in the spiritual path is always what comes from ourselves. Man does not like to be a pupil, he likes to be a teacher. If man only knew that the greatness and perfection of the great ones, who have come from time to time to this world, was in their pupilship, and not in teaching! The greater the teacher, the better pupil he was. He learned from everyone, the great and the lowly, the wise and the foolish, the old and the young. He learned from their lives, and studied human nature in all its aspects.

The one who learns how to tread the spiritual path must become as an empty cup in order that the wine of music and harmony may be poured down into his heart. You may ask: ‘How can one become an empty cup?’ I shall tell you how cups show themselves instead of being empty. Often a person comes to me and says: ‘Here I am. Can you help me spiritually”‘, and I answer: ‘Yes.’ But then he says: ‘I want to know first of all what you think about life and death, or about the beginning and the end.’

And then I wonder what his attitude will be if his previously conceived opinion does not agree with mine. He wants to learn, yet he does not want to be empty. This means, going to the stream of water with one’s cup covered up: wanting the water, and yet the cup is closed, filled with preconceived ideas.

Where have the preconceived ideas come from? No idea can be called one’s own! All ideas have been learned from one source or another, but in time one comes to think that they are one’s own. F or these ideas one will argue and dispute, although they do not satisfy fully. At the same time they are one’s battleground, and all the time they will keep the cup covered up.

Mystics therefore have adopted a different way. They have learned a different course, and that course is self-effacement or, in other words, unlearning what one has learned. They say in the East that the first thing that is learned is to understand how to become a pupil. They do not first learn what God is, or what life is. The first thing to learn is how to become a pupil. One may think that in this way one loses one’s individuality. But what is individuality? Is it not that which is collected? What are one’s ideas and opinions? They are just collected knowledge. This should be unlearned.

How can one unlearn? You would say that the character of the mind is such that what one learns is engraved upon it, and how then can one unlearn it? Unlearning is completing knowledge. To see a person and say: ‘That person is wicked’ — that is learning. To see further, and recognize something good in that person — that is unlearning.

– Hazarat Inayat Khan