Spiritual Yearning

    Spiritual Yearning In Sufism the state of spiritual yearning (talab) is the force that drives an individual on the path towards perfection. Without yearning for the truth, one simply has no desire to embark on a spiritual journey and cannot comprehend why others feel compelled to do so. Sufis believe that the state of talab is a gift from God and as such cannot be self-induced. God draws whomever he wants. One does not get to choose the beloved; it is the beloved who chooses. As enigmatic as this appears, it alludes to the involuntary nature of this state, that… Read More »Spiritual Yearning

    The Spiritual Guide

      The Spiritual Guide Religion has always been a source of conflict in the world. It is, therefore, surprising for most people to hear that one of the reasons for the rise of religious intolerance, violence, and social prejudice in the world is the scarcity of spiritual guides. Spiritual guides, unlike religious leaders, teach by example and seldom by words. The following story succinctly illustrates this point about teaching by example, though it may sound fantastic to our modern ears. Once the great Sufi poet ‘Attar (d. 1221 AD), a pharmacist by profession, was visited by a stranger at his shop… Read More »The Spiritual Guide

      The Illusion of Self

        The Illusion of Self Each of us tends to think of him- or herself as a distinct being, a “self” that is both separate from other people and separate from our bodies and our perceptions, thoughts and feelings.   We consider our “selves” to be individual beings that live from one moment to the next, continually having mental experiences that we see as belonging to us. Indeed, our assumption that we exist as distinct beings is so embedded in our psyches that it is almost inconceivable for us to seriously examine the notion that this perception of “self” could be… Read More »The Illusion of Self

        Caring for Others

          Caring for Others Altruism has been a central aspect of Persian Sufism since it was developed by such figures as Ibrahim Adham (d. 782), Shaqiq Balkhi (d. 810), Bayazid (d. 874), Abul-Hasan Kharaqani (d. 1033) and Abu Said Abel Khayr (d. 1049) in the region of Khorasan, now the north- eastern part of Iran. Altruism, as developed by these early Khorasanian Sufis and practiced by Persian Sufis for centuries down to the present day, advocates that Sufis—indeed all human beings—should serve God by remaining in society and helping and serving others. It stands in stark contrast with the Sufi tradition… Read More »Caring for Others

          Divine Love

            Divine Love The first time I read Rumi’s story of Moses and the Shepherd, I was struck by the fact that the shepherd was much closer to God than Moses even though the shepherd’s conception of God was not even remotely plausible. Years later, when I revisited this story, it appeared to me that Rumi had unravelled a deep mystery of divine love: in order to love God, one does not need to have a correct conception or description of God; what is required is a burning heart. Rumi’s story begins when Moses, on his way through the desert, came… Read More »Divine Love