Friday, October 31, 2008

An Open Heart's Desire for Happiness

The purpose of spiritual practice is to fulfill our desire for happiness. We are all equal in wishing to be happy and to overcome our suffering, and I believe that we all share the right to fulfill this aspiration.

When we look at the happiness we seek and the suffering we wish to avoid, most evident are the pleasant and unpleasant feelings we have as a result of our sensory experience of the tastes, smells, textures, sounds, and forms that we perceive around us. There is, however, another level of experience. True happiness must be pursued on the mental level as well.

If we compare the mental and physical levels of happiness, we find that the experiences of pain and pleasure that take place mentally are actually more powerful. For example, though we may find ourselves in a very pleasant environment, if we are mentally depressed or if something is causing us profound concern, we will hardly notice our surroundings. On the other hand, if we have inner, mental happiness, we find it easier to face our challenges or other adversity. This suggests that our experiences of pain and pleasure at the level of our thoughts and emotions are more powerful than those felt on a physical level.

As we analyze our mental experiences, we recognize that the powerful emotions we possess (such as desire, hatred, and anger) tend not to bring us very profound or long-lasting happiness. Fulfilled desire may provide a sense of temporary satisfaction; however, the pleasure we experience upon acquiring a new car or home, for example, is usually short-lived. When we indulge our desires, they tend to increase in intensity and multiply in number. We become more demanding and less content, finding it more difficult to satisfy our needs. In the Buddhist view, hatred, anger, and desire are afflictive emotions, which simply means they tend to cause us discomfort. The discomfort arises from the mental unease that follows the expression of these emotions. A constant state of mental unsettledness can even cause us physical harm.

Where do these emotions come from? According to the Buddhist worldview, they have their roots in habits cultivated in the past. They are said to have accompanied us into this life from past lives, when we experienced and indulged in similar emotions. If we continue to accommodate them, they will grow stronger, exerting greater and greater influence over us. Spiritual practice, then, is a process of taming these emotions and diminishing their force. For ultimate happiness to be attained, they must be removed totally.

We also possess a web of mental response patterns that have been cultivated deliberately, established by means of reason or as a result of cultural conditioning. Ethics, laws, and religious beliefs are all examples of how our behavior can be channeled by external strictures. Initially, the positive emotions derived from cultivating our higher natures may be weak, but we can enhance them through constant familiarity, making our experience of happiness and inner contentment far more powerful than a life abandoned to purely impulsive emotions.

- from the chapter, The Desire for Happiness: An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life by The Dalai Lama, Nicholas Vreeland . text credit

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.

- Siddhartha Guatama Buddha (563 - 483 BC), Indian mystic, founder of Buddhism

Happiness, which is sought after by every soul, has its secret in the knowledge of the self. Man seeks for happiness, not because happiness is his sustenance, but because happiness is his own being. Therefore, in seeking for happiness, man is seeking for himself. What gives man inclination to seek for happiness is the feeling of having lost something which he had always owned, which belonged to him, which was his own self. The absence of happiness, which a soul has experienced from the day it has come on earth and which has increased every day more and more, makes man forget that his own being is happiness. He thinks happiness is something, which is acquired. As man thinks that happiness is something which is acquired, he continually strives in every direction to attain to it. In the end, after all his striving, he finds that the real happiness does not lie in what he calls pleasures. Pleasures may be a shadow of happiness. There is an illusion of happiness, because all the illusion which stands beside reality is more interesting for the average man than reality itself.

A happiness which is momentary, a happiness which depends upon something outside of oneself, is called pleasure. Very often we confuse, in our everyday language, the distinction between pleasure and happiness. A pastime, an amusement, merriment, gaiety that take one's thoughts away from the responsibilities and worries and limitations of life and give one a moment's consolation – one begins by thinking that these are the ways of happiness. But as one cannot hold them, and as one often finds that, seeking for what may be called a pleasure, the loss is greater than the gain, then one begins to look for something that will really be the means of happiness. It is this, very often, that wakens a soul to look for the mystery of religion, for the sense in philosophy, for the secret of mysticism, in case he can find some happiness there. But even all these things only help one to find happiness. They are not happiness themselves. It is the soul which is happiness itself, not all outer things which man seeks after, and which he thinks will give him happiness. The very fact that man is continually craving for happiness shows that the real element, which may be called man's real being, is not what has formed his body and what has composed his mind, but what he is in himself.

The mind and body are vehicles. Through the mind and body man experiences life more fully, more clearly; but they are not happiness in themselves, nor does what is experienced through them give the real happiness. What he experiences through them is just pleasure, an illusion of happiness for a time. It is not only that the pleasures cost more than they are worth, but very often in the path of pleasure, when a person is seeking after happiness, as he goes further, he creates more and more unhappiness for himself. Very often it happens. Every way he turns, everything he does, every plan he carries out, thinking that this will give him happiness, only produces a greater trouble, because he is seeking after happiness in a wrong direction.

There is a story told of Solomon, that he had a vision that God revealed Himself to him and said, 'Ask what I shall give thee.' Solomon said, 'Give me an understanding heart, wisdom and knowledge.' And God said to him, 'Because thou hast asked this thing and hast not asked long life for thyself, neither hast thou asked riches for thyself, but hast asked for thyself understanding, behold, I have done according to thy word. I have given thee a wise and understanding heart. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor, and I will lengthen thy days.' This shows that the true way is not the renouncing of things, but it is making the best use of them, making the right use of them. It is not going away from life, but being among the crowd, being in the midst of life, and yet not being attached to it. One might say, that it would be a cruel thing to be detached from anybody who wants our love and kindness and sympathy. You can attach yourself to the whole world if you will not be of the world.

If one keeps one's thoughts centered upon the idea of the real happiness which is attained by the realization of the self, and if one does not allow anything to hinder that, then in the end one arrives at that happiness which is the purpose of the coming on earth of every soul.

- Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Way of Illumination

wa Rayhanun
wa Jannatu naAAeemin.

Then happiness,
and bounty
and a garden of bliss.
- The Quran 56.089

# Further:
. Psychology Today: Opening to Happiness
. Pursuing Happiness
. The How of Happiness
. The Secrets of Happiness
. The Hidden Side of Happiness Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Alchemy of Happiness | Complete Audio Book, Podcast by Jabez L. Van Cleef

He, therefore, is a wise and prudent man, who, after morning prayer, spends an hour renewing his own spiritual reckoning, and says, "My soul, you only have one life; no moment that has passed can be recovered, and in God’s mind the number of your breaths has been set down and cannot be increased. When life is done, no spiritual highways will hold the traffic of your freighted soul, therefore what you would do, you must do now; so treat this day as if your life were spent, and this, an extra day, was granted you by special favor of Almighty God. What folly greater than to lose this chance?"

- Selection from Al-Ghazzali's Alchemy of Happiness, 
interpreted by Javez L. Van Cleef

The Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiya'e al Saadat) by one of the most celebrated muslim mystic of all time, Imam Al Ghazzali, is considered a timeless spiritual masterpiece. It is an abridgment of Ghazzali's magnus opus,  his famous Arabic treatise on mystical Islam, The Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya Ulum al-Din).

It is often considered as a manual for finding happiness in life and  joining with God after death. In this work, the master mystic details advice for seekers and traveler of the Way for attaining of the goal which he calls "spiritual happiness." In the Alchemy, Ghazzali has provided the seekers with a critique of faith and a detailed guidebook for the pure ecstasy of the loving Divine Presence: absolute spiritual happiness.

In the spirit of restoring the oral tradition, contemporary poet and author Jabez L. Van Cleef has done a wonderful contribution to the genre of religious literature for our time by producing the complete book, 'The Alchemy of Happiness' into an audio book or podcast.

In his production, Jabez L. Van Cleef has interpreted the text in iambic pentameter verse with occasional mix of tunes. His lucid voice brings out an ethereal quality of this already mystical text in such a way that it penetrates the heart of the listener. A text like this by no mean an easy read for all and an opportunity to listen to it reconfirms the power of oral tradition, an universal approach appreciated and emphasized in all world faith / spiritual traditions. 

[>] You can download complete book or individual chapters as mp3 / podcast. Visit GarageBand page for The Alchemy of Happiness.

About | Jabez L. Van Cleef is a poet and author of more than twenty books on religious and human rights themes. His writing provides a spiritual basis for informed sustainable living. All of his books are available free as sound files and text on the Podcast section of iTunes. Following are few of his major works: Verse Interpretations of the Christian Gospels include: The Song of John, The Song of Luke, The Song of Matthew, The Song of Mark, and The Saxon Gospel.

Verse Interpretations of Gnostic Texts from Nag Hammadi include: Strength In Trembling (including Thunder, Perfect Mind and The Song of Thomas.)

Verse Interpretations of Other Sacred Texts include The Book of Ashes (Hebrew), The Song of Judith (Hebrew), The Alchemy of Happiness (Muslim), The Tawasin (Muslim), Nanai & The Quest for the Fire Bird (Siberian), He Kumulipo (Hawaiian), Igbo Singing (West African), The Song of Confucius (Chinese), All Is Beautiful: The Navajo Creation Story (Native American), The Unstruck Drum of Eternity (Poetry of Kabir), and God Wears Many Skins (Sami Myth and Folklore). These podcasts are freely available via Jabez L. Van Cleef's website: Sustain Your Spirit.
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Monday, October 27, 2008

ascending words of purity, raising them up good deeds | meditative quranic verses

Man kana yureedu alAAizzata falillahi alAAizzatu jameeAAan ilayhi, yasAAadu alkalimu alttayyibu waalAAamalu alssalihu yarfaAAuhu, waallatheena yamkuroona alssayyi-ati lahum AAathabun shadeedun wamakru ola-ika huwa yabooru. (credit)

Whosoever desires for glory and power, (should come to face the reality that) to God belong all glory and power,

unto Him ascends all words of purity: and the good deeds lift them up,

and (as for) those who plan evil deeds, they shall have a severe doom; and their delusions shall perish.

- The Quran 35:10
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who is She? | my Woman of Sorrow

who is she mysticsaintwho is she
who dwells in my heart?
i wanted her,
but i failed to win her.

i decked her with diamonds
and sang her praises,
a smile shone in her eyes
for a moment,
and then it died.

i have no joy and even she cried,
my woman of sorrow.

i bought her jewel anklets
and adorned her with gold.
i bought her a band
fit for the queen of sheba.
a gleam of gladness flickered in her eyes,
then it died.

i have no joy and even she cried,
my woman of sorrow.

i took her in my arms
and flew her to paradise.
fame and fortune surrounded her,
she conquered the hearts of men.
pride shone in her eyes for a moment,
and then it died.

i have no joy and even she cried,
my woman of sorrow.

days go by and she cries.

tell me what is it that you want?

and she said: 'when will my Lover come?
the One with the Unknown Name,
when will my Lover come,
to me, from your heart?'

- translation of Rabindranath Tagore's Poem by Deepak Chopra
from the CD: Gift of Love II, Oceans of Ecstasy

[>] You may Listen to this wonderful poem here.
[>] Also on Youtube, Woman of Sorrow

commentary | every lover is essentially the face of the Beloved Who is at the same time Faceless and yet veiled behind Every Face. Ibn Arabi said about the realization of the paradox of love: "We are veiled from Thee only through Thee." this poem eloquently speak to that divine mystery that is at the heart of this existence of love. the sufis says, the Divine is both the Lover and Beloved; and also that Axis of Love which gives birth to Lover and Beloved. Al-Wadud is one of the 99 Divine Attributes used in sufi practice to bring the remembrance of the Highest Love, this holy name Al-Wadud points to that all encompassing Reality of Love.

the whole mystery of existence is also based on the Love of a Hidden Lover. in the sacred tradition of mystical islam, the cause of this cosmic existence is summed up in this statements from the hadith qudsi pregnant with many esoteric layers of meaning where God says, "I was a hidden treasure and longed to be known and loved, hence I created everything."

Hafiz says it this way:

An invisible wake was created when God said to His beautiful dead lover, "Be!".
Hafiz, who will understand you if you do not explain that last line?
Well then, I will sing it this way: When God said to illusion, "Be!"

although on the outer level every human being falls in love with a human form, yet unknowingly and relentlessly we are seeking the One Beloved Who dwells in our heart. this longing is installed in our being, thus like all rivers that naturally flow towards ocean, every human being long for a beloved. often time in relationship we are so much caught up with the outer personality and its dynamics that we forget that it is the individual soul that seeks union and everything else is a form that is given for the soul to find an abode.

from that place of being caught up with outside, in this poem Tagore is speaking from the stand point of a lover who seemingly fails to win his beloved. even though every possible worldly needs are met, yet the beloved is missing something somewhere and hence is called 'my woman of sorrow'. the sorrow originates from the primordial longing of human soul. its not the diamond or gold that cures this longing.

'what is it that you want?' finally asks the lover and the answer of union, which is given in the form of a question coming from agony of missing what is real, asks:

when will my Lover come,
the One with the Unknown Name?
when will my Lover come,
to me, from your heart?

the One Beloved with the Unknown Name which dwells in every heart is what every heart falls in love with and falls in love for. its through the uncovering of the true lover, the bliss of love is attained. thus true love is always egoless because on the soul level, bliss state is achieved when there is no ego.

Mechthild of Magdeburg said it so beautifully:

And God said to the soul:
I desired you before the world began.
I desire you now as you desire me.
And where the desires of two come together
There love is perfected.

true love only enters the abode when the ego disappears. else it is an approximation of love or approaching towards love, but not true love. the ever descending good news is, the longing of the Lover with Unknown Name, of Nameless Reality dwells in all human heart. and when the veils of heart is lifted, behold and lo! there the Lover comes!

In Bhagavad Gita, this Lover declares His or Her identity in saying:
"Those who realize true wisdom rapt within this clear awareness see Me as the universe's origin Imperishable. All their words and all their actions issue from the depths of adoration, held in My embrace they know Me as a woman knows her lover.

... I Am always with all beings; I abandon no one. And however great your inner darkness, you are never separate from Me. Let your thoughts flow past you, calmly; keep Me near, at every moment; trust Me with your life, because I Am you, more than you yourself are."

+ Related:

. Feminine Spirituality
. Who do you really love?
. Paradoxes of Love by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
. What happens when mirrors fail
. Concept of Love in Sufism
. Meditation on Bhagavad Gita Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Feminine Spirituality | Inspirations and Wisdom

"And the Mother,
the prototype
of all existence,
is the Eternal Spirit,
full of beauty
and love."
- Kahlil Gibran

"The paradise is under the feet of mothers."
- Prophet Muhammad

"Happy are you that you hunger for the truth, for I will satisfy you with the bread of wisdom. Happy are you, that you knock, for I will open to you the door of life. Happy are you, that you would cast off the power of Satan, for I will lead you into the Kingdom of our Mother's angels, where the power of Satan cannot enter."

And they asked him in amazement: "Who is our Mother and which Her angels? And where is Her Kingdom?"

