With Inayat Khan
Think, before envying the position of your fellow man, with what difficulty he has arrived at it.
There are experiences such as failure in business, or misfortune, or illness, or a certain blow in one’s life, whether an affair of the heart or of money or a social affair, whatever it may be — there are blows which fall upon a person and a shell breaks, a new consciousness is produced. Very few will see it is an unfoldment, very few will interpret it as such, but it is so. Have you not seen among your acquaintances how a person with a disagreeable nature, a most uninteresting man to whom you were never attracted, perhaps after a blow, a deep sorrow, after some experience, awakened to a new consciousness and suddenly attracted you, because he had gone through this process? As we unfold at every step in our life, so we do with every experience. The deeper the experience touches us, the greater the unfoldment.
There is a story of a slave called Ayaz, who was brought before a king with nine others, and the king had to select one to be his personal attendant, The wise king gave into the hands of each of the ten a wineglass and commanded him to throw it down. Each one obeyed the command. Then the king asked each one of them, ‘Why did you do such a thing?’ The first nine answered ‘Because your Majesty gave me the order’; the plain truth cut and dried. And then came the tenth slave, Ayaz. He said, ‘Pardon, sire, I am sorry,’ for he realized that the king already knew it was his command; by replying, ‘Because you told me,’ nothing new was said to the king. This beauty of expression enchanted the king so much that he selected him to be his attendant.
It was not long before Ayaz won the trust and confidence of the king, who gave him the charge of his treasury, the treasury in which precious jewels were kept. This made many jealous, this sudden rise from a slave to a treasurer of the king, a position which many envied. No sooner did people know that Ayaz had become a favorite of the king than they began to tell numerous stories about him in order to bring him into disfavor with the king. One of the stories was that Ayaz went every day into the room where the jewels were locked in the safe, and that he was stealing them every day, little by little. The king answered, ‘No, I cannot believe such a thing; you have to show me.’
So they brought the king as Ayaz entered this room, and made him stand in a place where there was a hole, looking into the room. And the king saw what was going on there. Ayaz entered the room and opened the door of the safe. And what did he take out from it? His old ragged clothes which he had worn as a slave. He kissed them and pressed them to his eyes, and put them the table. There, incense was burning, and this that he was doing was something sacred to him. He then put on these clothes and looked at himself in the mirror, and said, as one might be saying a prayer,
‘Listen, O Ayaz, see what you used to be before. It is the king who has made you, who has given you the charge of this treasure. So regard this duty as your most sacred trust, and this honor as your privilege and as a token of the love and kindness of the king. Know that it is not your worthiness that has brought you to this position. Know that it is his greatness, his goodness, his generosity which has overlooked your faults, and which has bestowed that rank and position upon you by which you are now being honored. Never forget, therefore, your first day, the day when you came to this town; for it is the remembering of that day which will keep you in your proper place.’
He then took off the clothes and put them in the same place of safety, and came out. As he stepped out, what did he see? He saw that the king before whom he bowed was waiting eagerly to embrace him; and the king said to him, ‘What a lesson you have given me Ayaz! It is this lesson which we must all learn, whatever be our position. Because before that King in whose presence we all are but slaves, nothing should make us forget that helplessness through which we were reared and raised, and brought to life, to understand and to live a life of joy. People told me that you had stolen jewels from our treasure-house, but on coming here I have found that you have stolen my heart.’
The Indian Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882–1927) was the first teacher to bring Sufism—Islamic mysticism—to the Western world. His teaching was noted for its stirring beauty and power, as well as for its applicability to all people, regardless of religious or philosophical background. This book gathers together three of Inayat Khan’s most beloved essays on the spiritual life from among the fourteen volumes of his collected works:
- “The Inner Life”: Inayat Kahn’s sublime portrait of the person whose life is a radiant reflection of the Divine
- “Sufi Mysticism”: in which the author identifies and shatters the common misconceptions about mysticism to reveal its true meaning
- “The Path of Initiation and Discipleship”: What it means to set out on the spiritual path and how to find and maintain the right relationship with a teacher
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