A Path of Love, Harmony, Beauty and Spiritual Liberty
For many who call ourselves Sufis, we stand on a lighted path through a great and mystical forest. What we know and have experienced comes to us through the writing and teachings of Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan, passed on by his youngest son, Hidayat Inayat Khan, and other Sufi teachers such as Shamcher Bryn Beorse and inspiring individuals such as Hidayat’s older sister, Noor-un-nissa Inayat Khan.
This website is not an archive. We present brief glimpses into the lives, experiences, and teachings which shape our tradition with suggestions for further resources and study. We hope this will provide newcomers to Sufism and experienced students an overview of the Sufi path and its relevance in today’s world.
Fazalunissa Carole Harmon
Sufism is neither a religion nor a cult nor a sect, nor is it only from the East nor from the West. Sufism, which means wisdom, has always been and shall always be an open door to Truth, with sympathy towards all beliefs, while at the same time avoiding speculation upon abstract concepts. Sufism believes in the Divine origin of every form of worship in which the unity of religious ideals is respected...
Sufism is not a religion; it is an attitude, a path. It is the path of love for mankind. It is not a speculative adventure; there is no searching after phenomena. Sufism does not mean being any better than anybody else. Sufism means to be a human being, so that others might perhaps benefit from the experience...
The Sufi emblem is a flying heart, symbolically representing the great power of love as it reaches upwards, carried upon wings of “Spiritual Liberty” into the spheres of Divine Consciousness. In this symbol, the five-pointed star represents the light of the Spirit of Guidance, illuminating the way all along the journey toward inner awakening. The crescent moon represents the receptive and expressive qualities of the heart set free when the limited self is no more the spectator.
The religion of our time is destined to be the religion of the heart, for the heart is the temple of God, wherein, when wisdom prevails, love, harmony and beauty together constitute the living altar...
What is really experienced in worship? =... Is it not, perhaps, the call of the heart? The spiritual path is a process of tuning the heart to an inner pitch, which is only heard when the doors of the heart are open, and the absence of the self miraculously reveals the silent tone within. This process can be traced in all religious teachings, and in this process lies the whole secret of happiness and inner peace.
What is the heart? Is it not the temple of God? And if so, could we really venture to invite the Divine Presence into that temple if impurities such as the ‘I am’ concept are there, along with all our doubts and fears and wants?
But what does this all really mean?
It means that as beloved ones of God, we are expected to remind ourselves of the noble responsibilities which are ours. It is then that one might eventually discovers that God-consciousness, which one had been frantically pursuing, is in fact already there. But so long as this consciousness is not an expression of the heart, then whatever be the external appearance of spirituality, piety or morality, this all remains void of Godliness.
If God-consciousness could be explained at all, it is certainly an unconditional reality of love, human and Divine; and it is with the great power of this profound realization that all brothers and sisters of all convictions humbly unite in Love, Harmony and Beauty.
Unity of Religious and Spiritual Ideals is shining in the world today, at various levels, in social, cultural and scientific activities, although extremely negative things are happening. These Ideals, which were originally destined to offer a helping hand toward the realization of Truth, tend regrettably to be confined within rigid forms and are clad in ancestral garbs by those who assume reaching the goal by means of false pretence. Nevertheless, the more we attach our attention to creative achievements, the more we shall discover traces of the silent working of the Message in our Time, and it is a sacred duty to participate in spreading great ideals, keeping the standards high, at different levels of responsibilities.
Ancient Sufi Esoteric schools, which can be traced as far back as the time of Abraham and even earlier, blossomed all down the ages. In Arabia they were known for their esoteric teachings. In Ancient Persia, literature, poetry and music were their sources of inspiration. In India, the esoteric Schools were mostly dedicated to meditation. However, the term Sufi, which means wisdom, does not refer to a new religion, nor to a cult, nor to a doctrine, nor to a dogmatic institution. Sufism is the religion of the heart, and it has always been related to wisdom, ever since wisdom was wisdom.
Wisdom also refers to making every effort to raise human understanding to a level of spiritual awakening, which is the outcome of the purification of the mind from the limitation of traditional barriers, as well as from one’s own pre-conceived ideas. Wisdom cannot be the property of a chosen transmission, nor can it be defined because of its universal nature. Therefore it is wise to avoid making a display of speculative concepts, only using the language of the heart when communicating with others, with compassion for the misunderstandings that divide the earnest followers of religious traditions all down the ages, perpetuating thereby the spectre of fanaticism, even in this age, where science has successfully catapulted factual knowledge as far as the surface of the moon.
