Sufi School Spiritual and Mystical Practices
Sufi School Upward Stream
Author: Ruslan Zhukovets
Excerpts from the audio lecture “The Question of Theodicy”
Translated by Sufi Princess: Polina
The problem of God together with the problem of evil are always a problem of our beliefs. A repertoire of convictions you’ve acquired throughout your life from different sources, such as classical literature, your parents’ unconscious beliefs, and so-called expert’s opinion set up your perception of reality. They shape your expectations and become an impediment to direct experience or direct exposure to what is called God, His Grace, His Love, and His other attributes.
People often say that they do pray but get no answer, that they do seek God, yet get no response and nothing happens; God remains hidden, despite all their struggles to reach out and be heard. Well, that would be something hard to believe because this goes against actual experience.
Something is missing from such complaints: people are not saying everything they have to say on the matter. If you strive for being answered by God, you will be. If you pray but get no answer, perhaps part of your mind doesn’t want it, and a concealed wish of yours is to stay in control of your own life, accomplish everything by yourself. The latter is the main impediment to getting yourself closer to direct experience of interaction with the Divine. The reason is always you: you are the impediment.
It is a tricky thing to get your head around. It seems odd that there is a supreme intelligent force out there and yet your life is far from being happy and joyful. Quite the opposite, it seems to be filled with all sorts of sufferings. Naturally, the question arises: Why wouldn’t God just make our life a bit better?
In my experience, The Lord always helps people. Despite the fact that things in the world are not perfect, all mystics who’ve ever lived, always served people. That’s the one and only work they’ve been doing. Mystics are hands of God. Their job is to alleviate sufferings of others. If you study the lives of mystics (true mystics, not those who are purported to be ones), you will be able to see that all mystic traditions speak about the same thing: God is always here for us. You are the one who is not ready to accept help. You are always barred, that’s why nothing’s changing in your life. You value your wants and your illusions more than anything else. That’s what stands in your way and leads you in the wrong direction, away from God.
Well, if you are the blaming-self nafs type, you could accuse God. You could say: “And why would God allow illusions?” Dear friends, the thing is, you need to grow up, to get your share of sufferings and pleasures, live through this part on your own. The things freely available by default are never appreciated – they are taken for granted. Only as they move further down the path, people begin to value things they already have. It’s an old truth, known from ancient times.
How can it be otherwise? That’s the way the world works. A conflict should be there, a collision of diverse energies should be present – otherwise, there will be no development, no progress possible. Conflict is an essential ingredient for development. If you don’t bring up a need for changing your life, you will never change it, ever. And the need is born out of conflict. For example, a conflict between your capabilities and your desires, or between life you are living in now and the one you’d want to live; or a conflict between your current circumstances and things you need but lack. No conflict – no evolution; neither inner nor outer one…
When do we observe an acceleration in advancement of technologies? When there is a demand for a new weapon or a method of protection against it. And what do people overwhelmed with their fears and neurosis normally do? They straightjacket their life in tight boundaries and put it on hold. They isolate themselves because they feel uncomfortable around others and try to avoid stressful situations. They shut themselves down, freezing their own progress.
The Path won’t lead us towards life free from conflicts. While going inward, we can’t but run into contradictions which stem from conflicting ideas we have absorbed. This creates conflict.
Let’s take an idea of fairness, for instance. People want to see the world congruent with the idea that life supposed to be fair - but it is not. Here you are - that’s conflict in place. What you see around doesn’t agree with what you would want to see. It hurts, and you may find yourself suffering from what you see. But that would be your choice, made unconsciously, yes, but still yours. Or, you would have to realize that fairness is an idea in your mind, a beautiful one, but just an idea which has nothing to do with the reality. And it is not yet given to you to see the higher justice of the existence, if there is any.
At the same time, you have an option to work with this idea and let go of its effect on you, i.e. to free yourself from your own want. Only then will you be able to see the reality unobscured, free from any veils that curtain our minds and keep telling us: that is fair and that is unfair. You’ll be able to see things for what they are: here is a situation you are in and here is a solution to resolve it. That’s it.
