FIRST EFFORT (The Beginning of a Series)
"Flame Within" courtesy of Joanne Warfield
There have been some illuminations for me in fairly recent personal readings of Islam from a variety of sources. This is just a small effort to share a few insights and quotes with perhaps the most poignant ones to be posted later as more studied and LIVED expressions. Perhaps I should wait until I know much more about these topics. Yet I sense such joy in this discovery I want to get the word out to others as soon as possible!
Henry Bayman writes the following upon the death of his beloved mentor. There are many other such mentors and teachers. Perhaps this will be a humble little bridge from and to the West from Bayman's years of experience with his Master:
I have been asked to describe the late Sufi Master, Ahmet Kayhan. This leaves me in something of a quandary. I, who am rarely at a loss for words...all language presupposes a common base of human experience....(Ahmet Kayhan) was unique--one of a kind, even among Sufi masters--and so, incomparable... The Master's aversion to exposure (allowed him to) remain free to cultivate his garden--themselves--in peace. And it can happen if they consider everything connected with him as a different reality, an enchanted realm that is simultaneously in this world and out of it. The humility of Grandpa (as those who loved him called him) is the reason why he did not like to advertise himself. He could have become world-famous, had he so wished...
Many are the gurus and enlightened masters, of whatever religion, who ceaselessly labor to make the world a better place to live in, and to them all I extend my best wishes--may they see the fruits of their efforts. Many of them are in the public eye. It appears, however, that the greatest masters always remain hidden from view, and are deciphered only after they pass away...
...the Master was basically unschooled. He learned to read and write only...in his twenties...But what about the warts, the feet of clay? All right, the Master, being human, was prone to the afflictions of humanity. He was sick most of the time in his old age...But... blemishes of the human personality? In...fifteen years, I saw him really angry only once, and his only response was the softly spoken word, "Quiet."
Suppose, then, that you had had the good fortune to meet the Master face to face, and I or someone else had elected to take you there. What would you have encountered?
...We would have been ushered in by a person opening the door and led into a large living room. In no time at all, if he wasn't resting or otherwise occupied, you would have had the audience of the Master. Of all gurus and masters, he was the most accessible.
Even if you were an ant, he would treat you like a king. Pleasantries would be exchanged over a cup of tea. Whether or not you had arrived in the middle of a serious discussion with other people present, you would slowly realize a peculiar sensation. It was as if all your troubles and sorrows were ebbing away, and you were being filled with a quiet joy. ...And, regardless of whether you had only engaged in small talk, you would leave the apartment with a great feeling of elation. And this would continue to occur each time you visited him. Many were those who dropped in for five minutes to investigate, and stayed a lifetime.
If you continued your visits, you would have come to the conclusion that the Master had the uncanny ability to read minds. This was alarming to some; others took it for granted. The Master never laid claim to such an ability, of course, and he was always discreet in such matters. But suppose you went to visit him with a specific question in mind. And suppose others were present, so that you weren't able to voice your question. As he talked, you would by and by realize that he was answering your question without even speaking to you. It goes deeper. I have seen people tell me that on some occasion when they were alone together, Effendi told them the innermost secrets of their lives, memories never disclosed to anyone and known only to themselves.
The best years of his life were spent in stark poverty. Not that he earned badly, for he worked harder than anyone else...(Then) from the sixties onward, Grandpa conducted the activity of enlightening the people. Since he was retired, he was able to devote his full time to this effort. I once counted 47 visitors on an average day, but in recent years this number increased substantially as more people came to know him.
...With him there was no distinction between Moslem, Christian, Jew, or Buddhist... For him there were only human beings, and to all he counseled the same teaching: God exists, and God is One. Abide by the Divine Law. Work for the establishment of peace on earth, love one another, and devote yourself to serving your fellow-(wo)men. Feel compassion for all creatures... As you can see, his teachings were independent of time, space or geography, and so, truly universal... If he had survived longer, his intention would have been to continue to call men to peace on earth. He was against all weapons of mass destruction, because these are against all forms of life.
..."LAW and JUSTICE exist," he said, "because of CONSCIENCE, and conscience exists because of LOVE. If you love someone, you cannot violate that person's rights. And that's what the Divine Law is all about. It gives you the guidelines of how to behave as you would if you loved that person..."
The methods of the Master in teaching his students varied, yet there were discernible trends. He would not tax a pupil beyond the latter's capacity. In accordance with the saying of the Prophet, he would speak to the level of understanding of his listeners. He had the knack to explain the most complicated things in the simplest terms. If, despite this, the person didn't understand, he would repeat what he said. He would keep at it until the listener had understood, and once he saw he had communicated his message successfully, he would say no more about it. From then on, it was the listener's responsibility to heed the contents of the message.
