Do not enter the ‘Tavern of Ruin’
without observing its manners,
for the dwellers at its door
are the confidants of the King.
Entering the path of the people of the heart involves observing certain ‘rules and manners’ (adab) and ceremonies which for centures have been respected and adhered to by sufis. These ‘rules and manners’ and ceremonies have been handed down and followed by the masters of the path up to the present time.
In view of the command, “Travel the path in the way that others have traveled it before,” these rules and manners have been enumerated herein and their secrets and meanings explained so that this may be a guide for seekers.
The Five Ghusls
Before being initiated into the world of spiritual poverty (faqr), those who seek to travel towards God must first perform niyyat* and then five ghusls* in the manner described below:
Ghusl of Repentance (tuba)
With this ghusl, the seeker repents from his or her former misdoings and strayings. He or she also apologizes, when becoming joined to the worship of God, for the previous sin of self-worship.
Ghusl of Submission (taslim)
In the ghusl of submission, the seeker makes a vow (niyyat) to submit to God. This means that in every moment of his life, the seeker is content with whatever situation he finds himself and considers it to be God's Will.
Ghusl of Initiation into Spiritual Poverty (faqr)
To enter into the world of spiritual poverty, one must be pure both outwardly and inwardly. Thus, one performs a ghusl outwardly and cleanses the outer being so that the inner being will also incline towards purity:
Purify thyself: then proceed to the 'Tavern of Ruin'
that it not be polluted by you.
Ghusl of Pilgrimage (ziyarat)
It is a tradition when visiting people deserving of respect in the world to cleanse one’s body and put on clean clothes. Similarly, when making a pilgrimage to the Perfected One, or ‘Master of the Path’ (pir-i †ariat), one should be cleansed and purified in the same manner.
First become purified, and then
Look upon that Pure One.
For this reason, the seeker performs a ghusl cleansing the outer being and puts on clean clothes before approaching the master to acquire the orders of the Path.
Ghusl of Fulfillment (qadha-yi Hajat)
Since the ‘supplication’ (niyaz) of the seeker in traveling along the Path is to reach the rank of the Perfected One, a ghusl for the fulfillment of this aim is performed before coming into the master’s presence.
The Five Symbols of Spiritual Poverty
After the seeker has performed the five ghusls, he or she prepares five objects which are taken into the master's presence and given to the master so that the seeker on the path of the travelers toward Unity may be accepted and guided. These five objects are: a few yards of white cloth, a whole nutmeg, a ring, a coin, and some rock candy. Each of these objects is symbolic of a certain commitment made by the one who seeks to travel towards God. These commitments are represented by objects so that they will remain fixed in the traveler's mind and never be forgotten.
White Cloth (chilwar)
The white cloth taken into the master's presence represents the traveler's shroud and indicates that the traveler, like a dead body in the hands of a ghassal (one who washes the dead), has become surrendered fully to God. In doing so, he or she considers the master's orders as God's orders and obeys them without ever questioning 'how' or 'why'.
Whole Nutmeg (juz)
Juz represents the head of the traveler. In presenting juz to the master, the traveler consents to never reveal the Divine secrets that are confided in him or her. That is, even if threatened with decapitation, one should not reveal such secrets. In other words, the traveler's head is symbolically presented to the master here as a hostage for God's secrets.
The ring given to the master upon entering the world of spiritual poverty represents the band worn by slaves in olden times and signifies the traveler's devotion to God. In presenting this ring to the master, the traveler vows to become devoted solely to God and to give up the desire for anything else.
The coin symbolizes the wealth and riches of the world. The traveler, in presenting this coin to the master, promises to empty the heart of any desire for the wealth of the world. Here, it should be noted, the object is to have no attachment to wealth. If the sufi is rich one day, then poor the next, he or she remains unaffected by either condition. In the state of richness, the sufi should be generous; in the state of poverty, joyful and patient.
Rock Candy (nabat)
Nabat represents the candy given as an offering at the second birth of the seeker. Whereas the seeker's first birth is from his or her mother, the second birth comes upon entering the domain of spiritual poverty. With this re-birth, the seeker steps into the realm of Spirituality, Truth, and Unification, being born from the mother of nature and multiplicity into the world of love ('ishq), loving-kindness (muhabbat), and Unity (tawhid). In presenting this rock candy, the traveler also comes to realize that the Path should be traveled with peace of mind and gladness, not with depression and displeasure.
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 of Unity of the Nimatullahi Order.
Submission to God (taslim)
The seeker, upon entering the world of the sufis, makes a vow (niyyat) 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.
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.
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.
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.
* ghusl: act of ablution - the washing of one's body in a prescribed manor for the purpose of purification.
* niyyat: a vow or declaration of one's intention to perform a particular devotional act as in, most commonly, namaz (or daily prayer).
Excerpt taken from The Path: Spiritual Practices by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh