From the Editor

Welcome to the Universel.

Posts feature wisdom sayings from the archives of Pir Vilayat, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, modern and ancient Sufis, and others who have delved deeply into the inner life and brought forth its radiance. With meditations, prayers, practices and commentary, the posts are intended to open us to a greater understanding, help us address situations which arise in life, and “build a beautiful world of beautiful people.”

Come and read the story of the birth of the Universel. (There is more to come!)

My thanks to Sharif Munawwir Graham and Shams Kairys for their careful review of “The Universel: Hedjerat Day – September 13.”

The Universel: Hedjerat Day – September 13

On September 13, 1926, during a celebratory laying of the cornerstone of the Universel, its founder, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan stood in a circle drawn by one of his students to indicate his place for the event. Did he feel hesitant as he stepped into that circle, recognizing its symbolic significance of completion? He was to leave for a visit to India shortly thereafter. Who would have foreseen that six months later, on February 5, 1927, at age 44, the beloved teacher would pass from this earth? A seemingly small portion of his vast legacy, the cornerstone for the Universel lay in the orchard opposite his home in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris, France. What would the future hold for the unfoldment of the nascent Universel?

Sixteen years earlier to the day, the young Inayat, already a renowned master of Indian classical music honored as Tansen, a title given him by the Nizam of Hyderabad in his home country, had set sail for the west. He had received a comission from his Sufi teacher in India to unite East and West in the harmony of his music.

In his autobiography, Inayat Khan wrote:

“I was transported by destiny from the world of lyric and poetry to the world of industry and commerce, on the 13th of September 1910. I bade farewell to my motherland, the soil of India, the land of the sun, for America the land of my future, wondering: “Perhaps I shall return some day,” and yet I did not know how long it would be before I should return. The ocean that I had to cross seemed to me a gulf between the life that was passed and the life which was to begin. I spent my moments on the ship looking at the rising and falling of the waves and realizing in this rise and fall the picture of life reflected, the life of individuals, of nations, of races, and of the world. I tried to think where I was going, why I was going, what I was going to do, what was in store for me. “How shall I set to work? Will the people be favourable or unfavourable to the Message which I am taking from one end of the world to the other?” It seemed my mind moved curiously on these questions, but my heart refused to ponder upon them even for a moment, answering apart one constant voice I always heard coming from within, urging me constantly onward to my task: “Thou art sent on Our service, and it is We Who will make thy way clear.” This alone was my consolation.” The Biography of Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan,Autobiography,  p. 121, London and The Hague: East-West Publications. 1979.

The message he bore of Unity and “Love, Harmony and Beauty” took root in a dynamic, industrious and increasingly turbulent land, seeding an antidote to the agitation, inequity and strife that reached a high pitch in the Great War and its aftermath.

As the young musician traveled throughout North America and Europe, increasingly people wanted to know more about the source of his inspiration, the depth of his understanding of the dynamics of life, and the peaceful power that radiated from his being.

Dedicated to his students and the spreading of his teachings, Inayat Khan, found himself confronting the upheavals of the time. Stories passed down from his students describe the magnetism of his being in the face of adversity. Exuding a powerful, serene presence, Inayat Khan and his American wife, Amina Begum, escaped the tumult of 1914 Russia, where he had been invited to perform. He held his new-born daughter before the border guards while their carriage raced along the road, narrowly escaping the riots. Not long thereafter he sat in deep meditation during the London Blitz, radiating an inner peace in which his students took refuge.

Concerts gave way to lectures and seminars, then a school of mystical studies. Inayat Khan traveled and taught ceaselessly, offering prayers, a worship service, a vast body of spiritual teaching and practice, and more. Students gathered around him, and gifted his family a home, and the site of his Summer School, in Suresnes. Inayat Khan noted in his diary, “I was glad to notice the generous response of mureeds (pupils) to secure the piece of land intended to build the ‘Universel’.” Having created so many ways to experience the depth of Sufi teachings, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, a teachers’ teacher, rested not but gave one more way.

His son and spiritual heir, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, reflected on the birth of the Universel:

“On the last day when Pir-o-Murshid was amongst his disciples in Suresnes, September 13, 1926, he founded the Universel, which was to be the temple of all religions. There was a grand ceremony and during it he made me, his eldest son, at ten years old, the head of the confraternity. He placed the cornerstone of that building in the meadow near our home, Fazal Manzl.

You might think that the purpose of the Universel is to form a temple, like a temple of all. But as my father said, it is not a temple of stone. It is a temple made of people.

