Sufi Secrets

Click here to watch the video




The Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty
is like a stream flowing onwards
along the riverside of our daily lives
        and this stream is in movement,
a movement of Spiritual Liberty,
a movement of Purity and Wisdom,
all of which is understood by the word Sufi.


The word Sufi, according to Greek and Arabic etymologies, means 'wisdom' for the one, and 'purity' for the other. However both concepts clearly suggest one and the same Truth. Wisdom is only there when the mind is purified of preconceived ideas, the burdens of dogma and an unrestful conscience. As to the origins of Sufism, one could say that it is also just as ancient as the concepts of wisdom and purity, which have always been the inspiration of devotional worship all down the ages. In reality, Sufism is the essence of all religious ideals and has even been appropriated during different periods of history by large cultural and religious streams, without losing its own universal identity.

For a Sufi, the diversity of names and forms of the world's religious tendencies are like veils covering the phenomena of the 'Spirit of Guidance' manifested at all levels of evolution. This Inner Guidance is constantly present in the beautiful book of nature's mysteries, which reveals a never-ending Message of Love, providing one's understanding of the relationship between matter and spirit is in harmony with one's feeling heart.

This explains why one of the great ideals of the Sufi is the awakening of the heart qualities, resulting in a broader outlook. One's view then reaches far beyond concepts of faith and belief and allows one to offer tolerance to the tragic misunderstandings which divide the earnest followers of various religions and philosphical traditions. When offering, as brothers and sisters, to partake in carrying the burden of misunderstandings of others, the Sufi avoids any display of speculative theories, using only the language of the heart to communicate sympathy and dedication in support of the various interpretations of the one ideal of worship.

The aim of the Sufi is to release one's captive soul from the boundaries of the 'I' and 'my' concepts, by merging into the ecstasy of a spiritual ideal. The soul's freedom could be just as peaceful as that Ideal, but the Sufi is well aware that as long as there is the limitation of duality, as shown in the concepts of 'I' and 'my', the soul cannot really be free. This paradox is overcome through the realisation that the concepts of 'I' and 'my' are only illusions.

What we think of as 'I' is just our own perception of an individual entity functioning as part of an entire network. In the same way, a drop of water is an entity only as long as it is seen as a drop. But as soon as that drop is poured back into the ocean it is then all ocean-water. Therefore for the Sufi, the ideal which releases the soul from its boundaries is, in fact, the souls' own image, the soul itself, which knows not 'I' or 'my'.

Among the numberless purposes in our lives - which nevertheless could not be accomplished in a whole lifetime - one might take for granted that the essential ideals which secure a balanced condition between body,mind, heart and soul, are those related to the concept of life itself, such as, for instance, the desire to live fully, the urge for knowledge, the want for power, the longing for happiness and the need for peace.

To the question whether or not a material ideal could lead to an inner purpose, one might say that, seen from the point of view of the 'Divine Purpose', even a material ideal could very well be the outcome of a spiritual one. Therefore, every effort towards the fulfillment of one's life's purpose, whether the effort be material or spiritual, whether made consciously or unconsciously, brings one nearer, step by step, to the ultimate goal. Furthermore, this process can be seen as a humble contribution to the fulfillment of the 'Divine Purpose', since the entire creation is in a constant state of formation, all according to a central theme.

The purpose of life is not fulfilled only in rising to greatest heights, but also by diving deep into the deepest depths, whereby the self is lost, but finds itself gain as a result of the widening of its sphere of consciousness. It is just like the seed which finds the fulfillment of its purpose when rising as a plant and spreading out in full bloom in the rays of the sun, after having been lowered deep beneath the ground.

At the level of mystical understanding, according to Sufi esoteric teaching, this could be explained as the process of tuning the ego to a higher pitch. One values most that which one has made the greatest efforts to obtain, although paradoxically, the most valuable achievements are sometimes obtained with the least effort. Unfortunately, one does not always realise the real value of such achievements, unless one has learned the hard way to appreciate all that is bestowed upon one by the Grace of God.

There is no experience in life which is worthless. There is not one moment which is really wasted, providing one is wise enough to assemble the bits and pieces of past memories and learn from experience. The self, 'The Conscience', invariably rejoices or suffers unrest from positive or negative thoughts; or, when losing hold of itself, becomes radiant - being able, then, to focus all its creative energy on the reality of the Divine Presence.

However, the self is only the channel through which the soul is ultimately the 'spectator' of all happenings reflected as impressions. And like a mirror, the reflections perceived do not leave any traces on its pure surface.

Another subject found in Sufi teaching is the alchemy of happiness, which, as we know from fairy tales, is the use of a magic formula to turn base metal into gold. This mystical legend symbolises so beautifully the basic principle of the Inner School of the Sufis, where deep consideration is offered to the importance of transforming one's gross ego into a humble attitude of respect - awakening one's heart to the privilege in being the 'Temple of God', radiating love onto all who come one's way.

This inner consciousness can only be developed along a very thorny path called the 'Art of Personality'. This requires constant efforts to forge the character into a living example of love, harmony and beauty, so that one may be a bringer of happiness. Happiness is the birthright of all beings, although one may not always be conscious of the laws of happiness. These laws teach one that happiness is only there when one becomes an inspiration of happiness for others.

But how might this be accomplished? Through trying to appreciate what is good in another and overlooking that which disturbs one when others are not in accord with one's own thinking. By trying to see the point of view of others, with tolerance for their convictions, even though they are contrary to one's own. By trying to avoid judging the feelings of others, especially when involved with those whom one has once loved. By trying to attune oneself to the rhythm of all those whom one meets, and in whose company there might be a hidden guidance, as there always is in everything that happens in one's life, providing one has lost oneself in the ecstasy of Divine Presence.

Hazrat Inayat Khan





The Religion of the Heart


Hazrat Inayat Khan


If anybody asks you, "What is Sufism? What religion is it?", you may answer, "Sufism is the religion of the heart, the religion in which the most important thing is to seek God in the heart of mankind."
There are three ways of seeking God in the human heart.
The first way is to recognize God the divine in every person and to care for every person with whom we come in contact, in our thought, speech, and action. Human personality is very delicate. The more living the heart the more sensitive it is; that which causes sensitivity is the love element in the heart, and love is God.
The person whose heart is not sensitive is without feeling; his heart is not living, but dead. In that case the divine spirit is buried in his heart. A person who is always concerned with his own feelings is so absorbed in himself that he has no time to think of another. His whole attention is taken up with his own feelings: he pities himself, worries about his own pain, and is never open to sympathize with others. He who takes notice of the feelings of another person with whom he comes in contact, practices the first essential moral of Sufism.

The next way of practicing this religion is to think of the feelings of the person who is not at the moment before us. One feels for a person who is present, but one often neglects to feel for someone who is out of sight. One speaks well of someone to his face, but if one speaks well of someone when he is absent, that is greater. One sympathizes with the trouble of someone who is before one at the moment, but it is greater to sympathize with one who is far away.

The third way of realizing the Sufi principle is to recognize in one's own feeling the feeling of God and to realize every impulse that rises in one's heart as a direction from God. Realizing that love is a divine spark in one's heart, one blows that spark until a flame may rise to illuminate the path of one's life.

