Sain Zahoor

There are people who walk the earth as if they have walked upon it for centuries. Sain Zahoor Ahmad is one of them. A living repository of the poetry of Baba Bulleh Shah, Zahoor is known for his ektara (one-stringed instrument), bell-clad feet and colorful garb reminiscent of Joseph’s “coat of many colors.” Bulleh Shah, a 17th century Punjabi poet famous for his heartrending poetry, breathes again in the vocal chords of Sain Zahoor.(SUFI Journal in Issue 83)



“First is the journey from God,
then the journey to God.
Last is the journey in God”.
—Sufi tradition

Crossing a field in darkness
we slid into like
delicious swimming

feeling our way without eyes
sifting strands of dark
like falling butterflies

we found a hedge alight
with fireflies
drops of light

like crazy raindrops
in all directions.

We wanted to see those
dancers of light, imagined them
white- winged,

holding their lanterns high,
plunged our fists into thorns
captured worms.

That might have been the moment
I lost you,

a dual world
knew myself
separate from the sun.

I began the journey back
to find you, toiling upstream
on rivers of light

in my rowing-boat-body
didn’t notice the rivers
were your veins

your arteries
sun rising and setting
blink of your eye.


Mary Coelho Article Notes


1 David Ray Griffin, God and Religion in the Postmodern World (Albany State University of New York Press, 1989) p. 51.

2 Peter B. Todd, The Individuation of God, (Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications, 2012) p. 5.

3 Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts (San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 2006) p. 154.

4 F. David Peat, Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind (New York, Bantam Books, 1987) p. 192.

5  Andrew Harvey, The Sufi Way of the Beloved: The Sufi Path of Love . (The Shift Network) transcript of Module 2, p. 10.

6 Brian Swimme, Hidden Heart of the Cosmos (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books,1996), p. 100.

7 Andrew Harvey, The Sufi Way of the Beloved: Radiant Bewilderment as the Gate to Oneness,(The Shift Networkk Transcript of Module 5, p. 20.

8  Andrew Harvey, The Sufi Way of the Beloved: The Glory of the Glory. (The Shift Network) transcript of Module 4, p.11.

9 Martin Lings, What Is Sufism? (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1975) p. 65.

10 Andrew Harvey, The Sufi Way of the Beloved: Radiant Bewilderment as the Gate of Oneness,(The Shift Network) transcript of  Module 5, p, 25,)

11 Peat, Synchronicity, p. 88.

12 Peter B. Todd, The Individuation of God p. 8.

13 Andrew Harvey, The Sufi Way of the Beloved: The Way of Passion.(The Shift Network) transcript of Module 6, p. 4.

14 NY Review of Books, Vol, LXIII, No. 17, Nov. 10, 2016, review of George Musser, Spooky Action at a Distance, p. 52.

15 Brian Swimme, The Powers of the Universe (Center for the Study of the Universe, 2004), Episode 1, Seamlessness.

16 Lothar Schäfer, In Search of Divine Reality (Fayetteville, Arkansas: The University of Arkansas Press, 1997), p. 5.

17  NY Review of Books, Vol, LXIII, No. 17, Nov. 10, 2016 review of George Musser, Spooky Action at a Distance, p. 52.

18 Andrew Harvey, The Sufi Way of the Beloved: The Glory of the Glory: Ibn Arabi, (The Shift Network) transcript of Module 4, p. 1,9.

19 Quoted in Maria Jaoudi, Christian and Islamic Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1993) p.84. Upton, Doorkeeper, p. 48

20 Jaoudi, Christian and Islamic Spirituality, p. 34.

92 Book Reviews – The Way Under The Way



A The Place of True Meeting
By Mark Nepo

Publisher: Sounds True, Louisville, CO.
Pages: 297



Written with the temperance and pace of a spiritual seeker, The Way Under the Way represents twenty years of Mark Nepo’s poetic life and wisdom; the result of a spiritual revelry that he suggestively describes as “undressing what I know.”

Such an undressing reveals the visceral immanence of fear and pleasure—nursing a broken bird until it dies—and the sublime ephemera of reflection and transcendence— “Heidegger’s notion of dwelling with care /in the being that underlies everything.” The poems, though whittled with care, in their accumulation feel more like a stream wearing away a soft shore as it passes: the poem, like the shore, remains; but the agile spirit, like the water that carved them, speeds away into the distance.

There are obstacles and passages, which often turn out to be one and the same phenomenon viewed first on the approach and then in the passing. In Nepo’s spiritual longing and aching cosmology, the divinities would, if they could, exchange eternity to enjoy the brevity of having all that we know… and then having it all taken away. In his poem, “The Angel of Grief,” an angel reflecting on the exalted and fleeting lives of man cries out to man in its longing, “I would give Eternity to /live with what you’re given, and to feel /what is opened by what is taken away.”

Mark Nepo is a known quantity to the readers of SUFI, with many of his pieces first published in SUFI, and his first book, Unlearning Back to God, published by Khaniqah Nimatullahi Publications in 2006. From there, Nepo penned a New York Times #1 best seller, The Book of Awakening, while becoming a spiritual muse to one of America’s great media icons, Oprah Winfrey. Still, as much as Nepo’s books, interviews and workshops have moved the needle in popular spirituality—and they have—his best writing blossoms in the subtlety of his poetry, where, “a cloud parted /in my mind and the light within /made it briefly to the page.”

