‘A Sufi is a Sufi’ – Osho

Excerpts from Osho’s book ‘Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 1

Courtesy : NakedMind


ONCE a learned Mohammedan came to me and asked, “You are not a Mohammedan, then why do you speak on Sufism?’ I told him, ‘I am not a Mohammedan, obviously, but I am a Sufi all the same.’
A Sufi need not be a Mohammedan. A Sufi can exist anywhere, in any form — because Sufism is the essential core of all religions. It has nothing to do with Islam in particular. Sufism can exist without Islam; Islam cannot exist without Sufism. Without Sufism, Islam is a corpse. Only with Sufism does it become alive.
Whenever a religion is alive it is because of Sufism. Sufism simply means a love affair with God, with the ultimate, a love affair with the whole. It means that one is ready to dissolve into the whole, that one is ready to invite the whole to come into one’s heart. It knows no formality. It is not confined by any dogma, doctrine, creed or church. Christ is a Sufi, so is Mohammed. Krishna is a Sufi, so is Buddha. This is the first thing I would like you to remember: that Sufism is the innermost core — as Zen is, as Hassidism is. These are only different names of the same ultimate relationship with God. The relationship is dangerous. It is dangerous because the closer you come to God, the more and more you evaporate. And when you have come really close you are no more. It is dangerous because it is suicidal… but the suicide is beautiful. To die in God is the only way to live really. Until you die, until you die voluntarily into love, you live an existence which is simply mediocre; you vegetate, you don’t have any meaning. No poetry arises in your heart, no dance, no celebration; you simply grope in the darkness. You live at the minimum, you don’t overflow with ecstasy.
That overflow happens only when you are not. You are the hindrance. Sufism is the art of removing the hindrance between you and you, between the self and the self, between the part and the whole.
A few things about this word ‘Sufi’. An ancient Persian dictionary has this for the entry ‘Sufi’… the definition given goes in rhyme: SUFI CHIST — SUFI, SUFIST. WHO IS A SUFI? A SUFI IS A SUFI. This is a beautiful definition. The phenomenon is indefinable. ‘A Sufi is a Sufi.’ It says nothing and yet it says well. It says that the Sufi cannot be defined; there is no other word to define it, there is no other synonym, there is no possibility of defining it linguistically, there is no other indefinable phenomenon. You can live it and you can know it, but through the mind, through the intellect, it is not possible. You can become a Sufi — that is the only way to know what it is. You can taste the reality yourself, it is available. You need not go into a dictionary, you can go into existence.

I have heard….
A small boy was playing in the garden. He was a very small boy and was very much frightened of the large bulldog that occupied the yard next to his home.
One day, feeling rather adventurous, the little boy climbed the fence, and the huge bulldog rushed up to him and licked his face. The boy began to scream and his mother arrived on the scene almost immediately.
‘Did he bite you, darling?’
‘No,’ whimpered the little boy, ‘but he tasted me.’

