In addition to studying his written works, one must also examine Ostad Elahi’s personal life to better fathom the depth of his teachings and his pragmatic approach to spirituality. Ostad Elahi’s daily life is filled with practical lessons, and his spiritual practice was naturally integrated with his life in society. This is especially apparent in his oral teachings, which are captured in two volumes of published sayings. Collectively, these teachings highlight Ostad Elahi’s emphasis on developing one’s sound reason and independent judgment through the application of correct divine and ethical principles, as well as the impact of his behavior and advice on family, friends, colleagues, and even acquaintances.
Upon his retirement, Ostad Elahi settled in Tehran and welcomed a variety of individuals to his home, some of whom not only revered him but also sought his blessings and prayers. Others considered him as a wise and experienced person with whom they could discuss their difficulties and seek solutions to their problems. Still others came to listen to his music or receive answers to their questions on mysticism, philosophy, etc. One should also add to these different groups the Orientalists, who would come to see him every now and then to learn about the mysteries and secrets of eastern mysticism.
Yet, beyond these friends and those who held him in high esteem, a core group of genuine students slowly began to form, who eagerly sought to see him and receive his teachings for the sake of elevating their souls and advancing on the path of spiritual perfection. He always referred to those who came to see him as his spiritual friends or children. To this day, those who recall these gatherings can still sense the warmth of his kindness in the depths of their hearts.
Ostad Elahi would respond to the various questions that were posed to him according to each person’s nature and mentality. In doing so, he would respond with the same patience to a layperson’s inquiries as he would when answering the technical questions of an enthusiastic Orientalist. These responses would saturate the souls of his eager interlocutors, at times taking the form of anecdotes or recommendations, at times conveyed on the basis of his personal experiences or philosophical explications. His manner of analyzing complex philosophical and ethical problems and conveying them in a comprehensible and straightforward manner was remarkable. Using the simple language with which he always communicated, he would break down philosophical and theological problems in such a way that the listener would remain unaware of the extent of their complexity, an undertaking that would not have been possible without years of research and personal experience on the path of spirituality and ethics. Ostad Elahi’s teachings were often accompanied by examples that had been gleaned from his own life. For those who were receptive, the conveyance of these experiences was far more effective than a hundred theoretical lessons or written prescriptions.
Ostad Elahi’s primary intent at all times was to stimulate his visitors’ enthusiasm for spirituality and to focus their attention on the Source so as to guide them toward the attainment of self-knowledge and in turn divine knowledge. The foundation of Ostad Elahi’s thought rests on the essence and principles of all divine religions; as such, one cannot attribute his thought to any particular religion, ideology, or conviction. Ostad Elahi’s perspective on humanity transcends considerations of gender, culture, or nationality. He respected all beliefs and precepts, and considered each person free to choose his or her own path, though to reach spiritual perfection he recommended a faith that does not contradict the core principles of the divine religions. From his viewpoint, the decision to undertake the process of spiritual perfection is one that each individual should make of his or her own accord before striving to reach the ultimate goal with the same seriousness and diligence as an active student. Ostad Elahi always emphasized that spirituality is above all a practical discipline and not solely a theoretical subject:
This path is not one of words but of deeds, and it is only through action that progress is realized.
Among his students, his sister Malak Jan (1906-1993) was one of the first to become cognizant of his spiritual personality and to fully benefit from his spiritual guidance. It was this same exceptional woman who later disseminated Ostad Elahi’s teachings after his passing and perpetuated his spiritual path.