The task of the Sufi teacher is not to force a belief on a mureed, but to train him so that he may become illuminated enough to receive revelations himself.
A real teacher is only an instrument of God. It is his presence, what he wishes for you that helps; not the words he speaks. When I asked my teacher what is the sign of a real guru he says, 'It is not his form, it is not his appearance, it is not what he says; it is his atmosphere, it is what his presence conveys to you, it is what his atmosphere tells you.'
The work of a mystical teacher is not to teach, but to tune, to tune the pupil so that he may become the instrument of God. For the mystical teacher is not the player of the instrument; he is the tuner. When he has tuned it, he gives it into the hands of the Player whose instrument it is to play. The duty of the mystical teacher is his service as a tuner.
Love has its limitations when it is directed to limited beings, but love that is directed to God has no limitations, God alone deserves all love, and the freedom of Love is in giving it to God. Devotion to the Teacher is not for the sake of the Teacher, it is for God. Even in the case of a Teacher, the devotee may make a mistake by halting at the feet of the Teacher and not progressing to God. The Teacher is a shield covering God, a gate through which one has to go. As it is necessary to enter the gate, so to reach God it is necessary to have devotion to the Teacher first. But the ideal of real progress is that man, through his devotion, arrives to God, freeing himself from all limitations and bondages. For the Teacher, one has gratitude, but love and devotion is for God.
According to the Sufi point of view there is only one teacher, and that teacher is God Himself. No man can teach another man. All one can do for another is to give him one's own experience in order to help him to be successful. For instance if a person happens to know a road, he can tell another man that it is the road which leads to the place he wishes to find. The work of the spiritual teacher is like the work of Cupid. The work of Cupid is to bring two souls together. And so is the work of the spiritual teacher: to bring together the soul and God. But what is taught to the one who seeks after truth? Nothing is taught. He is only shown how he should learn from God. For no man can ever teach spirituality. It is God alone who teaches it. And how is it learned? When these ears which are open outwardly are closed to the outside world and focused upon the heart within, then instead of hearing all that comes from the outer life one begins to hear the words within. Thus if one were to define what meditation is, that also is an attitude: the right attitude towards God.
The attitude should first be to seek God within. And, after seeking God within, then to see God outside...
The Sufi teacher never wants his pupil to become an occultist or a great psychic or a man with great power. This does not mean that he will not become powerful, but the responsibility of the teacher is to develop the personality of the mureed (student), that it may reflect God, that it may show God's qualities...
... Read the Beatitudes in the Bible; has Christ not taught the development of personality? Did he not teach the building of the character? Did he not show in his life the innocence which proves the angelic heritage of man? Did he say, 'Be ye occultists,' or 'Tell people their fortunes,' or 'Correct people of their errors'? Never. What Christ taught was, 'Make your personality as it ought to be, that you may no more be the slave of the nature which you have brought with you, nor of the character which you have made in your life; but that you may show in your life the divine personality, that you may fulfill on this earth the purpose for which you have come.' ”
[The Sufi teacher] 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.
learned to know four true kinds of masters and four false ones. Among the true I saw first the one who would never answer the appeal of a seeker until he was fully prepared. The second kind would not initiate anyone until a long and trying period of probation had been undergone by the disciple. The third, in order to keep away undesirable adherents, would make himself appear so utterly disagreeable that everyone would run away at the sight of him. And the fourth would so disguise himself to escape the praise and publicity of the world that none would believe for a moment that he was truly a Murshid.
Among the false teachers I first met the hypocrite, who increases the number of his adherents by telling most wonderful stories and showing them tricks of phenomena. The second apostate was pious, disguising his infirmities and failings under the cloak of morality and always busy with worship and prayer. The third was the money-taking master, who eagerly seized upon every opportunity of emptying the pockets of his pupils. The fourth was he who was greedy for the adoration, worship and servility of his followers.
This experience of different Murshids prepared me for the ideal master.
At one time I wanted to take a friend to meet my murshid. This friend was a very material man, restless and pessimistic and doubting and skeptical. And everyday I urged him to come with me and meet my murshid. 'But,' he asked, 'what can he do for me?' I said, 'You can ask him something.' He said, 'I have twenty thousand questions to ask, when could he answer them?' I said, 'You can ask one or two of the twenty thousand, that is already something.' 'Well,' he said, ' one day I will see.' And indeed sometime later he came along, but the moment he reached my murshid's presence he forgot every single question and did not know what to ask. He was sitting spellbound and breathing the atmosphere of the master's presence; he had no desire to ask a question. And after the interview, when we were leaving the house of my murshid, he again began to feel inclined to ask twenty thousand questions, this time of me, and when I asked him why he had forgotten them there, he only answered, 'I cannot understand why.'
