The prayer Salat begins with the salutation, ‘Most gracious Lord, Master, Messiah and Saviour of humanity.’ Although a number of figures are named –Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Buddha, Zarathustra, and so on–the prayer also gives beautiful everyday images such as the loving mother, the kind father and the rest to indicate that we are not addressing any particular prophet, guide or saint, but the divine Spirit of Guidance to be found in all names and forms.
We need guidance because we live in confusion, in darkness, and it is only by the light of understanding that we can begin to find our way. We have been separated from the Real by the veil of our own temporary identity; it is we ourselves who are our own limitation, and because of that heavy curtain over our eyes, we stumble like a person in a pitch-dark room, bumping into the unknown, falling and hurting ourselves, perplexed and fearful.
Some blessed souls have been able to drop the veil of ‘me’ and see their way clearly, guided by the light that streams from their own being; that is the meaning of the ‘illuminated souls’ in whose company we journey ‘toward the One,’ in the words of the `Invocation.’
The illuminated souls help us in every way that they can, by teaching, by healing, by guiding individuals and communities, but they cannot live our lives for us, nor would we want them to, for that would not fulfil the purpose of Creation. In other words, to have faith in a great Teacher may open a doorway for us, but it does not bestow an automatic pass to the state of illumination. The greatest gift that a great soul can confer upon us is simply to serve as an example of what is possible. Not every soul that comes on earth is destined to be a Prophet or a Messiah, that is a rare and special destiny, and yet every soul, however humble or misguided, bears within it the very same spark of Divine light that the Prophets generously shed like torches upon all humanity. That inner spark is the only light that can save us from our ignorance.