As we march courageously onwards through the darkness of human ignorance, holding steadfastly the banner of Unity of Religious Ideals, we may discover that Truth could be interpreted as being an invitation to become living examples of an Altar of all religious beliefs, communicating with each other in accordance with each other’s understanding.
There is only one Truth: the nobility of the heart, when the “I” consciousness is transcended, awakened to the divine heritage seen in modesty, kindness, graciousness, and humility. This is the path of the wise who recognize that all that, which they know, is in reality just a spark of eternity. The self, constantly identifies itself with its limited mental and physical status without realizing that the all-pervading immanence of life is that indescribable power, which is constantly manifesting behind all impulses.
Spirituality does not correspond to physical strength or to psychological definitions, but it does reveal itself as self-respect, as well as respect for others. A spiritual person has a natural inclination for moral integrity and self-discipline, resisting temptations that could offer a negative example to others. Spirituality is characteristic of a feeling heart, which is constantly pouring out inner emotions, which have an uplifting influence upon those who are responsive to the magnetism of their personality.
As we know from fairy tales, there is a magic formula, which can be used to turn base metal into gold. This mystical illustration symbolizes so beautifully the principles followed in the inner school of the Sufis, where serious work is done in transforming the grossness of one’s ego into a humble attitude, with respect for the privilege of one’s divine heritage, radiating love upon all who come one’s way. That divine heritage is discovered along a very thorny path called the “Art of Personality”. The journey on this path requires constant efforts made to forge one’s character into a true example of Love, Harmony and Beauty. One can be a bringer of happiness when overlooking that which is disturbing, when others are not in agreement with one’s own thinking, and by working on one’s own shortcomings rather than judging others.
Even in a fall there is a hidden stepping-stone, by which one might rise above one’s shortcomings, helping indirectly the tuning of one’s ego to a higher pitch, discovering thereby, sparks of hidden guidance. There is no experience in life, which is really worthless, and not one moment is really wasted, providing one is wise enough to carefully assemble the elements of past memories, seeing guidance in these precious stepping stones, which can be available for the accomplishment of one’s life purpose. Any role that one performs in the play of life, soon becomes intoxicating, and under that spell one cherishes the illusions of the game, as opposed to unlimited Truth. The Soul is, however, the true spectator of all events, reflected as images upon a mirror, without causing any permanent alteration to the screen, leaving the surface of the mirror immaculately pure.
Every effort made toward the fulfillment of one’s life’s purpose, whether material or spiritual, brings one, step by step, to the ultimate goal. This process could be seen as a humble contribution to the fulfillment of the Divine goal, since the entire creation is in a constant state of formation according to a central theme.
The purpose of life is not only to rise to the greatest heights, but to also dive deeply into the deepest depths, whereby the Self is lost, but finds itself again as a result to the widening of the consciousness, just as the seed finds the fulfillment of its purpose, reaching deep into the earth as a root, and simultaneously rising above the surface, as a plant spreading out in full blossom under the rays of the sun.
Spiritual ideals cannot be the property of one particular transmission because of their universal nature. Spirituality is a call for the human rights of thought and feeling on the spiritual path. This call has been sounding ever since eternity but has not always been understood, which explains why various terminologies generally misinterpret the real meaning of that call. Besides this, what brings still more confusion regarding spirituality is that there is an endless number of self-proclaimed mystics, occultists, spiritualists, fortune-tellers and para-psychologists, whose missions seem to content those who are chasing after miracles.
Hazrat Inayat Khan has given us to understand that in reality everyone is spiritual, because life itself is spirit, and spirit is life-power, motivating the materialized garb of the self. Along life’s path, one tends to distance oneself from inborn spirituality, identifying oneself with one’s limited mental and physical status, without realizing that the all-pervading immanence of life is that indescribable power constantly manifesting behind all impulses.
