Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Meaning of Life
The Alchemy of Happiness
Chapter 23

Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


THERE ARE many different things in life which are intoxicating, but if we were to consider the nature of life we would realize that there is nothing more intoxicating than our life itself. We can see the truth of this idea by thinking of what we were yesterday and comparing it with our condition of to¬day. Our unhappiness or happiness, our riches or poverty of yesterday are a dream to us, only our condition of today counts.

This life of continual rise and fall and of continual changes is like running water, and with the running of this water man thinks, "I am this water"; in reality he does not know what he is. For instance, if a man goes from poverty to riches and if those riches are taken away from him he laments, and he laments because he does not remember that before having those riches he was poor and from that poverty he came to riches. If one can consider one's fancies through life one will find that at every stage of one's development in life one had a particular fancy; sometimes one longed for certain things and at other times one did not care for them. If one can look at one's own life as a spectator, one will find that it was nothing but an intoxication. What at one time gives man a great satisfaction and pride at another time humiliates him, what at one time a person enjoys at another time troubles him, what at one time he values extremely at another time he does not value at all.

If man can observe his actions in everyday life and if he has an awakened sense of justice and understanding he will find himself doing something which he had not intended to do or saying something that he would not like to have said, or behaving so that he says, "Why was I such a fool!" Sometimes he allows himself to love someone, to admire someone; it goes on for days, for weeks, for months, years (although "years" is very long); then he feels, "Oh, I was wrong," or there comes something that is more attractive; then he is on another road, he does not know where he is nor whom he loves. In the action and reaction of his life sometimes man does things on impulse, not considering what he is doing, and at other times, so to speak, he gets a spell of goodness and he goes on doing what he thinks is good; at other times a reaction comes and all this goodness is gone. Then in business and in professions and commerce man gets an impulse, "I must do this," "I must do that," and he seems to have all strength and courage, and sometimes he goes on and sometimes it lasts only a day or two and then he forgets what he was doing and he does something else.

This shows that man in his life in the activity of the world is just like a little piece of wood raised by the waves of the sea when they are rising and cast down when the waves are going down. Therefore the Hindus have called the life of the world Bhavasagara, an ocean, an ever-rising ocean. And the life of man is floating in this ocean of the activity of the world, not knowing what he is doing, not knowing where he is going. What seems to him of importance is only the moment which he calls the present; the past is a dream, the future is in a mist, and the only thing clear to him is the present.

The attachment and love and the affection of man in the world's life is not very different from the attachment of birds and animals. There is a time when the sparrow looks after its young and brings grains in its beak and puts them into the beak of its young ones, and they anxiously await the coming of the mother who puts grain in their beak. And this goes on until their wings are grown, and once the young ones have known the branches of the tree and they have flown around in the forests under the protection of the kind mother they no longer know the mother who was so kind to them.

There are moments of emotion, there are impulses of love, of attachment, of affection, but there comes a time when they pass, they become pale and they fade away. And there comes a time when a person thinks that there is something else he desires and something else he would like to love. The more one thinks of man's life in the world the more one comes to understand that it is not very different from the life of a child. The child takes a fancy to a doll and then it gets tired of the doll and takes a fancy to another toy. And when it takes a fancy to the doll or the toy it thinks it the most valuable thing in the world; and then there comes a time when it tears up the doll and destroys the toy. And so it is with man; his scope is perhaps a little different, but his action is the same. All that man considers important in life, such as the collection of wealth, the possession of property, the attainment of fame and the rising to a position that he thinks ideal, any of these objects before him have no other than an intoxicating effect, but after attaining the object he is not satisfied. He thinks, "There is perhaps something else I want, it is not this I wanted." Whatever he wants he feels to be the most important thing, but after attaining it he thinks that it is not important at all, he wants something else. In everything that pleases him and makes him happy, his amusements, his theatre, his moving pictures, golf, polo, tennis, it seems that it amuses him to be in a maze and not to know where he is going, it seems that he only desires to fill his time and he does not know where he is going or what he is doing. And what man calls pleasure is what he feels at the moment when he is more intoxicated with the activity of life. Anything that covers his eyes from reality, anything that makes him feel a kind of sensation of life, anything that he can indulge in and that makes him conscious of some activity, this is what he calls pleasure.

The nature of man is such that whatever he becomes accustomed to, that is his pleasure, in eating, in drinking, in any activity. If he becomes accustomed to what is bitter that bitterness is his pleasure, if to what is sour then sourness is his pleasure, if he becomes accustomed to eat sweets he likes sweets. One man gets into a habit of complaining about his life and if he has nothing to complain about then he looks for something to complain of. Another wants the sympathy of others, to complain that he is badly treated by others, he looks for some treatment to complain of. It is an intoxication.

Then there is a person in a habit of theft, he is pleased by it, he gets into this habit; if there is another source of income before him he is not pleased, he does not want to have it. In this way people become accustomed to certain things in life, these things become a pleasure, an intoxication. There are many with whom it becomes a habit to worry about things. The least little thing worries them very much. They can cherish a least little sorrow they have; it is a plant they water and nourish. And so many, directly of indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, become accustomed to illness, and the illness is more an intoxication than a reality. And as long as man holds the thought of that illness he so to speak sustains it, and the illness settles in his body and no doctor can take it away. And the sorrow and illness are also an intoxication.

