Bayazid, the Sufi mystic


The great Bayazid, the Sufi mystic. When he was in his ecstasy of devotion, suddenly he shouted.  This tremendous shout came from within him, “Why do you seek God outside? Within this shirt there is nothing but God.” The disciples were horrified. This is blasphemy. When he came out of the ecstasy, they said to him, “Master, you said this”. He said, “Oh, I must not say that. If I say that again kill me. It’s blasphemy. No man can be God”.  So they said, “Yes.” Then the evening comes again, he passes into his ecstasy and the classic says, “The candle of his reason burning clearly…”  But when the sun rises you can’t see a candle. When the king, when the mighty emperor, comes, the town mayor creeps away into a corner. Again the ecstasy came and he shouts, “There’s none other but God here. Why seek thee elsewhere?” So some of the disciples who’d prepared their knives, they stabbed him, as he told them. But the knives turned in their hands and they stabbed themselves.  The classic says, “Half knowledge tied their hands and they just struck a weak blow, and the knives turned and they themselves were only wounded”. It says, “In the morning the ranks of the disciples were thinned”.

Now these are little hints expressed with great beauty in that mystical tradition of Islam. There is the duality, the man crying ‘Allah’, and the devil makes his comment, and he becomes broken-hearted and then the vision in the dream – “That cry of ‘Allah’ of thine is my ‘Here Am I’”.  These stories are most beautiful and they come from another tradition.  The immediate reaction when one’s in any system of training and you look at another one, it looks wonderful. Not with all the dreadful awful things that go on in one’s own, but so beautiful.  One teacher compares it.  He says, “It’s like when you go on holiday. You leave your place of work, where you’re working. That’s a nice place there, but you go.  You’ve saved up quite a bit of money and now you’re in some other place. You’re not working and you spend your time going round to the local beauties and you think, “Oh, this is heaven!”  He says, “It’s heaven because you’re not working to support it. Other people are working to support it. And the people there, they don’t think it’s heaven. They’re working to support it. They want to come to where you live and they think ‘This is the place’.”

One of the most beautiful places in Japan is called Matsushima. Poets and artists go there. It’s volcanic and there are islands in the sea, and they say all the beauties of the world can be found in Matsushima.  Poets and artists take a little boat and they go out.  There’s one account given, which I’ve read, where a party of them did this and they were in ecstasy.  The boat boy took them round and showed them the great sights where the rock comes out in an arch and you see the blue sea and the pine through it.  The artists were making sketches and the poets were making little notes.  They had a wonderful time. When they came back, they gave the boy a very good tip and one of them said to him, “My boy you live in heaven”. “Yes, yes”. “Is there anything you’d like to ask us?”  He said, “Oh yes. Is it true there’s a mile of neon lights in Tokyo?”  We see another tradition and we think it’s like a holiday.

Now this wonderful Sufi tradition – not having to use your own judgement about your training but to be told by revelation from God.  Some of them say, in some religions, that reasons are given for the commands of God and they are favourable for you. The diet rules have a hygienic basis. So, you do them to obey God, yes but also you’re benefitting yourself. But in this one, the commands are given, with no reason. And so our egoity is lost because we have no self-interest whatever.  We do this simply because God has revealed this as his command. Well, this sounds wonderful. Free from the egoistic calculating, “Will this suit me.  Should I do this and how much should I do?”  “Use your reason? No! Simply obey.”  “Wonderful”. But if someone were actually to go into the desert and meet a teacher there, one might have a little surprise. You might look at him and see that his forehead was pitted with scars and bumps.  The disciple tells you that in Islam the forehead goes on the ground – not just bows.  The forehead is on the ground and this master, this teacher, rubs his forehead on the ground, so the whole of the forehead is pitted and scarred.  This is his total abasement before God. “Oh! I could do this [touching], but that [rubbing], that’s simply harming – a mild sort of injury to yourself, isn’t it? There’s no point in it, is there? The Koran just says the forehead on the ground but this, this rubbing in abasement, I mean, it goes against the grain somehow. One feels it’s wrong”. And the disciple says, “Well, God’s command or your forehead, which?” “Perhaps I won’t go into that tradition.  Perhaps the rational Buddhist tradition might be a lot better.”

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Hearts of Religion

Part 2: There is a problem in religion

Part 3: Bayazid, the Sufi mystic

Part 4: The Self is what is confronts God

Part 5: Keep on keeping on

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