The Sufi Pathway to Perfect God-Realization
IntroductionAs you have read, it is my assertion that enlightenment without an understanding of the purpose of religion and especially of Islam as understood by the Sufi masters, flounders without direction at best, seemingly endlessly scratching its own head trying to figure itself out (for the thousandth time).
The Sufis refer to the "non-duality" of Advaita and many others of the contemporary "enlightenment" schools as a self-evident existential reality, not to be dwelt upon for more than a moment in the light of revelation. I'm a little more tolerant, (hehe) having come from the Western background, and can realize the attainment of freedom from emotional confusion for the credible achievement that it is. We refer to it as the fourth and estimable level on the standard of perfection described by the Sufis called The Seven Stages to the Perfection of Self-Awareness and God-Realization.
From this point, continuing on becomes a choice, and accepting a religion becomes a choice. It is perfectly understandable to want to stay there, and reasonably safe, but "abidance" becomes difficult work without the guidance offered by some form of forward progress. Hence the continued search.
It is also my assertion that enlightenment is the natural state of man, needing only to be recognized, by God or a few good people in teaching schools. The work of this recognition is started by only a few at first, but they are sufficient for them who seek, and powerful enough to cause a serious shift in spiritual polarity. Continuing with that understanding, it then becomes direction which is needed and sought, and which, for that very reason, is sent. Hence the Revelation of the Religion of Islam (Surrender) as believed, taught and understood by the Sufis.
that felt need for direction that I write the
An Explanation of the Seven Stages
The path to the above-mentioned fourth level of understanding and awareness, called "Nafsi l Mutma`inna", the Contented, Fulfilled and Satisfied Self, is well documented in almost all spiritual lore and traditions. It simply exists, the stages are described briefly below, and the realization of its existence is the end and goal of most paths and healing. But it is the essential beginning of the Sufi Pathway to the Lord of the Throne. Surrender may be, but until a Pure Faith in the Divine revelation has entered and guides the heart, there is still something to be learned and done.
The final three of the seven "stages" on the Sufi path to perfect religious and spiritual understanding deal specifically with the issue of Learning and Teaching Religion. Completing them is the completion of Religion and the manifest perfection of Surrender.
Religion is how we believe, and our beliefs influence everything in our daily and spiritual life. And please remember that the doctrine of "no religion" is also a religion, and a form of rejection. That is why it is stated in other writings that the road to perfect self-knowledge and thereby to God-realization includes a thorough investigation of our motivations for rejection of anything.
Since the realization of the Holy and Divine Unity and thereby the fulfillment of desire and the end of suffering is nothing less than the truth of our existential reality, it becomes obvious that it is only the beginning of a true spiritual path. When looked at like this it is easier to understand why the success of Islam from the work of the Sufis has been so manifest. Rather than puzzling over enlightenment, what it is and how to attain it and transmit it, it is assumed immediately to be the initial God-given state of man, needing only to be recognized and confirmed as such by affirmation. And therein lies the secret of Instantaneous Transmission.
For that reason we have the Shahada, the ritual and religious repetition of the words of truth and witnessing, La ilaha illa 'llah, Muhammadun Rasulullah. It keeps us grounded in the reality. And the person of the Holy Prophet, upon who be Allah's peace and blessings, serves as a central focal point and a grounding example for our personal behavior in this life. And the re-affirmation of our witnessing to the truth and reality of our existential unity is contained in the words "la ilaha illa 'llah", which can be interpreted in many creative ways. Such as, "there is no multiplicity, only Unity", "there is no idol worship because there is only God" "There is no god (as in idol or distraction), only Al-llah! (Unity, The One). But it most basically affirms our knowledge that there is only one God. It comprises the quintessential and only correct form of denial, that of multiplicity and division, and the quintessential and only perfect form of affirmation, that of the singularity (non-otherness) of God.
All affirmations of the unity of existence are, in some form or another, an affirmation of the uniqueness and singleness of the Author of that unity, Who IS worthy of worship and gratitude, and Who IS capable of revealing what He wills to whom He will. So belief in and following the guidance of revelation becomes obligatory upon us. This is a self-imposed obligation although, in reality, there is no self to impose or to be imposed upon.
So the attainment of absolute clarity is a simple reconnection with our true and natural state. It is the realization of our True Self, and therefore called the pathway of Self-Realization. It IS the Buddha-nature, enlightenment and Nirvana. It is the Fana` of the Sufis, the "annihilation" of illusion and the beginning of Baqa`, "Abidance" in truth.
the four selves, or states of being, dealt with on the
pathway to realization of the Actuality of Surrender.
