Sufi Way to Know the Mind
Alhat Ed Din was a very famous sheikh (a revered wise man) who lived in Crimea. He had several disciples. One night, when he was sitting by a pond, a sufi named Shams Tabreez passed by. Seeing Alhat Ed Din, he wondered what he was doing sitting next to the pond at night. So he went near him and asked, “Mister, what are you doing? Who are you?” The man replied, “I am Sheikh Alhat Ed Din and I am meditating on the shadow of the moon in this water.” Shams Tabreez asked, “Do you have a boil on your neck that you are finding it difficult to look up at the moon? The real moon is visible in the sky and you are looking for the shadow in the pond!” Alhat Ed Din raised his head and what did he see – the radiant face of Shams Tabreez in the moonlight. Automatically his head bowed in reverence. He was astonished: “I – a sheikh – am bowing to this man?” And then he remembered the words of a wise man who had told him that the moment he would see his master, his head would automatically bow in reverence. Alhat Ed Din got up immediately and said, “Will you make me your disciple?” He was greatly moved by the fact that his head had involuntarily bowed in reverence. The magnetic power that was pulling his heart towards the charm of Sham’s face was saying that the man in front of him was no simpleton, but a man of God.
Once again he asked, “Will you make me your disciple?” Shams said, “Yes, but only if you fulfill one of my requirements.” He said, “Please order! What is the condition?” Shams said, “My condition is that you go and get a decanter of liquor and sit and drink with me in the open market! Only then will I make you my disciple.” On hearing this, Alhat Ed Din was aghast. He was highly respected in society and his knowledge and intelligence were acknowledged by the whole city. He was called `sheikh’ by everybody; how could he sit in the market place and drink shamelessly? His religious belief too was at stake. Alhat Ed Din said, “This is not possible. How can I do this?” Shams Tabreez answered, “Well, then you can go. You can never be my disciple. You are not worthy of being my student because my student has to be courageous. The one who does not have courage can never be my disciple. You say you want to be my student but you do not even understand that when a sufi says ‘go and bring liquor,’ it means the liquor of God’s love. How can one who does not understand such a small thing be my disciple? What did you think – that you are religious and I am not? Your character is pure and my character is impure? Go, you cannot be my disciple!” But Shams Tabreez did not allow him even this much. Without pre-conditions, this relationship can neither be established, nor accomplished, nor carried forward.
The fact is, as sufis say, no guest will come and take a seat in a person’s house whose courtyard is not clean. You clean your courtyard for your guest’s sake. You clean your house too for his sake. And God is a guest who is above all others. So unless and until you clean your heart’s courtyard for the supreme guest, he will not come, or even step in, leave alone take a seat in your house. This is the nature of your mind! It is unable to accept this reality. Your mind is forever sinking in the ditch of this dirt. Sullied in this dirt, you can never become one with the glowing Almighty. Light and darkness can never exist together. Where there is light, there can be no darkness – and where there is darkness, there can be no light. And the mind is darkness personified! That is why it is said that you must free yourself of your mind. As long as your mind is alive, it is bound to have disorders and abnormalities. This mind is not new. It is millions of years old. You may gain knowledge today, but the seeds that have been sown in the field of your mind are not new. So it is foolish to expect that the seeds sown thousands of years ago will be destroyed in just a few days, or with a few months of practice. For the present, it is important to understand that your apparent outward body may be twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years old, but your mind is millions of years old. It has been in existence from the time the world came into being. It is since then that the mind has been accumulating ‘samskaras’ (fundamental subtle impressions) – which manifest as inborn instincts. From these impressions desires arise. Therefore, it is not possible to get rid of the mind’s impurities by concentrating only on the heart’s surface.
Then how do we rid ourselves of these abnormalities? How do we get rid of sexual desires? How is it possible to rid ourselves of anger and doubts? For all this, there is only one recourse – this mind must die! As long as the mind is alive, these disorders will keep surfacing; if you curb them at one point, they will appear at some other place. If you curb them there, your instincts will show up someplace else. This game will carry on for eternity.
