As we approach the conclusion of this extended series on initiation, Hazrat Inayat Khan now begins to speak about the necessary attitude of the mureed, and of the uncertainty the mureed may feel about their own progress. The previous post in this series may be found here.
A mureed’s attitude towards life must be hopeful; towards his motives, courageous; towards his murshid, faithful; towards the cause, sincere; towards that object which he has to accomplish, earnest, without the slightest doubt. In every aspect of life it is our attitude which counts and which in the end proves to be creative of all kinds of phenomena. Both success and failure depend upon it, as in the Hindu saying, ‘If the attitude is right, all will come right’.
There is a natural tendency in the seeker on the spiritual path to wonder if he is really progressing. And very often he begins to wonder from the day he sets foot on the path. It is like asking ‘Shall I be able to digest?’ while one is still eating. The spiritual path leads to selflessness. The more we worry about ourselves, the less progress we make, because our whole striving should be to forget the self; it is mostly the self which obstructs the path. The path is made for the soul, and it is natural and easy for the soul to find it. Therefore, when a person is wondering about his progress, he is wasting his time; it is like standing still on the path on which one must go forward.
Can anyone distinguish how his face and body change day by day? No, for one cannot point out distinct signs of change from one day to another; and if one cannot properly distinguish any change in the external self, then how can one expect to distinguish change in the inner process? It is not something that can be weighed on the scales, as one weighs oneself on coming back from a holiday, and sees that one has gained or lost several pounds. There is no such gain in spiritual progress.
Then there are some who imagine that they have progressed for a certain time, but are then going backward. They are discouraged, and say, ‘I thought I had arrived somewhere, but surely it must have been an illusion.’ But life is like the sea, and the sea is not always calm. There are times when the sea is rough, and then the boat naturally moves up and down, and to think, while the boat is moving downward, that it will sink is a mistake. It is going down in order to go up; it is its movement; it is natural. A mureed is subject to such experiences in the path of life. Life will take its own course. The one who sails will many times have to meet a rough sea; he has to be prepared for this, and not be frightened or discouraged. He still has to go on through life. If life’s journey were soft and smooth, there would be no need for spiritual development. He has to have control of the rudder to be able to go through both calm seas and storms.
Sometimes the mureed wonders what others are saying, and if they are displeased or pleased; if they are displeased, he thinks he is not progressing. But this has nothing to do with progress. Those who are displeased would be displeased even with Jesus Christ, and at the same time they might be pleased with the worst person. The displeasure of others does not mean that one is not progressing.
Then if conditions are adverse, the mureed thinks that he is not on the right path. But does it mean that the ship is not on its right course if a storm meets it? Neither the murshid nor God are responsible if the conditions are adverse, and the best thing is to meet them, to be more brave and courageous, and to make one’s way through them. Ghazali, the great Sufi writer of Persia, says that spiritual progress is like shooting at a target in the dark. We do not know where the target is, we do not see it, but we shoot just the same.
The true ideal of the spiritual person is not great power, nor a great amount of knowledge. His true ideal stands beyond power and knowledge; it is that which is limitless, incomprehensible, nameless, and formless. There are no milestones to count; one cannot say, ‘I have gone so many miles, and there are so many still before me.’ This does not belong to a spiritual journey. The pursuit of the limitless is limitless, of the formless, formless; one cannot make it tangible. But then, what is it that assures progress? What evidence have we to go on? There is only one evidence and that is our belief; there is one assurance, and that is our faith. If we believe we can go on, if we are convinced, then we will, we must reach our goal.