Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Monday, May 02, 2005

I just got back from the 12th annual Sufism Symposium

(Flourish of Trumpets!!!!!)

(or lots of yawns, depending on your personal makeup)

I have been to several of them over the years, and have presented at a few, though it is usually my teacher who does that.

That is pretty much the only reason I go, because my teacher goes.

The event is hosted by the International Association of Sufism, which is a very good group and is run by real teachers, but they are a bit too intellectual for me. The speaker list is always loaded with Ph.D's but you will find very few ecstatic mystics invited to present. Also, their particular path is, to me, very dissociated from the body, and most of the students are thin, hard and rigid. Sometimes I just want to grab them and make them dance and laugh for an hour. (I actually did that once, certain people were not amused, but that is another story)

Though I go there to assist my teacher in whatever he might be doing (and to train the young dervishes in the art of serving their Shaykh, a practice in being awake)

It is also a treat to see some of the other teachers that come there.

My absolute favorite person is Shaykh Ahmed Tijani Ben Omar, who was sent to the US from Ghana several years ago to help lift Americans up spiritually.

Shaykh Tijani is a certified genius, who memorized the entire Quran by the time he was sixteen. He is a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence, a master of tafsir (exegesis) and has one of the most amazing voices you have ever heard. I could listen to him read Quran all day.

I also get to see good friends from other Sufi Schools that I rarely get to spend time with.

What most of the participants at these symposiums never realize is that there are always three symposiums going on, more or less at the same time.

The first is the public one, where people come and listen to the panel speakers and attend the workshops.

The second is the one where the teachers of the various tariqas get together and hang out. They will cover a lot of ground that will never be spoken of in a public milieu, the only people who get to hear what is going on are the teachers, and the people who attend them.

The third is the one where those of us who have been around for a while get together and talk among ourselves. We will often present something that we have been working on or have learned since the last time we got together. Sometimes we will just tell stories.

Here are some of the stories I told this weekend.


Responsibility of The Teacher, a Sufi Story

Haji Bektash Wali the great saint of Anatolia, appointed Nurudin Chaqmaq as his Khalifa ('deputy') in the farthest north.

At that time Sheikh Chaqmaq already had many disciples, for he was a man who had attracted, through his dedication and readings of the ancient masters, several circles of pupils. Moreover, he had been in intimate contact with more than one of the real teachers of the time.

The Haji Bektash gave him teachings which on the surface were strongly at variance with the traditional customs and thoughts to which his disciples were comfortable.

Chaqmaq tried to evade his responsibility by handling over his flock to the Haji Bektash. But Haji Bektash refused, and told Chaqmaq: `Only by acting as a channel from me to your people will you yourself become transformed.'

Chaqmaq feared that this new teaching would undermine his authority. `If you teach only through authority, you are not teaching at all,' said Haji Bektash. Certain of Chaqmaq's disciples came to complain to Haji Bektash that their master was behaving in an eccentric manner. `We are no longer able to have the comfort of the customary observances,' they said. `This is exactly what I want to happen,' said Haji Bektash.

Other students feared that Haji Bektash had influenced Chaqmaq in strange ways, and that he would influence them similarly. This was reported to Haji Bektash. He said: `They see something good happening to Chaqmaq but they think it is bad. This is a fever which has to burn itself out.'

Four years passed before, entirely through the example of their teacher, Chaqmaq's disciples realized that Haji Bektash had other things to do than `capture lame horses'. Haji Bektash said: `It was your own egocentricity which made you imagine that you were something which anyone would bother himself to enslave.'

When someone sees duality in
existence, this is shirk. (attributing partners to God)
When someone hides the truth of his
own Identity, this is kufr. (infidelity)

So consider yourself mushirk if you see
anything but God. Consider yourself
kaafar if you do not know yourself.

"Mutu qablan tamutu." (Die before you die)

Hazrat Ali Ibn Abu Talib

There is a story of Gautama that is usually only told in part. The part that is spoken of is often quoted by people who would like to make a spiritual path that is comfortable for them, one where they can pick and choose their lessons.

"The Buddha asked his disciples how they would get across a river. 'With a boat', they replied. The Buddha asked, 'When you arrived at the other shore, would you carry the boat with you or would you leave it on the margin?', The disciples replied,'We would leave it on the margin and go on without it'.The Buddha said,'In the same way, when you arrive at the other side of the river, you may leave the boat of doctrine and practice.'"

Here is the rest of the story:

Buddha and his disciples came to a river and taking a boat, crossed. The Buddha then delivered the parable given above. The disciples, understanding the meaning of the story, left the boat and followed Buddha on his journey. In a few hours they came to another river. Buddha sat under a tree laughing, and waited for his disciples to go back and fetch the boat they left on the shore of the first river.

