Volume XIII: The Gathas
by Hazrat Inayat Khan
PART III and IV
An Ocean in a Drop
The wise have given lessons to the world in different forms suited to the evolution of the people at a particular time. And the first and most original form of education that the wise gave to the world has been symbolical. This method of teaching has been valued in all ages and will always have its importance. That is not beauty, which is not veiled. In the veiling and unveiling of beauty is the purpose of life. Beauty is that which is always out of reach. You see it and you do not see it, you touch it and you cannot touch it. It is seen and yet veiled, it is known and yet unknown. And therefore words are often inadequate to express the beauty of Truth. Therefore symbolism is adopted by the wise.
The religions of the old Egyptians, of the ancient Greeks, of the Hindus, and of the Parsis, all have symbols, which express the essential truth hidden under a religion. There is symbolism in Christianity and in all the ancient religions of the world. Man has often rebelled against symbolism. But it is natural, man has always revolted against things he cannot understand. There has been a wave of opposition to symbolism in both parts of the world, East and West. It came in the East in the period of Islam, and in the West re-echoed in the Reformation. No doubt when the sacred symbols are made as patents by the religious people who wish to monopolize the whole truth, then it gives rise to that tendency in human nature which is always ready to accept things or reject them. However, one can say without exaggeration that symbology has always served to keep the ancient wisdom intact for ages. It is symbology that can prove today the saying of Solomon, ‘There is nothing new under the sun.’
There are many thoughts relating to human nature, to the nature of life, relating to God and His many attributes, and relating to the path toward the goal, that are expressed in symbolism. To a person who sees only the surface of life the symbols mean nothing. The secret of symbols is revealed to the souls who see through life. Whose glance penetrates through objects. Verily, before the seer the things of the world open themselves. And it is the uncovering of things in which are hidden beauty. There is a great joy in understanding, especially things that express nothing to everybody. It requires intuition, even something deeper than intuition – insight – to read symbols. To the one to whom the symbols speak of their nature and of their secret each symbol is a living manuscript in itself. Symbolism is the best way of learning the mysteries of life, and the best way of leaving ideas behind which will keep for ages after the teacher has passed. It is speaking without speaking, it is writing without writing. The symbol may be said to be an ocean in a drop.
The Symbol of the Sun
Light has the greatest attraction for the human soul. Man loves it in the fire and in things that are bright and shining, and that is why he considers gold and jewels as precious. The cosmos has a greater attraction for him than the earth, because of its light. As man evolves he naturally ceases to look down on the earth, but looks up to the heavens. The most attractive object that he sees is the sun in the heavens, the sun which is without any support and is more luminous than anything else surrenders himself to beauty, he bowed to the sun, as being the greatest beauty in heaven, and man took the sun as nature’s symbol of God.
This symbol he pictured in different forms. In Persia, China, Japan, India, Egypt, whenever God was pictured it was in the form of the sun. In all ages man has pictured his Prophet, Master, Savior, with a sun around his head. In ancient Persia there used to be a gold disc behind the head of the king, picturing him as the sun, and they used to call this Zardash. The name Zarathustra has the same origin; the word simply meant the gold disc. In Hindu temples and Buddhist temples around the image of different Avatars there is this sign of the sun, and this symbol was used both in the East and in the West in turbans and hats. There are now people in India who put on their turbans a brass band symbolizing the sun.
A deeper study of the sun suggests the four directions of lines that are formed round the sun. It is this sign that is the origin of the symbol of the cross. The ancient traditions prove that the idea of the cross existed in the East long before the coming of Christ, especially among the Brahmins. It is from this sign that the two sacred arms were made, Chakra and Trishul. Islam, the religion which allows no symbolism, has in the building of the mosques the same symbolism of the sun. Whether the name of the sun be written in Persian or in Arabic, it makes the form of the mosque.
Man, as is his nature, has blamed the sun worshippers and mocked at them, but he has never been able to uproot the charm, the attraction for human souls held by the sun.
The Symbol of the Cross
The symbol of the cross has many significations. It is said in the Bible, first was the word and then came light and then the world was created. And as the light is expressed in the form of the cross, so every form shows in it the original sign. Every artist knows the value of the vertical line and the horizontal line, which form the skeleton of every form. This is proved by the teaching of the Koran, where it is said that God created the world from His own light. The cross is the figure that fits to every form everywhere.
Morally, the cross signifies pain or torture. That means that in every activity of life, which may be pictured as a perpendicular line, there comes obstruction, which the horizontal line represents. This shows the picture of life, and that, as it is said, man proposes and God disposes. Somebody asked the great Master Ali what made him believe in God, Who is beyond human comprehension. Ali said, ‘I believe in God therefore that I see that when I alone wish, things are not accomplished.’ According to the metaphysical point of view this shows the picture of limitation in life.
The symbol of the cross in it connection with the life of Christ not only relates to the crucifixion of the Master but signifies the crucifixion that one has to meet with by possessing the truth. The idea of the Hindu philosophy is that life in the world is an illusion and therefore every experience in this life and knowledge in this life are also illusions. The Sanskrit word for this illusion isMaya, it is also called Mithya, from which the word myth comes. When the soul begins to see the truth it is, so to say, born again, and to this soul all that appears as true to an average person is false, and what seems truth to this soul is nothing to the average person. All that seems to an average person important and precious in life has no value or importance for this soul, and what seems to this soul important and valuable has no importance nor value for an average person. Therefore such a one naturally hides himself in a crowd which lives in a world quite different from that in which he lives. Imagine living in a world where nobody uses your language! Yet to him life in the world is as unprofitable as to a grown-up person the world of children playing with their toys. A human being who has realized the truth is subject to all the pains and tortures in the same way as all other persons, except that he is capable of bearing them better than the others. But at the same time when, while in the crowd, everyone hits the other and also receives blows, the knower of truth has to stand alone and receive them only. This is in itself a great torture. The life in the world is difficult for every person, rich or poor, strong or weak, but for the knower of truth it is still more difficult than for others, and that in itself is a cross. Therefore, for the spiritual Messenger the cross is a natural emblem, to explain his moral condition.
But there is a still higher significance of the cross, which is understood by the mystic. This significance is what is called self-denial, and, in order to teach this moral, gentleness, humility, and modesty are taught as a first lesson. Self-denial is an effect of which self-effacement is the cause. This is self-denial that a man says: ‘I am not, Thou art;’ or that an artist looking at his picture, says, ‘It is Thy work, not mine;’ or that a musician, hearing his composition, says, ‘It is Thy creation, I do not exist.’ That soul then is in a way crucified, and through that crucifixion resurrection comes. There is not the slightest doubt that when man has had enough pain in his life he rises to this great consciousness. But it is not necessary that only pain should be the means. It is the readiness on the part of man to efface his part of consciousness and to efface his own personality, which lifts the veil that hides the spirit of God from the view of man.
The Two Forces
The Egyptian symbolism is the most ancient, and for the most part the symbolism of other nations originates from the Egyptian. The Egyptian symbol of wings with a center of circular shape and at the sides two snakes looking left and right is known to many as Karobi. The word really means spirit or angel. This symbol represents the spirit and the power of spirit, which differs in the two directions, the right and the left. The heads of the two snakes show the direction of life and energy to either side, or the central circular sign represents the light itself, the spirit, and the wings on both sides represent three aspects of the power of spirit. One aspect of the spirit is sound, another is color, and the third is external action. This symbol suggests that the spirit is not only a light in the center, but a light directed to the right and to the left, and that it shines out according to the degree of illumination. The light of the spirit is in either direction a peculiar force. The symbol also suggests that in either direction the sound, color, and activity change, according to the direction. In the Hindu Vedas these two forces Jelal and Jemal. The great Yogis have experienced the mystery of life by the study of these forces. The central point is called by the Sufi Kemal, in the Vedas this is called Shushumna.
It is difficult to picture the finer forms of nature, and as it has been the custom to picture the light in the face of the sage as the aura, so these two forces are pictured as wings, and not as rays or otherwise. As the body has hands, so the hands of spirit can only be pictured as wings. Besides this, man who without illumination is an earthly creature, after illumination becomes a heavenly creature. The idea of the mystic about these two forces is expressed in calling one the sun force and the other the moon force. The mystic pictures them as seated in the two parts of the body, the right and the left. He names also the two nostrils by the same names. By some, the right direction of this force is male, the left as the female direction.
The serpent has been considered a sacred symbol because it is pictured as representing many secrets of mysticism. The Yogis have learned a great deal from the serpent, as there is a hint in the Bible, ‘Be ye wise as the serpent and innocent as the dove.’
This sign shows that man is self-sufficient in his spirit, though incomplete in his body; that in every spirit there is both woman and man. It is the direction of the force of the spirit, which makes the male and female aspect. The central point represents the spirit, and the spirit represents God. As spirit is both male and female, so it is beyond both. It is limitation that turns one into two, but when man rises above limitation he finds that two become one.
So this symbol reminds man of the power of the spirit. That man may know that he is not only a material body, but that he is spirit himself, and that man may know that spirit not an inactive torch of life, but that spirit is full of activity, more than the body is. It also represents that man is not only an earthly creature, but that he also belongs to heaven. This symbol suggests that nothing earthly should frighten or worry man, for he may rise above the earth.
The Symbol of the Dove
The bird represents the wayfarer of the sky, and at the same time it represents a being who belongs to the earth and is capable of dwelling in the skies. The former explanation of the bird represents the idea of a soul, whose dwelling place is in heaven, and the latter that of the dweller on earth being capable of moving about in the higher spheres. And both these explanations give the idea that the spiritual man, dwelling on the earth, is from heaven. They explain also that the spiritual man is the inhabitant of the heavens and is dwelling on earth for awhile.
The pigeon was used as a messenger, to carry a message from one place to another, and therefore, the symbol of the dove is a natural one to represent the Messenger from above. Spiritual bliss is such an experience that if a bird or an animal were to have it, it would never return to its own kind. But it is a credit due to man that after touching that point of great happiness and bliss, he comes into the world of sorrows and disappointments and delivers his message. This quality can be seen in the pigeon also. When the pigeon is sent it goes, but it comes back faithfully to the master who sent it. The spiritual man performs this duty doubly. He reaches higher than the human plane, touches the divine plane, and brings the message from the divine to the human plane. In this way, instead of remaining on the divine plane, he arrives among his fellowmen, for their welfare, which is no small sacrifice. But then again he performs a duty to God, from Whom he brings His message that he delivers to the human beings. He lives as a human being, subject to love, hate, praise and blame, passes his life in the world of attachment and the life that binds with a thousand ties from all sides. Yet he does not forget the place from where he has come, and he constantly and eagerly looks forward to reach the place for which he is bound. Therefore, in both journeys, from earth to heaven and from heaven to earth, the idea of the dove proves to be more appropriate than any other idea in the world.
The Symbol of the Sufi Order
The symbol of the Order is a heart with wings. It explains that the heart is between soul and body, a medium between spirit and matter. When the soul is covered by its love for matter it is naturally attracted to matter. This is the law of gravitation in abstract form, as it is said in the Bible, ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ When man treasures the things of the earth his heart is drawn to the earth. But the heart is subject not only to gravitation, but also to attraction from on high, and as in the Egyptian symbology, wings are considered as the symbol of spiritual progress, the heart with wings expresses that the heart reaches upward towards heaven.
Then the crescent in the heart suggests the responsiveness of the heart. The crescent represents the responsiveness of the crescent to the light of the sun, for naturally it receives the light, which develops it until it becomes the full moon. The principal teaching of Sufism is that of learning to become a pupil. For it is the pupil who has a chance of becoming a teacher. Once a person considers that he is a teacher his responsiveness is gone. The greatest teachers of the world have been the greatest pupils. And it is this principle which is represented by the crescent. The crescent in the heart represents that the heart, responsive to the light of God, is illuminated.
The explanation of the five-pointed star is that it represents the divine light. For when the light comes, it has five points. When it returns, it has four: one form suggesting the creation, the other annihilation. The five-pointed star also represents the natural figure of man, whereas that with four points represents all forms of the world. But the form with five points is development of the four-pointed form. For instance if a man is standing with his legs joined and arms extended he makes a four-pointed form, but when man shows activity – dancing, jumping – or he moves one leg, he forms a five-pointed star, which represents the beginning of activity, in other words, a beginning of life.
It is the divine light, which is represented by the five-pointed star, and the star is reflected in the heart, which is responsive to the divine light. And the heart, which has by its response received the light of God is liberated, as the wings show. Therefore, this sentence will explain, in short, the meaning of the symbol: the heart, responsive to the light of God is liberated.
Symbology of the Dot and Circle
The dot is the most important of all figures, for every figure is an extension of the dot and the dot is the source of every figure. You cannot let a pen touch paper without making a dot first of all. It is simply the extension of the dot in two directions, which is called a horizontal or perpendicular line. And again, it is the dot, which determines sides. If it were not for the dot, the sides, as above, so below, or right, or left, could not be determined. The origin of all things and beings may be pictured as a dot. This dot is called in Sanskrit Bindu, the origin and source of the whole being. Since the dot is the source of the perpendicular and the horizontal lines it is the source of all figures and characters of all languages that exist and have existed, as doubtless it is the source of all forms of nature. The principal thing in man’s figure is his eye, and in the eye, the iris, and in the iris, the pupil, which signifies the dot.
