Volume IX - The Unity of Religious Ideals
THE IDEAL OF THE SUFI
Sufism has never, in any period of history, been a religion or a certain creed. It has always been considered as the essence of every religion and all religions. Thus when it was given to the world of Islam, it was presented by the great Sufis in Muslim terminology. Whenever the Sufi ideal was presented to a certain people, it was presented in such a way as to make it intelligible to those people.
Sufism is neither a dogma nor a doctrine; it is neither a form nor a ceremony. This does not mean that a Sufi does not make use of a doctrine, a dogma, a ritual, or ceremony. He makes use of them at the same time remaining free from them. It is neither dogma, doctrine, ceremony, nor ritual that makes a Sufi a Sufi; it is wisdom alone which is his property, and all other things he uses for his convenience, his benefit. But a Sufi is not against any creed, doctrine, dogma, ritual, or ceremony; he is not even against the man who has no belief in God or Spirit, for a Sufi has a great respect for man.
The God of the Sufi is the God of all, and he is his very being. The Christ is his ideal, Therefore, no one's savior is foreign to a Sufi, for he sees the beauty and greatness and perfection of a human being in everyone's ideal. He does not mind if that ideal is called Buddha by one person, Krishna by another, and Muhammad by yet another; names make little difference to the Sufi; his ideal does not belong to history or tradition, but to the sacred feelings of the heart. So how can he compare the ideals of the different creeds, which dispute in vain about historical and traditional points of view, without making any impression upon each other? The ideal of the Lord, the Lord in the form of man, is the outcome of his heart's deepest devotion. One cannot dispute and argue about an ideal like this, nor can it be compared; so the Sufi believes that the less spoken about this subject the better, for he respects that one ideal which people call by different names.
Life, human nature, the nature around us, are all a revelation to a Sufi. This does not mean that a Sufi has no respect for the sacred scriptures revered by humanity. On the contrary, he holds them as sacred as do the followers of those scriptures; but the Sufi says that all scriptures are only different interpretations of that one scripture which is constantly before us like an open book – if we could only read and understand it.
The Sufi's object of worship is beauty: not only beauty in form and line and color, but beauty in all its aspects, from gross to fine.
What is the moral of the Sufi? Every religion, every creed, has certain moral teachings: that this particular principle is right, and that particular principle is wrong. No principle or action is in itself labeled by a Sufi as being either; it is its application, which makes it right or wrong. The light which guides the Sufi on the path is his own conscience, and harmony is the justification, which guides him onward step by step to his idealized goal. To harmonize with oneself is not sufficient; one must also harmonize with others in thought, speech, and action; that is the attitude of the Sufi.
The highest heaven of the Sufi is his own heart, and that which man generally knows as love, to a Sufi is God. Different people have thought of Deity as the Creator, as the Judge, as the King, as the Supreme Being; but the Sufis call him the Beloved. Are there any dogmas, are there any rituals or ceremonies which may be called Sufi? There is nothing that restricts a Sufi, so that he can only be a Sufi by doing it. At the same time he is free to make use of any ritual, any ceremony that he thinks suited to his purpose.
How can the Sufi idea be made intelligible? Truth is that which can never be spoken in words and that which can be spoken in words is not the truth. The ocean is the ocean; the ocean is not a few drops of water that one puts in a bottle. Just so truth cannot be limited by words: truth must be experienced, for it is natural that the knowledge of the truth should come sooner or later. The disputes and discussions and arguments that people of different communities and creeds have with one another, do not interest the Sufi, for he sees the right in all things, and the wrong of certain things also.
There is no right that has no wrong side to it, nor is there any wrong that has not a right side to it. Very often a wrong, turned inside out, may appear right, and very often the right turned inside out may appear wrong. Therefore, as Christ said: 'Judge not.' The Sufi, if he judges at all, judges himself instead of others. His only concern is whether he himself is doing right. Nearly everyone judges others, but that is where people make a mistake. Few judge themselves, but the one who really does so, has no time to judge others; there is too much to judge in himself, and this occupies him fully.
What the Sufi strives for is self-realization, and he arrives at this self-realization by means of his divine ideal, his God. By this he touches that truth which is the ultimate goal and the yearning of every soul. It is not only realization; it is a happiness which words cannot explain. It is that peace which is yearned for by every soul.
And how does he attain to it? By practicing the presence
of God; by realizing the oneness of the whole being; by
continually holding every moment of the day, consciously
or subconsciously, the truth before his vision, in spite
of the waves of illusion which arise incessantly, diverting
the glance of man from the absolute truth. And no matter
what may be the name of any sect, cult, or creed, so long
as the souls are striving towards that object, to a Sufi
they are all Sufis. The attitude of the Sufi to all the
different religions is one of respect. His religion is the
service of humanity, and his only attainment is the realization