The Golden Sufi Center

Neither of the East nor of the West:
The Journey of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya
from India to America

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

His light may be compared to a niche
wherein is a lamp
the lamp in a glass
the glass as it were a glittering star
kindled from a Blessed tree
an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West
whose oil would almost shine forth
though no fire touches it
light upon light



The essence of any Sufi order, or tariqa, is the energy of succession, the spiritual energy or substance that is transmitted from teacher to teacher, back in an unbroken lineage to the Prophet Mohammad. Without this transmission the tariqa is form without substance, lacking the spiritual energy that is necessary for the real transformation of the heart. The true history of any Sufi order is the history of this transmission, which is the central core of the path, around which its practices and etiquette develop over time. The outer form of the path can change according to the time and the place and the people, but the inner essence must remain the same living substance of divine love.

In 1961 a Western woman, Irina Tweedie, arrived in the northern Indian town of Kanpur, where she met the Sufi master, Radha Mohan Lal, known by his disciples as Bhai Sahib(1). He was a member of a family of Sufis. His uncle, father, and elder brother had all been Sufi sheikhs in the lineage of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujadidiyya, an Indian branch of the Naqshbandi order, named after the fourteenth-century master, Baha ad-Din Naqshband. The Naqshbandis, known as the Silent Sufis, practice a silent rather than vocal dhikr, and they do not engage in sama, sacred music, or dance; nor do they dress in any special way to distinguish themselves from ordinary people. A central aspect of the Naqshbandi path is rabita, the bond or connection between master and disciple. The order was very successful in Central Asia, and spread throughout India through the work of Ahmad Sirhindî (d. 1624), who was known as the Mujaddid (Renewer).

What was unusual about this Sufi family is that they were Hindu, not Muslim. Traditionally the Naqshbandiyya-Mujadidiyya are the most orthodox of all the Sufi orders, stressing the importance of the Shari‘ah (Islamic law); but at the end of the nineteenth century a transition took place. Fazl Ahmad Khan, the sheikh of Bhai Sahib’s uncle, was Muslim, as were all of the predecessors on this path. But when the uncle, Lalaji(2), said to his sheikh, “I am yours. If you permit me, I may adopt Islam,” Fazl Ahmad Khan rejected the idea: “You should not think of such an idea. Spirituality does not need following of any particular religion. Spirituality is seeking the Truth and self-realization, which are matters of the soul.... It is the duty of everyone to follow the customs and rituals of the country and religion in which one is born.”(3)

Irina Tweedie was the first Western woman to be trained in this ancient Sufi lineage, and after the death of her sheikh in 1966, she returned to England where she started a meditation group. She was the last person to see her sheikh alive, and it was upon her that he bestowed his final glance on his deathbed: “Without lifting his head he gave me a deep, unsmiling look… lowered his eyes for a brief second and then looked again. It was the look of a divine lover… My heart stood still as though pierced by a sword.”(4) Returning to England, she carried with her this transmission from her sheikh, the energy of divine love that is needed to awaken the heart and take the wayfarer Home—thus bringing this Naqshbandiyya-Mujadidiyya Sufi path to the West.

My first meeting with Irina Tweedie came in 1973 when I was invited to a lecture and found myself sitting behind an old lady with her white hair tied up in a bun. After the talk I was introduced to her by a friend. She gave me one look with her piercing blue eyes, and in that instant I had the physical experience of becoming just a speck on dust on the ground. Then she turned and walked away and I was left utterly bewildered.

There is a Sufi saying that the disciple has to become “less than the dust at the feet of the teacher.” We have to be ground down until there is nothing left, just a speck of dust to be blown hither and thither by the wind of the spirit. Only when we have lost our sense of self, the values of the ego, can we carry the sweet fragrance of the divine, as described in the words of a Persian song:

Why are you so fragrant, oh dust?
I am a dust people tread upon,
But I partake of the fragrance of the courtyard of a Saint.
It is not me, I am just ordinary dust.(5)

At the time I had no understanding of this experience. I had no framework within which to assimilate it. It simply happened, and I mentioned it to no one. Only later did I realize that it was a foretaste of the path. For this is how it works on the Sufi path: when we meet the teacher, when we first step onto the path, we are given a glimpse of where this will take us. In visions, dreams, or inner experiences the wayfarer is shown what this journey will mean. The Naqshbandis say that “the end is present at the beginning”: the Sufi path is a closed circle of love; everything is present in the first moment.

Often wayfarers are given glimpses of bliss or unconditional love. I was thrown into fanâ, the state of annihilation. I was shown that I would lose everything, all sense of myself. This was not so much a warning as a statement. There was no sense of deciding anything; free will played no role in it. I did not even consciously know that I had seen my spiritual future. I had looked into the eyes of a white-haired old woman whom I had never seen before and become a piece of dust on the floor. I did not understand or even question the experience. I did not know that my spiritual training had begun.


I attended her small meditation group in a tiny room beside the train tracks in North London. The heart meditation that we practiced was developed in India, where it is also known as dhyana meditation:

For the heart meditation, as long as the body is relaxed the physical position does not matter: one can sit or even lie down.

The first stage in this meditation is to evoke the feeling of love, which activates the heart chakra. This can be done in a number of ways, the simplest of which is to think of someone whom we love. This can be God, the great Beloved. But often at the beginning God is an idea rather than a living reality within the heart, and it is easier to think of a person whom we love, a lover, a friend.

Love has many different qualities. For some the feeling of love is a warmth, or a sweetness, a softness or tenderness, while for others it is peace, tranquility or silence. Love can also come as a pain, a heartache, a sense of loss. However love comes to us, we immerse ourself in this feeling; we place all of ourself in the love within the heart.

When we have evoked the feeling of love, thoughts will come, intrude into our mind—what we did the day before, what we have to do tomorrow. Memories will float by, images appear before the mind’s eye. We have to imagine that we are getting hold of every thought, every image and feeling, and drowning it, merging it into the feeling of love.

Every feeling, especially the feeling of love, is much more dynamic than the thinking process, so if one does this practice well, with the utmost concentration, all thoughts will disappear. Nothing will remain. The mind will be empty.

The state of dhyana is a complete abstraction of the senses in which the mind is stilled by the energy of love within the heart, and the individual mind is absorbed into the universal mind. The actual experience of dhyana rarely happens during the first practice of meditation. It may take months, even a few years, to reach this stage. And once we do begin to experience dhyana we may not realize it. The initial experiences of dhyana usually last for just a split second—for an instant the mind dips into the infinite and just for a moment we are not present. There may be little or no consciousness that this has happened; the mind may not even be aware that it was absent. But gradually, the mind disappears for longer and longer periods; we become aware that our mind has shut down. The experience can for some time seem like sleep, since sleep is the nearest equivalent we have ever known to this mindless state.

The experience of dhyana deepens as the lover is immersed deeper and deeper into a reality beyond the mind. More and more one tastes the peace, stillness, and profound sense of wellbeing of a far vaster reality where the problems that surround us so much of the time do not exist—a reality beyond the difficulties of duality and the limitations of the world of the mind and senses, into which, for a little while each day, meditation allows us to merge.

