95 The Boisterous Love

[twocol_one]

[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]

The Boisterous Love

The purity of the Magi temple has sent me into a frenzy,
And reminded me of the days of my drunkenness and that boisterous love.

I set out on the journey to see my beloved,
The wind carrying her scent reached me first and I passed out.

I stumbled upon the district of the wine merchants,
And the desire for wine took me to the wine-seller.

Out of love the infatuated cupbearer called me with his glance,
The resonance of the musician’s voice made me down a few cups.

I began to serve the angelic master at once,
When I became liberated from myself, he adorned me with his ring of devotion.

He then washed away all the images of my existence one by one,
And drew new patterns on my weary soul.

I heard the pleasant call of “I bestow light” from my heart,
The beautiful light of his existence has turned the world into a frenzy.

ALIREZA NURBAKHSH

[/twocol_one_last]

PHOTO © TESS ZAWALINSKA / 500PX.COM

RETURN TO ISSUE 95 TABLE OF CONTENTS

95 Fireflies

[twocol_one]

 

 

 

 

PHOTOS © HELLORF ZCOOL / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]

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

Fireflies

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
skittering
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,
encountered

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.

JENI COUZYN

[/twocol_one_last] [wcm_restrict plans="Sufi Journal Digital Edition, Sufi Journal Digital Edition old"]
RETURN TO ISSUE 95 TABLE OF CONTENTS
[/wcm_restrict] [wcm_nonmember]To read this article in full, you must Buy Digital Subscription, or log in if you are a subscriber.[/wcm_nonmember]

95 Ascension

[twocol_one]

PHOTO © MARTINHO [email protected] / 500PX.COM

[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]

Ascension

 
[wcm_restrict plans="Sufi Journal Digital Edition, Sufi Journal Digital Edition old"]
Why is tonight different from all other nights?

We are streaming home, rays returning to the sun.

Our bodies are almost invisible, but not quite.

You can still see the shimmer around our edges,

the gleam of a corona, bleeding into the dark.

Deer step into the garden to graze.

Owls question each other and listen for mice.

Foxes and mongooses seek their mates in the undergrowth,

where ancient roots keep the topsoil attached.

Jacaranda trees drop blue petals on green grass.

The locusts have flown away, carrying,

in their quivering mandibles,

the bright seeds of our suffering.

 
[/wcm_restrict]
ANDRÉANA LEFTON

 

[/twocol_one_last] [wcm_restrict plans="Sufi Journal Digital Edition, Sufi Journal Digital Edition old"]
RETURN TO ISSUE 95 TABLE OF CONTENTS
[/wcm_restrict] [wcm_nonmember]To read this article in full, you must Buy Digital Subscription, or log in if you are a subscriber.[/wcm_nonmember]

95 Of Other Spaces

 

Of Other Spaces

A Review of Wild Wild Country

FILM REVIEW by JAIRAN GAHAN

 

