Priest, Hermit, Knight, Householder – Pir Vilayat
o I think that for clarity’s sake, it is sometimes good to identify the different personae in one’s being. Let’s say, to try to simplify things, one could distinguish the priest—that I already talked about—the hermit, the knight and the householder. I know we have all of these things in us, so, but some of them are more developed than others. But it’s a question of identifying that … the part that these different roles play in our lives.
So as I said, we normally are so enmeshed in the commonplace living that we find it very difficult to give vent in our lives to, for example, even the knight. Well, of course, as I said, that division that is made or was made in the traditional Hindu … customs of the Hindus between the sannyasin and the householder, well, it has its usefulness. But we’re living at a time when, as I said, it’s important for us to find a way of introducing spirituality into life rather than just separating things into categories like that. And, anyway, just think of the words of Christ, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and God what belongs to God. And so there is much I suppose, much of our activities are purely that of the man or woman of the world who has … takes responsibilities and family situations, and earns money, and has to do house chores or whatever it takes to build, let’s say, the support system that makes it possible to survive on planet Earth.
And then, however, Christ said, “They are in the world but not of the world.” Now, that’s a very interesting distinction. So then, he made a very clear distinction between those who being in the world, however, were not of the world. So, I suppose that means that one does the things one needs to do to survive, and so on—responsibility. The same time one is following a path which is … which the Sufis call the path of saintlihood. As a matter of fact, the Sufis make this distinction between the path of prophethood and the path of saintlihood. There’s a very rather well-known now talk between a Muslim mullah and dervish, and the mullah was reprimanding the dervish for not wearing cotton because he was supposed to … supposed to follow the example of Mohammed, who was wearing clothes in the fashion of the day, which was cotton, was fashionable in those days and wool is, you know, is for the poor. So he said, “No, I am following the example of Jesus.” And so, of course, from the orthodox point of view that might have been very, appear very shocking: he’s a Muslim and he’s following the way of Jesus.
Well, you see, in those days in those countries, the Christians were … all that was known of Christianity was that there were some monks in the desert who wore wool, and they were poor. And so what he was saying is, I’m following the path…. Oh, yes. Yeah, that’s right. And you see, according to the Sufis then, while in … according to Islam, Mohammed is the Seal of the Prophets, Khatam rasul lillah; Jesus is the is the seal of the saints, Khatam al-auliya. And if you study the works of Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan, you notice that he speaks about three lineages: one being the lineage of the prophets, the other that of the masters and that … and the third one being that of the saints. So the way of the Prophet Mohammed was he was giving instructions to people about, well, rather fundamental modes of behavior in everyday life. He was like a reformer. It’s very, I think it’s very hygienic to wash one’s hands at least, and feet at least five times a day if one is walking barefooted. And it’s good for arthritis if you bow several times a day. Keep your line within trim. So those are … there were some very fundamental things that were, you know, like people must take punishment for their acts, must take responsibility for their acts and so on, but they’re rather a very fundamental thing.
Whereas, the path of the saints was the path of selflessness. And for the Muslims, of course, Christ was the example of selflessness, the path of the saints. And so the Sufis were those who were following the path of selflessness, of the selfless, which is the way of the hermit. Well, it’s the way of the saint, of course. So, that is a criterion, whether one can pursue whatever one needs to pursue in one’s life while at the same time finding a way of being selfless without allowing people to abuse of one’s kindness to … which is bad for them and that … for one, of course, which is a fine line.
Then of course, is the way of the knight which is definitely standing to protect the weak against the abuse of the strong. Or to redress any injustice, and that is, of course, the way of dedication to service. So that’s again, some question you might ask yourselves in your life: just how much in your life do you attribute to this to an action in service of humanity? It’s a very definite question one can ask: “Well I’m … it’s true that I’m doing a lot of work in order to be able to sustain myself and others and so on, so forth. But then what am I doing for, for example, the prisoners of conscience? What am I doing, for example, for the homeless? What am I doing for…?” And so on, so forth. It’s incredible [the] number of cases where our mercy is being called for and we pass by without doing anything about it.
