This is a book on the spiritual in every-day life. The very variety of its contents is an illustration of the significance of Sufism and spirituality in general for human life.
The first two parts, Sufi Mysticism and The Path of Initiation and Discipleship, expand further on themes presented in earlier volumes, particularly in Volume I. The Way of Illumination. The reader is called to reconsider his life, and how he is leading it rather than what life is his. Where is your ideal? to what tone is your instrument tuned? What melodies are you playing? Which rhythm is yours?
In Sufi Poetry Hazrat Inayat Khan discusses the life, work and influence of some of the great Sufi poets of the past, illustrating the significance of mysticism and discipleship.
It has become common place to see art as separate from religion, as an autonomous form of human expression. However, Sufi Inayat Khan makes clear to what extent art (in the wide sense of the word) is related, if not to religion, at least to spirituality and mysticism. He claims art to be divine in its vocation. This part of the book, Art: Yesterday, today and tomorrow, is an expression of this truth. Most forms of art are discussed and some general chapters on art provide a framework.
In the last part, The Problem of the Day, the author lays down some thoughts about society and the individual problems, possible developments, various solutions, and their requirements. The tone of these lectures is a wonderful blend of realism and idealism, of optimism and pessimism. He is realistic about human nature and its negative aspects. At the same time, however, there is always the call for the divine part in our nature, the soul as the spark of the divine light, and the awareness of the always present tendency to and longing for love and sympathy, the very foundation of the human brotherhood.
The present volume is the first of a series including all the works intended for publication of Hazrat Inayat Khan (Baroda 1882-New Delhi 1927), the great Sufi mystic who came to the Western world in 1910 and lectured and taught there until his passing away in 1927,
A new edition of this series, which was published for the International Headquarters of the Sufi Movement in the West in the '60s, is now made available in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East. In this way Hazrat Inayat Khan's inspired and universal vision of the Sufi Message returns to his own beloved country, where it originated and where interest in it is growing.
This book and other volumes of this series have not been written down by the author. They contain his lectures, discourses and other teachings as taken down in shorthand and other handwriting. When preparing for publication great care was taken, not only to avoid distortion of their intent and meaning, but also in leave intact, as far as possible, the flow of mystical inspiration and poetical expression which add so much to their spell, and without which a significant part of his message would be lost. Although speaking in a tongue foreign to him, he moulded it into a perfect vehicle for his thought, at times somewhat ungrammatical and unusual, but always as clear and precise as his often difficult and abstruse subjects would allow.
It goes without saying that neither in the present nor in the previous edition anything has been altered which would involve even the slightest deviation from the author's intention and no attempt has been made to transform his highly personal and colorful language into idiomatically unimpeachable English. Already so much is necessarily lost by the transfer of the spoken word to the printed page that every effort has been made, as it should, to preserve the Master's melodious phrasing, the radiance of his personality, and the subtle sense of humour which never left him.
Hazrat Inayat Khan's teaching was nearly all given during the years 1918- 1926. It covers a great many subjects, several of which were grouped in series of lectures and taken up again some years later. Certain subjects may cover nearly the same ground as others; stories and examples which abound in most of his works are met again elsewhere; and much of what he taught one finds repeated in several places. This was intentional, as repetition belonged to Hazrat Inayat Khan's method of teaching; it is for the student to become aware of the subtle differences in each context. For these and other reasons it would be difficult to follow a rigid system in publishing Hazrat Inayat Khan's works; a chronological grouping of his lectures would he very unsatisfactory, and a stringent classification according to subject-matter hardly feasible.
The complete series contains fourteen volumes. The last volume is the Index. This edition is the first one to present an index to the Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
Each volume is complete in it, and therefore may be read without any necessity to study following or previous ones. However, one may get a spiritual and mental appetite to continue reading. One will find that a meditative way of reading will convey not only the words but also the spiritual power emanating from them, tuning mind, heart and soul to the pitch which is one's own.
The Eight chapters of Sufi Mysticism consist of lectures, delivered on various occasions, in which Hazrat Sufi Inayat Khan tried to explain something of the essence of mysticism, and also to give a glimpse of the life and work on earth of the mystics, those beings who through their advanced state of evolution and their constant contact with the unseen and the unknown 'hold aloft the light of truth through the darkness of human ignorance', in the words of a Sufi invocation.
Because so many people are apprehensive of the word 'initiation', believing it to mean a kind of mysterious ordeal one has to go through; Inayat Khan repeatedly explained its real significance, for example, in The Way of Illumination (Vol. I of this series, pp. 46-53). When asked what initiation involved, he often replied that it was 'a blessing and a welcome'. The Path of Initiation and Discipleship is a collection of lectures and papers in which the different stages and aspects of initiation and discipleship are set forth in a comprehensive form. It may serve as a guide to those who wish to learn more about the esoteric activity of the Sufi Movement.
Coming himself from a long line of Sufis, both on his father's and his mother's side, it is natural that Hazrat Inayat Khan should have greatly revered the Sufi mystics and poets of the past, who have not only left an indelible mark on the poetry, religion, and philosophy of the East, but have also in their own age and later deeply influenced Western thought. In Sufi Poetry some of the greatest of these poets are described, their lives and work, their experiences and characteristics.
The divinity of art, its mystical aspects, and its social significance were subjects which were never far from Inayat Khan's mind. Before he left India in 1910 he was a famous musician, singer, and poet; and when he arrived in the West to bring his message of Sufi wisdom, he used his art, especially during the first years, not only as a means of livelihood but also to convey the basic Sufi philosophical and mystical concepts to those who came to see and hear him.
Then, during the last two years of his life, the Pir-o-Murshid delivered a series of lectures on many different aspects of art, including painting, sculpture, and architecture, which are published under the title Art: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Hazr at Inayat Khan's aesthetic standards differ on some points from the values which are generally accepted, as does the terminology he uses. It is necessary to bear this in mind when following the Sufi mystic's trend of thought'. In fact, Sufi Inayat Khan always approached his subject as a mystic, whose principal aim in this case was to place art in its proper perspective, not so much as an achievement of man but as a manifestation of God through man. Therefore he does not describe ancient forms of art as a historian would, nor does he speak as an art critic about modern art; he merely takes some instances and examples to illustrate the points he wants to emphasize.
The Problem of the Day forms the last part of this volume. It consists of lectures on the present need of mankind; in these Inayat Khan stresses the fact that if in our times man has gone so far astray morally, 'it is principally because of his declining interest in religion and his lack of a higher ideal.
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