“Under the Angel’s Wings!”

January 21, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that many years ago, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, decided it was time to establish a khaniqah, a Sufi meeting house, in Koln, Germany. The dervishes had grown sufficiently in number, and had been holding their majlis, the twice weekly zekr, in the apartment of one of them. And so the Master directed the dervishes to begin the search for a suitable house that the Order could purchase.

They began the search the very next day. The house had to meet certain requirements of interior size and amenities; and was very difficult to find. The dervishes designated to conduct the search drove each day through the neighborhoods of Koln, and each day they looked at many house and found nothing suitable. And each night the Master would call them from England and ask, “Did you find the khaniqah?”  The dervishes would have to answer that they had not, and Dr. Nurbakhsh would say, “Keep looking!”

This went on for days, then weeks, and each night the Master would call, inquire of their progress, and tell them to keep looking.

Finally, one night when Dr. Nurbakhsh called, the darvishes were tired and disheartened after a long day of searching, and said, “Master, we have looked in every neighborhood, and can’t find anything.”

The Master said, “Keep looking! It is under the angel’s wings.”

They did not know what to make of that pronouncement, but the very next day as they were once again driving through neighborhoods, they saw a For Sale sign on a house in a good area, close to public transportation, and immediately called the broker listed on the sign. He came to meet them shortly thereafter and showed them the house. There were two large rooms on the first floor suitable for serving tea and holding the zekr, and large bedrooms on the second floor for living quarters. And there was an expansive yard that with work could be turned into a garden. It fit all the requirements of a khaniqah.

They made plans with the real estate agent to come to his office the next day and begin the process of negotiating the contract. As they were doing a final walk-through, and congratulating themselves on finding a suitable house, one of them noticed that in one corner of the garden, set on a three foot plaster pillar, was the figure of a angel, a stone cherubim, with wings outspread. The dervishes looked at each other in disbelief.

“Alhamdulillah!” They shouted.  All praise belongs to God alone, who has given to their Master the foresight of His true friends. Ya Ali! Ya Pir!

Ya Haqq!


Mr. Niktab and the Lights

January 6, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

This is a true story that happened many years ago. Mr. Niktab, the Shaykh of Shaykhs, was making his yearly trip to the US in order to visit the many khaniqahs,  initiate new darvishes, and bring through his person the love of the Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order. At one khaniqah, he participated in the Sunday zekr (one of the twice weekly meetings during which the dervishes sit in a circle in a darkened room and meditate, sometimes silently, sometimes to music).

A few of the darvishes brought their children with them to meet and receive the blessings of the Shaykh, and they sat quietly in the next room with their sons and daughters. Upon this occasion, as the story is told, a three year-old boy was sitting with his mother behind the curtain that separates the tea room from the meeting room.  The boy peeked through the curtain, then suddenly got up and ran into the zekr,. Before his mother could get up to fetch him, he came running back beside her.

“Why did you do that?” the mother whispered. “You know you aren’t supposed to go in until the meeting is over.”

“The lights!”

“What lights? What are you talking about?”

“How come the people have little lights coming out of their heads, but Mr. Niktab’s light goes all the way to the ceiling?” the boy asked.

The mother looked at her son in astonishment and quickly glanced through the curtain. She did not see the lights, but she hugged her son and kissed his cheek.

“Alhamdulillah!” she whispered, and praised God for the unclouded eyes of children.

Ya Haqq!


Gladdening Hearts

December 13, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace

It is related that in the late 1970s, there was a young man from Southern California who was seeking spiritual knowledge. He had lived in communes and sought, as the young in every generation do, the answers to life in ancient wisdom and eternal truths. Perhaps partly because of this, he was also estranged from his wealthy and conservative father.

The young man decided to go to India to seek enlightenment and find a teacher, and while traveling a roundabout way through Iran, found himself in Tehran.  By fortune or fate, which is another way of saying by God’s will, one of the various people he met there was a darvish, who, upon learning of his desire for spiritual attainment, took him to the Nimatullahi Sufi khaniqh and introduced him to the Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh.

The young man had heard of Sufism, but of course had never met a Sufi Master, especially one of such a loving nature and humor and strength of personality.  He spoke at length with the Master on several occasions, and after some consideration, became initiated. He afterwards spent some time in Tehran with Dr. Nurbakhsh, and happily considered that his spiritual quest for a teacher had been fulfilled. Eventually, he expressed his wish to go back to California, and the Master gave him permission, but also commanded that he reconcile with his father.

The young man, now on the Path of Love, knew that this was the right thing to do, and wanted to bring back a present for his parents. He decided on a Persian red and blue rug from city of Kerman (Kirman), because he had heard that their rugs were famous for their rich, blue color.  It was said that the blue of the sky in Kerman was the truest, most beautiful cerulean blue, because of the quality of the light there. Dr. Nurbakhsh, who was himself born there, was delighted to hear of it, and personally contacted Nimatullahi dervishes in Kerman who dealt in rugs, and arranged for the young man to purchase a high quality Kermani rug at a fair price.

Some time passed, and the young man, once again living in his parents house, received word that Dr. Nurbakhsh was arriving in Los Angeles to visit the just purchased khaniqah there. The young man was very happy to hear it, and his parents, to thank the Master for bringing back their prodigal son, invited Dr. Nurbakhsh and the dervishes traveling with him to tea on their arrival.

The Master was jet-lagged and very tired, but he accepted the invitation, and they made the long drive to the parent’s large and palatial home.

The father answered the door in shorts and a Polo shirt, and shook hands with the Master. “Hi! Glad to meet you!” he said, looking somewhat suspiciously at the foreign-looking gentleman and his entourage. The Master shook his hand warmly, and through an interpreter, expressed his thanks for the kind invitation. The dervishes, however, were nonplussed that this American man treated their Master so casually, instead of with the awe and respect they were used to, but the Master thought nothing of it, and just smiled and put them all at ease.

As tea was being served, out of the picture window overlooking the back deck, they watched the sun setting over the Pacific ocean. The slanted light was particularly lovely on the blue of the Kermani rug at their feet. The young man sat with the dervishes, smiling at his parents, who wholeheartedly thanked the Master for all he had done to bring them back together.

Finally, as they said their goodbyes, and the Master got into the car for the long ride back to the new khaniqah, he looked very tired after the long day, having used the last reserves of his energy for the ride to pay his respects to the young man’s parents. Some of the dervishes could not help but wonder why he went through so much trouble.

As if in answer, he suddenly said, “Alhamdulillah! We have gladdened one heart today. That is all that we do. We gladden hearts.”

And so it is.

 

Ya Haqq!


“Go to Los Angeles!”

October 8, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that many years ago, while Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, was staying in the New York khaniqah, he came out of his room one morning and walked over to where Mr. Niktab, his closest disciple and the Shaykh of Shaykhs of the Order, was conversing with two young dervishes.

They were sitting cross-legged on the Persian rugs that covered the floor and were about to rise when they saw the Master approach, but he motioned for them to remain seated and said to Mr. Niktab:

“Go to Los Angeles!”

He then turned and walked away.

Mr. Niktab said nothing; the other two dervishes looked at each other questioningly. There was no khaniqah in Los Angeles and it was three thousand miles away. Mr. Niktab asked the two if they knew anyone there. “My cousin lives there,” one of them said. “I think you can stay with him.”

“He meant all of us,” Mr. Niktab said. “Get ready.”

They packed a few things quickly and hurried to the airport, took the next available flight, and arrived in Los Angeles just after 4pm.

When the Master says go, you go.

When they arrived at their destination, it was just past 5:00 pm, and the cousin was yet home from work. The young darvish who suggested it confessed that he could not reach his cousin, so the visit was going to be a surprise. Mr. Niktab didn’t seem concerned, and led them to the small, fenced backyard where they found lawn chairs to sit on.

Mr. Niktab meditated for a while, and then began singing one of Master’s poems in Persian, and the other two joined in, clapping out the rhythm.

Soon an elderly man next door heard the singing and glimpsed the three swarthy strangers over the fence that divided the property. He came to the fence and asked:  “Who are you people?”

Mr. Niktab smiled at the old man. He did not speak English, but told the young darvish to translate, and tell him they were waiting for his cousin to arrive, and apologized for disturbing him.  The old man just nodded and went back inside.

When the cousin finally arrived, he was delighted to find his unexpected visitors, and that Mr. Niktab himself had come. He begged them to make themselves comfortable while he made tea.

One of the young darvishes was a good cook, and made a delicious dinner for them all, after which they sang and recited Master’s poetry, having an impromptu zekr.  Mr. Niktab told the cousin to invite the gentleman next door, and the old man gladly agreed, having been listening to the music through the open windows.

He sat next to Mr. Niktab, who through an interpreter chatted with him amiably, and explained about the Sufi path and its dedication to love and service. The old man listened politely, drank the tea, ate one of the offered sweets, and went home sometime later.

The next afternoon, one of the dervishes asked Mr. Niktab what they were supposed to be doing.

“We are supposed to obey Master,” he said. “And be patient.”

The next night, many more Iranians appeared, the cousin telling his friends that a Sufi Shaykh was visiting his home. And this time Mr. Niktab politely invited the old man for dinner.  The food and music and poetry, even in a language he did not understand, seemed to please the old man and put him at ease.

Mr. Niktab also told him that the next might, Sunday, was their majlis, their twice weekly spiritual gathering, and that although he was welcome to attend, he would have to listen from the next room, as only darvishes, those already initiated, were admitted into the circle of the Friend.

“Then will you initiate me?” he asked without hesitation. Mr. Niktab smiled and said that he would be delighted to do so, and instructed one of the darvishes to help him obtain the items needed, and explain the details of initiation.

And so it was that on the third day, the old man was initiated as a darvish of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order; he was given his zekr, and formally gave his heart to God and his head to the Master. And he was happily welcomed into the circle of Lovers.

After the meeting was over and everyone had departed, Mr. Niktab spoke to the two dervishes who had traveled with him.

“Tomorrow we can go home,” he said.  “The old man was the reason the Master sent us to Los Angeles.”

Ya Haqq!

Note: This is a true story, and it was also said that the old man completed the entire Sufi path in one year, which is truly unheard of, except as God wills.

PS: Sunday, October 10th, is the second anniversary of the passing of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, (12/10/1926 – 10/10/2008) who was for fifty-five years the Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.


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!


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