Now there’s a very interesting connection between this kind of dedication to service and the acquisition of that knowledge that we’re talking about, which is the way of the initiate. The arif— the initiate— is in the search of understanding. It’s our birthright. It’s part of the evolutionary process that we should become more and more aware, and more realized. So you would have thought that this path is … doesn’t have anything to do with the path of service. But, just like in Hinduism, you have jnana yoga and karma yoga. But it does, and the relationship is this and that is that…. Well, of course, perhaps you remember … I don’t know whether you all were present when I told … I have told this story many times of the … Ganj-e-Shakar, and he was ascribed divine powers and people came to him for help. And this man came to him asking for help because he didn’t have a job and he had to look after his old mother and, well, he said, how much money do you have? And give it to the poor … and then after one week, he found a marvelous job. He always ascribed it to Ganj-e-Shakar. And then this man came who wanted money for himself, and Ganj-e-Shakar said, well, say a few prayers and nothing happened. And the reason was, he said that in the first case, this man wanted help to help someone else. And therefore he could help him to help someone else. The second one wanted help for himself. And he said if I use this power to help myself it won’t work. I can only use it to help someone else, and even to help someone else to help someone else. And what is more, that second man thought it was my power and that if I asked him to say certain prayers … but since he doesn’t believe in God, it didn’t help. So this … what this story is telling us is that there is a power that is gained by selflessness. But the correlate of this is that there is a knowledge that can be only acquired if one’s motivations are unselfish. And that’s the reason why intuition cannot be used for selfish motives. Because it would be like trying to rob a secret that is only revealed to one in the measure of one’s readiness to receive it.
In fact, Niffari, who was a dervish who lived in the desert and occasionally came to visit his daughter and son-in-law, and he used to say weird things nobody seemed to understand, that what he was saying really is that—he calls it Mawaqif and Mukhatabat—he says that we’re going through life … as we go through life we pass through different maqam, which means stages. And perhaps you might be aware of this, that in your life at certain times, certain qualities are particularly important for you. For example, there might be a time when knowledge is important, there might be a time that compassion is important, might be time that truthfulness is important, time that joy is important, time that peace is important to you. You go through different maqam, different stages in your life. And each one corresponds to … something is revealed to you of the importance of something that didn’t seem to be quite important to you before—it’s revealed to you. And what Niffari is saying is that one is … one remains in waiting at the threshold until one is ready to be revealed the next stage. And so many of us spend a lot of time at the threshold of the temple not entering the temple. So as I say, intuition isn’t something one can grasp. It’s something that one has to wait, well, wait patiently. One has to prepare oneself, be very clear as to one’s motivations, and purify one’s heart so that one is ready to receive the intuition. So, that would be the way of the initiate.
The way the hermit is, of course, it is withdrawal from life. It has the advantage of curing one of one’s pain. Unless it’s just an escape from pain, but there are times in one’s life when one needs to go through what in our modern days is called therapy, and to deal with one’s pain. And those are the moments when I find that the way of the hermit, that we could illustrate by Buddhism, comes in very handy. It’s … the key to it is to be found in these words of Buddha himself, when he said that you unclutch the … how could one call it? …. the stump of one’s … of your being away from the trunk. Let’s say … I better say this more clearly. Imagine a tree, you’ve cut the tree down to its stump, and it grows again. And, well, is it the same tree? Another tree? It may look very different. So then you … there’s an aspect of yourself that is much more fundamental than the other aspect that you could call your personality. And so if you’re in pain, it is your … it is at the level of the personality, let’s say, that part of yourself that is represented by the trunk of the tree or the branches of the stem, or the root. Now, if you unclutch the stump of your being from its … from all that has grown out of it, in other words, you get in touch with your real being, it’s a magical cure for pain. It’s extraordinary, it really works. That’s the only way to do it. You get to a point when you say, “Oh, people can do what they like, can’t touch me, they can’t affect me.” Because in that, there’s a strength in that stump that is not to be found in the branches and the leaves. So the leaves fall apart and so on. Branches may die, but there’s some resilience in that trunk of your being, and so the ascetic in you is there. It’s to be found in your peacefulness, your immunity, in your integrity. In your aversion to mundanity is the word, to worldliness, to profanity, to vulgarity. That is what you find as you turn within, as you turn within the temple, keep going deeper within. You discover the hermit in you. And that’s why, of course, the way of the Buddha was the way of the hermit. And it has its place, a part to play in our lives.
