We have come to a special point in the two and half history of the blog. I have been asked the question, the single most important questions perhaps from a blogger I could be asked. The question I got today is: What is up with all that talk with suffering in Sufism, in what I write about it, where is the joy, the rapture ? Don’t Sufis like being happy and experiencing joy? I have been waiting for this question a long time, and this post is my response to those question(s)
The Sufi and Sufi works
Our times are really marked with the trends of salad bar spirituality – [Most people who opt for the universal approach to spirituality really have in mind taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It is particular modern and Western and especially American notion that we can customize our spirituality or that we can choose our portion as if we were at a salad bar. - Shaikh Kabir Helminski ]. One of the consequences of this is that there are certain keywords or hot words that people get excited over. These words have been used so much they lost their meaning; words like mystical, spirituality, love, suffering, pain, vegetarianism.
Simply if one wants to really know the ocean one has to jump in it, one cannot know the ocean from the shore. The same can be said about anything we have to learn in life. Understanding something beyond superficial details requires us to obviously focus and concentrate on one area till we have a certain familiarity, and the material has become second nature to us. To get a PhD In French Literature I cannot dedicate myself to being a master of Russian Literature. Thought there maybe a time period when French literature historically influence Russian Literature, but that comes later after foundational work as been done.
Before we can even begin to talk about and share thoughts concerning Sufism and its poems and sayings and such, there are certain things on must understand first. This is what I was told when many years ago 10 years ago i started my journey into sufism. These are the rules I followed when I approach the material and share them with you.
- Just because you can read a thing doesn’t mean you can understand what it is saying, the audience it was intended and how it is to be read
- One has to empty a cup with something in it in order pour something else in. Meaning one has to let go of one’s preconceived notions of what Sufism is or appears to be.
The wisdom of the fool is to imagine that he understands something just because he thinks it has been understood. Fool’s wisdom is something from which not only fools suffer. The delinquency of the authority figure is when he tells people that they are understanding something when they are not. The confusion of the result of this is that people imagine that they can understand somethings, and that if they are not idiots, there are in every way better than idiots.
To that end I must say that reading the Bible doesn’t make one a Christian any more than reading Rumi makes one a dervish or Sufi. Many great academics have written about pain, cure, suffering, and many other interesting aspects about Sufism, and if one wanted to understand the academic understands of many principles in Sufism one can read. But to really understand one has to enter the Sufi path and that is problematic as we will see further down below..
Becoming a Darvish/Sufi
Dervishood tells me, you cannot become a dervish
So what can I tell you? You cannot become a dervish.
A dervish needs a wounded heart and eyes full of tears.
He needs to be as easy going as a sheep.
You can’t be a dervish.
He must be without hands when someone hits him.
He must be tongueless when cursed.
A dervish needs to be without any desire.
You can’t be a dervish.
You make a lot of sounds with your tongue, meaningful things.
You get angry about this and that.
You can’t be a dervish.
If it were all right to be angry on this path,
Muhammad himself would have gotten angry.
Because of your anger, you can’t be a dervish.
Unless you find a real path, unless you find a guide,
unless Truth grants you your portion,
you can’t be a dervish.
Therefore, dervish Yunus, come,
dive into the ocean now and then.
Unless you dive in the ocean, you cannot be a dervish.
These spiritual window-shoppers, who idly ask,
‘How much is that?’ Oh, I’m just looking.
They handle a hundred items and put them down,
shadows with no capital.
What is spent is love and two eyes wet with weeping.
But these walk into a shop,
and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment,
in that shop.
Where did you go? ‘Nowhere’.
What did you have to eat? ‘Nothing much’.
Even if you don’t know what you want,
buy something, to be part of the exchanging flow.
Start a huge, foolish project,
It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.
Rumi, ‘We Are Three’, Mathnawi VI, 831-845
Many people are not interested in letting go of what they know to learn what is, they prefer to hold on tenaciously to what they know. Though this may work in other areas of endeavor or life, I don’t feel it will prove fruitful if one want to know about Sufi literature or anything else Sufi. I am taking a laborious pathway to answer the above question because it took me a good eight years of prep work, and working on myself before I was able to begin. I feel many people are window-shopping with spirituality. They look and ask what is in this for me, why should I become a Buddhist or a Sufi. A Mystical life is a call one answers not a bargain one tries to win. One is born a mystic . Again I quote Llewellyn Vaughan Lee when he says:
In spiritual life you aspires to something you want to get close to God, you want to lead a good life, you want to make a connection to your spiritual Nature, you can evolve and develop higher states of Consciousness. A mystic wants nothing. We aspire to be completely empty, to be used by God for His purpose we don’t even want Heaven or anything like that we aspire to be empty and so we are used.
If one sincerely aspires to nothing, then there is no place for personal wants. Even wanting to become nothing is still a desire that will keep us from our goal. If you are looking at sufi literature because you want something from it or out of it that is a different story all together and not something am qualified to speak on. I felt drawn to this path, I didnt have a reason why, I wasn’t looking for anything or trying to haggle and win anything.It just called to me. Ultimately as I have seen for myself with my own mistake , superficial activity and leads to less than superficial results.
Danger of Misinterpretation
There are many stages on the way, in mysticism, if you do not think so please check out St Teresa of Avila El Castillo Interior (The Interior Castle) which denotes the different stages of the soul on its return home. All mystics are united in their experience of the Absolute. It is through the mystical experience that all really becomes one, not so much in someone’s mind by feeding it endless amounts of learning. I cannot as I have seen done take the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bible, and the Masnavi and compare and contrast passages to find the Unity mystics speak. I can read and compare all of them for a academic paper, but academic and spiritual know-how are different.
There is a reason why much careful preparation is taken to discuss approaching Sufi materials. This of course doesn’t only apply to Sufi materials but to many different kinds of traditionally mystical material. Take a look at the following considerations taken from [Knowing How to Know page 53
- Perception of another kind of being when not accompanied by correct preparation can be more harmful than a lifetime without any such perception. This is because unprepared people mis interpret their experiences and cash in on them at a low level. an example is people who because superstitious because they have sensed something at work which they are too lazy to try to understand. Another example is when people imagine that some true but minor sign gives them an importance or a divine contact or character such people are already almost lost even if their repute rises to the heavens
- People who cannot tell the difference between a real feeling and one which has been trained into them are not capable of learning on their own. Their course study must be prescribed for them until they can discriminate. Only after that can they begin a real search.
- People who mistake good fellowship, relaxation of tensions or a mere sense of well being for progress on a road to higher things have to back track and learn certain earlier lessons other wise they are merely candidates for encapsulated wisdom and superficial systems
Conclusions before Continuing
Even after those 8 years of preparatory lessons and consideration and practices, i was not prepared for what I experience as a darvish. For me I found truth in many strange places, once I let go of any idea that I was someone special or that I knew anything. I made so many mistakes and missed out of many opportunities because what I thought was real was different than what truly was.
There is a saying that any desire that comes from one’s soul said explicitly in all sincerity will be answered and manifested in real life. However as my sheikh has said there are many people who claim the name of a mystic or of a sufi or of a lover of God who arent really. Until they can be sincere with themselves as to their own state and action there is little anyone can do really.