HomeJuly 2024Invisible gardens

PIR ZIA INAYAT KHAN, the esteemed Sufi scholar and key luminary of the 2024 Global Spirituality Mahotsav at Kanha Shanti Vanam, describes the Sufi concept of the “Invisible Gardens” of our lives.

I can hardly imagine a more perfect place for the convening of the Global Spirituality Mahotsav than Kanha Shanti Vanam. Imagine, just eight years ago, this land was all dust, and now we see the result of the care given to the land by the venerable Daaji and the Heartfulness community. It is something of a miracle.

The meditation hall is impressive no doubt; but to me, much more impressive are the gardens here—the trees that have been planted, the endangered plants that have been collected, the cultivation that is happening, so that this Vanam can truly be a living garden. Daaji has brought endangered species here, and when trees are about to be cut down elsewhere, he has them dug up and transplanted here so that they may live on. This can be a paradigm for the whole country and for the whole world.

While we may find ourselves appreciating these visible gardens, the ones we see with our own eyes, here we also find invisible gardens as well. The Sufis speak of four spiritual gardens.

The Garden of Deeds

The first of these is called the Garden of Deeds, and this is the place where we rediscover everything that we have put out into the world. The world is like a dome-whatever we say re-echoes and bounces back to us eventually. If we want to find generosity, be generous. If we want to find kindness, be kind. Whatever we bring to the world, sooner or later will circle back and return to us. But we have to be careful when we cultivate our “garden of deeds” not to take pride in those deeds. May it be that the left hand does not know what the right hand has given.

The great Hazrat Rabi’a Basri used to walk around with a bucket of water in one hand and a torch in the other hand, and people would ask, “Why are you carrying these things?”
She answered, “I want to burn down the garden of paradise and quench the fires of hell, so that those who worship you will worship you for your own sake, and not for any reward.”

The Garden of Friends

And so we move beyond the Garden of Deeds, and come to the Garden of the Friends of God. This is the garden of the legacy of the Holy Prophet and the sages who have brought wisdom to this world. In this garden, we seek to follow in their footsteps and to realize that although these great beings may come from many different traditions, they all ultimately bring one message—the message of the Divine Consciousness that is seeking its fulfillment in our lives and in this world. We come close to the prophets when we live a life of service.

The Garden of Names

Going further, we come to the Garden of the Names, the names of God. In our world, the Divine Being is known by many names. Whichever name we choose, if we give our whole heart to it, we will be lifted up by it. In this invisible realm, the Garden of Names, it is said that the angels plant trees whenever human beings intone the name of God. One day, someone saw that an angel was no longer watering their tree or caring for it, and they asked why that tree was being neglected. The angel answered that humans on Earth had stopped reciting the name; they were not glorifying the name. And until they did, it would not be possible to nurture this garden. 

That is the possibility that exists for all of usto ensure these trees in the garden of the invisible world continue to grow and thrive. That can only occur when we, with hearts full of love, dedicate ourselves to the glorification of the one to whom we belong.



The Garden of the One

Finally, there is a fourth garden, the Garden of the One. 
A seeker went to that door and a voice asked, “Who is there?” 
The seeker answered, “I am here, Beloved.” 
The voice replied, “Then go away.” 
The seeker went away, and continued his search and meditation for many years, until finally he returned and once again the voice met him with the same question as before. 
This time, the seeker answered, “You are here.” 
Then the seeker entered and there was no seeker and no sought, there was no lover or beloved, there was only the “One” forever and ever.

May this garden of Kanha Shanti Vanam continue to flourish under the benevolent guidance of Daaji. May the gardens of our own lives—The Garden of Deeds, The Garden of the Friends of God, The Garden of the Divine Names, and The Garden of the One—proliferate throughout this world so that we all may live in paradise. Amin.

May the gardens of our own lives—
The Garden of Deeds, The Garden of the Friends of God, 
The Garden of the Divine Names, and The Garden of the One
—proliferate throughout this world 
so that we all may live in paradise. 


Pir Zia Inayat Khan

Pir Zia Inayat Khan

Pir Zia is a Sufi scholar, meditation teach, and the spiritual leader of the Inayati Order (www.inayatiorder.org), an interfaith mystical fellowship carrying on his grandfather’s teachings. He is the author of Mingled Waters, Saracen ... Read More