The Universel is universal. It is not Buddhism, or Sufism, or Judaism or Christianity. It not a mishmash either. In the name “Universel” you might find rearranged the words “Verso el Uno.” Toward the One. The closest I can come to describing it is the sense of the impact of the universe on each fragment of the universe, and the contribution of each fragment of the universe to the universe as a whole.” Aug 22, 1998 tape 3

This last “child” created by the Sufi sage during his time in the West lay in potentium as a cornerstone, while the tides shifted. The nurturance and maturation of the Universel came to rest in the hands and hearts of others, especially Pir Vilayat.

Birthed on September 13, a day to become known as Hedjerat Day, (marking the beginning of a journey, or a new chapter in one’s life), the Universel opens the door to an ongoing voyage, a journey of discovery of unity and solidarity, of awakening conscience and consciousness, and of service in love, harmony and beauty.

Prayer for the Universel

Build with Thine own hands the Universel,

Our Temple for Thy divine Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty.


When saying the prayer, you may wish to stand, with eyes open, and hold your hands elevated before you. Simple in length, and easy to memorize, with frequent repetition the prayer may become a companion and come to you spontaneously, as a voice from within. Amida


Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan wrote the following phrase which may be taken on as a contemplation and a practice:

To treat every human being as a shrine of God is to fulfill all religion.

Life is a Jigsaw Puzzle

Life is a jigsaw puzzle. It is incongruous because all of the pieces are scattered. It doesn’t make sense unless you know what the picture is. But you don’t know the picture. You just see pieces scattered all over the place.

Then you realize that the whole purpose of life is that those pieces get together to form the picture. So the purpose of your life, or each of our lives, is to get those pieces that are at least closer to you to fit with your piece.

The first thing is to find your piece, and then see which pieces fit in with it. It sounds convincing enough until you realize that it is a little more complex than that because the pieces need honing to fit together. At first there is some rubbing. Eventually there is some honing. It is better if it happens on both sides than only one.

The picture gets formed in the course of getting the pieces together. You must not think that everything is planned or programmed. That is an old-fashioned view.

We are exploring the spirituality of the future, the curriculum for the Universel. These ideas are to be found particularly in Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan’s teaching. The message is the awakening of humanity, not just ourselves.

That means the creativity of your person is meaningful to other people instead of just meaningful to yourself. In other words, the ideal is service, instead of wanting just to create oneself for one’s own selfish purpose.

Pir-o-Murshid said, “The mind of God is formed in the thinking of people.” Instead of thinking, “That’s the mind of God and I am trying to manifest the mind of God,” realize that it is being formed in our own thinking! These are revolutionary thoughts that will help us to be creative, and therefore to fulfill the purpose of not just our life, but of life.  August 2000 tape 14A

Life is a Puzzle

Life is a puzzle of duality. The idea of opposites keeps us in an illusion. Seeing this to be the nature and character of life, the Sufi says that it is not very important to distinguish between two opposites; what is most important is to recognize that One which is hidden behind it all. Naturally when he comes to this realization, the Sufi climbs upward on that ladder which leads him to unity, to the idea of unity which comes through the synthesis of life, by seeing the One in all things and in all beings. One may believe that the world, that humanity, has always evolved, or one may believe that it has advanced and gone back again, or that it is going round and round in circles, or one may have some other belief; but in whatever age the wise were born, they have always believed the same thing: that behind all life is oneness, and that wisdom lies in the understanding of that oneness. When a person awakens to the spirit of unity and sees the oneness behind all things, his point of view becomes different, and his attitude changes thereby. He no longer says to his friend, ‘I love you because you are my friend.’ He says, ‘I love you because you are myself.’ He says, as a mystic would say, ‘Whether you have done wrong or whether I have done wrong does not matter. What matters is to right the wrong.’ Khan, Hazrat Inayat, The Sufi Message, Volume VIII, p. 100. England: Servire Publishing Co., 1963.


I collect sunrises. Some very special places have hosted my habit – the Alhambra, a rooftop in Delphi, the Roman Coliseum at Arles, the rocky shore of Maine, the high Sierras, and, in this photo, the southern tip of Baja California. Not limiting myself to the notables, I look for the east wherever I am.

The quiet of the dawn, the solitude, and the sense of anticipation as sunrise nears heighten a sense of aliveness and amazement. Magic seems to happen. Mist rises, birds sing, fish leap, cares drop, and heart opens to a wondrous world. The day begins afresh.

