"By each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future."
ONCE a learned Mohammedan came to me and asked, ”You are not a Mohammedan, then why do you speak on Suﬁsm?’ I told him, ’I am not a Mohammedan, obviously, but I am a Suﬁ all the same.’
A Suﬁ need not be a Mohammedan. A Suﬁ can exist anywhere, in any form – because Suﬁsm is the essential core of all religions. It has nothing to do with Islam in particular. Suﬁsm can exist without Islam; Islam cannot exist without Suﬁsm. Without Suﬁsm, Islam is a corpse. Only with Suﬁsm does it become alive.
Whenever a religion is alive it is because of Suﬁsm. Suﬁsm simply means a love affair with God, with the ultimate, a love affair with the whole. It means that one is ready to dissolve into the whole, that one is ready to invite the whole to come into one’s heart. It knows no formality. It is not conﬁned by any dogma, doctrine, creed or church. Christ is a Suﬁ, so is Mohammed. Krishna is a Suﬁ, so is Buddha. This is the ﬁrst thing I would like you to remember: that Suﬁsm is the innermost core – as Zen is, as Hassidism is. These are only different names of the same ultimate relationship with God.
The relationship is dangerous. It is dangerous because the closer you come to God, the more and more you evaporate. And when you have come really close you are no more. It is dangerous because it is suicidal… but the suicide is beautiful. To die in God is the only way to live really. Until you die, until you die voluntarily into love, you live an existence which is simply mediocre; you vegetate, you don’t have any meaning. No poetry arises in your heart, no dance, no celebration; you simply grope in the darkness. You live at the minimum, you don’t overﬂow with ecstasy.
That overﬂow happens only when you are not. You are the hindrance. Suﬁsm is the art of removing the hindrance between you and you, between the self and the self, between the part and the whole.
A few things about this word ’Suﬁ’. An ancient Persian dictionary has this for the entry ’Suﬁ’… the deﬁnition given goes in rhyme: SUFI CHIST – SUFI, SUFIST. WHO IS A SUFI? A SUFI IS A SUFI. This is a beautiful deﬁnition. The phenomenon is indeﬁnable. ’A Suﬁ is a Suﬁ.’ It says nothing and yet it says well. It says that the Suﬁ cannot be deﬁned; there is no other word to deﬁne it, there is no other synonym, there is no possibility of deﬁning it linguistically, there is no other indeﬁnable phenomenon. You can live it and you can know it, but through the mind, through the intellect, it is not possible. You can become a Suﬁ – that is the only way to know what it is. You can taste the reality yourself, it is available. You need not go into a dictionary, you can go into existence."
"Overall, modern Christianity has modeled a strategy of comfort, where believers are viewed as consumers that need to be pleased and catered to — not challenged or made to feel uncomfortable. Intellectuals are not the target demographic within churches, so they rarely garner much attention or care, and it’s widely believed that they would be better off in an academic setting rather than a spiritual one. In reality, this is exactly where much of Christianity has gone wrong, by compartmentalizing intellectuals and placing them in certain positions — outside of the church — instead of embracing and accepting them within our faith communities."
"We define religion as the assumption that life has meaning. Religion, or lack of it, is shown not in some intellectual or verbal formulations but in one’s total orientation to life. Religion is whatever the individual takes to be his ultimate concern."
"I admire those who can take strong stands, but if you do not know why and cannot defend your stance, much less refuse to be open to change, then your stance becomes nothing more than fundamentalism personified."
"There is a desire felt by tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, to destroy the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment, radically diminish the role of government to create a theocratic state based on “biblical law,” and force a recalcitrant world to bend to the will of an imperial and “Christian” America. Its public face is on display in the House of Representatives. This ideology, which is the driving force behind the shutdown of the government, calls for the eradication of social “deviants,” beginning with gay men and lesbians, whose sexual orientation, those in the movement say, is a curse and an illness, contaminating the American family and the country. Once these “deviants” are removed, other “deviants,” including Muslims, liberals, feminists, intellectuals, left-wing activists, undocumented workers, poor African-Americans and those dismissed as “nominal Christians”—meaning Christians who do not embrace this peculiar interpretation of the Bible—will also be ruthlessly repressed. The “deviant” government bureaucrats, the “deviant” media, the “deviant” schools and the “deviant” churches, all agents of Satan, will be crushed or radically reformed. The rights of these “deviants” will be annulled. “Christian values” and “family values” will, in the new state, be propagated by all institutions. Education and social welfare will be handed over to the church. Facts and self-criticism will be replaced with relentless indoctrination."
"A religion without mystics is a philosophy."
"If you consider a woman less pure after you’ve touched her, maybe you should take a look at your hands."
If I am right about the story that shapes the American self-understanding, I think we are in a position to better understand why after 11 September 2001 the self-proclaimed “most powerful nation in the world” runs on fear. It does so because the fear of death is necessary to insure a level of cooperation between people who otherwise share nothing in common. That is, they share nothing in common other than the presumption that death is to be avoided at all costs.
That is why in America hospitals have become our cathedrals and physicians are our priests. Accordingly medical schools are much more serious about the moral formation of their students than divinity schools. They are so because Americans do not believe that an inadequately trained priest may damage their salvation, but they do believe an inadequately trained doctor can hurt them.
The American desire to use medicine in an attempt to get out of life alive is but the domestic form of American foreign policy. 11 September 2001 gave America exactly what she so desperately needed after the end of the cold war, for it is unclear if America can live without a war. Otherwise, what would give us a moral compass? So we got a “war against terrorism,” which is a war without end."
"America is a culture of death because Americans cannot conceive of how life is possible in the face of death. Freedom names the attempt to live as though we will not die. Lives lived as though death is only a theoretical possibility, moreover, can only be sustained by a wealth otherwise unimaginable. But America is an extraordinarily wealthy society determined to remain so even if it requires our domination of the rest of the world. We are told that others hate us because they despise our freedoms, but it may be that others sense that what Americans call freedom is bought at the expense of the lives of others."
"Reason-based Americans need to address non reasoning America on its own terms. Those terms are about something that makes many reason-based people feel uncomfortable: religion. The real issue facing us in a threatened shutdown isn’t government or economics. The real issue is what it’s always been in America since our founding: religious delusion, and the search in all the wrong places for philosophical presuppositions that give our lives meaning. It’s not about the economy, stupid; here in America it’s always about God."
I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony Awards while a million people get whacked with machetes. I don’t believe a billion Indians are going to hell. I don’t think we get cancer to learn life lessons, and I don’t believe that people die young because God needs another angel. I think it’s just bullshit, and on some level I think we all know that. I mean, don’t you?
Look, I understand that religion makes it easier to deal with all of the random shitty things that happen to us. And I wish I could get on that ride; I’m sure I would be happier. But I can’t. Feelings aren’t enough. I need it to be real."
"While popular culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to get men to look at them, the modesty culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to keep men from looking at them. In both cases, the impetus is placed on the woman to accommodate her clothing or her body to the (varied and culturally relative) expectations of men. In both cases, it becomes the woman’s job to manage the sexual desires of men, and thus it is seen as her fault if a man ignores her on the one hand or objectifies her on the other."