If you are not ready to have a bite of Sufism you can at least taste it.
And that’s what I am going to make available to you — a little taste. And once you have tasted even a drop of the nectar called Sufism you will become more thirsty for more. For the first time you will start feeling a great appetite for God.
These talks cannot explain to you what Sufism is — because I am not a philosopher. I am not a theologian either. And I am not really talking on Sufism, I will be talking Sufism. If you are ready, if you are ready to go into this adventure, then you will attain to a taste of it. It is something that will start happening in your heart. It is something like a bud opening.
You will start feeling a certain sensation in the heart — as if something is becoming alert, awake there; as if the heart has been asleep for long and now it is the first glimmer of the morning — and there you will have the taste.
Sufism is a special kind of magic, a rare kind of magic. It can be transferred only from person to person, not from a book. It cannot be transferred by scriptures. It is also just like Zen — a transmission beyond words. The Sufis have a special word for it — they call it silsila. What Hindus call parampara they call silsila. silsila means a transfer from one heart to another heart, from one person to another person It is a very, very personal religion.
You cannot have it without being related to an enlightened Master — there is no other way. You can read all the literature that exists on Sufism and you will be lost in a jungle of words. Unless you find a guide, unless you fall in love with a guide, you will not have the taste.
I am ready to take you on this far-away journey, if you are courageous, adventurous. I hope you are — because only courageous people become attracted towards me. This place is not for cowards; this place is not for those so-called religious people; this place is not for so-called Godfearing people — this place is for those whom I call Godloving people. And they have a totally different quality. A Godfearing person never moves into the deeper realms of religion, he cannot — because of his fear.
The word ‘Godfearing’ is so absurd. If you are afraid of God then where are you going to be loving? Whom are you going to love? If you cannot even love God then love will not be possible for you at all. If even with God you are related through fear, then this can’t be a relationship.
But we have been taught to be afraid of God. In fact, we have only been taught to be afraid of everything. Our whole life is a trembling, a fear, a cowardice — fear of hell, fear of God, fear of punishment. We are good, virtuous, because we are afraid. What kind of virtue is it which is based on fear?
And how can you love God if your basic approach is through fear? Out of fear love never arises — that is an impossibility. And out of love fear never arises. When you love a person all fear disappears. And when you are afraid ail love disappears. You can hate the person if you are afraid of him, but you cannot love him. Down the centuries man has been taught to be afraid of God and the ultimate result is that Nietszche had to declare that God is dead. That is the ultimate result of the fear-oriented mind. How long can you tolerate this God? How long can you remain afraid? One day or other you will have to kill him. That’s what Nietszche did. When he said, ‘God is dead,’ he also said, ‘Now man is free.’ ‘God is dead and now man is free.’ Otherwise how can you be free with God if God is only a source of fear? Fear cannot give you freedom. People who come to me are Godloving people. When I say ‘Godloving’ I mean they are in search. They want to know. And they want to know authentically, they don’t want to have borrowed knowledge about it. They want to have a taste. They want to encounter, they want to face God, they want to look into his eyes.
But before you can become capable of looking into the eyes of God, you will have to become capable of looking into the eyes of a Master. From there you take off. The journey begins.
I will make myself available to you. Sufism is just an excuse. I will not be talking about Sufism, I will be talking Sufism itself. The word ‘Sufism’ is also beautiful. It has many orientations and all are beautiful. And I would not like to emphasise any one orientation, as it has been done again and again. A few people choose one orientation, a few people choose another, but my understanding is that all those orientations are beautiful and have something special to say. I accept them all.
One old Sufi Master, Abul Hasam, has said, ‘Sufism was once a reality without a name and now Sufism is a name without reality.’
For many centuries Sufism existed without a name. It existed as reality. That’s why I say Jesus was a Sufi, so was Mohammed. so was Mahavir and so was Krishna. Anyone who has come to know God is a Sufi. Why do I say so? Try to understand the word ‘Sufi’ and it will become clear to you. The word ‘Sufi’ is a new coinage, a German coinage, out of German scholarship. Is not more than one hundred and fifty years old. In Arabic the word is tasawwuf. But both come from a root ‘suf’ which means wool.
It seems very strange. Why should wool become the symbol of Sufism? The scholars go on saying that it is because Sufis used to wear woollen robes. That’s true. But why? Nobody has answered it. Why should they be wearing woollen robes? Mohammed says in the Koran that even Moses was wearing a woollen robe when he encountered God. When God spoke to him he was entirely in a woollen robe. But why?
There is a deep symbolism in it. The symbolism is that wool is the garb of the animals and a Sufi has to become as innocent as an animal. The Sufi has to attain to a primal innocence. He has to drop all kinds of civilisation, he has to drop all kinds of cultures, he has to drop all conditionings, he has to become again an animal. Then the symbol becomes tremendously significant.
