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Distance Learning and Direction from a Distance of the Sufi Mystics

While parting from his teacher, a devoted student asked his Spiritual Master, "will I be able to receive from you even when I can not come and sit near you, can not hear from you lips while gazing at your shining face?"

With a sad smile on his face, the Master spoke thus, "We are not ourselves. We don't exist separately anymore, we died long time back in the dunya and what you see in front of you is one who has retired from this passing temporal world and is only sustained by the Ever Living, El-Hayy.

We have died in this finite world but we are alive in infinite with the Infinite and there is no question of space, far or near when it comes to The Infinite.

Loved one, lover and love are created for the infinite and are united and entangled beyond the space-time domains.

So the answer to your question is YES. By Spiritual Focus (Tawajjuh) of our Spiritual Elders who have gone before us and with Divine Assistance you shall be in touch with whom you're entangled in divine love." ~ Technology of the Heart

Dr. Stewart Bitkoff is the author of several Books including Ferryman’s Dream (published in 2012), Sufism for the Western Seeker (2011),  A Commuter’s Guide to Enlightenment (2008) and Journey of Light Trilogy (2004). Dr. Bitkoff is an avid student of Sufi Mysticism and the perennial philosophy. He has an unique experience of receiving spiritual teachings from two distinct Sufi Schools, the first one's Teacher (introduced as Sam) who himself belonged to Uwaisi School of Sufism, received his authority from Al-Julabi Ali Hujwiri, an eleventh century Mystic. The second school for Stewart was 'the Society for Sufi Studies' established by Idries Shah which also employed a modern adaptation of the Uwaisi transmission or Distance learning.

The last post on Technology of Heart titled: 'Sufi Master Uwais Qarni was asked' was something from Sufi Master Uwais Qarni, who represents in Sufi Mysticism the beginning of Heart to Heart transmission that can occur completely in the inner plane, without any need for physical contact between the giving Teacher and a receiving seeker. So as a followup post I requested Dr. Stewart Bitkoff to kindly share something on 'distance learning' and 'direction from a distance' which is the result of this post. These are materials quote from the Books of Dr. Bitkoff's book Sufism for the Western Seeker which was recently nominated as Book of the Year by 'ForeWord Magazine' on Adult Non Fiction Religious category.

I hope and pray that these sharing will help us understand that the field of possibilities are vast and for a seeker of Truth, there are many avenues and doors kept open to reach the goal. Indeed all opening and success come from the Divine Source. There is no other destination but the One and every journey's end is at the Source Itself.

every circle has a center around which it revolve, the center of our being is the One

Action at a Distance

Why don’t you discuss what your teacher said about his teacher, and learning while asleep? This will help travelers understand something about spiritual schools and how ordinary distance is not an obstacle to learning.  In the world of spirit, there is no time, space or distance.

“Mystics are not themselves. They do not exist
in selves. They move as they are moved,
talk as words come, see with sight
that enters their eyes. I met a woman
once and asked her where love had led her.
Fool, there’s no destination to arrive at.
Loved one and lover and love are infinite.”
- Farid al-din Attar

Many things that the teacher said and did took a long time to sink in.  In fact, he always suggested that we examine and test every statement and learning principle offered.  We were given our natural skepticism and powers of observation and evaluation, as a protection so we might come to our own conclusion.  The path was not a system of indoctrination, but a vehicle to learn about self and realize our own individual and unique potential.

Nowadays, many travelers are ‘hung up’ about finding a teacher; someone they can go to everyday or week and learn from.  While this is an important aspect of this form of learning and many consider essential, consider the following information about non-traditional learning. 

When I questioned my own teacher about his teacher, he thought for a moment, then provided me with an answer that took years to fully understand.

Sam’s Teacher, an Uwaisi Chain of Transmission

Sam (in the book Stewart introduce his Sufi Teacher as Sam, not his real name) said his spiritual teacher was Al-Julabi Al Hujwiri, an eleventh century servant of God who is buried in Lahore.  After praying at Al-Hujwiri’s tomb which is a famous shrine in his country, Sam was the given the authority to teach. 

You have to understand my amazement and confusion at hearing all this.  I was sitting with someone who communicated with dead people; someone who had been dead for over 900 years, and he told Sam what to do.  On top of that, I was doing things that Sam told me to do.  This guy talked with dead people and I listened to him. Now I ask you, who was the crazy person?

As time wore on, I put this account in perspective.  Many people believe that although Jesus died thousands of years ago, he is still alive ‘in spirit’ and is able to talk with them in a spiritual way.  In fact, many people claim that after ‘praying for guidance,’ Jesus answered their prayers, and on some internal level receive an answer.

