Each month SUFI selects special interviews and articles from its Archives as a free offering to our readers. Just click on the free access link and download your PDF.

March 2024

From SUFI Issue 78
The Meaning of Surrender
By Alireza Nurbakhsh

In SUFI’s 2009 winter issue, Alireza Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, explores the meaning of surrender to God. In his discourse, he points out that surrender occurs in the context of fighting or resisting aspects of our life situation. In contemporary culture, the act of surrendering is regarded as a passive or negative quality, and we are encouraged to never to surrender to our condition. In contrast, spiritual surrender to God occurs when we tire of fighting against others and our own ego. “Once we accept the world as it is, as a manifestation of an all-encompassing Truth, we have surrendered ourselves to God…it is only when we are not at war with ourselves and others that we become creative and sympathetic to others.”

Explore more about this Sufi teaching and read the full discourse from the SUFI archive, now available free to anyone. Subscribe to SUFI to enjoy the full array of articles, stories, poetry and more in each issue.

Artwork 1999 ©Dale Wicks

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December 2023

From SUFI Issue 86
Spiritual Yearning
By Alireza Nurbakhsh

SUFI’s 2014 winter issue explores timeless Sufi teachings about the mystical world view as passed on over centuries by masters of the path. Alireza Nurbakhsh, current master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, offers an intriguing discourse on spiritual yearning (talab), a state of yearning for the truth that drives an individual toward self-discovery and spiritual perfection. He emphasizes that this yearning is a gift from God and not voluntary – one is struck by this state as he or she realizes his or her spiritual shortcomings, and becomes driven to travel the spiritual path. Gaining insight into our individual qualities, positive and negative, plays a role in how we feel and act toward others, and is a pre-prerequisite for being granted the state of talab. In contrast to our pursuit of material comfort, “The real fulfillment in life…lies in talab because it is only through the state of yearning that we can find lasting rest and peace.”

Explore more about this paradoxical Sufi teaching and read the full discourse from the SUFI archive, now available free to anyone. Subscribe to SUFI to enjoy the full array of articles, stories, poetry and more in each issue.

Artwork© John Teti

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October 2023

From SUFI Issue 87
Spiritual Ecology
The New Revolution in Consciousness
By Les Sponsel

SUFI’s 2014 issue on the environment featured an exploration of spiritual ecology by Les Sponsel, Professor of Ecological Anthropology and award winning of author of Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution. In his article, Professor Sponsel points to the relationship between our spiritual condition and the ecological crisis of the planet, and describes how spiritual ecology encompasses a “dynamic arena of thought and action at the interfaces of religions and spiritualities on the one hand, and on the other ecologies, environments, and environmentalisms.” He highlights examples of individuals who integrated spirituality and environmental activism, serving as pioneers of spiritual ecology, such as St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, and Al Gore.
Read more about “spiritual ecology…a response to [the] dire need for the survival, welfare, and flourishing of Earth, including humankind.” The full article from the SUFI archive is now available free to anyone. Subscribe to SUFI to enjoy the full array of articles, stories, poetry and more in each issue.

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September 2023

From SUFI Issue 89
The Guide
Interview with a Sufi Shaykh
By Safoura Nourbakhsh

In this interview, Hossein Kashani, one of the shaykhs of the Nimatullahi Order, speaks candidly about the distinct trials of a master/disciple relationship, when a perfected human being commits his or her life to guiding others on the path towards Truth. He emphasizes that a disciple’s sincere yearning for the Truth attracts one’s guide, and begins a relationship of total commitment and trust that is necessary to navigate the trials of confronting one’s ego and its desires. He shares from his own experience, as a disciple of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, how a master/disciple relationship evolves through devotion and the master’s attention. While this may not be in a way that we expect, his unconditional love and acceptance enable a disciple to see and accept one’s shortcomings. “The master provides the light. We are in darkness, so it is through the master’s light that we see…”

Read the entire interview from the SUFI archive that is now available free to anyone. Subscribe to SUFI to enjoy the full array of articles, stories, poetry and more in each issue.

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August 2023

Mirror of Consciousness
An American Ethnographer in a Sufi Community
By John L. Caughey

Ethnographer John Caughey describes himself as a person who knew how to explore beliefs and culture through interviewing and observation, but not how to live life. While in Pakistan as a Fulbright lecturer, he was attracted to a Sufi master and an invitation to “learn something.” The article he contributed to SUFI is a remarkable telling of what he learned about the “mirror of consciousness” – the practice of attending to inner experience in order to gain insight into the false ego driven values that affect us.  The stream of our consciousness and flow of imagery, often described as “daydreaming,” reveals information of possible spiritual importance. Being attentive to the “indications and inclinations” that one discerns, helps free us from the false worldly ego inside us that clouds our consciousness.  As he learned from his Master, the author urges “Be meditatively alert to your inner life so as to not miss the spiritual guidance that appears there.” 

Photo ©John Caughey

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June 2023

A Conversation with Evolutionary
Game-Theorist Donald Hoffman
Interviewed by David Wright

Donald Hoffman is a renowned cognitive scientist working in the new field of evolutionary game theory. Using mathematical tools, he challenges the idea that our senses report the truth, pointing to our perceptual language of space, time, and physical objects as grossly
inadequate to describe reality as it is. Hoffman proposes a theory that consciousness, made up of innumerable “conscious agents,” is the fundamental nature of reality. In this remarkable discussion, Hoffman reveals his aspiration for a “scientific spirituality”—combining “the openness to a non-physical reality of the mystical spiritual traditions with the non-dogmatic method of science.”

Photo ©Barry Underwood

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May 2023

A Visit with Navajo Medicine Woman Sheila Goldtooth
Interviewed by Chara Nelson
Photography by Alex Cowie

Sheila Goldtooth is a Navaho healer, a role passed down through her Coyote Pass-Jemez Clan. Growing up in a remote area of Arizona, she lived in harmony with nature, with reverence for the everyday aspects of life. She learned to use the chants, songs and ceremonies of the Blessing Way healing tradition to help individuals experiencing life transitions, illnesses, or other calamities. “What I do may be described as bringing a person back into balance…we have to consider all the parts of an individual – the mind, the emotions, the physical body, the spirit and the relation to the society.”

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April 2023

How Does the Brain Experience God?
Interview on Neurotheology
With Andrew B. Newberg
Interviewed By Emily Esfahani Smith

Professor, researcher and acclaimed author Andrew Newberg, is a pioneer in the field of neurotheology. By taking brain scans of people in prayer, meditation, rituals and trance states, he and his colleagues are striving to understand the relationship between the spiritual self and the human brain. During this intriguing dialogue, Professor Newberg examines mystical experience, based on studies of brain activity in meditation and prayer practitioners. He notes that as certain subjects gave themselves wholly over to the practice, going beyond thinking or visualization to feeling that “the spirit of God was moving through them,” the experience of the self’s surrender was distinctly manifest in the brain.

Photo © Chris Roche

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March 2023

The Quaker Sacrament
By J. Brent Bill

In this beautiful essay about his Quaker experience, J. Brent Bill describes dropping into a “well of holy silence” to achieve inward, mystical union with the Divine. In what Quakers refer to as a gathered meeting, Friends sit expectantly in silence, without paid preacher, choir or structured litany, together experiencing Christ’s presence, “the deep silence of the soul is our Eucharist.” As J. Brent Bill relates during a gathering, “We sensed him in the electrified air. I felt charged with an awareness of the miraculous…the marrow of my bones hummed in holy recognition of the One…”

Read this powerful essay, now free and available to everyone, about how Quakers forsake religious rituals for the “inner sacraments full of life-changing spiritual power.” Subscribe to SUFI to explore the rich and varied collection of interviews, articles, poetry and more that are offered in each issue.

Photo © J. Brent Bill

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February 2023

Place, Plant, and Energy

Kim Lisson in conversation with Nyoongar Elders
Richard Walley and Carol Petterson

In SUFI Issue 95, consultant and writer Kim Lisson talked with two Aboriginal Elders of the Nyoongar nation to explore the Aboriginal reverence for nature and their experience of mystical sacredness and spirituality connected to place. Richard Walley describes how places have spiritual energies, offer mystical connections with ancestors and the great creator spirit, and are a source of “your link for your purpose.“ He emphasizes how Nyoongar people are united in an ecological worldview, seeing themselves as custodians of spiritual places. Carol Petterson describes how all plants and living things have a spirit of their own. She shares stories about the spiritual relationships that are found in all of nature to guide people in their lives, such as a bird that served as a spiritual totem for her and her family.