What was outstanding about the Master's use of teaching-stories, however, was his ability to string them together in the appropriate order to achieve exactly the desired result. In this respect, he had the virtuosity of a composer with them.
He would quickly discover the forte--the strongest virtue--of a person. He once told me that only a moment was enough for a true guru to take the snapshot of a person--I'm inclined to call it a kind of spiritual X-ray. He would then cultivate that virtue of the person, also supplementing this with whatever "vitamins" were deficient in a student's constitution.
...The analogy has been suggested to me that the Master was giving each one of us a handful of seeds. It was our duty to plant these seeds, cultivate them, and see them through to maturity until they bore fruit. Another analogy is that he was giving us keys to unlock the secret chambers of our brains. We all know that a human being utilizes, say, 2 or 3 percent of the capacity of his brain. Suppose an Einstein uses 10 percent. What, then, are we to call those who utilize 50 percent, 75 percent? What are we to call a person who utilizes it to the full? That question is left as an exercise for the reader.
...there were ad hoc discussion groups, which came into existence on the spur of the moment with whomever might be present at that time. Visiting the Master and participating in these discussions were very important. A leaflet or pamphlet distributed by the Master might be read, which he might interrupt at any time in order to clarify or emphasize a certain point. Even this might not be necessary... If love can be defined as "giving without receiving--or asking for--anything in return," then the Master loved his following...A group could include people from widely diverse backgrounds, and the Master would find their lowest common denominator. In addressing one, he would address all. When everyone left, that was the end of that group.
The Mystery of Effendi and the "Perfect Man"
...What inspired love in the thousands of people who knew him? What caused university professors to be the humble students of this unschooled man? He was not rich, so the reason was not economic. He was not a politician, so the reason was not political. Yet he knew things no one else knew, saw things no one else saw...
The existence of a person like Ahmet Kayhan forced those who knew him to reconsider and redefine what it means to be human. Just as a single white elephant is enough to prove that not all elephants are gray, the existence of a human being like Effendi forces us to stop the presses and rewrite the books...
All these years, we've been talking about human potentials and possibilities. But what are they, really? What are their limits? In order to describe the phenomenon of the total spiritual transmutation of a human being, the Sufis have developed the concept of the Perfect Human (al-insan al-kamil). One could also use the Nietzschean concept of the Superman, or the Chinese concept of the superior man or true man. I hasten to add, however, that Nietzsche failed at precisely the point where he succeeded, for he predicated his superman on Godlessness. To put it simply: no God, no Superman...
(How do) we make ourselves a window unto God's light (?) If you're familiar with the computer term, "user-transparent," we have to make ourselves transparent to God. Only then will we be invested with the qualities that will cause others to regard us as a superior human being. The slightest arrogance, and God will strip from us the qualities He had invested us with. For they are not ours, but on loan from God. The highest point of achievement, the Station of Praise which belongs only to the Prophet, is achieving perfection in being a humble servant of God--easier said than done...(On mysterious happenings, he taught that) the focus should be, not on the miraculous, but on the ETHICAL.
The Lessons for Us All
Perhaps the first, the most significant, lesson for us from the Master's example is a message of hope. If he, a human being, could achieve this, any human being can do it. Perhaps not to the fullest extent. But to the limits that our individual constitution will allow. Every human being is born as an incredible gift, as a stupendous potential. So pacified have we become by the doldrums of everyday mundane life that we do not even stop to consider what business we have here on earth. Why weren't we created as birds? Or butterflies? If we were created as human beings, what role does a human being play in the vast design of the universe? What, for heaven's sake, are we here for?
If we can shake off the hibernation that has us in its grip, we will realize that a more magnificent destiny can be ours than are dreamt of in our philosophies. Perhaps not everyone can achieve it to an equal degree, just as not everyone can win the Olympic medal. But everyone can do something better than where they're at. If we've spent our lives in suspended animation to this day, at least from now on let us try to wake up.
(Ethics and) Morality was what set him apart from other gurus. This was the foundation on which all else rested; meditation techniques, exercises, specialized knowledge all came later, and were useless without morality. This, of course, brings in the Sufi notion of "courtesy"...which is a refinement of salutary conduct.
...A person in control of his hand and his lust, and who in addition performs the Formal Prayer has, according to the Master, all the makings of a Sufi saint (a friend of God). From that point onwards, it would be the individual efforts of the seeker which would dictate the outcome.
I have only one more thing to say. LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Love even an ant. END
MORE TEACHERS TO COME in this blog-series!