A person can call themselves a Sufi and live their lives in the context of the essential message of Sufism, that of love, harmony and beauty in the unity of all religions. No requirements at all save living as well as one can.
Or one can become a Sufi in the interest of becoming self-realized, thus taking initiation in what is called the “esoteric school” of this particular Sufi Order (there are numerous others). If one chooses this latter option, then this process of self-realization becomes one of not just learning to see God, but realizing oneself to be the divine glance, the very expression of Divinity, as the Sufis say. The practice that is most basic to this process, after exploring the attributes of divinity, is that of dhikr (a phonetic spelling). There are many forms of the dhikr, slow and fast, inner and outer, moving and still, silent and vocal, group and individual….and all take the form of the phrase “La illaha il’llah Hu.”
“There is no God but God” is an exoteric definition of this phrase.
“There are no beings, just the one Being” is an esoteric understanding of what dhikr means.
I have been working recently with that is called the “Slow Dhikr,” sometimes the “Positive Dhikr,” or even “The Dhikr of the Broken Heart.” You see, there is a negative dhikr and a positive dhikr: a negative dhikr negates all that one thought oneself to be and affirms what Is. A positive dhikr begins and ends from the standpoint of what Is. Does this make sense? Perhaps not, because dhikr can’t be understood intellectually, it has to make itself known emerging from within and back into itself.
Here is what is coming through in my “Existential Dhikr:”
“La illa ha” . . . There is a Unity with no end and no beginning, self-observing and ever-becoming, and its reality can be known not by contemplation, but by becoming that Unity. The stars and planets of all the universes circle around their evolving understanding of themselves, musing about this experiment they are becoming. There is no self, there is only Self. Lord Buddha wanders into the Wilderness and discovers….vastness. Thought becomes Mind.
“Il” . . . A Great Decision becomes made and Unity falls into Being, into Multiplicity, out of the great cry of love that its evolution perpetuates. It is a terrible and a magnificent moment, as whatever God is takes on a limited form in order to become Itself. To a Christian, this stage of God’s becoming might be seen as the birth of the Christ.
“‘la (Allah: yes and no, being and nonbeing, Crazy Love)” . . . A great Individuality arises, like a tree rising from its roots or a flower blooming . . . a mountain grows toward the Sun, taking its roots with it. All waters flow toward the Sea. The human Being grows upward into its potential. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says, in a Hadith, that to become human is to surpass in realization even the angels, for the angels are lost in contemplation of God, while the human has the potential to realize God, or primal Being.
“Hu.” Often the culminating moment of “Hu” is said into the vastness, but here it is being said into the heart, the sacred, ultimate syllable that evokes what is left after all that becomes, a moment of divine resignation, an acceptance of the agony of limitation when limitation sees what it really is. As Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan remarked, “transciency is eternalized through resurrection.”
Hu. It transforms thinking, genetic expression, physical and mental processes, perspective and will.
Hu. The war is won and begun again and again everlasting.