The difference between tariqat and congregation (ecclesia) -Chapter Two-

Talebu'l-Haqqi, gurbetun (Following/Demand God is strange)

31 mins read
The difference between tariqat and congregation (ecclesia) (Chapter One)

The real enemy of the congregation and what it seeks to destroy is not other congregations, but the transcendent truth of all existence, the essential unity of all existence, which cannot coexist with congregations, and which all congregations can only survive by covering it up. In this respect, in opposition to the truth of the total being, the communities actually act in alliance and harmony with each other.

The Latin word for the concept of community is “church”. It is easy to see that the earth is under the domination of the congregation by looking at the formations expressed by the words “institution”, “organization”, “community”, and “cluster” instead of church and congregation.

Due to the congregationalization of many things that are referred to as tariqas, when we think of tariqas, connotations that are incompatible with the historical examples, principles and purposes of the concept of tariqa have come to mind, and at some point, tariqa has been equated with congregation. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons for this is those who define tariqa in the wrong way, but the main reason is the increasing congregationalization of tariqas themselves.

In order to correct these mistakes, and in order to see what needs the tariqa emerged in response to, which were identified at the outset, we proceed to examine the concept of tariqa from some basic points of view.

Even at first glance, the word tariqa, which means path, makes it clear that it is a quest and a process, a following, different in many ways from the community. As will be seen later, this meaning is not merely a lexical one. It is indeed the essence and manifestation of tariqa. Seeking, process and following are the concepts of the path and being a traveler.

What is immediately striking here is that, in a very characteristic way, tariqa in the sense of the path is meaningful on the basis of the traveler. In other words, the tariqa draws attention to “the way and the traveler” at the very beginning. This is not a coincidence. No matter how one looks at it, taking the traveler into consideration, thinking about the traveler, is the real starting point for understanding tariqa. This difference is very important. Something like “the traveler”, which draws attention to the “individual”, which brings attention to the person, is something that focuses on the individual, the individual, not the community. The most striking aspects of putting the individual at the center are immediately felt in beings who directly experience or want to experience the sense of being an individual, of being a person, no matter what the situation. Somewhere deep within every being, there is an unconditional but resentful and longing feeling of being an “individual”. That is why hearing the word “traveler”, even thinking about it, evokes indescribable feelings in the individual; as if “traveler” is the most accurate, the most perfect counterpart to the sense of individuality… If these feelings are not ignored, the ultimate referents of the distinctions made will be more clearly understood.

As well as the attention drawn to the traveler, another concept to which the tariqa draws attention is the quest.

We cannot think of someone who does not seek, who does not need to seek, to adopt a path that is thought to lead to a goal. Therefore, we cannot think of the word sect as separate from the activity of “seeking”. Again, no matter how one looks at it, tariqa, the “way”, evokes a sense of seeking. And this is not just a lexical situation. The names that come to mind when we think of Ahl-i tarikat or the people of seyr u süluk and their actions are the clearest proof of this. It is important to emphasize this in order to understand the principles that constitute the concept of tariqa.

Here, there is the relation of the seeker and the sought. This relation again, very deep down, in very special places, evokes feelings, meaningful feelings for each person. Thinking of the seeking and the sought announces to us things that we suddenly recognize. We recognize them intimately, but we almost never examine them, or cannot examine them. However, if we want to understand tariqa in terms of its foundations and nature, and for what needs, we cannot put aside these intimately familiar sensations. Because this is a way of understanding what the path and the traveler is. It is therefore necessary to know, to see what kind of a state a seeker is in, what kind of a place he is standing in. Because what will be found will guide the traveler.

Suffice it to point out that one cannot speak of a quest without considering the states of being in need, of being lost, of being in a state of separation. Of these, “separation” is already the most basic other state of the traveler. And it is the main cause of the resentful, sorrowful and longing feelings one feels when one thinks of the traveler, when one thinks of the quest. We will elaborate more on this concept in the future.

If we go back to the context, we realize that the seeker, that is, the one who seeks, is first of all in need, has a loss, is in a state of separation. Someone who believes that he knows, that he has, that he is not separate, does not need to search. Nor is he expected to understand much from the search. Therefore, a cult is something that speaks to and is in harmony with the nature of the needy, the lost, the losers, those who have experienced separation, and it does not come to those who have not tasted, heard, or are no longer able to taste or hear loss, separation and need. How can it come?

