Let’s vary Christianity and Judaism and Buddhism with a dash of Sufism.
Sufis – you may have heard of Kabir (1440-1518), Hafiz (c.1310-1380), Rumi (1207-1273), Ibn Arabi (1165-1240) or the whirling Dervishes – belong to various overwhelmingly Muslim mystical sects. Sufis represent the monistic or non-dual streams within Islam. People local to the New England Berkshires may be familiar with the Abode of the Message in New Lebanon, New York, the Sufi Order of the West, and Zia Inayat Khan or his late, courtly father Pir Vilayat. Sufism has been popularized within New Age or contemporary spirituality in America, thanks in part to the inspiring near-translations of Robert Bly and Coleman Barks. Some scholars have pointed out that the original context and Allah-orientation of most Sufism have been bowdlerized out of it by our feel-good relativistic liberal American homogenizing diluting style of co-optation. Oh well.
Many years ago I spent time practicing with various Sufi teachers. I was particularly impressed with Sheik Nisham Kabbani, the head of the Naqshabandi Order, and by my meetings with Pir Vilayat. I’ll tell some stories about these adventures in group on Tuesday.
Characteristic of Sufi practice is zhikr, a kind of prayer intended to invoke a participatory awareness of the divine. Sufi practices tend toward the devotional, the bhakti, the interaction with God as the beloved. This can make them seem too sensual for some or too arrogantly unitive with the divine. Some practices involve eye-contact, intense in its possibilities, and we have already often used one of these among our various weekly closing gestures.
For next Tuesday, we’ll do something with eye-contact, then use lines from a Rumi poem as our central focus:
Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.
All blessings to all,