Kudsi Erguner writes in his book Journeys of a Sufi Musician, about the relationship of a person to their own nature. And I believe that his piece of writing is a great example of how the Sufi perspective could cleanse fundamentalism not only in Islam but in other religious as well, as it guides one to pursue Oneness or Unity with God’s presence. With heart’s purification and with the knowledge of one’s self, it is unquestionable that such a state would mold one’s relation with the outer world as well. Without such spirituality, your religion is merely a religion of forms. All you see is people who are not exactly like you, who cannot be like you, and therefore they cannot be of your faith. So you reject all the others apart from your faith. However, once you develop spirituality and journey through an esoteric life, you see that all the religions are essentially the same. Or, as Rumi says “Religions are like candles. They are useful for finding one’s way in the dark. We need their light to guide us. … When day breaks and night is gone, it is ridiculous to hang on to one’s candle. Its light is weak compared to that of the sun which represents Truth.”
Moving to Kudsi’s writing, he writes that the relationship of person to their own nature belongs to the domain of wisdom. This is the Greek principle, ‘know yourself and you will know the universe and the gods’. The same was said by the Prophet of Islam, bringing to it the additional dimension of one God: ‘he who does not know himself will not know his God’. The vast theme of self-knowledge has been a focus in Sufism as in many other spiritual disciplines. People, very often, are prisoners to the demands of their own natures. This state brings confusion to their relationships with others and in the rapport with the divinity in which they believe. The struggle of a person over the demands of their own nature is primordial. As the Prophet said, there are two sorts of struggle: the small struggle against an outer enemy, and the great struggle in one’s inner world, against the demands of one’s own nature which must be overcome. This struggle has no limits.
The Prophet said, mutu qable ente mutu (‘die before dying’); victory over one’s own nature goes as far as total submission, without reaction, like a being a corpse. This struggle is different for everyone, because each nature is dominated by different demands. Bearing grudges; anger; ambition; egoism; vanity; desire; avarice -these are all faults that human beings must confront. Some of these demands of one’s nature are considered essential qualities in some societies. There is no doubt that generosity is a quality, no doubt that certain innate gifts for art, or the skill to make something, are worthy qualities. It is necessary to leave behind all the vices or virtues inherent to human nature. As Rumi said in his Mesnevi’, “it is not a question of making a selection of colors (good qualities) or of getting rid of certain colors (vices). It is a question of being without any color so that, at the opportune moment, a ‘reflection’ can fell upon one.” At this stage, the color that will manifest in a person will no longer belong to human nature but to divine nature. In Sufism, the wish is the same as in other teachings of wisdom: ‘to go beyond the features of human nature.’
I like the saying, “die before dying”. That seems pretty much what you have to do, when you let go of all your innate urges and watch them rise and fall of their own accord.
I like Sufism. It reminds me of Buddhist meditation or the practices of contemplative Christianity. All these practices seem capable of helping people to know their selves, while at the same time, letting their selves go.
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Definitely! I too think that there are a lot in common in different religious views that aim to center around spiritually
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In regard to your core thesis, I agree with you, Huzeyfe, that spirituality is profoundly opposed to fundamentalism. I further agree you on two secondary points.
First, that the spiritual sages — I call them “mystics” — in have much in common with each other regardless of their culture or the age in which they lived. Two people can seldom look at the same tree without there being differences of opinion, but the differences are usually not that great. In the same fashion, the differences between mystics are usually not that great. Most likely, they have all seen or experienced the same thing.
Second, I agree with you attaining to a mystical experience seems to require giving up everything — both virtues and vices, as you put it. Jiddu Krishnamurti expressed the same idea in a private interview with Aldous Huxley’s wife as “destroying everything”. Giving up one’s entire self-image, as I understand it.
Last, I love how you make so many connections between religious and mystical traditions. Thank you for an engaging post.
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Yes, I too find its universality in time pretty mind-boggling. Perhaps it is because the idea of “destroying everything”, because the understanding of vices and virtues may change overtime in society yet destroying them is merely a negation of that which exists, independent of time.
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