Would someone who has not tasted loss and especially separation ever set out in search? We cannot imagine that. Therefore, we cannot conceive of the Order in such circumstances. The Order is not here. It is something that the lost, the broken, those who experience the pain of separation find on their own. For the time being, we do not want to denigrate the general statements here with registrations and exceptions. In a generalized way, whoever feels lost, whoever feels the pain of separation, whoever finds bitterness and brokenness in his heart, is someone who is suitable to come on the path, to set out on the path.

If we continue to look at it from these perspectives, we see that the tariqa also demands a nature of struggle, a nature of warfare. Those who have suffered separation and loss have taken action by setting out, by falling on the road. In other words, tariqa is the pursuit of those whose fabric is suitable for war, effort and labor, those who can afford war and struggle. Those who are not prone to war, struggle, effort and diligence, or who cannot afford to do so, cannot be expected to enter the tariqa, to have a tariqa, that is, to fall on the path. Enthusiasm may be shown, but no amount of enthusiasm is, obviously, a sufficient motivating principle to be patient in the face of hardship and to advance with determination. What is necessary for the tariqa is essential diligence. There is no progress with laziness. The lazy ones go and become part of a congregation. What else can they do?

By proceeding in this way, we begin to see in detail that the sect is the result of a need that began not to be a community, but to get rid of being a community. The sect is a natural process of struggle and progress that arises spontaneously out of a very basic human need, human behavior and human life. It is in no way compatible with a haphazard life of lightness, rote memorization and habit, and it is unacceptable that this path should be shaped in a way that has nothing to do with these characteristics. The main mistake of those who have shaped the subject of tariqa in ways that have nothing to do with its originality is that they equate the concepts of tariqa and congregation and try to define tariqa with baseless definitions. This is done by roughly two groups of experts, if we do not take into account the crowds who are not close to the subject. One of these experts is those who are not in the tariqa but try to analyze the issue on intellectual grounds. The other is the pseudo-sect or enlightenment people who, claiming to be in the sect, muddy the issue with things that have nothing to do with the sect. These latter, by occupying the position of being representatives of the sect, also contribute to the mistakes of those in the first group. In order to avoid falling into the mistakes of both of these groups, the first thing to do is to define tariqa correctly. By defining the tariqa, just as we defined the congregation above, we establish a basis for ourselves, and we can then proceed to address the ongoing questions on the subject from this basis. This is the path that is solid.

Before defining tariqa, let me remind you again that by tariqa we mean “seyr û sülûk”.

The tariqa (seyr û sülûk) is a way of “being” that is active on the basis of “source”, “traveler and guide” and “open circuit transformation”.

We defined the community as follows:

A congregation is an entity that exists on the basis of fulcrum, part-whole, and closed circuit functioning.

Here, in trying to understand the differences between congregation and tariqa in the sense of seyr u sülûk, it is possible to see the reasons for confusing the two.

Both the order and the congregation are based on an origin. The origin in the order is alive and in motion; the origin in the community is inanimate and static. It is possible to understand this difference in many ways, but it is most clearly realized by whether or not the originating ground can be constituted in the experience of the individual who relies on it.

There is a general principle that applies to all kinds of origins and identities: If the origin of an identity cannot be identified and constituted in the person who is identified with that identity as a primary, that is, as the ultimate basis, that is, if the person cannot fully realize in himself what he takes as the most fundamental origin, that is, if this is impossible for the relationship between that origin and the individual, that origin cannot be accepted as the origin of a fundamental identity and that identity cannot be accepted as a fundamental identity.

What does that mean? It means this: If an identity is an essential identity, then what is considered to be the origin of that identity comes to realization in that person as the ultimate origin for someone who is searching for their origin. Otherwise, a person who goes in search of his/her origin has to transcend or discard that identity, and that too by a spontaneous suggestion, by himself/herself.

A non-authentic identity is a chain, a bondage for someone who is searching for his/her origin. When asked who they are, if the names and characteristics in the answer given are not essential and cannot be identified in the person themselves, that is, if this is not possible, these names and characteristics are questioned by someone who is searching for their origin, and as a result of this questioning, one day they are thrown over the top. For someone who is not searching for the original, it continues to be a prison.

