From a mystical point of view, personality is formed around the heart. For a materialist the heart is the piece of flesh hidden in the breast, but for the mystic the heart is the center of the person round which the personality is formed.
Consciously or unconsciously man loves the word ‘heart’, and if we were to ask a poet to leave out that word and write his poems without using it, he would never satisfy himself or others. Few people think of this; yet the poets who have most appealed to humanity, have used the word ‘heart’ most. For what is man? Man is his heart. A dead heart means a dead man, a living heart a living man.
People look for wonder-workings and surprises, for phenomena of all kinds. Yet the greatest phenomenon, the greatest surprise, and the greatest wonder is to be found in one’s heart. If there is anything that can tune man to the highest pitch, that can tune the strings of his soul to the right note, it is only by the tuning of the heart. The one who has not reached his heart has not reached God. People may be relations, friends, partners, collaborators, and yet be quite separate; nearness in space does not make people real friends. There is only one way of coming near to one’s friends, and that is by way of the heart. If there is anything which is the most wonderful in heaven and earth, it is the heart. If a miracle is to be found anywhere, it is in the heart. For when God has tuned the heart, what is there which is not to be found in it?
The Nizam of Hyderabad once wrote, ‘If one only knew how large the heart is! It accommodates heaven and earth, all the sea and all the land.’
The greatness or smallness of men does not depend on outer things. Whatever rank or position a man has, if his heart is not great he cannot be great; and if his heart is great he remains great under all circumstances. It is the heart that makes one great or small.
Hearts can be of different kinds; there is the golden heart, the silver heart, the copper heart, the iron heart.
- The golden heart shows its color and its beauty; it is precious and at the same time it is soft.
- The silver heart shows inferior qualities compared with the golden heart; yet coins are made of silver; it is useful.
- Of the copper heart pennies are made, and pennies too are useful in everyday life; they are even more used than gold and silver coins. Copper is strong and hard, and it needs many hammerings to shape it and make something out of it.
- And then there is the iron heart, which must be put into the fire before anything can be done with it. When the iron becomes hot in the glowing fire, then we can make something out of it; but the blacksmith must be always ready; as soon as the fire begins to glow, he must start at once. If he lets it go, it will turn cold in a moment.
And besides these aspects there is the heart of rock and the heart of wax.
- The heart of rock must be broken; it must be cut; nothing reaches it. Cold, heat, fire, sun, or water has little effect upon the heart of rock.
- But when the heart is of wax, it melts as soon as the sun falls upon it, and when heated one can mold it any way one likes.
- Then there is the heart of paper that flies like a kite in the wind; to the north, to the south, to the east, to the west. One can control it as long as the string is strong enough to hold it; but when there is no wind it drops down.
Are these examples sufficient? No, there are innumerable hearts, each differing in quality, and once we begin to distinguish the qualities of the heart, we begin to see miracles, living phenomena, every moment of our life. Is there anything that can be compared with the heart? It dies and lives again; it is torn and mended again; it is broken and made whole; it can rise and it can fall, and after falling it can rise again, and after rising it can fall again instantly. There is one heart that can creep, another that can walk, another that can run, another that can fly, and yet we cannot limit the action of the heart. We cannot imagine how the heart can be illuminated and darkened in a moment! It is a maze we enter and when we are inside we can never get out. The heart can be confusion and it can be paradise, it can be heaven itself; and if we ask where we can see the soul manifest to view, it is in the heart. Where is paradise, where is heaven, where is love, and where is God? We can answer each of these questions by saying: in the heart of man.
Imagine, how wonderful and at the same time how obscure! If we call the heart the spark of fire, then we can see its different aspects as sympathy in the form of heat, as longing in the form of fire, as affection in the form of glowing, as devotion in the form of flame, as passion in the form of smoke that blinds one’s eyes. That which gives courage to stand firm in the battlefield, to struggle through life, to endure all that comes, that which strengthens one to have patience, what is it? It is the heart. If the heart fails, one falls; if the heart rises, one rises.
When the heart is directed towards one ideal, one object, one point, it develops; when the heart is going from one point to another, it is weakened, for then the fire element of the heart dies. The little spark is brought to a blaze when one blows upon it; and yet the fire is put out by blowing. Why? Because man’s blowing is directing the air to one single spot, but the wind blowing all around extinguishes the fire.
