Saints, Teachers, and Seekers in the Indian Tradition
Irina Tweedie
Disciple of a Naqshbandi Sufi Pir

Irina Tweedie

Irina Tweedie was a British women who went to live and study in northwest India with a Naqshbandi Sufi teacher. Her book "The Chasm of Fire, A Women's Experience of Liberation through the Teachings of a Sufi Master" is written in the form of a spiritual diary. She does not write much about her personal background. So the focus here is on her spiritual experience and her relationship with her teacher.

During her training, her teacher did not give her any specific spiritual practice as he believed that while men required this kind of discipline, such things were not necessary for women to develop spiritually. The few years she spent near him consisted largely of sitting in his courtyard or house, observing his interaction with other disciples and family, with occasional terse conversations with him.

The stress resulting from a combination of the heat, noise, smells, physical illness, and emotional deprivation seemed to cause a progressive emptying of her personality. Her teacher described his method of instruction in the following way:

"... we do not teach but quicken. I am stronger than you so your currents adjust themselves to mine" thus causing "the stronger magnetic field to affect, quicken the weaker".

This combination of suffering so that she would "lose herself in every way", and the teacher's continued presence and influence resulted in different spiritual experiences. The following experience occurred to her after nine months of contract with the teacher.

[I] put up my charpoy (rope bed) in the courtyard and lay on my back looking at the sky.

Then it happened. It was as if something snapped inside my head, and the whole of me was streaming out ceaselessly, without diminishing, on and on. There was no 'me' - just flowing. Just being. A feeling of unending expansion, just streaming forth. ... But all this I knew only later, when I tried to remember it. (The Chasm of Fire, A Women's Experience of Liberation through the Teachings of a Sufi Master, Irina Tweedie, p. 130)

The diary details a kind of mystical fusion that occurs resulting from devotion and surrender to the teacher in the following journal entry:
Deepest peace. And I nearly fall down when I salute him lately. And the feeling of nothingness before him represents such happiness. He will be resting with his eyes closed or open; and I sit bent in two (a comfortable position for me in his presence) under the blow from the two fans; he and I alone somewhere, where nothing is but peace.

Irina sees her path as leading her towards a state mystical non-being:

Lately, it becomes increasingly lovely. Deep happiness welling from within. From the deepest depth... Also at home, when I think of him, it comes over me ... soft, gentle. A bliss of non-being; not existing at all. It is difficult to believe unless one has experienced it, that it is so glorious 'not to be'. (The Chasm of Fire, A Women's Experience of Liberation through the Teachings of a Sufi Master, Irina Tweedie, P. 191)

The author continued to deepen and develop this sense of the presence of her teacher, even after his death. Her diaries explore in a profound way the emotional ups and downs of the spiritual path. Irina'a relationship with her teacher is unusual in its impersonal nature and its lack of intellectual content. The relationship illustrates how the powerful presence of a spiritual guide or guru can tacitly and indirectly influence the student causing radical changes in his or her personality, and increasing spiritual depth.

Books by Irina Tweedie:

The Chasm of Fire, A Women's Experience of Liberation through the Teachings of a Sufi Master by Irina Tweedie

Available from:

Blue Dove Press Islamic Books


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