Saturday, August 27, 2011

THE SECRET THAT IS LOVE: Sufi Teachings of Master Ahmet Kayhan

Ahmet Kayhan was known to his students as Dede or grandfather, for he was fond to be known by that affectionate title than anything else. The following teaching is taken from among the many sheets distributed by him, may his soul find eternal bliss. His written teachings comprise a special selection made by him which, in his view, provided the shortest of shortcuts to Sufism. Shaykh Ahmet Kayhan is one of the rare hidden teachers, a grand master of Sufism.


THE SECRET THAT IS LOVE

The secret of religion is love.

Religion is a divine law.

(Its noteworthy here to remember the blessed sayings of Christ: "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God's law will disappear until its purpose is accomplished." / "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." / "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.")

The secret of religion is Law (rights). The secret of Law is conscience. And the secret of conscience is love.

Religion comprises these three in the same way that a fruit is composed of rind, of a fleshy part and a core. Although the core is not apparent from the outside, it is the innermost, the active part. The heart of all religion is love. Love gives rise to conscience, to consideration, to compassion and to tolerance.

The Law is the external covering of all this. It prevents the flesh and the core from being spoiled and destroyed. Although it may not, at first glance, appear to have much in common with its contents, in reality it is directly based on them. Just as conscience arises from love, Law in turn arises from conscience. It is merely the codification of rights already granted implicitly at the level of conscience.

The Secret that is Law

Law is a delicate balance between rights and duties, between liberties and limitations. The duty of one person is nothing but the right of another, and the limitation of one is the freedom of another. Absolute freedom cannot exist, and if it could, then law, and hence justice, would not exist. It is as if freedom were in short supply and had to be apportioned equally. For the increase of one's freedom occurs only at the expense of another's, and if justice is not distributed equally, that is injustice. Hence we have equality before the law, and equality before man's law is based on equality before God's Law, since all men are equal before God.

Because Law is based on conscience and ultimately on love, what is lawful in Islam is that which is informed by love. To put this is a little differently, the only action which is free of blame is that which is based on love, and the Divine Law is a compendium of such action or non-action.

The all-important conclusion from this is that even if you do not feel love for a creature, you will have done it no wrong if you treat it according to the prescription of Divine Law. Thus Islam answers the critical question: "How should I behave toward beings?" in the following concise way: treat them as if you loved them, in the same way as you would act if you loved them. And for our convenience, Islam outlines in its prescriptions of Holy Law what such action is.

In religion, Law means righteousness above all else. For instance, a person must not touch or covet what does not belong to him. When we say law or rights, this doesn't mean only those rights pertaining to humanity. Law means to recognize the same right for all beings in the universe, whether animate or inanimate, from an atom to the sun. It is the requirement of being human and of being a Moslem to treat them in the same way. For all beings are the beings of God. If one claims to love God, one absolutely must love His beings as well. One who does not love existence cannot be said to love God. In view of this, our own personal choices of what is good and bad, beautiful and ugly, useful and harmful, attractive and repulsive, have no place in Law. If these become involved, they precipitate the wrath of God. Here, to like or dislike is one thing, and Law is another.

The inability of human beings to truly progress arises from their failure to understand this point. He who does not abide by the Law is the greatest of sinners and has no inkling of what it means to be human. About this there should be no doubt whatever.

Man is free to act according to his disposition. He may not take an interest in any being he dislikes, which he finds bad, harmful or repulsive. But if for any reason an interest or relationship is established, he must recognise their rights. This is because man is responsible for rights, and for rights alone.

Whether one is a Moslem or a Christian is immaterial at this point. For this is where the door of happiness opens. All beings are the forms, the manifestations, of God's names. Therefore, the holy books declare God's order unanimously: "You are to think of the other as you think of yourself." For all beings, whether animate or inanimate, contain His spirit.

