|JOURNEY TO NOWHERE
At some point in our lives, we have all longed for a feeling of
freedom which a bird enjoys while flying in an open sky. It moves
on and on defeating the pull of gravity. In fact gravity seems to
be moved up in the form of the bird. Looking from a different perspective,
gravity and bird melt into each other transforming into a free movement
towards the sky. This upward movement depicts the symbol of life,
where "movement" represents change or continuous re-newal
and "upwardness" reflects the evolutionary process leading
towards the ultimate freedom.
At one time or the other, everyone of us has experienced the glimpses
of freedom. For in-stance, while looking at a sunset or listening
to a beautiful piece of music, thinking process of mind simply stops
and one loses the sense of time. He does not exists as a separate
entity from the experience rather the boundary between the experiencer
and the ex-perience melts away. Such experiences not only imparts
an intense feeling of freedom but also an understanding that relationship
between objects is not formed but it is already there. However,
as soon as one starts appreciating the experience, thinking mind
enters once again to give all the comparisons of past experiences
and one steps again into the past or future losing the moment to
moment reality. Celebration or Ecstasy can only happen to a thoughtless
mind which exists like a clear mirror with no impressions of past
All the desires of a human being whether physical or spiritual
in nature leads him to an ultimate desire of cutting the chains
and bonds within his being. He wants to be free, to just open him-self,
to dance and celebrate. In his life span, consciously or unconsciously
he treads on several paths just to get this feeling of freedom.
At times, he wants to be powerful, other times wealthy, yet at other
times spiritual just to be free. A man who is after power feels
that power would make him a rider on the horse of fate moving freely
against the winds of bonds and chains. Another man who is after
wealth also seeks freedom as he is under the impression that it
enables him to buy the whole world which again gives him a sense
Likewise, a religious person prays to find his freedom in the heaven
after death. A common thread among these seekers for freedom is
that they all depend on something outwards to reach their goals.
This dependency on anything is again a bondage. This is a paradox
as one looks at freedom through the window of a bondage, but it
has to be so as freedom only makes sense amidst bondages. Inspite
of different paths taken, for most of the people, flower of free-dom
does not bloom as the fragrance of celebration is missing from their
lives. However, there have been people who have touched the peaks
of freedom and have become the epitome of life. Inspite of problems
on the physical level of existence, an air of celebration surrounds
This is what the Sufi path is all about i.e. to get into the depth
of life to find the pearl of free-dom. Sufi inevitably starts with
outward objects, but see those as means rather than goals. It has
to be that way because everything in the universe is in a state
of flux. In this situation, it is im-possible to set goals particularly
in this path because by the time one reaches at a goal, not only
the goal changes but also the seeker. The goal exists in future
and whatsoever exists in future is always like a mirage due to ever
changing reality of each and everything. With this awareness, a
sufi starts moving in a different dimension away from the future
orientedness to experience the moment to moment reality.
Sufi meditations are directed to still one's mind because a chattering
mind either exists in past or future. It never exists in present.
By practicing meditations, gradually, a Sufi becomes capable of
experiencing the moment to moment reality in any situation. Since,
under the spell of such experiences, demarcation between the experiencer
and the experience dissolves, he starts realizing a new dimension
of his being that one is related to each and everything in every
possible way. This feeling of oneness explodes into a tremendous
insight and he rises in love with each and everything.
This experience of oneness is the very core of the
Sufi path that culminates in a love affair be-tween the part and
the whole. However, it is a very different relationship as part
is not only the part but whole at the same time and whole is not
only whole but part of the part also. Infact, part and whole exist
no more, just love remains as has been expressed in the follow-ing
I am love : in heaven and earth I have no
I am the wondorous phoenix whose spoor cannot be traced.
With eyebrow bow and arrow winks I hunt both worlds
Yet my weapons cannot be found.
Like the sun I brighten each atom's cheek ;
I cannot be pinpointed ,I am too manifest
I speak with every tongue , listen with all ears ,
But marvel at this : My ears and tongue are erased.
Since in all the world only I exist above and below.
No likeness of me can be found.