At the same time, the dot means zero, meaning nothing. It is nothing and it is everything, and the dot expresses the symbol of nothing, being everything, and everything being nothing. Amir, the Indian poet, expresses this idea in his well-known verse. He says, ‘If thou wilt come to thy senses by becoming selfless, free from life’s intoxication, thou wilt realize that what seems to thee non-existent is all-existing, and what seems to thee existent, what does not exist in reality, but only seems to exist. That alone we consider existent.
The dot develops into the circle, which shows the picture of this seemingly non-existent developing into all existing. The iris of the eye is the development of the dot, which is called the pupil. A dot added to one makes one ten, and with two dots, the one becomes a hundred, and this shows that man is small when he is unconscious of God. When the knowledge of God, Who is the source of the whole being, although non-existent to the ignorant eye, is added to man, he becomes ten, or a hundred, or a thousand. As the dot enriches the figure, so God enriches man. As all figures come from the dot, so all things and beings come from God. And as destruction must in time break all things into dots, so all things must in time break all things into dots so all things must return to God.
Symbolism of Lines
The Upright Line
The upright line suggests the One, therefore also the number one is represented by an upright line.
The upright line suggests heaven, or the world above, its extremity being upward.
The upright line is perfection.
Through all forms life has culminated in the end in the human form, which is upright.
The upright line also suggests straightforwardness, for it is straight upward.
The upright line also suggests firmness, for it is steady.
The upright line also suggests life, for it stands.
The upward line also suggests rising, for it goes upward.
The upward line also suggests unity, as it shows oneness and the oneness of the whole, all being one.
The upright line is the form of Alif, the Arabic A, and the name Allah in Arabic writing begins with Alif.
The upright line is the first line, and all forms and figures are nothing but the change of direction of that line, and as all is made by God and of God, so by the upright line and of the upright line all forms are formed.
The Vertical Line and the Horizontal Line
The messenger is pictured symbolically as a Cupid. He is meant to guide the longing soul toward its Divine Beloved, and that part of his work is symbolized as the vertical line. He is also used by Providence to bring two souls together in light who are seeking each other through darkness, some knowing, some not knowing what they are seeking after, which is represented by the horizontal line.
The horizontal line and the vertical line together make a complete cross, which is the sign of Kemal, perfection.
The vertical line represents heaven, the horizontal line earth.
The horizontal line represents this world, the vertical line that world, the next world.
The vertical line conveys the meaning Yes, the horizontal line the meaning No.
The vertical line denotes life, the horizontal line death.
The vertical line represents strength, the horizontal line powerlessness.
The vertical line spirit, the horizontal line matter.
The vertical line the masculine, the horizontal line the feminine.
The vertical line the sun, the horizontal line the moon.
The vertical line the day, the horizontal line the night.
The vertical line the positive, the horizontal line the negative.
The vertical line the power, the horizontal line beauty.
The vertical line God, the horizontal line man.
The Symbolism of the Triangle
The triangle represents the beginning, the continuation and the end. The triangle is the sign of life, which has appeared in three forms, of which the idea of the Trinity is symbolical. The idea of these three aspects of life has existed for a very long time among Hindus, who named it Trimurti. As in the Christian church the Trinity consists of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, so among Hindus the Trimurti consists of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Sustainer and Mahesh or Shiva the Destroyer. By the word Destroyer destruction is not meant, but change.
The triangle in all its forms is the basic outline of all form that exists in the world. The triangle has a horizontal line in it and a perpendicular line, and two triangles can very well form a square. The hand, the head, the leg, the palm, the foot all show in their form the triangle as the principal outline. In the leaf, fruit, tree or mountain, the triangle is the outline.
The triangle is the riddle, which has within it the secret of this life of variety. But for these three different aspects, which stand opposite each other, man would not be able to enjoy life. At the same time it is these three aspects again which are the cause of all illusion. And if the riddle of the idea of trinity has been solved and out of trinity unity has become manifest, then the purpose of this idea of trinity is fulfilled. One can understand this by realizing the truth that it is not three that are one, but one that is three. The beginning and end of all things is one, it is the repetition of one, which makes two and it is this division which produces three. In this riddle of the Trinity lies the secret of the whole life.
The three aspects in which life has manifested and of which the triangle is the symbol are the knower, the known, and the knowing faculty – the seer, the seen, the faculty of seeing.
Symbology of the Mushroom
The Chinese philosopher is symbolically depicted holding a mushroom stem in his hand. The mushroom represents the earth and what comes from it and what is close to it, and keeping it in the hand means spirit handling or controlling matter. At the same time, it suggests a moral, that the sign of the sage is to be tender, as refined, as meek, and as humble as a mushroom. It teaches the same moral that Christ taught, “If one smite you on one cheek, turn the other cheek.” If one strikes on the rock one’s own hand will be hurt, but one will not have the same experience by striking the mushroom. It also teaches the philosophy that all the produce of this earth, however precious, is in the spiritual sense no more than a mushroom, which is subject to destruction every moment. It also teaches the idea of being in life as free and independent as a mushroom, which needs no special care and demands no great attention from others. If anyone will use it, it is ready to be used. If anyone will throw it away, ready to be thrown away without causing great loss. It also suggests a mystical point: while all other plants and trees respond to wind and storm and make a noise, the mushroom stands still without uttering one sound. When the body and mind of the mystic are trained to the stillness of the mushroom through all storms are trained to the stillness of the mushroom through all storms and winds of life, then the mystic achieves perfection.
‘Die Before Death’
There is a symbolical picture known in the philosophical world of China that represents a sage with one shoe in his hand and one on his foot. It signifies the hereafter, that the change that death brings is to a wise man only the taking off of one shoe. The body of the philosopher in the picture represents his soul, or his person. The one shoe still on his foot represents his mind, which exists after death. And the withdrawal of the soul from the body is like taking one foot out of the shoe. For the mystic, therefore, the physical body is something he can easily dispense with, and to arrive at this realization is the object of wisdom. When by philosophical understanding of life, he begins to realize his soul, then he begins to stand, so to speak, on his own feet. He is then himself and the body is to him only a cover.
The teaching of the Prophet is to die before death, which means to realize in one’s lifetime what death means. This realization takes away all the fear there is. By the symbol of the shoe is shown also the nothingness of the material existence, or the smallness of the physical being, in comparison with the soul, or the spirit. Hafiz says, in Persian verse, ‘Those who realize Thee are kings in life,’ which means that the true kingdom of life is the realization of the soul. The idea that one must wait until one’s turn will come after many incarnations keeps one far away from the desired goal. The man who is impatient to arrive at spiritual realization is to be envied. As Omar Khyyam says, ‘Tomorrow? Why, tomorrow I may be myself with yesterday’s seven thousand years.’ He means by this, “Don’t bother about the past, don’t trouble about the future, but accomplish all you can just now.’ Life has taken time enough to develop gradually from mineral to vegetable, from vegetable to animal, and from animal to man, and after becoming man, delay is not necessary. It is true that the whole lifetime is not sufficient for one to become what one wishes to be. Still nothing is impossible, since the soul of man is from the spirit of God; and if God can do all things why cannot man do something?
There is a Chinese symbol of philosophers carrying on their shoulders peaches, which means that the object of life is to be fruitful. However good or spiritual a person may be, yet, if his life is not fruit giving, he has not fulfilled the purpose of life. A person whose life becomes fruitful does not only bear fruit to others, but every aspect of life bears fruit to him as well. For him life becomes a fruit. If life were only for what people call goodness, life would be very uninteresting. For goodness is dependent for its beauty on badness. As a form cannot exist without a shadow, so goodness cannot be without badness. If life were for spirituality alone, the soul had better not have been born on earth, for the soul in its nature is spiritual. The whole creation is purposed for something greater than goodness or even spirituality, and that is fruitfulness. Goodness and spirituality are the means, not the goal. If there is any goal, it is fruitfulness. Therefore, it is the object of life, which the symbol of peaches represents.
Fruitfulness has three aspects. The first aspect is when man benefits from his own life. The next aspect is when man benefits from the life outside himself. And the third aspect is when man is a benefit to himself and to the life outside, and the life outside is a benefit to him. That is the moment of the fruitfulness of life. It takes all the patience one has to arrive at this realization, but it is for this realization that God created the world, that man may enjoy fruitfulness therein. It is the absence of faith and lack of patience which deprive man of this bliss. If not, every soul is purposed for this. For instance, when a musician begins to enjoy his own music, that is the first stage. When he enjoys the music of others, that is the second stage of realization. But when a man enjoys his own music and makes others happy too, then his life has become fruitful. There is a great treasure of blessing within oneself and there is a vast treasure of blessing outside oneself, and when one has become able to find the treasure one has within oneself, and when there is an exchange between his own treasure, and the treasure outside, then his life has borne the fruit for which his soul was born. There comes a time in the life of the fruitful souls when every moment of their life bears a new fruit, just like a plant which bears fruit at all times of the year.
The Symbol of the Dream
The best-known symbolical figure of China is the dragon. The dragon represents life and death both. Life in the sense of eternal life, death in the sense of a change from mortality to eternity. Very often a Chinese dragon has an appearance of a tiger, of a seal, its body that of a snake, together with wings of the birds and the paws of the carnivorous animals, also some appearance of man – which means that life is one but it is manifest in many forms, that life lives on life and so hungers for life. The dragon suggests mortality standing by one’s side, awaiting its hour every moment of our life, and yet man is unaware of it, building castles in the air, depending upon the life of this mortal world. The dragon also suggests that there is an obstacle on the way to eternity and that obstacle is death, and that can be avoided by conquering the dragon. The dragon is also a picture of man’s selfish ego, which is not only the enemy of others, but which makes man his own enemy. The dragon signifies the lower nature, and the conquering of the lower nature is the killing of the dragon, of which St. George also is the symbol. The dragon is a sign of material power, which has its transitory reign over things and beings. And often power can govern or cause difficulty even to spiritual beings, for the reason that even spiritual beings have matter which makes their being and which is dependent for its life and comfort on things of this earth. But all stories of dragons prove the dragon to be a failure in the end and the spirit alone conqueror of it. In Chinese art this symbol is kept to the fore, for this one symbol suggests and touches many things.
In the old scriptures such as the Vedanta and the Old Testament, spirit is symbolized as water. One wonders why something which is near to the earth, as water is, should be considered symbolically as spirit. The nature of water is to give life to the earth, and so the nature of spirit is to give life to the body. Without water the earth is dead, so is the body without soul. Water and earth both mix together, so the spirit mixes with matter and revivifies it, and yet spirit stands above matter, as water in time lets the earth sink to the bottom and stands itself above the earth. But one may ask, ‘Is the spirit hidden under matter as the soul in the body?’ I will answer, ‘So the water stays beneath the earth.’ There is no place where water does not exist, there are places where earth is not to be found. So there is nowhere in space where spirit is absent; only the absence of matter is possible.
The symbolic way of expressing high ideas does not come from the brain, it is an outcome of intuition. The beginning intuition is to understand the symbolical meaning of different things, and the next step is to express things symbolically. It is a divine art in itself, and the best proof of it is to be found in the symbol of water, which is so fitting to express the meaning of spirit.
Wine is considered sacred, not only in the Christian faith, but also in many other religions. In the ancient religion of the Zoroastrians, Yima Jamshed, the bowl of wine ‘from which Jamshed drank deep,’ is a historical event. Among Hindus, Shiva considered wine sacred. And in Islam, though wine is prohibited when on earth, yet in heaven it is allowed. Hauzu ‘l-Kausar, the sacred fountain of heaven, about which there is so much spoken in Islam, is a fountain of wine. Although the bowl that was given to the Prophet in the Meraj, the authorities of Islam say, was filled with milk, yet I doubt it. I should not be surprised if it were not the invention of the authorities, to keep the faithful followers away from wine. For it is natural that the followers should like to begin drinking the wine on earth, which the Prophet drank in heaven.
Wine is symbolical of the soul’s evolution. Wine comes from the annihilation of grapes, immortality comes from the annihilation of self. The bowl of poison, which is known in many mystical cults, suggests also the idea of wine, but not a sweet wine, a bitter wine. When the self turns into something different from what it was before, it is like the soul being born again. This is seen in the grape turning into wine. The grape, by turning into wine, lives; as a grape it would have vanished in time. Only by turning into wine, the grape loses its individuality and yet has not lost its life. The self-same grape lives as wine, and the longer it lives the better the wine becomes. For a Sufi, therefore, the true sacrament is the turning of one’s own grape-like personality, which has a limited time to live, into wine that nothing of one’s self may be lost but, on the contrary, amplified, even perfected. This is the essence of all philosophy and the secret of mysticism.
The Curl of the Beloved
In the Sufi literature, which is known to the world as the Persian literature, there is much talk about the curls of the Beloved, and many have often wondered what it means. The curl is a symbol of something, which is curved and round. The curve denotes the twist in the thought of wisdom. Very often a straight word of truth hits upon the head harder than a hammer. That shows that truth alone is not sufficient, the truth must be made into wisdom. And what is wisdom? Wisdom is the twisted truth. As raw food cannot be digested, and therefore it is cooked, although raw food is more natural than cooked food, so the straight truth is more natural, but is not digestible, it needs to be made into wisdom.
