This article is going to be pithy, due to household duties. But better to write something than not pen and share a good exploration.
Last week I had a dream about my spiritual guide. It was wonderful to see him. Some people had gathered and were asking about how I came to experience spiritual awakening. As I started to explain my unfolding with my guide, he looked at me and shook his head. In the dream it was quite clear he wanted none of what these folks were looking to instigate. I thought of writing to my guide to mention the dream, but it felt like something I needed to understand within myself most of all.
The projection process of indicating to another that some person or path has “produced” your experience or awakening really isn’t true, it is a misguiding of sorts.
A few years ago it came to me to learn more about the relationship between Rumi and Shams. I was surprised to find that Shams disappeared. But the depth of communication Rumi and Shams had, itself, became a barrier to dissolution in God.
It is also helpful to understand their relationship in terms of the sufi teaching of the stages of “passing away” or “annihilation” [fanâ]. In this particular sufi path, the disciple is encouraged to cultivate love for the spiritual master within the heart, to visualize the master in the heart or seated in front of one, and to remember the master frequently. This practice is said to lead to mystical experiences of seeing the spiritual master (or “beloved”) everywhere and the master’s beauty expressed in all things waking or dreaming). Mevlana seems indeed to have been in this type of “passing away in the spiritual presence of the master [fanâ fî-sh- shayk], because he wrote thousands of verses expressing his spiritual love for Shams in his Divan. Part of this particular teaching is that if this closeness with the spiritual master [shaykh] goes on too long, it can become a barrier to “annihilation in God” [fanâ fî ‘llâh]. And Shams suggested directly to Mevlana that he might have to go away for Mevlana to progress further. After Shams disappeared permanently, and after Mevlana recovered from his loss, it is said that Mevlana found Shams in his own heart. And in his last years, Mevlana composed thousands of couplets (the Mathnawi) in which he describes many unitive mystical experiences (usually spoken by one of the characters in a story), and rarely mentions the name of Shams. This is very much like “annihilation in God” following “annihilation in the master.”
In my own language, the projection onto the teacher, as producing the spiritual experience, had to be released. It has not been an easy process for me the last five years, and my spiritual guide wrote of this as the need for the student to make their own robes.
I recognized that nothing produces the ultimate spiritual state, and yet there I was in the dreaming process of experiencing the contact and communication with my guide seemed to produce it. It became clear I needed to stop working with him to allow this to dissipate, but the travails of my family life and the disillusionment with the patriarchal nature of the lineage my family was devoted to, have at times overwhelmed me. The extinguishment in God appears beleaguered! It seems a joyless process in comparison to devotion to the spiritual friend.
And yet I see with much more clarity that my own guide did not come to earth to have students projecting on him. My certainty that devotion was the best thing for me and supported him at the same time was truly flawed. So the dreaming process that drew me into this life was cut at its root – and there is not a sweetness to replace it. I’m not complaining, it is just a statement. Oddly, I find solace in the roughness of Nisargadatta Maharaj. There are so few teachers who beat away the students rather than collecting them!