Pir Vilayat’s hearty expositions and meditations on beauty, splendor, and nostalgia awakened in a sunrise gave depth and clarity to what had been a private prayer. In contemplating the subject matter for this first blog post, synchronously on this year’s Easter morning, “sunrise” seemed a natural choice. Perhaps his words, which follow, will spark a greater joy and understanding in your sunrise experiences, and bring more light into the reach of your days.


The beauty we are so moved by gives a clue about the heavens we ascribe as elsewhere because we are so used to thinking geographically. The Sufis prefer to say that the physical world is made of clues, called ayat, that give some sense of the reality that is trying to transpire through it. Wherever there is a touch of beauty, our mind seems to engage in what the Sufis call tawil, that is to proceed from the actual experience to the attempt to attune oneself to, or grasp, that splendor which can never be grasped and which is beyond any attunement in its infinite regress. Yet there is a capacity in the human being to imagine that one can reach beyond what one has been able to encompass thus far. This longing is expressed, in the words of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan as “a passion for the unattainable.”

This nostalgia is based upon bewonderment, the wonderment of the sky at sunrise or sunset, or sharing in the miracle of people coming together in search of their ideal. Bewonderment of what is coming through. The universe is, as scientists say, not just intelligent but elegant. An ascetic value arouses our emotion. We are bewondered by the intelligence, but even more so by the elegance with which this intelligence is adorned. It awakens in ourselves a kind of innate sense of beauty.

Remember this: In order to bring out the light that is within you, or to discover splendor within each of us, we need to experience it. Therefore, we are seeking for it in some kind of concrete expression in a person, or in a beautiful sunrise. First encounter light from outside. Then discover that when you look at a beautiful dawn, this is your own being. It makes your light burn more brightly.

If it could be attained! You know that is what we are doing all the time. We are trying to attain things. But this is like the horizon. The further you advance the further it recedes. So it’s not as though you can say I’ve got it now, I’m an illuminated being. Now I’ve got illumination! I put it in my pocket! No, it’s always beyond.

The Sufi’s use the words consternation of intelligence. There is no way the mind can make sense of it. So bewondering becomes glorification. One can’t account for it in one’s understanding. Ibn ’Arabi says it well: Knowledge is veil on the known.

These words of Pir Vilayat were extracted from retreats led by him on March 16, 1995 and March 7, 1999 and edited by Amida Cary.

Sunrise Meditation

Experience a sunrise in nature or recall one in your imagination. Create a gesture to greet the sun as it rises. Be very careful not to look directly into the sun, for it can damage your eyes. Regard the beauty, the majesty of the sunrise, the whole scene. Give vent to your emotion, to bewonderment.

The Sufis call the sun Prince Hurakhsh, Archangel of Light. What qualities do you find in the sun? Can you feel a resonance to those qualities in yourself, and a sense of being “home” in a world of light?

Allow yourself to be flooded with light. Sense the way the pores of your body, the scope of your mind and the feelings in your heart open, and your capacity for accommodating light increases. 

Can you feel the body’s cells jiggling, sparkling, full of life? 

Notice the natural rhythm of your breath. Encourage a link with the sun. As you exhale reach out toward the light of the sun. As you inhale allow light to wash over and through you. A natural response of radiance ensues. 

Recall that our bodies are made of sunlight, the sun itself born from cosmic unfoldment. We exist in a world of light. Revel in the wonderment and beauty dawning upon, within and around you. One could say we discover our solar inheritance. 

Contemplate how, in thoughts, words and deeds, qualities of light and life, encourage and illuminate people and situations: transparency clarifies the dynamics of an encounter; warmth, energy and joy nurture a relationship; a genuine smile brightens the heart of a loved one, friend or passer-by.

How might we, as Pir Vilayat encouraged us, “Bring light and life wherever we go?”

Become aware of your position before the sun. Sense your feet on the ground. With open eyes, notice the life and light around you. Select a way to bring your realization and attunement into the day. Make a closing gesture of gratitude to the sun.

On Prince Hurakhsh

From the writings of Shihab ud-Din Yahya Suhrawardi:

The venerable Prince Hurakhsh, the most sublime of those who have assumed a body, invested with the divine countenance, sparkles rapture in the sphere of Hurqalya. Sometimes he appears in human form, sometimes as the sun, sometimes as a constellation, sometimes as a work of art or an icon. It is he who confers light upon those who meditate upon the celestial spheres.

Hail to the pilgrims knocking at the gates of the high naves of the great halls of light, with righteousness and resolve, for behold the angels hasten to meet you, greeting you with the salutations of the celestial realm, and guiding you toward the Orient of Light.

(Khan, Pir Vilayat Inayat. In Search of the Hidden Treasure. New York:Tarcher/Putnam. 2003. p. 179)