And why is it called the Beloved’s curl? Because truth is of God, the Divine Beloved, and truth is God, and that twist given to His Own Being, which is truth, amplifies the divine beauty, as the curl is considered to be the sign of beauty. Then what is not straight is a puzzle. So wisdom is a puzzle to the ordinary mind. Besides, the curl hangs low down; so the heavenly beauty which is wisdom is manifest on earth. In other words, if someone wishes to see the beauty of the heavenly Beloved he may see it is in wisdom. Wisdom is traced not only in the human being, but even in the beasts and birds, in their affection, in their instinct. Very often it is most difficult for man to imitate fully the work which birds do in weaving their nests. Even the insects do wonderful work in preparing a little abode for themselves which is beyond man’s art and skill. Besides this, if one studies nature, after keen observation and some contemplation upon it one will find that there is perfect wisdom behind it. Once man has thought on the subject, he can never, however materialistic he may be, deny the existence of God. Man’s individuality is proved by his wisdom and distinguished by comparison. The wisdom of God, being perfect, is unintelligible to man. The glass of water cannot imagine how much water there is in the sea. If man would realize his limitation he would never dare question the existence of God.
The symbol of the curl also signifies something which is there, attractive, and yet a puzzle, a riddle. One loves it, admires it, and yet one cannot fathom its length and breadth. It is that which is wisdom. Its surface is human, but its depth is divine. It could be hell or heaven, and the knowledge of it can enable man always to keep in touch with his heaven, instead of waiting for it till the hereafter.
The Persian poets, in the Sufi literature, very often speak of the glance. And their symbolical expression for the glance is, very often, a sword, and it is called a sword for various reasons. In the first place, the glance has a projecting effect. An intelligent glance has a crossways movement, like that of a sword. But besides this, from a psychological point of view a keen glance sees through an object, as though a thing had been cut open by the sword and manifested to view. The glance is a power, very little is known about it. The power of the glance can hold lions at bay. Therefore, also it is symbolized as a sword. The glance of a brave person is very often more powerful than a sword, for the will-power works through the glance.
Besides its precious work, which makes the eye superior to every other organ of the body, it is the expression of the beauty of body, mind and soul. Sufis, therefore, symbolize the eye by a cup of wine. Through the eyes, the secret hidden in man’s heart is reflected into the heart of another. However much a person may try to conceal his secret, yet the reader can read it in his eyes, and can read there his pleasure, his displeasure, his joy, and his sorrow. A seer can see still farther. The seer can see the actual condition of man’s soul through his eyes, his grade of evolution, his attitude in life, his outlook on life, and his condition, both hidden and manifest. Besides, to the passive soul of a disciple, knowledge, ecstasy, spiritual joy, and divine peace, all are given through the glance. One sees in everyday life that a person who is laughing in his mind with his lips closed can express his laughter through his glance, and the one who receives the glance at once catches the infectious mirth. Often the same happens through looking in the eyes of the sorrowful, in a moment one becomes filled with depression. And those whose secret is God, whose contemplation is the perfection of beauty, whose joy is endless in the realization of everlasting life, and from whose heart the spring of love is ever flowing, it is most appropriate that their glance should be called, symbolically, the Bowl of Saki, the Bowl of the Wine-Giver.
The Myth of Balder
The Scandinavian myth tells that Balder, the god of youth, beauty, kindness and gentleness, was pursued by enemies who wanted to kill him. For his protection a spell had been cast upon all the trees of the forest and every plant that has a root in the ground and grows upward to heaven, that no weapon wrought from any of them should have power to harm him. But in this charm, the mistletoe had been forgotten, which has no root in the ground, and from its wood an arrow was made, with which Balder was hit and wounded to death.
Its interpretation is an answer to the question, which often arises, in an intelligent mind, ‘Why were godlike people treated cruelly, continually, through all periods of the world’s history? And how could any person in the world think of causing harm to those who attracted the sympathy of almost every soul they met on earth?’ Their adherents spread their teachings and the beauty of their life and character among all, wise and foolish, kind and cruel. They all became more or less impressed by what they learned of the godly souls, even those whose soul had not yet risen to human evolution, who only live like trees and plants, living and yet dreaming, unaware of life, except their own activity. But the one who could not be impressed by this spell, whom, even had the spell been cast upon him, it could not have reached; and had it reached, only with great difficulty, is the godless, who is like the mistletoe, living without any root. The mourning for this is continued, in the memory of the death of that god. In reality it is celebrating the birth of what was born from him, it was divine knowledge.
The Tree of Wishes
There is an old Hindu belief, found in the ancient myths of India, that there is a tree, which they call Kamana Kalpa Vriksha. It is a tree that bears all the fruits that one can imagine, and if a person is under that tree he has but to wish for what he would like, and in the same moment all fruits, all flowers, everything he can imagine, he will find brought forth by the tree as its fruits. He has but to wish and it will fall into his hands. If it is within one’s reach one has to raise one’s hand to pluck the flower or fruit of that tree. If it is beyond one’s reach one has only to wish and the branch will reach one’s hand, that one may pick it without any effort.
And there is a story about that tree that a wanderer, while journeying in deserts, by chance happened to sleep under that tree. And when, after a good sleep, he opened his eyes and looked up at that tree, he thought, ‘I suppose it must be a pear tree.’ No sooner had he thought that, than two ripe pears dropped near him. While lying there he picked them up. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘what a wonderful tree! If it were a grape tree, what a splendid thing it would be!’ As soon as he said it, the tree seemed full of grapes, and before he raised his hands, the branches bent low and, without any effort, he was able to pick the grapes. But when he thought, ‘What a wonderful tree!,’ he wondered if the tree would yield some roses. And no sooner had he given a thought to it than the whole tree seemed to blossom into roses. This man became so surprised, so amazed and perplexed at this magical tree that he wondered if it was true or if it was only a dream. As soon as he thought of a dream and he looked up at the tree, the tree vanished in a moment.
There cannot be a better example to demonstrate the idea behind the symbolical tree than this story. For this tree is this whole universe, the miniature of which is one’s own self, and there is nothing that you ask that this universe will not answer. For it is the nature of this universe to answer your soul’s call. Only, if you ask for the pears, there are pears, if one asked for a cactus, there is a cactus, if you ask for the rose, there will be the rose and its thorns together. And it is the lack of knowledge of this great secret hidden in the heart of the universe, which is the only tragedy of life. When a person seeks for something in the universe and he cannot find it, it is not true that it is not there. The fact is that he does not see it. Besides, he sees something within his reach, he sees something, which he desires, and yet he thinks whether it is possible for him to get it or whether it is beyond the reach of his effort and power. And at the same time, the end of the story solves the whole question of life, and that is, it is all there and nothing is there. If we think it is everything, it is everything. But, if we realize that it is nothing, it is nothing. It is something of which you may say that it is and it is not. However, beyond all things of this universe, above all things that this life can offer, there is only one thing and that is God. And what is God? God is truth.
The Hindu Symbolical Form of Worship
Puja is the name of the Hindu form of worship, which is from the beginning to the end a symbolical expression of what the seeker has to perform in the path of spiritual attainment. After bathing in the running stream of water, which the Hindu calls the Ganges (whatever be the name of the river he, at that time, believes it is the Ganges, the sacred river), he proceeds with flowers to the shrine of the deity. He puts on to the deity the flowers, and repeats the mantrams, and stands greeting the deity with folded hands, and prostrates himself before the deity. Then he rings the bell and repeats the sacred word. Then he takes rice in his hands and puts it at the feet of the deity. Then the red powder, Kumkum, he touches with the tip of his finger and makes a mark with it on the shrine of the deity and then on his own forehead. Then he touches the ointment with the tip of his finger and, after touching the deity, he touches his forehead with the ointment. He then prostrates himself and makes three circles around the shrine. Then he rings the bell, and thus the service is finished. Afterwards he goes and stands before the sun and does his breathing exercises while adhering to the sun, and that completes the next stage of his worship.
However primitive this form of worship, at the back of it there seems to be great meaning. The meaning of the bath in the Ganges is to become purified before one makes any effort of journeying on the spiritual path. The purification of the body and of the mind both are necessary before one takes the first step toward the God-ideal. One must not approach the deity before such purification, for then alone, when once a person is pure, he will find it easy to attain the desired presence. The meaning of the flowers, which he takes, is that God is pleased with the offerings, which are delicate, beautiful and fragrant. Delicate means tenderness of heart, beautiful in color is fineness of character, fragrance is the virtue of the soul. This is the offering with which God is pleased. He stands with the thought that his self is devoted in perfect discipline to the supreme will of God. His hands folded express no action on the part of himself, but complete surrender. The meaning of prostration is self-denial in the right sense of the word, which means: ‘I am not, Thou art;’ whispering the words and ringing the bell is that the same word is rung in the bell of one’s heart. His touching the red powder means touching the eternal life and when he touches the deity with that powder it means that from this source he is to gain eternal life. When he touches his forehead with it, it means that he has gained it for himself. And the ointment means wisdom, and the touching of the God with it and then to his forehead means true wisdom can be obtained from God alone, and touching his own head with it means that he has gained it. Then making three circles around the shrine is the sign that life is a journey and that every journey is made to attain this goal which is God, that ‘Every step I take in my life,’ the Brahmin thinks, ‘will be in His service when he stands before the sun, by that he means that God is to be sought in the light. And by breathing exercises he welds that link of inner communication between God and himself.
Questions and Answers
Q: Do the Vaishnavas and Shiva followers and the worshipper of all the different deities worship in the same way?
A: It is almost the same. There may little differences; not much. Just some of the differences which will perhaps distinguish one from the other. But at the same time mostly this is the form.
Q: Have they all the same sacred words and breathing exercises?
A: No, perhaps the words of the Vaishnava (followers of Vishnu) differ from the words that the followers of Shiva use. Of course, the meaning is the same. And breathing exercises do not differ much. For the reason that the yoga is one yoga for all the Hindus. There are four different yogas, but one system.
Q: Who gives them the words and the breathing exercises? Are the priests Murshids?
A: First of all, a Brahman is a priest by birth. A Brahman is a born priest. Therefore, the first lesson he receives is in his own family, of the sacred word. But when he takes an esoteric path, at that time he needs the guidance of a Murshid. What the Brahman calls a Guru. And it may be the same word perhaps which he learned from his parents. Still, when that word is given by the Guru, that has a different value again. Perhaps he has repeated that word in his life, but when it is given by the Guru the value of the word is different.
Q: And for the non-Brahman?
A: The manner of their worship is the same. But the worship of the other persons is done by the mediumship of a Brahman, because only a Brahman was entitled to perform the service. Brahmans were the community of priests. And for Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas, and Shudras, which are three different castes of the Hindus, the Brahmans had to perform services. The others had no power to perform the service anywhere.
Hindus are all those who live in India. They have to take Brahman as a medium. Through Brahman they are entitled to have a service. Brahman is the one who will perform the service. And they will have to stand there and partake in the service.
Q: Do they know the meaning of all the different actions they perform?
A: Not everybody. An advanced Brahman knows it.
Q: Has it not changed the customs of the other classes?
A: Yes, they do prostrate. But going near the deity, and putting the red powder and the ointment, that they do not do. Sometimes they bring, for the Brahman, the red powder and the oil, and leave it there. But that is Brahman’s work to do.
They have many different marks of the caste. But the caste-mark denotes the third eye, the inner sense.
Q: The Catholic Church…..?
A: One thing is very admirable in the Hindu religion. It is so very vast in its ways of worship, and in its doctrines and ideal and forms and philosophy, that it gives a scope for a person of every grade of evolution. He has an answer in the religion of the Hindus, whatever grade of evolution he has reached. For every person Hinduism will give an answer, because it is very vast. If a person will try in the philosophical field, he will find an answer. In worship, in symbology. Therefore, it is something, which answers the demand of every individual’s life. If one takes the whole religion of the Hindus, from the beginning to the end, so vast and deep, and yet so simple that it answers the need of every person. Hinduism is not one religion. Hinduism is many religions itself.
Q: Is that the reason that the Jains and Sikhs have so grown?
A: The religion of the Jains is Buddhistic, and of the Sikhs is a modern form of Hinduism.
Q: Does the ancient…….?
A: There is no direction of life that is not expressed.
A: It is the spiritual effect of the word. At the same time, when the Guru gives it, at that time the Guru has charged this word with his own spiritual power. That is the same thing in Sufism.
Q: What is the meaning in the worship of the Brahmans of putting rice on the feet of the diety?
A: That all the love and light that they will gain from the deity, they will spread in the world, as the seeds thrown in the furrow.
The name of red powder symbolizes eternal life.
Leili and Majnun
The legend of Leili and Majnun is a story, which is known throughout the East, and the Sufi poets have used the characters of Leili and Majnun to express, in this symbolical legend, the philosophy of love.
Leili and Majnun, when young, were schoolmates, devoted to one another. Whenever the teacher looked at Majnun’s slate there was the picture of Leili drawn upon it. And when the teacher asked Leili to read from the book she repeated the name of Majnun. So, disappointed with the school, the parents had to take them back home. When difficulties arose owing to the caste differences, so that they could not be married to one another according to the caste ideas, in order to make either forget the other, by changing direction of their minds, someone asked Majnun, ‘What is there especial in Leili that you love her so much? There are many other maidens in the world.’ Majnun answered, ‘In order to see Leili you must borrow Majnun’s eyes.’