Now there’s the way of the priest. The way the priest, as I said, you … it’s … you cannot disconnect it, of course, the whole, I would say, well, the word is realization of God. Now in this respect, Pir-O-Murshid has some very, very clear ideas about this. You .. I suppose you have come across those arguments of commonplace minds who say, “Oh, you believe in God? Oh, really? You must be very naive. I mean, how do you … either He is all-powerful … well, if He’s all-powerful, then how does He allow things to happen the way they do? And if He’s compassionate, well, then how does He allow things to happen as they do? So, what … you know, why do you …. it’s really … actually, it’s really very naive to believe in God.” That’s the sort of ordinary kind of mentality that you find amongst people. We all have a bit of that doubt in ourselves too. Well, one would really have to go in deeply into Murshid’s teaching to find the tremendous help that accrues from being very clear about this. First of all, he said, “Do not confuse your concept of God with God.” We’re always saying, “God this and God that.” We think it’s God but it’s our concept of God. We must be very clear about it. And that is particularly important when one starts saying, “God told me to do this, or God told me to do that.” We have our projections, our mind projections. It’s very, very dangerous. There are cases of people killing someone because they said God told me to kill so-and-so. Can be very dangerous.
But then of course, it’s true, as he said, if you start speaking about God, well then people say, “Well, what do you mean by God?” And so we can understand that the prophets and teachers of the past used to try and convey some kind of metaphor that would illustrate what they mean. Or they would say like it’s a Sphinx. Well, of course, the Sphinx gives a sense of immutability against all the disturbance around, and so on. Or then, it’s like the king. So there again, you have the idea of some great power, and so on. So whatever description is given is just a help in order to assuage the needs of people to understand what they can’t understand anyway. Then at a certain stage, Murshid says, “Instead of believing in God, you actually experience God.” And that’s the threshold between the common mentality and mysticism. And what does that mean to … actually, he said experience or see God … what does he mean by that? Well, to interpret what the Sufis are saying, one grasps that which transpires behind that which appears. Because if you try to judge by what you see, then, of course, there’s no way of believing in God. If you begin to…. Of course, the scientists recently have been through a lot of statements by a very well-known great scientists about their meaning of God. They never cease to be amazed by the intelligence with which everything is organized. It’s so amazing they feel that they are in the presence of a miracle. They’re in a sense of awe and reverence confronted with what they discover. So that is that what transpires behind that which appears. Now, it’s not always easy to see what Pir-O-Murshid called the hand of God, because things happen, incongruous things happen, where one feels one has been let down by God, or other people have been let down by God. And you know, the brute triumphs, and the saintly one is victimized, and so on, so it’s very difficult to understand all of that.
Then the next stage is where you start discovering the Divine inheritance in yourself. So it’s not looking outside, but looking inside. And then, of course, one will never cease to be amazed by what one discovers within oneself, the things that one never thought one had. And so much of the work of the Sufis consists in just this discovery. And by discovering it one is able to make it happen, or by making it happen, one is discovering it, because there’s always a relationship between knowledge and doing. There’s a knowledge that comes by doing; not just doing as a result of knowledge, but the other way around.