The symbol of the Sufi Order, which is a heart with wings, is symbolic of its ideal. The heart is both earthly and heavenly. The heart is a receptacle on earth of the divine spirit, and when it holds the divine spirit it soars heavenward; the wings picture its rising. The crescent in the heart symbolizes responsiveness; it is the heart that responds to the spirit of God that rises. The crescent is a symbol of responsiveness because it grows fuller by responding more and more to the sun as it progresses. The light one sees in the crescent is the light of the sun. It gets more light with increasing response, so it becomes fuller of the light of the sun. The star in the heart of the crescent represents the divine spark reflected in the human heart as love, which helps the crescent toward its fullness.

The Sufi Message is the message of the day. It does not bring theories or doctrines to add to those already existing, which puzzle the human mind. What the world needs today is the message of love, harmony, and beauty, the absence of which is the only tragedy of life. The Sufi Message does not give a new law. It wakens in humanity the spirit of brotherhood, with tolerance on the part of each for the religion of the other, and with forgiveness from each for the fault of the other. It teaches thoughtfulness and consideration, so as to create and maintain harmony in life; it teaches service and usefulness, which alone can make life in the world fruitful and in which lies the satisfaction of every soul.

Hazrat Inayat Khan



The Way of Illumination

Hazrat Inayat Khan

Excerpt: Ten Sufi Thoughts

There are ten principal Sufi thoughts,
which comprise all the important subjects
with which the inner life of man is concerned.

'There is One God, the Eternal, the Only Being; none exists save He.'

The god of the Sufi is the God of every creed, and the God of all. Names make no difference to him. Allah, God, Gott, Dieu, Khuda, Brahma, or Bhagwan, all these names and more ate the names of his God; and yet to him God is beyond the limitation of name. He sees his God in the sun, in the fire, in the idol which diverse sects worship; and he recognizes Him in all the forms of the universe, yet knowing Him to be beyond all form; God in all, and all in God, He being the Seen and the Unseen, the Only Being. God to the Sufi is not only a religious belief, but also the highest ideal the human mind can conceive.
The Sufi, forgetting the self and aiming at the attainment of the divine ideal, walks constantly all through life in the path of love and light. In God the Sufi sees the perfection of all that is in the reach of man’s perception and yet he knows him to be above human reach. He looks to Him as the lover to his beloved, and takes all things in life as coming from Him, with perfect resignation. The sacred name of God is to him as medicine to the patient. The divine thought is the compass by which he steers the ship to the shores of immortality. The God-ideal is to Sufi as a lift by which he raises himself to the eternal goal, the attainment of which is the only purpose of his life.

'There is One Master, the Guiding Spirit of all Souls, Who constantly leads His followers towards the light.'

The Sufi understands that although God is the source of all knowledge, inspiration, and guidance, yet man is the medium through which God chooses to impart His knowledge to the would. He imparts it through one who is a man in the eyes of the world, but God in his consciousness. It is the mature soul that draws blessings from the heavens, and God is busy speaking through all things, yet in order to speak to the deaf ears of many among us, it is necessary for Him to speak through the lips of a man. He has done this all through the history of man, every great teacher of the past having been this Guiding Spirit living the life of God in human guise. In other words, their human guise consists of various coats worn by the same person, who appeared to be different in each. Shiva, Buddha, Rama, Krishna on the one side, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed on the other; and many more, known or unknown to history, always one and the same person.
Those who saw the person and knew Him recognized Him in whatever form or guise; those who could only see the coat went astray. To the Sufi therefore there is only one Teacher, however differently He may be named at different periods of history, and He comes constantly to awaken humanity from the slumber of this life of illusion, and to guide man onwards towards divine perfection. As the Sufi progresses in this view he recognizes his Master, not only in the holy ones, but in the wise, in the foolish, in the saint and in the sinner, and has never allowed Master who is One alone, and the only One who can be and who ever will be, to disappear from his sight.
The Persian word for Master is Murshid. The Sufi recognizes the Murshid in all beings of the would, and is ready to learn from young and old, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, without questioning from whom he learns. Then he begins to see the light of Risalat, the torch of truth which shines before him in every being and thing in the universe, thus he sees Rasul, his Divine Message Bearer, a living identity before him. Thus the Sufi sees the vision of God, the worshipped deity, in His immanence, manifest in nature, and life now becomes for him a perfect revelation both within and without.
It is often for no other reason than clinging to the personality of their particular teacher, claiming for him superiority over other teachers, and degrading a teacher held in the same esteem by others, that people have separated themselves from one another, and caused most of the wars and factions and contentions which history records among the children of God.
What the Spirit of Guidance is, can be further explained as follows: as in man there is a faculty for art, music, poetry and science, so in him is the faculty or spirit of guidance. It is better to call it spirit because it is the supreme faculty from which all the others originate. As we see that in every person there is some artistic faculty, but not everyone is an artist, as everyone can hum a tune but only one in a thousand is a musician, so every person possesses this faculty in some form and to a limited degree. The spirit of guidance is found among few indeed of the human race.
A Sanskrit poet says, 'Jewels are stones, but cannot be found everywhere; the sandal tree is a tree, but does not grow in every forest; as there are many elephants, but only one king elephant, so there are human beings all over the world, but the real human being is rarely to be found.'
When we arise above faculty and consider the spirit of guidance, we shall find that it is consummated in the Bodhisatva, the spiritual teacher or divine messenger. There is a saying that the reformer is the child of civilization, but the prophet is its father. This spirit has always existed, and must always exist; and in this way from time to time the message of God has been given.

'There is One Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of nature, the only scripture which can enlighten the reader.'

Most people consider as sacred scriptures only certain books or scrolls written by hand of man, and carefully preserved as holy, to be handed down to posterity as divine revelation. Men have fought and disputed over the authenticity of these books, have refused to accept any other book of similar character, and, clinging thus to the book and losing the sense of it have formed diverse sects. The Sufi has all ages respected all such books, and has traced in the Vedanta, Zendavesta, Kabala, Bible, Qur'an, and all other sacred scriptures, the same truth which he reads in the incorruptible manuscript of nature, the only Holy Book, the perfect and living model that teaches the inner law of life: all scriptures before nature’s manuscript are as little pools of water before the ocean.
To the eye of the seer every leaf of the tree is a page of the holy book that contains divine revelation, and he is inspired every moment of his life by constantly reading and understanding the holy script of nature.
When man writes, he inscribes characters upon rock, leaf, paper, wood, or steel. When God writes, the characters He writes are living creatures. It is when the eye of the soul is opened and the sight is keen that the Sufi can read the divine law in the manuscript of nature; and they derived that which the teachers of humanity have taught to their followers from the same source. They expressed what little it is possible to express in words, and so they preserved the inner truth when they themselves were no longer there to reveal it.

'There is One Religion, the unswerving progress in the right direction towards the ideal, which fulfills the life's purpose of every soul.'

Religion in the Sanskrit language is termed Dharma, which means duty. The duty of every individual is religion. 'Every soul is born for a certain purpose, and the light of that purpose is kindled in his soul' says Sa'di. This explains why the Sufi in his tolerance allows every one to have his own path, and does not compare the principles of others with his own, but allows freedom of thought to everyone, since he himself is a freethinker.
Religion, in the conception of a Sufi, is the path that leads man towards the attainment of his ideal, worldly as well as heavenly. Sin and virtue, right and wrong, good and bad are not the same in the case of every individual; they are according to his grade of evolution and state of life. Therefore the Sufi concerns himself little with the name of the religion or the place of worship. All places are sacred enough for his worship, and all religious convey to him the religion of his soul. 'I saw Thee in the sacred Ka'ba and in the temple of the idol also Thee I saw.'

