Volume X - Sufi Mysticism
When the lips are closed, then the heart begins to speak; when the heart is silent, then the soul blazes up, bursting into flame, and this illuminates the whole of life. It is this idea which demonstrates to the mystic the great importance of silence, and this silence is gained by repose. Most people do not know what repose means because it is something they feel they need when they are tired. If they were not tired, they would never see the necessity for it.
Repose has many aspects. It is one kind of repose when a person retires from the activity of everyday life and finds himself alone in his room. He draws a breath of thankfulness as he feels, after all his interesting or tiresome experiences, 'At last I am by myself.' It is not an ordinary feeling, for there is a far deeper feeling behind it. It expresses the certainty that there is nothing to distract his mind and nothing which demands his action. At that moment, his soul has a glimpse of relief, the pleasure of which is inexpressible. However, the intoxication of life from which every man suffers is such that he cannot fully appreciate that moment of relief that everyone expects when it is time to retire after the activities of his daily life, whether he be rich or poor, tired or not.
Does this not teach us that there is a great mystery in repose, a mystery of which people are very often ignorant? Besides, we always find that a thoughtful person has repose by nature, and one who has repose is naturally thoughtful. It is repose which makes one more thoughtful, and it is continual action which takes away thoughtfulness, even from a sensible person. People working in the telephone, telegraph or post offices, upon whose minds there is a continual demand, often, in time, develop impertinence, insolence and lack of patience. They do not become less sensible; it only means that lack of repose, which weakens their sense of control, makes them give way to such things. This shows that repose is necessary, not only for a person on the spiritual path, but also for every soul living on the earth, whatever be his grade of evolution or his standing in life. It is the most important thing to be developed in anyone's nature, not only in a grown-up person, but it is something that should be taught from childhood. Nowadays, in education, people think so much about the different intellectual attainments the child will need in life and so little about the repose that is so very necessary for a child.
Sometimes cats and dogs prove more intuitive than mankind. Although man is more capable than the animals, he does not give himself time to become more intuitive. It often amused me in New York, where one would easily become exhausted by the noise of trains and trams and elevators and factories, to see that when a person had a little leisure time to sit in the train or subway, he at once began looking at the newspapers. All that action was not enough; is it not in the body, then there must be action in the brain! What is it? It is nervousness, a common disease that today has almost become normal health. If everybody suffers from the same disease, then this disease may be called normal.
Self-control, self-discipline, only comes from the practice of repose, which is helpful not only on the spiritual path, but also in one's practical life, in being kind and considerate. The mystic, therefore, adopts the method of repose, and by this, he tries to prepare himself to tread the spiritual path. This path is not an outer path, it is an inner path that one has to tread. Therefore, the spiritual laws and the journey on the spiritual path are quite contrary to the earthly laws and the journey on the outer path.
To explain in simple words what the spiritual path is, I would say that it begins by living in communication with oneself, for it is in the innermost self of man that the life of God is to be found. This does not mean that the voice of the inner self does not come to everyone. It always comes, but not everyone hears it. That is why the Sufi, when he starts his efforts on this path, begins by communicating with his true self within. When once he has addressed the soul, then from the soul comes a kind of reproduction, like that which the singer can hear on a record that has been made of his own voice.
Having done this, when he has listened to what this process reproduces, he has taken the first step in the direction within, and this process will have awakened a kind of echo in his being. Either peace or happiness, light or form, whatever he has wished to produce, is produced as soon as he begins to communicate with himself. When we compare the man who says, 'I cannot help being active, sad or worried, as it is the condition of my mind and soul,' with the one who communicates with himself, it is not long before we, too, begin to realize the value of this communication.
