PART V: PEARLS FROM THE OCEAN UNSEEN
Sufism is not a religion, for it is beyond the limitations of faiths, and beliefs, which make the diversity of religions in the world. Sufism, in short, is a change of outlook on life. It is like viewing from an airplane a town, the streets of which one has known and walked through, and yet one has never before seen the whole town at a glance.
The Sufi’s idea is to view life by raising himself above it. If a man is in pain, how can he relieve the pain of another? If a person is already burdened with a load, how can he take on another person’s burden? If a person is quarrelsome himself, how can he bring peace between others who are fighting? Therefore, a Sufi considers it necessary to live in the world and at the same time to be not of the world. Where the Yogi lives the life of an adept in the forest or in a mountain cave, the Sufi lives in the world. For he considers that to awaken one’s heart to human sympathy, one must experience oneself, the struggles and responsibilities of life in the world. And realize that man lives not for himself alone, but that his greatest joy must be to share every benefit and bliss he has in life with others.
This process of viewing life both from below and from above makes his sight keen. He not only knows the law of nature, known to all, but he understands the inner law, which is working behind everything, which gives him an insight into things and awakens his sympathy for others.
The Sufi’s God is the only Being that exists. His teacher is the spirit of inner guidance; his holy book is the manuscript of nature, his community is the whole of humanity. His religion is love. There is no god of any people who is not his God, no spiritual teacher of any creed who is not his teacher. There is no sacred scripture that he does not accept, since he is the worshipper of light and the follower of love, and yet he is free from all the world’s distinctions and differences.
The diversity of names in the universe to him is a veil of illusion, which covers unity, the one life. Only One lives, and all manifestations are to him the phenomenon of that one life. All things, which are born, made, and formed, are as bubbles in life’s ocean. Instead of looking at their limitations, he sees in them the unlimited life.
The Sufi’s God is his divine ideal to whom he attributes all that is good and beautiful in its perfection; and he himself stands before Him in humility realizing his imperfection, being a soul, free to roam the heavens, now captive on earth in the physical body. His aim in life is to release the captive soul from the bondage of limitations, which he accomplishes by the repetition of the sacred names of God, and by constant thought of his divine ideal, and an ever-increasing love for the divine Beloved until the beloved God with His perfection becomes manifest to his vision, and his imperfect self vanishes from his sight.
This he calls Fana, the merging in the ideal. In order to attain the final goal he gradually raises his ideal, first to Fana-fi-Shaikh, the ideal seen in a mortal walking on the earth, and he drills himself as a soldier before battle in devotion to his ideal.
Then comes Fana-fi-Rasul, when he sees his ideal in spirit, and pictures Him in all sublimity, and fashions Him with beautiful qualities, which he wishes to obtain himself. And after this he raises it to Fana-fi-Allah, the love and devotion for that ideal which is beyond qualities and in which is the perfection of all qualities.
The Sufi knows that progress in every direction in life depends upon the ideal. As high as is the ideal of a person, so high he rises in life. Then in the end he sees that each ideal was made by himself; he is the creator of every ideal that he desired for his high attainment. But the ideal itself is a limitation of the perfect Being, because there is you and me in it. Then the breaking of the ideal comes as the final attainment when the ego realizes Humamanam, ‘I am All.’
There are two classes of people in the world: the spectators of life and the students of life. The former class may be compared to those people who go to the theatre and see acted either comedy or tragedy, and are moved by it to laughter or tears. The latter may be compared to those who go up in an airplane and view at a glance a whole city, where hitherto they had only seen one street at a time. The students of life understand the reason of the comedy and tragedy, while the spectators of life get only a passing impression of them.
About this the Qur’an says, ‘We have removed from you your veil, so your sight shall be keen.’ When this happens the spectator of life becomes the student of life. We sometimes ask ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of life? Is it to eat, drink, and to make merry?’ Surely not. The animals do this, and man is a higher creation than the animals. Is life’s purpose then to become an angelic being? This likewise, cannot be the case, for the angels were created before man, and are near to God, and continually praise Him.
Man must be created, therefore, for something other than either the animals or the angels. For if man, by reason of his piety, became like an angel, he would not have fulfilled the purpose for which he was created. Man is created that he may awaken within himself humanity, sympathy, brotherhood, love, and kindness for his fellow man.
He may think that he is kind and sympathetic, but in thinking so, he makes the greatest possible mistake. For kindness is comparative. This may be illustrated by a story that is told in India of an Afghan soldier, who was once travelling with a Brahmin. The Brahmin, who was a mild and harmless man, careful not to injure the smallest of God’s creation, was repeating to himself the word, Daya, which means kindness. The Afghan, who was a warrior, and understood only the rough side of life, asked him what the word meant. The Brahmin explained that the word was the same as Rahm in his language. ‘Ah,’ he exclaimed, I understand very well now what it means. I remember I was kind once in my life, for on the field of battle I saw a wounded man writhing in agony, and I was touched, and I put my dagger through him and ended his suffering.’
The claim to be kind and sympathetic is like a drop of water saying, ‘I am water,’ but which, on seeing the ocean, realizes its nothingness. In the same way, when man has looked on perfection, he realizes his shortcomings. It is then that the veil is raised from before his eyes and his sight becomes keen. He then asks himself, ‘What can I do that I may awaken this love and sympathy in my heart?’
The Sufi begins by realizing that he is dead and blind, and he understands that all goodness as well as all that is bad comes from within. Riches and power may vanish because they are outside of us, but only that which is within can we call our own. In order to awaken love and sympathy in our hearts, sacrifices must be made. We must forget our own troubles in order to sympathize with the troubles of others.
To relieve the hunger of others we must forget our own hunger. Everybody is working for selfish ends, not caring about others, and this alone has brought about the misery in the world today. When the world is evolving from imperfection towards perfection, it needs all love and sympathy. Great tenderness and watchfulness is required of each one of us. The heart of every man, both good and bad, is the abode of God, and care should be taken never to wound anybody by word or act. We are only here in this world for a short time; many have been here before, and have passed on, and it is for us to see that we leave behind an impression of good.
The words ‘poor in spirit’ are an unsatisfactory translation, and do not convey the real meaning of the text. There are certain words in the original, which cannot be accurately translated. In Sufi terms this poorness of spirit is called ‘Halim Taba,’ and means mild spirited. The more true meaning of the words is, ‘Blessed are the mild in ego,’ and this is the teaching of Jesus throughout. He himself is spoken of in the Bible as ‘the Lamb of God,’ conveying the meaning of the mild in ego, like a lamb.
