Volume XIII: The Gathas

by Hazrat Inayat Khan







1 The Development of Personality:

Sense of Beauty and Sincerity

Personality is the secret of the whole life, and in the development of personality it is not necessary that the psychic or occult sides should develop first, the beginning of development is natural.

There are two things needful in the development of personality: the sense of beauty and the preservation of sincerity.

The sense of beauty can be defined as the adoption of all that appears beautiful in thought, speech or action. For generally man appreciates all that is beautiful in another person, but he overlooks the lack of beauty in his own thought, speech and action. For instance a person would appreciate the respectful, humble gentle attitude of another towards himself, but he often overlooks his own lack of this attitude towards another.

There are two reasons for this. One reason is that man always looks outward, not inward, and he sees another person before he sees himself. The other reason is that man is selfish by nature; he wants all that is good for himself, and he hardly gives a thought to giving these things to another. Man is ignorant of the fact that life is naturally a re-echo: what one gives he must take back sooner or later, and it is ignorance of this fact that makes man inconsiderate. Therefore to a sensitive person life all around seems nothing but thorns. But he does not expect thorns, he expects roses. That shows that his soul is longing for what is good and beautiful. And man pities himself, but instead of pitying others, he blames them. If he only knew that others are just as much to be pitied as he! But not everyone thinks of the pain and suffering of another. As soon as man in his life begins trying to forget his troubles and think of the troubles of others, he has taken his first step in saintliness.

Rose and thorn are the outcome of the same plant and come from the same root. Saint and sinner both come from one source, God, the Father of the whole humanity. It is only that the beauty, fragrance and color in the root have expressed themselves in the rose, and have not expressed themselves in the thorn. The difference between the plant and the human being is free will. A human being cannot make the excuse, I was born a thorn, how can I become a rose? As a human being has his free will, he is responsible if he is a thorn, and it is to his credit if he is a rose. Man must know that as the color, fragrance and beauty are hidden in the root, so goodness and beauty both spring from the same source. The quality which shone in the life of the Master shines still and will ever shine. What attracts friends is not necessarily power, property, and beauty; what really can attract man is personality.

Now, the other question of personality — sincerity — that is necessary to be considered in the development of personality. There are many people who, in order to behave nicely, polish their manner and speech. But polish is not necessarily effective, or the effective thing in a person. Beauty is that which penetrates through and through; and the greater the beauty, the greater the penetration. What is called manner — which is only manner — is not a deep thing, it is almost a play. Every thought, speech, or action has in it a psychic power which makes an impression on another, and the psychic power comes from the true divine essence in man.

No doubt, in the name of sincerity, people often express their lack of the sense of beauty, saying, “I am a frank person, I tell the truth and I don’t mind how you take it.” This shows that sincerity void of the sense of beauty is lack of balance, and beauty void of sincerity is lack of balance also. As music depends upon rhythm and tone, so personality depends on the sense of beauty and sincerity.

2 The Development of Personality:

The Jarring Effect of the Ego of Another

By a keen outlook on life we find that what disturbs us most in life is the ego of another person; it is the ego that has a jarring effect upon life. Those who know the right manner of developing personality know that the first lesson in life is to efface that ego as much as possible. Christ says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That poorness in spirit is the softening of the ego. When the ego is softened in a person then in the thought, speech, and action of that person there is a charm. Sometimes a person, after going through disillusionment, suffering, torture, shows in his personality some charm, and that charm has come from the softening of the ego. But any virtue that develops naturally, forced by life or circumstances, is not a virtue in the same sense as that which has been developed through one’s own effort. Every beautiful action, thought or speech is derived from the effacing of self, or ego. For instance, every manner of courtesy comes from holding the reins of the ego. Beauty of speech always depends on the same effacement of the self, and so it is with thought. As soon as the ego expresses itself without control it hurts the ego of another person. The tendency in the lower creatures to fight is caused only by the ego, and man has this tendency no less than they, but rather more. It is this tendency which brings about disturbances in the life of individuals and in the multitude. The family feuds in ancient times, and now wars, all come from the same source, the ego. The idea of self-denial in Christianity, if rightly considered, expressed the idea of effacement rather than that of renunciation. Those whose contact brings us comfort, ease, peace, always have a softened ego. The greater the person the finer the ego. No example can be better than that of Christ washing the feet of his disciples.

What builds man’s ego is every kind of gratification of the ego, and what breaks the ego is patience and renunciation. The question whether it would be advisable to so destroy the ego that others might take advantage of a refined person is answered by saying that is not necessary that one should work against the ego, but one must control it. It would not be exaggerated if I said that man’s worst enemy is his ego, his own ego. And when it is not under his control man’s thought, speech and action are bent towards the gratification of his ego, and the more he satisfies his ego the more his ego desires, and it is never satisfied. Nobody else has such power in life of enslaving a man as his own ego. Man is, in fact, from the divine essence, and being so, he has the right to be king of his own life, which is his own kingdom. By the gratification of the ego man falls from kingship into slavery, and in the end his own life becomes a burden to himself. And in order to gain his own kingdom he must destroy the illusion that in satisfying his ego he shows his power; he satisfies his enemy in satisfying his ego. A Persian poet says, “Each time that I make peace with my enemy he has the opportunity of preparing again for the struggle.” The great battle that the Sufis and sages and yogis fight is the battle with the ego, but the sage battles with his own ego, the ordinary man with other people’s egos. And the difference in the result of these two battles is that the victory and the failure of the ordinary man are momentary, but the victory of the sage is eternal. The former, when they have finished one battle, must begin another, but the latter, once he has succeeded, is victorious. All that the former gains, after all, is not his own, because his kingdom is not his own; all he gains does not belong to him, but the sage is king in his own kingdom.

3 The Development of Personality

What Is the Ego?

“Know thyself and thou wilt know God”, said the great Sufi philosopher Ali. To know the self is the most difficult thing in the world, because what man can perceive first is a part only of the self, a limited part. When man asks himself, “What is it in me that is I?” he finds his body and his mind, and in both he finds himself limited and apart from others. And it is this conception of his being that makes man realize himself as an individual. If man dived deep enough within himself he would reach a point of his ego where it lives an unlimited life. It is that realization which brings man to the real understanding of life, and as long as he has not realized his unlimited self he lives a life of limitation, a life of illusion. When man in this illusion, says “I”, in reality it is a false claim. Therefore everyone has a false claim of “I” except some who have arrived at a real understanding of the truth. This false claim is called in Sufic terms nafs, and the annihilation of this false self is the aim of the sage. But no doubt to annihilate this false ego is more difficult than anything else in the world, and it is this path of annihilation that is the path of the saints and the sages. One may ask, “Why should one take the trouble to annihilate the ego? Since life is full of pain and suffering why add to this suffering?” The answer is that even if an operation will cause one suffering, it is better to endure it in order to be cured.

The inborn nature of the ego is intolerance, that is its nature because there are other egos that jar it. It is therefore that when two cocks meet they want to fight. The reason is that the ego of one jars upon the other. Even a silent life, such as that of a rock, can jar upon another ego, for instance that of a bull, who wants to hurl himself upon it and break it with his horns. It is the nature of the ego to exist alone, and it cannot allow another to exist. No doubt the reason is still deeper, it belongs to the deep side of metaphysics, but the moral aspect can be understood.

The finer an ego becomes the less it jars upon others. In the different degrees of evolution of man one sees this gradual development of the ego. There are people who seem to have no thorns; and yet they have a thorn which makes itself felt in the presence of another — it is their ego. Others are like the rose with its softness, beauty and fragrance. No doubt not everyone is a rose, but everyone desires the rose and not the thorn. The best training is to try to turn this thorny ego into a rose. It is very hard. And the finer and the more evolved the ego the harder life becomes for man. The higher and the more refined you are the greater trials you will have to go through in life; the more sensitive you become the more you will have to suffer. The thorn cannot hurt another thorn, but the slightest thing can hurt a rose. It is not surprising if an ego that has become a flower does not wish to live among thorns, but that is its destiny, and in spite of all sufferings it is preferable to be a rose rather than a thorn.

To return to the question why one ego jars another, the answer is that one must understand the nature of the other egos. When one dog barks at another and the other wags his tail, it is to let the other understand him and not fight with him. It is this moral that Christ taught from beginning to end. If you wish to experience fully the beauty of life you must make your ego as fine as possible. This allows the grosser egos to come into contact. It is from that that good and evil have come. It is always from the grosser ego that what we call evil comes, and it is from the finer ego that that comes which we call good.

4 The Training of the Ego:

What the Ego Needs and What It Does Not Need

In order to train the ego it is necessary that one should distinguish what is the right of the ego and what is not its right. The ego has a tendency to want what it needs and also what it does not need. The first is its natural appetite and the second is greed. This is like the nature of the dog, that after eating the flesh off a bone still guards the bone against another dog. Besides this the ego has a tendency to want more and more of what it likes, regardless of right and justice, also regardless of the after-effect. For instance a person may eat and drink more and more until this makes him ill. Every kind of gratification of desires or appetite gives a tendency to want more and more. Then there is the desire for change of experience, and when a person gives in to it, it never ends. Excess of desire in appetites or passions always produces an intoxication in man. It increases to such an extent that the limited means that man has become insufficient to gratify his desires. Therefore, naturally, to satisfy his desires he wants more than what is his own, and he wants what belongs to other people. When this begins, naturally injustice begins. Then he cannot get what he wants, then there is pain and disappointment. When one person gratifies his desires more than other people, the others who see this want to take away the gratification he has. One naturally expects a thinker to understand this and to relieve his ego of all that is unnecessary.

The training of the ego is this, to eat to live and not to live to eat, and so with all things one desires. The nature of desire is such that nothing will satisfy it forever, and sometimes the pleasure of a moment costs more than it is worth. And when one’s eyes are closed to this one takes the momentary pleasure regardless of what will come after. The training of the ego is not necessarily a sad life of renunciation, nor is it necessarily the life of a hermit. The training is to be wise in life, and to understand what we desire and why we desire it and what effect will follow, what we can afford and what we cannot afford. It is also to understand desire from the point of view of justice, to know whether it is right and just. If the ego is given way to in the very least in the excess of its desires, it becomes master of one’s self. Therefore in training the ego even the slightest thing must be avoided which may in time master us. The ideal life is the life of balance, not necessarily the life of renunciation. Renunciation must not be practiced for the sake of renunciation, but it must be practiced if it is necessary for balance. Verily, balance is the ideal life.

5 The Training of the Ego:

Constant Battle With the Ego

For the person who walks in the path of God the only struggle is a constant battle with the ego. It is the ego which forms the cover on the light of the soul, and the light hidden under the ego is the “Light hidden under a bushel.” Man’s sense of justice, his logic, his reason, his intelligence, his affection, all is covered by the ego. If he judges anyone it is from the point of view of his own interest, if he reasons his selfish mind produces the result, in his affections he puts self first, his intelligence is darkened by self; and this is the condition of the average man. In proportion as man takes away the covering from the soul, so much more just, truer, more sincere, more loving does he become. Selfishness develops the sense of self-interest, and very often a person may gain earthly prosperity because of it. But as all things in the world are subject to change, death and decay, he remains in the end empty-handed; while the unselfish man, who has perhaps been debarred from earthly good by his lack of self-interest, at least remains possessed of his sense of reason and is rich in the qualities of love, justice, and intelligence.

The whole tragedy of life is in losing sight of one’s natural self, and the greatest gain in life is coming into touch with one’s real self. The real self is covered by many layers of ego; those which preponderate above all others are hunger and passion, beneath these are pride and vanity. One must learn to discriminate between what is natural and what is unnatural, what is necessary and what is not necessary, what brings happiness and what brings sorrow. No doubt it is difficult for many to discriminate between right and wrong; but by standing face to face with one’s ego and recognizing it as someone who is ready to make war against us, and by keeping one’s strength of will as an unsheathed sword, one protects oneself from one’s greatest enemy, which is one’s own ego. And a time comes in life when one can say, “My worst enemy has been within myself.”

6 The Training of the Ego:

The Animal Side of Man’s Ego

There is a side of man’s ego which may be called the animal side; and yet it is worse than an animal side, for there are tame animals which have a tendency to love and to respond to love, and which are harmless. But there is a part of man’s nature which may be likened to a thorn, or the horn of a rhinoceros, and this ego takes pleasure in hurting others and gets joy from giving pain. From a scientific point of view this is called mania or disease, but psychologically speaking all that is below the human ideal is a defect in man which he could overcome if he knew how.

