QUINTESSENCE OF LIFE
It is a matter of common observation to realize that each one of exists as a combination of body and soul. A human body continuously changes from birth to death. The old cells die and the new cells are born. In fact, scientists say that after every seven years, the whole body is renewed. Still, a person continues to have an unchanged feeling of “amness” throughout the span of his lifetime, which is considered as soul. When it departs, body simply changes into dust. A sensitive person by observing this play of life and death definitely questions his existence, his origin, his relationship with the universe, death etc. Such people who probe these enquiries wholeheartedly and not as a verbal or a logical exercise emerge as Sufis, Yogis etc. However, especially the Sufis who idealize the lifestyle of PROPHET MOHAMMED (Peace And Blessings Of ALLAH Be Upon Him) study, work and earn their livelihood through proper means. They do not negate life rather live in the world in an ordinary way. It is a misconception to consider them antagonistic towards reasoning, science and modern education. They do however realize the limitations of logical reasoning because this process is an outcome of physical senses.
A blind professor arrived at a village and started arguing about the presence of light.He tried to convince those villagers about the non – existence of light by questioning that if light exists, then bring it, let me touch it, smell it, taste it, listen to it. The villagers could not argue with the philosopher as he was well equipped with the tools of logic and reasoning.
What to say of spiritual people, even modern day scientists realize this fact. A modern day physicist David Bohm has made experiments with ink drops placed in glycerine. When they are rolled between two cylinders, they disappear; one cannot see them anymore. Bohm calls this implicate state. If one rolls them back again, all of a sudden they reappear in the opposite order in which they were placed in the glycerine. This is the explicate state. Bohm says that all physical reality is like that aspect or condition of reality that has transpired or emerged as the droplets – the explicate state – but there is a whole realm of reality that one does not normally experiences, which is in the implicate state and thus beyond the grasp of our senses. The lens like nature of our senses can apprehend only a certain fraction or perspective of reality.
A famous psychologist William James says, “our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.”
With this realization, a person on the spiritual path does not go against reason, logic, scientific developments etc., but his outlook towards life changes. He uses the tools of logic and reasoning to deal with the material world as he also has a material presence, but he does not lose sight of his spiritual dimension. He maintains a balance between the two. It is evident from our history that a complete material approach gives rise to enmity and wars. The pure materialism divides and this feeling of distance from others gives rise to all sorts of hells. Love takes form of possession; trust loses its meaning and overcome by greed and fear. To put it in a nutshell, all the higher values of human beings come down to a point of ugliness. The balance between the material and spiritual is possible only through meditation, where one changes focus of his life from outside to inside. To elaborate it further, one starts seeing oneself beyond his body. He gets awake from his daily sleep like activities where he keeps on reacting automatically on given situations like a robot. The Seers of all religions have devised meditation methods to get into that stage of human awakening where one is able to experience the realm beyond the physical existence.
It is again a wrong understanding that meditation is an escape from the world. Usually, an impression of a meditator is formed in such a way that he lives a solitary life, sitting in a lotus posture if he is a yogi or just shouting ‘HU‘ if he is a Sufi. This attitude towards meditation shows a lack of understanding. It is a known fact that to prepare for anything, one has to make an effort. A student while preparing for his examination has to leave behind social life, leisure activities etc. for a time period in order to get better results. A scientist has to sacrifice a lot to develop a single theory. Likewise, a poet or an artist has to concentrate before coming up with a piece of art. All the result oriented activities, whether above mentioned or others require an extra effort on the part of the doer. Likewise, people on the spiritual path also gets involved for a period of time to develop an understanding of the realm beyond the limitations of the physical senses. They try to figure out the real “I” beyond the ever-changing personality. Sigmund Freud has compared human consciousness with the tip of the iceberg, as only one tenth of the consciousness is visible. The other nine tenth portion which plays a major role in one’s life remains invisible to the ordinary consciousness. Through meditation, one is able to discover this hidden treasure of one’s being.
Infact, as against escape, meditation is the most courageous act and the biggest challenge to come face to face with oneself. Normally, one becomes uneasy if he is left alone for a while because he starts getting aware of all sorts of problems inside him like fear, anger, jealousy, hatred etc. However, through meditation, one is able to observe the changing emotional states of one’s being without getting involved in them. Hence, the path to self-discovery starts through the gateway of meditation.
