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by Murshid Hidayat Inayat-Khan
THE PRACTICE CALLED SHAGHAL
(To listen to recordings by Murshid Hidayat on Shagal, please scroll down).
Among the many esoteric practices given in the Esoteric School of the Sufi Movement, there are some, which are very helpful; and there are others, which might be confusing as from the start, unless one is prepared to experience them.

There are other practices, which are very important for spiritual growth for those who have a couple of years in back of them, and that is the reason why a guide can be helpful in suggesting the practice which might be the most appropriate at a given time. There are also practices which one does during one's whole life, and others again, which are especially important in certain circumstances.

Our Master was inspired by several yoga practices known since centuries and centuries, many of which can be found in the booklet called Pranayama and in particular, the practice known in Hinduism as "Mudra Yoga", which is also found in many and various publications.

Here again, when trying to do that practice from instructions found in a book, it might mean nothing to some, and obviously, nothing is experienced. For those who take special interest in this esoteric practice, it is important to know that our Master, transformed ancient cultures into gold, when translating the well-known yoga practiced called Mudra Yoga into what is now called the Shagal Practice.

In Shagal all the descriptions concerning the different sensations do not correspond to the physical impressions of the five senses. These inner experiences are of a different nature; they are of a spiritual nature.
With the Shagal practice, one does not acquire any particular powers. That is not the idea. What one does discover is an attunement to the Divine Presence. The five senses become much more intense and subtle. The experience in Shagal is the discovery of the luminosity of the inner self, which is then offered to others insofar as one's radiance captivates their hearts. With this practice, one closes the doors of the five senses and one tries to discover what is to be found on the other side of the doors. The breath is like a bridge, connecting the outer world with the inner world, which is the real spectator of all impressions, experienced through the five senses, or  five channels through which all impressions are absorbed.

All that one knows has come either through the sight, through the hearing, through the olfactory ability, through the taste, or through the touch. If these senses did not have any access to the outer world, one would know nothing. In other words, the five senses are like antennas, constantly focused outwards, in order to receive as much as one's mind is able to assimilate. And what is more: we receive through the five senses much more than our mind could ever be able to be conscious of. The eyes capture many more impressions than the mind can register. The same thing with sound, and the same with all senses.

In the Shagal practice, one is closing the doors of the five senses so that all the attention, normally directed through the senses, is now directed within.
Mystical Consciousness Experienced in Shagal
When closing the ears, one hears an inner tone, and when closing the eyes a brilliant light unknown to the eyes is then visualised. It is the inner self which experiences that tone and that light; and the same with the other senses, when the attention directed through them is reversed inwardly.
The Divine Touch
In Science it is known that as soon as a shape is created, there is a magnetic radiance around that shape. This phenomenon can be experienced when looking at a coloured dot placed upon a white screen. At a certain moment, one might notice an aura around the dot. What is it? It is the magnetic radiance of the shape that manifests to our sight, as soon as the visualised image  is received upon the retina.

From a mystical point of view, when adopting a different image of oneself, the adopted image is then translated in one's mind as an aura, just like the light in the electric globe takes the shape of the globe in appearance, but that same light also spreads out its rays into the space, as illumination. Perhaps that is a clearer way of understanding the reality of awakening to "The Divine Presence within".

The "Touch" is only there when there is something to be touched, otherwise there is no feeling of contact, whereas magnetism is always felt as a Divine caress when the mind is disconnected from the physical sense of touch. When holding hands with another, leaving a gap of four or five centimetres, one feels a subtle energy, which cannot be described. The more one experiences the feeling of tenderness in the palms of the hands, the more one understands the subtleness of the communication felt, when giving or receiving the blessing. This is a sacred communication.

