We present a further instalment of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s detailed explanation of the meaning and purpose of initiation. In this portion, he mentions the word salik, meaning the path of discipline and study, and also rind, meaning a life free of all constraints, conventions and dogmas. The previous post in this series may be found here.
There is a story of a peasant in India, a young peasant who used to take a great interest in spiritual things. And someone with a great name happened to come to his town, about whom it was said, as it was always said among simple peasants, that he was so great that by coming into his presence one would be sure to enter the heavens. The whole town went to see him and to get from him that guarantee of entering the heavens, except that peasant who had once been initiated. The great man, having heard about his refusal, went to his house and asked him, “How is it that you, who take such interest in holy subjects, did not come, while everyone else came to see me?” He said, “There was no ill-feeling on my part, there was only one simple reason. My teacher, who initiated me, has passed from this earth, and since he was a man with limitations, I do not know whether he has gone to heaven or to the other place. And if, through the blessing of your presence, I were sent to heaven, I might be most unhappy there; heaven would become another place for me if my teacher were not there.”
It is this oneness, this connection, it is this relationship between the initiator and the initiated which gives them the necessary strength, power, and wisdom to journey on this path. For it is the devotion of the initiated which supplies all that is lacking in the initiator, and it is the trust of the initiator which supplies all that is lacking in the initiated.
There is no ceremony that a Sufi considers really necessary, but Sufis never regard ceremonies or dogmas as undesirable, so they are not prejudiced against ceremonies. They have even adopted ceremonies for themselves at different times.
Sufis have various paths of attainment, for instance the paths of salik and rind; and among those who tread the path of salik, of righteousness, there are many whose method of spiritual attainment is devotion. Devotion requires an ideal; and the ideal of the Sufis is the God-ideal. They attain to this ideal by a gradual process. They first take bayat, initiation, from the hand of one whose presence gives them confidence that he will be a worthy counsellor in life, and a guide on the path as yet untrodden, and who at the same time shows them in life the image of the Rasul personality, the personality of the ideal man. He is called Pir-o-Murshid.
There are several steps on the path. This is a vast subject, but condensing it, I would say that there are five principal steps. The first is responsiveness to beauty of all kinds, in music, in poetry, in color or line. The second is one’s exaltation by beauty, the feeling of ecstasy. The third step is tolerance and forgiveness, when these come naturally, without striving for them. The fourth is that one accepts, as if they were a pleasure, things one dislikes and cannot stand: in the place of a bowl of wine, the bowl of poison. And the fifth step is taken when one feels the rein of one’s mind in one’s hand; for then one begins to feel tranquility and peace at will. This is just like riding on a very vigorous and lively horse, yet holding the reins firmly and making it walk at the speed one desires. When this step is taken, the mureed becomes a master.
The time of initiation is meant to be a time for clearing away all the sins of the past. The cleansing of sins is like a bath in the Ganges. It is the bath of the spirit in the light of knowledge. From this day the page is turned. The mureed makes his vow to the murshid that he will treasure the teachings of the masters in the past and keep them secret, that he will make good use of the teachings and of the powers gained by them, and that he will try to crush his nafs, his ego. He vows that he will respect all the masters of humanity as the one embodiment of the ideal man, and will consider himself the brother not only of all the Sufis in the Order to which he belongs, but also outside that Order, of all those who are Sufis in spirit although they may call themselves differently, and of all mankind, without distinction of caste, creed, race, nation, or religion. Sufis engage in halka, a circle of Sufis sitting and practicing zikar and fikar so that the power of the one helps the other.
Furthermore they practice tawajjoh, [=concentration] a method of receiving knowledge and power from the teacher in silence. This way is considered by Sufis to be the most essential and desirable. Sometimes a receptive mureed attains in a moment greater perfection than he might attain in many years by study or practice, because it is not only his own knowledge and power that the murshid imparts, but sometimes it is the knowledge and power of Rasul; and sometimes even of God. It all depends upon the time and upon how the expressive and receptive souls are focused.
The task of the Sufi teacher is not to force a belief on a mureed, but to train him, so that he may become illuminated enough to receive revelations himself.
To be continued…