Within our heart wondrous secrets of the Beloved are locked away. Humanity looks everywhere but his or her own Heart, that's why the Master Craftsman hide His most elegant Mysteries within the secret chambers of the Heart.
To open the lock one needs to know first that such a hidden place exists. And one must embark upon the journey to find where the secrets are, and then one must act diligently to proceed to unlock the mysteries which are many, veils upon veil.
It is the spiritual practices which are meant to sometime open the lock, sometime to polish the surface of the heart, sometime to expand it like the expanding cosmos and sometime to illuminate the hidden chambers of the Heart. These spiritual practices are the Technologies of the Heart and the goal is to have a Heart in which the reflection of the Beloved becomes a reality and the eyes of the Heart can behold Him like the bright full moon in a clear night sky.
We find our existence inside a reality where Unity is constantly manifesting itself within multiplicity. We, human beings who are microcosm, have multiple universes just like the macrocosm, within ourselves. Every single day our Heart experience various states and conditions. We may wake up in a morning very happy, cheerful and carefree, and then again after few hours our inner state may change into an opposite state, a state of anxiety, heavy-heartedness, depression and what not. Very few persons are immune from such transition of state.
Those who walks in the Spiritual Path, generally experience a more stabilized state of the inner Heart and are therefore far more tranquil and at peace in their mind and intellect. Because of the remembrance of the Divine that happens, a spiritual person inherit a more tranquil state of being. Even then, at every level, every single human being is tested, they are given various states to pass through as if passing through many valleys to finally reach the Door of the Beloved.
One particular thing spiritual seekers strive to attain is the clearing out of the dust or motes from the eyes of the Heart. Experienced Sufi Masters have prescribed various practices that work as cleansing for the Heart. Recently in the Yahoo Sufi Group called "Sufis Without Borders," one of the member has shared or reminded rather, what Shaykh 'Abd al-Haqq has once prescribed as 'good general all- purpose, broad-spectrum prescription' to clear out the dust in one's own eyes, the dust (or motes) that often is cause of various delusions and errors that life's veils constant throw at the ego. These practices are best obtained and most effect when obtained from a qualified and authentic Master of one's own. Never the less, they are general purpose antidote prescribed by God's revelations and hence by God's permission, when practiced, they work as Technology of the Heart to purify it from dusts.
The first practice is the practice of refuge. Taking Refuge in Allah, in God, in the Supreme Beloved, in the Lord.
Taking Refuge in Allah is also the practice of humility, it is the practice of orientation towards the Light, while turning away from many layers of darkness, ignorance, illusions, dependency on the creation. This is the on going journeying to the light, to knowledge, to gnosis and realization of one's ever dependency on the Real.
This is the way station of becoming "like children." Just as a child wishes to take refuge within the lap of a mother, just as an infant wish to take refuge at the breast of her mother, so the seeker again and again wishes to return to the Magnificent Refuge, without Whom there is no other re. And this consciousness of taking refuge is activated by mindful practice of first pronouncing "I seek refuge in Allah, in God from the rejected Shaitan, from the expelled Satan, from the Darkness."
The sacred formula for taking refuge is: "A'uzu bi-Llahi minash-Shaitan ar-rajim"
Here is a breakdown of the meanings:
A'uzu = I seek protection
bi = with, in
Llahi = Allah, God
min = from
ash shaitani = Satan, Devil, Darkness, false ego
ar rajim = the dispelled, rejected, shattered
The act of accepted refuge happens dynamically when the false ego is dispelled from within. The condition to be received by the Lord in Divine Protection is to sacrifice the ego. The ego is the cause of suffering. The one who is more egoistic, the more he experiences hellishness in this world, every awakened moments for him become a mini hell. To be enveloped with ego is to live at the the depth of hell on earth.
(2) Receiving the all-encompassing embrace of the Infinite (Allah)
The second of the general practice is to invoke the All Embracing Grace Quality of Allah through the sacred formula, "Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim"
Which when pronounced together sound more like, "Bismilla hir Rahma nir Rahim."
Bismillah, the above invocation is a key for it is the invocation of the Holy Name. Many pious of earlier generation used this simplest of formula with the greatest of sincere devotion to attract tremendous Divine Grace that would perform miracles even. When the Darkness is dispelled through the invocation of refuge, it is followed by Bismillah.
Immediately after seeking protection in Allah from the dispelled negativity, from whispering of the illusions and falsehood, the practice tells us to receive the all encompassing embrace of the Infinite by using "Bismilla-hir Rahma-nir Rahim."
The Sufi website, Wahiduddin has some beautiful explanations shared on this sacred sentence / meanings of Bismillah. You may read it here.
Here is a breakdown of the meanings:
Bi = with, in
ism = Name
Llah = Allah, God
ar Rahman = a Divine Quality, Universally Merciful / Most Gracious
ar Rahim = another Divine Quality, Exclusively Merciful
These two terms rahman and rahim refer to attributes of the One. While they are often translated simply as Merciful and Compassionate, the roots of the words point to a deeper meaning.