But then the great moment comes when Pir-O Murshid said, “God awakens in one’s being.” Now that’s a very important stage, when you are not just discovering something that lays latent within your being, and which is trying to manifest, but you discover that it is really awakening in you. You’re not discovering it, it’s awakening. That is the kind of thing that, for example, Catholics were trying to convey when people, having had communion, move back to their seats as I described a little earlier. They feel that something is awakening, that the Divine Being is in some way much more vivid in them than ever before. The feeling of harboring something sacred within oneself that is becoming more and more lively, more and more real. The power that comes from that is just incredible. It accounts for the power of the dervish. The confidence that you have when not only you have been able to earmark the traces of the defining features in yourself, albeit, of course, distorted. But still, the traces are there. But then, to actually see that these are live forces that are awakening and unfolding in your being without you’re trying to do it. That is a great clue because, you see, in our work there are many of the members of the Sufi Order here and, of course, we are working with wazifas, that is, drawing our attention to a particular quality. But there is always a danger that we try to develop a quality that we think is there rather than facilitate the divine operation upon us. So it’s not, it’s not our own effort that does it. But it is not either that we become totally passive toward the Divine operation, but we facilitate the divine operation. That’s very important. That’s again the High Virgins preparing the way—something to do…. [End side A of recording.]
[Begin side B of recording] … which he describes as God-realization, when one could say that the sense of the unity behind everything has become so strong that, for example … I’ll give you an example. For example, you’re walking in the streets. This happened to me after a retreat, I think it was in India, in Ajmer. We were walking in the streets, and normally you would see a lot of people rushing about. But now you see that those people are really the cells of one Being. So it’s just a different perspective. So that will give you some idea as to what one means by God-realization.
Now, then we come across the real metaphysical crunch and that’s where, like, if one says, “Well, yes, well, of course, I mean, what I mean by God is that, of course, it’s the whole universe is … I mean, the physical universe is the body of a being and, of course, that being is endowed with a mind, and intention, and emotions, and so on. So for me that’s God, right.” And then one is … feels that one has just found the answer now, that’s it, that’s God. Until one realizes that, of course, once again, one is projecting one’s anthropomorphical concept of God upon the universe. And that is the reason why there’s always been this theological and metaphysical problem about the dichotomy between the concept of God as immanent and the concept of God as transcendent. The Sufis get very close to this. For example, I mean, Pir-O-Murshid does. Ibn Arabi, when he says, “Since everything is one, well, of course, you are the being of God,” you see. And then, of course, people get shocked and say, “Well, how can you say a thing like that?” “And a person is not God.” And Al-Hallaj was crucified because he said “Ana ‘l-Haqq.” And then Ibn Arabi, realizing the enormity of what he was saying said, “Know whereby you are God and know whereby you’re not God.” So then, well, then what is it? Oh, we won’t enter into that. Murshid says it very beautifully when he says, you know, a drop of the sea. Well, it’s of the nature of the sea, but still, it’s not the sea, but it is of the nature of the sea, so it’s not different from the sea. So, our minds will never understand that but at least….
When we discover the priest in us, in ourselves, then we realize that it is not good enough to have theories about what we mean. Well, first of all, we realize that our job, our mission, is to enlist the sacred. And that means to awaken in oneself and amongst other people the sense of the Divine. And one realizes that one comes across the inadequacies of one’s mind, and consequently one begins to realize that the only way in which one can serve this, let’s say, at the altar, is to really, well, to complete these stages, you see. That is the … first of all, the ability to convey some idea of what one means by The Divine while realizing that it could never convey it. And secondly, by always being aware of that which transpires behind that which appears. And then finally, discovering the traces, the word is ayat, the signs. You see the signs of the Divine Being within one’s own nature. And then finally, letting this awaken in one. And then, I think that the later stage of God-realization is, yeah, of course, it’s indescribable. But it’s though we have those moments. We may be gifted, granted with those moments when all of a sudden our perspective all of a sudden shifts from the usual perspective of the world into a whole different dimension. And we find ourselves in a state of ecstasy. Those are the great moments.
The word extasis—ecstasy—extasis, Latin, means beyond the station. So that means beyond the maqam, the states in which one … that one goes through. Now, what the Upanishad says is that it passes before you realize that it was there, so that one would like to hang on to one’s experience of ecstasy, or try to find it again, and of course there’s no way in which one can do this. Just like the bluebird: you try to catch it and [it] flies further and further away. Turn away and it flies … it follows you. And it seems to me that, obviously there’s some validity in our wish to reach beyond the beyond. And so that I think one needs to go through these stages one by one again, go back to the stages right from the beginning and experience them fully. I think the reason why we … that moment our ecstasy is so short lived is because it immediately … it’s too powerful for our vulnerable nature to be able to contain or to withstand. And that’s why the Sufis say that one is in a state of fana, which means the annihilation of one’s … one is absolutely shattered by the discovery.
