Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan
Newspaper article from New York World, December 23, 1923
''The Golden Age of happiness is at hand! The world is soon to forget its strife and is about to enter into a new period of prosperity and tolerance. Individuals, families and nations are going to break down the barriers of selfishness, greed and hate that now separate them from one another. All peoples will mingle together into one human brotherhood. There will be no more slavery, no castes, no bitterness between master and servant or between labor and capital, no sex inequality, no war, no bloodshed. All mankind will form one nation, and practice one religion’’
This is the confident prophecy that was delivered to me recently in a beautiful little shaded garden at Suresnes, a suburb of Paris, where I last sat and conversed with Inayat Khan, Pir-O-Murshid, head of the Sufi Order of the world.
He had just finished his afternoon discourse to his disciples - a score or so of men and women - who were wandering about under the trees and drinking tea. He leaned back in his chair, a large, powerfully built man in a flowing black oriental robe. The only ornament he wore was the gleaming winged Sufi emblem having on his breast. Kindly meditative dark eyes shone out from a swarthy countenance crowned with long greyish hair, as he spoke to me in a slow, mellow voice, choosing his words with great care.
This was the modest, almost shy personality from the mysterious interior of India whose ever-increasing band of followers is beginning to spread forth his gentle gospel, designed to bring joy and peace into a civilisation torn by war and distress. And the world seems gradually to be awakened to the importance of this message: the need for combining the calm, ancient wisdom of the Hindus with the thoughtless driving energy of the western world. This faith the Pir-O-Murshid first brought from the east in 1910, spreading it through discourses to his pupils, through lectures and through a series of beautiful little volumes of verse and prose which, according to some competent critics, may be rated far higher than the similar work of the far more ‘’popular’’ Sir Rabindranath Tagore.
Inayat Khan was in New York a few months ago. He told me at that time that he considered the United States as the best field in the world for the sowing of his gospel. His visit, however, unheralded as it was, created no startling ‘’sensation’’ at the time. A few people had their curiosity aroused, perhaps, by the sight of a Hindu priest walking along Upper Riverside Drive on a fine morning, and a few earnest audiences listened with care to his address on ‘’The Solution to the Problems of the Day.’’ But now that he has returned to France, these later are beginning to realise more and more keenly the large, perhaps world-shaking significance of his gently propounded proposals, and to discuss the new prophet from Baroda and Suresnes with increasing eagerness.
‘’And in England you have found restlessness and poverty.’’ He was commenting on my impressions of a summer of travel. ‘’And in Germany, starvation both spiritual and physical. And in France, hatred and discontent. Yes, the world may well indeed seem hopeless to you.’’ An undertone of infinite pity made itself felt through his soft accents. ‘’We are in a woeful state. The nations are flying at each other’s throats, and will not be reconciled; one religion fights another as if each had a different God; in business there is savage, merciless rivalry, and every individual is out to get the better of his neighbour. Your civilisation is quite, quite worthless.’’
‘’That is a bold statement,’’ I remarked. ‘’Do you see nothing good in our western culture? Think of our scientific progress, for instance.’’
He nodded and folded his arms, then replied, ‘’Quite so, I do admire your tremendous advances in the mere mechanics of living: your buildings, steamships, railroads, airplanes, telephones, and all manner of comforts and conveniences. With all these things at your command, you practical people should be living in a true earthly paradise, in infinite happiness. But you are not! Your ‘advances’ are the advances of a blind man and do not bring you any nearer to the light of happiness. What has your ‘progress’ brought you? I looked into your world. What do I see? I see war, and always preparations for new and more frightful wars and famine and pestilence, poverty and misery and discontent all around. Your inventions, which might have been wonderful blessings, have really become curses. It is a pity.’’
‘’But how can it be helped? What do you propose to do about it?’’ I insisted. ‘’You can’t tell people to shut themselves up and live a life of Hindu meditation. We are to active for that: we must get out and be doing and accomplishing things - and then there are clashes and friction with other people - one group interferes with another, and hate and war follow. How can you remedy that?’’
‘’I do not believe in isolated meditation,’’ he explained, patiently. ‘’I believe in work and movement. That is why I came out of India, instead of spending the rest of my life in a Thibetan monastery. I saw that you had such wonderful things, and were not happy, that your world was a hopeless world - while our wise men had the secret of happiness and were keeping it to themselves. You have all the instruments, the amazing methods of communication; we, not having them, have had to keep our secrets of right living to ourselves. Therefore I am quietly urging America and Europe, war-torn, impatient and miserable, to take the best that the wisdom of the East has to offer. Combine your practical progress and movement with our idealism, sympathy and calm, and the world will again become a good place to live in.’’
I urged him to tell me just what this Eastern attitude implied, and just how it could bring our distress to an end.
‘’Let us see where the root of al our trouble lies,’’ he said, ‘’As individuals, in the first place, you are striving for practical, not for spiritual goals, for what you term ‘success in life.’’ Others strive for the same material things. You hate these others, and do your best to defeat them. When all are greedy, there is never enough in thee world to satisfy all. The more there is, indeed, the more bitter becomes the struggle.’’
‘’Next, you have observed that small groups working together for material ends are more powerful than individuals. And so you have one family contending against another, one business organisation fighting another. The strong has no mercy for the weak in this contest. Your nations, likewise, are sick with jealousy and fly at each other’s throats, because each one is surrounded by barriers of ambition, selfishness, pride, greed and hate.
