Thursday, February 24, 2011
Five commitments of Sufism
The Five Commitments
Before entering into the circle of spiritual poverty, the seeker makes five commitments to the master. It is only when the seeker accepts and understands the significance of these commitments that the master comes to guide him or her along the straight path.
1. Submission to God (taslim)
The seeker, upon entering the world of the sufis, makes a vow (niyat) to submit to God wholeheartedly and with utmost sincerity. Submission (taslim) means that the seeker is surrendered fully to God’s Will, both outwardly and inwardly, and contented with whatever God desires.
2. Kindness towards God’s Creatures
With this commitment, the sufi vows never to bother any of God’s creatures and to be kind and friendly towards all of them while traveling the Path. Here, the sufi should constantly put into practice the words of Sa‘di’s poem which states:
I am joyful and content in the world,
for the world is joyful and content from God.
I am in love with all of creation,
for all of the creation belongs to God.
3. Preservation of the Secrets of the Path
At the beginning of traveling on the Path (suluk), the sufi makes a commitment not to reveal to anyone the secrets he or she is told—regardless of whether that person is a stranger, friend or fellow darvish. These secrets consist of the remembrance and contemplation he or she is given, as well as all discoveries and revelations witnessed in the world of Unity.
Such secrets should be spoken of to no one but the master. In this way, the secret will not fall into the hands of one unable to keep it.
That friend from whom the top of the gallows became honored
was the one accused of revealing the secrets.
4. Service on the Path
From the beginning to the end of traveling on the Path, the sufi must undertake to accept and obey with heart and spirit, and without questioning ‘how’ and ‘why’, every order and service that is given by the master.
The sufi should know that acting carelessly in such service will only cause one to stray from the path of devotion. So effective is such service that it can be said, “Whatever the sufi finds, he or she has found from service.”
Sa‘di presents a beautiful illustration of service in his poem from the Bustan about Sultan Mahmud and Ayaz, the Sultan’s servant. The poem begins with someone criticizing Mahmud by saying, “What wonder this is! Ayaz, his favorite, has no beauty. A flower without color, without any smell, how strange then is the nightingale’s attraction!” When told of these words, Mahmud replies, “Truly my love is for his virtue, and not for his form or face.”
Sa‘di then proceeds to recount the story of how in a royal procession a camel laden with jewels and pearls once stumbled and fell, spilling its precious stones. Sultan Mahmud, being generous, gave permission for his followers to plunder the jewels and hastily rode away. All of the followers broke rank and rushed to gather the jewels, neglecting the King for this wealth. Only Ayaz ignored the jewels and followed after the King.
When Mahmud saw him following, he called out, “O Ayaz, what has thou gained of the plunder?” In reply, Ayaz declared, “I sought no jewels, but followed my King, for how can I occupy myself with your gifts when all I seek is to serve?”
Sa‘di then concludes:
O friend, if you come near to the throne,
neglect not the King for his jewels;
For on this path, the saint never asks
anything of God but Him.
So know if you seek but the grace of the Friend,
you’re entangled in your prison, not His.
Upon entering the world of spiritual poverty, the sufi declares inwardly, “I have come in order to sacrifice myself for the Friend.”
To demonstrate this, just as Abraham by God’s command sacrificed a sheep instead of Ishmael, the sufi (with the master’s or shaikh’s permission) should have a special meal prepared from a sheep in accordance with the adab and traditions of spiritual poverty and distribute it among the darvishes. The food so prepared is called dig-jush