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M.T.O. Sufism® teaches principles of Sufism that facilitate the journey of self-knowledge. The journey to one’s inner realm and the state of one’s soul is called Sayr-va-Solouk.   The spiritual teacher, known as the Pir, meaning “the light of the path,” guides the seeker through this journey of Self-knowledge. The guiding light of the teacher illuminates the seeker’s path, and enables him to overcome the obstacles on this journey. In Kanzol-Soluk (Wealth of Cognition) (33-34), the present Sufi Master of the M.T.O. School of Sufism®, Hazrat Salaheddin Ali Nader Angha, presents the eight principles of Sufism as follows:

Zikr to remember  –  remembering God at all times
Fikr to think, meditate  –  being in the state of awareness and wondering
Sahar to awaken  –  awakening of soul and body
Jui’ to hunger  –  having exterior hunger (mind) and interior hunger (heart) to obtain the truth and to persist in the search
Somt to observe silence  –  ceasing to think and talk about worthless things
Saom to fast  –  fasting of body from food, mind from attachments, and soul from desires
Khalvat to observe solitude  –  praying in solitude, externally and internally
Khidmat to serve  –  dissolving in the Truth of the master and dissolving in the Truth of existence, God.

These principles facilitate the journey of self-knowledge. First, the seeker of Truth becomes more in control of all natural appetites, desires, and dependencies (physical, mental, emotional, etc.). As a result, the seeker feels an inward release and a sense of balance, freedom and peace. The constant external attractions that pulled him in different directions no longer control him.

The Pir enables the seeker to liberate himself from the layers of ignorance and misteachings, and leads him through the seven stages of the heart from the stage of genuine yearning for love and knowledge to the highest stage of unity and annihilation. By observing the above principles, the seeker undergoes various stages of purification where the veils of the unknown are lifted. With faith and knowledge, the seeker attests to the Oneness of God and the Unity of Existence.

The Sufis have described the states of the heart in respect to the seven heavenly spheres. The Sufi poet Attar, in a richly allegorical poem called The Conference of the Birds, describes the mystical pilgrimage as a quest that begins with the removal of all earthly desires, then progresses through love, knowledge, and a sense of amazement, and ultimately to annihilation, which is uniting with God.

The story recounts the longing of a group of birds who desire to know the great Simorgh, the beloved king. The birds under the guidance of a leader (Hoopoe) with passion and enthusiasm start their journey toward the land of Simorgh. But one by one, they drop out of the journey, each offering an excuse and unable to endure the journey. Eventually only thirty birds or si morgh (in Persian) remain as they finally pass through the Seven Valleys and arrive in the land of Simorgh. They seek permission to see the Simorgh, but their request is turned down. The thirty birds, or si morgh, in love and rapture annihilate and die from their physical realm, and enter the realm of their soul. To their amazement, there they realize that in fact the great Simorgh they have been seeking all along is their own true identity. In other words, the Simorgh or the truth is the si morgh or the reality of the thirty birds. They realize this has been a journey of self-knowledge for them to discover their truth.

In this story, the hoopoe who leads the birds is used as an allegory of a Sufi master leading his pupils to enlightenment. The birds must cross seven valleys in order to find the Simorgh. These valleys represent the stages that a seeker of the truth must pass through in order to cognize God through cognizing his/her true self.

In Al Rasa’el: The Light of Salvation 106-110), Hazrat Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha refers to the seven stages of the heart in the following poem:

In the Kingdom of heart, seven stages there are:

That the seeker of Truth must go, through them all.

The first stage is to seek and Yearn,

With hardship and pain, he may earn.

Faith is the heart’s second stage,

Its essence is eternal knowledge.

The third stage is that of love,

Mirror aglow with the light of Love.

One with existence the seeker becomes,

In this stage, a witness of Truth he becomes.

The fifth stage is that of Unity,

Brilliant as the sun the particle will be.

The sixth stage is that of Ecstasy,

Full of Wonder the seeker will be.

The seventh stage is Annihilation and poverty,

God will manifest in all to you.

In eternal peace thy heart shall live,

When the seventh stage, thy home, is reached.

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References:

Angha, Salaheddin Ali Nader.  Kanzol-Soluk.  Tehran, Iran: MTO Publications, 1986.

Attar, Farid ud-Din.  The Conference of the Birds.  New York: Penguin Press, 1984.

Angha, Shah Maghsoud Sadegh. Al-Rasael: The Light of Salvation.  Tehran: M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi Publications, 1987.