In this instalment of the continuing series on initiation, Hazrat Inayat Khan outlines five lessons that the student may learn on the path. The previous post in the series may be found here.
The first lesson that the pupil learns on the path of discipleship is what is called yaqin in Sufi terms, which means confidence. This confidence he first gives to the one whom he considers his teacher, his spiritual guide.
In the giving of confidence, three kinds of people can be distinguished. One gives a part of his confidence, and cannot give another part. He is wobbling, and thinking, ‘Yes, I believe I have confidence; perhaps I have, perhaps I have not.’ And this sort of confidence puts him in a very difficult position. It would be better not to have it at all. It is like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold. In all things this person will do the same, in business, in his profession. He trusts and doubts, he trusts and fears. He is not walking in the sky, he is not walking on the earth; he is in between the two. Then there is another kind, the one who gives his confidence to the teacher, but he is not sure about himself, he is not inwardly sure if he has given it. This person has no confidence in himself, he is not sure of himself; therefore his confidence is of no value. And the third kind of person is the one who gives confidence because he feels confident. This confidence alone can rightfully be called yaqin.
Jesus Christ had people of all these categories around him. Thousands of people of the first category came, thronged round the Master, and then left him. It did not take one moment for them to be attracted, nor one moment for them to leave the Master. In the second category are those who go on for some time, just as a drunken man goes on and on; but when such people are sober again, things become clear to them, and they ask themselves, ‘Where am I going? Not in the right direction.’ Thousands and thousands in this category followed the masters and prophets, but those who stayed to the end of the test were those who, before giving their confidence to the teacher, first had confidence in their own heart. It is they who, if the earth turned to water and the water turned to earth, if the sky came down and the earth rose up, would remain unshaken, firm in the belief they have once gained. It is by discipleship that one learns the moral that, in whatever position a person is, as husband or wife, son or daughter, servant or friend, one will follow with confidence, firm and steady wherever one goes.
After acquiring yaqin, there comes a test, and that is sacrifice. That is the ideal on the path of God. The most precious possession there is, is not too valuable, nothing is too great to sacrifice. Not one of the disciples of the Prophet–the real disciples–thought even their life too great a sacrifice if it was needed. The story of Ali is very well known: a plot was discovered, that one night some enemies wanted to kill the Prophet, and Ali learnt about it. He did not tell the Prophet, but persuaded him to leave home. He himself stayed, for he knew that if he went too, the assassins would follow him and find out where the Prophet was. He slept in the same bed, in place of the Prophet, so that the assassins might find him, though at the same time he did not intend to lose his life if he could fight them off. The consequence was that the plot failed, and the enemies could not touch either the Prophet or Ali.
This is only one instance, but there are thousands of instances which show that the friendship, formed in God and truth, between the teacher and the disciple is for always, and that nothing in the world is able to break it. If the spiritual link cannot hold, how can a material link keep intact? It will wear out, being only a worldly link. If spiritual thought cannot form a link between two souls, what else can constitute such a strong tie that it can last both here and in the hereafter?
The third lesson on the path of discipleship is imitation; this means imitating the teacher in his every attitude–his attitude towards the friend, towards the enemy, towards the foolish, and towards the wise. If the pupil acts as he wishes, and the teacher acts as he wishes, then there is no benefit, however great the sacrifice and devotion. No teaching or meditation is as great or valuable as the imitation of the teacher in the path of truth. In the imitation of the teacher, the whole secret of the spiritual life is hidden. No doubt it is not only the imitation of his outward action, but also of his inner tendency.
The fourth lesson that the disciple learns is different again. This lesson is to turn the inward thought of the teacher outward, until he grows to see his teacher in everyone and everything, in the wise, in the foolish, and in all forms.
Finally, by the fifth lesson the disciple learns to give everything that he has so far given to his teacher–devotion, sacrifice, service, respect–to all, because he has learnt to see his teacher in all.
One person will perhaps learn nothing all his life, whereas another will learn all five lessons in a short time. There is a story of a person who went to a teacher, and said to him, ‘I would like to be your pupil, your disciple.’ The teacher said, ‘Yes, I shall be very glad.’ This man, conscious of so many faults, was surprised that the teacher was willing to accept him as a disciple. He said, ‘But I wonder if you know how many faults I have?’ The teacher said, ‘Yes, I already know your faults, yet I accept you as my pupil.’ ‘But I have very bad faults,’ he said, ‘I am fond of gambling.’ The teacher said, ‘That does not matter much.’ ‘I am inclined to drink sometimes,’ he said. The teacher said, ‘That does not matter much.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘there are many other faults.’
The teacher said, ‘I do not mind. But now that I have accepted all your faults, you must accept one condition from your teacher.’ ‘Yes, most willingly,’ he said. ‘What is it?’ The teacher said, ‘You may indulge in your faults, but not in my presence; only that much respect you must reserve for your teacher.’ The teacher knew that all five attributes of discipleship were natural to him, and he made him an initiate. And as soon as he went out and had an inclination to gamble or to drink, he saw the face of his murshid before him. When, after some time, he returned to the teacher, the teacher smilingly asked, ‘Did you commit any faults?’ He answered, ‘O no, the great difficulty is that whenever I want to commit any of my usual faults, my murshid pursues me!’
Do not think that this spirit is only cultivated; this spirit may be found in an innocent child. When I once asked a little child of four years, ‘Have you been naughty?’ the child answered, ‘I would like to be naughty, but my goodness will not let me.’ This shows us that the spirit of discipleship is in us. But we should always remember that he who is a teacher is a disciple himself.
In reality there is no such thing as a teacher; God alone is Teacher, we are all disciples. The lesson we all have to learn is that of discipleship; it is the first and the last lesson.
To be continued…