My subject for this evening is the Inner Life. The Inner Life, which is represented by our Inner School, is one of the three activities of the Sufi Movement. Really speaking, this activity is the most important of all three. When speaking about the inner life, in the first place I wish to say that though this is the desire of every soul, each soul is not ready to attain to this desire. Every soul does not feel the need of it. In order to feel the need of this there is something required in the life of a person. Some great blow in life, a great suffering in life opens up the eyes, and that which was still becomes moving.
When the soul was still, there was its longing but it was not felt. When the soul begins to move, the longing is then felt. Whose soul is not longing for it? With some, you may implore them, you may induce them a thousand times, they will not come. However, the soul who is seeking for it, even if it was running from them, that soul will follow it even to the ends of the world. This is the last appetite that wakens in the innermost being of a person. This is the longing for spiritual realization. After this appetite is wakened, there is no other appetite to waken; after this satisfaction is satisfied, there is no other appetite to satisfy.
Now coming to the metaphysical side of the subject, what is it that the soul wishes to seek in the inner culture? When a person begins to realize the limitations of life, that realization which comes at the moment when the soul feels sober and free from the intoxication of worldly life, then the person begins to wonder, to wonder about life. To one person, perhaps, this moment of sobriety comes once in a year, to another person once in a month, to another person once in a day; to another person it is a craving going on continually in the heart.
There is one person who after they have gone through their busy life in the world, begins to waken in their last days. There is another person who perhaps has suffered and awakens in middle age. There is another person who begins to wonder quite young, like Buddha. This appetite cannot be awakened in someone in whom it is not awakened yet. Many people feel anxious about their dear ones, about those near to them, worrying about whether they will not waken. They do not know that it is not something that you can give or teach. It is something that must come by itself. It is not, therefore, necessary to worry about our dear ones, those near to us, that they must awaken to this realization. If their time has not come, it is better for them not to waken. For in the East there is a belief that it is a great fault to waken a person who is fast asleep. The reason is that the very fact that a person is fast asleep shows that they need sleep. They are not to be pitied; we must be glad that they are sleeping. Therefore, those who show impatience to waken their friend, their dear ones in life, they must have patience. They must know that the time has not yet arrived. It would not be the right thing to wake them.
What is this wakening, how does it manifest? It manifests in the form of wondering. One begins to wonder: Why do I exist? Did I exist before? Shall I exist afterwards? One begins to wonder about things that one has depended on, such as position, possessions, rank, environment, conditions, dear ones around you. Will they last? If everybody wondered about it, it would be very difficult. The world would not go on as it is going on now. It is just as well that few wonder about it, and many sleep. What does this sleep come from? It comes from the intoxication that is brought about by being absorbed in this life of the world, morning and evening, every moment. Only a few moments, perhaps caused by sadness, perhaps by disappointment or a heart-break, and a moment comes when a person wonders: was what I depended upon not worth depending on? Now is there anything I can depend upon?
At the time when a person is wakening if one thing has disappointed them, if one thing has shown them the false side of life, they begin to see the same thing in all things. And it can even go so far that they cannot then even rely upon themself, seeing the nature of their body, that they called their own self, subject to death and decay, seeing the nature of the mind, that they called their own self, subject to change with every mood of the day. They then wish to seek for something reliable, something that is dependable to build their hope upon, something that will not deceive them in the end. This person then begins to seek a spiritual path. Then they want to find out a secret of life; they wish to look into the mystery of religion. In whatever way this person searches they come to the same channel, that one channel that leads to the knowledge of truth; and that channel is the knowledge of self.
Now, how does this person acquire it? Do they acquire it by themself? Even if a person acquired the spiritual knowledge by themself, there is everything in life to contradict it. They cannot be supported unless there was another one by their side to tell them that it is right. If not, a person with the highest truth in their mind, if not confirmed by someone in whom they have trust, will not be able to realize, even for themself, if it is right or wrong. For truth is something to which everyone is opposed. It is not that everyone is intentionally opposed, but everyone is looking at something quite different than “What is Truth?” Therefore, it is quite natural that if a seeker of Truth found Truth, the first thing is that they will begin to doubt, “Am I right, or am I mad?” It is therefore that a mystery was made out of the Truth. It is for this reason that it was called mysticism. It is for this reason that an initiation was given, that the teacher told their student, “That is the Truth, do not speak to anyone about it.” It was not selfish on the part of the teacher, nor the student. It was not a desire on their part to monopolise it for themselves, but because the world will ridicule, will laugh at it. The world will look at the north when it is at the south.
There are four paths, which may be called royal roads, that the mystics have taken from time to time. The first path is the path of knowledge; the second path is the path of action; the third path is the path of meditation; and the fourth path is the path of devotion. It is not necessary that one should take all four paths, but they all join in the end into one path, the only path there is to tread in order to arrive at the spiritual realization. Each of these paths is suited to certain personalities. The personality that is attracted to one of these paths may not be attracted to another of these paths.