Dhyana is the first stage in the meditation of the heart. It is, as Irina Tweedie described it, “the first stage after transcending the thinking faculty of the mind, and from the point of view of the intellect it must be considered as an unconscious state. It is the first step beyond consciousness as we know it.”(6) In dhyana, the heart is activated and the energy of love slows down the mind. The mind loses its power of control and individual consciousness is lost, at first for an instant and then gradually for longer periods of time. The lover becomes absorbed, drowned in the ocean of love.

Then in this state of unconsciousness a higher level of consciousness, or samadhi, begins to awaken.(7) The evolution of dhyana into samadhi happens “by easy degrees,” as “the highest stages of dhyana are gradually transformed into the lower stage of samadhi, which is still not completely conscious,” and this less-conscious state leads in turn to the higher state of samadhi, which “represents a full awakening of one’s own divinity.”(8)

The experiences of samadhi cannot easily be described. They belong to a level of reality beyond the mind, to a dimension of unity in which everything is merged, where the mind, operating as it does by making distinctions, cannot get a foothold. In samadhi we begin to experience our true nature which is a state of oneness: we are what we experience. Gradually we glimpse, are infused with, the all-encompassing unity and energy of love that belong to the Self and underlie all life. And this oneness is not a static state, but a highly dynamic state of being that is constantly changing. Also our experience of it changes: no two meditations are the same and our experience becomes deeper and richer, more and more complete. On this plane of unity everything has its own place and fulfills its real purpose. Here the true nature of everything that is created is present as an expression of divine oneness and divine glory. In the outer world we experience only a fragmented sense of our self and our life. Here everything is complete and we come to know that everything is just as it should be.


In my teacher’s room we meditated, had tea and cookies, and listened and talked. My teacher would speak about her sheikh, about his limitless love and unquestionable authority, about the power and beauty of his presence, and about the desire for truth that lies hidden within the heart. She shared with us the passion with which she lived this primal desire, and pushed us to live what was deepest within us. There was little form or structure to these weekly meetings; we meditated in silence and then just sat together, sometimes in silence, often in discussion. Later I came to realize that our way of meeting—just being together, in silence and also in discussion, talking about the path—is an essential feature of the Naqshbandi tradition. In the words of Baha ad-Din Naqshband, “Our way is that of group discussion. In solitude there is renown and in renown there is peril. Welfare is to be found in a group. Those who follow this way find great benefit and blessings in group meetings.”

Our group discussion often included the traditional Naqshbandi attention to psychology. On the Naqshbandi path many of the inner struggles and difficulties have a psychological dimension. This tradition goes back even beyond Baha ad-Din to al-Hakîm at-Tirmidhî (d. c 907), one of the early Sufi masters, whom Baha ad-Din recognized as one of his teachers; al-Hakîm at-Tirmidhî was known for some of the earliest Sufi writings on mystical psychology. During the time Irina Tweedie was with Bhai Sahib, she was amazed to discover that although he knew nothing of Western psychology, his process of spiritual training had similarities to the process of individuation described by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Coming to Bhai Sahib, she had hoped for spiritual teachings, but instead he forced her to face the darkness within herself, her rejected “shadow,” as Jung describes it. Many other elements of Jungian psychology, such as the danger of inflation, were present in his training. When she returned to the London and started her group, she integrated a Jungian approach into Sufi teachings. We would discuss the transformation of the shadow as well as the more traditional approach to working on the nafs or lower nature.

The heart meditation may appear very simple, but it works like a catalyst, accelerating the process of inner transformation, bringing one’s darkness to the surface, where it has to be confronted and accepted. The rejected and unacknowledged parts of one’s psyche have to be acknowledged, “given a place in the sun.” This is the traditional Sufi work of “polishing the mirror of the heart,” through which we come to glimpse our true nature. When this inner mirror is covered with what in the West we would call projections and ego-conditioning, we see everything in a distorted way; we see the confused reflections of our own light and darkness. But as we polish the mirror, the distortions are removed and we begin to see with a new clarity and simplicity. From the seeming chaos of multiplicity we become aware of an underlying unity. The divine is born into consciousness and its quality of wholeness begins to permeate our inner and outer life. Looking within, we see beyond the ego, or nafs, to what is more essential and more enduring: “Although you were completely changed you see yourselves as you were before.”(9)

Connected with the psychological processes of the path is the practice of dreamwork. Baha ad-Din was renowned as an interpreter of dreams, and dreams have always been considered as guidance on the path. In our meditation group we discuss dreams, particularly dreams with a spiritual dimension. Over the years we have developed a way of working with dreams that integrates the traditional Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of modern psychology, providing a container to help the wayfarer understand the inner processes of the path.(10) Although most of the innermost processes will always remain hidden from ordinary consciousness, it is helpful for wayfarers to have some context for what is happening within them. Dreams work as messengers from within, and if we listen to them we can attune ourselves much better to our inner transformation.

When the path came to the West, psychological work and dream interpretation were developed according to the needs of Western practitioners, as traditional Sufi approaches did not adequately reflect the particular ways in which the Western psyche has developed. In the West, for example, the individuality of the ego tends to be very highly developed, while in India, where the Naqshbandiyya-Mujadidiyya Order has its roots, people tend to be more identified with the collective—often the family is more important than one’s individual self. To help Westerners on the path, the work of Carl Jung was integrated into Sufi spiritual psychology: Jung’s work, which is based on the western tradition of alchemy, offers the most complete understanding of the processes of spiritual transformation of our psyche, as the “lead,” or “prima materia,” of our instinctual self is turned into the “gold” of our true nature.


Along with meditation, psychological inner work, dreamwork, and being together with other wayfarers, the other central practice of this Naqshbandi path is a silent dhikr. The dhikr is the repetition of a sacred word or phrase. It can be the shahâda, “Lâ ilâha illâ llah” (There is no God but God), but it is often one of the names or attributes of God. The dhikr we were given is Allâh. It is said in Islam that God has ninety-nine names, but foremost among these is Allâh, for Allâh is His greatest name and contains all His divine attributes.

