The familiar concept of raja yoga means colloquially the royal unity and is identical with the form of spiritual practice considered to be the highest and most perfect path of development. Sufi tariqah simply means the path of purity or wisdom, because the concept of sufi comes from safa, which means insight or intuition, as well as purity from distinctions and disputes that avert peace and quietness of the spirit. Raja Yoga is also royal knowledge.
The heart as a spiritual centre in the teachings of yogis is compared to a rose flower with twelve petals, each of which symbolizes the next level of initiation into the spiritual mystery. Similar visions are stretched by the sages of the Sufi spiritual tradition. Raja yoga is considered the highest of the four available paths of spiritual development in the dark age called kali yuga. This school is being developed by great seers and sages at the same time, because it is the School of spiritual Wisdom and omniscience. We can mention such beings as Vasishtha, Janaka, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Akbar and many others who owe their spiritual achievements to royal yoga. Generally this is the yoga of the succession of the Avataras, or the incarnating Sons of God. We sometimes call them Rishi (Sufi) or Wali Rishi, which means the Masters of Wisdom.
All spiritual schools meet at the end of the path toward the ultimate goal, which is called samadhi. The method, called dikshan in raja yoga and bayat in sufi traditions, means initiation, transmission, introduction and, above all, blessing. The consecutive flower petal of the heart is enlivened by another initiation. In this path the initiation process is the most important and the most initial phase of spiritual study and practice. Bayat means initiation and the adept is expected to guarantee the will, time and all means not only to continue the work, but also to complete it under the guidance of teachers. The fulfilment of the work of a given initiation comes through patient practice and study of the teachings of the Eternal Wisdom, and when the work is completed, another initiation is given – one step higher. All this is part of the process of inner spiritual transformation.
Sufi Tariqah can be translated as a path, order or movement of Sufi, or purity and wisdom at the same time. In fact, this is the „wisdom of the cosmic order.” It gives to the full extent of what little known in the world raja yoga is. Every school or system of teaching and practicing this yoga contains invariably these twelve stages of initiation, which ultimately lead to the unveiling of purusha – the pure soul as the light of inner reality. Always the practice of raja yoga (sufi tariqah) begins with initiation. Of course, everything we do without initiation is preparation for the initiation – and only preparation. All schools calling themselves yoga or Sufi school, if they do not contain an initiation system, are just preparatory courses for the right initiation path. The teachings and practices of such schools contain only the material preparing for the reception of initiation or just part of the work program of the first level of initiation. A perfect example of such a preparatory path is a school of living ethics, also known as Agni Yoga founded by Helena Roerich, under the deep inspiration by the name of Lord Morya. The teachings of this school are a perfect introductory course in both the Sufi and yogic aspects of the message of Guru Morya (Pir Akbar).
Today, there are many such schools. Unfortunately, they only fulfil the task of initial preparation, and are often misleading as participants think that they belong to the actual spiritual school, which unfortunately is not true.
The Path of Discipleship
Initiation is the seal of the heart and the seal of the soul (purusha). The process of initiation is sealing the heart so that the soul can grow and develop in its material manifestation. A high-initiated soul can be called the term budhi arvah, which means the older soul. While the soul (person) can be compared to the figure of an angel (deva), we compare the older soul to the archangel (mahadeva). The Sufi term bayat shows the whole depth of the process of initiation of the heart and soul. The syllable „Ba” refers to the divine soul and its seniority. The syllable „Ya” refers to the centre of the heart, while the syllable „At” indicates the deepest part of the heart and soul, that is, what yoga calls the word „atman”. Each subsequent initiation introduces deeper and deeper into the consciousness of heart and soul, into the nature of divinity.
The yogic term dikshan is more indicative of introduction and initiation. What is being given is a message that needs to be implemented and completed. Otherwise, the initiation will not be finished, completed. Own work is essential if we want to gain a deeper benefit from the initiation received. The term refers to the introduction in the mysteries, and also to Hierophant’s specific work to be fulfilled. Only devotion and dedication of the initiated person is what can bring them full benefit from the initiation received. It can be said that this is an introduction to work.
It is worth mentioning that there is no such thing as a spiritual path without initiation, nor any self-initiation. When a student is ready to receive another initiation, then a Teacher appears who can pass the initiation. No one is, nor will be missed. At most, there are very haughty and proud students who think they deserve further initiations. They can sometimes be disappointed. Preparedness means trust and patience in anticipation. It also means more and more confidence in the Teachers and Guides, increasing openness to the path and its teachings. The Path of Discipleship is the path of practicing discipline and the path of trust – faith without doubt. Masters and Teachers, both yoga and Sufi, say that it is not easy to find a student who is qualified for the spiritual royal path. For this reason, the highest form of the path is neither easily accessible nor widely available.
