Letters from a Sufi Teacher

Letters from a Sufi Teacher

Shaikh Sharfuddin Maneri
Translated by Baijnath Singh. Adyar, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 2006. Paper, $7.75, x + 130 pages.

This is a very welcome reprint of Baijnath Singh's 1908 translation of excerpts from the letters of Sheikh Sharfuddin Maneri, a fourteenth-century Indian Sufi. It is a very readable book, divided into short sections on a great variety of topics. The original author, from north India, reveals the influence not only of Islam and the Sufi heritage but also of yoga, the Upanishads, and Buddhism. He points toward a path that transcends the ordinary sort of religious belief and leads one toward the direct inner revelation of God.

It is not enough, according to Maneri, just to read this book and absorb its theories. He insists that one must find a master who can lead beyond all theories, all words, all thoughts to the inner illumination of God's presence. The path is difficult, for it involves learning to control one's "desire-nature" and "self-ness." Indeed having a grand "spiritual experience" may lead one astray, for it usually promotes one's sense of ego.

Baijnath Singh's translation is quite accessible, though he occasionally lapses into "thee-thou" language that has been archaic for centuries. Moreover, he sometimes inserts Theosophical language that was certainly not used by the original author. Nevertheless, this is a fine, even moving, exposition of Indian Sufism that is highly recommended.

Jay G. Williams

This reviewer has served as chairman of the department of religion at Hamilton College. Formerly a Presbyterian minister, now a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church, he is author of the Quest Books publications, Judaism and Yeshua Buddha.