Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Meaning of Life
The Alchemy of Happiness
Chapter 23

Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


AFTER A great enquiry into the depths of life one finds that the only seeking of all souls is to know The Meaning of Life. The scientist looks for it in his search in the realm of science and the artist finds it in his art. In all their different interests, whatever people are interested in, the only inclination behind it is to find The Meaning of Life. This shows that it is the nature of the soul, that the soul has come here for this purpose, that it may realize, that it may understand The Meaning of Life. Therefore either through a material or a spiritual way every soul in its particular way is striving to seek what all the time is its longing.


One can see this even in the life of an infant. The desire of an infant to look at a thing, to tear it to pieces and see what is in it shows that it is the soul's desire to look into life, to understand life. No doubt the effect and the influence of life on earth is intoxicating, and through this intoxication man becomes so absorbed in himself and his own interest that he, so to speak, loses the way, the way that is inborn in man. This desire is not only to be found in man, but even in the lower creation one finds the same attitude. In animals, in birds, the deepest desire is not looking for food or seeking a comfortable nest; the deepest tendency is to understand the nature of life - which then culminates in man. In the life of the youth who continually asks his parents questions - "What does this mean, what is the meaning of that?" - one sees that continual longing to know The Meaning of Life, a longing which continues all through life.


What does this teach us? It teaches us the principle that, the source and the goal of the universe being one and the same, the Creator created all in order to know His own creation. How does the Creator see and understand His own creation? Not only in its highest and deepest aspect, but also through every thing and every being He is continually knowing and understanding His creation. For instance, if a person were to ask me, "What is art? Is it not made by man?", I would answer, "Yes, but made by God also, through man". And if that is so, then what is this whole mechanism of the universe doing? It is working. Working for what purpose? Working for the understanding of it.


What is this mechanism of the world? Is it living or is it dead? All that we call living is living, and all that we call dead is living too. It is for our convenience that we say "thing" and "being". In reality there are no things, they are all beings. Only there is a gradual awakening from the witnessing aspect to the recognizing aspect. And no science, however material, will deny the truth of this, for this truth is to be realized from all things, from religion, from philosophy, from science, from art, from industry, from all things. Only the difference is that one takes a shorter way and the other a longer way; one goes round and about and the other takes a straight way. There is no difference in the destination, the difference is on the way: whether one goes on foot or whether one drives, whether one is awake or whether one is asleep and is taken blindly to the destination, not knowing the beauties of the way.


If destiny may be divided into two parts, it is in this way, that one part is the mechanism that works the destiny and the other part is the soul that knows. The mechanism is the machine and the soul therein is the engineer who is there in order to work this mechanism and to produce from it what is to be produced.


There are many methods, there are many systems, there are many ways man adopts in order to know and understand, and the mind is the vehicle, the tool by the help of which, taking it as a medium, man experiences life in the accomplishment of this purpose. In Sanskrit the mind is called manas from which the English word man is derived. This means that man is his mind, not his body. As the soul has the mind as its tool, according to the readiness of its tool it experiences and it knows life. It is the condition of the mind which enables the soul to see life clearly. The mind is likened to water. When water is troubled there is no reflection to be seen; when water is clear then it shows the reflection.


But as it is said in the Bible "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also", man in his pursuit of material gains which he values most, has absorbed himself in the material life and has lost the benefit of life. At the present time when one explains civilization as commercial or industrial progress - when that is, called civilization - then that becomes the ideal of every soul, and it becomes difficult to keep that tranquillity needed to accomplish the purpose for which the soul was born. Do I mean by this that industrial or commercial development is not necessary for the life of man? Not at all, as long as it does not ruin life's purpose, as long as it does not hinder the purpose for which man was born. Otherwise, in spite of all his progress, he has wasted his life, he has not attained the purpose for which he was born.


There are superstitions in the East and also in the West that animals such as horses, dogs and cats and birds give warning of a person's being ill or of death, and many may have found that there is some truth in these superstitions. If one were to investigate the truth of this and to ask why man does not understand and perceive life as the animals do, the answer is- that the animals live a more natural life; they are nearer to nature than man who is taken up by artificial life. No thinking person will deny how many things one does, says and thinks are far from what is true, from what is natural. The more he will be one with nature and one with the deeper life, the more he will realize that one is in a continual state of agitation against reality - not only in doing wrong or evil, but even in doing good. If the animals can know, man is more capable of knowing, and it is knowledge alone which is the satisfaction of his life, not all external things. As it is said in the Bible, "The spirit quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing".