The ego is seen in the animal creation, but much more strongly in the carnivorous than in the herbivorous animals. It is very strong in the lion, and in the dog, which will not suffer the presence of another dog when it is eating a bone. Elephants on the contrary, the largest of all animals, are docile and harmless, and obey the commands of men. They live together in herds, and seldom fight. The same is the case with horses and sheep.
When we consider the ego in connection with the whole consciousness, we first look at the earth and rocks, the lowest form of life, and find how stiff and hard, how unmovable and unbendable they are. When we come to the water element, we find that it is pliable, and can be poured from one vessel to another. The course of a river or stream may be diverted and made to go in another direction. It is poorer in spirit than the earth, for it is the higher element. A more exalted state of consciousness belongs to the poor in spirit, the pliable and the serviceable, than to the stiff and set. When we come to the fire element, we find that it is still more pliable. It can be taken from the rock and from the atmosphere, and it is more serviceable and more pliant. Air is still more pliable and is everywhere, and man cannot live without it. Ether is the highest element, and is nearest to us, for it surrounds us and is within us.
We frequently say, ‘I dislike him,’ ‘I wish to avoid her,’ but if we examine this carefully, we find it is the same element in all that we dislike, the ego. And when we turn to ourselves to see if we have it in us, we find it is there too. We should forget it, therefore, in other people, and first turn our attention to crushing it within ourselves. We should determine to have our house clean even if other people neglect theirs. We should be careful to take away from ourselves any thorns that prick us in the personality of others. There is a verse in the Qur’an, which says, “Arise in the midst of the night, and commune with thy Lord…Bear patiently what others say.’ This is not only a command to rise in the night and pray, but it also means that by rising in the night we crush the ego, for the ego demands its rest and comfort, and when denied, is crushed. The mystics fast for the same reason.
The Sufi’s base the whole of their teaching on the crushing of the ego which they term Nafs-kushi, for therein lies all magnetism and power. Jesus Christ meant this power of magnetism when He told His disciples that they would become the fishers of men. This can be acquired by developing the personality in poorness of spirit.
The idea of mourning is distasteful to the world in general. People say, Let us enjoy ourselves and be happy; there is plenty of sorrow in the world without choosing to mourn,’ and they strive after happiness in whatever way they can. But these passing and momentary joys do not give lasting happiness, and the people who pursue them are either asleep or dead. The soul’s true happiness lies in experiencing the inner joy, and it will never be fully satisfied with outer seeming pleasures. Its connection is with God, and nothing short of perfection will ever satisfy it. The purpose of life is to become aware of our imperfections and to mourn for them. The whole universe in miniature is within man, so the mind of man is like land and water, the water is under the land, and the land above the water. The land represents the thoughts and imaginations, while the water represents the feelings. And just as the water rises and falls, so it is with the emotions and feelings of man. The people who only know the lighter side of life, and who are afraid to have their feelings touched, represent the land through which the water has never pierced. If one wishes to see a foreign country, the water has to be crossed, and so it is with those who wish to fare forth to the world unseen. They have to cross the river of feeling, and the land needs to be pierced in order that the waters may rise.
Shiva is sometimes pictured with the sacred river flowing out of his head, showing that man becomes Shiva-like when his thoughts come not only from the head, but from the heart also. It is the thoughts that spring from the depths of the heart which become inspirations and revelations, and these come from the hearts of awakened souls, called by the Sufis, Sahib-e-Dil. The bringers of joy are the children of sorrow. Every blow we get in life pierces the heart and awakens our feelings to sympathize with others, and every swing of comfort lulls us to sleep, and we become unaware of all. This proves the truth of these words, ‘Blessed are they that mourn.’
Thought is the more solid form of feeling, and needs to be melted in order to become water. All water is the same, but when it is bitter or sweet to the taste, it is because some element of earth has become mixed with it. And so it is with the emotions, in the water of feeling, which have come in contact with things of the earth.
There are two classes of people in the world: those who like comedy and those who like tragedy. Those who like tragedy are the wise and thoughtful. Not because they like what is tragic, but because they experience life through the pain of tragedy, and they want to keep this experience at the cost of pain.
Everybody has an ideal in life, and that ideal is the religion of his soul, and coming short of that ideal is what we term sin. The thoughtful and serious-minded man repents in tears for his shortcomings, and thus proves himself to be alive, while the shallow man is angry at his fall, and is ready to blame those who seem to him to have caused it. He is apparently dead. This shows that it is blessed to mourn over our imperfections, and by so doing we are striving after perfection, and thus fulfilling the command of Christ, ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect.’
These words, were spoken in the first place, by John the Baptist in reference to the coming of Jesus Christ. But apart from this there is a spiritual meaning in the words, ‘Kingdom of Heaven.’
All things that belong to any person constitute his kingdom, be they great riches and power, or petty possessions. The Kingdom of Heaven means the perfect possession of anything, when the thing is in itself sufficient. There was once a well-known dervish in Gwalior, Mohammad Ghauth, who sat in the jungle, unclothed, and only ate when food was brought to him. He was poverty stricken in the eyes of the world, but was respected by all. Evil days came on Gwalior. The state was threatened by a powerful enemy, with an army twice the size of that belonging to the ruler who in his distress sought Mohammad Ghauth. The sage at first asked to be left in peace, but his help being further entreated by the Maharaja himself, he at last said, ‘Show me the army that is threatening you.’ They took him outside the city and showed him the vast host that was advancing.
Mohammad Ghauth waved his hand, repeating the word, Maktul (be destroyed). As he did so, the army of the Maharaja of Gwalior appeared immense to the oncoming army, which turned in fear and fled. This Sufi saint was the possessor of the Kingdom of Heaven. His tomb is now in a palace, and the kings of the earth come and bow before it.
The Kingdom of Heaven is in the hearts of those who realize God. This is recognized in the East, and great respect and regard is always shown for the holy ones.
Sufi Sarmad, a great saint who was absorbed in the vision of the One, lived in the time of Aurangzeb, the great Moghul emperor. Aurangzeb demanded that Sufi Sarmad should come to the mosque. On his refusing to do so, he was beheaded at the command of the emperor. From that time dates the downfall of the Moghuls. This story shows that the possessor of the Kingdom of Heaven has the power even when dead to overthrow the kingdoms of the earth.
We see this same truth again in the story of Krishna and Arjuna. Arjuna and his five brothers had to fight alone against a mighty host. The prince sought the god, and wanted to renounce the kingdom. But Krishna said, ‘Nay, thou must first win back what thou has lost, and then come to me.’ And the story goes on to tell how Krishna himself drove the chariot, and the enemies of Arjuna were defeated, for the possessor of the Kingdom of Heaven was with Arjuna.
