Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

Independence and Indifference
The privilege of being human
The Art of Being
Chapter 12
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


Does happiness depend upon the conditions of life or upon our outlook on life? It is a question that is often asked, and is most difficult to answer. Many who have some philosophical knowledge will say that this material world is an illusion and its conditions a dream; yet there are very few who can make themselves believe it. To know a thing in theory is different from practising it. It is most difficult in this world to rise above the effect that conditions produce. No doubt, there is only one thing that helps us to rise above conditions, and that is a change of outlook on life. This change is made practicable by a change of attitude.


In the language of the Hindus life in the world is called sansara. It is pictured as life in a mist; one thinks and says and does and feels, and yet one does not fully know why. If a person knows one reason for it, another reason is hidden behind it which he does not yet know. Very often conditions in life show a picture of captivity; often it seems as if one had to walk between water and a pit. To rise above conditions one needs wings: two wings attached to the soul, one independence, the other indifference - which not everyone has got. Independence needs a great deal of sacrifice before one can feel independent in life. Indifference is against one's nature of love and sympathy; it is like cutting one's heart asunder before one can practise indifference throughout life. No doubt once the soul is able to spread its wings, one sees the conditions of life as far removed; then one stands above all conditions that make man captive.


There is no difficulty which cannot be surmounted sooner or later. But even when a person has achieved something he desires in life, something else seems to be unfinished. So if he goes from one thing to another, achieving all he desires, the objects of his desire will multiply and there will never be an end to his desires. The more he has to do in life the more difficulties he must meet with. If he keeps away from the life of the world then his being here will be purposeless. The more important the task, the more difficult is its accomplishment. So evening follows every day, and this goes on till eternity.


For a Sufi, therefore, not only patience to bear all things is necessary, but to see all things from a certain point of view; that can relieve him for that moment from difficulty and pain. Very often it is his outlook which changes a person's whole life. It can turn hell into heaven, it can turn sorrow into joy. When a person looks from a certain point of view every little pin-prick feels like the point of a sword piercing his heart. If he looks at the same thing from a different point of view the heart becomes sting-proof, nothing can touch it. All things which are sent forth at that person as bullets drop down without having touched him.


What is the meaning of walking upon the water? Life is symbolized as water. There is one person who drowns in the water, there is another who swims in the water, but there is still another who walks upon it. The one who is so sensitive that, after one little pin-prick he is unhappy all through the day and night is the man of the first category. The one who takes and gives back and makes a game of life is the swimmer; he does not mind if he receives one knock, for he derives satisfaction from being able to give two knocks in return. But the one whom nothing can touch is in the world and yet is above the world. He is the one who walks upon the water; life is under his feet, both its joy and its sorrow.


Verily, independence and indifference are the two wings which enable the soul to fly.




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