Commentary by Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan
No one can give spiritual knowledge to another, for this is something that is within every heart. What the teacher can do is to kindle the light which is hidden in the heart of the disciple. If the light is not there, it is not the fault of the teacher. There is a verse by Hafiz in which he says, ’However great be the teacher, he is helpless with the one whose heart is closed.’ …
In ancient times, the disciples of the great teachers learned by a quite different method, not an academic method or a way of study. The way was an open heart. With perfect confidence and trust they watched every attitude of the teacher, both towards friends and towards people who looked at him with contempt. They watched their teacher in times of trouble and pain, how he endured it all. They said how patient and wise he had been in discussing with those who did not understand, answering everyone gently in his own language. He showed the mother-spirit, the father-spirit, the brother-spirit, the child-spirit, the friend-spirit, forgiving kindness, an ever-tolerant nature, respect for the aged, compassion for all, the thorough understanding of human nature. This, also, the disciples learned, that no discussion or books on metaphysics can ever teach all the thoughts and philosophy that arise in the heart of man. A person may either study for a thousand years, or he may get to the source and see if he can touch the root of all wisdom and all knowledge. In the center of the emblem of the Sufis there is a heart; it is the sign that from the heart a stream rises, the stream of divine knowledge.
Sufis have no set belief or disbelief. Divine light is the only sustenance of their soul, and through this light they see their path clear, and what they see in this light they believe, and what they do not see they do not blindly believe. Yet they do not interfere with another person’s belief or disbelief, thinking that perhaps a greater portion of light has kindled his heart, and so he sees and believes that the Sufi cannot see or believe. Or, perhaps a lesser portion of light has kept his sight dim and he cannot see and believe as the Sufi believes. Therefore Sufis leave belief and disbelief to the grade of evolution of every individual soul. The Murshid’s work is to kindle the fire of the heart, and to light the torch of the soul of his mureed, and to let the mureed believe and disbelieve as he chooses, while journeying through the path of evolution.
It is not that a Murshid gives his knowledge to someone else. It is not possible to give one’s knowledge that way, so the Murshid does not profess to be able to do this or that. His work is to help another person to find out for himself, to discover for himself what is true and what is not. There are no doctrines to impart, there are no principles to lay down, and there are no tenets according to which his pupils must order their lives. He is just a guide along the path. He is the one who kindles the light that is already in the pupil.
~~~ One thing is true: although the teacher cannot give the knowledge, he can kindle the light if the oil is in the lamp.