There is a saying that applies to many aspects of life, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Whether we think of business or politics, of a career path or a military strategy, the message is the same: if you do not put something at risk, then you can expect no reward. If you play it safe, venturing nothing, the result will be that you may, at best, preserve what you have. On the other hand, if you seek a great prize, circumstances may well demand that you gamble everything.
The same may be said of the spiritual path, as Hazrat Inayat Khan makes clear in the recent post about initiation. When a spiritual teacher gives initiation, he tells us, “the progress of the one initiated depends upon how much of himself he gives to his teacher’s guidance. One might give only a finger, and the other even a part of the finger. Another would give his whole hand. That makes a great difference.”
Sincere seekers enter the spiritual path because of a need for change. They may be unable to find rest, or disturbed by an unexplained longing, and then the glimpse of reality they perceive through the teacher gives them hope. But even then, as Hazrat Inayat knew from experience, they may be hesitant to risk what they know for the unknown, and that brings inevitable consequences for their progress.
The uncertainty of the seeker is natural. One cannot guess where the path will lead; as it has been said, entering the way is like shooting an arrow in the dark. What is more, if the teacher is truly a mystic, there is little that can be said about the journey. Therefore, usually without realising it, the initiate holds back, giving a finger, or less, when the teacher wants the whole person.
If we were conscious of this limited response, and of what it means, we would probably behave differently. Remember the story from the New Testament in which Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. Simon Peter held back from letting his master humble himself in this way, until Jesus told him that without this, Peter would have ‘no part in Him.’ Then Peter enthusiastically asked his teacher to wash not only his feet but his hands and head as well.
Therefore the question we might ask ourselves, particularly if we feel frustration that we see no progress in our path, is ‘How much of myself have I given? Could I give more?’ This saying from Vadan, Alankaras is good advice for every mureed :
My thoughtful self,
Bear all and do nothing,
Hear all and say nothing,
Give all and take nothing,
Serve all and be nothing.