A Stop in the Desert

May 24, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that early one morning many years ago, while still living in Iran, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, awoke and told his dervishes that he would be traveling to another khaniqah across the country, and that all who wanted to accompany him should be ready to depart in an hour.

Urgent calls were made and every car that was available from any source was soon filled with darvishes. They formed a long caravan on the highway, driving through the morning. The Master sat in the passenger’s seat of the first car, and after a few hours, they were traveling through the desert part of Iran.

Suddenly the Master commanded the car to pull over.  The driver stopped by the side of the road, and all the cars behind them pulled over also. The Master got out and motioned for everyone else to stay by their cars. After an hour, he looked in the distance across the sands, but nothing could be seen. Master shaded his eyes with his hand, and after a while there appeared a figure in the distance, walking slowly towards the highway.  When the figure came closer, it could be seen that it was a boy, perhaps twelve years old, and Master called him over.

“Your father is sick,” the Master said.

“Yes!” the startled boy replied. “I am going to find a doctor. How did you know? Who are you?”

“I am a doctor. Here, take this to the pharmacy in the nearby town,” the Master said, and he wrote a prescription on a pad he took out of his pocket.  The young boy thanked the Master profusely and hurried on his way.

The dervishes were astounded. The younger ones whispered questions to each other. The older ones knew better and remained silent.

Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh was a practicing psychiatrist, having both a medical degree and a PhD in psychology.  He joined the Beloved in October of 2008, after having been Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order for fifty-five years.

Ya Haqq!


Meditation on Death

April 9, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Because I could not stop for Death he kindly stopped for me. The carriage held but just Ourselves and Immortality.Emily Dickinson

In December of 1986, I was operated on to remove my pituitary gland and the small benign tumor within it that had resulted in Cushing’s Disease, and had caused a lengthy hospital stay in the beginning of that year. It was during that earlier hospital stay that I had the out-of-body experience I have written about in a previous post (which you can read here).

I remember the anesthesia being administered and being told to count backwards from one hundred. At about 96, I blinked my eyes, and when I opened them again an instant later, I was being wheeled back to my room. I asked the nurse, “When does it start?”  She answered, “It’s all over.”

Eight hours had passed in the blink of an eye. It could have been eight years, or eight million. The anesthesia blanked me out of existence so completely, that I wondered if death was like that:

An instant that lasts for eternity!

In the years since those two events, and as I approach my sixty-fifth birthday, death itself holds no fear for me, because just as in the Angel of Death excerpt from Master of the Jinn, I really do consider it a mercy from God.  But I cannot but wonder if one of those experiences holds the answer to the great mystery of what comes afterward.  Both possessed the immediacy of experiential truth, but can both be real? Is the instant of nothingness a precursor to awaking on a different plane of existence? Can it be that our spirit, or soul, or ka, or whatever your faith calls it, leaves the physical body at death and after an instant of blankness, joins, or rejoins, the Eternal Godhead?

Socrates asked the same question, concluding: “Death is one of two things…Either it is annihilation, and the dead have no consciousness of anything; or, as we are told, it is really a change: a migration of the soul from one place to another.”

My late father-in-law believed the former. Once I asked him if he thought that we live on after death. He said, “Yes, in blood and memory.”  In other words, we live on in the bloodline passed to our children and grandchildren and down the generations. And in the memory they carry of us, until that is lost in time, when those that still remember us have also died.  He considered himself a realist.

And yet, the first law of thermodynamics, an expression of the principle of the conservation of energy, states that energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but cannot be created or destroyed.

Is that also true of the energy of consciousness, which is, after all, the only part of us that really would go on after the body dies? Or is it just our greater Self that goes on, our soul, which is that ineffable part of us that is always in touch with, and originally a part of, the Oneness of Divine Love? Inshallah, it is so.  I do not mind at all leaving the lesser self behind; the individual ego with its fears and jealousy and enmity and regrets. Let it die as the electro-chemical brain and body functions come to a stop.

I know that love goes on.  And after years on the Sufi path,  I have seen what can only be described as a glimpse of… something other.

There is some comfort in the belief that the body is nothing but a shell for the evolution of consciousness, “to evolve toward the Godhead,” as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French philosopher and Jesuit priest wrote in The Phenomenon of Man.

And, so as not to waste what God has given, I am also an organ donor; I prefer to leave all organs that are still of any use to help others, and the rest to be cremated.  I like the efficiency of the fire, taking up as little room at the end as I did at the beginning. And I like the idea of my ashes scattered to the winds of the world.

