Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dream of the Water Gatherers | Tracing the Signs

1.
An Opening Prayer

There is a community of the spirit. Join it, and feel the delight of walking in the street of love, and becoming scintillating love. Bathe in the light of grace. Close both eyes to see with inner eyes. Open your hands, if you want to receive. Open your arms, if you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle. Quit acting like a wolf, and feel the shepherd's love filling you. Be empty of worrying. Think of who created the soul and who fashioned everything out of nothingness! Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open? Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking. Live in loving passionately and bloom like a beautiful night-queen flower that opens to the starry night, silently, without any noise.  

~ Based on a prayer by Cynthia J. Alby


2.
Background

In case you have missed previous posts and the dream:
1) Read the post published on 9th October based on the writings of Syed M. Zauqi Shah titled, "The Sufi's Spiritual Course" and the comments that followed.
2) Read the dream of the Water Gatherer.

The dream is quite remarkable for many reasons. First of all, the dream is reminiscence of the classic sufi work The Conference of the Birds which is a story of seeker's journey to God. There, like this dream, many embark on a similar journey to reach a certain goal and in the process those with insincere commitment, many who started their journey in half-heartedness end up giving up their goal, only a few can attain that which was set out to attain. The dream also explains a very practical aspect of seeking that it is arduous and demand struggle against every obstacles placed during the journey (including the greatest obstacle of the 'ego'), without exception. 

O, friend! Nobody veils you, but yourself.
In your path there is no thorn or weed, but yourself.
You asked: shall I reach the Beloved or not?
Between you and the Beloved there is nobody, but yourself.
~ Awhadoddin Kermani

Struggle is an inseparable reality in our journey and it is only through struggle, resistance, to resist the Opponent is how the light is revealed in us, it is how growth / evolution of being unfolds. From Kabbalist to Sufis, every authentic path traveled by those advanced seeker testifies this fact and that is again conveyed in this dream. The struggle of the warriors is universal emblematic of the struggle of humanity, of individual human being.

According to Islamic tradition from the saying of the Prophet, dreams are of three kind: The truthful dream (rahmani), the dream stemming from personal desire (nafsani), and the dream coming from the opponent (shaytani).

This particular dream also stirred my interest because of its wonderful level of fine details. According to Ibn Khaldun, one of the sign of a true dream vision is that the dream vision stays and remains impressed with all its details in the memory of (the person who perceived it). Neither neglect nor forgetfulness affects it. No thinking or remembering is required, in order to have it present (to one's mind). The (dream vision) remains pictured in the mind of (the dreamer) when he or she awakes. Nothing of it is lost. This is because perception by the soul does not take place within time (rather outside time) and requires no consecutive order, but takes place all at once and within a single time element.

3.
Every order is from the Source and must return to the Source

In order to interpret the dream, I have relied upon the Quran, which after all is a Book of Signs.  God declares: Indeed, We have variegated throughout this Quran all manners of similitude for humanity, but, more than anything else, man is argumentative! - The Quran 18:54

Also for meanings associated with various elements of the dream, I have relied upon Ibn Sirin's transmission. Muhammad ibn Sirin (654-731) was a specialist in the field of dream interpretation in regards to the traditions of Islam. Certain norms of dream interpretation were written down on his authority. I have also taken the liberty to use the wisdom of Sufi path for tracing the correlations and message revealed in the dream.

4.
The Meanings are writ on the Sky of the Heart

You are my sky, and I am the earth, bewildered:
What makes You constantly flow from my heart?
I am soil with parched lips! Kindly bring water
that will transform this soil into a rose-bed!

How does the earth knows
what You sowed in its heart?
You have impregnated it,
and You know its secret burden!
 ~ Rumi


Below the original dream is mentioned in italic and the interpretation of the dream is shared interspersed.

It’s a long, long and a very hot summer. The people are very thirsty and they are dying in huge numbers of drought and the crops are failing. The animals are dying, and the plants are dying...

"Thirst" represents the souls call towards God, and when the call goes on unanswered for sometime, it creates disorientation for the soul towards its Source. Thirst represent lack of piety, whereas "drinking water" in dream vision is a sign of piety. When human soul cuts itself off from recognition, acknowledgment, remembrance and thanksgiving to the Real Cherisher, the Nourisher, slowly but surely the spirit start to starve and die. Just as drought is the result of the lack of life giving water in a land, similarly the life giving grace that flows from Remembrance, when withdrawn from the landscape of our soul - it causes spiritual drought and the real harvest, amal (action of real value) withers and eventually die.

