Coming Out of Lostness

All of us are emanations of the divine light and the oneness of the supreme love. But the ego plays hide-and-seek with that light and that love and eventually the ego is lost more often than it is found. If we are going to get out of the game of lost and found, we have to do something that the Sufis call dhikr or zikr, which is the practice of the remembrance of God.

The Sufis aren’t the only ones who talk about remembering God. This is a universal practice across the different wisdom traditions. But the Sufis have gone into this idea much deeper than many of the other traditions, and so this month we’re beginning the study of the Sufi wisdom tradition. Getting deeper into this sacred idea of zikr is very important. It is an essential subject for us, because the whole question of liberation from the ego drives revolves around whether you are able to remember God, and how deeply. What does that really mean, "remember"? When did you meet God in the first place? Many people will say: "How can I remember if He is a stranger to me?"

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But the Sufis, who are orthodox Muslims, have an answer to that. They remember the Shahada, the orthodox Islamic statement of faith: There is no God but God. God is defined as the One Real, the Supreme Real and the only Real, so there is nothing real but God. So how can you not remember God? If you are remembering anything that is Real, you are remembering God.

The problem is that the ego is not real. The ego is the forgetfulness of God. When we snap out of it, when we awaken from the trance of the ego, what we realize is that there is no "I" but God. What we thought of as our “I” was an illusion. The ego was falsely identified with a body and a mind and a personality. But that is not who I am. Those are merely sheaths surrounding the Self. In fact, I am He, I am The One; I am Allah. But it is not I the ego who can say that, it is not the “I” that is identified with an organism. But when that false self-image is let go of, there is awareness that the very capacity to remember means the capacity to re-member. In other words, we can make present again the power of the Real, the Shiva Lingam, that we have cut ourselves off from. This is the true origin of the castration complex. Freud was wrong, he did not look deeply enough within. It has nothing to do with the male member or its lack.

In that state of re-membering, then, the Infinite, the One Supreme Presence that we have always been, manifests instantly, in fact, the One is always already there. Thus, there is no need even to call or to invoke that Being. The one doing the invoking is not different from that ultimate One. But to get there, to have that realization, we have to go through layers and layers of distrust, because we’ve forgotten who we are. We must remember who we are as Spirit, as emanations of the One. Each of us is a microcosm of the one Macrocosmic Self, and we must know that before we can return to the bliss that comes with that re-membering.

So, how do we do that?

Well, the Sufis have developed a whole beautiful tradition of teaching stories. The stories are intended to shift your consciousness into re-membrance. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with their stories. Many of the traditions have created such tales. We’ve talked about a number of the Zen teaching stories; and there are the Hasidic Jewish teaching stories of the Baal Shem Tov. They are very famous. And there are, of course, the teaching stories of India. Those are very, very rich in spiritual insights. But the Sufi stories have their own unique structure and beauty, that I think is worth recognizing, understanding, and exploring a little bit, because they pattern the same formations of the unconscious mind that represent the lostness of one´s Being, so that one can allow that lostness to be witnessed and thus dissolved. We need to disidentify from the lostness of the ego. And so the stories often depict profound kinds of lostness, lostnesses that reflect our own. There are thousands of these stories, so I’ll pick one at random.

There is a disciple, although I’d call him a pseudo-disciple, of a great Sufi master. But this disciple doesn’t know that his teacher is a great master. In fact, he’s extremely critical of his master in his mind. He does not say it out loud, but in his mind he always thinks: “Oh, this master, he’s not very wise, his words are not wise enough; and his demeanor is not humble enough; and he’s not ascetic enough, and he’s not saintly enough, and he’s not, etc., etc., bla, bla, bla.”

So, this pseudo-disciple is very wishy-washy whether to trust the teacher or even go on his path. But one day the master says to him: “I want you to come with me on my next teaching journey because it will accelerate your progress.”

So the two of them set out on this journey. The master is going to visit all the different villages and towns in the area. This is the Middle East, and it is full of dry, desert terrain, so it is not an easy journey to make on foot. They are trudging along and one day, the disciple is very tired and hungry and in despair. It is after they have walked all day, through very, very rugged terrain, and it’s nightfall already. They’re tired, they’re exhausted, there is no food, they haven’t had water all day, and they are out in the desert alone.