In Urdu, a disciple is called a ‘mureed’ and a teacher is called a ’sheikh’. Mureed means one who has set out on a journey to kill his own mind. If the mind itself has become dead, then what is it that is left? If you let your mind die, you will get a new life from the death of the mind. Things will not fall in place as long as the mind is alive. It does not make any real difference if you fill this mind with knowledge or let it be ignorant. A knowledgeable person is as full of desires as an ignorant man. The amount of anger visible in an ignorant person is the same as that in a person who regularly attends satsangs – spiritual discourses. And those who attend spiritual discourses have another reason to be proud – they consider themselves superior to others. They feel they know more than others; understand more than others. This is an even worse scenario. The root cause of all evil is the mind. So we will have to kill the mind. In order to kill the mind and the ego, you must sing this prayer with the request: ‘God, do not endow us with any knowledge, instead we just want the death of our mind and ego. We do not seek knowledge; knowledge becomes an unnecessary reason for pride. We have set out to kill our pride. So now we do not need a conceited mind but freedom from it.’ And that is possible only with the death of the mind.
An urdu couplet says: One who is ready to destroy his persona in love one who is ready to perish will reach the destination
Fana - this word has been coined by sufis. Fana means ‘annihilation’. The mind has to perish completely; this is the only remedy for all its ailments; as long as the mind is present, its shadow will always be there. And these disorders – desire and passion – are all shadows of the mind. Now, if someone wants to be rid of his shadow, how will he achieve that? As long as the body exists, its shadow will also be there. Similarly, as long as the mind exists, desire will be there. It is the mind’s nature to think. The very objective of this machinery is to think. It thinks about things that are present and it also thinks about things that do not exist anymore. The form of the mind is subtle. It does not exist in any particular part of our body. Suppose I ask you where exactly the mind is located in the body as per human physiology? If you put your hand on your head, the brain is there. You may put your hand on the chest, but there you have the heart. Then where is the mind? If you see it from the point of view of physiology, you will get really confused. To avoid this confusion, people just give up and say that there is nothing such as the mind. But the fact is that the mind is everywhere. Right from head to toe, the mind is everywhere. You call yourself ‘I’ – but if I ask you which part of your body is actually this ‘I’, you will not be able to answer. You cannot put your hand on any particular part of the body and say ‘this is the real me’ and the rest of the body is not. Just as we call our whole body ‘me’, similarly this subtle body of the mind is also ubiquitous – spread throughout your apparent body. The moon, stars, earth, sky, trees, rocks, hills – they all lie within your mind. Do not think that the mind is something small. All that is visible in this world rests in your mind. That is the reason why your mind weaves a similar kind of world when you are sleeping or dreaming. The world of your dreams does not have even an iota of this physical world, yet it appears to be as true. The creator of this dream-world is your own imagination, your own mind. Infinite is the power of the mind! And you consider the disorders, the abnormalities arising out of such a powerful mind to be a petty thing? But it is not small; it is colossal. Whatever you perceive of your mind from the outside, it is much deeper within.
The conscious mind as we know it is just ten percent of the whole; the rest is hidden from our knowledge. We have no idea of the unconscious and sub-conscious mind which comprises a major part of the mind. The territory of the unconscious is vast and the sub-conscious is the bank of memories; of every minute detail of all sensations and perceptions which carve out our habits, behaviour, choices – our whole character. If you have been to Himachal Pradesh, you will have seen the cedar tree. Some of the trees are a hundred feet tall. And for the hundred feet that you see above the soil, there are a hundred feet below the ground as well. This is because if the tree does not go down so deep into the earth, it cannot rise up to that height. Similarly, whatever you know about yourself and your mind, in reality it is several thousand times more than that. This is why, the devices that are made available to you to control your mind, are brought within the orbit of the mind very soon.
Listening to the able master is an effective means of killing the mind – provided your surrender is earnest. You must use the all-powerful words of the master only for strengthening your mind. This is the reason why all mystics and teachers, present in different times, have to devise new methods to handle your mind. Every master is a master designer who creates various devices to kill your mind. These methods will be different from the earlier methods. The mind is very cunning; it begins to reject old methods because it is prepared for its shocks and strategies. So the master has to design and devise new methods – this is how various religions have evolved. You are given knowledge to cure ignorance – the disease of the mind. But knowledge has to change into knowing and into experience – only then is its purpose served. But when the listener is engrossed in words, then knowledge becomes bondage and a burden. Medicine is given to a patient to relieve him of pain; but often he is unable to give up the medication even after the illness is over. This is because the patient becomes addicted to the medicine. It is seen that those medicines that are not really required are sold the most and the stranger thing is that the people who buy these medicines have no ailment at all. So when the medicine itself becomes an addiction, how does one get rid of it? Hence, the medicine of wisdom should be used to cure the diseased mind and always remember that knowledge has to change into knowing and knowing into experience.