When this happen to collective, it affects the planetary ecology. When we destroy inner landscape of our individual beings by disconnecting it from the Real - the environment, the ecology, the planet - in every level it manifest the same kind of destruction. Nothing is spared, hence both animals and plants - all dies. Isn't that what we are also witnessing in our mindless destruction of antarctic, amazon rainforest, natural sanctuaries, every kind of vulnerable species?

The wise men of the people gather together and decide that they need to send a group of warriors on a dangerous expedition and a mission: to find water and bring water to the people. No matter what happens to them: a matter of life or death.

There is an esoteric knowledge conveyed in Sufism where the wise elders, advanced spiritual beings watch over the creation and govern its affair. This knowledge is beyond the scope of this interpretation but it is sufficient to say that the higher spiritual beings who are known as Qutub (Pole) or Ghawth (Succor), Nuqaba (Leaders), Awtaad (Pillars), Abrar (Pious) - the guardians of the inner plane are 'the wise men' in the dream, who gather together (in their baqa, they are already together, in union with God) and decides to send a group of warriors on an expedition.

Among the world communities, let yours be the community who rises up and implements the Divine Value System, ordering honor, and forbidding dishonor. Such are the people who are truly successful and will eventually prosper. - The Quran 3:104

The mission is about finding water and bringing water to the people.

Water has a varied spectrum of meanings, including: sign of peace, abundance. Also water corresponds with soul, representing the middle world between spirit or fire on the one hand, and matter or earth on the other. The mission to find water represents in this dream "the restoration of human soul." Bringing water to people is bringing the covered up, veiled truth into light. When truth is lost, some people are bound to be given or taken up responsibility to work as a reminder of the light. This is an organic happening.

Water is also symbolic to transmit divine gnosis. As Christ says in a tradition similar to hadith qudsi, "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." - Christ, Gospel of John, 4:14

And He said unto me, It is done. I Am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. - Revelation 21:6

"Garden beneath which river flows" - is a often recurring description of the Final abode, promised to those who attain faith.

As for those who have iman and do deeds of righteousness, We shall soon admit to Gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,- their eternal home: Therein shall they have companions pure and holy: We shall admit them to shades, cool and ever deepening. -The Quran 4:57

Also another message is that higher truth, when one recognizes, one is moved, or better said, almost compelled to share it, transmit it. Light when brought in a dark room, by its nature is bound to dispel darkness, it by default share its light. When one feel the thirst, listen to the call and see other dying of that thirst, starving, one must gather water and 'bring water to people.' This is the work of the saintly souls, that of awliyas (friends of God), bodhisattvas (being who works towards freedom (from maya, bondage) of others).


The bravest warriors are given an arrow and a bow and they make a solemn vow that they will return, bringing water to the nation. Then they set off, with the taste of dust in their mouths and the sun beating relentlessly on their heads and backs. There is no time to waste. They keep walking miles, and more miles, days and nights and never stop walking:

The solemn vow is the oath of allegiance or bayah in Sufistic term. It is the vow for Truth, towards God realization. And once the vow is taken, once the bayah happens under the instruction of the wise elders (Pirs), one "set off" on the Tariqa, on the Path. A true seeker, a salik - knows intuitively that every human breath is so precious that they can not be exchanged even for wealth of the entire world. Thus wasting time is seen the greatest negligence (ghaflat). And once one is on the Path, on the Tariqa, every movement and every stillness - both are considered walking. Every action turns into remembrance ceremony and worshipful devotion. For a Sufi in the Tariqa, every moment is a moment of 'walking'. They strive never to forget that they are on a great journey, and they are the wayfarer, passing through this temporal world for very short period of time.

... and they start to drop out, one by one: Some warriors are getting too tired, and they sling their bow and arrow, and stop and take a break, thus jeopardising the mission, and are left behind.

Some warriors are becoming full of doubts that they will ever find the water, and they also sit down, and abandon their mission, thus breaking their vows. And betraying the nation. they bury their weapons deep into the sand dunes and then pick up some other trade and become common farmers, that mission clearly they realised is not for them.

One of the most important provision in the journey for seeker is the yearning, seeking, aspiration (himmah). In Conference of the Birds its called the Valley of Talab or 'Valley of Seeking' that the seekers must first cross-over This is the first step that a seeker must take in his path. Ardour, perseverance and patience are required to traverse this valley. Those who lack them are bound to drop one by one.

Rumi says, "half-heartedness does not reach into the Majesty. You set out to find truth, but then you keep stopping for long periods at mean-spirited roadhouses."

None has promised that the Path to God will be easy. There are many distractions along the path. Human being is made to strive in various means to reach their goal. "Verily, your striving is diverse" (92:4)

O ye who believe! Shall I lead you to a bargain that will save you from a grievous doom?

You shall believe in God and His Messenger, and struggle hard in God's way with your property and your lives; that is better for you, did you but know! Hu shall absolve your shortcomings and cause you to enter into Gardens, beneath which rivers flow, and goodly dwellings in Gardens of perpetuity; that is the supreme achievement! (6:10-12)

And those who strive in Our cause -We will certainly guide them to our paths. For verily God is with those who engage in right action. (29:69)

A third small group of warriors keep going: they want to find the source of water, and they know that somewhere far, far away, there is an underground river, it’s a matter of patience and perseverance, and wisdom, it’s only a matter of time..

They lose their dearest friends and dearest co-travelers on their way, the journey gets harder by the day, and by the week, and by the year, and many years would pass and they keep walking... they are now so, so tired and so few of them remain, but they still keep walking..

Finding the Source of Water is immensely significant. The word used by Islam to mean Divine Law is called Sharia which simply means 'path to the water hole.' When we consider the importance of a well-trodden path to a source of water for man and beast in the arid desert environment, we can readily appreciate why this term in Muslim usage should have become a metaphor for a whole way of life ordained by God." In original usage Shar'iah meant the road to the watering place or path leading to the water, i.e., the way to the source of life. Thus the Divinely prescribed path that leads to source, to eternal life (here in the dream the metaphor is source of water) is the path that is taken.

The word is proved true against the greater part of them: for they do not attain to faith. (36:7)

The majority rule doesn't apply to seeker. Throughout human history, the vanguard of truth has always been the minority, even under a single tradition, those who guard, observe and embody the original teachings have been done by the minority, a small group of people. This has always been true, whether its for Christian gnostics, the Jewish mystics, the true followers of Buddha, the adepts of Tasawwuf.

In the process of transformation, those which are hold dear must drop one by one. Every attachment loosen up organically. If one doesn't give them up voluntarily, the process of life itself make one to give them up.

There is no giving up in the struggle for the true and sincere seekers. The path is long and arduous and those who are sincerer in their seeking, the length of the journey and the difficulties that comes along the way can not deter them from the goal. This is also the way of those who have journeyed before us, as Mighty Messenger Moses did in his early days of illumination.

Behold, Moses said to his attendant, "I will not give up until I reach the point where the two rivers meet or (until) I spend years and years in travel." - The Quran 18:60

Remarkable to notice that what Moses was seeking, was also the point (the source) where two rivers meet and his immense determination is reflective of similar journey affirmed in the dream.

And one day when only a few are still alive, and still able to drag their very tired, and weak skeletons on their two feet, they discover the underground river: they follow to begin with a small stream, just barely visible and they follow a small lizard that takes them to the mouth of the river: the strong sound of the water and the river banging against the walls of an underground cave captures their ears and they slowly descend into the bowls of the earth.

Lizard in dream has a number of significance. In dream interpretation it symbolize aspects in our unconscious that we don't wish to take notice of. It may represent a part of ourselves that is "cold" and needs warmth. The methods of Sufism is to turn the otherwise 'dead' heart: warm, soft and 'alive'. Lizard is also associated with our primal instincts and reactive impulses. The wise masters of the Path knows the wisdom that the greatest possibility of transformation in our life comes from the greatest challenges and struggle of our self.  And the instinct and reactive impulses are the first batches of obstacles in the way. 'Underground' represent our subconscious and the unknown part of our self which we can not know unless we descend to it, unless we turn inward deeply through contemplation, night vigils and meditation. 

..the lizard has taken them to the underground cave where the river of all rivers begins... and where the rivers all meet and flow into the sea.

The seat of our consciousness, heart of our heart is the meant for the point where river of all rivers begin, the source of all rivers where they all meet and flow into the sea (unite with God-consciousness). River in dream also is a metaphor for life. 

Meeting point of water / flowing bodies of water is used as metaphor in the Quran with many layers of meaning conveyed in it. For example in the Quran: He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together. (55:19). Also the image and event with river has been used as means of trial and there also only a few stand the test:

When Saul set forth with the armies, he said: "Allah will test you with a river: if any drinks of its water, He goes not with my army: Only those who taste not of it go with me: A mere sip out of the hand is excused." but they all drank of it, except a few. When they crossed the river,- He and the faithful ones with him,- they said: "This day We cannot cope with Goliath and his forces." but those who were sure that they would meet their Lord said: How often has a small party vanquished a numerous host by Allah's permission, and Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere. - The Quran, 2:49

... The warriors ... suddenly realise that they can’t swim: there were no rivers in their nation and during their lifetime, so there was no need for them to be able to swim, and that’s when most of the left warriors also give up.. they are too afraid to continue: if they do carry on, they will drown, and that’s what they fear most:

Ihdina alssirata almustaqeem. Sirata allatheena anAAamta AAalayhim ghayri almaghdoobi AAalayhim wala alddalleen.

Show us the straight way. The WAY Of THOSE upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not Thy wrath, and who go not astray. (1:6,7)

We live our entire life without learning true surrender. We only knew it when we were infants in the arm of our mothers; then as we grow we suffer from some kind of strange amnesia and forgot it. We become all too unfamiliar to it, just like the warriors in the dream who never needed to learn swimming.  We never get to realize the significance of last prayer of Christ when he says, "Divine Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but Thine, be done." And since we are not told to learn surrender and neither we have structure or methods in the common engagement in our daily life and environment that even remotely speak about its necessity - most of us give up seeking, give up surrendering.

It never even find any place in consciousness of most people who hardly stop to appreciate life even. The Way of Those who were bestowed grace and guided to God is the Way to be followed in order to be guided. Without the graceful presence of Master Jesus, his disciples would remain just like any other fishermen on the see of Galilee. Without Muhammad, his companions would remain just like any other men of jahiliyya. The role of a master, not to forget, a living master can never be disregarded, no matter what age we live in. It is true now, as it was during the time of Jesus or Muhammad or in any time in human history.

The sufis say that you need a teacher as a guide on the mystical path. The teacher is someone who is surrendered to God and is able to help the wayfarer make the transition from the ego to the Self. In surrendering to the teacher, fana fi Sheikh, the disciple learns to surrender to God, fana fi' Llah.

Grace of God takes the form of the guru. .. Man can learn from man only, and hence, God teaches through a human body. The guru is united with God. The guru is verily a link between the individual and the Immortal. He tears your veil of ignorance.

No human being can communicate with God except through inspiration, or from behind a curtain, or by God's sending a Messenger, through whom He reveals what He wills. He is the Most High, Most Wise. (The Quran 42:51)

Surrender is achieved through consistent struggle over the resistance of the lower self, over the weakness of our psyche, the nafs. Thus most of us are afraid to surrender to a Teacher. Our ego whispers and place forward ten thousand excuses not to trust. In the dream this is manifest, "The warriors ... suddenly realise that they can’t swim: ... and that’s when most of the left warriors also give up.. they are too afraid to continue: if they do carry on, they will drown, and that’s what they fear most"

They have a dilemma: they can either stay here on the shores of the river, and never return. That would mean death for their nations, who are expecting them: and waiting for some news!

Or they can ask the fish to teach them how to swim, and then they can cross the river and they can return to their starving nation: and give them the good news, and bring them some few drops of water: precious and very, very valuable.

If we look around people, most of them in our work place, in the marketplace, in street, among our own family (including ourselves), we will see that we are caught in the same dilemma. We don't know why we are here, what are we suppose to do, where we are heading. We choose the easy way which is without struggle,  without any resistance to transcend, that is to accept our sleeping state and never to wake up.


Fish is a very interesting symbol in this dream. Those who are endowed with spiritual knowledge, they knows that Fish represent Christ or Messiah like figure, a Murshid (guide) of the Heart who initiate seeker on the Spiritual Path.


Thus asking the fish about how to swim is one of the most prominent message in the dream that in order to learn to swim into the stream (tariqa, the Way) that reaches the Sea (God), one must ask the right person who knows. It is the fish in the life event of Moses as described in Jewish scripture and the Quran of meeting his own Murshid, Khwaja Khidr that the fish led him to the junction of where two river meets and led ultimately to higher knowledge.

Ask the people of remembrance if you know not.
- The Quran 16:43

Follow those who do not ask a reward from you and who are rightly guided. (36:21)

Who are these fish who can teach how to swim?

Out of our arrogance mixed with our ignorance we think we know. But this delusion that we know is always bound to be false. The Quran reminds, 'Above every knower there is a greater knower' (12:76) and if we really want to be knower like the true gnostics, we must learn from one who is bestowed with higher knowledge, with higher gnosis. Awliya Allah says, 'above everyone that holds a station there is someone at another station.' The one above can see the one below, but the one below cannot see the one above. Thus no seeker should delude himself or herself that the station where he stand is the last one. He simply cannot see beyond it and it requires someone of the higher station to awaken one's inner eyes. 