If you let go of the idea of justice you won’t care anymore whether things around you are fair or not. If you are scared at the perspective of feeling this way, then it’s about another conviction meaning that you should have an active life stance and care about things, and shudder at the very sight of a crying child. But that’s a different trouble. That’s another idea of yours. And this is the very mechanism that stirs constant unconscious activity in people’s lives.
Once we understand that we pump through and transform energies (which is what we actually do), we can see how things work. If you take time to observe functioning of your lower bodies, you’ll see a continuous energy exchange process: we receive energy of a certain type from outside, transform it into an energy of another type, and discharge it back, period. That’s the one and only reason for human existence in its physical or energy form.
Triggered by all sorts of ideas, the unconscious activity of mind generates all this hustle and bustle going on in the world. This pool of different ideas, cultures, mutual misunderstandings, opposed interests, ongoing frictions and conflicts (be it political, cultural, or ethic issues – doesn’t matter) creates an opportunity for growth. Along with a risk for degradation, of course. Because if you live with an internal conflict and take no effort to get it resolved, if you keep running away from it trying to dump it and forget all energies suppressed inside you, then you begin to slide down. The unconscious part of you would grow larger - because you let it to - and you’ll turn moody and jittery. Emotional reactions will start hitting you and casting gloom over your mood, feelings, responses, and you will fail to understand why. You will be living with all this, in subtle misery – that’s all.
Or, it could be worse than just feeling unhappy: you would be dealing with depressive episodes and anger outbursts going one after another - because your inner conflict would still be there. It’s like adding fuel to the fire: the conflict would keep bursting out, and you would become more witless, more hard-hearted, as a consequence.
When you suppress emotions and avoid looking at your inner situation, at the bunch of ideas and beliefs in your head – whatever it is inside you – you grow dull and lose your sensitivity. The more suppressed energies you have stockpiled inside yourself, the less sentient you become. You get a proper sense of your body only when it gets very sick; you don’t feel energies – neither your own, nor someone else’s – you live in a shell, with your mind always covered with veils. Foggy states can add grey or black colors to your picture of the world or tint it in a rose shade – depends on the type of illusions you have.
And God has nothing to do with all that.
There is environment we live in, Creation is unfolding, and life is being born. Yes, there is pressure of a Downward Stream of Creation we have to live under, and circumstances associated with that, there are wishes and desires, and all this stuff. But yet there is another side to the story. There also two primary inbuild needs that we have – which we talked about a great deal, and which won’t hurt to remind of one more time.
The first need is a desire to free oneself from one’s own limitations, from an inner prison we all live in. It’s as if we have a boiling kettle inside us, a whole mess of energies we fail to give full vent to. Very often, we even fail to find words to describe our feelings properly, which leads to feeling isolated and disconnected from the world and others. We don’t understand what’s happening with us, hence are not able to explain it to those around, who are even less likely to understand us because are in the same boat. As an outcome, we project our internal states onto other people, they do exactly the same thing, and communication never works out, as a result. Or it works in certain circumstances with certain people only.
You see how complicated things are? On the one hand we want to prolong our existence, on the other we don’t want to live with the limitations thereof. For that reason, we always seek out ways to get connected in order to escape self-detachment and self-isolation, in other words, to set ourselves free from feeling separated from everyone and everything. We seek out to become part of a family circle, or a member of a club, team, or any group sharing interests similar to ours, whatever they may be… We look for like-minded people or a social environment to dissolve into and merge with, and forget that we are completely alone in this world, shut in our inner space, helpless to find the way out. We wish we could truly bond with others, to acquire proximity that comes with love. We wish we could become absorbed and turned into something bigger, but whatever we do - we fail. The reason is we usually don’t feel whole within ourselves. We are always stripped inside. One wish navigates us in one direction, another wish drags us away, fear would kick in followed by anxiety, and so on, and all this keeps tearing us apart.
