Topic July

The Smiling Forehead

from: Hazrat Inayat Khan -

Sufi Teachings

(see also counsellor)

You can listen to all themes here

By FOREHEAD I mean a person's expression, which depends solely upon his attitude to life. Life is the same for the saint and for Satan; and if their lives are different it is only because of their outlook on life. The same life is turned by the one into heaven and by the other into hell.

There are two attitudes: to one all is wrong; to the other all is right. Our life in the world from morning to evening is full of experiences, good and bad, which can be distinguished according to their degree; and the more we study the mystery of good and bad, the more we see that there really is no such thing as good and bad. It is because of our attitude and the conditions that things seem good or bad to us.

It is easy for an ordinary person to say what is good or bad, just or unjust; it is very difficult for a wise human being. Everyone, according to his outlook on life, turns things from bad to good and from good to bad, because everyone has his own grade of evolution and he reasons according to that. Sometimes one thing is more subtle than others, and then it is difficult for him to judge. There was a time when Wagner's music was not understood, and another time when he was considered the greatest of musicians. Sometimes things are good in themselves, but our own evolution makes them seem not so good to us. What we considered good a few years ago, may not seem good at a later evolution. A child appreciates a doll most, later he will prefer the work of great sculptors.

This proves that at every step and degree of evolution the idea of good and bad in a human being changes, and when we think about it we will understand that there is no such thing as right and wrong. If there is right, then all is right. No doubt there is a phase when a human being is a slave of what he has himself made right or wrong; but there is another phase in which he is master. This mastery comes from his realization of the fact that right and wrong are made by a human being’s own attitude to life; and then right and wrong, good and bad, will be his slaves, because he knows that it is in his power to turn the one into the other.

This opens the door to another mystery of life which shows that as there is duality in each thing, so there is duality in every action. In everything that is just, something unjust is hidden; and in everything that is bad, something good; and then we begin to see how the world reacts to all our actions: one person sees only the good and another only the bad. In Sufi terms this particular attitude is called Hairat, bewilderment; and while to the average human beings theaters, moving pictures, and bazaars are interesting, so to the Sufi the whole of life is interesting, a constant vision of bewilderment. He cannot explain this to the world, because there are no words to explain it.

Can we compare any joy to that of taking things quietly, patiently, and easily? All other joys come from outer sources, but this happiness is our own property. When a person arrives at this feeling, it expresses itself not in words but in the 'smiling forehead'.

There is another side to this subject, which is that a human being is pleased to see the one he loves and admires and respects; and if he frowns at someone, it is because it is someone he does not admire or respect. Love is the divine essence in a human being and is due to God alone; and love for a human being is a lesson, a first step forward to the love of God.

In human love we begin to see the way to divine love, as the lesson of domestic life is learnt by the little girl playing with her dolls. We learn this lesson by loving one person, a friend, a beloved father, mother, brother, sister, or teacher. But love is wrongly used when it is not constantly developing and spreading. The water of a pond may turn bad, but the water of a river remains pure because it is progressing, and thus by sincerely loving one person, we should rear the plant of love and make it grow and spread at the same time.

Love has grown to its fullness when a a human being becomes all love - his atmosphere, his expression, every movement he makes. And how can such a human being love one and refuse another? His very countenance and presence become a blessing. In the East, when people speak of saints or sages it is not because of their miracles, it is because of their presence and their countenance which radiate vibrations of love; and this love expresses itself in tolerance, in forgiveness, in respect, in overlooking the faults of others. Their sympathy covers the defects of others as if they were their own; they forget their own interest in the interest of others. They do not mind what circumstances they are in, be they high or humble; their foreheads are smiling. In their eyes everyone is the expression of the Beloved, whose name they repeat. They see the divine in all forms and beings.

Just as the religious person has a religious attitude in a temple, so the Sufi has that attitude before every being, for to him every being is the temple of the divine. Therefore he is always before his Lord. Whether a servant, a master, a friend, or a foe is before him, he is in the presence of God. For the one whose God is in the high heavens, there is a vast gulf between him and God; but the one who has God always before him is always in God's presence, and there is no end to his happiness.

The idea of the Sufi is that however religious a person may be, without love he is nothing. It is the same with someone who has studied thousands of books; without love, he has learnt nothing. And love does not reside in a claim to love; when love is born we hear its voice louder than the voice of a human being. Love needs no words; they are too inadequate to express it. In what small fashion love can express itself, is in what the Persians call the 'Smiling Forehead'.

One day I met the Lord face to face, and, bending my knees, I prayed:

‘Tell me, O King of Compassion, is it Thou who punishes the sinner

and givest rewards to the virtuous one?’

He said, smiling:

‘The sinner attracts his punishment;

the virtuous earns his reward.


Vadan - Alapas

(Maheboob Khan, Hazrat Inayat Khan‘s brother, has composed music to a row of aphorisms of Hazrat Inayat Khan in the middle of last century, as this ‚Every Step in Thy Path‘. Mohammed Ali Khan, Hazrat Inayat Khan’s cousin, has sung this song around the year 1956 in a concert in Zürich – here you can listen to it)

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