... all warriors decide to stay except one. He decides to speak to the river, and ask the fish to teach him to swim. When he starts speaking to the river, and the fish, all the others think that he has gone mad, and they attack him treacherously one night when he is fast asleep, and they kill him.

That night, the desire to take some water back home to the nation that is dying, is dead, too. the only warrior who still has a desire to learn and change is dead, and the mission, after many endless years of traveling and suffering, has failed. the knowledge how to swim is still alive though, and the fish is still waiting for the wise warrior to come to its shores and she will teach him.


And it is said to them guard against that which is before you and that which is behind you, that mercy may be shown to you. Not a Sign comes to them from among the Signs of their Lord, but they turn away therefrom.  (36:45-46)

When the seeker start to see visions beyond ordinary, he or she is considered heretic, magician, stranger, soothsayer or mad. This has happened over and over again in human history and is still happening. But the master of mystics, Prophet Muhammad reminded, "Give glad tidings to the strangers."


But most important part of the message conveyed in the dream is the luminous truth that "the knowledge how to swim is still alive" and "the fish is still waiting for the wise warrior to come to its shores and she will teach".

This is what an Impressionist Sufi (Naqshbandi) Shaykh conveyed in his sohbet regarding learning how to learn surrender:

"Try to find your way. The one that does not show you the way is not a holy one. A holy one must have effect on you and on your life. If he cannot affect your life, there is no benefit. Moses came and affected some people. These people became holy. Jesus came and the same thing happened. Muhammad came and the same thing happened. God's peace be upon all the chosen masters of humanity. That was 1,400 years ago. What about the present time? Where are the hidden saints that still affect people? Search for them. If you find them, hold fast to them and refuse to listen to your ego. 

One day the ego accepts. The next day it rejects. Once your ego says, 'Yes, this is a holy man,' accept and do not change your mind. If you change your mind, it is a sign that your ego is cheating you. Satan is trying to deceive you. Do not listen. Try to connect your heart with your Creator through that holy person.

You can never reach a goal without a means. There must be a means to guide you and show you the way. Thirty or forty years ago it was still the same as thousands of years ago. Saints ordered their followers to go into seclusion and trained them severely to prepare their spirits to be in the Divine Presence. Nowadays there is no permission for that because people are completely dedicated to chasing after material life. If one has ten dollars in the bank, he wants to make it twenty. If he has ten thousand or a million, he wants to make it twenty thousand or two million. What for? Everyone is chasing the material world. No one seeks after spirituality other than a rare few such as those at this gathering.

If there is surrender of the heart, you can taste what our shaykh said through us. Everyone can taste and feel at that time. Unless there is complete surrender, however, you will feel it only while you are here (in our circle). When you go away, you will not longer feel it in your heart, only in your mind, even though it is still in the heart. Our will is unimportant. If we surrender to His will, He will show us miraculous powers."


Who are the Fishes? Where to go to find the knowledge to swim?

And keep thyself with those who call on their Lord morning and evening desiring His satisfaction, and let not thine eyes pass from them, desiring the beauties of this world's life. And follow not him whose heart We have made unmindful of Our remembrance, and he follows his low desires and his case exceeds due bounds. - 18:28

The one who dreamt this dream upon waking up discovers: "the pillow I had been sleeping was drenched with tears, and that I must have been crying while I slept..."

This is because in our heart of Heart we feel the pain of the Beloved. It is the pain because the world has forgotten and it continues to live in forgetfulness. It is asleep when every possibility is there in every human soul to awaken completely and to recognize Hu. True lovers are so few and so rare.  Nobody dare to seek out the fishes who can teach true knowledge. Our Schools and our Universities at its most teach how to be selfish and hoard more, denying our near ones. Our heart cries and our eyes over flows for the suffering of the world, which comes at the price of our forgetfulness. 

We seek forgiveness and refuge in the True Refuge from every forgetfulness, every negligence and every ignorance. May Allah bless us all, cover us with His Divine Love and help us awaken to our true self.


5.
Sufficient Witness

And to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah suffices as having charge of affairs. If Hu please, Hu will take you away, O people, and bring others. And Allah is ever Powerful to do that. Whoever desires the reward of this world -- then with Allah is the reward of this world and the Hereafter. And Allah is ever Hearing, ever Seeing. - The Quran 4:132-134


# References:
. Cosmic Dream Weaving
. Dreams and Islam
. On Risk and Rumi, a sermon by Cynthia J. Alby Pin It Now!

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