Spirituality can neither be taught nor learned; it can only be discovered by way of the heart, but not through the word, which is limited to each one’s individual understanding; therefore spirituality really means rebirth, in the sense that one begins to discover that it has always been one’s birthright. Spirituality cannot be defined in words, in doctrines, in theories or in philosophical statements, but it could best be described as the perfume of true knowledge, although it has been illustrated in all ages in many folkloric fairy-tales, which give spirituality the appearance of being related to strange powers and miracles. Besides this, spirituality cannot be pinned down as the possession of a particular sect or cult, or as belonging to any religious belief.
When turning the pages of numerous literary illustrations, one invariably discovers a common denominator in all such tales, describing spirituality in terms of such attributes as “love, lover and beloved.” If spirituality could be confined within a teaching, it could be understood as a challenge to express “love, human and divine” in every circumstance, be it material, social, religious or human.
The mystic strives constantly to offer an example, so that others might be inspired to discover that love really means rising in love and not falling in love; whereas devotion means the fall of the false concept of self, followed by the rising of the consciousness of the true self. Regrettably, one always assumes that spirituality is something that can be obtained, and we do not know how. We are sometimes intrigued by a person who is considered to be spiritual because of appearance or for some other reason, but spirituality mostly remains just a dream.
The light of the glowing sun cannot be limited to just one ray. It shines in an infinite number of rays. In the same way, the light of the inner conscience is not reserved only for the so-called spiritual people; it also shines in the hearts of everyone, good or bad, but at different levels of intensity, dependent upon the transparency of the ego. But again, if one cannot get rid of the ego, why not train it appropriately so that it can be used for beneficial purposes? If we did not have an ego, we would not be able to accomplish anything, either good or bad.
The ego is like an engine with tremendously powerful energy, which can only be useful if it is kept under control, for material as well as for spiritual experiences. The most powerful locomotive engine is helpless if there are no rails to roll on, and what is the good of rails without an engine to roll on them?
There is a well-known theatre play that asks, “To be or not to be?” and in fact, we all know that striving in this difficult life requires either to be or not to be. Therefore, we tend to assume that this method also applies in obtaining spirituality, but spirituality does not have any meaning, unless one discovers that to be spiritual means exactly the reverse of wanting to be something, or pretending to be something. Before making the first humble step on the path of spirituality, the idea is to realize that spirituality means losing the desire to be something and thereby unconsciously identifying one’s self with the divine presence.
We have all heard about heaven, and we imagine that to become spiritual means becoming higher and higher, but have we ever stopped to discover that everything that we might have wanted to obtain from up there, is already right here in our own hearts? There are numerous methods. There are numerous types of yoga, there are numerous religions, there are thousands of spiritual schools, but unless we try to hold the ego under control, we are wasting our time, and we are only facing disillusion, and disillusion in spirituality is much worse than disillusion in worldly affairs.
Truth is only Truth when one is not pretending to oneself or others about one’s supposed wisdom. Truth can only be Truth if it is expressed as a silent example of an awakening to the solution of the everlasting riddle: who, what, why, which, when, whence and whither.
As one proceeds onward through the darkness of human ignorance, steadfastly displaying the torch of spiritual liberty, one may perhaps discover that Truth could be interpreted as an invitation to become living examples of love, harmony and beauty, and, as living altars of all religious beliefs, to communicate to each in each one’s language while holding fast to the only secret there is in spirituality, inner peace and happiness.
The mind could be seen as a sophisticated computer where numberless programs can be installed. These can be downloaded at will, or they might flash unwillingly at anytime. The processing of these programs could be called mental activity. Among the various thought - programs, some can be understood as being logical, whereas others require a deeper insight, because they proceed in attunement with the feeling heart.
Reasoning, which requires a touch of wisdom as well as the correct knowledge of facts, could be explained as being an evaluating process in view of decisions to be make or actions to be taken. Reasoning does also require the abilities of concentration and co-ordinate thinking.
Concentration could be understood as being a process where the thought is held under control, fixing it upon a chosen object, color or sound, or an association of these. This specific discipline also requires the ability to de-concentrate, in order to secure the mind from undesirable thoughts.
Imagination, which is the secret of creative accomplishments can be developed with the help of visualizing sceneries, where shapes, colors, sounds and movements are inwardly seen in a waken state as opposed to dreams.
Observation is the process of receiving impressions through the five senses, which are the windows through which the consciousness is fully aware of all experiences, and is therefore the door - opener to knowledge of things and happenings. Observation is obviously at the origin of all decision made and actions taken.
