A recent post (Hazrat Khwaja Usman Harooni: The Signs of the Enlightened) gave the answer of Khwaja Usman to the question, ‘What are the signs of the enlightened?’ In his reply, he speaks of renunciation, and the negative and positive aspects of knowledge. For a follower of the Sufi path, the work of renunciation is not necessarily depriving oneself of all that is good and beautiful, but as Hazrat Inayat pointed out in the text recently posted (Hazrat Inayat: Sensitivity, Indifference and Restraint), to become indifferent to these things. The choice of the dervish, to live with no possessions and no fixed home, enduring heat and cold in rags or no clothes at all, subsisting on whatever comes and fasting when there is nothing to eat, is one way of learning this principle, but it is a method and not the goal itself. The goal is to be independent of all that comes and of all that does not come our way in life. For this, it is not necessary that one give up one’s life in the world, but that one makes an effort to cultivate the dervish spirit in all circumstances; as Hazrat Inayat said, ‘to be in the world, but not of the world.’ Or as it is put in a saying ascribed to Jesus by Muslim sources, “Hold the world in your heart, but do not for a moment give your heart to the world.”
This indifference to pleasure and displeasure is what is called in the East vairagya, and Hazrat Inayat suggests a simple method of applying it in our lives: whenever one is swept up in a strong feeling, to pause for a moment and inwardly taste its opposite. It does not mean that one must cease to enjoy the moment, if it happens to be a feeling of pleasure for example, but simply to be aware that this moment is limited, that it too will pass on, and some other experience will follow.
Regarding renunciation, Khwaja Usman speaks of the two idols of wealth and position that must be thrown down in order to perceive the light of Reality. These idols represent our attachment to the material, and our vanity. Material attachment need not be particularly luxurious to hold us prisoner; often we are attached to simple things by the comfort of habit, as for example when one might say, “I drink orange juice every morning, and I prefer this particular cup.” This seems like a very small matter, and yet remember the image of Gulliver, awakening in the Land of Lilliput, held captive by many small threads. If there is only one thread, it is easily broken, but if there are hundreds or thousands, the giant life-force which is the Divine inheritance of every soul is powerless. Or as Hazrat Inayat says, “A person without will-power is as a head without a body.” In a similar way, regarding position, we need not aspire to a throne or ‘princely robes’ to have an idol of personal vanity before which we bow. Any self-concept at all is a ‘position’ in the sense of this teaching. Even the feeling, ‘I am unspiritual,’ is an idol of sorts, a little god of lifeless stone having as its first name, ‘I.’