Love is directed by the intelligence. Therefore each person chooses his object of love according to his evolution. That appears to him most deserving of love which is in accordance with the grade of his evolution. There is a saying in the East. ‘As the soul is, so are its angels.’ The donkey would prefer thistles to roses.
The consciousness which is awakened to the material world has its object of love only in earthly beauties. The consciousness active through the mind finds its object in thought and among the thoughtful. The consciousness awakened through the heart loves love and the loving ones. And the consciousness awakened in the soul loves the spirit and the spiritual.
Silent love, which is the divine essence in man, becomes active, living, on seeing the vision of beauty. Beauty may be explained as perfection, perfection in every aspect of beauty. Not love alone is God or the essence of God, but beauty also, even in its limited aspects, shows itself as glimpses of the perfect Being. The mineral kingdom develops into gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, showing perfection in it. The fruit and flower, their sweetness and fragrance, show perfection in the vegetable kingdom. Form, figure, and youth show perfection in the animal kingdom. And it is the beauty of personality which is significant of perfection in the human being. There are some people in this world whose life is absorbed in the pursuit of gold and silver, gems and jewels. They would sacrifice anything or anybody to acquire the object of their love. There are others whose life is engaged in the beautiful vision of fruits, flowers, flowerbeds, and gardens. Perhaps they have no other interest besides. There are some who are absorbed in the admiration of the youth and beauty of the opposite sex, and nothing else seems to them worth more. There are others who are won by the beauty of someone’s personality, and have entirely devoted to the one they love both their here and their hereafter. Everyone has his object of love according to his standard of beauty, and at the same time each one loves the perfection of the divine Being in a certain aspect. When the seer sees this no one, wise or foolish, sinner or virtuous, remains blameworthy in his sight. He sees in every heart the needle of the compass that turns to one and the same Being. ‘God is beautiful and He loves beauty,’ as it is said in the Hadith.
Man is never capable of loving God in heaven when his sympathy has not even been awakened to the beauty of the earth.
A village maiden was on her way to see her beloved. She passed by a Mullah who was saying prayers. In her ignorance she walked in front of him, which is forbidden by the religious law. The Mullah was very angry, and when she, returning, again passed near him, he scolded her for her mistake. He said. ‘How sinful, O girl, on your part to cross in front of me while I was offering my prayer.’ She said, ‘What does prayer mean?’ He said, ‘I was thinking of God, the Lord of the heavens and of the earth.’ She said, ‘I am sorry, I don’t know yet of God and His prayers, but I was on my way to my beloved, and thinking of my beloved, I did not see you praying. I wonder how you who were in the thought of God could see me?’ Her words so much impressed the Mullah that he said to her, ‘From this moment, O maiden, you are my teacher. It is I who should learn from you.’
Someone once came to Jami and asked to be his mureed. Jami said, ‘Have you ever loved anyone in life?’ He said, ‘No.’ Jami said, ‘Then go, and love someone, and then come to me.’
It is for this reason that great teachers and masters have often had difficulty in awakening the love of God in the average man. Parents give their child a doll so that the child may know how to dress it, how to be kind to it, how to look after it, how to love and admire it, which trains the child to become a loving mother in the future. Without this training the later course would be difficult. Divine love would be as strange to the average person as the cares of motherhood to a girl who has not yet played enough with dolls.
A mureed had been a long time in the service of a spiritual guide, but he could make no progress and was not inspired. He went to the teacher and said, ‘I have seen very many mureeds being inspired, but it is my misfortune that I cannot advance at all, and now I must give up hope and leave you.’ The teacher advised him to spend the last days of his stay in a house near the Khankah, and every day he sent him very good food and told him to cease the spiritual practices and to lead a comfortable and restful life. On the last day he sent the mureed a basket of fruit by a fair damsel. She set the tray down and immediately went away, though he wished to detain her. Her beauty and charm were so great, and he was now so much disposed to admire and was so much won by them, that he could think of nothing else. Every hour and every minute he longed only to see her again. His longing increased every moment. He forgot to eat, he was full of tears and sighs, finding his heart now warmed and melted by the fire of love. After some time, when the teacher visited the disciple, with one glance he inspired him. ‘Even steel can be molded if it be heated in the fire,’ and so it is with the heart which is melted by the fire of love.
