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Sufism and Religion

To:, (sri catyananda)
From: "" 
Subject: Sufism and Religion (was SUFI)
Date: Thu, 4 Feb 1999 11:10:16 -0800 (PST)

49990204 IIIom

assalam alaykum, my kin.

#># what is the difference between a Sufi (by the above definition) 
#># and any of those others seeking God, and seeking to be rid [of]
#># burdensome self?

I didn't see "the above definition" so take this into account (it
wasn't quoted in your post). the difference between a Sufi and
other seekers of God who wish to be rid of the burdensome self
is that Sufis tend to do it in specific social and/or personal
ways (tariqas, zikr), refer to literature of a certain genre
(poetry or short stories, often Persian), do not generally set 
themselves apart from societal or family living, and may spend 
time with different groups of people (those who may call 
themselves 'sufi' rather than 'yogi' or 'monk' or something).

#> The difference?  ...Sufis say that "there are as many paths 
#> to God as there are breaths of men. . ." 
#> ...What the others (especially the fundamentalists of each 
#> religion) say sounds just the opposite.

especially the fundamentalists. Zen Buddhists have told me that
with the Buddhist principle of "upaya" there are innumerable
paths to awakening.  the language varies, but I think the best
traditions have this principle of variety.

what they may not say, however, is that there may only be one 
right path FOR YOU, whatever this may be, and it may well not
include what you are investigating.

"Michelle Fergenson" :
# ...God is infinite, ..."Why would He define only ONE path to Himself?"  
# Unless He were not merciful, and we know that He is.  

Allah's ways are not to be rationalized and fathomed so easily.  
there is a saying that nobody can know the mind of God.  this
may be the most honest answer to your question.  another might
be that God does this because She wants us to have discipline,
to cleave to the Straight and Narrow, to be all the way in or 
all the way out, no in-between, half-way muslims.

# The Catholics say the same thing: "Catholicism is the perfect 
# expressin of God's revelation to mankind, [and all others are 
# not as good]."  

not all Catholics (there are Roman Catholics and there are also
Eastern Orthodox as well as Gnostic Catholics, btw) say this.

# Yeah, all fundamentalists are pretty much the same and they give
# much grief to the world.

also they give much benefit to the world. they provide a kind of
preservational society for language, literature, and ideas, due
to their tendency to rigidify and attempt to prevent change/death.

# I stopped drinking alcohol and two weeks ago I stopped drinking 
# caffeine and one week ago I stopped eating meat, I can tell you, 
# without a doubt, that my personal experience bears it out that 
# what we put into our bodies is can have a very strong effect on 
# how our souls feel, react, etc.  But if it were not for 
# experience, I doubt I would ever have believed this.

consider that CHOOSING TO ABSTAIN also has an effect.  so also
does SUCCEEDING IN A WILLFUL ACT. these are true whether they
are about diet or about how you bathe the dog.  this is one of
the wonderful things about mystical disciplines => they provide
one with willpower, confidence, transform the self-concept, and
can produce remarkable changes in how one feels, experiences.

let us be careful, however, not to attribute too much to any
particular discipline. if we step too far, then we will enter
into superstitious traps that may have DELITERIOUS effects in
the long term. this is one of the benefits which is provided to
the chela or the murid when they have a spiritual GUIDE, as the
guide should have insight into the real causes and effects
(al Haqq, the Real, that to which Sufis try to cling).

# Similarly, there must be some cause for religions to have come 
# into the world, complete with all their rules and doctrines.  
# I just wish I knew what it was.

religions come into the world in order to provide initiatory
markers and societal support. more often than not they have
as part of them some mystical subsect, but the greater religious
culture is primarily concerned with integrating a meaning and
rich intellectual and/or visual symbolism into everyday life.
if the religion does not do this, then it does not serve the
culture in which it appears.
"Michelle Fergenson" 
# Why, if the sufis believe that there are as many paths to
# God as there are breaths of men, do most sufi Tariqas only 
# accept moslems?

when I went to visit with the Sheikh of the Naqshbandis very
near to me, I was pretty plainspoken about my tantric and
Satanic preferences, ideals. we were very complimentary to
one another. I had already considered myself muslim, even
though I didn't and still don't adhere to the Five Pillars 
in external form.

still, after all our talking about how Iblis was the greatest
angel of Allah, of the value of repose and rejoining the
world, of my difficulties with culture segregating men and
women in prayer and other interactions, still he invited me,
through one of his women devotees, a real bhaktik, to have
him hear my shahadah (Testimony of Faith) and accept me as 
his student.  

I hasten to mention that I did not accept this kind invitation,
in part because of the timing and also the sense of rushedness 
I felt from the enthusiastic murid.  snap decisions like that
are foolish when dealing with the heart or the soul (or the
pocketbook!), though if I ever return to his center I may take
him up on that invitation.
# Does it mean, that in each breath I am given the choice
# whether to remember God, or not? In each breath I am
# given anew a chance to love Him?

a very wonderful interpretation.
# And what does Religion have to do with this?

religion sets the stage for the zikr (remembrance).  within the
foundation of religion one may come to see the nafs, and from
there, attempt to purify, refine oneself.

peace be with you,


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