With great difficulty Leili’s people consented, on condition that Majnun did not show himself the odd in his love, but would have sensibly. On the first day for which the visit had been arranged, for Leili’s people to meet Majnun, Majnun entered the room with his parents, who had told him to behave sensibly. It happened that Leili’s dog, which Majnun had known for years, came into the room. Majnun could not for one moment hold to his dignity. He bowed at the face of the dog and kissed its paws, and the visit became a failure.
Disappointed at Majnun’s action, his parents took him to be the Ka’aba, and told him to pray as they would pray. He said yes. The multitude followed, to see what prayer was going to take place. On hearing the name of Majnun, Majnun’s parents first prayed: ‘God take away the love of Leili from the heart of Majnun.’ All the others listened. Then they asked Majnun to come and pray as they did. He said, ‘Then shall I have Leili if I pray?’ They urged him to come and pray. He said, ‘God give me Leili.’ And all present said, ‘Amen.’
When the parents become hopeless, then they let Majnun roam about as he wished. Majnun in the end arrived near Leili’s town and stayed outside the town in an old ruin where nobody lived. Being tired he was taking shelter there, under that worn-out roof. Leili, hearing that Majnun was near the town, sent some of her portion of food by a confidential maid, who was to carry it to Majnun. When the maid came and looked in that place for the beloved of Leili there were two persons there, one a person thin and drowsy, the other person rather good looking. The maid thought certainly this person must be the beloved of Leili. With the basket of food in her hand, she asked this man, ‘Are you Majnun?’ ‘What is it you have brought?’ he asked. She said, ‘Some food for Majnun.’ He said, ‘I am Majnun, give it to me.’ He was glad to partake of it, and said, ‘I shall be glad to have it every day.’ So Leili starved for days, sending her food, that food was given to this man, who for the time became Majnun. One day Leili asked, ‘How is my Majnun?’ The maid said, ‘He is looking better every day.’ Leili said, ‘It cannot be.’ The maid said, ‘Certainly, be sure of it. He is looking better every day.’ Leili said, ‘Today you need not take the food. Take a knife and a saucer, and tell my Majnun that I need a drop of his blood.’ When she came the man came with anxiety, with eagerness to have the dish, but there was a knife. He said, ‘What is this?’ She said, ‘Leili wants a drop of your blood.’ He first looked perplexed, then he said, ‘I am not Majnun; that may be Majnun, he who is sitting over in that corner.’ By that time Majnun had grown so thin; yet when she asked for a drop of his blood Majnun tried by striking the knife on different parts of his body, if he could get a drop of blood out to be sent to Leili. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘there cannot be anything more delightful for Majnun than to give a drop of his blood when it is asked for by Leili.’
Leili and Majnun
The end of the story of Majnun is that he sat a long time under the shade of a tree and he grew in time to be like the tree. Being near the tree, his body and the tree became one. And when a woodcutter came and instead of cutting the wood his axe struck Majnun, Majnun said ‘Leili,’ for that was the only thought there. Leili, on hearing this, when she had freedom for a moment, was drawn by some way to Majnun at his last moment on earth, and called him, ‘Majnun!’ He answered, ‘Leili.’ She said, ‘I am Leili.’ But he said ‘I am Leili.’ And so Majnun fell and died, and Leili followed him instantly.
The path of the Sufi is the path of devotion, and therefore, Leili and Majnun is the symbol that a Sufi takes for God and man. The soul who journeys in the path of God does not need much learning. What he writes on his slate is the name of God, what he reads in his book is His name. That is the only learning which is most essential in the path of God. And no one can distract the mind of the godly toward anything, however attractive; though he may find not one reason to give for his devotion to God, he can only say, ‘In order to become the lover of God you must borrow my eyes.’ While people think of the differences of their religions and creeds the godly bows before the humblest person, as Majnun to Leili’s dog. And when the prayers of different people will be for themselves, the prayer of the godly is only to attain to the presence of God; and therefore, whatever is his religion, his prayer will be followed by every sincere soul. Besides, the path of God and of love both, if sincerely trodden, need sacrifice from beginning to end; and the one who is not ready for sacrifice is like that pretended lover of Leili who was ready for the food but was not willing to suffer. Verily, who pursueth the world will inherit the world, but the soul that pursueth God will attain in the end to the presence of God.
But to what does the love of God lead? It leads to that peace and stillness which can be seen in the life of the tree, which bears fruits and flowers for others and expects no returns, not even thanks in return. It serves, and cares for nothing else, not even for appreciation. That is the attribute of the godly. And the godly in the end of his attainment of God forgets himself, as Majnun said even to Leili, ‘I am Leili.’ And what happens then? Instead of man pursuing God, God follows man.
The Symbology of Religious Ideas
Christ Walking on the Water
The phenomenon of Christ’s walking on the water, from a mystical point of view, is suggestive of a much greater philosophy than only a phenomenon. The whole universe in all its forms is one single vision of a continual activity. From beginning to end every aspect of life represents motion, and it is the perpetual motion of the whole universe which is called life. Therefore, the universe is, so to speak, an ocean of vibrations, and every movement represents a wave. Therefore, the wise have called it, in Sanskrit, Bhava Sagara, the Ocean of Life, and the great devotees have constantly prayed to be liberated, that they may not sink in this ocean but that they may be able to swim in it, which is called Taran. And it is the master-spirit that can rise above these waves of the enormous ocean of life, in which generally souls are drowned. To be in it and to be able to stand above it and to walk on it is the phenomenon of Christ’s walking on the water.
The Symbology of Religious Ideas
Shaqqu’s-Sadr, the Opening of the Breast of the Prophet
There exists a legend in the world of Islam, and some believe that it really did occur-some say once, and some say it happened more than once- that the angels from heaven descended on earth and cut open the breast of the Prophet; they took away something that was to be removed from there, and then the breast was made as before.
According to the Sufi point of view this is a symbolical legend. It explains what is necessary in the life of man, to allow the plant of divine love to grow in the heart. It is to remove that element which gives the bitter feeling. Just as there is a poison in the sting of the scorpion, and there is a poison in the teeth of the snake, so there is poison in the heart of man, which is made to be the shrine of God. But God cannot rise in the shrine, which is as dead by its own poison. It must be purified first and made real for God to arise. The soul who had to sympathize with the whole world was thus contempt, resentment and ill feeling against another, was destroyed first. So many talk about the purification of the heart, and so few really know what it is. Some say to be pure means to be free from all evil thought, but there is no evil thought. Call it evil or call it devil, if there is any such thought it is the thought of bitterness against another. No one with sense and understanding would like to keep a drop of poison in his body, and how ignorant it is on the part of man when he keeps and cherishes a bitter thought against another in his heart. If a drop of poison can cause the death of the body, it is equal to a thousand deaths when the heart retains the smallest thought of bitterness.
In this legend cutting open the breast is the cutting open of the ego, which is a shell over the heart. And taking away that element is that: every kind of thought or feeling against anyone in the world was taken away, and the breast, which means the heart, was filled with love alone, which is the real life of God.
The Symbology of Religious Ideas
Meraj, the Dream of the Prophet
A story exists in Islam about the dream of the Prophet, a dream which was an initiation in the higher spheres. Many take it literally and discuss it, and afterwards go out by the same door by which they came in. it is by the point of view of a mystic that one can find out the mystery.
It is said that the Prophet was taken from Jerusalem to the inner city of peace. A Buraq was brought for the Prophet to ride on. Jibra’il accompanied the Prophet on the journey to guide him. Buraq is said to be an animal of heaven which has wings, the body of a horse and the face of a human being. It signifies the body together with the mind. The wings represent the mind, the head represents perfection. Also this is the picture of the breath. Breath is the Buraq which reaches from the outer world to the inner world in a moment’s time. Jibra’il in this story represents reason.
It is said that the Prophet saw on his way, Adam, who smiled looking to one side and shed tears looking to the other side. This shows that the human soul when it develops in itself real human sentiment rejoices at the progress of humanity. The Buraq could not go beyond a certain point, which means that breath takes one a certain distance in the mystical realization, but there comes a stage when the breath cannot accompany one. When they arrived near the destination Jibra’il also retired, which means that reason cannot go any further than its limit. Then the Prophet arrived near that curtain which stands between the human and the divine, and called aloud the name of God, saying,
‘None exists save Thou,’ and the answer came, ‘True, true.’ That was the final initiation, from which dated the blooming of Mohammad’s prophetic message.
6 The Symbology of Religious Ideas
The Flute of Krishna
Krishna is pictured in Hindu Symbology with a crown of peacock feathers, playing the flute. Krishna is the idea of divine love, the god of love. And the divine love expresses itself by entering in man and filling his whole being. Therefore, the flute is the human heart, and a heart which is made hollow, which becomes a flute for the god of love to play. When the heart is empty, in other words when there is no scope in the heart, there is no place for love. Rumi, the great poet of Persia, explains the idea more clearly. He says the pains and sorrows the soul experiences through life are holes made in a reed flute, and it is by making these holes that the player makes out of a reed a flute. Which means, the heart of man is first a reed, and the suffering and pain it goes through make t a flute, which can then be used by God as the instrument to produce the music that he constantly wishes to produce. But every reed is not a flute, and so every heart is not His instrument. As the reeds need to be made into flutes, so the human heart can be turned into an instrument and can be offered to the God of love. It is the human heart which becomes the harp of the angels, it is the human heart which is the lute of Orpheus. It is on the model of the heart of man that the first instrument was made, and no earthly instrument can produce that music which the heart produces, raising the mortal soul to immortality.
The crown of peacock’s feathers leads to a further revelation, that it is the music of the heart which can be expressed through the head. It is the knowledge of the head and the love of the heart that expresses the divine message fully. Peacock’s feathers have in all ages been considered as a sign of beauty, as a sign of knowledge because they are in the form of an eye. It is by keen observation that man acquires knowledge. Knowledge without love is lifeless. So with the flute the crown of peacock’s feathers makes the symbol complete.
Questions and Answers (July 20th 1923)
Q: What is the meaning of peacock feathers?
A: The peacock feathers are considered by the poets and mystics as a symbol (sign) of beauty, and a sign of vanity. And they are included in all the kingly grandeurs. And the peacock is the bird upon which rode the goddess of music and literature, Saraswati. Also the peacock feathers are used at the tombs of the Sufis, by the guardians of the tomb. Also by the healers, what by the pass of the peacock feathers , which is the pass of harmony and beauty, the bad influences may be taken away. Also in India they use peacock feathers in the necklace of a child, and that is a little psychological trick. A child who is susceptible to evil eye is saved from its severe influence, because it is natural that the first glance of a person, instead of falling upon the child, will fall upon the peacock feathers, because it attracts the curiosity of everyone. In that way the first severe glance is, so to speak, shielded by the peacock feathers. And the same thing is done by the lion’s nails which are put in the necklace of a little child.
Q: Why can we only have knowledge of God through the heart? What part of the mind does the heart represent?
A: The heart is the principle center, not the heart in the body, but the heart which is the depth of the mind, for the mind is the surface of the heart. The heart and mind are as one tree: the root is the heart and the branches, fruits, flowers, and leaves represent the mind. The heart is at the bottom of thought, imagination, and all. Feelings always belong to the heart, thought to the mind. So what belongs to the mind can be expressed in words, what to the heart cannot. Everything in the mind is intelligible, but what is intelligible but not expressible, or beyond what is intelligible, that is the heart. Deeper feelings, mirth, kindness, sympathy, all fine feelings which cannot be expressed in words are all activities of the heart. The heart is like the sea, and the waves are its emotions. The brain is all over the body, this fact is admitted by modern science. The brain is that susceptibility which is sensitive, such as nerves which are the sensitive feelers of the brain.
7 The Symbology of Religious Ideas
Tongues of Fire
The symbolic meaning of the legend – of the myth – is that there is a period when the soul of the earnest seeker is seeking; which means that it has not yet found the object it is seeking after. In the lifetime of Jesus Christ, the beauty of the Master’s wonderful personality, the great intoxication of His presence, and the constant outpouring of the Message that He had to give, was so much for his disciples that it was beyond what may be called a joy or happiness or something which is explainable. All the blessing that they received and experienced during His presence was covered by the Master’s personality. And the time of realization of that which they had constantly gained came in their lives, after that great change when the external person of the Master ascended and the capacity of realization became open.
But after the resurrection, when they had had sufficient time to recover from the feeling that had overtaken their hearts, the seeming separation from their beloved Lord prepared them, so to speak, in time and opened the doors of the heart, giving capacity for that illumination, which was constantly pouring out from the Spirit of Guidance, the Alpha and Omega, Who always was and is and will be.
The symbolic interpretation of the tongues of flame rising from their foreheads is the light of the Message, the rays of the Christ-spirit in the form of thoughts, which were expressed in words. There is a stage in the life of a seer when the tongue of flame becomes not only an interpretation of the reality but a reality, his own experience. The head is the center of knowledge and when the center opens, the light, which was covered, becomes manifest, not only in idea, but even in form.
