Thursday, December 20, 2007

Himma (Aspiration)

There are three general categories of aspiration within us. Normally, only one of these is spiritual in character, and this spiritual aspiration is opposed by, and in conflict with, expressions of the other two categories - namely, passion and anger.

The Sufi path involves three broad sets of transformation with respect to aspirations. One set of transformations entails reforming passion and anger so they become spiritual allies instead of liabilities. The other two sets of transformations consist of the purification and perfection of spiritual aspiration, especially in relation to the nature of the modalities or spiritual instruments through which we engage our relationship with God.

All three sets of transformations involve changes in the character of the "object" toward which aspiration is directed. In addition, a transition in the degree of intensity of aspiration occurs in all three transformational sets. More specifically, this change in intensity revolves around the process of becoming less dispersed, and more `gathered', in our intentions, awareness, understanding and behavior.

Although human beings are born with all three categories of aspiration, very shortly after birth, for most of us, passion and anger begin to dominate our lives, while spiritual aspiration is marginalized and relegated to the background. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but, generally speaking, the unfolding of spirituality, to the extent it occurs at all, lags significantly behind the unfolding of passion and anger.

Passion encompasses all those tendencies within us which seek to acquire. These acquisitive predispositions are directed toward procuring more and more: material possessions, power, money, fame, status, and physical gratification of one description or another.

Anger includes all the inclinations within each of us which are directed toward defending the passions against anything constituting a threat to past, present or future acquisitions. Hostility, antagonism, malice, conflict and rebellion are all expressions of anger in action. If one looks carefully at the situations in which these different modalities of anger arise, one will detect the existence of one or more vested interests of passion at the heart of the issue.

By dominating consciousness, intentions, motivations, thinking, attitudes, evaluations, judgements and behavior, the activities of anger and passion create the illusion of a self which is being served by such activity. In other words, our awareness is mesmerized, or a state of hypnosis is induced in consciousness, by the activities of anger and passion. As a result, awareness identifies with them as being possessions of, and acting on behalf of, consciousness.

Over time, a history of experiences, decisions and behaviors is generated. Memories are recorded and used by passion and anger to serve their respective agendas.

This entire ensemble of passion, anger, mesmerized awareness and remembered life history are the primary forces which underwrite the existence of the false self or ego. All aspirations which arise in the context of this ensemble are seen as aspirations of the illusory self.

This "self" has no substantive reality per se. In other words, this self had no existence prior to its invention or construction.

The false self or ego is merely an arrangement of convenience and circumstance. It is an artificial business arrangement which has been organized by our various modalities of passion and anger for purposes of carrying on different kinds of commercial transactions with the world.

Our God-given capacity for choice is usurped by the false-self conglomerate. Due to the state of hypnotic trance of ordinary consciousness, the process of exercising free will, within our capacity to do so, is arrogated to the false self through the manipulations, seductions and pressure tactics of passion and anger.

Judgements, decisions, and choices begin to get locked into interacting patterns of habit. These patterns reflect, and conform to, the collective dynamics of the various components of the false self or ego.

Exoteric values, practices and rituals have two important tasks to perform with respect to the ego conglomerate which has arisen. On the one hand, exoteric teachings try to help the individual close the gap between spiritual aspirations, which, for the most part, have lagged behind in development, and the dominant influence enjoyed by the aspirations of passion and anger in our day-to-day lives. On the other hand, exoteric teachings try to help the individual bring passion and anger into an acceptable spiritual balance.

The excesses and extremes of passion and anger must be constrained. A middle way of moderation must be discovered which will prevent the individual from transgressing beyond certain boundaries of spiritual propriety. Acquisitiveness and its protector must be trained to pursue their activities within Divinely sanctioned parameters of permissibility.

Exoteric teachings seek to strengthen the dimension of spiritual aspiration within the individual. At the same time, these teachings provide a framework of moderation which is intended to constrain passion and anger provided the framework is implemented by our developing spiritual aspiration.

If our spiritual aspiration becomes sufficiently mature, then, God willing, it begins to influence our capacity for choice. Over time, if everything goes well, we begin to discontinue some of the more injurious patterns of behavior generated through our aspirations of passion and anger.

The Sufi path is not content to merely constrain passion and anger. It seeks to transform them.

One of the themes of such transformation is to induce (through Sufi discipline, practices and so on) the individual to change the character of the object which is the focus of passion and anger. Instead of using anger and passion to seek the world, these two modalities of aspiration should be used to seek Divinity.

However, in order to have a chance of succeeding in achieving this transition in focus from worldly objects to Divinity, passion and anger cannot remain as they are. The intention underlying them must change, and, as well, passion and anger must come under the sphere of influence of all the qualities of spiritual etiquette.

Intention must become a servant of God. Everything which is done must be done for the love of God. Intention must be purified so nothing remains but the aspiration to please God.

The heart must be trained to collaborate with, and give expression to, spiritual aspiration. The heart's association with the aspirations of the false self or ego must be discontinued.

When, God willing, intentionality and the heart have been purified, then, by the grace of God, qualities of spiritual etiquette such as patience, perseverance, forbearance, compassion, and forgiveness come to ascendancy. These qualities have, God willing, a transformative effect on passion and anger, and, as a result, passion and anger come to serve spiritual purposes.

Under these circumstances, the only aspiration of passion is to seek, know, love and serve God.

Furthermore, the aspiration of anger becomes a tendency to protect this spiritual passion from, and defend against, anything which would undermine or corrupt it.

If God wishes, in later stages of the maturation of spiritual aspiration, different capacities within that potential become experientially active. Although the focus of those experiences always remains God, the structural character, so to speak, of that focus undergoes various transformations.

Sufi masters speak of some of these transformations in terms of gnosis, witnessing, and love. In each case, the experience of Divinity changes. Each kind of experiencing involves its own mode of spiritual etiquette.

On all levels, God responds to us in accordance with the character of our spiritual aspiration. When spiritual aspiration is at low ebb, God's way of relating to us will reflect the character of that kind of aspiration. As the quality and intensity of spiritual aspiration undergoes various developmental transformations, so, too, does God's way of responding to us reflect those spiritual transitions.

In reality, God does not change, from beginning to end, during the journey of development or unfolding of spiritual aspiration. The nature of Divinity always is what Divinity is.

However, as spiritual aspiration goes through various transformations, our essential capacity becomes sensitive and receptive to the modalities of experiencing and realizing Divinity which are consonant with the condition of our aspiration. Consequently, the way God responds to us is merely a reflection of the way we relate to Divinity.


Dipti said...

Brother Anab.. This is such a wonderful, inspiring , educationl and enlightening post. Many thanks and Kudos to you for sharing

surjit said...

Hello Anab,
Thanks for sharing universal truth:
..'the only aspiration of passion is to seek, know, love and serve God...'
You have a wonderful blog.Posts are thought provoking and inspirational.
I came to know about your blog throgh Dipti's blog.
God bless.

Unknown said...

Just what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. Namaste

Kiran said...

This is such an intellectual understanding of not just Islam but of spirituality. I am glad I found your blog.