Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Watch Your Step!

The second aphorism of the Khwajagan is Nazar Bar Qadam, which is usually translated as "watch your step".

Interestingly, this is the aphorism that generates the most foolishness when in comes to commentaries. I have even seen one commentary that insists that this is in fact an instruction to literally watch your feet and never look at anything else. The commentary recommends this so that the "outer world" stimulus can be reduced, and especially so that the student does not accidentally glance at a woman. (This was in fact a contemporary commentary and not something from the dark ages, go figure).

I suppose I could comment at length on how stupid suggestions like that are, but that is not the point of the discussion. Suffice it to say that anyone who follows such advice deserves what they get (including the back problems).

We can understand a bit about this aphorism by looking at the Arabic roots of the words (the aphorisms are in Persian, but there are a lot of Arabic loan words in the language).

Nazar, at its root means to perceive with the eyes, to view, to regard and to Pay Attention. (NaZaRa) and in the form in which it is used here it carries the meanings of Insight, decrement, contemplation, examination, and penetration, as well as the visual references.

Qadam is a very interesting word, Its root (QaDaMa) has the meaning of to precede, to arrive (at a place). The second group of meanings from the root include to lead the way, and to send ahead. Third group of meanings from the root carry the idea of to be old or Ancient.

The word itself carries the primary meaning of both a foot (as on the end of your leg) and a unit of measure. Interestingly it can also imply a state of extreme alertness.

So what does Nazar Bar Qadam mean? It means something very close to the Sanskrit idea of Karma (action).

Every action you take has a near term and a far term consequence. Nazar Bar Qadam is the practice of following a potential action to its consequence and choosing only those actions which support one's Path rather than those actions which provide momentary gratification to the Nafs (the conditioned, habitual, mechanical 'ego').

Of course, one of the big problems with this is that Nafs by its nature refuses to examine long term consequences. It wants the momentary gratification. This can be a problem.

This means that a very special kind of discipline is needed to follow an action through its potential consequences in the most objective way possible. This can prove difficult in that many people have trained themselves to fantasize about what they would like to happen rather than what is likely to happen. For instance the bank robber who envisions himself sitting on a beach in front of a luxury hotel rather than a cell in a federal prison.

If one has not made substantial gains in Hosh Dar Dam you will not have the skills or the energy to interrupt the habit of Nafs to go for the immediate gain without regard to the effect it will have down the road.

One of the primary traits that defines Insan-i-Kamal (the completed human being) is this ability to understand the consequences of one's actions and to use this as a guide to choices.

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