The grand experiment of the controversial Indian guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, to build a self-sustained spiritual commune in the 1980s in the United States is a contentious but almost forgotten part of contemporary American history. This thought-provoking and gripping account of the wild life and the subsequent fall of Rajneeshpuram, a utopian city that was built from scratch on remote rugged heaths of Wasco County, Oregon, will keep you on the edge of your seat for six hours. With the unlikely amalgamation of events, including armed struggle, wire-tapping, an FBI raid, a massive bio-attack, collective immigration fraud, and plotted assassinations, you are in for a surreal ride. The strongest element of this six-hour docuseries lies in the skillful unfolding of the story from a multitude of perspectives. The documentary moves against the grains of the archives of collective memories of Americans, and demands the audience to confront their own prejudice. Critics see the series as a timely production, as it exposes the limits of freedom of religion on American soil, and reveals how the fear of the Other drives Americans and their politics.
[wcm_restrict plans="Sufi Journal Digital Edition, Sufi Journal Digital Edition old"]
Directed by the Way Brothers (“The Battered Bastards of Baseball”), the series follows a linear storyline beginning with Rajneesh’s growing international reach and popularity in India in the context of growing New Age awakening movements across the globe. In the late 1970s, following Indira Gandhi’s coming to power and the subsequent rise of right wing Hindutva politics, Osho decides to leave the country. The promised land of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” with the freedom of assembly written into its constitution appeals to the unconventional and transgressive life style of the Indian guru and his community. “You have to be given a safe place… A place where all the ordinary things, taboos, inhibitions, are put aside” said Rajneesh as his followers, including Ivy League graduates, top-tier architects, wall street financers, and urban planners were sketching out the logistics of this dreamscape outside of India. They bought sixty-three acres of no man’s land in Oregon and built a massive commune with care and compassion for the land. In a few months-time his committed followers turned the untapped desert into a functional commune with dams, cultivated farm acreage, a massive meditation hall, a shopping center, cafeterias, and townhouses. The Way Brothers commence the drama of Rajneeshpuram with the spectacle of the waves of Rajneeshees, dressed famously in orange, red and maroon, walking on the streets of Antelope, the closest city to the commune, to welcome their leader to their handmade “heaven on earth.” The movie cuts into the shot of a little local boy running into his house and slamming the door behind him. Even without the overdramatizing editing techniques and the ample use of sound and visual effects of the Way Brothers, it is fairly clear that the neighboring town of conservative Christian cowboy ranchers did not welcome the newcomers.

Rajneeshees arrived in Oregon during the height of cult hysteria, just a few years after the Jonestown incident and before the Waco tragedy. The 1980s and the 1990s mark an important phase in late formations of American secularism as a mode of governance that increasingly attempts to shape, regulate, and monitor religion on the basis of racialized Christian values. In a way, Rajneeshpuram became the space through which secularism in the United States realized, exercised, and revealed its Xenophobic nature. The very genealogy of the emergence of the cult-religion dichotomy surfaces in extensive interviews with Antelopeans who legitimize their hostility towards the Rajneeshees through branding them as a sex-crazed Indian cult. Once the conflict snowballs into a massive battle at the national level, with FBI agents at its centerpiece, the series raises broader questions about the role of the state in constituting and policing religion. But there are more layers to the story of the fate of this commune.

Although America does not remember Rajneeshees kindly, the equivocal storytelling of the film demands one to see the other side. On the outset, this “opera” of Rajneeshpuram consists of archetypical characters including the sheriff, the power thirsty femme fetale, the dumb muscle follower, the bureaucrat, and everyman local ranchers. However, extensive interviews with key players has afforded complexity and depth to the development of these characters over the course of six episodes. The racialized Christian discourse of evil that surfaces in the interviews with law enforcement agents and local Antelopeans is confronted with conflicting and irreconcilable viewpoints of the one of a kind members and ex-members of the commune. “Everyone has a dark side. That does not mean that they are evil,” says Swami Prem Niren, the lawyer of Rajneesh, who is still melded in the memory of his late master. Ma Ananad Sheela, the feisty provocateur secretary of Osho who is clearly a bit too obsessed with the spotlight, is perhaps one of the most complicated characters depicted. Public media archives remember her as the face of the Rajneeshees and the mastermind behind the criminal activities in the commune. Yet strikingly, the movie cracks her tough façade and reveals another side of her: “I saw Bhagwan and that was the end of me,” says Sheela as she remembers her very first encounter with Rajneesh. Despite her departure from the community, she now lives in a house in Switzerland, with walls imbued with Rajneesh’s photos. Such intimate expressions of love have afforded the movie a very complicated idea of good and evil.

