Hazrat Inayat Khan often emphasised the link between the student and the spiritual teacher, because it can accomplish what many years of study cannot. When the student begins to reflect the spirit of the teacher, a concentration called in Sufi terms ‘tawajoh’, many barriers begin to fall away. Hazrat Inayat told the following story as an illustration of this.
There was once a conference of religions in Calcutta, and representatives of all mystical schools were invited to this congress. Shankaracharya was the leading representative of Brahmanism present. After a most impressive lecture Shankaracharya wished to sit in silence, but there was a desire on the part of the audience that some of their questions might be answered. Shankaracharya looked here and there among his disciples, and asked one of them to answer the questions.
Which disciple was this? It was someone who was not even known to Shankaracharya’s pupils, for he was mostly occupied in looking after the sage’s dinner or dusting his room and keeping it in order. So the people who were known to be something were not asked. This man was asked; they did not even know that he existed.
He had never done a thing like that in his whole life; it was only because he was asked that he stood up without thinking whether he would be able to give the answer or not. But the answer he gave to every question was as if given by Shankaracharya himself. The pupils of Shankaracharya were filled with admiration and bewilderment at the same time, not having seen this man among them.
It is this which is recognised by Sufis as tawajoh, reflection. It was not that pupil, it was the teacher himself who was speaking there.