Often a man is seen taking pleasure in whipping a horse or a dog, and the same thing may be seen in a more pronounced form when a man gets pleasure from hurting or paining another person. This defect is shown in its mental aspect when a person shows contempt or antipathy to another, even when he shows disrespect where respect or reverence is due. Man gives pain by irony, sarcasm, or harshness of expression; there are looks that wound and many slight changes of manner by which it is possible to hurt another and get joy from it. When this tendency is developed a man is naturally disliked by those around him; some show their dislike outwardly and others do not, and the man resents it only where it is expressed. Man often puts on others the blame for his own fault.

This kind of ego may develop into a monster; and the soul can see this process from within and admits it to itself, though the individual may be too proud to admit it openly. The soul, from within, is often frightened at this monster and dreads the sight of it; and when this monster-ego is so developed that it has created a world of pain and torture the soul finds itself in hell. This is the only hell that exists, either here or in the hereafter, in external conditions. Even after creating the ego man can be happy, if he can break it until it becomes his friend and servant.

7 The Training of the Ego:


There is a tendency in man to think a great deal about what others think of him, and in some natures this tendency develops quickly. This develops in him self-consciousness, which is the root of several defects in man. It enfeebles man physically and mentally, and makes him dependent upon the opinion of others; so to speak, he lives on the good opinion of others, and he is as dead when they have a bad opinion about him.

This tendency makes a person sensitive, often hypersensitive. It often reaches such a point that at every word he speaks he looks around for approval and every movement he makes, in the same way, is calculated to produce an effect. This makes his body and his mind both heavy and burdensome to his soul. It develops in nature that weakness which, in ordinary words, is called touchiness, taking offense at every little thing. And the nature of many people is such that they enjoy bringing out any weakness that may be in a person. It becomes a pastime or pleasure to such people, and the life of the one who is sensitive is made so difficult that he has no rest at home or abroad. Everyone seems to him to be wicked, everyone’s presence seems to have a jarring effect upon him, and he seeks to be exclusive and to find a seclusion which life does not permit of his finding. If he happens to be in a position where he has to speak or sing or perform in any way, he fails to do his best, and when he meets people he cannot stand a criticism or reply to a jest. The presence of others has the effect of a weight upon the soul. The desire of the sensitive person is always to be hiding, keeping away from people, looking at others with nervousness, dislike, or fear. Such a person, however great his virtues or merits, is always incapable of free expression of his gift.

Stiffness in walking, also crookedness, is caused by self-consciousness, and sitting in a rigid position, without any flexibility, is cause by the same thing. Self-consciousness gives hardness to the expression of the lips, and it stiffens the tongue and makes the voice toneless, preventing a man from saying what he wishes to say. Self-consciousness is like a chain upon every feature and limb of the body, and in the self-conscious person there is nothing of the smoothness that should flow like a fluid through every expression of life. Its only remedy is forgetting self and putting the whole mind into work and each occupation undertaken.

8 The Training of the Ego:


Man has the desire to do good and to refrain from doing evil because to do so feeds his vanity. Among one thousand good and virtuous people there is scarcely one who does good and refrains from evil because that is his natural inclination. The majority of those engaged in art, science, religion or politics are conscious all the time of the opinion of others and they can only work upon the lines they are following if appreciation comes from some quarter; the least antagonism or opposition discourages them and often kills their desire. Among thousands it is one great soul that can keep firm and strong in his purpose through life, unshaken and unweakened by opposition from any side. It is that person who wins in the end and accomplishes things that are worth while.

In the lives of all the great souls who have accomplished wonderful deeds in life you will surely find this mystery hidden. Those souls have not learned it, it happens to be their nature, and the thinker will see in this a philosophy which teaches that it is the ego that chains man’s feet, keeping him from progress in all paths in life. The ego not only makes man self-conscious, but it makes of him a coward and renders him helpless. He is timid because he sees his own limitations and he is helpless because everything stronger overpowers him as he confines his being within a certain limit. Besides all the other disadvantages that self-consciousness brings with it, there is about all else one thing it does, it prevents man from realizing that the thought of self keeps him away from God. In the heart of man there is room for one only, either for himself or for God.

9 The Training of the Ego:

The Three Parts of the Ego

The ego is divided into three parts, the physical ego, the mental ego, and the spiritual ego. The mental ego covers the spiritual ego, and the physical ego is a cover over the mental ego. The ego indeed is one, but these are the three different aspects of the ego.

The physical ego is nourished by the gratification of the bodily appetites. One sees that after a meal or some refreshing drink a sort of feeling of stimulation arises, and no doubt it covers with an additional cover the “I” within. And therefore, there is a difference between sleep and meditation. Although both produce rest, yet one rest is caused by stimulation of the body and the other rest comes without it. There have been cases of meditative people sleeping only two or three hours out of the twenty-four without becoming ill. A person who can sleep well shows the sign of health, and yet is subject to any illness. The gratification of every appetite is a momentary stimulation and rest to the body, but this momentary satisfaction creates a further appetite, and every experience in the satisfaction of the appetites gives a desire for more satisfaction. Thus the ego, the cover over one’s mental and spiritual being, becomes thicker and thicker, until it closes all light from within. There are some who eat in order to live, but there are many who live in order to eat. The body is an instrument for the soul to experience the external world, but if the whole life be devoted to the instrument, then the person for whom the instrument exists is deprived of his experience in life.

The blindness that the physical ego causes can be clearly seen among the lower creatures — how the lion is inclined to fight with another lion, how the dog is inclined to watch the bone off which it has already eaten the flesh, yet it does not want another dog to touch it. This same physical ego gives man pride in his strength, in his beauty, in his power, in his possessions. If there is a spark of light in time it must expand to a shining star, and when there is the slightest darkness, that darkness must expand and put the whole life in a mist. In the intoxication of the physical ego man becomes so interested in the satisfaction of his appetites only that he can readily harm or injure or hurt, not only his enemy, but his dearest friend. As a drunken man does not know what he says or does, so a person blinded with his physical ego is intoxicated and can easily say or do things, regardless of the pleasure, comfort, happiness, harmony or peace of others.

10 The Training of the Ego:

Three Stages Through Which the Ego Develops

There are three different stages through which the ego develops and reaches the ideal state.

The first stage is called ammara by Sufis, and in this the ego is satisfied by the satisfaction of the passions and the appetites.

From this animal stage the ego may rise to a higher stage, which is man’s ego, and that stage is the gratification of vanity. This ego is termed by the Sufi lauwama, and this stage in the beginning causes a person to act in every way that is likely to cause harm and to be hurtful and unjust to others. This continues until he learns to understand the true nature of vanity, since all good as well as all evil is born of vanity. When vanity ceases to cause man to do evil he has reached the human stage, mutmaina.

But when vanity causes man to do good the ego becomes humane, using this word in the oriental sense, in which it means more than human, as it is derived from the two words, hu, divine, and manas, mind.

The first lesson that the ego must learn in order to develop into the humane state is that of pride in the form of self-respect. As man has the inclination to have good clothes and good ornaments in order to appear in the eyes of others as what he considers beautiful, so he must feel the same inclination towards the building of personality by the ornamentation of every action and manner in the way that he considers good and beautiful.


1 The Training of the Ego:

Necessity and Avidity

In the satisfaction of bodily appetites there are two things: necessity and avidity. A satisfaction which is necessary for existence is one thing, and ever-increasing joy in the satisfaction of bodily appetites is another thing. When man acts regardless of this, in either way, in satisfying the appetites or in abstaining from satisfaction, he makes a mistake. In order to train the ego it is not necessary that cruelty be done to nature; discrimination is necessary, to understand how far one should satisfy the appetites and how far one should refrain from being addicted to such satisfactions.

Intense desire for bodily satisfaction has a bad influence on one’s mentality, which acts, psychically, unfavorably on oneself and one’s surroundings. It produces jealousy, envy, and greed in the nature, and if the thought-currents are strong, it produces psychically poisonous effects. There is a belief in the East which is know by the name nazr, a belief that any food or drink can have a poisonous effect upon the one who eats or drinks it if it has been exposed to an evil eye. This superstition is known in almost all parts of the East in some form or other, and the psychical idea behind it is that the intense feeling of envy produces a thought-current which must surely spread its poison, which causes harm to the one against whom the feeling works.

When we consider the whole unrest of the present time in the world, we find that it is caused by the physical ego. The wars and revolutions seem to have the desire for comfort and pleasure and for more earthly gain behind them. And, since the happiness of the world depends upon the moral standard of the majority, it is upon the education of the human being in the psychic law of happiness that the peace of the world depends.

2 The Training of the Ego:

Training by Abstinence

There is no better way of training the ego than denying it what it wants for the satisfaction of its vanity. It is painful sometimes, and it often seems hard, to deny the ego all it demands, but it always results in great satisfaction. Spirituality may be called a capacity; plainly explained, it may be called a depth. In some people naturally there is this capacity, this depth; and in some it may be made. In order to collect the rainwater people dig the ground and make a capacity for the water to collect. So in order to receive the spiritual life and light, one must open oneself a capacity. The egoistic has no capacity, for it is his ego which makes the heart, so to speak, solid, giving no accommodation to the essence of God. The more one denies the demands of the ego, which satisfy its vanity, the more capacity one makes to be filled by the life of God.

When the will is able to rule one’s life, and not one’s bodily appetites and mental fancies, then there is the reign of the Golden Age, as the Hindus say; there is no injustice and there is no reward. When man finds disturbance in his life, a lack of harmony in the external life, he must take refuge under the reign within, which is the kingdom of God. To a Sufi this body is the Temple of God and the heart His shrine; and as long as man keeps God away from His temple, from His shrine, his limited ego reigns, and that reign is called Iron Age by the Hindus. A person who has not opened his heart to God to abide in may yet be a good person, but as his life will be involved in the activities of the world, his ego will turn from bad to worse, culminating into the worst state of mind, and it is that condition of mind which is personified in the religious term “Satan.”

In order to learn to realize “I am not, but God is”, one must first deny oneself for his fellow men. Respecting another, enduring a person or an action which is uncongenial to oneself, tolerating all, overlooking the faults of others, covering the weaknesses that one finds in one’s fellow men, willing to forgive, all these things are the first lessons in self-denial.

3 The Training of the Ego:

The Two Sides of the Human Ego

The human ego has two sides to its nature; one side is to strive for its nature’s demands, and that side of the ego may be classed as the animal ego; but there is another side which manifests when the ego shows its agitations for no other reason than intolerance. This feeling is a kind of blindness, or intoxication, and it arises from an excess of energy coming out from the soul quite unrestrained; it covers, so to speak, the light of the soul as the smoke may cover the light that comes from a flame. In order to allow the Divine spirit to guide one’s life one must clear the soul of its smoke part, leaving there only the flame to illuminate one’s life. It is the nature of the ego during its period of ignorance that all that is very beautiful or powerful and all that is below the standard of its ideal agitates it. This sensitiveness may increase to such an extent that all that does not bring any comfort or joy or happiness to the ego may become repugnant to it. It is this ignorant stage of the ego which in the Sanskrit language is called by the wise ahankar, and the whole method that the wise have taught in any age and in any part of the world has been for recognizing and understanding this ignorance which is the primary nature of the ego, and then for purifying one’s ego from this, by gentleness, humility, by self-control, by tolerance and by forgiveness.

Man can dissimulate this ignorance, but that is not enough; often, outward manner may become a mask over something ugly hidden behind. There is only one thing that can free the ego from this ignorance and that is the love of God, the contemplation of God and the knowledge of God. Love of God comes from belief in God. Belief is the first thing necessary, but belief needs support. It can be kept up by the belief of others around one or by learning or study which will strengthen it. But he to whom the love of humanity is unknown can never know the love of God; as you can see the painter in his picture, the poet in his poem, the musician in his music, so in humanity you can see God.

4 The Training of the Ego:

Training Is As Well a Science As an Art

It is a science and an art to understand the nature of the human ego and to train it. One can understand the nature of the human ego by a study of human nature; but one can learn the way of training it by training one’s own ego. Man can train his ego by being patient with all around him that has a jarring effect upon him. For every jar upon the soul irritates the ego. When man expresses his irritation he develops a disagreeable nature; when he controls it and does not express it, then he becomes crushed inwardly. The idea is to rise above all such irritations.