This is what Mairaaj is ; "Mairaaj" is an Arabic word
meaning ascension. It is the height of spiritual evolution. It is
the feeling of oneness resulting in breaking of all the barriers,
setting one free. With this attain-ment, one lives in the world
amidst bondages but with freedom. It is said that on a sandalwood
tree, live poisonous snakes. They all appear hypnotized due to a
very strong perfume of the tree. In the same way, the perfume of
love sets one free from the poisonous snakes of bondages in one's
being. The experience of this realization has been beautifully expressed
in the Koran in the following Verses ;
"Glorified be He who carried His servant
by night from the inviolable place of worship to the far distant
place of worship the neighborhood where of We have blessed , that
We might show him of our tokens! lo! He only He is the Hearer ,
So much has been said in these verses that nothing more can be
said. Due to paradoxical nature of reality, symbolic style of saying
has been adopted because there is no other possible way of interpreting
mystical experiences. Since, these verses give an insight towards
spiritual attain-ment, Sufis have tried to explain these verses.
Still, this ex-planation is like a finger pointing towards the moon
and not the moon itself. To start with, "Servant" is not
the right translation rather the Arabic word is "Abd".
This has been used for a man who exists at the highest rung of spiritual
evolution - who has made himself available to experience the Grace
of God. "Night" represents the introvert aspect
of God. It is said in the Koran;
"God is first ,God is last
,God is extrovert and God is introvert".
Also for a meditator, night is the time for inactive activity when
his eyes open inwards. It has been said that He carried His Abd.
This is the message that one should be humble i.e. ultimately it
is He, who call or His Grace that pulls one up. One can try his
best but one should not feel proud as his efforts will always fall
short as compared to the gift of this experi-ence. This is why a
Sufi prays or meditate with no expectations. The means are the goals
Also one can notice the extra ordinariness of this journey as literally
it seems that God carried His Abd alongwith Him, but in this
sense, one will be limiting God. This God cannot be
om-nipresent as place from where He comes to carry His Abd will
be devoid of His presence. It will only make sense if one sees this
journey between the two dimensions of the same being i.e. human
aspect is "Abd" while the divine aspect is God.
To elaborate it further, Sufis see the creativity of universal consciousness
or God in seven stages. One should be careful not to take
these stages literally because these are inter-related and simultaneously
merging into each other. Hence, distinction cannot be made and there
is no start and no finish to these stages.
These stages have been created by Sufis just to convey a certain
level of understanding. A brief description is as follows;
1) A H A D I Y A T :
He exists as "HIMSELF" like a seed where all the trees,
flowers, thorns, leaves, fruits, etc. are lying in a dormant form
ready to be born. He is just 'HU' not more or less.
2) W A H D A T :
He perceives Himself as "HIMSELF" like a seed sprouting
to realize its 'isness'. An awareness of 'AMNESS' takes place. This
stage has also been called as " Haqeeqat- - e - Mohammadi "
, " Mahaguru " , " Christ " , " Perfect
man " etc.
3) W A H I D I Y A T :
He perceives "HIMSELF" in detail like the realization
of seed that it has all the trees , flowers , etc. within itself.
4) M A L K O O T :
He perceives "HIMSELF" through His details, still there
is no form or matter. Nothing is gross or subtle.
5) A A L A M - E - M I S A A L :
He exists as "DETAILS" but in a subtle form. To see it
from another perspective, 'Details' of Him realize their presence
and feelings like pleasure and pain become material.
6) N A S O O T :
His Details take the material forms and can be recognized as animals
, plants , rocks , etc.
7) I N S A A N (Human Being) :
Actually, this also comes under the sixth stage, i.e. Nasoot . However,
it is taken as a separate stage because a human being is a small
universe; all that the universe contains is contained by him in
a miniature way. He is like a drop of water which contains all the
secrets of the ocean; a light breeze which has a potential of becoming
a storm. He is finite yet infinite. He is endowed with a gift of
'QALB' - spiritual heart, which wants to be consumed in the fire
of love; can fly so high that even the height of the heights appear
depth; is capable of taking the so called quan-tum leap towards
Now, one can realize that in the above-mentioned Koranic Verses,
Abd reflects the stage of Wahdat - where a human being is at the
highest rung of spiritual evolution and God reflects the
stage of Ahadiyat - where there is nothing but HU, then, in these
verses, something is being said about the inviolable place of worship
and the far distant place of worship which are again human aspect
and divine aspect respectively. The point to ponder upon is this
that both the places are of worship. This is why Sufis as human
beings live a rich life and do not condemn the world as it is sacred
too. It is another dimension of the same being. They love the world
as they love themselves, but not attached to it due to ever changing
nature of it. Then, it is said,
"The neighborhood where of We have blessed that We might show
him Our tokens lo ! He only He is the Hearer, the Seer".
