header pic header text

Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings


SELFLESSNESS, called Inkisar by the Sufis, not only beautifies one's personality, giving grace to one's word and manner, but it also gives dignity and power together with a spirit of independence, which is the real sign of a sage. It is selflessness which often produces humbleness in one's spirit, taking away the intoxication which clouds the soul. Independence and indifference, which are as two wings which enable the soul to fly, spring from the spirit of selflessness. The moment the spirit of selflessness has begun to sparkle in the heart of man, he shows in his word and action a nobility which no earthly power or wealth can give.

There are many ideas which intoxicate man, many feelings which act upon the soul like wine, but there is no stronger wine than the wine of selflessness. It is a might and it is a pride that no worldly rank can give. To become something is a limitation, whatever it may be; even if a person were to be called the king of the world, he would still not be the emperor of the universe. The master of the earth is still the slave of heaven. The selfless man is he who is no one and yet is all.

The Sufi, therefore, takes the path of being nothing instead of being something. It is this feeling of nothingness which turns the human heart into an empty cup into which the wine of immortality is poured. It is this state of bliss which every truth-seeking soul yearns to attain. It is easy to be learned and it is not very difficult to be wise; it is within one's reach to become good; but there is an attainment which is greater and higher than all these things, and this is to be nothing. It may seem frightening to many, the idea of becoming nothing, for human nature is such that it is eager to hold on to something, and the self holds on to its own personality, its own individuality. Once one has risen above this, one has climbed Mount Everest; one has arrived at the spot where the earth ends and heaven begins.

The whole aim of the Sufi is, by the thought of God, to cover his imperfect self even from his own eyes; and that moment when God is before him and not his own self, is the moment of perfect bliss to him. My murshid, Abu Hashim Madani, once said that there is only one virtue and one sin for a soul on this path: virtue when he is conscious of God, and sin when he is not. No explanation can fully describe the truth of this except the experience of the contemplative, to whom when he is conscious of God it is as if a window facing heaven were open, and to whom when he is conscious of the self the experience is the opposite. For all the tragedy of life is caused by being conscious of the self. All pain and depression are caused by this, and anything that can take away the thought of the self helps to a certain extent to relieve man from pain; but God-consciousness gives perfect relief.