“When pride enters the conversation, logic jumps off a cliff” — Samurai Rising
As I write this, I am currently in week 4 of an 8-week MMA camp to raise money for Cancer Research UK, I will be fighting on the evening of the 27th of November. I undertook this as a way to keep myself motivated and on track while I was knee-deep in my job hunt after graduating from the University of Edinburgh where I studied Economics with Finance.
Strategy is often expected to start with a description of the desired end state, but in practice, there is rarely an orderly movement to goals set in advance. Instead, the process evolves through a series of states, each one not quite what was anticipated or hoped for, thereby requiring a reappraisal and modification of the original strategy, including ultimate objectives.
My desired end state was to find a sustainable space for me to create abundance and do meaningful work. It’s the energy input that lifts you out of standard life and triggers your quantum leap to a first-hand life. Without energy input, to be honest, you won’t create anything worthwhile in any field. Energy input in this context refers to vision, dedication, commitment, and persistence. This will be all at your disposition at a condition: you must come to consider work as your life’s unique fulfillment or dharma. You will naturally find out that this won’t be the case with any kind of work when you come with an attitude to ‘just find a job.’ It is the result of an inner journey that gets you in touch with your soul’s desire which will dictate your true life’s work. It’s up to you of course if you obey this inner voice, this inner call, or if you refuse to listen.
A British historian Lawrence Freedman argues that there are a set of principles that run as a common thread when we look at the history of human strategy. The 3 threads are deception, the instrumental use of violence, and coalition formation.
The realm of deception
Developments in technology in areas such as weaponry, communication, and information processing have driven advances in strategy as thinkers have adopted and exploited these new tools. The cognitive and psychological domain of strategy has become increasingly important with modern developments in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy.
Contemporary strategic techniques might target how people function mentally, make decisions, or form opinions. One influential example is the OODA loop, which Colonel John Boyd introduced in the 1970s. A strategist could disorient and paralyze an enemy by interrupting its sequence of observing, orienting, deciding, and acting. Democratic political consultant James Carville’s campaign strategies showed that stories could interrupt the OODA loop and cause disorientation. By the 1990s, elites and radicals accepted the concept of narrative as a critical instrument in the battle over ideas.
Every living organism needs a strategy. Ants require a strategy to survive just as much as you do. In fact, there is no human activity that is so insignificant that it can reasonably be deprived of any strategy. Strategy comes from the human impulse to control one’s environment and while we are at it, control the environment more than our next-door neighbor.
Strategy fails to be of any use when it comes to interaction with inanimate objects. Interactions with inanimate objects pose no apparent form of conflict thereby allowing us to impose our own ideas and gifts of creativity on them.
Strategy is therefore much more than what most people would call a ‘plan’. When we interact with other beings with a spark of movement and intelligence, by and large, strategy comes into play. Strategy flowers when there is a real potential conflict, interests collide and forms of resolution are required. For underdogs, being cunning can provide an advantage over physically stronger opponents. Spiritual factors are part of this form of strategy. These include the morale of soldiers or civilians, their psychological states, and how they assess a situation and respond. Contemporary strategists rely on insights springing from psychology. Such as attempts to disrupt an enemy’s decision-making ability. They also rely on cognitive tools including propaganda and the use of narratives.
The realm of Violence
“We all have a plan until we get punched in the face” — Mike Tyson
The most primal instinct that runs as a common thread throughout the animal kingdom is pure physical violence. Chimpanzees bite, fight and go to war in territorial disputes. Generals and their armies seek to destroy, exhaust or overwhelm their enemies. Radicals and revolutionaries might damage property or commit assassinations.
This is the reality that is governed by the Law of the Jungle. Few in history have been lauded for their prowess on the battlefield as much as the Japanese Samurai clan.
In combat, Miyamoto Musashi would typically use two swords, one short and one long. He touches on the importance of using all of your weapons in combat and life: “This is a truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make the fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet undrawn.”
“It will seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first. Bows are difficult to draw, halberds are difficult to wield; as you become accustomed to the bow so your pull will become stronger. When you become used to wielding the long sword, you will gain the power of the Way and wield the sword well.”
“I love this idea: “You should not have a favorite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well.”
Musashi breaks the book into five books: Ground, Water, Fire, Wind, and the Void
The “Way” of something is a learned discipline or philosophy (i.e. the Way of Buddhism, the Way of the Carpenter). The Way of Martial Arts, which Musashi refers to as “Two Heavens, One Style”, is to learn skills that are useful in all things. The Way of Martial Arts is a mastery of one’s craft similar to carpentry, of which the sword is the essential martial art. There is a rhythm to everything. There is rhythm in the formless. Victory is in knowing the rhythm of your opponent, in using a rhythm that is hard to grasp, and in developing a rhythm of emptiness rather than wisdom.