So, rather than trying to hold it, the attitude that is fostered by the Sufis is let yourself be shattered by it. And also let yourself be reinstated by it. The two words of fana and baka. We all know this. We are more familiar with being shattered than with being reinstated, but both of them need to balance each other so that every time that one is shattered by an event or situations that are overwhelming, one needs to honor the breakthrough of a new potentiality in one’s being. It’s like the passage, the threshold, from one state to another—new beginning. The other reason for … against … well, why we can’t hold this so long is because it does affect our ego in the form of what is called sanctimoniousness. So that what happened as a real spontaneous experience eventually becomes self-destructive and self-defeating—sanctimoniousness. And that is, of course, worsened by … when the Spirit is institutionalized, then, of course, the sanctimoniousness have … becomes a social trip, and what was just the ego satisfaction [of] one person becomes the ego satisfaction of a whole group of people, then becomes … can be really devastating.
So now is it possible, then, to be very deeply sanctified, to feel sanctified by religious experience and at the same time to play the game of the children of the world without any pretense? That is what we are being tested in. Now, we find that particularly true with the leaders in our groups. It’s so difficult to be able to reconcile a sense of, how can I say, of the statute … the status that one derives from the sense of sacredness with an egoless way of handling problems. So, I’m saying this at this moment because I feel that many of you are beginning to … are having an experience of the sacredness in your being. And we have difficulty now in translating it in terms of how we build a bridge between this and our worldly … our way of handling situations in the world.
This leads us towards the Sufi meditations. I would call them meditating downwards instead of upwards. Perhaps if you look at some of the pictures of Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan you see that he’s looking down from high up. And most of us meditating, we think that we have to … we’re trying to reach upwards.
Now, this is fostered by the whole Sufi way of looking at things, as I said. It’s never the subject who knows, it’s never the subject who can reach up, it[‘s] never the subject who gets in contact with God. Never. It’s always the opposite. That is the principal. God knows Himself through us. God actuates himself through us or as us. God acts upon us, who are His actuation, and so on. It’s always the other way around. So, there are two ways of doing it. One [would] be to just consider yourself passive with regard to the Divine action. That would be the simplistic way of doing it. But one’s still in the state of duality. And that’s why, rather than saying, “I am the eyes through which God sees,” you must think, “I am the Divine glance,” that has become limited, focalized, distorted, all you like. But not say, “I am the means.” And that’s the reason why Ibn Arabi says, “He is both the seer, and that through which He sees,” or, “the eyes through which He sees.” So … see, in our sense of, I suppose it’s false humility, I don’t know what it is, but we tend to say … we establish an artificial barrier between God and ourselves. There’s God and there’s us and we are the instrument through which God … and so on so forth, and we [are] very happy that we think that way because we feel that that’s the gauge of our humility. But one is not … the Sufis say one is not honoring God by denigrating oneself.
So could you just, for this last meditation, could you just … well, why don’t you just stretch a little bit, because I think everyone , because everyone….and lack air in this hall…
Meditate downwards. That is, imagine that you’re looking downwards. If you could try to imagine that your glance is the Divine glance that has become focalized. And so it’s like a funnel. It’s funneled down.
And now think of a particular problem, like one of your own problems, for example. And you realize that what one is generally trying to do is one is trying to figure it out. One is trying to make sense of it. Sometimes totally flummoxed by it. One is using one’s interpretive mind. Now, supposing that we do … so that means that one is caught up in one’s personal vantage point. And one is trying to sort things out from that vantage point. That vantage point can never give one a solution because it is just a vantage point. If you see a house from a certain vantage point, you haven’t seen it; you’ve only seen it from that vantage point. So alright, now, supposing that you give up that way of trying to understand your problem. And you start thinking that, indeed, you are casting light upon the problem. That your intelligence is the Divine Intelligence—has been funneled down, as I say—and is thrusting light upon the problem.
