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The contacts and conflicts between sufis and yogis became more frequent and meaningful. The various branches of qalandars and sufis of the Rifa’iyya order, confined mainly to Turkey, Syria and Egypt, were significantly influenced by wandering yogis. Unfortunately existing literature throws little light on yogis, who are constantly referred to as “jogis”. In one reference the perfect yogi is associated by Shaikh Nasirud-Din Chirag-i Dihli with the Siddhas. The topics discussed at the jama’at-khana gatherings of Baba Farid were of great interest to visiting Siddhas whose beliefs were founded on Hatha Yoga. Supplementing these scraps of information is al-Biruni, unquestionably a profound authority on comparative religions, who notes sufi parallels in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, which he himself translated into Arabic. He also mentions similarities with Samkhya, one of the six schools of classical Hindu philosophy, and with the Bhagavad Gita. Patanjali’s theories of the soul are defined by Al-Biruni as follows:

“The soul, being on all sides tied to ignorance, which is the cause of its being fettered, is like rice in its cover. As long as it is there, it is capable of growing and ripening in the transition stages between being born and giving birth itself. But if the cover is taken off the rice, it ceases to develop in this way, and becomes stationary. The retribution of the soul depends on the various kinds of creatures through which it wanders, upon the extent of life, whether it be long or short, and upon the particular kind of its happiness, be it scanty or ample.”

He goes on to say:

“The same doctrine is professed by those sufis who teach that this world is a sleeping soul and yonder world a soul awake, and who at the same time admit that God is immanent in certain places—for example, in heaven—in the seat and the throne of God (mentioned in the Quran). But then there are others who admit that God is immanent in the whole world, in animals, trees and the inanimate world, which they call His universal appearance. To those who hold this view, the entering of the souls into various beings in the course of metempsychosis is of no consequence.” Referring to the Samkhya theory of the rewards of paradise as being of no special advantage, Al-Biruni adds: “The sufis, too, do not consider the stay in Paradise a special gain for another reason, because there the soul delights in other things, but the Truth, that is, God, and its thoughts are diverted from the Absolute Good by things which are not the Absolute Good.” On the nature of liberation from the world and the path by which this can be achieved, Al-Biruni quotes Patanjali’s text as follows:

“The concentration of thought ont he unity of God induces man to notice something besides that with which he is occupied. He who wants God, wants the good for the whole creation without a single exception for any reason whatever; but he who occupies himself exclusively with his own self, will for its benefit neither inhale, breathe, nor exhale it (svasa and prasvasa). When a man attains to this degree, his spiritual power prevails over his bodily power, and then he is gifted with the faculty of doing eight different things by which detachment is realised; for a man can only dispense with that which he is able to do, not with that which is outside his grasp.”

According to Al-Biruni the sufi parallel is contained in the following theory:

“The terms of the sufi as to the knowing being and his attaining the stage of knowledge come to the same effect, for they maintain that he has two souls—an eternal one, not exposed to change and alteration, by which he knows that which is hidden, the transcendental world, and performs wonders; and another, a human soul, which is liable to being changed and being born.” Al-Biruni also quotes this passage from the Yoga Sutra to indicate the relation of the body to the soul. “The bodies are the snares of the souls for the purpose of acquiring recompense. He who arrives at the stage of liberation has acquired, in his actual form of existence, the recompense for all the doing of the past. Then he ceases to labour to acquire a title to a recompense in the future. He frees himself from the snare; he can dispense with the particular form of his existence, and moves in it quite freely without being ensnared by it. He has even the faculty of moving wherever he likes, and if he likes, he might rise above the face of death. For the thick, cohesive bodies cannot oppose an obstacle to his form of existence (as, for example, a mountain could not prevent him from passing through). How, then, could his body oppose an obstacle to his soul?”

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