It is not a "thing" that you get, it is a process.
It doesn't matter what poetry you quote
The poet means what he means,
not what you wish he meant.

No matter how often you call a weed a rose,
You will never change its scent.
And the only river that matters
Is the one that you find at the end of your life.

The question is, when you reach the banks,
Have you developed the strength and discipline
You will need to make it to the other side.
Or will you be swept away into oblivion.

Thinking about enlightenment is not the same as being awake.
The map is not the territory, but if you insist that you are in
Ifsfahan when you are in Shiraz, you will never make it to Mecca
No mater how good your map is.

The saddest ones of all Are the ones who,
thinking they see the shore, Leave the boat in the middle of the
And then tell us that breathing water
Is enlightenment.


The way we speak of "Muslim" and "Sufi" leads the ignorant to assume that these words refer to things. They don't.

When I say that "Sufi" has no positive relation to dogma, that dogma is meaningless in connection to "Sufi", the ignorant also assume that this means that there is no connection to the practice of "Islam". (another verb disguised as a noun)

"Sufi" means to use the practice of Islam as it was meant to be used, as spiritual discipline and training rather than the dogmatic, unconsciously performed rote actions. One who practices "Islam" is given certain exercises such as the five times daily prayer, fasting, following the "fards", etc. Sufi means being awake to these practices. "Muslim" is the act of consciously, freely, submitting oneself to the "contract" (Din) between God and Human as expressed through the instructions given to the Prophet Muhammad (saws) by God that contains the instructions for these practices.

Dogmatists of every ilk think that if they follow rote, external pattern, that is enough. From the point of view of one who practices tasawwuf, this is a "breach of contract".

One can follow other contracts, expressed by other Messengers, Such as the contract expressed by Musa or Isa, and Allah assures us that this is acceptable, but this could not be called Tasawwuf.

One should not expect Allah to honor a unilateral contract made up by someone to fit their connivance.


I was asked to comment on this story
There was once a Sufi shaykh of great knowledge and wisdom who traveled from town to town with his disciples.

One of his disciples was going around telling everyone "come come see the shaykh who can prove Allah's existence in 70 different proofs!!"

When an old woman heard this...she said.."What's so incredible about that....All it means is that he has 70 doubts he has to disprove!" When the shaykh heard this he told his student.."see that..take iman from the simple people."

Islam is simple,..In the end everything is. Its our need to articulate that gives an illusion of complexity. We don't need a number to prove anything and one who does has doubts, severe ones at that.

You don't need proofs to give you certainty (yaqeen)...Love is for the sake of Love.

And I said:

Now here is an interesting story, but not for the obvious reasons.

There are a few questions that should perhaps be asked if this story is to be understood.

First, what makes us think that this "Great Shaykh" actually knew anything at all? He did after all allow his student to go around town saying "come come see the shaykh who can prove Allah's existence in 70 different proofs!!" Anyone who permits his student to do that might in fact be a complete boob rather that anyone who really knows anything.

What about the old woman's reply was simple?

Was it simple because she was old? Or a woman?

Now here is the "TRUTH" (yes I did say that with tongue in cheek) :-D

The "Shaykh" was in fact an imposter who had no clue that he was a fake who was just feeding his ego standing there with his big turban and his followers and his "Proofs". The old woman was the Qtub of her time (nah, Allah would never really have a woman be the Qtub). What she said to him was an attempt to awaken him from his fantasies about himself. That he calls her "simple" shows that he doesn't get it yet. His answer to her statement was a condescension to keep himself and his followers from seeing the truth about themselves.

My questioner then said to me:

Islam is simple,..In the end everything is. Its our need to articulate that gives an illusion of complexity. We don't need a number to prove anything and one who does has doubts, severe ones at that.

You miss the fact that simple does not mean easy. Any halfway decent programmer will tell you that simple is the most difficult, most complex thing to achieve. A clod will hack together a program with 1000 lines of code. A master will do the same program with 100 lines. Allah makes human bodies with 23 pairs of chromosomes. Simple, Yes?

Now, you say "We don't need a number to prove anything and one who does has doubts, severe ones at that." And I ask, "Are you omniscient, that you know what everyone else needs/has needed/will need? If not, then you can only speak with any certainty about yourself.

Judging from the number of different kinds of bugs there are, I suspect that Allah likes diversity. So I deem it possible that He has both put people on paths where they need numbers AND provided the numbers for them.


So this is what goes on behind the scenes at these symposiums, this is what the servants talk about downstairs when everyone else is asleep.


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