Awareness Worth Cultivating

Note: Let truth guide you, not us. Our humble disclaimer.

The great Sufi teacher, ‘Abd ul-Khaliq Ghujduwani (d. 1220), laid down eight spiritual practices for communing with God. These include finding solitude in a crowd and perpetual invocation of God as a way to stay present.

All eight of these practices–which are as helpful to the follower of Vedanta as they are to the Sufi–are basically about inward movement that changes the nature of reality for the person practicing them without requiring the consent of the world outside. Spirituality and real transformation is all about what happens inside, not what happens outside of the body.

Key to this is awareness, because the same event can often cause happiness or sadness depending on the perspective. The difference is just how we look at things, as illustrated by the act of looking at a glass as half full or half empty.

The founder of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, Baha ad-din Naqshband (d. 1389), understood this. He founded his Sufi order on the eight inward practices suggested by Ghujduwani, and added three more key practices to the list. All three of his contributions revolve around awareness.

The Golden Sufi Center has put together a wonderful article that explains these three forms of awareness that Naqshband felt was so important for the spiritual person, and we reprint it here.

Vedantins can learn from these practices and apply them to their own daily life even if they are not Sufi.

1. Awareness of One’s State of Mind / Time (Wuquf-i-zamani)

Baha ad-din Naqshband said that this consciousness is the maker and guide of the disciple. It means to be attentive to one’s state of mind at any given moment and to know whether it is a cause for giving thanks or for repenting.

It means: to keep account of one’s temporal states, to distinguish presence, huzur, from absence, ghaflat. Baha ad-din described this as “self-possession” or “mindfulness.” He added that one should always be grateful when one returns to a state of presence.

In wuquf-i-zaman, the seeker remains constantly aware of his changing states. Baha ad-din Naqshband explained: “Wuquf-i-zamani is the work of the traveler on the Way: to be attentive of his state, and to know whether it is a cause for giving thanks or for repenting, to give thanks while feeling spiritual elation, and to repent while in spiritual dryness or contraction.”

He also stated: “The foundation of the work of the seeker has been established in the awareness of time [exercise] as seeing at each moment whether the perceiver of breaths is [breathing] with presence or with forgetfulness.”

Maulana Yaqub Charkhi, in his Explanation of the Names of Allah, said: “Khwaja [Naqshband] instructed that in the state of qabz (contraction) one should seek God’s forgiveness, whereas in the state of bast (expansion) one should offer thanks. Close observation of these two states constitutes wuquf-i-zamani.” Wuquf-i-zamani of the Naqshbandi path is equivalent to the term “mohasseba” (keeping account of/close observation) used by other Sufis.

Jami, in the Resalah-i-nuria, said:”Wuquf-i-zamani is a term meaning the keeping account of the times one passes in [a state of] dispersal (tafriqah) or collectedness (jam’iyyat).”

2. Awareness of Number (Wuquf-i-adadi)

An expression meaning the observation of the number of individual repetitions of the dhikr. Jami said: “Wuquf-i-adadi is the observation of the number of dhikrs and of whether this [observation] yields results or not.” According to Baha ad-din Naqshband, “The observation of the number of repetitions of the dhikr of the heart is for gathering thoughts/mental activity which are scattered.”

According to Khwaja ‘Ala al-Din al-‘Attar, “The important thing is not the number of repetitions but rather the composure and awareness with which one makes them.”

According to Baha ad-din Naqshband, this awareness is the first stage of entry into the spiritual world.

This could also mean that for beginners, reading about the achievements and states of consciousness demonstrated by those advanced in this practice would be helpful, since in reading about another’s state of nearness, one acquires a certain quality of inner inspiration.

For advanced disciples, this technique, which facilitates the initial stages of acquiring inner intuition and inspiration, brings a consciousness of the unity of diversity: This diversity and proliferation is all but a show, The One is manifest in the all.

Diversity, if you look with open eyes, is naught but unity. No doubts for us, though there might be in some minds. Though appearance is in numbers, the substance is but one.

(It should be noted that inner inspiration, that understanding which brings the practitioner and people on the path closer to higher teachings, comes through divine grace and is not due to mind discoveries. “Knowledge comes from grace. The difference between divine inspiration and divine knowledge is that divine knowledge comes through internalizing the light of the Essence and the divine attributes, while divine inspiration is gained through receptivity to inner meanings and those types of instructions which manifest within the practitioner.”)

3. Awareness of the Heart (Wuquf-i-qalbi)

The heart becomes aware of God. This marks the awakening of divine love. The individual becomes aware that his existence is an obstacle to his final transformation and he no longer fears to sacrifice it because he sees for himself that he will gain infinitely more than he loses.

Wuquf-i-qalbi has been described as having two meanings. One is that the seeker’s heart in the midst of the dhikr is conscious and aware of the Real. On this point Khwaja Ubaydullah Ahrar said: “Wuquf-i-qalbi is an expression meaning an awareness and presence of heart toward the Most High Real felt in such a manner that the heart feels no need of anything except the Real.” This meaning is similar to that of yad dasht (continued remembrance/perpetual invocation).

Heart consciousness means the heart’s resting with the Beloved, as if nothing and no one else existed.

The other meaning is that there is awareness of the heart itself. In other words, the seeker during the time of the dhikr is attentive to the cone-shaped heart which is the “seat of subtlety,” and prevents it from becoming unaware during the saying of the dhikr.

Baha ad-din Naqshband did not consider it necessary to hold the breath during the dhikr as is done in some tariqas, even though he considered that practice to have its benefits; nor did he consider essential the wuquf-i-zamani and wuquf-i-adadi (awareness of time and awareness of number). But according to the Qodsîyyah he considered “the observance of wuquf-i-qalbi the most important and necessary because it is the summary and essence of the intention of the dhikr.”

Like an expecting mother-bird, sit watchfully on the egg of your heart. Since from this egg will result your drunkenness, self-abandoned, uproarious laughter and your final union.

These exercises and their explanation come courtesy of the Golden Sufi Center. Reprinted with permission.

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