Tarighat: The Way
The following article first appeared in the journal Sufism: An Inquiry.
The search for an answer to solve the mystery of God and to understand the relationship between the human being and God has an ancient history. Every culture and every era has searched for answers, according to its scope of understanding and its fund of knowledge. The diversity of the world’s peoples and cultures has colored the results of this search, and as a result many different answers have been proposed. But when the human search for the Divine and its understanding steps back from the material world of sense perception, with all its limitations of time and place, and is directed instead toward an inward search, an inner quest to witness such understanding, then many similarities in method emerge between very different religions and belief systems.
The different systems of spirituality and religious belief have developed an esoteric dimension to their approach to solve the question of the Divine. They have crafted systems of an inner traveling as a way to understanding the reality of Being. This esoteric dimension reflects the dissatisfaction that conventional descriptive metaphysical theories of religion engender. No matter how much one may theorize from sense perception, no matter how carefully one may reason in constructing abstract systems of metaphysics, the spark of life remains elsewhere, for it is only to be found within. Typically, the esoteric dimension of religions has focused their search towards the practice of the ways of understanding, rather than reading and talking about them.
As history progressed, civilizations developed, and theories and practices found their chapter in the book of humanity; many of these practices and teachings of the inner journey of the schools of spirituality and faith found their rightful place in the book of cultures.
Many such systems emerged as a reaction towards the immorality of social conditions and the degradation of the established forms of religions. They arose in rebellion against the leaders’ fascination and desire for wealth and unlimited personal power, and in revolt over the cultures of self-indulgence that brought such leaders to the fore. This may be one of the reasons why most inner schools of religions have focused on piety, virtue, compassion, abandonment of the world, and freeing one’s self from the temptations of the world.
But merely to rebel against the world and turn inward is not enough. It may reveal spiritual advances, and it will bring a certain measure of inner freedom to the individual &emdash; but mere introspection cannot discover the truth of religion, any more than meditation on nothing can lead to the understanding of Being.
Those who search to find a way towards understanding the meaning of the Divine have developed their own way, their own tarighat, as the way towards the Divine. Their conceptions of the Divine differ. Yet it is of no surprise that many religions and belief systems focusing on inner traveling as a key to understanding God have found a degree of common ground &emdash;for example, in monotheism, the realization of the wholeness of Being &emdash;as well as similarities in practice differences make them independent and distinct from one another. The way that a person, a culture, or a nation develops the discipline to achieve given goals set in that religious belief system is tarighat, a journey taken by a traveler towards a destination. The ultimate destination can is to arrive at the gateway of the Real, the Truth, the Divine.
While the spiritual quest is a quest beyond national heritage, and inner traveling is not limited to anyone culture, yet Sufism was born from Islam, Zen developed through Buddhism, gnosticism from neo-Platonism through Christianity, and the Kabala from Judaism. Even though these and many other spiritual quests have similarities to one another, they are nonetheless also quite distinct from each other.
For a Sufi, the goal is self-discovery, and tarighat is a journey of the seekers stepping away from the covering of the self to approach its inward reality. Thus, tarighat necessitates taking a step from the world of possibilities to the Eternal world, from the finite to the infinite to discover the Divine within and without; to find the macrocosm of Self within the microcosm of one’s self.
There are many methods that may be used to assist in discovering the inner meaning of reality. Some find purification, abandonment of the world, the resistance of temptation, and reliance on the will of the Divine to be a way to discover reality. Others find meditation, prayers, and service as ways to find salvation.
During the course of history there have been many teachers who have found the way and applied the meaning of tarighat to their searching. Just as one grows in learning and wisdom, one also assumes responsibility for teaching and guiding ones’ society, so also these teachers began to teach and educate others of the ways towards the Divine, Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful. As time passed, many people gathered around them and a center of teaching emerged. Those teachers based their teachings on the principles of their own discovery and their understanding of the Divine. They taught a way towards Allah to those who were capable of understanding that way. Thus, their teachings were based on the principals that they had found and understood in order to be successful in their understating of Allah and the inner path.
Those teachers left their teachings as a gift among their students and those later generations who were interested in the pursuit of the Divine knowledge. These teachings are not labels or titles but the way, the teachings of those teacher. One cannot confuse the teachings of a teacher with his or her name. A student must have the honor to preserve the teachings of a teacher. Sometime we have seen that later generations might have gradually paid more attention to the names of the teachers rather than their teachings-the meaning of tarighat, the way, a way towards understanding the Divine.