It is love’s wine which is called Sharab-i Kauthar, the wine found in the heavens. When the intoxication of love increases in man, people call him blindly in love or madly in love, because people wide-awake to the illusion of the surface consider themselves to be the only ones wide-awake. But their wakefulness is to the delusion, not to reality. Although the lover is called crazy, his craze for one object of the world of illusion makes him gradually free from all delusion around him. If he succeeds in attaining to this he enjoys his union with the beloved in his happy vision. Then no time is needed to lift from his sight the veil of the one object which he loved. As is said in the Quran, ‘We will lift the veil from thine eyes and thy sight will be keen.’
It is natural for a lover to become infatuated with someone whom he admires, with whom he desires union. But no one object in the world is so perfect as fully to satisfy the aspiration of the loving heart. This is the stumbling-block that causes every beginner in love to fall. The successful travelers on the path of love are those whose love is so beautiful that it provides all the beauty that their ideal lacks. The lover by doing this in time rises above the changeable and limited beauty of the beloved, but begins to see into the beloved’s inner being. In other words, the exterior of the beloved was only a means of drawing the love out of the heart of the lover, but the love led him from the external to the innermost being of the ideal of his love. When in the ideal the lover has realized the unlimited and perfect Being, whether he loves man or God, he is in fact in either case a blissful lover.
In this the journey through the path of idealism is ended and a journey through the divine ideal is begun, for the God-ideal is necessary for the attainment of life’s perfection. Man then seeks for a perfect object of love, idealizing God, the whole Being, the Infinite, who is above all the world’s lights and shades, good and ill, who is pure from all limitations, births or deaths, unchangeable, inseparable from us, all-pervading, present always before the vision of his lover.
When love is true it takes away selfishness, for this is the only solution to wipe off the ego. The English phrase ‘to fall in love’ conveys the idea of the true nature of love. It is a fall indeed from the pedestal of the ego to the ground of nothingness, but at the same time it is this fall which leads to a rise, for as low as the lover falls so high he rises in the end. The lover falls in love as a seed is thrown in the ground. Both appear to be destroyed, but both in time spring up and flourish and bear fruit for the ever-hungry world.
Man’s greatest enemy in the world is his ego, the thought of self. This is the germ from which springs all evil in man. Even the virtues of the egoist turn into sin, and his small sins into great crimes. All religions and philosophies teach man to crush it, and there is nothing that can crush it better than love. The growth of love is the decay of the ego. Love in its perfection entirely frees the lover from all selfishness, for love may be called in other words annihilation. ‘Whoever enters the school of lovers, the first lesson he learns is not to be.’
Unity is impossible without love, for it is love only which can unite. Each expression of love signifies the attainment of union as its object, and two things cannot unite unless one of them becomes nothing. No one knows this secret of life except the lover. Iraqi says in his verse, ‘When I, without having loved, went to Kaba and knocked at the gate, a voice came: ‘What didst thou accomplish in thy home that thou hast come forth?’ And when I went, having lost myself in love, and knocked at the gate of Kaba, a voice said: ‘Come, Come, O Iraqi, thou art ours.”
If there is anything that works against the vanity of the ego, it is love. The nature of love is to surrender; there is no one in the world who does not surrender. The world of variety, which has divided life into limited parts, naturally causes every lesser one to surrender to the greater. And, again, for every greater one there is another still greater in relation to whom he is smaller, and for every smaller one there is another still smaller, in relation to whom he is greater. And as every soul is by its nature compelled to surrender to perfection in all its grades, the only thing that matters is whether it be a willing surrender or an unwilling surrender. The former comes by love, the latter is made through helplessness, which makes life wretched. It moves the Sufi when he reads in the Quran that the perfect Being asked the imperfect souls, the children of Adam, ‘Who is thy Lord?’ They, conscious of their imperfections, said humbly, ‘Thou art our Lord.’ Surrender is a curse when, with coldness and helplessness, one is forced to surrender. But the same becomes the greatest joy when it is made with love and all willingness.