Breaking through personal frontiers, joining up with something bigger than ourselves – that’s one of the two essential needs, which people usually stay unaware of. People are usually better at realizing more superficial things, like basic necessities for physical well-being. Simple life pleasures… People? Hello? What pleasures? All this is so shallow! Here is the true need: to go beyond yourself, break your limits, become something bigger than you are now…
In reality, we see people seeking for solutions elsewhere. Young adults would tend to identify themselves with ever-emerging subcultural trends – goths, emos… But a true fulfillment of this need becomes possible only once you lose yourself completely and reach the source of yourself.
It is not about a state of “higher self” as I used to think, a concept that is still widely taught nowadays. What actually happens can be described as follows: when we go deep inside, when we make consistent efforts towards self-awareness, clear our inner space from repressed energies, and become more and more aware and present in the moment, at a certain point we find ourselves missing the center previously located in the mind. And almost simultaneously we find a door inside, a door opening into infinity. Opening of the heart is the first door into infinity we open inside ourselves. In that infinity one discovers God. The reality of God becomes immediate. Well, maybe not quite immediate, because there are certain preliminary processes that take some time to unfold first. But the point is, we find God only on our way inwards, in an attempt to understand the origin of ourselves: who we are, where we are from, why we live the way we do, what’s so special about us, what’s our destiny.
On our way inside we unexpectedly find and open up the door to God. There is no other way to find Him. You can study Him using your mind, write theodicy stories, come up with hypotheses, speculate about His existence or non-existence, but all this is worth nothing. Absolutely nothing. This word stockpile has no meaning until you get an experience of your own.
As soon as you discover this bond within yourself, everything becomes so self-evident, so simple, that all these words are not needed anymore. And then a path to true merging or unity with God, as Sufi say, will be opened for you. In this unity you lose yourself and discover divine… It’s hard to really find words to describe. They are powerless here, unfortunately, and long-winded ingenious approximations are of little help. One can try of course, to craft it in a coherent and clear manner, but the subject is so wispy, so beyond any common life experience, that becomes very challenging to convey.
There is another part of the story, the second essential need – the need to serve. A person pursuing a goal to serve himself looks childish. Kids are the ones who get obsessed with things they want to get. The Downward Stream of Creation has effect of different intensities in kids and adults. In kids it is so powerful that is almost tearing them apart, as they feel overwhelmed with their energy, are always in motion like the wind, and hanker for this and that. They just can’t help giving a damn about anybody else except themselves. They have no choice: exciting things pop up here and there all the time: something caught their eye – they ask for it, something else shows up – they want to have it too, badly. They want to try just about everything or have it for themselves.
However, if you grow up and turn into a more mature person, you come to understand that living life for yourself is the same as to play new games in an old inner prison. It’s meaningless. This is why with time people usually start to serve something bigger than themselves, which again brings us to the need number one – the need to go beyond oneself, overcome one’s own boundaries.
Usually, people choose to serve ideas, beliefs, or concepts. The concept of the family, the concept of a society, the concept of general welfare. These are all substitutes. Serving an idea is a substitute, including the one to serve God through keeping his commandments, like alms giving, for example. One can note, by the way, that God’s laws teach us to serve others, one way or another.
I need to say it again: God always takes care of us, always there ready to help. We are the ones not willing to accept it – that is a piece of ultimate truth, believe me. Unfortunately, in order to see that, you need to come to see how it happens that you are not getting this help. How your ego, your own will, for example, to win at life on your own (which sounds really funny) walls you off. It happens because of free will that you have. It was given to you out of love. If you are reluctant to know God, you won’t. He won’t inflict himself on you. If you want to do everything yourself – no problem. Go on, do it!
So. True service is achieved not through serving concepts, but through direct interaction with God. Spiritual practices help you prepare yourself for that: they develop your perception, activate your energy centers, clear your mind from veils, which are plenty. In fact, they prepare you (to a lesser or greater extent) for that interaction to become more efficient, so that you could start getting the sense of higher energies, receiving God’s Grace independently, and experiencing God’s Love. So that you would learn how to pray effectively, and the pray would work, and it wouldn’t be like you are talking to a wall. But you need to be able to keep a close watch and understand the state you are in, which is hardly possible unless you reach a certain level of self-awareness. And God is always by your side. He is here, right now, always…