Life has a jarring effect by its very nature which every sensitive soul can feel. If a person wishes to keep away from all jarring influences, he had better not try to live, for life is a constant jarring. Life is motion, and it is the nature of motion to strike against something. It does not require strength to stand against the jarring influences of life — there is no wall of stone or of iron that can always stand against the waves of the ocean — but a small piece of wood, little and light, can always rise and fall with the waves, yet always above them, uninjured and safe. The lighter and the littler man’s ego becomes, the more power of endurance he has. It is two strong egos that strike against one another. The little ego, the light ego, just slips over when a powerful wave of a strong ego comes for it to knock over itself against a stronger wall that may throw it over.

The art of dealing with egos of different grades of evolution is to learn gentleness, tolerance, and forgiveness, which all come from charity of heart. When man stands on the same plane as the other, then he is subject to the influence of the other ego. But if he rises above it, then every effort of the other ego falls flat. There is a poem in Hindustani, the verse of Ghalib: “the world seems to me a playground of children. How constantly busy the infants seem with their toys!”

Verily the secret of peace is hidden under the cover of the ego.

5 The Training of the Ego:

Training by Refraining from Free Impulses

The wise, knowing the nature of the ego is to rise and to move and to disturb the atmosphere, practice in their lives to restrain the ego from its free impulses. The tendency of the ego to rise shows itself in the desire of standing when others are sitting, and running when others are walking, and dancing when others are standing. In the mental plane, the desire to be proud, the desire to be vain, to show conceit, to show one’s superiority over others, all come from the ego. The wise, therefore, by learning the lesson of humility, of gentleness, and of mildness, make their spirit, as it is called in the Bible, “poor” — “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” These manners are sometimes taught, but if one does not feel them within oneself they become forms and conventions without spirit or life or effect in them. It is only love which can teach these manners that keep the ego under control. If one does not learn them from love, then one learns them from suffering. Pain naturally crushes the ego, and if one has had much pain in one’s life it has a softening influence on the ego. Wisdom is a great teacher, it shows man what he is when he lets the ego be free and uncontrolled and what one gains by control of the ego. Imagine a rider sitting on a horse without reins in his hand, letting the horse go free wherever it likes. He risks his life at every moment. The happiness is his who rides on the horse and controls it and has the reins in his hand, and he is the master of his journey.

6 The Training of the Ego:

The Ego Is Trained As a Horse

The ego is trained by a Sufi as a horse is trained by man. A bridle is put upon it and man holds the reins in his hand. This training is called by the Hindus hatha yoga, which means to gain the control of one’s self by means of abstinence. Often, when man does wrong, it is not that he likes to do wrong, but that he is not able to prevent himself from acting in that way. In the first place wrongdoing is almost always the consequence of the appetites and passions, or for the gratification of vanity. Fasting and special postures are often practiced by the mystics for the same reason. The more man gives way to the appetites and passions the more his is enslaved by them, until he reaches a state where he speaks and acts against his own conscience. Such faults as treachery, flattery, falseness, and all others of the kind come from lack of willpower and from giving way to the passions.

For training the ego it is not absolutely necessary to abstain from all physical desires; the idea is to master the desire instead of allowing it to master one. The complaint of every soul and the remorse of every soul is always of the same thing, the enslavement of man through yielding to his desires. One allows the desire to master one when one identifies oneself with the desire; and one pities oneself, which makes things worse. And the desire for the momentary joy becomes an excuse for having given way. For instance, a person who gets up late makes the cold an excuse; he had to, he says, because it was cold. Reason always supplies an excuse for everything. But one cannot escape the consequences, and the remorse that follows proves that a fault has been committed. And once a person has accustomed himself to his faults, the sense of his fault becomes less keen; then he no longer troubles about them. Then he becomes a slave to his faults, he is like a worm, and his faults become his life. That is why in the language of the Hindus the word for hell means a place full of worms. In other words, he feeds on his faults and his faults find their nourishment in him. To a keen sight such cases are not rare. There are some cases that everyone can see, others are hidden.

Those who know its value consider the training of the ego the most important thing in life. The first lesson in this training is to ask, “Why must I have a certain thing? Why must I not have it? If it is not good for me why should I have it? And if it is good for me why should I not have it?” When a person has acquired the habit of speaking with his ego in this way about every physical appetite, he will always be able to do what he ought to do.

7 The Training of the Ego:

Training by Not Gratifying Vanity

The first form of the ego is that which the body helps to form and the next is that which is formed by the mind. This aspect of the ego lives for vanity, which causes a person to do good and also to do evil. Its desire is always the satisfaction of its pride, and when this increases, in the end it results in tyranny and cruelty. A person expects others to see him as he thinks he is, and often his self-esteem is excessive and it is impossible for others to admire him as much as he wants. One wishes to be admired for his clothes, his jewels, his possessions, his greatness and position, and naturally when this desire increases it makes a person blind and he loses sight of right and justice. It is natural that the desire for things that gratify vanity should have no end; it increases continually. The tendency to look at others with hatred and prejudice, to consider them inferior to oneself, and all such tendencies come from this ego. There are even cases when people spend money in order to be able to insult another. To make someone bow before him, to make him give way, to put him in a position of inferiority, to make him appear contemptible, sometimes a person will spend money. The desire for the satisfaction of vanity reaches such a point, that a person would give his life for the satisfaction of his vanity. Often someone shows generosity, not for the sake of kindness, but to satisfy his vanity. The more vanity a person has the less sympathy he has for others, for all his attention is given to his own satisfaction, and he is as blind toward others. This ego, so to speak, restricts life, because it limits a person. Coldness, pride, jealousy, all come from this ego. There is nothing so displeasing to the surroundings as conceit in whatever form, and what is the use of an opinion that is pleasing to us and unpleasing to all our surroundings? In reality a person’s true satisfaction comes from the opinion that others have of him, not from his own opinion of himself. There is nothing more repellent that a thorny ego. The outward manner cannot hide an ego that is not soft, even if the manner is very humble. It shows itself suddenly, unconsciously, in a word or an action that jars upon another.

The training of this ego requires more care than the training of the other ego, for it is more difficult and a subtler matter to be aware of the desires of the mind and to weigh them than to be aware of and to weigh the desires of the body. No doubt vanity is natural to the ego and the ego is natural to every human being. But there are desires of the mind that are necessary and there are desires of the mind that are not necessary. And the more one controls the ego the more one allows the virtues and merits that are in one’s heart to manifest. This ego gives a false idea of greatness, but the effacement of this ego results in the true greatness.

8 The Training of the Ego:


Humility is the principal thing that must be learnt in the path of training the ego. It is the constant effort of effacing the ego that prepares man for the greater journey. This principle of humility can be practiced by forgetting one’s personality in every thought and action and in every dealing with another. No doubt it is difficult and may not seem very practicable in everyday life, though in the end it will prove to be the successful way, not only in one’s spiritual life, but in one’s everyday affairs. The general tendency is to bring one’s personality forward, which builds a wall between two souls whose destiny and happiness lies in unity. In business, in profession, in all aspects of life it is necessary that one should unite with the other in this unity, in which the purpose of life is fulfilled.

There are two forms of effacing the self, which in other words may be called giving in. One way is by weakness, the other is by willingness, the former being a defect, the latter a virtue. One comes by lack of will, the other by charity of the heart. Therefore in training the ego one must take care that one in not developing a weakness, presuming it to be a virtue. The best way of dealing with the question is to let life take its natural course, and at the same time to allow the conscience to keep before it the highest ideal. On one side life taking its natural course, on the other side the conscience holding its highest ideal, balancing it, will make the journey easy. The words of Christ, which teach man to walk with another two miles if the other wanted him to walk one, prove the great importance of harmony in life. And his words, “Resist not evil”, show still more the importance of harmony in life, namely that if you can avoid evil, in other words keep it away, that is better than to want to fight it. And the idea of Christ’s teaching of giving in is also expressive of harmonizing with the wishes of another person. No doubt in this discrimination is necessary. That harmony is advisable which develops into harmony and culminates in a greater harmony, not that which may seem in the beginning to be harmony and would result in greater in harmony. In training the ego balance must be taken as the most important principle.

9 The Training of the Ego:


In order to learn forgiveness man must learn tolerance first. And there are people whom man cannot forgive. It is not that he must not forgive, but it is difficult, beyond his power to forgive, and in that case the first thing he can do is to forget. The first step towards forgiveness is to forget. It is true that the finer the man is the more he is subject to be hurt by the smallest disturbance that can produce irritation and inharmony in the atmosphere. A person who gives and takes hurts is capable of living an easy and comfortable life in the world. Life is difficult for the fine person, for he cannot give back what he receives in the way of hurt, and he can feel it more than the average person. Many seek protection from all hurting influences by building some wall around themselves. But the canopy over the earth is so high that a wall cannot be built high enough, and the only thing one can do is to live in the midst of all inharmonious influences, to strengthen his willpower and to bear all things, yet keeping the fineness of character and a nobleness of manner together with an ever-living heart. To become cold with the coldness of the world is weakness, and to become broken by the hardness of the world is feebleness, but to live in the world and yet to keep above the world is like walking on the water. There are two essential duties for the man of wisdom and love; that is to keep the love in our nature ever increasing and expanding and to strengthen the will so that the heart may not be easily broken. Balance is ideal in life; man must be fine and yet strong, man must be loving and yet powerful.

10 The Training of the Ego:

“Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit”

Jesus Christ says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Why is not the word “ego” used instead of “spirit”? Man’s glance, expression, posture, etc., all speak of his ego, and tell to what extent it is hard and to what extent soft. People seek to disguise the true nature of the ego by diplomatic language and by good manners, but this does not really hide the ego, which is expressing itself in everything they say and do. Every particle of man’s body and every atom of man’s mind is controlled by this ego. If there is anything that is meant by the word “spirit”, as used above, it is this. The least word spoken against it rouses man’s anger; praise tickles his vanity and goes to the heart of the ego.

And now the question arises: “If this ego is the chief thing in man’s development, why should we fight against it?” “Is it not the essence of man?” the answer is that there is the spirit of man and the spirit of God. These two are different and yet the same. Think of the sea and of the bubble, how vast the one, how small the other! How dare man claim that he is God! Only the emptiness in which the echo is noise is found in a heart that can claim such greatness as that. The true emptiness is filled by the divine light, and such a heart it is which in humility is turned to nothingness, so that that light shines out. Man’s ego is a globe, and the spirit of God is the light. “Poor” is said in the sense of thin; and when the ego is poor, or thin, the spirit of God shines out. “Rich in spirit” would mean thick, or dense, in the ego-nature, which would stand as a wall against the diving light hidden in the heart.


1 The Manner of Friendliness

The manner of friendliness is considered as the main part in the study of Sufism, for the Sufi in all ages has given great importance to the art of personality. As Sufism is the religious philosophy of love, harmony and beauty, it is most necessary for a Sufi to express the same through his personality. No doubt in the East, manner is given great prominence in life. The courts in the East were schools of good manners, though a great deal of artificiality was combined with it, but in the path of Sufism the same manners which are used at court were learned with sincerity. According to the Sufi idea all beauty comes from God, so a beautiful manner is a divine expression. In these modern times people seem to be against manners because of their agitation against aristocracy, as there are many who are against religion because they are cross with the priests. When man agitates against beauty he cannot be on the right path, and the movement of today against all beauty that exists in the form of culture and manner is a battle with civilization.

The Sufi calls the manner that comes from the knowledge of unity, from the realization of truth, from the love of God, akhlak Allah, meaning the manner of God; in other words, God expressed in man shows in the action of that man the manner of God.

The following are the different aspects of the manner known by the Sufis as Ilmi Adab:

adab = respect

khatir = consideration

tawazeh = hospitality, or welcome

enkessar = humility, or selflessness

khulk = graciousness

matanat = seriousness

halim = tenderness of feeling

salim = harmoniousness

wafah = fidelity, loyalty, constancy

dilazari = sympathy

kotah kalam = moderation in speech

kam sukhun = sparing of words

motubah = self-respect, keeping one’s word,

proving trustworthy in dealings.

buzurgi = venerability

gheirat = honor, or pride

haya = modesty

Also bravery; experience; generosity; forgiveness; large-mindedness; tolerance; to take the side of the weak; to hide the faults of others, as one would one’s own, out of sympathy and respect for another.

