from Winter 1997 Caravanserai publication
Murshida Rabia Perez-Chisti
National Representative, Sufi Movement International of the USA
All the scriptures emphasize the need for believers to be of one heart and one mind. Often they stop there — or there is an emphasis upon being of one heart and one mind expressed by some cult or school which leads only to the philosophical recognition of this kind of unity. The great problem, therefore, is how to manifest this in everyday life and, most importantly, in our community.
There are mind and heart types which react and operate differently. Their points of view represent opposite ends of the spectrum. This is where emotions play an important role.
Emotions which come from the heart, Holy Murshid says, can be likened to water. Sweet river water longing to get to the ocean. An ascetic who has closed his heart with the perfection of God and with the realization of truth, is like the sea: independent, indifferent to all things. His presence heals people, his contact gives them joy and peace, and yet his. personality is uninteresting to others, as is the salt water of the sea. The river represents the loving quality that is seeking for the object it loves. The river feeds trees and plants, it inspires the composer of poetry and music. It expresses refinement, modesty, beauty, and it quenches the thirst.
Our Holy Murshid gives us images of this lucid water in different contexts:
1) The water of a small pool reflects how, when agitation mixes up the surface, worries and anxieties can cloud the pure, lucid water. Small pools get muddy easily, he says.
2) The water of a great pool reflects the sky, the moon and the stars. Fish swim in it. Because of the vastness of its reflection, the picture of our own image in it fits into a perfect setting of how we belong in the scheme of things.
3) Spring water is most healing and inspiring, because it comes from above and runs down hill. As it falls from above, it seems to wash away troubles and anxieties, and heals.
4) The fountain is a human-made vision. When a being has made a personality of him or herself, then the feeling rises from the heart through his or her personality and is like a fountain with drops falling from the heart essence as his or her virtues.
5) Water can also be likened to vapor representing the aspiration of the heart.
6) The last image our Holy Murshid gives is the heart that is exposed to too much suffering for a long period, drawing forth a sulphury water which heals and purifies others who suffer. People who have had deep experiences of any kind: of suffering, of agony, of love, of hate, of solitude, of association, of success, of failure, all have a particular quality, a quality which has a special use for others. When a being realizes this, they will come to the conclusion that whatever has been life’s destiny, their heart has prepared a chemical substance through sorrow and pain, through joy or through pleasure, a chemical substance that is intended for a certain purpose, for the use of humanity, and a being can only give it out if she or he can keep their heart awakened and open. Once it is closed, once it is frozen, humanity is no longer living. It does not matter what beings have gone through, for even the worst poison can be of some use. There is no person, however wicked, who is of no use, if only we realize that the first condition for being useful to humanity is to keep our hearts open.
Pir-o-Murshid Hidayat says in his beautiful book Teachings from Lake O’Hara :
This explains why one of the great ideals of the Sufi is the awakening of the heart qualities, resulting in a broader outlook. One’s view then reaches far beyond concepts of faith and belief and allows one to offer tolerance to the tragic misunderstandings which divide the earnest followers of various religions and philosophical traditions. When offering, as brothers and sisters, to partake in carrying the burden of misunderstanding of others, the Sufi avoids any display of speculative theories, using only the language of the heart to communicate sympathy and dedication in support of the various interpretations of the one ideal of worship.
In Arabic, ‘Iman’ translates as ‘conviction,’ a conviction that does not come from the outside, as it stands above faith and belief. For belief is the beginning of the same thing of which faith is the development and conviction the culmination. Spiritual attainment is nothing but conviction. When a person arrives at the stage when the knowledge of reality becomes a conviction, then there is nothing in the world that can change it. And if there is anything to attain to, it is that conviction which one can never find in the outside world; it must rise from the depths of one’s heart.
That is why sentiment is often underestimated when it is compared to reason. This is a mistake, for when there is real sentiment it is much stronger, much more powerful than reasoning. Going from one reason to another produces weakness. Besides, the being of reason has no magnetism, he or she has only reason. These beings can argue, discuss, talk too much, but they do not attract. The being of sentiment has strong magnetism, they can attract without words because they have something living in them. In the being of sentiment is to be found the Divine element, the heart quality.
Sympathy, therefore, is the main quality to cultivate in order to develop the spiritual faculty. And what is sympathy? Sympathy is kindness, mercy, goodness, pity, compassion, gentleness, humility, appreciation, gratefulness and service. This is all defined as love, and love is God.
And how might this be accomplished, Pir-o-Murshid Hidayat asks.
Through (tying to appreciate what is good in another and over-looking that which disturbs one when others are not in accord with one’s own thinking. By trying to see the point of view of others, with tolerance for their convictions, even though they are contrary to one’s own. By trying to avoid judging the feelings of others, especially when involved with those whom one has once loved. By trying to overlook one’s own failures as well as those of others, because even in a fall there is a hidden stepping stone on which to rise above feelings of being either lower or higher than others in God’s presence. By trying to attune oneself to the rhythm of all those whom one meets, in whose company there might he a hidden guidance, as there always is in everything that happens in one’s life, providing one has lost oneself in the ecstasy of the Divine Presence.
You see, in the peculiar nature of our education, everyone is trained to argue with logic and reason, and not to use sentiment and idealism. This is the reason why humanity is moving away from spirituality. We are at the edge of an ethical, nihilistic abyss, in which the sacrifice will be the growth of our countries. We need to empower them by the living examples of our heart. They cannot be guided by reason alone. That is why Holy Murshid says,
If an artist cannot be understood in the town in which he or she lives, his or her faculties and talents be-come blunted and in the end they die. It is the same with the heart quality; if it is not taken notice of, it has no opportunity to develop, if it is ignored, then this quality becomes blunted and in the end, it dies. As it is expressed in the song, ‘The light of the whole life dies when love is done. ‘ What remains? There is no sign of life; what remains is intellectuality expressing itself by the power of egoism.
This is why it is important to support the writings of our community leaders by buying their books, playing their music, strengthening by this act of generosity a support system that works for the accomplishment of the ideal which may be brought into clear manifestation. Would not a family who truly loved each other act in this way?
Sufis in all ages, mystics of India, Persia and Egypt, have considered this type of generosity to be part of the awakening of the heart quality, to be the principal thing in life. All the virtues come naturally when the heart opens.
To the Sufis, spiritual culture is the tuning of the heart. Tuning means the changing of the vibration so that one feels joy and ecstasy of life. Rumi says, “Whether you have loved a human being or whether you have loved God, if you have loved enough, you will be brought in the end into the presence of the Supreme Love itself.”
THE REAL MEANING OF LOVE
The word love can be understood in so many different ways,
but it is only the lover who can really correctly evaluate the
depth of the feeling heart. The heart is extremely sensitive
when attuned to impressions which awaken loving feelings.
Perhaps one could say that love is a condition of the heart
wherein it is sensitive to unselfish emotions.
There are certain esoteric practices which soften the feelings
and bring tears to the eyes when one is deeply touched by
inspiring impressions. However, there is also such a thing as
crying without reason or shedding tears because one is proud
of one’s own values or out of self pity, which have no relation-
ship with the tuning of the heart to higher dimensions.
Hidayat Inayat Khan