The path of knowledge is reached by the intellectual path. It is analysing and synthesizing at the same time. The difference between the intellectual pursuit of the scientist and of the mystic on the path is that when the scientist goes on with their analysis, the mystic analyses together with synthesis. Therefore, what happens is this, perhaps the scientist has taken one atom and perhaps for their whole life the scientist has been busy with this one atom. Perhaps after their whole life the scientist has not found the last thing to say about this one atom. Perhaps another scientist has come and says, “No, not at all, this is not a kind of atom, it is radium.” It is quite a different thing from what the first scientist said fifty years before. Another is still discovering and says, “It is not an atom or radium.” After fifty years another scientist says, “Here is again another thing I have discovered about it. It is an electron.” The idea is that as a person goes on in the observation of things limited in their nature and character, of necessity they will have to make their observation limited to that particular atom. Whereas the mystical path is quite the contrary. The mystical path is analyzing and at the same time synthesizing. The mystic tells the one who is guided on this path, “One.” However, the mystic knows that one will not satisfy the student. The mystic says two halves is one, four quarters is one, and three thirds is one. When in all these ways the student understands one, the mission of the mystic is finished.
Now you might ask, “What knowledge is it that the mystic gives? Does the mystic bring before mankind the analysis of Heaven, or of the Divine Spirit?” No, the mystic opens the eyes of a person to the analysis of themself. It is not the anatomy of the body but the anatomy of the mind and that which is hidden behind the mind. This anatomy brings a person to a knowledge which contradicts every other knowledge that stands outside it. To an intelligent person this knowledge proves to be victorious over all other aspects of the knowledge they had hitherto learned. The distinctions and differences of various meanings of all things fall flat before that one knowledge that rises up just as the sun is rising; the knowledge that answers the continual ‘Why?’ that is rising at every moment in the wondering mind. There remains no question. All questions are answered, for it is in the absence of the sun that things are not clear. It is in the darkness that things do not shine. This is the knowledge that answers what relationship you have with your fellow creatures, what relationship you have with every atom of this world, with the soul, with God. The blessing of this knowledge is great. For the consciousness of your relationship with all things, which I have just explained, establishes that relation which before was only in a kind of unconscious state. Once such knowledge has been received, you will find any religion to be teaching the same truth that you have now realized through this knowledge. Then you disagree with no one, for you understand the point of view of everyone.
Now coming to the second aspect, the path of action. When a person is conscientious about their action towards their fellow beings, when they think of their obligations to others, their duties to those to whom they are indebted, they begin to tread the path. A person who lives a life of righteousness, whether they are a businessperson, a professional person, whatever work they do, if in this they act rightfully and seek harmony, certainly they will find a straight way open before them.
For the reason is that as it is a natural desire to realize spiritual life, it is not something foreign that you have to learn. It is something that opens before you if you are straight in your life. Still, it must be understood that the world does not permit, life does not always allow you to lead a straight life. It has such zigzag ways, made by people for their convenience and for their benefit, that they find themselves in a puzzle. They do not know where to get out of this. Where is the door? Nevertheless, there are simple souls, who perhaps know very little about metaphysics or philosophy. Perhaps they are not often seen praying as religious people, and yet they are far beyond the average person, only living a simple, right, modest life. The very fact that a person is allowed to keep straight through their life shows the proof that Heaven has opened its door to that person. The way for that person is clear, and open, and there is nothing in the way of the path of this person. The person who consults their conscience at every move they make, who is simple, who does not doubt every one, who is easy to deal with, and humble in their action, to that person the way is open. Instead of seeking God, God seeks them.
Now coming to the third path, the path of meditation. This is the path of assurance. This path assures a soul of all that is in the hereafter. This person does not need to experience the hereafter; they are sitting here; they know what it is. All a person may learn intellectually about the mystery of life, by the help of meditation they begin to realize for themself. This person does not need to learn what Heaven means, what God means, what soul means, what will come after this life. This person is sitting here and can feel every sphere, every plane, sitting in the same place where they are. No barriers stand before them, either earthly or heavenly, for they are above barriers. They see it all, as one could see the earth by rising in the air.
Besides this, that great longing for peace that an evolving soul continually has, that great yearning for that inner joy that an evolving soul always is seeking, all these things are accomplished by meditation. By the help of meditation, the evolving soul attains power that is beyond words to explain. Besides that, health of body and strength of mind are gained by it. Inspiration and power then become natural human possessions.
Now you might ask, “How is a person to meditate?” Many will wonder, but very few will have the patience to go on with it. The reason is that the absorption in this worldly life is so great that a person becomes so accustomed to the everyday activity that the state of meditation becomes quite a foreign experience to them. A person cannot feel at home in meditation, unless they have long patience in order to make the world of meditation their home. The great Sages and the Masters of humanity have had meditation as their greatest experience and help. The great power and inspiration that they have shown, the religion they have given, the knowledge they have brought, they all have come from meditation. They have not been poured out from a brain.