This is why essential identity is a matter of existence, and the first issue for those who take their existence seriously. It is not something that can be postponed or pushed back in any way. If it is being postponed and pushed back, it is because it has not yet come to be a matter of one’s existence. That is, they have not yet realized that they are living life without being an essential being. Of course there are reasons for this too. That is, there are also reasons why one has not come to a matter of existence. For example, being exposed to too much and too varied levels of non-essential stimuli, and basically approving of living life on the basis of habits and even to the extent that external beings determine and constrain. These are some of the common causes. By the way, it should be said right away that arikat (seyr u sülûk) works precisely on these causes, creates a counter-effect to the effect of these causes and makes the person first realize such chains. So that one can come to oneself, not to something else to answer the question of who one is, but to oneself, to look at oneself, so that the answer one gives can be one’s own self. This point will be more clearly realized in the following articles.

So the question of origin is not a simple one. If you look at the answers that immediately come to mind when you are asked “who are you”, you will see that each of these answers is based on an “origin”. If these origins do not fulfill at least the two conditions above, then the names based on these origins, that is, the answers we give to the question “who are you”, are not essential.

Let us write these two conditions more clearly as follows:

Origin in primary identity,

1) Relevance to the ultimate principal or the ultimate principal

2) This principle is capable of being identified and established in the individual.

The first point has to do with an inquiry, that is, a search, into the ultimate origin and basis of existence in a broad sense. The second point has to do with one’s original attachment to these origins and principles and one’s eventual transformation. These two things happen simultaneously, intertwined. What is happening is called “truth”. In other words, it is called “Truth”.

Those who are in it are called “Truthers”, and the time they live in is called the “Dem of Truthers”.

Therefore, these two items are an act of the “Dem of Truth”.

We will not talk more about this in this article.

If these two items do not apply to an identity, that identity is not a fundamental identity. The origin of such a non-essential identity is not alive, it is dead; it is not dynamic, that is, it has no action; it is static. With this stasis, this dead identity survives on the basis of those who “sustain” its existence with this essential identity. In other words, it is self-substantiated. The communal origin, and in this sense the basis, is therefore self-substantiated.

This is not the case with tariqa (seyr u sulûk). Seyr u sülûk is a quest and a questioning of identity. The techniques, methods, procedures and other principles established for this questioning are connected to an origin, and this origin is capable of being recognized and recognized in those who walk that path. In this respect, this origin is alive and in action. And again, in this respect, this origin and principle boils. That which is connected to the boiling origin is not of itself; it is not self-subsistent; on the contrary, it is connected to something else, to a transcendent essence.

This basis boils and boils and flows like rivers on its own, independently of the people of as-Sulūk. What flows from the source comes to the traveler on this basis and transforms him, because what flows is the traveler and his path.

In this respect, the time of the sect is not a closed-circuit operation; it is a current of transformation coming from an open source.

These two points, that is, the difference in basis and functioning, are the differences between the ground and the roof of the congregation and the tariqa. These differences are manifested in the individuals, metaphorically speaking, in the building itself.

The “part-whole relationship” in the definition of congregation and the “journey of the traveler and the guide” in the definition of tariqa are related to this point.

These also need to be defined in terms of their essence.

By analogy with the building, we understand that the congregation is a whole, consisting of parts, which presents a structure, while the tariqa is an “architectural work” in which each individual contains the essence of the sentence, and the sentence has a “place” for each individual in a “single” way, and thus the sentence and the individual are “connected” to each other.

What is essential for the community is to connect the parts to the whole. This binding can be done in many different ways. Therefore, a community can take many forms. For example in the form of a state, for example in the form of a party, for example in the form of a community of thought or a community of faith, with military, medical, economic, political, religious, intellectual embellishments, and so on. Examples abound.

To become part of the community, one must recognize its legal personality and pledge allegiance to and conform to its legal articles. The person is put through a series of orientation processes to be made compatible with them, if necessary. Once the necessary and sufficient results for full compatibility have been obtained, the stage is set for the formation of the part. The part is then integrated into the whole in some way and the person begins to serve by fulfilling the directives given to him or her, or the benefits that may be expected. In other words, he or she has a task. This task, as a service that is assigned or limited according to ability, has the characteristic of functionality; through this functionality, the person feels that he or she is doing a job and makes sense of his or her position. But beyond this visible functionality, its main task is to sustain the community. For this reason, a failure to uphold the congregation, even if it is not a failure in its functional service, is considered a “cardinal offense” and security protocols are immediately put in place by the congregation.

