Hazrat Inayat Khan told the story of a certain ruler in India who used to spend a great part of his night in prayers and meditation. A courtier, concerned for his welfare, once said to him, ‘Majesty, you have so many duties during the daytime, listening to petitions, giving justice, meeting with ambassadors, ruling the land with care and attention. Would it not be better to allow yourself some rest in the night-time?’ ‘You do not understand,’ said the king. ‘In the night, I pursue God, and in the daytime, He pursues me.’
Spirituality is not commerce; we do not follow the Sufi path because we think we can get something from it–and if we do think so, we are grasping at sunlight as if it were gold, and then opening our hands to find them empty. Nevertheless, there are consequence to our actions. The ‘laws’ and methods taught to us by the wise are not arbitrary, but practical. If we neglect them, there will be suffering; if we follow them, our efforts will produce effects.
It is usual that at the beginning of our search we must work with imagination. As we do not yet ‘know’ God, we must imagine His perfection, and use that ideal to lead us from our prison. The mystery is that this can work, but it does–only because the bars of the prison are no more real than our imagined ideal. However, there may come a moment when we realise that the Perfection we have been imagining is present–unseen, ungrasped, but nevertheless absolutely real, independent of our efforts and visualisations. And when this stage arrives, the method of practice shifts. What is needed now is to discard everything that veils that Truth–our concepts and attitudes, our thoughts, our feelings, everything, so that the immanent Perfection can shine unimpeded. Reciting a sacred word is no longer an act of creation; it is one of discovery, made possible by absolute humility.
In this step, the presence of the illuminated souls, whose companionship we solicit in the Invocation, is of great assistance, for they have been privileged to drop the veils of ‘me’ and ‘mine,’ allowing the light of Reality to reflect in the mirror of non-being. Then, while engaged in practice, the seeker can allow these great souls to repeat the words, and simply focus on listening–which means, vibrating in response to their call.