Where do questions come from? Very often they come from the restlessness of the mind. And does any answer satisfy them? Never. During my travels I went thrice to San Francisco, and each time I saw a lady who always asked me the same question. Each time I answered her, and each time when I came again she asked me the same question. This meant for fifteen years there was a question and there was an answer; but that answer was never heard. One ear heard it and the other ear let it out again and the question remained there alive. A question is a living being, it does not wish to die; the answer kills it, and therefore those kindly souls that wish to cherish the question, keep the answer away, although the question calls out for an answer. Do not be surprised, therefore if for twenty years a person asks a question of two thousand other people and gets two thousand answers. It does not mean that the answer that he gets does not satisfy him; it only means that he does not wish to have the answer. He only wishes to cherish the question.
In the beginning of my spiritual pursuit, when I went to my murshid there was no end to my enthusiasm, there was no end to my devotion, there was no end to my excitement about it. I told everybody I met how I felt about the personality of my murshid. Once, in answer to my deep feeling, my murshid said, 'Friendship in the path of God, friendship in the path of truth is greater than any friendship in life.' And at that time I met a very learned man in Hyderabad, with whom I spoke about the deeper things of life. He was interested to hear such deep thoughts from a young man, and said that he would like to see more of me. And in my great enthusiasm I said, 'If you saw my teacher you would realize that there is no one in the whole world who can be compared with him. So great is he, so wonderful is his personality, so blessed is his presence, so inspiring his glance, so peaceful his atmosphere.' He said, 'I would like very much to see him. Where does he live?' I told him, and then he exclaimed, 'There? I have lived there for twenty years; it is just next door to my house? What is his name?' I told him, and he said, 'I have known him all these years, but I never thought he was so great!' In twenty years he had not seen what I had seen in a few months. It is friendship that enlightens one; and it is distance that keeps one's eyes covered.
I shall tell you a story of my insolence that will interest you. Once I looked at my Murshid, and there came to my restless mind a thought, 'Why should a great soul such as my Murshid wear gold embroidered slippers?' I checked myself at once; it was only a thought. It could never have escaped my lips, it was under control. But there, it was known. I could not cover my insolence with my lips; my heart was open before my Murshid as an open book. He instantly saw into it and read my thought. Do you know what answer he gave me? He said, 'The treasures of the world are at my feet.'
What is the relation of the mureed to Murshid, and of Murshid to the mureed? And my answer to this is, do not think of any hierarchical relation with Murshid: only think of what relation your own heart and your own intuition tell you. If you think of Murshid as your brother, it is true; if you think of Murshid as your friend, it is true also; if you think of Murshid as your spiritual teacher, it is true; and if you think of Murshid as your servant, it is also true. Besides this, there is no place for any other discussion. Your Murshid is a human being, and as such he is liable to shortcomings. You may give him your confidence and trust, and know him as a human being. Murshid's murshid used to say, "There are many friendships in this world, but the friendship between murshid and mureed is in the path of God, in the path of Light and Truth." Therefore every earthly relation may have a chance to break, but the relation between murshid and mureed is not for the life on earth only. It is this belief which keeps their souls together, helping each other along the spiritual path.
Murshid is not the mediator between God and the mureed. Murshid stands apart, trying to unite God with His own child. And if at the beginning Murshid seems more forward, his duty is just like that of the mother: before the child begins to take natural food, she will nurse him. But it is not forever, it is for the beginning. Murshid is the divine mother, to show sympathy and tenderness to the mureed, who has been attracted. To love God, the mureed learns by the friendship of Murshid. He begins to feel in Murshid something of the fragrance of that flower, which is the love of God. Murshid helps the mureed to come in time face to face with God, and then the journey with the murshid is finished, and what remains is the gratitude in the heart of the mureed.
What must be the mureed's intention in becoming a mureed? He must not have the intention of getting wonderful powers which others do not possess; neither must he have the intention to become more wise, in order to seem more learned or wise than his fellow man. On the other hand, if he has some powers he hides them in his humility, and if his inspiration is developing, he should bow his head down, that his fellow men may not see it. Always consider that this is the one thing that you will meet on this path, and the one enemy you will avoid: vanity. You must be on your guard against it from which ever side it comes. It comes so swiftly and so subtly that it is difficult to recognize. When you are on your guard you will see that even your humble words and your meek actions will prove to be vain. This is the thing which throws man from the highest stage. Even prophets have to fight and to fight it. Know the danger of this path, and do not waste your time in falling into it. The one thing to rely upon is God's favor. Do not build neither on your study nor on your meditation, although they both help you. But you are dependent on God, not even on Your murshid. Seek Him, trust Him. In Him lies your life's purpose, and Him is hidden the rest of your soul.
Hazrath Inayat Khan(ra)