2 The Manner of Friendliness: Adab (Respect) (1)

There is no one in the world who does not deserve some respect, and he who respects another, by doing so respects himself, for respect creates respect, disrespect re-echoes in disrespect. The greatest education that can be given to a child is that of respect, not only for his friends, parents and relatives, but also for the servants in the house. Once the Prophet, hearing his grandson call a slave by his name, told him, “Call him uncle, for he is advanced in years.” If one wishes to respect someone, one can surely find something to respect in him, and if there were nothing at all to be found, then the very fact that he is a human being quite entitles him to respect.

One form of respect is to consider another person better than oneself; even if one did not think him so. Another form of respect is to regard another person as better than oneself, by reason of humility, or out of graciousness. No person is respected who has no respect for another. There is another form of respect, which is to recognize another person’s superiority in age, experience, learning, goodness, birth, rank, position, personality, morality, or spirituality. And if one was mistaken in recognizing another person’s superiority it is no loss, for respect given to man in reality is respect given to God. He who deserves respect is entitled to it, but when one does not deserve it and yet you respect him it shows your graciousness. To a fine person it is a great disappointment to lose the opportunity of paying respect when there was an occasion; an unrefined person does not mind. There are many who, out of cleverness, cover their disrespectful attitude in an ironic form of speech and make sarcastic but polite remarks, in order to insult someone. In that way, seemingly they have not shown any disrespect and yet they have satisfied their desire of being disrespectful. In some people there is a spirit of injury, which is fed by hurting another with a disrespectful attitude shown in thought, word or action. If man only knew that, in life, what he gives he receives, only sometimes the return does not come immediately, it takes time.

He is really respectful who gives respect, but he who looks for respect from another is greedy, he will always be disappointed. Even to give respect in order to get respect in return is a kind of business. Those who reach a spiritual realization will only give respect generously, without thinking for one moment of getting it in return. When one sincerely gives respect to anyone, not for show but from the feeling of one’s heart, a happiness rises from it, which is the product only of the respectful attitude and which nothing else can give. There are many to whom one is indebted for their help, kindness, protection, support, for their service or assistance, and there is nothing material in the world, neither gold or silver, which can express the gratitude so fully as a real respect can. Remember, therefore, that for something that you cannot pay back in silver or gold you can only make return in one way, and that is by humbly offering respect.

3 The Manner of Friendliness: Adab (Respect) (2)

A respectful attitude is the first and principal thing in the development of personality, not only respect toward someone whom one considers superior but respect for everyone one meets in life, in proportion to what is due to him. It is through conceit that man gives less honor where more respect than what is due. Respecting someone does not only require a desire to respect but an art of respecting. One ignorant of this art may express respect wrongly. It is self-respect which makes on inclined to respect another. The one who has no respect for himself cares little if he respects another or if respect is at all necessary in life. To respect means to honor. It is not only bowing and bending, or external action, which expresses respect. A disrespectful person may bow his head before another and stride him on the face by his word. True respect is from the attitude which comes from the sincere feeling of respect. The outward expression of respect has no value without inner feeling. Inspired by a respectful attitude, man expresses his feeling in thought, speech, or action, which is the true expression of respect. A sincere feeling of respect needs no words, even the silence can speak of one’s respectful attitude.

There are three different expressions of respect. One is that when the position or rank of a person commands one to respect, whether one is willing or unwilling, and under the situation one cannot help having respect, which is nothing but an outer expression of respect. The second expression of respect is when a person wishes to please another by his respectful manner, to let him feel how respectful he is and what a good manner he has. By this expression one has two objects in view: one, to please another, and the other to please oneself by one’s way of pleasing. The third way is the true feeling of respect which rises from one’s heart, and if one tried to express it one could not express it enough. If one were not able to express it fully it can always be felt, because it is a living spirit of respect.

The mark of people having tradition behind the, by birth, nation or race, shows in their respectful tendency. To them, disrespect either on their part or on the part of another means absence of beauty. Life has many beautiful things – flowers, jewels, beauty of nature, of form, of line, of color – but beauty of manner excels all, and all good manner is rooted in a respectful tendency. It is a great pity that this subject is not regarded as the most important one to be considered and to be developed — especially today, when the stream of the whole world is running in the direction of commercialism, which tends to the beauty of matter in gold and silver instead of beauty of character and personality.

4 Respect

The highest expression of love is respect. Respect is not only due to one’s superior or elder, but even to a child; one should only know to what extent it should be given and in what form it should be expressed. In loving one’s mate, one’s friend or relative, one’s parents, one’s teacher, one’s priest, the best expression of love that can be shown is a sincere respectful attitude. No love offering can be more precious than a word or an act of respect.

Very often conflicts between religions have arisen because people who respected their own religion looked with contempt at the religion of another. If one did not respect one’s friend’s religion, one could at least respect one’s friend, and out of respect for the friend, regard his religion respectfully. Very often, with all love and devotion and sincerity, friendship breaks only owing to disregard on the part of the one or the other of the law of respect.

What is worship? Worship is not dancing before God, worship is an act of respect offered to God, to Whom all respect is due. The man who worships God and disrespects man worships in vain, his piety is his mania. A true worshipper of God sees His presence in all forms, and thus in respecting others he respects God. It may even develop to such an extent that the true worshipper of God, the Omnipresent, walks gently on the earth, bowing in his heart even to every tree and plant, and it is then that the worshipper forms a communion with the Divine. Beloved at all times, when he is awake and when he is asleep.

5 The Manner of Friendliness

Khatir (Consideration)

Khatir means consideration for someone, which is shown in the form of respect, help or service. Very often it wants a sacrifice, it may even need self-denial. However, consideration is the highest quality that can be found in human nature. Consideration of age, of experience, of knowledge, of position, consideration of some good done by a person, also consideration of somebody’s feebleness, weakness, it is all included in the word khatir. This spirit of consideration, when developed, extends not only to the person for whom one has consideration, but also, for that person’s sake, to another who is related or connected with that person in some way or other. When a king is respected and not his ambassador, that means lack of consideration to the king.

For a Sufi this quality becomes his moral. The Sufi learns consideration beginning with his murshid, but this culminated in consideration for God. When one arrives at that tenderness of feeling one considers every person in the world. To the Sufi the missing of an opportunity of considering another is a great disappointment, for he does not consider it to be a fault toward a human being but to God. Verily, he is pious, who considers human feeling. No doubt it needs no end of endurance to consider everybody and to be considerate always, it wants no end of patience. However, by being considerate nothing is lost, if seemingly nothing is gained. The reward of this virtue is always in store. Consideration is the sign of the wise.

6 Tawazeh (Sharing with Others)

Tawazeh in Sufic terms means something more than hospitality. It is laying before one’s friend willingly what one has, in other words sharing with one’s friend all the good one has in life, and with it, enjoying life better. When this tendency to tawazeh is developed, things that give one joy and pleasure become more enjoyable by sharing with another. This tendency comes from the aristocracy of the heart. It is generosity and even more than generosity. For the limit of generosity is to se another pleased in his pleasure, but to share one’s own pleasure with another is greater than generosity. It is a quality which is foreign to a selfish person, and the one who shows this quality is on the path of saintliness.

Tawazeh does not cost; it is the attitude of mind. If by nature man is not hospitable the hospitality he gives is of no use. The one who has experienced the joy of this quality feels a greater satisfaction in sharing his only piece of bread than in eating it by himself. Duality in nature keeps all such beautiful qualities of the soul away from man. The thought of unity is productive of all good qualities in man. It is not only in giving or sharing pleasures that one shows hospitality to another; even in word, manner or action one can show this feeling. A desire to welcome someone, to greet someone, to respect someone, to offer a seat to someone, to treat someone with courtesy, to see someone off with respect, all these show the sign of tawazeh.

7 Haya (Modesty)

Haya is the finest feeling in human nature, which is called modesty. Modesty is not necessarily meekness, or humility, or selflessness, or pride. Modesty is a beauty in itself, and its action is to veil itself; in that veiling it shows the vanity of its nature, and yet that vanity is a beauty itself Modesty is the life of the artist, the theme of the poet, and the soul of the musician. In thought, speech, action, in one’s manner, in one’s movement, modesty stands as the central theme of grace. Without modesty beauty is dead, for modesty is the spirit of beauty. Silence in modesty speaks louder than bold words. The lack of modesty can destroy art, poetry, music, and all that is beautiful.

And if one asked, “what is modesty,” it is difficult to explain in words. It is a feeling which rises from a living heart; a heart which is dead has not got the taste of it. The modest person compared to the immodest one is like a plant standing by the side of a rock. If the heart of the immodest is like the earth the heart of the modest one is like a plant standing by the side of a rock. If the heart of the immodest is like the earth, the heart of the modest one is like the water. Modesty is life itself; a life which is conscious of its beauty yet inclined to veil it in all its forms is modesty. At the same time modesty is the proof of sincerity and of prudence. The immodest man cries aloud, “I am the light” and is finished in a moment. The diamond, shining in its light constantly, never says a word about its light.

8 Modesty

Modesty is not necessarily timidity or cowardice. The bravest can be modest, and it is modesty which completes bravery. Modesty is the veil over the face of the great; for the most modest is God Himself, Who is not seen by anyone except those intimate with Him. Beauty is all its forms and colors, in all its phases and spheres, doubles itself, enriches itself by modesty. Modesty is not something that is learnt. It is in nature, for it is natural. Modesty does not only cover what is beautiful but amplifies the beauty and covers all that is void of beauty, in this manner fitting it into all that which is beautiful. A noble heart can even rise to such a degree of modesty that he would plead for another person’s fault, trying to make out of it no fault, even knowing that it is a fault.

Yes, a modest person very often will not raise his voice, out of dignity; or say things, out of consideration and respect; will not argue and pull his own way when dealing with someone who has no thought of modesty. In this case he may often lose his battle. However, one cannot hope always to ascend and descend at the same time. One should ascend, sacrificing all that those who descend will get, or else one must descend, sacrificing all that those who ascend will achieve. Life always demands sacrifices. In every walk of life there is a battle to be fought; and in that case the one who loves to ascend may just as well ascend rather than wanting to descend. The Prophet has said, “Al haya wal iman. ” “Verily, modesty is a great piety.”

9 Gheirat (Honour)

Gheirat, protection, or defense of honor, is considered by the wise a great quality, a chivalry which is found as a rule in rare souls. Man regardless of this sense is no better than a domestic animal, a dog or a cat. When their master does not want them he can scold them, drive them away, and they can come again, wagging their tails, for there is no sense of pride to be hurt in them. They only feel the discomfort of having to move from a comfortable place and they could also feel their master’s displeasure, but there is no soreness about it. In man the sense of honor is developed; with his evolution it develops more. It is not only necessary that man should be humble, but it is also necessary that man must be proud. Pride is the sign of evolution, honor comes out of pride. If there were no pride nor honor, virtue would not exist.

Very often people confuse gheirat, this sense of honor, with conceit, sometimes with jealousy; but even the spirit of jealousy, which stands to defend one’s honor, can be no other than virtue. People call it conceit, but they do not know the meaning of honor, that in the sense of honor there is a divine spark hidden; for it is the perfection of honor which is the logos, the ego, whom the Sufis call kibria.

No doubt when this sense of honor is developed without wisdom a person might become foolishly sensitive, and not only defend his honor but die for nothing, in illusion, just as the story of Othello suggests. For a man whose sense is developed in gheirat, his honor is not only in his person, but in his friend, in his beloved, in his mother, sister, or wife, in someone whom he respects, or whom he loves, or with whom he connects himself. This sense of gheirat has its lights and shades in dealing with friends, in give and take, and very often people prefer death to dishonor, and from a finer point of view they have reason on their side. Those who are trying to their surroundings in life, who are a burden to their relatives, a trouble to their friends, an annoyance to their acquaintances, a disgust to strangers, are the ones who are lacking in this sense. This shows that the sense of gheirat when developed makes one’s life more harmonious, for an honorable man minds his own business and keeps himself out of the way, troubles others less, even if he has to suffer more trouble for it.

There is a story which tells that four persons were arrested for the same crime and were taken before a wise king to be judges. He saw the first person and said, “Hang him.” He saw the next person and sentenced him for the whole life. He saw the third person and said, “he must be sent out of the country.” He saw the fourth person and said, “I could never have expected you to do such a crime.” The first three underwent their punishments, but this last one went home and the next morning he was found dead; that one word of the king was worse than death to him.