When man becomes animal he does not fall back, he goes higher. When man becomes animal he is not just an animal. That is not possible. You cannot fall back. When a man becomes an animal he becomes a saint. He remains conscious but his consciousness is no more burdened by any conditioning. He is no more a Hindu and no more a Mohammedan and no more a Christian. He is in tune with existence as deeply as any animal. He has dropped. all kinds of philosophies, he carries no conceptualisations in his mind, his mind is without any content. He is, but he is no more in the mind. To be without mind — that is the meaning of the woollen robe. To be like innocent animals, not to know what is good and what is bad… and then the highest good arises, the ‘summum bonum’.
When you know this is good and that is bad, and you choose good against bad, you remain divided. When you choose, there is repression. When you say ‘I will do this. This has to be done. This should be done’, this becomes an ‘ought’. Then naturally you have to repress — you have to repress that which you have condemned as bad. And the repressed part remains inside you and goes on poisoning your system. And sooner or later it will assert, sooner or later it will take revenge. When it explodes, you will go mad.
Hence all civilised people are always on the verge of madness. This earth is a big madhouse. A few have already become mad, a few are potentially ready. The difference between you and the mad people is not of quality, it is only of quantity, only of degree. Maybe they have gone beyond the hundred degrees and you are just lingering somewhere — at ninety-eight, ninety-nine — but any moment any situation can push you beyond the boundary. Don’t you see it? Can’t you observe your mind? Can’t you see the madness that goes on and on inside? It is continuously there.
You avoid it; you get occupied in a thousand and one things just to avoid it. You don’t look at it, you want to forget about it. It is too scary, frightening. But it is there — and whether you avoid it or not it is growing. It is continuously accumulating momentum. It can come to the peak any time. Any small thing can trigger it. When you choose, you have to repress.
The animal does not choose. Whatsoever is, is. The animal simply accepts it; its acceptance is total. It knows no choice.
So does a Sufi. A Sufi knows no choice. He is choicelessly aware. Whatsoever happens he accepts it as a gift, as a God-given thing. Who is he to choose7 He does not trust in his mind, he trusts in the universal mind That’s why when you come across a Sufi you will see such animal innocence in his eyes, in his being; such freedom, such joy, as only animals know — or trees or rocks or stars.
Idries Shah has condemned the definition of ‘sufi’ from ‘suf’ — wool — on exactly the same grounds as I am approving of it. He says that Sufis are so alert about symbols how can they choose wool as a symbol? The wool represents the animal and Idries Shah says Sufis cannot choose the animal as a symbol. They are the people of God — why should they choose the animal? He seems very logical, and he may appeal to many people.
But on exactly the same grounds I approve the definition.
To me, to be an animal means to be innocent, not to know morality, not to know immorality. To be an animal is not a condemnation. A saint is more like animals than like you, than like the so called human beings. The human beings are not natural beings, they are very unnatural, artificial, plastic. Their whole life is a life of deception. If you touch somebody’s face you will never touch his face, you touch only his mask. And remember, your hand is also not true. It has a glove on it. Even lovers don’t touch each other; even in love you are not innocent; even in love you are not without masks. But when you want to love God you have to be without masks. You have to drop all deceptions. You have to be authentically whatsoever you are, to be choicelessly whatsoever you are. In that primal innocence God descends. ……….
………. By asserting the symbol of the animal Sufis declare, ‘We are simple people. We don’t know what is good and what is bad. We know only God, and whatsoever happens is his gift. We accept it. We are not doers on our own accord. ‘ This is the first meaning of the word ‘Sufi’.
There is another possibility: the word ‘Sufi’ can be derived from ‘sufa’ — purity, cleanliness, purification. That too is good. When you live a life of choicelessness a natural purity comes. But remember, this purity has nothing of morality in it. It does not mean pure in the sense of being good; it means pure in the sense of being divine, not in the sense of being good. Pure simply means pure of all ideas, good and bad both. Purity means transcendence. One has no idea at all, no prejudices. One trusts life so utterly that one need not have any ideas, one can live without ideas. When ideas are there in the mind they create impurity, they create wounds. When you are too full of ideas, you are too full of dirt. All ideas are dirty. Yes, even the idea of God is a dirty idea, because ideas are dirty. For a Sufi, God is not an idea, it is his lived reality. It is not somewhere sitting on a throne high in the heavens, no — it is herenow, it is all over the place, it is everywhere. God is just a name for the totality of existence.
Purity means a contentless mind — so please don’t be misguided by the word ‘purity’. It does not mean a man who has a good character. It does not mean a man who behaves according to the Ten Commandments. It does not mean a man who is respected by the society as a good man.
A Sufi has never been respected by the society. A Sufi lives such a rebellious life that the society has almost always been murdering Sufis, crucifying them — because the Sufi makes you aware of your falsity. He becomes a constant sermon against your artificiality, against your ugliness, against your inner inhumanity to human beings, against your masks, against all that you are and represent. A Sufi becomes a constant pain the neck to the so-called society and to the so-called respectable people.


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