes mind after the body has been born on earth has already gathered some indistinct knowledge from several minds it has met while coming to earth; perhaps from one mind more than from other minds. In that case it has gained characteristics chiefly from one individual who has passed on from the earth. Besides, through the parents this Akasha has gained the knowledge or the mentality of their ancestry, their nation, their race, and of the particular grade of evolution of the whole of humanity at that particular time.
Some say animals have no mind. But that is a wrong conception. Wherever there is a body there is a mind. Even the tree has a mind. Luther Burbank once said to me in support of this argument, 'You should watch the tendency of a plant, what is its inclination; for if you do not watch it the plant will not grow fully. I treat them as living beings. They speak to me, and I to them.'
The first thing we can learn about the mind is that the mind is independent of the body as far as its existence is concerned. But the mind is enriched by the experience man gets through his senses. There is no doubt that mind is within the body, but it is outside the body also, just like the light which is both within the lantern and without. The body is the lantern in which there is the light, but the lantern does not obscure the light. The light is independent of the lantern. It shines out; and so does the mind. The brain is not mind, just as the piece of flesh in the breast is not the heart. Only, feeling is felt more deeply in the breast, and thought is made clearer in the brain. [T]he body is dependent upon the mind, but the mind is independent of the body. Body cannot exist without the mind, but mind can exist without the body. The mind is the invisible being of the body. It has its seat in the physical being; and it is that seat which is called brain, as the seat of feeling is the heart.
All that the senses can perceive is outward, but all that the mind can perceive is inward. This means that imagination rises from the mind and that the mind can perceive it: feeling, memory, concentration, reason, all these are perceptions of the mind. One can call the mind more the being of man than the body. When we compare body with mind it is just like the coat a person wears.
Mind has five different aspects. The first aspect is the power of thinking. And thinking can be divided into two parts: imagination, which is an outcome of the automatic action of mind, and thought, which is a result of intentional thinking. A thoughtful man, therefore is not necessarily imaginative, nor an imaginative man thoughtful. Both qualities have their place. A person who is accustomed to think and who is incapable of imagination is far removed from that beauty which is expressed in poetry and music, as these come from imagination. When the mind is given a free hand to do as it likes, it dances as it were and out of its gestures a picture is created. Call it art, poetry, or music. In whatever form it expresses itself it is beautiful.
Many people laugh at an imaginative person. They say, 'He is in the clouds. He is dreaming.' But all works of art and music and poetry come from imagination, for imagination is the free flow of mind, when the mind is allowed to work by itself and bring out the beauty and harmony it contains. But when, it is restricted by a certain principle or rule, then it does not work freely. No doubt among artists and musicians you will find many who are dreamers and unpractical people. But that does not mean they are less gifted. Perhaps their impracticalness in some way helps them to accomplish something that practical people cannot accomplish. One need not follow their example, but one can appreciate it just the same. Besides, no one has believed in God, no one has loved God, and no one has reached the presence of God, who has not been helped by his imagination. Those who argue with the believer and say, 'But where is God? Can you show me? How can you conceive God? How do you explain God?' they are the ones without imagination; and no one can give his own imagination to them. Can anyone believe in the belief of another? If one can believe in anything one must do it oneself. And of what is that belief formed? Of imagination. It has been said: 'If you have no God make one'; and no one has ever reached God who has not been able to make God. Those who trouble themselves about the abstract God have no God; they only use the word God. They have the truth, but they do not have God.
Truth without God is not satisfying. One ought to reach truth through God. It is that which gives satisfaction. If all the strength that one derives from food were given in one pill it would perhaps keep a person alive, but it would not give him the joy of eating. If one took the pill of truth, maybe a part of one's being would be satisfied, but that is no real satisfaction. The idea of God feeds a person. He must first make it in himself, with his imagination; but if he is not willing to use his imagination, if he is only waiting for God to come to him, he will have to wait a long time.
When a person thinks, that is another kind of action. At that time he controls his mind, either consciously or unconsciously, and directs it according to his own will. He becomes reasonable, exact, and thoughtful. Both an imaginative and a thinking person may go to extremes and may fail. But, keeping the balance is what brings about desired results. A thinking person, also, may think so hard that he becomes confused by his own thoughts. There are many thinkers who think so hard that they become thoughtless.
