Chapter 15: Adding Oil to the Fire
To know this reality you will have to be naked of all your beliefs. Those beliefs function as your clothes, spiritual clothes - yes, that’s what they are. And because of those clothes you never come into contact with reality. One has to be naked to come into contact with the sun rays. One has to be naked to be in contact with the wind. One has to be naked if one wants to dance in the rains and to feel the rain showering on one’s being and body. Exactly so, has one to be spiritually naked and nude if one wants to have any participation with reality as it is.
Sufism is an effort to denude you of all your belief systems, of all words. That’s why in Sufism the master is not a teacher. The master is more like an artisan, an artist, a painter, a carpenter maybe, a weaver. The master is more like one who knows a certain skill which cannot be taught through words, which can only be taught through experience. So in Sufism there is no teacher. There are masters, but no teachers. And in Sufism the disciple is not a student, the disciple is an apprentice.
Take note of that great distinction: the master is not a teacher and the disciple is not a student. The master is an artisan who knows a certain art, who has the knack of doing a certain thing, and the disciple is an apprentice who lives in the presence of the master so that by and by, slowly, slowly, he can drink more of the presence of the master and can become aware of the knack that he has. It is not an ordinary thing to be transferred because it cannot be put into words.
If you ask somebody who is a great swimmer “How do you do it? Can you teach me? Can you give me a few lessons?” It will be difficult for him to teach you swimming while you are sitting in your room. He will ask you to come with him to the river or to the swimming pool. Swimming is an art, there is no way to teach it.
Or bicycling.. You know how to cycle, but if somebody asks you, “Explain it philosophically. How do you manage to do it?” No bicyclist has been able to explain it. How do you manage to do it? It is a kind of knack. You do it! You manage to do it, but you cannot explain how. The only way is to tell the person who is inquiring to come with you and to help him to manage himself, then he will know. But when he comes to know he will also not be able to convey his knowledge through words. It is only conveyed through actions.
A Sufi master has no teaching, he is his teaching. A Sufi master does not philosophize about reality, he exposes his heart to the disciple. Even if he sometimes uses words, those words are only indicators - just like arrows being used on milestones - just indicators that you have to go on and on. As the disciple becomes more and more attuned with the master, then less and less words are needed. Then the presence of the master is enough.
The master teaches by two things: one is his presence and, very paradoxically, the other is his absence. The master teaches by his presence and by his absence. In one sense he is utterly present, in each moment he is totally there. Each moment is luminous with his presence, each gesture, each act is full of his presence; it is never absentminded. He is utterly there and then.