Sufism has come to mean a wide range of beliefs that center on the quest for personal enlightenment in the union with God. Sufis are sometimes described as the mystics of Islam, but Sufism fits uncomfortably in the categories of religions. Technically Sufism is a denomination of Islam, however there are many Sufis that are not Muslims and there are many Muslims that are unwilling to consider Sufism part of Islam. One of the few concepts that Sufis seem to agree on is that all religions offer a path to deliverance or enlightenment and that true God realization, no matter how it is achieved, transcends the boundaries and classification of any religion.
Basically, a saint in any religion is equal to a saint in any other religion because they are stirred by the same Divine source. Initially the term Sufi referred only to those who had achieved God realization, but it has since come to be practical to anyone who follows that particular spiritual path.
In the eighth century, a mystical sect of Islam began which combined the mystical traditions of the Greeks, Buddhists and Hindus with traditional Islamic faith. Concepts found in Sufism can be found in a great many near-death experiences too which have been reported. Sufism is known as “the Way of the Heart” and the “Way of the Pure.” It is a means by which one can move from the lower level of self to rise to the Divine Light that penetrates the entire universe. This light concept is common to many other religions as well. According to Sufi tradition, there are many ways to rise, but the essence of the path to God is to find yourself. As the Sufi saying states, “Know yourself, know your Lord.”
SPIRITUALITY- PATH OF ASCENSION
The aim of every spiritual teaching is to ultimately present a greatly accelerated path to the highest station that is the ascension. In reality the teaching towards the path of ascension is a occurrence and largely based on guided imagery teachings. Ascension is the main aim and attainment of the spiritual path which means that we are no longer in need of experiences at the human level. For our lasting progress towards higher levels of consciousness we develop a spiritual light body through our ascension work. Presently ascension teachings focus mainly on guided imagery to open, balance and widen the chakra system and assemble a light body.
A key feature of the path is a process of initiations (stations/ makaam) as a measure of progress on the spiritual path. These initiations are to take place in our higher energy bodies and may or may not be remembered with our normal body consciousness. While there are some variations, the basic requirements for passing the five initiations before ascension may be described as follows.
- Spiritual Awakening.
- Purifying the body (learn to work with the energies and control the etheric body).
- Purifying and controlling the emotions (developing a higher emotional body).
- Purifying and controlling the mind (develop a higher mental body).
- Submitting the will to Divine Guidance.
- Selfless work for the greater good of humanity.
An initiation in the physical body takes place in the form of tests and rituals or they appear to be incorporated as special situations in our normal life. The third initiation requires us to have good control of the mental, emotional and etheric forces. A difficult situation or nearly a impossible mission may have been given to one. To overcome this without much outside help, one needs to use the mind constructively to guide the emotions in a positive way, release all negativity, especially be free of the fear of death and also learn to direct the life-force energies. While for most of those who make progress from the conditions reportedly will have profound spiritual experiences.
ASCENSION AND THE MYSTICAL PATH
The relationships of the various initiations as stated above in the mystical path are all correlated. Opening with the spiritual awakening, the first three initiations are related to the period of purification. In contrast to the yoga system of purification, which concentrates strongly on controlling the life force energies, the mystical path does not address the life-force body directly. However, this level is purified indirectly by removing emotional energy blockages and by learning to control the emotional energies, which in turn direct the life-force energies. Thus Illumination is the first major initiation and is the result of purifying and learning to control the mind and developing a higher mental body as the requirement for the third initiation. The fourth initiation will be passed after waking from the dark night of the soul and the fifth initiation is the result of the unitive life.
Here the ascension teachings portray largely a magical or go-getter path in contrast to the knower-based mystical path. A combination of both may in some ways be easier to follow than either one of them on its own. The harshness of the mystical path can be to a great extent eased and progress speeded up by following the guided imagery, while present day’s teachings seem to neglect the purification and control of the emotional and mental bodies that feature so importantly in the mystical path.
