So you want to become a Sufi - challenging Beliefs
How do you become a Sufi? Sufism is such a tenuous concept, what with all the different Orders, beliefs, techniques and requirements that often contradict each other. Now I look back, and I discover more about my own training, I realise that I had a classical training from Punditt. So here is my potted history and requirements for becoming a Sufi:
Have respect for the religion you were born into. Respect those who believe in that religion. Respect those who are agnostic. Respect the religion and beliefs you currently hold. Are you prejudiced against a particular faith, a nationality, or the colour of someone’s skin? How tolerant are you to the foibles and shortcomings of people you know, and those you do not?
My experience is that whatever you believe now, it will change, and there are times when you will find yourself coming closer to your original beliefs.
Learn as much as possible about the beliefs and religion you were born into. Explore other faiths, beliefs and philosophies. Having a range of ideas about the nature of man, religion and God will help you on the Path. Continue this process as you progress on the Sufi Path.
Read a range of religious books such as the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita, etc. Pray daily and often. You can use the Lord’s Prayer, or the Sura Fatiha, or other inspirational prayer. Visit religious or spiritual buildings such as Churches, Mosques, and other Temples, and ancient spiritual sites. Associate with spiritually minded people (they do not have to have the same beliefs as you). Practice yoga and or meditation, individually and in groups. Learn about spiritual or holistic healing practices. Become a healer. Improve your education. Do charity work in some form. Do not boast about your charity work.
Believing and defending your beliefs
How deeply do you hold your beliefs? Are you willing to stand up and defend them? Are you willing and able to change your beliefs when required? Are you aware of inconsistencies in your beliefs? Do you regularly challenge and question your beliefs? Do you regularly reformulate your beliefs? Are you willing to find and embrace concepts and beliefs that have the potential to shake your belief system to the core? Are you willing to shake your belief system to the core? Do you see self-doubt as an opportunity to grow, or do you bury those doubts?
Although Sufism is clearly associated with Islam, you do not have to convert to Islam, nor do you have to dress in or live the customs of Islam. You do not have to dress like a Sufi. It is better to continue to dress and behave as you would normally.
Diet. Vegetarianism is not a requirement of becoming a Sufi. Most Moslems eat meat. Eating halal food is a good idea - I do it myself, but not exclusively. My teacher drank alcohol, and so I did too. These days I drink moderately, and my teacher is teetotal.
Finding a Sufi Master
This can take a lifetime. I was lucky to find mine by the time I was about 24, but it took a long time for me to really believe that I had found him. For a while I believed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was my Guru. Sufi Masters can be found in all walks of life all around the world. Most of these Masters are false. It is the easiest thing in the world to pretend to be a Guru. Gather around you an adoring group of acolytes who laugh at your jokes, explain away your foibles, reinterpret your sayings… the list goes on. A good Sufi Master is often hell to be with. He will mercilessly chip away at your character defects, your inadequate grasp of philosophy, your weaknesses mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. You will be standing in front of him naked and exposed for the most part.