But for the Sufi, the name Allâh also points beyond all His attributes. According to an esoteric Sufi tradition, the word Allâh is composed of the article al, and lâh, one of the interpretations of which is “nothing.” Thus the word Allâh can be understood to mean “the Nothing.” The fact that His greatest name contains the meaning “the Nothing” has great significance, because for the mystic the experience of Truth, or God, beyond all forms and attributes, is an experience of Nothingness. Shortly before his death, the Naqshbandi Sufi Master Bhai Sahib told Irina Tweedie, “There is nothing but Nothingness.” He repeated it twice. The words point to the very essence of the Sufi path, as Irina Tweedie explains:

There is nothing but Nothingness. . . Nothingness because the little self (the ego) has to go. One has to become nothing. Nothingness, because the higher states of consciousness represent nothingness to the mind, for it cannot reach there. It is completely beyond the range of perception. Complete comprehension on the level of the mind is not possible, so one is faced with nothingness. And in the last, most sublime, sense, it is to merge into the Luminous Ocean of the Infinite.(11)

Thus, the name Allâh contains the essence of all Sufi teaching: to become nothing, to become annihilated in Him, so that all that remains is His Infinite Emptiness. One of the mysteries of the path is that this Emptiness, this Nothingness, loves you. It loves you with an intimacy and tenderness and infinite understanding beyond imagining; it loves you from the very inside of your heart, from the core of your own being. It is not separate from you. Sufis are lovers and the Nothingness is the Greatest Beloved in whose embrace the lover completely disappears. This is the path of love; it is the annihilating cup of wine which His lovers gladly drink, as in the words of Rumi:

I drained this cup:
there is nothing, now,
but ecstatic annihilation.(12)

In saying the dhikr, repeating His name silently on the breath—“Al” on the out-breath, “lâh” on the in-breath—we remember Him. With each cycle of the breath we return to the inner essence within the heart and live the remembrance of our love form Him. Practicing the dhikr as constantly as we can, we bring this mystery into our daily lives. Repeating His name as we engage in the simple activities of our day—walking, driving, cooking, cleaning—we infuse His name into all we do: cooking with the dhikr we put His remembrance into the food, for example; cleaning with the dhikr we clean with His name. Lying awake at night we can silently repeat His name. It is more difficult to do when we are talking or engaged in mental activities, but when our mind is free enough to remember Him again, we rejoice once more in repeating the name of the One we love.

We may find it difficult at first to remember as much as we would like to. But with practice the dhikr becomes a natural, almost automatic part of our breath, and then no moment is wasted; every breath aligns our attention with Him. And over time our whole being comes to participate in this attention. Through repeating His name, we remember Him not just in the mind but in the heart; finally there comes the time when every cell of the body repeats His name.

It is said, “First you do the dhikr and then the dhikr does you.” The name of God becomes a part of our unconscious and sings in our bloodstream. This is beautifully illustrated in an old Sufi story:

Sahl said to one of his disciples: “Try to say continuously for one day: ‘Allâh! Allâh! Allâh!’ and do the same the next day and the day after, until it becomes a habit.” Then he told him to repeat it at night also, until it became so familiar that the disciple repeated it even during his sleep. Then Sahl said, “Do not consciously repeat the Name any more, but let your whole faculties be engrossed in remembering Him!” The disciple did this until he became absorbed in the thought of God. One day, a piece of wood fell on his head and broke it. The drops of blood that dripped to the ground bore the legend, “Allâh! Allâh! Allâh!(13)

The way the name of God permeates the wayfarer is not metaphoric but a literal happening. The dhikr is magnetized by the teacher so that it inwardly aligns the wayfarer with the path and the goal. (It is for this reason that the dhikr needs to be given by a teacher, though in some instances it can also be given by the Higher Self or, traditionally, by Khidr.(14) Working in the unconscious, the dhikr alters our mental, psychological, and physical bodies. On the mental level this is easily seen. Normally, in our everyday life, the mind follows its automatic thinking process, over which we often have very little control. The mind thinks us, rather than the other way around. Just catch your mind for a moment and observe its thoughts—every thought creates a new thought, every answer a new question. And because energy follows thought, our mental and psychological energy is scattered in many directions. To engage seriously in spiritual life means learning to become one-pointed, to focus all our energy in one direction, towards Him. Through repeating His name, we alter the deeply worn grooves of our mental conditioning that play the same tune over and over again, repeat the same patterns which bind us in our mental habits. The dhikr gradually replaces these old imprints with the single imprint of His name. The automatic thinking process is redirected towards Him. You could say that the practice of the dhikr reprograms us for God.

The lover experiences a deep joy in repeating the name of her invisible Beloved who is so near and yet so far away. When He is near, saying His name becomes the expression of our gratitude to Him for the bliss of His presence, for the sweetness of His companionship. When He is absent, it becomes our cry to Him and helps us to bear the longing and the pain. In times of trouble His name brings reassurance and help. It gives us strength, and it can help to dissolve the blocks that separate us from Him. When we say His name, He is with us, even when we feel all alone with our burdens.

Through repeating His name, we begin to lose our identification with our isolated, burdened self and become identified with our Beloved who has been hidden within our own heart. Gradually the veils that have kept Him hidden fall away and the lover comes to know His presence in her heart. And as He removes the inner veils, so also does he lift the outer veils. Then the lover finds Him not only within the inner dimensions of her heart, but also in the outer world; she comes to experience that “whithersoever ye turn, there is the Face of God.”(15)

Then He whom we love and whose name we repeat becomes our constant companion. And the lover also becomes the companion of God, for the “eyes which regard God are also the eyes through which He regards the world.”(16) This relationship of companionship belongs to the beyond and yet it is lived in this world. The Beloved is our true friend, and this is the deepest friendship; it demands our total participation. Practicing the dhikr, repeating His name, we are with Him in every breath.


When Irina Tweedie returned to England from India she created the outer form in the West for the work of this tariqa in our group meetings. Consisting of meditation, dreamwork, and discussion, the meetings, also allowed us just to be together in the Sufi way, sharing a cup of tea and the companionship of the path. The group had no religious orientation; it was open to all, and people came from a variety of different social and cultural and religious backgrounds—all that was needed was the desire for truth and the willingness to work on oneself, to do the inner work of purification and transformation.

But the core of the path lies in the relationship with the teacher, suhbat; it is through this relationship that the transmission of the lineage and the grace are given, and without it there can be no inner transformation and no journey. Irina Tweedie brought to the West not just an outer form, but an inner living connection with her sheikh, one that transcends time and place, life and death. Through the training he had subjected her to, her sheikh was able to reach her after he died, no longer as a human being but as a center of energy that came to her when she was in meditation. This living connection is the real foundation and heart of the Naqshbandiyya Mujaddidiyya path as it came to the West. Later I came to know that it was his presence that I felt in her. It was his fragrance that made me sit at her feet.

For many years I attended the meditation group, listening to dreams, seeing the way the soul’s journey unfolded within myself and for all those who came. One day when I was about thirty and had been with my teacher for over ten years, she said in passing that my life would change when I was thirty-six. At the time I was a young father and a high-school English teacher, and I could not imagine what she meant. But six years later I found myself lecturing in America about Sufism and Psychology. In 1991 I was told to move with my family to California and start a spiritual center for our Naqshbandi path in the U.S. In 1992 the Golden Sufi Center was founded as a vehicle for the teachings of this order. That year Irina Tweedie retired and I was named as her successor. I was asked to continue her work in the West.

In many ways the work of the path in America continued in the form it had developed in England. We set up a small meditation group for regular weekly meditation meetings. I also traveled over America lecturing, and slowly other meditation groups in different cities were founded, mirroring the groups that had spread in England and Europe over the previous decade.(17) Once a year our American Sufis meet for a week’s retreat; otherwise, as it did in England, the path continues with little outer structure apart from the group meetings, which still consist of meditation, dreamwork, discussion, and tea. Some further subtle changes were made, reflecting the particularities of American culture and the needs of American seekers. For example, oral Sufi teaching and guidance are traditionally given through hints. Rarely will the teacher speak directly to a disciple; rather he will tell stories, or even say to one person what is meant for another. But I soon discovered that American students could not appreciate hints or indirect teaching: in this culture everything is “in your face,” and subtlety and suggestion often do not get through to people. Because of the need, I was allowed to be more direct in my teaching.