Gheirat is a sign of noble birth, whatever condition man may be in. He may be in rags, yet this spirit of gheirat will shine out through all conditions, proving him to be noble. Humility has its place, pride has its place in life. In the place of pride, humility cannot be fitted. Once the nizamof Hyderabad was walking in the country, and a knight happened to see a thorn stuck in his shoe. He rushed, before the attendant had seen it, and took out that thorn from the king’s shoe. The king looked back and said, “Were there no attendants present? It was for them, not for you,” said the king, “and since you have taken this work, you can no longer continue to be my knight. Please retire.” It is the sense of honor expected by his surroundings that makes a king a true king.

For a Sufi the sense of honor is not for his personality, he does not give his person a greater place than dust and the central theme of his life is simplicity and his moral is humility. Yet remember that the Sufi breathes the breath of God, so he is conscious of the honor of God. His pride is greater, therefore, than the pride of every man. It is in the intoxication of this pride that he proves to be God-conscious.

10 Enkessar (Selflessness)

Enkessar, in the terms of the Sufis, means selflessness. The psychology of human nature is such that man feels inclined to hit every head that is raised. Not only man, but all living creatures have that tendency. To protect themselves from that, many intelligent creatures in the lower creation make holes in the earth, to live there, hiding themselves from the beats and birds of prey. No sooner do they raise their heads from their holes than they are caught by their enemies, who thirst for their blood. As humankind is evolved, man does not immediately hit the raised head, but he cannot keep from being agitated at the sight of it.

Understanding this mystery of human nature and studying the secret of the whole life, the Sufi has traced that spirit in its essence, belonging to the source of all things. He calls that spirit kabir, or kibria, the ego, or egoistic. It has taught the Sufi a moral, that not only man but even god is displeased by self-assertion. And the manner that he adopts in order not to arouse that agitating spirit he calls enkessar, meaning selflessness.

In theory it is a small thing, in practice it is a great art. It is an art which wants a great deal of study of human nature, it requires careful observation and constant practice. This art teaches to take precautions before every activity in speech or in actions so as to cause least disturbance to human feeling. It is the thorough study of human susceptibility and practice of delicate manner which teaches man enkessar. The further he progresses the more his sense becomes keen; therefore he finds more and more mistakes in his own life as he goes forward in this path. This subject is so delicate that one does not only commit a fault by showing pride or conceit but even in expressing modesty or humility. Enkessarwants a great delicacy of sense. One must be able to see the lights and shade produced by every action and word one does or says. And once a person has mastered this art he has mastered the same art which Christ promised to the fishermen, saying “Come hither, I will make you fishers of men.”

The Sufi gives more importance to this subject than a yogi, for the way of the yogi is asceticism, the way of the Sufi is the development of humanity in nature. But according to the prophetic point of view the only way of pleasing God is enkessar, which is greater than so-called goodness. A good person proud of his goodness turns his pearls into pebbles. A bad person, full of remorse for his faults, may turn his pebbles into jewels. Selflessness is not only pleasing to man but it is pleasing to God. There is not one moment in life when God is unaware of man’s word or action; and beyond his word or action god is aware of man’s attitude, which very often man hides in his words or actions. Nothing is hidden before God, Who is a perfect Judge and Forgiver, and upon Whose pleasure or displeasure depends the happiness or unhappiness of man’s life. Therefore man has not only the task of considering the pleasure or displeasure of his fellowman, but also a duty to God, of considering what is pleasant to God and what is unpleasant. To Him to Whom all the beauty and riches, glory and greatness belong, man can make no offering which is worth anything, except one thing and that is selflessness.

Life may be pictured as a building in which there are several doors that one has to go through and every door is smaller than one’s size. And as man’s natural inclination is to rise straight, at every attempt he makes to rise, his head is knocked against the frame of the door. And the only thing that can save him from knocking his head against the doors is to bend. It is this logical lesson which the wise turn into a good manner. Verily, all that leads to happiness is good.




Everyday Life


Everyday Life

It is a very necessary thing in the life of an adept for him to adapt his mind and body to the spiritual life, in other words, it is necessary for a man to become his natural self before he begins his journey in a spiritual path. It is this naturalness which is called by the orthodox purity. For pure water, or pure milk, means water or milk in its own essence; when another element is mixed with it then its purity is lost. To become spiritual means to purify one’s spirit from the foreign elements which take away the natural feeling of the spirit. Concentration, meditation, all these help to make the spirit its natural self again, but the vehicles that the spirit uses in order to experience life must help the spirit to become natural. These vehicles are the mind and the body. However great the musician, if the instrument is out of tune he can do nothing with it. To say that only the spirit matters and the body does not count is not right. Therefore it is necessary that first both mind and body be fit vehicles for the spirit to use.

The difference between a pious person and a spiritual person is this, that the pious person makes his mind and body ready for his own spirit to use, and the spiritual person, after making them ready, gives them to God. Piety is the first step and spirituality the next. There is no exaggeration in the saying that cleanliness in next to godliness. The body must be considered as the temple of God, and this scared house of God is reflected in it.

Beasts and birds all have a tendency to be clean and pure, and for man it is necessary that he should develop this tendency. It helps, not only on the spiritual path, but also in the development of mind. To the artist in his art, to the scientist in his science, in all aspects of life it gives happiness. When man neglects it, that does not mean that he does not like it, it is only out of negligence that he overlooks things that are of the first importance. One’s body is of all things in the world the closest to oneself, and its influence has a great effect, and an immediate effect, upon one’s mind and soul. A great many illnesses are caused by the lack of consideration of the necessary cleanliness of the body, which is a science and an art in itself. On the soul and mind one’s own body makes the first impression, all other things come afterwards. Yes, there are souls who have arrived at such a plane of spirituality that the condition of the body does not matter to them. But they are not to be followed as examples. It is the normal path which is safe and is for all. The question, “Would this not give one too much the thought of self?” may be answered thus: the thought of oneself exists when the light of God is absent; in the presence of every beautiful thing man forgets himself.

The Instrument of Our Body

The body is an instrument for experiencing life; both the worlds, that within and without, are reflected in this instrument. Therefore purity of the body is the first essential thing, and the most essential, in the path of spiritual attainment. Every civilization has a peculiar method of cleanliness. But the mystic is not satisfied with the customary manner.

Mystics have two views: one view is that external cleanliness matters nothing to them, and the other is that it is most important. As the work of an astronomer depends upon a telescope, and as it is necessary for him to keep the telescope as clean as possible, so it is necessary in the life of the mystic to keep the body in a fit condition.

All the passages in the body are connected with the centers, which are most important in spiritual development, and it is upon the cleanliness and purity of these passages that spiritual development depends. Besides these nine passages it is also necessary to keep the skin in a proper condition for spiritual purposes. It is from the mystical conception that humanity first learned the idea of clothes. There have been times when certain races painted their skin, and by certain yogis the body was covered with ashes. In ancient times the body was covered with the bark of trees. But behind all this there was always an inclination to keep the skin in a proper condition. It is upon the cleanliness of the body that sensitiveness depends; therefore people who have no regard to the cleanliness of the body are less sensitive than those who have regard to it. Besides the cleanliness of the outer part of the body, it is equally important, perhaps more important, to consider the cleanliness of the inner part of the body. Mystics, therefore, take precaution about what they eat and drink, and have methods of cleansing the inner part of the body also. No mystic in the East guides a pupil who has not first prepared his body for spiritual purposes. Cleanliness of the body, besides its importance for spiritual and moral development, also prevents serious disease.

The Breath

It is necessary for the breath to flow freely through the lungs, tubes, and veins of the body, and things that one eats and drinks often block the channels through which the breath passes, invigorating and vivifying every particle of the body. All skin diseases are caused by want of breath in the skin. The mystic feels not only the vibrations of music but even the vibrations of another person’s breath. The skin of the mystic in time becomes sensitive and feels even the vibrations of the breath of another. Music, so to speak, touches every particle of his being.

Breathing exercises will not give proper results if the channels of the breath have no been cleared. The spine, the lungs, the tubes and the veins of the body, the intestines should be kept clear. When the channels of the breath are blocked man feels heavy, depressed, lazy, drowsy, and confused; the expression becomes dull and the voice harsh; then the movements lose grace and beauty when sitting, or standing, or walking, or moving; in every action one expresses a weakness, a lack of sprit. Feebleness is different from lack of spirit. A person may be strong bodily but may lack spirit, and the teaching of Christ is that it is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.

4 Outer and Inner Ablutions

The vehicle which is made of earth can be cleansed with water and by air. Therefore besides external ablutions inner ablutions are necessary to make the body a proper vehicle for the working of the spirit. In many different religions different ways of ablution are taught. They are not only for the cleanliness of the body, but are also helpful in making the body a fitting instrument for the spirit to experience life.

The external organs of the body are used for external activities, but the inner ones are the instruments of the mind. The factors which are closer to the mind and which are more important for man than his physical organs are the centers which are located in the body, and the cleaner the channels of the breath are the more active the centers become. The breath is to these centers as the air is to the plant. Besides inner ablutions, the breathing practice itself cleanses the channels of the body.

5 Inner Ablutions

Besides making ablutions it is necessary that the channels of the breath be kept clean, and for this consideration is necessary about what one eats and drinks. Food that is raw and indigestible, stale food, old and decayed vegetables, rotten fruits, and meat that has been preserved for a long time, and all such-like things do not only block the channels of the breath, but their influence makes the breath impure. The air, which is always pure, becomes dense and impure by the contact with the impurities of the earth, and so is the nature of breath. Naturally, when a person cannot digest food or when his lungs are not open and free the breath is not pure. The Sufi takes great care in his life as to what he should eat and what he should drink. Alcoholic drinks and drinks made from decayed fruits naturally make the breath impure; even smoking tobacco has a bad effect on the breath. Those who observe the mystical rules carefully even refrain from all flesh food, even from eggs. No doubt white meat is preferable to red meat, for red meat has particles which block the channels of the breath. This was the reason why the eating of pork was prohibited by the prophets of Beni Israel. No doubt to the pure all things are pure, but in order to become pure it is necessary to observe the rules of purity.

One must not judge of another person’s spiritual evolution by seeing what he eats or drinks, because this has nothing to do with a man’s evolution, for Shiva, the great Lord of Yogis, had fish for his food, and wine was given in the church of Christ as a sacrament. Therefore no one has the power to estimate his fellow man from what he eats or drinks. But everyone who whishes to tread the spiritual path may observe the mystical law, which certainly enables one to progress speedily. It must be remembered that it is the spiritual ideal which is the first thing to be held fast; what to eat and drink, and what not to eat and drink is a secondary thing. Any dispute about this proves to be unnecessary.

Vegetarian Diet 

The question of vegetarian diet is often discussed among seekers after philosophical truth. Some people give no importance to what they eat or drink, and there are some who give more importance to it than necessary.

There are two things which speak against flesh-eating; one thing is that meat, as a substance, hinders spiritual progress, and the other is that the unkindness towards the animals is a breach of moral law. Speaking about the first question, it is no doubt true that meat causes two kinds of harm to an adept. One is that it produces in man to a certain extent the animal nature; also it has an influence on the character of man. The nature of the animal he eats certainly has an influence upon s man’s character. It was therefore that the prophets of Beni Israel forbade their followers to eat the flesh of certain kinds of animals and birds. Mystically speaking, it clogs the channels of the breath, and the important psychical centers that work in man as the instruments of wireless telegraphy. Morally, there is no doubt that it has a hardening effect upon the heart of man, which is meant to sympathize, not only with his fellow man, but with every living creature. There is no doubt that if all the people in the world became vegetarian, there would be no more wars. A person who refrained from killing the lower creatures would surely not be inclined to kill his fellow man.

Of course, there is another side to the question: life exists in all aspects of the creation, even in plants; and if one does not see the harm done to the plants, it is because they cannot express themselves. And, looking from this point of view, one can observe that life lives on life. At the same time, the creations a process by which the lower from of life evolves to a higher form, and the life used in this process of evolution is not really lost, on the contrary it is raised to a higher consciousness. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the animal which is used as the food of man has been transformed from the animal kingdom to the human, which is really a natural process of evolution, the human kingdom being the goal of the lower creation. However, this point of view does not help man, morally or physically, in his individual evolution; he has not gained by eating flesh, on the contrary, he has allowed himself to evolve more slowly than he could otherwise have evolved.

The impression on the consciousness of man of having done harm to another creature which can feel pain as he himself can is not a good one; it blunts the fine, tender, and sympathetic feeling towards all living beings. At the same time not every person who eats meat is capable of considering the subject philosophically, and therefore of giving an answer to his conscience or to another one, as an explanation of having caused harm to a living creature for his enjoyment.