Jesus replied: "Your Mother is in you, and you in Her."
- Jesus Christ in Essene Gospel of Peace

The Valley of Spirit never dies. It is named the Mysterious Female. And the Doorway of the Mysterious Female is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang. It is there within us all the while; Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.
- Tao Te Ching 6

"God is never seen immaterially; and the vision of Him in woman is the most perfect of all."
- Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi

"The feminine, whether the feminine quality or women themselves, holds the secret of creation, which is the light hidden in matter. This is very important to understand; that if one is to do any real spiritual work at this time of global and ecological crisis, one has to realize that the feminine holds the unique understanding of the sacredness in matter and also how we need to reawaken this aspect in life."
- Anat Vaughan-Lee

"I can see as clear as a daylight that the hour is coming when women will lead humanity to a higher evolution."
- Hazrat Inayat Khan's vision in the year 1914-18

"We have denied the spirit of the earth, and that spirit of the earth has to appear in woman. The meeting of the spirit of the earth and the spirit of the other world is one of the great moments that, I believe, will come in the future history of culture."
- Cecil Collins, the great metaphysical English painter and writer

This is why the wisdom of the feminine is so important, because the feminine understands the dynamics of relationship, how to listen and be receptive. Feminine consciousness is more attuned to the life of the body, and so knows the rhythms that belong to the cycles of life, rather than the systems imposed by will that are presently strangling our world. The feminine is more instinctively and naturally attuned to life, its patterns and powers. And feminine consciousness is less dominated by reason, more open to the mystery of the symbolic inner world. The feminine is vital in this work of awakening.
- Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Alchemy of Light: Working with the Primal Energies of Life

He who has realized God ... perceives clearly that women are but so many aspects of the Divine Mother. He adores them all ... Women are, all of them, the veritable images of Śakti.

Do you know how a lover of God feels? His attitude is: "O God, Thou art the Master, and I am Thy servant. Thou art the Mother, and I am Thy child." Or again: "Thou art my Father and Mother. Thou art the Whole, and I am a part." - Sri Ramakrishna

O, Mother of the Universe, those who praise you by the words: Ambika, Jaganmayi and Maya, will obtain all.
- Kalika Purana

O humanity! ... revere the sacredness of the womb that bore you.
- The Quran, An-Nisa (The Woman) 4:1

# Reference and Further:
. Making way for the Feminine
. Sophia, Spirit, and Divine Mediation in the Mysticism of St. Gregory of Nyssa
. Teachings on the Feminine and the World Soul
. Mystery of Woman | the Feminine Soul
Feminine Mysteries of Love | Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
. Secret of Female Soul
Feminine Spirituality and Sufism
. Sophia of Jesus

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

with one answer, all questions shall be answered

Alif Symbolizing the One1.
All desires, preferences, affections and loves people have for all sorts of things such as father, mother, friends, the heavens and the earth, gardens, pavilions, works, knowledge, food and drink - one should realize that every desire is a desire for 'food' (or 'enjoyment') and such things are all "veils".

When one passes beyond this world and sees that Sovereign without these 'veils', then one will realize that all those things were 'veils' and 'coverings' and that what they were seeking was in reality that One.

All problems will then be solved.

All the heart's question and difficulties will be answered, and everything will become clear.

God's response is not such that He must answer each and every problem individually. With one answer, all problems are solved.

In winter everyone bundles himself up and huddles in a warm place to escape the cold. All plants and trees drop their leaves and fruit because of the biting cold, and they conceal their raiment within themselves lest they suffer from chill.

When spring 'answers' them by manifesting itself, all their different 'questions' with regard to life, growth and decay are answered at once: secondary causes disappear. Everything sticks its head out and knows what has caused that wonder.

God has created these 'veils' for a good purpose. If He showed His Beauty without a veil, we should not be able to bear it or benefit from it, because we are sustained and strengthened indirectly.

You see the Sun? In its light, we come and go, we see and we are able to distinguish good from bad. In it, we warm ourselves.

Because of it, trees and gardens bear fruit. In its heat, bitter and sour unripe fruits become ripe and sweet. Under its influence mines of gold, silver, ruby and sapphire comes to be.

If this same Sun, which is so beneficial indirectly, were to come closer, not only would it give no benefit, but it would cause the whole world and everything in it to burn up and perish.

When God manifests Himself through a veil to a mountain, the mountain becomes full of trees and flowers, embellished with greenery.

But if He were to manifest Himself without a veil, the mountain would be destroyed and reduced to dust.

- Fihi Ma Fihi, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi
from The Rumi Collection | edited by Kabir Helminski

And when Moses came to the place at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him. Moses said: My Lord! show me (Thyself), so that I may look upon Thee.

He said: You cannot (bear to) see Me but look at the mountain, if it remains firm in its place, then will you see Me; but when his Lord manifested His glory to the mountain He reduced it to dust and Moses fell down in a swoon; then when he recovered, he said: Glory be to Thee, I turn to Thee, and I am the first of the believers ('Subhanaka tubtu ilayka, waana awwalu almu'mineena').

- The Quran 7:143

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On Traveling the Sufi Path | Interview with Dr. Stewart Bitkoff

"Lets remember
who we are.

each moment
is another opportunity
to draw closer."

- Stewart Bitkoff

"As our society moves forward in its study and growing understanding of different spiritual paths, one of the things required is a dialogue concerning the nature of personal enlightenment. Or said another way, after studying a particular spiritual path, for the average traveler, what does personal spiritual development look like?"
- Enlightenment: An Initial Discussion

. following is part 2 of the dialogue with author and educator Dr. Stewart Bitkoff. It was conducted on early October, 2008. the first part can be read here.

Sadiq // Your training in sufi path is quite unique given that it happened in the heart of the west by an eastern teacher who in sufi term was a hidden teacher and timing wise it was in early 70's, which was also a very unique, changing times (equally true from planetary evolution perspective). Tell us something about the nature of this initiation with regard to the path, teacher and training.

Dr. Stewart Bitkoff // Basically, there was training in 2 schools. The first part was with the Teacher/Master, occurred at work and lasted for approximately 4 years. This occurred in the early 1970’s and was in a state funded psychiatric hospital. The teacher was a psychiatrist, from Pakistan and his father was a Sufi; 3 years into things we learned he was a Muslim. There were many other students; some of whom accepted what was taught and others left it for something else. There was no emphasis upon a particular religion, exotic clothing, or giving money to fund a specific church/mosque/synagogue. When we were asked to donate something, it was always up to whatever charity we wished and at a comfortable level. We were taught to love God and experience God in every moment; the teacher taught by shining the Light upon our hearts and other experiences; we learned how to perceive our own spiritual nature and connect with God.

One day, the teacher called us into his office and said it was time to move onto the next teacher. We were to write the Society for Sufi Studies and await instructions. After 6 months time, instructions came to read and totally familiarize myself with 20 books written by Idries Shah; a list was included. At first, I balked at this, having read 5 books by Shah and wondered why I needed to do all of this. Anyway, in time I set about this task which took over 10 years. In the process, I learned much from this material: it is a complete body of work, which according to Shah, supersedes all other previous Sufi material. It is a complete course, if you will, of what the western seeker needs to travel the Path. When Shah died in 1996, many people considered him to be the Sufi Teacher of the Age and his job, in part, was to offer this material to the west. Also, my teacher told us that Shah, prior to his death, was the Pole; which in Sufi tradition has many levels of meaning. Also, when alive, Shah was elected King of the Sufis; historically, there have only been two people who were given this title and spiritual authority. The other being Rumi; when the world was being attacked by Mongolian hordes of Genghis Khan.

Interestingly enough, I have just finished a book entitled, Spiritual Traveler: Reflections & Adventures, which speaks to the point of my initiation in the first school, and different experiences and thoughts in both schools; and how this learning has woven its way into my life. I have recently sent it off to the publisher and await their comments.

Our first teacher is still alive and when approached by possible students, tells them to read certain titles by Shah (The Sufis, Learning How to Learn, The Way of the Sufi, and A Perfumed Scorpion); he no longer entertains questions about the path, is very gracious, and concerned about all of us. He still chooses to remain anonymous.

One of the first things, a student will say: look I want spiritual experience, not reading from books. The books answer this question: first you have to learn how to learn or have the right attitude/posture about this sort of thing. It requires a serious or mature student/traveler- who is able to suspend or push aside certain thoughts and prejudices.

. To my understanding, this (the sufi path you walked) was a very harmonious, universal, totally non-dogmatic, transcending religious boundaries - what one may call 'Organic Spirituality'. Am I correct to characterize it? When you look back at it now, how do you describe it?

You know, this is the natural path to God/Light; it is the path before there was organized religion; and is the inner current of religious training. Consider what if you never heard of Shah, or read this interview, don’t you think this experience or way of spiritual knowing, if you required it, would be made available? It is very simple and very complex. “‘Love God with all your heart and soul.” The first commandment. If the concept/word God is bothersome substitute- The Light.

Look, we all have an innate spiritual nature, and what we are discussing is maximizing our potential in this area; in order, that this capacity becomes part of every day life. This learning and capacity is to be used across our lifetime- to help self and others.

Spiritual learning being different than organized religious training; religious training being the starting point for more advanced spiritual experience/learning.

. According to your personal experience and from your own walking in the path - how would you introduce to a western lay person if you are asked, 'what is sufi way?'

My daughter has been interested in the Sufi Way for sometime, and she is always offering examples of trying to explain what she believes/experiences to others, who ask about her beliefs. This is not a simple thing. Basically, we are trying to put into words, what other teachers have called an ‘essence’ an ‘attitude’ or ‘way of experiencing reality.’ Some have said, ‘Sufism is learned in the company of other Sufis.’

To me, Sufism is the experience of ultimate reality through your own innate spirituality. There is a part of us that knows where it came from and where it is going, and when this part is awaken, slowly, it becomes the inner voice that knows the way home. Sufism is using your own inner, spiritual voice to enrich your life and the lives of others.

. What is the future of sufism in the world today, specially in the west?

The message of Sufism is a hopeful one; that there is a God, who loves his/her children, and has created a way for his/her children to attain unto Him. Also, there is a Plan for humanity, and this Plan involves the awakening of certain capacities within each traveler, one person at a time, to help make this world a better place. Traditionally, the Sufis are the guardians of this Plan and help make sure that it is accomplished.

For the western traveler, Sufism holds the promise of an individual relationship with Ultimate Reality. Always, this relationship is one of Love, Joy, and Forgiveness. There is no boundary here and each traveler is created with an individual potential: to love, work, experience, and serve. Each is a child of Light; the son and daughter of a King who creates their own reality.

This world is a giant market place, and we are free to do whatever we like. Within our free will choice, we create our own reality moment by moment. The problems of the world and life, for the most part, are the creation of individual travelers. Our responsibility is to create reality, that is our mission, and the problems of greed, destruction, war, and hunger for the most part are solvable by travelers, if they chose collectively to do so.

In each moment, there is a potential, and to choose the higher destiny, is the Sufi Call.

. What you think would be the correct vision to meet the spiritual thirst of American people in terms of spiritual orientation and training?

America is a special place; America is the spiritual freedom, alive in each person’s heart to choose what is best for them self and others. Here, in this country, each traveler can freely choose their own life and how they wish to live it.

Our higher destiny is alignment with Ultimate Truth and helping others. Some Americans quickly forget that this country was founded by travelers who wanted to be free of the restrictions, rules, and the tyranny of others. Leaving the countries of Europe, with their monarchies and religious authoritarianism, these travelers chose to find a world where they could help create a reality more like the spiritual freedom within.

The message of Sufism is the same; you are a child of the Light; free to create your own reality; and when you help another, in the name of the Light, you rise higher than the angels. The spirit of Sufism transcends individual religion and creed; it is the song of love, freedom and joy that is alive in your heart.

According to some reports and tradition, there was a hidden Sufi presence on the Mayflower and in writing the Declaration of Independence. So you see America and Sufism have been entwined since the beginning; mysteriously the Plan unfolds, and each rises up, like the smoke from the evening fire, becoming a better version of self.

. Who is Stewart Bitkoff?

'Who is Stewart Bitkoff?' This question makes me laugh; I have been trying to figure that out for 62 years. When you find him, tell me, so I too might meet him.

To date, the closest I have come to understanding myself is the following: I am a spiritual traveler, who has stopped to rest in the shade, with a few stories to tell, a few people to love and kiss, then, I must be on my way. On the other side, awaiting me is another adventure: with some old friends and some new ones as well.

. Lets consider an average American person (or western, if you like) who in his or her being feels very spiritual. In the process of discovering own human inner nature which is essentially spiritual - yet this person has a lot of wounds around conventional religion, has negative association with the very word and notion of 'God' as a result of misuse, abuse, mixing falsehood with truth, by the institutional religious organization and society - what and how would you offer advice to this person who is drawn to his or her original spiritual nature, buddha nature in far eastern term or 'fitrah' (basic natural disposition of spirituality instilled in all human heart) in Quranic term?

First, feeling spiritual is different than being spiritual. Feeling is an emotional state and spiritual experience is different than feelings. Often, emotions must be stilled for a time, so the spiritual essence may step forward.

Second, God/Light is different than religion and the actions of individual travelers; to understand who you are and the spiritual potential within, you must go beyond religion, country, family, expectation and individual desire; these are the sources of your wounds and hurt. Within, is your own individual, answer and healing to the question about the world’s injustice.

Remember, in this journey, we are both jailor and freedom; we have the potential to go beyond them.

Yes, it is true that religion has caused much harm and hurt; but it has also helped many along their journey. I too was injured, but it was precisely this hurt which pushed me to find my inner spiritual nature; was this pain then not useful in my journey?

O you who look for another way; don’t you see there is no other way?

. What is the concept and goal of enlightenment in sufi path or in a mystic school like one you were trained in?

Within our framework, enlightenment comes in small, gradual impacts, flashes of intuitive insight, spiritual states, and knowing. Simplistically, enlightenment is added spiritual capacity, which is natural, and useful in every day life. According to Idries Shah, if enlightenment were to come in a big burst it would be disruptive.

Within our training, we were taught how to turn every day activities, like driving to work, into spiritual practice. It was a matter of intention and focus; who were we doing these activities for?

Often, travelers think that enlightenment will free them from pains and sorrows of ordinary life. On this Path, spiritual responsibilities are in addition to those of every day life. Life is a multi-level experience and we are to experience it all.

. Looking at the contemporary world as it is, in its physical, emotional, political or cosmic makeup - what troubles you most?

What troubles me most, in this contemporary world, is that we do not seem to learn from the mistakes of the past. The problem of greed, self-interest, and travelers wishing to take from others, has been with us since the beginning.

History has shown that it is in everyone’s best interest, that our neighbor is fed, has medical services, and has the opportunity for education, work and a full life. If this is not so, then eventually, these people will rise-up guided by an opportunist leader to take what has been with held. Then, the cycle of injustice will start-up again.

The problems of the world are solved only by making better people; this is done one person at a time. Remember, if someone is hungry or sick, first you must help with their primary need, then, move onto other things like work, education, and proper shelter and, finally, a spirituality which transcends personal interest.

If you want to help make the world better, first, work on yourself. Use each moment to reach higher and help your neighbor. It’s pretty simple. You know, the Golden Rule. Help yourself and help your neighbor. Leave your camp site a little cleaner than when you found it. Give rather than take.

A better world starts with each of us; taking better care of our self, first, then, helping others, second. Why haven’t we learned this yet? That is the Sufi message: Treat others as equal to our self.

. Who is your most favorite personality and why?

My favorite personality or personalities are those travelers who emanate love. I have been most affected by those individuals who freely give to others, first, out of boundless love. Often, it was a simple act, making a sandwich because I was hungry or inquiring about my day and life. My mother was like this; so is my wife; my spiritual teacher; and countless others who I have been fortunate enough to meet. These are the people who have affected me, offering a hand when I have fallen and sharing my life.

. One of your earlier spiritual guide has left his body some significant amount of time back. Since then you have walked quite a lot and gathered all ranges of human experiences as we all do as long as we inhibit this body. If you were to meet your spiritual teacher again, today in a peaceful park what question (or questions) would your heart be moved to ask him?

If I were to meet my spiritual teacher, in a peaceful park, and we were to share a quiet moment together on a bench, it would not be to ask a question.

Slowly, a tear would fall from my eye, and I would thankfully whisper: “now, I understand.”

# Related Interviews @ Inspirations and Creative Thoughts:
. Interview with Reb Zalman Scachter Shalomi | on Mystic Experience and Mysticism for a New Humanity
. Why Religious Renewal is Necessary? | Reb Zalman Scachter-Shalomi Pin It Now!

On Mysticism and Mystery School | Interview with Dr. Stewart Bitkoff | Part 1

"The goal of the mystical school is the completed person.
The completed person has added a degree of spiritual development to their other capacities.
This spiritual development is accomplished through an interaction between the Master, the student and Path."
- Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, from the article Mystical School

The following is the first part of interview with Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, author of the book 'A Commuter's Guide to Enlightenment'. Dr. Bitkoff is a doctoral graduate in education, an expert in Therapeutic Recreation, Psychiatric Rehab and Psychiatric Treatment. He has been on Faculty, served as Field Instructor (Social Work/Psychology) for New York University, Herbert Lehman College, Iona College, College of New Rochelle, East Stroudsburg University, and Northampton Community College. He has written many works centering on the topic of the completed person and the original human development system.

For years, Dr. Bitkoff studied in two modern mystical schools and was designated to help make available aspects of this secret, inner teaching. Professionally, Dr. Bitkoff has taught in various colleges and universities and worked to help the mentally ill integrate their altered state of consciousness into the physical world. In this interview we touch upon mysticism, mystical schools, sufi path and the training of mystics.

Sadiq: The word 'mystic' to general people creates a lot of confusion. If you were to define, how would you describe who or what is a 'mystic'?

Dr. Stewart Bitkoff: The word mystic comes from the word mystery; someone who seeks the mystery. What is the mystery? For different people, this is always different. In terms of the mystery school, the student or traveler was/is taught about the mystery of the universe- in hidden, mysterious, non-traditional, ways. Throughout history, traditions abound concerning the mystery schools and what was actually taught there. Keep in mind, if this knowledge was not a mystery and others knew about it; for practitioners often it would mean death. Throughout time, traditionalists would have required the execution of those involved, because what was taught was not the standard form of religion. It was the inner current, or perception, connection, and alignment with the Truth/Light.

My teacher used to say, as he reflected the Light across our hearts, this was the mystery and learning that was taught in the great pyramids..

When one uses the word 'mystic' in the context of sufi path - what is the emphasis here?

People always need to define something; put it into a category, so, it is understood. Followers of the Path are given names so others will understand what is going on. Sufis do not call themselves Sufis; this is considered egotistical. Limiting, and not accurate. Others have called Sufis the original mystics; once again, this is an attempt by them to understand what the Sufi is doing.

For followers of this Path, the mystery or emphasis is connection with the Divine; Love of God and direct perception of the Truth/Light. The traveler does not believe there is a God/Light; the traveler knows there is a God/Light. Through the intervention of the Teacher, the traveler connects, is one with this primordial energy, and aligns their own inner essence (heart) with the Light.

As love, in a worldly context matures, the lover does not say, I think/believe that I love my wife and daughter, the traveler knows he/she loves their family member. It is the same with spiritual studies and knowledge of God. We do not talk about God, or say we believe, we know and experience the Divine Essence.

What does a mystic school consist of?

A mystical school consists of a teacher/Master, student/traveler, and the Path; which is an aspect of the Light. It is the Baraka (grace) of the Path, which the teacher uses to do his/her work. The Light is the life force and the way we connect with God; fused together in a glorious way- which is perceived, known, experienced and loved. Here, words are limitations. Just as Christians speak of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Path, Light, and God are One interconnected and expressed on infinite levels. The traveler speaks of glimpsing only a small fraction of this; a lock of hair from the beloved.

Can a person be trained to become a mystic? If the goal of a mystic school is that, in persent day's respect how an ideal mystic school should / may look like?

All learning requires training, innate capacity, preparation, and hard work. It is no different with spiritual studies. Each traveler is born with a life plan or destiny; we come here with an agenda of sorts; some of which we choose and some of which is chosen for us. This life plan or agenda presupposes a skill set, or inner sense of what we like and wish to accomplish. Once again, spiritual studies, mystical training, and any other endeavor are linked through pre-existing factors; some of these factors stretch across lifetimes, experience in other realms, and our present requirements. To answer the question, yes, travelers can be trained to be a mystic. This is the natural Way to experience God, before there was formal religion. It has always existed. Does every traveler require this training? Right now. In this present experience? That is up to each traveler and God. Remember, each is given what they require. No one’s experience is better than another’s; it is different, specifically for them, and guided by the Unseen Forces.

How do you see the concept of 'a complete person?'

A completed person has added a level of spiritual capacity and aligns their action with the higher potential. In order for this to occur, the traveler must be balanced and reasonably adjusted to ordinary life. Spiritual capacity is in addition to all other capacities and serves as an integrating factor; a foundation from which a complete life may be lived. We were created to participate in the world; helping to make it a better place, by aligning personal action with the highest potential in each moment. Now, how does one do this sort of thing? That is the mystery and is at the heart of the Path and mystery school. It begins by submission and love. Because we love, we are willing to do for another.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sophianic Love and Blessing

. Sophia 2 .

Love fell on me
like snow from high sky

I stood there
waiting for

I looked into the eyes
of the man
who held Love
my Love
in his hand

Abyss called to Abyss
depth touched
the deepest core
of my sorrow

my Bread and Body

eyes closed -
"Noli me tangere"
said Jesus to Magdalene

I know -
this Love will shield me

I count my blessings

bless his Holy Name

. Sophia 4 .

and now bless
and now
the whole, the all,
cosmos, chaos,
gleaming, living waters,
exploding spheres,
black skies filled with fire

and now bless -
blessed be the Holy,
the One beyond being,
above, below, after, breathing

now bless -
mine, ours, yours, love,
pearl strings of peace,
joy, heartbeat of stillness,
jewels of transfigured touch,
petals unfurling
into wings of glory

now blessed

. by Maja Trochimczyk .
from Miriam's Iris or Angels in the Garden
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Seeking the Complete Human | Guide on the Path

Sidi Said Al Jamal listens1.
Feed your heart in
..... conversation
with someone harmonious
........... with it;
seek spiritual advancement
from one who is
.............. advanced.