Both rahman and rahim are derived from the Semitic root r-h-m which indicates something of the utmost tenderness which provides protection and nourishment, and that from which all of creation is brought into being. And indeed, the root rhm has meanings of womb, kinship, relationship, loving-kindness, mercy, compassion, and nourishing-tenderness.
Generally speaking the literal translation of Bismillah is "In the name of God,the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful." But this fails to capture either the true depth of meaning or the inspirational message of the beautiful phrase.
The two Divine Qualities Rahman and Rahim and their meanings are the key to appreciate this formula.
The term "rahman" describes that aspect of the source of all creation which is endlessly radiating, endlessly nourishing, regardless of who or what is receiving the endless flow of blessings.
Rahmân conveys the idea of fullness and extensiveness, indicating the great quality of love and mercy which engulfs all of creation without regard to any effort or request on our part. According to Ibn Qayyum (1350 AD), rahmân describes the quality of abounding Grace which is inherent in and inseparable from the Almighty.
On the other hand, the term rahim describes that aspect of the source which is issued forth only in response to the actions and behavior of the recipient. It is in this manner that God takes ten steps toward us when we take even a single step toward God.
Rahîm conveys the idea of constant renewal and giving liberal reward in response to the quality of our deeds and thoughts. According to Ibn Qayyum, rahîm expresses the continuous manifestation of the Grace in our lives and its effect upon us as a result of our own activities.
Where Rahman is the Divine Quality of Universal Radiance and Bestowal of Divine Grace, Rahim is the Divine Quality which is also grace but at the same time exclusive to each. Rahman is that quality which like Sun is constantly outpouring to all, regardless of their status, where as Rahim is the Exclusiveness of God's grace where for each soul, God is the Most Precious Beloved. It is Rahim which represent Allah's most intimacy to each soul, it is the most Personal aspect through which Allah is the Wali, the Sweet Friend, the Nearmost of one's being.
So the second general practice of reciting the formula "Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim" can be rendered as:
- By means of the very essence of God
- For the glory of our Creator
- With the light of the One
- With the guidance of The Divine
- As an instrument of the One
- In harmony with Divine Presence
- Receiving the all-encompassing embrace of the Infinite.
(3) Entrusting one's affairs to Allah, (fa-ufawwidu amri ill Allah)
After seeking protection, dispelling the negativity, darkness (which again is a vast subject and brings in other aspects of purifying one's self from it), one has to pay attention to trust.
Trust not just mean trust in a passive way, but in a very dynamic and organic way where it must begin in trust in life itself, trust in one's own self (one's essence) and finally trust in Allah.
A more Sufic term for this is Tawakkul or Reliance on God. This was part and parcel of training of every spiritual disciple. Many of us call ourselves Christian but have no idea what kind of Tawakkul Jesus used to instruct to his disciples (let alone his own level). While he would send out his apostles to various township, to enable them practice Tawakkul or Reliance on God, he would instruct them not to carry any food, nor any material support but to travel only utterly depending on God and never to ask anything to anyone except when they are called in or given freely, unattached.
One of the sacred formula that points towards this attainment is: "Hasbun Allahu wa ni'amal wakil." Allah is enough for us and He is the Best Guardian.
Hasbun = Enough for us
Allah = God
wa = and
ni'amal = Best
wakil = Guardian, Caregiver
Shayk Abdal Qadir al-Murabit wrote, "The dhikr (remembrance) of this quality is strongly recommended for the faqir (one who realize the need of the Real) who is eager to move swiftly on the Path."
Tawakkul is strength, nourishment, encouragement and sheer compassion from Allah to his slave in the difficult part of his journey. The practice is the repeat the formula both outwardly and inwardly with strength. The short version of this formula is "Hasbun Allah" this means, "Allah is Enough." One has recite it until one is engulfed by its truth that Allah is Really Enough.
The goal is to recognize our weakness as individual and renew our strength through the One from Whom comes all Strength, and thus also in every affair to recognize Him as the Mover and we're moved by Him. Also recommend the formula, La haowla wa la quwwata illa billah. This is the remedy for anxious, fearful, worrisome heart.
If we learned how to entrust our affair to Allah the Most High, that would immediately prepare the inner space of our being to transform into a tranquil garden of paradise. And you can practice from today and experience it. It is Allah Who took care of you when you were in Mother's womb, fed you with Him marvelous mechanism, and also fed you when you were unable to express even your own need by your mother's milk and it is the same Lord who is preserving you now, whether we acknowledge it or fail to. It is giving back the trust to the One Who is worthy of all trust is an important practice.