For many thousands of years the human race has lived on flesh food, especially in the cold countries, and the bodies made with that essence for thousands of years are so dependent upon flesh food that they cannot abstain from it without causing some harm to their health. Man feeds on things of which he is made, and it is not, in every case, easy for a man to give up flesh food, even if he realized its disadvantages. There are countries where there are deserts – no trees to be found for miles – and the inhabitants could not live if they did not live on flesh food. For the evolution of humanity in general, uniformity is necessary. If some ate flesh and others lived on vegetables, it would be as if carnivorous and herbivorous animals were living in the same forest. Certainly people living different lives cannot live together harmoniously, and the strong must in every case have the upper hand. Tenderness of heart will not answer the same purpose as strength and power. Therefore it is a question how vegetarian diet can be introduced in the world. There is another side to this question: if the animals were left alone they would multiply and the herbivorous would become a prey to the carnivorous animals. The tigers and lions and bears and wolves would increase and would be in search of man; so the human kingdom would diminish and the animal’s increase.

For those who strive in the spiritual path it is most essential to be thoughtful and considerate, and to be kind to the whole creation, and if they can manage to live a vegetarian life, it is no doubt very helpful to them. It is not right, however, for a vegetarian to look at the flesh-eater with contempt and regard his own harmless attitude with pride. There are many vegetarians who will prove selfish and unkind to their fellow man, whereas there are many non-vegetarians who will prove to be otherwise. Verily, charity of the heart must begin at home and then expand so that it may reach the very lowest of the creation.

The Five Elements of the Body

The body is made of five elements, according to the mystical view: earth, water, fire, air and ether. Yet these terms must not be compared with the scientific terms; these are mystical conceptions and they should be understood in a mystical sense. These five elements from the sustenance of the body, at the same time these elements purify the body.

For instance, no ablution with water only is sufficient; earth is required also. In the East Brahmans used pure earth, some used ashes; in the East gram flour is still used in place of soap. The scientist can never deny the fact that there is no better disinfectant than earth itself. The use of water for every kind of ablution has been taught by all religions in some form or other. That shows that it is not only used for cleanliness, but it helps in spiritual development. The scientist today admits that there is no better tonic than pure water; this has always been considered to be so by the mystic, who called the rivers sacred rivers and gave water in healing.

As the use of earth and water cleanses and purifies the body externally, so it has a purifying influence on the internal part of the body. By eating wholesome food and drinking pure water not only does one receive nourishment, one also cleanses and purifies every particle of the body. It is therefore that an adept must avoid eating and drinking anything unwholesome. This does not mean an absolute restriction to certain food and drink but just that care in eating and drinking is necessary.

Once a person has advanced in spirituality, nothing matters to him — neither what he eats and drinks, for he lives in the spirit the most part of his life; for him the body is a coat and he does not care if it is full of holes or if it is patched. But for a persons who has yet to develop spiritually and who follows a process consideration is necessary; it is most necessary that the body should be kept pure, outwardly and inwardly, that it may become a suitable vehicle for the manifestation of the spirit.


Man’s health and inspiration both depend upon purity of breath, and to preserve this purity the nostrils and all the tubes of the breath must be kept clear. They can be kept clear by proper breathing and by proper ablutions. If one cleanses the nostrils twice or oftener during twenty-four hours it is not too much, for a Moslem is taught to make this ablution five times, before each prayer. The cleansing, not only of the nostrils, but also of the ears is necessary; for part of the breath works through the ears, and if the ears are not protected and cleansed sometimes one hears a sound, which often is that of the breath which does not find its way smoothly through the regions of the ear.

The throat and palate are also important factors for the flow of the breath. The palate and throat are kept clean by the adept by gargling. The adepts drink water at fixed hours for the purpose of cleansing the veins and tubes in the chest, so that the breath may find pure channels for its passage. An adept drinks water before going to bed and after rising from sleep. It is necessary that these laws of ablutions should be practiced by the student of thought first, in order that others may follow. Hygienic consideration is the first principle which is necessary for the health and happiness of the generality.


Sobriety is most necessary in the path of spiritual evolution, especially in the first stage, when the body must be made pure for spiritual revelation. Everything intoxicating deadens the nerves more or less, and the centers, which are the factors for spiritual realization, become dead. Although at times they may seem more active, too abnormal an activity is always exhausting. The centers which show sensitiveness during the time of intoxication, after its influence become weary and lifeless. Fakirs or yogis who take intoxicants in order to excite the centers become dependent for their spiritual experience on material objects; in the end they find their seeming advancement fatal. Even hard smoking may block, not only the channels of the breath, but even the centers, and thereby intuition is confused. No doubt smoking gives a momentary comfort, because it brings a kind of repose to the smoker, but it is only a passing comfort. Smoking not only has an effect upon the throat or lungs but by it the two important centers, the heart and brain, upon which the whole spiritual progress depends, will become blocked.

The principal thing in spiritual attainment is to be self-sufficient, and the first step to self-sufficiency is to make one’s body independent of all such things upon which its comforts and enjoyment depend. The sages of all times and the mystics of every cult have observed the value of continence and fasting, for the very reason that the body, upon which the experience of the whole life depends, must first be made fit by purity.


The reason why fasting is practiced by those who live in retirement is to let the breath pass through every vein and tube of the body. This can be made possible only when there is no foreign substance, such as food or even drink, in the body to block the channels. When the breath has touched every particle of the body, the body naturally becomes more sensitive and the pores of the skin open, making the centers transparent, so as to feel, outwardly and inwardly, all that is to be felt. This can be understood by seeing the difference between the intelligence and the intuitive faculty of a fine person and a dense person.

Continence also helps, not only to keep the channels clear, but it conserves all the energy in every particle of the body and especially in the centers where it is most needed. Another thing is that continence keeps every outer element away. By this the adept is better able to keep his body and centers free from every foreign element, becoming at the same time a reservoir of energy, which expresses itself as radiating magnetism. Professed celibacy is an assumption of chastity that must sooner or later break by nature, together with man’s profession of the same. The true celibacy, therefore, can be practiced without profession and without any outward appearance or the attributing to it any religious rank, only for a certain time and for a certain purpose.



The Purity of the Body

The purity of the body is more desirable than bodily strength. Purity of body consists of three things: pure blood, sound muscles, and skin in proper condition. One might ask, how can one be strong without a pure body? But I should say, one can be. There are many strong and vigorous-looking people with something wrong in their flesh, blood or skin. Health, from a spiritual point of view, does not mean a strong muscular body, health means a body sound in all its aspects. The standard of normal health is different for a mystic from what a scientist today thinks. To the scientist the emotional side of a man is not of interest; if the body is perfect according to his idea, he thinks the man is healthy. But from a mystical point of view if, bodily, man is strong, but his emotional nature is buried beneath, he is not healthy, there is something wrong with him. Therefore a physician will find many not in proper health, but still more a mystic will find not in proper health. The person who is healthy to a physician is not necessarily healthy to a mystic, but good health from the point of view of a mystic is also good health from the point of view of a physician.

The illness that humanity has today is lack of that emotional nature which is productive of sentiment. In the East, though times are changed, still there is a recognition of that healthiness which is recognized by mystic as good health. They name these qualities by beautiful names, as considerate, thoughtful, mild, gentle, sympathetic, harmonious, selfless. When these things are lacking in a person, the mystic considers it lack of health. Even an animal can be materially strong. If man were strong he would be no better than an animal. It is purity which is necessary, in the body first, in the mind afterwards; which produces in a person a state of health which alone can be truly called good health.


The nature of the memory is to hold an impression, agreeable or disagreeable, and therefore a person holds a thought in mind, whether it is beneficial to him or not, without knowing the result which will come from it. It is like a child who holds a rattle in his hand and hits his head with the rattle, and cries with pain, and yet does not throw the rattle away. There are many who keep in their mind a thought of illness or a thought of unkindness done to them by someone and suffer from it, yet not knowing what it is that make them suffer so, nor understanding the reason of their suffering. They go on suffering and yet hold on in memory the very source of suffering. Memory must be one’s obedient servant; when it is a master then life becomes difficult. A person who cannot throw away from his memory what he does not desire to keep in mind is like a person who has a safe, but the key of that safe he has lost. He can put in money, but he cannot take it out. All faculties in man become invaluable when a person is able to use them at will, but when the faculties use the person, then he is no longer master of himself.

Concentration is taught by the mystics in order to exercise the will, making it capable of making use of all faculties. A person with willpower can remember what he wishes to remember and can forget what he wishes to forget. All things that deprive one of one’s freedom in life are undesirable. The mind must be free from all bad impressions of life, which take away the rest and peace of life. By concentration, one is able to hold a certain thought one desires and to keep away all other thoughts. When one is able to keep away all the thoughts one does not wish to think about, it becomes easy to throw away the impression of years, if one wishes to forget them. Bad impressions, however old and intimate, are like rubbish accumulated, which should be removed in order to make the house clean. The human heart is the home of the soul, and upon this home the comfort and peace of the soul depends.

3 Purity of Mind (1)

Purity of mind requires the destroying of all bad impressions which are already collected there or which the mind receives instantly. One can destroy these impressions by five ways, and the way is adopted according to the impression one has to destroy. Some impressions want to be washed off from the mind; some require to be erased from the surface of the mind; some want to be shaken off like dust from the clothes; some require burning like the wood in the fire, which, after its test through fire, turns into ashes; and some impressions must be drowned, so that they will never come up again. Bury certain impressions like a corpse; find every way of annihilation which is suited for that particular impression, so that your mind may be clear. The mind is not only a means of thinking or reasoning, but it is the king of one’s being; and upon the condition of mind one’s health, happiness, and peace of life depend.

Now the question is what to destroy and what to keep in mind. Collect and keep all that is beautiful, and destroy all that is void of beauty. Collect and keep all that is agreeable, and destroy all that has a disagreeable effect upon you. Collect and keep all that is harmonious, and destroy all that creates inharmony in yourself. Collect and keep all that is restful, and destroy all that disturbs the peace of your life. As some dust gets into the mechanism of a clock and stops it from going, so the effects produced by all impressions which are void of beauty and harmony and which disturb your peace keep you from progress. The mind cannot act properly when it is hindered by impressions which have a paralyzing effect upon it. Life is progress, and stopping from progress is death. Failure does not matter in life for a progressive person, even a thousand failures do not matter. He has before his view success, and success is his even after a thousand failures. The greatest pity in life is the standstill when life does not move further. A sensible person prefers death to such a life. It is as a paralysis of the soul, of the spirit, and is always caused by holding bad impressions in mind. No soul is deprived of happiness in reality. The soul’s very being is happiness. Man brings unhappiness upon himself by holding in his hands the clouds of bad impressions, which fall as a shadow upon his soul. Once a person is able to clear from his mind, by whatever process, the undesirable impressions, a new power begins to spring from his heart. This opens a way before him to accomplish all he wishes, attracting to him all he requires, clearing his path of all obstacles, and making his atmosphere clear, for him to live and move and to accomplish all he wishes to accomplish.

4 Purity of Mind (2)

Purity of mind is the principal thing upon which the health of both body and mind depend. The process of purifying the mind is not much different from the process of cleaning or washing any object. Water poured upon any object washes it, and if there is a spot which cannot be washed away by the water, some substance which can take that spot is applied, to wash it thoroughly. The water which washes the heart is the continual running of the love-stream. When that stream is stopped, when its way is blocked by some object which closes the heart, and when the love-stream is no longer running, then the mind cannot keep pure. As water is the cleansing and purifying substance in the physical world, so live is on the higher plane. Sometimes when it is difficult for love to take away some impressions that are disagreeable, which block the way of the love-stream, they may be washed away by some element that can destroy them. The whole life is a chemical process, and the knowledge of its chemistry helps man to make life happy. An unhappy person, being himself unhappy, cannot make others happy. It is a wealthy person who can help the one who is hard up, not a poor person, however much desire of helping he may have. So it is with happiness, which is a great wealth; and a happy person can take away the unhappiness of another, for he has enough for himself and for others.