When one attains to the Godliness in His being i.e. the stage of
'Ahadiyat', there are just blessings and blessings. He is one with
God. A union happens rather a reunion as one is already united
with God without realizing it and consequently 'He only He
is the Hearer, the Seer'. These are the states of 'Fana' and 'Baqa'
in Sufi terminology where he dies as himself and lives as universal
consciousness. This is what the culmination of 'dhikr' is! where
he negates all the personal Gods or bondages i.e. greed,
power, ego, etc. and affirm the universal consciousness or freedom.
He is same yet not the same. An anecdote goes
In a far off town, Mulla Nasruddin entered in a serai.
The seraikeeper immediately approached to welcome him. Mulla said,
" first things first, tell me! did you see me entering? "
Seraikeeper said " Yes
Sir ! This is why I have come to welcome you ".
Mulla said " Did you have any acquaintance with me? "
Seraikeeper's response was negative,
Mulla said, " Then, how can you say that the individual entered
in the Serai is me !".
He is same yet not the same.
However, this is not the end of the story. The overview of spiritual
attainment which has been given above is one half of the circle.
It relates to the ascension but simultaneously God descends
to complete the circle. In other words, one is colored in the colour
of Godliness, and only then the Koranic verses
"God is nearer to you even from your jugular vein"
and "God is the Nur(Light) of heavens and earth"
become meaningful. Also, as said by Prophet Mohammad (Peace
be upon him), "a seeker through meditation attains to a
state where God become his tongue through which he speaks,
God become his ears through which he listens, God
become his hands through which he holds......". It is a long
hadith. To say it in a nutshell, Godliness is reflected in him and
through him. He is same yet not the same. He stands on earth but
lives in heaven. While keeping in touch with the human aspect, he
is able to participate in the universal dance as God is a
never ending creativity, ever expanding from unknown to unknown.
The human beings of present day are growing in a very different
set up which past has not known. The pace of developments has become
fast not only in science but in every walk of life - fast music
, fast driving , fast eating etc. Every thing seems to be moving
in the fast lane. On one hand, this has made men tense while on
the other hand , this has helped men to realize his limitations
and bondages causing tensions.
Also, these developments are responsible for better ways of communication.
As a result, the walls of rigidity between different disciplines
and faiths are falling. The unity within the diversity has not only
been realized by spiritual people rather the scientists, physicists,
psychologists, etc. are also moving in the same direction, as is
reflected in the following excerpts ;
(i) "One is led to a new notion of unbroken wholeness which
denies the classical idea of analyzability of the world into separately
and independently existing parts. We have reversed the usual classical
notion that the independent " elementary parts " of the
world are the fundamental reality , and that the various systems
are merely particular contingent forms and arrangements of these
parts. Rather , we say that inseparable quantum inter - connectedness
of the whole universe is the fundamental reality, and that relatively
independently behaving parts are merely particular and contingent
forms within this whole".
----- By David Bohm - a renowned modern day physicist
(ii) "Modern Physics ,of course , works in a very different
framework and cannot go that far in the experience of the unity
of all things. But it has made a great step towards the world view
of the Eastern Mystics in atomic theory. Quantum theory has abolished
the notion of fundamentally separated objects, has introduced the
concept of the participator to replace that of the observer, and
may even find it necessary to include the human consciousness in
its description of the world."
----- By Fritjof Capra - a physicist and the author of ; ' The Turning
Point ' and ' The Tao of Physics '
(iii) One of the greatest psychologists Abraham Maslow is also
critical of what he calls the atomistic approach ; the approach,
common in physical science, of breaking things down into their component
parts and studying the component parts separately. Man, he believes,
must be studied as an entity, as a system. Each part is related
to the other part, and unless, one studies them all as a whole,
the answers are incomplete. Most behavioral scientists have attempted
to isolate independent drives, urges, and instincts and study them
separately. This Maslow found to be generally less productive than
the holistic approach which holds that the whole is more than the
sum of its parts.
----- From " The Third Force - The Psychology of Abraham Maslow
By Frank Goble