The general direction of development on the royal path is śraddha in terms of yogis, and yaqin in terms of Sufis. Both concepts simultaneously point to trust and faith. Trust, in addition to the discipline of practicing, is the most essential thing. It is the qualification that makes a person adept on a given path. Discipleship is shown in trust to the Teacher, the path and to the teachings given by the path. Deepening trust and holy faith is what allows us to pass ever higher levels of initiation. Trust and faithfulness are the proper food for the soul so that it can advance on the spiritual path. Thus we should develop the jewel of trust in all possible ways. Confidence cures the heart and soul of all doubts, all fears and anxiety. Strengthening faith is an indispensable cure for the heart and soul on the spiritual path. Faith destroys fear, the basic obstacle to the spiritual development of the heart. When trust appears, then the flower of the soul can flourish.
The royal path of initiation, though it has twelve stages of initiation, is divided into four major initiation circles. They constitute four great classes or circles of teachings and practices, and each has its own directional ideas and methods of work. We have three initiations in each of the four Great Initiation Circles. Sometimes the very great spiritual beings only use these four great levels of initiation, but this has the overtone of a shortened path and can only be used in special, exceptional cases. The order of initiation corresponds to the order in which the petals in the heart centre open. The flower, or more strictly the flower bud of the heart, is arranged in such a way that three petals of flower form a single circle of petals. And in the same way are given subsequent transmissions of teachings and practices in the yoga of kings.
A human being who wanders this path to the end becomes the Liberated Soul, which in the terms of yoga is called Jivanmukta. It can be understood as the fifth Great Initiation. Liberation or freedom are also the spiritual ideal of Sufis of fundamental importance and are called najat. The same ideal is offered by great religions, such as Christianity, which mentions salvation or liberation as soteros.
Characteristics of the Great Circles of Initiation
Let us now wander through the general characteristics of the four great Initiation Circles, which can be called the shortened path of initiation. We can remember that it is an attempt to see the whole path as if from the side and see how this highest yoga works.
This concept literally means as much as „Message of God”, because Brahma means God in the sense of the absolute which revives everything through his divine breath, and the vichara indicates the transmission or message, the living science. Sufis use the term Gatha here, which means „giving yourself to the Book.” This is indeed Sutrayana – the vehicle of the Book. Both the Teacher is the Book and Nature is the Book, the holy manuscript that we learn to read by listening to the words of spiritual teachings. Initiated adepts study the seven aspects of the Vedas (gnosis) by listening to the teachings of the seven esoteric objects: symbolism, metaphysics, breathing, intuition and insight, customs and beliefs, everyday life (art of life) and morality (ego abrasion). The First Circle of Initiations contains three kinds of yoga practices that have been said a lot about: karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga, which sufi call kedmat, ashika and hikma respectively.
The seven types of teachings used sometimes for seven smaller initiations (which in total gives sixteen, not twelve) allow the aspirants of this path to pass through three stages of initiation called the three pillars of royal yoga, respectively defined as work, devotion, wisdom. In fact, these three words give the meaning of terms karma, bhakti and jnana respectively. The awakening of understanding and comprehension is the central note of spiritual achievement and realization in this type of yoga. We say that the awakened person does not judge you but understands you. You can also call this understanding the awakening of the intuitive nature of loving wisdom. The heart becomes the Book of perfect wisdom full of compassion and mercy (Prajńa paramita hridaya sutra).
The goblet of the Wisdom of Divine Knowledge is the proper work of the First Great Circle. Spiritual studies can also be called „breathing the cup of knowledge”. The first and general initiation is the foundation here. Kedat for sufis or karma yoga for rishis means acceptance for spiritual work. Whoever does not want to work on himself, who does not want to work for teachers, who does not want to work for the path, will never achieve anything. The first price of progress is your own work input. The meaning of karma yoga is to work over, to remove all obstacles that appear on the path, obstacles in contact with teachers, path and teachings. Cleansing on many levels is the result of work. The basic motto of kedmat in sufi and of karma yoga is „spiritual work not for yourself”. When the loving and understanding wisdom, the divine knowledge are awakened, then we are ready to enter the Second Circle of Initiations.
