Sufism Beyond Islam
Once a learned Mohammedan came to me and asked, ‘You are not a Mohammedan, then why do you speak on Sufism?’ I told him, ‘I am not a Mohammedan, obviously, but I am a Sufi all the same.’
A Sufi need not be a Mohammedan. A Sufi can exist anywhere, in any form – because Sufism is the essential core of all religions. It has nothing to do with Islam in particular. Sufism can exist without Islam; Islam cannot exist without Sufism. Without Sufism, Islam is a corpse. Only with Sufism does it become alive.
Whenever a religion is alive it is because of Sufism. Sufism simply means a love affair with God, with the ultimate, a love affair with the whole. It means that one is ready to dissolve into the whole, that one is ready to invite the whole to come into one’s heart. It knows no formality. It is not confined by any dogma, doctrine, creed or church. Christ is a Sufi, so is Mohammed.
The relationship is dangerous. It is dangerous because the closer you come to God, the more and more you evaporate. And when you have come really close you are no more. It is dangerous because it is suicidal…but the suicide is beautiful. To die in God is the only way to live really. Until you die, until you die voluntarily into love, you live an existence which is simply mediocre; you vegetate, you don’t have any meaning. No poetry arises in your heart, no dance, no celebration; you simply grope in the darkness. You live at the minimum, you don’t overflow with ecstasy.
That overflow happens only when you are not. You are the hindrance. Sufism is the art of removing the hindrance between you and you, between the self and the self, between the part and the whole.
You are divine but you have not known it yet. In fact, it is because you are divine that it is so difficult to know it. It is at the very heart of your being. If it were something outside of you, you would have encountered it by now. If it were something objective, you could have seen it. But it is not outside and it is not an object – it is your subjectivity. It is not something to be seen, it is hidden in the seer. It is a witnessing. Unless you go behind yourself you will not be able to know it.
There are three things in the world. One is the world of the object – the things that surround you. Closer to it, when you come towards yourself, is the world of thoughts, dreams and desires. That too surrounds you. That’s what you ordinarily call the inner world. It is not inner, it is still outer. There are two kinds of outsides: one that you see with open eyes and one that you see with closed eyes. But both are outside because whatsoever can be seen must be outside. To be seen, it has to be outside, it has to be different from you. The object has to be different from the subject.
And then there is the third, the world of your innermost core, your subjectivity – from where you go on seeing. To come to that is to realize one’s divinity. One has to become a witness to objects and to thoughts, and by witnessing, by and by, a moment comes when the turning happens. When there is no object and no thought left in your consciousness, when your consciousness is pure, it takes a turn – a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn. When there is nothing to be seen, the seer starts seeing itself.
Remember, I am only using words, and they are not adequate any more.
‘The seer starts seeing himself’ are not the right words because, again, the words indicate a division: the seer and the seen. And now there is no division – there is only you and you and you; there is not something that is seeing and something that is being seen. It is pure consciousness.
Divinity means pure consciousness. You will first have to go from the world of objects to the world of thoughts, and then you will have to take another step – you will have to drop thinking, let thoughts disappear, let there be nothingness. And in that nothingness the turning happens. You cannot do it. You can do only two things: you can close your eyes to the world and you can close your consciousness to the constant traffic of thoughts. That’s all you have to do. Then the third thing happens on its own. Suddenly you are aware that you are a God. Awareness is what God is.
But when you are aware, in a sense you have disappeared, you are no longer there. The old ego is no longer there. You cannot even say ‘I’ – because the ‘I’ depends on things and thoughts, the ‘I’ is constituted of things and thoughts. When all the bricks of things and thoughts have disappeared, the building of the ‘I’ also disappears. There is pure emptiness. That’s what Buddha calls anatta, no-selfness. At the very core of the self, at the innermost shrine, you will not find yourself – and that’s how one finds oneself. When the self is lost, the self is found.