Ultimately however, “This is a story about the Other,” says Mark Duplass, the executive producer. The Ways’ lack of interest and investment in addressing the question of the spiritual, results in their eventual failure to move beyond reductive mainstream narratives of the commune. They end up reaffirming the Americans as the Self, intolerant as they may be, and the Rajneeshes as the incomprehensible Other. The Rajneeshees were not ordinary people. They wanted to be a part of something revolutionary, radically rejecting comforts of their luxurious and mostly privileged city lives, looking for a greater meaning in life. Rajneeshpuram, was an expression of the collective will of a spiritual community who dared to dream of a world anew. They pushed the limits of human imagination, left their fortune, worked 16 hours a day, and used the most niche technologies of sustainable development and farming to build a meaningful world. The film’s disinterest in the content of Osho’s teachings, as well as in the history of New Age spiritual movements, has reduced him to a populist leader, leaving the followers unintelligible to the viewership. In this film, Osho’s mass appeal can only be explained through Weber’s theory of charisma, itself premised on a peculiar combination of the magical and the socially constructed nature of authority. The featured followers are smart, well-educated, and well-off. Why would they be drawn to the strangely dressed, perpetually smiling guru who likes shiny things? We never hear what was in Osho’s discourses, tapes, and writings that compelled people to seek his presence.

The film tells the story of how a dreamscape turned into a nightmare when materialized. The revisionist touch of the Ways perceives the commune at its best as a failed utopia, leaving the viewer without an alternative way to comprehend the phenomenon of this experiment. But “Utopias are sites with no real space,” the philosopher Michel Foucault reminds us. Rajneeshpuram however, could also be understood as a lived heterotopia, a multiple place of experience and becoming, a site of transformation where not only the Rajneeshees, but also the Antelopeans, and the U.S. government officials discovered and realized their longings, core desires, and aptitudes—both dark and light, good and evil. “The master’s work was to put you on a path,” says Swami Prem Niren. A more radical approach to Rajneeshpuram would entail a serious exploration and an intellectual engagement with this path. Only then would it be possible to fully push back against the cult-religion dichotomy, and explore new ways of thinking about alternative assemblies that are not graspable by political structures of the modern nation-state.
[/wcm_restrict]
PHOTOS © PUBLIC DOMAIN

[wcm_restrict plans="Sufi Journal Digital Edition, Sufi Journal Digital Edition old"]
RETURN TO ISSUE 95 TABLE OF CONTENTS
[/wcm_restrict] [wcm_nonmember]To read this article in full, you must Buy Digital Subscription, or log in if you are a subscriber.[/wcm_nonmember]

95 The Sacred Space of the Heart

THE SACRED SPACE OF THE HEART

By LLEWELLYN VAUGHAN-LEE

 

My heart has become capable of every form:
it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
and a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Ka’ba,
and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Qur’an.
I follow the religion of Love: whatever way
Love’s camels take, that is my religion and my faith. —Ibn ’Arabi

With simple and powerful imagery, the man the Sufis call the Greatest Shaykh speaks of a space that knows no boundaries or divisions, but belongs to love. For the mystic, for the lover, everywhere is a place of devotion, a place of meeting our Beloved. This world—with its myriad forms, light and darkness, sadness and joy—is a sacred space, a place where love reveals its secrets, where divine oneness comes to meet us. All around us is an unending revelation, the wind whispering the secrets of love, messages from our heart’s Beloved. The Divine calls to us in so many ways, a hummingbird drinking nectar in my garden, a fox sneaking between city rubbish bins. Walking in a sacred manner, each foot touching the earth like a kiss, we can feel this place of meeting, this belonging.

Sometimes we sit in a room with others in prayer or a deeper silence of the heart’s devotion. And the room sings in the unseen, the angels are present, called by our prayer, touching our hearts and also where our knees meet the carpets covering the floor. And even when the dervishes have left, song and silent prayer remain present. The space holds the mystery.

[wcm_restrict plans="Sufi Journal Digital Edition, Sufi Journal Digital Edition old"]

Such a space of prayer is most precious, a meeting of the worlds—the unseen inner world of mystery, and the physical world where we seem to spend our days. And yet in our continued practice we carry this space throughout the day, in the in-breath and the out-breath, and the space between the breaths. This most simple practice, awareness of breath, is an awareness of space as it flows in and around us. And through our devotions this space is magnetized by love, touching others with a sweetness that was before honey or bee—the sweetness of remembrance.