It is due to this fact that where Law is concerned, no one can act according to his whim. God has forbidden this. For His command is not whim, but the very yardstick by which all things are to be measured. The human heart is His holy dwelling-place which He has reserved for Himself. He who breaks a heart will suffer, even if the poor fellow doesn't understand why.

In reality, man is the representative of God and His viceregent over creation. As such, he is burdened with the utmost legal responsibility and obligation. He is responsible for all things living and nonliving, from the stone he steps on to the bird in the sky. This is why the People of God say: "The requirement of honesty is to consider one another," and they do not show negligence in serving this rule.

God has graced man above all beings and placed them under man's care. If a mishap occurs, however, this is due to us. If man becomes corrupt, everything becomes corrupt. If man is polluted, all nature is polluted. Hence the present state of nature can stand as a mirror to our internal state. We should know that this is so and touch everything with "In the name of God" on our lips, replacing it with these same words. We should never forget whilst using something that it possesses spirit. We should treat it in the same way as we treat and care for a part of our own body. Then the Koranic statement: "You are pleased with God and He is pleased with you" (89:28) becomes reality-that is, you will be pleased with Him and He will be pleased with you. This is the answer that heals (makes whole).

The Secret that is Conscience

Law is derived from conscience. Without conscience, there would be no consideration of others and no respect for their rights. In fact, not even the existence of such rights would be recognized. Conscience requires the implicit presupposition that "the other" is, at some basic level, the same as or at least not different from the self. This leads to an unexpected conclusion, that the so-called "positive sciences" are, in fact, covertly normative. Behaviorist psychology, for example, by taking the other and his inner world as an unknown, by treating the other as a "black box" that can be judged only on the basis of exhibited behavior, reduces people to the status of automatons, quietly revoking their claim to rights. This, in turn, is nothing but lawlessness where the "other" is concerned. All rights then belong to the self, and to the other?-None. This is nothing but injustice.

This also indicates the need to be very careful with our sciences and philosophies. It is never very obvious what metaphysics lurk behind our "objective" hypotheses or conclusions-nor where they may lead. If metaphysics is an ineradicable residue underlying all science and philosophy, then it is much better that this be of a life-enhancing, rather than life-denying, nature.

Conscience is the prime mover of Law-it creates and resonates in the heart and mobilizes man. If a person does everything lawfully, in the way prescribed by Law, believing in its utter rightness and content in his heart about its truth-this, then, is conscience. This is the foundation of Law; another name for it is "faith." It is the "still, small voice" that comes from the depths of one's heart. It is the product of an indubitable, pure and undefiled feeling. May God grant us all that state, which comes to us on a tide of the ocean of compassion (Amen).

If man has no faith, neither does he possess conscience. Lacking conscience, he also lacks humanity. Blessed are those who recognise Law and have a clear conscience, for God is with them.

The Secret That Is Love

Love is the real source of man's feelings of compassion and kindness, the sublime synthesis of his finest and most delicate feelings of conscience. Since the sway of conscience has purified the heart, purging it of all things, good and bad alike, God installs His throne of manifestation in that heart. Thus love of God engulfs one's being, and that person becomes pure love. Then everything loves him and he loves everything.

And so, that person becomes invested with God's attributes and friendship, harmony and welfare, and joins His Chosen People. Henceforth, his place in both worlds is Paradise and his station, comfort and friendship.

This is a three-stage process: (1) Righteousness, diligent observation of the Law enabling (2) the conscience to flower-and the full maturity of conscience is (3) love.

But what happens once one becomes, as it were, an incarnation of love? Does one shed the Law and conscience as if they were autumn leaves?

On the contrary, the Law and conscience find their fullest, most mature, manifestation in a person who has become pure love. Rote Imitation becomes Realization. He or she no longer acts out of blind obedience to the letter of the Law, but in full knowledge and consciousness of why the Law prescribes or prohibits a certain thing. The clumsy, mechanical, sometimes jarring and disturbing implementation of the Divine Law gives way to a smooth, harmonious flow-the grace of love. Such people are a guiding light to all beings lucky enough to come within their sphere.

