The foundation of Suluk is the Core Training—a two-year program of study currently offered in the U.S. and Europe. The following is a transcript from an introductory talk that Pir Zia Inayat-Khan gave to a Core Training class in 2010. He talks about the inner and outer structure of the Suluk Core Training. Before reading this, you may want to learn about the Core Training Program in general.
Jesus, peace be upon him, said, of all of the commandments of the Bible, two are paramount: Love the Lord with all of your mind and all your heart and all of your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. The vertical dimension, to love God, to approach God, and the horizontal dimension, to love one's neighbor. Ultimately the two are inextricable; the center of yourself, the divine center, is also the center of every being. As it is said in the old saying, God is a circle, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
Suluk is a journey to the center of that circle; a center that is already present but which is obscured by our identification with a dimension of our being which is true and yet it is incomplete. We are seeking completeness. We are seeking wholeness. We are seeking integration, the integration of the eternal and infinite, and the ephemeral—the integration of heaven and earth. So this is not a path of rejection, of turning away, but it is a path of inclusion, of affirming and uniting all dimensions of reality.
In this course we will be following first and foremost the teachings of Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan. The Suluk Academy is dedicated to cultivating the essential practice, the essential teachings that Murshid offered, and doing so according to the form that he taught. Murshid's teaching is extraordinary in that it contains the freedom that each seeker may apply the teaching that is relevant to him or her at the particular moment of his or her passage through a certain stage of life; but also the teaching has a certain form in itself, a form that we will all experience over these next months. One of the ways to describe this form is that it is a passage through four stages.
The first stage is dedicated to the practice of concentration. Concentration means learning to silence the tongue, to still the mind, to sit in a upright and yet relaxed position, and for the mind to begin to become calm and clear. When a body of water, a pond or lake, becomes calm and clear, it reflects an image clearly. If the water is turbulent, no clear reflection is possible. So, the first task is to calm the body and the mind and to cultivate the capacity to hold a single image, a single thought with clarity and precision. This is of course the development of a very natural capacity of mind, and yet for some reason we are not taught this method in our ordinary lives. In our schooling we are not taught peace of mind, concentration.
The second stage is contemplation. This means that not only do we hold an image in our mind, but we hold with clarity, with focus, and with depth an inner process. Not a static image, but a dynamic inner process. Not an arbitrary, random process, conditioned by our continuous bombardment by random associations, but rather a process of internal deepening where we increasingly descend from the superficial level of consciousness into deeper and deeper strata of mind, discovering the undercurrents of our conscious thoughts. That is contemplation. Exploring the divine qualities in our thoughts, in our personalities. Finding the root of our motivations, finding that all of our impulses, however seemingly arbitrary or destructive, have a divinely ordained powerful and deep motive force. We discover this through the practice of contemplation.
Meditation goes still further. In meditation not only is there no image, there is no content whatsoever. Meditation is pure mind; mind witnessing itself, pure presence without object. In ordinary knowledge the knower confronts the known. In meditation the knower and the known are identical. This is the essence of peace, transcendence. But it is not the final stage of our journey.
The further stage Murshid calls realization, and that is when we return to our outer senses. We return to relationships, commitments, our profession, our engagement in creating what my father used to call a beautiful world of beautiful people. And this is possible when the depths of meditative peace are united with the active use of the senses, the awakened conscience, and a fine sensitivity to every being who comes into our field of awareness.
So these four stages will be the landscape through which we move. The way that we are undertaking the study is different from an academic study. We are not collecting information. So the means of receiving the teachings will also be different.
Sufism is not any kind of escapism into an intricate metaphysics. As an early Sufi said, “at-tasawwuf kullahu adab kullahu akhla”—“Sufism is entirely a fine manner”—a manner of reciprocity, beneficence, a manner in which the divine is seen truly in every soul. To see the humanity of a person and at the same time the divinity of a person, to be seen in one’s divinity and in one’s humanity, and to build a community from those perceptions, that is the essence of the vision of the Sufis.
There will be other times in the afternoon, in the mentor groups where there is more opportunity for exchange, conversation, questions, and so forth. And then there comes a time toward the end of the day when you will meet in pods, and these pods are a full expression of the horizontal dimension. It is really here that our spiritual unfoldment, our awakenings and realizations meet the test of life. This transformative process does not occur in a vacuum. It occurs in real life, in dialog with, in confrontation with others who are going through a similar process. Over the years I have heard many times that this is the hardest part of the course. But I have also heard many times that it can be the most meaningful part of the course.
The mentors offer a contribution which over the course of time over the years in the development of Suluk we have more and more appreciated as vital and central. Or maybe the most central because it is the mentors that are closest to you in the sense that as this large group breaks down into the small groups. The mentors are entrusted with attending to your progression through the teachings and the transformative effect of those teachings upon you. So the mentors are attentive to your process, responsive to what you have to say and ask, whereas the faculty will be changing throughout the course the mentor will be constantly there for you.
We have seen over the years that the role has not always been an easy one. The mentors are sometimes up late into the night and whenever class is not in session there is always work behind the scenes—questions, needs and so forth—and yet sometimes the mentors are not seen in the way that Murshid has urged us to see them, which is as expressions of the Murshid function.
This function is revealing itself in different capacities in the school, in the direct transmissions in the morning but also in the dialogue and the friendship. That word is particularly important. For the friendship that is offered by the mentor is another aspect of the Murshid function. And then when you have your small group meetings of the pods, the Murshid is present there also in the wisdom that comes through the encounter and interaction between all of you. The spirit of guidance is very present.
I think you will discover that increasingly as the level of trust, solidarity, friendship develops, the interrelationships become a source of tremendous inspiration. So the Murshid is present in all of these different capacities: in the historical figure of our Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan; in the continuity of his legacy through the transmission of the teachings in the morning; in the friendship and dialogue and discussion that happens in mentor groups; and then the heart to heart communion between the pods. All different phases of one transmission, one teaching.
Murshid himself has said that this teaching has its different modes. One mode is the receptive mode which is when one simply, like the Crescent moon, opens oneself to receive the teaching; suspending judgement, suspending criticism and the conditioning of one's education and acculturation simply to receive.
Then there is another aspect of the spiritual study—assimilation. Receptivity is purely passive but assimilation requires that you engage with the teaching that you digest it, consider and reflect upon it, apply to different facets of life. Make it your own, so to speak, so it is not something that is only handed to you from someone else or from the past but it becomes living in your experience because you can see its relevance to your opportunities and challenges day by day moment by moment. That is assimilation and that is the large part of what's happening in the mentor groups—taking the teachings and examining them through the lens of our own experience.
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What I really love about Suluk Academy is that it’s the opportunity to work with a very dynamic process, and very beautiful people who are dedicated to the spiritual life—who are willing to go through inner transformation.
— Aziza Scott