If the person has attempted to commit this original crime without much consciousness, various mechanisms of pressure and guidance are used to dissuade him/her from this deviant and “objectionable” act. If this is not possible, prosecution, trial and punishment processes are used to bring the person to inertia. The mildest consequence of this is exclusion from the community. Those who are ostracized from the congregation either join another congregation or return to their own individual congregation.

All community members know what this “original offense” is. But they do not know why it is a “cardinal offense”, that is, the source of the offense. So in that sense, no member of the community really knows what the “original crime” is.

Of course, what is unknown can neither be affirmed nor denied. Original guilt, without being affirmed or denied, dominates. And it puts the person in bondage.

The way for a person to consciously commit this “unknown” crime is to begin to remove the “unknownness” from it. In other words, if this “unknown thing” is made “known” in terms of how and why it is there, then the offense that the congregation “forbids” becomes “unobjectionable” for the person. Let us say no more.

This thing that is well known, but not really known at all, is the soft underbelly of the community. So this soft place is under extraordinary protection and vigilance. It is taken care of by the members of the community, by themselves, as a whole. So the community survives on its own self-sufficiency.

The congregation thus covers the truths that cannot be recognized outside the congregation. As a result of this covering, the inside of the member of the congregation, which contains the truths, closes. The congregation takes the place of that which is closed to the truths. In other words, the community occupies the inside of its member. As a result, the member of the congregation is left ignorant of the truth.

The interior of the tariqa, in the sense of the journey, does not cover the truths; on the contrary, it acts “against” the covering of the truths.

Both the congregation and the tariqa (the way of life) have an inside and an outside.

Inside the congregation, as described above, is heedlessness.

The inside of the tariqa is marifat and truth.

The one who is a member of the congregation is watching the congregation on the outside, but on the inside he is in heedlessness.

On the outside, the follower of a tariqa sees a set of paths, techniques and procedures; on the inside, he is on a journey towards marifat and truth.

In this respect, the inside of the congregation is false and is heedlessness. The inside of the tariqa (way of life) is real and is rising up.

What distinguishes a tariqa from a congregation is seyrû sülûk. If the actual meanings and the actual activities of seyr and sülûk are canceled and a tariqa is claimed with rhetoric, disguise, clothing, rit and myth, this tariqa becomes the path to the congregation, not the path to the truth of the person who is attached to it. The path of the community is death without life and sleep without awakening.

The tariqa that does not return to its original meaning of seyr and sulûk has neither marifat nor truth in it. However, within the tariqa that preserves or reopens this original meaning is marifah and truth, which are uncharted oceans; neither words are enough to describe them nor lifetimes to understand them.

The path of truth and marifat is the path of those who can afford to be strangers. So, this is the path of the strangers.

“Blessed are those strangers!”

Note I. We are indebted to Prof. Dr. Yalçın Koç for the entire conceptual framework of the definitions of ecclesia (Church) expressed in this article.

Note. The isnad of the tradition narrated from Hazrat Ali at the beginning of II is as follows: Hadhrat Abdullah al-Ansari (alias Shaykh al-Islam Herawi) narrated through Junayd al-Baghdadi from Sari al-Saqatî, Sari al-Saqatî from Ma’rûf al-Karhî, Ma’rûf from Ja’far al-Sâdiq, Imam Ja’far from Muhammad al-Baqir, Imam Baqir from Zayn al-Baqir, Imam Zayn al-Zaynal from Hz. Imam Zayn al-Husayn transmitted it from his father, Hazrat Ali (a.s.):

“To claim the right is to be strange…”

Click here for part one of the article: link

Ahmet Turan Esin

-He is interested in theology, mysticism and philosophy. He publishes his writings on fikrikadim.com. He gives seminars and lectures.

-İlahiyat, tasavvuf ve felsefeyle ilgilenir. Yazılarını fikrikadim.com'da yayınlar. Seminer ve dersler verir.-

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