heard of the three R's - reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic. In the
following discourse, Sheikh Din Muhammad Abdullah al-Dayemi explains
the three R's of spiritual life - Remembrance, Recognition and
Realization. This is the process of realizing our True Self - the God
that dwells within each of us.
A few years back I gave a series of talks
about the "Three R's" of spiritual life.
You remember in grammar school how there was
Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic?
We have three R's too, and it seems with what
people are going through right now, it would be an appropriate time to
review them. The Three R's of spiritual life in our School are
Remembrance, Recognition and Realization.
In our conversations we are constantly
referring to remembrance - our first R. Our journal is even called
"Divine Remembrance." The dhikr, when we get together to chant Allah's
names, is translated to mean "Divine Remembrance." During our prayer we
pray, "Lord, let us be in remembrance of You." It is difficult to be in
remembrance unless we know what it is. What exactly do we mean by
There is a certain "worldly remembrance"
before one can come into spiritual or "Divine Remembrance." So let us
say that with the first R, there are two distinct parts. The first part
of remembrance is the recovery of what has happened to us, either real
or perceived, that formed the impressions that we have of ourselves.
Much later in our spiritual effort, our enlightenment and realization
will cause us to remember our True Nature, True Path, True Purpose and
True Self. But how is it we could have higher and more subtle
realizations of Truth if we have lost touch with the simple emotional
and psychological mechanisms that record the historical impressions
which have formed our basic habits and attitudes - our personality?
There is a frequent interaction in people's
communications that I have witnessed. I'll be really interested in
someone and how they're doing and will simply ask, "So, how are you
feeling?" One of two things generally happens at that point, sometimes
both, one after the other. Their mind goes blank, they look stunned and
they can't say anything - as if they don't know what to say or even
what you're talking about. The other thing that can happen is they
start talking about all kinds of other things that aren't feelings at
all and have nothing to do with the subject.
"Okay. Let's stop," I say. "How are you
feeling?" Then the same interaction occurs again. Then a third time.
Generally at this point the person will ask, "What do you mean, 'How am
I feeling?'" Well it's simple. It's in plain English. "How are you
feeling?" I belabor this because it points to how out of touch we are
with ourselves. It can be very hard for us to even know, let alone
express, how we are feeling in the moment.
You have surely had the experience after
something has occurred and you've reviewed it in your mind away from
the pressure of the circumstance that you think to yourself, "Oh I
could have done that! I should have said that!" Whatever that is.
But look how far away we are from ourselves,
in the moment, as things are taking place right in front of us. As
things are happening to us in the present moment, where is our presence?
What are we feeling? Why do we act or react
in the manner in which we do?
If this phenomenon continues over the course
of the uncountable moments of our lives, then we have literally lost
touch with ourselves. We've lost touch with our personal expression and
personal direction. Who have we been, and what have we been doing for
thirty or forty years? What has kept us "occupied," and who is that
Consider this. There is a person (you) who
has lived a whole life story for twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years
perhaps. Can you remember? Do you know (remember) the truly significant
things in life that have impacted you, that helped to form the
impressions of who you think you are now? I am not suggesting a process
of psychoanalysis or mental analyzing, but the first part of
remembrance is something that is much more important and profound than
all of that.
The first part of remembrance is the
re-establishment of presence and the recall of what has actually
affected me - that which has formed me. We are so often out of touch
with it. How did I get here? What do I feel? What imprints have been
left upon me? How do I respond to those imprints? Oh! No wonder I act
the way I do in certain situations. No wonder I respond the way I do in
other situations. No wonder I like the things that I like and am
repulsed by those which I do not. Where did I get these opinions and
judgments? This is the process of first remembering the "individual
self." This process may bring about all kinds of reactions and
The second part to remembrance is spiritual
or "Divine Remembrance," i.e., Who am I ... really? What is my purpose?
Who is the True Self? The first part of the remembrance exercise starts
to answer the question "Who do I think I am?" because it has me recall
the imprinting that's taken place upon me. But that remembrance is not
nearly deep enough. Now we must get to who it is that I really am.
Where did the "I" come from? Unless I go into that part of remembrance,
I will never know my True Self.
Let us use an analogy to describe the two
parts of remembrance. I am presently sitting on a wooden platform, a
dais. It is made out of plywood. The plywood is comprised of pine
covered by an oak veneer. Pine and oak are particular kinds of wood.
