By Hazrat Inayat Khan
THE principle of the one who experiences the inner life is to become all things to all men throughout his life. In every situation, in every capacity, he answers the demand of the moment. Often people think that the spiritual person must be a man with sad looks, with a long face, with a serious expression, and with a melancholy atmosphere. Really speaking, that picture is the exact contrary of the real spiritual person. In all capacities the one who lives the inner life has to act outwardly as he ought in order to fit the occasion; he must act according to the circumstances, and he must speak to everyone in his own language, standing upon the same level, and yet realizing the inner life.
For the knower of truth, the one who has attained spiritual knowledge and who lives the inner life, there is no occupation in life which is too difficult; as a business man, a professional man, a king; as a ruler, a poor man, a worldly man; as a priest or a monk, in all aspects he is different from what people know and see of him. To the one who lives the inner life the world is a stage; on this he is the actor who has to act a part in which he has sometimes to be angry and sometimes loving, and in which he has to take part both in tragedy and comedy. So also the one who has realized the inner life acts constantly; and, like the actor who does not feel the emotions he assumes, the spiritual man has to fill fittingly the place in which life has placed him. There he performs everything thoroughly and rightly, in order to fulfill his outer commission in life. He is a friend to his friend, a relative to his relatives. With all to whom he is outwardly related he keeps the right relationship with thought, with consideration; and yet in his realization he is above all relationships. He is in the crowd and in the solitude at the same time. He may be very much amused, and at the same time he is very serious. He may seem very sad, and yet there is joy welling up from his heart.
Therefore, the one who has realized the inner life is a mystery to everyone; no one can fathom the depth of that person, except that he promises sincerity, he emits love, he commands trust, he spreads goodness, and he gives an impression of God and the truth. For the man who has realized the inner life every act is his meditation; if he is walking in the street it is his meditation; if he is working as a carpenter, as a goldsmith or in any other trade or business, that is his meditation. It does not matter if he is looking at heaven or at the earth, he is looking at the object that he worships. East or west or north or south, upon all sides is his God. In form, in principle, nothing restricts him. He may know things and yet may not speak; for if a man who lives the inner life were to speak of his experiences it would confuse many minds.
There are individuals in the world who from morning until evening have their eyes and their ears focused on every dark corner, wanting to listen, or to see what they can find out; and they find out nothing. If someone were to tell such people wonders, he would have a very good occupation, the whole world would seek him. But such is not the work of the self-realized man. He sees, and yet does not look; if he were to look, how much would he see! There is so much to be seen by one whose every glance, wherever it is cast, breaks through every object and discovers its depth and its secret. And if he were to look at things and find out their secrets and depths, where would it end, and of what interest is it to him?
The inner life, therefore, is seeing all things and yet not seeing them; feeling all things and not expressing them, for they cannot be fully expressed; understanding all things and not explaining. How far can such a man explain, and how much can another understand? Each according to the capacity he has, no more. The inner life is not lived by closing the eyes; one need not close one's eyes from this world in order to live in it, one can just as well open them.
The exact meaning of the inner life is not only to live in the body, but also to live in the heart, to live in the soul. Why, then, does not the average man live an inner life when he too has a heart and a soul? It is because he has a heart, and yet is not conscious of it; he has a soul, and knows not what it is. When he lives in the captivity of the body, limited by that body, he can only feel a thing by touching it, he sees only by looking through his eyes, he hears only by hearing with his ears. How much can the ears hear and the eyes see? All this experience obtained by the outer senses is limited. When man lives in this limitation he does not know that another part of his being exists, which is much higher, more wonderful, more living, and more exalted.
Once he begins to know this, then the body becomes his tool, for he lives in his heart. And then later he passes on and lives in his soul. He experiences life independently of his body; and that is called the inner life. Once man has experienced the inner life, the fear of death has expired; because he knows death comes to the body, not to his inner being. When once he begins to realize life in his heart and in his soul, then he looks upon his body as a coat. If the coat is old he puts it away and takes a new one, for his being does not depend upon his coat. The fear of death lasts only so long as man has not realized that his real being does not depend upon his body.
The joy, therefore, of the one who experiences the inner life is beyond comparison, greater than that of the average man living only as a captive in his mortal body […] Whatever his outer occupation be it does not matter; the man who lives the inner life lives it through all. Man always looks for a spiritual person in a religious person, or perhaps in what he calls a good person, or in someone with a philosophical mind, but that is not necessarily the case. A person may be religious, even philosophical, he may be religious or good, and yet he may not live the inner life.
There is no distinct outward appearance which can prove a person to be living the inner life, except one thing. When a child grows towards youth, you can see in the expression of that child a light beaming out, a certain new consciousness arising, a new knowledge coming which the child has not known before. That is the sign of youth, yet the child does not say so; he cannot say it, even if he wanted to, he cannot explain it. And yet you can see it from every movement that the child makes; from his every expression, you can find that he is realizing life now. And so it is with the soul. When the soul begins to realize the life above and beyond this life, it begins to show; and although the man who realizes this may refrain from purposely showing it, yet from his expression, his movement, his glance, his voice, from every action and from every attitude, the wise can grasp and the others can feel that he is conscious of some mystery.
The inner life is a birth of the soul; as Christ said, that unless the soul is born again it cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, the realization of the inner life is entering the kingdom of heaven; and this consciousness when it comes to the human being shows itself as a new birth, and with this new birth there comes the assurance of everlasting life.
[Extracted from Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Way of Illumination (The Sufi Message, Vol. 1)]
URL of Part 31: 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-fulfillment-of-life’s-obligations-–-31/d/12929