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Volume IV - Mental Purification and Healing


Chapter XI

A soul inherits qualities from the parents and ancestors, and also qualities, which it has brought with it from the higher spheres. But a soul also inherits the qualities of the teacher, especially in spiritual culture, although from all different teachers one inherits certain qualities. When a child goes to an elementary school even, there he learns something from the teacher, which is not only taught by the books the teacher is using; but from the spirit of the teacher. It is very often found in schools, where children go to learn that the influence of a certain teacher makes a great impression upon their character and upon their progress.

Since spiritual guidance is not necessarily a study, the teaching, which reaches from a teacher to a pupil does so in the form of a reflection. This teaching is called, in Sufi terms, Tawajjuh. Of course, one learns from books. But what one learns from a spirit, from a soul, is learned from a living source. For instance, the same thing read in a book does not reach so deep as when it is spoken. And when it is spoken by the teacher, it goes still further. Hearing from a teacher is a direct reflection. It is not only the word that a teacher speaks, but also the silence, which is a still greater reflection. Sometimes words written on paper by the teacher also make a reflection if they have come from the depth. But, if the same words are spoken by the same teacher, that reflection is greater still. When Tagore recited his poetry himself it was twenty times more effective.

The words of Rumi from the Masnavi still have a living charm. It is long since the Master passed away. But the words had risen from his soul, and their effect is so great that when one reads the words of Rumi they penetrate to the soul.

It is on this account that mystics used to give names to their pupils. It is not only a reflection like a moving picture upon a curtain. It is a reflection upon a soul, which is productive, which is creative, which is living. In the spoken word the impression is greater because a spoken word enlightens one, inspires one. The same word read in a book has not that influence.

I remember hearing the first time in my life, a sentence which made such a living impression on me that I could not forget it for weeks together. Every time I pondered upon that sentence it brought a new light. And when I heard that sentence, it seemed as if it was spoken by my own soul, that my soul knew it, that it was new, but most dear and near to me. It was a verse, a couplet; it runs – it is an address of a bubble to the sea – 'Though I am a bubble and Thou art the sea, still I and Thou are not different.' It is a single sentence, but it went into my heart just like a seed thrown into fertile ground. From that time it continued to grow, and every time I thought about it, it brought me a new reflection.

I often had the experience that a mureed, having read a certain idea, a teaching, in a book four or five times, only understood the meaning fully when I told him. Telling him once was more helpful to him than if he had read the same idea fifty times over. The letters on the paper sometimes reach as far as the eyes, but the word coming from the soul reaches the soul. Therefore, that which is learned by the phenomenon of reflection is of greater value than learning in any other form, especially in the spiritual line.

There was once a conference of religions in Calcutta, and representatives of all mystical schools were invited to this congress. Shankaracharya was the leading representative of Brahmanism present there. After a most impressive lecture, Shankaracharya wished to sit in silence, but there was a desire on the part of the audience that some of their questions might be answered. Shankaracharya looked here and there among his disciples, and asked one of them to answer the questions. Which disciple was this? It was someone who was not even known to Shankaracharya's pupils, for he was mostly occupied in looking after the sage's dinner or dusting the room and keeping it in order. So the people who were known to be something were not asked. This man was asked. They did not even know that he existed. He had never done a thing like that in his whole life. It was only because he was asked that he stood up without thinking whether he would be able to give the answer or not. But the answer he gave to every question was as if it was given by Shankaracharya himself. The pupils of Shankaracharya were filled with admiration and bewildered at the same time, not having seen this man among them. It is this which is recognized by Sufis as Tawajjuh, reflection. It was not that pupil; it was the teacher himself who was speaking there.

Reflection also comes from the teacher from a distance. Distance makes no difference. The pupil who is near to his teacher, though he may be at the other side of the world, is closer than a person who is not near, and who may be all the time at his side; although in the path of spiritual progress, a meeting on the physical plane is necessary, and a contact is valuable. It is just like the winding of a clock.

It is possible for someone to speak by reflection without himself understanding what he is saying, but at the same time a reflection on the mind is not the same as a reflection on a photographic plate. A reflection on a photographic plate remains, but does not live. The reflection on the mind lives, and therefore, it is creative. It does not all live, but it helps one to create within oneself the same thing.

This brings us to the question of mediumship. Sometimes people may sing songs which do not belong to them, which they never have learned, which they are not supposed to know. There was a young girl in Bombay who never knew Persian, but there used to be times when she would speak Persian. And the Persian was so good, that learned Persian scholars used to come and discuss with her. She used to discuss points of metaphysics and would always stand firm in her arguments. And they were deeply impressed by it. And then at other times she did not know Persian.

But it is mostly so with poets, especially mystical poets. They write things sometimes which they themselves do not know. Sometimes they can interpret or they can understand their poetry better after ten years. A friend of a mystic wrote poetry, using in it terms which are only known to high initiates. The mystic was very much astonished and asked him, 'What do you mean by this?' Then the poet realized that he did not know what that part meant. But no poet can be a great poet if he is not by nature mediumistic. For the perfect Source is within, and the reflection which comes within is more perfect than what one has learned here.

Besides, what is called the chain of Murshids, which means the passing on of divine knowledge from one soul to another, and from that soul to another, yet again, and so on and on, this is also a reflection. A treasure which cannot be gained by meditation or by study, is gained by reflection. No doubt study makes one understand it. Meditation prepares the heart to take a reflection better. But the wonder that reflection of the mind produces is far greater than any attainment made in the spiritual line by studies.

There are wonderful experiences to be found in the ancient schools of mysticism, among Sufis, among Yogis, among Buddhists also. The knowledge which has been given perhaps four thousand years ago, is put in clearer language and explained better, and yet it keeps the beauty and characteristics of the whole tradition. And the beauty of mystical knowledge is this, that whatever school it may be of and from whichever part of the world, that central theme of the knowledge of truth is one and the same.

People who have attained knowledge of different aspects of life may differ in their expression, they may dispute over it, they may not agree upon certain things. But those who have touched the ultimate truth have reached the same truth. Evolution or involution, nothing diminishes it nor adds to it. It is what it is. And it is best attained by the way of reflection.

checked 18-Oct-2005