The platform has been shaped to fit into the corner of two walls like a
large step. What makes this platform a dais? Is that who it is? Where
did this platform come from? Does it remember being a tree? It was two
types of trees as a matter of fact.
If the dais wants to know who it is, it will
have to first remember that it was cut down from trees, and that it was
shaved, shaped and molded; it was fashioned together and hammered,
glued, stained and stuck into a wall.
Most times we don't even remember that about
ourselves. We just assume the form that we're in, and take it for
granted. We are just living life, driving our car, going to our job,
taking care of our kids, getting up in the morning, eating breakfast,
turning on the radio, watching our favorite television program, and if
we're lucky, we make it to nighttime and kiss our loved one before
going to bed. If we've still got a loved one. Who questions? These
actions are a result of the gluing, shaping, hammering and the pounding
that has been done upon us. We just go along with the program - we're
in it. As a matter of fact, we think we are it.
The second question is "Who am I really?" It
is easy for us to answer in this analogy, "The wooden dais is really a
tree, and it grew out of the ground in a forest."Who am I really? Where
did I come from? We are like the Rumi poem that mentions the hollow
reed flute trying to remember that it was cut from the marsh. Why does
it wail so when you play it? It moans and wails because it longs for
its real home. Who are we really? Where did we come from? The wooden
dais was growing in a forest somewhere at sometime and was a mighty
tree. Where is its real home?
Remembrance is this process. It's an
exhausting process. We have to go through it over and over and over
because of the many layers of false self. How many layers are there in
this piece of plywood? Many. Who knows? That's what makes it "plywood."
Between each layer is glue that keeps it stuck in its form.
How many nails are in this platform? How much
trim is on it? How long will it sit in the mosque and meditation room?
How many layers do we have to go through to get in touch with those
things that left their impressions on our Essential Self, and how much
stuff do we have to sort through to find the remembrance of who we
really are and where we really came from?
After we work with Remembrance, we come to
the second R, "Recognition." Recognition has two different levels to it
as well. Okay, I am starting to remember who I am. Now I stand squarely
and see my stuff clearly. Seeing is one form, one level of recognition.
Seeing what is "as it is," without being out-in-front of or behind
yourself. Without going faster or slower than necessary. Without
apologizing, embellishing, making it look better or worse and without
being self-consumed. Simply recognizing your stuff "as it is" is the
first point of recognition. Show up - really show up with all of your
bags. Put them down and see what's in them. You can do this after
experiencing remembrance, and the recognition of your issues won't have
nearly the charge that it used to.
If you are lost not knowing who you are and
can't remember what's happened to you to get you here, and if you don't
know where you are going and why you are going, you'll get a big charge
over the stuff that's in your bags as you sort through them. "Oh yeah!
I remember that song. That was the summer that I got my first kiss. I
remember this shirt; my mother gave it to me." This is nostalgia, and
it is a form of attachment. It is not the type of recognition that I'm
teaching. I'm talking about arriving at and then arising to a simple
and straightforward recognition: this is my stuff (the issues of my
life); this is my story. Everybody's got a story; everybody's got bags,
and everybody's bags are packed with their stuff. I recognize this and
get to work unpacking my bags without unnecessary fanfare and
Recognition - these (my issues) are what I've
got to work on. This is my set. Nobody's are any better or any worse.
Nobody is any worse-off, nobody is any better-off. Believe me. Nobody
has a better or worse story than somebody else. Everybody in this
circle has got a horror story to tell about how hard life is, how
painful it is, how intense it is to get over, and what a champion
effort they have gone through to deal with it. As well as, everyone can
tell the story of some kind of glory, of what they've glimpsed, what
they've seen, and what they really know to be Truth and Light. Take a
good honest look at your stuff. That's the first part of recognition.
Square-shouldered. Clear-visioned. Head-on.
When I'm able to do that, I can begin the
second part of recognition. Where am I going? What is my goal? What is
my purpose? One must have recognition of that in order to realize it.
By integrating the two parts of recognition,
I am able to compare my actual condition to ultimately how I want to
be. This is how I am now. However, I recognize what I must become.
Understanding the nature of the path towards the direction of the goal
requires recognition. Once I put the two pieces of recognition together
with the two pieces of remembrance, I will start to develop a sense of
myself as a whole.