When man says, ‘I love everybody’, one can be sure he loves nobody; but when he says, ‘I love my mother, my father, my son, my daughter, my friend, or my beloved’, then he has taken the first step on the path of love. But no one in the world can claim to love and at the same time know love. The moment one knows what love is one loses the claim. Before one can say, ‘I love’, one must be able to show it by jumping into the fire and losing oneself in it.
The Hindu poet says, ‘The first initiation in the order of lovers is to become nothing’. And another poet says, ‘O Love, you have taught me first the lesson which many learn at the end!’
When someone says, ‘If you will be good to me I will be kind to you, I will respect you’, it is a business proposition. And when a person says, ‘I wish someone loved me’, he is very mistaken, for he will never be loved; he may wait for eternity. Love never asks to be loved. Love is more independent than anything, and it is love that makes one independent.
There is love that is like an infant. It must be taken in one’s arms; it cannot stand; if it is not taken up it cries. It is not mature; it is not developed; it is not yet love. And then there is love that is like a child that has not yet learned to walk. It has to hold on to the table or the chair to steady it; that love too is undeveloped. But then there is love that stands on its own feet and walks alone; that is independent love, and one can depend upon it.
Love shows its quality by constancy. Where there is no constancy there is no love. People have wrongly understood the meaning of love; the real meaning is life itself. The feeling that one is alive, that feeling itself is love.
Then what is love? Love is God and God is love. As long as one is involved in selfish thoughts and actions one does not understand love. Love is sacrifice, love is service. Love shows itself in regard for the pleasure and displeasure of the beloved. And that love can be seen in all aspects of life, once it is understood. Love for those who depend upon one, for those with whom one comes in contact in every aspect of life, love for one’s country, for one’s race, for humanity; it can extend even to love for every little creature, for the smallest insect that lives. Thus the drop of water becomes the ocean, thus can limited man expand through lo4ve. The more sympathy expands, the further it reaches heavenward, until man becomes as great as the Absolute.
Sufis, instead of teaching the lesson of indifference, have taught the lesson of love and sympathy, and have called it the cultivation of the heart. In Sufi terminology this is called Suluk, which means the divine manner, the loving manner. When a refined manner is directed by the heart quality, it becomes a loving manner, the manner of God, and all such attributes as gentleness, tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion spring from it.
The great teachers and prophets did not become what they were by their miracles, their wonder-workings; what was most apparent in them was the loving manner. Read the lives of the prophets.
- Look at the way Jesus Christ had with all those who came to him. When the sinners who were condemned and expelled from society were brought to the Master he raised them up with his compassion. He was on the side of the accused ones. The fishermen who were with the Master never understood him, and even the most educated could not. Yet the Master lived with them and won their hearts in the end. This was by his loving manner.
- Think of the Prophet Muhammad whose most beloved daughter was killed by an Arab before his eyes; and when the Arab said, ‘I did not do it on purpose. Will you forgive me?’ the Prophet forgave him instantly. When he became a conqueror and judge, and his enemies, who had ill-treated him and turned him out of the country, were brought before him in rows and asked him, ‘What will you do to us?’ the Prophet said, ‘You are my brothers; God will forgive you.’
- Think also of the compassion of Buddha towards even the smallest insect.
For attainment on the spiritual path study is secondary and magical powers are unimportant. The first and most important principle is the cultivation of the heart quality, and there is only one way to cultivate this heart quality: to become more and more selfless at each step that we take. For what prevents the loving manner is the thought of self.
The more we think of our self, the less we think of others, until at the end of the journey our self meets us like a giant, a giant who will prove to be the stronger. But if with the first step we take on the spiritual path we struggle with this giant, we can only conquer him by the power of love.
Love is the stream which when it has risen up falls again like a fountain, each drop forming a virtue. Virtues taught in books have not the same power, but virtues springing naturally from the spring of love in the depth of the heart are love itself.
There is a Hindu saying, “No matter how much wealth you have, if you do not have the treasure of virtue, it is of no use.” True riches are the ever-increasing fountain of love, from which all virtue comes.
excerpt from The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan