Adab is the foundation stone of developing the essence of ones being such that one can grow in an opening manner to receive ever increasing wisdom using the inverted pyramid as the analogy. As the pyramid continues to grow, it gets wider and wider until it is so wide it can encompass all things and all things rest within it.
I prefer to use the arabic word, Adab, rather than an english word because if we use words that we understand, we immediately identify and think we have truly understood the meaning and essence of the word. At that moment, we stop learning as our mind shuts with its imagination that it understands.
Adab does not have a single English word translation because it is a concept that is far beyond the limited english language. By using the word adab, it forces you to think beyond any pre-conceived concepts that any direct translation would render and thus will continue to perpetually be an exercise in expanding your mind as you continually look for the deeper meaning of a simple word.
The common pyramid is solid, but the inverted pyramid of ones being grows as an empty shell because it is built by adab which is emptying the ego personality within the form of who you are.
Adab is a single word which requires a thousand english words to describe yet that would still be inadequate. A simple explanation is that adab means you put your ego below and after every one and every situation that you are in. This requires tremendous will power and presence to be able to know what the correct action is at every moment, rather than an action or response that suits your personal will and desires coming from your lesser ego.
If we listen to Ibn Arabi, that 100% of your spiritual life and growth depends on your adab, if that is what one is truly devoted to, then we need only be fully aware of each moment through our feelings, thoughts and reactions, and actions. This is the definition of the word; ‘Buddha’ which means, to be awake.
Adab is correct conduct, respect, devotion, but what are we devoted to? We are devoted to building this inverted pyramid as large as we possibly can for the sake of all that can be held within it.
The essence of the universe is physically invisible, but we can all see the pyramid. This inverted pyramid that we build with our being is translucent. We can see the air in a balloon because we can see the balloon. We see the thin rubber casing which holds the air, and we can see the balloon full of air, ignorantly neglecting that air is everywhere, and not just within the balloon.
The beauty of living a life on the foundation stone of adab is that one is eternally growing, eternally opening, eternally encompassing more and more of the totality of the divine, growing towards it, opening every day.
Here are a few practical examples of adab
These are some attitudes of living that will help you build your inverted pyramid. This is by no means a comprehensive lesson on adab, but it will be plenty for you to work with and if you give this a try for a few months, I am very certain you will find that you are a different person with greater peace and happiness, and you may even get a few complimentary comments.
Correct Conduct. What is the appropriate action at the moment? This is applied in every situation; in relationships, what is the right thing to say that will not insult another person. With children it may be correct to be very stern and give them a little slap on the bum so they learn how to behave correctly, to discipline them to learn manners, or reward and praise.
In business; work for the sake of doing the best job that can be done, rather than for the sake of personal credit or reward. If you live for the sake of doing the best you can do, eventually it becomes clear that you are worthy of great respect. Because you work for the task that needs to be done as best as it can be done, and only a person who acts without ego will rise to the top because that person will naturally receive the respect and support of all those who work with them as employees and co-workers and as clients. It is when a person has risen to the top or is on the way, that the ego often develops simultaneously with their success. At this point they either fail or keep growing on the momentum and accumulated successes. Then you get the big ego of success, which is bad as we all know.
Respect to ones self. This includes; what you eat, do you sleep properly, dress neatly and respectfully to others. Keep yourself clean and tidy so you do not affront other people’s senses by smell and sight. Wear the appropriate clothing to the situation, dress and keep your appearance with enough attention to show that you respect yourself and will respect others. Eat and exercise well to show respect to your body so it will live as long as possible in good health and strength. These are methods of adab to ones own human self and how one effects others on a purely physical visual sensory level.
In conversing and socializing. It is not necessary and is indeed bad adab to point out someones flaws in front of other people. This means do not embarrass other people in front of others, do not correct someone in front of others. When one to one, if they say something that you know is incorrect yet is irrelevant, it is not necessary to correct them, because that would only embarrass them or make them feel less than you. Anything that puts someone down, either alone and especially in front of other people is to be avoided. Avoid all gossip and negative talking at all costs. It is better to stay quiet and not speak than to hurt another person’s feelings when there is no useful benefit gained from that. We consider other people instead of trying to show; ‘look what I know, I am smarter and better than you.’
Admit when you are wrong. We will never always be right, however it is possible to always be right by never saying anything other than what you know to be a thousand percent correct, which means you may not say very much. When you are wrong, when you have done something inappropriately or incorrectly and realize you where mistaken, immediately admit to anyone and everyone involved or that you have hurt, that you are wrong. The quicker you admit you are wrong in any situation means that you are objectively observing rather than living through your personality’s fixed opinions. This requires being present to see who is truly right and wrong, even if that is you, and you are submitting your will, and mastering your lesser ego who does not want to admit it is ever wrong. Beware of false humility as well. Sometimes people can go overboard with saying they are wrong all the time and this is an expression of low self esteem or false humility. Simply be factual and objective.
Avoid the expression of absolutes and fixed opinions. Never say things like; ‘this is the best place in the world’ and believe that, unless you have been to every place in the world. This is an expression of arrogance because only God knows everything. Correct adab is to know that we do not know everything and we have no fixed opinions on any subject. We make no statement of absolute. Saying something like; ‘this is the smartest person in the world’ or, ‘best place in the world’ or, ‘best teacher’ are all statements that imply you have seen every single thing on the planet. We can say; ‘from my experience, I have not seen a better place, I have not met a smarter person.’ As well, we never go to someone else’s home, school or club, and put them down in any way. You are always a guest in every place you are. Treat everyone, their country, culture, laws, likes and dislikes with great respect, leaving your own opinions outside and not expressing your distastes for what someone else likes and appreciates or lives by. Have no fixed opinions about anything.
In southern germany they end every sentence with the word; ‘or’. You may meet someone and say; ‘it is a beautiful day, or?’ This leaves room for the other person to have their opinion which could be different than yours. For example, if you are an office worker and it is a glorious sunny day on the weekend, you would say what a wonderful day it is. But if you are a farmer in the middle of a drought watching his crops die, it would be another horrible day to see a clear blue dry sky as you wait for rain.
There is no absolute to anything in the universe, any statement made in that manner implies you have the knowledge of God which is of course contradictory to adab because you neglect the other persons feelings and imply you are the Great One.
Driving a car. Do you drive with awareness and consideration of other people. On the highway do you drive in the passing lane all the time? Do you drive slower and block other people, or let them pass. Driving is an excellent place to practice adab to other people who may choose to drive fast and we have no right to restrict them in any way. There is a lot of aggression on the roads, and we can practice allowing people to be upset and aggressive if they want, and not partake in that negativity, simply by moving out of the way.
Respect all material possessions because things cost money and money takes time to earn. To respect possessions is to respect your time and thus yourself, or whoever owns the thing.
Abad is to allow and consider everyone else’s feelings and opinions and are so attentive to your own comments such that we do not insult, put down or cause any feelings of sadness or self-consciousness in another person by saying something contradictory to their feelings desires and beliefs. This is empathy to another persons feelings instead of your own.
This is the way to build a bigger inverted pyramid. Every time you encounter a situation in which you put your ego and opinion behind another person, and feel what they feel, considering them, you are expanding your pyramid by one more stone.
We can conclude with saying that by living with these few principles of adab as the foundation stone of your life, you will build your pyramid one block at a time with every person and event you interact with perfect adab.