A man with all his wealth - what is his wealth? It is in his knowledge. If it is only in the bank and not in his knowledge he has not got that wealth, it is the property of the bank. All good things and great things, values and titles, position and possession, where are they? Outside? No, outside is only that which covers3 that knowledge which one has within, and therefore the real possession is not without but within. Therefore it is the self within, it is the heart which must be developed. It is the heart which must be in its natural rhythm and at its proper pitch. When it is tuned to its natural rhythm and pitch then it can accomplish the purpose for which it is made.



There are five different ways by which the knowledge of life is perceived. One way which is known to many of us - to woman perhaps more than to man - is impression. Often a person comes in our house or we meet someone and before we have spoken to him we get a kind of impression, pleasant or unpleasant, a certain knowledge of that person's being. Sometimes at the sight of a person we get the feeling "Keep away", and sometimes at the first glance we feel drawn to a person without knowing the reason. The mind does not know, but the soul knows it. It is not only that we get the impression of a person we meet, but if we are more sensitive to impression we can also feel the impression of a letter that comes to us from a stranger. Many say that they can tell people's character by physiognomy or phrenology, but if they do not have the sense of impression in their heart, even if they read a thousand books on physiognomy or phrenology they will never get the impression in their heart. What does this show? It shows that true knowledge, from beginning to end, does not belong to the material realm.


Then there is another way, the intuitive way, by which one knows before one does something whether there will be success or failure. We can often find - it is not rare - that there are many intuitive people who before doing anything, before undertaking anything know what will be the result.


Then there is a third way and that is the dream or the vision. Some will say that a dream has a meaning and many will say that there is no meaning in a dream. But in point of fact there is nothing in this world which has no meaning; there is no situation, no action, no word that does not have its meaning. All that one does with intention and all that is done without intention, all that has a meaning behind it, if one can only understand it. There is a reason why one should see more clearly in the dream than in the wakeful state: when a person is in a dream his mind is naturally concentrated and when he is in his waking state all that is perceived through his senses calls his attention at every moment.


No doubt one finds that impression or intuition or a true dream is not manifested to every soul, and is manifested to one soul more than to another. Also one finds that it is not everyone who always lives in the rhythm and tune for receiving impressions and intuitions. At different times man's impression differs and this shows that in accordance with his evolution he is able to experience the knowledge of life. The more evolved he is spiritually, naturally the more he receives from within the knowledge of life.


The fourth form in which one perceives the knowledge of life is what may be called inspiration. It may come to an artist, it may come to a musician, it may come to a poet. At the time when it comes he can write or compose or do something that afterwards he will be surprised at. Did he really do it, or did someone else do it? If it were not for that inspiration the same poet might strive for six months and not be able to write that verse which he wrote in three minutes’ time. What is the explanation? Is it the development of man's mind by which he receives inspiration? No, it is the receiving quality of mind, it is the purity of mind, it is his absorption in his art, the direction to which he has devoted his life. Great souls whose inspirational works have become immortal, where did they get them from? They got them from inspiration. And how did they get inspiration? By forgetting themselves, by being absorbed in the object of their love. That is the meaning of sacrifice: sacrificing to the beauty of the ideal. One has the ideal standing before one - that is the way to get inspiration.


Then one step further comes the realization which may be called revelation. When the soul is tuned to that state, then the ears of the heart are open, the eyes of the heart are open to see and hear the word that comes from all sides. In point of fact every atom of this world - either earth or heaven - speaks, and speaks aloud. It is the deaf ears of the heart and the closed eyes of the soul that make man not see it and not hear it. There is a verse of a Hindustani poet which says,


 O self, it is not the fault of the divine Beloved
 that you do not see Him, that you do not hear Him.
 He is continually before you
 and He is continually speaking to you.
 If you do not hear it and if you do not see it,
 it is your own fault.


It is for this purpose that every soul has been created, and it is in the fulfilment of this that man fulfils the object of God. When that spark that every heart has, that spark that may be called the divine spark in man, is blown and the flame arises, the whole life becomes illuminated and man hears and sees and knows and understands. In a verse of a Sufi it is said that every leaf of the tree becomes as a page of the sacred book when the heart is open to read it and when the soul has opened its eyes.




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