One of the things I have noticed a lot though in my own past actions and those actions other travelers have shared with me is how many times we confused information for experience. I remember the subtle rebuke our late Pir Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh used to make when he said how he sees many more Sufiologist than Sufis.
To give you an example when I was younger I used to think just because I could understand something and it made sense and I could find examples of it in action, I understood it. I still make this mistake often I have to admit. I think though, I am starting to notice more readily when I make this mistake. In the end if we arent careful we see only what we want to see.
I think a lot of times this sort of thinking is in part a by-product of this Age of Information we are part of where tons of information are just a few keystroke away. This thinking sort of works for everyday things: how many feet in a mile, how to code something in PERL, how to fix my light fixture after I have yanked out the chord for the 10th friggin time. However in the realm of spirituality where we have to leave behind the past and experience the ‘moment’ this doesn’t work.
It is common often that a seeker is given first aside from some seemingly menial task and something to read. Why you ask…..? It’s not to increase our knowledge; it’s not to enable us to answer some obscure Double Jeopardy or Final Jeopardy questions. Look at the words of Sanai Ghaznavi on this:
Part of the reason would-be initiates are given the works o the great masters is to see if whether they can pick up whispers at first, but may be whole conversations later, to the point where they can participate in them.
How many times when we have read something have we stopped to listen? How many whispers have we picked up? How many conversations have we been a part of? To what extent have we left our mind in behind able to see free of our conditioning and attachments. If while reading we can practice true humility, patience and trust we will learn quite often to after we have done our part, leave things alone. I quoted Lao Tzu in an earlier post:
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain un-moving
till the right action arises by itself?
One of the most important Taoist concepts first and experiences later is that of Wu Wei.
– knowing when to act and when not to act. Another perspective to this is that “Wu Wei” means natural action – as planets revolve around the sun, they “do” this revolving, but without “doing” it; or as trees grow, they “do”, but without “doing”. Thus knowing when (and how) to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think “now” is the right time to do “this“, but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing.
What does “the right action”, “right time” mean? How are we to recognize whispers, how do we know if what we think to be a whisper is a whisper? Let’s us look at those question in the next post, armed with some examples and words from Michael Greenstein and his memoires and wherever else teh caravan takes us.