But the essential nature of the path has remained unchanged. Under the surface of the outer forms, the traditional work of the path takes place as it always has: each wayfarer is given the guidance and support he or she needs, through a transmission of love that is given from heart to heart, from soul to soul. Once a connection between teacher and disciple is made, even the physical presence of the teacher is not always necessary for this transmission; it happens silently on the plane of the soul where duality and the limitations of time and space do not exist, and where the guidance, teaching, and energy of the path are given and received effortlessly, often without the conscious knowledge of the wayfarer. This is how it has always been. And no two wayfarers are treated the same, as every heart, every soul, is unique. Some seekers need to learn to love, while others need to learn to be loved. The path pushes some to become detached, while others are immersed more deeply in family and worldly affairs. The transmission of love is always given one to one, reflecting the real nature and need of each disciple.

In many ways it might seem like a difficult “fit” between Naqshbandi Sufism and Western, especially American, culture. The extremely extroverted nature of the American culture makes it hard for many Americans to appreciate this path’s hidden nature. This is the most introverted of all Sufi paths. The intense inwardness of the Naqshbandi path can be traced back to a group of Persian dervishes from Nishapur in the very early days of Sufism who focused their efforts keeping their nafs or ego from claiming any spiritual identity for itself. Not only did they forswear the traditional patchwork cloak of the Sufi dervish in favor of ordinary clothes; more profoundly, they concealed even their spiritual states from themselves, introverting them so that the ego could not access them and become inflated.

Adopting those principles, the Naqshbandi Order developed a way of teaching in which the disciple’s spiritual development is mainly hidden from his ordinary consciousness. It can often seem as if very little is happening; on this path, we do not engage in ritual or other outer activities like dancing, singing, or chanting. Nor do we seek spiritual intoxication—this is a path of sobriety. Instead of focusing on spiritual states, we live our ordinary, everyday life, engaged with our family and our job, while keeping our inner attention always turned toward our Beloved. Although the Naqshbandi practice of “solitude in the crowd” (“outwardly to be with the people and inwardly to be with God”) makes this path adaptable to everyday Western life, it can be difficult for Westerners, Americans especially, to value a spiritual process that takes place beyond the mind, in the inner worlds to which they have at first little conscious access. It takes a real commitment to persist in the face of what can seem like very little outward reinforcement. In the West, we tend to look for results.

And we expect results to come through effort. American culture especially, driven by the Puritan work ethic, conditions us to believe that our success or failure in all aspects of our lives comes as a result of our own efforts. This creates another difficulty for Americans on the Sufi path. The belief in self-determination is so pervasive that within the American collective consciousness there is almost no awareness of the power of grace.

But grace is the cornerstone of every Sufi lineage, of any company of the lovers of God. Stepping onto the path, we step into the grace of a spiritual tradition, the power of love that is given for the work that needs to be done. Without it nothing real can happen on the path. As Rumi tells us, through our own effort we cannot even reach the first way station. It is through grace that the miracle of transformation happens; it is grace that opens human beings to the infinite preciousness of God’s limitless love, which is so easily hidden even though it is always present. And grace by its very nature is a gift. It flows from heart to heart in a transmission of love, and no effort is required. It can be very difficult for Americans to stop striving and acknowledge dependence upon something beyond the reach of their effort or will or even their understanding.

It can also be difficult for the American mentality, which generally does not comfortably entertain contradictory ideas, to grasp the paradox of effort and grace on the Sufi path. We are utterly dependent upon grace; only grace can take us Home. And yet the path requires our effort. As the Sufi al-Karaz (d. 1049) says, “Whoever believes he can reach God by his own efforts toils in vain; whoever believes he can reach God without effort is merely a traveler on the road of intent.” To step onto the path in which we must acknowledge our utter helplessness and dependence upon grace while still making every effort on our own is to enter a world of paradox and mystery which throws the wayfarer beyond the familiarity and security of his rational understanding, and this is not easy for people who have been so deeply conditioned by our powerful Western rational tradition.

But, challenging as they may be to the Western disciple, these difficulties do not stand in the way of the real work of the path. The heart of the Sufi path is not limited by outer conditions. East or West, the love at the core of any Sufi path is the same. Once the connection has been made between the sheikh and the disciple, the work of this love can begin.


Traditionally the Sufi sheikh is the “keeper of the gates of grace.” Love and grace are the cornerstones of the relationship with the teacher, which is the most important relationship for the disciple. Without this relationship there is no path and no journey. Through the grace of the teacher the disciple is given the love and guidance that are needed for the journey. The disciple progresses through love, and if the disciple does not herself possess enough love, the teacher will create love in her heart.

But the relationship with the teacher is probably the most paradoxical and confusing element of all on the Sufi path. It is the most intimate and yet the most impersonal relationship we will ever have. It is most intimate because it happens within the heart and is a relationship of pure love. And yet this relationship is completely impersonal because it belongs to the soul; it has nothing to do with our ego or personality, or with the person we perceive the teacher to be. For the teacher, while still functioning as a human being, has through the grace of his teacher been made empty, has become “featureless and formless”; in the Sufi tradition the teacher is said to be “without a face, without a name,” stressing the impersonal nature of the teacher.

But in the West we have been conditioned to understand love and nearness solely within the sphere of personal relationships; we have no concept of a deeper, impersonal love that belongs to the soul. Our hunger for personal acceptance, our unmet emotional and even physical needs come to the surface and are easily “spiritualized” and projected into the relationship with the teacher. We lack the traditional container that separates this relationship from the personal sphere. In many Eastern traditions, for example, the disciple cannot address the teacher directly; he must first wait to be spoken to. In the West we have no such protocols.

Furthermore in America relationships of all kinds are marked by a certain informality—even strangers address each other by their first names. So while no one would have thought of addressing Bhai Sahib or Mrs. Tweedie (as she liked to be called) by their first names, it seemed appropriate for people in America to address me as Llewellyn. And yet I gradually noticed the confusion this created and the desire it fed to personalize the relationship with the teacher. This tendency is emphasized by the fact that the majority of people attracted to this path in the West are women, who tend to be naturally relational and experience relationships much more than men do in the personal sphere. And this whole problem is further compounded for the Western seeker by the absence in our culture of any tradition of the relationship with a spiritual teacher. In India the relationship with a guru has always been a part of the culture, while in the Middle East the Sufi sheikh has been a recognized (if sometimes persecuted) figure of spiritual authority. But in the West the relationship of master and disciple, although imaged in the life of Christ, has never been part of our spiritual landscape, and we have no experience within our own culture to turn to for an understanding of its real nature or for guidance as to how to conduct ourselves within it.

