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"Mastery"--Two Books, Commonalities

--by Hazrat Inayat Khan, and by Robert Greene

Two books, both titled MasteryOne was written recently, by an American author in his 50s. The other (which I can't find anywhere in the format I own) was written by an Indian Sufi who died in 1926, before he even made 50 years old. One would be classed as "personal development." The other would be shelved in the religious section.

One I've never owned but have borrowed from the library both as audio and print books. The other, I've carried around with me my whole adult life, through all the many places I've lived, starting well before the newer "Mastery" was even written.

They come from different eras, different cultures. Their prospective audiences are different. But here are some striking ways in which they concur. Striking, but not surprising. After all, they have the same title.

I'm theoretically a pretty capable person. As a teenager, I was rampantly self-disciplined. But I've learned and built some lazy, self-sabotaging habits, as well as falling into the faux-spiritual cop-out of "let things unfold, don't force anything," or worrying that by fulfilling myself I might take something away from someone else. At this stage, I'm past due to embrace the notion of mastery and quit playing small.

The first good thing both these books do for me is call b.s. on the above cop-outs. Be in the rhythm and flow of life, yes, and be self-disciplined, singleminded, uncompromising in your attention to that which you've determined to be your worthy object.

Success becomes a highly spiritual concept in both frameworks, and nothing to do with taking anything away from anyone else, because each of us has our unique fulfillment. 

I would add, each of us has our unique fulfillment because/as part of the fact that this is an abundant universe.

Speaking of our uniqueness, another commonality of the two books is that both spend a fair amount of time on the importance of interpersonal relationships. That's right: they're important both from the "spiritual mastery" and from the "success mastery" perspectives.

In fact, both authors say clearly and explicitly that the greatest thing an individual can do is be of service to other people. Both encourage unflinchingly honest self-observation, to unearth our blind spots and vanities, our passive aggression and self centeredness; to examine ourselves rather than seek to pin blame elsewhere. 

On the other hand, both writers say quite bluntly, in pretty much precisely these words, that there will never be a shortage of fools among humanity.

Robert Greene uses storytelling as the major vehicle to lay out all the points he observes adding up to mastery, circling around case studies of masters including Mozard, Leonardo, and Temple Grandin. Structure-wise, Greene jumps from one story to another, interspersed with the regular, non-narrative prose. This keeps the reader on her toes and is a little inelegant at times, but I like the ad hoc meandering. It mimics how we relate to people in life, recognizing pieces of their stories in ourselves here and there, snippet-wise.

Stories, parables, anecotes are the stock in trade of wisdom literature worldwide, and Inayat Khan uses parables, stories, quotations, anecdotes all throughout. Some of the people he invokes are historical personages, but the story is tailored to the point at hand without being integrated into a case study.

Four key points, front and center in both books:

  1. Know yourself. This is a lifelong walk of honest self-observation
  2. Discriminate in favor of what supports your higher goals and self. There will always be all kinds of lesser choices.
  3. Practice diligently.
  4. Give to others.

About the Author

Ela Harrison

Ela is a wordsmith and herb lover who has lived in many places and currently resides in Tucson, AZ.

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