Speaking from a metaphysical point of view, the Kingdom of Heaven may be attained by the way of repentance. If we have offended a friend, and he turns away from us, and we in fullness of heart ask for forgiveness, his heart will melt towards us. If, on the other hand, we close our heart, it becomes frozen. Repenting and asking for pardon not only melts the hearts of those we have offended, but also of those in the world unseen. These words can also be explained scientifically. Warmth melts, while cold freezes. Drops of water falling on a warm place and on a cold place are affected differently. The drop in the warm place spreads and becomes larger, covers a larger space, whereas, a drop in the cold place freezes and becomes limited. Repentance has the effect of a drop spread in the warm sphere: it causes the heart to expand and become universal, while the hardening of the heart brings limitation.
The bubble does not last long. It soon breaks. But with its break comes a mighty ocean. So with us. When by warmth of heart we can break our limited self, we merge in the One, the unlimited. When our limited kingdom is lost from our sight, we inherit the Kingdom of God.
There is an innate desire in every human being for knowledge. The child wants to know the cause of everything, and asks countless questions. The desire for knowledge, if our eyes were but open to perceive it, is even in the plants. It is this desire, which develops the mineral into the vegetable, and the vegetable into the animal, and the animal into the human being. It is well developed in man, and fully attained in the master mind. The Sufis say that the whole of creation took place to satisfy the desire for knowledge.
With man this desire is never satisfied. He always wants to know more. There is ever a restless craving within him for knowledge. This is because he does not look for the cause in the right way. He only sees the external causes, and not the cause underlying the cause, and below that, the primal cause. For example, a man who has become estranged from his friend only sees perhaps the superficial cause, and calls his friend unkind; or he may even admit that he himself is at fault, or he may go still deeper and say that owing to a certain planetary influence they cannot be friendly. Yet he has not probed the cause of this cause.
If we study nature aright, we shall find that its whole being is wisdom. Life itself is wisdom. Look at the delicate structure of the eye, and the protection afforded it by the eyelid. Does not this prove that nature’s wisdom is much more developed than the science and art of man? Has man ever been able to create what is not in nature? We know that the rain falls and waters the ground, and makes the plants grow, and we say that the rain is the cause of all this. But if we delved deeper, we should discover the cause of the rain. Even then, the inner cause remains hidden.
For this reason the religions taught the God ideal, that the primal cause might be sought through the pursuit of God. It is when man has lots the idea of duality and feels himself at one with all creation, that his eyes are opened and he sees the cause of everything. A scientific man comes forward and claims to have made some new and wonderful discovery, but as Solomon says, ‘There is nothing new under the sun.’ Christ said he had come not to give a new law, and Mohammad said he had come to reveal the same law given by the teachers in the past, which had been corrupted, misunderstood, and forgotten by its followers. The mystics have possessed all knowledge from the beginning, and yet have never claimed it as their own, recognizing that all knowledge is possessed by one Being alone, and will always be so.
What is called supernatural becomes natural to one who understands, but to the ignorant it remains supernatural. He calls it a miracle or a phenomenon if he believes in it. If not, he mocks at it.
There is a light within every soul. It only needs the clouds, which hide it to dissolve, for it to beam forth. This is the light of revelation. It is like a lantern to us, it lights up every dark corner we wish to examine, and gives an answer to every question we would ask. This light can only shine where the heart is pure, and in order to purify the heart, the Sufi has a contemplative process suited to the evolution of each individual.
There is a beautiful Indian tale that illustrates the meaning of this light. It is said that there is a certain kind of cobra, which has a diamond in its head. When it goes into the jungle, it takes out the diamond and places it on a tree. By means of its light, it searches all it wants, and when it is finished, it puts the diamond back in its head. The cobra represents the soul, and the diamond the light of inspiration guiding it.
The same truth is portrayed in the story of Aladdin and his lamp. The lady he loved represented the ideal of his soul. The lamp he had to find was the light of inner guidance, which when found, would lead him to the attainment of his ideal. Starting on the spiritual path is like descending into the dark, as man knows not what he will find.
Mystics in the East have spent many years in the jungle on this spiritual quest, and later have come forth to show the way to mankind. This is a path, however, which cannot be taught; it must be realized. For language is inadequate to express even the experience of the heart, so how can the soul’s experience of its highest attainment be explained in words?
Higher attainment in the material sense of the word is easily explained; if we possess a hundred pounds, we may hope for the higher attainment of two hundred, or we may look upon higher attainment as a rise in the social world. In spiritual matters there is nothing we can recognize as higher attainment. The striving for higher attainment on the spiritual path is like shooting an arrow into the mist. We know that we have shot it, but we do not know whither it has gone, or where it has struck. It is so with our spiritual progress. We cannot see where we are, or how far we have advanced on the spiritual path, for there is nothing to show. Some people say that higher attainment in the spiritual life means communion with God. But this would not satisfy the agnostic, for God to him is a stranger, and he wold not wish for communion with a stranger. Some would travel along this path if they could attain their worldly desires, wealth or fame. To such the answer may be given: seek for things of the earth on the earth, and for heavenly things in heaven.
There are some who follow this path in order to gain occult and psychic powers, but the attainment of these powers is not necessarily higher attainment. There are only a few who travel along the path for higher spiritual attainment.
What then is higher attainment? If we look at our five fingers, we realize that all the power in them comes from one arm. If we want to arrive at higher attainment in the spiritual life, we must enter the plane of the abstract, for we find everything there. We must come to the realization of the one life running through all. To a certain degree we attain to the realization of unity by contemplation, religion, and prayer. But what is most necessary is sincerity in our way of life. What we are is all that really matters. Contemplation and meditation help in this, but our manner of life is what is all important, sincerity in our actions, and living life practically and not in theory.
There is a story told in India of the boyhood of Bullah Shah, a great saint. He went to school when he was a young boy, and was set to learn the alphabet. He was given the first letter Alif, the figure one (a straight line), and he never progressed any further than this one letter. His master was in despair, also his parents. In the end they became weary of him, and he went to live in the jungle. After many years he returned and sought out his old master. He told him that he had now learned Alif, and had he anything else to teach? He then made the sign of Alif on the wall, saying, ‘Look, is it right?’ Immediately the wall split in two, making the sign of Alif. On seeing this phenomenon, the master exclaimed, ‘Thou art my teacher. I am thy pupil.’
From this story we learn what it actually means to realize what unity is, because we always see the one. Two is one and one, and it is the same with three, four, or five, hundreds or thousands. In the end, all the numbers, even millions and billions, are nothing but multiples of one. Thus we may say that the higher spiritual attainment is the realization of unity.
