Touching fresh, home-cooked food was forbidden until my mother had set aside the best portions for Mehmani. I would watch her as she joyfully assembled a meal fit for a King – complete with an appetizer, main course, side dish, and dessert. She would then garnish it with all the perfect trimmings and securely pack it so it was ready to take to Khane that evening.
Through this daily ritual of Mehmani, my mother infused her faith in what would otherwise be a daily chore; she was not just cooking for our family, but rather, she was preparing a meal for her Pir and Shah, her spiritual mother and father, her guide and her destination, as Shri Krishna explains to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita:
But know thou, Arjuna, that I despise not the worship of the humble and simple folk, who in their loving worship present Me with leaves, flowers, fruits, and water. I say unto thee that I accept and enjoy such offerings from these, my children; in the spirit of the gift do I accept it.
All sacrifices I accepteth even in the spirit of the offering, not in the value of the gift. Therefore, whatever thou dost, O Prince, whether it be eating, giving, sacrificing, or performance of ceremonies or rites – do these things in earnest offering to Me.
A perfectionist by birth, my mother often spent hours beautifying the platter for Mehmani. Through her intention of presenting Mehmani, my mother engaged in Tariqah (mindful action) and not merely Shariah (prescribed action) when she was shopping for groceries, preparing the meal, and even cleaning the kitchen at the end of the day.
Finally, when the evening arrived and it was time to take the Mehmani to Khane, she was reminded of the source of her real sustenance. Quietly, she said a prayer of Shukrana for the quality of her life, which enabled her to present such an offering of time, energy, wealth, and love.
This small offering is one of the many ways my mother worshiped her Lord and sanctified our lives. How fortunate am I to have witnessed her growing love for the Imam over the years! And how fortunate am I to have watched her vivify more and more of her actions with spiritual knowledge and walk the path of Haqiqah (realized wisdom).
The path has called me forward too, but in different way. Unable to prepare the lavish dishes like my mother, I did what I could: I made time to read spiritual texts before attending evening Khane. I filled my mind with knowledge that would move me towards right action. I cleansed my soul of the worldly and often distracting energy and calibrated my mind with thoughts of the Divine. As I read the last page each evening, I was reminded of the source of all spiritual knowledge. Slowly I would close my eyes and say a silent prayer of Shukrana for the quality of my life, which granted me the time to read and attend Khane. Truly this is the greatest fortune our world has to offer.
On many of those evenings, Shri Krishna’s words rekindled the light within me to illuminate the way forward:
Some there be who offer up sacrifices to the lesser gods, and others there be who worship the Divine Principle in the fire; others pour their sense-desires upon the altar; others offer up the very functions of life; others still be who make offering of the sacrifice of wealth – or who practice austerity as a token of worship – or who meditate in silence and thought; others there be who practice Yoga as a worship; and some make vows and render devotional exercises; still others practice sacred breathings as their share of offering; others perform fastings.
All make sacrifices, though their offerings be far different in nature and kind. And all are benefitted by the spirit which causes their form of sacrifice; all gain merit by the sacrificial spirit behind the observance. There is much virtue and merit in self-restraint and self-mastery, O Prince, and thus do the sacrificers come nearer to Me. Yea, they who rise from their sacrifices with increased spiritual comprehension draw nearer unto Me. But, for him who maketh no sacrifices, O Prince, there is no merit for him in this world – how then can there be merit for him in another?
If Shariah is a path within this earthly realm – the Dunya, then Tariqah is the path to the heavenly realm – the Akhirah. My intention is to be cognizant of both worlds in every moment through the Ismaili Tariqah, leading to a full integration of my soul, and ultimately the unveiling of Haqiqah.
An individual can choose to worship the Absolute through prescribed actions (without discernment) and travel upon Shariah. However, if the path chooses the individual, he finds himself upon the Tariqah, deeply involved in the worship of the Absolute through knowledge infused into daily action. By virtue of the Tariqah, he attains to wisdom. Wisdom, the mark of a purified soul, is the fruit of realized knowledge via mindful action.
The greatest offering an individual can make is that of a purified soul. In order to purify the soul, one must “burn” off its worldly desires by the sacred flame of wisdom, leaving it only with the burning desire for union with the Absolute…
My days already begin and end with thoughts of Him, but when He becomes the thread running through all my thoughts, only then will I have fully integrated knowledge and action, the inner and the outer. Only then will I know that my soul’s knowledge has been purified and tested through action. Only then will my soul be left with nothing but Wisdom, prepared to testify to the Truth. And only then will my soul be ready to be presented as Mehmani.
Thou hast seen that there are many forms of sacrifices and worship in the world, O Arjuna. Knoweth thou, then, that Action pervadeth all these forms. Knowing this, thou art freed from error. But better than the sacrifice of object and things, O Prince, is the offering of Wisdom. Wisdom, in itself, is the sum of all Action – the Spiritual Knowing comprehends all Action. – Shri Krishna