Then man's condition in life, every individual's environment and condition of life create before him an illusion and give him an intoxication so that he does not know the condition of the people around him, the people of the city and country in which he lives. And the intoxication not only remains with him in his wakeful state but it continues in his dreams, as the drunken man will also dream of the things that have to do with his drunkenness. If he has joy, if he has sorrow, if he has a worry or if he has a pleasure, the same will be his condition in his dream. And day and night the dream continues to exist, and the continuation of the dream with some lasts the whole life, with others it lasts only a certain time.

Man loves this intoxication as much as the drunken man, loves the intoxication of wine. When a person sees something interesting in his dream and somebody tries to wake him, even on waking he feels for a moment that he should go to sleep and finish that interesting dream. Knowing that it was a dream and that someone is waking him he wishes to sleep and to finish that interesting dream.

This intoxication can be seen in all different aspects of life, manifests even in the religious, philosophical, and mystical aspects. Man seeks after subtlety, man wishes to know something that he cannot understand, he is very pleased to be told something that his reason cannot understand. Give him the simple truth, he will not like it, he wants to find before him something that he cannot understand. When the teachers like Jesus Christ came on earth and gave the message of truth in simple words the people at that time said, "This is in our book, we know it already." But whenever there is an attempt made to mystify people to tell them of the fairies and the ghosts and spirits they are very pleased, they desire to understand what they cannot understand.

What man has called spiritual or religious truth has always been the key to that ultimate truth which man cannot see because of his intoxication. This truth nobody can give to another person. It is in every soul, for the human soul itself is this truth. And if anything can be given, it is only the means by which the truth can be known. The religions, in different forms, have been methods. By these methods man has been taught by the inspired souls to know this truth, and to be benefited by this truth which is in the soul of man. But, instead of being benefited by a religion in this way man has taken only its external part to be his religion, and has fought with others, saying, "My religion is the only right one, your religion is false".

However, there have always existed some wise ones; it is said in the Bible that the wise of the East came when Jesus Christ was born, to see the child. What does it mean? It means that the wise have existed at different times, and it has been their life's mission to keep themselves sober in spite of this intoxication from all around and to help their brothers and sisters to gain this soberness. Among those who were wise by their soberness there have been some who had great inspiration and great power and control over themselves and over life within and without. And such wise men have been called saints or sages or prophets or masters.

Man, in the world, through his intoxication, even when following or accepting these wise men has monopolized one of them as his prophet or teacher and has fought with others, saying, "My teacher is the only true one," and in this way he has shown his intoxication and drunkenness. And as a drunken man will, without any thought, hit or hurt another person who may be different from him, who thinks or feels or acts differently, so many great people of the world who came to help humanity have been killed, crucified, hurt or tortured. But they have not complained about it, they have taken it as a natural consequence. They have understood that they were in a world of intoxication or drunkenness, and that it is natural that a drunken man will hurt or harm. That has been the history of the world in whatever part of the world the message of God has been given.

In reality the message comes from one source and that is God, and under whatever name the wise man gave that message it was not his message, it was the message of God. Those whose hearts had eyes to see and ears to hear, they have, known and seen the same messenger, because they have received the message. And those whose hearts have no eyes or ears, they have taken the messenger to be important and not the message. Yet at whatever period that message came and in whatever form the message was garbed it was only that one message, the message of wisdom.

And it seems that the drunkenness of the world has increased and increased to such an extent that the great bloodshed and disaster have come about that the world has gone through recently, the like of which cannot be found in the history of the world. That shows that the drunkenness of the world has reached its summit. And no-one can deny that even now the world is not in a sober condition, but even now the traces of that drunkenness can be found in the unrest of the time, even if the great bloodshed, for the moment, is over.

The Sufi Movement2 originates from sophia, wisdom, the message of wisdom. Its aim is the same that was at all periods of the world's history the aim of the message, to bring about that soberness in humanity, to bring about that love for one's neighbour. No doubt, politics or education or business are the means of bringing people of different races or nations in contact with one another, but spiritual truth and the understanding of life are the only means of bringing about that brotherly feeling in the world, which nothing else can bring.

This message does not work to form an exclusive community, as there are already so many communities, fighting against one another, but the object of the message is to bring about a better understanding between different communities in the knowledge of truth. It is not a new religion, and how can this be a new religion when Jesus Christ has said, "I am not come to give a new law, I am come to fulfil the religion." It is the combination of the religions.

The chief aim of this Movement is to revivify the religions of the, world, in this way bringing together the followers of the different religions in friendly understanding and in tolerance. All are received with open arms in the Order of the Sufis; whatever be their religion, to whatever church they belong, whatever faith they have, there is no interference with it. There is personal help and guidance of the methods of meditation. There is a course of study to consider the problems of life. and the chief aim of every member of the Order is to do the best in his power to bring about that understanding, that the whole humanity may become one single brotherhood in the Fatherhood of God.



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