Wednesday, April 15, 2009

zen of la ilaha illallah

1.
Kobayashi is wandering for hours in the bewildering narrow lanes of a strange small town of Macedonia. He can hardly pronounce any names of towns or streets in this part of the world properly, nor is he interested in keeping count of how many towns he has traveled so far since a strange attraction and series of dreams have compelled him to find himself in this Balkan land. Its been a strange journey, Kobayashi sighs. No sooner had he said that to himself, his eyes fell upon a bright yellow, red painted house door. The building somehow had a very mystic aura around it that attracted Kobayashi near it. He couldn't tell if it was a private or a public building. As he stood still, not knowing what he should do, an old man with long beard and white cap came out of the red yellow door and his eyes fell straight upon that of Kobayashi.

A warm smile spread through his face which is covered by the beard like a veil, yet there was a translucent light permeated all over his face. Kobayashi felt relieved that at least he can ask about the building to this man who now looks like a Rabbi to him. With broken English Kobayashi try to explain that he is a tourist and new in this land and felt this building to be very charming.

The old man invited him inside for drinking tea saying he would love to tell more about this modest building. The invitation made Kobayashi very happy in his heart, though he didn't realize exactly why.

As he entered the small one storied building, his eyes became habituated to the dimmer light inside and saw few other men sitting in a perfect circle, mostly in silence. Kobayashi was given a place to sit on the thick carpet where rest of the men were sitting. Soon a young boy served them tea and some sweets. As he sips from the small tea cup, the old man who invited him informed that this building is an old sufi tekke or lodge where dervishes gather to chant divine name together, to drink and eat together and to have sohbet (spiritual conversation).

The words sufi and dervish sound similar to Kobayashi, he must have read about them somewhere. The man continues to say that 'this lodged is established for more than eight hundred years. It was established by saintly masters of our path and is still maintained and have been used since then to hold sufi gathering. As if he could see what Kobayashi was wondering, the old man said, sufis are the mystics of islam and they have only one longing, the Face of the Beloved.' As he pronounced the word Beloved, his voice changed and he said it slowly with reverence.

'Soon we will have our chant. You are most welcome to join us. As you are led to come to us, God willing, it will be a gift to your soul. Before we begin let me explain the chant that we shall be doing shortly.

We shall be using a seed, as a mantra for chanting which is: 'la ilaha illallah'. Its a very zen chant, saying which the old man gave him a wink and further said, let me explain the zen of 'la ilaha illallah' and I am sure you will understand it better than many here. Oddly enough he winked at him again.

Kobayashi's inside was filled with wonder. How come this old man know about his path! Since he has left his old identity in the zen temple from the shadow of giant Fuji mountain in Japan, where he was a zen master, this is the first time some one has mentioned about the word zen. After becoming a very adept zen master in his own discipline, over the past few years his dissatisfaction grew and grew. He felt so much disconnection from his spirit and somehow all the zazen meditation, koans and noble truths seemed so empty and void. In fact such dissatisfaction partly has led him to journey in this faraway land. And he couldn't believe that a strange sufi dervish, a muslim mystic in such a faraway land will explain his chant in zen.

After giving some pause, as if to let Kobayashi understand the significant of what he said with the two winks, the sufi dervish who now appear to be the head of this gathering says thus:

'No amount of word can do justice to explain the meaning of 'la ilaha illallah'. It has oceans of meaning, and each of such oceans are without shore. Since you are from foreign land, let me explain the literal meaning of this sacred verse first even though we are not people of literal meanings. But one has to begin somewhere.

la means 'no'.
ilaha is 'deity', anything worthy of worship, divine reality.
illa means 'except'.
The word 'Allah' is derived from a contraction of the arabic definite article al- "the" and ʼilah "deity, god", so al-lah meaning "the [sole] deity, God", ho theos monos.

So together it becomes, there is no deity but The Deity. there is no god but The God. With every inbreath illallah, every outbreath la ilaha.

Yes one meaning of it helped remove the idea of polytheism from the less evolved spiritual minds of the past who again and again fell into polytheism and forgot the Oneness. No Messenger came but gave this formula to his people, asked people to shun all idols and turn to One Divine Oneness. Thus it is considered the central doctrine of Universal Religion of Divine Submission and Realization of Supreme Oneness. It is the central message from Adam to Abraham, from Moses to Jesus and finally to Muhammad and we sufis are the protector and doorkeeper of this message.

la ilaha illallah in its most simple construction- no God but God, is very zen because its utterly paradoxical in nature, affirms that which it negates in its beginning. Empty the cup before you can take in and what we are taking in is the summation of the whole cosmos and our human consciousness is a cup, the microcosm.

Our master Mustafa said, "By Him in Whose hand is my soul, if the heavens and the earth and all that are in them and everything that is in between were brought and placed in one side of the Divine Balance, and the witnessing that la ilaha illallah were placed in the other, the latter would outweigh the former."

'The zen beauty of 'la ilaha illallah' is that it is the condensed form and key to enlightenment. We do not seek enlightenment in anywhere else, not in disconnected ascetic practices, nor in hiding away in mountain cave or jungle but only in our realization of this mantra, la ilaha illallah. Our enlightenment is to realize that Only Divine Reality Alone Is - which is one level of transmission of the formula. Thus we strive to see the Emptiness, the Grand Emptiness, The One Who has Hid Himself by Becoming Zero, Batin - in Full Manifestation in His Infinite Manifestation, Zahir.

If you truly meditate on the Enso, the Zen Circle, you will realize the zen paradox of la ilaha illallah. What the ancient enlightened master who drew the Enso conveyed in painting Enso, we say the same reality thus: "Hu encompasses everything and nothing encompasses Hu." Hu is the Name of the Beloved. Ofcourse Zen is void of any personal attribute of Divine Reality, but we in our devotional love wish to arrive realization through our personal devotion which colour attributes of Divine Reality in comprehensible personal term. The bridge to reaching Divine Transcendence is Immanence.'

Saying this the old dervish becomes silent, so is everyone in the room. As if time has stopped, something is shifting inside Kobayashi. And right then the old dervish recited a poem so profound and so beautiful that it reduced him into tears.

'Inside this clay jug there are canyons and pine mountains, and the maker of canyons and pine mountains! All seven oceans are inside, and hundreds of millions of stars. The acid that tests gold is here, and the one who judges jewels. And the music that comes from the strings that no one touches, and the source of all water.'

Silence again and then started the remembrance ceremony. First the old dervish began with la ilaha illallah and all joined with him. The first half 'la ilaha' they recite softly and 'illallah' with great stress. Kobayashi felt like sitting inside hundreds of invisible boom boxes. The small lodge was soaring with the sound and vibration of the chant and before he knew anything Kobayashi was repeating the same and entered into a trance unlike anything ever before. That evening he was given a small taste what these sufi dervishes taste from the fountain of la ilaha illallah.

2.
He Alone is the Knower of the Unseen, and He reveals unto none His Mysteries. - The Quran 72:26

How! Are they still in doubt about the meeting with their Lord?
Lo! Is not He encompassing all things? - The Quran 42:54

# Related:
. Qadiri Sufis of Chechnia and their remembrance ceremony via youtube
. Tahlil: lâ ilâha illâ allâh
. La ilaha illa-Allah | God alone is
. The Zen Circle

. Sufis of Kosovo and Greater Balkan
. Glimpse of Sufism in Balkan
. Death and Dervish: Tale of a Bosnian Sufi
. Song of Bosnian Dervishes
. Baba Edmond Brahimaj, A Balkan Sufi

Pin It Now!

LinkWithin