But as Ibn ‘Arabi writes, the heart itself is the truest space, where the two worlds meet, where the wayfarer can hear the bells of the caravan. For the mystic—the one whose heart has been broken on love’s altar—because their heart belongs to their Beloved, it is a space where all are welcome. “Heaven and earth cannot contain me, but the heart of my devoted servant can.” The heart is a space that goes beyond the stars, even as it contains the tears of a child, the sigh of a lover. It is a place where we are truly found, and where our Beloved is always present.

I grew up going to churches and cathedrals, stained glass windows bringing the beauty of light into a darkened space. I heard hymns and choral music lifting the soul to the sky. And then one day I found myself in a small room, sitting at the feet of my teacher, and I had come home. I treasured this space which welcomed my weary heart. And here my heart opened, here I felt the butterfly wings of love. And in this small room beside the train tracks in North London I came to know another space that is always with me, mysterious and infinitely beautiful—a space that belongs to love.

[/wcm_restrict]

PHOTO © VELIRINA-BIGSTOCKPHOTO.COM

[wcm_restrict plans="Sufi Journal Digital Edition, Sufi Journal Digital Edition old"]
<a href=”https://www.sufijournal.org/95-table-contents/”>RETURN TO ISSUE 95 TABLE OF CONTENTS</a>
[/wcm_restrict] [wcm_nonmember]To read this article in full, you must Buy Digital Subscription, or log in if you are a subscriber.[/wcm_nonmember]

95 The Greater Prayer of Being

THE GREATER PRAYER OF BEING

By MARK NEPO

 

In Quakerism, whatever you believe needs to be grounded in the evidence of your own life. In Quakerism, [there’s an] insistence that everyone has within himself or herself a source of truth—an inner light or inner teacher. Of course, truth is not the only thing we hear from within. We also hear the voices of ego, of fear, of greed, of depression. So Quakerism puts an equal emphasis on the role of community in helping people sort out what they’re hearing.*

—Parker Palmer

This is the greater prayer of being: how we take form and grow where we are,
only to be dissolved into a greater union with the life around us.

Each of us walks about in a cloud of affections: our love, our pain, our desires, our history. Then, we need help from each other to outwait the cloud, so we can regain our direct experience of life. We need to break the trance of what we want or wish for or regret. The task is not to replay what we go through, but to integrate what enters our heart. Not to linger in what might have been or what has fallen short, but to make the most of what’s before us. The challenge is to feel what’s real while it’s real.

And we each need help sorting what we’re hearing. For fear and worry are dark spiders constantly weaving webs in the corners of our mind, till one day we walk into those webs, surprised and entangled. This is why we have to still our mind and open our heart: to clean out the webs of fear and worry. Otherwise, a dark gauze grows between life and us. But love sweeps through the gauze, and honest inquiry sweeps through the cobwebs. So just as we need to dust our home, we need an inner practice to dust our mind of all the webs we spin.

[wcm_restrict plans="Sufi Journal Digital Edition, Sufi Journal Digital Edition old"]

When overwhelmed by worry, fear, or regret, we start to disempower where we are, by pining to live in the future or the past. The urban dictionary has a contemporary expression of this painful yearning, the word “fomo”, which is an acronym for fear of missing out. This is considered a symptom of digital withdrawal, a state of anxiety that arises from feeling bereft and even panicked at not having access to the Internet, to calls or texts, to Facebook or Twitter. This is a modern expression of the underlying sense that humans have struggled with forever: that life is happening without us. This perilous inner state arises from investing our being in the hope that, “If I could only get over there, then life would be worth living.”

