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Heart with Wings

The Inner Culture Activity

The Four Paths

There are four paths, which may be called royal roads that the mystics have taken from time to time. The one path is the path of knowledge, the other path is the path of action; the other path is the path of meditation; and the other path is the path of devotion. It is not necessary that one may take all four paths, but they all join in the end into one path, the only path there is to tread in order to arrive at the spiritual realization. Each of these paths is suited to certain personalities. The personality which is attracted to one of these paths may not be attracted to another of these paths.


Excerpt from Gathekas, Hazrat Inayat Khan


Knowledge
| Action | Meditation | Devotion

The Path of Knowledge

The path of knowledge is reached by the intellectual path. It is the analysing and synthesizing at the same time. The difference between the intellectual pursuit of the scientist and of the mystic on the path is that when the scientist goes on with his analysis, the mystic analyses together with synthesis. And therefore what happens is this, that perhaps the scientist has taken one atom and perhaps his whole life he has been busy with this one atom, and perhaps after his whole life he has not found the last to say about this one atom and perhaps another scientist has come and he says, "No, not at all, this is not a kind of atom, it is radium." It is quite a different thing from what the scientist said fifty years before. Another is still discovering and says, "It is not atom or radium." After fifty years another scientist says, "Electron, that is again another thing I have discovered." The idea is that as a person goes on in the observation of things limited in their nature and character, of necessity he will have to make his observation limited to that particular atom. Whereas the mystic path is quite the contrary, he is analysing and at the same time synthesizing. The one who is guided on this path, the mystic tells him, "One." But he knows that 'one' will not satisfy him. He says two halves, four quarters is one, and three thirds is one. When in all these ways he understands about 'one', the mission of the mystic is finished.

Now one might ask, "What knowledge is it that the mystic gives? Does he bring before mankind the analysis of Heaven, or of the Divine Spirit?" No, the mystic opens the eyes of a person to the analysis of himself. It is not the anatomy of his body but the anatomy of his mind and that which is hidden behind his mind, an anatomy which brings man to a knowledge which contradicts every other knowledge he has hitherto learned. The distinctions and differences of various meanings of all things fall flat before that one knowledge which answers the continual 'Why?' which is rising at every moment in the wondering mind. There remains no question, all questions are answered, for it is in the absence of the sun that the things are not clear, it is in the darkness that the things do not shine. A knowledge which answers what relation you have with your fellow creatures, what relation with every atom of this world, with the soul, with God, the blessing of this knowledge is great, for the consciousness of the relation with all things, which I have just explained, establishes that relation which before was only in a kind of unconscious state. Such knowledge once received, any religion he will find to be teaching the same truth that he has realized now by this knowledge. He disagrees with no one, for he understands the point of view of everyone.
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Excerpt from Gathekas, Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Path of Action

Now coming to the other aspect, and that aspect is the path of action. When a person is conscientious of his action towards his fellowmen, when one thinks of his obligations to others, his duties to those to whom he is indebted, he begins to tread the path. A person who lives a life of righteousness, whether he is a businessman, a professional man, whatever work he does, in this he acts rightfully, seeks harmony, certainly he will find a straight way open before him.

For the reason is that as it is a natural desire to realize spiritual life, it is not something foreign that one has to learn, it is something that opens before one if one was straight in one's life. But it must be understood that the world does not permit, the life does not always allow one to lead a straight life. It has such zigzag ways, made by man for his convenience, and for his benefit that one finds oneself in a puzzle, one does not know where to get out of this, where is the door. Nevertheless, there are simple souls, perhaps they are very little seen as religious people, praying, and yet they are far beyond the average man, only by living a simple, right, modest life. The very fact that a man is allowed to keep straight through his life shows the proof that Heaven has opened its door to that person. The way for that person is clear, and open, and there is nothing in the way of the path of this person. The man who consults his conscience at every move he makes, who is simple, who does not doubt every one, who is easy to deal with, and humble in his action, to that person the way is open. Instead of seeking God, God seeks him.
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Excerpt from Gathekas, Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Path of Meditation