- from Rumi's Mathnawi, I, 726
translated by Kabir & Camille Helminski

Consider how wool is turned into an elegantly designed carpet by coming into contact with an intelligent person.

See how dirt can be turned into a fine palace by coming into contact with an intelligent person.

If association with the intelligent has such an effect on inanimate objects, think what effect will be when one seeker of God associate with another!

- Rumi, from The Rumi Collection by Editor, Kabir Helminski

On the importance of a good guide (Shaykh) on the path of seeking the Truth, the gnostic Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, may God be pleased with him, said:

'You must work hard to ensure that your hearts are not locked out of the door of His nearness. Be sensible! You are getting nowhere. You must seek the company of a Shaikh who is learned in the sacred law [hukm] and gnosis ['ilm] of God, and who will show you the way toward Him. Without seeing the successful [muflih], one cannot succeed.

Seek the fellowship of those who enjoy fellowship with the Lord of Truth, Almighty and Glorious. What each of you should do, when the night has grown dark and people have gone to bed and their voices are silent, is get up, take an ablution [yatawadda'], perform two cycles of prayer [yusalli rak 'atain] and say: "O my Lord, guide me to one of Your righteous servants near to You, so that he may guide me toward You and make me familiar with Your path."

The instrument [sabab] is necessary. Be sensible! You are getting nowhere. You must awaken from your heedless folly. As the Prophet has said: 'If someone relies entirely on his own subjective judgment, he will go astray.'

Try to find someone who will be a mirror for the face of your walking [din], just as you look in the mirror to check the appearance of your outer face, your appearance. Be sensible! What is this crazy foolishness? You say, "I don't need anyone to teach me," and yet the Prophet has said: 'The believer is the believer's mirror (al-mu'minu mir'atu 'l-mu'min).'

- from Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, "The Sublime Revelation (Al-Fath ar-Rabbani)," translated by Muhtar Holland (text credit)

A Sufi Master Sitting down facing the Kaba4.
al-Warith al-Muhammadi
Who Is the Guide Who Carries the Truth ?

'Beloved, know in whose presence you sit; know who whispers these words into the ear of your heart. If you hear me, know me; if you would know me, you must enter. All of these words are in the way of metaphors. With what voice shall I call you but the voice of your own quest? You will see me with the eye of your deepest yearning, if you see me at all. And if you are searching for me, it is because I am searching for you. If you understand what I mean, then let us meet face to face, hand to hand, and soul to soul.

If you want to go to Damascus, you must find someone who has traveled that way and who knows all the subtleties, the difficulties, and the detours in the road; who has reached the destination and knows every inn along the way. I am the way to Damascus. I am the way. Where do you want to go? When I say that I am the way, understand well who it is who is speaking to you. The way is ancient and everlasting. All who are of the way are possessed by the way and carried by the way, even while they carry the way.

How would you know the guide for whom you have been searching if he stood before you and spoke with you? Look within and without for the source of this voice. From where does it come? Watch the way in which he moves and by what is he moved? By what light is he guided? Whose work does he accomplish? If he comes in the name of the holy tree, taste the fruit to know what the tree is. Listen to the heart of the message in every action of the life of the guide. If it is al-Warith al-Muhammadi, al-Insan al-Kamil, the perfected one, whom you see, he spends all his time working in the way because he has no time; the time is God’s.

Beloved, know that the guide is the holy bride who wants to wed you, but only her Beloved within you can truly embrace her. The bride is your own original truth, which remains virgin and undefiled beneath the veil of every presence. You cannot know the guide who sits before you, if you do not know the guide who is within you and is your own true being. Know yourself; call this holy being into existence if you wish to know who sits before you and instructs you in the form of the pretext of the guide.'

- from Sidi Said al-Jamal ar-Rifai ash-Shadhuli's teachings (text credit).

"It takes time to make a soul pregnant with God. But it can be done; IT WILL BE DONE...."

"ONE CANNOT HAVE FAITH; until time is ripe, nobody can have faith. Complete surrender is absolute faith. He is Absolute; so faith must be absolute." ... he added after a silence, "Fana fi Sheikh" (Complete absorption / annihilation in the beloved guide).

- Bhai Sahib Radha Mohan Lal, Daughter of Fire by Ms. Irina Tweedie

Is there somebody who can take me to the Lord?
I will go to him, touch his feet and kiss his hands,
And serve him faithfully, him,
who can take me to the Lord.

- a Sikh prayer hymn
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

we are in your quest, in who's quest are you?

the blue dervish mysticsaint's blog1.
O one with a tilted cap,
fitted cup parched open

O beloved seducer,
reflection of who's
endearing ways
...... are you?

You are locked
in my heart,
and my eyes
under your feet.

We're in your quest,
in who's quest
...... are you?

You plunder my soul,
plunder my heart
and mind,
you ascend great heights.
Which bird of desire
...... are you?

Words are sealed
within the lips
of exasperated Khusro.

O sweet voiced parrot,
who's purity of song
...... are you?

- lyrics by Amir Khusro (1253 - 1325) adopted from the the song 'Kaj Kulaah' by contemporary sufi singer Shafqat Ali Khan.

[>] You may listen to this beautiful song in original Persian language (in classical Indian style of improvisation) with English recitation via Imeem. The song is from the Album called, The Tilted Cap.

[Download the song in Mp3 version]

Commentary | the beautiful lyric is an example of songs written in dedication to master and guide in the sufi path. on the outset the song is a deeply devotional piece that comes from a devotee who is made so bewildered and drowned in divine love (mahabba) for the teacher that he calls the teacher as 'a beloved seducer'. sufis are known as 'thieves of the heart' who can enter one's heart silently and empty it completely of 'everything else', a preparation for the purity of God's love to completely occupy the heart.

Amir Khusro, a brilliant sufi musician here uses wonderful metaphors to express the love for his own guide and master in the spiritual path. in sufi path, the absorption in the love of the teacher (fana fi shaykh) is a pathway to the absorption or annihilation in God (fana fi Allah). thus the shaykh is the one who takes the student by the hand to God. Amir Khusro says beautifully when he asks, 'reflection of who's endearing ways are you?' to point to the fact that light carried within the breast of a true master is the reflection of the Light of God.

the song also reminds of the mysterious green man of the desert, otherwise known as Khidr. Khidr was the archetypal esoteric guide who is mentioned in Quran, appears like an Avataric figure to Prophet Moses to teach him inner realities. according to many sufis, Khidr is the timeless inner guide of subtle realities. just as Khidr is not mentioned by name in the Quran, so is the inner teacher remains without a face or form. that also points answer to the inner secret why the master of the mystics, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, asked not to draw his face.

on inner level this song can be also be interpreted as a song addressing to God, specially where the zen koan like question from the bewildered devotee, 'we are in Your quest, in who's quest are You?' points to one of the most secret of questions for the Seeker of Truth. Man in eternal quest of God, and through divine reflection, God is also in quest of Perfected Human Being, the perfect reflection of God's Light, Insan al-Kamal.

"Faozkurooni Azkurukum"

Therefore Remember Me, I Will Remember you.
- The Quran 2:152

"God says: I AM Humanity's Secret,
and Humanity is My Secret"
- from the sacred hadith of Prophet

Javad Nurbakhsh NimatullahiJavad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order for over 50 years, joined the Beloved on Friday, October 10, 2008. Inna niLlahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un. Indeed we are from God and to Him is the Final Home Coming. May God bless his soul and raise his rank to those of His true lovers. Ameen.

This post is dedicated to Shaykh Javad Nurbakhsh, may God be pleased with him. Benediction of al-Fatiha to his noble soul.