So I asked myself, why did I find it so hard to accept the possibility of communication and guidance from an eleventh century servant of God?  At the time, I guess my inability to accept all of this was due to my limited understanding about time and distance.

As the years wore on, I learned more about Al-Hujwiri and offer the following:
•    He wrote the oldest Persian treatise on Sufism.
•    His task was to make known facts about the Sufi organization and Sufi mission to the people of India.
•    His titles are: ‘The Selected’ among the Sufis and the ‘The Munificent One’ among the people of India.
•    He is considered among the greatest of Sufi saints.
•    His tomb has been a place of pilgrimage and veneration for over 900 years.

So when we talk about distant learning and feel we have to be in the room with our teacher, in this form of learning, there are different standards and ways of looking at things.

Teaching is bestowed to the Seeker during asleep

Another unsettling way to look at learning is this second point Sam used to make, ‘that the majority of the teaching occurred at night, when we were asleep.’

In our age, we are continuing with the exploration of sleep and what actually happens when we close our eyes for the evening.  Where does our everyday consciousness go?  All of us have had those strange jumbled dreams.  What parts of our consciousness are operating and trying to tell us something? 

In my own experience, I have had dreams that have come true; been in mysterious classes where beings of Light were reciting to me from books; and, after a short nap upon returning to normal consciousness, have been startled and frightened as my soul seemingly returned to my body, a fraction of a second late. My guess was that it was supposed to get there just before I awoke and missed the awakening moment.

All cultures have varying traditions about sleep. Some Native American cultures operate under the assumption that a person will have a dream that will foretell the entire course of their life and work toward this realization.  Within the context of the spiritual learning, over time, I began to realize all sorts of things were possible.  Where does our soul or consciousness go when we close our eyes for the evening?  We need to stop thinking in a box, and realize that potentially, the entire universe is our classroom and play ground.

Action At A Distance

According to Sufi tradition, there is no magic or mystery to miraculous occurrences that the Sufi helps enact; these events happen because of the working of natural laws that presently are not understood by most people, and that intuitively, if the situation requires, the Sufi works with. 

This is spiritual science, and it is the birth right of humanity.  It involves using spiritual forces such as Light and enabling potentials, through higher guidance, that are present in every situation.  Even for the Sufi, exactly how all of this occurs is not completely known; it is a matter of intuitive capacity, and like love, defies complete explanation. Through the Light, the Sufi is able to use natural capacity that others may call miraculous.  Surely, to us “everyday people,” some or most of this may seem utterly unbelievable.  Consider what I am about to tell you about Sam, and draw your own conclusions!          

Like Electric Shock

Because I lived close to the hospital, sometimes, I would go home for lunch and visit with my wife and infant daughter.  One day, before starting the car for my return trip to work, I decided to meditate.

With a new baby in the small apartment, often the car was the only place where I could get some peace and quiet.  When I closed my eyes, focused inward and began saying the prayer (of submission), it was as if I put my hand into a live electric socket.  I was shocked by some force that I can only characterize as electrical.  It really hurt and stunned me.  In fact, I did not want to try the prayer again for fear the same thing would happen.  Until this point, the prayer had always been a source of comfort and joy with a gentle, calming peace attached to it.

Later that afternoon, when I saw Sam, he smiled and said, ‘sometimes the teacher has to be careful how he directs the Light.’  Sam brought up the subject, I hadn’t.

Sam always said that as long as he was alive, no spiritual harm would ever befall any of the travelers.  Also, as indicated earlier, he maintained that most of the teaching took place at night, when the traveler was asleep.

Putting these statements together, it appears that the teacher is able to communicate with the traveler, often on a level when the traveler is not aware.  Also, that the teaching speaks to a part of the consciousness that is generally hidden.  The fact that most of the teaching takes place at night when the traveler is ‘asleep,’ challenges many of the things we know about learning.

Distance Learning

Nowadays, with the Internet and so many schools and colleges offering long distance degrees, the concept of learning at a distance is more familiar.  However, consider a spiritual school that at a distance is able to assist learners all across the world by offering a body of written material and monitoring outcomes; sending energy to its learners while they are sleeping; and helping provide for the traveler during their daily life, all the practical experience necessary. 

For the spiritual traveler, the following information is offered concerning this form of learning; some of which was told to me, some of which is public information and other aspects, over time, I either learned or pieced together.

