Distinctions has several meanings:
A difference or contrast between similar things or people.
The separation of people or things into different groups according to their characteristics.
Excellence that sets someone or something apart from others.
A decoration or honour awarded to someone.
A grade in an examination denoting excellence.
In my time at school certain people made a goal of achieving 6 distinctions. In Khatum, the prayer recited in UW after the talk, we pray to be raised above the distinctions and differences which divide men. In this talk we are going to explore six of the distinctions to navigate, to the point of seeing how they are opposites AND then delve a little further into them, to recognise the Oneness behind them.
Why? – because the Sufi strives to see the difference between two things, and at the same time their oneness AND the Sufi develops the ability to see with open eyes so as to discern between opposites and to align with the better side. It can be extremely empowering to explore distinctions. When you realise that a default thought you have, has an opposite, you give yourself a choice in the matter.
Six of the distinctions covered in the Sufi Teachings:
(As we work through these six distinctions, please hold the following thoughts at the back of your minds – “Unite us all in Thy Perfect Being” and “The Perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty”.)
- Soul and Spirit
Chapter 2 in Volume 11 is a Chapter dealing with Capacity. In my opinion, it is worth reading in your own time.
Hazrat Inayat Khan makes a distinction between Spirit and Soul.
It is capacity which makes the soul a soul; otherwise it would be spirit. The soul becomes identified with qualities and merits because of the capacity through which it expresses itself, if not it would be spirit. The secret of the whole of creation can be traced to the understanding of capacity. Capacity is matter. It is not merely matter in the everyday sense of the word, for in reality all that is perceptible is matter. It is substance; even if it is the finest substance it is still a substance. That which is above substance is spirit. Spirit is the absence of matter even in its finest condition.
My body is the capacity for my soul.
My soul is the capacity for love.
God is Love.
- The painting and the heart of the painter
Chapter 1 of Volume 7 is a Chapter dealing with Love, Harmony and Beauty. Feel free to explore it further.
What is the source of God’s beauty? God is beautiful because He has created beauty. If there were no beauty in God, there would have been none in His manifestation. Similarly, if there were no beauty in the thought of the artist, she could not have painted the beautiful picture. When we see a beautiful painting, we cannot see the beauty in the heart of the painter, except in the beauty of the picture.
It is not only the picture, which is beautiful, the heart of the painter was beautiful first.
Before the beauty of creation was manifested, the beauty was hidden in love.
The Creator is more beautiful that the thing He has created.
God is Love.
- Happiness and pleasure.
Chapter 1 of Volume 6 is a Chapter dealing with The Alchemy of Happiness. Take a look in your own time.
Today we often confuse happiness with pleasure; but pleasure is only an illusion, a shadow of happiness; and in this illusion man may pass his whole life, seeking after pleasure and never finding satisfaction. The soul in Sanskrit, in the terms of the Vedanta, is called Atman, which means happiness or bliss itself. It is not that happiness belongs to the soul; it is that the soul itself is happiness.
When Divine Love glows in the heart of man, then the actions, the movements, the tone of the voice, the expression, all show that the heart is warm. The moment this happens a man really lives; he has unsealed the spring of happiness which overcomes all that is jarring and inharmonious, and the spring has established itself as a divine stream.
God is the Divine Stream.
God is Happy.
God is Love.
- Training and stilling the mind.
In Volume 7, you’ll find a Chapter entitled “Stilling the Mind”. Another recommended read.
The very first lesson that the mystic learns in life is the training of mind. It is not stilling mind; stilling comes afterwards. Mastery lies not merely in stilling the mind, but in directing it towards whatever point we desire. Training includes concentration. Concentration is activity of mind in the direction desired.
If the Sufi wishes to rise above distinctions which divide, and unite in one brotherhood, then the Sufi needs to direct their mind to that point.
God is the Only Being.
God’s Love is in all beings.
God is Love.
- Unifying and dividing.
Are people naturally divided? If people are divided who divides them? When we recite prayers like Saum, Salat and Khatum, who comes to mind when you hear the reference to ‘us’? Is your idea of the ‘us’, those other people who divide? Those other people who see distinctions and focus on them? I suspect that it is my mind that divides and it will be my mind that unifies.
The collective “We” or “Us” can be a damaging concept, as it can lead to the thought that the world’s strife is someone else’s fault. Being a Sufi brings the notion of strife home. Home, not to the Sufi’s, but to me the Sufi. May the Message of God reach me, illuminating me and making me see the whole humanity as one single Brotherhood in the Fatherhood of God.
And yes, God is Love.
- Gain and loss.
Volume 7, “In an Eastern Rose Garden” has a Chapter entitled “Gain and Loss”. You should gain something by spending the time to read through it in your own time.
To the mystic a gain is not a gain nor is a loss a loss; for that which appears to be a loss at one time may appear at another to be a gain. By taking the torch of wisdom to show us our faith through life, we will end by realizing what is profitable in life and what is not.
The Sufi says that it is not particularly important to distinguish between two opposites; what is important is to recognise that One which is hidden behind it all.
Towards the One.
The perfection of Love.
God is Love.
Distinctions can divide.
Distinctions can unite.
Each one of us makes the choices which are either dividing or unifying.
Notice your inherent capacity to choose and then consider the following:
Choose beauty, choose happiness, direct your mind to choose the Sufi way, notice how it is up to you and not up to the us, illuminate your thinking, choose wisely and most of all be guided by Love and Light.
When the Sufi’s heart expresses what God would express, then verily everything that comes from such a Sufi, comes from God Himself.