'There is One Law, the law of reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience, together with a sense of awakened justice.'

Man spends his life in the pursuit of all that seems to him to be profitable for himself, and when so absorbed in self-interest in time he even loses touch with his own real interest. Man has made laws to suit him, but they are laws by which he can get the better of another. It is this tat he calls justice, and it is only that which is done to him by another that he calls injustice. A peaceful and harmonious life with his fellow men cannot be led until the sense of justice has been awakened in him by a selfless conscience. As the judicial authorities of the world intervene between two persons who ate at variance, knowing that they have a right to intervene when the two parties in dispute ate blinded be personal interest, so the Almighty Power intervenes in all disputes however small or great.
It is the law of reciprocity, which saves man from being exposed to the higher powers, as a considerate man has less chance of being brought before the court. The sense of justice is awakened in a perfectly sober mind; that is, one which is free from the intoxication of youth, strength, power, possession, command, birth, or rank. It seems a net profit when one does not give but takes, or when one gives lass and takes more; but in either case there is really a greater loss than profit. For every such profit spreads a cover over the sense of justice within, and when many such covers have veiled the sight, man becomes blind even to his own profit. It is like standing in one’s own light. 'Blind here remains blind in the hereafter.'
Although the different religions, in teaching man how to act harmoniously and peacefully with his fellow-men, have given out different laws, they all meet in this one truth: do unto others as thou wouldst they should do unto thee. The Sufi, in taking a favor from another, enhances its value, and in accepting what another does to him he makes allowance.

'There is One Brotherhood, the human brotherhood which unites the children of earth indiscriminately in the Fatherhood of God.'

The Sufi understands that the one life emanating from the inner Being is manifested on the surface as the life of variety; and in this world of variety man is the finest manifestation, for he can realize in his evolution the oneness of the inner being even in the external existence of variety. But he evolves to this ideal, which is the only purpose of his coming on earth, by uniting himself with another.
Man unites with others in the family tie, which is the first step in his evolution, and yet families in the past have fought with each other, and have taken vengeance upon one another for generations, each considering his cause to be the only true and righteous one. Today man shows his evolution in uniting with his neighbors and fellow-citizens, and even developing within himself the spirit of patriotism for his nation. He is greater in this respect than those in the past; and yet men so united nationally have caused the catastrophe of the modern wars, which will be regarded by the coming generations in the same light in which we now regard the family feuds of the past.
There are racial bonds, which widen the circle of unity still more, but it has always happened that on race has looked down on the other.
The religious bond shows a still higher ideal. But it has caused diverse sects, which have opposed and despised each other for thousands of years, and have caused endless splits and divisions among men. The germ of separation exists even in such a wide scope for brotherhood, and however widespread the brotherhood may be; it cannot be a perfect one as long as it separates man from man.
The Sufi, realizing this, frees himself from national, racial, and religious boundaries, uniting himself in the human brotherhood, which is devoid of the differences and distinctions of class, caste, creed, race, nation, or religion, and unites mankind in the universal brotherhood.

'There is One Moral, the love which springs forth from self-denial and blooms in deeds of beneficence.'

There are moral principles taught to mankind by various teachers, by many traditions, one differing from the other, which are like separate drops coming out of the fountain. But when we look at the steam, we find there is but one stream, although it turns into several drops on falling. There are many moral principles, just as many drops fall from one fountain; but there is one stream that is at the source of all, and that is love. It is love that gives birth to hope, patience, endurance, forgiveness, tolerance, and to all moral principles. All deeds of kindness and beneficence take root in the soil of the loving heart. Generosity, charity, adaptability, an accommodating nature, ever renunciation, are the offspring of love alone. The great, rare and chosen beings, who for ages have been looked up to as ideal in the world, are the possessors of hearts kindled with love. All evil and sin come from the lack of love.
People call love blind, but love in reality is the light of the sight. The eye can only see the surface; love can see much deeper. All ignorance is the lack of love. As fore when not kindled gives only smoke, but when kindled, the illumination flame springs forth, so it is with love. It is blind when undeveloped, but, when its fire is kindled, the flame that lights the path of the traveler from mortality to everlasting life springs forth. The secrets of earth and heaven ate revealed to the possessor of the loving heart, the lover has gained mastery over himself and others, and he not only communes with God but also unites with Him.
'Hail to thee, then, O love, sweet madness! Thou who healest all our infirmities! Who art the physician of our pride and self-conceit! Who art our Plato and our Galen!' says Rumi.

'There is One Object of Praise, the beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshippers through all aspects from the seen to the unseen.'

It is said in the Hadith, 'God is beautiful, and He loves beauty.'
This expresses the truth that man, who inherits the Spirit of God, has beauty in him and loves beauty, although that which is beautiful to one is not beautiful to another. Man cultivates the sense of beauty as he evolves, and prefers the higher aspect of beauty to the lower. But when he has observed the highest vision of beauty is the Unseen by a gradual evolution from praising the beauty in the seen would, then the entire existence becomes to him one single vision of beauty. Man has worshipped God, beholding the beauty of sun, moon, stars, and planets. He has worshipped God in plants, in animals. He has recognized God in the beautiful merits of man, and he has with his perfect view of beauty found the source of all beauty in the Unseen, from whence all this springs, and in who all is merged.
The Sufi, realizing this, worships beauty in all its aspects, and sees the face of the Beloved in all that is seen and the Beloved’s spirit in the Unseen. So wherever he looks his ideal of worship is before him. 'Everywhere I look, I see Thy winning face; everywhere I go, I arrive at Thy dwelling-place.'

'There is One Truth, the true knowledge of our being, within and without, which is the essence of all wisdom.'

Hazrat Ali says, 'Know thyself, and thou shalt know God.'
It is the knowledge of self, which blooms into the knowledge of God. Self-knowledge answers such problems as: whence have I come? Did I existed before I became conscious of my present existence? If I existed, as what did I exist? As an individual such as I now am, or as a multitude, or as an insect, bird, animal, spirit, jinn, or angel? What happens at death, the change to which every creature is subject? Why do I tarry here awhile? What purpose have I to accomplish here? What is my duty in life? In what does my happiness consist, and what is it that makes my life miserable? Those whose hearts have been kindled by the light from above, begin to ponder such questions but those whose souls are already illumined by the knowledge of the self understand them. It is they who give to individuals or to the multitudes the benefit of their knowledge, so that even men whose hearts are not yet kindled, and whose souls are not illuminated, may be able to walk on the right path that leads to perfection.
This is why people are taught in various languages, in various forms of worship, in various tenets in different parts of the world. It is one and the same truth; it is only seen in diverse aspects appropriate to the people and the time. It is only those who do not understand this who can mock at the faith of another, condemning to hell of destruction those who do not consider their faith to be the only true faith.
The Sufi recognizes the knowledge of self as the essence of all religions; he traces it in every religion, he sees the same truth in each, and therefore he regards all as one. Hence he can realize the saying of Jesus; 'I and my Father are one.' The difference between creature and Creator remains on his lips, not in his soul. This is what is meant by union with God. It is in reality the dissolving of the false self in the knowledge of the true self, which is divine, eternal, and all pervading. 'He who attaineth union with God, his very self must lose,' said Amir.

'There is One Path, the annihilation of the false ego in the real, which raises the mortal to immortality, in which resides all perfection.'

I passed away into nothingness-I vanished; and lo! I was all living.' All who have realized the secret of life understand that life is one, but that is exists in two aspects. First as immortal, all-pervading and silent; and secondly as mortal, active, and manifest in variety. The soul being of the first aspect becomes deluded, helpless, and captive by experiencing life in contact with the mind and body, which is of the next aspect. The gratification of the desires of the body and fancies of the mind do not suffice for the purpose of the soul, which is undoubtedly to experience its own phenomena in the seen and the unseen, though its inclination is to be itself and not anything else. When delusion makes it feel that it is helpless, mortal and captive, it finds itself out of place. This is the tragedy of life, which keeps the strong and the weak, the rich and poor, all dissatisfied, constantly looking for something they do not know. The Sufi, realizing this, takes the path of annihilation, and, by the guidance of a teacher on the path, finds at the end of this journey that the destination was he. As Iqbal says:
'I wandered in the pursuit of my own self; I was the traveler, and I am the destination.'

From "The Way of Illumination"



Discourses of Rumi
(Fihi ma Fihi)


Gratitude is a hunting and a shackling of benefits. When you hear the voice of gratitude, you get ready to give more. When God loves a servant He afflicts him; if he endures with fortitude, he chooses him; if he is grateful, He elects him. Some men are grateful to God for His wrathfulness and some are grateful to Him for His graciousness. Each of the two classes is good; for gratitude is a sovereign antidote, changing wrath into grace. The intelligent and perfect man is he who is grateful for harsh treatment, both openly and in secret; for it is he whom God has elected. If God's will be the bottom reach of Hell, by gratitude His purpose is hastened.
For outward complaining is a diminution of inward complaining. Muhammad said, peace be upon him, 'I laugh as I slay.' That means, 'My laughing in the face of him who is harsh to me is a slaying of him.' The intention of laughter is gratitude in the place of complaining.
It is related that a certain Jew lived next door to one of the Companions of God's Messenger. This Jew lived in an upper room, whence descended into the Muslim's apartment all kinds of dirt and filth, the piddle of his children, the water his clothes were washed in. Yet the Muslim always thanked the Jew, and bade his family do the same. So things continued for eight years, until the Muslim died. Then the Jew entered his apartment, to condole with the family, and saw all the filth there, and how it issued from his upper room. So he realised what had happened during the past years, and was exceedingly sorry, and said to the Muslim's household, 'Why on earth didn't you tell me? Why did you always thank me? they replied, 'Our father used to bid us be grateful, and chided us against ceasing to be grateful.' So the Jew became a believer.

 The mentioning of virtuous men Encourages to virtue then, Just as the minstrel with his song. Urges the wine to pass along.
For this reason God has mentioned in the Koran His prophets and those of His servants who were righteous, and thanked them for what they did unto Him who is All-powerful and All-forgiving.
Gratitude for sucking the breast is a blessing. Though the breast be full, until you suck it the milk does not flow.
Someone asked: What is the cause of ingratitude, and what is that prevents gratitude?

The Master answered: The preventer of gratitude is inordinate greed. For whatever a man may get, he was greedy for more than that. It was inordinate greed that impelled him to that, so that when he got less than what he had set his heart upon his greed prevented him from being grateful. So he was heedless of his own defect, and heedless also of the defect and adulteration of the coin he proffered.

Raw and inordinate greed is like eating raw fruit and raw bread and raw meat; inevitably it generates sickness and begets ingratitude. When a man realises that he has eaten something unwholesome, a purge becomes necessary. God most High in His wisdom makes him suffer through ingratitude so that he may be purged and rid of that corrupt conceit, lest that one sickness become a hundred sicknesses.

"And we tried them with good things and evil,
that haply they should return."

That is to say: We made provision for them from whence they had never reckoned, namely the unseen world, so that their gaze shrinks form beholding the secondary causes, which are as it were partners to God. It was in this sense that Abú Yazid said, 'Lord, I have never associated any with Thee.' God most High said, 'O Abú Yazid, not even on the night of the milk? You said one night, "The milk has done me harm." It is I who do harm, and benefit.' Abú Yazid has looked at the secondary cause, so that God reckoned him a polytheist and said, 'It is I do harm, after the milk and before the milk; but I made the milk for a sin, and the harm for a correction such as a teacher administers.'

When the teacher says, 'Don't eat the fruit,' and the pupils eats it, and the teacher beats him on the sole of his foot, it is not right for the pupil to say, 'I ate the fruit and it hurt my foot.' On this basis, whoso preserves his tongue from ascribing partners to God, God undertakes to cleanse his spirit of the weeds of polytheism. A little with God is much.

The difference between giving praise and giving thanks is that thanks are given for benefits received. One does not say, 'I gave thanks to him for his beauty and his bravery.' Praise giving is more general.




Freedom and Involvement


Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan


As we exhale, we consider that we are an extension of the Divine exhaling. In the course of that exhaling, in that flow, the sublime mystery moving the universe gets manifested and actuated at the existential level, in the universe, and in the cosmos, and in us. Our motivations become an expression of that Divine nostalgia, that the treasures hidden virtually in the world of mystery should become actuated in what we call the world of reality.

This is typically Sufi because whereas the way of the ascetic is to give up the world, this is really a validation of our wish to build a beautiful world of beautiful people. Instead of thinking that goes counter to the spiritual ideal, it is the fulfillment of the Divine purpose. We don't have to have guilt feelings if we want to build a beautiful house, and have beautiful music or clothing, as long as it is really an expression of the Divine impulse that we call Ishq Allah. As soon as that impulse gets distorted by our ego, our identifying with a fraction of ourselves, it can turn against itself and have disastrous effects, cruelty, and violence, and all those things we see in the world today. So really the Sufi method here is to try and feel that Divine impulse in our motivations.

As we inhale it's the other way around. We are trying to actuate our nostalgia for making the sublime into beauty and majesty, the feminine and masculine. In order to do so, we involve ourselves with people, and with situations which are confining; therefore it is always at the cost of our freedom. We are pulled in the opposite direction at the same time, which is our longing for freedom. So as we inhale, we give vent to this need for freedom.

Our inhaling is an extension of the Divine inhaling whereby, according to Sufis, God draws the quintessence of what has been gained by existence back into the software of the universe as feedback. That's why Jalaluddin Rumi says, "Tonight the umpteen stars give birth to the life eternal." What he is saying is that which is ephemeral will become eternal. As we inhale we give vent to our need for freedom, because in order to extract the quintessence of what we have gained by life, which is wisdom, we need to give up the dross, to give up a lot of the contingent aspects. To put it more clearly, this could be illustrated by the extraction of perfume from a flower. The dross has got to be rejected so that we can just keep the essence. This is what we're experiencing. Our need is not to give up the world but to try to extract the quintessence of the wisdom of what we've gained by our experience that will never die. It also means letting go of those aspects of our life that confine and limit us.

That is what we have to look into very deeply. What does it mean exactly? Pir-o-Murshid said something that has been recorded in two ways and I'm not sure which is correct. One is "You loosen the ties, "and the other is "You break through the ties." We need to look into those ties to see if they confine us externally, in a circumstantial way. You know we can be free in our spirit while bound in our circumstances. To free ourselves from circumstances would not be real freedom. Rather, we must ask, "How have I developed dependence upon conditions in my thinking and in my emotions?" That would be an addiction. "Can I, therefore, accept limitation in my circumstances while finding a way of freedom in my soul?" This is a thought that we are grappling with in our lives, the degree to which we find freedom, and the degree to which we are involved by our interests.

On this subject Pir-o-Murshid is very, very clear. He says everything that has been gained in life is the result of interest. This is not the way of indifference, the way of the ascetic. He says, "The power that you gain by pursuing your interest will give you the ability to take upon yourself a greater challenge than you have taken on so far."

We gain in power by pursuing our purpose in life. For Murshid, the purpose in life is extremely important. How we handle situations and what we accomplish in life is very important. Then he says, "Your motivation does limit that power." If our motivation is for personal gain, for example, that certainly limits our power. The ultimate thing is for our motivation not to be personal, but for service. If we can do that, then he says, that could be interpreted as being indifference or detachment, which is the way of the ascetic. The ideal is to be in life, to involve ourselves and yet somehow, in the depth of our soul, not to become dependent on the underpinning of the circumstances. I keep on repeating an idea of Shahabuddin who once said, "The support system takes over." That's exactly what happens to us in our lives, the support system takes over. For example, one might put so much energy into building the base camps for an Everest expedition that there is no energy and no money left to reach the top. That’s what we're doing.

This requires a lot of insight on our part. If we are a teacher, that is if we take responsibility to help guide people in their lives, we have to understand the motivations of those people. We will have to have had those motivations in ourselves, so we're able to understand where those motivations come from. Then we've got to have found some kind of freedom. Otherwise we can't free other people from their dependence upon conditions. The conditions break down, so we've got to help people find some kind of immunity against disaster. That is the way of indifference, of detachment. This is a very subtle teaching. It cuts right into our problems.

We need to be very careful when we do the breathing practices that we don't determine the inhaling and exhaling ourselves, that we don't cut in with our will. The way to avoid that is to think that the rhythm of our breath, the ebb and flow, is an expression of the ebb and flow of the total universe. Here we have this ebb and flow, Divine exhaling and Divine inhaling. If we do that, then our breathing can be much slower without forcing ourselves.

We exhale and experience the descent of the total being, as us, into the cosmos in search of the fulfillment of Ishq Allah, a longing to bring heaven on earth, to make our dreams come true. We experience the nostalgia that is a basic drive behind our life. Just feel that nostalgia very deeply, that very deep nostalgia, what life means to us. Personal wishes are, perhaps, very inadequate expressions of our deep nostalgia, which we cannot define in words. If we can get in touch with our deeper feelings, then we realize what is really important for us.

Then as we inhale, we can look upon our life, our situation. It's clear that in order to pursue our nostalgia, we had to involve ourselves in responsibilities which were constraining, and in relationships which represent some kind of curtailment of our freedom. We see how it is our understanding of that involvement that gives us a sense of freedom. Ultimately, what is important is our realization, how our realization can be affected by our lives, or how independent our realization can be from the limitation of our circumstances.

Maybe we feel a need. It's not just a longing. It's an imperative, almost desperate, need for freedom. The more involved we are, the more imperative our need is. The whole of Buddhism was a quest for freedom. The message that Pir-o-Murshid announces is the message of spiritual freedom. We see that in general we involve ourselves in situations out of concern for personal freedom. There is chaos. That's a price we pay for the most valuable thing, which is freedom, except that, in general, the idea of freedom is misunderstood. Real freedom is to be able to pursue the purpose of our soul. Our personal interests do not represent our freedom. In fact they represent confinement, a trap. We aren't free just to be able to follow our fantasies, our whims. That's not freedom. We are in search of the ultimate freedom. That will be enhanced as we inhale. Buddha calls it freedom from conditioning. We are conditioned and we don't know it. That's why the Sufis say, "Oh man you are free. It's your ignorance of your freedom that is your captivity." It's not the external circumstances that confine us. It's not realizing our freedom.

To be free in ourselves would mean that nobody can insult us, nobody can hurt us, nobody can grab us with their will --just like that woman in the South who was being lynched who said, "You can do what you like with my body, but you can't touch my soul." That's why the Muslims say that they never crucified Christ. All they grabbed was his body. Can we just feel what it's like to be free, free in our being?

One of the features of this freedom, that Pir-o-Murshid says is in the core of our being, is something like a mirror that cannot be stained by the impressions upon it. The immaculate core of our being is totally immune from our own guilt. It's the saving grace, the ultimate refuge against our dissatisfaction with ourselves. It's a mitigating factor that can turn the tables on the law, because grace is always an exception to the law.

In this context, I think we are ready to look at our motivations. That is called muhasibi; we observe ourself as though we were another person, objectively, without personal bias, without efforts of justification or any kind of judgmental assessment whatever. It starts by asking ourselves very simple questions like, "Why am I doing what I'm doing?" The second question is, "What are my motivations in my relationship with another person? Is it something that I want to gain for what I think is my own well being, or what I consider the well being of that person, or is it an oath or whatever?" It's a matter of being very honest. Is there any manipulation there? Or is it absolutely up front? Muhasibi can be extended to dialogue between people, asking each other what we are expecting from the other, or expressing disappointment because our expectations were not met; but we have to be very clear as to what those expectations are.

Then we have to ask ourselves the next question, which is much more difficult to answer. That is, "What is it that I value? What are the things in life that I prioritize over others?" In fact we could make a whole catalog of values, what is called a scale of values. "I like this, in fact I’m trying to pursue this thing that I delight in. It's true there is something else that I value more. If it came to having to make a choice, would I opt for the thing I value more? That is, would I sacrifice the thing I value less. If I'm not prepared to do that, then I cannot say the value I would have liked but have not pursued is a real value. It's fictitious because I can't implement it by my actions." That is what Pir-o-Murshid calls the ideal. Pir-o-Murshid was very realistic when he said, "Shatter your ideal on the rock of truth." We can formulate all kinds of ideals, but I don't think they qualify as motivations unless we are prepared to make the sacrifice that is required to pursue them. They remain idyllic.

This practice must be done without judgment. It's not, "I should be pursuing a higher ideal, but I'm not prepared to make the sacrifices." No, if we deny ourselves our personal wishes excessively, we will feel sorry for ourselves and will not have the joy we need in order to pursue our higher ideals. It's different for each person. We have to know exactly what balance to maintain between those ideals that we really wish to pursue and those personal needs that will keep us from being sorry for ourselves, and give us a certain amount of fulfillment.

The next step is the culmination: to see how our motivations are an expression of the Divine impulse towards manifestation. It is to feel that impulse, to become conscious of it moving us towards the fulfillment of our life's purpose, instead of being constrained within our personal identity. The way to do it is to think of ourselves as a funnel which includes the large end and the small end and all that is in between.

There is no doubt that pursuing our ideal gives us what is called spiritual power, and confidence, and validation of our self-image. In fact it makes us into a hero. Pursuing our personal objective gives us a kind of personal power, it might be ruthless and merciless and can lead to manipulation, causing a lot of suffering amongst victims of our whims, as we see in the history of the world. That's not power. It can all of a sudden collapse when confronted with Divine power, or even when confronted with the truth, like some of the Nazi war criminals who were confronted with the commission of investigation. They started collapsing. They were very powerful, but their power didn't last. Christ did not relent when facing the power of Rome.

I say this because, if we purport to be teachers, just giving guidance and understanding, that's not what people are ultimately looking for. We have to become a powerhouse upon which they build their houses. It's true that we're not teaching people to believe in this or that or the other thing; but I think that once we have seen something, that's what is called realization, then our faith comes into the picture. Then we trust what we've seen. Ultimately our faith is what people are hanging onto in their disbelief. As Pir-o-Murshid describes it, it’s like swimming, but we're swimming with a person who is floundering in the water. Not only do we have to be able to keep ourselves afloat, but we have to keep afloat that person who is a dead weight and not able to save him/herself. That’s where our faith is being very much tapped by people of little faith. If we start doubting what our realization revealed, then we cause the person who is looking to us for our support to sink in the water. It is better not to undertake that project at all to start with. When we realize that we embody the power of the hierarchy of the masters, saints, and prophets, we establish a connection. It gives us empowerment.

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan



Light in the Chakras


Pir Vilayat Khan


The following is a variation of a healing and balancing practice that Pir Vilayat Khan has often used in retreats-- good in early morning or at night.

This practice focuses awareness on the "mantle of light" that stands behind the physical body. This body of light is a very subtle reality, given emphasis in spiritual traditions throughout the world. It is an organizing structure that corresponds to the various chakras, the energy centers described in yoga and eastern medicine.

These centers receive impressions in day-to-day experience. Many of the impressions become lodged in the centers, and consequently deaden a certain area or energy meridian. This practice brings the release of impressions and a revitalization of the chakras.

Imagine you are facing an extremely bright light, like a large searchlight. Feel the light permeating your cells. The cells, in response to the light, begin to open and come alive. Feel your body to be transparent, like a quartz crystal, as you allow the light to penetrate throughout your being. Try to maintain this concentration for at least five minutes.

Now begin to become aware of a subtle aura around your body, a rainbow of colors. In the steps which follow, each of the chakras and its corresponding colors will be a focus for concentration. Try to spend at least two minutes on each chakra and color, and place your fingers on the chakra to help in maintaining the concentration. As you concentrate upon the chakra, imagine that the colored light is radiating, purifying and clearing impressions and memories that block the chakras.

While touching the general area of the chakra, breathe in with the thought of bringing the chakra alive, of instilling it with life energy, and breath out with the thought of radiating energy and light from the chakra.

First chakra:
This is located at the base of the spine, the point of contact with the earth. The color is reddish brown, a very subdued light. The light here sometimes seems blocked by the sheer denseness of matter. Feel your being solid and rock-like.

Second chakra:
This is the seat of the ego and of sexual energy, located in the small of the back, between the navel and the pubic bone, about three inches above the bottom chakra. The color is salmon. There is a sensitive point at the center of this chakra. Feel the strength and suppleness of the chakra, and accentuate it by concentrating on the color. Feel the connection with your primal, instinctual wish for survival.

Third chakra:
The next chakra is located at the solar plexus. This is the center most associated with the emotions. The color is ochre, or orange-yellow. There is often much stress and constriction surrounding this chakra. After concentrating upon the color, hold your hand out about five inches away from the solar plexus, palm facing your chest. Rotate your palm slowly in a clockwise direction, and have the sense of unwinding and releasing the constriction. Your hand thus sweeps around the solar plexus, and you will feel a definite effect of release from this movement.

Fourth chakra:
The next chakra, the heart center, is located about three inches directly above the solar plexus, in the center of the chest. A rich, golden light is central to this chakra. Concentration upon this color gives a sense of strength. It is especially useful when one is feeling depleted or in need of psychic protection. One could imagine a shield of golden light surrounding the chest. You will feel a sensitive point in the center of the rib cage that is the exterior center of this chakra. This center is the place where spirit and matter meet, the place of the alchemical marriage.

Fifth chakra:
The next chakra is located at the throat. Its center is at the point where the head and base of the neck meet. The color of this chakra is a deep emerald green, signifying the dispensation of a life-giving energy. This chakra, associated with sound and expression, is the accommodation through which the spiritual realms speak to us, through which guidance and creativity come.

Subsidiary chakra -the eyes:
The color associated with the physical eyes is sky blue. Some Tibetan Buddhists utilize this color as a singular object for concentration, in order to attain a very peaceful condition. As you inhale, imagine that you are looking at the deep blue sky, and that you could drink in the blue light through your eyes. Reverse the process on the exhalation, and exhale the light, , along with any tension that the eyes hold. Repeat the breath and the concentration a few times.

Sixth chakra:
The next chakra, sometimes termed the "third eye", is located in the center of the forehead. A subtle, violet light is associated with this chakra. It is the seat of intuition and insight. From this center, certain glands release the body's natural relaxing agents during meditation.

Seventh chakra:
The last chakra, the "crown center", extends as a series of concentric circles around the head. A diaphanous white color is associated with this center. Imagine being in a moonlit landscape of ice and snow, high in the mountains, at night. Allow the spaciousness and the rarefied air to permeate your being. Feel the part of your being that is detached, peaceful and free.. The crown center has no boundaries and from it one's consciousness may reach out into the cosmos.

After concentrating on each chakra from bottom chakra to the top, you might again imagine another rainbow of colors, more subtle, which begins at the crown center, and which extends further and further out from the body. The ordering of the light remains the same but the colors continue to become finer and finer. You can continue the concentration to still another rainbow, ad infinitum, moving further into an abstract plane of consciousness.

Pir Vilayat Khan



Excerpt from

Awakening: A Sufi Experience

by   Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan


Imagine for a moment that you are a visitor from the far reaches of the Universe who has just landed on earth. If you revive the memory of the worlds you left behind, you will possess a rare knowledge that is not shared by most of the inhabitants of this small planet: a wide perspective and broad overview of the mystery of existence. In fact, you are a citizen of the Universe -- not just the physical world, but all levels and spheres of reality. Perhaps you decided to come to earth because you wanted to experience its unique environment. Or maybe your motivation was to make a mark, or to improve humankind's circumstances. In order to achieve these tasks, however, it was necessary to assume a body molded out of the fabric of your parents and ancestors; you chose them for the purposes of incarnation. As time passes, you became more adapted to your new physical and social environment -- you worked hard, fell in love, developed friendships, started a family, and traveled the world. Gradually, the memory of your original home began to recede from consciousness, until finally it disappeared altogether.

For a while, your life on earth went smoothly; you were happy. Then you were affected by a major crisis, a personal upheaval, and life no longer seemed so certain. You began to feel restless and uneasy. The circumstances of your life felt frustrating, and you yearned for freedom. Stirred by nostalgia for something you couldn't even put a name on, you began looking up at the stars. Likewise, you started to feel an affinity with the trees, the butterflies, the sun, the animals, and the birds. In the vast reaches of the sky and the sweetness of nature, you rediscovered something of yourself that had been forgotten. Swept by feelings of awe and wonder, you began to have a dialogue within yourself about the nature of reality, and to question the source of all the beauty, suffering, and mystery of creation. Something incredible seemed to lie just behind the surface of things -- yet the answer eluded you, slipping beyond the grasp of your realization.

Then suddenly, after years of searching, all the memories of your previous existence came back to you in a flash of awakening. Like the rediscovery of a precious relic hidden beneath layers of dirt, you rediscovered your true self, your real identity, which had been buried and forgotten in the depths of your unconscious. Once again, you could see through the vastly expanded perspective of this cosmic self, rather than the narrow vantage point of your earthly identity. It was as if the scales had fallen from your eyes; you possessed an x-ray-like intelligence that penetrated the truth concealed by the veil of creation -- the revelation of the glory of the Universe -- the One Being people called God. The miracle was that as you awakened, so, too, did the whole Universe.

From the dance of the atoms and the choreography of the galaxies to the unfurling of a flower and the struggle for self-esteem in those who had been broken by life, the entire Cosmos resounded with the clarion call, "Awaken!" And though you found that you still had the same body, personality, relationships, and responsibilities as before, your experience of these circumstances had shifted dramatically: your awareness had become the lens through which God looked out upon the physical world; you had become "the eyes through which God sees." Your glance was the divine glance.

In this parable is contained the essence of Sufism -- the story of every soul's descent into existence, its experiences of suffering brought about by separation from its original state of being, and the subsequent journey of return and reawakening to its Divine nature. For from the moment the soul assumes a physical form, the memory of the celestial spheres from which it has descended is obscured; we remain conscious only of the things that have occurred to us since our birth. But the lost knowledge of the Universe still resides within our unconscious. Like an archaeologist who picks and tunnels through layers of stone, we can retrieve that knowledge by deepening and expanding our consciousness through meditation, prayer, and glorification. We get a feeling for what the state prior to our birth is like when we see the light in the eyes of a baby and think, as I often have, "I've seen this before. I remember that."

Indeed, the secret of Sufism is to shift from the vantage point of our personal point of view to the divine point of view. Very simply, our being is made up of two poles of consciousness: the individual, personal self and the Divine, higher self. It is at the pole of the personal dimension of consciousness that we experience constraint and limitation. While we may think that our circumstances are the cause of this frustration, the real source lies in not being aware of our higher self. Thus, the goal in meditation is to reconnect our personal self to this transpersonal dimension of our being.

Another way to picture this process is to think of consciousness as it were a pendulum. At one end is the dimension of our being that is transient and evanescent, or continually changing and transforming through a process of evolution. At the other end of this pendulum is that part of consciousness that remains immortal and unchanged. Thus our whole being could be said to be a continuity in change -- just as it's never the same water that passes under the bridge, yet at the same time it's the same river. Each of these poles embodies a specific mode of consciousness.

Sufis make a distinction between acquired knowledge and revealed knowledge. Acquired knowledge is the information that we accumulate during the course of our everyday experience of life. But when we begin to view life through the antipodal standpoint -- seeing through the eyes of God -- then we access an inborn, intuitive, revealed knowledge that exists irrespective of the human condition. Meditation is the art of moving back and forth between two perspectives -- the human and the Divine -- downplaying one level in order to highlight the other. Eventually, we learn to extrapolate meaning from the synthesis of these different levels. This state is what I call awakening in life. For the culmination of the soul's journey of awakening is not just returning to its original state. Instead, it is how the soul has evolved through its passage on earth: what meaning has been extracted from its experiences; what archetypal qualities have unfolded as a result of the immense difficulties it has endured; and the unique way each soul's unfoldment has contributed to the evolution of the Universe itself.

Some may wonder what relevance such metaphysical truths have for the modern world -- especially a world that appears to be moving farther away from the values of the ancient mystics and toward an increasingly impersonal, complex, and technological future. But it would seem that the times we live in underscore even more dramatically the need to distinguish between what has lasting value and what is only of passing worth; what takes the soul farther away from the Divine, and what brings it closer.

The whole Cosmos moves as a pendulum: the past and the future, transience and eternity, human and Divine. It is out of the ever-constant back-and-forth dialogue between these two poles that the future is created. I believe that the future is not just something waiting for us; it is something that is built by sorting through the past for that which belongs to tomorrow; it is a continual work-in-progress that takes place in every era and that occurs through each individual's innovative, imaginative, and conscious participation. It is what I call spiritual evolution.

As history proves, this process is one that stirs enormous resistance and difficulty. That the future is something we create, rather than passively endure, fills many with a sense of trepidation. To abandon the comfortable but worn-out values of the past feels like a free-fall into chaotic upheaval. But to fall back upon the comfort of the past, rather than move forward into the future, is to miss the rare cosmic opening that occurs in the flash of time between the past and the future in which it is possible to begin a new chapter in the evolving story of humankind. "The pull of the future," wrote Leonhard Euler, "is stronger than the push of the past." But what exactly is "the future"? According to the Sufi worldview, the future means different things to different people. To some, the future is predetermined -- a fate fixed in stone that they must passively surrender to, in blind acquiescence. Others regard the future as something that can be molded according to their individual will. From my perspective, the future appears to be an outcome of both -- and something much more.

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Excerpt from 'Awakening: A Sufi Experience'




First of all he came into the inert world.
From minerality he developed, into the realm of vegetation.
For years he lived thus.
Then he passed into an animal state,
yet bereft of any memory of his being vegetable--
except for his attraction to Spring and to blossoms.
This was something like the innate desire of an infant for its mother's breast.
Or like the affinity of disciples for an illustrious guide.
When the shadow is no more,
they know the cause of their attachment to the teacher. . . .

From realm to realm man went, reaching his present reasoning,
knowledgeable, robust state; forgetting earlier forms of intelligence.
So too shall he pass beyond the current form of perception.
There are a thousand other forms of Mind. . . .

But he has fallen asleep.
He will say: "I had forgotten my fulfillment,
ignorant that sleep and fancy were the cause of my sufferings."
He says: "My sleeping experiences do not matter."
Come, leave such asses to their meadow.
Because of necessity, man acquires organs.
So, necessitous one, increase your need.

Originally you were clay.
From being mineral, you became vegetable.
From vegetable, you became animal, and from animal, man.
During these periods man did not know where he was going,
but he was being taken on a long journey nonetheless.
And you have to go through a hundred different worlds yet.

I have again and again grown like grass;
I have experienced seven hundred and seventy molds.
I died from minerality and became vegetable;
And from vegetativeness I died and became animal.
I died from animality and became man.
Then why fear disappearance and death?

Next time I shall die bringing forth wings and feathers like angels:
After that soaring higher than angels--
What you cannot imagine. I shall be that.
Work is not what people think it is.
It is not just something which,
when it is operating, you can see from outside.
How long shall we, in the Earth-world, like children
fill our laps with dust and stones and scraps?

Let us leave earth and fly to the heavens,
Let us leave babyhood and go to the assembly of Man.
You have a duty to perform.
Do anything else, do any number of things, occupy your time fully,
and yet, if you do not do this task, all your time will have been wasted.

The people of Love are hidden within the populace;
Like a good man surrounded by the bad.
The hidden world has its clouds and rain, but of a different kind.
Its sky and sunshine are of a different kind.
This is made apparent only to the refined ones--
those not deceived by the seeming completeness of the ordinary world.

A man may be in an ecstatic state,
and another man may try to rouse him.
It is considered good to do so.
Yet this state may be bad for him,
and the awakening may be good for him.
Rousing a sleeper is good or bad according to who is doing it.
If the rouser is of greater attainment,
this will elevate the state of the other person.
If he is not, it will deteriorate the consciousness of the other man.

Jalaludin Rumi


Attar's Seven Valleys of Love

The Valley of the Quest


When you enter the first valley, the Valley of the Quest, a hundred difficulties will assail you; you will undergo a hundred trials. There, the Parrot of heaven is no more than a fly. You will have to spend several years there, you will have to make great efforts, and to change your state. You will have to give up all that has seemed precious to you and regard as nothing all that you possess. When you are sure that you possess nothing, you still will have to detach yourself from all that exists. Your heart will then be saved from perdition and you will see the pure light of Divine Majesty and your real wishes will be multiplied to infinity. One who enters here will be filled with such longing that he will give himself up completely to the quest symbolized by this valley. He will ask of his cup-bearer a draught of wine, and he has drunk it nothing will matter except the pursuit of his true aim. Then he will no longer fear the dragons, the guardians of the door, which seek to devour him. When the door is opened and he enters, then dogma, belief and unbelief--all cease to exist.

The Valley of Love

The next valley is the Valley of Love. To enter it one must be a flaming fire--what shall I say? A man must himself be fire. The face of the lover must be enflamed, burning and impetuous as fire. True love knows no after-thoughts; with love, good and evil cease to exist.
But as for you, the heedless and careless, this discourse will not touch you, your teeth will not even nibble at it. A loyal person stakes ready money, stakes his head even, to be united to his Friend. Others content themselves with what they will do for you tomorrow. If he who sets out on this way will not engage himself wholly and completely he will never be free from the sadness and melancholy which weigh him down. Until the falcon reaches his aim, he is agitated and distressed. If a fish is thrown onto the beach by the waves it struggles to get back into the water.
In this valley, love is represented by fire, and reason by smoke. When love comes reason disappears. Reason cannot live with the folly of love; love has nothing to do with human reason. If you possessed inner sight, the atoms of the visible world would be manifested to you. But if you look at things with the eye of ordinary reason you will never understand how necessary it is to love. Only a man who has been tested and is free can feel this. He who undertakes this journey should have a thousand hearts so that he can sacrifice one at every moment.

The Valley of Understanding

After the valley of which I have spoken, there comes another--the Valley of Understanding, which has neither beginning nor end. No way is equal to this way, and the distance to be travelled to cross it is beyond reckoning.
Understanding, for each traveller, is enduring; but knowledge is temporary. The soul, like the body, is in a state of progress or decline; and the Spiritual Way reveals itself only in the degree to which the traveller has overcome his faults and weaknesses, his sleep and his inertia, and each will approach nearer to his aim according to his effort. Even if a gnat were to fly with all its might could it equal the speed of the wind? There are different ways of crossing this Valley, and all birds do not fly alike. Understanding can be arrived at variously--some have found the Mihrab, others the idol. When the sun of understanding brightens this road, each receives light according to his merit and he finds the degree assigned to him in the understanding of truth. When the mystery of the essence of beings reveals itself clearly to him, the furnace of this world becomes a garden of flowers. He who is striving will be able to see the almond in its hard shell. He will no longer be pre-occupied with himself, but will look up at the face of his Friend. In each atom he will see the whole; he will ponder over thousands of bright secrets.
But, how many have lost their way in this search for one who has found the mysteries! It is necessary to have a deep and lasting wish to become as we ought to be in order to cross this difficult valley. Once you have tasted the secrets you will have a real wish to understand them. But, whatever you may attain, never forget the words of the Koran, "Is there anything more?"
As for you who are asleep (and I cannot commend you for this), why not put on mourning? You, who have not seen the beauty of your Friend, get up and search! How long will you stay as you are, like a donkey without a halter!

The Valley of Independence and Detachment

Then there comes the valley where there is neither the desire to possess nor the wish to discover. In this state of the soul a cold wind blows, so violent that in a moment it devastates an immense space; the seven oceans are no more than a pool, the seven planets a mere sparkle, the seven heavens a corpse, the seven hells broken ice. Then, an astonishing thing, beyond reason! An ant has the strength of a hundred elephants, and a hundred caravans perish while a rook is filling his crop.
In order that Adam might receive the celestial light, hosts of green-clad angels were consumed by sorrow. So that Noah might become a carpenter of God and build the ark, thousands of creatures perished in the waters. Myriads of gnats fell on the army of Abraham so that the king would be overthrown. Thousands of the first-born died so that Moses might see God. Thousands of people took to the Christian girdles so that Christ could possess the secret of God. Thousands of hearts and souls were pillaged so that Muhammad might ascend for one night to heaven. In this Valley nothing old or new has value; you can act or not act. If you saw a whole world burning until hearts were only shish kabab, it would be only a dream compared to reality. If myriads of souls were to fall into this boundless ocean it would be as a drop of dew. If heaven and earth were to burst into minute particles it would be no more than a leaf falling from a tree; and if everything were to be annihilated, from the fish to the moon, would there be found in the depths of a pit the leg of a lame ant? If there remain no trace of either of men or jinn, the secret of a drop of water from which all has been formed is still to be pondered over.

The Valley of Unity

You will next have to cross the Valley of unity. In this valley everything is broken in pieces and then unified. All who raise their heads here raise them from the same collar. Although you seem to see many beings, in reality there is only one--all make one which is complete in its unity. Again, that which you see as a unity is not different from that which appears in numbers. And as the Being of whom I speak is beyond unity and numbering, cease to think of eternity as before and after, and since these two eternities have vanished, cease to speak of them. When all that is visible is reduced to nothing, what is there left to contemplate?

The Valley of Astonishment and Bewilderment

After the Valley of Unity comes the Valley of Astonishment and Bewilderment, where one is a prey to sadness and dejection. There, sighs are like swords, and each breath a bitter sight; there, is sorrow and lamentation, and a burning eagerness. It is at once day and night. There, is fire, yet a man is depressed and despondent. How, in his bewilderment, shall he continue his way? But he who has achieved unity forgets all and forgets himself. If he is asked: "Are you, or are you not? Have you or have you not the feeling of existence? Are you in the middle or on the border? Are you mortal or immortal?" he will reply with certainty: "I know nothing, I understand nothing, I am unaware of myself. I am in love, but with whom I do not know. My heart is at the same time both full and empty of love.

The Valley of Deprivation and Death

Last of all comes the Valley of Deprivation and Death, which is almost impossible to describe. The essence of the Valley is forgetfulness, dumbness and distraction; the thousand shadows which surround you disappear in a single ray of the celestial sun. When the ocean of immensity begins to heave, the pattern on its surface loses its form; and this pattern is no other than the world present and the world to come. Whoever declares that he does not exist acquires great merit. The drop that becomes part of this great ocean abides there for ever and in peace. In this calm sea, a man, at first, experiences only humiliation and overthrow; but when he emerges from this state he will understand it as creation, and many secrets will be revealed to him.
Many beings have missed taking the first step and so have not been able to take the second--they can only be compared to minerals. When aloe wood and thorns are reduced to ashes they both look alike--but their quality is different. An impure object dropped into rose-water remains impure because of its innate qualities; but a pure object dropped into the ocean will lose its specific existence and will participate in the ocean and in its movement. In ceasing to exist separately it retains its beauty. It exists and non-exists. How can this be? The mind cannot conceive it.

Farid al-Din Attar (1142-1220)