Caravanserai Magazine Archive

Published 1988-2000 semi-annually on behalf of the Sufi Movement International by the Sufi Movement in Canada.


1988 Volume 1. Virya Best. "Our Debts in Life"

The following talk was first delivered in Murad Hassil, Katwijk, during the Summer School of 1986. It has been slightly edited for publication.

Friends, I should like to share with you a little story, something that happened between my own father and Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan.

It was about 1920 or 21. Following demobilization after the First World War, my father, Shabaz, had started a small business. As he did over and over again in his life, he had tried also to help someone else, taking him in as a partner.

This person had let him down, so badly that the business was ruined. Suddenly, with a wife and small child to support, my father had nothing left. As you can imagine he was very upset about it and he went to Murshid with his problem, and his sadness and bitterness about the 'friend' who had betrayed his trust. How could he again trust anyone? As always, patient and so understanding, Murshid listened to his troubles and saw the deep hurt he had suffered. Murshid always spoke to each mureed in the language he would understand. Knowing that before the war Shabaz had been trained as a banker, Murshid used the language of banking to help him, and this is what he said:

"My friend, make God your Banker. Put into your account all the good you can do, as a credit, and leave God to sort out all the debits. If other people owe you something, just place that debt with God and allow Him to balance the accounts. Then forget about it, leaving the matter in His hands.

But always do your best to make sure your account is in credit. Then you can truly leave the rest to God. Be sure that always you will be repaid in the end, if not in one way, then in another, for He is the great Balancer.

In fact, accepting Murshid's counsel, very shortly after this Shabaz was offered a job with his old bank, which asked him to go out to Brazil! Murshid then told him that this 'job' was only an excuse. In fact, it was his task to take the Message, to that country.

Many is the time over the years that in my own life's problems I have thought of these words of Murshid's: "Make God your banker," and permit Him to sort out the debts that are owed to you, first making sure that your account is always in credit. There is no need for us, as Sufis, to enforce the payment of debts from others. Who knows? Perhaps it is we who are owing in some way! Maybe unconsciously we have given a hurt that can no longer be put right. The Brazilians have a lovely custom: when parting from a friend for any length of time they will say, "If there is anything I may have done which has hurt or offended you, please forgive me now."

Always in life there are two very strong attractions, love and hate, and it is so much wiser to let love alone be our link with all we meet, and to leave the balancing of accounts to God. This has many advantages, the most important being that it clears our mind and heart from bitterness and resentment and frees us to live more fully, more joyously, more creatively. We can live in the 'precious moment' in the NOW, free from guilt and self pity, remembering that we too are bound to incur debts, for that is the burden that comes with life on earth, as Inayat Khan also tells us. Remember, if we can accept what comes to us in life, then we can grow. The tests and trials which we have to face will strengthen our spiritual muscle and we need not waste energy in blaming others, or even circumstances, but will look out for the lesson we should, perhaps, be learning.

There is, maybe, another aspect which we should also consider, and that is that our inner unfolding is not just beneficial to ourselves. In every little victory in our journey towards the Goal, every other being in the world also benefits. "No man is an island unto himself." In The Evolutionary journey by Barbara Marx Hubbard, she puts it this way: 'The Universe itself is growing through us." Murshid also tells us that everything we think or do has its reverberation throughout the universe. As we each strive towards the Light, and work to uncover or discover the Divine within, then the whole atmosphere around us changes and becomes 'Lightened.' As more and more of us work for this discovery of the Divine within us and within our fellows, which Inayat Khan tells us is the essence of the Message for this Age, so the whole atmosphere of the world will be filled with Light, and there will be a snowballing effect. This is the only way to bring Peace on Earth — not by telling others what to do but by becoming ourselves, a manifestation of God's Message to mankind, allowing His light to reflect in our hearts. It is then that this planet will become a planet of Light and of true brotherhood.

Remember the wonderful story of Aladdin, and how Murshid gives us the key to understanding it. Every detail of that story is symbolical, every character an aspect in the development of the Traveller on the Path.

Who is the Magician who calls himself Uncle' to the boy? The teacher, the Elder Brother, or brother of his Father! What is the rocky cave to which the Guru takes him, opening it with a man-tram? Aladdin's own stubborn heart, touched at initiation! The 'Magician' gives him a 'ring' to protect him and sends him into the cave to find the lamp. What is the ring? A shield of protection through initiation, given by the master, and also the effect of prayer or practices, which maintain our link with God. When Aladdin discovers many jewels in the cave, he so loads himself with these that he is unable to raise the lantern, to offer it to his Master when he is asked for it at the mouth of the cave. So the Master closes him in the cave, alone with his 'jewels,' which are now worthless, until he can learn to let go of these attractions. What are these jewels? Perhaps the love and respect of others towards one who has entered the Path? If we allow pride and conceit to enter our hearts, then these jewels become just worthless stones which weigh us down.

Eventually, realizing this, we start to pray for help, and in so doing we 'rub the ring' and rediscover our link with God, for the Genii of the ring comes to ask us what we require of him. This is a very important stage in our development as Sufis — the realization that honour does not belong to the individual when on the path. It belongs to God. It is the Divine spark in man which we all love. It is not really the personality which attracts. That is only the mask that covers the inner light. What does attract is the amount of light that shines through, the Divine which is channeled; for every soul is seeking God. In fact, it is the NOT-self, the emptiness, the crystal clarity of the vehicle allowing the Divine light to shine through, which calls to the Divine in us. Thus, when we see it in a loving soul, an illuminated soul, the light within us reaches out in welcome to that which it recognizes as being of its own origin, for it gets a glimpse of that to which it longs to return.

Therefore, when respect or love is offered us, we should know that it is for that of God which, for a moment, we have been able to channel through. Always we must remember not to hold that jewel to ourselves, letting it weigh us down, but we must offer it to where it really belongs, that is, to God, thanking Him also for using the empty channel of our being, which we have freely offered, so that it is no longer 'ours.'

Charles Morgan says, "There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved. It is God's finger on man's shoulder." Indeed, we should let the acts of love from others be a lovely surprise, welcomed as a priceless gift — but they are not ours, really, never to be demanded as a right. We should never hold them to ourselves, but accept them in His Name, then to be offered silently to Him, for it is to Him they really belong. We are only His instruments. By doing this we link ourselves to the Ocean of Love, the never ending Source.

Do you remember in the myths, I think it was Thor who was asked if he could empty the bowl of wine in one draught? Being so strong, he was sure he could, but the invisible end was linked to the ocean. However hard he tried to empty it, the level in the cup hardly moved. Thus it is when we are able to keep our connection with God, the Ocean, ever open, as a two way channel, opening our hearts in Brotherhood, aware of the needs and feelings of others, and allowing His love and peace to flow towards all, in joyous service and oneness, not asking a reward, but giving freely in His Name and rendering back to Him all thanks received.

Yes, we will make mistakes, and fall by the wayside, but we can pick ourselves up and try again, for we are none of us perfect. If we were, we would not still be here on earth!

As we know, the Sufi path is a way of life, and, as light bearers we can, slowly, also become the Way, a real channel of communication — if, that is, we can remain empty of self. And we can always remember that one method of keeping the balance in this great journey is, 'to make God our Banker!'


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