This is one of the paradoxes of spiritual life: the more one dissolves into the divine, the more unique one becomes. The dissolution is not of the individuality but of the self: the dissolution is not of the uniqueness but of the ego. The more you are an ego, the more you are like others, because everyone is an egoist.
The ego is the most ordinary thing in the world. Everyone is an egoist; even a newborn child is an egoist – a perfect egoist. So it is not anyone’s achievement; it is not extraordinary. Really, it can be said that to be just ordinary is the most extraordinary thing possible – because no one feels just ordinary. So to feel oneself extraordinary is just the most ordinary thing. Everyone feels like that. So ego is not something unique.
If you have an ego, it is not something unique. Really, egolessness is the most unique thing, the most uncommon, rare. It happens only sometimes. Centuries pass, and rarely the event happens that someone becomes egoless – a Buddha, a Jesus. But when we say that someone becomes egoless, it does not mean that he is not. Really, for the first time, now he is – authentically grounded into the very being. He is no longer an ego.
So take it from a different root: ego is a false phenomenon – just an appearance, not a reality. It is not something grounded in the being – just a dream, a thought, just a mental construction. So the more you belong to the ego, the less you belong to the existence. The more you concentrate on your ego, the less and less you are authentic. You become false – an existential lie.
When we talk about becoming empty, nothing, valley-like, we mean that there is no ego – but you are! Let me say it in this way: I say “I am,” but when the ego dissolves there remains the pure ‘am-ness’. The ‘I’ is no longer there, but ‘am-ness’ is there, and for the first time pure, total, uncontaminated. The ego contaminates it.
The word ‘personality’ and the word ‘individuality’ must not be confused, they are totally different. They do not mean any similar entity; they are not the same at all. Personality belongs to the ego, individuality to the being. Personality is just a façade. The ego is the center and the personality is the circumference. It is not individuality at all.
The games of the ego are very subtle. And if one is trying to drop the ego they become more and more subtle. And if one has really decided to drop it anyhow, the ultimate strategy that the ego can use to protect itself is to become egolessness; is to pretend humility, humbleness; is to show that ‘Now there is no need to fight with me, I am not at all’.
The ego is one of the most fundamental problems man has to face. The ways of the ego have to be understood rightly otherwise you will never be able to get rid of it. And until you get rid of the ego there is no possibility of meeting God. It is the ego that functions as a barrier between you and reality.
The ego functions as a barrier because it is one of the most unreal things possible. The ego is a fiction, it is not a fact. It is maintained by conditioning, hypnosis; it is maintained by a thousand and one props. It is a fiction – because existence is one. It can have only one center, it cannot have millions of centers.
What is the ego? The ego is the idea that ‘I am the center of the universe’. That is what ego is – reduced to the basic – the idea that ‘I am the center of the universe’. ‘I’ cannot be the center of the universe but everybody has the idea that ‘I am the center of the universe’.
And the second part of the ego is: it is separative, it is a fiction that separates you from the totality. It gives you the idea that you are independent, that you are an island. And you are not. Existence is a vast infinite continent. There are no islands. You are not separate and you are not independent.
And remember, when I say you are not independent I don’t mean that you are dependent – because the very idea of dependence will again presuppose the ego. There is nobody to be independent and there is nobody to be dependent. We live in interdependence, in mutual existence, in mutuality. We are parts of each other, members of one another. The trees are penetrating you and the rocks are penetrating you and the rivers are penetrating you – and you are penetrating the rivers and the trees and the rocks. The farthest star is connected with you. And when you blink your eyes you change the quality of total existence. All is infinitely interconnected, interwoven. Nobody is separate.
So nobody can be independent and nobody can be dependent.
When you alone are left
a passive alertness,
doing nothing, just being –
suddenly the reality bursts in an explosion.
And it is not going to be according to any ideology,
not Hindu nor Christian nor Mohammedan.
All ideologies are transcended.
Ideologies are very narrow.
Reality is infinitely vast.
It cannot be contained by any idea.
It cannot be contained by any concept.
It cannot be present.