There are three aspects of worship: the worship of God in heaven by those who understand Him as a separate being, the worship of God on earth, as a god or goddess, in the form of an idol, or of some being who is considered as an incarnation of God and who is worshipped by the multitudes; and the worship of the God within, the innermost self of our being. It is this aspect of God that is understood by the Sufis, the Vedantists, and the great teachers such as Christ and Mohammad.
In the beginning, the great masters taught the worship of some concrete object to those who could not understand any higher ideal of worship, in order to lead them up to the God ideal, that they might finally come to know the God within.
There are some people who have realized that the innermost self is God, and who say, ‘Why should we approach God in forms of worship?’ believing themselves to be self sufficient. This self knowledge can lead man either astray or towards perfection. It seldom leads him to perfection, but it frequently leads him astray, for although man is unlimited in the unseen world, in the outer world he is a very limited being. He is dependent upon the whole of creation around him, and is in every way dependent on his surroundings. At one end of the pole he is unlimited and self sufficient. At the other end of the pole he is limited and dependent. It is, therefore, a great mistake for a man to claim self sufficiency. In Muslim terms these states are called Allah andBandeh. The Allah state is the unlimited and self sufficient, and the Bandeh state is the limited and dependent. As a man’s ideal is, so is his state of evolution. The man who is only interested in himself is very narrow and limited, whereas, the man who has expanded his interests to his family and surroundings is greater. While he who expands them still further to his nation is yet greater, he who extends them to the world at large is the greatest. But in all these cases a man is limited. It is the same with material ideals. One person may be content with a hundred pounds, while another may aspire to a million. In accordance with his ideal, so man becomes.
The highest ideal of man is to realize the unlimited, the immortal self within. There is no need for any higher ideal, for when man holds this ideal in his vision, he expands and becomes all he wants to be, and in time he attains to that peace which is the longing of every soul.
The worship of God expands the soul towards perfection. This is illustrated in the words of Sa’di, who said, ‘Praise be to Allah, whose worship is the means of drawing closer to Him, and in giving thanks to whom is involved an increase of benefits. Every breath which is inhaled, prolongs life, and, when exhaled, quickens the body. Thus in every breath two blessings are contained, and for every blessing a separate thanks is due.’
There are five attitudes that are assumed by different classes of people with regard to prayer. In the first place there is the praiseful attitude of those who are grateful for their daily bread. The second class of people are those who are not only grateful for material benefits, but who hope also for power and position, or for forgiveness of their sins. The third class of people are those whose eyes are opened, who recognize the beauty of God in nature and in all around them, and glorify Him for that beauty.
The fourth class of people are those who recognize the greatness of God in His power, who is able to provide for all His creation, from man to the smallest worm or germ. And in the fifth class are all the mystics and thinkers. Their attitude to prayer is far higher than that of the four preceding classes. They understand the truth of the being of man: that God and man are not separate. Notable among these are the Sufis. Many people who are free thinkers, and have this understanding, do not bother about prayer. Some even say, ‘To whom should we pray?’ The Sufi realizes the truth of his being, and his whole life becomes an attitude of prayer, in spite of his free thought and his rising above good and bad, right and wrong. When a person loves, he may be in the crowd, and yet be unaware of those around him, being absorbed in the thought of the beloved. And so it is with the love of God. He who loves God may be in the crowd, yet, being in the thought of God he is in seclusion. To such a person the crowd makes no difference. Sa’di says, ‘Prayer is the expansion of the limited being to the unlimited, the drawing closer of the soul to God.’
Hazrat Ali, the most distinguished among Sufis of the past, says, ‘To know the self is to know God,’ yet he spent much of his day and most of his nights in prayer. The Sufi’s prayer is his journey to the eternal goal, his realization of God.
The question now arises how to attain to this prayerful attitude in life. In the first place, for those whose prayer is one of praise, if their whole life is to assume a prayerful attitude, they must carry this praise and gratitude into the smallest details of life, and feel grateful for the slightest act of kindness done to them by anybody. Man falls very short of this ideal in life. He is so stiff, he misses so many of the chances of giving thanks. It is sometimes because of his riches, while at other times he is blinded by his power. All that is done for him he thinks is his due because of his money or his influence. When a man has been able to attain this attitude of praise and thanksgiving for all things in life, then his life may indeed be called a prayerful life.
Those who express a hope when they pray can turn their everyday striving into prayer, providing they maintain this hope in every pursuit of life, putting their trust in God, and provided they consider all the objects of their desire as coming from one and the same source when they have gained them.
Those people who glorify God for His beauty, should see the beauty of God in all His creatures. It is of no use to praise God for His beauty, and then to criticize and find faults in His creation. For one’s life to be prayerful one must always seek the good in man. Event he worst man has a good spot, and this should be sought and not the bad points. We can learn virtue even from the greatest sinner, if we consider him as a teacher. There is a tradition that Moses asked Satan to tell him the secret of life.
Those who glorify God for the greatness of His power must be able to see greatness in His creation. There are some who so pride themselves on their power, position and money, that they cannot see the greatness in another. For these it is of no avail to worship God for His greatness; it is only lip service.
As for the fifth class of people, those who realize the truth of their being, they recognize their God ideal in all of His creation. They see their divine Beloved in all manifestations, in every name and form.
The necessity for prayer has been taught at tall times by all religions, and forms of prayer have been given to their followers. People hold different opinions with regard to prayer. Some maintain that as God knows all their wants, why should they pray? Others wonder if it is alright to pray, when God knows what is best for them. Others say that praise is the only prayer, while some even claim that they themselves are God, so that for them there is no necessity for prayer. Regarding the latter class of people it may be said that all the masters and holy ones have taught not only the necessity of prayer, but their own lives have been lives of continual prayer. The following little story gives us an illustration of this.
Abdul Qadir Jalani, a great Sufi saint, was one day engaged in prayer, when in a vision, he saw the semblance of an angel, who addressed him saying, ‘O thou who hast prayed continuously all thy life, to thee God sends the good tidings that no more prayers are required of thee.’ The saint, recognizing the tempter, replied, ‘Be gone, thou wicked one, I recognize thee in spite of thy angelic disguise: thou art a devil come to tempt me. All the holy ones have passed their lives in prayer, and how can I deem myself worthy to be exempt from it?’ On hearing these words the evil one vanished.
To those who ask, ‘Is it right to pray for our wants?’ it may be said that man has always sought to express himself. If for instance he has conceived some scheme or plan that he wants to carry out, as a rule he seeks out a capable and trusted friend whose advice he values, to whom he can confide his ideas. Or, if he is in trouble or distress, he goes to a loving and kind friend for sympathy. In both cases he shows his limitation. If man with his sense of justice judges himself worthy of that for which he prays, then he is amply justified, regardless of the opinion of the world as to its rightness, and he attracts the answer to his prayer. If a man has agreed to work for a certain sum of money, and knows he has worked well and earned it, he feels himself justified in claiming his money. And so it is with prayer, when a man knows he deserves that for which he prays.