• Spiritual Enrollment. Sam indicated that at the point of writing our initial letter to the Society for Sufi Studies, we were enrolled; the period of waiting, six months, for our instructions was used to discourage those students who were not serious.

• Teacher of the Age. Idries Shah, who founded the Society for Sufi Studies, died in 1996 and was universally considered to be the Sufi Teacher of the Age. This is no insignificant designation, and while this title may be unfamiliar to most westerners, traditionally it is very rarely used and indicates a supremely gifted individual.  Shah’s body of written material for the spiritual traveler supersedes all previous written Sufi material; contained in those 20 books which are the required reading, is everything in written form the western traveler needs for their journey.  For his later responsibilities, Shah was groomed and educated at a very early age, and this body of material was compiled specifically for our time; in order to help create spiritually developed travelers, who, God willing participate in the world and may help save us from ourselves.

• Study the Material. Well, I believe it took me well over 10 years to totally familiarize myself with the titles and their material, as indicated in the original letter.  After studying this material, all my spiritual questions were answered, and there was no need to further contact the Society with questions. The content of the books, the many stories and jokes tell you what to do; you see there is a whole body of material that is the birthright of humanity and has been collected specifically by Shah and others to help make better travelers, one person at a time. Also, there were different materials (books, CD/DVD) that were offered by the Society that are both interdisciplinary and cross-cultural and helped expand my way of looking at things.  Most of this written material and audio/visual products are offered at discounted prices; with the intention of making it all easily available.

• Learning On Many Levels.  Traditionally, the world is viewed as a giant market place and classroom; when the right factors combine, we all can get whatever we need.  While my mind was busy reading the books and listening to the tapes, there was another part of me, that on a deep, inner level was busy absorbing and drinking it all in; and, at certain times, helped me see the direct application in my daily life.  For example, Shah presents 1500 or so Middle Eastern teaching stories, which are traditional and help the traveler unlock the hidden motivations of everyday activity.  These stories, in part, are offered as snapshots of human behavior, and for the reader, work on an unconscious level, so, when we see a parallel of this story in everyday life, we know to expect certain outcomes.

• Direction from a Distance.  Slowly, what I came to realize was just like a traditional distance learning college, in this spiritual school, the progress of individual students was monitored.  While in more familiar learning environments, this comes in the form of tests, papers, and assignments: for the spiritual traveler, life is the great classroom and we test out, daily, the specific learning.  Also, when we are asleep and our daily consciousness is resting, other types of learning impacts occur: in my own case, I can remember being read passages from books, the activation of individual spiritual centers, and parts of my consciousness talking to other parts. This dialogue between aspects of consciousness was much like what is being represented here.  For the skeptic, and you should be skeptical, let’s put this in a different frame of reference. As previously discussed, many people believe that their prayers are answered by Jesus who died well over 2000 years ago.  So, why is it so hard to accept, that within another spiritual framework, contact occurs on levels that are not completely understood or reported in our western culture on a daily basis?

• A Plan for Humanity.  According to Sufi tradition, there is a plan for humanity, and the hidden friends are guardians of this plan. Humanity is evolving upward and must freely choose the higher destiny, one person at a time.  The hidden friends correct deviations in this plan and daily project the Light into this physical world.  This Light is the life giving force and without its presence we would wither and die.

Now, as improbable as this may sound, particularly, as we gaze about and consider all the cruelty, greed, and problems of our current world, for the Sufi, this spiritual presence with its assurances is an ever-present reality.  Having embraced the Light, been placed on the path by a living master, and experienced my own spiritual nature, all of this is second nature; because the spiritual traveler has lived it, and realizes that without this guiding presence, the world would be much worse off and become even darker. Spiritually, just as personal interventions can occur, then it is so for all travelers.  If the traveler, would like more information about this tradition of hidden guidance see, Ernest Scott, People of the Secret, Octagon Press, London, 1983.

- Dr. Stewart Bitkoff

The Latest Book by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff

# Further:
* Official Website of Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
* Books by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
* On Traveling the Sufi Path | Interview with Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
* On Mysticism and Mystery School | Interview with Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
* Spiritual Traveler: Finding a Teacher
* Book Review: Sufism for Western Seekers
* Tawajjuh: Spiritual Focus and Transmission



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Technology of the Heart: Distance Learning and Direction from a Distance of the Sufi Mystics
Distance Learning and Direction from a Distance of the Sufi Mystics
Distance Learning and Direction from a Distance of the Sufi Mystics from Dr. Steward Bitkoff at Technology of the Heart
Technology of the Heart
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