AN INTEGRATED SPIRITUAL PATH
Travellers on the spiritual path have very little help and guidance on spiritual pathways and have to be extremely careful with wrong guidance which will simply lead ones path alone in the darkness of ignorance.
What formerly could only be expressed as beyond your understanding mysticism can now be understood if guided rightly. If the right guidance and understanding is given than this makes it much easier for us to come to the stage of illumination instead of being bogged down for years in emotional misery, which is the case for most mystics.
In the following, I want to give some helpful information on the various stages of the spiritual path and on the different mechanism and tools that you may incorporate into your individualised approach. The path of yoga, Meditation, working with energies, healing the emotions and the mind and so on which can help one to develop the ability to discern and know what is right for you. You can do this by keeping your highest goal in mind and asking your inner or higher guidance for help.
BE CAUTIOUS of getting sidetracked by psychic abilities or happenings. Developing psychic abilities can be interesting, but is no more spiritual than material, emotional or mental activities. However, psychic activities can be more deceptive than other activities. Most psychic happenings take place on the astral level. Spirit entities operating on this level commonly are less spiritually developed than someone on the spiritual path and often give misleading or mischievous information. They also love to imitate or pretend being a high spiritual entity or even God.
Certain sects and cults commonly have astral counterparts (Jinn’s) that nourish on the devotion of their followers and try to tempt possible solutions or money making gimmicks. But these astral entities are more dangerous because they are usually hidden from our awareness and their intentions and methods may not be clean. I would advise one to be wary of visions and voices as these commonly come from a lower level and tend to lead the spiritual seeker off track. They will disappear when moving the consciousness higher into more spiritual regions. The only thing that protects us from being used or misled by lower spirits is the purity of our consciousness.
Do not worry wondering whether you already had a spiritual awakening and are now on the spiritual path or not. Just continue keeping your goal in mind, you will quite naturally be attracted to what is important and right for you.
While in the beginning it is helpful and necessary to read quite a bit from different sources, later it is better to read as little as possible. By continuing to read a lot you remain at the intellectual level and that hinders the development of intuitive abilities. Instead keep the subject in mind about the information, ask your guidance for help and trust that the right book will fall into your hands when needed. Even then, you may not need to read the whole book but quickly find what is important for you.
One of the deviations on the spiritual path are the many books available. If you do not control yourself, you can easily become addicted to reading and spend the rest of your life reading interesting books on spiritual and related matters instead of really doing what needs to be done. Therefore, move quickly through the information phase and start the real work. Whenever you really need additional information, your spiritual guidance is likely to let you unexpectedly find it.
If you are a practising member of a religious denomination, you do not need to be concerned that the spiritual path may be incompatible with your religious beliefs. Instead, you may expect that it will increase your faith. If you discover a contradiction or incompatibility here or there, put it on the sill for the time being. Remember, the spiritual path does not have any doctrines. Any writings about it are personal opinions that you do not need to accept. On the contrary, walking the spiritual path means finding your own insights and personal relationship with God.
PURIFICATION OR CLEANSING
The purification period does not need to be a time of misery and suffering as it has been for the mystics. Instead, it can be a time of adventure and discovery. The greatest adventure is to discover yourself. By removing biological, emotional and mental blockages, you will become healthier and happier. The main fun of the spiritual path is the whole long and interesting journey of getting there.
In addition to purifying, we also aim to strengthen and balance each level to achieve an overall inner as well as outer harmony. We may say that we move to sanitise and spiritualise all aspects of our Self.
THE BIOLOGICAL LEVEL
While many great spiritual teachers have not placed much emphasis on the body, they however purified it just as a part of their spiritual quest. A 40-day fast towards the path is recommended in the biological level.
Furthermore, we have to work hard on purifying our bodies to get to the point where every spiritual seeker started. Therefore, it has advantages for the later work on the higher levels if we start with sanitising the biological level. For this I recommend:
The Basic Cleanse. This may be repeated from time to time.
Adopt a predominantly raw-food diet with plenty of fresh green.
Regular outdoors activity, yoga, stretching, shaking, walking and swimming.