Through Love, I have reached a place
Where no trace of Love remains,
Where "I" and "we"
and the painting of existence,
Have all been forgotten and left behind …

- Shaykh Javad Nurbakhsh (1928 - 2008)

The Nimatullahi Sufi order is the most wide spread Sufi Order in Iran which also has branches in Europe, Africa, U.S.A. and Australia. Dr. Nurbakhsh was born in Kerman, Iran in 1926. He attended medical school at the University of Tehran, receiving his psychiatric doctorate in 1952. Soon after the Islamic revolution in Iran, Dr. Nurbakhsh went into exile and eventually settled in the U.K. where the order maintains two Sufi Centers in London and Manchester and a Sufi Retreat in Banbury oxfordshire where he passed away at the age of 82.

Dr. Nurbakhsh was an accomplished Sufi poet and spent more than 50 years writing, editing and publishing definitive and comprehensive works on the Sufi spiritual path. A number of Americans and Europeans came to Iran and were initiated into the Nimatullahi Order. Subsequently, the first spiritual center outside Iran was founded in San Francisco in 1975. Dr. Nurbakhsh eventually established more than one hundred Sufi centers and numerous libraries and museums throughout Iran and the world.

Dr. Nurbakhsh promoted the creed of fraternity and equality of all human beings, regardless of gender, race, nationality and religion. He also advocated love and service to all humanity. He is succeeded by his son, Alireza Nurbakhsh. (credit)

# Related: Soulful Strain - Sufi exponent Shafqat Ali Khan’s draws upon Amir Khusro’s works for his new album.
. Music Albums: Sufi Songs and Sublime Sufi by Shafqat Ali Khan
. Sufi Love Pin It Now!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Old Sweet Beggar | Hafiz, version by Daniel Ladinsky

Path to God
Made me such an old sweet beggar.

I was starving until one night
My love tricked God Himself
To fall into my bowl.

Now Hafiz is infinitely rich,
But all I ever want to do

Is keep emptying out
My emerald filled

This tear stained

- from:
The Subject Tonight is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky.

# Related:
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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Spiritual Chivalry | Futtuwah In Sufi Way

And they feed, for the love of God, the poor, the orphan ... (saying),"we feed you for the sake of God alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks".
- The Quran 76:8

"Chivalry means being fair to others, while not expecting fairness in return" - Abu Has Haddad

"Spiritual chivalry means to restrain yourself from causing trouble while giving freely." - Junyad

"Spiritual chivalry means that native and foreigner are the same to you." - Muhammad ibn Ali al-Tirmidihi

"Love all and hate none. Mere talk of peace will avail you naught. Mere talk of God and religion will not take you far. Bring out all the latent powers of your being and reveal the full magnificence of your immortal self.

Be overflowing with peace and joy, and scatter them wherever you are and wherever you go. ... Never refuse to bless and help the needy and the poor, the widow, and the orphan, if they come to your door. This is your mission, to serve the people."
- from the final discourse of Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti to his students, one month before his death.

Before Islam appeared, the tradition of chivalry (javanmardi in persian, futuwwaht in arabic) in the Middle East was maintained through the training of men to be chevaliers.

The tradition of chivalry involved consideration for others (morowwat), self-sacrifice (ithar), devotion (fada-kari), the helping of the unfortunate and unprotected, kindness towards all created beings, keeping one's word and self-effacement - all qualities that were later to emerge as the noble attributes of the perfect human being from the point of view of Sufism.

In addition to these attributes of a true human being, the chevaliers were committed to a particular code of etiquette and conventions, from which the main objective and principles of chivalry or javanmardi were derived.

With the appearance of Islam, these chevaliers embraced the religion of Islam while retaining the conventions of chivalry, thereby founding the creed of Sufism on the basis of both Islam and chivalry. Thus, the etiquette of the chevaliers became part of the practice of the khaniqah and of the Sufis.

Gradually, as the philosophy of the Unity of Being (wahdato'l-wojud) and divine love were made more profound and appealing by Sufi masters, the tradition of chivalry, hand-in-hand with it, gained an extraordinary influence and currency. The spirit of Sufism consisted of focusing one's gaze in one direction (towards God) through the power of love, and its method was to cultivate a humane code of ethics, which was equated with that of the chevaliers.

Sufism, then, has both an outward and an inward aspect: its inward aspect consists of traveling the Path and traversing its stations to attain the level of subsistence-through-God (baqa'). Its outward aspect consists of the tradition of chivalry, which constitutes the development of the attributes of perfect human beings.

Sufis must know that they are the standard-bearers of the school of humanity and of the tradition of chivalry in the world today, and they must not allow modern civilization to destroy noble human qualities-a civilization which, from the outward point of view, raises human beings to the greatest heights, while at the same time lowering their inward qualities to a level beneath that of animals. - Chivalry from the writing of Javad Nurbaksh, may God be pleased with him

:: The Golden Tradition of Islamic Chivalry

It is said that the one who exemplified Islamic chivalry in the way of the Holy Prophet, may Peace and Blessings be upon him, most perfectly was Hazreti Ali ibn Abi Talib. There is a story of Imam Ali, may God be pleased with him, that gives us an idea of the spiritual power and sheer faith that it takes to embody Islamic chivalry,

"The perfect example of this level of control and chivalry is demonstrated by the conduct of Hadrat Ali ibn Abu Talib a companion of the Prophe who once, in the midst of battle was about to slay his opponent. As he raised his sword to strike, his enemy spat in his face. Hadrat Ali immediately dropped his sword, refused to strike and walked away from his enemy in the battlefield, “what is wrong with you, why do you not strike?" the man asked. "Because before you spat at me I was fighting you for the sake of Allah Almighty” Ali replied, "but after you spat I was fighting you because I was angry - and as a muslim I can only fight for Allah , never for my own Nafs."

"Upon hearing this, Ali’s opponent recongnized the nobility & truth of his words and immediately his heart opened up to surrender to faith in Almighty." - via Siafuddin's blog Inheriting A Lifestyle of Islamic Chivalry

Chivalry (futtuwa) and courtesy (adab) are actually essential parts of the Sufi path. Sufism's inward aspect consists of traveling the Path and the traversing its stations to attain the level of subsistence-through-God (baqa). Its outward aspect consists of the tradition of chivalry which constitutes the development of the attributes of perfect humans.

Abdul-Husayn ibn Sam' un on the broad meaning of futuwwah:

"[It] means opposing and arguing little, being fair; preventing errors in oneself and not criticizing the errors of others; trying to correct one's faults; accepting accusations; enduring troubles caused by others; lowering one's ego; being pleasant to both the old and the young, doing good deeds, giving good advice, and accepting advice; loving one's friends; and bearing peacefully with one's enemies."

The classic writing by sufi saint and scholar Ibn Al-Husayn al-Sulami - The Way of Sufi Chivalry, has been used since the tenth century as code of conduct for Chivarly. Here many spiritual masters share their experience of futuwwah. In Arabic, fata literally means a handsome, brave youth. Following the use of the term in the Holy Koran it came to be associated with an ideal, noble person whose hospitality and generosity would enable him to always put others above oneself.

According to Sufis, futuwwah is a state of mind that is animated by selflessness, compassion, kindness, and altruism. This behavior was modeled by the Prophet Muhammad and by other friends and lovers of Allah. The word that describes the Sufi brand of chivalry is adab. They see it as "a continuous act of devotion, for it is a method of constant remembrance of God."