This fourth step to perfection is nothing less than the realization of our truth and true selves. It is our only cleared and natural state of being and the beginning of the search for true spiritual wisdom. In a sense it might be said that there is nothing "spiritual" about it at all, in that it has nothing to do with faith and belief but everything to do with simply realizing God, or the perfection inherent in our very existential reality.
Once the perfection of it all is realized, the problem then becomes how to stay in it. I will now propose the relationship between abidance, intention and intentionality (a new word for being intentional), and the manifestation of intention, learning and teaching. In simple terms, if we intend to stay in it, and do the work of staying in it, we will. And if we truly have it we must cherish it, and that requires us to learn more about it and most definitely teach it to others. What to teach and how to teach it is what you learn from a Sufi Master. It can only be taught directly since, as you will come to understand, the student is the teacher, and the question contains the answer. It cannot be taught by writing about it.
So firstly in our quest for abidance we must seek out the teachers who teach it. For it is assumed that from their company and teaching we will find our establishment in it also. It is also understood that there is absolutely no reason why we should try or want to do it alone. One of the signs, and dare I say requisites, of a teacher in abidance is that he or she be inviting to it by teaching about it and the way to it. This will become more clear as we investigate the way to stay in it, by an understanding of the three final stages of perfection, called in Arabic Nafsi Radhiyyatan and Nafsi l Mardhiyya and, as previously mentioned, Nafsi Kamila, the perfected or completed self.
These last three of the seven stages deal with Belief and Perfection. These stages or states of being are not fully accessible without first understanding the full enlightenment of Self Realization described above as the result of a perfect surrender.
Islam, Iman, Ihsan
Surrender is the spiritual practice that brings the fruits of realization, which are success, health, peace and happiness. The four stages of progress to the realization of Surrender are described above. The next two of the seven, to be described below, comprise the second of the three, our knowledge, belief or faith, that in which we put trust.
Faith is the result of believing in and following guidance. It may be difficult without the realizations obtained from the practice of Surrender. That's why it’s the second half of perfection. There are two stages to it and these are the fifth and sixth stages of the seven - Radhiyyatan (pleased, learning), and Mardiyyah (pleasing, teaching).
Nafsil Kamal - Completion, The Perfected Being - Perfection is the Seventh Stage. It is the height of intentionality. It is described as the worship of God through seeing Him (in everything). And if you don't, then know that He sees you. Imam `Ali is reported to have said " I would not worship a God I could not see". The Sufi understanding of this description is that you are either a gnostic (`Arif billah), or a saalik, a seeker on the path to that. Parallel interpretations are master or disciple, teacher or student, etc.
Kamal is also one
of three words to describe the harmony and balance of
the inward and outward realities. The outward life is
called the Jalal,
the manifest, the life of hardship and struggle. It
may be likened to the struggle for the fourth stage of
Satisfaction, Perfect Surrender. The inward life is
called the Jamal,
the life of beauty and peace. It may be likened to the
5th and 6th stages of perfect inward knowing or faith.
And the Perfection, holding the balance between the
two, is called the Kamal.
Revelation is to be believed. This is why we are called believers. But it also reveals what is to be believed, the "truth", so to speak, that by it falsehood, which abounds in this world, may be discerned and eschewed. When "the faith", that which is to be trusted as true, has entered into the heart, then that heart is guided by it, and the person is considered to be "rightly guided", and a guide to others. This is the Essence, a Free and Clean (Sufi) Muslim, surrendered and guided by the Masters of the Way. This is the goal for which we strive. For then you are free, free of your burdensome, tiring self, free of false responsibilities and concerns - clean, innocent and forgiven, teaching and living by the Religion of Choice, Surrendered to the God in Whom we all believe and guided by Religion in the right way.
What more could be asked for. It is then and only then that the ways of true success in the world will be opened for you, for it is no longer coming from your will but from Al-llah's will, which must come to pass, and to which you are completely surrendered.
"I am the Lord thy God. Your lives and provision have been decreed. I want only of you recognition, not that you provide for yourselves. Let Me provide for you, and you worship Me. I have created you for this recognition. There is no way that you "can't" do it, I have built it into the depths of your very being. But there are created many distractions for you that will test your will and improve your strength and insight, so many of you "won't", for now. And it is for that choice that I have given you a free will.
is as simple as leaving your desires. To guide
you in my direction I have sent you a revelation
through a prophet perfect in character and
understanding, yet human, that you be not
discouraged. He describes for you that which you
should practice and that in which you should
trust, and exemplifies in his being the balance
between them, the holding of them both in
perfect harmony. He describes for you the
religion of Surrender, which is the direct way
of knowing Me for each one of you. He describes
for you your faith. And He shows you the way
to outer peace through inner peace. So
believe now in Me and follow the way of
Surrender I have revealed for you. It will lead
you out of the suffering of your mortal
illusions and into the true life that I have
created for you."