Before praying for the mercy of God, man must first learn to recognize God in all around him, in the care and protection he receives from all. God’s mercy shows its hands and eyes everywhere in nature, so man must try to imitate it in his own life. He will then attract to himself the mercy of God.
If our actions are harsh, we naturally attract the wrath of God. To the class of people who claim that they are God, the answer may be given in the words of the Urdu poet, who says, ‘Man is not God, but man is not apart from God.’ One drop cannot call itself the ocean, yet the drop is part of the ocean. Those who lay claim to this should bear witness to it in their lives, and if they can do this, then they will keep silent and not speak one word about it in the presence of others.
There is a necessity for praise in prayer, praise of the beauty of God, for man must learn to recognize and praise the beauty of God as manifested in all His creation. In this way he impresses beauty on his soul, and he is able to manifest it in himself, and he becomes the friend of all and is without prejudice. For this reason the Sufi cultivates his heart. The emblem of the Sufi is the heart between two wings, meaning that when the heart is cultivated man can soar up into the heights of heaven.
When man is on the lower planes, he sees things as tall, short, beautiful, or ugly. But if he ascends in an airplane and looks down from above, things appear uniform and the same. So it is when man has raised himself up to the higher planes: all things are the same to him, he only sees the One.
Man is perfectly justified and right in praying for all his desires, and there is nothing that God is not able and willing to grant. But man should distinguish between what is transitory and what is lasting, what is worthwhile for his own benefit, and what is worthless. Beauty of personality, devotion, love, are all desirable, but not those things that are transitory and unsatisfying. There are some people who have reached the stage at which they are beyond all desires, both earthly and heavenly, but they still continue to pray, because prayer brings them still closer to God in their limitation, and they expand from the state of limitation to the state of unlimited being. This is the highest meaning of prayer.
A man who does not believe in prayer, in times of illness seeks a doctor, for no one is self sufficient. In life everyone needs kindness, sympathy, and help of others, however rich and mighty he may be, and this explains the need for prayer. What man cannot do, God can do, and what is done through man, is also done by the command of God. ‘Not even the weight of one atom is concealed from the Lord,’ says the Qur’an.
There is a story that illustrates the need of prayer. A king was once hunting in the forest, when he was overtaken by a storm and had to take refuge in the hut of a peasant. The peasant set before the king a simple meal, which he partook of with gratitude. On his departure he asked the peasant if there was any service that he could render him. The man, not knowing that it was a king who was speaking to him, replied that his needs were simple, and that he had all that he required. The king then drew off a ring from his finger, and gave it to the peasant, saying, ‘Take this ring, and if ever you are in need of anything, bring it to the city and show it to some official, and ask for me.’
Some months later bad times came and famine was rife in the land. The peasant was near starvation when he thought of the ring. He set out for the city, and on arrival there, showed it to an official, who immediately conducted him to the king’s presence. When he arrived he found the king on his knees in prayer. When the king had finished, he rose from his knees, and asked the peasant what he could do for him.
The man, who was surprised to find that his friend was the king, and still more surprised to find him on his knees, asked him why he was in that posture. The king replied that he was praying to Allah. The peasant asked, ‘Who is Allah?’ The king replied, “One even higher than myself, the King of kings, and I am asking Him for my own needs and for those of my people.
The peasant on hearing these words said, ‘If you, the king, have to pray to somebody above you, then why should I not ask Him direct, and not trouble you?’
This story teaches us that every seeming source is a limited one when compared with the real Source, the God whose dominion is over all.
It is well for all those interested in religion to understand the essential meaning of Islam. The word, Islam, comes from Sala’m, which means peace, and the mistake which followers of all religions have made is to call the means by the name of the goal. Peace is the longing of every soul, and the soul seeks it either wisely or unwisely. Those who seek it wisely are called pious, and those who seek it in ignorance are called worldly. Islam, or peace, is the goal of every soul, and the different teachers of humanity have all come to show the way that leads to this goal.
The first ship to sail to America had to discover the way, and it took very long. But afterwards a course was mapped out, the way became known, and the ships made the journey in a shorter time. America is the goal, and the ship is the means of getting to the goal, but it is not the goal itself. It is possible to reach the goal without a ship, but it is quicker and easier to reach it with a ship.
The God ideal was taught to man gradually. There was a time when a certain rock was recognized as God. People at one period considered certain plants as sacred. At another time, certain animals and birds were considered sacred. For instance, the cow and the eagle were considered as sacred creatures. Many worshipped the primal elements in nature, such as earth, water, fire, and air. People worshipped the spirits of mountains, hills, trees, plants, birds, and animals, until the God ideal was raised to the Absolute.
The planets and their gods were worshipped, and prayer was offered to the moon and sun. This lasted until God was realized in man. The light of the soul of man was recognized as higher than the light of the sun. Then came hero worship.
Warriors, speakers, physicians, musicians, poets, prophets, and teachers were idealized and worshipped by Hindus as incarnations of God, until from the Semitic race came Abraham, the father of religions, who taught the ideal of the formless God, which was explained gradually by different prophets who came after him. It was openly proclaimed by Moses and spiritually taught by Christ. This same truth was disclosed in plain words by Mohammad, who bore the final message: ‘None exists save God.’ This final message expands the ideal of worship to the invisible as well as to the Absolute.
The perfection of the God ideal leads up to the goal, which is the true Islam or peace.
All religions have taught that there will be either punishment or reward for our deeds. But if we examine more closely we shall see that the punishment or reward is the outcome of our deeds. It is our tendency towards idealization that causes us to name as punishment and reward what is simply the outcome of our actions. Good cannot be the outcome of evil, neither can evil be the outcome of good. If a thoughtless child is sent to buy eggs, and on the way home becomes so interested in its surroundings that it does not notice where it is going, and falls and breaks the eggs, we are apt to say, ‘You have broken all the eggs, and this is a punishment for your carelessness.’ But in reality, there was no one who dealt out this punishment. It followed as the natural result of carelessness.
If we look down deeper within ourselves, we shall find that our deeds have a great effect on our inner being, and react and manifest on the surface as good or bad results. This explains right and wrong, good and evil. In other words, our body, our mind, and heart, the factor of feelings, react on each other. If the body controls the mind, or the mind the feelings, the result is bad, for the lower plane having a control over the higher plane of existence. On the other hand, when the heart controls the mind, and the mind the body, the result can only be good, as the higher self then has control over the lower self. The body having control over the mind is as if the horse were to ride the man, and not the man the horse. If the horse were to ride on the man, he would lead him astray, but if the man rides on the horse, he will guide it rightly.