These ugly barriers between individuals, between groups and families and nations, must be broken down! They must give way before understanding, sympathy, tolerance and love. One man must serve not only himself and those from whom he derives benefit, but all other men on Earth as well, no matter of what family, social caste, nation or religion they may be.
Now, the Eastern thinker, the Sufi, the searcher after truth, finds himself completely free from the greatest enemy of the Western people’s. That enemy is fear - fear of the other fellow’s getting the things you want that makes you hate him and try to throttle him. And he in turn hates you and tries to choke you. Likewise, it is really fear that makes one nation hate another. But the greatest Hindu philosopher’s have found the means for overcoming this fear. They realise that their fellow creatures are not their natural enemies. There is only one real enemy, and that is falsehood or illusion. If all men sought for the true way of living, they would all be moving in the same direction, and there would be no friction, no clashes, no tugging in contrary directions.
‘’The Sufi can feel no jealousy, for he knows that jealousy is the most unreasonable of all vices, preventing him from getting any pleasures out of the society of his fellow men. He shares his happiness with others, and thereby multiplies its good effects. He looks upon every man, no matter how different he may be, as his brother, and treats him accordingly.
‘’One nation differs from another, I know. They talk different languages, because their forefathers talked different languages. They wear different clothes, because they live in different climates. They have different ideas and customs. How unreasonable, then, for one nation to regard itself proudly as the only possible nation for any one to live in, and to dispose and make war on other nations. If nations would only try to understand the inevitable differences between themselves, and also to recognise their common humanity, there could be no international jealousies and wars. Why will they not develop tolerance? Tolerance is the very keynote of my message. A tolerant world is a world at Peace.
It is, indeed, high time for a wave of tolerance to sweep away the mystery of the world. Colour, prejudice, class distinctions, sex inequalities, are all on the increase. Your education is qualifying your students to become selfish to the best of their ability, to get the best of each other always. Your constant strivings after material inventions, in the absence of any higher ideals, has led to such works as have set the world on fire. You are steadily going from bad to worse. In fact, the world is now almost as bad as it can possibly become.’’
‘’And what do you imagine the result will be if you succeed in inoculating the world with tolerant principles of the Sufi?’’ I asked.
Here the prophet came into his own. ‘’The coming era will be an era of regeneration, of new Joy, Sympathy and Hope. It must be a good one,’’ he explained, ‘’for when the worst has already happened, the only possible development is towards the good. The races in the coming era will mingle together more and more, forgetting their differences and hates, and will develop finally into one single world-wide race. The nations will develop in the direction of democracy and will overcome every element which embitters one against the other. There will be alliances of nations until there is a real world-alliance, so that no nation may be oppressed by another, but all work in harmony and freedom for the common peace.
‘’Religions will draw closer together and their followers will be tolerant of one another. Education will culminate in the study of human life, trade will become freer and more universal, and will be arranged on the basis of a common profit. Labour will work hand in hand with capital.
‘’Titles will have little importance. Women will become freer; married women will be called by their own names. Children will be called by the names of their town, city or nation, instead of by the names of their parents and families. No work will be considered menial, no position in life will be humiliating, everybody will mind his own business and people will converse freely with each other without requiring the formality of introductions. Husband and wife will be companions, independent and detached. Servant and master will be so only during working hours. Medicine will take away the need for surgery. Grudges about relatives, complaints against servants and all fault0finding will cease to exist. The reign of a new and altogether delightful way of life will be inaugurated.’’
At this point I ventured to point out that all this was a rather large task for one man, or even for a single Order, to accomplish.
‘’But I am only modestly pointing the way,’’ explained the Pir-O-Mushid. ‘’I am merely trying to spread these ideas among my pupils, my ‘Mureeds’, and among such educators and persons of importance as I am able to reach. It is not even necessary to join the Sufi Order or to call one’s self a Sufi in order to assist in the work of tolerance and the search for truth. Every one who adheres to the principles I have been outlining to you may do his share to hasten the coming of the Golden Age.’’
The talk which I have rather crudely reported above can give only the vaguest idea of the charm of Inayat Khan’s conversation and of the picturesqueness and winning quality of his personality. These things become manifest when one reads his literary work; when one, for instance, comes across aphorisms like the following, from his ‘’Notes from the Unstruck Music’’:
‘’Heaven and hell are the material manifestation of agreeable and disagreeable thoughts.
‘’A tender-hearted sinner is better than a saint hardened by piety.
‘’When the miser shows any generosity he celebrates it with trumpets.
‘’To offend a low person is like throwing a stone in the mud and getting splashed.
‘’Self-pity is the cause of all the grief of life.
‘’Endurance makes things precious and men great.
‘’Right and wrong depend upon attitude and situation, not upon the action.
‘’Simplicity of nature is the sign of saints.
‘’Failure in life does not matter; the greatest misfortune is standing still.
‘’Happiness alone is natural, and is attained by living naturally.
‘’It is easy to become a teacher, but difficult to become a pupil.
‘’The present spirit of humanity has commercialism as its crown and materialism as it throne.
‘’You must never joke with a fool; If you throw a flower at him he will throw back a stone.
‘’Man’s wonders about his past and future; how wonderful would life become to him if he only realised the present.’’
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