One does not have to get entangled in spiritual theories and occultism as these do not help a bit, rather create more confusion. However, one should not give less importance to the spiritual dimension of one’s life. Everyday, one should take sometime out to contemplate on feeling of love coming in and out of him, with no particular object in mind. This may turn out to be one of the various ways to tap one’s potential.
A great psychologist Abraham Maslow has rightly said,
“We fear our highest possibilities. We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments, under the most perfect conditions, under conditions of greatest courage. We enjoy and even thrill to the ‘God like possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments’. And, yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe and fear for these very same possibilities.”
JOURNEY TO NOWHERE
At some point in our lives, we have all longed for a feeling of freedom which a bird enjoys while flying in an open sky. It moves on and on defeating the pull of gravity. In fact gravity seems to be moved up in the form of the bird. Looking from a different perspective, gravity and bird melt into each other transforming into a free movement towards the sky. This upward movement depicts the symbol of life, where “movement” represents change or continuous re-newal and “upwardness” reflects the evolutionary process leading towards the ultimate freedom.
At one time or the other, everyone of us has experienced the glimpses of freedom. For in-stance, while looking at a sunset or listening to a beautiful piece of music, thinking process of mind simply stops and one loses the sense of time. He does not exists as a separate entity from the experience rather the boundary between the experiencer and the ex-perience melts away. Such experiences not only imparts an intense feeling of freedom but also an understanding that relationship between objects is not formed but it is already there. However, as soon as one starts appreciating the experience, thinking mind enters once again to give all the comparisons of past experiences and one steps again into the past or future losing the moment to moment reality. Celebration or Ecstasy can only happen to a thoughtless mind which exists like a clear mirror with no impressions of past or future.
All the desires of a human being whether physical or spiritual in nature leads him to an ultimate desire of cutting the chains and bonds within his being. He wants to be free, to just open him-self, to dance and celebrate. In his life span, consciously or unconsciously he treads on several paths just to get this feeling of freedom. At times, he wants to be powerful, other times wealthy, yet at other times spiritual just to be free. A man who is after power feels that power would make him a rider on the horse of fate moving freely against the winds of bonds and chains. Another man who is after wealth also seeks freedom as he is under the impression that it enables him to buy the whole world which again gives him a sense of freedom.
Likewise, a religious person prays to find his freedom in the heaven after death. A common thread among these seekers for freedom is that they all depend on something outwards to reach their goals. This dependency on anything is again a bondage. This is a paradox as one looks at freedom through the window of a bondage, but it has to be so as freedom only makes sense amidst bondages. Inspite of different paths taken, for most of the people, flower of free-dom does not bloom as the fragrance of celebration is missing from their lives. However, there have been people who have touched the peaks of freedom and have become the epitome of life. Inspite of problems on the physical level of existence, an air of celebration surrounds them.
This is what the Sufi path is all about i.e. to get into the depth of life to find the pearl of free-dom. Sufi inevitably starts with outward objects, but see those as means rather than goals. It has to be that way because everything in the universe is in a state of flux. In this situation, it is im-possible to set goals particularly in this path because by the time one reaches at a goal, not only the goal changes but also the seeker. The goal exists in future and whatsoever exists in future is always like a mirage due to ever changing reality of each and everything. With this awareness, a sufi starts moving in a different dimension away from the future orientedness to experience the moment to moment reality.
Sufi meditations are directed to still one’s mind because a chattering mind either exists in past or future. It never exists in present. By practicing meditations, gradually, a Sufi becomes capable of experiencing the moment to moment reality in any situation. Since, under the spell of such experiences, demarcation between the experiencer and the experience dissolves, he starts realizing a new dimension of his being that one is related to each and everything in every possible way. This feeling of oneness explodes into a tremendous insight and he rises in love with each and everything.
This experience of oneness is the very core of the Sufi path that culminates in a love affair be-tween the part and the whole. However, it is a very different relationship as part is not only the part but whole at the same time and whole is not only whole but part of the part also. Infact, part and whole exist no more, just love remains as has been expressed in the follow-ing Sufi poem;
I am love : in heaven and earth I have no place ;
I am the wondorous phoenix whose spoor cannot be traced.
With eyebrow bow and arrow winks I hunt both worlds
Yet my weapons cannot be found.
Like the sun I brighten each atom’s cheek ;
I cannot be pinpointed ,I am too manifest
I speak with every tongue , listen with all ears ,
But marvel at this : My ears and tongue are erased.