But when we can sort what we’re hearing and outwait the cloud of our affections, we land in the beautiful if gritty terrain of where we are. Now caring for each other can restore us. Once grounded enough to truly care, then I can love you. And the depth of that love dissolves images of life being “over there.” Then, my singular sense of self starts to let others in, so that when you’re in pain, I’m in pain. And when you’re overflowing with wonder, I’m saturated with that wonder. This is how life grows and joins, a pain at a time, a wonder at a time—despite our clouds of affection, our webs of fear and worry, and our fear of missing out. This is the greater prayer of being: how we take form and grow where we are, only to be dissolved into a greater union with the life around us.

This brings to mind the story of two sisters who were very close, and very competitive. Lisa, the older, was obsessed with being exceptional. She needed to excel in everything. Gail, the younger, was obsessed with experience. She needed to meet as much of life as she could. Gail would question Lisa, “Why all the work to make things happen?” And Lisa would question Gail, “Will you ever accomplish anything?” They never really understood each other, though they secretly envied each other’s devotion. It was later in life, after many years apart, that Lisa fell ill and Gail came to care for her. Forced by her illness to be still, Lisa could no longer accomplish anything. It made her feel lost but opened her to her deeper self. And forced by her love for Lisa, Gail had to become competent in her care, accomplishing a great deal from day to day. It was the fragility of life that stopped Lisa and Gail from insisting on the face each showed the world. They met in the quiet moments of one caring for the other.

Each of us is scoured over time, though we hate the scouring; hollowed to something beautiful, though we fear the hollowing. Each of us is hovered over by unseen angels and demons who want our attention. Each of us, worn to a small chamber in which what matters can be heard despite the noise we make while running to and from. This scouring by angels and hollowing by demons is how we’re refined while here, no matter how clouded and lost we may get along the way.

Just the other day, I was trying to outwait the cloud of my own affections. The January sun was splaying through the anatomy of trees. My dog was sniffing about, scenting mice gone underground. The only noise was the snort of her nose in snow. I was drawn again to the bare tops of trees, thinner than the rest. Drawn to the life of the tree moving all that way from the gnarly, buried root, stretching up the trunk, and twisting through the limbs, to the most exposed gesture reaching to the sky.

Then, I could see that, like the length of a mature tree, from root to leafless tip, this is how we establish ourselves in the world. The deeper our roots, the higher we can reach. Now I wonder, if trees could talk, would they tell us that their roots feel the wind from the sky and that their uppermost twigs feel the earth packed around their roots?

When taking root where we are and reaching toward the light, we too feel everything all the way through. The clouds were drifting by, more visible because of the windblown twigs, just as the Truth of the Universe is more visible when we are fully here.

*“In Quakerism…” From an interview with Parker Palmer by Alicia Von Stamwitz, “If Only We Would Listen” in The Sun. Chapel Hill, NC, Issue 443, November 2012, p. 12.

 

A thousand masks

No matter where I’m drawn to go, it always leads to Here. For every effort to seek
or run only lands me in the timeless Center that lives under all journeys.
The world has a thousand masks which taken off, one at a time, reveal the faceless
face of Spirit that keeps everything alive. How do I know this? I can’t really say.
Except that being broken and lifted have peeled off my masks. And those I love,
when exhausted or awakened, have put down their stories. And then, we’re as
naked as the animals who quiver in the stillness between night and day when the
softest breeze makes them stare so widely into the Bareness of Everything,
just waiting beneath the mask of nothing.

MARK NEPO

[/wcm_restrict]

PHOTO © PAUL ZWIRS / 500px.com
PHOTO © PURIPAT / bigstock.com

[wcm_restrict plans="Sufi Journal Digital Edition, Sufi Journal Digital Edition old"]
<a href=”https://www.sufijournal.org/95-table-contents/”>RETURN TO ISSUE 95 TABLE OF CONTENTS</a>
[/wcm_restrict] [wcm_nonmember]To read this article in full, you must Buy Digital Subscription, or log in if you are a subscriber.[/wcm_nonmember]