In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful
In our day and age, many are trying to “be different.” Whether in a singing competition, or anywhere else, many people value being different. Indeed, diversity is very important, and it is – in fact – a miracle of God according to the Qur’an:
And among His miracles is the creation of the Heavens and the earth and the diversity in your tongues and colors. Verily in this are signs for those who know (30:22)
Yet, that is not what Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is about. He is all about unity.
Unity of the heart, that is.
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D. is a Sufi teacher in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order. Born in London in 1953, he has followed the Naqshbandi Sufi path since he was nineteen. He succeeded Irina Tweedie, who brought this branch of Sufism to the West, and moved to Northern California where he founded the Golden Sufi Center. Dr. Vaughan-Lee will be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on “Super Soul Sunday” on March 4, to be aired at 11am ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
Dr. Vaughan-Lee is the author of several books, specializing in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of Jungian Psychology. For the past 12 years, the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and an awakening global consciousness of oneness, in other words, unity.
“The Sufi is a traveler on the path of love,” says Vaughan-Lee, “a wayfarer journeying back to God through the mysteries of the heart.” What he calls the “unity of the heart” is ” the greatest human secret,” and he says that Sufis are also known as “people of the secret.” Within the heart, “we are united with God,” and “the mystical journey is a process of uncovering, or ‘unveiling’ our essential oneness with the divine.”
The Golden Sufi Center lists 31 Beliefs and Ethics of the Naqshabandi path, and many of them include dhikr or the “remembrance of God.” Naqshabandi dhikr is done silently, because “the silent dhikr produces in the heart an intense and imperishable impression (naqsh = ‘impression, print'; band = ‘to bind, to fasten’).” Travelers on this path are ordinary people, and among their followers are people of many faiths and traditions, believing that “all [their] activities, day by day, minute by minute, should be in surrender to the will of the Beloved.”
Sufis on this path also have Eleven principles, among them “solitude in the crowd” and “awareness of one’s state of mind/time.” Says Dr. Vaughan-Lee:
In our daily life we should aim to live with remembrance of God, with a relationship to the sacred that is within everything. We should aspire to bring our innermost relationship with God into all aspects of life, loving and caring for our family, community and environment. Through the difficulties and demands of everyday life we try to make the journey from our ordinary state of forgetfulness of God, to continual remembrance of God.
And once traveler reaches and achieves union with the Beloved, she then reaches the “station of servanthood,” where “the Sufi aspires to be God’s servant here in this world, in service to the Beloved and all of creation. Sufis are involved in humanity, ‘bearing the heat and burden of the day,’ bringing light and love where they are needed.”
I like that aspect very much, and it calls to mind this tradition of the Prophet Muhammad in which he said, “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.”
“How does one get to know the Beloved?” I asked him. That is one of the main purposes of my life, in fact, is living to get to know my Lord, whom – interestingly – I also call “Beloved,” the “Precious Beloved.” His answer struck me deeply, his being completely correct notwithstanding:
It is said that “no one knows God but God” and “God is beyond even our idea of the beyond.” So from this perspective no one can come to know the Beloved.
Yet, that is not the end of it:
However through the journey of the heart and the power of love the mystic comes to experience the Beloved as He reveals Himself within our heart. Sufis use the power of love to dissolve the veils that separate us from God, stripping away the coverings of our ego-self to reveal the divine that is within us. We come to know the Beloved’s all-embracing love, the tenderness and power of divine love that infuses every cell of existence as well as within our own heart. We also come to know God’s divine oneness both within the heart and also experienced outwardly in creation. Other divine qualities may also be revealed within the heart, of the one who has given him or herself in love and surrender to God.
Yet, still, I asked Dr. Vaughan-Lee the ultimate question: why this whole thing about “oneness?’ “Oneness is a divine quality that is a central experience in Sufism,” he told me. “The Sufi experiences the unity of God in the inner and outer world,” and he then quoted the Quran: “Wheresoever you turn, there is the face of God.” And even though there is great merit in our “diversity,” in our being “different,” there is still a need for “oneness”:
We are living at a time of great changes and global turmoil, but also an awakening global unity. Ecologically, financially, and in so many other ways we are waking up to the awareness that we are all interconnected: nothing is separate, nothing is isolated. Humanity and the rest of the world are part of one living interconnected whole. And yet at the same time the world appears very divided, even polarized, along many different lines, politically, economically, religiously. The mystic has always known of the primal oneness that belongs to humanity, both in our relationship with God and in the outer world. Mystics have carried this secret of divine oneness for centuries, and now there is a pressing need for this understanding of oneness to be made known, to become part of our collective consciousness.
“Only from a perspective of oneness,” says Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee,” can humanity solve today’s global problems. I pray that his contributions will help enrich the quest for a better humanity and a more peaceful world.