Think deeply about the principles written in the book as though you discovered them yourself. Make them part of yourself. The mind should be centered, swaying peacefully. Be watchful of the mind and do not let it become clouded. Sharpen your wisdom. Learn the good and bad of all things. With every grip, stance, and strike, do not think of the action itself. Think only about cutting down your opponent. With practice, you will gradually grasp the principle of the Way.
There are three initiatives to understand in order to defeat an opponent — The initiative of Attack, the Initiative of Waiting, and the Body-Body Initiative. Knowing the conditions in which you find yourself means clearly observing your opponent and grasping the way to victory with certainty. Become your opponent. Move the shadow. Control the light. Impose fear. Cause confusion. Do not use the same tactic repeatedly. The true Way of swordsmanship is to fight with your opponent and win.
The True Way does not prefer a long or short sword, a forceful or weak stroke, specializing in a stance, or fixing the eyes on a particular gaze. It is not fast or slow, prefers interior or exterior positions, or dictates how to move your feet. There is no “best” in any of these things. There is only seeing through to its virtues with the mind.
The heart of Emptiness is in the absence of anything with form and the inability to have knowledge thereof. Knowing the existent, you know the nonexistent. A warrior learns the way with certainty. He has no confusion in his mind and is never lazy. He polishes his mind and will, and sharpens the two eyes of broad observation and focused vision. He clears away the clouds of confusion. In Emptiness exists Good but no Evil. Wisdom is Existence. The principle is Existence. The Way is Existence. The Mind is Emptiness.
The realm of love
The third form of strategy is the forming of coalitions. Chimpanzees form coalitions during territorial wars. And the weak ally with stronger parties to gain power. A study by observing that, In human strategizing, the formation of a coalition may be the goal.
Chimps also seemed to understand the need for mediation and reconciliation. Once a goal had been achieved, the patterns of behavior changed — for example, both the winners and losers became less aggressive.
Managers work in an environment even more complex than the military. Whatever effort they make to control their environment and secure their desired goals, managers deal with an intractable reality. In 1964, corporations turned to strategic thinking to apply reason to business decision-making. As these decisions grew increasingly complicated, planning processes held great sway in corporate thinking.
Eventually, the value of strategic planning came into question. Two approaches to decision-making took its place, one with its roots in economics and the other founded in sociology. Economic models helped managers understand the dynamics they faced, but could not provide solid answers.
However, from my experience studying economics newer models of the economic world derived from engineering-inspired monetary circuit theory has the potential to serve as a strategic framework for stakeholders of banks, firms, private workers, and public workers.
Sociological strategies called on managers to consider the human side of business life. Strategic consultant Gary Hamel suggested that managers could succeed by attending to relationships and to workers’ psychological and emotional needs.
In the days of old, siding with god and being in god’s good books was seen to be a strategic advantage. Shamsi- Shamsi-i-Tabriz (1185–1248) was the spiritual mentor of the acclaimed mystic Jalaluddin Rumi (1207–1273). He laid out the 40 rules of love. I personally felt this to be a concise treatise on universal love. The Wisdom Way of all the Masters. The essence of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and all sincere paths are defined in 40 statements.
How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blames welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.
The path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge and ultimately prevail over your nafs with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God.
You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe because God is not confined to a mosque, synagogue, or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for him: in the heart of a true lover.
Intellect and love are made of different materials. Intellect ties people in knots and risks nothing, but love dissolves all tangles and risks everything. Intellect is always cautious and advises, ‘Beware too much ecstasy’, whereas love says, ‘Oh, never mind! Take the plunge!’ Intellect does not easily break down, whereas love can effortlessly reduce itself to rubble. But treasures are hidden among ruins. A broken heart hides treasures.
Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language, as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.
Loneliness and solitude are two different things. When you are lonely, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path. Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely. But eventually, it is best to find a person who will be your mirror. Remember only in another person’s heart can you truly see yourself and the presence of God within you.
Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.
Patience does not mean passively enduring. It means to look at the end of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be shortsighted so as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.
East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.
The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new self to be born, hardship is necessary. Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain.
The quest for love changes the user. There is no seeker among those who search for love who has not matured on the way. The moment you start looking for love, you start to change within and without.
There are more fake gurus and false teachers in this world than the number of stars in the visible universe. Don’t confuse power-driven, self-centered people with true mentors. A genuine spiritual master will not direct your attention to himself or herself and will not expect absolute obedience or utter admiration from you, but instead will help you to appreciate and admire your inner self. True mentors are as transparent as glass. They let the light of God pass through them.
Try not to resist the changes, which come your way. Instead, let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
God is busy with the completion of your work, both outwardly and inwardly. He is fully occupied with you. Every human being is a work in progress that is slowly but inexorably moving toward perfection. We are each an unfinished work of art both waiting and striving to be completed. God deals with each of us separately because humanity is the fine art of skilled penmanship where every single dot is equally important for the entire picture.
