Wider and wider

Perhaps when we hear the wise saying of Hazrat Inayat Khan that ‘a Sufi has two points of view – his own and that of the other person,’ we feel a sense of benign approval: we certainly like it when others recognise our point of view; we feel respected, appreciated, and confirmed. We wish that more people would adopt this thoughtful way of seeing; it seems like a good recipe for a more harmonious society! On the other hand, making a reality of these words – persuading ourselves to look at the world in this broad way – is not so easy. We can easily find room in our consciousness for some points of view, but others seem so alien so us that we would prefer not to meet those who hold them, for fear of having to take on these incomprehensible ways of thinking.

To stretch our embrace as wide as ‘a Sufi’ – in the meaning of Hazrat Inayat Khan – we need a very large horizon. We might think that the highly connected world we live in, the global village wired for wifi, gives us an undeniably wide view, but notwithstanding all the information whizzing around, the human habit is to focus only on what we already know, and follow our usual customs of thought and behaviour. Then, how to lift ourselves out of our usual track and widen our point of view?

One way to develop this can be found in the prayer Saum, when we recite the words, “Lord God of the East and of the West, of the worlds above and below and of the seen and unseen beings…” These words are usually accompanied by a gentle movement of the head, to the right (East) , the left (West), upward (above), downward (below), and then with open (seen) and closed (unseen) eyes. They can be repeated with a hurried, mechanical nodding, as we can sometimes see, or with more thought and insight; reflection on this line is worth the effort, for although the meaning might seem obvious, there is a universe to discover here.

This thought is given as a description of the sovereignty of the Divine Presence, to Whom there is no limit, and the more we become aware of this grandeur, the less significant is our own small being. We become like a grain of dust before the Sun, and when the veil of ‘me’ begins to drop from our sight, our horizon must expand.

What is more, if all that there is falls within the domain of the One, then when we exclude one or another from our own understanding, we are separating ourselves from the Only Being – and wasn’t that union the point of all our effort on the spiritual path? For the real seeker, that separation is painful, harder to bear than accommodating another point of view.

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