Furthermore, at any time of the day, when feeling irritated, restless, worried or in need of guidance, if one tries to experience the "Divine Touch", this can help so much to understand the true mystical reality of "The Divine Presence within".
The Taste
In the previous preparation stage of the Shagal practice one becomes conscious of the Magnetic Energy radiating as an aura around the physical shape of the body. In the second part of the preparation stage of the Shagal practice, one tries to discover that same energy in the sense of the taste. This is done while gently pressing the tongue against the palate, and absorbing an unknown taste from within.During this experience, one is creating in the mind an unknown taste, which is then perceived as an inner sensation, revealed as a mystical concept of Divine sustenance.

The Olfactory Ability
Now, in the third part of Shagal, the olfactory ability becomes like an akasha, receiving the divine all-existing perfume of the Prana energy in space. This meditation is done with closed eyes, while focusing on the bridge of the nose.

The Sight
In the fourth part of Shagal, always done with eyes closed, one now concentrates upon a five-pointed star, while focusing on the third eye, which is shining with bright light, illuminating one's entire being. One is quietly inhaling on 4 beats, then holding the breath on 6 beats and exhaling on 6 beats.

The Sound
In the fifth part of Shagal, always with closed eyes, the focus is on the top of the head, the crown, and one places the fingers very gently upon the ears, so as to symbolically close the hearing, so that the inner consciousness seems to be more of a reality, when the inner sound becomes gradually intelligible, as  a Divine sound heard from within.
Basic Preparation For Shagal Practice

Focusing with eyes closed, for a certain length of time, either on the tip of the nose, the bridge of the nose, the third eye, the top of the head or above the head. These centres or Chakras could be seen as openings onto the kundalini stream, manifesting as an aura surrounding the image of oneself.

When closing the hearing, one perceives an inner tone; when closing the eyes there is a brilliant light unknown to the eyesight, and the same for all other senses.
As our master mentions in the Sangathas:  'while seeing the beauty of nature, and listening to the breeze of the air, one is experiencing the magic power of Prana, which is constantly offered.'

In other words, the one who has mastered Shagal unconsciously practices Shagal at all moments and in all circumstances, amidst the constant turmoil in daily life.
One cannot explain in words the depth of the experiences felt when concentrating on these centres, and when directing one's attention inwardly, which is the basic principle of Shagal.
Shaghal means an occupation to penetrate through the inner planes.

The first Shaghal is to close one’s ears with the tips of the fingers for about five seconds, not longer. This must be done after having inhaled a full breath; and it is necessary to control the breath, in other words to hold the breath in, while doing this exercise.

One concentrates on the word ‘Hu’ during the practice; in other words hear the sound which comes to one on closing the ears as ‘Hu’ and interpret it to oneself as a sound of the inner working of the whole universe.
This practice brings one to stillness of mind, taking one above the general noises of the world, and gives one peace in the midst of the crowd.

One should practice Shaghal 1 for five minutes and then try to hear the word ‘Hu’ by summing up all of the different noises in one. The best time for this practice is in the midst of the night or early in the morning.

By hearing this word, one gets closer to the higher planes of life, the intuitive faculties become more clear, and one is drawn closer to the Creator.

THE RECORDINGS | MURSHID HIDAYAT INAYAT-KHAN ON SHAGHAL

THE RECORDINGS
MURSHID HIDAYAT INAYAT-KHAN
ON SHAGAL
Shaghal - The Five Senses

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Shaghal - 1

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Shaghal - 2

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Shaghal In Stages
Shaghal - 1 (sound/hearing)

Shaghal means an occupation to penetrate through the inner planes. The first Shaghal is to close one’s ears with the tips of the fingers for about five seconds, not longer. This must be done after having inhaled a full breath; and it is necessary to control the breath, in other words to hold the breath in, while doing this exercise. One concentrates on the word ‘Hu’ during the practice; in other words hear the sound which comes to one on closing the ears as ‘Hu’ and interpret it to oneself as a sound of the inner working of the whole universe.

This practice brings one to stillness of mind, taking one above the general noises of the world, and gives one peace in the midst of the crowd.

