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

Monday, February 06, 2006

Solitude in the Crowd

The fourth aphorism of the Khwajaghan is Khalwat Dar Anjuman, which is usually translated as "Solitude in the Crowd".

The usual meaning of this saying is taken as "To be inwardly with Allah while being outwardly with people".

Now this is a perfectly good meaning, and should not be wasted, but as with each of the other aphorisms, there are deeper meanings to be found that have somehow slipped by the wayside.

Khalwat is a Sufi technical term for a retreat, often for forty days. This time is spent in prayer (salat), remembrance (zikr) meditation (moraqebeh), contemplation (fekr), "taking account" (mohasebah), fasting (sawm), recitation (wird) and whatever else one's Teacher prescribes. The Idea is to withdraw for a time from the attachments and distractions of the world for the sake of one's inner Work.

Probably the definitive (or at least the most interesting) work on this sort of Khalwat is Risalat al anwar fima yumnah al khalwa min al asrar by Ibn al Arabi. (Just because I think he can be something of a pompous twit with all the social skills and emotional maturity of an elite class UNIX geek, doesn't mean that I haven't read everything he has written that is available to a determined scholar).

Now Khalwat Dar Anjuman must have a slightly different meaning in application, though at one level it can be seen as inwardly doing the practices of "khalwat" in daily life.

If we take a look at the root meanings of the words and their derivations we again find some interesting information.

Khalwat comes from the root Kh-L-W. The meaning of the root is "to be empty, vacant. Void" The second group of meanings from the root have to do with "isolation, vacuum, and empty places". The third group of meanings has to do with "being solitary, lonely, isolated".

Now early on, one of my first teachers told me always look for the puns, and there is an interesting one here.

If you take the sounds of the word Khalwat and derive the root as Kh-L-T you get a word that means "To mix, mingle, blend, to confuse, mix up". the second group of meanings is to "fuse or merge". The third group to "mingle with a crowd, to associate with people". The forth group, "to consist of a heterogeneous mix".

Some people have found meaning in the apparent opposition of these two definitions.

Anjuman comes from the root J-M-M. The first meaning of this root is "to gather, to collect ones thoughts, to concentrate".

The second group of meanings is "abundant, much, crowd". A third derivation from the root has to do with "rest, relaxation, gathering ones strength".

A final meaning derived from the root gives us istijmam, which means "collectedness, concentration, attentiveness".

One Shaykh, when asked about Khalwat dar anjuman said, "This is man's work, it is not for the immature, not for children. The real work on the soul starts here and most people never get to the point where they can bear it. One must first master the breath, have an idea of their real goal, and be able to hold to their intention if they expect to find solitude in the crowd".

One thing that should be understood at this point, Each of the aphorisms represent not just a good idea, or a bit of advice, but a specific practice. These practices have fallen by the wayside in most tariqas that I am familiar with but are still known and practiced by some Sufi groups that have managed to avoid political notice by way of their isolation. (and by being very, very quiet)

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