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Volume XII - The Divinity of the Human Soul

Part II: Confessions

Chapter 8

'Verily the believers are brethren.'
   - Quran

IN the East religion is sown in the heart of the child from birth, no matter to what religion he may belong. The invocation of the name of God becomes a daily custom, which he consciously or unconsciously repeats in sorrow as well as in joy. 'bismillah' – In the name of Allah, or 'al-hamdulillah' – Praise be to Allah, or 'Allahu akbar' – God is great, and 'ya Allah' – O God; such expressions as these are used at the beginning and the end, as well as in the midst of every ordinary conversation. This attunes the believer and even attracts the unbeliever to the thought of God, which in the end leads the seeker to self-realization and the peace of God.

In good homes morality is taught to every child in unity with religion; by checking all its egoistic leanings it teaches the child to become humble, modest and respectful.

There is a little story told of the grandson of the Holy Prophet. The child, on addressing a slave by name, was corrected by his grandfather who exclaimed, 'Nay, those are not good manners; although he is a slave he is older that you, so you must call him 'uncle'.'

If this courtesy were practiced in modern civilized countries such as America, where a strong prejudice against color exists, how much better it would be for the nation! Courtesy to strangers is taught as a virtue in the East, while the selfishness of modern civilization prevents strangers from entering Western countries without fear. This is quite an inhuman tendency, and reminds one of dogs who bark and drive away a stranger from their own habitation.

Overlooking the faults of others with politeness, tolerance, forgiveness, and resignation is regarded as a moral virtue in the East. Man's heart is visualized as the shrine of God, and even a small injury in thought, word, and deed against it is considered as a great sin against God, the Indwelling One. Gratitude is shown by the loyalty of the Orient and by being true to the salt; the hospitality of a day is remembered throughout all the years of life, while the benefactor never forgets humility even in the midst of his good deeds. There is an Eastern saying, 'Forget thy virtues and remember thy sins.'

'Chained with gold chains about the feet of God.'
   - Tennyson

Thus the heart, developed by religion and morality, becomes first capable of choosing and then of retaining the object of devotion without wavering for a moment. Yet in the absence of these qualities it remains incapable of either choice or retention.

There have been innumerable devotees in the East, Bhakta or Ashiq, whose devotional powers are absolutely indescribable and ineffable. To the ignorant the story of their lives may appear exaggerated, but the joy of self-negation is greater than that of either spiritual or material joy.

Devotion sweetens the personality, and is the light on the path of the disciple. Those who study mysticism and philosophy while omitting self-sacrifice and resignation grow egoistic and self-centered. Such persons are apt to call themselves either God or a part of God, and thus make an excuse for committing any sins they like. Regardless of sin or virtue they misuse and malign others, being utterly fearless of the hereafter. Yet they forget that 'strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life', as the Bible says.

The fire of devotion purifies the heart of the devotee and leads to spiritual freedom. Mysticism without devotion is like uncooked food and can never be assimilated. 'I am the heart of my devotees,' says Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. And Hafiz says, 'O joyous day when I depart from this abode of desolation, seeking the repose of my soul and setting out in search of my Beloved.'

Philosophy, which is the forth stage of development, has five aspects: physical, intellectual, mental, moral and spiritual, These cannot be learned by the mere perusal of books, and by listening to the discussions of philosophers. For philosophy is not a study which is taught in the universities alone; it contains quite an opposite path to knowledge, and it can only be truly studied under the guidance of a Murshid. In him the mureed has perfect trust and confidence, as complete discipline even to the sacrifice of free will is required. At first this appears to be a loss of individuality, while the ego rebels at being thus crushed and submerged beneath the stronger laws of will and reason. But the battle against self gives a mastery over self in the end, which in other words is a mastery over the whole universe.

But it is well to remember that such utter trust should never be reposed in a Murshid until the self has gained entire confidence in him, and every doubt has been subdued. When once this confidence is given, there should be nothing on earth, which could break or cast it down for the whole gamut of eternity. There are some who consider it most humiliating to be guided by another, but they are greatly mistaken, for in the light of truth there is but One. The intercourse between Murshid and mureed is preferable to any other fellowship in the world, when one considers that a friendship in God is the only true friendship, which endures forever. 'Sprinkle with wine thy prayer-rug if thy Pir-o-Murshid says so. The guide is not unmindful of the customs and ways of the Path,' says Hafiz.

A Murshid is a gateway unto the unseen Master and a portal unto God, the Unknown. But yet in the end neither God, Master nor Murshid appears in the most dazzling light of divine wisdom, which alone is 'I Am.'

'Everything shall perish except the face of Allah.'
    - Quran

Mysticism is the last grade of knowledge, which can only be rightfully achieved by passing through all these preceding stages, and it is only then that it is a mystery no more. Once it is known one realizes by one's past delusions how far and remote has been the goal, and how long the journey unto its distant shores. One beholds for the last time the mountains of virtue one was forced to scale in order to seek its rose-crowned heights, and then they vanish away like a dream in the morning.

'Everywhere Thou art, nearest of all Thou art,
 and yet nowhere Thou art, O all-pervading Self.'
   - Zahir

It is degrading the name of mysticism when people claim to be Christian or Jewish mystics, for mysticism is pure from distinctions and differences. My Pir-o-Murshid once gave me a goblet of wine during a trance, and said, 'Be thou intoxicated and come out of the name and shame! Be thou the disciple of love and give up the distinctions of life! Because to a Sufi, 'I am this or that' mean nothing.'

All mystical powers such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, thought reading and prognostication, psychometry, telepathy, ecstasy, and various other spiritual manifestations from the world beyond, are disclosed in one glorious state of vision.

The life of the mystic, both the inner and the outer, is shown as a wondrous phenomenon within itself. He becomes independent of all earthly sources of life and lives in the Being of God, realizing His presence by the denial of his individual self; and he thus merges into that highest bliss wherein he finds his salvation.

checked 18-Oct-2005