The guide to nowhere

In spiritual traditions around the world, it is more or less universal to identify someone who has advanced on the path as a ‘teacher’. Hindus have gurus, for example, and Sufis speak of murshids — people with experience who supposedly can give reliable guidance and instruction. And yet, paradoxically, the spiritually evolved person has nothing whatsoever to give.

The journey to that Goal which is the longing of every soul, as Hazrat Inayat says, is one of ‘unlearning,’ or of clearing the consciousness of all the accumulated assumptions and concepts that form the walls and roof of the average person’s environment. Therefore, the further one progresses, the less one possesses. There are some who adopt in their outer life the way of the dervish, living without a fixed home and owning little — but every sincere seeker comes to the same state of poverty sooner or later. When we see that our thoughts and feelings are no more than ripples on the surface of the water, and even our much cherished body is only a temporary loan, subject to immediate recall without prior notice, we realise that there is not only nothing to give, but neither is there an individual to give it; there is only the Divine Presence working. The spiritual journey, which has perhaps lasted a whole lifetime, we now see was a journey to nowhere — for there was nowhere to go: the answer was always hiding in plain sight within us.

That is why in the Gayan, Suras, it says, There is no teacher save God; we all learn from Him. Nevertheless, there is an important role for the human teacher or guide. In this post in the series on Initiation, Hazrat Inayat Khan says, No one can give spiritual knowledge to another, for this is something which is within every heart. What the teacher can do is to kindle the light which is hidden in the heart of the disciple. If the light is not there, it is not the fault of the teacher.

This kindling of the light is what is referred to in the Gayan, Chalas, where it says, The spiritual guide performs the role of Cupid in bringing the seeking souls closer to God. Like Cupid, the guide aims the arrow of love (which in Indian mythology is tipped not with an arrowhead but with a flower) at the heart of the student, and the resulting ‘Divine wound’ starts the flow of love for which the heart was formed.

As Hazrat Inayat acknowledges, though, some hearts are closed, and the arrow appears to have no effect. If we have doubt, suspicion or mistrust, if we hold back, or if we believe that spirituality can be discovered by thinking, then the heart will be hardened, and we will – for the moment – be immune to the arrow of love.

And what then? If the Hand of Destiny is merciful, we will be set somewhere warm, to thaw (and perhaps closer to the fire than we think is comfortable, but Wisdom knows best). Only when the heart begins to melt will we be ready to start the journey to nowhere.

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