Universal Worship Sermon at The Hague in Holland October 2010
Pir Zia Inayat-Khan
Beloved ones of God,
Last night it rained and this morning the world awoke refreshed. Rain at night has a special mystique. The raindrops pitter-pattering on the window send sound waves into the bedroom, into the ears, into the sleeping mind. In the reverie of our dream, the atmosphere enters, and the outer and inner worlds intermingle.
Within the earth of this body, the breath is like rain. When we breathe deeply, with subtlety, with awareness, the breath falls over us like rain falling on the parched earth of the desert. The desiccated dried-up inner centres of the body spring to life as the earth springs to life under the influence of the life-giving rains of spring. The arid landscape suddenly comes alive with the verdant colour of fresh blossoms.
In the world in which we live, revelation is like rain. Revelation descends from above, quenching the thirst of human beings when all seems lost. Through history revelation has come at moments of great need, when the world is changing, when the old forms are breaking down. The old idols no longer command credence. Society is decaying, and something is struggling to be born, out of the ashes, phoenix-like, and yet it needs a prophet, it needs a voice.
That voice is revelation, and the soul of the prophet is the soul that has so emptied itself of personal ambitions, attachments, and expectations, as to become a vessel to receive that which is to be given by Providence, that which emanates out from the very fount of Creation, continuously descending upon the world.
The prophet’s soul is tuned to the pitch of the cry of humanity. When the fabric of society is frayed, when souls are lost and discord prevails, a deep sigh rises up and the prophet gives voice to that sigh. The rain that falls from the heavens arises first from the earth. Water evaporates, billowing up in the sky and forming clouds. Likewise our prayers—our ardent needs, our deep questions, our crises of faith, our hearts’ cries—rise up. And an answer comes; we are not forgotten. The Source, the eternal life from which we have sprung, does not ignore us. The answer comes.
The voice of the prophet resounds. It speaks, as it must speak, in words that are recognizable. It must convey its message in the idiom of the time and place. And so every dispensation of the Message is different. It responds to the need of the time.
And yet, in its essence, the Message is always one Message. It is always the answer of the One to the many, reminding us that we belong to the One, we are of the One. Even as we live here on Earth in manyness, yet together, we form a whole. All of the expressions of revelation heard down the ages are sounds of the same voice calling us toward unity.
We receive blessing not only of the words that have come down to us in scripture, but also in the personalities of the prophets themselves. The prophets were the embodiments of the Message that they bore. Their glance, their manner, their gait, their quality of heart, their way of being, represented the fullness of what is possible for a human being to realize on Earth, the fullness of the Divine Heritage that is the birthright of each one of us.
Through history, humans have, again and again, responded to the call, sought to follow in the footsteps of the prophets, sought to put into practice their guidance, and in doing so, formed communities, one group following this prophet, another group following another prophet, creating institutions, hierarchies, rituals, traditions. And forgetting over time, that the Message is one Message.
And so we live, today, in a world of forgetfulness, a world of conflict. The stakes of conflict are now higher than ever before: as technology advances, military technology becomes ever deadlier. In fact, we have reached the critical juncture where it is now in our power as human beings to obliterate our own species, not only ourselves, but to bring down the whole living biosphere with us.
In our zealous attachment to the distinctions and differences that we ourselves have created in our forgetfulness, the true Message of the prophets—a Message of unity, a Message of peace, a Message of wholeness—has been largely forgotten.
And yet, though we live in dangerous times, we also live in extraordinarily miraculous times, when the world is coming together in new ways, when we know more about each other than ever before, when more and more it is clear that humanity is one race, and that we ourselves belong to the whole web of life.
All of this convinces us now that we must see the prophets as a single lineage of grace, see them as so many faces of the Face of Guidance, the loving-kindness that is always flooding over the Earth from the Divine Source. And further that we may be guided by this prophet and that one, that we may hear all voices, we may seek to follow all footsteps, that we may endeavour to inculcate in our being the qualities of grace that we find in all of these illuminated personalities.
The Message has always come in moments of great change and uncertainty, when the human heart cries out. Now the world is changing at an unprecedented pace. The whole society is transforming, year-by-year, before our eyes. Conditions are ripe for the infusion of the guidance that must carry us into the destined future.
And yet, it is not a new and different religion that is needed. The revelation of the Divine guidance, when it comes, comes differently now. It comes in the realization that all of the revelations of wisdom that we have received belong to one whole. And the prophetic impulse now is in the drawing together of all of these channels of guidance, seeing the whole in the parts.
Each revelation has sounded a note, and each note is a true note. It is now our privilege to hear the sound of all notes played together in the form of a symphony, a symphony expressive of the highest reaches of human discovery throughout history, across the globe, in all times and places: the full breadth and depth of the human experience, touching upon the eternal.
When we realize this, our spiritual path is no longer something merely personal. Yes, we each begin as seekers, wounded perhaps by life experiences, wanting something more, needing something for our own peace of mind, and so we go forward, seeking what we miss. But, as we proceed further and further, more and more we realize we are not alone on this path. Everyone whom we meet is another seeker and the quest is the same quest. It is one Being questing within us. Our path is not our own. The whole world has embarked on a journey. We are travelling together, and it is not our personal salvation, we realize now, that is of the essence. Our fulfillment is inextricably linked to that of everyone else. Our peace must be one peace. We must find it together.
And so, one is lifted out of one’s personal spiritual ambition into the conviction that one must be of service; that one has on Earth a number of days and none of us knows how many. Any day may be our last. But we have been given this privilege: we have been brought forth, plucked out of the void, and sent here, given bodies woven out of the fabric of the cosmos, given a voice with which to speak. We have come from the Court of the Divine Intimacy, sent forth with a mandate to testify to unity amidst multiplicity, to be separate and yet, in our separateness, to remember the One and in that remembrance, foster harmony.
We have a number of days. The world is changing before our eyes. The future is not certain. And yet we are remembering our duty. We are remembering that when we leave this Earth, our legacy will not be the possessions that we have accumulated, or the power that we have exercised or the fame that we have attained.
Our legacy will be our service, the love that we have given. The time is now. The whole future is ours to make whole. The world is sundered in parts, dismembered. And the voice of the heart is crying out. Now the heart of the world is calling to us: Remember, remember: become members once again of that one Whole to which you and I and all beings belong. That this one Whole may awaken within us, amongst us, that the whole Earth may awaken to its communion with the Everlasting. May we be among those who are to bring about the transfiguration of the Earth. Amen
I am dying into your mystery,
I am now no other than that mystery.
I open to your majesty
as an orchard welcomes rain,
and twenty times that.