One of the bad ass books I read recently was The last Barrier : A Journey into the Essence of Sufi Teachings By Reshad Fields. As you can imagine it chronicles a man search search for what was the essence of sufi teaching. Many book reviews immediately after the first sentence or two immediately go one to explain or recapitulate for the millionth time that Sufism is the mystical side of Islam. To stay true to the spirit of unity of men that pervades this book I will take a different approach.
A sufi is one who is completely integrated with the experience of union with the Divine that is at the core of all religions. I feel that this accounts for the similarities between Sufism and Christianity, Judaism, Zen Buddhism and Adwaita and various mystery schools like Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry etc.
The essence of Sufism to me is ascertaining complete submission to God, through love and devotion. Of course everyone who has read or heard anything about sufism has heard that love and devotion are at its essence; but how does that translate into daily life? What kind of love is meant, how intense is the devotion ?
The Last Barrier, like all sufi allegory points us to an experience or a series of experiences can show us sufi principles in action. Due to the masterfully descriptive words of Mr Feild, we can judge a Sufi teacher’s role through the actions related, not by hearsay or some academic treatise of past masters.
Like all books this book is an invitation for you the audience to take part in the events. A seeker who recently read the book told me that she felt like she was along for the ride. If we pay attention we can see before us our own thinkg patterns which is a great gift indeed. When Hamid, Mr Feilds’ teacher rebuked him on many ocassion,my reactions often told me a lot about myself and how I see things. For instance if I felt some treatment was unfair a few pages or chapters later whenI learned the true significance of the rebuke or harsh words, I was humbled along with Reshad. The nafs are indeed tricky.
The book is amazingly full of great anecdotes allegories and explanations that would make the experiences of the path. I have read it twice already. I think if anyone is serious about beginning to begin on the path they should really look deeply into the accounts of Mr Feilds here for all of us.
When I think of the path, I always feel like I am a child. Like just when I think I have understood something, I am shown how limited and superficial my understanding is. I am very forgetful and sometimes th reminders are more painful. I feel like that cougar in the cartoon who has just asked for a few lumps of sugar and life hits me on the head until I concede. Its a constant battle every day to live fully in the present, to perform my rsponsibilities to my wife, my students my family, pets and the list goes on, but this book has really helped me get my bearing at a time when I needed it.
Thinking of the loving harshness of Reshad’s teacher Hamid, this poem of Rumi’s comes to mind I will put it here for you all to enjoy
The Core of Masculinity
The core of Masculinity doesn’t derive
from being male nor friendliness
from those who console.
Your old grandmother says, “Maybe you shouldn’t
go to school. You look a little pale.”
Run when you hear that.
A father’s stern slaps are better.
Your bodily soul wants comforting.
The severe father wants spiritual clarity.
He scolds but eventually
leads you into the open.
Pray for a tough instructor
to hear and act and stay within you.
We have been busy accumulating solace.
Make us afraid of how we were.