The Sufi Order is mainly an esoteric school. There are three esoteric schools most known in the East: the Buddhist School, the Vedantic School, and the Sufi School. Two of the schools, the Buddhist and the Vedantic, use asceticism as the principal means of spiritual advancement. The peculiarity of the Sufi School is that it uses humanity as the main path for spiritual advancement. The realization of truth in the Sufi School is not different from the Vedantic, or even from the Buddhist, but the Sufi presents truth in a different manner. It is the same frame in which Jesus Christ gave his teaching, and the same form which was adopted by the prophets of Israel.
— Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan
The Esoteric School is the primary vehicle for personal transformation of initiates of the Sufi Order International. Individuals are asked to establish a relationship with a spiritual guide, who has been trained and empowered by the Pir. Within the context of this relationship, the mureed (student) is given a “prescription” of spiritual practices intended to facilitate the emergence of qualities lying dormant beneath the layers of personality and habitual thinking. The goal of the mureed is to identify experientially a source of inner guidance to the realization and fulfilment of his or her unique purpose in life.
Another powerful tool for transformation is the personal retreat, where the mureed spends an intensive period of time focusing on the transformational process to the exclusion of any external stimulus. An individual retreat may take a day or two, or last as long as forty days. Retreat guides are certified by the Sufi Order after a period of intensive training and testing.
The Sufi Order International is not a “guru-centred” school; no one is considered infallible, and guides are discouraged from giving mureeds advice about their lives, focusing instead on the method of contacting inner guidance, or the mureed’s own insight, to deal with his or her problems. Guides are held accountable to a published set of ethical guidelines. Spiritual practices are offered in accord with the teachings of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, and Pir Zia Inayat-Khan.
We are given a great blessing to have a teacher, a teaching, and a spiritual community. Yet, each individual creates his/her own destiny by following the spirit of guidance within, by sacrifices, service, and dedication to one’s ideal. In spiritual practice, one is able to touch upon that part of oneself that is beyond change, and is eternal and everlasting. The ultimate purpose is God consciousness, awakening through all levels of existence, from human to divine, and realizing the true Self.
— Aziza Scott, head of the Esoteric School
Original source: Sufi Order International North America