Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan
Esoteric training is as necessary as is the learning of a language. Every child that is born, however intelligent he may be, must learn the language for the expression of his thoughts. Some learn it so perfectly that they become great writers or poets; on the other hand many may speak it all their lives through and yet can neither understand it well nor express themselves perfectly.
So it is with the inborn
thirst for divine knowledge which is the yearning of every soul and which
awakens with the maturity of intelligence. The reason why so many are ignorant
is that the occupations of life keep them engaged; furthermore, the mazing
Training is the first necessary step in the attainment of divine knowledge. This can only be given by an accomplished nature, a master of wisdom. The seeker may be likened to a man travelling in a strange country who enquires the nearest way lest he should go astray. He may also be thought of as a traveller on board a ship, depending upon the captain to pilot him. Therefore, among the old mystics a complete discipline was taught, and a spirit of respect and gratitude was awakened in the heart of the disciple. When the stage of self-denial and self-sacrifice was passed by him, then only was he initiated for discipleship. No wealth or power could buy it.
It is to our ancestors and to their research that we owe the knowledge of all names and forms; all new inventions are but improvements upon the previous ones. All the arts and sciences that man knows today have been acquired from the storehouse of the past. But with the slightest improvement made by him, man at once claims the credit for the whole as his own. The goldsmith should remember how much he owes to the explorer of the gold mine. The praise of all that is good and beautiful is due to Allah alone, the Whole Being and the Origin of all, His manifestation being His very Self.
It is desirable to initiate those whose intelligence is matured enough to receive the divine knowledge, irrespective of caste, class, or creed. There is no reason why a mureed should not place himself under the guidance of a murshid. Man is apt to think that he is all-sufficient in himself to manage his own affairs and to know what is best for himself by the little experience he has gathered through life. This delusion is but an outcome of the ego. How can a man be an authority for himself, when he is liable to repent tomorrow for his action of today? The chosen ones of God, however advanced they may be, are always ready to learn from everybody they meet, whether wise or foolish, old or young, good or bad. This tendency revealed to them the divine Truth which can be learned from even beasts, birds, trees and rocks. In truth naught else exists save the One Self under the guise of I, you or he.
On the path a guide, a master or murshid is necessary. There should be no barrier of caste, creed, race, religion or nation between murshid and mureed, for divine knowledge is the heritage of man and is, therefore, his right. This training is not like a university course, it is unlimited. It is called suluk, moral, and its followers are termed salik. By this training the real way of friendship is taught in this world, where friendship in the true sense of the word is scarcely to be found. One trained in its morals becomes a rare being, a magnet, a precious gem. People seek his society and the world is blessed by him.
Suluk begins by the friendship between murshid and mureed and continues until it expands to the whole universe. It is not the usual conception of the relation between master and disciple, nor is it a connection between a spiritual and a material being, or between a wise and a foolish person. By it the murshid and mureed are in reality one and the same. Both the inspirer and the subject of inspiration are on the same level, in the rank of humanity as in the light of God. There may be a lack on the part of the mureed, but it is for the time being only; in the end both unite on the same plane of consciousness. The murshid does not give training as a gift to the mureed, but he awakens his consciousness towards perfection.
In the East the mureed learns self-abnegation by having the utmost reverence and veneration for his murshid, while a true murshid avoids as far as possible the world's homage. Esoteric training is best accomplished by confidence, devotion, imitation and association with the murshid. During the period of training every thought, speech and action of the mureed needs correction. The training also consists of tasawwuf, metaphysics, which is taught to a certain extent by the murshid, but later on reveals itself to the mureed with the development of his intelligence.
Association signifies the presence of the murshid on all planes. By confidence is meant to believe earnestly in the teachings of the murshid and to have perfect trust in his guidance. Devotion means love and admiration for the human attributes, first seen and appreciated in the murshid. Imitation means to watch and follow the murshid step by step and move by move in his every thought, speech and action.
This friendship in God is much greater than all earthly relations and connections, for it is everlasting. The lack of this means a hindrance in the path of perfection.
The mureed can be trained by an inspiring glance from his murshid and by his good wishes and blessings much more than by discussion or argument. There are times when the murshid is moved by divine will to inspire the mureed. The receptive mind of the mureed, connected with that of the murshid, awaits patiently this privileged moment, unknown and unexpected to both alike, for it is the action of God, the only Inspirer of His manifestation.
