Our first meeting of the Sufi Movement Serai was held yesterday, with the theme from the Gayan, Boulas : It is easy to become a teacher, but difficult to become a pupil. Hazrat Inayat Khan makes very clear to us the concept that all the innumerable layers of our life-long learning – of names, forms, concepts, assumptions and prejudices – form a thick veil that keeps us from the Truth. But as several visitors to the Serai observed, it is one thing to say ‘we must unlearn!’ but it is another thing to do it. How do we learn to unlearn?
To be a pupil in the worldly sense is something we associate with our childhood. Our first learning came at the feet of parents and grandparents, and then we sat (more or less obediently) in school and learned from teachers. But Truth cannot be given to us in the way that the multiplication table or the names of the major rivers of Africa can; Truth is waiting to be discovered, waiting within every one of us, and as it cannot be confined in any words or forms, it can’t be transmitted or expressed from one to another.
Paradoxically, the path to unlearning begins in the same way as the path of learning. The extensive series of posts here in the Inner Call on the theme of Initiation emphasise the need to work with a guide or teacher, especially at the beginning of the journey. This is necessary not because the guide has essential information that we need, and certainly not because the guide has need of students – far from it! – but simply because it is good for us to return to the innocence of childhood. That was the lesson that Jesus gave when he took the child upon his lap, that we must become as free from pre-conceptions as a child. Few have the real inclination to be a pupil, but those who do feel it can do well to study the wide-eyed, calm openness of babies.