Confessions: From Autobiographical Essays of Hazrat Inayat Khan
Inayat Khan, may God sanctify his soul secret, was a brilliant spiritual teacher and is credited for bringing Sufism to the West for the first time back in early 1900s. Many western as well as eastern seekers who came to the Path, came through the direct or indirect influence of this great personality who left behind volumes of his inspired writings and teachings that helped bridge east and west in the common spiritual thirst. At the moment a great many spiritual teachers who themselves have flowered and became teacher of holy teachings have received directly from Inayat Khan’s transmission.
Below is an excerpt from his Autobiographical Essays that shades upon his early days of coming to the Path, his intimate thoughts and events that lead him to the Journey to eventually become what he became. His initiatic journey is also a beautiful inspiration and may work as a guiding map as an indicator of ‘which phase to follow after what’ - for the seekers who are in the beginning phase of their heart’s awakening.
The Early Years
‘Whatsoever road I took, it joined the street which leads to Thee.’
I was born in Baroda, India, in the year 1882, when a great religious reform began, not only in India itself, but all the world over, and which was the first source of our present-day awakening. I am sure it was the planetary influence which existed at that time that has kept me busied all my life in seeking the divine truth, which is as the garment of God’s glory.
Music and mysticism were my heritage from both my paternal and maternal ancestors, among whom were numbered Maulabakhsh, whom people called the Beethoven of India and whose portrait is in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington, and Jumma Shah, the great seer of Panjab.
My curiosity about the hidden secrets of nature was early aroused, and I made frequent inquiries concerning the mysteries of religion, such as, Where does God live? How old is God? Why should we pray to Him? And why should we fear Him? Why should people die? And where do they go after death? If God has created all, who was the creator of God?
My parents, Rahemat Khan and Khatija Bibi, would patiently answer me in the simplest and most plausible manner possible, but I would prolong the argument until they were wearied. Then I would ponder upon the same questions. I was sent to school when quite young, but I fear that I was more inclined to play than to study. I preferred punishment to paying attention to those subjects in which I had no interest. I enjoyed religion, poetry, morals, logic, and music more than all other learning, and I took music as a special subject at the Academy of Baroda and repeatedly won the first prize there.
I had so much curiosity about strangers, fortune-tellers, fakirs, dervishes, spiritualists, and mystics, that I would very often absent myself from my meals to seek them out. My taste for music, poetry, and philosophy increased daily, and I loved my grandfather’s company more than a game with boys of my own age. In silent fascination I observed his every movement and listened to his musical interpretations, his methods of study, his discussions and his conversation.
My kinsfolk were Muslim, and I grew up devoted to the Holy Prophet and loyal to Islam, and never missed one prayer of the five which are the daily portion of the faithful.
One evening in the summer time I was kneeling, offering my Nimaz (prayers) to Allah the Great, when the thought smote me that although I had been praying so long with all trust, devotion, and humility, no revelation had been vouchsafed to me, and that it was therefore not wise to worship Him, that One whom I had neither seen nor fathomed. I went to my grandfather and told him I would not offer any more prayers to Allah until I had both beheld and gauged Him. “There is no sense in following a belief and doing as one’s ancestors did before one, without knowing the true reason,” I said.
Instead of being vexed Maulabakhsh was pleased with my inquisitiveness, and after a little silence he answered me by quoting a sura of the Qur’an, “We will show them our signs in the world and in themselves, that the truth may be manifested to them.” And then he soothed my impatience and explained, saying, “The signs of God are seen in the world, and the world is seen in thyself.’
These words entered so deeply into my spirit, that from this time every moment of my life has been occupied with the thought of the divine immanence; and my eyes were thus opened, as the eyes of the young man by Elijah, to see the symbols of God in all the aspects of nature, and also in that nature which is reflected within myself. This sudden illumination made everything appear as clear to me as in a crystal bowl or a translucent jewel. Thenceforth I devoted myself to the absorption and attainment of truth, the immortal and perfected Grace.