The first part of remembrance is: how you got
this way - the reasons for your habits, attitudes and opinions, i.e.,
family history, culture, religion, schooling, relationships, marriages
and peer groups. Examine this list closely and recognize that these
things are only the influences that have formed the impressions of
identity upon you. Begin to remember. Go deeper than the impressions to
see that these things are not really you. Recognize clearly that what
you have been calling "me" is not you! Don't you feel that you are a
being of something greater? Now recognize the path towards the goal,
i.e., where you really want to be. You will find out that where and how
you truly want to be, who you really are, is the same thing as your
remembrance of what you originally used to be and from where you
originally came. Not the stuff. The recognition of my goal is virtually
the same thing as the remembrance of who I really am.
The third R is realization. Real learning,
real understanding doesn't come from the collection of intellectual
data. We all know that there's a big difference between knowing about
something and knowing it directly. True knowing is in being and
experiencing. Philosophy conjectures what might be possible,
realization confirms the Reality as an experience. There's a difference
between actually smelling the scent of a rose and reading a whole book
of poetry about the beautiful rose by someone who smelled one. Do you
know what makes the rose poetry beautiful? It is after you've already
smelled one for yourself that you can remember and recognize the
essence of the rose through the recall of your direct experience.
Sometimes poetry and scripture help us to
stoke the fire of our personal desire to search out the scent of the
rose essence for our selves. However, on this Path, in this School, the
proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Realization is the direct
experience, the direct knowing of the object of Divine Remembrance.
Recognize that the things that you truly know
in your life are so core to your understanding that you don't think
about them any more. You've "got it" to quote famous expression. Direct
knowledge - gnosis. Direct intuitive connection.
Those of us who have raised children remember
certain basics that are either good for kids or bad for kids. This
knowledge doesn't have to be run through an analysis process. A parent
just knows it. Like the reality of "hot." You don't have to figure out
what hot is to know it burns. Hot is always realized through direct
experience by touching something hot. Although the parent would never
want the child harmed, the baby learns it fast, knows it and remembers
it. Hot! It doesn't take any figuring out. Realization is like that -
We pursue the process of uncovering, then we
come face-to-face with that which we want to know within ourselves. The
reason for spiritual work is to develop the process of how to get there
- realization. Spiritual doctrines never really argue whether the idea
of spiritual realization exists or not. Universally the various
spiritual paths accept that the realization of God takes place within,
and that God is within the heart and soul of everyone. The idea of
Realization is already accepted, whether it is predicated on this life
or the hereafter.
However, the path of spirituality asks us,
"How are you going to travel to the realization?" What is your process?
It's not so absurd to ask the dais platform, "If you are really a tree
that's in the forest, how will you return and become reunited with that
The miracle about human beings is that we can
go through the process of remembering, recognizing and realizing while
we are still alive and conscious. We can actually return, through
remembrance and through recognition, to our original and essential
station - the True Self that we remember ourselves to be. We can have
the recognition of what has formed us and who we really are.
If you were to draw a circle on a piece of
paper, upon completing the circle, you could put your pencil down at
any point on the circle, and that would be the start point or the end
point of the circle. Our goal is no different than from where we came.
But it's the realization of it in this life that is the special
opportunity of living.
Realization requires that one is extinguished
in the process of direct experience. Realization won't come from a
book, although books can inform us. It won't come from another person,
although another person can guide us. It won't be done for us, although
we will get assistance and grace along the way.
Recognize that your whole life is a set-up to
put you into direct experience to help you have the realization of what
you long to remember - your purpose, your origin, your destination.
Recognize the difference between what is eternal and that which is
temporal, between what is important and that which is insignificant,
between that which is permanent and that which is changing.
As you engage in the process of remembrance,
you'll sort through the many layers of ideas and projections about
yourself. As you go through the process of recognition, you will see
your personal issues, what you've given power to. As you go through the
deeper levels by the process of remembrance, you'll have a feeling that
you are greater than simply the things that have taken place to you. As
you go through the greater process of recognition, you will become
identified with and centered on your absolute goal. Become one-pointed.
As these elements come together, you will have the direct experiential
realization in your own heart of who you are, the True Self and some
piece of what we call God/Allah.