Book: Awakening A Sufi Experience by Pir Vilayat Inayat KhanThe retreat looms large in the spiritual universe of Sufi master Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. Away from mundane concerns, the retreatant takes steps to see through the eyes of God, or in Inayat Khan's words, "to think like the Universe." Inayat Khan's synthesis of Indian and Islamic mysticism creates an attractive and palatable spiritual program, couched in the modern language of the new spirituality--Jungian archetypes, Cosmic Christ, spectrum of consciousness, Being of light. Through human beings, Inayat Khan says, the universe itself is alive, and as human beings, we can participate actively in the evolution of the universe. Awakening is a handbook for revisioning God as the universe and transforming our own consciousness. Collected from transcripts of his retreat talks, Awakening guides the reader beyond the self through meditative practices, visualization, whirling, and dhikr, the traditional Sufi ritual of remembrance for inviting the Divine Presence into the heart. At the same time, Pir Vilayat insists that we be awakened in life by loosening the ties of conditioning, challenging deep-seated assumptions, and living a life of simplicity and service. Although its roots are in age-old traditions, Awakening is at the cutting edge of mysticism.
Awakening: A Sufi Experience comes as near to the real thing as I've seen. Pythia Peay's transcription and editing of retreat sessions by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan allows the reader to participate in the "process of inner unveiling" (ix) and awakening at the heart of this very readable and ecumenical book. With a gentle insistence on the development of conscience ("awakening in life") as a result of "awakening beyond life", Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan provides an antidote to mystified notions of spirituality and the disengagement often associated with conventional religious enthusiasm. Here are some of Pir Vilayat's own words from a book filled with authentic wisdom: "Though the mystical encounter goes deeper than words can convey, tangible traces of it can be seen in the actions we take, the values we uphold, and the ideals we strive for. In effect, what I am trying to say is that the illumination of consciousness leads inevitably to the awakening of conscience. This enables us to fulfill the purpose of our lives and actualize the unfurling of the potentialities of our beings.... there is no limit to the responsibility we bear toward others.
Khan, the head of the Sufi Order since 1956, opens his beautiful little book with a parable. Imagine, he says, you are a visitor from the far reaches of the universe and you have just landed on Earth. Whatever your reasons for coming to this planet, you assume the physical appearance of Earth's creatures and become adapted to its ways of life. Eventually, you suffer some kind of major upheaval. Feeling restless and uneasy, you begin to ask questions about the nature of reality, the source of creation and the beauty and mystery of the world. Suddenly, after years of searching, you remember your previous existence and you are awakened to your cosmic self and your oneness with the universe. Such a story, he notes, describes perfectly the essence of Sufism: "the story of every soul's descent into existence, its experiences of suffering brought about by separation from its original state of being, and the subsequent journey of return and reawakening to its Divine nature." Khan contends that "awakening beyond lifeAexperiencing a spectrum of altered states of consciousnessAis followed by that of awakening in life." In conversational fashion, Khan explores the stages of this awakening. He advocates a withdrawal from the world as a way of opening oneself to the dimensions of the inner world. Khan then explores how the great religious teachers Zoroaster, Muhammad, Christ, Buddha, Shiva, Abraham and Melchizedek realized these dimensions and urges seekers to follow their examples. Finally, he suggests that we can create heaven on earth through the awakening of the Divine Conscience and giving birth to a "spiritual value system that ensures a more conscious, compassionate, and beautiful future for all humankind." Khan's rich book serves as an introduction to Sufism as well as a guide to its practice.
Awakening A Sufi Experience
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