Impressions from Istanbul: Part 3

  1. Hüzün and the Spiritual Search

Whether it be the history of nations or of individuals, and whether it be the history of outer or inner phenomena or the survey of outer or inner landscapes, life is irrevocably a process of constant and perpetual transformation. In spite of this, our human nature tends to cling on to what has had an impact on it, and often when an unwanted or unexpected transformation occurs in our lives we are filled with overpowering feelings of loss and melancholy, what in Turkey is known as hüzün – the vision or memory of a fallen world of beauty, grandeur and growth which shall no more be.

The panorama may however be appreciated differently if our world is observed from a spiritual perspective – for in the case of spiritual endeavour and under the light of spiritual practice, transformation is a way of departing from ignorance, stagnation, darkness and death itself. Death thus becomes the birth of a new reality where the worlds of our human desires and imperfections recede and vanish and give room to worlds of a higher consciousness and a brighter light where we come closer to a union with our own true selves. This is the promise that the spiritual aspirant seeks to fulfill.


Jharna-Kala Art by Sri Chinmoy

As the Sufi poet Rumi says: “This physical world has no two things alike. Every comparison is awkwardly rough. Oneness, which is the reality, cannot be understood with lamp and sun images. The blurring of a plural into a unity is wrong. No image can describe what of our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, remains. Language does not touch the one who lives in each of us (…) There is a kind of tablet, one already completed and preserved inside you. A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness in the centre of the chest. This other intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate. It is fluid, and it does not move from outside to inside through the conduits of plumbing-learning. This second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out.” 1

Under the light of conscious spiritual transformation, summoning the light that radiates from within our own selves, our history becomes the testimony of our own self-search, a sojourn where the traveller traverses forests and seas and worlds of the unknown only to find the ultimate and worthiest boon: an ever-increasing self-awareness and the knowledge of one’s own self. Possessions to which we may be humanly attached, whether physical, mental or emotional, are ephemeral and shall sooner or later vanish from our lives – which may cause a feeling of loss and sorrow and melancholy of great impact but which at the same time carries a light and a hope and a promise that prefigure the dawn of a higher life. In the seeker’s life, any inner empire which becomes stagnant, no matter how glorious it may be, is doomed to its transformation, as growth and transcendence are sine qua non elements of the spiritual life. The keener and sharper our self-awareness becomes through a process of spiritual practice – may it be prayer, concentration, meditation or a more integral approach to yoga and spirituality – the more conscious we become of our personal history, of the role our past plays in it without unnecessarily clinging on to it, and the readier we become to accept our transformation.


Jharna-Kala Art by Sri Chinmoy

Thus in the faith of a spiritual seeker the decline of magnificent empires of old can only define signposts of the birth of new eras which, under the light and guidance of spiritual practice, represent building-blocks of a nation of spirit: The promise of a higher reality imbued with the light of a Kingdom Divine.

  1. Rumi, Selected Poems. Penguin Classics, 2004, p. 177-178. Translated by Coleman Banks. See also: