A Sacred Reading by Khalifa KarimaGita Erickson-Harper
Delivered at the International Sufi Movement Summer School 2010, Katwijk, Holland. Click on the audio file link below to listen and follow the text.
The Inner Meaning of the Sufi Order
A Reading from the works of Hazrat Inayat Khan
The name Sufi Order is used to define the esoteric school of our Movement. And what is taught in this esoteric school? In a few words it is the raising of the consciousness from the personal limitations. How is this achieved? This is achieved by the way of concentration and meditation. This is done by the sacred Word, of which Coué has given the elementary explanation. Coué says that by repeating a certain number of times to yourself that your health is good, you can regain your health. He has been very much opposed, but yet he has met with great success. Now when a person is using the Word and its repetition in order to regain his health, very little has been accomplished in comparison to the spiritual attainment, but intellectually Coué is explaining the same thing as that which the Sufi Order explains for the higher attainment. There can be no comparison between these two things; there are pebbles and there are precious stones; but all are stones.
Today man seems to have lost the means of communication with himself by the ever-increasing responsibilities of his daily life. The Sufi Order by its initiations helps a Mureed to communicate with himself, and this opens the door to the heart. All the mysteries and wonders of life are gained when one has achieved communication with one’s own heart. It is therefore that we in the Sufi Order do not occupy ourselves with wonder working or any of that kind of communication; we only pay attention to communicating with ourselves in order to find our deeper self.
What is the difference between the work a Sufi does and that of another mystic? It is worthwhile to consider the difference there is between a Yogi and a Sufi. The Yogi tries to touch the Infinite by diving deep into his innermost being, and the process he chooses is to close himself and remove himself as far from the world as he can; and by doing this he reaches the depths which are the goal everyone is seeking. The methods of the Sufi differ from those of the Yogi in this, that the Sufi opens himself to all that is good and beautiful. He says that to go back to the Infinite without having known all that is beautiful here is absurd; he wants to absorb all the beauty of the earth, and so he opens himself. Therefore this path is very difficult: to love and yet not to be attached, to be in the crowd and yet in solitude, to be in the world and yet to be above it. And by this process the Sufi reaches in thousands of years what the Yogi reaches in one year, but he believes in opening himself to the beauty of the world.
To a Sufi self-denial is different from what it is to those who deny themselves all things of life. To the Sufi self-denial means the denial of the false self which one has as the conception of self. With his whole concentration and meditation he tries to get rid of the false conception of his self. A Sufi says, ‘Man’s very being is truth; it can neither be taught nor learned; it exists. The realization must come by itself.’ There are no doubt some studies to go through, but that is not the main thing; meditation and concentration are only taught to make it easier for a person to advance; but the truth is not an object to be given, it is one’s own being. One can only realize the truth by communicating with oneself.
What is the way in which we Sufis do our work in the Western part of the world? Sufis have always adopted the ways of the different people among whom they were living and of the countries they were staying in. Here in the Western world Sufism is given partly in the form of the Christian religion, and partly in the form of modern terminology. Truth is truth, and to those who understand it, it does not make any difference in which outer form it shows itself. The path that we tread is a delicate path; the less spoken of it the better. We cannot sufficiently keep it in a humble garb, for the more we value it the more it is necessary to keep it humble. Nor do we urge our ideas upon others. Our service is a most delicate one, and therefore we have a great responsibility and should not force our ideas upon any earnest seeker after truth. Our task is difficult, but trying to realize it more and more every day you will understand my difficulties from your own difficulties. Our sacrifices in the service of humanity are blessed a thousand times by the blessing of the light of God.
We must overcome the feeling of physical weakness. There is one secret in regard to this, and that is to try to maintain harmony in every situation. It is a very difficult task to begin with, but in time you will get accustomed to it. The first thing to be thought of is whether something we do or say will bring harmony, as God asks from us to do His higher work. You can only live in the world in one of two conditions: either as a peacemaker or as a fighter; but one must be a good fighter in order to win every battle. Life is a continual battle, but warfare does not require only strength; it also demands some sense. And to be a peacemaker one must be a friend with everyone. However insignificant a person may be, you must harmonize with him, otherwise it would be impossible to live.
This effort to harmonize with everyone causes a daily strain, but still, in trying to do so one’s life becomes easier and easier; and then it is like wonder-working. It is not only a story that Daniel tamed lions; and it is much more difficult to tame human beings! For this we must understand the psychology of human nature. There is a slang expression: to rub someone the wrong way; it takes a long time to get over this little error of rubbing the wrong way!
People think that in the esoteric school there is an art to study or practice, but I say: life itself is an art, and if one learns how to live one has learned the only thing one really needs. Besides if one knows the psychology of human nature one sees how very often an act of kindness is overlooked which might have been done. Some natures only need a word of sympathy or comfort or kindness. If we do not listen to a person at the right moment very often we lose a battle, which we might have won, had we but listened to him and understood his wants. No strength is needed, only tact. It is by this kind of wonder-working that the prophets have performed miracles. And there is no greater miracle to perform than to create harmony in one’s life, in one’s home, in one’s office, in one’s work. The more you advance in life the more you will see that people are like children, and if you rise above them you will be able to create harmony; but therefore you must grow up yourself. You must feel the power of the grown-up person, who will not fight with a child.
The best thing to do is to awaken in everybody the good that is in him. Very often a proud person, as soon as you have touched his heart, feels his pride melt away at once; but when your own pride stands up against him then there will be a battle. It is the continual desire to create harmony, which creates greatness in life.