Archives for posts with tag: sufi

There appears to be a common thread going through all three of the mystical traditions we’ve looked at. This is, which goes through Kabbalah, Chrisitian mysticism and Sufism is love. Each tradition places a slightly different accent on it but all of them include love and the heart as important aspects of the mystic’s life, the mystic’s relationship with the Divine and the mystic’s relationship with humanity.

In Lurianic Kabbalah the Divine’s desire to share was the initial impetus that led to the act of creation. The interplay between the desire to give and the desire to receive is one of the strongest themes in Kabbalah and is the focus of the process of tikkun. We undergo the process of tikkun in order to transform our desire to receive for the sake of the self alone to a desire to receive for the sake of sharing. This is a process of letting go in which the heart learns to relax the self-constriction and open up to receive the divine light.

In Christian Mysticism we see on one side the mystic’s love for the Divine which manifests as an urgency and eagerness to unite with the Divine. This love is expressed by many mystics and sometimes takes on erotic overtones as exemplified in the work of Hadewijch of Antwer. On the other side, the love of the Divine for the soul is described as a powerful force that purges the soul from its imperfections. This entire love affair is probably best described by the mystic works based on the Song of Songs, in itself a mystical text that describes the love between the Divine and the people of Israel.

Finally, for the Sufis love and longing are central to the spiritual path. The creation itself, according to the Sufis, is an act of longing: “I was a hidden treasure and I longed to be known” (Hadith Qudsi). The end of the path is the ecstatic union of lover and beloved in the seeker’s heart. This relationship between lover and beloved is also echoed in the relationship between seeker and teacher as we can see in Rumi’s love for his teacher Shams Tabrizi. Since nothing is separate from the Divine, the sufi’s love and devotion to the Divine translate to love and service for all beings. This allows the sufi tradition to be open and inclusive of people of various faiths.

Obviously these different variations of love are each grounded in specific time and culture but what all of them share is the importance of the open heart. From the open heart shine forth love, generosity, kindness, compassion, joy and more but what does a heart need in order to continue being open? I think that the answer offered by the mystics is faith (or trust) in the heart’s capacity to love, to be loved and, eventually, to be love. At the end of the mystical path lies the union between lover and beloved. In this union the seeker discovers that the Divine’s love for the seeker is in fact the seeker’s own love for himself, for the Divine and for all of creation.

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Reading Murshid Sam‘s Karuna Yoga Gita I was initially struck by the symmetry between this presentation of the Sufi meditation of the heart and the Sufi creation myth. In the Sufi creation myth, the Oneness projected itself outward, creating manifestation so that it might have something to love. This relationship proceeded through several inversions moving from God is lover and manifestation the beloved to manifestation is the lover and God is the beloved. Throughout it all, though, lover and beloved are, in essence, one.

The Karuna Yoga Gita, which is an instruction manual for Sufi heart meditation goes through several stages. Initially the ego seeks the heart, concentrates on the heart, rests in the heart. This is manifestation seeking God. Next, in the stage of contemplation the seeker is intstructed to identify with the heart and seek the ego; this is the inversion of roles, now God is seeking manifestation. This inversion is the path to not-self which begins with the heart’s selflessness. As the heart expands into love, seeker and sought come closer.

In the stage of union the seeker is instructed to rest in the expansion and contraction of the breath, noticing at the same time the flow from not-self to self and back. This is the rythme of nature – divine flows into manifestation and then back into the divine; neither is more true than the other, neither can be whole without the other just like the in-breath cannot be without an out-breath. In the same way the seeker recognizes that self cannot be without not-self, neither not-self without self. In the realization of this natural process “breath joins man to God,” returning to the original state of Oneness.

My own (limited) experience with this practice has been very interesting. Resting the attention on the heart, I allow the feeling of love to flow. Remaining with the feeling of love, sometimes stoking the fire of love with images of the beloved, the attention slowly becomes absorbed in the heart. I notice how with my “normal” attention there is tension, clinging, trying to acheive something yet when the the attention comes from the heart there is only spaciousness infused with love. Allowing the absorption to solidify and expand farther I turn my attention to the pinpoint of longing at the center of the heart. Resting my attention there lightly and willing/allowing that point to expand until it contains all. In this spacious place, I am being and being is loving. Including the flow of the breath I notice the flow from infinite being who is all to nothing. As the breath grows shorter the all and the nothing become closer as the breath lengthens they part. Two sides of one coin but where is the coin?