It would be like, supposing that you had visited a building, and now you visit the building accompanied by the architect. And the architect is telling you what he or she had in mind, why he or she did this or that or the other thing. Now you’re beginning to understand it. So, you couldn’t figure it out totally with your mind. So now you’re looking at it from the vantage point of the builder. Now look at your problems that way, instead of trying to figure them out. And that does not mean to try and figure out the reason why things happened the way they did. But rather, what is gained by this rather regrettable situation? What is enacted behind the scene of the trauma? The qualities that you are developing, or the insight that you’re developing, or the lesson that it is for the other person or for yourself—whatever it is. Try to see, rather than the facts, realization, qualities, insight, power, the truth coming out. Just assume that one is biased if one is trying to … one tries to understand things from one’s personal vantage point one is biased.
What Al-Hallaj says is that the Divine Understanding can descend from its transcendent pinnacle and shatter your understanding, and replace it by a flash of the Divine Understanding. So, it can come as a flash. All of a sudden you see something that you hadn’t seen before. That happens when your own understanding has become shattered. You’ll also see that knowing the problem from your personal vantage point, you had circumscribed it within a narrow range. And when you let the Divine Understanding shatter your understanding, all of a sudden you see the infinite ramifications, connotations, implications of the … elements of the problem … elements that are intertwined in the problem, on a vast scale—in fact, in infinite regress. Because you’re not referring the problem just to your personal self anymore. [It] involves other people, and still other people, and principles that are being enacted on the planet this moment—enormous implications.
How about gauging the problem in terms of emotion rather than in terms of concepts? What are the emotions involved in the problem?
Now you could even make a further step, and that is: What are the principles involved?
[It] might be helpful, those of you who are familiar with the different wazifas—wazaif is the correct word for the plural of wazifa—to assess what are the qualities that are involved in this aspect of the problem, that aspect of the problem and so on, all the implications.
And now recognize these qualities potentially latent within yourself, and see how your handling of the problem this way or that way is going to either enhance or impair the unfoldment of that quality in you.
And you can at the same time assess the sacrifice involved in a decision. There is almost invariably a sacrifice. There’s sometimes a sacrifice that one extracts from other people. And then there’s a sacrifice that one needs to pay oneself. Rather, be wary of sacrifice that you demand of other people. But this is where one can see oneself as the priest at the altar, offering the sacrifice on the altar.
When it comes down to it, of course, one realizes that this is where the crunch is: the interplay of joy and pain. And then all the different levels or dimensions of joy and pain, sacrificing a more personal joy for a more cosmic joy. And where is the pain exactly? There’s no way of figuring it out with the mind, but there can be coexistence of joy and pain at the same time.
Of course, the motto is not to make a sacrifice if one regrets it. So if one doesn’t regret it, it isn’t a sacrifice anymore.
And then perhaps you also feel the power that comes from availing yourself of your freedom, because a decision is a feature of one’s freedom.
Maybe the joy of finding one’s true self. Through one’s decision, one’s true self becomes known to one. Because that’s why what one values becomes obvious to oneself and to others.
One feels as though one were dragging one’s nature to the altar. Tremendous fight for the ascendancy of one’s higher self, over one’s lower self.
The curious thing is, as I said, there’s an … understanding comes by doing, whereas one would assume that one has to first understand for deciding what one wants to do. And so it has implications in decision making, because by taking a decision, one discovers values that were enacted in the problem that one had not seen before.
And, of course the emotions come up very strongly. In fact, this is a more realistic way of fostering ecstasy, than in just trying to reach ecstasy by one’s own will.
Faced with the reality of life.
I wonder whether you have that piece of music of the crucifixion of Christ, the Qawali. You don’t have it there do you? No. We’ll leave it for another time then. I have it but we’ll have to queue it.
… for lunch now and begin this afternoon.
[Editor’s Note: We’ve included the last few lines for archival purposes, as they provide additional context for the material and setting.]
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