Such a person is called a saint, or a "friend of God", and has become identified with pure love. The motto of the friend of God is "I, if I be lifted up, will lift up all mankind with me." The saints are the channels or vehicles by which God's love, compassion and mercy reach the world. Indeed in ages when there are many saints of high realisation, there are fewer wars, plagues and calamities-the world is a "closer" place to Paradise. In ages when they are few and far between, these channels of access to grace are "clogged," as it were, and the situation is reversed. Look around you and, with this measure in hand, you will be able to judge what kind of times we live in.


Eight Heavens, Seven Hells

Islam is based on eight principles. These are referred to as the eight gates of Heaven:

1. Compassion, kindness and affection.

2. Righteousness.

3. Loyalty.

4. Generosity.

5. Patience.

6. Discretion.

7. Knowing one's poverty and weakness.

8. Giving thanks to God

Without these, there is no peace, happiness or Paradise in either world.

Anyone who is clothed in these praiseworthy traits and has made them part of his constitution is a proper Moslem and worthy of the Noble Messenger of God, Mohammed. For these praiseworthy manners and characteristics are the beautiful traits and attributes of our Prophet. They have radiated from him to his family, children and Companions, thence becoming the fundamental constituents of Islam. So testifies the Koran.

And this is why Islam is not simply the recitation of the Word of Witnessing or the search for Heaven in a mosque. The firmness of God's revelatory secrets depends on these qualities; hence, so do the continuance of life, its peace and happiness. Throughout one's life one must always be based in the good, the true and the beautiful. Only with these verities are immortality and eternity feasible.

It is for this reason that the above principles have always been a guiding light and torch in the hands of mankind and the travelers to Truth. Just as one cannot see in the dark or find one's way, neither can he reach his Lord. God says: "Be light, come to Me, attain My mystery," and desires us. Our great Prophet exemplified the meaning of this declaration in his Ascension (the Miraj). Without these lights of truth, in the darkness of our ignorance, how could we find the way to our Lord and be worthy of His Pleasure?

Therefore, these agreeable traits and characteristics are what is valuable, whether at the stage of general Law, or of mystical schools (conscience), or of attaining Reality (love).

Without them, a person cannot be worthy of his Lord, no matter whether he is a prophet or a madman. This is the secret of the Four Books and the Hundred Pages revealed to the various Prophets. These eight principles are the sources of life for humanity and human conscience that bestow happiness, peace and joy.

All the virtues and merits in the world are encompassed by these traits. This is why they have been called the eight gates of Heaven. Those who possess them live in Paradise even while in this world.

As for the seven circles of Hell, the following are the traits that open their gates:

1. Pride.

2. Covetousness.

3. Envy.

4. Discord.

5. Backbiting.

6. Lust.

7. Anger.

All the evil traits and manners in the world are, in turn, contained in these. No matter what or who he is or how true he may appear to be, these are the characteristics that lie close to a person's heart if he does not acknowledge goodness, beauty and truth. It makes no difference if he never raises his head from prostration. Being human and being a Moslem are both possible only by relying on Truth. Islam cannot be attained by following the lead of one's caprice, by being carried away by one's ego, by exhibitionism or by fishing for other people's praise. One will then have opened the gates of the seven Hells, pride, rebellion and downfall.

Note, however, that there are eight Heavens as opposed to only seven Hells. This is because God Almighty has said: "My Mercy encompasses (is greater than) My Wrath." Indeed in Islam, "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful" precedes everything. No matter how great one's sins, they are swept away in a torrent of Divine Compassion and Mercy, provided one resolves to rectify one's ways in accordance with the Law. The opportunity for absolution is always there, and never far away.

For the secret of religion is love.

>> Excerpt shared here. For more teachings, visit The Royal Road: Three Teachings from the Master

+ (download): Meaning of the Four Books: An anthology and a window onto the teachings of Master Ahmet Kayhan

Haji Ahmet Kayhan: Grand Master of Sufism
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