Mind is too narrow a thing,
it cannot surround reality,
it has to dissolve into reality.
When you are not a mind,
And reality is God.
And that God – you will not find
that is fits with Hindus or it fits with Christians.
It fits with nobody.
Hence I go on insisting that religion
is not Christian, not Hindu, not Buddhist.
Religion knows no adjectives.
Religion knows no labels.
It is life itself,
in its tremendous vitality.
In its unlimited expanse.
In its endless, beginningless flow.
You have been taught and conditioned in a certain way. From the very childhood your mind has been created by others – parents, society, teachers. The past is creating your mind, influencing your mind. The dead past is forcing itself upon the living continuously. The teachers are just the agents – the agents of the dead, against the living. They go on forcing things upon your mind. But the mind is so intimate with you, the gap is so small, that you become identified with it.
You say, “I am a Hindu”. Think again; reconsider it. YOU are not a Hindu. You have been given a Hindu mind. You were born just a simple, innocent being – not a Hindu, not a Mohammedan. But you were given a Mohammedan mind, a Hindu mind. You were forced, engaged, imprisoned in a particular condition, and then life goes on adding to this mind, and this mind becomes heavy – heavy on you. You cannot do anything; the mind starts forcing its own way upon you. Your experiences are being added to the mind. Constantly, your past is conditioning your every present moment. If I say something to you, you are not going to think about it in a fresh way, in an open way. Your old mind, your past, will come in between, will begin to talk and chatter for or against.
Remember, your mind is not yours, your body is not yours: it comes from your parents. Your mind is also not yours: it also comes from your parents. Who are you?
Either one is identified with the body or with the mind. You think you are young, you think you are old, you think you are a Hindu, you think you are a Jain, that you are a Parsi. You are not! You were born as a pure consciousness. These are all imprisonments.
This is tantra’s proposition, that the mind is nothing but subtle matter; it can be changed. And once you have a different mind you have a different world, because you look through the mind. The world you are seeing, you are seeing because of a particular mind. Change the mind, and when you look there is a different world. And if there is no mind, that is the ultimate for tantra: to bring about a state where there is no mind. Then look at the world without a mediator. When the mediator is not, you are encountering the Real, because now no one is between you and the Real. Then nothing can be distorted.
Your breath is a bridge between you and your body. Constantly, breath is bridging you to your body, connecting you, relating you to your body. Not only is the breath a bridge to your body. It is also a bridge between you and the universe. Body is just the universe which has come to you, which is nearer to you.
Your body is part of the universe. Everything in the body is part of the universe – every particle, every cell. It is the nearest approach to the universe. Your body is the NEAREST approach to the universe. Breath is the bridge. If the bridge is broken, you are no more in the body. If the bridge is broken, you are no more in the universe. You move into some unknown dimension; then you cannot be found in space and time.
If you go on practicing breath consciousness, breath awareness, suddenly, one day without knowing, you will come to the interval – because as your awareness will become keen and deep and intense, as your awareness will become bracketed (the whole world is bracketed out; only your breath coming in or going out is your world – the whole arena for your consciousness), suddenly you are bound to feel the gap in which there is no breath.
When you are moving with breath minutely, when there is no breath, how can you remain unaware? You will suddenly become aware that there is no breath, and the moment will come when you will feel that the breath is neither going out nor coming in. The breath has stopped completely. In that stopping “the beneficence.”
This one technique is enough for millions. The whole of
The air we breathe pervades the globe universally. The air we breathe is not Hindu, Buddhist nor Mohammedan. Conscious breathing requires no temple or mosque. You are quite a temple yourself. You are the lab; the whole experiment is to go on within you. No belief is needed.
This is not religion: this is science. No belief is needed. It is not required to believe in the Koran or the Vedas or in Buddha or in Mahavir. No, no belief is needed. Only a daringness to experiment is enough, courage to experiment is enough; that is the beauty. A Mohammedan can practice and he will reach to the deeper meanings of the Koran. A Hindu can practice and he will for the first time know what the Vedas are. And a Jain can practice and a Buddhist can practice: they need not leave their religion. Tantra will fulfill them, wherever they are. Tantra will be helpful, whatsoever their chosen path.