Even great musicians who have left living things in the world, and the great poets, even without knowing, naturally were meditative. Great things have come from them that the world will value for ever and ever. It is not only that the sages, the saints, and the great Masters and prophets have been meditative, but even the great kings, such as Solomon or Alexander. Even the life of Napoleon gives a glimpse of meditative life. It is said of Napoleon that there were times when for hours together he was at the battlefield, and the energy of most of his army was exhausted. It would seem that this emperor, who had always lived in luxury, should also be exhausted. But no, he would close his eyes, go into a condition for a moment, and then after that he would be as energetic as before. By the help of meditation, a person connects themself with the storehouse of inspiration, power, energy, life, happiness, peace. One can get any amount of it, and yet it is not lacking in that store.
The examples that one has seen of meditative people are beyond expression. After the age of eighty, or even more, the memory is as brilliant as in youth, their health perfect, and their mind in proper rhythm, working in a proper balance.
It is a great pity that what we happen to know of those who claim to be meditative people seems to be so unbalanced that they only give a kind of bad name to the mystical life. What is the reason? The reason is that some of them are seeking to communicate with spirits to work wonders, to pride themselves on how much they know. That is not the work of the meditative person. The person of meditation must show balance in every side of life, in the common sense of life, in the understanding of life above, and also seeing the life below, as clearly or even more so than the average person. As a person has mastered meditation, they will express it in everything they do. People think of a meditative person perhaps sitting in the caves of the mountains of the Himalayas or in solitude, seeing no one. It is all unnatural. Why must one go to the Himalayas in solitude? Anywhere they are, whatever their occupation, the person who knows how to meditate can meditate, wherever they are or whatever they are doing. The truly meditative person must show us in all earthly things, in art, science, in whatever profession or work, they must do it to a great fullness. In that way they must show the power and inspiration and bliss of meditation. The little meditation we do for half an hour or a quarter of an hour, it is only a kind of winding; but for the person who has mastered it, it must go on night and day. This person must be conscious of it night and day, and everything they do must express it.
When we come to the fourth path, the path of devotion, so little can be said about it, because it is beyond all things. As the Bible says, “God is love,” and therefore if there is anything divine in humanity, it is the love element. In order to attain to the divine knowledge, there is nothing so great as the expansion of the heart, the development of the love element. The three paths, as said before, all come in it, they all join in it. A person who is most intellectual and has no spark of love in them, with all their intellect they are like the dead. Yet we ask, what is love? Is love a pleasure? Love is sacrifice. Or, a person might ask, “Whose love of whom? Is it the love of God that I mean by devotion?” They might reason also, that a person loves when they see something beautiful, something loveable. When they do not see God, how can they love God? That is true; therefore, many may only imagine that they love God. Many may profess that they love God, but how to love God is a question that is not easily answered. There is a verse of Rumi that explains this most beautifully. Rumi says, “If you love man or if you love God, at the end of your journey on the path of love you will be brought before the sovereign of love.”
There is so much said about what they call Karma, action, but is there anything that can destroy Karma, that can wipe it away? There is only one thing, the power of love. It is that power alone that can wipe the stains of the past and can make the mirror clear. No scriptures call God a law. The scriptures call God love. This means law is under love, love rules law. Putting the question of God aside, an ordinary person, limited human beings like us, know that when a child comes to their mother, with every fault that they may have done against her, and says, “Mother, I am sorry for my fault; you are my mother, I am sure that you will forgive me.” she cannot judge her child. Love rules there. The mother instantly will forgive. It is this love element. When this love element is developed in the heart, when the heart has become a living entity, what happens? It links up with the highest Heaven, with God. What then happens? As everyone is linked with God, so everyone becomes linked with that person whose heart has become love.
That soul becomes communicative with all souls, with all it meets. That soul goes out to everyone, to the virtuous, the sinner, the wise, the foolish, with an open heart, with love. The presence of that soul, the contact with that soul is purifying for others also. It is the path which is so easy and yet so difficult to tread. No one can teach you how to love, how to develop the love element. It must come by itself. All that you can do is to point out to a person that element of beauty which has the charm to create love.
The Sufi School, therefore, in the Western world is the child of that school, a tradition that has been known mostly as the Sufi school. Therefore, the initiation that is given in this school is no doubt traditional. It is an initiation that is linked up with the teachers who existed for thousands of years, one before another, that those who follow these teachings may benefit themselves from the experiences of the meditative, devotional people, the people of knowledge who have lived centuries before us. No doubt the teachings of these schools are interpretations to the souls in a modified way to answer the need of modern times. Nevertheless, the Truth is never old, it is always new. All things will change, but there is only one thing that will not change, and that is the Truth, the secret of life. People will learn many doctrines, forms, and many ways, but that which will live is only one thing, and that is Truth.
June 3, 1924
CW 1924, Vol. 1, pp. 285-296.