Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan is a senior statesman of the world spiritual community. He is the author of several well-known books, the most recent of which is Awakening: A Sufi Experience, published last year by Tarcher Putnam. He is the head of the Sufi Order International, which offers a universal approach to spiritual development. During his lectures, seminars and retreats, Pir Vilayat introduces an ancient stream of wisdom – present in all religions and humanistic philosophies – into the global awakening happening in our time. Through the depth of his knowledge and the power of his presence, Pir Vilayat leads his audiences to the experience of ?Awakening to the Divinity within.?
He has convened religious congresses in many parts of the world, bringing together religious leaders from a variety of denominations in both mutual respect and recognition of their underlying unity.
Pir Vilayat was born in London in 1916. His father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, founded the Sufi Order in 1910, then the Sufi Movement in 1916 in London and finally the International Sufi Movement in 1922 in Geneva. Pir Vilayat?s mother, Ora Ray Baker, was a cousin of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science movement. Pir Vilayat graduated from Sorbonne University in Paris, France in 1940 after completing studies in both philosophy and psychology. He also pursued postgraduate studies at Oxford University as well as studying musical composition and cello at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris.
In 1986 he received an honorary doctorate degree in Divinity from the New Seminary, New York. He worked for a time as a journalist, and his courageous reports of French atrocities in North Africa resulted in United Nations and international pressure on the French government to stop these actions. He served during World War II as an officer in the British Royal Navy and was assigned the duties of mine sweeping during the invasion at Normandy. His sister, Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan served in the French Resistance as a radio operator. She was a vital link between the British war office and the French Underground and her heroic services were instrumental during the landing at Normandy. Minutes before she would have flown to safety, she was arrested by the Gestapo, imprisoned, escaped, and was recaptured. She was finally taken to Dachau where she was tortured and killed. Her story is told in the book, A Man Called Intrepid, where she is referred to by her code name, Madelaine. She was decorated posthumously by the French government.
Hazrat Inayat Khan designated Pir Vilayat as his successor in 1926, shortly before his death. After the war, Pir Vilayat pursued his spiritual training by studying with masters of many different religious traditions throughout India and the Middle East. He is an acknowledged Pir in the lineage of the Chishti Sufi Order of India. While honoring the initiatic tradition of his predecessors, Pir Vilayat is continually pioneering updated practices in keeping with the evolution of human consciousness.
Today, Pir Vilayat is recognized as a master of meditation arid a spiritual teacher. He is fluent in five languages and has travelled extensively in the United States, Europe, India, and Japan bringing the message of Sufism and the universal message of love, harmony, and beauty which his father sought to convey. During the lectures, seminars, and retreats he gives during his travels, Pir Vilayat attempts to integrate the knowledge he has gained from his western education in psychology, physiology, biochemistry, physics, music, and comparative religions with the overview, intuitions and mastery developed during his spiritual training in Sufi, Hindu, Buddhist, Judeo-Christian, and Islamic traditions. Moved by a sincere interest in people and concern for how to help them discover the answers to the challenges of life, he has sought to help people discover the strength and beauty of their beings. Pir Vilayat says the following about his work:
I am trying to develop an updated spirituality for our times. Following my father?s message, I believe that to develop our being to its highest potential we need to discover our ideal and allow an inborn strength, a conviction in ourselves, to give us the courage toward developing this ideal. This requires both knowing our life purpose and mastery or discipline over ourselves in terms of body, mind, and emotions. With an attitude of joy and enthusiasm, we do not suppress but instead control and direct impulses toward the fulfillment of our goals. Instead of viewing life?s setbacks as a hindrance, we can see them as an opportunity to discover and develop our creative power. As noted in all the religions, and most clearly evidenced in the life of Christ, we can transform suffering into joy. This means not denying suffering but rather accepting it, and thus gaining strength to be more masterful in life. At this time I believe we are called upon to give up resentments and prejudices, no matter how difficult that may be. Individual resentment hinders our unfoldment toward becoming our highest ideal; collective resentment causes wars. My deepest goal is to those with whom I come into contact a respect and tolerance for each world religion, recognizing the unity of ideals behind the diversity of forms. I believe in rising above distinctions and differences to appreciate the beauty and variety in people and cultures and to uphold at all costs the dignity of every human being.
Recipient of U Thant Peace Award and Lifting Up the World with a Oneness-Heart Award from Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditation at the United Nations