This is what the Sufis have taught for thousands of years. The path of the Sufi is not to communicate with fairies nor even with God; it is to communicate with one's deepest innermost self, as if one were blowing one's inner spark into a divine fire. But the Sufi does not stop there, he goes still further. He then remains in a state of repose, and that repose can be brought about by a certain way of sitting and breathing and also by a certain attitude of mind. Then he begins to become conscious of that part of his being which is not the physical body, but which is above it. The more he becomes conscious of this, the more he begins to realize the truth of the life hereafter. Then it is no longer a matter of his imagination or of his belief; it is his actual realization of the experience that is independent of physical life. It is in this state that he is capable of experiencing the phenomena of life. The Sufi, therefore, does not dabble in different wonder-workings and phenomena, for once he realizes this, the whole of life becomes a phenomenon and every moment, every experience, brings to him a realization of that life which he has found in his meditation.
The being of man is a mechanism of body and mind. When this mechanism is in order, then there is happiness and fullness of life. When anything is wrong with the mechanism, the body is ill and peace is gone. This mechanism depends upon winding; it is just like a clock that is wound and then goes for 24 hours. So it is in meditation. When a person sits in a restful attitude and puts his mind in a condition of repose, regulating the action of this mechanism by the process of meditation, it is like the winding of a clock. Its effect continues to be felt because the mechanism was put in order.
Thus, the belief of a mystic is not an outward belief in a deity he has not seen. The mystic's worship is not only an outer form, by saying prayers and then his worship is finished. Certainly, he makes the best use of the outer things, and his pursuit is logical and scientific, and he will, if possible, unite them with the mystical conception. However, mysticism includes the scientific explanation as well as the realization of the things taught by religion, things that would have no meaning to an ordinary person.
When an ordinary person reads about the kingdom of God and Heaven, he reads these names, but he does not know where Heaven is, and he feels that there is a God, but there is no evidence for it. Therefore, a large number of intellectual people who really are seeking the truth are turning away from the outer religion because they cannot find its explanation. Consequently, they become materialistic. To the mystic, the explanation of the whole of religion is the investigation of the self. The more one explores oneself, the more one will understand all religions in the fullest light and all will become clear. Sufism is only a light thrown upon one's own religion, like a light brought into a room where everything one wants is to be found, and where the only thing that was needed was light.
Of course, the mystic is not always ready to give an answer to everyone who asks. Can parents always answer their children's questions? There are some questions that can be answered, and others which should wait for an answer until those who ask them are able to understand. I used to be fond of a poem which yet I did not understand; I could not find a satisfactory explanation. After ten years all of a sudden, in one second, a light was thrown upon it, and I understood. There was no end to my joy. Does this not show that everything has its appointed time? When people become impatient and ask for an answer, something can be answered, something else cannot be answered; but the answer will come in its own time. One has to wait. Has anyone in the world been able to explain fully what God is, have even the scriptures and the prophets succeeded in this? God is an ideal too high and too great for words to explain. Can anyone explain such a word as love, can anyone say what truth is?
If truth is to be attained, it is only when truth itself has begun to speak, which happens in revelation. Truth reveals itself; therefore, the Persian word for both God and truth is Khuda, which means self-revealing, thus uniting God with truth. One cannot explain either of these words. The only help the mystic can give is by indicating how to arrive at this revelation. No one can teach or learn this, one has to learn it oneself. The teacher is only there to guide one towards this revelation. There is only one teacher, and that teacher is God. The great masters of the world were the greatest pupils, and they each knew how to become a pupil.
How is all of this taught or brought to the consciousness of those who tread the path of truth? By Bayat, by initiation. It is the trust of someone who guides, given to someone who is treading the path. The one who treads the path must be willing to risk the difficulties of the path and be willing to be sincere, faithful, truthful, undoubting, not pessimistic, and not skeptical. Otherwise, with all his efforts, he will not reach his aim. He must come wholeheartedly, or else he should not come at all. Half-heartedness is of no value. What is necessary, too, is some intellectual understanding of the metaphysical aspect of life, which some have, but not all. Besides this, the qualities of the heart are needed, with the divinity of love as a first principle. Then one needs action, but such action as will not hinder on the path of truth, such action as creates greater and greater harmony. And finally, one needs repose, which makes it possible to learn by one day of silence what would otherwise take a year of study; but no doubt only if one knows the real way of silence.