The Sufi Message does not call a person away from a belief or church; it
calls one to live it.
Initiation in the real sense of the word, as it is used on the spiritual
path, takes place when a person, in spite of having a religion and belief, an
opinion and ideas about spiritual things, feels that he should take a step in a
direction which he does not know; when he takes the first step, that is an
initiation. Ghazali, a great Sufi writer of Persia, has said that entering the
spiritual path is just like shooting an arrow at a point one cannot see, so that
one does not know what the arrow is going to hit; one only knows one's own
action, and one does not see the point aimed at. This is why the path of
initiation is difficult for a worldly man. Human nature is such that a man born
into this world, who has become acquainted with the life of names and forms,
wants to know everything by name and form; he wants to touch something in order
to be sure that it exists. It must make an appeal to his physical senses before
he thinks that it exists; without this he does not believe that anything can
exist. Therefore it is difficult for him to undergo an initiation on a path
which does not touch any of his senses. He does not know where he is going.
Initiation, or in Sufi terms Bayat, first of all has to do with the
relationship between the pupil and the Murshid. The Murshid is understood to be
the counselor on the spiritual path. He does not give anything to or teach the
pupil, the mureed, for he cannot give what the latter already has; he cannot
teach what his soul has always known. What he does in the life of the mureed is
to show him how he can clear his path towards the light within by his own self.
This is the only purpose of man's life on earth. One may attain the purpose of
life without a personal guide, but to try to do so is to be like a ship
traversing the ocean without a compass. To take initiation, then, means
entrusting oneself in regard to spiritual matters to a spiritual guide.
There are different kinds of initiation that souls experience. One is natural
initiation. A kind of natural unfoldment for which the soul cannot give any
cause or reason, comes to a soul, although no effort or attempt has been made by
that soul to experience it. Sometimes this initiation comes after great illness,
pain, or suffering. It comes as an opening up of the horizon, it comes as a
flash of light, and in a moment the world seems transformed. It is not that the
world has changed; it is that that person has become tuned to a different pitch.
He begins to think differently, feel differently, see and act differently; his
whole condition begins to change. One might say of him that from that moment he
begins to live. It may come as a vision, as a dream, as a phenomenon -- in any
of these forms; one cannot determine the manner in which it will manifest.
It is most essential for my mureeds to think what motive, what object they
have in their working with the teaching and meditations given in the Sufi Order.
Is it that they wish to develop occult powers? Then such powers are not
promised. Is it that they wish to learn very much? But there is not much study
given here. Is it that they want to be good? No special principles of goodness
are taught here. If they want to be spiritual, we have not yet made solitudes
and seclusions as they have on the top of the Himalayas and in the caves of the
mountains, that we may give up our life in the world and retire there, nor do we
wish for it. Then what is the motive which keeps us busy in the Sufi Order, what
is our object in taking this path of initiation? Our object in this is to become
human, to find the way how to become human, how to live a human being's life to
its fullness, how to live a life of love, harmony and beauty.
To my mureeds, therefore, a word of advice that I have to give is to waken to
the subtleties of human nature, cultivate and make your perceptions keen so as
to get an insight into human nature. It is by this that you will probe the
depths of life's secret, and it is in understanding this secret that all the
mystery is revealed, a mystery which is mysticism. It is to find this mystery
that we take the path of initiation; it is in this revelation that the purpose
of our spiritual pursuit is accomplished.
Some people affirm that they have been initiated by a teacher on the other
side. Well, perhaps they have; but are they not then in two worlds, the teacher
in one and the initiate in the other? The initiate neither belongs to the
teacher's world, nor does the teacher belong to his. This surely gives one less
trouble than having to regard the pleasure of a living being; it is easier to
feel that one has someone at one's back who is always whispering in one's ear
and who speaks to one in dream or vision. It is not wrong and in some cases it
is even true; there are souls, there are teachers who have perhaps not given on
earth what they had to give, what they had to impart to others. But that is not
the normal process. If it were a normal process then all the teachings would
have been sent from the other side, but neither Buddha nor Jesus Christ nor
Mohammed gave their teachings from there.
The path of initiation is also a path of tests: tests from the initiator,
tests from God, tests from the self, and tests from the world; and to go through
these tests is the sign of real progress in the mureed, while the one who does
not undertake these tests will be wasting his time.
The important thing is this, that the one who is life's student, the one who
is really initiated, studies himself before studying others. Does an initiator
teach the truth? No man has the power to teach another the truth; man must
discover it himself.
What is it that the initiator teaches the initiated one? He tells the
initiated one the truth of his own being. He does not tell him something new or
something different. He tells him something which his soul already knows but
which his mind has forgotten.
The path of initiation is not a path of study. I have seen people who have
not only read fifty volumes, but have written fifty volumes and published them,
and not yet fit for initiation. It is not an act of brain, it is a process of
the spiritual melting, going from that hard, metal aspect to the form of liquid;
the ice turning into water. Therefore the mureed must guard himself against any
disturbing influence that would interfere in this process, knowing that it is
his responsibility. The teacher would have guarded him against it if the mureeds
were children; the mureeds, who are grown-up, must feel responsible for
On the path of initiation two things are necessary: contemplation, and the
living of a life such as a Sufi ought to live; and they depend upon each other.
Contemplation helps one to live the life of a Sufi, and the life of a Sufi helps
contemplation. In the West, where life is so busy and where there is no end to
one's responsibilities, one wonders if to undertake contemplation, even for only
ten minutes in the evening, is not too much when one is tired. But for that very
reason contemplation is required more in the West than in the East where
everything, even the surroundings, is helpful to contemplation. Besides a
beginning must be made on the path.
The Great Ones are initiated by God Himself, and they prove their initiations
not by their claims, but in their works.
To discover the heart is the greatest initiation.