Sufi School International Spiritual and Mystical Practices
Sufi School Upward Stream
Author: Ruslan Zhukovets
Excerpts from the book Practice of Awareness
Translated by Sufi Princess: Evgeniya Usova
Sufis do not have the concept of ego, they have the concept of nafs. It is broader than what is usually meant by the ego in Western psychology; it includes the qualities of the essence of a person. Nafs is the essence and the personality at the same time. There are seven stages of nafs in Sufism, the seven states that a person goes through on the Path to God.
The first stage is commanding nafs. This is the worst state of man in which the base instincts dominate him entirely. He is ruled by pride, lust, greed, envy, jealousy and similar feelings, and he can not and does not want to do anything with it.
The second stage is reproaching nafs. At this stage a person can already distinguish good from bad and strives to overcome the base instincts and desires. He reproaches evil, follows laws and moral principles, and once he has committed a forbidden act, he tries to avoid repeating it. Sometimes he succeeds in avoiding it, sometimes he fails. The majority of people, both believers and atheists, exist at the stage of reproaching nafs.
The third stage is inspired nafs. It corresponds to the state of the seeker, who has felt the strive for the Highest and has discovered the Path. He is inspired, he is ready to make efforts to travel the Path, he has a lofty goal. He is disposed to talk a lot about spiritual matters, he is interested in ancient wisdom and he reads many spiritual books. He wants to do good deeds. At this stage the seeker begins to move from people to God.
The fourth stage is serene nafs. This stage is possessed by a steadily advancing on the Path person. He has high virtue, true faith, sincerity, humbleness, patience and contentment. In other words, he has already reached the stage of awareness where suppressed emotions and desires are resolved in a great degree, new ones do not multiply, and the person has entered the stage of serenity and inner comfort. He has already advanced far enough, but he has not yet reached the higher stages of the Path.
The fifth stage is fulfilled nafs. It corresponds to the stage of the Path at which the Sufi has lost his will and has accepted the Will of God. Now he fully obeys the Lord and does not seek anything else. He serves God and he is fulfilled in what the Lord gives him.
The sixth stage is fulfilling nafs. At this stage, the Sufi receives the Grace of God and becomes the owner of Divine attributes. On the Path, this stage corresponds to the phase of being dissolved in God. Sacred mysteries become available to the Sufi. In other words, the Sufi discovers the Truth here. By the Will of God, he receives the ability to influence other people, giving them grace and Truth. He may become a conductor of Grace, transferring this energy to other people.
The seventh stage is perfect nafs. A Sufi becomes a perfect man, but there are no descriptions for this stage, and I will not invent them either.
As you can see, nafs has its own development, it does not disappear, although its qualities disappear and change. With the ego, there can be no special development – only its purification and refinement may take place. If you look at the nafs stages from the point of view of the ego, then it may partially persist at the fifth stage. At the first three stages, it exists unconditionally. The fourth stage may not have it, but this is very rare. And it finally disappears during the stage of following the Will of God. Here, as they say, there can be individual ways of advancement and development on the Path.
It should be understood that the ego is a crutch, an artificially created module that is needed very much at the beginning of life. But it is not absolutely necessary for life’s continuation. In the childhood, you have no choice: whatever happens, is happening, and the mind develops as it can, as the circumstances force it. If you want, you can completely get rid of all your subpersonalities and become the same everywhere, which means become yourself, leaving the vicious circle of roles that automatically replace each other. And the only way to achieve this is by the awareness practice.