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Stages on the Path of Realization

Hazrat Inayat Khan

Part Five

The Sufi's God is his divine ideal to whom he attributes all that is good and beautiful in its perfection; and he himself stands before Him in humility realizing his imperfection, being a soul, free to roam the heavens, now captive on earth in the physical body.
His aim in life is to release the captive soul from the bondage of limitations, which he accomplishes by the repetition of the sacred names of God and by constant thought of his divine ideal, and an ever-increasing love for the divine Beloved until the beloved God with His perfection becomes manifest to his vision, and his imperfect self vanishes from his sight.

There are three stages on the way to spiritual perfection. Those who are unaware of the possibility of spiritual perfection are greatly mistaken when they say that man is imperfect and cannot be perfect. They are mistaken for the reason that they have seen only man in man. They have not seen God in man. Christ has said, 'Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.' This shows that there is the possibility of perfection. It is also true that man cannot be perfect; but man is not man alone; in man there is also God. Therefore though man remains imperfect the God part in man seeks for perfection. That is what the world was created for. Man is here on earth for this one purpose, that he may bring forth that spirit of God in him and thus discover his own perfection.

The three stages towards this perfection are the following. The first stage is to make God as great and as perfect as your imagination can. It is in order to help man to perfect God in himself that the teachers gave various prayers, the prayers to God, calling Him the Judge, the Forgiver, most Compassionate, most Faithful, most Beautiful, most Loving. All these attributes are our limited conceptions. God is greater than what we can say about Him. And when by all these conceptions and by our imagination we make God as great as we are able to, it must still be understood that God cannot be made greater than He is. We cannot give God pleasure by making Him great, but by making God great we ourselves arrive at a certain greatness; our vision widens, our ideal reaches higher. We create a greater vision, a wider horizon, for our own expansion. We should, therefore, byway of prayer, by praise, by contemplation, make God as great as we can possibly imagine.
The truth behind this is that a person who sees good points in others and wants to add what is lacking in others, becomes nobler every day. By making others noble, by thinking good of others, he himself becomes nobler and better than those of whom he thinks good; and the one who thinks evil of others in time becomes wicked, for he covers up the good in him and produces thus the vision of evil. Therefore the first stage and the first duty of every seeker after truth is to make God as great as possible, for his own good, because he is making an ideal within himself; he is building within himself that which will make him great.

The second stage is the work of the heart. The first is of the head. To make God great intellectually, with thought and imagination, is really the painter's work, but still more important is the work of the heart. In our everyday life we see the phenomenon of love. The first lesson that love teaches us is:'I am not; thou art'. The first thing to think of is to erase ourselves from our minds and to think of the one we love. As long as we do not arrive at this idea, so long the word love remains only in the dictionary. Many speak about love but very few know it. Is love a pastime, an amusement, a drama; is it a performance? The first lesson of love is sacrifice, service, self-effacement.
To close the eyes for prayer is one thing, and to produce the love of God is another thing. That is the second stage in spiritual realization; where in the thought of God one begins to lose oneself the same way that the lover loses the thought of self in the thought of the beloved.

And the third stage is different again.
In the third stage the beloved becomes the self, and the self is there no more. For there the self, as we think it to be, no longer remains; the self becomes what it really is. It is that realization which is called self-realization.
First, one must be able to keep all the ever-moving thoughts away which come into one's mind. One must develop that mental strength, that will-power which will keep all thoughts away which come into one's mind during concentration and take one's mind away from the object on which one focuses it.
Secondly, the mind will always focus itself upon the object which it loves. If one does not have love for the divine Being, for God, if one does not have that ideal, then it will certainly be difficult, for it cannot be done by the intellect. The person who only uses his intellect keeps asking, "Where shall I direct my mind, on what object shall I focus it? Please, picture it for me, and point out where it is". It is the lover of God whose mind cannot wander anywhither, save always directly to God.
Then, purity of mind is necessary. The mind must be pure from all fear, worry and anxiety, and from every kind of falsehood, for all this covers the mind from the vision of God. When the mind, full of faith, love, purity and strength, is focused upon the ideal of God, man will receive teaching, inspiration and advice directly and for every case he meets with in life.

Hazrat Inayat Khan

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