THE PATH OF LOVE
You are a Sufi when your heart is as soft and as warm as wool.
Sufism is a path of love. The Sufi is a traveler on the path of love, a wayfarer journeying back to God through the mysteries of the heart. For the Sufi the relationship to God is that of lover and Beloved, and Sufis are also known as lovers of God. The journey to God takes place within the heart, and for centuries Sufis have been traveling deep within themselves, into the secret chamber of the heart where lover and Beloved share the ecstasy of union.
There are some people for whom spiritual life has to be a love affair, a passionate affair of the soul. This tremendous love affair takes place within the heart, and is one of the greatest mysteries of being human. To love God and to be loved by God, to experience the depth and intimacy of this relationship, is a secret long known to the Sufis. Within the heart we come closer and closer to our Beloved, so close that finally there is no separation as the lover merges into the Beloved, the lover becomes lost in love. Step by step we walk along the path of love until finally we are taken by love into love; we are taken by God to God, and then there is no going back, only a deepening and deepening of this love affair of the soul. This is the ancient journey from separation to union, the journey from our own self back to a state of oneness with God.
On this journey love is the power that will take us Home. Love is the most powerful force in the universe and it resides within the heart of each of us. But this love needs to be awakened. The heart needs to be activated so that it can come to know its primordial passion, this link of love that runs through the world and is our own essence.
Since the beginning of time there have been masters of love, spiritual teachers who understood the ways of love, how to activate and channel this latent power within the human being. They carry the knowledge of how to awaken the longing that the soul has for God and help the lover live this longing, of how to allow this longing to fulfill itself so that the lover comes to experience nearness, intimacy, and finally union with God. This is the ancient wisdom of love, how to activate the heart, how to work with the currents of love so that the human being is taken back to God. And this is the wisdom of the Sufis, the ancient path of love that has always been here, long, long before they were called Sufis.
There is a story about a group of mystics, a band of lovers of God, who were called the Kamal Posh. Kamal Posh means blanket wearers, for their only possession was one blanket which they wore as a covering during the day and used as a blanket at night. As the story goes they traveled throughout the ancient world from prophet to prophet but no one could satisfy them. Every prophet told them to do this or to do that, and this did not satisfy them. Then one day, at the time of Muhammad, the Prophet was seated together with his companions when he said that in a certain number of days the men of the Kamal Posh would be coming. So it happened that in that number of days this group of Kamal Posh came to the prophet Muhammad. And when they were with him, he said nothing, but the Kamal Posh were completely satisfied. Why were they satisfied? Because he created love in their hearts, and when love is created, what dissatisfaction can there be?
Sufism is the ancient wisdom of the heart. It is not limited by time or place or form. It always was and it always will be. There will always be lovers of God. And the Kamal Posh recognized that Muhammad knew the mysteries of the heart. They stayed with the Prophet and were assimilated into Islam. According to this story the Kamal Posh became the mystical element of Islam. And later these wayfarers became known as Sufis, perhaps in reference to the white woolen blanket, sūf, which they wore, or as an indication of their purity of heart, safā, for they were also known as the pure of heart.
These lovers of God followed Islam, and observed the teachings of the Qur'an, but from a mystical point of view. For example, in the Qur'an there is a saying that God, Allāh, is nearer to us than our jugular vein. For the Sufis this saying speaks about the mystical experience of nearness with God. The Sufi relates to God not as a judge, nor as a father figure, nor as the creator, but as our own Beloved, who is so close, so near, so tender. In the states of nearness the lover experiences an intimacy with the Beloved which carries the softness and ecstasy of love.
We all long to be loved, we all long to be nurtured, to be held, and we look for it in another; we seek a man or woman who can fulfill us. But the mystic knows the deeper truth, that no other person can ever answer our real needs. Maybe for a while an outer lover can appear to give us the love and support we crave, but an external lover will always be limited. Only within the heart can our deepest desires, our most passionate needs, be met, totally and completely. In moments of mystical intimacy with God we are given everything we could want, and more than we believe possible. He is closer to us than ourself to ourself, and He loves us with the completeness that belongs only to God.
Another passage from the Qur'an that carries a mystical meaning is the "verse of light" from sura 24, which contains the phrase, "light upon light, Allāh guides to His light whom He will." The Sufis have interpreted the words "light upon light" as describing the mystery of how His light hidden within our own heart rises up to God, giving us the longing and light we need for the journey. He awakens the lamp of Divine light within the hearts of those who believe in the oneness of God. For the Sufi this light is a living reality that is felt as love, tenderness, and also the guidance that is necessary to help us on the way. His light takes us back to Him, from the pain of separation to the embrace of union. Not only the Qur'an, but also the hadīth, the sayings attributed to the Prophet, often carry an inner meaning for the Sufi. One of the best known is "He who knows himself knows his Lord." This hadīth refers to the whole mystery of self-knowledge, of going within yourself, discovering your real nature, not what you think you are but what you really are.
Sufism is a path of love and also a journey to self-knowledge, of carrying the light of consciousness into the core of our being. The spiritual journey is always inward, a gradual process of self-discovery as you realize the real wonder of being human. The wayfarer makes the most difficult and courageous of journeys, turning away from the outer world of illusion, and turning back to God, not as an idea but as a living reality that exists within the heart. This is a journey of self-revelation, a painful process of leaving behind our illusory nature, the ego, and entering into the arena of our true Self. And as another hadīth explicitly states, on this journey you have to "die before you die": before you can experience the innermost state of union with God, the ego has to be sacrificed; you have to be burnt, consumed by the fire of divine love.
Excerpt from Love is a Fire : the Sufi's Mystical Journey Home
The Golden Sufi Center® Books
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