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

by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee March, 2016



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 a Sufi master, 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 the 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]

Hands spinning wool

Hands spinning wool © Azerbaijan Rugs 2004-2013

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.

Oil lamp

Oil lamp


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], 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. 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.”[7]

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.

Olive tree, by Anat Vaughan-Lee

Olive tree, by Anat Vaughan-Lee


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.”[8]

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.[9] 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.

Zoroaster Clavis Artis, MS Verginelli-Rota. 1737.

Zoroaster Clavis Artis, MS Verginelli-Rota. 1737.


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.[10]

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.[11]

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![12]

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.[13] 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.”[14]

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.”[15] 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.

Sri Yantra


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.[16] 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.


[1] Bhai Sahib means “Elder Brother.” His actual name was Radha Mohan Lal.

[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] Tweedie, unpublished lecture, “The Paradox of Mysticism,” Wrekin Trust, “Mystics and Scientists Conference,” 1985.

[8] ‘Attâr, Farîduddin, The Conference of the Birds, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961) p. 132

[9] 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).

[10] Irina Tweedie, Daughter of Fire, p. 496.

[11] Trans. Daniel Liebert, Rumi, Fragments, Ecstasies (Santa Fe, New Mexico: Source Books, 1981), p. 45.

[12] Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975), p. 169.

[13] 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.”

[14] Qur’an, 2:109.

[15] Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, p. 203.

[16] 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.

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Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D.

by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D.

March, 2016

About Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D. is a Sufi teacher in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order. Born in London in 1953, he has followed the Naqshbandi Sufi path since he was nineteen. In 1991 he became the successor of Irina Tweedie, who brought this particular Indian branch of Sufism to the West and is the author of Daughter of Fire: A Diary of a Spiritual Training with a Sufi Master. He then moved to Northern California and founded The Golden Sufi Center.

Author of several books and articles, he has specialized in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of Jungian Psychology. Since 2000 his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and an awakening global consciousness of oneness ( More recently he has written about the feminine, the anima mundi (World Soul), and spiritual ecology ( as well as contributed to several other books.

His recently published book, For Love of the Real (Fall 2015), is regarded as a completion of over twenty-five years of his writing and teaching, as it draws together many of the threads of his work which began with his 1993 book The Bond with the Beloved. Together with its publication we thought it could be helpful to summarize the different areas of his work, all of which are woven together in this final volume: Areas of Work.

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