The love that comes from the sheikh is pure and unconditional, uncontaminated by any of the patterns or problems that define our normal understanding of relationships. This love does not belong to duality and the normal dynamics we associate with a relationship. It belongs to divine oneness, and is present within the heart of the sheikh from the beginning. As Bhai Sahib described it to Irina Tweedie,

“Love cannot be more or less for the Teacher. For him the very beginning and the end are the same; it is a closed circle. His love for the disciple does not go on increasing; for the disciple, of course, it is very different; he has to complete the whole circle…. As the disciple progresses, he feels the Master nearer and nearer, as the time goes on. But the Master is not nearer; he was always near, only the disciple did not know it.”(18)

Stepping into the presence of the sheikh, the wayfarer enters this dimension of love’s oneness. Yet she does not know this; she has not yet developed the faculty to recognize or to consciously appreciate what is being given. Instead she remains within the prison of her projections, mental conditioning, and psychological problems, which of necessity become projected into the relationship with the teacher.

Love evokes both positive and negative psychological projections. And as anyone who has experienced a human love affair knows, the greater the love, the more powerful the projections—the more the unlived parts of our psyche clamor for attention, want to be drawn into the sunlight of our loving. The unconditional love that is given by the sheikh will of necessity evoke many projections, many of them unexpected and unwanted, along with many unmet needs. Once the initial “honeymoon period” of intoxication has passed, this is what the disciple is forced to confront. And because the sheikh is also a figure of authority, the disciple’s unresolved authority issues will also surface, adding to the cloud of confusion that obscures the real nature of the relationship with the teacher—the love that is the essence of the Sufi path.

For the sheikh this love is the prima materia of the path, both the beginning and the end of the work. Through love the disciple is swept clean of impurities and remade, so that she can live her deepest nature, her inborn closeness to God. While the disciple confronts the obstacles her mind and psyche place in the path, the sheikh does the real work of transformation, softening the heart and preparing the disciple for the awakening of the consciousness of the heart, the divine consciousness that is present in the innermost chamber of the heart, what the Sufis call the “heart of hearts.” Much of the work of the path is a process of preparation, an inner purification to enable the heart of the disciple to contain this consciousness without contamination by the ego or lower nature, the nafs.

When the sheikh receives the hint that the disciple is ready, the consciousness of the heart is awakened in the disciple through the grace of the sheikh, through a transmission from the heart of the sheikh to the heart of the disciple. This infusion of divine love is the gift of sirr: “a substance of God’s grace, produced by the bounty and mercy of God, not by the acquisition and action of man.”(19) The word “sirr” means secret; sirr is a secret substance, hidden from the world because it does not belong to the world but belongs to the mystery of divine love. It is the essence of the relationship of lover and Beloved: “He loves them and they love Him.”(20) Without it there can be no realization. For the Sufi, sirr is the most precious substance in the universe.

Only the teacher can give us what we need, this most precious gift, and yet what is given cannot be grasped by our mind or ego. Through the grace of the sheikh the disciple eventually awakens to the consciousness of oneness that is the knowing of love. But for many years on the path this consciousness is hidden from the disciple, who is faced with the limitations of the ego and the confusions of the psyche. The disciple cannot help but see the teacher through the veils of duality and the distortions of her own projections; she cannot help but try to bring this relationship that belongs to the impersonal level of the soul into the personal landscape of her ego-self. This is what makes this link of love so difficult to follow, this thread so seemingly tenuous. But if we follow it with sincerity, devotion, perseverance, and a sense of humor, we will awaken to the real nature of this most bewildering, most potent of relationships; we will come to know how the heart of the sheikh reflects the oneness of love’s hidden face.


Sufism is a path of love and longing that pulls us into the depths of the heart. Longing is a central note on the Sufi path; it is the feminine side of love: the cup waiting to be filled. Longing draws the wayfarer inward to live the heart’s devotion. Maybe this is why so many who are drawn to the path in the West are women: they are attracted to this mystery of longing, this path of devotion, in which they recognize an intimate part of their own nature. In American culture especially the qualities of the feminine have been denied and repressed, often brutally. Although there is an appearance of sexual equality in America, in this very masculine and extroverted culture there is little real appreciation of the feminine, her power and inner qualities; in fact, in America the deeper aspects of the feminine have been almost completely removed from the collective landscape.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, despite this deep resonance of the feminine with the Sufi path, when I first began working in America I noticed in the women who came to this path a deep-seated fear of allowing their longing, of opening to their heart’s intimacy. They were unsure about sharing dreams and experiences that expressed the inner intimacy of the path and the heart’s love affair. A collective stamp of abuse and dismissal of the feminine had created a wound that held them back. We responded to this by creating a women’s group where women could explore these issues without the inhibitions caused by the presence of men. Gradually, after a few years, the women felt instinctively safe enough to be present, open, and vulnerable, and then there was no longer any need for a women’s group.

An initial work of bringing this path to America had been completed: a container for women for the real work of the soul had been created. This was an important step, as I became increasingly aware of how qualities that are natural to the feminine are essential to living the heart’s longing for God. For the work of the path to take real root in this masculine culture, the feminine mysteries of love—the sanctity of longing, the receptivity of the heart, the way of devotion—need to be reclaimed and honored.

Women have a natural affinity for this work. For women know the wisdom of receptivity, of holding a sacred space. They experience this in their bodies through the wonder of pregnancy; but the sacred feminine also knows how this works within the soul: how the heart is always awake, waiting and longing for her Beloved, for that moment when love comes secretly and sweetly; how within the heart love and longing create a space for the divine to be born. Then the heart becomes “light upon light,” as Rumi describes it: “a beautiful Mary with Jesus in the womb,”(21) which in time can give birth to the divine as a living presence within ourselves and in our lives.

Women also understand the importance of stillness, of simply being. For how can we be receptive when we are busy all the time? In the West we are addicted to activity. We think that the problems of the world and of ourselves can only be solved by going out and doing something, not realizing that it is this focus on ceaseless activity that has created much of our present predicament. When we are not busy solving our problems, we are caught up in an endless round of distracting activity, busyness for its own sake. In response to everything we automatically ask, “What should I do?” But the feminine knows to ask, “How should I be?,” understanding that from a state of still being we can listen, be attentive and aware. We can perceive what life, both within us and around us, is showing us—“We shall show them Our signs upon the horizons and in themselves, until it is clear to them that He is the real.”(22)

Just as a mother instinctively knows how to listen to her children, so does the sacred feminine know how to listen inwardly and outwardly to life, to experience and participate in this sacred mystery of which we are a part. This is the basis of a real relationship to life and to our soul; it is how we can learn to live the life of the soul rather than the illusory life of the ego. Life is a direct expression of the divine, but unless we listen to this hidden presence, we experience only the distortions of the nafs with all its desires and anxieties. Listening within, we hear what our Beloved is telling us; we come to know the mysteries He whispers into our heart and soul. We also learn to distinguish between the voice of the ego and the voice of the Self: to become attentive to the hint of the Beloved, and yet vigilant to the deceptions of the ego.