Sanitise your teeth, bedroom and workplace (Cleansing of your chakras).
THE LIFE FORCE ENERGY LEVEL
The main feature of the life force energy level is the etheric body, the life force part of the chakra system. This level determines the basic health of our body and how energetic we are. This is the energy of healing and manifestation.
In order to manifest something, we need to do energy imagery. This is the basis and the principle of all genuine magic. An important part of our work at the etheric level is learning how to accumulate and direct life force energy.
The most important principal to understand is that energy follows thought. Therefore, they require the assistance of the emotional or feeling level, which is sandwiched between the two. For learning to accumulate and direct energies I recommend that you practise the method so that you are able to feel the energy flows, you may also try using them in healing and other manifestations.
If you are so inclined, you may in addition also acquire and use any of the various guided ascension and chakra meditations process.
THE EMOTIONAL LEVEL
For most travellers this will be the most difficult and possibly painful level to cleanse but it will also be the most rewarding.
The important steps in healing our emotions are:
Removing emotional blockages and traumatic body memories.
Overcoming addictions and cravings.
Learning to freely feel and express our emotions without hurting others.
Using meditation and guided imagery to develop a higher emotional body by surrounding ourselves with positive and uplifting feelings and emotions.
Using suitable beliefs and mental awareness to react positively to daily events.
1. Emotional Cleansing
Especially emotional release, past life regression, regression therapy and the Emotional Freedom process.
Whatever the method, when an emotional event from the past is made conscious, it either ceases its damaging effects on its own or can now be dealt with in a rational way.
Some of the main hidden emotions that we need to uncover and release are fear, guilt and resentments. These block the flow of life-force energies and make us vulnerable to lack of energy, diseases and aging. The main remedies, after making a suppressed emotional memory conscious, are unconditional love, understanding and forgiving ourselves and all others.
On this level you do not need to clean out all hidden negative emotional memories that would probably be impossible. However, you should aim to uncover and remove all those factors that interfere strongly with the flow of life-force energies in your body, with your emotional health, enjoyment of life and also with your ability to make clear and neutral decisions.
The most important emotional event to discover and release is commonly our last death experience. This often is at the root of our present health or social problems. To discover and overcome this try regression therapy.
2. Overcoming Addictions and Cravings
For many, overcoming their addictions and cravings may seem to be the hardest task of the spiritual path. This can be best overcome with the Emotional Freedom method, guided imagery, prayer, affirmation and cleansing periods with a very high fluid intake.
In addition, we may also be addicted to or have cravings for certain activities or objects, such as sex, gambling, entertainment, expensive dresses, jewellery or antiques. Again, the activity or object is not the problem, but rather the attachment to it, the desire for it that controls us rather than we controlling it. The most important step is in acknowledging that we have a problem in this area.
3. Free-flowing Emotions
Freely expressing our emotions is the first step in learning to feel our emotions when they arise instead of suppressing them. However, it is preferable to develop the skills to react appropriately whenever the situation arises because then we can also be an example to others.
Marriages and other close relationships are ideal opportunities to learn communicating. If free expression is not always possible, then arrange a fixed time when you can freely express your thoughts and feelings. It is important that only one speaks without interruption until he has said everything he wants to say and then the other replies also without interruption.
4. Generating Positive Feelings
After emptying ourselves of negativity and learning to acknowledge and express our feelings and emotions, it is equally important to fill and surround ourselves with positive and uplifting feelings. Ideally this will come as a obvious result of habitual meditation and through focusing on spiritual feelings during our daily activities.
In addition, it will be beneficial to send feelings of forgiveness, appreciation and love to anyone whom you may have hurt or who may have hurt you in the past.
Finally, learn to carry the loving feeling that you can now generate in special situations over into your normal daily activities. You can do this by training yourself to carry this loving or joyful feeling in your heart wherever you go or whatever you do. Whenever you see or meet someone, you can embrace that individual with the warm feeling in your heart. This is especially important and effective for improving relationships with people who do not seem to like or appreciate you.
