Secret Teaching

One of the Sufi masters was asked:

"While your beliefs and school are known, your teachings are secret, given only to those whom you desire, and nobody is allowed to be present as an observer at your meetings, unlike the practices of the philosophers, who allow, indeed welcome, hearers of all kinds. What is the explanation of this?"

He said: "Light of my eyes! Teaching is like charity: it is to be given secretly for the reason that the public display of charity is bad for the giver, for the receiver and for the observer.

Teaching is like a nutrition, and its effects are not visible at the time it is being given, so there is no point in there being an observer except of the fruit of the nutrition.

Teaching, again, is not to be considered as separated from the circumstances in which it is given. Therefore, if there are observers, their presence changes the circumstances and also therefore the effect of the teaching. If the effect of the presence of an audience were to increase the beneficial effect of teaching, then I and everyone else would have welcomed and demanded such an audience.

And, fourthly, teaching varies with the Sufi dictum of the necessity for "right time, right place, right people". To ask even for information about knowledge is like throwing a lifeless carcass into fresh water: the intention may be good, but the result will be poisonous."

The inquirer said: "I understand what you say, but I wish to remark that this is not the manner in which ordinary teaching is carried out."

The teacher replied: "God grant that ordinary teaching may indeed one day be carried out in this manner! When that comes to pass we shall have no need to see any division between Sufi and other teaching!"