There is a popular saying that a person’s home is their castle, meaning that we claim the right to refuse entry to whomsoever may knock at the door. This is a good picture of the ego, which insists on a firm separation of ‘my world’ from the infinite universe. We may permit visitors to enter, but we always have in mind that we reside in OUR domain, that all that we experience is centred upon us. If the visitors don’t behave as we expect, if they don’t follow our rules, we may show them the door and we will not invite them to return.
Living in a castle, though, is not very different from living in a prison: the bars of the prison are our own rules and concepts, and after a time we will begin to suffer from isolation. The soul, as a ray of the infinite Consciousness, feels constricted by this confinement. Imagine that the castle is surrounded by a vast estate full of many beauties, the far reaches of which we have never explored because it would mean leaving the castle behind and sleeping under the open stars. That vast estate is also ‘us’ – but to know it, to have a wider view of ‘self’ we have to raise the flag of surrender and throw open the gates of the castle.
If we say the Sufi prayers with any regularity, we have repeated many times this line : To Thee do we give willing surrender. But what do we understand by that? What is surrender? There is an old saying that ‘the one convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.’ In other words, acceptance – in the context of the prayer – cannot be grudging or mechanical, but must be whole-hearted, sincere, and with a feeling of gratitude.
The one who locks the gates of his castle is controlled by habits arising from the fear that some power will come and break open the walls that surround him. Certainly such a power will come someday, and before that moment comes, it would be wiser to enjoy the fruits that surround us while we may, to let down the drawbridge and open ourselves to the beauty beyond our defences, for as it says in the Gayan, All men surrender to beauty willingly and to to power unwillingly.
If you say the Sufi prayers with movements, either bowing or kneeling, think, in the moment when you lower your head, of the infinite Beauty that is offered to us, and recognise that the portion you receive will be measured by the width of your gratitude.