Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

Discipleship -
The way of the disciple

Part 9

Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


The disciple's tendencies can be considered as being of four kinds. The disciple of the modern times, who comes and says to his teacher, "We shall study this book together", is one type; or he says to his teacher, "Have you read that book? It is most interesting", or he says, "I have learned from someone else before, and now I should like to learn what I can from you. So we pass on and then I shall arrive at something which is more interesting". So life goes. That person may be called a student, but not a disciple yet. That is not the spirit of a disciple, that is the spirit of a student, who goes from one university to another, from one professor he passes into the hands of another. He is most suited for that intellectual pursuit, but the spirit of the disciple is different.

There is another type who thinks in his mind, "What I can get out of the teacher I will get, and after I have collected it, then I shall utilize it in the way I think best". So this way is that of a thief who says, "I will get out of this person what I can and then I shall utilize it to my own purpose". This is a wrong attitude, because in the first place spiritual inspiration and power cannot be stolen. A thief cannot take it. He may remain with a teacher for a hundred years, and then he will go empty-handed if he has that attitude. There are many in this world today who make an occupation of intellectual theft, who find anything intellectual and take it, and then use it. But they do not know what they do by this. They paralyse their minds; then their minds do not work and they close their own spirit.

Then there is a third wrong tendency of a disciple and that tendency is to keep back something which is the first essential thing, and that is confidence. He will say, "Tell me all you can teach me, all that I can learn, give me all that you have", but in his mind he says, "I will not give you my confidence, because I do not know yet if this road is right for me or wrong for me. When you have given, then I shall judge, then I shall see what it is. But so long as you have not given me confidence, I cannot give you my confidence. My ears are in focus to your words". That is the third wrong tendency. As long as the soul will not give his confidence to his spiritual guide, he will not get the full benefit of his teaching.

And the fourth kind is the right kind of discipleship. It does not come by just thinking, "I would like to go in the spiritual path or I would like to be a disciple, a mureed, a chela", but there comes a time in every person's life when the circumstances in his life have tried him so much that he begins to feel, "I wish to find a word of enlightenment, a counsel, a guidance, a direction in the path of truth". When the values of all things and beings are changed in his eyes, that is the time when he begins to feel hungry for spiritual guidance. Bread is meant for the hungry, not for the ones who are quite satisfied. If this person goes on in the search of a teacher, then he takes the right step. But the difficulty is that if he goes to a teacher and wants to test him to the end, then there is no end to the testing. He can go from one teacher to another, and from the earthly being to the heavenly being, he will test everyone, and in the end of it, what will he find? Imperfection. He is looking for it and he will find it. What is man? An imperfect being, a human being, a limited being. When he wants to find perfection in a limited being, he will always find that he is disappointed, whether an angel came or a human being, whoever came before him.

If he is simple enough to accept any teacher that comes before him and says, "I will be your chela", it is perhaps easier, but it is perhaps not so easy to hold on to it. No doubt, the Hindus say that someone asked a Brahmin, "Why do you worship a God of rock, an idol of rock? Look here, I am a worshipper of the God who is in the Heavens. This rock does not listen to you, it has no ears". And then the Brahmin said, "If you have no faith even the God of Heaven will not hear you, and if you have faith this rock will have ears to hear".

But the middle way and the best way is to consult one's own intuition, one's inspiration. If one's own intuition says, "I will seek guidance under this teacher, whether he is raised high by the whole of humanity or whether he is looked at with contempt and prejudice by thousands, I do not care", then that person adheres to that one teacher, following the principle of constancy. If a person is not constant on the spiritual path, naturally he will have a difficulty in the end, for what is constancy? Constancy is the reflection of eternity. What is truth? Truth is eternal. In order to seek truth one must learn the principle of constancy.

What is the first thing that the disciple has to do? The first thing is to have full confidence in the guidance, in the direction that is given to him by his teacher. The teacher does not always teach in plain words, the spiritual teacher has a thousand ways. Maybe that by his prayers he can guide one disciple; maybe that by his thought he can guide his disciple; maybe that by his feeling he can guide his disciple; maybe that by his sympathy he can guide his disciple; maybe that from a distance of space he may guide his disciple. Therefore, when a disciple thinks that only by words or by teaching or by practices or by exercises he can be taught, it is a great mistake.

In order to make the right disciple and the right people to come, a Sufi who lived in Hyderabad had made a wonderful arrangement. He had a grumpy woman sit just near his house, and to anyone who came to see the great teacher she would say all kinds of things against the teacher: how unkind he was, how cruel he was, how neglectful he was, how lazy he was. Nothing she would leave unsaid. So out of a hundred persons ninety-five would go back, they would not dare come near him. Perhaps only five would come, who would like to have their own conviction about it, and the teacher was very pleased with those five who would come there. He was also pleased that the ninety-five went away, because what they came to find was not there, it was somewhere else.

Now there is another side to this question. The first thing the teacher does is to find out what is the pressing need of the disciple. Granting that the disciple has come to seek after truth and to be guided to the path of God, at the same time it is the psychology of the teacher that he first gives his thought to the pressing need of his disciple. Whether the disciple tells it or whether he does not tell it, this is the first point that the teacher sees, and the teacher's effort is directed to removing that first difficulty, because he thinks that this is the obstacle in the way of the disciple. For a soul to tread the spiritual path is easy. It is easy, because it is his way; it is the spiritual path that the soul is looking for. It is God which is the seeking of every soul and therefore every soul will naturally make his way, if there is nothing hindering. The pressing need is the hindering object in the way, which can either be conquered or be removed. If it is obtained so much the better, if it is not good to obtain it, then it must be removed from the way. Then the way is clear. The teacher may think, "I am only concerned with my disciple in his spiritual progress, in his attainment of God". It might seem easy, but it is not easy for the teacher; for if there is something blocking the way of the disciple, it will not be easy for the teacher to help him on that way.

