The Sacredness of Life

This section is an excerpt from chapter on Sacredness of Life, in the book "The Call of the Dervish" by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. It is published by Omega Press and the ISBN number is 0-930872-44-4.
What do we mean by spirituality? Do we mean adherence to a set of rules or dogma, or a devotional attitude towards the guru, or a rather sanctimonious and unreal emotion that does not have to do with life? Obviously not. It’s not in a series of beliefs or dogma or lip service to something that is at loggerheads with what one is doing in practice. There are those who believe that it is good enough just to be good – to practice right conduct and action and be totally honest and fair to people. But spirituality is much more than all that.

Without trying to go into big definitions and discussions of things in actual practice, we might say first that spirituality manifests most tangibly in how we deal with problems, especially in relationships with people; secondly, in whether we unfold the potentialities in our being and how we unfold them; and finally, in absolute crystal-clear understanding of what lies behind the appearance of things – not being caught up in the appearance but really seeing the "cause behind the cause and the purpose beyond the purpose." It should lead to an extraordinary clarity that should give a great brilliance to your whole being: your consciousness can become like a light that illuminates all things, and you yourself can become like a crystal – absolutely clear.

As far as relationships with people go, it should be very clear that you cannot see things clearly if you are always judging things from your own vantage point – "This person has been unfair to me and this person is just like a stick in my wheels, and this person drags me down, and this person inspires me," and so on. These are all personal opinions, deriving from the fact that you are looking at things from your own vantage point. So the first thing you have to do is apply the principle of meditation and de-center your consciousness the very narrow vantage point of the person, and just try to experience what things look like from the point of view of the other – especially the person you have a grudge against. Maybe his point of view is narrow, just like yours, but at least you will have completed your vantage point by his. It won’t give you total insight, but if you can complete it by the transcendental insight that is looking at the cause behind the cause, you will begin to see things very clearly. Then you begin to see motivation – both what is motivating you to take the attitude you have towards him and what is motivating him. Finally you look to see what is the divine programming behind the whole thing – what do you have to learn from it all? Then you can really make something out of the situation, rather than just deploring it and finding that it’s obstructive to your life or your unfoldment.

Then you realize that everything is just wonderful. What seems to be a problem is really a wonderful challenge, and what seems to be a failure avers itself to be a success. And sometimes when you think you have gained something over a person or that you have sustained a success, in fact it avers itself to be a loss, a defeat. Things are very different from the way they appear. You might want something from someone and then look back ten years later and think how lucky it is that what you wished for in your relationship never happened – or what a pity that it did. You realize that you’re caught in a certain perspective. So you could say that spirituality is freeing yourself from a narrow perspective that you get into because of the conditioning of the environment or the circumstances of your life. It’s a wonderful feeling to be free from your preconceived ideas and from the perspective of your emotions, which alter from one moment to the next. The consequence is that you are free from two things, the sense of a heavy conscience and the sense of a grudge – and this freedom is the sine qua non of the conditions of any spiritual development.

Hazrat Inayat Khan discusses these two things in his book The Inner Life. In dealing with the conscience, you want to be quite sure that there is no person with whom you are dealing unjustly. So first of all you have to be very clear in your mind – in your realization – as to those people with whom you have dealt unfairly or to whom you owe a debt, not necessarily of money but of good will or whatever else you might feel you owe them. Sometimes we just refuse to recognize our fault because we’re afraid of losing face, or that the person will consider our acknowledgement a weakness and will take advantage of it. But sometimes it’s a question of our own ego: we don’t want to admit that we did wrong, and so we just bury our intuition of having been wrong from our sight, and then we have to live with a conscience that is somehow bugging us from under the cover of the unconscious, and which is a kind of poison. You can’t dance with joy as long as there’s a feeling of having been unfair to someone. You might say there’s nothing much you can do about it, but perhaps you could still write to the person; if not, the fact of your recognition of the debt is already something. The best thing you can do, of course, is to decide that you’re going to do just anything – you can never compensate for the wrong you’ve done, but you’re prepared to do anything for people, if for no other reason than because there is a debt owed somehow to the world.

The other problem is the feeling that you’ve been unfairly dealt with by someone else. You bear a grudge, and that grudge is a poison. You can never dance with joy as long as you feel that you’ve been badly treated by that person. The best thing to do in this case is to consider that person the stick with which God hit you, just like the Zen master: it was really for your good. But the trouble is that there is a tendency to displace the problem: people have a secret grudge against destiny, which is really God; "destiny" is just a polite way of saying God. That is a very serious wound. You can never dance with joy if you feel like that, and it also stands in the way of your unfoldment. So it is something you really have to and come to terms with; you have to realize that it is impossible for our judgment or our understanding totally to encompass the programming behind things. There has to be an act of faith to realize that there is some meaning behind the problem that you might not see, but that you could do something about if you could see it. For example you might be tested in your compassion or your ability to stand by your ideal or to master yourself. You can only use your intuition to find out the quality the situation is trying to make you develop, but then you could make something positive out of it instead of jut deploring the situation – in which case you’ve lost the chance to make good from it and, what is more, you’ve developed bitterness. That is one thing we must be very careful about – the bitterness we nurture in ourselves.




This page was last updated on Monday, March 27, 2017



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