Shah Firoz, who is remembered as the teacher of many very distinguished Sufis, was often asked why he did not teach them faster.
He said, “Because even the most dedicated will, until a certain point of understanding, not be teachable at all. He is here in the flesh, but absent in every other way.”
Religion exists in three dimensions. That is the original source of the concept of trinity, or the Hindu idea of trimurti – the three faces of God.
Or we can say that religion exists on three planes – because man exists on three planes. Man exists in the body, in the mind, in the soul. Religion also has a body, a mind and a soul. If you only exist in the body you cannot relate to any other religion except the outermost. If you exist as a psychology – as a mind, as a psyche – then you can relate to the second layer of religion, otherwise not. And until you start existing as a soul, there is no possibility of coming to encounter the innermost core of religion – tasawwuf, the ultimate, what the Sufis are searching for.
The Sufis have three names for these three planes. They have to be understood; they are very significant.
The first is called sharia. Sharia means the body of religion. It may be alive, it may be dead – both are possibilities. When a Buddha is alive, sharia is alive. When a Mohammed is alive, sharia is alive – because Mohammed breathes life into it. But when Mohammed is gone there will be a corpse. The corpse resembles the real body but it is not; it only resembles it.
When life leaves you, your corpse will look just like you – but it is not. The real has left, the subtle has left. Only the gross is lying there on the ground. That creates trouble because people become so much acquainted with the face that they go on believing that the corpse is alive.
Islam is dead. When Mohammed was there to breathe life into it, it was a totally different kind of religion. That is called sharia.
Sharia means exotericism – the ritual, the formal, the Sunday religion. It does not affect you at all. It gives you a certain respectability in the society. It is more social than spiritual, and it is more political than religious. Islam without Mohammed and Hinduism without Krishna and Buddhism without Buddha are nothing but garbed political standpoints. In the name of religion, politics continues.
When God is not there to breathe into the body, the devil starts breathing into it. So a dead body is not only dead, it is very dangerous. It can be possessed by the devil. The politician is the devil. When the saint is gone the body is there – somebody can enter into it, somebody can start having that body. It resembles the real. When the saint is gone the priest will use it, the politician will use it, and many will be deceived by it because they know only the face.