Now coming to the third path, the path of meditation. That is the path of assurance. This path assures a soul of all that is in the hereafter. He does not need to experience the hereafter, he is sitting here, he knows what it is. All one may learn intellectually about the mystery of life, by the help of meditation he begins to realize for himself. He does not need to learn what Heaven means, what God means, what soul means, what will come after this life. He is sitting here and he can feel every sphere, every plane, sitting in the same place where he is. No barriers stand before him, either earthly or heavenly, for he is above barriers, he sees it all as one could see the earth by rising in the air. Besides this, that great longing for peace that an evolving soul continually has, that great yearning for that inner joy that an evolving soul always is seeking, all these things are accomplished by meditation. By the help of meditation one attains power which is beyond words to explain; besides that, health of body and strength of mind is gained by it, inspiration and power then become natural possessions.

And now one might ask, "How is one to meditate?" Many will wonder, but very few will have the patience to go on with it. The reason is that the absorption of this worldly life is so great that man becomes accustomed to the everyday activity that the state of meditation becomes quite a foreign experience to him, and one cannot feel at home in meditation, unless one had long patience in order to make the world of meditation his home. The great Sages and the Masters of humanity have had meditation as their greatest experience and help. The great power and inspiration that they have shown, the religion they have given, the knowledge they have brought, they all have come from meditation, they have not been poured out from a brain.

Even great musicians who have left living things in the world, the great poets, even without knowing, naturally they were meditative. Great things have come from them that the world will value for ever and ever. It is not only that the sages, the saints, and even the great Masters and prophets have been meditative, but even the great kings, such as Solomon, Alexander; and even the life of Napoleon had a glimpse of meditative life. It is said of Napoleon that at such times when hours together he was at the battlefield, and the energy of most of them was exhausted, this emperor should also be exhausted. But no, he would close his eyes, go in a condition for a moment, and then after that he would be as energetic as before. By the help of meditation one connects oneself with the storehouse of inspiration, power, energy, life, happiness, peace, that one can get any amount of it, and yet it is not lacking in that store.

The examples that one has seen of the meditative people are beyond expression. After the age of eighty or even more the memory is as brilliant as in youth, their health perfect, and their mind in proper rhythm, working in proper balance.

It is a great pity that what we happen to know of those who claim to be meditative people seems to be so unbalanced that they only give a kind of bad name to the mystical life. But what is the reason of it? The reason is that some of them are seeking to communicate with spirits, to work wonders, to pride themselves on how much they know. That is not the work of the meditative person. The person of meditation must show balance in every side of life, in the common sense of life, in the understanding of life above, and also seeing in life below as clearly or even more so than the average person. As a person has mastered meditation, in everything he does he will express it. People think of a meditative person perhaps sitting in the caves of the mountains of the Himalayas or in solitude, who sees no one. It is all unnatural. Why must one go to the Himalayas, in the solitude? Anywhere one is, whatever one's occupation, the one who knows how to meditate can meditate wherever he is or whatever he does. The truly meditative person must prove to us in all earthly things, in art, science, in whatever profession or work, he must do it to a great fullness, in that way he must show the power and inspiration and bliss of meditation. The little meditation one does for half an hour or a quarter of an hour, it is only a kind of winding, but the one who has mastered it, it must go on night and day, he must be conscious of it night and day, everything he does must express it.
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Excerpt from Gathekas, Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Path of Devotion

And when we come to the fourth path, the path of devotion, so little can be said about it, because it is beyond all things. As the Bible says, "God is love," and therefore if there is anything divine in man, it is the love element. And in order to attain to the divine knowledge there is nothing so great as the expansion of the heart, as the development of the love element, and the three paths, as said before, they all come in it, they all join in it. A person who is most intellectual and has no spark of love in him, with all his intellect he is like dead. But what is love? Is love a pleasure? Love is sacrifice. And one might ask, "Whose love? Is it the love of God that I mean by devotion?" And one might reason also, that one loves when one sees something beautiful, something loveable. When one does not see God, how can one love God? And that is true; so many imagine that they love God, many may profess that they love God, but to love God is a question which is not easily to be answered. But there is a verse of Rumi which explains this most beautifully. Rumi says, "If you love man or if you love God, at the end of your journey on the path of love you will be brought before the sovereign of love."
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Excerpt from Gathekas, Hazrat Inayat Khan