One should practice Shaghal 1 for five minutes and then try to hear the word ‘Hu’ by summing up all of the different noises in one. The best time for this practice is in the midst of the night or early in the morning.

By hearing this word, one gets closer to the higher planes of life, the intuitive faculties become more clear, and one is drawn closer to the Creator.

Shaghal - 2 (light/seeing)

In Shaghal 2 one must close one’s eyes very gently with the first finger of both hands, closing the opening between the eyelids. Care may be taken that one does not press one’s eyes or put the weight of one’s fingers upon the eyes. Breathe softly and slowly, holding the breath, without straining the breathing vessels. One must think while doing this practice that one is looking at the universal light which is the cause of the whole manifestation and out of which have come all of the visible forms of this world before our view. Do Shaghal - 2 for 5 minutes.

Shaghal - 3 (aroma/smell)

This practice can be done by closing the two nostrils after having inhaled through the right nostril. The breath must not be retained longer than one second. This practice must not be continued too long. When this is mastered, one is able to absorb from the space, the vital power, the essential energy of life. It does not only invigorate one physically, but it makes the mind brilliant and the perception clear.

Shaghal - 4 (savour/taste)

Lips closed signify peace, lips open signify sorrow, greed, discontent. The mouth has a higher significance than what we know in general. It is not only a receptacle for eating and drinking, but it is with the lips that we pray and repeat the sacred word. With the open mouth the word is sent out, with the closed lips the word is retained within. That retained word becomes the primal word, as it is said in the Scripture that ‘first was the word and the word was God’. Therefore the adepts had the vow of silence; and some did not only abstain from speech, but closed their lips tight, that neither in word, nor in whisper, nor even through the breath the word should be let out.

It has always proved to be an excellent practice of Shaghal to close the lips tight, and by that to retain every bit of strength and vitality, allowing it to function in the centers within. This gives the adept the taste of the higher life and develops in him the latent powers, awakening in him at the same time, intuition and inspiration.
Shaghal - 5 (synthesis)

When the four divided parts of the Shaghal are done together - in other words when the eyes are closed, the nostrils are closed, the ears closed, and the lips closed at the same time, then the Sheghal will be complete. Once an adept begins to do the Shaghal completely, he need not do the same in parts, but experience each thing, such as the sound and the light and the fragrance and the taste at one and the same time, trying at the same time to keep the consciousness undivided.

With the sound one must feel that one is hearing the working of the mechanism of the whole universe; with the light one must feel that one is seeing the light of the whole universe; with the fragrance one must feel that one is perceiving the fragrance of the whole universe; with the savour one must feel that one is tasting the savour of the whole universe. At that time one must feel, ‘I am one with the whole universe; nothing can divide me, my consciousness’. And one must do these four things all at the same time, and that one can only do by feeling, not thinking. When one says it, one can only say one thing after another; and when one thinks of these things, then also one can only think one thing after another; but when one feels them…..then all things one is capable of feeling at one and the same time. For instance, in nature there are several trees, different flowers and fruits, each having its special fragrance, and at the same time, there comes a fragrance of the essence of all, as one fragrance.

This will develop in the adept a wonderful physical vitality also, bringing in a person a new strength and vigour, making one’s thoughts stronger, one’s words more impressive, and the atmosphere more powerful. In comparison to the one who does Shaghal, other persons who do not do it seem like clocks which have not been wound. This develops tremendously all intuitive faculties, also the psychic influence of the person who does Shaghal becomes great. It is after the mastery of Shaghal that a person begins to see and know the phenomena of life in its fullness.

