Sunday, August 28, 2011

Baqa - A Sufi's Perspective

Deep within us there is a longing for permanence and stability. We dream of a place or condition in which we can feel completely at rest in some fundamental way.

In our heart of hearts we fervently hope that an abiding, essential sense of peace and security will somehow come into our lives and embrace us. We scan the horizons within us and around us for some trace of the very archetype, as it were, in which the idea of home, in the best sense of the term, is rooted.

This deep sense of longing or dreaming or hoping shadows us for much, if not all, of our lives. It is pervasive and persistent, and, yet, seems like a will-o'-the-wisp which cannot be pinned down in any concrete, determinate manner.

We have a feeling we might be able to recognize the object of this longing if we ever were to come face to face with it. However, in the meantime, the longing just manifests itself as: an ineffable emptiness waiting to be filled; or, as an amorphous cosmic alienation waiting to be dissipated.

Many of the activities we pursue throughout our lives are actually attempts to satisfy the aforementioned longing. We entertain a wide variety of candidates during the course of our existence on Earth.

We seek to derive experiences of essential belonging in different organizations, groups, political parties, institutions and communities. We try to resolve the longing through relationships, marriage, sexual intimacy and families. We look to careers to fill the emptiness which haunts our waking hours.

Sooner or later, most of us discover that none of the foregoing, either individually or in combination, are capable of satisfying our longing. As a result, many of us pursue activities which will either anesthetize the pain or distract us from such pain.

Thus, some of us drink to excess and take drugs. Some of us become promiscuous. Some of us take up hobbies. Some of become sports fanatics.

Some of us gamble. Some of us go shopping. Some of us become inveterate party-goers or fitness buffs. Some of us bury ourselves in our work and so on.

Sometimes we plunge into these sorts of activity as a kind of distant consolation. In other words, they don't necessarily quench the longing inside, but we find them enjoyable and, perhaps, even satisfying in certain ways.

Many of us, for the most part, have given up on ever finding a way to resolve our essential longing. Therefore, we try to find whatever small consolations in life we can and let it go at that.

In addition, due to our lack of success in locating the key or keys that will unravel the puzzle of unrequited longing, many of us gravitate toward bitterness, frustration, and disillusionment. As a result, we become prone to depression and cynicism.

Furthermore, since many of us are ill at ease with ourselves due to our feelings of alienation from things in general, as a result of our inability to experience a sense of being at home within ourselves and within the universe, many of us become easily annoyed with other people. Consequently, we tend to become involved in endless rounds of bickering, conflict and disputations.

Most of us may not even have any inkling why we do these things. They kind of just happen. We have plenty of rationalizations but no real answers.

In fleeting moments of reflection, we may feel the reverberations of the longing. However dimly we understand its significance, we often sense that satisfying that hunger is the key to many of our problems.

Yet, the solution to our dilemma remains as elusive as ever. Time moves on. The reverie evaporates before our eyes.

We long for stability and permanence, but we are inundated by transience and instability. Whatever happiness we find, it does not last. Whatever joy we find, it comes to an end. Whatever peace we stumble onto is but a brief reprieve in the eye of life's storms.

Like a roller coaster, our lives creep ever so slowly up the track to that first peak. Childhood and adolescence seem to last forever. Suddenly, our stomachs slam into our throats, and the descent of our lives takes us careening down the track through a few twists and turns to the end of the line.

We cannot get off. We cannot stop it. We only get one ride.

Desperately, we try to make sense of the ride. However, this is very difficult to do because everything is changing so quickly. Moreover, almost all of our attention and energies are spent screaming and trying not to regurgitate our lunch.

The Sufi masters indicate that essential permanence (baqa) can be realized, if God wishes, under certain circumstances or conditions. The Sufi path gives expression to these circumstances and conditions.

To find permanence and stability in the midst of fluctuation, one must permit God, through the exercise of one's free will, to remove everything except the will of God from one's soul, heart and essential being.

God alone is permanent. Consequently, everything which veils the presence of such permanence must be dissolved.

The guidance of the Sufi masters, the practices, the moral training, the struggle, the litanies, and so on are all supports provided by God to assist the individual to work toward permanence. Permanence is realized when the true self is, and the false self is not.

Only the true self is capable of giving expression to the will of God in an undistorted fashion. Only the true self is capable of participating in the quality of permanence. Only the true self has the capacity for essential and complete servitude before God. Only the perfect servant is able to reflect the will of God as God wishes it to be reflected through such a capacity.

God desires permanence for us. This is so because through permanence human capacity realizes its purpose and potential as an expression of God's will.

The reality of permanence cannot be described. It can only be experienced. Nonetheless, the experience of permanence colors, directs, shapes, informs and orients everything which the individual thinks, says, feels, does and is. This is what is entailed by those whom abide in God's permanence and, as a result, journey with, and by, Divinity.