But does individual consciousness completely die? Or does the soul or greater Self have its own higher level of consciousness? My late Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, was asked this very question, and he said, “In the end, the drop becomes one with the Ocean, but it does not lose its wetness.”

There is hope in that statement. I have studied many religions and their beliefs of the afterlife, and in all honesty they sound mainly the same, a heavenly paradise where the individual self consciousness, and often the resurrected body, is kept intact and rewarded or punished for its life on earth in just measure to its deeds. But if the individual self stops at the end of life, the afterlife must be something else entirely. What that something else, that wetness is, is one of the eternal questions of living beings.  The ultimate mystery!

And that’s what I’m counting on :) All questions are inevitably useless. The answer will come soon enough!

No mythology and metaphor for me. I want the great mystery, all of it, no matter what it is—a billion years in the blink of an eye, or an infinite panorama as vast as the universe; and an endless sea of stars on which to sail.

Death is an angel with two faces; to us he turns a face of terror, blighting all things fair; the other burns with glory of the stars, and love is there.
– T. C. Williams

Alhamdulillah!

Ya Haqq!


In Memory of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

October 9, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

October 10th is the one year anniversary of the death of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, for over 50 years the Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, and for 17 years, my Master (may God bless his soul and raise him to the highest rank of His beloveds).

To commemorate the occasion, his own poem is a fitting tribute to his life and station:

My heart holds Your home,

my head desiring You;

Night and day have all passed,

while I am pledged to You.

I have suffered at the hand

of the people of the time;

In the world I’ve only seen

fidelity from You.

I’ve been drunk with Your wine

Since pre-eternity;

I’m surrendered to Your will

till post-eternity.

I’ve no hope for heaven

or for the Resurrection;

I have never wanted

anyone but You.

Once I realized that in reality

the Path cannot be traveled

Except on Your feet,

I lost both my head and feet.

With every breath I take

I am conscious of You;

I gave up heart and soul

for contentment from You.

If, like Nurbakhsh, you have pledged

yourself wholeheartedly to God;

The creation then will be ready

to pledge itself to you.

- from the Divan of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

Ya Haqq!


Speaking with the Master

June 6, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, 12/10/1926 – 10/10/2008, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, speaks here with his heir and successor Dr. Alireza Nurbakhsh translating, in the full 40 minute presentation of his last public interview, conducted in March, 2008.

The interview was conducted by filmmaker Llew Smith as part of a prospective documentary film on the subject of mystical experience. It is part of a larger public television documentary project on mysticism and the Abrahamic traditions. In the interview, Dr. Nurbakhsh expresses the limitation of discourse as it relates to inner experience and the peripheral place of religious piety, answering questions about many seemingly pertinent or interesting topics, with insistence on the non-intellectual, immediate experience in Love – of the Truth.

Click HERE to watch the interview.

Ya Haqq!


Cleaning Your Room

May 30, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that one day a few years ago, a new darvish was sitting in one of the Nimatullahi Sufi khaniqahs when the Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, walked through the room, saying in passing to one of the older dervishes, “Go clean your room. I’ll look at it later.”

The older darvish then moved to a quiet corner to meditate and repeat his zekr, while the new darvish went out to work in the garden. Much later, the new darvish came back into the room and found the older man still sitting in the corner. He went up to him with a worried expression and said, “What are you doing? Aren’t you going to clean your room?”

The older darvish looked up at him and smiled. “The Master meant my heart.”

Ya Haqq!


A Beard Made of Love

April 2, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that two religious fundamentalists once came to visit our late Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (may Allah bless his exalted soul and raise his rank to those of His nearest beloveds.) They had bristly whiskers and Master invited them to stay for lunch. One of them sought to provoke the Master by asking how he could become a Sufi

Dr. Nurbakhsh said, “Cut off your beard.”

“But,” protested the man, “what about him?” pointing to Mr. Niktab, the Sheikh of Sheikhs, who had a long white beard.

“Ah!” The Master said, “But his is not a beard of religion. His is a beard of love.”

Grow a beard made of love, O darvish

and claim the name of lover,

or do not pretend to the circle of the Friend.

Ya Haqq!

Note: With gratitude and special thanks to Terry Graham for the original telling of this true story on the Nimatullahi Sufi Order website.


One Breath

January 11, 2009

From pre-eternity to post-eternity
is but a single breath,
A breath free of all these melodies
high and low.

Treasure this breath,
this moment you now enjoy.
Spend it in happiness: there is
no time for sorrow.

