Monday, December 21, 2009

absorbing what we already know

Hazrat Inayat Khan tells the story of the Sufi master Bullah Shah. As a child, his teacher taught him the first letter of the Arabic alphabet: alif. While the other children in the class progressed to master the entire alphabet set, Shah remained on this one letter. Weeks passed and the teacher, frustrated with the boy, sent him home to his parents. His parents hired private tutors, but months later, they gave up in disappointment. Shah would not progress past alif.

Not wanting to be a burden on anyone, Shah ran away to the forest where, as Khan tells it, he saw the “manifestation of alif.. as the grass, the leaf, the tree, branch, fruit, and flower.” The same alif, Khan writes, became the mountain and hill, the stones and rocks, every animal, in himself and in others.

Finally, after he has mastered this lesson, he returned to his teacher, who had long ago forgotten him. But Bulleh Shah had not forgotten the teacher who had taught him his most important lesson – one that he had spent his entire life absorbing. Bowing before his old teacher, Bullah said, “I have prepared the lesson you so kindly taught me; will you teach me anything more?”

What if we took a single lesson and thoroughly absorbed it? Rather than being gluttons for more knowledge, what levels of spirituality might we reach if we remained with only one holy sentence – a single, spiritually potent concept?

The Hebrew writers asked us to love God with our entire being and to love others as we love ourselves, and Jesus said that such love summed up the entire law and prophets. Perhaps we should spend an entire lifetime mastering this single command, that of ashk, or divine love.

Traveling the mystical path isn’t about learning more or doing more. It’s about absorbing what we already know – a vastly more difficult task. This Sufis tell us that a Divine Name uttered one time with the utmost sincerity, from the deepest reaches of our heart, can plunge us into realms that some, seeking half-heartedly for a lifetime, never reach. When everything disappears except for a pure longing for God – even for a moment – we’re on the mystical path.

- from
Sitting with Sufis by Mary Blye Howe

and recite the Qur'an in slow, measured rhythmic tones. - The Quran 73:4

Its recorded in the sacred tradition of Islam about how Prophet, upon him be peace, would recite the Quran. The way he used to recite the divinely revealed words of Quran was that he would sometime say a single verse or two and then would repeat it again and again slowly and even the whole night would pass by and he would be in deep contemplation reciting the same verse. One of such verse of contemplation that he would repeat is a supplication of Christ to God in the post-eternity which reads, In tuAAaththibhum fa-innahum AAibaduka wa-in taghfir lahum fa-innaka Anta al Aazeezul Hakeem. "If You should chastise them, then surely they are Your servants; and if You should forgive them, then surely You are the Mighty, the Wise" - The Chapter of Table Spread, 5:118

The holy Prophet would not hasten in recitation, but would distinctively and slowly read every word so that it could enter into his blessed heart deeply, throughly and throughly.

There are methods (and ways) for everything and this is one of the method of absorption into mystery. To absorb that which (we think, or we convince ourselves that) we know, requires that we become innocent of what we already know (emptying the cup) and that we be open to an holy yearning for more, so that a deeper knowing, an even more encompassing gnosis may be given to us.

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