In a recent post, Hazrat Inayat Khan said that the inner work is a process of melting: the personality of the student is first put to melt by the Murshid or guide, as gold is melted by the goldsmith before beginning to fashion something beautiful. But he also warns that if the process is hindered, either by outside influences or by oneself, it will not bring the desired result. We could ask ourselves, therefore, what is that melting? And in what way can it be hindered–or more importantly, helped along?
Besides the image of gold, Hazrat Inayat also frequently uses the illustration of water and ice: it is the same substance, but in one state it is rigid and unyielding, whereas in the other it is fluid and accommodating, penetrating and life-sustaining. This image certainly describes the apparent opposites of matter and spirit, but when speaking of the personality, as in the text being considered, it also applies specifically to the condition of the heart. Cold heartedness is the common illness of the world, and it is only when the heart has been warmed sufficiently that it can begin to serve as the altar within the temple of God, as Sufis sometimes call the body.
There is a story that once a student, after many years of study with his Murshid, came one day to say, “I think I should leave this path, Master. I cannot seem to reach the goal. I have done all the exercises faithfully, but Truth still eludes me. I ask your permission to leave.”
The Murshid said,”Well, if you must leave, go first to the nearby guest house and spend a few days there. Then come to me and take your leave” And the Murshid arranged that each day a basket of fruit would be brought to the room of the student by a young and beautiful maiden. By the third day the student was burning with love, full of sighs and tears to see his beloved. Then, when he came before the Murshid, with one glance the master helped him to a profound realisation.
Therefore, what can hinder the process of melting? Too much association with the cold-hearted, or allowing them to influence us too much, can make the path very difficult. But we must not only blame our environment: too much self-absorption, and a reluctance to change, also prevents the warmth we need to go further on the path. If we come with a sincere intention to become whatever destiny intended us to be, then – perhaps even without realising it — we will begin to surrender to the rays of the sun, until we have left the glacier and are hurrying downstream to the sea.