Once this moment has passed,
it is gone forever.
Your time is less
than the very least you can imagine.

If you spend this moment laughing,
the world will be all laughter.
But if you fall into depression,
the world will be all sorrow.

Don’t give your heart to this unstable
transitory world
With all its ups and downs,
its twists and turns.

Lighten another’s heart;
be light of heart yourself,
For the highest gain in the world
is this.

Take care, Nurbakhsh,
not to hurt any heart,
For this is more valuable
than any crown or throne.

- Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (1926 – 2008), from Vol. 46, Sufi Journal.

Ya Haqq!


Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh (1926-2008)

October 10, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order for over 50 years, joined the Beloved on Friday, October 10, 2008.  May God bless his soul and raise his rank to those of His true lovers. Amin.

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…

– Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

Ya Haqq!

NOTE:  This blog will be silent for 40 days.


Constancy on the Sufi Path

February 15, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

The term “constancy” is taken from the Qur’anic passage in which God tells His Prophet (pbuh): “Be constant, as you are commanded.” (11:112)

On the Sufi path, one walks with the feet of Love, and constancy, or steadfastness, provides the provisions needed to carry one forward.

Constancy means to step out of your self and stand firm with God. Feeling hurt, making excuses, getting distracted, being irresponsible, making claims, all serve to block the development of constancy or steadfastness in the darvish.

Abu Ali Jauzjani said: “Practice constancy; don’t go looking for miracles, for it’s your nafs that want miracles, while God wants only constancy from you.”

Alhamdulillah! May we stand firm, and not waver on the path of Love, meeting difficulties and afflictions with courage. If someone treats you badly, apologize to him! If someone irritates you, be thankful! If affliction visits you, consider it a necessary cure!

This is the way of the Sufi on the path of Love. 

- Adapted from Discourses on the Sufi Path by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh.

 

Ya Haqq!

 



The Yellow Dog

November 15, 2007

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A yellow dog came to visit today. He was friendly and young and full of energy, perhaps a year old, a Labrador retriever, his nose to the ground sniffing for a familiar scent. He circled the house and my wife saw him through a window out of the corner of her eye; a lean, hungry yellow dog by the look of him, his ribs plainly visible.

Fortunately, the previous tenant had left a couple of cans of dog food, and as my wife enticed him with a piece of bread, I opened both for him, along with a big bowl of water. He ran up onto the porch without any prompting, being obviously used to people, and ate it all happily and drank most of the water. He seemed so happy to see us, and to be treated like a welcome guest. He sniffed us both and circled the house again, and then was off, following whatever scent he had picked up. I thought he was lost, or got separated from his owners, and was making his way back to them. He looked as if he had been on the road many days. I have read that lost dogs sometimes travel hundreds of miles to their old home.

We were happy to help him on his journey. My wife grew up on a farm and has an affinity with all creatures great and small. And ever since his appearance, my heart has had such a feeling of love and gratitude that I can hardly describe it.

I think it came from the yellow dog.

Even though we didn’t do anything extraordinary, this chance encounter, if chance it was, was a blessing for us. We had in a small way helped one of God’s creatures on his journey home, inshallah. There is an old Persian saying: “A guest is God’s friend.”

It may have come from this old Sufi tale:

There was a darvish who one day sought a guest from God. “O Lord of the World,” he said in his heart, “may a guest come from You tomorrow, so that I may treat him as befits one of Your friends.” The following day he made preparations for his guest. The darvish cleaned his small home and prepared a meal fit for a Friend of God.

As he was keeping a lookout in all directions while waiting outside for the guest to arrive, a thin and hungry mongrel dog wandered by and, smelling the food, begged for a morsel. The darvish chased him away, not out of meanness, but in his anxiety that nothing should spoil this occasion. And so he waited and waited, but despite all his expectations, no one came. He finally fell asleep in a heartbroken and agitated state.

“O self-absorbed one,” said God in a dream, “I sent along a dog as one of My own, so that you might make him your guest, but you heedlessly sent him away.”

Alhamdulillah! That the friend of the Friend was made welcome here, and our hearts were gladdened by his visit.

Ya Haqq!

NOTE: The Sufi tale is originally from Fariduddin Attar’s Mosibat-Nama (Book of Adversity), and can be found in Dogs from a Sufi Point of View by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh. It is also told in a slightly different version, about Moses and the beggar, in the first chapter of Master of the Jinn, which you can read as an excerpt on the book’s website by clicking HERE.


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