The burden of the spiritual experience falls heavily over most of Nepo’s poems and yet, there is a sincerity in his spiritual devices which transcends mere affectation or New Age calculation. “Poetry is not the words and how they are written on a page… poetry is the unexpected utterance of the soul.” This is a ubiquitous trope in Nepo’s writing and interviews, but in an interview for SUFI he added this alluring addendum, “now I want to be the poem.”

The naiveté of childhood and the lumpish weight of memory are captivating motifs in Nepo’s poems, as in his poem, “Oh, Grandma,” wherein he reaches back “between worlds” into his childhood in Brooklyn and sees his grandmother, gone now twenty years, “leaning from your kitchen/ into the brick alley, except /the alley is my heart. /And the light behind you /is where we come from /and where we’re all going.”



93 Editors’ Note

Truth Matters. That’s a complete sentence. It would take millennia to unpack it. Nimatullahi Sufi Order Master Alireza Nurbakhsh explains why and how truth matters, and the difference truth makes for science and the soul.

This issue of SUFI engages connections between experience and experiment. Evolutionary game-theorist Donald Hoff man makes a good argument that “evolution has not shaped us to see reality as it is.” He also speaks from a strong conviction that the scientific method is the way to get closer to the truth—the whole point of science is to create a proof, and then to be willing to be proven wrong. Using the language of mathematics and experiment, Hoffman assures us that, in the search for truth, “if we don’t have the arguments, we don’t have a prayer” of arriving anywhere near the truth. Practice, if not prayer, might lead the way.

Good training, for a long time, says Fred Cooper, can open the scientist to grace, and the mystic to precision—practice makes clear-seeing possible, and thus meaning arises. The scientists in this issue say that we have to practice, practice, practice: but the Carnegie Hall of spiritual experience is somewhere the taxi of grace drops us, not somewhere we get ourselves to.

Andrew B. Newberg’s neurological experiments on mystics show that surrender does what no exertion can—and also that exertion is necessary. What we decide to do matters. Truth matters—matter, material, mother—the words are leaves of the same plant, and Dani Kopoulos’s story unfurls them. Grandmothers and spiritual masters know things. They know how to turn on the light so that yellowing life can thrive again. It turns out that Grandmother and Master can see in the dark.

After performance artist Ansuman Biswas enters a black box and becomes Schrodinger’s cat for ten days, his eyes need to adjust to the light when he comes out; his ears hear stories from others about his experience that have nothing to do with what he knew in there, by himself, where he wasn’t, after all, alone. Truth shows itself in relationship. Love might come in there, but that’s another matter.

—The Editors of SUFI



93 Is Reality Real?

A Conversation with Evolutionary Game-Theorist Donald Hoffman

interviewed by David Wright

DW: Is what we perceive with our senses “real” in the deepest sense? Is there a reality “beyond” our perception? If so, what is it like, and what is our responsibility towards it? Too often, in seeking answers to these questions, scientists and spiritual aspirants find themselves living in worlds apart, unable to exchange and share common experiences or perspectives.

DH: My attitude about science and spirituality is… I’ll put it this way. There’s a famous quote from Rumi that says, “Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.” I think of spirituality as relating to questions about human significance and meaning. Why are we here? What’s this all about? And often scientists will say that we can’t address those questions, but I take a different point of view. I think that we can. I do meditate, and I understand the importance of silence; I think that it is transformative. I think it restructures human consciousness to spend time in silence. It’s a very healthy thing.



93 Bridging the Two Worlds

93 Confessions of a Buddhist Theoretical Physicist

by Fred Cooper

Until recently, I was not willing to discuss the relation between Science and Spirituality, not because of any distrust of my understanding of physics, but because my meditation practice had not reached the necessary maturation to feel confident about discussing spiritual matters to non-meditators. It was only about 10 years ago, after practicing for 27 years, that I was able to integrate my experience of being introduced to the nature of mind (by two of my root teachers, H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche and V.V. Mingyur Rinpoche) to achieve a stable “glimpse of recognition.” After this event I felt I had the credentials in both domains to make some statements about the connection between physics and spirituality.

In the present article, I am happy to share my thoughts on how physics and meditation are related based on my career as a theoretical physicist and on my training in the Mahamudra approach to meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.


93 Neurotheology

How Does the Brain Experience God?

Interview with Andrew B Newberg

Interviewed by Emily Esfahani Smith

EES: What are some of the questions you’re trying to answer in your research?

ABN: We are trying to understand the relationship between our religious and spiritual selves and the human brain. What are the ways that the brain allows us to experience religious feelings and thoughts, and what are the ways that it hinders us? I’m particularly interested in what’s going on inside the brain during intense religious experiences, like moments of transcendence, awe, and mysticism. When somebody says, “I had a mystical experience and I felt God” and someone says “I had a mystical experience and felt universal consciousness,” we can ask if those are the same experiences interpreted differently, or are they two completely different experiences?