There are three faculties which the teacher considers most essential to be developed in the disciple: deepening the sympathy, showing the way to harmony, wakening the spirit of beauty. One very often sees that, without having been taught any particular formulas or having been given any particular lessons on these three subjects, under the guidance of a right teacher every day and every month and every year the soul of his sincere disciple will grow like a plant, which is carefully watered and reared. And without knowing it himself he will begin to show these three qualities: an ever growing sympathy; the harmonizing quality increasing every day more and more; expression and understanding and appreciation of beauty in all its forms.

One might ask, "Is there no going backward?" Well, sometimes there is a sensation of going backward. When one journeys in a ship, the ship moves in such a way that one feels, "I am going backward". But one is going forward. It is the movement that makes one feel, "I am going backward." By travelling on the back of an elephant and on a camel one also feels the same way. The movement makes one feel that one is going backward, but one is really going forward. In the lives of some disciples there is this sensation, but this sensation is only the proof of life, that little idea of going back is only a sensation, it only means that one is going forward.

But sometimes one might say, "I find that, since I have become a disciple, I discover now more faults in myself than I had ever seen before". That is quite true, but that does not mean that one's faults have increased. It only means that one's eyes have now become so wide open that one sees many more faults every day than one saw before. It does not mean an increasing of faults, but the widening of the sight. The eye-sight has become more keen.

There is always one great danger on the spiritual path that the disciple has to overcome. There comes a feeling of being exalted, a feeling of knowing more than other people and the feeling of being better than other people, and that can be very dangerous on the spiritual path. As soon as a person thinks, "I know", the doors of knowledge become closed. He can get no more knowledge, because automatically he has closed the doors of his heart. They are closed the moment he says "I know". Spiritual knowledge, the knowledge of life, is so intoxicating, so exalting, it gives such a great joy, that one begins to pour out one's knowledge before everyone who comes, as soon as this knowledge springs up. If at that time the disciple thinks, "I must conserve this spring of light, reserve it, keep it within myself and let it deepen", then his words are not necessary. His presence will enlighten people. But as soon as the spring comes, and he pours out that spring in words, on one side his vanity is satisfied, on the other side his energy is exhausted. The little spring that has come he has poured out before others, and then he is without power. Reserve, therefore, is taught to the true disciple, the conserving of inspiration and of power. The one who speaks is not always wise; it is the one who hears who is wise.

During discipleship the first period may be called the period of observation, in which the disciple with a respectful attitude observes everything, good and bad, right and wrong, without expressing any opinion about them. And this reveals to the disciple every day a new idea on the subject. To-day he thinks, "It is wrong", but he has not expressed it; and tomorrow he thinks, "But how can it be wrong?"; and the day after tomorrow he thinks, "But can this really be wrong?"; and perhaps the fourth day he will think, "No, it is not wrong"; and the fifth day he says, "It is right". And in the same way he can observe what seems right, if he does not express himself on the first day. It is the foolish ones who always readily express their opinion, the wise ones always keep it back. By keeping their opinion back, they become wiser every day, by expressing their opinion they will become less wise every day.

The second thing, that is most important for the disciple, is learning. How to learn? Every word the disciple hears coming from the lips of the teacher, that word is a holy, a sacred book. Instead of reading a sacred book of religion from the beginning to the end, he may take one word of the teacher and that is the same thing. By meditating upon it, by thinking about it, by pondering on it, he makes that word a plant from which fruits and flowers come. A book is one thing, and a living word is another thing. Perhaps the whole book could be written by the inspiration of one living word of the teacher. Beside all meditations given to the disciple who practises them, by that exercise he develops within him that inspiration, that power which is meant to be developed in the disciple.

The third advancement of the disciple is testing the inspiration, the power that he has acquired. One might ask, "How to test it?" Life can give a thousand examples of every idea that one has thought about. If one has learned from within that a certain idea is wrong or that a certain idea is right, then life is an example which shows why it is wrong or why it is right.

The attributes of the disciple are reserve, thoughtfulness, consideration, balance and serenity. Special care must be taken that during the time of discipleship one does not become a teacher. For very often a growing soul is so eager to become a teacher that, before he has finished the period of discipleship, he becomes too impatient to become a teacher. It must be remembered that all the great teachers of humanity, including Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mohammed and Zoroaster, have been great pupils. They have learned from the innocent child, they have learned from everyone; from every person that came before them they have learned; every situation, every condition of the world they have grasped and they have learned from it. It is the desire to learn continually that makes one a teacher, and not the desire to become a teacher. As soon as a person thinks, "I am a little bit of a teacher", then he has lost his ground, because there is only one Teacher; God alone is the Teacher and all others are His pupils. We all learn from life what life teaches us, and the day when a soul begins to think that he has learned all he had to learn and that now he is a teacher, he is very much mistaken. The greatest teachers of humanity have learned from humanity more than they have taught.




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