It was just a few weeks back when someone asked a seemingly simple question, and yet it's so damn difficult for me to find a good answer for it. It's mainly because I haven't put enough thought about it again, and I my inner state was far different from the last time I gave reply to the same question. Hence I was frozen for a few moments. The fact is that simple things all of sudden can be very complicated and on the other hand complicated matters can also be astonishingly simple ones.
The moral is that we shall never underestimate simple situation as it may turn out to be very ugly that may escort us effectively to our demise. Likewise in almost every complicated problem there is always one simple approach that may trigger a powerful chain of reactions which can solve years of problems in a matter of days. Today's reply for a question that was raised and answered five years ago can be very different, simply because people evolve.
We are no longer the same person, either physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, or all of them. The context, the environment, can also be very different. Where we are today depend on the paths we traveled yesterday and will travel tomorrow, and the way we did or will do it, whether we just follow where the wind blows or consciously and responsibly choose the paths. Some paths are easily visible.
They can be seen with naked eyes, just like roads, either well-traveled ones or not. Others are invisible that you can only see them with the pure eyes of your heart. The Body, Mind, Heart and Soul have their own paths, but they are very closely related to and immensely affect each other. Using the Sufi's path model or the path of the Soul, each of the dimensions may have four levels or stages, where each of the stage must be built upon the previous one.
In Sufism, the four stages are shariah (religious law), tariqah (the mystical path), haqiqah (Truth), and marifah (Gnosis). Shariah (an Arabic word of "road") is a clear track, a well-traveled route by many that anyone can follow without fear of getting lost. It's the basic foundation that nobody can ignore if they want to travel to the next stage. Tariqah refers to the practice of Sufism, where there's no visible path for the seekers to get to the next destinations.
It is similar with the imaginary path in the desert that Bedouin would follow using their years of experience and intuitions to travel between oases. Here a new seeker needs a guide, a sheikh or a Sufi teacher, so one won't get lost in the desert. Just like one needs a professor to learn to be a medical doctor, or a trainer in the gym for practicing to build the right muscles. Haqiqah, or Truth, refers to the inner meaning of the practice and guidance that people found in shariah and tariqah. Haqiqah is the direct experience of the mystical states of Sufism, without it seekers will only follow blindly and superficially to those who already attained the station of haqiqah.
The highest stage reserved for the very few, Marifah, or Gnosis, is superior wisdom or knowledge of spiritual truth, a deep level of inner knowing, beyond haqiqah. More than momentary spiritual experience, marifah refers to an ongoing state of attunement with God and with Truth. The Sufi’s path is certainly not for everybody, but the wisdom of the soul may be applied to work on our Body, Mind, and Heart to achieve the highest possible stage that a dervish may accomplish during their journeys as seekers of the Truth. It is true that sometimes it’s hard to separate the four dimensions as they influence each other.
However, one will still go to the gym or to martial arts school to do something with their bodies, to science and technology Universities to train their minds, or to arts and music schools to sharpen their senses and hearts. No matter what paths we follow, the endpoints are always the same, death. What more important is then the number and qualiy of legacy that a person will leave behind when the final curtain falls, and that will determine whether there's a place or no place at all for the person in the history, whether he or she will be remembered for 2 generations or many more.
Meanwhile, the simple question that bothered me a few weeks back was "where would you be in five years". It was simple, but I was frozen on knowing that I would be 54 on that day and was not so sure whether I would be blessed to live that long. It was just a normal conversation by the way, not a job interview when you want to impress the person who's sitting across the table with a smart answer.
If I want to and can apply the four stages of Sufism to my body, mind, heart and my soul, I may be able to advance slowly to the second or the third stage in five years. I need, however, to follow the right path and learn from a good teacher before I can liberate myself. I certainly shouldn’t be struggling anymore in the first stage. Now, where among those four stages would your body, mind, heart and soul likely be in the next five years?