Chapter 1: Non-Being is the Way of Being
A man came to Bahauddin Naqshband, and said, “I have traveled from one teacher to another, and I have studied many paths, all of which have given me great benefits and many advantages of all kinds.
“I now wish to be enrolled as one of your disciples, so that I may drink from the well of knowledge, and thus make myself more and more advanced in the tariqa, the mystic way.”
Bahauddin, instead of answering the question directly, called for dinner to be served. When the dish of rice and meat stew was brought, he pressed plateful after plateful upon his guest. Then he gave him fruits and pastries, and then he called for more pulau, and more and more courses of food, vegetables, salads, confitures.
At first the man was flattered, and as Bahauddin showed pleasure at every mouthful he swallowed, he ate as much as he could. When his eating slowed down, the Sufi Sheik seemed very annoyed, and to avoid his displeasure, the unfortunate man ate virtually another meal.
When he could not swallow another grain of rice, and rolled in great discomfort upon a cushion, Bahauddin addressed him in his manner.
“When you came to see me, you were as full of undigested teachings as you now are with meat, rice, and fruit. You felt discomfort, and, because you are unaccustomed to spiritual discomfort of this real kind, you interpreted this as a hunger for more knowledge. Indigestion was your real condition.
“I can teach you if you will now follow my instructions and stay here with me digesting by means of activities which will not seem to you to be initiatory, but which will be equal to the eating of something which will enable your meal to be digested and transformed into nutrition and, not weight.”
The man agreed. He told his story many decades later, when he became famous as the great teacher Sufi Khalil Ashrafzada.
La Illaha Ill Allah - There is no god but God. This is the fundamental essence of the way of the Sufis. This is the seed. Out of this seed has grown the Bodhi Tree of Sufism. In this small proclamation, all that is valuable in all the religions is contained: God is and only God is.
This statement makes God synonymous with existence. God is the very isness of all that is. God is not separate from his creation. The creator is in his creation; there is no duality, there is no distance, so whatsoever you come across is God. The trees and the rivers and the mountains, all are manifestations of God. You and the people you love, and the people you hate, all are manifestations of God.
This small statement can transform your whole life. It can change the very gestalt of your vision. The moment one recognizes that all is one, love arises on its own accord. And love is Sufism.
Sufism is not concerned with knowledge. Its whole concern is love, intense, passionate love: how to fall in love with the whole, how to be in tune with the whole, how to bridge the distance between the creation and the creator.
The so-called, organized religions of the world teach a kind of duality that the creator is separate from the creation, that the creator is higher than the creation, that there is something wrong with creation, it has to be renounced. Sufis don’t renounce, they rejoice. And that’s what I am teaching you here: Rejoice!
My sannyas is a way of rejoicing, not a way of renunciation.
Rumi has said:
If you are not one with the beloved,
And if you are in union,
This assembly is a Sufi assembly. You are my Sufis, the Sufis of the new age. I am introducing you to the world of love. I am initiating you into the ways of love.
Sufis talk about two kinds of love. One they call muhabbat; it means the ordinary love, lukewarm, momentary, partial. One moment it is there, another moment it is gone. It has no depth, no intensity. You call it passion, but it is not passionate. It is not such a flame which can burn you. You don’t become aflame with it; it remains something under your control. You don’t become possessed by it, you don’t lose yourself in it. You remain in control.
The other kind of love, the real love? The authentic love, Sufis call it ishq; ishq means love with total intensity. One is lost in it, one is possessed by it. One goes mad in it.