Life and the soul are always beckoning us, wanting to share the real wonder of being alive. When we really listen, our outer and inner life can speak to us, and take us on a journey far beyond the limited world of the ego. We can begin to discover the divine mysteries of love within our hearts and in the world around us. The mysteries of love are feminine in their nature, just as the nature of the soul is feminine as it looks towards God, always attentive and receptive. We need to reclaim these feminine qualities that have been so devalued in American culture and recognize their essential value, and bring them back into the our lives.


Sufism is a path of love, but it is also has the aspect of power and spiritual authority. This presents another difficulty for Americans on the path. America is democratic by nature; there is little collective understanding here—in fact there is a great deal of suspicion—of real spiritual authority or power. In addition to that democratic conditioning, the centuries-long dominance of masculine hierarchies in the West and their abuse of power has made many seekers understandably hesitant about power; particularly in women there is a deep fear and distrust of masculine authority, after centuries of abuse. Yet deferring to the power and the inner authority of the teacher is an essential aspect of the way we are trained to bow down before God. For how can we become His servant if we are not trained to do what we are told? If we are asked to do something and we hesitate, even for an instant, the moment can be lost.

When I met Irina Tweedie, I immediately knew that I was in the presence of real spiritual power, just as when she first met her sheikh something in her instinctively bowed down. I knew with a knowing that had no outer logic that I had to do whatever I was told. For many years I thought that she was my teacher, until she explained that I belonged to her sheikh, Bhai Sahib, and that when I first came to the group she had been told by him in meditation to leave me alone, that he would look after me. (This connection with a teacher who no longer has a physical presence is known as uwaysi, and is part of the Naqshbandi tradition.)(23)

I was trained by my sheikh in the ancient way of trial and love, in which the disciple becomes “less than the dust at the feet of the sheikh.” For example, there was a period of two years in my early twenties when he did not let me sleep for more than three hours a night, destroying my patterns of resistance and spiritual arrogance through the simple—but very effective—means of exhaustion. Finally, one summer afternoon, in the most intense few hours of my life, I was confronted by the deepest suffering of my whole being, until in a moment of revelation he awakened my consciousness on the level of the soul. Then gradually, over the following years, I became aware of the depths of my belonging to him, and came to know that I am here to serve him, that I have been trained to do his bidding. He guided me with kindness and severity. Once, when my children were young and I was continually tidying the house after them, his voice gently came to me, “You don’t have to keep tidying up!” On another occasion, when I was suffering intensely from the awakening of my kundalini energy,(24) Mrs. Tweedie asked Bhai Sahib if he could help me. His response was simply, “He can bear it.”

My relationship with my sheikh is one of total subservience and love, based on a recognition that nothing matters in this world except to do his work and to please him. I came to know him as an inner presence, someone I could turn to in meditation and prayer, whose help would be present when I needed it most. And yet often over the years he seemed to leave me alone to struggle with my difficulties and to make mistakes. I have experienced the devastation of emptiness and desolation when this connection was veiled, and anguish when I displeased him, when I felt that I failed my sheikh. But I have come to know that this relationship is the one thread of love that this world cannot break, because it is made of a different substance that is stronger than all the difficulties of this world. It belongs to the ancient secret of love and devotion, a belonging so primal that it exists before creation. It is part of the substance of the soul and gives meaning to every moment of every day.

Held by this thread of love, this connection from heart to heart, I was given a love so complete that every cell of the body was fulfilled and I knew the bliss of the soul. I was taken from the world of duality back to the oneness of the heart, and further, into the dimensions of non-being, the emptiness that is the real home of the mystic. I was shown the infinite inner spaces where love is born, and a quality of consciousness that belongs to light upon light. In the ancient tradition, I was destroyed and remade, so that I could be of service to my sheikh and the Beloved. When I first came to the path I was an arrogant nineteen-year-old who had had a few experiences in meditation and thought he knew something about spiritual life. But unknowingly I was taken in hand by a great master who taught me humility and the simplicity of real service. He opened my heart and awoke me to a realization of the oneness of life that is all around us. And he guided me, with humor, patience, and love, knowing my faults and accepting me.

Through this relationship I have also come to know the real power that belongs to God and those who are in service to God. In our outer life we often see the power dynamics people engage in playing out around us, in the family or the workplace, or more corruptively on the world stage. But in the relationship with a real teacher, one who is merged into the Absolute, who is one with God, there is a power of a completely different magnitude, a power that belongs to the Creator and not the creation. This is a power that wants nothing for itself but just is. When I experience this power inwardly, in the presence of my sheikh, my whole being trembles and bows down. When people talk about a spiritual teacher in terms of power dynamics, something in me laughs, because it is clear they have no idea what real spiritual power is. The disciple does not argue or doubt before such pure energy. The only response is awe.


Behind each teacher stands a succession of spiritual elders, each supported and guided by those who have gone before. To be responsible for the soul of a wayfarer is one of the greatest responsibilities one can be asked to carry, and without the inner presence of my sheikh I could not guide anyone: he watches over me and confronts me with any mistake I might make. This hidden dimension of the path is hardly known in the West, where only what is visible is recognized, but it is an essential aspect of Sufism.

In the Naqshbandi path the succession of superiors is combined with the tradition of the Khwajagan (masters), a number of early Naqshbandi sheikhs whose spiritual power and authority were recognized even in the outer world, sometimes by worldly leaders and kings. The Naqshbandiyya became known as “the path of the masters.”

The Khwajagan were visible in the Middle East from the eleventh to fifteenth century. They had access to inner spiritual powers, but another secret of their success and influence was their consistent avoidance of any worldly position of wealth or power. Their influence was based on the love they inspired in all who met them.(25) By the sixteenth century their outer influence had become less visible, but the work and authority of this succession of Naqshbandi masters continued in the inner worlds, where it can be linked with the Sufi tradition of the awiliya.

The awiliya are the Friends of God, a spiritual hierarchy consisting of a fixed number of evolved incarnated beings who watch over the world. At the top of the hierarchy stands the pole (qutb), “the Master of the Friends of God,” who is the axis around whom the exterior and interior universe turns. Under the pole come seven pegs, below which come the forty successors (al-abdâl).(26) If one of these Friends of God dies, another is waiting to take his place, so that the number of Friends is always maintained.(28) Without the awiliya the existence and wellbeing of the world could not be sustained.

Over the last centuries the awiliya have been hidden; their spiritual work has gone on undisturbed. But the existence of a spiritual hierarchy working to maintain the wellbeing of the whole world has remained part of spiritual consciousness in the East. In the West, however, we have identified the spiritual path almost exclusively with the process of individual transformation and have little understanding of this larger, global dimension.

Sadly, in the West much of our understanding of spiritual life has been subverted by the values of the ego. Only too often we see spiritual life solely in terms of self-development, the desire for progress, self-empowerment or the achievement of spiritual states. We completely miss the basic principle that the path is never about us, about our individual or spiritual wellbeing. To be spiritually mature is to recognize that we work upon ourselves not for our own benefit but for the sake of service: service to our Beloved and to the whole of life—in the oneness of His love there is no difference.