When the four organs of the senses - the ears, the eyes, the nose and the mouth - are closed, one must experience by all of them that which one has experienced from them in divided Shaghal. In other words, one must hear the universal sound, see the light, perceive the Divine fragrance, taste the spiritual savour, knowing that he himself, the soul and spirit, is experiencing in the deep depths of life the essence of the manifestation, feeling that he has risen to the summit of life’s mountain, where he is enjoying the essence of life, and that all this experience is a means of awakening the consciousness of his real self. This brings a person to that stage in which he knows long, long before what is coming, and to the knowledge of something which long ago has passed. It raises man above all fear, doubt, worry and anxiety; it enables his soul, so to speak, to float in the space instead of being captive in this mortal garb.

Advanced Shaghal
Shaghal 6 - extension of Shaghal 1 - Sound/Hearing

An adept who practices Shaghal, after some time will have an experience of that Shaghal during times when he is not practicing. He will hear sounds of the spheres in ten forms: in the form of the buzzing of the bees; in the form of the bells ringing in the ears; in the form of whistles blowing; in the form of the fluttering of the leaves; in the form of the running of the water; in the form of the sound of the vina; in the form of the cooing of the wind; in the form of the crashing of the thunder; in the form of the music of the spheres; in the form of the song of the angels. Many other experiences will be vouchsafed to the one who practices Shaghal. And the less he will speak of them to others, the more powerful he will become. Shaghal helps one to be in the world and not be of the world. It raises one from the limitations of the earthly life.

Shaghal 7 - extension of Shaghal 2 - Light/Seeing

Once Shaghal has been mastered and one is able to see the light, one must try to retain that light as long as one can. One must practice, without putting the fingers upon the eyes, to visualize a spark of light. It must be made as clear as the outer light; and one must know that light to be the first cause out of which manifested all forms. This will give the adept insight into all things, and he will be able to throw his inner light upon life, thereby to see its nature and character more clearly.

Shaghal 8 - extension of Shaghal 3 - Aroma/Smell

One must try by the practice of Shaghal to absorb from the abstract the essential magnetism, or the life force. This is done by closing both nostrils after having inhaled a deep breath. By doing this, one attracts from the space life force, filling oneself thus with a renewed life. This must not be done for a long time, and one must not strain the breathing tubes or the veins of the brain by doing this practice. This practice develops in one finer perception, and one feels the nature and character of things through his breath. The master of this practice can feel conditions through breath, the nature of things, the secret of objects, the mystery of personalities, the atmosphere of places. He can sense conditions without being told about them.
Shaghal 9 - extension of Shaghal 4 - Savour/Taste

The mystic sees another significance of the mouth than for it to be a receptacle of food and drink. Through the mouth words of wisdom are expressed, sacred words repeated. Therefore the mouth is likened to a shell from which pearl-like words become manifest. As by the opening of the mouth words are expressed, so by the closing of the mouth the word is drawn within, which becomes a living word compared with all other words, which are lost after once they are spoken.

In Shaghal, the closing of the mouth by pressing the lips tight wakens in one’s consciousness that heavenly savour, that taste of nectar, that joy of spiritual union with God, that it makes the adept enjoy his silence most. Some in doing this practice close their lips light, with the tip of the tongue touching the palate. This has no other purpose than self-discipline, that even the tongue, that drops words unconsciously, often creating thereby discord and disharmony, may be locked by action and will. Life becomes a phenomenon when once this practice is mastered. The master of this Shaghal has tongues of flame, that all he says kindles the hearts of his listeners.

Shaghal - 10 - extension of Shaghal 5 - Synthesis

The one who practices Advanced Shaghal, who sees the spark without closing the eyes, who hears the sound of the spheres without closing the ears, one who smells the fragrance of the essence of life, one who tastes the savour of the essence of the whole being, must perceive life differently from all others. The adept who has arrived at this stage of Advanced Shaghal knows of happenings long beforehand and of coming events, as well as of things of the past; for he hears the whisper of coming events and he reads the record of what has passed. He can be in the midst of the crowd and not be affected by it. He becomes free from doubt, and he rises above all worries. He feels detached in the midst of all seeming attachments. The practice of Advanced Shaghal tunes a person to the cosmic rhythm and to the universal consciousness.
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