For instance, if the soldier were to control the sergeant, and the sergeant the captain, matters would naturally go wrong. The captain must have the control over the sergeant, and the sergeant over the soldier. To take another example: a kindhearted person, when controlled by his thoughts, may lose his kindness, and may keep another from some good thing by thinking that he should have it for himself. But when his kind feelings have risen above his thoughts, he may repent and say to himself, how could I have thought such a thing?
There are three grades of activity in our lives called in the Hindu religion: Satva, the activity that always brings good, sometimes bad results; and Tamas, and the intense activity that always results in destruction.
The extreme intensity of Tamas is bad in all its aspects, for the vibrations increase so in speed that they clash together and cause destruction. When there is an intense love on the part of one for another, something usually happens to destroy it. This is also the case with intensity of desire or action, which ends in destruction.
Rajas, the balanced activity, is always desirable. The result of our action may be good or bad, but it can never be very bad, as there is a balance.
Satva, the activity that always results in good, is the controlled activity, when we have a rein over it. This is the most difficult to attain, and needs the work and effort of a whole lifetime. All the saints and sages have had to journey through these grades and learn from experience, and they understand how difficult it is to attain control over our activity in life.
There are two ways in which we may attain control over our activity. The first is confidence in the power of our own will; to know that if we have failed today, tomorrow we will not do so. The second is to have our eyes wide open, and to watch keenly our activity in all aspects of life. It is in the dark that we fall, but in the light we can see where we are going.
So it is in life: we should have our eyes wide open to see where we walk. We should study life, and seek to know why we say a thing, and why we act as we do. We have failed perhaps hitherto because we have not been wide awake. We have fallen, and felt sorry, and have forgotten all about it, and perhaps may have fallen again. This is because we have not studied life. A study of life is the greatest of all religions, and there is no greater and more interesting study. Those who have mastered all grades of activity, they above all experience life in all its aspects. They are like swimmers in the sea who float on the water of life and do not sink. It is they on whom the deed has no effect. They are both the doers of the deed, and the creators of its effect.
In balance lies the whole secret of life, and the lack of it explains death. All that is constructive comes from balance, and all destruction comes from lack of balance. It is when balance goes that sickness and death come. There are many people who are sickly and ill for many years, yet their life is prolonged because they have some balance. They are physically on the decline, but to counterbalance this they have an ambition in life that keeps them alive. It may be the desire to see the success of a loved son, or the happiness of a daughter.
All religions and philosophies have laid down certain principles such as kindness, truthfulness, forgiveness, but the mystic lays no stress on principles, he allows everyone to have his own principles, each according to his point of view and evolution. For example, there are two men, one is so merciful that he will not even harm an insect, and he could not draw a sword to kill another human being, while the other man for the sake of his people is content to fight and to die.
These are two opposite points of view, and both are right in their way. The Sufi, therefore, believes one should let each hold on to the principle suited to his evolution, but for himself he looks beyond the principle to that which is at the back of it, the balance. He realizes that what makes one lose balance is wrong, and what makes one keep it is right. The main point is not to act against one’s principles. If the whole world says a thing is wrong, and you yourself feel that it is right, it is so, perhaps, for you.
The question of balance explains the problem of sin and virtue, and he who understands it is the master of life. There should be a balance in all actions. To be either extreme or lukewarm is equally bad. There is a saying, ‘Jack of all trades, and master of none.’ This is very true, as there has been too little effort given, so that no one thing has been done thoroughly.
A balance in repose and activity is necessary, as too much weight on the side of repose leads to idleness, and even sickness. Whereas, an unbalanced activity results in nervousness, and frequently in a mental or physical breakdown.
All religions and philosophies speak of the seen and the unseen, perhaps understanding something about them, but always differing in the explanation they give. The Christian explanation of the soul differs from the Muslim explanation, while the Vedantic explanation differs from that of the Buddhist, and these differences are very confusing to the student. The confusion, however, arises from the variety of names and forms. In other words, it is due to differences in words, not of meanings. To the illuminated soul these differences mean nothing. He sees the one truth underlying all, for he listens to his soul for the truth. And he compares what he learns with all scriptures and finds his conception of truth in harmony with all.
Many different beliefs are held by the followers of various religions and philosophies about life after death, manifestation, liberation, and reincarnation. Some people believe in one God and some in many gods, and others do not believe in the existence of God at all. But in all these beliefs, the mystic sees the same truth. For he can look at it from different points of view. Just as a photographer realizes, when taking photographs of a large palace from the four points of the compass, that each photograph shows a different view of the palace, yet that they are all views of one and the same palace.
The real teaching comes from within, and when the holy ones received illumination from the original Source, their souls understood it, but the words in which they gave the message differed, for one spoke in Zend, one in Hebrew, another in Sanskrit, and another in Arabic. This explains why the same truth is told in different words. The sense and meaning are the same, the only difference being in the explanation, for it was meant to be given at different times to different peoples, of different evolutions. The study of the unseen is the most important study in life, but it cannot be pursued in the same way as the study of the seen.
The study of the seen is always disappointing, as it is ever changing. Therefore, one should look from the seen to the source of all things. In the study of the unseen one must not look for signs. The spiritual pursuit, as Al-Ghazali says, is like shooting an arrow into the dark: you cannot see whither it has gone, or what it hits. The two important things in life are the praise of God and the pursuit of God.
The praise of God is important, and it gives bliss in life, but it is not the real attainment. The all-important work in life is the attainment of God. God cannot be explained. Any attempt to do this always ends in failure. The knowledge of Him can only be attained in the silence and in solitude, and how to do this cannot be explained better than in the words of the Urdu poet, Zahir, ‘He who attaineth best the peace of God, his very self must lose.’
The intelligent thinker always asks, sooner or later, ‘What is on the other side of death?’ To the materialist, who believes in the brain as the only factor of perception, there is no hereafter. To those who believe in tradition, there is another life, but mostly they are very vague as to its real meaning. For those who are seeking the truth, there is a right way and a wrong way of finding out about it. The right way consists of the study of the self, and the wrong way is in seeking to communicate with spirits.
When we are awake, the consciousness is for the most part on the physical plane, and a very small part is on the mental plane. This is proved by the fact that we are sometimes unconscious of what is going on around us, because our consciousness is at that time on another plane, and we are apt to call any thought or feeling an imagination. The dream plane is higher than the physical plane, for everything that happens there is a reality to the consciousness. It is only in our waking state that we say that what we experienced then was a dream. It is the physical body that makes the contrast between the dream and the wakeful state of being. In the dream we are free of this body, and the consciousness experiences things as reality and not as a dream or imagination, for it is the tendency of the consciousness to take as real what it is experiencing at the moment.