The second aspect of mind is memory. The work of memory is not creative but perceptive. Its work is to receive impressions and to gather them together
The third aspect of the work of the mind is mind-control, the concentrating power. This is done in two ways: with the help of memory and with the help of mind. The concentration that is performed with the help of memory is a negative or passive concentration. It requires little effort to concentrate with the help of memory. The Hindus taught this by placing certain Gods and Goddesses before a person and telling him to look at them and then to close his eyes and think about them. By looking at a certain object the memory reflected it, and that reflection was the concentration.
Then there is the positive concentration, which is creative. This concentration comes by thinking. When one thinks of a tree or a flower, the mind has to create atoms in order to make that form; therefore it is positive. It needs will power; a greater action of mind, to concentrate upon an object which the mind has to make. The mind has to work. It is not only concentrating, but creating and concentrating.
There are some that have a natural power of concentration, and there are others who lack it. But the mystery of success in all directions of life and the secret of progress is to be found in the power of concentration. It is not only progress and success, which are gained by it, but spiritual attainment is the result of concentration. And very often one sees that some make efforts to concentrate but cannot really concentrate, and others do not know that they concentrate but do it all the same. Prayer and meditation and various other exercises, religious or spiritual, are meant to develop the power of concentration.
In the East it is customary in the mosque for one man to lead the prayers and all the other worshippers stand behind him. Before offering their prayers they first focus their mind on joining the thought of their leader. Now there was a great mystic who would not go to the mosque to pray. He was always in prayer. He did not need to go to the mosque. But there was an orthodox king reigning at the time, who had decreed that everybody had to attend the prayers. So this man was compelled by the police to go and join in, but in the middle of the prayers he left, which was considered a great crime. When he was brought before the court to be judged he said, 'I could not help it. The leader in his thought went to his house because he had forgotten his keys. So while I was praying I was left without a leader in the mosque, and that is why I went out.' This shows that as long as there is spirit in religious form, it is a beautiful form, which has life in it. But if there is no spirit behind it, however beautiful the form may be it is of no use. This is what is indicated by the saying in the Bible: 'It is the spirit that quickneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.'
The fourth aspect of the mind is reasoning. This is a mathematical faculty, a faculty which weighs and measures and sees angles, whether they are right or wrong. And it is this faculty which makes man responsible for his actions […]
It is very wonderful to watch the tricks of the reasoning faculty. When another person has done something reason says, 'Because that person is wicked and has already done ten wicked things, now he has surely done another wicked thing.' And when a person himself has done a wicked thing, reason says, ' I have done it because I could not have done otherwise. I could not help it.' Reason takes the side of the ego. Reason is a slave and a servant of the mind; it is at its beck and call. The mind has only to turn its face to reason, and reason stands there as an obedient slave. It may not be right at all, but it is always there.
Reason is the most valuable thing that exists, but it is worthless when it is a slave of the mind. It gives the mind a reason to do either right or wrong. If one went and asked criminals in jail why they had done wrong, each one would have a reason. And if we look still closer at a reason we shall see that reason is nothing but a veil and a series of veils, one veil over another. Even when the veils are lifted, at the end there is reason just the same. But as one goes further one will find the more thorough and more substantial reason. It is the surface of reason which is unreliable, but the depth is most interesting; for the depth of reason is the essence of wisdom.
The more one understands reason the less one will seek it, because then there is nothing to it. One knows the reason already. It is the unreasonable man who always accuses every person's reason. The more reasonable a person is the more he understands everyone else's reason. That is why the wise can get along with both the wise and the foolish. But the foolish can get along with neither the foolish nor the wise.
There is no doubt that there is always a reason behind a reason, a higher reason. And when one arrives at this higher reason one begins to unlearn, as the mystics call it, all that one has once learnt. One unlearns and one begins to see quite the opposite. In other words, there is no good, which has not a bad side to it and nothing bad which has not a good side to it. No one rises without a fall, and no one falls without the promise of a rise. One sees death in birth and birth in death. It sounds very strange, and it is a peculiar idea; but all the same it is a stage. When one rises above what is called reason one reaches that reason which is at the same time contradictory. This also explains the attitude of Christ.
When a criminal was taken to him he had no other attitude towards him but that of the forgiver. He saw no evil there. That is looking from a higher reason. And if we penetrate the thousand veils of reason we can touch the reason of all reasons, and we can come to an understanding that the outer reasons cannot give. And by that we understand all beings: those who are in the right and those who are in the wrong. It is said that the Apostles in one moment were inspired to speak in many languages. It was not the English language, the Hindustani or Chinese language. It was the language of every soul. When a person has reached that state of mind in which it touches the essence of reason then it communicates with every soul. It is not a great thing to know thirty languages. A person may know a hundred languages, but if he does not know the heart of man he knows nothing.