So remember this, tantra is pure science. You may be a Hindu or a Mohammedan or a Parsi or whatsoever. Tantra doesn’t touch your religion at all. Tantra says that religion is a social affair. So belong to any religion: it is irrelevant. But you can transform yourself, and that transformation needs a scientific methodology. When you are ill, when you have fallen ill or you have caught tuberculosis or anything, then whether you are a Hindu or a Mohammedan makes no difference. The tuberculosis remains indifferent to your Hinduism, to your Mohammedanism, to your beliefs – political, social or religious. Tuberculosis has to be treated scientifically. There is no Hindu tuberculosis, no Mohammedan tuberculosis.
You are ignorant, you are in conflict, you are asleep: this is a disease, a spiritual disease. This disease has to be treated by the tantra. You are irrelevant, your beliefs are irrelevant. It is just a coincidence that you are born somewhere and someone else is born somewhere else. This is just a coincidence. Your religion is a coincidence. So do not cling to it. Use some scientific methods to transform yourself.
The work of the Sufi takes years. Sufis don’t preach. They teach, certainly, but they don’t preach. And when they teach, they teach methods, not principles. To follow a method one needs to be really in search – because sometimes it takes twelve years, sometimes twenty years, sometimes your whole life. And sometimes many lives are needed. The people who are in search of instant enlightenment cannot have a contact with a Sufi. That’s why Sufis go on hiding themselves. They don’t declare themselves, they remain invisible. They are available only to those who really search, who really seek. It is very difficult to find a Sufi Master, and he may be living just in your neighbourhood. He may be doing such an ordinary thing you cannot believe it. He may be a weaver or he may be a shoemaker or he may be running a hotel, or any kind of work. You cannot even suspect that a Sufi Master lives just at the corner. And you may come across him every day and you will have no idea who this man is – unless you are a seeker. If you are a seeker then by and by you will be led to him. In fact, if you are a seeker he will start choosing you. He will be watching you. He will not allow you to watch him; he will be watching you, he will be seeing. And if he feels that here is a seeker, then by and by he will make it possible for you to see him. He can become visible if he wants to.
The baraka, the grace, is always flowing from the Master. If you are ready you will receive it. If you are open you will be filled by it. If you are closed you will miss it. The Master’s very existence is a baraka, a grace. Vibrations are constantly spreading around his being. And it is not only that you have to be in the physical presence of the Master. If you love, then you can be on another planet and it will not make any difference. You can drink from your Master’s fountain wherever you are.
Sufism is pre-Islam and yet it is a unique new phenomenon too. It is the essential core of Islam and yet it is a rebellion against the establishment of Islam too. That’s how it is always. Zen is also both – it is the essential core of Buddhism and a rebellion against the establishment.
The essential religion will always go against the established religion. Sufis are the very heart, but the heart is bound to be against the mind, the intellect. The priest lives in the head; the man of prayer lives in the heart. They are two polarities, their languages are different. Their languages are so different that the priest cannot understand the language of the heart at all. He can spin theories; he has great expertise as far as doctrines are concerned. He has a very legal mind and is very knowledgeable. But as far as the heart is concerned there is a wasteland in his heart; nothing grows, nothing flowers, nothing flows.
The head cannot understand the heart. The heart can understand the head because the heart is deeper than the head. The man of the heart can understand the man of the head and can feel compassion for him, but the man of the head cannot understand the man of the heart. The lower cannot understand the higher; the higher can understand the lower. The man who is sitting in the valley cannot understand the man who is sitting on the top of the hill. But the man who is sitting on the top of the hill can understand the man who is living in the valley. So people of the heart are very compassionate. They understand. They understand why the priest is against them; they understand why the majority of humanity is not able to fall in rapport with them.