And the phenomenon that was shown the next day, when the apostles spoke all different languages, can be rightly interpreted in this sense, that every soul hears its own language. For every soul has its own word, as every soul has its own language. For every soul has its own word, as every soul has its peculiar illusion. And it is, therefore, that one person cannot understand another person in this world, and it becomes more than a miracle when one friend, perhaps one person in the world, can understand one fully. Which means, in this world the language of each one is not understood by another, and if someone understands a little one feels at-one-ment with that one. It was the illumination of the Christ-spirit which brought exaltation in their lives, so that they began to see in every soul, inspired by sympathy and love of Christ. And they understood the souls as they saw them, and so they spoke with souls whose language was never understood. Plainly speaking, they heard the cry of every soul and they answered every soul’s cry.
The Message means the answer to the cry of every soul. Every great prophet or teacher had in his life many followers attracted to his personality, to his kindness and love; but those who became as the instrument of his Message, whose hearts became as a flute for the Master to play his music, have always been some chosen few as the twelve apostles of Christ.
8 The Symbology of Religious Ideas
The Story of Lot’s Wife
The ancient method of giving the mystery of life was to give it in the form of a legend. The legend of Lot’s wife is that it was to Abraham that Lot was related, and it as by the love and help of Abraham that the two angels were sent to Lot, to warn him of the coming destruction of two cities and to advise him to go to the mountains. And Lot was willing to leave the cities, but in the end he agreed to. His sons-in-law failed him by not accompanying him, but his wife and two daughters accompanied him on the journey to the mountains. And they were told that his wife must not look back. And when she did, she was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his two daughters remained, and they reached the cave of the mountain, which was Lot’s destination.
The two towns that were to be destroyed represent the North Pole and the South Pole, the two poles of the world. For all the treasures of the earth, all possessions and power and fame that belong to the earth are subject to destruction. And that was taught to Lot, the human soul, which is from Brahma, the Creator. The relationship of Lot with Abraham represents the relation of the human soul to the Creator. The two angels were the angels of light and of reason. When the light comes to man its first teaching is to warn the soul of the disaster that awaits all that is subject to death and destruction. It is this lesson that is called in Sanskrit the lesson of Vairagya – when man’s eyes open to see all that he loves and likes and wishes to hold and possess is subject to destruction and death.
There are five bodies considered by the mystics of old to be the vehicles of the soul, which are called:
Anandamayakosh, body of Joy,
Vignanamayakosh, body of Wisdom,
Manamayakosh, body of Mind,
Pranamayakosh, body of Ether,
Annamayakosh, body of Earth.
This last is the receptacle of food. It lives on earthly food; and if it is starved of that, it dies, for it is made of earth, it lives on earth. Another is the receptacle of ether. That part of man’s being lives by breath and by taking in the air. If it is starved of air it cannot live. These two bodies form the material part, the physical part, of man’s being. And it is these two receptacles which are termed in the legend the sons-in-law.
Then there is Manamayakosh, which is mind, the mental body. And this body has its action and reaction on both sides; it acts and reacts on the earthly bodies, and it acts and reacts upon the soul. Therefore, when Lot left the two cities, which represent the physical plane, to journey toward the goal of immortality, his wife was still with him. For it is not necessary that the mental body should stay behind when the journey towards illumination is begun. It is capable of going with the soul towards eternity. And yet its attachment to earth and the physical plane is great, because it is made, it is built, of physical impressions, of all impressions that come from the physical world: and of necessity it wants to turn to see if the physical nature of mind is doubt, whether one is doing right or wrong. And doubt and faith are enemies. While faith leads to the destination, doubt pulls back. When the mind was so pulled back, attracted by all the impressions of earthly life, it could neither take hold of the earth nor journey with the spirit, and remained, neither earth nor water, but salt.
The only two bodies which are close to the soul followed the soul. Naturally, they would follow, for they are closely related to the soul, Vignanamayakosh, the body of Wisdom, and Anandamayakosh, the body of Joy. The soul bound towards the eternal goal – as it is called, the top of the mountains – then proceeded towards the mountains. And before they reached the top of the mountains there was the cave, which is called heaven – in metaphysics capacity, in Sanskrit Akasha – which has the power of holding the soul from going to the top and using the soul for some purpose. And the soul, which was bound for the eternal goal remained, so intoxicated by the ecstasy that it received from the plane of joy and the plane of wisdom. And as it ever happens, that ecstasy produces purpose, so this joy resulted in a great purpose, in the birth of the Messenger, which in Sanskrit is called Bodisattva. The Messenger was born of the soul’s experience, the knowledge and the happiness, to bring good tidings to the world.
A question may arise, why Manamayakosh should be the mother, and Anandamayakosh and Vignanamayakosh should be the daughters. And the answer is that they are born of mind, born and soul. If there were only the soul there would be neither joy nor wisdom. Mind and soul both produce joy and wisdom. Therefore, the latter are the daughters, because mind is the mother. The two lower planes are represented by the sons-in-law because they were not directly born of mind and soul. It was a separate substance mind and soul have taken into their life.
By this story the process is taught how the soul can journey from mortality to immortality and what experiences the soul has to have on its way. But when the Messenger so created then the father, the soul, rests in peace. It is, therefore, that the Messenger was called the Son and the original soul the Father.
9 The Symbology of Religious Ideas
The idea that is meant in the Bible by the words of Christ, ‘Eat my flesh and drink my blood,’ is suggestive of the inner being of the Master. It is the eternal life, which he meant by his blood, and it is the omnipresent existence, which he meant by his flesh. The idea of the Master was to make his disciples know that his physical form that they were attracted to was not his being, his true being was the all-pervading, everlasting life of God. And this is the meaning that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one.
Christ said to the fishermen, ‘I will make you fishers of men,’ which meant, ‘As you spread the net and the fishes come into it, so by spirituality your personality will spread in the atmosphere, and the hearts of men hungering for love will be attracted to you as fishes.’ The love of Christ for the lamb symbolically expresses that to the Master that soul made a greater appeal, which was simple and harmless as a lamb. And the crown of thorns represents tolerance of the thorn-like personalities of which there are so many in the world, constantly picking their thorns, consciously or unconsciously, and it is this which makes the sensitive annoyed with life in the world. But the teacher, whose heart represents the divine mother and father both, cannot but be tolerant, and can take willingly all the thorns that would come to him, for that is his crown, the sign of his sovereignty in the kingdom of the soul.
Christ said to Peter, ‘Thou wilt deny me three times before the cock crows.’ It explains human nature. The faith of man is generally dependent upon the faith of the multitude. If the multitude calls the pebble a diamond, then man calls the pebble a diamond, everyone will begin to consider it and say it. And if the multitude thought that the diamond was a pebble then everyone would follow the belief of the multitude. The soul of the Messenger, that comes from above (which the dove represents), which is not made by the world nor known by the world, remains unrecognized till the cock crows and the sun rises. His words shine and spread the light to the world. And the souls privileged with some little recognition, but with a great deal of doubt, may believe for a moment, impressed by the power and grace of the Master’s personality, and yet may deny a thousand times, and doubt and suspect, being impressed by the influence of the multitude. How true it is, the saying in Hindustani that, ‘Generally a soul follows the multitude.’ There are rare souls who believe in their conviction, and remain steady even if it were that the whole world was against their own inner conviction. Verily to the faithful belongs every blessing.
10 The Symbology of Religious Ideas
The Ten Virgins
There is a story in the Bible about ten virgins, the five wise virgins and the five foolish. It was said that the bridegroom was to come and they were to light their lamps. And five were in time and brought the oil and lighted their lamps, and the other five waited until the bridegroom came, and when the bridegroom came then they went to the five who had lighted their lamps and asked of them oil and were refused. This story is a symbol of receiving the Message of God. By virgin is meant the soul, which is awaiting illumination, innocent and responsive to the light. And by five is meant the multitude. And there are two classes of people. One class is those who have prepared themselves and made ready to receive the Message of God, which is pictured in the bridegroom. And the five foolish are that class in mankind who wait and wait until the Message has come and gone. In all ages there have been these two kinds of souls, one kind who are called in the scriptures believers, the others who are known as unbelievers.
In every age the prophecy has been seen by the Messenger of the time as to the next advent. Sometimes it is said, ‘I will come,’ and sometimes, ‘He will come.’ ‘I will come,’ has been told to those who would recognize the same Spirit of Guidance in every coming Messenger. ‘He will come,’ has been told to those to whom name and form make a difference, and who cannot recognize the same Spirit in another name and another form. For example, the coming of Jesus Christ was the coming of that Spirit, which was expressed in this myth as the bridegroom, and how few at that time recognized Him and how few received illumination. Only those whose lamps were ready to be lighted. Oil in this parable is love and the light is wisdom. And when their lamps were lighted, then, so many came afterwards. But that blessing and privilege, which had come with the personality of the Master, had then gone. They had to take the benefit of the light that came from the lamps of those whose lamps were lighted, but the chance of lighting their own lamps was lost.
The same is with all things in life. Every moment in our lives is an opportunity which brings a benefit and blessing. And the one who knows how to be benefited by it and how to be blessed by it receives the benefit and the blessing. Everyone seems living and awake, but few souls really are living and awake. There are opportunities of benefit and blessing on every plane of one’s life, on the physical plane, on the mental plane, on the spiritual plane, and every opportunity is invaluable. But often one realizes the truth when it is too late. There is no greater and better opportunity than the moment that can give a spiritual illumination, a moment when one can receive the blessing of God. It is a priceless moment. Who knows it and understands it and tries to be benefited by it, is blessed.
The Power of Breath
It is difficult to define breath in a few words. Breath is the very life in beings, and what holds all the particles of the body together is the power of the breath, and when this power becomes less then the will loses its control over the body. As the power of the sun holds all the planets so the power of the breath holds every organ. Besides this the breath purifies the body by taking in new and fresh life and by giving out all gases that should be put out. It nourishes the body by absorbing from the space the spirit and substance that are necessary, and more necessary than all that man eats and drinks. The whole mechanism of the body works by the power of the breath, and every disorder in the working of the mechanism is caused by some irregularity in the breath. Therefore physicians feel disorder in the health of a patient by feeling his pulse or the beats of his heart. The physician will say that it is the physical illness of the body, which has caused the change in the pulsation and in the beats of the heart, but the mystic knows that it is caused by the breath.
The breath in its different aspects acts differently; in every direction the breath does a special work. The breath has a special work with every organ of the body, and it has its particular influence upon every element of which the physical body consists. Every movement that one makes is directed by the power of breath at the same time the breath alone has the power to stop any motion. For instance, walking, running, sitting, and standing are actions done by the power of breath, and trembling, shivering, or waving the hands or feet without control show lack of power in the breath. Diseases, especially such diseases as nervousness, palpitation of the heart, and paralysis come from lack of power of the breath. All lung diseases are caused by unclearness of the breath. Troubles in the brain and troubles in the intestines are also caused by lack of regularity of the breath. This shows that breath is the key to health, which is all happiness in life.
The Culture of the Breath
Breath has various works to do in the mechanism of the body. Hunger and thirst, the power of eating and drinking, is given by the breath; the closing and opening of the eyes, and the activity of all the organs is directed by the power of the breath; the expelling of all gases and excretements also is directed by the breath. Therefore every activity of the body, outward and inward, is directed by the breath. Therefore it is disorder of the breath, which causes illness, and its order regulates the health. Many physicians now point out reasons for diseases, where mystics think of the breath and point out reasons in breathing. According to the point of view of the mystic a natural full breath gives perfect health, and to a mystic’s view in a hundred people not one breathes rightly. Every Brahmin teaches his child a way of breathing when he is nine years old. As it is a common thing that everybody breathes incorrectly it rarely occurs to the mind that one’s breath is incorrect.
The air taken in and sent out that one feels through the nostrils or lungs are what we ordinarily call breath. In reality, however, that is as the stem of a tree whose branches are many. According to the physician the lungs are the channel of the breath, but to the mystic the lungs are the branches of the tree, and other branches reach all parts of the body. This tree has a root in the body, and has centers where the branches meet the stem. There are five such centers in the body of man. The breath has its particular work in every center. By the study of mysticism one finds that man’s life depends upon the working of the centers. Generally the centers are blocked up on the inner side of the body. Therefore they give but a dim light, if the breath be pictured as a gas and centers as lanterns. When the centers are not in a fit condition they are wasted; not only this, but man is deprived of the full experience of life.
Powers that are considered supernatural become natural when man leads a natural life. The first lesson of a natural life is right breathing. Many people breathe a half breath, many a quarter and many still less. Many diseases such as lung diseases, and nervous diseases, can be avoided by right breathing. It is a certain direction that the breath takes that brings about sleep, and it is the direction of the breath that brings vigor or fatigue. A man may, by the help of the breath, become stronger by doing physical exercises, and another by physical labor may become exhausted and worn out. The laborers in India who have to lift heavy weights have a certain way of breathing, and by understanding this they can lift a great deal and work a great deal and yet feel little fatigue. There are many reasons why people in general do not breathe rightly, but one among them is a lack of education in this. As health is more important than anything else on earth is, and as health depends entirely upon the breath, which is the very life, it is necessary that the culture of the breath should be considered as of the highest importance.
