The Sufi stories are not philosophical, they are just gentle hints, whisperings. Sufism does not shout, it only whispers. Naturally, only those who are ready to listen with sympathy – not only with sympathy, but empathy – only those who are ready to open their hearts in trust and in surrender can understand what Sufism is.
Only those who are capable of love can understand what Sufism is, what its message is. It is not a logical analysis; neither is it as illogical as Zen. Sufism says to be logical is one extreme, to be illogical is another. Sufism is just somewhere in the middle: neither logic nor illogic. It does not lean to the left or to the right. It is not absurd. It is not logical like Socrates and it is not absurd like Bodhidharma. It says Bodhidharma and Socrates only look different, but their approaches are the same.
In Zen the key word is mindfulness. In Sufism the key word is heartfulness. Remember this; it will make it clear where they differ. Zen is against mind, but goes beyond mind through the mind.
Sufism is not against the mind; Sufism is completely indifferent to the mind. Sufism is focused on the heart. It simply does not bother about the mind. It believes in heartfulness.
Yes, a certain kind of awakening comes to the Sufi too. If we call the Zen awakening ‘satori,’ mind wakefulness, then we will have to coin a word for the Sufi awakening:’ heart wakefulness.’ The path of the Sufi is the path of the lover, the path of Zen is the path of the warrior, the samurai – and because of this, there is a basic difference in approach.
Both use stories. The Zen story is absurd: it is a riddle, and a riddle that cannot be solved. You can try, but you will never be able to solve it. That insolubility is built-in; it is intrinsic to the Zen story. It has to be absurd because it is a device to destroy your mind, to shock your mind. It is a sword to kill your mind. It drives you almost mad because there seems to be no solution coming and you have to go on meditating on the story. Many solutions are given by the mind, but all solutions are rejected by the master. Sometimes months, sometimes years pass, and then a moment comes to the disciple when he sees that there is no solution. And remember, if you simply think there is no solution then you have missed the point. You have to come to a realisation that there is no solution. In that state of no-solution, no-conclusion, a transcendence happens, a leap, a quantum leap: you have gone beyond the mind through the mind. The Zen story functions like a sword to cut the knot of the mind.
The Sufi story is not a riddle; it is a parable. It is not a shock, it is not a sword, it is persuasion. It is seduction, it is the way of the lover, it is very gentle and soft and feminine. Zen is very masculine, Sufism is feminine. The Sufi story has a poetry in it, a rhythm. The Sufi story has to be contemplated, not meditated upon. The Zen story has to be meditated upon. The Sufi story has to be imbibed, sipped like tea, enjoyed in a relaxed mood.