In the previous post in the series of teachings on initiation, Hazrat Inayat Khan discussed what he calls ‘natural’ initiation, and here he goes on to explain the initiation at the hand of a teacher or guide, and subsequent initiations on the inner plane. In our present time, many reject the idea of a human guide, but by this rejection, as Hazrat Inayat explains, they themselves turn aside from a precious, living stream of guidance.
No doubt there comes a time in a man’s life when, even if he were initiated a thousand times by nature, he still seeks for a guide walking on earth. Many will say, ‘Why is God not sufficient? Why must there be someone between God and man? Why must it be a man, who is just as limited as we are? Why can we not reach the spirit of God directly?’ But in a man who is your enemy and who has tortured you throughout your life, in another who is your greatest friend, and in your teacher who inspires and guides you, in all these is to be seen the hand of God. They have all three guided you on the path of inspiration; they are all three needed in order that you may go further in life. The one who has disappointed you, who has harmed you, is also your initiator, for he has taught you something, he has put you on the road, even if not in the right way. And he who is your friend is your initiator too, for he gives you the evidence of truth, the sign of reality; only love can give you a proof that there is something living, something real. And then there is the inspiring teacher, be he a humble man, an illiterate person, or a meditative soul, whether a great teacher or a humble one, he is what you think him to be, as everyone is to us what we think them to be.
If it were not necessary that man should guide his fellow-men, Jesus Christ would not have been placed among those fishermen who could not understand him; and yet he proved to be their guidance. The presence on earth of personalities such as Buddha and all the other teachers–many of them not even known to humanity, though they have done so much, but who always are and always will be, under whatever name and in whatever guise they may work – that presence gives guidance to individuals and to humanity. God never reaches so directly and so fully as when He reaches through His teachers. The best way for God to reach human beings is through a human being – not through an angel but through man, who is subject to birth and death and to all the faults that everyone has.
The way of the teacher with his initiate is strange. The greater the teacher, the stranger may be the way. The teacher may test, and the teacher may give trials; and the attitude of the teacher can never be understood, for a real teacher never commits himself. Neither his yes nor his no can be understood, for their meaning will be symbolical and very subtle. Perhaps he will speak in parables, perhaps he will teach without teaching, perhaps he will teach more just by a glance than by speaking a hundred words. Perhaps the presence of the teacher is of greater blessing in the life of the pupil than a hundred books he has read. Neither the indifference nor the sympathy of the teacher may be taken for what they appear to be, for in both there is something else. The more one studies the personality of the teacher, the more puzzled one becomes. The teacher is the initiator of life, he is the example of the subtlety of the whole of life.
Some people affirm that they have been initiated by a teacher on the other side. Well, perhaps they have; but are they not then in two worlds, the teacher in one and the initiate in the other? The initiate neither belongs to the teacher’s world, nor does the teacher belong to his. This surely gives one less trouble than having to regard the pleasure of a living being; it is easier to feel that one has someone at one’s back who is always whispering in one’s ear, and who speaks to one in dream or vision. It is not wrong, and in some cases it is even true; there are souls, there are teachers who have perhaps not given on earth what they had to give, what they had to impart to others. But that is not the normal process. If it were a normal process, then all the teachings would have been sent from the other side, but neither Buddha nor Jesus Christ nor Mohammed gave their teachings from there.
Today the prevailing thought is that no man should guide his fellow-men, and that there is no virtue in such guidance. This thought is so widespread that it is preventing people from seeking guidance from someone who is facing the same struggles, the same troubles, and who has the same experiences as everyone else. They go on rejecting such a person, as Jesus Christ was rejected, and at the same time they are looking for someone on the other plane! Many societies and groups have puzzled their heads so much over this subject that they have deprived themselves of that living water which follows its natural course through the world of man.
The work of the teacher is most subtle. It is like that of a jeweller who has to melt the gold first, in order to make an ornament out of it. It has first to be melted, but once it is melted, once it is not hard metal any more, but has become liquid, then it can be made into a crown or a ring or an ornament; then one can make a beautiful thing out of it.
And after this there is a further step. When the pupil has received the initiations that the teacher has to give, then the teacher’s task is over, and he sends him on. The teacher does not hold the pupil indefinitely; he has his part to perform during the journey on the path, but then comes the inner initiation. This comes to the disciple who has become meditative, whose interest has become keen, whose outlook has widened, who sees life differently, whose conscience has acquired the habit of reasoning, of expanding.
No doubt, in this experience also, there is always help to be had. As help comes on earth, so in the unseen world, too, that help then comes. It is as if we were in the street, in some kind of difficulty; naturally, others would come up to see if they could be of any assistance. So, as one goes further, one attracts the sympathy of beings who are always busy helping humanity from all planes of existence. The sympathy of those who are close to the one who is traveling on the path is attracted, giving him a hand to go forward. It is that giving of a hand which is called initiation. There are so many different initiations: they are all steps by which to go upward.
In conclusion, I shall mention what is attained through initiation: what one attains is that realization for which we are born, which is our life’s purpose. Unless we approach life’s purpose, nothing we do will help us sufficiently; it will only help us, perhaps, in a certain need of ours, but not any further. There is only one thing which gives complete satisfaction, and that is to arrive at self-realization. It is not simple, and it needs more than just meditation and concentration, although these are of great help in the attainment of self-realization.
And those who believe that, by reading a book on yoga, they can get to that realization are mistaken. They are mistaken because it is a phenomenon; and it is by this phenomenon that one proceeds further. Some people think that by straightforward study, by purely scientific study, they can come to realization, but in order to attain self-realization, a certain way of life is necessary. Is it the life that religious people teach, that one should live in such and such a way? Is it a life according to certain principles, certain dogmas? No, nothing of that kind. It is the continual process of effacing the self; it is just like grinding something which is very hard; it is a continual grinding of the self. And the more that self is softened, the more highly a person evolves, and the greater his personality becomes. No matter what power and inspiration a person may have acquired, if there is no self-effacement, nothing is accomplished. The result brought about by initiation is self effacement, and it is self-effacement which is needed in order to arrive at true wisdom.