Friday, January 14, 2011

Meeting a Sufi Teacher | a tale of initiation

"Go home", he said, "the path is extremely difficult." He laid back on his sheepskin and turned on his tape of Kashmiri Sufi songs. I sat quietly with my friend and our translator, waiting for more of a response. The Sufi we were visiting was a middle aged man who had been on the Sufi path for almost twenty years. We had heard that his teacher was a Qalandar (Mustana) whose reputation for his holiness, miraculous ways, and elevated state, was known throughout the Kashmir Valley. I knew I had to meet this holy man. Thus, I was adamant about my request for more information about this particular Sufi teacher. I had been in India for eight months now, and still something within told me that it wasn't time to go home. As I waited for a response, I wondered if meeting his teacher, was the sole reason I had been drawn to Kashmir.

Finally, he sat up on his sheepskin and scribbled a note, handed it to me, and spoke, abruptly, to the translator. Then he reclined again, closed his eyes and fell back into his music. The note, the translator said, was to be taken to a Dervish named Baba Sultan. a mustana, who lived in a village called Botascome, about three hours by bus, out of Srinagar. The note was a courteous formality from student to teacher requesting that Baba accept my petitions.

Our translator tried to dissuade us from pursuing this course of action. "Qalandars (Mustanas) are very powerful, different from 'normal' people. Their speech is difficult if not impossible to understand. Even if I could translate his words, he speaks in symbols and..." he shook his head. "I can take you to Shalimar Gardens and then show you Srinagar's many other beautiful tourist attractions."He continued with great vigor, trying to discourage us from going to Botascome, and presenting the note to Baba. When the tourist attractions did not interest us, he began describing Baba's unusual "shabby" clothes, and the Dervish's uncanny "way of knowing what is in people's hearts". This only fueled my burning desire to meet this qalandar. As he spoke, it became more and more evident that our guide was in awe of, but also feared the power of this Sufi.

After we had refused all of his suggestions, our guide finally agreed to come with us to Botascome and translate (as best he could) the words of this awesome holy man. We arrived in the village that same evening. The villagers seemed to be expecting us. Even though there were no telephones or telegraph offices near by, Baba Sultan had told the people that we were coming. He had no need of technology to keep track of things!

There were many people standing and sitting inside and outside of his house. Baba was inside his home, sitting on the dirt floor, eating rice. There was a powerful presence emanating from him that seemed to fill the room. He was literarily surrounded by people, and looked deeply inwardly engrossed; yet aware of everything going on around him. People were talking to Baba and telling him their dilemmas, begging for remedies for health problems, financial issues, family difficulties etc.. Baba would sometimes respond to them verbally, but then his attention would return inward. He appeared to be focused far beyond his physical surroundings. He spoke very little. When he did speak, he used symbols, rarely addressing a problem with a direct or analytical solution. I was to find out that most people admitted that they didn't understand the meaning of his words.

The language of symbols that he used was powerful and all encompassing. I later came to understand that a symbol has a particular or specific meaning to a student at the time it is first mentioned. Then, as the student grows and develops, the symbol remains with him/her, expanding, changing and unfolding into new meanings. As one's understanding grows and changes, so too does the meaning of each particular symbol. Thus, the language of symbols has a power all of its own. This language has been used as a teaching tool down through the ages. The prophets used it in their prophesies, and parables; the holy books of all religions use it. It is the language of the most Holy, and Baba Sultan was a Master of this language.

Even though most people admitted that they didn't understand the meaning of Baba's words, they came by the hundreds, telling him their woes, and begging for his help. All who came were comforted in some way!

As this particular night progressed, some people left, but most remained. I realized that Baba Sultan was never alone. Even while he slept, he was surrounded by people who camped in, and around his house. However, even though he was surrounded by people, he seemed to be alone with God. I really wanted to get closer to this Holy man; but I, like all others, had to wait my turn. There was no "orderly" way to take my turn either. I simply had to watch and wait until the perfect time presented itself.

At last Baba rose and went into the other room. I followed him quickly, and positioned myself close to the spot where he was planning to sit. Baba looked around before reclining on the dirt floor; and then to my great relief, decided to sit just where I had hoped he would sit... a few feet from my chosen spot. Of course there weren't any chairs. This was a village house and everyone, including the Sheikh, sat on the dirt floor. After Baba chose his place, people quickly crowded around him once again. They began, as was the custom, grabbing for his hand, and crying out their pleas. Again, there was no apparent orderly way to make a request. I was overwhelmed by the number of people, and the way they all crowded around Baba. Yet, there I was amongst them, sitting as close to the Sheikh as I could get, waiting for the right time to communicate my request to him.

Baba rested peacefully on the dirt floor, while people grabbed for his hand. Some cried as they grasped his hand, others blurted out their problems. The Dervish simply allowed his hand to be pulled from person to person, listening and occasionally speaking words and phrases that few, if any , comprehended. The only consistent order that I could determine, was the extraordinary power and love that emanated form Sheikh Baba Sultan's presence. Baba would pat each person's hand, before clasping the next. I watched with anticipation. Finally I made my move. I quickly handed Baba the note I had received from his student. I was the only "foreigner" there, and many were curious to see what Baba would do with my note. Baba examined my "letter of recommendation". Then, he tucked it away into one of the cloth pouches he had made. After that, I too, reached for his hand.

As I felt Baba's hand close around mine, a deep sense of peace fell upon me. I wanted to suspend that moment in time and never let go of this Sufi's hand! He then spoke to me without words, yet the meaning was clear. As I tightened my grasp, the cries around me, the cold dirt floor, the candlelight, all faded away and there was only peace.

And so it began! At last I had found my teacher. I had "taken hand" and been accepted. Yes, I knew without a doubt that this was the reason I had come to Kashmir. The night progressed, but I was lost in peace. As we drove back to the hotel, I knew my search was over. My Sufi teacher was a Qalandar. To the westerner's analytical way of thinking this was like a dream. And yet, to me, it was perfect!

As I pondered this, I recalled the details of the sojourn that finally lead me to Sheikh Baba Sultan, and the Sufi path. I had been fortunate enough to meet a variety of different and interesting teachers, during the many months I had spent in India. But not one of these had beckoned to my soul. Not one of them was able to reach deep into my heart, as Baba had instantaneously done with the touch of his sweet hand. Now I realized I was destined to learn the Sufi path from a qalandar.

I reviewed every detail of his appearance in my mind. His patched, and worn clothing; the pieces of cloth tied into bags, that he filled with bread, fruit, sugar, candy, and many little treasures. (These things he always distributed with great care. And, each item carried with it not only a practical use, but a symbolic meaning, unique for each recipient.) As time passed, I watched Sheikh Baba Sultan read people's hearts, respond to hidden thoughts, and answer unspoken questions.

On my subsequent visits to my beloved Sheikh, I would often ponder specific questions in my mind. Baba usually answered them immediately upon my arrival, without me even uttering a single question out loud. Yes, the answers were most often given in symbols. But, these symbols were alive and not confined to any one point in time, thus, they constantly offered new answers and insights into old questions.

As all Sufi seekers know, there is no end to a story after the teacher has been found. There is only unfolding, movement, and the everlasting love that comes from God through one of His friends. As one progresses there are chapters upon chapters, and often there are no words adequate enough to express the depth of the journey. Each journey is unique and profoundly personal. Thus, on that note, this little narrative will end with a prayerful wish: May all seekers be blessed, and may their paths be filled with the Loving Truth of God, and the Pure Light of His Friends. May the Beloved Shine forth the Way, and fill His lovers with His Peace, His Wisdom, and His Everlasting Love.

May Allah's Peace and Magnificently Beautiful Blessings be upon our beloved Sufi Teacher, Baba Sultan.

- by Saleema Shared via Kun fa Ya Kun forum. Originally posted May 30, 2006 

Official site: http://babasultansite.yolasite.com




# Sufi Discourses on Finding a Sheikh
from Qadiriya Butchishi Sufi Order:


* Finding an Authentic Sheikh: Discourse on the importance of being under the guidance of an authentic, living Sufi Master during the Journey, and how to find such true Master.  Includes inspiring stories about Sidi 'Abaas and Sidi 'Abu Madyan, both authentic Sufi Masters and predecessors of the living Grand Master, Sheikh Hamza of the Qadiri Butchishi Tariqa. "To meet with the real Sufi master is the most difficult step. Once you meet with him, everything is finished." (43:39) .. Click here to listen to the mp3 ... via SufiOne, a website for the Qadiriya Butchishi Sufi Order in the United States.

* Signs of The True Sheikh: Discourse on the many signs which the True Sufi Master Sheikh exhibits and how to recognize them.  Elaborates on examples such as Spiritual Companionship with the Master/ the positive effects of Dhikr, personal development, and true spiritual advancement on the Sufi Path. (35:48) | download the mp3

* Ask an Expert: Discourse on the functions of the Sufi Sheikh and who the Sufi Master should be.  Elaborates on the main and most important qualities, characteristics and signs of the True Master Sheikh.  Includes how only the "complete" Sufi Master can lead you through the different levels of the Spiritual Path to reach the Ultimate Knowledge of the Divine Presence. (28:45) | download the talk
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