But in the distance, they see a light, and they keep walking toward it. It turns out to be a little village, and there is only one light on, in the smallest hut at the edge of the town, that is obviously the home of people who are very, very poor. The travelers knock on the door and a very poor man comes out. He does not seem really old, he’s a middle-aged man. He comes out and he is smiling, one could tell this is a very beautiful soul, and he very sweetly invites them in and he gives them all of his food.

He doesn’t have very much, but he gives it all to them, and he lets them sleep in the one bed, he sleeps on the floor, and it’s the most wonderful generosity you could imagine. The Sufi master thanks him in the morning, they get dressed to go, and as he leaves the house, the master turns to the host, and says: “Blessings to you and your house.” And he turns to leave.

And immediately, the disciple is thinking: “What? You can’t do that!” He stops the master and whispers in his ear: “You’ve got to give him something! Give him some money! This mere blessing is not enough! You can’t just say blessings and leave!”

And the disciple goes on criticizing him and giving a sermon to the master, saying: “We must give all we can to those who help us. We must be generous and do all that we can for people, and you’re not doing enough....”

Finally the master says: “O.K., if you insist. We’ll see what happens.” And the Sufi master turns to the man and says: “In your garden, beneath the apple tree, there’s a buried treasure. Dig it up and you shall flourish.” And he turns and walks away and continues on his journey.

Well, the disciple is very curious, and he doesn’t know what to make of all this, but he has no choice, he also continues on the journey with the master. And they wander around for a year, visiting all the towns on the teaching circuit, and, one year to the day, they happen to come back to the same village.

But now everything is different! The little hut they were looking for, where the poor man used to live, is gone! And, in its place, is a gigantic palace. The man is now obviously very rich. They try to knock on the door but nobody answers. Soon, the door opens, but out come a group of thugs from the private army of the man who lives in the palace. They come and shoo them away. So the master and the disciple start talking to the townspeople. It turns out the people are all grumbling, they’re angry. The newly rich man has become a real oppressor. He has become a tyrant.

The master and the disciple keep getting more information about the man, from sources closer to his inner circle. They learn that the once-humble man they helped has been thoroughly manipulated by his advisors. They have taken over his business, and they’re controlling him. It is the advisors who have created the tyranny in this town.

Nearly everybody is suffering and oppressed. The disciple turns to the master and says: “You caused this. You knew that this oppression would happen.”

The master looked deeply into his eyes and suddenly laughed at him. The pseudo-disciple got a queasy feeling in his gut. He became dizzy. The master waved his hand in front of the disciple’s face, as if casting or removing a spell.

In an instant, the palace disappeared and the old hut was back. The disciple was in shock. He shook himself to make sure he was really seeing this. Yes, it was true. He suddenly realized that in fact a year had not gone by, it was the same moment in which they had originally left the poor kind man, a year earlier. And there was the poor, simple man, smiling and waving good-bye.

It was the same moment. The year and its events had not actually occurred, it had all been an illusion. The disciple was speechless; he did not know what to make of it. Suddenly, he felt a whirlwind of emotions. He wanted to demand an answer from the master as to what kind of trick he had pulled. So he turned back to the Sufi master to confront him. But the master had disappeared; he was not to be found. The disciple tried to run after him, down the trail, from one village to another. He needed to find him again but he never did. And they say that to this day the disciple’s spirit is still wandering, looking for the master.

So, you can make out of that story anything you want, but in any case, it portrays very deeply the lostness that comes from the lack of trust and the inability to go beyond one’s egoic categories of what is good and bad, and what is real and unreal. We must be willing to pierce the boundaries of our own matrix of pseudo-certainty to discover the Truth.

So tonight, let us go beyond whatever paradigms and matrices of thought that we have constructed about what is real and discover the Supreme Real that is within, that cannot be understood by the ego-mind; let us enter the Real that is the Ground of all phenomena, that is the eternal enigma, the great mystery, the ultimate mystery of the cosmos, and yet the most intimate mystery of the Self. This is the treasure that is always waiting for us to discover and to be found by, the treasure of peace, of love, and of realization of the perfection of all that is.



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