5. Reacting Positively
After learning to remain centred in the self-generated positive feelings of our heart, we still need to learn to react positively and appropriately to the many frustrations of our daily lives. This can come only by letting ourselves be guided by a spiritual belief system. After adopting a spiritual philosophy of life it will be much easier to see everything that happens to us as a test of our progress on the spiritual path.
Every day we have many little tests. It is alright to feel a burst of anger or just look for an inner or outer reason why it happened. It does not matter too much how we react, as long as it is appropriate. If we do feel a burst of anger, then it is appropriate to feel it and not try to rationalise it away. But after having felt the anger, we should not remain stuck in it but use our mind to get out of it. However, it would not be appropriate to suppress any stirring of anger.
The basic rule is to feel and express whatever emotion comes up, but then to modify it according to our understanding of the situation from a spiritual point of view. Our emotional reactions are a reflection of our beliefs and the more spiritual these become, the more positive will be our reactions. The ideal is that we can express our feelings naturally in a way that is a positive example.
THE MENTAL LEVEL
Our mind is the most important level to heal because here we make the conscious decisions that affect all other levels. As with the other levels, our aim is to free ourselves of negativity and developing positive aspects instead. A well developed higher mental body is a precondition for the third initiation. We build this higher mental body by practising abstract creative and intuitive thinking such as by thinking about the purpose of life or existence or the nature of God.
In order to free yourself of negative beliefs and thoughts, you must first recognise them when they occur. As an example, you may watch someone passing by and having a critical thought about her, mentally apologise to her and just wish her well. It is alright to observe, just refrain from uninvited judgments, especially of a negative kind.
Another important aspect in controlling our mind is to refrain from talking about other people, especially about common friends, relatives or acquaintances. This leads to gossiping, judging or criticising and would delay progress on the spiritual path.
THE LAW OF MANIFESTATION
Any kind of worry is negative, whether you worry about your finances or your health or about a child or someone else. Worry or concern is a form of fear and that is the opposite of positive expectations and faith. To a large degree we shape our own future by what we expect. Our inner self tries to manifest what we expect. Our expectation acts like a magnet to attract and draw the expected event into our outer reality. If we worry about anything, we expect a negative outcome and help to make it come true.
Therefore, our key lesson to learn at the mental level is to know what we want and then without wavering expect it to manifest sometime in the future. Except where timing is essential, it is best not set a definite time limit. If we want to use magic to help our expectation to manifest, we can use energy imagery. The critical factor then is our unwavering faith until the expected event appears.
This brings us to the next important step, to know what to manifest. It is said that we should be very careful with our wishes because they might come true. That means that we are usually ignorant about the hidden implications of a fulfilled desire. Often there is a spiritual or karmic price to pay. We may delay our spiritual progress or even take on a karmic burden of another individual whom we try to help. We may still have certain karmic obligations to fulfil in this lifetime and it would be damaging to our spiritual progress trying to delay or avoid their consequences.
Often an incarnation with the specific purpose to reach ascension in this lifetime starts already with a severe handicap and is intentionally filled with difficult and possibly tragic karmic events. These tests need to be passed before reaching the high goal. The greater the handicaps, the greater the victory if we are able to overcome them. When we are progressing on the spiritual path bad things do not just happen to us by accident. Therefore, we really do not need to worry; whatever happens to us is good in that it helps us to reach our goal.
Every unfavourable event, whether karmic or not, gives us a chance to proof ourselves. We need to pass tests on every step of the way to make sure that we have learned our lesson; otherwise the lesson has to be repeated over and over again. To come close to such a worthy goal as illumination or ascension, we must be able to pass the lion test in one form or another.
What all this means is that it is not advisable on the spiritual path to use magic power, lightly to avoid obstacles and make ourselves an easy life. If we are successful, we may just have evaded a test and will have to wait for another test to be arranged. Another way of saying this is to go with the flow of your life and do the best you can, rather than always trying to make things happen according to a preconceived plan.