Memory is the storehouse, where past impressions are preserved along various periods of time, depending upon the intensity of the experience. Long years of impressions can suddenly re-appear on the screen of the mind for no logical reason, resulting from indirect associations with circumstance.
Meditation cannot be called thought conditioning, but rather a sublimated state of mind, where both the mind and the feeling heart are enlightened by all-pervading consciousness.
Dogmatic regulations highlight one’s own ego, as well as the ego of those in all Cultures where freethinking is dominated by tradition; whereas on the path of Spiritual Liberty, one is not fooled by the ego of others.
The ego could be compared to a snake with two heads. One head is senselessly in conflict with its own inferiority complexes such as self-pretence, self-pity and pre-conceived ideas, which only lead to disillusion. The other head of the snake is obsessed recklessly by an urge to dominate and to possess, void of any consideration. The bites of the double-headed snake are the pain done to oneself as well as to others.
Paradoxically, the personified ego is motivated by the life energy within, revealed as awareness, at the level of self-discipline, known as the Art of Personality, experienced in Mysticism, Philosophy and Psychology, which are like door openers to a space where the self is no more seen as one’s own, although, one is entrusted by birth with the duty to find for oneself a compromise between destiny and freewill.
In Mysticism, one is inspired when sublimating the ego to the level of inner consciousness of the Divine Guidance secretly leading one onwards.
In Philosophy, one learns various ways of developing self-discipline, restricting the ego within the limits of correct behaviour.
In Psychology, one analyses the various facets of the ego before finally discovering them in one’s own character.
When rising above the limitations of the ego, one realizes that one is only the disguise of the all pervading reality, of which one is at the same time the motive, the energy and the fulfillment.
Power of Practice
The Power of Concentration, Contemplation and Meditation
By tradition, Buddhists are accustomed to sitting in concentration at the feet of an image of the Buddha, although according to their belief nothing really does exist which cannot be reasonably understood. There seems to be no logical explanation for this custom, which obviously appears to contradict the principle of rejecting all interpretations of abstract concepts, nevertheless, this paradox does certainly reveal a deep mystical teaching. In fact, while sitting in attunement with the Buddha-image, the devotees feel profoundly inspired by that very atmosphere of inner Peace received through the impressions of an enlightened Buddha, impressions which become reality for those whose deep concentration merges with the idea of enlightenment.
Love, Human and Divine, can obviously be experienced at a level where the thinking mind and the feeling heart are harmoniously attuned within the consciousness, leaving no space for self-identification. This could be understood as a meditative condition, where the mind-world and the feeling heart merge at the level of a sublimate consciousness.
The mind could be seen as a sophisticated computer, where numberless programs are installed. These can either be downloaded at will, or they might flash by, unwillingly, at any time. The processing of these programs is what could be understood as Mental activity. Among the various thought-programs available, some can be understood from a logical point of view, whereas others require a deeper insight into the thinking world, because these proceed in attunement with the feeling heart.
Imagination, which is the secret of creative accomplishments, can be developed by visualizing imaginary sceneries with closed eyes. One can either visualize oneself within those sceneries, or they can be seen at various distances. Details such as colors, sounds and moving objects visualized within the scenery can be largely diversified, thereby intensifying the creative nature of this process.
Memory is like a storehouse, where past impressions are preserved along various periods of time, according to the intensity of the experience registered at the time. When grabbing impressions out of the storehouse of the memory they suddenly re-appear in the mind.
Past impressions can also spontaneously flash back at any time, without having been consciously called upon. Furthermore, long forgotten impressions - since many years - can also suddenly re-appear on the screen of the mind for no logical reason, other than resulting indirectly from an automatic association with similar circumstances.
Observation is the process of receiving impressions through the five senses, which are like windows through which the consciousness is fully aware of all experiences. Consequently, observation is the door-opener to all worldly knowledge and happenings, resulting in decisions and actions taken following concentrated and coordinated reasoning. Reasoning, which requires wisdom as well as the knowledge of facts, could be explained as being a co-ordination process regarding decisions or actions to be taken, there where the mind is confronted with the need of simultaneously evaluating multiple facts.
