From “The Guru of Rumi: The Teachings of Shams Tabrizi”
By Motafa Vaziri
Like there historical religious counterparts such as the Taoists, Buddhists, Kabbalist, Vedantic Hindu and Christian mystics, Sufis pursued esoteric practices such as meditation, repetitive prayer, chanting and dance to unveil (kashf) an ultimate inner self manifesting archaic supra-human, pre-human or God-like properties. It is still not known precisely how other pre-Islamic religions and cultures such as animism and shamanism, as well as those of other formal religions like Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, may have influenced Sufism over the centuries, but similarities and connections between Sufism and other traditions are readily apparent. These include the Hindu-Buddhist concepts of ego-self-annihilation (fana) which is a nirvana-like experience; ascetic meditation practices, such as the use of prayer beads as in Buddhism; breathing exercises (pranayam); the bhakti yoga of devotion; and the idea of pantheism as found in Indian and old Persian religious beliefs.
Despite the similarity to Hindu pantheism, many traditional Sufis argued that the original concept and justification for their 'pantheistic' belief in fact came from a verse in the Koran describing the nearness of God: “We (God) are nearer to you than your jugular vein.” (50:15). Sufis saw God existing in their individual hearts and minds.
This Sufi claim of oneness with God was perceived by some in Islam to be heretical, even though it was supported by a Koranic verse. The orthodox Islamic and religious practitioners of the time put their faith in a God who was outside of themselves, a distant God who seemed to be the manager of creation residing in some remote galaxy. To see God within oneself meant being awakened to one's own god-nature, an unfamiliar and unacceptable concept to conformist Muslims. There was a resulting backlash from the orthodox Muslims who viewed the Sufis as deviating from the legalistic path of true Islam, and many Sufis such as Hallaj and Bayazid were prosecuted for having claimed to be one with God, which was considered to be a heretical belief. This persecution served to maintain the power of the ruling elite, which instrumentalized religion for their governing tactics, while also feeding into the fearful frenzied orthodoxy of the day.
In addition, the Sufi's rejection of the afterlife upset those conformists. To the Sufis, basking in the presence of God in the serenity of the present moment was more than enough reason to find joy in this existence, in the here and now, and more enriching than waiting for the rewards of a heavenly afterlife. This is what Rumi meant it his poetry when he spoke of preferring cash (enlightenment in this world) over credit (the next world).
There are three types of secrets…
Those hidden from people.
Those hidden from angels.
Those hidden from self.
What's hidden from people can be explored in seclusion.
What's hidden from angels is the discovery of the truth.
What's hidden from self is achieved in union with the absolute Truth.
When my Beloved appears
With what eye do I see him?
With his eye, not mine,
For none see Him but Himself.