Way

December 7, 2011

Shun Yuan, the author of the lovely poem above, is a student of the Tao (also called the Way), an Adept of  Taiji martial arts, and the primary subject of Robert Shaeffer’s truly remarkable forthcoming book, 10 Methods of the Heavenly Dragon.  I asked him to enhance the experience of the poem with his commentary, which is below:

My Journey
As a novice I was convinced that I was living in darkness.  I was “looking” everywhere for “enlightenment”.  I knew intellectually that I was “in the forest of the Tao” and might even have had a vague sensation of the forest all around me, but this was drowned out by the insistent urge to “keep looking”, caused by the notion that “I haven’t found it yet”.  Even while making progress forwards I berated myself for the fact that it was “stumbling” and blamed my own “blindness” for the state of darkness I was living in.  If only I could “see” the truth!

It was through an entirely unexpected avenue that the first hint of awareness came.  As far from my preconceived notions as my foot is from my eyes.  So strange and unexpected it was that it felt as if it had happened by “pure luck”.  I did not then have the understanding that my every step and my stumbling gait were intimately part of my foot meeting that root.  Even less did I understand the significance of a seed falling in a certain place ages ago and the effect on the growth of the tree that the passage of the seasons ever since had had.  Nor did I have the experience of long years of reliance on the Tao to recognize that these moments of magnificent good fortune are all around and demonstrate the abundance of the Tao.

Stopped in my tracks, stillness came to me then at that perfect moment.  I still name it a magnificent gift!

Penetrating deep into me in that quiet state, yet another blossoming of awareness, yet again through an entirely unexpected but intoxicating way.  Then suddenly the life of the forest is revealed all around me and in that same instant I gaze upon the shining star which had always been there for the eye to see, had my head not been lowered to the dirt looking for “something precious”.

The Methods
In the physical methods of my Order, one talks of three “levels” or perhaps more correctly “modes” of work.  The tree represents the first mode called the “fixed way”.  Novices spend a lot of time working on their physical structure.  The exercises are strictly defined and “feeling wooden” is a very common statement to hear from them.

After some time, the body learns to relax into the new form which it is taking on.  The movements become much looser and more fluid.  This “living way” is represented by the leaping stag.

Ultimately, one sheds any notion of a predetermined form and allows the energy to flow freely.  This “changing way” is represented by the light of the star.

With much love,

Shun Yuan

Ya Haqq!


Patience, Prayer, and Love – A Resolution for the New Year

January 3, 2009

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Seek help in patience and prayer; and truly it is hard save for the humble-minded,
Who know that they will have to meet their Lord, and unto Him they are returning.

(Quran 2:45-46)

Patience and prayer, two attributes that lift the foot in humility to take a step on the path of Love. Prayer by the Sufi zekr, with each inhalation and exhalation of the breath, and patience forged of acceptance of all that happens, in the certain knowledge that to Him we are returning.

In the Mathnawi, Rumi writes that a piece of iron when kept for long in the fire begins not only to look like fire, but to burn like fire. This is the soul purified by patience and prayer, which are each an act of love. Love is the fire that lights the Way.

And this is my resolution for the New Year. God give me the strength to be steadfast, to be resolute, in patience and prayer and love. Amin.

What are your resolutions  for this New Year of 2009/1430?

Ya Haqq!


Sufi Politeness – A True Story

June 16, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

It is related in Muhammad Sa’id al-Jamal ar-Rafai as-Shadhuli’s eloquent book, Music of the Soul, that at the time he was a disciple of Sidi ‘Abd ar-Rahman, may God be well pleased with them both, there was a troublesome old man in Damascus who everyday would throw stones at the zawiyya, the Sufi lodge. Each time the incident of stone throwing happened, his guide would say, “Send him mercy. If he wants food, give him food. If he wants clothes, give him clothes. If he wants money, give him money. Give him what he wants.”

When he, according to the advice of his guide, provided for the old man, he would gather his sons and would throw more stones at the zawiyya.

He asked himself, “What is the wisdom in this?” Then he would again go to this old man and gave him some food and some money and some clothes from his guide, but at the same time he felt something very strong about this person. His guide said to him, “There are many messages when this old man throws stones at the zawiyya.”

Then one day the old man became sick and the eminent guide sent his disciple to him. When he arrived at his house, the old man woke up and asked, “Who is there?” He mentioned his name and the old man began to weep and he started to say Astaghfirullah! (seeking forgiveness from Allah). And after some days, he came to live in the zawiyya. And he became a holy student under the guide.

When Sidi as-Shadhuli later wrote down this story, this man was already one hundred and five years old. Later when he met him in Amman, Jordan, the old man said, “Sidi, excuse me for throwing stones at the zawiyya. But if I had not hit the zawiyya, I would not have reached God. How could I have known the guide and the Way, if I had not thrown stones?” The guide saw the wisdom of his actions and knew that this old man was one of his students.

This story has a picture illustrating it. The picture is of the date tree. “Be like this tree,” advises Sidi. “When any person throws something to hit the date tree, it gives him back sweets. This is the right way.”

“If anyone makes something bad for you, or speaks in an unkind way, understand Who speaks and Who hits. Be sweet and give to everyone who wants sweets, because after the fire is the garden and after the darkness is light. It is necessary to see within everything, to see where it is coming from and to return it to God. Be polite! Everything is the Face of God.”

- Edited from a longer post on Sadiq’s Mystic Saint blog. (Muhammad Sa’id al-Jamal ar-Rifai as-Shadhuli is now the Head of the Higher Sufi Council in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. He is also a teacher at the Holy mosques at al-Aqsa in Jerusalem).

Ya Haqq!


Love’s Caravan

August 18, 2007

Why all this talk of buying and selling?
What you need is already inside you.

Love’s caravan is ready to depart, O Rend,
The camels are laden with treasures untold

Come! Come! Bargains are found on this road.
All you possess in exchange for nothingness.

Sell all you have in the world’s marketplace
In exchange, receive only the love of the Friend.

Earthly jewels are but shining baubles
His jewels are the stars without end

Tarry no longer, the blessed sun rises!
This is the hour when travelers depart

Alhamdulillah! A thousand surprises
Await on the Path of the Heart.

- Irving Karchmar, © August 2007


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