Love is the practice of the moral of Suluk, the way of beneficence. The lover’s pleasure is in the pleasure of the beloved. The lover is satisfied when the beloved is fed. The lover is vain when the beloved is adorned. ‘Who in life blesses the one who curses him? Who in life admires the one who hates him? Who in life proves faithful to the one who is faithless? No other than a lover.’ And in the end the lover’s self is lost from his vision and only the beloved’s image, the desired vision, is before him for ever.
Love is the essence of all religion, mysticism, and philosophy, and for the one who has learnt this love fulfills the purpose of religion, ethics, and philosophy, and the lover is raised above all diversities of faiths and beliefs.
Moses once begged the Lord God of Israel on Sinai, ‘O Lord, Thou hast so greatly honored me in making me Thy messenger, if there could be any greater honor I should think it this, that Thou shouldest come to my humble abode and break bread at my table.’ The answer came, ‘Moses, with great pleasure We shall come to thy abode.’ Moses prepared a great feast and was waiting eagerly for God to come. There happened to pass by his door a beggar, and he said to Moses, ‘Moses, I am ill and weary, and I have had no food for three days and am at the point of death. Pray give me a slice of bread and save my life.’
Moses, in his eagerness, expecting every moment a visit from God, said to the beggar, ‘Wait, O man, thou shalt have more than a slice, plentiful and delicious dishes. I am waiting for a guest who is expected this evening, when he is gone, then all that remains I will give to thee that thou mayest take it home.’ The man went away, time passed on, God did not come, and Moses was disappointed. Moses went the next day to Sinai and grieved bitterly, saying, ‘My Lord, I know Thou doest not break Thy promise, but what sin have I, Thy slave, committed that Thou didst not come as Thou hadst promised?’ God said to Moses, ‘We came, O Moses, but alas, thou didst not recognize Us. Who was the beggar at thy door? Was he other than We? It is We who in all guises live and move in the world and yet are remote in Our eternal heavens.’
Whatever diversity may exist among religions, the motive of all has been one: to cultivate and prepare the human heart for divine love. Sometimes the spirit of guidance drew the attention of mankind to see and admire the beauty of God in the firmament, sometimes in the trees and rocks, making them sacred trees, holy mountains, and purifying streams. Sometimes it has guided men’s attention to see the immanence of the Lord among the beasts and birds, calling them holy animals, sacred birds. When man realized that there is no one in creation higher than himself he gave up his worship of the lower creation, recognizing the divine light most manifest in man. Thus by degrees the world evolved to see God in man, especially in the holy man who is God-conscious.
Man, with his limited self, cannot see God, the perfect Being, and if he ever can picture Him, he can best picture Him as man. For how can he imagine what he has never known? ‘We have created man in Our own image.’ Krishna to the Hindus, Buddha to the Buddhists, was God in man. Angels are never pictured in any other image than that of man. Even the worshipers of the formless God have idealized God with the perfection of human attributes, although this is only a ladder to reach the love of the perfect God, to which by degrees one attains.
This is explained very clearly in a story of the past. Moses once passed by a farm and saw a peasant boy talking to himself, saying, ‘O Lord, Thou art so good and kind that I feel if Thou wert here by me I would take good care of Thee, more than of all my sheep, more than of all my fowls. In the rain I would keep Thee under the roof of my grass-shed, when it is cold I would cover Thee with my blanket, and in the heat of the sun I would take Thee to bathe in the brook. I would put Thee to sleep with Thy head on my lap, and would fan Thee with my hat, and would always watch Thee and guard Thee from wolves. I would give Thee bread of manna and would give Thee buttermilk to drink, and to entertain Thee I would sing and dance and play my flute. O Lord my God, if Thou wouldst only listen to this and come and see how I would tend Thee.’
Moses was amused to listen to all this, and, as the deliverer of the divine message, he said, ‘How impertinent on thy part, O boy, to limit the unlimited One, God, the Lord of hosts, who is beyond form and color and the perception and comprehension of man.’ The boy became disheartened and full of fear at what he had done. But immediately a revelation came to Moses: ‘We are not pleased with this, O Moses, for We have sent thee to unite Our separated ones with Us, not to disunite. Speak to everyone according to his evolution.’
