In this continuation of the series of instructions on initiation, Hazrat Inayat Khan tells us two things are necessary on the path: contemplation, and living the life that a Sufi ought to live. The previous post in the series may be found here.
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 without words. It is not external teaching; it is 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 it has made others give up their belief. It is not that the one who tried to explain did not understand, but that words are inadequate to explain the idea of God.
In the East there are great sages and saints who sit quite still, with lips closed, for years. They are called muni, 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 others can accomplish by talking for ten years. A person may argue for months about a problem and not be able to explain it, while another, 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.
However, no one can give spiritual knowledge to another, for this is something which is within every heart. What the teacher can do is to kindle the light which is hidden in the heart of the disciple. If the light is not there, it is not the fault of the teacher.
There is a verse by Hafiz in which he says, ‘However great be the teacher, he is helpless with the one whose heart is closed.’ Therefore initiation means initiation on the part of the disciple and on the part of the teacher, a step forward on the part of both. On the part of the teacher, a step forward with the disciple in order that the pupil may be trusted and raised from his present condition. A step forward for the pupil, because he opens his heart; he has no barrier any more, nothing to hinder the teaching in whatever form it comes, in silence or in words, or in the observation of some deed or action on the part of the teacher.
In ancient times the disciples of the great teachers learned by a quite different method, not an academic method or way of study. The way was that, with open heart, with perfect confidence and trust, they watched every attitude of the teacher both towards friends and towards people who looked at him with contempt; they watched their teacher in times of trouble and pain, how he endured it all; they saw how patient and wise he had been in discussing with those who did not understand, answering everyone gently in his own language; he showed the mother-spirit, the father-spirit, the brother-spirit, the child-spirit, the friend-spirit, the forgiving kindness, an ever tolerant nature, respect for the aged, compassion for all, the thorough understanding of human nature. This also the disciples learnt: that no discussion or books on metaphysics can ever teach all the thoughts and philosophy that arise in the heart of man. A person may either study for a thousand years, or he may get to the source and see if he can touch the root of all wisdom and all knowledge. In the center of the emblem of the Sufis there is a heart; it is the sign that from the heart a stream rises, the stream of divine knowledge.
On the path of initiation two things are necessary: contemplation, and the living of a life such as a Sufi ought to live; and they depend upon each other. Contemplation helps one to live the life of a Sufi, and the life of a Sufi helps contemplation. In the West, where life is so busy and where there is no end to one’s responsibilities, one might wonder if to undertake contemplation, even for only ten minutes in the evening, is not too much when one is tired. But for that very reason contemplation is required more in the West than in the East where everything, even the surroundings, is helpful to contemplation. Besides a beginning must be made on the path.
If contemplation does not develop in such a form that everything one does in life becomes a contemplation, then the contemplation does not do a person any good. It would be like going to church once a week and forgetting all about religion on the other days. To a man who gives ten or twenty minutes every evening to contemplation and forgets it all the rest of the day, contemplation will not do any good. We take our food at certain times every day; yet all the time, even when we are sleeping, the food nourishes our body. It is not the Sufi’s idea to retire in seclusion or to sit silent all day. His idea is that by contemplation he becomes so inspired that in study, in every aspiration, in every aspect of life, progress is made. In this way he proves his contemplation to be a force helping him to withstand all the difficulties that come to him.
The life that the Sufi ought to live may be explained in a few words. There are many things in the life of a Sufi, but the greatest is to have a tendency to friendship; this is expressed in the form of tolerance and forgiveness, in the form of service and trust. In whatever form he may express it this is the central theme: the constant desire to prove one’s love for humanity, to be the friend of all.
To be continued…