The genuine murshid is assured of the divinity of his message and considers it his greatest responsibility; his very life most earnestly gives expression to his message. God is his faith, and truth his belief. His religion is constituted by harmony and his life's attainment is peace. He first controls the self and then imparts to others what he himself has practised and experienced. A true murshid is easily recognized by the sense of happiness, calm and peace that his presence itself radiates. His very atmosphere gives the thought of God.
A murshid must have an insight into the five elements which constitute the world visible and invisible. Farid-ud-din Attar has defined him:
A desirable mureed is he who has an earnest desire for attaining the highest bliss of self-realization, free from all curiosity for phenomena. That mureed is trustworthy who first has a full confidence in himself and then in the guidance of the murshid whom he considers as both mother and father. The doubting mind and changeable disposition have very little chance of progress.
A mureed should be ready to undergo all trials and tests put upon him during the period of guidance, considering them necessary for his advancement. He should have either an intense attitude of worship, or patience enough for great abstinence and perseverance. If he possesses neither of these, then a great intelligence is needed in order to acquire illumination.
The first and most necessary attainment for the mureed is a settled state of mind. He should consider his spiritual journey of far greater importance than his worldly affairs. The desire to achieve worldly benefits by the help of spiritual power is a great hindrance to a walker on this path. The abuse of mystical powers is most harmful, and the mureed should conceal from others all teachings as well as their effects. Any show of mystical knowledge, power and revelation is as bad for a mureed as poison. He should avoid the company of those of a different element from himself. A simple dress, simple food, times of solitude, a control over thought, speech and action, as well as a constant research after truth are necessary.
Initiation is most necessary for Sufis. Originally it took place in the ancient Order of Sufis. In later times both the custom of initiation and the bond of brotherhood were imitated by different groups of mystics, and several of such mystical Orders came into existence, just as the different religions sprang up in the past.
Initiation signifies the entrance of a stranger into the bond of human brotherhood, so that the usual consideration of the earthly distinctions and differences which separate man from man may be abolished.
From the moment of initiation the initiate is called mureed and he is entrusted with the most secret tenets of Sufism, handed down for ages from one murshid to another. This chain of murshids links together all the past masters and murshids. Therefore, the Sufi has no prejudice or hatred for any one of them, as it is found among the orthodox who revere one master while denying all others. The Sufi regards this chain of masters and murshids as an embodiment of one and the same truth.
There is a great advantage for the mureed in this initiation, because he receives the benefit of the collective experience of the different masters and murshids of the past. His soul by initiation is connected with the current of light which runs through them all. An earnest mureed can always realize this current from the moment of initiation, when all darkness is cleared away. His every step is drawn back when going astray, and he is helped and protected by them all at every move he makes in life. In dreams, visions, inspirations, intuitions, impressions and revelations, and in his own thoughts and imaginations a watchful mureed perceives a help guiding him towards perfection.
It is as undesirable to be twice initiated by different murshids as to change from one method to another or from one school to another. It means a lack of firmness of mind. Such an unsteady mureed, after a thousand initiations, will remain just where he was before; and one who is steady will attain in one initiation what the other could not do in a thousand. This study aims at unity, the goal of this path is unity. Therefore, the diversity of methods and the variety of murshids leads towards multiplicity which is detrimental to the attainment of unity.
The higher pursuit is so subtle that sometimes its progress cannot be properly realized even by the mureed himself, because its effect is contrary to all other progress in the objective world. In the latter there is an apparent gain, while in the former there is nothing but loss.
There is nothing in the world unseen to watch or perceive, save only a deeper and deeper blackness which is the eternal peace of God. Ghazali says that the spiritual pursuit is like an arrow shot in the dark; you do not know whither it went, and whom it struck.
No mureed has a right to guide others until he himself becomes a murshid, for a patient cannot give his prescriptions to another, which may be only suitable to himself and not for the disease of another. Self-help is the principle for a mureed to understand, for in the pretence of helping another he wastes his precious time, gaining thereby only pride and conceit. Mystical powers should not be abused by using them for selfish or undesirable purposes. The revelations which may be vouchsafed to the mureed should be kept secret from all others except the murshid. It is most advisable for a mureed to be as unassuming as possible, for the least little show of spirituality acts like a poison in his life.