Life on earth is full of needs, but among all the different needs, the need of a friend is the greatest. There is no greater misery than being friendless. This earth would turn into heaven if one had a desired friend in life, and heaven, with all the bliss it offers, would become hell in the absence of the friend one loves.
A thoughtful soul always seeks a friendship that lasts long. The wise prefers a friend who will go with him through the greater part of his life’s journey. The miniature of our life’s journey may be seen in our ordinary traveling. If, when we are going to Switzerland, we make friends with someone who is booked for Paris, his company will last only so far, and, after that, all the rest of the journey we shall have to go alone. Every friendship on earth will go so far and then will stop. Our journey being through death, if there is any friendship that will last, it is only the friendship with God which is unchangeable and unending. But if we do not see and cannot perceive His Being, it becomes impossible to be friends with someone of whom we are quite unaware. But God being the only friend and friendship with Him the only friendship that is worthwhile, the wise first seek the friendship of someone on earth who can guide them to the divine Beloved, just as a lover would first find someone belonging to the household or among the acquaintances of the fair one with whom he desires friendship. Among Sufis many attain to the God-ideal through Rasul, the ideal man. And one reaches the door of Rasul through Shaikh, the spiritual guide, whose soul owing to devotion is focused on the spirit of Rasul and so is impressed with his qualities. This graduated way becomes clear to the traveler on the path of the attainment of the divine Beloved.
The friendship with Shaikh has no other motive than guidance in seeking God. As long as your individuality lasts it will last, as long as you are seeking God it will last, as long as a guidance is needed it will last. The friendship with Shaikh is called Fana-fi-Shaikh, and it then merges into the friendship with Rasul. When the mureed realizes the existence of the spiritual qualities beyond the earthly being of the murshid, that is the time when he is ready for Fana-fi-Rasul.
The friendship with the Shaikh is friendship with a form, and the form may disappear. A person may say, ‘I had a father, but now he is no more.’ In fact, the impression of the father whom he has idealized remains in his mind. The devotion to Rasul is like this. His name and qualities remain though the earthly form is no more on earth. Rasul is the personification of the light of guidance, which a mureed, according to his evolution, idealizes. Whenever the devotee remembers him, on the earth, in the air, at the bottom of the sea, he is with him. Devotion to Rasul is a stage that cannot be omitted in the attainment of divine love. This stage is called Fana-fi-Rasul.
After this comes Fana-fi-Allah, when the love of Rasul merges in the love of Allah. Rasul is the Master who is idealized for his lovable attributes, his kindness, goodness, holiness, mercy. His merits are intelligible. His form is not known, only the name which constitutes his qualities. But Allah is the name given to that ideal of perfection where all limitation ceases, and in Allah the ideal ends.
A person does not lose the friendship with the Pir nor with Rasul, but he beholds murshid in Rasul and Rasul in Allah. Then for guidance, for advice, he looks to Allah alone.
There is a story of Rabia, the great Sufi, that once she beheld Muhammad in a vision and he asked her, ‘O Rabia, whom dost thou love?’ She answered, ‘Allah.’ He said, ‘Not His Rasul?’ She said, ‘O blessed Master, who in the world could know thee and not love thee? But now my heart is so occupied with Allah alone that I can see no one but Him.’
From those who see Allah, Rasul and Shaikh disappear. They see only Allah in the Pir and Rasul. They see everything as Allah and see nothing else.
A mureed by devotion to the murshid learns the manner of love, standing with childlike humility, seeing in the face of every being on earth his Pir’s blessed image reflected. When Rasul is idealized he sees all that is beautiful reflected in the unseen ideal of Rasul. Then he becomes independent even of merit, which also has an opposite pole, and in reality does not exist, for it is comparison that makes one thing appear better than the other, and he loves only Allah, the perfect ideal, who is free from all comparison, beyond this ideal, then he himself becomes love, and the work of love has been accomplished. Then the lover himself becomes the source of love, the origin of love, and he lives the life of Allah, which is called Baqi bi-Allah. His personality becomes divine personality. Then his thought is the thought of God, his word the word of God, his action the action of God, and he himself becomes love, lover, and beloved.
Hazrat Inayat Khan – Spiritual Liberty Part IV: LOVE, HUMAN AND DIVINE