The Sufi order is mainly an esoteric school. There are three principal esoteric schools known in the East: the Buddhist school, the Vedantic school, and the Sufi school. The former two use asceticism as their principal means of spiritual advancement. The peculiarity of the Sufi school is that it uses humanity as its chief means to the same end. In the realization of truth, the Sufi school is no different from the Vedantic or the Buddhist; but the Sufi presents truth in a different manner. It is the same frame in which Jesus Christ has given his teaching.
No doubt the method of helping spiritual development by contemplation and meditation is used in all three schools, the science of breath being the foundation of each. But the Sufi thinks that man was not created to live the life of an angel, neither was he created to live the life of an animal. For the life of an angel, angels are created; and for the life of an animal, there are animals. The Sufi thinks that the first thing that is necessary for man in life is to prove to his own conscience to what extent he can be human. It is not only a spiritual development, it is the culture of humanity: in what relation man stands to his neighbor or friend, to those who depend upon him and those who look up to him, to strangers unknown to him; how he stands with those younger than himself and with older people and with those who like him and others who dislike him and criticize him; how he should feel, think and act throughout life, and yet keep on progressing towards the goal which is the goal for every soul in the world.
It is not necessary for the Sufi to seek the wilderness for his meditation, since he can perform part of his work in the midst of worldly life. The Sufi need not prove himself to be a Sufi by extraordinary power, by wonder-working or by an exceptional spiritual manifestation or claim. A Sufi can prove to his own conscience that he is a Sufi by watching his own life amidst the strife of this world.
There are some who are content with a belief taught at home or in church. They are contented, and they may just as well rest in that stage of realization where they are contented until another impulse is born in their hearts to rise higher. The Sufi does not force his belief or his thoughts upon such souls. In the East, there is a saying that it is a great sin to awaken anyone who is fast asleep. This saying can be symbolically understood. There are many in this world who work and do things and are yet asleep; they seem awake externally, but inwardly, they are asleep. The Sufi considers it a crime to awaken them, for some sleep is good for their health. The work of the Sufi is to give a helping hand to those who have had sufficient sleep and who now begin to stir in their sleep, to turn over. And it is that kind of help which is the real initiation.
No doubt there are things which pass the ordinary comprehension of man. There are things one can teach only by speaking or by acting; but there is a way of teaching which is called Tawajjuh, and this way of teaching is without words. It is not external teaching, it is teaching in silence. For instance, how can man explain the spirit of sincerity, or the spirit of gratefulness? How can man explain the ultimate truth, the idea of God? Whenever it has been attempted, it has failed; it has made some confused, and it has made others give up their belief. It is not that the one who tried to explain did not understand, but that words are inadequate to explain the idea of God.
In the East there are great sages and saints who sit quite still, with lips closed, for years. They are called Muni, which means ‘he who takes the vow of silence.’ The man of today may think, ‘What a life, to be silent and do nothing!’ However, he does not know that some by their silence can do more than others can accomplish by talking for ten years. A person may argue for months about a problem and not be able to explain it, while another, with inner radiance, may be able to answer the same thing in one moment. The answer that comes without words explains still more. That is initiation.
However, no one can give spiritual knowledge to another, for this is something that is within every heart. What the teacher can do is to kindle the light which is hidden in the heart of the disciple. If the light is not there, it is not the fault of the teacher.
There is a verse by Hafiz in which he says, ‘However great be the teacher, he is helpless with the one whose heart is closed.’ Therefore, initiation means initiation on the part of the disciple and on the part of the teacher, a step forward on the part of both. On the part of the teacher, a step forward with the disciple in order that the pupil may be trusted and raised from his present condition. A step forward for the pupil because he opens his heart; he has no barrier anymore, nothing to hinder the teaching in whatever form it comes, in silence or in words, or in the observation of some deed or action on the part of the teacher.
- The Paradise of the Sufi (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- A Rumi Poem Sufi Masters for my friend Fatima! (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- When A Man Meets Himself a Sufi Anecdote by Sufi Master Tariqavi (mycaravanofdreams.com)