Thursday, June 29, 2006

Spiritual Capacity

From the perspective of the Sufi path, every human being has a unique spiritual capacity. However, not every capacity necessarily will be realized to its full extent, or even in part.

Life is the opportunity provided by God to become busy with doing the things required for bringing one' s essential capacity on line. Whether or not we take advantage of the chance extended to us, is a matter of choice and an exercise in free will.

Spirituality is only one of the potentials we have been given. We each have been outfitted, so to speak, with other non-spiritual capacities. For example, the capacity for life itself is expressed through our biological nature. Our bodies, including the brain, have been equipped with sensory and locomotor modalities. In addition, we have, in varying degrees: intellectual abilities; creative capacities; a spectrum of emotional possibilities; talents of one sort or another, and a capacity for language.

The Sufi masters also sometimes talk of a wide variety of other powers and capabilities which are, under the right circumstances, available to human beings. These capacities range from: the ability to dream, to various kinds of so-called psychic and occult powers.

Many of these latter kinds of capacity are so infrequently accessed or encountered in any direct way, they are considered to be fictional in nature by most of us. Nonetheless, although such abilities are not really part of, nor pertinent to, the Sufi path, the masters of the way do confirm their existence.

Our numerous capacities generate a multiplicity of experiential possibilities, each of which is conducive to extended exploration. In fact, as human beings, we have such a diverse set of capabilities, potentials, capacities, and powers available to us, we easily become confused about, or distracted from, the purpose of life.

According to the Sufi masters, even if we succeed in developing a whole slew of our many abilities, yet, ignore our spiritual possibilities, we will have failed in life' s primary mission. On the other hand, if we sincerely attempt to realize our spiritual capacity, but fail in relation to some of the other capacities, we, nevertheless, will have chosen the right priorities in life as far as the Sufi path is concerned.

To be sure, there are individuals who, by the grace of God, realize their spiritual capacity and, as well, realize one or more other capabilities. These people may be great musicians or artists or poets or leaders and, yet, not have neglected their spiritual dimension.

The foregoing sort of people tend to be relatively rare. They certainly are individuals of immense ability and good fortune.

They are not necessarily the standard by which most of the rest of us ought to gauge our lives. We can appreciate such lives without either feeling compelled to emulate them or feeling one' s life is somehow impoverished for not having been as accomplished as them in various ways.

The primary focus should be on realizing our essential, spiritual capacity. Indeed, according to the Sufi masters, if one goes about the task and challenge of spiritual realization properly, one, generally, will have little interest in, or inclination toward, doing anything else - except in some minimally necessary manner that still will permit justice to be done to other facets of one' s life.

When one becomes absorbed in God, everything else becomes arranged and organized as a function of that absorption. Priorities are set, and attention is given, in relation to how possibilities and activities can be accommodated to, or become expressions of, one' s spiritual orientation.

God may inspire us to do great things. Nevertheless, this is God' s will acting on us for Divine purposes. For us, on our own, to seek to do great things above and beyond the business of realizing one' s spiritual capacity is a sign of the presence of ego. Many of us sometimes mistake the call of the ego for the call of God.

God has a part waiting for us in the Divine passion play. Whether we opt for the role of the fool who squanders his or her spiritual potential, or we strive for the part of the servant of God who struggles to realize her or his essential spiritual capacity, will make no difference to the beauty and majesty of the play.

In either case, we will bring our own, inimitable style to the existential stage. In success or failure, our contribution will be unique.

Either kind of uniqueness will fit equally well into the unfolding of the play. Our choices will neither improve nor diminish the quality of the production or staging process.

There is room for heroines and heroes. However, villains and villainesses are welcome as well. If anything, the presence of antagonistic forces merely heightens the dramatic tension of the whole affair.

In one sense, the choice of roles is entirely up to us. On the other hand, there are a variety of twists, turns and mysteries involved in the plot line.

Sometimes we can have our heart set on playing the bad guy and, suddenly, our world is turned upside down and we start acting, much to our disgust, the part of the hero or heroine. At other times we may be quite prepossessed with being on the side of right and good only to find ourselves falling head first into the underside of life.

Some of these role reversals are temporary. Some of them are permanent. In all cases, they are reflections of capacities within us, and we all wonder where we will end up when the music stops and the house lights are turned on.

We have a unique potential to know God and to experience Divinity. We each have a unique capacity to give expression to the Names and Attributes of God.

Sufi masters maintain that human beings, alone in all of creation, have the capacity to reflect all the Names and Attributes of God. Other aspects of creation do reflect various dimensions of the Names and Attributes of God according to their capacity, but none of the rest of creation has the potential given to human beings.

As indicated previously, there are differences in spiritual capacity among human beings. However, each of these capacities, if realized, can reflect the full, infinite spectrum of Divine Names and Attributes. Each has the potential to do so in a unique fashion.

Because spiritual capacities are unique, there really is no basis for comparison. All jewels have their own beauty and appeal. Each jewel brings something that cannot be offered by any other jewel.

The only ground for comparison lies within the individual. The sole criterion for such comparison is what a person has been able to actualize in the way of spiritual realization, as measured against that individual' s essential spiritual capacity. The degree of success or failure in life is a function of the status of the ratio of these two factors.


kevin said...

assallam alaykum

a timely message, at least for me personally, thank you. Among other identities, being a sufi and a musician, the puzzle of the ego looms especially large.

Anonymous said...

Identity[ies] ... [B]being ... practicing ... profession ... doing ... the obstacle[s] ...

... must others have to follow our views ... modes of expression ... [W]way[s] ... ? Is the [C]criterion applicable equally to all? Who determines the applicability of the [C]criterion? Other criteria? Whose criteria? When we read the criteria of others, do we understand what they mean and what the criteria mean? Do they know themselves what it [they] mean[s]?

What do these words mean:

"Do not cast pearls before swine." J of N

"Those who are conceived without sin, let them cast the first stone." J of N

In the original language did they say the same thing? What is their meaning? Do we understand their meaning in the same way? What is the correct meaning? Who are its interpreters?