It is focusing on God, consolidating the attention on the animating divine breath of soul. Literally, it means „Concentrated God”. Sometimes yoga uses the term 'Upasana’, which means all meditations and reflections regarding divinity and the very essence of God. Sufis use the term Murakhaba, which simply means a properly focused state of mind and psyche. It is the consolidation of attention and making it attached to the object we want. The Sufi tradition calls the entire Second Great Circle of Initiations using the term GITHA, which means „Devotion to Song.” The awakening song of the soul, called the „Song of Return” by the mystics, begins to be heard or felt as a great longing (Ishq).
The next levels of initiation reveal the path and purpose of life first by studying the concentration and its application for the spiritual achievement of the human individual, later to discover dependence on nature and to realize the laws of nature (cosmos) and through this stage to discover own dependence on God . Studies on dependence on God / the Absolute reveal an inner relationship with the Supreme Being and show the entire interdependence of the human being in all levels of its existence. This last level of Sufi studies and practices are called tawwakkul, and yoga calls it brahmasraya. The entirety of studies and practices of the Second Great Circle leads to the full spiritual initiation. It is only the sixth level of initiation that is properly called Initiation. The five previous blessings are completed in one large wholeness only with the sixth initiation. And only such a person can say about himself that he or she is Initiated in an esoteric spiritual school of raja yoga or in the Sufi order. Previously, there is usually a requirement to keep silent on those matters that are related to initiations and levels or grades.
Here is the Circle of „Flowing to God” or „Swimming in the existence of God.” Of course, it contains three consecutive initiation steps: the seventh, eighth and ninth levels. Sufis call this sangatha, which indicates the Higher Book or the Higher Circle of Teachings and Practice. Dhyana points to the ongoing contemplation of God in all possible ways. It is a circle in which one is practicing successively the loss of his own little self in the self of the living Teacher and Hierophant, then in essence of the Messiah, prophet or avatar who started the path (Rasul), and then in the very essence of God. In the end, it brings total purification, enlightenment and insight into the truth. Sufis define these three stages of dissolution of the self by the term fana (meltdown). This shows the actual sense of the concept of dhyana in yoga.
Flowing through the nature to God yoga virt, and the Sufi speak here zirt (as-sirt). Contact with nature and discovering it as the body of God is a great mystical achievement. The next step is to discover God as the Iśvara (sufi: Rasul), which the yoga of channels and energy serves, and above all the vehicle of mantras and wasifs which in fact describe selected aspects of divinity. The last step is to reach the state of Parambrahman, which Sufi call Allah. All this serves to touch the ultimate truth, which is God Himself, to attain only what really exists.
The adept of the eighth level of initiation is called the real disciple, the one who realized the true eightfold path and discipleship. This means having all the necessary spiritual qualifications in quantities and qualities that are sufficient. A real student is a Student. Raja Yoga calls him Chela, and Sufis call him Murid. How soon after reaching the Initiation, we become true Disciples of God.
The adept of the path is the person realizing the work of Brahma-Dhyana called in the terms of yoga Vivekam Jńanam, or intuitive knowledge born of the consciousness of the ultimate reality. The term Tarakam Jńanam also shows the realization of the adepts of this spiritual class. The wisdom of a higher, cosmic self has the power to free oneself from birth and death, it has the power to free every being from pain and suffering.
We have come to the last of the four Great Circles of Initiation. All adepts of the previous vehicle are called Sufi. Now the „Light of God’s Ecstasy” is achieved through the practice. Samadhi in raja yoga is realized in three consecutive steps: sabikalpa, nirbikalpa and mahasamadhi. The last is the great liberation of the true being and the ultimate victory of the soul. Nirbikalpa itself is immutable and timeless, but the true grandeur, glory and majesty of the spiritual being appear at the end of the path.
This Circle can be called the practice of „Becoming God” in all its glory. Here is realized what can be expressed in the words: „My Father and I are one”. Sufi sheikh or khalif is a sabikalpa practitioner, which means the development of the power of the spoken Word. Accordingly, they are the inspired source of the teachings and guards of the path, as they have gone through it until the soul (purusha) has become completely purified. Maszeikh and Murshid are the truest Teachers, absorbed in nirbikalpa and free from the material conditions of the world. This whole Circle is the embodiment of the true Guru, whom is God himself. You can call this whole Initiation Circle the Inner One, or sangitha, as the great Sufis do. The human being becomes an adept of raja yoga with the title of Baba or Pir (-ul-Mulkh), which means the Patriarch, the Soul of the soul, authentic Spiritual Leader of the flock. Hum!
Aćaryaćarya Swami Lalita-Mohan Ji G.K.