If there is a single most important practice for psycho-spiritual well-being of a human being it is his or her ability to appreciate, the ability to be grateful. If a person could only contemplate on his own body, its mechanism, or only a tiny aspect of lets say how our kidney works, how it is constantly purifying the body in every single moment, or how the very tiny capillaries of our body working constantly to reach oxygen supply and to take out undesired carbon dioxide, one can not help but marvel at the Most Marvelous One's magnificent work. Yet, unfortunately our discourse in every branch of knowledge has become discourse of covering up truth, covering up of so Much Magnificence.
To be grateful on every occasion is a quality given by us the Lord as a secret way to opening up even more, with every grateful in and out breath. To be grateful is so central in the Path that every time a Muslim stand in salaat or prayer of connection with the Divine, he or she begin after seeking protection and bismillah, by saying Alhamdulillah, Thank you Allah. This is the opening line of al-Fatiha, the Mother of the Sacred Scripture.
The secret is this, the more we become genuinely grateful within our being, the more our Heart attracts Divine grace. Divine love pours down like torrential rain in proportion to the sincere gratefulness which flows from our, gratefulness makes the heart attract more grace, more blessings, more abundance of Divine peace and more rain of the Divine grace.
According to the Sufis, "Shukr, giving thanks, is a knowledge and an encouragement. It makes you aware of the source of your life and it reminds you that He is the Answerer of prayers. Its first degree is thanks with the tongue, which is dhikr. Its second degree is thanks with the whole body, which is service to Allah both in the prescription adn in assisting His creatures. The third degree is thanks with the Heart, which is thanks in the Presence of Lordship, and recognition in the audience chamber."
The remembrance of shukr (gratefulness) therefore begin with hamd, thanksgiving in every case. Al hamdu lillahi wa-sh-shukrulillah.
The short formula is to say, "Alhamdulillah" which translate, "Praise is for Allah." But to make it more relevant it is to simply say, "Thank you Allah," "Thank you God for all the gifts you are bestowing in every moment including this moment when You gave my heart to remember You."
Like a wild horse which needs training before it lets its a rider to ride on it, likewise everything needs training to master it. The Heart can be very heedless and may run away with ten thousand things carrying over it, so training it to be grateful also requires practice. That's why the Spiritual Masters have asked to repeat any of such sacred formula so that by the very act of repeating, the Heart is trained and the particular consciousness / quality is planted / engraved on the Heart.
The word "Alhamdulillah", is often recommended to repeat 33 times.
(5) Surrendering the totality and core of one's being to Allah (aslamtu wajhi lillah)
Each and ever single atom surrender to the Divine Commandment and carry out its prescribed task in the very nature it is created and commanded. Each galaxy surrender to the elegant laws of the universe as set by the Magnificent Creator. Every tree grows according to the nature upon which it is commanded and like that everything other than human being surrender to the Divine Command.
Human beings are made special, for they are given the capacity to recognize the Lord consciously (and also granted freedom to not recognize or even deny) and hence to surrender in free will. It is this very act of surrender which makes human beings superior to angels. The surrender to God is the core of every faith, every teaching in every age.
The sacred formula of surrender is "La ilaha illa Allah."
La = No
ilaha = god
illa = except
Allah = Allah, Almighty Lord, Divine Incomparable
So the basic literal translation of it is "There is no god but One God, the Divine Incomparable."
But it is also the locus of the Greatest Truth that only Allah is Real, everything else, in comparison of the Divine Sun, is non-existence, is every passing away.
To repeat the sacred phrase "La ilaha illa Allah" is a very meritorious act for it increase the faith, cures many unseen illness of the Spiritual Heart, make it recognize the Lord, also stabilize one's essence. When the phrase is repeated and one enters into its truth levels one will hear this truth, "I am done with everything but You."
When the intensity of "La ilaha illa Allah" reaches its apex, one repeats only its last part, "illa Allah" and when this is repeated again and again and one enters into its truth levels, one will hear this truth coming out from it as, "Only You."
When one dies the evolution of the soul in its journey is determined by the quality of that very time. The moment of death is thus considered an utmost moment and Muslims are taught to pronounce this phrase in abundance so that the last sentence on his or her lips be "La ilaha illa Allah."... I am passing away from everything and journeying back to You, ... I am done with everything but You, ... there is nothing else but You ... only You. Some say the whole journey is the practice of the art of dying, dying in the eternal grace, dying in the sweet surrender, the art of disappearing into Love ITSelf.
Here are the practices once again:
1) Taking refuge in Allah ('Audhu billah; Panah bar Khuda)
2) Receiving the all-encompassing embrace of the Infinite (Allah)
3) Entrusting one's affairs to Allah, (fa-ufawwidu amri ill Allah)
4) Being grateful to Allah (alhamdu lillah)
5) Surrendering the totality and core of one's being to Allah (aslamtu wajhi lillah)
Those who believe and act right, joy is for them, and bliss at their journey's end. ~ Message from the Final Testament