Pir-O-Murshid Hidayat Inayat Khan
Sufi Movement International
Sufism means wisdom. We all know that Christians feel that there is wisdom in being Christian. Jews feel that there is wisdom in being Jewish. Muslims feel that there is wisdom in being Muslim. Hindus and Buddhist and so many others also feel that there is wisdom in being of the religion to which they belong. In fact, if Christians really discover wisdom, they are then Sufis, whether they choose to call themselves so or not. If Jews really discover wisdom, they are then Sufis. If Muslims really discover wisdom, they are then Sufis, and the same for the Buddhists and the Hindus, and the followers of all religions.
Throughout history, some have been attracted to wisdom. When one feels that attraction, one cannot bear the limitations of preconceived ideas. Many of those very heroic souls have been condemned, tortured, or killed in some way or other by fanatical followers of dogmatic principles.
A Sufi, by definition, is a religious soul whose nature is to refuse to submit to imposed beliefs, and who is perfectly conscious that life is not necessarily just what one might think it to be. Life is not only lived at the level of physical experience, nor only at the level of thought, nor only at the level of feeling, but also, and most importantly, at a still higher level of consciousness, where the self no longer separates reality from illusion. It is a level where there are neither limitations nor opposites, and which has no relationship with any framework of preconceived ideas, such as those which are expressed in all dogmatic religious interpretations of Truth. When trying to explain God we only fashion an individual concept, limited to the size of our thoughts.
Sufism is not a religion, nor is it a cult or a school. Sufism is just only an ‘open door’, an attitude of inner sympathy towards all beliefs. All religions are Sufi religions as long as they recognize the limits inherent in any speculative interpretation of Truth. If one took six or seven different glasses, each one of a different color, and poured water in each glass, the water would appear red in one glass, blue in another, green in a third, and so on, although it was the same water in each. In the same way, all religions are in their origin of divine inspiration, but, like the image of water poured into different colored glasses, as soon as divine inspiration is reflected in human thought, it acquires the color of that thinking. We then call one color Hinduism, another color Buddhism, another Islam and still other colors are called Judaism, Christianity, or by any other religious denomination. Therefore, since the origin of all religions is of divine nature, these can only be understood inasmuch as one is prepared to recognize the unity of all religious ideals. At this level of understanding, all religions appear to be so many derivations of one and the same impulse, the cry of the heart, the longing of the soul for God.
Perhaps one might discover someday what it really means to have inner security, such as that which comes from seeing that all things have only just as much importance as one attaches to them. Nothing is important and yet everything is important, but that which seems so important to oneself does not always seem important to others. The Sufi will always remain free from judging others and from specifying what is good and what is bad. For the Sufi, good and bad are concepts which can only be discerned within one’s own conscience. At a higher level of understanding there is no such thing as good and bad, but rather a restful conscience or an unrestful one. The only guide that can help to determine what is right and what is wrong for oneself is one’s own conscience. When one thinks or does something inappropriate, one is unhappy. Even though one often tries to fool oneself, one always knows what is really good and what is bad upon one’s path in life. We usually think that our thoughts are only inside our head, and that our emotions are only within our chest, but in fact our thoughts extend throughout the indefinable sphere of consciousness, and the emotions expand indefinitely, unlimited by concepts such as time, space apd intellectual logic. It is obvious, for example, that our thoughts and emotions are influenced by all impressions received through the five senses. What is more, if thoughts can evolve within all centers of consciousness, then these could certainly be enriched by the grace of intuition and inspiration.
A Sufi feels the necessity of doing certain practices, which are not selfishly kept secret from others, as is the case in various cults and sects. These practices are healthy from a physical as well as from a psychological point of view. For instance, breathing practices are encouraged to develop the subtlety of the prana energy in the breath. It s not the volume of breath which is important, but rather the intensity of the light of the cosmos which the breath conveys. Other disciplines such as concentration practices are also extremely helpful in training the mind. Surprisingly, the more one is able to concentrate on a given thought and hold it firmly in place, the better one is able to free the mind from a thought which is unwanted. There are so many who are unhappy because they are haunted by disturbing thoughts, and they do not know how to get rid of them.
There are also devotional types of practices, such as prayers in which the Sufi refrains from asking, but endeavors instead to offer love and gratitude to the Divine Beloved. The word love represents a very vast reality which only has meaning when the self is forgotten in the unfolding of love. Love is only love where there is harmony, and harmony is only harmony where there is beauty. In other words, where there is love and harmony, there will also be beauty – but what is beauty? Perhaps the only definition of beauty is to say that all which moves the heart is beautiful. Obviously, each one sees beauty differently because each heart beats differently. Therefore it is impossible to formulate it otherwise than to say that beauty is the language of the heart.
The Sufi takes others more seriously than self, and that is why it is very difficult to understand what a Sufi really thinks or feels. Regarding material existence, the Sufi is awake to the reality of creation, while at the same time observing the everlasting reality of illusion.