About a year ago, a friend asked me a question on the email, in response to a play I sent for a review. The play was written by me along my sister, it’s based on the spectacular union of Rumi and Tabrizi, it uses the poems of Rumi to highlight his journey. Well, the play got praise but along that came a question: “What’s your take on a Sufism?”.
I had never thought of “my take” specially on subject this complex before… It’s of course not like my usual ones… leadership, education, project management, high performance culture, or artificial intelligence; or array of other social/ technical subjects I am so comfortable expressing about. Since after years of my time with them, they have begun to come natural to me. But subject like this have tendency to perplex me, no matter how many times I visit them, I find myself out of my depth, they invite that level of detailed probing, dedicated learning, and ecstatic experience.
Since the time I’ve started publishing poems online, many of which do touch the boundaries of mysticism and the stages of the soul pondered on by different mystics and philosophers. The same question has come to me again and again. This is my attempt to summarize the response at one place.
Since Mysticism/ Sufism is a vast subject, it’s no doubt that it can’t be defined in a page or so, my attempt here is to show what “Sufism” in general sense means to me… (or what I’ve personally learned about it).
1. Focus on essence vs. the form; Whatever we do just for the sake of doing it, shouldn’t be done. It’s the journey that matters more than a destination. What we see is an illusion, reality or truth is very different, so we shouldn’t be sure of anything except a possibility of fact that we can be wrong. So one should strive focusing on the essence of the things, and not different forms that it can garner.
2. Suffering is an eternal part of life. All life forms prevail to a better level, when they struggle and learn from their suffering. In this way suffering leads to salvation.
3. Nothing lasts forever, the only constant in the world is “change” itself. Since everything changes, and keeps changing, the change in the world is tied in a loop. There’s no beginning, nor an end.
4. What begins with a curiosity and yearning, ends in a bewilderment. No matter how much is known, due to things changing constantly on big and small scale, our scale in comparison is minor and frozen. Yet even in minutest of thing, the biggest of the secret of universe is reflected. Hence, the universe never ceases to amaze us. Sufi keeps self always open for new experiences.
5. Belief in formless God, God is not a divine entity that intervenes in worldly matters, punishes, rewards or takes decision the way we humans think and do. God is wholeness of the system, the collective consciousness, of which, we’re a very tiny part. The laws of the system operate on a single constant/ variable i.e: change. Agent feeds an environment, while environment feeds an agent, and hence things change state. Either from concentrated state to dilute one, or vice versa. Since everything is made up of same energy and has a same origin, Sufi is unable to differentiate, hence has a compassion and love for everything. Oneness as a whole and unity is an essence. This relates to the theory of Pantheism, where God is not personal or anthropomorphic.
6. Many believe that Sufism preaches that one has to live a life distancing self from the worldly matters, while contrary is true. Sufi’s code is to live life as lean as possible, and to see no difference between worldly or spiritual/ meditating manners. Every act has to be performed in a state least disturbing to the order of universe. Since without an action-feedback mechanism specie can’t survive, every action Sufi performs is disciplined in a way that it’s as less harmful and disturbing to self and environment as possible. Sufi just believes in detachment from materialism – doing things for just show-up, as this doesn’t align with philosophy of focusing on essence.
7. I relate Sufism to Scientific Meditation and Mindfulness, Fanna and Baqa in Islam, Christian Salvation, Hindu Mokhsh, Buddhist Nirvana, Zen philosophy from Japan and Chinese Taoism (Yin-Yang and effortless effort philosophy). When seen in light of rationalism, it can be related to Confucianism and Sikhism as well. In general all literature of enlightenment or heightened consciousness relates with each other. So religion and culture may differ, but underlying principles discovered by philosophers/ meditation guides and Sufi masters share a great degree of essence.
I’m no philosopher, I’m no artist, I’m no expert. I’m just a man who’s passionate and curios, who loves to explore and ponder. That’s what I have attempted for major part in my life and that’s what I wish to continue doing.
Usually my takes differ every six months or year… I can’t adhere my whole life to a single reference, single philosophy, single routine/ practice, or single ideology. I strive for better explanations, progressing grounds – an understanding that’s more more fitting, more appropriate. I like to update, to evolve, to adapt; to unlearn to learn; to get amazed by universe’s beauty and vastness in comparison to my naiveness. Even if concepts and ideas that I like and adore don’t change completely, they do evolve each year by certain percentage.
I hope world sees this article as an expression of a curios and continuously learning mind, and participates with me for more enlightenment on a subject.
Related (on Serenades of a Dreamer):
Collection of mystic poems: http://alisohani.wordpress.com/tag/mystic/
Collection of poems on Stages of the Soul: http://alisohani.wordpress.com/tag/stages-of-the-soul/