When following a project, one develops more and more willpower, with which one is able to maintain the realization of that project. While concentrating one is not conscious of the power of will involved, but sooner or later, whatever one concentrates upon becomes an intoxication unless one is prepared to liberate oneself from the domination of the project in mind.
When following an idea, one may be fascinated by it, but when giving it up for a better cause, the willpower is thereby strengthened, which is the fruit of conviction guided by wisdom. This is what could be understood by the term contemplation. While contemplating an idea without the guidance of wisdom one might become intoxicated with the chosen concept, which could then degenerate into a fixed idea or a preconception.
In other words, whatever one contemplates, sooner or later produces a significant effect with either positive or negative consequences; one can either become elevated, or if one is not prepared to liberate oneself from self-illusion, one can become intoxicated.
An impression is the shadow of external circumstances received through the five senses and traced automatically upon the screen of the mind, whereas willpower is the energy which motivates the thought, enabling thereby a coordination of colors, shapes and lines, creating thereby an intelligible image. The power of sensorial impressions made upon the mind can be so great that it conditions one’s thoughts and feelings. In this way, the impressions of an idealized image of worship are reproduced upon one’s own mind-frame inasmuch as one’s thoughts are directed toward the subject of concentration.
Everything that is perceived through the five senses is stored and scattered deep down in the memory when not actively called upon. However, when wanted, all the pieces are again assembled, automatically, reconstructing thereby the original image. This differs from the dream, where the light of intelligence is in a standby condition and the power of the will is slumbering. In this condition, the regrouping of the many thought-pieces lacks complete coordination, which explains the complete lack of logic in dreams or the unreality of dream images.
Then again, the apparent difference between dream and imagination is that during sleep the slumbering thought is called a ‘dream’, whereas in a wakened state the concentrated or contemplative thought is called ‘imagination’.
Concentration or contemplation both have the quality of fixing the impressions received, securing their retention as thought patterns, which obviously explains why memory is so dependent upon the correct observation of an image, as it also is dependent upon willpower with regard to the motivation of thought. Besides the impressions received through the five senses, there are also much finer ones which vibrate within the feeling heart and, like a magnet, which can hold pieces of metal by the power of attraction, in the same way, thoughts may be steadily fixed in the concentrated mind by the magnetic power of the feeling heart.
Concentration or Contemplation may create or have positive or negative results either intentionally or unintentionally according to whether the concentration is willingly directed, or whether one is obsessed by one’s own thinking. Therefore, if one is not able to delete unwanted thoughts, there is some danger or risk in becoming a slave to the power of concentration. For this reason, holding and erasing, which are both the two great applications of concentration, should obviously be developed simultaneously.
The holding of a thought is constructive insofar as it helps to bring about inner strength and steadiness of mind, whereas the other power, the ability to delete unwanted entangled thoughts, which could be called de-concentration, helps to free the mind of negative thoughts, worries and fears. Besides inspiring images, the most uplifting subject of contemplation may be found in the personalities of spiritual souls whom one idealizes and whose examples indirectly offer either creative or spiritual guidance. But whatever be the chosen ideal, it is mainly the intensity of one’s devotion that shall affect the beauty of the guidance or of the achievement.
Concentration could also be understood as being a process where the thought is held under control when fixing it upon a chosen shape, color, sound or an association of these, such as a symbol or a scenery. This specific discipline also requires the ability of de-concentrating, in order to secure the power of freeing the mind from undesirable thoughts.
The object of concentration inspires inasmuch as the heart is open to its message, but however great that message might be, it still has no impact on the heart of the person whose feeling for devotion has not been awakened. The effect of a feeling heart can certainly be observed in the lives of great men and women whose deeds and creative accomplishments have been profoundly inspired through the admiration and devotion that they themselves have had for the precious examples, the various impressions of which were at the origin of their motivations.
From a mystical point of view, the deeper the concentration, the deeper the power of the mind; but when the mind is attuned to the Divine Power, that Power reveals itself as being, in fact, the very same power which the seeker of Truth initially thought to be his own power of thought.
When opening one’s heart and finding one’s self face to face with the Divine Presence, at that very moment of self-redemption one realizes that what one thought to be oneself was only an illusion, yet paradoxically, individual consciousness is at the same time Divine Consciousness, like the drop of sea water which is just a drop, and yet it is at the same time the sea itself in an individualized form or entity.