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!


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!


Healing through Compassion

February 4, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

My wife grew up on a farm, and has an unerring affinity with nature in its most organic forms, with plants and animals and humans. Last summer, for instance, when she noticed that the bittersweet vines were extending its tendrils and choking off the rose bushes, she devoted many hours to cutting them away. The next day she looked at the roses for a moment and smiled, “They’re happier now,” she said.

She had seen the roses become happier. Even knowing this about her, it took me a long time to realize that the woman I live with is a healer. I had known her only as a mother and recently a grandmother, whose fierce love for her children caused them always to seek out her presence and her comfort and her counsel. I have seen that same love for her granddaughter; her endless patience in playing a game or reading to her, giving her leeway to set her own course, but always with a keen and watchful eye. They delight in each other beyond the need for words.

This true core of love, which is the deep well of her being, is the essence of healing, I think. At a wedding recently, while helping the bride to get dressed, she healed both the bride of badly bruised ribs and the bride’s sister of chronic neck pain, by laying her hand precisely on the injured spots for many minutes. They could not stop talking about it afterwards. When I asked her how she did it, she paused, as if trying to find the right words. Finally, she said, “The pain called to my compassion.”

“The pain called to my compassion.”

This is the deep well of love which marks a natural healer. Jesus healed the sick through this all-embracing love; the pain of the world calling to his compassion.

Many Sufi Masters of the past, who had completed the path of Love, were said to possess healing powers. And in the presence of my own Master, I have often felt a powerful spiritual energy and uplifting of the heart, an immense wellbeing of life. Perhaps healing itself is a spiritual uplifting on a physical level; the energy of the compassion of love healing physical pain.

It is no accident that passion is the root of compassion, whose original meaning was to suffer together. This com-passion, this deep, empathic, encompassing love is both the goal and the result of walking the Sufi path; at each step another drop is poured into the heart, and as love enters, one begins to see God in all of His creation. Perhaps healing is simply God’s Love expressed in the form of this compassionate energy, moved from one human being to another.

Compassion is love moved forward.

And healing is the divine spiritual energy of that love responding to emotional or physical pain. Healing through compassion is an ancient concept, though I had no frame of reference for it until I met my wife. There really is no mystery to it. I would not even call it a miracle, except insofar as all human life and its capacity to love is miraculous; a Divine gift unlike any other, and from which all mercy flows.

Ya Haqq!


Waiting for God II

April 10, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

In a previous post, I wrote that to a darvish, Waiting for God is cultivating patience, that is, waiting for God’s sake. As the Prophet (pbuh) said: “…Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience.”

However, there is also another kind of waiting for God: The Sufi way of waiting for divine knowledge, for union with the Beloved. This is the most demanding and difficult of all trials of patience.

Sufi Masters of the past used to sit in the Haram, as did Dhu’l Nun the Egyptian, or in a mosque, like Imam al-Ghazali, or in the desert, like Abu Said Abi’l Khayr, to wait for the answers to be given.

Alhamdulillah! It doesn’t happen because we are worthy of it; no one is worthy of it. It doesn’t happen because we deserve it, or want it, or hope for it, or pray for it, or fast, or give up everything for it. It only happens as God wills.

“Nor shall they compass any of Hu’s knowledge except as Hu might will.” – Qur’an 2:255

Our brother Dara writes: “When I was in Makkah, each night I would see an African man who would circle the Ka’ba until dawn, asking Allah TO BE GIVEN. I was there for one year, and he circled the Ka’ba each night till dawn. He would carry the Qur’an and read slowly. The purpose of practices like Sufi Silence is to learn to wait, like a slave, to be given ‘ilm (knowledge).”

Although Union with the Beloved is never given as a reward for one’s efforts, Strive, O heart, as much as you are able. Hafez

This is our task then, as human beings of faith: To strive and not to yield.

May Allah bless us with patience and guide us on the straight path of Love. Ameen!

Ya Haqq!


Bayazid on the Hajj

November 1, 2007

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related that one year the Sufi Master Bayazid set out on the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj. A few days later he came back. When asked about his sudden return, he gave the following account.

“I was three days walking in the desert when an old man encountered me on the road,” Bayazid recalled.
“‘Where are you going?’ he demanded.
“‘On the pilgrimage,’ I replied.
“‘How much money did you bring for your journey?’
“‘Two hundred dirhams.’
“‘Come, give them to me,’ the man said. ‘I am
a poor man with a family. Circle round me seven times. That
is your pilgrimage.’
“And so I did, and returned home.”

Ya Haqq!

Note: From Attar’s Memorial of the Saints.  Also read the post Bayazid and the Dog for another example of the great blessing of giving in charity.


The Sufi Master and the Harlot

July 22, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

When the Sufi Master Mushtaq Ali  Shah was once traveling through Kerman,  Iran, the darvishes there greeted him with great honor and housed him in a room at the local inn. The clerics of the town were jealous of his popularity and his influence, so they sent a prostitute to tempt him, and make him lose favor in the eyes of the people.

She came to his room as he was meditating and danced enticingly in front of him. But he did not look up, and no matter how she flirted, he paid no attention to her. Finally, he did look at her, and said, “Get out, you whore!”

She was suddenly stricken with shame and ran from his presence to her home. The Sufi Master’s words put her into a state of severe agitation. She could not sleep, she could not eat. She kept pacing back and forth as the words rang in her head. She did not know that Mushtaq Ali Shah had spoken them with the full spiritual attention of a Sufi Master, one who had completed the path of Love, and so the words had a profound heart effect on her.

For three days her mind was in this state, filled with the words “Get out, you whore!” “Get out, you whore!” until at last they entered her heart and became her zekr

And the whore within her got out.

By the mercy and compassion of Allah, she abandoned her profession and repented of her past. Eventually, she even became a wali, a friend of God.

Ya Haqq!


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