In order to fully claim the heritage of Sufism and the tradition of the awiliya, the masters of love, we need to step out of our confined vision of the path and recognize that there are deeper levels of commitment and service than we have been aware of in our pursuit of our own private spiritual goals. Traditionally His lovers and the friends of God look after the wellbeing of the world, “keeping watch on the world and for the world.” Spiritual groups and individuals have always assisted in this work, working in the inner realms to bring love and light where they are needed. Through their prayers, devotions, and other practices they work, sometimes knowingly but more often unknowingly, to make their light available. The wayfarer’s consciousness has not traditionally been necessary to this work. Much spiritual work happens on the level of the soul where it is veiled from the everyday consciousness even of those who are involved; it is difficult for the mind to comprehend levels of reality beyond its immediate perception, and often it is best for the ego not to know what we are doing.

Now, though, at this time of global crisis which is also a time of global transformation, there is a need for spiritually aware individuals to participate consciously in this global dimension of spiritual work. In the West we have identified spiritual work too limitedly with our individual inner journey or outer acts of service. We need to know that we are a part of a network of mystics and masters of love who are helping the world come alive with love, working from within to redeem a world that has become desecrated through our forgetfulness.

For the world is a living being, possessed of a consciousness and a soul. The soul of the world, the anima mundi, is the spiritual center of the world, a spinning organism of light and love that exists at the world’s core. Without it, the world would be nothing more than shadowy images without purpose or meaning. In the same way that the light of our own soul brings meaning to our lives, and that turning away from the needs of our soul brings emptiness and despair, the soul of the world makes the world sacred, and our mistreatment of the world creates both an outer and an inner wasteland. Our obsessive materialism and the greed it has spawned have covered the soul of the world in a cloud of forgetfulness, polluting our physical planet and draining joy and sacred meaning from life.

At this moment of crisis and opportunity in the evolution of the world, it has become a part of the work of this Naqshbandi path to bring our awareness to the work of reawakening the soul of the world, of purifying and redeeming it so that its light can once again flow into life and nourish all of creation. What has been the work of the masters mainly on the inner planes, in which seekers have participated mostly unknowingly, is now becoming our conscious focus as well. Wayfarers need to recognize and accept their role in this work: to turn their focus away from their own spiritual journey and dedicate their spiritual life and experience to the benefit of the world. Through our spiritual practices we gain access to our divine light; through the teachings of the path we learn to live it in our daily lives. Now through the inner work with the masters of love we have to learn consciously to use our light for the sake of the world—to shine our own light where it is needed, and to work with the body of light that is the soul of the world.

The soul of the world is everywhere. Just as the soul of the individual is present throughout the body, the soul of the world permeates every cell of creation. It is made up of the light of the souls of all of humanity and a substance that belongs to the very being of the planet. It comes into existence through us—on one level it is the light of humanity, both individually and collectively—and through the physical body of the planet, though it does not belong to the physical dimension; it is fully alive on the inner planes, in a dimension where its light is clearly visible; but it is also the living, sacred essence of the physical world we know, alive in every cell of creation.

In the inner worlds, the light of the world soul is guided by the masters of love; in the outer world it needs our conscious attention. And because this light is not other than our light, we can access it through the light of our own higher nature—which means that we can access it wherever we are, in any situation. Working with our own light, through attention and remembrance, our higher consciousness can directly participate with the light of the whole, and we can make a direct contribution to the way the light moves around the planet. And when the light of the soul of the world begins to flow, it can reveal to humanity to our divine potential and the deeper meaning of life. There are specific ways we can learn to work with it—ways for the light to interact with the darkness of the world and transform this darkness, to reveal hidden qualities within humanity and awaken life to its magical and miraculous nature. It is this light that can transform creation and welcome the Beloved back into His world.

All who are open to this work are needed to participate, and each of us can contribute in our own way, according to our nature. But part of this work can only be done by women. They carry the sacred substance of life in their spiritual centers. Without this light a woman could not conceive and give birth, she could not participate in the greatest mystery of bringing a soul into life: giving the spiritual light of a soul a physical form out of the substance of her own body. Women instinctively know how to bring spirit into matter and awaken the spiritual potential of matter.

The awakening of the soul of the world is also an awakening to the interconnectedness of all of life and to life’s own healing potential that works through its interrelatedness. Women, carrying within them a spiritual connection to life that is not present in men, instinctively understand life in its wholeness as a living web of relationships and connections through which life’s energy flows. They carry these connections in their physical and spiritual bodies in a way that is foreign to men. Women’s natural attunement to the divine as it manifests through the whole, interwoven, living tissue of creation is essential to the healing and transformation of life, and only women can bring this dimension to the work.

Women have to recognize their true spiritual nature and the transformative potential they carry within them, so that they can offer it back to life—for without its light the world will slowly die. Women carry within them the light that can heal the split between matter and spirit that has done such damage, causing the physical world to forget its sacred nature and its ability to transform and heal itself. Life itself has become caught in the abusive thought-forms of the masculine that denigrate the feminine and seek to dominate through power. The light within women is needed to free life of theses constrictions and abuses, and to reconnect matter once again to its spiritual potential. For a woman the physical and spiritual worlds can never be separate: she carries the light of the world within the cells of her body; her sexuality is a sacred offering to the goddess. But she needs to consciously recognize this divine potential and deep knowing, so that she can live it in service to life and the need of the time. The world needs the presence of women who are awake to their spiritual light, and who can work with the substance of life in order to heal and transform it.

In the work with the soul of the world we are guided from within by the awiliya, the masters of love, but we each need to take responsibility for our own light, for bringing our light into our life and into the world. We need to look beyond our own individual spiritual journey to offer our light for the healing and transformation of the world. Once we realize that our light is part of the light of the whole, we will be able to participate more fully in this work of co-creating the future, in helping the world awaken from its nightmare of forgetfulness so that it can remember and celebrate its divine nature.


The Naqshbandi path of the masters is like a river, sometimes visible, sometimes hidden underground. It appears where it is needed, where there is spiritual work to be done. Although the outer form may change, its inner essence remains unchanged. It is a spiritual system designed to transform a human being, to awaken us to our divine nature and teach us how to live this in service to our Beloved, according to the need of the time.

On the path there are different forms of spiritual work. Inner purification is an important preliminary work, involving changing the patterns of our behavior and freeing ourselves from attitudes and responses that interfere with our aspirations. Psychological inner work is part of this process—confronting the “shadow,” the repressed, rejected and unacknowledged parts of our psyche; accepting our wounds; and transforming psychological dynamics and patterns of conditioning. Through spiritual work we also develop the qualities we need for the path, for example self-discipline, compassion, patience, perseverance. In particular we learn to value the feminine qualities of receptivity, listening, and inner attention. Through working on our spiritual practices such as meditation and remembrance, we learn to still the mind and be attentive to the needs of the divine in our inner and outer life. We also learn to master our negative qualities, such as anger, greed, jealousy, and judgment. Through this work we are better able to align ourselves with our higher nature and live its qualities in our daily life. We bring our selflessness, awareness, loving-kindness, discrimination, and other qualities into our family and workplace, transforming both ourselves and our environment. To live according to our higher principles in the midst of the outer world with its distractions and demands is a full-time work.

