The Sufi Way
The Sufi Way consists of four stages. The first stage involves learning the morality and ethics of all religion, which is accomplished by studying Islam. Non-Islamic Sufis rely on other religions or the writings of Sufi saints to establish the foundation of morals and ethics. The second stage is the path of Sufism, which is a focus on internal practices in the same way that Islam offers the external practices of law and worship. The first two stages are accomplished through practice and imitation, basically surrendering blindly to rituals. The third stage is where the aspirant begins to understand the meaning behind the teaching and practices, experiencing God within and the mystical states of Sufism. The fourth stage is ma'rifah or gnosis. This is where the knowledge of God is realized and is only achieved by prophets, great masters and saints. The goal of following the Sufi way (or to be devoted to any other religion) is not to become a saint, but rather to align your life with the will of God and to do all that you can to accept and live by God’s Grace. Indeed, if your goal is to become a saint, it is all but assured that because of your own desires you will never become one.
Sufism in the West
Sufism is much more complex than this description, but each order or school has its own unique departure from the most general concept of Sufism outlined here. There are dozens of Sufi orders in the West. Many represent orders in the East and adhere to Islam. Other Western orders allow non-Muslims to study the path, although the Master is usually a teacher in the direct line that goes back to those who were ordained by Mohammad. There are also a growing number of orders with teachers that are not in that direct line and have broken with Islam altogether.
Meher Baba's teachings are non-denominational and most of his followers are not Sufi. Sufism Reioriented is a group that has embraced Meher Baba's teachings and has published some of his most important books. The organization has roots with Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Master that came to this country soon after the turn of the century. It should be said that Sufism Reoriented is not considered to be within the mainstream Islamic Sufism movement in the West. Meher Baba's teachings are intended to free Sufism so that those from other religions may embrace it. Meher Baba described all religions like rivers flowing to the ocean. Only the rivers are all dry now as the water is misdirected from the main stream, and the ocean must flood the rivers. In his meditative work Meher Baba may have re-oriented all religions towards the ocean of one God, although Sufism is the one in which he offered the most direct guidance through his writing.
No matter how it is explained, Sufism and any related movement is a spiritual force that is spreading. Jesus stated that loving God with all of your heart, soul and mind is the greatest commandment and that the second is love your neighbor as yourself. In no religion is this held to be more absolute and uncompromising than in Sufism. Every minuscule detail of Sufi doctrine, in virtually all denominations, holds these commandments to be all-important. If in your own heart, through your own beliefs, you can also embrace and live by these commandments of Christ, then your salvation and your union with God are in progress. For those that do not find the alignment and continuity in your own religion to follow these commandments, Sufism may be a place to learn more.
Sufism in your Life
Remember, to be a Sufi is to be no more than a student of a school. The Sufi way is one that is accepting (not just tolerant) of all other religions, and some orders welcome non-Muslims while encouraging continued participation in one’s own faith. For others, the extraordinary discipline and focus of Islamic life may be an essential component of a new spiritual path. Yet, to be a student is to choose your own commitment to study. Your encounter with Sufism may be no more than reading the works of Sufi Saints and the study of Sufi Philosophy to serve as simple spiritual inspiration. Whatever your circumstances, I encourage you to embrace your faith to find strength and direction in your own life. I introduce you to Sufism as a potential source of sustenance and direction along the way.
For anyone interested in mysticism, the study of Sufism is an area of riches. Mysticism in many ways provides a bridge between individual religions by exploring the experiences of personal spirituality. A good first encounter with Sufism would be through reading the works of the ancient Sufi poet Rumi, who is currently the best selling poet in this country. Certainly anyone with spiritual interests of any religion will find rewards in an exploration and further understanding of Sufism.
While this site does not speicifically promote any one religion, many concepts are described using terminology associated with various Sufi beliefs and the teachings of Meher Baba.
Other New Humanity Times
articles about Sufism
Who is Meher Baba?
Offsite information about Meher Baba
Excellent jump site for information about Islam and Sufism
sponsored by the University of Georgia Virtual Center
Interdisciplinary Studies of the Islamic World