Earthly pleasures are the shadows of happiness; because of their transitory character. True happiness is in love, which is the stream that springs from one’s soul. He who will allow this stream to run continually in all conditions of life, in all situations, however difficult, will have a happiness which truly belongs to him, the source of which is not without, but within. If there is a constant outpouring of love one becomes a divine fountain, for from the depth of the fountain rises the stream and, on its return, it pours upon the fountain, bathing it continually. It is a divine bath, the true bath in the Ganges, the sacred river. When once one has got the key of this fountain, one is always purified, every moment of one’s life; nothing can stay in the mind causing man unhappiness! For happiness alone is natural, and it is attained by knowing and by living naturally.

Questions and Answers

Q What is the process of drowning impressions in the ocean of the consciousness of eternal now?

A The one who does not know the love of an individual does not know universal love. But if one stands there, one stands there without going forward. The love of an individual in love’s path is a doll’s play, which is learned for the time to come. So the love of an individual is the first step. But when one progresses then one advances towards the love of a cause, a community, a nation; or even the whole universe. Man, as a human being, is capable of loving one; but his soul, as the light of God, is capable of loving not only the world, but even if there were a thousand worlds. For the heart of man is larger than the whole universe.

5 Purification of the Mind

The principle thing in attaining happiness, is to purify one’s mind from all things that disturb it and create inharmony. There are not only bad impressions which disturb the tranquillity of mind, but there are many feelings of resentment and resistance against things which do not agree with one’s own idea which disturb one’s mind. The person who has some business to carry out, some profession to attend to, requires a tranquil mind, but especially the one who journeys on the spiritual path needs tranquillity of mind most. Prayers, concentrations, meditations make no effect when the mind is not purified from all disturbances. Therefore, for an adept, no cost and no sacrifice is great enough to keep harmony within himself. A Sufi tries to keep harmony in his surroundings, the harmony which demands many sacrifices. It makes one endure what one is not willing to endure, it makes one overlook what one is not inclined to overlook, it makes one tolerate what one is not accustomed to tolerate, and it makes one forgive and forget what one would never have forgotten if it were not for the sake of harmony. But at whatever cost harmony is attained, it is a good bargain. For harmony is the secret of happiness, and in absence of this a person living in palaces and rolling in gold can be most unhappy.

Harmony is brought about by attuning oneself to all beings, to all things, to all conditions, to all situations. And he who cannot turn himself tries to tune others, and while trying to tune others he breaks the string. It is like a person who has a violin in his hands wishing to tune the cello. If he wishes to be in turn with the cellist, he must tune his violin to the cellist’s pitch. Every soul, as its nature, seeks constantly for harmony, but rarely there is to be found a soul who really knows how to create it. If one says, “This noise which goes on always next to my ears makes me mad,” he cannot stop the noise. He must know how to close himself from that noise; if he cannot, to accustom himself to that noise so as to be able to bear it and eventually to rise above it, that it may no more create inharmony. Very often, at the sight of inharmony, one tries to escape it. But inharmony has such a wonderful magic that if one avoids it in the East, one meets it in the West. It never leaves a person; who it loves it follows. And the best way to meet with inharmony is to try and harmonize with it. Knowing that the source and goal of all things is the perfection of harmony, and bearing that idea in mind, if one met with inharmony, which has no existence in reality, which is like a shadow, it must certainly disappear as the shadow disappears at the sight of the sun.

It is very difficult to evolve oneself and at the same time to keep in tune with the unevolved ones through life. It is like being drawn from above and at the same time being pulled from below. And if there is anything that can save man from being torn to pieces in life, there is only one way, and that is to resound, to respond to all that is asked of man. It is this principle which is taught by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount may seem to teach a willing surrender to all, but that is not the way to look at it. The real lesson that one can learn from it is to harmonize oneself with all notes instead of with one note. Every note is fixed in its place, so is every man fixed in his ideas and ways. But the one who treads the spiritual path, he is all notes and he is no note in particular. Therefore he may rightfully be called the keynote, the note which makes a consonant chord with every note that is played with it. There is no beauty where there is no harmony; harmony is the fruit of love. Therefore by attaining harmony in life one reaches the perfection of all three: love, harmony, and beauty.

6 The Power of Mind

Anything that weighs upon the mind, such as worry, or fear, or remorse, keeps the mind below the pitch at which it is meant to be. When the mind is weighted down by anything, however learned a man may be, however capable and efficient, he can work but very little. Learning does not help the mind which is not in its right place. So it is seen to be with many learned people: most capable and efficient, and yet incapable of accomplishing anything important in life. This is often found in life, and rare is the case where it is not so.

All the affairs of life are accomplished by the power of mind. External conditions are nothing but mechanisms with which the mind works as an engineer, producing from life all that is desired. Therefore, whatever be the condition in life, the principal thing is to shake off all things that weigh upon the mind, thus making the mind free to fulfill its task through life.

Often people find them selves helpless before a difficult situation, but very few stop to think that it is not only the situation that is difficult, but there is some difficulty in one’s own mind. One hardly gives a thought to this question, for every man’s eyes are fixed upon the difficulty of the situation alone. It is like seeing a wall standing before one and yet not realizing if one has a hammer in one’s hand. If one realized the power that the mind has, not only the wall but even mountains, if they were standing before one, could be removed. Many seek for a power from without, ignorant of the fact that all power is hidden within. When, by freeing his own mind from all that weighs it down, man realizes the power he inherits from the source of all beings, he will realize in himself and enormous power. The mastermind is the master of life.

7 Every Mind Has Its Own Standard of Good and Bad

Every mind has its particular standard of good and bad, and of right and wrong. This standard is made by what one has experienced through life, by what one has seen or hear; it also depends upon one’s belief in a certain religion, one’s birth in a certain nation and origin in a certain race. But what can really be called good or bad, right or wrong, is what comforts the mind and what causes it discomfort. It is not true, although it appears so, that it is discomfort that causes wrongdoing. In reality, it is wrongdoing which causes discomfort, and it is right-doing which gives comfort. And for the very reason that a certain thing gives comfort it is right, and what causes discomfort is wrong.

Very few in the world look at it in this way. If one who does good all his life is unhappy, I would rather he did no do good. His well-doing is neither good for him nor for another. The standard of right and wrong or good and bad, made rigidly on the action, is the artificial standard which seems outwardly a moral law, but causes degeneration in the end. The standard of action must be made natural, not artificial. The curse of the present day is the artificiality of life. Man must be taught to consult his own spirit, and from his own feeling to find out and make a distinction between right and wrong and good and bad. When this natural principle will be adopted by humanity the greater part of the world-misery will come to an end. This wrong and artificial stand is taught today to children at home and to young people at school. They begin to learn that that is wrong which they have heard others call wrong, that is right which they have read in a book that it is right; something is good because their parents have said it is good, something is bad because their friends have told them so. An artificial standard made in this way buries the spirit, which alone has the right to discern between right and wrong, good and bad. On the day when people will arrive at the freedom of making their own standard by their own feelings, a better condition will come. For those searching after truth, journeying through the spiritual path, this is the first thing to learn, to find out for themselves under all conditions in life what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong. Not from what they are taught or told, but from their own feeling, which can be perceived by a delicate sense of realizing through life what really gives comfort and what causes discomfort. Life is not made to be good and unhappy, life is made to be happy and therefore one has to be good — no happiness must be sacrificed to goodness, but that goodness must be considered the real goodness which in its result is happiness.

8 The Impression of Illness and Weakness on the Mind

The action of every illness or weakness is more manifest in its impression on the mind. There are many people who after an illness that has lasted some time become so impressed by it that even after their cure the impression remains. Therefore to those who suffer for many years from an illness, their illness becomes natural, becomes a part of themselves, and the obstacle to their cure is not the illness but the impression engraved on the mind.

So it is with weakness or a defect of any sort. Very often a person confesses, “This is my defect, but I cannot help it.” If there is any weakness or defect, it is merely in the impression. When a person says, “There are moments when I lose my temper,” or when a person says, “I would like to tolerate, but I cannot stand that person,” his weakness is nowhere but in the impression he has in his mind. Therefore the best cure for every illness and weakness is denial of the same. Affirmation deepens the impression, and contemplation of it makes it worse. There is no harm in denying one’s illness or weakness, for every illness and weakness id denial of the same. Affirmation deepens the impression, and contemplation of it makes it worse. There is no harm in denying one’s illness or weakness, for that is not telling a lie, as it does not exist in reality; it is merely a shadow. Truthful confession of something which is unreal is worse than a lie. One must first deny that to oneself, and then to others.

The Sufi, whose ideal through life is the realization of God and His perfection, after realizing his ideal cannot say, “I cannot tolerate” — or “endure” or “stand” — “anybody;” and he cannot say that he cannot think, act or feel as he thinks right. The idea of the Sufi is always to suggest to oneself that which one wishes to be, that which one would like to be. And when he finds he failed to think, speak or act as he wishes to, he must think the condition of the process is to fall several times before one gets one’s balance, instead of thinking, “It is my weakness, I cannot do otherwise.” Those who walk toward the perfection of power and wisdom take every step forward with a new hope and new courage; and weakness, to them, was a story of the past, it does not exist any more, they don’t recognize such a thing as existing. They can’t accept themselves being what they don’t wish to. They picture themselves as their ideal, what they would like to be. Some time or other in their lives — if not sooner, later — they certainly succeed in molding their life to their ideal.

9 Keeping the Mind in a Pure Condition

All that exists lives on its own element, springs form its own element, and returns to its own element. So earth to earth, water to water, fire to fire, and air to air. Purification means to make a certain object itself; nothing added, nothing foreign attached to it which does not belong to it. These two rules make one understand the process by which the mind could be nourished and purified. The mind is nourished by thoughts and impressions that are harmonious and productive of beauty and which result in satisfaction. For harmony is the nature of the soul, beauty is its source and goal, and by harmony and beauty the mind is nourished, as it is made of harmony and beauty. And the same elements are needed to purify the mind of all undesirable thoughts and impressions, harmony as water and beauty as soap, purifying the mind of all thoughts which are void of harmony and beauty.

The first thing in purifying the mind is to be able to discern the foreign element there. As all that is foreign to the body does not agree with the body, making it ill, so all that is foreign to the mind disturbs the peace of the mind. It is that which proves that is does not belong to the mind, preventing it from experiencing that joy and peace for which it longs and in which alone is its satisfaction.

There are many who do not know the importance of keeping the mind in a pure and harmonious condition, and the few who know it find it difficult to bring about better conditions in practical life. In the first place it is difficult to accomplish outward duties, to answer the demands of life, and yet to keep the mind in perfect tranquillity. It needs the knowledge of purifying the mind of all external influences. And the way one can manage it can be said in a few words: to throw away inharmony by the power of harmony and to wash away all that lacks beauty by preserving the great power of beauty within oneself.

10 Keeping the Mind Free from All Undesirable Impressions

The best way of keeping the mind free from all undesirable impressions if not to partake them at the moment when they fall upon the mind. For instance, if someone is disagreeable, instantly his influence produces the same thing in another person with whom he is disagreeable. The best way to avoid it would be to stand on one’s guard that one may not catch his infectious disagreeableness. All such things as pride, prejudice, jealousy, intolerance, coldness, have a great influence upon a person. When speaking, working or walking with someone, one can easily partake one’s companion’s disagreeable inputs, because as a rule a person thinks there is justification for giving it back, a word for a word, a frown for frown. A person feels satisfied in boasting, “He said two words to me, but I have him back the same in four words.” He feels very glad for the moment, thinking, “I have given back what I had received.” But he does not know that is he had not given it back, the same that the other person had thrown upon him would have returned to that person a thousandfold.

The psychological point of view therefore differs from the ordinary point of view, for in the psychological point of view there is a science, it teaches one not to take in one’s mind what is disagreeable, inharmonious. By understanding this one can maintain the purity of mind, and it requires fortifying oneself with willpower, making the heart as a stone wall, for all that is thrown at it not to pierce through, but to fall down.

The psychological effect of every impression is such that each impression has a tendency to be held by the mind; all we see during the day has, consciously or unconsciously, and influence upon our life. All good or bad things, or things with beauty or ugliness, they remain with us and flourish in our minds. If it was an impression of beauty, that would flourish; if it was an impression of ugliness, that would flourish. This is the principal reason why dreams have effect upon our life. It is the impression that the dream has made upon us that works out its destiny in the waking state. Therefore, if by being on one’s guard, instead of resisting evil one would only slide it over, it would run away by its own force.

However good a person, if he easily partakes impressions, he cannot be trustworthy. The one who has no willpower cannot even trust himself. There is no willpower in fighting with another; one shows willpower in fighting with self. The one who is strong enough to keep away from his mind all undesirable impressions will in time radiate harmony and will create the atmosphere of peace; thus making himself happy, he will bring happiness to others.