Breath in the Sufic term is called Nafs. The breath spreads through the whole body like a tree, and its stem is felt by man, and it is this stem which man in his everyday language calls breath. All the branches of this tree the mystic calls by different names. A mystic sees the whole body as a plant of the breath. Therefore in the Sanskrit language breath is called Prana, which means the very life. It spreads life and magnetism in all parts of the body, for breath in itself is life, and is magnetism. Deformity of form and feature is often caused by disorder of the breath. Lack of proportion of the body, in form and strength, is also caused by lack of order in the breath. By exercises for physical culture and exercises of voice production breath can be developed in different parts of the body. It can especially be noticed in the fingers of the violinist that by constant practice on the violin he puts a sort of magnetism, of life, into the strings his fingers touch. This example is a plain proof that it is not the fingers that play nor the violin that sounds, but that they are instruments of life.
The importance of breath is only now becoming known to the scientific world, and there is much of this mystical subject which is unexplored. But mysticism has been founded on the science of breath. There is no mystic, whether Buddhist, Vedantist, or Sufi, who makes use of another process than that of the breath. Breath is the first lesson and it is also the last.
A mystic becomes capable of sending breath to any part of his body; thus he is able to send life, radiance and magnetism to any particle of his body. The question, “Does he send the breath by his power of will?” can by simply answered by “Yes,” and yet that is not enough. If there are no strings on the violin, you cannot play on it by will power. So long as the adept has not balanced his breath, and controlled it, and purified it, and mastered it, it cannot bring about the proper result. Therefore it is of no use to try to make use of breath for physical or occult attainments until one has caused the breath to be in such a condition that it can work properly in the body. Many therefore, are not successful in spiritual attainments because before making use of the breath in the body, they want to produce physical phenomena. You cannot play Beethoven perfectly on a piano, which is out of tune. The body is the instrument for every experience, worldly or spiritual, and it is not right to say that the body does not matter, only the spirit counts. It is just like saying that it does not matter whether the instrument is tuned, it is the music that counts. The mechanism of the body is so made that in each direction breath accomplishes a certain work, even to such an extent that the degree of its strength differs on the right and left. By a deep study of breath a seeker after truth will find that, as every particle of his body is formed and nourished by breath, so from that and according to that his character is formed.
Five Aspects of Breath
The mechanism of the body is dependent in its work upon five different aspects of breath, and these aspects are the five different directions of breath. In the Koran, and also in the Hebrew scriptures, these five breaths are known as the five angels. These aspects are thus pictured in their finer work I human life. Often their direction is spoken of by the prophets in symbolical terms, as it is said: One stands on the left side of man, one on the right, one before, one behind, one within him. When one aspect of these five is not working properly it brings disorder in the whole mechanism of the body. In eating and drinking, yawning and stretching and in all actions of everyday life these five aspects of breath have to take the lead.
Among these five aspects the first is the breath which is like the stem on the tree, and which one feels through the nostrils. B the purification, development and control of this breath all five aspects are developed. There are atoms I man’s body which form a certain organ, which are more or less active in different rhythms according as the breath reaches them. The atoms, which do not receive the proper breath, remain undeveloped, and therefore are inactive. As the centers of the body are situated in the center of the whole mechanism, it is natural that in the average person the breath does not reach their innermost part, as it ought to. The question, “If it is natural that it should reach them, why does it not?” may be answered by saying that it is because man leads an artificial life. If man led a natural life it would not be necessary for him to develop by certain meditation processes the qualities that are latent in him. A horse, a dog, or a cat knows intuitively of death, disease or distress in the house in which it lives. The animals are considered by modern psychology to be without mind, and man, who is far superior to the lower creation and is the ideal of all beings, has not that intuitive power. The reason is that the animals lead a more natural life than man does, although even that is spoiled by contact with man. The cobra can attract its food from a mile’s distance, but man must toil with his hands for his daily bread. In short, there are faculties in man which, by the artificiality of his life, are closed, and man lives an incomplete life. To live a fuller life the wise in all religions have taken the breath in hand and awakened atoms and centers, which are instruments for those faculties. As soon as breath touches those centers it makes them vibrate and then they do their work. Therefore breathing exercises given to a mureed are like the winding of a clock. Once in twenty-four hours the clock is wound and after that it goes on without effort.
The Channel of the Breath
Breath is a channel through which all the expression of the innermost life can be given. Breath is an electric current that runs between the everlasting life and the mortal frame.
Those who have attained any intuition or miraculous power or any power have achieved it by the help of the breath. But the first essential thing is a pure channel for the breath, and that channel is the human body. If the channel is blocked, there is not possibility for the breath to flow freely. Air in itself is not bad, but when it touches the earth, it partakes the influence of the earth, and therefore can become polluted. So it is with the breath; breath in itself is pure, but if the channel through which it works is not right, it becomes impure.
The breath makes a circuit through the body, and the channel through which it makes the circuit is the spine. The mystics give this channel great importance; they call it the serpent. They picture it as a serpent holding its tail in its mouth. In almost all symbols the serpent represents the channel of the breath. In the terms of the Yogis it is called Kundalini. When this channel is made clear by the method of breathing then this is not only a help to the physical health but it also opens up the faculties of intuition and the doors that are within, where lies the real happiness of man. In order to clear this channel of all that blocks the way one must follow the rules of mystical ablutions and of rhythmic breathing. People who cannot understand the subject and who hear and read things by halves say that some chakras, centers, are opened by breathing exercises and that many kinds of distress may be the consequence. But looking at it from another point of view, one might as well say that the eyes of a child should never be opened, because he will thereby be exposed to temptations of all sorts. All virtue is in self-control; there is no virtue in being dead. Life is worth while only when a person leads it fully. People look for phenomena, but there is no better phenomena that breath itself, because breath is life and light, and I the breath is the source of life and light. In the mastery of breath the secret of both worlds is hidden.
The Rhythm of Breath
Rhythm is the principal thing to be considered in breath, as it is on the rhythm of the breath that the working of the whole mechanism depends, and the chief reason of irregularity of the beats of the heart or head is lack of rhythm in the breath. As man generally neglects to think of his breath he overlooks the fact that his health entirely depends on rhythmic breath. Rhythm is the central theme of the whole creation. Therefore the infant moves his hands and legs by turns, forming a rhythm. This shows that nobody teaches anyone rhythm, it is natural to all beings. It is the rhythmic movement, which enables the fish to swim, and the serpent to climb trees. If rhythm were not an instinct the animal would never have known how to walk or the bird how to fly. The life of man is so pulled from all sides, so divided, that he often forgets things that are most essential to his life, which the lower creatures seem to keep more correctly in their lives. Neatness in man’s work and balance in man’s actions show rhythm in him. When man shows lack of balance in his life and when his life is disturbed and all things seem to go wrong, it is most often that the rhythm of his breath has become wrong. Irregularity of activity and repose in the habits of life causes disorder of rhythm in the breath.
Very often the eastern mystical exercises are wrongly understood by many. When a teacher gives a breathing exercise to his pupil often he does not mean the breathing itself but rhythm. Thought given to the breath becomes a weight upon it and naturally holds it longer in its movement, altering it from what it would otherwise naturally be. It is the following of the rhythm of breath, and the keeping of the rhythm regular, which brings about the best results.
Kasif and Latif
Breath is termed by Sufis Kasif and Latif ; Kasif means dense and Latif means fine. Dense breath is that which is noisy and labored, which strains the nerves and the lungs. The exercises of dense breath are useful for developing the muscles and for gaining control over the nerves; they are helpful also to the lungs and useful to the physical health. But in spiritual development unless the breath is made fine it cannot penetrate through the important centers in the body and it cannot reach far enough into the innermost parts of one’s life.
Breath, to a Sufi, is a bridge between himself and God; it is a rope for him, hanging down to earth, attached to the heavens. The Sufi climbs up by the help of this rope. In the Koranic language it is called Burak, a steed which was sent to the Prophet for his journey to the heavens. Hindus call it Prana, which means life, but they picture it symbolically as a bird which is named in Sanskrit, Garuda, on which rode Narayana, the godhead.
There is no mystical cult in which the breath is not given the greatest importance in spiritual progress. Once man has touched the depths of his own being by the help of the breath then it becomes easy for him to become at one with all that exists on earth and in heaven.
Breath – The Vehicle of the Self
Breath is the mystery; in it is hidden the secret of life. Breath proves the existence of the life unseen. Breath is audible, at the same time inaudible. Breath is visible and at the same time invisible. It is a certain degree of the activity of the breath and the capacity through which it is acting which makes the breath audible. This shows that there exists something of which we are conscious, the source of which no one knows, which is active every moment of the day, on the model of which the mechanism of nature and art is made.
No one can explain whence it came into this mortal body, and no one can say whither it goes when it leaves this body of clay. One can only say that something living came and kept this mortal body alive and then left it, proving that the same body, which once was thought to be alive, was not really alive, but itself was the life. This proves to the intellect, even to that which is void of faith, that there is some source whence life comes, and that it returns again to the same source. Man’s true self is the part of his being which knows itself to exist, which is conscious of itself. When that self takes breath as its vehicle instead of the body then it soars upward toward the utmost heights, toward that goal which is the source and origin of all beings.
The Mysticism of Breath
Breath is audible and visible, and when a spiritual person, by spiritual exercises, strengthens and purifies the breath, it becomes more intelligible, as a light and a sound. Life and light, in truth, are one; the breath is the life, and it is the same breath which is light. Breath in fact is the light of all senses; the senses of sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch perceive all things by the light of the breath. When the breath is absent from the body, the body with all its perfect mechanism becomes useless. It is natural, therefore, that every sense must become powerful and keen if the breath be developed and purified.
The reason why the ill and weak and people physically delicate generally see visions is that by the lack of flesh, fat and blood the veins and tubes of the body and the organs of all the senses are free and not blocked as they are in a muscular person. Therefore, naturally, the senses become keen and man perceives more than what is within the ordinary range of perception. Also such a person, when asleep, perceives the impressions from the inner world, because during sleep the inner sense, which may be called the root of the senses, turns its back, so to speak, on the external world and so begins to see the world within.
The mystic, by the help of exercises, develops and purifies the breath. Therefore to him, after a certain time, all things become clear in the outer and inner world. There are some who see light before them, there are some who notice colors before their view, and also there are some who see forms before their sight. When they talk about it to others, who cannot observe the phenomena, they are considered imaginative; people often laugh at them. The Sufi, therefore, does not speak of any such experience to others; he thinks it is not their world and they will not be able to understand unless they also rise to that sphere. There is no motive for speaking about one’s experiences to others except pride, and if someone does this out of vanity his next step will be exaggeration. If something makes anyone feel himself above others it is natural for him to feel inclined to make it still more impressive. Besides, it is in human nature to wish to interest one’s friends in one’s
pleasure, and if someone is pleased with something he sees he will surely try to make it more interesting by a little added exaggeration. Therefore there are these two dangers on the spiritual path, of which the adept must be aware before making the journey. It is for this reason that mysticism has been made a secret cult, that it may not be for everybody to play with.
Color and Sound
Breath in reality is light; but when it shoots forth its rays, according to the direction of the rays and the capacity which takes this light, the colors manifest. Form and color both depend upon the direction the light takes and upon the degree of light. Nothing on earth is meaningless; every occurrence has its meaning and every moment has its purpose. Even the colors that manifest in the light of the breath have their meaning, which coincides with the moment and the conditions then. There are attempts being made of taking photographs of thoughts and feelings, and some have even attempted to photograph the spirits. It is difficult to say how far this attempt can be successful. No doubt it gives a great scope to falsehood. If there is any means of seeing a spirit, a form from the inner world, it is only breath-that in the light of breath a form from the inner world can manifest as a picture from the magic lantern. The picture actually is in the lantern, and it is the reflection of that picture which we see. Those who can see the form of the dead, see the reflection before them manifested in the light of their own breath, the real form being still in the inner world. For it is the breath which connects the inner world with the outer world, just as the light thrown from the magic lantern falls upon the curtain.
There are many who believe that there is a color or a note which belongs to a particular person, and this question gives, no doubt, a great scope for confusion and puzzle. Many people are anxious to know what note really belongs to them or what color is their special color. In point of fact, this question can be looked at from two different points of view, one symbolic and the other metaphysical. From the symbolical point of view, every person is, so to speak, tuned to a certain pitch in his particular evolution, and he stands with another person just as C on the piano may stand with G, or E of the pianoforte with A. This shows the reason why a person can get on with a certain person harmoniously, and with another inharmoniously. It is not the fault of the F or G on the piano that they sound inharmonious together, it is the combination, which causes the inharmony. It is not always the note, which is inharmonious; it is a wrong combination, which makes it so. Spiritual perfection makes man the keynote, which is in harmony with all notes; and even that perfection shown to the world by Christ caused his crucifixion. Metaphysically, this question may be explained that there is a certain degree of life in a person, which can be distinguished by his breath, and that degree shows itself to the seer in color and sound. Those who have not reached the degree of that power, which perceives the tone and color of breath, can perceive it by the voice and expression of man.
THE BREATH is like a swing, which has a constant motion, and whatever is put in the swing, swings also with the movement of the breath. Fikar, therefore, is not a breathing practice. In Fikar it is not necessary that one should breathe in a certain way, different from one’s usual breathing. Fikar is to become conscious of the natural movement of the breath, and picturing breath as a swing, to put in that swing a certain thought, as a babe in the cradle, to rock it. Only the difference in rocking is an intentional activity on the part of the person who rocks the cradle. In Fikar no effort must be made to change the rhythm of the breath; the breath must be left to its own usual rhythm. One need not try even to regulate the rhythm of the breath, for the whole mechanism of one’s body is already working rhythmically. So the breath is rhythmical by nature and it is the very breath itself, which causes man to distinguish rhythm.
