We live in a world in which it has become acceptable to blame others when we are faced with misfortunes, calamities, accidents and even our own mistakes which leads us to the question, how should we approach these undesirable events? Pointing our finger at other people as the source of our misfortune is the easiest way out, as it seems to save us from dealing with the problem altogether.
Of course, we soon realise that this does not make the problem go away. Even if others were the main reason for or even a contributing factor in our misfortune, we still have to live with the pain of what has happened to us; the pain and grief will not go away even if we convince ourselves that it is not our fault. I should say at the outset that I am not implying that people should not be held accountable for their bad behaviour and misconduct. Accountability and punishment for criminal and immoral behaviour are the foundation of any civil society. Without these any society is in danger of being reduced to chaos. Nor am I suggesting that one hold onto childhood self-blame stemming from abuse suffered early in life. The point I am making is that healing from the grief caused by our misfortune is not accomplished by way of blaming others.
The first step in dealing with any misfortune is to accept it, which means we must acknowledge that it has happened and that it is part of our lives. To accept the misfortune means taking responsibility to deal with its consequences even if it is not wholly or even partially our fault. To be sure we can deny the existence of misfortune and bury it deep in our unconscious but this is not an effective way of coming to terms with it. Part of being a mature human being is having the ability to deal with grief and misfortune as much as joy and happiness.
The second step is forgiveness. Once we accept that the event is part of our life and that it’s our responsibility to deal with it, we must gradually come to forgive others who we think are responsible for our misfortune. This may take some time but the more we accept the event as an inevitable consequence of being born into an unpredictable world over which we have little control, the easier it is to come to forgive others who may have wronged us or brought about our misfortune.
The third step in dealing with misfortune is to use it as a lesson in humility. We should view misfortune as a reminder that we are not in control of the events in the world and no matter what we do we cannot escape the situation we are facing. We are helpless to turn the clock back or pretend as if this has not happened. In a way misfortune shatters our pride, the pride stemming from the erroneous belief that we are in total control of our life and bad things only happen to people who are not intelligent enough or did not follow a righteous path.
The Sufis have long understood that they can create the appearance of misfortune and direct other people’s blame towards themselves as a way to discipline their ego and cleanse it of pride and hypocrisy.
Historically, the movement of Malamatiyya (the path of blame) started around 9th century in the Middle East and its practice soon became prevalent among the Sufis . The pioneers were the great Sufis of Khorasan such as Abu Sa’id, Bayazid and Kharaqani. The way of blame is meant to expose the ego for its pride and hypocrisy thereby helping one to reach the states of humility and sincerity. The Sufis would actively create circumstances in which they were blamed for not acting piously or ethically. The object was to shatter the false image that they or the society had created for them. In this way a master would show disciples that they had been more devoted to an idol or image they had created in their minds, than to the actual spiritual guide.
A seminal figure of the path of blame was Bayazid. There have been many stories of how he actively sought people’s disdain as a way to shatter his own ego and expose his disciples’ pride and hypocrisy. Once, upon hearing that Bayazid was returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca, the people of Bastam went to the city’s gate to welcome him with honours and reverence. For a little while, Bayazid went along with what the crowd expected of him, but he soon realised he had to put a stop to it. It was the month of Ramadan and everyone was fasting, so of course, they expected Bayazid to be fasting as well. Instead, he took a piece of bread from his bag and began eating it. No sooner did he do this than all the people around him left in disgust.
Bayazid is warning us here about the dangers of identifying with our right actions or what we project about ourselves. One way we can make sure we are not attached to the sense of self that we have created is to bring about our own misfortune and disgrace, attracting other people’s blame and withstanding their scorn without defensiveness or malice.
In my own life I was fortunate enough to experience the path of blame through my father who did all he could to attract blame, especially the blame of those who claimed to be his disciples.
Bringing blame upon oneself is a way to loosen the grip of attachment to our own identity. It is a world apart from blaming other things or people for our misfortune which only serves to solidify the hold our egos have over us.
As Hafez says:
We are faithful on the path of the blame and happy,
For in our religion to be offended is unbelief.
In the many-layered free lecture Sufisim, Love and Mindfulness, living Sufi master Alireza Nurbakhsh contrasts western ideas of mindfulness with the Sufi remembrance of God. He tells us that love is what Sufism is all about. Nurbakhsh shares his discernment and Sufi love poetry in an hour that passes in the twinkle of an eye.Learn More Here.
Dr. Alireza Nurbakhsh is the present Master of the Nimatullahi Order. He went to University of Wisconsin, Madison for post graduate studies and received his PhD in philosophy. After this he moved to London and started the publication of SUFI journal in English and Farsi.More Posts by Alireza Nurbakhsh