To define Sufism by words is not easy: it is like trying to describe honey to those who have never tasted it. Any definition would be partial and inadequate. Words are limited while Sufism attains to the essence of Life itself. How can you explain Life?
You cannot know Sufism, you can only experience it.
Sufism is the yearning for the Divine, His beauty and majesty.
This need of God, inherent in the heart of each one of us, is born with man and accompanies him since the beginning of time.
Sufism is nothing but the inner way, the mysticism enclosed within every religion.
Over the centuries it has taken on different forms and aspects, from Adam, the mysticism of Jesus (peace be upon them), through the research of the monks, rishis – the sages – in the East, the hermits of many spiritual paths, to take the current form of the heart of the mystical, ecstatic and peaceful wing of Islam.
The Sufis have always been seekers of truth, and when the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the latest and the most loving among the prophets, appeared in this world, the Sufi people accepted his form and began to sing his songs, at the rhythm of the heavenly music that entered their heart, and without which they could not live.
In the tradition we say that we come into the world with a raw heart; we have to cook it to make it soft. Only then you’ll want to turn to look at your origin, which is God, the source of peace, bliss.
The fire and a good cook are needed to accomplish the operation. Sufism provides both.
Sufism is the path to learn to see with the eyes of the heart, to become familiar with ecstasy, beauty, Heaven and the invisible worlds.
Only a lit candle can pass the flame to another candle. Only a Shaykh, a master, someone who has already walked the way and who knows all the traps, and where to enjoy the most beautiful views along the path, may lead you Home.
Some consider Sufism as a doctrine. They make it the object of their studies and, once they get to master its thought, they are convinced that they have become Sufis. They try to reach God with the intellect without ever questioning their own daily existence.
The Way of the Sufis – also known in the more humble way as ‘dervishes’ – is not a philosophy, it is not a theory to believe in that, if you fall in love with, you adapt to your life style. It is a radical way of being, a way of living that you embrace.
It’s a profound journey that touches your soul, your heart and as such possesses a force that must penetrate every aspect, visible and invisible of your existence.
It is a hard work to surrender. This is why the dervishes call the path, ‘the Work’. Because it will radically change you.
In the moment that love, truth, grab your heart, you cannot stay the same. You cannot become a dervish and stay as you are. It’s impossible.
It is a life matter, it is a Love affair. It is a colour you take. Sufism is the colour of Love.
The preciousness of Sufism is in preferring the experience to be lived, compared to the doctrine to believe in. Your experiences are your truth.
Truth cannot be taught: you have to discover yourself your own truth and you have to follow it, even if it is against your ego, as mostly is.
Sufism does not require asceticism, retirement from life. Instead it sees the world as the training place for the spirit. The dervish has a social life, he works and has a family, but in his heart he tries never to depart from the divine presence, believing it is his origin and destination. He keeps one feet in this world, and one on the invisible world. Dervish means ‘the one sitting on the threshold’.
The matchless beauty of the architecture and patterns of buildings such as the Taj Mahal, Al Hambra, Ishfahan, the precious motives of carpets and textiles, music, calligraphy, mystical poems are all visible aspects and at the same time invisible work of the Sufi masters throughout the centuries.
It has always been their art, subtle and imperceptible, to weave a message of beauty, harmony and peace that penetrate in the intimate fibers of the society in which they operated, without usually openly fighting the materialistic system of their time. This is their silent rebellion, the victory of beauty and truth.
The dervish asks the Lord to turn His eyes towards him, He invites him to live in his heart. At the same time he knows that the house should be properly prepared in order to aspire to receive such an important guest. There arises the need for inner work.
Sufism is simply about, love, truth, simplicity, gratefulness, in the deepest sense. It is the opening to live a magic, happy life.
The essence of the Sufi Path is mainly to be willing and determined to change not the outer situation but oneself first and the way one react to the challenges that life offers, in order to be able to love fully and to fully serve, the Divine will finally, the only One there is.
To believe that the world is against you and that you have to change it and to fight it, it is a misunderstanding. The Divine has created this cosmos to serve you. However, to experience this truth yourself, you have to enter into service.
If you just want to be served you cannot experience it. You experience then that life is against you and you have to fight for every single thing.
Once you accept that you are a servant to the Divine will, you will find that life is maternal, sweet and just wants to embrace you. The more you follow the divine laws the less you will have problems in your life.
Once you are in peace, life starts. Not before. Only then you finally enter a life full of joy after joy, bliss after bliss. You will explore states you cannot even imagine now.
How do you serve? You start from the basic things that anyone can do: smile more, be gentle, be more friendly, observe yourself, so you can know yourself, use a language of love and respect in every situation. This is your first service.
The knowledge does not get lost through the centuries, it is present, it is taught and it functions nowadays for the ones who try to practice it. Knowledge is like the light: if you turn on the switch in a room that has been in darkness for five hundred years, how long it will take for the darkness to disappear? It happens in an instant. It is not happening through a process of thinking. It happens through seeing, listening.
In Sufism knowledge is timeless. When you want the light to reach you, it happens to you instantly.
The Method is important but more important is your relationship with the Shaykh, to be ready to accept his guidance, his rescue service. Because the ego is a clever self defence system and will integrate in itself even meditation and prayer.
The first ‘work’ then is to find a guide for you. This is the most precious thing.
(from: Burhanuddin Herrmann, IL SUFISMO, Armenia Publishers, Milano, 2015)