Sufi. That word is pretty obscure, right? It does evoke images of whirling dervishes and some bearded sorts muttering inanities. Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam, though the practice in itself crosses boundaries across religions – Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. A simple and practical meaning to the word is simply “a person devoted to find the Ultimate Truth.” Many purists within Islam mock Sufis due to their rather unorthodox practices. Sufis maintain there are many paths to reach God and God is the Ultimate Truth. The objective of a Sufi is to achieve inner peace or knowledge, not mere mortal goals like reaching heaven or avoiding hell. The Sufi wants to be near God and attain his love.
So the goal of a Sufi being clearly established now, how does one go about being a Sufi? Well, to seek Allah or God, the Sufi should negate all other distractions. He/she has to attain higher consciousness by controlling his Lower Self or Ego (base desires like selfishness, anger, lust, jealousy, etc.) and trying to experience the Higher Self. A practical approach for the average modern person is to first try cleansing one’s physical self – try avoiding addictions, if any, like smoking, drinking, gambling, etc. The next step then is to try controlling the “nafs” or ego by avoiding jealousy, excess anger, gluttony and so on. This would happen gradually. To achieve these goals, one needs to do “Dhikr” or meditate, using the Lord’s name. Meditation helps one be aware of his present state as well as attain control of the present. Being in the Now is extremely important to focus.
Sufis have various stages they pass through before they experience the Divine Reality. The path is not absolute or certain. The time lines could get a bit stretched too. Hence, focus on the journey not the end result. A new age Sufi would no doubt come across as more content, in control of life than others. Start practicing today!