1 Purity of the Heart

The real purity is experienced not by means of the outer ablutions nor by keeping away evil thoughts, but by keeping the heart pure from feelings which disturb the rhythm of the mind and thus upset the whole spirit. Feelings have a greater power than thoughts. If evil thoughts are monsters evil feelings are as demons. Such feelings as the desire of robbing someone of his rights or his belongings have a very disturbing effect upon the spirit. Before such a feeling is put into action the effect is more, while it is being put into action it is less, but afterwards the effect is most. Life rightly and honestly lived has inner struggles, but by adding to it feelings that disturb life’s tranquillity one only adds to one’s troubles in life, which than become endless.

Purity of heart must not be considered a virtue but a necessity, a necessity not only to be considered for the good of others, but for one’s own life. The feelings which produce that weakness in the heart, take away strength from the eyelid, the glance drops instead of the eyes firmly gazing straight. Nothing in the world, however valuable or rare, can make up for this loss. The main thing that must be remembered is that the soul is pure and the lack of purity it cannot bear without feeling restless. The spirit has a tune and a rhythm. When it is out of tune and out of rhythm, if the riches of the whole world are given to it, it is worth nothing. It is purity and peace which is the soul’s constant seeking.

2 Keeping the Heart Pure

As the rust is natural to the iron, and as the milk turns sour, so the heart can become rusted, and its feeling, which by nature is as pure as milk, turns sour. Then nothing in the world is tasteful to that person, and life with all its beauty becomes worthless. It is this condition which must be avoided. An adept must keep his mind pure from rust.

The rust comes from allowing the heart to bear malice and spite against anyone, by having hatred and prejudice against anyone, by wanting to take revenge, by looking down upon another with contempt, and by the feeling of jealousy, rivalry, or envy. The heart wants a constant care to keep it from getting rusted. The nature of this life of illusion is such that some little unimportant things, which are not of the least value, coming from the outer life, can still affect the heart; and rust may be produced as the mere touch of water can produce rust upon iron. Once the feeling has become soured it is as difficult, if no impossible, to turn it sweet again as to make sour milk sweet.

A soul has brought from heaven its love for sweet. It may, after coming on earth, develop a taste for salt, sour, or bitter; but its innate longing is always for the sweet. What its life needs most is not sugar, which is required in some degree for physical health, but the sweet which is the original property of his heart and which is needed most for his true happiness and real well-being.

3 The Radiance of the Face

As the cleansing of a metal object produces a shine in it so is the cleansing of the heart, especially from any feeling that produces humiliation. When a person thinks, “I have been wrong by acting in a certain way, by saying a certain thing, or by having thought something which should not have crossed my mind,” he loses, so to speak, a radiance. This radiance even beams out through his countenance and is called in Persian abi ruh, meaning “The radiance of the face.” Every person shows from his expression his condition of heart. Therefore the innocence of the expression is the sign of the purity of heart. Man may be clever, learned, qualified, most able, he may be strong physically or even mentally, he may be wealthy, of high rank, but none of these outside things help him to retain that glow of the countenance which depends only upon the purity of heart.

Many know and some say that the eyes can tell everything that is in the heart of man, but fewer there are who know the cause behind it. The eyes are like the thermometer of the center in the head, which is focussed to the center of the heart. Every impression that the heart bears, beautiful or ugly, is mirrored upon the center of the head, and so it is reflected accordingly in man’s visage, especially in his eyes, which express the most.

There are many clever people but so few there are who may be called wise. The clever ones ploy and plan one against the other and exchange evil thoughts between themselves. So those deceitful and treacherous, intoxicated by their interest in life, cover their eyes with the cover of selfishness, thus keeping the heart from showing out its light, which lone illuminates the path of every achievement in life.

It might seem hard work to empty one’s heart of all bad impressions and ill feelings, of all bitterness and evil thoughts, and yet it is not nearly so hard as the task of earning one’s daily bread. The work in one’s everyday life takes most part of the day, the emptying the heart of all undesirable things takes but a few moments silence. It is the desire of erasing from the heart every undesirable impression that enables one in time to purify one’s heart.

4 Innocence

Innocence is the real purity according to the mystic, for innocence is the sign of purity of heart. The intuitive faculties play a greater part in the life of the innocent. People call them simple ones, nevertheless innocence proves often more beneficial in life than worldly cleverness. The innocent are oftener blessed by Providence than those worldly-wise, always trying to get the best of everyone and to seize every opportunity that may seem to be advantageous in any way.

It is not easy for a clever person to try and become innocent; it is something natural and manifests with the blooming of the heart. Innocence is the sign of the thriving of a spiritual personality. If one can develop anything it is only this, that one may abstain from trying to be clever, and know that a selfish and clever person, with all his qualification of getting the best of another, comes across, sooner or later, a person cleverer than he. Often a clever person finds his own chain tied around his legs.

No one has arrived at a higher degree of spirituality without innocence. Innocence does not mean not knowing; it only means knowing and yet not knowing. A stupid person must not be confused with an innocent person, for the former is blind, whereas the latter only closes his eyes when he wants to. It is the wise, really, who becomes innocent on arriving at a stage of perfection in wisdom. It is two kinds of persons who show childlike simplicity in their lives: the silly one who shows childish traits, and the wise one who shows innocence.

5 Reject the Impression of Errors and Shortcomings

There is generally a tendency seen in those treading the spiritual path to feel discouraged at having bad impressions upon their heart of their own faults and shortcomings. And they begin to feel that they are too unworthy to have anything to do with things of a sacred nature. But it is a great error, in spite of all the virtue humility has in it. When one acknowledges something wrong in oneself one gives that wrong a soul out of one’s own spirit, and by withdrawing from all that is good and beautiful, spiritual and sacred, instead of developing the spirit of rejecting all errors, in time one becomes a receptacle of what is wrong. He goes on disapproving and yet collecting errors, so producing within himself a perpetual conflict that never ends. When man becomes helpless before his infirmities he becomes a slave to his errors, he feels within himself an obedient servant to his adversary.

The greater the purity developed in the heart the greater becomes the power of man. As great the power of man within himself so great becomes his power on others. A hair’s breadth can divide power from weakness, which appear to have as wide a gulf between them as between land and sky.

6 Purity of the Heart

He alone is capable of removing from the heart of another doubt, deceit, fear, or malice whose heart is already pure from these things or who, at least, can empty his heart of these things. There is a weakness of the heart and there is a strength of the heart. The heart’s weakness is caused by things it contains which enfeeble it, such as doubt, deceit, fear and malice. The absence of these things produces that purity of heart which in itself is a power. This power could be increased by faith, hope and righteousness.

Purity of the heart causes its expansion, and the lack of purity makes it narrow. The mystic poet of Hyderabad, Asif, says, “If the heart is large, it can be largest of all things.” Besides it is purity alone which opens the doors of the heart. All that hinders that purity stands as a closed door of the heart.

The pure-hearted may seem to be thinking, saying or doing simple things. And yet there is a beauty and charm in all they do, for there is nothing more attractive than light itself. All that is besides light depends upon the light to show its beauty; light is beauty in itself. Purity of the heart is the only condition that allows the inner stream to rise. The pure-hearted see deeper, though they say little. There is no pretence about them. What they know, they know; what they don’t know, they don’t know. The pure ones make all pure, for to them all is pure. Their presence makes everything pure. As the pure water is the best tonic so is the contract of the pure-hearted person. In the spiritual path when one is able to accomplish this thing there is not much then that remains to be accomplished.

7 Exaltation

Exaltation depends upon purity. The body cleansed gives an exaltation that is experienced by all living beings on the physical plane. The heart cleansed of all impurities give a much greater exaltation, which is experienced in the inner plane and is reflected on the outer plane.

Most people little realize the meaning of exaltation. In point of fact all things man seeks for and becomes occupied with are most often methods adopted to obtain exaltation, through food, perfume, music, or through the beauty of color and line. No method, however, succeeds in giving the experience of a fuller exaltation in the absence of purity of heart. In plain words, it is the pure-hearted who enjoy the beauty of music, color or perfume more fully than those without purity of heart; although the pure-hearted seem to need these things which bring about exaltation less, sometimes for the very reason that the very purity of the heart give them that exaltation which others strive to achieve by different methods.

Amir, the mystic poet, says, “Their eyes refused the wine, her generous offer, saying, “We do not need thee, we are intoxicated perpetually.” “The reason behind the refusal of the pious, at times, of music, art, gaiety, or merriment was that they already had the exaltation which others try to gain by these things. It does not at all mean that the pious are always against things of beauty and pleasure. It only means that they are rich by the feeling of exaltation which comes from within, without adopting for it any other methods. Nevertheless the pious are the ones who are capable of enjoying beauty in all its aspects fully. As Hafiz says, “If the pious ones would hear the song I sing they would get up and dance unrestrainedly.”

8 Purify the Mind from Fear

To purify the mind from fear is of great importance, and this can be best done by analyzing what causes one to fear. Fear is an outcome of long-collected problems unsolved. When once a person looks his own problem in the face he gets an insight into the cause of fear, and as in the sun many germs are destroyed so the germs of fear are destroyed by the light of intelligence. Fear comes from weakness to face the consequences of one’s condition, attitude and deeds. Once a person has solved the problem how he will meet the consequences the fear is done with. The best way of getting over the fear of swallowing a bitter pill is to swallow the bitter pill and to experience by it that it is not more bitter than it is.

Fear comes also by being too cautious for one’s health, morals and reputation; also by being too considerate of the feelings of those one loves, and too regardful of those under whose influence one is; also by taking too much to heart what other say. Fear very often remains in the heart of man in the guise of virtues, and very often a timid one is taken for a righteous one. But the timorous well-doer is worse than a fearless sinner.

The best practice one can make is to speak with oneself, with one’s own fear; to dispute with it, and to root out the reasons on whose foundations it rests. What generally happens is that all things one fears, one fears even to think of them. But the solution of getting above fear lies in analyzing the cause of the fear and so making it non-existent. Man by nature possesses a tremendous power hidden in his heart, the power which waits constantly to become manifest. This power is hidden by fear. The day when fear disappears, this latent power will manifest to view.

9 Keep the Heart Free from Poison

Antipathy turns into malice, and malice culminates in bitterness. To possess it in one’s heart is like possessing in one’s heart a poison, a poison that clouds with and produces obscurity. If one keeps one’s heart free from malice one has accomplished a great deal, for it is in the clear heart that the light from above is reflected. Often without an intention on one’s part malice enters, of which man is unconscious. Often the man who possesses malice is quite innocent, for his heart is reflecting the malice which is projected from another heart. It is therefore that care must be taken to keep one’s heart free from the impressions and influences coming from others. The question how can one avoid this is answered thus, that the heart will focus itself to a person or to an influence which is akin to its own quality; that is the nature of the heart.

Therefore even if the impression came form another, for the influence of another the man who reflects it is responsible. To make the heart reflect good qualities one must prepare it, one must rain it; for it is the good quality of heart that will keep away undesirable impressions and thoughts, and will only reflect good impressions and desirable influences. As a practice of purifying one’s heart is to repeat every morning and every evening; “My thoughtful self! Reproach no one, hold a grudge against no one; be wise, tolerate, considerate, polite and kind to all!”

10 The Real Purification of Mind

The real purification of mind is in purifying it from thoughts and impressions which live in it as a germ of disease. The best way of cleansing the mind from all this is to be able to empty the mind of any thought, feeling or impression. To be pure means to be natural. The spirit in man in its natural condition is not a thought but mind, not love but heart. For as the thought is the outcome of mind so is love the outcome of the heart. To attain to the purity which is the seeking of the mystic one must be able to purify one’s spirit from every thought and feeling, however deeply impressed or engraved in one’s heart. The mystic goes as far as purifying himself from his identity, by removing it for a certain time and by putting something else in its place. From beginning to end the whole process of spiritual development depends upon this.

“The macrobiotic way of life recommended by the ancient wise people and practiced widely for physical, mental and spiritual development consists of the following arts; the way of eating, the way of breathing, and the way of daily life. Because a human being is part of his environment, and has evolved through biological development covering more than three billion years on this planet, his physical, mental and spiritual conditions are based upon what he consumes from his natural environment and his food. The way of eating is the most essential factor for his development.”

Michio Kushi, THE BOOK OF DO-IN (ISBN 0-87040-382-6)

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