There is a language of the heart. Heart speaks to heart, and that communication makes life interesting. Two persons may not speak, but their sitting together may be an exchange of lofty ideal and harmony. When first I became initiated at the hands of my spiritual teacher in India I was eager, as any man could be to assimilate, to grasp, as much as I could. Day after day I was in the presence of my Murshid, but not once did he speak on spiritual matters. Sometimes he spoke about herbs and plants, at other times about milk and butter. I went there every day for six months to see if I could hear anything about spiritual things. After six months the teacher spoke to me one day about the two parts of a personality, the outer and the inner. And I was over enthusiastic; the moment he began I took out a notebook and pencil. But as soon as I did this, my teacher changed the subject and spoke about other things. I understood what that meant. It meant in the first place that the teaching of the heart should be assimilated in the heart.
The heart is the notebook for it. When it is written in another notebook it will remain in one's pocket, but when it is written in the heart it will remain in the soul. Besides one has to learn the lesson of patience, to wait, for all knowledge comes in its own time. I asked myself further if it was worthwhile to come to a place after a long journey, and go there every day for six months to hear of nothing but trees and butter. And my deepest self answered: yes, more than worthwhile, for there is nothing in the whole world more precious than the presence of the holy one. His teaching may not be given in theories, but it is in his atmosphere. That is a living teaching, which is real upliftment.
The essence of reason is the knowledge of God. Therefore, if there is any divine knowledge to be found it is in the essence of reason that one can find it.
And the fifth aspect of the mind is feeling. If this faculty is not open, then however wise and clever a person may be he is incomplete. He is not living. Mind begins to live from the moment that feeling is wakened in it. Many use the word feeling, but few of us know it. And the more one knows it the less one speaks of it. It is so vast that if there is any sign of God it is in feeling.
Today people distinguish intellectuality from sentimentality, but in point of fact intellectuality cannot be perfect without sentimentality. Neither can the thinking power be nurtured, nor the faculty of reasoning be sustained, without a continual outflow of feeling. In this age of materialism we seem to have lost the value of feeling. We speak of heart, but we do not see its real importance, although it is the principal thing, the root of the plant of life. The heart quality is something which sustains the whole of life. All virtues such as sincerity, respect, thoughtfulness, consideration, appreciation, all these qualities come through heart-quality. If he has no heart a person is not capable of appreciating, nor of being grateful, nor capable of expressing his own soul, nor of receiving goodness and help from another. A person without heart quality remains selfish, even foolishly selfish. If he were wisely selfish it would be worthwhile.
People very often say that they have no time to show their heart-quality, no time to allow the heart to develop. They are so busy. But we can be very busy every minute from morning till evening and at the same time do what we do with our whole heart, express it from the depth of our heart. When the heart-quality is shut out then all one does is lifeless. Feeling is such an important thing in our lives; our whole life depends upon our feeling. A person once disheartened sometimes loses enthusiasm for his whole life. A person once disappointed loses trust completely. A person who becomes heartbroken loses his self-confidence for the rest of his life. A person once afraid sustains fear in his heart forever. A person who has once failed keeps the impression of his failure all through life.
One can read in the lives of great heroes and great personalities, how they went through all difficulties and sorrows and troubles and yet always tried to keep their heart from being humiliated. That gave them all the necessary strength. They always avoided humiliation. They were prepared for death, wars, suffering, poverty, but not for humiliation. Once when I was in Nepal I wanted a servant. I sent for one, and he was of the warrior caste, theKshatriyas, brave fighters in the mountains. And when I asked what work he wanted to do, he said, 'Any work you like, anything you like.' I said, 'What about the pay?' 'Anything you will give,' he answered. I was greatly amused to find a man willing to do any work I gave him and to accept any pay I offered. 'Well,' I said, 'Then there is no condition to be made?' He said, 'One. You will never say a cross word to me.' He was ready to accept any money; willing to do any work; but not humiliation. I appreciated that spirit beyond words. It was that which made him a warrior.