"Alaa inna awliya-ullahi laa khawfan 'alayhim wa laa hum yahzanoon"

"Nay they are the Friends of God, no fear shall come upon them neither shall they grieve." - The Quran, Surah Yunus, 62

What are some of the marks of this code of conduct? Here are a few:

• Be satisfied with little for yourself, and wish much for others.
• Instead of seeking the faults of others, look at your own faults.
• Respond to cruelty with kindness, and do not punish for error.
• Bring joy into the lives of your friends and meet their needs.
• Prefer the well-being and comfort of your brothers over your own, and relieve them of their difficulties.
• The host should serve everything he has to his brother. Even if he has only a drop of water left, he should serve that.

"When the Light of the Heart reflected on the Beauty of the Face that beauty is Futuwwah (Chivalry)". - Ibn al-Husayn al-Sulami

"A friend of God must have affection like the Sun. When the sun rises, it is beneficial to all irrespective of whether they are Muslim, Christian, or Hindu.

A friend of God must be generous like a river. We all get water from the river to quench our thirst. It does not discriminate whether we are good or bad or whether we are a relation or a stranger.

A friend of God must display the hospitality like the earth. We are raised and cradled in its lap, and yet it is always under our feet."
- Khwaja Mu'inuddin Chishti (via wahiduddin)

# Reference:
. Royal Chivarly | Al-Futtuwa
. Review: The Way of Sufi Chivalry
. The Way of Sufi Chivalry by Ibn al-Husayn al-Sulami and Toscun Bayrak al-Jerrahi
. Becoming a Fair and Just person Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Introducing "Gladdening the Sacred Hearts" Project

Vie to one another in good works.
- The Quran 3:114

When asked what actions are the most excellent, Prophet Muhammad is reported to have replied saying "gladdening the heart of a human being is one of the most excellent of actions". Inspired by the Prophetic tradition which basically is a core foundation of universal chivalry, I would like to introduce the project: "Gladdening the Sacred Hearts."

Seed of inspiration for this project formed sometime back in 2006-2007 when I met Priya in Singapore. I came to know about the school she runs (called The Sacred Heart School) in Kolkata, India, for kids from many diverse background including from the most marginal section of the society, less fortunate ones, those who come from extreme poverty, harsher economic and social conditions. There are children in her school, who if not supported by her school, could never be able to get education.

Because of the very nature of good work, often they go unnoticed from the denser world. I'm sure there are many such schools in third world countries which are doing excellent work to change lives of many, but what caught my attention for Priya's work is because of her utmost dedication and unparalleled sincerity. Without making Priya really mad at me for telling her stories (which is the last thing she want) what I can tell at least is that 'she gives everything she has' for this school.

Sacred Heart School BannerIn a third world country like India, the transforming power of education is tremendous. The vicious cycle of poverty for hundreds and thousands of children of the world can only be broken when they are educated and have a sustainable life. The wonderful human potential can't be realized without the light of education. The vision surrounding the Sacred Heart school is giving these less fortunate children that opportunity to break out from poverty cycle.

After I came to know about this work, I had the opportunity to visit the school back in Kolkata (famously called, The City of Joy), India and the people who work for it. I really fell in love with the school and the work thats been put into it.

Now this school is run completely from individual effort with minimal fees taken from the able parents and help from well wisher, friends. The school based on montessori model, started with only 5 students back in 1993 and now it has grown to more than 250 students (75 students are given education and other benefit for free). Given that its not funded by any outside organization and a solo effort, thats a huge challenge to sustain. The whole process was mostly an individual effort: from the idea of founding such a school, spending from own pocket, even utilizing own provident fund, along with Priya's husband teaching the children, sacrificing own time working tirelessly day and night - all for this project. The reason I can recommend helping in this project is because I have seen it first hand and shown the sincerity of the people who work behind it.

We call this project "Gladdening the Sacred Hearts" because each child's heart is sacred and illuminating each heart and enabling them to be independent in this world is to make them happy in realizing their potential. Making impact in one these lives are a worth cause to contribute to.

For the project there are few areas which needs financial contribution and help:

1. Food for the children: Many of these kids come hungry to the school and their parent's can't afford a proper meal. The school wish to provide them a meal. Back in India it costs very little compared to US currency to feed these kids who come hungry. For example, 1 US dollar is close to 45 India Rupees, which means the cost of a cup of your regular StarBucks Coffee can feed about 4 kids a good morning meal.

2. Education materials: The School provides the education material such as pencils, notebook and also other things like school uniform etc. to the needy students and maintaining such inventories require resources.

3. A new place for the School: With enough contribution, future plan is to move from its current location to a newer place with more spacious class rooms and other facilities. The current place where the school is hosted is quite small with only 3 class rooms in a residence building. It doesn't have playground or enough room for a library or day care facility.

4. Expansion to higher grades: Right now Sacred Heart is a primary school with classes (grades) from one to four. In order for continuously support these kids there are plans to expand the classes from five to eight.

Many of us have the intention and the ability but not always the opportunity to create a full sized project from scratch on our own to make real change in this world; thus its great if there is already a existing project where people can contribute from their side, make partnership with it. Priya's Sacred Heart School is such a project motivated by noble ideals and worth partnering with contributions to help it grow.

In this quickly passing world where all of us blindly pursue after money and when the time for our last breath arrives, we are made to leave all behind, can not take a single penny with us. This money, after which we run so madly all our life, which often make us blind of everything else - if there is any worth of it, the only real worth is to provide for the needy. So kindly be generous in your contribution if your heart realize that for those you are providing, are your brothers and sisters, are your sons and daughter in this one human family. May this contribution be accepted and counted as your best contribution you ever made.

What kind of Contribution you can make?
You can make a vital difference in the lives of these children and also their parents. A gift of any size and kind will help maintain current programs and provide the funding necessary for future expansion. So feel free to contribute any amount and be generous in your consideration, may the One Who Provides us all be Generous to you.

You may follow the link below to make a donation for the Project. You don't have to have a paypal account and this secure payment accepts all major credit / debit cards. All contribution goes directly to the Project and benefits the students. Once you click the Donate button below, in the next page, after putting in the amount, click (continue) on bottom left of the screen to proceed.

FRIENDS of Gladdening the Sacred Hearts Project

Start a huge, foolish project,
like Noah.
It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.
- Rumi

We are also in the process of creating a network, 'Friends of Gladdening the Sacred Hearts Project'. The main purpose will be to create an inner circle of ambassadors who can help spread the word, connect to their own networks of friends and encourage others to get actively involved and contribute to the project.

If you are willing to be included in the "Friends of Gladdening the Sacred Heart Project" kindly email me with a subject line ‘Gladdening the Sacred Heart Project’ and I will keep you posted about the project, its progress and next steps. Another theme we will be working in the next few weeks is to identify kids with special financial need who can be sponsored in one to one basis. We wish to reach out to as many of these kids possible.

. Address of Sacred Heart School:
19A/1 Prasanna Naskar Lane, Picnic Garden
Kolkata 700 039, India.

. You may write directly to Priya ( if you wish to learn in details about the school and her work.

. a video about the background of Sacred Heart School
. Sacred Heart School site (under construction)

Acknowledgment: thanks to my good friend Indraneel for his constant support and motivation for the project.

"What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the injured.

Who is the most favored of God? He from whom the greatest good cometh to His creatures.

All God's creatures are His family; and he is the most beloved of God who doeth most good to God's creatures."
- Wisdom Tradition of the Prophet

When you do righteous deeds for the least among you, you have done them for me.
- Christ

And they feed, for the love of God, the indigent, the orphan ... (saying),"we feed you for the sake of God alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks".

- The Quran 76:8
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