It’s easy to love a perfect God, the unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human beings with all their imperfections and defects. Remember, one can only know what one is capable of loving. There is no wisdom without love. Unless we learn to love God’s creation, we can neither truly love nor truly know God.
Real faith is the one inside. The rest simply washes off. There is only one type of dirt that cannot be cleansed with pure water, and that is the stain of hatred and bigotry contaminating the soul. You can purify your body through abstinence and fasting, but only love will purify your heart.
The whole universe is contained within a single human being you. Everything that you see around you, including the things that you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in varying degrees. Therefore, do not look for Sheitan outside yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary voice within. If you set to know yourself fully, facing with honesty and hardness.
If you want to change the ways others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses.
Fret not where the road will take you. Instead, concentrate on the first step. That is the hardest part and that is what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Don’t go with the flow. Be the flow.
We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created differently and uniquely. No two people are alike. No hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is amount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.
When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine bibber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is our hearts that make the difference, not our outer appearance. Sufis do not judge other people on how they look or who they are. When a Sufi stares at someone, he keeps both eyes closed and instead opens a third eye — the eye that sees the inner realm.
Life is a temporary loan and this world is nothing but a sketchy imitation of Reality. Only children would mistake a toy for the real thing. And yet human beings either become infatuated with the toy or disrespectfully break it and throw it aside. In this life stay away from all kinds of extremities, for they will destroy your inner balance. Sufis do not go to extremes. A Sufi always remains mild and moderate.
The human being has a unique place among God’s creation. “I breathed into him of My Spirit,” God says. Each and every one of us without exception is designed to be God’s delegate on earth. Ask yourself, just how often do you behave like a delegate, if you ever do so? Remember, it falls upon each of us to discover the divine spirit inside and live by it.
Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy, or fight someone we tumble straight into the fires of hell.
Each and every reader comprehends the Holy Qur’an on a different level of tandem with the depth of his understanding. There are four levels of insight. The first level is the outer meaning and it is the one that the majority of people are content with. Next is the Batin — the inner level. Third, there is the inner of the inner. And the fourth level is so deep it cannot be put into words and is therefore bound to remain indescribable.
The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back — not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.
Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, if there is someone who harbors ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy. Instead for forty days and nights say and think nice things about that person. Everything will be different at the end of 40 days because you will be different inside.
The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead, time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain in the present moment.
Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to live everything to fate and not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance. The music of the universe is all-pervading and it is composed on 40 different levels. Your destiny is the level where you play your tune. You might not change your instrument but how well to play is entirely in your hands.
The true Sufi is such that even when he is unjustly accused, attacked, and condemned from all sides, he patiently endures, uttering not a sing bad word about any of his critics. A Sufi never apportions blame. How can there be opponents or rivals or even “others” when there is no “self” in the first place? How can there be anyone to blame when there is only One?
If you want to strengthen your faith, you will need to soften inside. For your faith to be rock solid, your heart needs to be as soft as a feather. Through an illness, accident, loss, or fright, one way or another, we are all faced with incidents that teach us how to become less selfish and judgmental and more compassionate and generous. Yet some of us learn the lesson and manage to become milder, while some others end up becoming even harsher than before…
Nothing should stand between you and God. No imams, priests, rabbis, or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership. Not spiritual masters and not even your faith. Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good. Stay away from all sorts of idolatry, for they will blur your vision. Let God and only God be your guide. Learn the Truth, my friend, but be careful not to make a fetish out of your truths.
While everyone in this world strives to get somewhere and become someone, only to leave it all behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness. Live this life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not the decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going.
Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission a power that comes within. Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquillity and peace even if the whole wide world goes through turbulence after turbulence.
In this world, it is not similarities or regularities that take us a step forward, but blunt opposites. And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us. Therefore the believer needs to meet the unbeliever residing within. And the nonbeliever should get to know the silent faithful in him. Until the day one reaches the stage of Insane-I Kamil, the perfect human being, faith is a gradual process and one that necessitates its seeming opposite: disbelief.
This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain unreciprocated. For not the plots, deceptions, or tricks of other people. If somebody is setting a trap, remember, so is God. He is the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf stirs outside God’s knowledge. I simply and fully believe in that. Whatever God does, He does it beautifully.
God is a meticulous dock maker. So precise is His order that everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception, the clock works accurately. For each, there is a time to love and a time to die.
It is never too late to ask yourself, “Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?” Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.
While the part change, the whole always remains the same. For every thief who departs this world, a new one is born. And every descent person who passes away is replaced by a new one. In this way not only does nothing remain the same but also nothing ever really changes. For every Sufi who dies, another is born somewhere.
A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western. Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels and no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.