Is there anyone in this world who will own that he has no feeling? And yet there are hearts of rock, of iron, of the earth, and of diamond, silver, gold, wax, and paper. There are as many kinds of hearts in this world as there are objects. There are some objects that hold fire longer. There are others that burn instantly. Some objects will become warm and in a moment they will grow cold again. Others disappear as soon as the fire touches them; while one can melt others and make ornaments out of them. And so are the heart-qualities. Different people have different qualities of the heart, and the knower of the heart will treat each differently. But since we do not think about this aspect we take every man to be the same. Although every note is a sound, they differ in pitch, in vibrations; and so every man differs in the pitch, the vibrations, of his heart. According to the vibrations of his heart he is either spiritual or material, noble or common. It is not because of what he does, nor because of what he possesses in this world. He is small or great according to how his heart vibrates.
I have all my life had a great respect for those who have toiled in the world, who have striven through life and reached a certain eminence, and I have always considered it a most sacred thing to be in their presence. This being my great interest in life, I began, at first in the East, to make pilgrimages to great people. Among them were writers, sages, philosophers, and saints; but once I came in contact with a great wrestler. And this man, who had the appearance of a giant with his monstrously muscular body, had such a sympathetic expansive nature, such simplicity and gentleness that I was deeply surprised. And I thought, 'It is not his size and strength that have made him great, but that which has melted him and made him lenient; it is that which makes him great.'
Feeling is vibration. The heart which is a vehicle, an instrument of feeling, creates phenomena if one only watches life keenly. If one causes anyone pain, that pain is returned. If one causes anyone pleasure, that pleasure is returned too. If one gives love to someone, love comes back. And if one gives hatred, that hatred comes back to one in some form or other – maybe in the form of pain, illness, health, or of success, joy or happiness. In some form or other it comes, it never fails. One generally does not think about this. When a person has attained a certain position in which he can order people about and speak harshly to them, he never thinks about those things. But every little feeling that rises in one's heart and directs one's action, word, and movement, causes a certain action and rebounds. Only sometimes it takes time. Could one think that one could ever hate a person and that that hatred does not come back? It surely comes, some time. On the other hand, if one has sympathy, love, affection, kind feelings, one need never tell anybody that one has it, for even then it returns in some form or other.
Someone came to me and said, 'I was very sympathetic once, but somehow I have become hardened. What is the reason for it?' I said, 'You tried to get water from the bottom of the earth. But instead of digging deep down you dug in the mud and you were disappointed. If you have patience to dig till you reach water, then you will not be disappointed.'
There is a story of Shirin and Farhad, a very well known story of Persia. There was a stonecutter and he was laboring at a memorial for somebody. One day he saw a lady who was to be the future queen of the Shah; and he said to her, 'I love you.' A stonecutter, a laborer in the street, asking for the hand of a lady who was to be the future Queen! He was a man without reason but not a man without feeling. Feeling was there, and the claim came with feeling. This lady said, 'Very well, I will wait and see if your claim is true, and tell the Shah of Persia to wait.' And to try him she told him to cut a way through the mountains. He went one man with hammer and chisel. He did not ask if he was able to do it or not. There was no reason; there was only feeling. And he made the road which thousands of people would not have made in a year, because every time he hammered the rock he called out the name of Shirin, the one he loved. He made the way, and when the king heard that it was finished he said, 'Alas, I have lost my chance, what shall I do?' Someone in the presence of the king said, 'I will see what can be done.' He went to Farhad, the stonecutter and told him, 'How wonderful is your love and devotion! It is phenomenal. But haven't you heard that Shirin is dead?' 'Is she dead?' he said. 'Then I cannot go on living.' And he fell down lifeless.
The point of this story is the power of feeling. What is lacking at this time is the feeling quality. Everyone wishes to think with the brain, to work with the head, but not with the heart. One can neither imagine nor create beautiful art, nor think and make wonderful things, nor can one keep in one's memory something beautiful, nor retain thoughts in concentration, if there is no feeling at the back of it. Besides, if there is no feeling behind all such words as gratitude, thanks, appreciation, these words are without spirit. They become mere politeness. Today fineness is so much misunderstood. People only learn the outward aspect. If there were feeling behind all they say, life would be much more worth living.
When the mind is troubled it is confused. It cannot reflect anything. It is the stillness of mind that makes one capable of receiving impressions and of reflecting them. In Persian the mind is called a mirror. Everything in front of the mirror appears in it; but when this is taken away the mirror is clear. It does not remain. It remains in the mirror as long as the mirror is focused on it, and so it is with the mind.
(Excerpted from Mental Purification and Healing, by Hazrat Inayat Khan [“The Sufi Message”, vol. 1V])