Learning is one thing; and unlearning is another.
The process of spiritual attainment is through unlearning....
Spiritual attainment, from beginning to end, is unlearning what one has learnt.
But how does one unlearn?
One can do it by becoming wiser.
The more wise one becomes, the more one is able
to contradict oneís own ideas.
In the wisest person there is willingness to submit to others.
And the most foolish person is always ready to stand firm
to support his own ideas.
The reason is that the wise person can easily give up his thought;
the foolish holds on to it.
That is why he does not become wise because he sticks to his own ideas;
that is why he does not progress.
Now you may ask: Is this unlearning forgetting all that one learns? Not
at all; that is not necessary. This unlearning is to be able to say with
reason, with logic, the contrary to what you know. When you are
accustomed to say, This is wrong, this is right, this is good and this
is bad, this is greater and this is small, this is higher and this is
lower, this is spiritual and this is material. If you can use the
opposite words for each with reason and with logic, naturally you have
unlearned what you had once learned. It is after this that the
realization of truth begins, because then the mind is not fixed. And it
is then that one has become alive, for the soul has been born.
Mental purification therefore is the only method by which one can reach
the spiritual goal. In order to accomplish this, one has to look at
anotherís point of view. For in reality every point of view is oneís own
point of view. The vaster one becomes, the greater the realization that
comes to one, the more one sees that every point of view is all right.
If we look still closer at reason we see that reason is nothing but a
veil and a series of veils, one veil over another. Even when the veils
are lifted, at the end there is reason just the same. But as one goes
further, one will find the more thorough and more substantial reason. It
is the surface of reason which is unreliable, but the depth of reason is
most interesting, for the depth of reason is the essence of wisdom".
Reasoning is a ladder. By this ladder one can rise, and from this
ladder one may fall. For if one does not go upward by reasoning, then it
will help one to go downward; because if for every step one takes upward
there is a reason, so there is a reason for every step downward.
The next step... is to be able to see the right of the wrong and the
wrong of the right, and the evil of the good and the good of the evil.
It is a difficult task, but once one has accomplished this, one rises
above good and evil. Mental purification means that impressions such as
good and bad, wrong and right, gain and loss, and pleasure and pain,
these opposites which block the mind, must be cleared out by seeing the
opposite of these things.
What one learns in life is most useful after one has attained spiritual
realization, in order to express it, but it can only be a hindrance in
progress in the spiritual path unless one knows how to unlearn...
Unlearning is looking at things from an opposite point of view, seeing
things from another angle as clearly as one is able to see from the
angle from which one is used to looking at them. It is this experience
that leads one to perfection.
In what way does the Sufi discover that life in him which was never
born and will never die? By self-analysis but according to what
mystics know of self-analysis: to understand what this vehicle we call
the body is to us, what relation we have to it, and to understand what
this mind, what we call mind, consists of. And then to ask: What am I?
Am I this body? Am I this mind?
There comes a time when he can hold body
and mind in his hands as his objects which he uses for his purpose in
life. Once he has done this then body and mind become as two corks which
a person puts on himself in order to swim in the water without danger of
The same body and mind which cause one mortality at least in
thought this very body and mind then become the means of saving him
from being drowned in the waters of mortality. Really mortality is our
conception; immortality is reality. We make a conception of mortality
because we do not know the real life. By the realization of the real
life the comparison between it and mortality makes us know that
mortality is non-existent. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration if
I said that the work of the Sufi is unlearning.
Hazrat Inayat Khan
Back to Islamic and Sufi Masters