4. What is a guide?
Think of the term guide, in the simplest way possiblesomeone who can help you find your way. This does not have to be (and almost never is) a person who is a perfected being, or even a person for whom you have nothing but admiration. In fact, one of the recognizable stations on the path is where you discover your guides imperfections. It does need to be a person who is able to put his or her personality and ego aside, and allow guidance to come through. This is both a gift, with which some people seem to be born, and a skill, which may be developed through work on ones self. It is often true that those with great spiritual gifts make less satisfying guides than those who have had to work hard to break through their egos and personality features.
Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan says that we construct a building in order to manifest in life that which begins as a Divine impulse. Pir Vilayat says that Beauty is the corporeal manifestation of splendor. We take an earthly guide so that we may have a physical presence, through which the inner source of our own guidance may become more real. Ultimately we learn that all we thought our guide to be is a projection of our own higher self, and the art of the guide is always to be focused upon the highest self (goal) of the student.
If we wait for a guide who fits our imagined criteria, we may have to wait a long time. It helps to follow our heart. In one sense, all our encounters are with guides, as ultimately nobody but ourselves can make the journey, and every step is a doorway into the unknown. (Murshid's definition of initiation is "a step in an unknown direction.)
The less simple a person becomes, the more complex life becomes. It is because one oneself becomes complex that the life becomes complex before one (him). All such beliefs as that in a guardian angel leading a person on lifes path, or a spirit guide helping one along lifes path, these are complex beliefs and they take one to complexity. One has already seen that the divine guidance appeared in ones infancy in the form of one's mother, in the form of ones father, in the form of those who have taken care of one in life, and yet one does not believe in divine guidance unless it be pictured in a complex manner.
Hazrat Inayat Khan
5. Why have a guide? How to find one.
The relationship with the guide can be the most important relationship in ones life, so it is wise to take be thoughtful about establishing it. It is usually a decision for the heart and mind acting in concert. It is often wise to have exposure to a number of possible guides to see one's response to the atmospheres and temperaments of different people. One should feel inspired by the guide and confident in his or her knowledge of the path. Perhaps most of all one should feel trust--that one can be open with this person.
6. What is the role of the Guru vs. the Sufi Murshid?
The goal of training in Sufism is to become fully human rather than to transcend one's humanity. Thus the Murshid is a friend and companion on the Path, providing inspiration and guidance but not giving directives. The Murshid does not substitute his/her will and conscience for those of the mureed (student) but helps the mureed to develop his/her own will and conscience.
7. What is Initiation?
There are different kinds of initiation that souls experience. One is natural initiation. A kind of natural unfoldment for which the soul cannot give any cause or reason, comes to a soul, although no effort or attempt has been made by that soul to experience it. Sometimes this initiation comes after great illness, pain, or suffering. It comes as an opening up of the horizon, it comes as a flash of light, and in a moment the world seems transformed. It is not that the world has changed; it is that that person has become tuned to a different pitch. He begins to think differently, feel differently, see and act differently; his whole condition begins to change. One might say of him that from that moment he begins to live. It may come as a vision, as a dream, as a phenomenon--in any of these forms; one cannot determine the manner in which it will manifest.
Another initiation known to the mystics is the initiation that one receives from a person living on the earth. Every mystical school has its own initiation. In the Orient, where mystical ideas are prevalent and are regarded as most sacred, any person who wishes to tread the spiritual path considers initiation to be the most important thing. If a soul such as Jesus Christ had to be baptized by John the Baptist, no soul on earth can say, 'I have risen above initiation.' Is that then impossible? Nothing is impossible. It may be possible for a person to jump into the water with the intention of swimming to the port of New York, but his life will be more secure if he books his passage with the normal shipping lines. And the difference between these two souls is the same, or even greater--between the one who wishes to journey on the spiritual path by taking initiation, and the other who refuses to do so.
Initiation by a spiritual teacher means both a trust given by the teacher to the pupil, and a trust given by the pupil to the teacher. And the progress of the one who is initiated depends upon how much he gives himself to the teachers guidance. One might give only a finger, another even a part of a finger, while a third would give his whole hand. That makes a great difference, for if a pupil says, Well, I will give a certain amount of my time and thought to your guidance, will that be enough? the teacher will say, Yes, if you think it is enough; but in reality it is never enough. Then one might wonder if one would not be giving up one's own point of view in order to follow someone elses point of view; but actually if one has a point of view, one never loses it. The point of view which one loses is not one's own. And by looking at a thing from another persons point of view one only enlarges ones own: then one has two points of view instead of one. If the thought of the pupil happens to be different from that of the teacher, by taking the teacher's thought his own is doubled; the pupil keeps his own point of view just the same, only now he has something for his vision from which to make his choice; the horizon of his thought is expanded. But the pupil who closes himself and says, I will guard my point of view or it will escape me, will never derive any benefit from this attitude.
Hazrat Inayat Khan
Ethical Standards of the Sufi Order International
Sufi Order teachers are bound by ethical standards and guidelines to which they become signatories when appointed to their position. You can read these standards and guidelines here.