Another thing to watch out for is the motive for our actions. While it is important that we try to do the right thing, it is even more important that we have a pure motive. Being pure at heart means having pure motives. However with all this focus on purity and doing the right thing, it is easy to fall into the old habit of suppressing what we perceive to be negative within us rather than transmuting and overcoming it. Suppressing creates new blockages and brings us back where we started. Rather we have to acknowledge and integrate all parts of our personality into a single conscious unit. Only when we are fully conscious of our negative parts can we successfully transform them.
If you habitually act like a spiritual master, then you are a spiritual master. Never mind a few mistakes or wrong decisions. Nothing better than our own mistakes to learn from. You still have many years ahead of you to learn doing the right thing most of the time.
In fact, when you have reached a level where your motives are basically unselfish, then you do not need to be too concerned about making the right decision. Just trust your intuition or inner guidance. Whatever you choose will usually be right. Right and wrong only disappear if you look at life or your path as a fascinating adventure and do not mind what it brings you, if you are not attached to outcomes.
Prayers, meditation, studying Holy Scriptures, visualisation or guided imagery are commonly used. All of these are very useful. In addition regression therapy, relaxation, affirmations and centring.
A good way to remain centred is to use a silent mantra or Zikr.
THE SCIENCE OF SPIRITUALITY
One of the main aspects of the spiritual path is the development of a higher mental body or the capacity for abstract, creative and intuitive thinking. This is the tool for opening and developing the forehead chakra and may be seen as a precondition for the third initiation or illumination.
Remember, the real purpose is not to gain any knowledge or to make a judgement about believing or not believing the theory, instead it is all about developing your own ability of abstract creative and intuitive thinking in order to develop a higher mental body.
Selfless service is the practical expression of our spiritual consciousness. Working as a healer, or writing a self-help book, or working as a carer for a disabled person, or giving money to charities may either be done out of compassion to help others. There is nothing wrong with helping others and at the same time not expecting to receive a benefit for oneself. The purer our motive, the more we act out of a feeling of universal love or compassion rather than for personal gain and the more is it an expression of genuine spiritual consciousness.
We know that we make good progress on the spiritual path if in our daily life and especially in difficult situations we display more and more the spiritual qualities of compassion, devotion, faith, forgiveness, harmony, high ideals, joy, kindness, openness, patience, self-responsibility, serenity, tolerance, unconditional love, understanding, wisdom and a gentle love for All That Is.
Another way of assessing our progress is by how well we are able to unite the male and the female characteristics within our personality and manifesting each characteristic as the situation requires. Are we able to be a good leader as well as a good follower, a master as well as a servant? Can we display the male characteristics of boldness, fierceness and power as well as the female qualities of gentleness, kindness and yielding? Do we know how to be strong in our beliefs but also open to change?
The illumination experience is an act of grace, a gift of your spirit that will come when you least expect it. Waiting for it is a sure way of postponing it because patience is one of the early virtues we have to learn.
The same applies to ascension for which one has to work hard by doing plenty of meditation. The opening of the heart chakra to universal love and a life of service to overcome suffering is the real ascension work.
You do not need to actively look for good deeds to do or for your future field of loving selfless service. Just continue doing whatever needs to be done at each moment and especially continue purifying yourself at deeper and deeper levels. At the right time your mission will be revealed to you. By now you become increasingly competent to handle anything life throws at you or to play any role that you choose or are obliged to play.
Looking back on the path that you traveled so diligently, you may ask yourself “What Path?” and wonder if there ever was a path or only a figment of your imagination. In reality there was nowhere to go and nothing to do to get there. All you did was to change your perception and your attitude. You know now that you are a great spirit having a temporary experience in a body. Nothing really changes by gaining or losing a body. As a spirit you can always choose to be joyful or sad, peaceful or loving or anything else you want to be. That is spiritual mastership.
Note: Any writings are personal opinions that you do not need to accept. On the contrary, walking the spiritual path means finding your own personal relationship with God.
International Sufi Festival India