All experiences, thoughts, feelings, and emotions are stored in the mental plane, and when rid of the physical body, the consciousness experiences all these to their full extent. If a man has been cheerful and happy all through life, the consciousness, when it has left the physical body, experiences the state of happiness to the full extent on the mental plane, and if he has been unhappy and miserable all through life, the consciousness experiences that state to its full extent on the mental plane. This explains the meaning of heaven and hell. We experience heaven or hell in this way each day of our lives, and our heaven or hell depends on what impressions we allow ourselves to store in our mental plane.
Our minds need to be dusted and swept just as much as our houses, and this we do by meditation and concentration, which wipe away all wrong impressions. We must be masters of our own minds as well as our houses, and not allow them to be like a furniture warehouse with all the furniture mixed up together. We must direct where everything is to be placed, so that complete order may reign therein. We must not allow any impression we do not wish, to impress itself on our mental plane. On this side of life we have more will-power to control our impressions than we have on the other side. There we experience the impressions we have formed in our life.
What chiefly concerns us is to study what makes things right or wrong, good or bad. And we shall find that good, bad, right, or wrong, is according to the point of view in which we look at each one of them. And when we understand this thoroughly, then we shall know the secret of making things right or wrong, good or bad at will.
This stage of understanding gives mastery, and raises men above heaven and hell.
The word, ‘alchemy’ comes from an Arabic word, al-Kimia, which means the art of making gold. There are two kinds of gold: the gold that we obtain from outside, and the gold that the Eastern alchemist knew how to make for himself. The same may be applied to happiness. Every soul seeks for happiness, and either depends on external objects for it, or like the alchemist of old, creates happiness for himself.
Those who seek for happiness from external sources are never really satisfied. A man imagines that if he could have a certain sum of money he would be happy, but if he gets it he is not really content. He wants more. No earthly happiness is lasting: it never remains. The only cause of this lack of happiness is the discomfort of the spirit. If we were offered all the homage and riches of the world if only we would remain floating in the air, we would forgo them all, for our body belongs to the earth. And if a like offer were made to us if we would always stand in the water, we should refuse for the same reason. For our earthly body has its comfort only on earth.
So it is with our spirit. The Bible says, ‘The spirit quickeneth the flesh profiteth nothing.’ Our spirit is the real part of us. The body is but a garment. There is absolute peace in the abode from whence the spirit came, and the true happiness of the soul lies in that peace. As man would not find peace at the tailor’s just because his coat came from there, so the spirit cannot get true happiness from the earth just because the body belongs to the earth.
The soul experiences life through the mind and body and enjoys it, but its true happiness lies in peace.
In order to gain this peace we have to begin with ourselves. There are fights going on within us between spirit and matter. Struggles for our daily bread, and want of peace in our surroundings. We must first get this peace within ourselves before we can talk of peace in the world. Then we must be at peace with our surroundings, and never do or say anything that disturbs that peace. All thoughts, words, and actions that create peace are virtue. In our dealings with those with whom it is difficult to keep peace, a constant effort to do so has a great effect.
There are two forces in us, love and reason. We must keep an even balance between the two. If we give too much expression to love we become unbalanced and fall into trouble. And if, on the other hand, we lean too much on the side of reason, we become cold.
Mystics, philosophers, and thinkers have all agreed that the greatest blessing in life is wisdom, and the greatest curse is ignorance. All people, according to their evolution, are seeking for what they consider to be the greatest bliss in life. For some it takes the form of wealth or power, for others renown, while for others it may be religion or spiritual bliss. All of these, when there is a lack of wisdom, turn into a curse, for wealth brings no happiness when there is absence of wisdom. The law of courts are fed and kept going by the wealth of the foolish. Then again, what a curse power, in the hands of and unwise person, becomes to himself and to others, whereas, wielded by the hand of wisdom, power brings a blessing with it! Fame, unless used wisely, only breeds enemies. The wise man on the contrary, may lack wealth, but he is quite happy, and he can, if he desires, create it for himself. The same may be said of power and renown. A man may start life in a humble position, but by reason of his wisdom may become powerful and famous. The wise man knows how to make his life, while the foolish man for the most part mars his.
It is the same with the spiritual life. So often a really religious person, earnestly striving after good, mars its effect by some foolish thought, word, or action, and thus destroys the work of years. The wise man never allows himself to be caught in such a net. He carefully watches his every thought, word, and action, and thus ever progresses on the spiritual path. He may at times have a set-back, but he knows how to profit even by his falls, and uses them as stepping-stones to higher things. There is no real happiness in life where there is a lack of understanding. This is the case with wife or husband, child or friend. The closest and finest relationship in life is that with one who understands, and this again is only experienced by the wise.
There are two forces in the universe, Kaza, the divine force that is working through all things and being, and Kadr, the free will of the individual.
If the divine will is working through all things and beings, and man is but the instrument through which the divine will works, he is helpless, and how can he be responsible for his deeds? Man is nevertheless held responsible, for the free will of the individual is the perfect will, working through the intelligence of the individual. This may be illustrated in the following way. A merchant who owns a factory employs many hands to work in it. It is his will and wish that all shall work harmoniously together, but the success of the factory is equally the responsibility of each individual worker, for the owner of the factory runs it by means of the workers. If anyone works contrary to his will, things go wrong, and the one working thus is responsible for it. In like manner the will of the whole Being works through all, yet it is the responsibility of the individual to carry out that will. If we consider this carefully we shall find that this will is also our will, and when we act contrary to it, we get no satisfaction, for we have not carried out our own will. We are, as it were, a pole, at one end of which is the limited individual and at the other end, the perfect self.
In seeking to carry out the will of God, our attitude should be that of a child who is kept from doing wrong by the thought that he might vex his parents. In the same way we should watch our every thought and action lest they should be displeasing to God, the perfect Self. The question may be asked, ‘Is it just that human beings with intelligence should have to given in to the perfect or divine will, which seems so contrary to the ideal of freedom?’ This question may be answered in the following way. Let us suppose that one wishes to move forward, and the feet move in the opposite direction, or one wants to look straight up while the eyes, against one’s will, look down. Would life be happy although the feet and eyes in acting so, are only using their free will? The answer is no. For in so doing, they are working against the will of the whole individual being. In like manner the inharmonious free will, which may be called sin, disturbs the whole Being, the harmony of which is maintained by each individual, from greatest to least, and from highest to lowest.
We find the word ‘resurrection’ not only in the Bible, but also in the Qur’an and other scriptures. What is truth becomes false when wrongly understood, and even the false is made true when rightly understood.