Since in all the world only I exist above and below.
No likeness of me can be found.
This is what Mairaaj is ; “Mairaaj” is an Arabic word meaning ascension. It is the height of spiritual evolution. It is the feeling of oneness resulting in breaking of all the barriers, setting one free. With this attain-ment, one lives in the world amidst bondages but with freedom. It is said that on a sandalwood tree, live poisonous snakes. They all appear hypnotized due to a very strong perfume of the tree. In the same way, the perfume of love sets one free from the poisonous snakes of bondages in one’s being. The experience of this realization has been beautifully expressed in the Koran in the following Verses ;
“Glorified be He who carried His servant by night from the inviolable place of worship to the far distant place of worship the neighborhood where of We have blessed , that We might show him of our tokens! lo! He only He is the Hearer , the Seer”.
So much has been said in these verses that nothing more can be said. Due to paradoxical nature of reality, symbolic style of saying has been adopted because there is no other possible way of interpreting mystical experiences. Since, these verses give an insight towards spiritual attain-ment, Sufis have tried to explain these verses. Still, this ex-planation is like a finger pointing towards the moon and not the moon itself. To start with, “Servant” is not the right translation rather the Arabic word is “Abd”. This has been used for a man who exists at the highest rung of spiritual evolution – who has made himself available to experience the Grace of God. “Night” represents the introvert aspect of God. It is said in the Koran;
“God is first ,God is last ,God is extrovert and God is introvert”.
Also for a meditator, night is the time for inactive activity when his eyes open inwards. It has been said that He carried His Abd. This is the message that one should be humble i.e. ultimately it is He, who call or His Grace that pulls one up. One can try his best but one should not feel proud as his efforts will always fall short as compared to the gift of this experi-ence. This is why a Sufi prays or meditate with no expectations. The means are the goals for him.
Also one can notice the extra ordinariness of this journey as literally it seems that God carried His Abd alongwith Him, but in this sense, one will be limiting God. This God cannot be om-nipresent as place from where He comes to carry His Abd will be devoid of His presence. It will only make sense if one sees this journey between the two dimensions of the same being i.e. human aspect is “Abd” while the divine aspect is God. To elaborate it further, Sufis see the creativity of universal consciousness or God in seven stages. One should be careful not to take these stages literally because these are inter-related and simultaneously merging into each other. Hence, distinction cannot be made and there is no start and no finish to these stages.
These stages have been created by Sufis just to convey a certain level of understanding. A brief description is as follows;
1) A H A D I Y A T :
He exists as “HIMSELF” like a seed where all the trees, flowers, thorns, leaves, fruits, etc. are lying in a dormant form ready to be born. He is just ‘HU’ not more or less.
2) W A H D A T :
He perceives Himself as “HIMSELF” like a seed sprouting to realize its ‘isness’. An awareness of ‘AMNESS’ takes place. This stage has also been called as ” Haqeeqat- – e – Mohammadi ” , ” Mahaguru ” , ” Christ ” , ” Perfect man ” etc.
3) W A H I D I Y A T :
He perceives “HIMSELF” in detail like the realization of seed that it has all the trees , flowers , etc. within itself.
4) M A L K O O T :
He perceives “HIMSELF” through His details, still there is no form or matter. Nothing is gross or subtle.
5) A A L A M – E – M I S A A L :
He exists as “DETAILS” but in a subtle form. To see it from another perspective, ‘Details’ of Him realize their presence and feelings like pleasure and pain become material.
6) N A S O O T :
His Details take the material forms and can be recognized as animals , plants , rocks , etc.
7) I N S A A N (Human Being) :
Actually, this also comes under the sixth stage, i.e. Nasoot . However, it is taken as a separate stage because a human being is a small universe; all that the universe contains is contained by him in a miniature way. He is like a drop of water which contains all the secrets of the ocean; a light breeze which has a potential of becoming a storm. He is finite yet infinite. He is endowed with a gift of ‘QALB’ – spiritual heart, which wants to be consumed in the fire of love; can fly so high that even the height of the heights appear depth; is capable of taking the so called quan-tum leap towards the infinity.
