This post continues the careful explanation by Hazrat Inayat Khan about the importance and meaning of initiation. The first instalment may be found here.
Very often the word initiation is misunderstood. Many think it is initiation in a secret Society, or that it is an experimental trial, or some phenomena. As there is no other expression, I have for the sake of convenience used the word initiation. Initiation, in the Sufi term, is called Bayat. No doubt the word initiation also explains some mystery; for the meaning of the word suggests the sense of taking an initiative, advancing or going forward.
It is a question if it is desirable for every soul to take initiation. As the word initiation means ‘to go forward,’ the answer is that progress is life, and stillness is death. Whatever be our grade of evolution, it is always advisable to try to go forward, whether in business or a profession, in society or in political life, in religion or in spiritual advancement. No doubt there is a danger of being too enthusiastic. That nature that is too enthusiastic may, perhaps, instead of benefiting, harm itself in whatever line it may be, the worldly line or the spiritual. For everything there is a time, and patience is necessary in every strife. A cook may burn food by giving more fire to it in order to cook it quicker; in all things this rule applies. With little children the parents are often anxious and enthusiastic; they think their children must learn and understand every good and interesting thing on earth. Too much enthusiasm is not right. We must give time to all things. The first and most important lesson in life is patience. We must begin all things with patience.
The Sufi Order mainly is the esoteric School. There are three esoteric schools most known in the East, the Buddhistic School, the Vedantic School and the Sufi School. Two of the schools, the Buddhistic and the Vedantic schools, use asceticism as the principal means for spiritual advancement. In the realization of Truth the Sufi school is not different from the Vedantic or even from the Buddhistic, but the Sufi presents Truth in a different manner. It is the same frame in which Jesus Christ has given his teaching, and the same form which was adopted by the prophets of Israel. No doubt the way of spiritual development by the help of contemplation and meditation is used in all three schools, the science of breath being the foundation of each of these schools.
The Sufi thinks that man was not created as man to live the life of an angel, nor was he created to live the life of an animal. For the life of an angel, angels are created; and for the life of an animal, there are animals. The Sufi thinks the first thing necessary in life is for man to prove to his own conscience to what extent he can be a man. It is not only spiritual development, it is the culture of humanity, in what relation man stands towards his neighbour or friend, to those who depend upon him and to those who look to him; to those strangers, not known to him; how he stands with the ones who are younger than himself and the ones who are older; with the ones who like him and with the ones who dislike him and criticize him; how he should feel and think and act through life, and still keep on progressing toward the goal that is the goal for every soul in the world. It is not necessary that the Sufi must seek the wilderness for his meditation, for a part of his work he can perform in the midst of the worldly life. The Sufi need not prove himself a Sufi by extraordinary power, by wonder-working, or an exceptional spiritual show or claim. A Sufi can prove to his own conscience to be a Sufi by watching his own life, amidst the strife of this worldly life.
There are some who are content with a belief taught to them at home or in the church. They are contented; they can just as well rest in that place where they are contented until another impulse is born in their heart to go on higher. The Sufi does not force upon such souls his belief or his thoughts. In the East there is a custom of saying that it is a great sin to wake anyone who is fast asleep. This saying can be symbolically understood, that there are many in this world who work and do things and yet they are asleep. The Sufi considers it a crime to waken them, for some sleep is good for their health. The work of the Sufi is to give a helping hand to those who have had sufficient sleep and who now begin to stir in their sleep, to change sides; and it is that help which is given that is the real initiation.
No doubt there are things which pass the ordinary comprehension of man. There are things one can teach only by speaking or by acting; but there is a way of teaching which is called Tawajjeh, and that way of teaching is without words, it is not external teaching, it is a teaching in silence. For instance, how can man explain the spirit of sincerity, or the spirit of gratefulness, how can man explain the ultimate Truth, the idea of God? Whenever it has been attempted it has failed; it has made some confused, and has made others give up their belief. It is not that the one who explains has not understood, but the words are inadequate to explain the idea of God.
In the East the great sages and Saints sit quite still, with lips closed, for years. We call them Munni, which means ‘he who takes the vow of silence’. The man of today may think, what a life, to be silent and do nothing! But he does not know that some by their silence can do more than another, talking for ten years, can accomplish. A person may argue for months on a problem and not be able to explain it; another person with inner radiance may be able to answer the same thing in one moment. But the answer that comes without words explains still more. That is initiation, as we call it.
Of course the spiritual knowledge no one can give to another person, because it is something which every heart has within. And by initiation, what the teacher can do is to light with his light the light which is hidden in the heart of his disciple. If the light is not there it is not the fault of the teacher. There is a verse of Hafiz, in Persian; he says, “However great the teacher, the one whose heart is closed, with him the teacher is helpless.” Therefore initiation means initiation on the part of the disciple and on the part of the teacher, a step forward on the path for both. On the part of the teacher, a step forward with the disciple, that the pupil may be trusted and raised from his present condition; a step forward for the pupil, because he opens his heart, having no barrier, nothing to hinder the teaching in whatever form it comes, in silence, or in words, or in seeing some deed or action on the part of his teacher.
To be continued…