What is important in Fikar is not the rhythm but the concentration. Fikar is swinging the concentrated thought with the movement of breath, for breath is life and it gives life to the thought, which is repeated with the breath. On the rhythm of the breath the circulation of the blood and the pulsation of the heart and head depend; which means that the whole mechanism of the body, also of the mind, is directed by the rhythm of the breath. When a thought is attached to the breath by concentration, then the effect of that thought reaches every atom of one’s mind and body. Plainly speaking, the thought held in Fikar runs with the circulation of the blood through every vein and tube of the body, and the influence of that thought is spread through every faculty of the mind. Therefore the reaction of the Fikar is the resonance of the same thought expressing itself through one’s thought, speech and action. So in time the thought one holds in Fikar becomes the reality of one’s self. So he who contemplates on God in time arrives at a state where his self turns into the being of God.
2 Regularity of Breath
As the mechanism of the body depends upon the breath for its subsistence as well as for its health, so the breath is important in sustaining the mind and keeping its work regular. Mostly confusion, depression, or any other disorder of the mind arises from the disorder of breathing. All such diseases as hallucinations and delusions are caused by wrong breathing. For instance, if a person comes running or his hurried for a moment, he loses the regularity of his breath for that moment, and at that moment he is incapable of thinking rightly. If science and the State knew this, they could surely cause some change to be made in the present law. Many who are put in prison for some crime caused by them during moments of irregular breathing, the State would send to be cured and taught how to breathe, instead of sending them to prison. For neither does the prison cure them nor does it benefit by their presence there. By this I mean to say that not only a disorder of mind that comes a t a certain time is caused by irregular breathing, but also a disorder which comes and goes so often during the day, whenever breathing is not rightly done. People who become impulsive, or show irritability in nature, who become impatient at times, who get fits of anger, passion, or laughter, who get spells of tears, all have an irregularity of breathing as the cause of all this. The physician has no remedy for their ills, modern psychology has not found the link, but the mystics of old have for years believed it-not only believed it, but practiced it-and have found in the end that balance of mind entirely depends upon regularity of breathing.
3 The Life – Power
On breath depends the capability and efficiency with which one thoroughly does one’s work. Shortness of breath gives man impatience, lack of endurance; and irregularity of the rhythm of the breath gives man confusion and makes him inclined to be easily upset. Breath, being the life-power, it is the same life-power which gives man strength to endure all things. One always will find that those who easily get cross, upset quickly, instantly annoyed, have something wrong with the breath. People, not knowing their difficulty, get annoyed with them; they are put aside, and are considered disagreeable people. What they need is the training of breathing. When their body and mind is so repaired, one will find no more disagreeableness in their nature. Then, the artist who gets tired of his work and feels a lack of enthusiasm to complete his work and feels a lack of interest and feels absence of inspiration it all is often caused by some disorder in the breath.
Regular and rhythmic breathing gives health to body and mind both. Inspiration comes from above, but as a light. It is the work of the mind to receive it. If the mind is not ready to receive it, the inspiration will come but will not be realized. It is just like the difference between the gong of metal and the gong of wood. The former will resound; the later will not resound. It is not the fault of the one who strikes the gong, it is the gong itself, which does not resound. So it is with the mind which is receptive to the inspiration and the mind which cannot conceive it. But to every mind inspiration comes; the only difference is that one receives it, the other rejects it. Right breathing makes the mind vibrate, and vibration is the sign of life. All that vibrates more is more living; what vibrates less is less living. So it is with trees and animals, they show their life in their vibration. India’s greatest scientist, Jagadish Chandra Bose, had the other day spoken at a university in England on the subject of trees breathing. Among horses, the horse one chooses, as the best is the one whose nostrils are fully open and whose breath is fuller, which the horse shows in its expression in the eyes. A good horse shows vibrations by the quivering of its skin when its back is patted. It is not like a stone-like horse, which takes one step after ten whips given on its back. In man in the same way that life can be seen which is termed in Hindustani Pani, which means water. They say that a horse, or a man, has ‘a watery nature,’ living, pliable; and this life breath gives to body and mind.
4 Full Breath
The importance of the breath in the body is like the influence if the weather in the world. As the body and mind act and react on one another, so the influence of the breath takes the chief place in directing mind and body both. Every emotion is caused by the breath flowing in a certain direction also the degree of the force of the breath. There are three different rhythms of breath, which have influence upon the mind. Slow breath gives tranquillity to the mind, and all the creative faculties of mind have scope of work given by this rhythm. Moderate breath helps the mind to continue its activities. If one wanted to make out a plan of work, or wished to accomplish a certain work, the slow activity of breath spoken of above would not be helpful. But quickness in the rhythm of breath produces confusion, although it gives a force to physical activities. One can run better or swim well when the breath is in fairly quick rhythm. When the rhythm of the breath is too quick, it brings confusion to the mind and exhaustion to the body.
One who does not breathe fully, in other words freely and deeply, can neither be well physically nor make use of his mental faculties. Very often one finds most learned and intelligent people unable to work as they wish and incapable of finishing a work which they have taken up. Sometimes a person thinks it a bodily weakness or mental weakness or lack of enthusiasm or loss of memory, not knowing that it is very often a matter of regularizing the breath. Most often people think that it is the external senses being tired or exhausted that prevents their thinking, but in reality it is the absence of right breathing, for right breathing can make the mental faculties clearer and the outer organs of the senses more capable of perceiving. This shows that the mind can live a fuller life by what I call full breath. For a Sufi, therefore, breath is a key to concentration. The Sufi, so to speak, covers his thought under the breath. This expression of Rumi’s I would interpret that the Sufi lays his beloved ideal in the swing of the breath. I remember my Murshid’s saying that every breath, which is inhaled with the consciousness of the Divine Beloved, is the only gain and every breath inhaled without this consciousness is the only loss there is.
5 The Rhythmic Breath
Thought is conveyed without speech through the breath. The true wireless telegraphy is the rightly established current of breath. It is difficult for every man to try it, without practice in concentration and in absence of the development of breath, though unconsciously thoughts are always exchanged through the agency of breath. The scientist is ready to believe that contagious diseases are spread by means of breath, but is the part of psychology to realize that thoughts and mental states-such as humor, depression, energy, or sloth-are conveyed by means of breath. In the presence of an angry person one feels excited and inclined to anger. The contact of a humorous person spreads around an atmosphere of humor, in the presence of a cold person one becomes cold, the contact of a warm-hearted person warms one; and all this is done by the medium of breath. If an angry person were to close his breath while angry, much less of his feeling would affect another. If a person who is subject to humor would close his breath in the presence of an expert comedian he could protect himself from being influenced by him.
Yogis, who rise about the thoughts and feelings of those around them, attain power by the control of the breath. So the method of the inner cult of Sufis also depends upon the science of breath. Knowledge of another person’s pleasure or displeasure, the message of affection, the warning of hostility, all are received by the way of the breath. The one who is conscious of the rhythm of breath and whose breath is pure from grossness, begins to perceive a sense, which becomes in time a language to him. Thought reading is not necessarily intuition, although many confuse thought reading with intuition. There is not much difference between the working of these two faculties; the difference is like that between the telephone and the telegraph. Thought reading comes from without, intuition comes from within; yet for both rhythmic breath and a clear mind are necessary. The rhythmic breath helps the mind to be clear. Breath breaks the congestion, which in the head produces confusion, and in the heart depression, which covers the thoughts of others from one’s perception, even from one’s own intuition. A thought is better conveyed to another through breath than by speech, for a feeling put into words becomes half-dead. Feeling, in its own sphere, is fully living, and when conveyed from there through the breath, it reaches the mind to which it is sent. When a person has not developed his mind by concentration and tries to send his thought by breath he is not always successful. He is like a person trying to hit the target without ever having practiced in his life. It is practice, which makes man perfect.
Be Conscious of Every Breath
It is by the power of breath that the animals search for their food, through breath they perceive what they must eat, what they must not eat, through breath the carnivorous animals search for their prey. It is through breath that certain animals receive warning of dangers and again it is through the breath that some animals, when ill, find their remedy. If the lower creation can do so much by the power of breath, how much more can man do, if he only knows the right way of the development of breath! It is through the breath that birds receive warnings of the changes of the weather, and accordingly they migrate in flocks from one place to another. Through the breath the herds of deer perceive approaching storms or changes of weather or the approach of a lion or a tiger. Man, who is more capable of perceiving by breath still deeper things, warnings and calls from the earth and from heaven, which places are meant for him to dwell in or to settle in, of discriminating between friend and foe and discerning their pleasure and displeasure, owing to his interest in the superficial things of life cannot fully benefit by the power of breath.
Yogis and Sufis, therefore, and all students of the inner cult, believe that breath is the means of receiving all intuitive knowledge from every direction of life. Absorbed in a thousand things of daily life man gives very little thought to breath. Therefore he keeps his heart closed to all the revelation that can be received by the help of breath. Man as a rule is never conscious of his breath, of its rhythm, of its development, except at the time when he is so tired that he is breathless when he is so excited that he feels choked up, or when something keeps the breath from flowing. For a Sufi it is desirable to be conscious of every breath. In the schools of the Sufis in the East the members of a certain association take up as their duty to remind the whole assembly of the same. So one after another, in turn, takes it up as a duty. They call aloud ‘Hosh ba dam,’ meaning ‘Keep conscious of the breath,’ ‘Nazar ba kadam’; this sentence is added when the Sufis are walking, and means, ‘‘Look down and see whose feet are these that are walking.’
Direction of Breath
It is said that the cobras, enormous animals living in dense forests or in the mountains, attract animals or birds by the power of the breath. When the cobra is hungry, which is once in three months or six months, by inhaling the breath it draws its prey near. In its exhaling there is magnetism, power, and influence; in its inhaling there is attraction. The mystics of ancient times have learned much from cobras. Mahadeva, the Lord of Yogis, had the cobra as his necklace. The peace and stillness of this animal, the contentment with which it waits for its sustenance, are wonderful, and most instructive for an adept on the spiritual path.
One who masters breath becomes invigorated and strengthened in his mind, becomes quiet and peaceful and achieves self-control. In the cobra there is a far-reaching breath. So is the breath of the mystic. The mystic’s breath is not what is called deep breathing. His is the breath reaching inmost, which touches every plane of his being. Every movement robs one of a great portion of breath; every excitement takes away a great deal of life force. Therefore those who master breathing first learn control, not only over every passion and emotion, but also over every movement. By trying first to make the body still one can practice the breath better. Therefore among Yogis different postures are taught. Every posture allows the breath to take a certain direction, for every direction the breath takes has a different result. It is posture and thought, both together that help to direct the breath in a certain direction. As breath is a life-power, whatever center it is directed to it brings to a new life.
Breath in the Development of Mind
Different conditions and the changes that take place in the world have their effect upon the mind, and the different conditions of the mind have their effect upon the body. As bodily illness makes man irritable, confused and exhausted in mind, so different conditions of the mind cause health or illness in the body. The link between the body and the mind is the breath, a link through which the influences of the body and the mind are exchanged and work upon one another. By the use of breath in physical culture the health and vigor of the breath is projected so to speak, upon the mind. By the use of concentration through the breath the light of the mind is thrown upon the body, which takes away from the body all heaviness and stiffness, making it light and exhilarated.
Breath in this way acts like a ball in tennis thrown from one side to the other, and the force of its movement comes from the side from which it is directed. Therefore when it is directed from the body to the mind the mind becomes subject to the influence of the body, but when from the side of the mind it is directed toward the body, in this case the body becomes subject to the mind. Very often dervishes and fakirs in the East, many of whom live upon alms and go several days without food and spend many nights in sleepless vigil, do things which are difficult for a wrestler, a boxer, or any other muscular person. Some dervishes practice jumping into fire, standing for hours in the water, sitting or lying on iron pricks, thrashing their bare arms and legs, cutting themselves with knives and swords, and all such things beyond the power of a physically strong man. Often a physically strong man suffers in proportion to his strength when he is exposed to pain or torture. This explains that though the power of breath is the main source of physical development, yet breath is the principal thing in the development of mind, in which the influence of the breath is more valuable.
Contraction and Expansion
The breath has a great influence and entire control over two principles which work by the power of the breath: Kabs, or contraction, and Bast, or expansion. The former absorbs, attracts, and gathers energy from outside; the latter tendency expels energy from within. In this way body and mind are sustained, nourished, enriched, and made light, easy clear and pure by the power of breath. Inhaling is contraction and exhaling is expansion. It is upon these two principles and their regular working that the health and happiness of man depend.
A man who has not gained power over his breath is like a king who has no power over his domain. Once man has gained the power of contraction and expansion then what he needs in life is to know what to attract and what to repel, and this the master of breath intuitively understands. Even the birds and animals know what they must eat and drink and what they must not. By a close study of the lower creation students of nature have learned that animals and birds abstain from food and drink when it becomes necessary for health.
