Volume X - Sufi Mysticism
The Path of Initiation and Discipleship
What Is Needed On The Path
Initiation needs courage and the tendency to advance spiritually, although it may not seem to be the way of life for everyone. Therefore, the first duty of a mureed is not to be shaken in his faith by any opposing influence or by anything said against the path he has taken. He should not allow himself to be discouraged by anybody. The mureed must be so firm in his path that even if the whole world says it is a wrong path, he will say it is the right path. If anybody says that it will take a thousand years or perhaps more, the mureed must be able to say that even if it should take a thousand years, he will have the patience to go through with it. As it is said in Persian, it is the work of the Baz, the wayfarer of the heavens.
On this mystical path, courage, steadfastness and patience are what are most necessary; but also, trust in the teacher at whose hand initiation is taken and the understanding of the idea of discipline. In the East, where for thousands of years the path of discipleship has been understood, these things are regarded as most important and acceptable from the hand of the teacher. How few in the world know trust! What is necessary is not trusting another, even the teacher, but trusting oneself; and one is not capable of trusting oneself fully when one has not experienced in life how to trust another. Some will ask, 'But if we trusted and our trust was in vain, should we not be disappointed?' The answer is that we must trust for the sake of trust and not for the sake of a return and to see what fruit it brings. The utmost trust is the greatest power in the world. Lack of trust is weakness. Even if we have lost something by trusting, our power will be greater than if we had gained something without developing trust.
Patience is very necessary on the path. After my initiation into the Order of the Sufis, for six months I was continually in the presence of my murshid before he said a word on the subject of Sufism. Once he mentioned Sufism, and as soon as I took out my notebook, he went on to another subject and it was finished! One sentence after six months! A person would think that it is a long time, six months sitting before one's teacher without being taught anything; but it is not words, it is something else. If words were sufficient, there are libraries full of occult and mystical books.
It is life, itself; it is living that is important. The one who lives the life of initiation not only lives himself, but also makes others who come into contact with him alive. Therefore, one is initiated into the Sufi order not especially for study, but to understand and follow what real discipleship means.
With regard to the subject of discipline, anyone without a sense of discipline is without the power of self-control. It is discipline that teaches the ideal, and the ideal is self-discipline. It is the disciplined soldier who can become a good captain. In ancient times, the kings used to send the princes out as soldiers to learn what discipline means. The path of initiation is the training of the ego, and it is self-discipline that is learned on the path of discipleship.
One may ask what one should think of the path of initiation. What must be our goal, what must we expect from it? Should we expect to be good, healthy, magnetic, powerful, developed psychically or clairvoyant? One does not need to be any of these, although in time, one will cultivate them all naturally; but one should not strive for these things.
Suppose a person develops power and he does not know how to use it. The outcome will be disastrous. Suppose he develops magnetism, and by his power, he attracts all, both good and bad; then it will be difficult to get rid of what he has attracted by his power. Or, perhaps a person is very good, so good that everyone seems bad to him. He is too good to live in the world, and in that way he will become a burden to himself. These things are not to be sought for through initiation.
The aim is to find God within ourselves, to dive deep into ourselves so that we may touch the unity of the whole Being. It is towards this end that we are working by the power of initiation, in order that we may get all the inspiration and blessings in our life from within. For this, two things are necessary: one is to do the exercises that are given regularly and to do them with heart and soul. The second is to undertake the studies that are given, not considering them to be only for superficial reading, but for every word to be pondered upon. The more one thinks about it, the more it will have the effect of opening the heart.
Reading is one thing; contemplating is another. The lessons must be meditated upon. One should not take even the simplest word or sentence for granted. Think of the Hindus, Chinese and Parsis, who for thousands of years have always meditated upon the readings that they held sacred and yet never tired of them.
Initiation is a sacred trust, a trust given by the murshid to his mureed and a trust given by the mureed to the murshid. There should no longer be a wall from the moment of this initiation; for if there is a wall, then the initiation is not an initiation anymore. When the wall between the mureed and the murshid has been removed, then the next step will be to remove the wall that stands between God and the worshipper.
The Sufi order is an order of mysticism, and there are certain thoughts and considerations that should be observed. One of these is that when once a secret has been entrusted to one, it must be kept as one's most sacred trust. One must also accept all the teaching that may be given to one. Whether it is bitter medicine or sweet, the patient takes it. There is a time for everything, and so illumination has its time. However, progress, the real progress, depends upon the patience of the pupil, together with his eagerness to go forward.
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. To go through these tests is a sign of real progress in the mureed, while the one who does not undertake these tests will be wasting his time.
The Order, and this is apparent from the word 'order' itself, means that there is a certain formal hierarchy of the initiators and of the Pir-o-Murshid and that they should be regarded and respected as those who have gone farther in that chosen direction. This law is in no way different from the law of nature and of life. When a child who has been disrespectful to its parents itself becomes a parent, it will find the same attitude in its own children. A soldier who does not observe discipline under his captain or colonel will experience the same from his subordinates when later he holds that position. However, the question is whether he will ever arrive at that rank, not having considered and observed that which should have been observed. For those who have advanced in any line, whether in music, poetry, thought, or philosophy, have always done so in a humble way, at every step greeting those who have gone farther.
There are three stages for the pupil, the mureed, who treads the spiritual path. The first stage is receptivity, taking all that is given without saying, 'This teaching I will accept, and that teaching I will not accept.' The next stage is assimilating the teachings. The third stage is fixing them in the mind and letting the mind see the reason of things; but this comes after assimilation. Thus, the one who considers these three stages and goes through them carefully, securely – the stage of receptivity, the stage of assimilation and the stage of consideration – will be the successful mureed on the path.
Although the outer form might appear to be a hierarchy, the Sufi message leads to true democracy, for it holds the promise of the goal that is the yearning of every soul. This itself is the principal thing in democracy because it is this that makes democracy. The reason, according to the Sufi belief, is that the divine spark is in every soul. It is with trust and confidence in God, in the murshid and in that divine spark that is in one's own heart that one is assured of success in life, if one will only step forward.