The spiritual wayfarer gives herself to her inner work and outer service. The Sufis are known as “slaves of the one and servants of the many.” We make our contributions to outer life in whatever way we are called, whether through simple acts of loving-kindness or more defined service helping those in need. We help those in our spiritual community and daily life. We learn to be always attentive to the needs of our Beloved in whatever form He appears.

And there is also another dimension of spiritual work that until now has been mainly hidden, known only to initiates. This is the work done by individuals and spiritual groups on the inner planes, helping humanity from within. At this time there is a real need for all those who have awakened to their spiritual nature to participate as fully as they are able, to work with the light of the world in service to the whole—to help the soul of the world awaken so that the wonder and joy of divine presence can again nourish everyday life. This is a simple but demanding work, the work of love and remembrance, of being fully present in our life and allowing our light and attention to be used by the masters of love.

And always we are held in the presence of our sheikh and the transmission of love passed from teacher to disciple: the grace that is given effortlessly, the love, light and protection that come from the succession of those who are merged in God.


1. Prophet Muhammad.
2. Abû Bakr as-Siddîq (d. 634)
3. Salmân al-Fârisî (d. 655)
4. Qâsim ibn Muhammad (d. 725)
5. Jacfar as-Sâdiq (d. 765)
6. Bâyezîd Bistâmî (d. 845)
7. Abû ‘l-Hasan Kharaqânî (d. 1033)
8. Abû-l Qâsim Gurgânî (d. 1077)
9. Abû cAlî Fârmadî (d. 1084)
10. Yûsuf Hamadânî (d. 1141)
11. cAbd al-Khâliq Ghujduvânî (d. 1179)
12. cÂrif Rîvgarî (d. 1219)
13. Mahmûd Anjîr Faghnavî (d. 1316)
14. cAlî Râmîtanî (d. 1321)
15. Muhammad Bâbâ Sammâsi (d. 1354)
16. Amîr Kulâl (d. 1370)
17. Bahâ ad-Dîn Naqshband (d. 1389)
18. cAlâ ad-Dîn cAttâr (d. 1399)
19. Yacûb Charkhî (d. 1447)
20. Nasîr ad-Dîn cUbaydullâh Ahrâr (d. 1490)
21. Muhammad Zâhid (d. 1529)
22. Darwîsh Muhammad (d. 1562)
23. Muhammad Amkanagî (d. 1600)
24. Muhammad Bâqîbillâh (d. 1603)
25. Ahmad Sirhindî (d. 1624)
26. Muhammad Macsûm (d. 1668)
27. Sayfuddîn al-Faruqî (d. 1684)
28. Nûr Muhammad al-Badâwnî (d. 1723)
29. Mîrzâ Mazhar Jânjânân (d. 1780)
30. Nacîmullâh Bahrâichî (d. 1801)
31. Muradulla (d. 18??)
32. Abul Hasan (d. 1854)
33. Ahmad Ali Khan (d. 1889)
34. Abdul Gani Khan (d. 1952)
35. Radha Mohan Lal (Bhai Sahib) (d. 1966)
36. Irina Tweedie (d. 1999)
37. Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee


(1) Bhai Sahib means “Elder Brother.”
(2) Lalaji, also known as Ram Chandra, became the founder of a Hindu spiritual tradition, the Ram Chandra Mission.
(3) R.K. Gupta, Yogis in Silence (New Dehli: B.R,. Paperback, 2002) p. 93.
(4) Irina Tweedie, Daughter of Fire, (Inverness, California: Golden Sufi Center, 1986) p, 744.
(5) Tweedie, Daughter of Fire, p. 496.
(6) Tweedie, unpublished lecture, “The Paradox of Mysticism,” Wrekin Trust, “Mystics and Scientists Conference,” 1985.
(7) As this path developed in India, it adopted certain sanskrit terms for example “dhyana” and “samadhi” for states of meditation..
(8) Tweedie, unpublished lecture, “The Paradox of Mysticism,” Wrekin Trust, “Mystics and Scientists Conference,” 1985.
(9) ‘Attâr, Farîduddin, The Conference of the Birds, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961) p. 132
(10) A few years after meeting Irina Tweedie I had a dream telling me to read the works of Carl Jung. Later I completed a Ph.D. on Jungian Psychology and wrote a number of books exploring the psychological dynamics of the stages of the path, for example Catching the Thread, Sufism, Dreamwork and Jungian Psychology (Inverness, California: Golden Sufi Center, 1999).
(11) Irina Tweedie, Daughter of Fire, p. 496.
(12) Trans. Daniel Liebert, Rumi, Fragments, Ecstasies (Santa Fe, New Mexico: Source Books, 1981), p. 45.
(13) Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975), p. 169.
(14) Khidr is an archetypal figure of direct revelation, refered to in the Qur’an as “one of Our servants unto whom We have given mercy and bestowed knowledge of Ourself.”
(15) Qur’an, 2:109.
(16) Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, p. 203.
(17) As this tradition grew and expanded in Europe, other meditation groups were started that did not have the physical presence of the teacher. On this path anyone can form a meditation group as long as it is in their own home where they regularly practice meditation. At these different groups wayfarers meditate and share and discuss dreams.
(18) Tweedie, Daughter of Fire, p. 120
(19) Abû Sa‘id ibn Abî-l-Khayr, quoted by R.A. Nicholson, Studies in Islamic Mysticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), p. 51.
(20) Qur’an, sura 5:59.
(21) Quoted by William Chittick, The Sufi Path of Love (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), p. 241.
(22) Qur’an 41:53.
(23) Baha ad-Din Naqshband was guided by ‘Abd‘l-Khâliq Ghujduwânî (d. 1220), one of the foremost masters of the Naqshbandi Order and the master who introduced the ‘silent dhikr’, as well as by al-Hakîm at-Tirmidhî, (d. ca 907).
(24) Kundalini is an aspect of Cosmic Energy, which, according to Yogic tradition resides at the base of the spine. In some traditions the awakening of the kundalini is necessary for spiritual realization.
(25) J.G. Bennet, The Masters of Wisdom (Santa Fe, New Mexico: Bennett Books, 1995), p. 99.
(26) See Sara Sviri, The Taste of Hidden Things (Inverness, California: Golden Sufi Center, 1997), pp. 72-73.
(27) The ninth-century Sufi al-Hakîm at-Tirmidhî writes of the “forty righteous men” that “It is due to them that the denizens of the earth are guarded from affliction; people are protected from misfortunes. Due to them the rain falls and crops grow. None of them ever dies unless God brings forth another to replace him. They never curse anything, they never cause harm to those beneath them, they never regard them with arrogance or contempt; they don’t envy those who are above them and they don’t have any desire for the world.” (Nawârdir al-usûl, unpublished translation by Sara Sviri).