Monday, February 27, 2006

Harshness with friends

Shams Tabrizi insists on the importance of showing severity to the student, in order to drive away hypocrisy and to show them the truth of their state. Everyone wants to be praised. As long as you praise them, they like you, and when you criticize them they hate you. You should find a teacher who will criticize you, so that you know the truth and correct yourself. By acting cruelly to someone, you help him become more perfect. By praising them you only lead them further into error. However, this severity is only the outer appearace. Shams Tabrizi says that your essence has to be Gentleness, like God whose essence is Gentleness. In fact it is this Gentleness that causes the outward severity. Severity is gentleness because it is for your sake. It perfects you and pushes you forward. It also tests you and tests your sincerity on the path. If you do not accept severity then you're only a pretender, you're not sincere in your quest, and you're not willing to go through any trouble for it. After all, a child will love you if you are gentle with him. Be cruel to him and he will run away from you. But a real man will stay with the shaikh even if he treated him severely, because he knows that he is bringing him benefit and sees that he is instilling the secret in him. Shams compares it to the siraat al-mustaqeem: a sharp sword surrounded by hell. Once you cross it, you're in Heaven for ever.

"I've said it a thousand times: Whenever I love someone, I act cruelly toward him. For a tiny slip, I gave him a hundred thousand retributions. As for the others, I don't call them to account for a mountain of sins... Don't you see that all the tribulations of the prophets and the saints were because they were His elect? " - pg 289

"Whenever I love someone, I bring forth cruelty. If he accepts that, I belong to him like a morsel. I mean, if you act with kindliness toward a five-year old child, he believes in you and loves you. It's cruelty that does the work." - pg 281

"I had a group of students. Out of kindness and good advice, I spoke cruelly to them. They used to say, 'When we were children with him, he never called us by these bad names. Maybe he's become melancholic.' I used to smash all that kindness." - pg 7

these are just quick quotes. He focuses on this a lot, and it's a theme continually repeated in his maqalaat (sayings). You'd have to read the whole thing to get a better idea of the whole philosophy and truth of it. I'm just quoting the outer "result", the action.

of course there must be gentleness too. It's just that people only want gentleness and flee from severity. There must be each in its proper place. Shams compares it to grapes that are not yet ripe. They must be alternated between the clouds and direct sunlight. The sun is needed so the grapes dont whither, and the clouds so that the grapes dont burn. Before they become sweet, the grapes would be ruined by cold weather. But after they are perfected and ripe and sweet, it doesnt matter even if they're covered in snow. (pg 118)

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