Now, one can realize that in the above-mentioned Koranic Verses, Abd reflects the stage of Wahdat – where a human being is at the highest rung of spiritual evolution and God reflects the stage of Ahadiyat – where there is nothing but HU, then, in these verses, something is being said about the inviolable place of worship and the far distant place of worship which are again human aspect and divine aspect respectively. The point to ponder upon is this that both the places are of worship. This is why Sufis as human beings live a rich life and do not condemn the world as it is sacred too. It is another dimension of the same being. They love the world as they love themselves, but not attached to it due to ever changing nature of it. Then, it is said,
“The neighborhood where of We have blessed that We might show him Our tokens lo ! He only He is the Hearer, the Seer”.
When one attains to the Godliness in His being i.e. the stage of ‘Ahadiyat’, there are just blessings and blessings. He is one with God. A union happens rather a reunion as one is already united with God without realizing it and consequently ‘He only He is the Hearer, the Seer’. These are the states of ‘Fana’ and ‘Baqa’ in Sufi terminology where he dies as himself and lives as universal consciousness. This is what the culmination of ‘dhikr’ is! where he negates all the personal Gods or bondages i.e. greed, power, ego, etc. and affirm the universal consciousness or freedom. He is same yet not the same. An anecdote goes
In a far off town, Mulla Nasruddin entered in a serai.
The seraikeeper immediately approached to welcome him. Mulla said, ” first things first, tell me! did you see me entering? ” Seraikeeper said ” Yes
Sir ! This is why I have come to welcome you “.
Mulla said ” Did you have any acquaintance with me? ”
Seraikeeper’s response was negative,
Mulla said, ” Then, how can you say that the individual entered in the Serai is me !”.
He is same yet not the same.
However, this is not the end of the story. The overview of spiritual attainment which has been given above is one half of the circle. It relates to the ascension but simultaneously God descends to complete the circle. In other words, one is colored in the colour of Godliness, and only then the Koranic verses
“God is nearer to you even from your jugular vein” and “God is the Nur(Light) of heavens and earth”
become meaningful. Also, as said by Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him), “a seeker through meditation attains to a state where God become his tongue through which he speaks, God become his ears through which he listens, God become his hands through which he holds……”. It is a long hadith. To say it in a nutshell, Godliness is reflected in him and through him. He is same yet not the same. He stands on earth but lives in heaven. While keeping in touch with the human aspect, he is able to participate in the universal dance as God is a never ending creativity, ever expanding from unknown to unknown.
The human beings of present day are growing in a very different set up which past has not known. The pace of developments has become fast not only in science but in every walk of life – fast music , fast driving , fast eating etc. Every thing seems to be moving in the fast lane. On one hand, this has made men tense while on the other hand , this has helped men to realize his limitations and bondages causing tensions.
Also, these developments are responsible for better ways of communication. As a result, the walls of rigidity between different disciplines and faiths are falling. The unity within the diversity has not only been realized by spiritual people rather the scientists, physicists, psychologists, etc. are also moving in the same direction, as is reflected in the following excerpts ;
(i) “One is led to a new notion of unbroken wholeness which denies the classical idea of analyzability of the world into separately and independently existing parts. We have reversed the usual classical notion that the independent ” elementary parts ” of the world are the fundamental reality , and that the various systems are merely particular contingent forms and arrangements of these parts. Rather , we say that inseparable quantum inter – connectedness of the whole universe is the fundamental reality, and that relatively independently behaving parts are merely particular and contingent forms within this whole”.
—– By David Bohm – a renowned modern day physicist
(ii) “Modern Physics ,of course , works in a very different framework and cannot go that far in the experience of the unity of all things. But it has made a great step towards the world view of the Eastern Mystics in atomic theory. Quantum theory has abolished the notion of fundamentally separated objects, has introduced the concept of the participator to replace that of the observer, and may even find it necessary to include the human consciousness in its description of the world.”
—– By Fritjof Capra – a physicist and the author of ; ‘ The Turning Point ‘ and ‘ The Tao of Physics ‘
(iii) One of the greatest psychologists Abraham Maslow is also critical of what he calls the atomistic approach ; the approach, common in physical science, of breaking things down into their component parts and studying the component parts separately. Man, he believes, must be studied as an entity, as a system. Each part is related to the other part, and unless, one studies them all as a whole, the answers are incomplete. Most behavioral scientists have attempted to isolate independent drives, urges, and instincts and study them separately. This Maslow found to be generally less productive than the holistic approach which holds that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
—– From ” The Third Force – The Psychology of Abraham Maslow By Frank Goble