Thursday, August 02, 2007

Detachment from a Sufi Perspective


Indifference is not a synonym for mystical detachment. The individual who, by the grace of God, has acquired the quality of detachment is not above it all, but very much in it all.The secret lies not just in how one is in it all. The secret also concerns the nature of that which one is all in.

One cannot be detached, in the Sufi sense of the word, without submitting to the will of God. Detachment means to become disengaged from one's own will and to become a locus of manifestation for the will of God. In fact, the process of becoming detached from one's own will is an expression of becoming attached to the will of God.

As long as we prefer our own perspective to God's will, we cannot achieve detachment. As long as we persist in being entangled in our desires, moods, and attitudes, we are not free to align ourselves with the will of God. To the extent we insist on pursuing the gratifications generated by the dialectic of ego, body, and the world, we will be separated from the condition of detachment.

Upon hearing about the idea of mystical detachment, many people react negatively and wonder how, for instance, a detached person can be loving and compassionate. Detachment sounds so cold and uncaring.

In reality, we cannot be truly loving and compassionate until we are oriented toward everything by means of detachment. The attachments, preoccupations and entanglements of our egos prevent us from being loving and compassionate human beings. Like the destructive form of cholesterol, ego and worldly attachments cling to the walls of our spiritual arteries and block the passage of the flow of love and compassion.

In ways reminiscent of medical practitioners, Sufi masters tell us to refrain, as much as we can, from a steady diet of the attachments of the ego because of their injurious effects on our spiritual system. Nonetheless, we continue to consume all the worldly things which are harmful to us.

One cannot be suffering from the spiritual counterpart to arteriosclerosis and, yet, be free from the symptoms of the disease. One experiences a pain and discomfort in the heart which spreads to other parts of one's being. The heart becomes dysfunctional in a variety of ways. One has difficulty breathing in the joy and beauty of life. There is a general lassitude and drop in spiritual energy levels. One becomes more sensitive to, and less able to constructively deal with, stress and strain. One feels a sense of existential malaise.

Someone who is caught up in the throes of the disease process tends to withdraw, to varying degrees, from the activities going on around one. One might like to show compassion for, or help, others, but due to one's disabled condition, one is not in a spiritual position to do so.

When the heart has been cleansed of attachment to other than God, the heart becomes a fountain of love and compassion which is offered freely to all of creation. The love and compassion of the heart of detachment is inherently generous and active and dynamic. The heart of detachment gives expression to part of the spiritual legacy of the human being. Such a heart is operating in accordance with the specifications called for by the Divine blueprints. The heart of detachment is charismatic and magnetic. It has an appeal which is extremely attractive to almost everyone coming into proximity with its radiating sphere of influence. Consequently, we tend to want to attach ourselves to the people of mystical detachment.

Detachment is like an inertial guidance system. No matter what the nature of the potentially disruptive forces are which are acting on the individual, the person of detachment always stays on course. Whatever adjustments need to be made to counter the effects of such forces are implemented.The person of detachment locks on to the will of God and does not permit any other kind of guidance to take priority in his or her journey.

However, this process of locking-on does not imply rigidity, inflexibility, or fanaticism of any kind.

All too frequently, when we believe we are locking-on to the will of God, we are merely tuning into the noise of our own likes and dislikes. In our confusion we sometimes become unyielding in our approach to things as we operate under the mistaken belief we are doing God's will when, in fact, we only are doing our own will.

Although the will of God permits many things to transpire in the affairs of human beings, some of our intentions and motivations are more consonant with the spirit and essence of Divine will than are other instances of our intentions and motivations. Compassion, love, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, co-operation, peace, justice, tolerance, mercy, nobility, fairness, and patience are but a few of the qualities close to the heart, so to speak, of God's will.

An individual who, by the grace of God, is cloaked in the above mentioned attributes, is someone through whom the will of God can be manifested in a way which is capable of benefiting humanity and all of creation. Someone who is cloaked in such qualities tends not to be inflexible or rigid or fanatical. Instead, this individual tends to operate creatively and aesthetically through a set of permissible degrees of freedom which allow accommodations to be made without compromising the person's submission to the will of God.

The gateway to becoming adorned in these kinds of quality is detachment. Until one has cast off the garments of the ego, one will not be allowed into the Divine fitting room.

Detachment permits one to focus on the essential in all circumstances. Detachment removes one from the distractions of the ego and the world. Detachment fortifies one against the onslaught of forces seeking to corrupt intention and motivation. Detachment allows one to distinguish between the true self and the false self. Detachment provides the understanding and freedom through which to recognize, and do, the will of God in a way that is pleasing to God.

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