The following story will help to explain the meaning of the word resurrection. There was once a king who desired that his son should experience all aspects of life, and for this reason kept him in ignorance of the fact that he was a prince. He ordered a palace to be built with seven stories. The ground floor was very simple and plain. Each story was a little more elaborate than the last, until the seventh, which was most magnificently furnished, and was in every way a worthy habitation for a king. The little prince was put to live on the ground floor with his nurses and attendants, and in his simple surroundings lived happy and contented for many years.
When he grew older he became curious, and asked if there was anything to see on the other floors of the house. The servants replied that there were six other floors, and that he was at liberty to see them. He was also told that he might ascend by means of the lift. The boy entered the lift, but he was careful not to let go his hold on the rope, for he wanted to make sure of his return to the ground floor with which he was so familiar. In this way he explored all seven stories. The father had determined that he should not be called the Crown Prince until he could ascend alone and investigate the palace, which was after all his own.
The seven stories mentioned in this tale can be interpreted as the seven planes of existence, and these are ours by right of inheritance. We are placed on the ground floor, the earth, as we have work to accomplish there. The most important work we have to do in life is to take charge of all seven floors. The Master, Jesus Christ, passed through all the seven planes, and gave the command, ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Father, which is in Heaven, is perfect.’ This state of perfection is the passing from the limited to the unlimited state of existence. The lift is breath, and when our physical body passes on to the next floor and loses hold on the breath, that is its death.
In point of fact, through death the soul enters the higher planes of existence freely, and that is the meaning of resurrection. There are two aspects of resurrection, the negative and the actual. The negative resurrection takes place when we pass to the higher planes of existence in the lift by means of the breath, and hold on to the rope, the physical body, and come to the first floor, the earth, again. This is the meaning of those words in the Qur’an, ‘Die before death.’ This negative resurrection is the teaching of the Sufis, and is the whole object of the contemplative life, which they lead. It takes away the fear of death, and death becomes the bridge that unites friend with friend.’ Jesus, when passing from the earth, left behind his physical body forever, and that was his positive resurrection.
When we are asleep and dream, we leave our physical body and live in our finer body for the time being. The finer body is a replica of our physical body. Both bodies have been impressed with each other, and are exactly alike. This answers the question as to how it was that Jesus appeared to his disciples in what they believed to be his physical body. He had promised them that he would come to them again, and it was their earnest desire and loving devotion that created that presence. This whole universe was created by the power of mind. This power is in each one of us, and our power of creating is in proportion to the earnestness and reality of our desires. Such was the case with the faithful disciples. It was their earnest love and longing that created the presence of their Lord.
The Murshid is one who is passive to the word of God from within, who is illuminated, and who holds communion with God.
There are two kinds of murshid. In the first place, there is the murshid who receives inspiration in the jungle or in the solitude and when he arrives at the fullness of the message he comes forth to find a suitable Talib or Mureed, one who is responsive, to whom he can give this message, for the light must find expression. For this light to manifest, no learning is necessary. The most unlettered have been the greatest teachers in the world. One notable example is Kabir, the weaver who wrote volumes of inspired verse. His poems were in the language of an illiterate man, but in spite of this they have been read and admired all over India, and Kabir is looked upon as one of the greatest and most enlightened teachers. This class of murshid, therefore, gathers around him mureeds who are responsive, and who will make themselves passive to receive his training. This is difficult for some people who say that they cannot give up their individuality to another. But when we consider the question, we may ask ourselves, ‘Who is another?’ Then we realize that in the true sense of being there is but one. When the veil of ignorance is raised there is no longer any ‘I’ and ‘you,’ but only the One exists. This is the teaching of the Bible and of all scriptures. The murshid and the mureed are one.
The other murshids are Khalifs, those who belonged to a special school such as the Chishtiyas, Qadiri, Naqshibandi, Sohrwardi, and who base their training on a careful and special observation of human beings, and their character and tendencies. They teach exactly the same truth as the other class of Sufi, but they follow a method adapted to suit the faith, belief, nature, and manner of the people who come under their care. The system is only the outer garment, the coat as it were. Many people claim to know all about Sufism from simply reading about it in books, but what such people know is in reality only the system, the outer garment, not the inner truth.
Some people who see Sufism taught by a Muslim, preaching in the mosque, naturally call it a branch of Islam. But they do not know that the seed, which is found in the fruit was in its origin the root of the same plant. Those who see it in the garb of Hinduism, say it is derived from Hinduism. Those who see its resemblance to Buddhism, say that its origin is Buddhism.
Now the message of Sufism is being proclaimed in the West where the people are mostly Christian. And it is given to suit the faith, belief, customs, and manners of the inhabitants, a person who does not know the real idea of Sufism may say that this is a new sect of Christianity. Let people call it what they will. Sufism, being the essence of all religion, it matters little what faith people profess, provided they understand it rightly.
In the East there are many such schools. There is a great spiritual advantage in being initiated into one of them, as the initiate has the help, not only of his murshid, but of all the former murshids who have passed over to the other side. He is, in fact, as a link in a chain. The murshid is like a gardner who knows all the flowers, plants and fruits in his garden, and carefully tends to them. In like manner the murshid tends all those who have entrusted themselves to his guidance.
The murshid is also like a physician. He prescribes to each mureed medicine suited to his needs. The same medicine could not be given to all.
A true murshid is looked upon as a bridge to unite his mureeds with their Lord. He is, as it were, the gatekeeper of the king’s palace, and he can guide only to the inner door, which leads to the presence chamber. The murshid is far greater than an earthly sovereign, for by his glance or his word he can change the life of another who comes to him in faith, for his kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven, which has its domain over all the kingdoms of the earth. Hafiz says, ‘Do not mistake the ragged sleeves of the dervish, for under those sleeves that are full of patches, most powerful arms are hid.’
The murshid desires all earthly as well as heavenly blessings for his mureeds. But he can do little where there is no response and faith. The murshid sets far greater stress on the life of his mureed than on the punctuality of his meditation. He teaches that it is of far greater importance to cultivate in one’s life attributes such as kindness, gentleness, and love. It is when the mureed fails in this that the murshid is unable to inspire him, for the mureed is standing in his own light.
A story is told of a mureed who had been under the guidance of a murshid for some years, and had not yet attained his goal. He had seen many come depart inspired. In the end, he went to the murshid, and asked why this was so. The murshid said in answer, ‘My son, the fault is not with me, but in thyself.’ A mad dog was passing at the time, and the murshid glanced at it, and the dog was cured instantly of its madness. He then pointed out that it was not lack of power on the part of the murshid, but lack of response on the part of the mureed. About this, Hafiz says, ‘The dark-fated ones cannot be guided even by the illuminated ones.’