I am often asked the question, why there should be pain in childbirth. And the answer is that our life has been removed far from nature. Man today lives an artificial life to such an extent that he can hardly understand what real life may be. Man considers the accustomed the natural, he does not think how far the natural is removed from the present
Life we live. The domesticated animals are also beginning to show the birth-pain, through their association with human beings.
Fikar, practiced for some years, helps to regulate the rhythm of breathing, and it helps in all aspects of life to attract and repel all one wishes. By the help of Fikar not only the digestive faculty and the circulation of the blood and the pulsations of the body are make regular, but the concentration that is developed through the development of breath enables man to repel all disagreeable impressions which cause despair and depression. By the power of Fikar one helps the power of memory, also the power of retention of thought. At the same time one is enabled by the power of breath to forget any thought one wishes to put out of one’s mind and to erase from one’s heart any impression deeply engraved.
10 Communication Through The Breath
Breath is the medium between the outer life and the inner life. By the help of breath the elements necessary for the body can be attracted and by the help of breath thoughts and inspiration can be gained. By the help of breath all that is undesirable in the body and mind can be expelled. The secret of telepathy, of reading the thought, has the science of breath as its mystery. When one wishes to draw from within inspiration, breath is the key. Breath is a life-current; its value is known to so few! Breath in itself is a phenomenon, but the phenomenon becomes manifest when once the breath is fully mastered.
The law of transmutation is also the secret of breath. What we give, or gain from another, without seeing or hearing, which we only realize as a result of the contact of someone, that is the effect of breath. For by the medium of breath there is always something given and taken; yet so few are aware of it! In the presence of one person one feels an inclination to laugh, in the presence of another one has a desire to cry; contact with one makes a person feel cheerful, with another sorrowful. Sometimes without there being one word spoken between two people thoughts and feelings are transferred, without people knowing it, through the current of breath. Breath is a link through which one individual is connected with another individual, and space does not make a difference if once connection of breath is established. The communication will be sure and clear, if only the wire is tied to sympathetic hearts. There is much that is common to the science of electricity and the science of breath. The day is not very far off when science and mysticism both will meet on the same ground in the realization of the electricity, which is hidden in the breath.
1 The Length and Breadth of Breath
Mind is creative and thought is living, but out of what does mind create a thought? Out of the atoms of the mental sphere. But the current, which attracts the desired atoms to complete a thought, is the breath, not that breath which is outwardly manifest, but that part of breath the action of which is not felt by every man. The more length and breadth the breath has the more scope it gives for the creation of thought. It is therefore that the thoughts of the sages and mystics, who have gained mastery over breath, are more substantial and complete in themselves, and besides they prove to be more expressive and impressive.
The breadth of the breath is in its volume. This comes by the facility one has of breathing through wide nostrils and open lungs. The secret of the power of voice is also to be found in this. The voice of a commander of an army, which carries through the army and impresses the soldiers, thus encouraging them to fight, has breath as its secret behind it. Ali by his invocation of the sacred word, which he sometimes used to cry aloud on the battlefield, used to cause the enemies to tremble.
The length of the breath shows the length of life; lengthy breath is the sign of long life. This comes not only by wide nostrils and open lungs, but also by the accommodation that the body has for the breath, not only the nose and the chest but also the head and the abdomen.
There are some, whose breath has volume, or breadth, but not much length, and there are others who have length and no breadth. But it is the balance of the length and breadth of the breath, which gives balance to the mind.
Inspiration comes from the light thrown upon a certain idea. This comes from the radiance of the breath falling upon the mind. There are two shadows, one that is projected upon the sky, and another which falls upon the ground; the former known to the mystic and the latter to everyone. When the breath which is developed, is thrown outward its radiance produces light, and it is the different shades and grades of this light, which manifest in various colors, suggesting to the mystic the different elements, which the particular colors denote. The same breath has a different action when it is thrown within. It falls upon the mind like a searchlight and shows to the intelligence the object of its search as things seen in daylight. Thus man knows without any effort on the part of the brain all he wishes to know and expresses in the way each individual is qualified to express.
Inspiration, therefore, is one thing, qualification another thing. The inspiration is perfect when expressed by the qualified soul. Nevertheless inspiration is independent of qualification. The light that the breath throws upon the mind is in every case different in its radiance. When far-reaching it illuminates the deepest corners of the heart, where the light has never reached, and if breath reaches further the light is thrown upon the mind of God, the store of all the knowledge there is.
It is the vibrations caused by the breath, which become thought-waves, which carry the thought from one mind to the other. It is therefore that thought-reading depends so much upon the position in which two people sit with regard to each other. For a certain position makes it easier for the breath to reach than another, although it is not always necessary that a person must be facing one in order to receive thought-waves through breath. If the thought power is strong and the breath is sound enough to carry the thought-waves, a person, whether facing or having his back turned must receive thought.
The mystics do not only project their own breath and see the condition of their being manifest before themselves, but they can also make themselves responsive to receive the thought waves of another carried by his breath. This receptivity does not only enable an adept to read other’s thoughts, but also to a mystic the condition of another becomes revealed by the projection of another person’s breath upon his heart.
Plainly speaking, souls are likened to mirrors, and two mirrors facing one another become projected on one another, one manifesting the reflection of the other. The mirror, which has not already a reflection, is capable of manifesting the reflection of the other mirror. In this way breath enables a Sufi not only to know and see his own condition of life but also to know and understand the condition of those he comes in contact with.
The breath of one person may, so to speak, overpower the breath of another. It is as a little stream can be washed away by a large stream of water. In this is the secret of knowing the condition of another person. A Sufi, whose breath is lively, which is called in the Sufic terms Nafsi Garm, has the influence of scattering the thoughts, feelings, and the vibrations of the atmosphere of another. In this way he is able to convey his thought or feeling, and create his vibrations as the atmosphere for another who needs it for his own betterment. In this way a Sufi brings a life and health to another person, and he can have an influence on the character of another person.
There is a great difference between a developed breath and an undeveloped one. There is as vast a difference, or even a vaster, between the breath of two persons as in two voices. A specially produced singing voice is quite different from the uncultivated speaking voice. It is a psychological fact that the voice and word of a person whose voice is cultivated makes a greater impression than the voice and word of an ordinary person. How much more then must the influence of breath work silently. It is in this that the mystery of the mystic’s magnetism lies, which is healing, harmonizing, exalting, at the same time invigorating.
The Unknown Dimension
Breath is a light in itself, and it becomes projected like the beam from a searchlight thrown upon an object. When the breath is coarse, undeveloped, it is full of material atoms which dim its light, but a developed breath is sometimes no different from the light of the sun but even brighter that that. Breath being a light from another dimension, which is unknown to science today, it cannot be visible to the ordinary physical eyes. The glands of the physical eyes must be cleansed and purified first by Pasi Anfas before the eyes can see the light of breath.
What people call the aura is the light of breath, but it is not everyone who sees it. A radiant countenance is a proof of an aura, which lightens it, and the lack of it is the lack of light in the breath. A seer sees the sign of a death more clearly and longer beforehand than a physician can. The reason is that the seer sees in the aura of a person whereas the physician sees only the condition of the body.
There is a belief in India that there are some cobras that have light in their head, the light by which they find their way through the dark. They make a hole in the earth miles long, and illuminate the hole by their own light, which is centered in their head. As two wires, positive and negative cause the electric light to manifest, so the two currents of breath, Jelal and Jemal, when connected in the head in the way they ought to be cause the light to manifest.
Many experience the phenomena of the light of breath, and yet doubt if it can be true, for they think it is perhaps an imagination. Others, who are incapable of seeing that light, confirm their doubt. The Sufi, by the development of breath, experiences this light, which becomes for him a proof of the existence of that dimension which is unknown to the ordinary world.
Breathing and Meditation
Why is breath called Prana by the Hindus? It is because it brings on the surface the essence from within. It is a current, which is running from the outer spheres to the inner spirit. What it brings from the outer spheres to the inner spirit is not nearly so great as that which it brings from the inner spheres of life.
This being the condition, breath is vitalizing. Naturally, therefore, the breath of a man in sound health must give health to another in his presence; the breath of a mastermind must vitalize the thought of another; and the breath of a spiritual person must illuminate those in his presence. By breath a spiritually developed person can impart his physical energy, his thought-power and his spiritual influence to the others with whom he may come in contact. It is natural; no doubt, that if the one who wishes to impart has not sufficient power to impart he becomes broken if there is a greater demand on his power and if there is little left with him. Sufis, therefore, consider breathing connected with meditation much more important than anything else in the world: their food, sleep, or comfort.
Breath Is Likened to Water
Breath is likened to water. The flowing of the breath is like the flowing of a stream. Inhalation and exhalation show ebb and flow. Parts of the earth which water does not touch remain barren; so the centers in the body, with all their intuitive, innate capacities, remain unproductive if the breath does not reach them. Besides various diseases, in spite of all their apparent causes, often have one principal cause, and that is the lack of free flow of the breath. Many operations could be avoided and several diseases could be cured by the knowledge of the phenomena of breath.
The Hindu sacred rivers, Ganga and Jumna, are outward symbols of Jelal and Jemal, the two directions of the flow of the breath. And the place where they meet is called Sangam, the meeting or unity, which is considered most sacred by the Hindus. That Sangam is the meeting of these two opposite flows. It is like the meeting of the two directions in the center, which is called Kemal by the Sufis.
The water rises, passes, falls, and runs zigzag, and stands if held. So is breath. Every above-said action of breath has a meaning and has a peculiar effect, as even water varies in its power and magnetism while going through the above-said directions. Water is a tonic, and breath is life itself. No tonic can be greater and better than breath. A spiritually evolved person’s presence, therefore, brings about a cure in cases where all remedies fail. Water is the necessity of life, and breath the only condition for living. Without it life is impossible. Water falls as a rain from above; so breath is from above also, though from another dimension. Water rises as vapors; so breath rises with gases, also with joys or depressions. Pure water is health-giving, pure breath gives life. Water partakes of all things mixing with it; so does breath.
Breath and Magnetism
The mechanism of the human body shows the nervous system as its principal battery in which magnetism is prepared by the action of breath. It is when the nervous system cannot function that this battery gets out of order and does not work properly. Many in order to make this battery of the nervous system work properly take drugs and other medicines, which stimulate the nervous system. But instead of giving power to it they take away power form it, and in the end the nervous system becomes accustomed to all such medicines one takes.
The nourishment of the nervous system is what breath attracts from the space. As far as science goes, it says one gets into one’s system oxygen. The mystic goes further in saying, not only oxygen, but also that life and intelligence, that power and radiance which makes the nervous system in perfect order. The result of which is not only good health but ever-increasing magnetism, which comes forth from the person in his thought, speech, movement and action, charging his atmosphere with magnetism which surrounds him as a fortification and protection against all influences, physical and mental; thus making man live a fuller life.
The Subtle Waves of Breath
Inhaling shows the power of absorption, which is manifest in all living beings and in all objects. Little germs, worms, trees and plants all absorb, and in that way they breathe. Also in all living beings and in all things there is a tendency t put out an element which does not belong to them, in other words an element which their system will not assimilate. It is not only the inhaling and exhaling by the nostrils which accomplishes these two functions, absorption and rejection, but there are minute waves of the breath working in different directions of the body, which perform the above-said two acts in their own way and in their own rhythm of speed; for instance the tendency of stretching and contracting, the tendency of blinking the eyes, of expelling water and refuse from the body. When any of these subtle waves of the breath working in any direction of the body get out of order, then an illness originates in that particular part of the body, spreading its influence gradually to other parts.
Balance in man’s life and being is maintained by the evenness of inhaling and exhaling. The compass of man’s being is as large as the reaching point of his breath. One lives a fuller life, another does not live a fuller life; because the former breathes fuller, the latter does not breathe fuller. Very often the reason why a child is a dwarf is that his breathing capacity does not allow him to breathe fully; and often the reason why a youth does not develop fully is that he does not breathe properly. A person ages sooner, also, because his breathing is not right. Very often people who have no particular illness feel tired and lifeless, because their breathing is not as it ought to be.
The spirit produces this physical body out of itself; so the body in spite of all the physical nourishment, entirely depends upon the spirit to live. One can live for some time without food and water, but one cannot live without breathing. The reason is that as the physical body is made of the spirit, it needs to breathe spirit in, in order to exist. Breath therefore does not only nourish the physical body but it gives subsistence to all planes of man’s existence.
The Mystery of Breath
Breath penetrates, breath permeates, breath strikes, breath absorbs, breath invigorates, and breath heals. It is therefore that souls with great powers make their thought and feeling penetrate into the mind and the hearts of others. As breath creates an atmosphere it permeates the bodies of others, also the sphere, charging the whole atmosphere with its particular magnetism.
The hearts of men are likened to gongs in the temple. Every spoken word strikes them, but by the power of breath one strikes them without a word. It is by the breath that one contracts illnesses, but also one absorbs defects and the depression of others, as well as joy and happiness. The breath of personalities healthy in mind and body is vitalizing. The breath of the spiritual beings, whose love and sympathy goes out to others, is naturally healing.
It is no exaggeration that the whole phenomenon of life has breath as its mystery, and once the knowledge of breath is attained and breath is mastered by practice, one beholds a most wonderful phenomenon within and without. There are many whom remain skeptical till they have fathomed the mystery of breath. Once they know it, they call it, as Hindus have called it for ages, Breath-Life.