Caravanserai Magazine Archive

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


1990 Volume 5. Hidayat Inayat Khan. "Teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan on the Spirit of Guidance and the God-Ideal"

When referring to the subject of the Spirit of Guidance, one of the many questions which might arise is the following: Was Buddha a Buddhist? Was Christ a Christian? Was Mohammed a Mohammedan? And, when confronted with this question, one's line of thought is directly challenged if one's heart is not open to the call of the Message of Unity which has been interpreted in so many ways by the followers. These interpretations have been moulded along the ages into dogmatic frameworks which fitted into the cultural and social conditions of various civilizations, resulting in what is generally understood by the term, 'religion.' Unfortunately, religion, which is meant to express the basic principles of a God-Ideal, is so often misleading in ways which divide humanity into controversial beliefs instead of inspiring such understandings as 'Spiritual Liberty' and 'Spirit of Guidance' in all religious impulses and expressions.

It is the nature of man to try to discover what is behind the veil of the universe, and this explains why man has the tendency to reach higher and higher in whatever be the aspiration, either material or spiritual. Therefore the seeking for God, either consciously or unconsciously, is the natural outcome of our longing to experience higher spheres.

In this context, we intuitively presume the help of divine guidance, as we also presume different experiences of these higher spheres with all their secret appeals, notwithstanding the diversity of approaches to the Divinity, arising from different levels of understanding of the source of all creation. Numerous interpretations of these concepts were formulated by idol worshippers, the first pioneers of religion, who required tangible, materialized representations of the abstract ideals of worship. However, a more advanced approach to an all-mighty and all-pervading God is adopted by those who worship abstract ideals, making God thereby intelligible at a much more mystical level of understanding.

Whether God exists is a question that arises in every mind, and there may sometimes be moments when even the greatest believer in God questions his own belief. In various periods of history there have existed different conceptions of God. People in all ages, seeking for the deity of the time, have pictured God in some form or other, but the human heart is an accommodation which conceives the idea of God pictured according to one's own mentality. For instance, the Buddha of China had Chinese eyes, while the Buddha of India had the likeness of an Indian sage. We cannot conceive of an angel as different from the human form, except for the two wings which have been added so that it may have a more heavenly appearance. Similarly, it is natural that God has been pictured in various human forms, because in fact there could not be a more perfect conception than the human personality, which is a gift of God.

People have called God 'He,' recognizing the powerful aspect of the deity. They have also called God 'She,' recognizing the mother principle and the beauty of the deity. This again has resulted in the blossoming of many gods and goddesses throughout history. In fact, though, the many gods and goddesses were never meant to be other than representations of the attributes of the one and only God. Sadly, this was the cause of many wars, fought to save the honour of misinterpretations of the one God.

The purpose of being born on earth could perhaps be to discover that very perfection which is within ourselves; however good, pious, kind or religious one may be, if we have not found the purpose for which we are born, we have not fulfilled the object of our lives. That object could perhaps be understood as the discovery of the Divine Presence, which is the real essence of our very being.

Of course, there are as many 'truths' as there are seekers after Truth, but beyond all futile displays of theological knowledge and dogmatic doctrines, the Inner Truth or 'Spiritual Guidance' is constantly shining, and thereby assuring the feasibility of our impulses, providing that we are conscious of that true guidance. This explains why it is really only we ourselves who can rightly judge our own thoughts and our own feelings inasmuch as we are aware of the inner reminder or 'Conscience,' which is at the same time the Light of Spiritual Guidance and the result of the cause and effect of all our impulses and actions. Therefore, unless we proceed as a pupil to ourselves rather than as a master to others, our virtues and our religious convictions are fruitless. By boasting of them, one makes a fool of oneself, besides fooling others and even attempting to fool God in one's impertinence. Belief is not an acquisition nor is it the result of an accomplishment nor the consequence of being won over or converted. Belief is an inner discovery; belief comes only when one is taken by surprise—so to speak—finding oneself inhabited by an inner guidance which is from that moment secretly and sacredly cherished.

Millions of people pray each day, but unless their conscience is at peace, and unless their prayer is the outcome of the tuning of the heart, the prayer is not really sincere, whatever might be the motivation, either fear of God or doctrinal obligations, or even as a source of self-confirmation when the conscience is disturbed. Prayer can only be an expression of sincerity when it is an offering emerging from the depth of the heart, unrestricted by concepts of duality such as 'God and I’. Only then does one realize that it is in the love of mankind that God is born in man, and at the same time, man is born from the love of God: Love, human and Divine. Man came into existence from the All-Pervading, where the concept of individuality has no reality in the way we understand reality, but while growing up our thinking develops more and more in lines of thought such as 'I am, this is mine, I want to have, I want to be.' This specific T concept denotes complete unawareness of the reality of the true being which is so much vaster than the little T could ever be; and which is only a fragmentary understanding of the entire picture, limiting the self to just a grain of dust within the net-work of the Universe. Besides, in the Universe, there is really nothing else to be acquired than just all that which is already there, hidden as a pearl in the depth of our heart.

It is the ‘I’ concept, with all its false identifications, which makes us unhappy and unsatisfied in life so long as that ‘I’ is our Master. In fact, all that one longs for is, in reality, just only the result of an unconscious wish for self-assertion, which has such a strong hold on the mind each time one thinks in those limited conceptions that one makes of the true self. Self-assertion either crushes the heart under the weight of unhappiness, or, when the heart is loaded with the thought of the self, it raises the head high with false pride, resultating in all those confusions which arise when we are confronted with conflicting opinions about good and bad, or right and wrong. The more we give in to the want for self-assertion, that much more ego-power is required in the game, and consequently, the more enslaved we become to our own self; whereas, conversely, when the need for self-assertion does not disturb our inner peace, we can then dedicate our aspirations to higher ideals.

The ego is not something tangible, although it does motivate powerful impulses in the sphere of mind, from whence it governs our personality, and to the extent that one is isolated within the very limited dimensions of the self, is a handicap to all prospects of happiness. When seen from another angle, however, it is obvious that without the strength of an ego-drive one would not be able to survive amidst the hardships of this demanding world. Paradoxically, one finds oneself confronted with the negative consequences of one's own ego, whereas without the power of that same ego one would not be able to accomplish those things which one plans, nor would one reach to the desired goals. Perhaps the answer to this paradox could be found in the knowledge of the secrets of the Alchemy of Happiness. Happiness becomes a reality when all feelings of duality such as 'Thine and mine' are overcome, and the heart is freed from all individual limitations, after experiencing the burning of the flames of self-denial. The Alchemy of Happiness is the process through which the iron rod of the ego is melted, transformed into gold and moulded into beautiful jewellery: the art of personality. It is only then that happiness becomes a source of inspiration in all occupations, either material or spiritual, and that 'unreality' vanishes when exposed to the brilliant light of the Spirit of Guidance which is constantly present at all levels of consciousness.

"This is not my body, this is the Temple of God."


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