Photo: Wave Rock ©bigstock.com

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January 2023

From SUFI Issue 84
Shamanic Traditions and Sufism: Oruc Güvenç and the Healing Power of Music
By Azize Güvenç with Yousef Daoud

Born in Central Anatolia, Dr. Rahmi Oruc Güvenç was a Sufi, psychologist, musician and music therapist devoted to fostering the restorative use of spiritual music.  He founded TUMATA (Turkish Music in Research and Presentation) to study and leverage the use of shamanic and Sufi musical and dance traditions for healing. Dr. Güvenç passed away in July 2017. In SUFI Issue 84, wife of Dr. Güvenç, Azize Güvenç, and Yousef Daoud explore the similarities and distinctions in these ancient practices and TUMATA’s work to create what became known as “Ancient Oriental Music and Movement Therapy” (AOM). Using various instruments, each with a symbolic value, scales, tones and rhythms according to a patient’s needs, along with visualization, meditation, dhikr and sama, AOM creates “experience that bypasses the intellect and works on the whole organism,” and serves as “something through which the soul can fully unfold, and the doors to one’s intuition can open.”

Explore more about shamanism and Sufism and the fascinating work of Dr. Güvenç and TUMATA in the full article, now available for free at SUFIjournal.org.  Subscribe to SUFI for full access to each issue of essays, poetry, music and other features.

Photo ©Azize Güven

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December 2022

From SUFI Issue 96
An Interview with Tiokasin Ghosthorse
Interviewed by Sholeh Johnston

Tiokasin Ghosthorse manifests his indigenous life experience and the heritage of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota as a tireless activist, serving as a “voice of the people” to educate the contemporary world about the importance of living with Mother Earth. Nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, he founded and hosts “First Voices Radio,” a platform for native cultures from around the world, and also performs worldwide as a master musician of the cedar wood flute. In his SUFI Issue 96 interview, Tiokasin explores the vital languages of life that reflect our essential relationships with Nature and the heart. “In the “we” language that Lakota speak, “I” doesn’t exist.”

Enjoy this fascinating conversation now available for free at sufijournal.org. Subscribe to SUFI for full access to each issue of essays, poetry, music and other features. 

photo © Nancy Greifenhagen

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November 2022

From SUFI Issue 97
A Conversation with Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
From an interview by Fred Cooper and Chara Nelson

SUFI Issue 97 explores the role of dreams as guidance for seekers of spiritual enlightenment. Featured is an interview with Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, teacher and author in the Bön spiritual tradition of Tibet.  From an early age, Rinpoche has practiced Dzogchen, the Great Perfection Teachings, under masters of the Bön and Buddhist traditions. Fred Cooper and Chara Nelson talk with Rinpoche about the method of dream yoga described in his book, The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. He emphasizes that while everybody, rich or poor and from every tradition, has dreams, “…not everyone knows the meaning of what we dream each night and the valuable opportunity we have every single night when we go to sleep: to realize one’s blockages, to discover one’s potentiality, to exorcise and heal one’s wounds.”

artwork © Cameron Gray

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October 2022

From SUFI Issue 83
Culture Watch — PARVATHY BAUL
From an interview by Martin Harris

Reknowned singer Parvathy Baul is a practitioner, performer and teacher of the Baul tradition from Bengal, India. Martin Harris talked with her about the meaning of the Baul as a path of searching and how she was drawn to it as a “straight way to connect to the divine.” Holding the ektara, a one-stringed instrument, close to one’s right ear creates a constant OM sound from which the voice travels. “A Baul would say that I sing and dance to impress my beloved so my beloved will come and reside in my heart.”

Parvathy Baul will be in New York and New Jersey, USA for events during the month of October 2022. For event information: https://www.parvathybaul.com/retreat

Click here to read the condensed CultureWatch interview

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September 2022

From SUFI Issue 90
The Living Christ & Creation Spirituality
A Conversation with MATTHEW FOX
Interviewed by Joe Daoud Martin
Artwork by Helena Nelson-Reed

All the mystic spiritual paths converge in the thought and writing of Matthew Fox, an Episcopal priest and theologian who was interviewed by Joe Daoud Martin in SUFI Issue #90. With early roots in the Dominican Order, Fox’s spiritual evolution led him to be dismissed from his Order, and in 1993 he left the the Catholic Church altogether. From his deep immersion in mystical thought, he challenged traditional Christian theology with his concepts of the “Cosmic Christ” and “Creation Spirituality,” pointing to the potential for everyone to realize the spirit within. Explore Fox’s perspective on the deeply ecological and holy relationship between humanity and nature in this interview.

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August 2022

From SUFI Issue 91
Himalayan Buddhist Nuns and Gender Equality
By Dominique Butet
Translation by Susan Maneville
Photographs by Oliver Adam

The Dalai Lama and other Buddhist masters are calling for gender equality in the Buddhist tradition, recognizing that “the coming era will be more ‘feminine’ and women will make a greater contribution.” An article written for SUFI issue #91, Summer 2016, highlights women in the Buddhist tradition and describes how Buddhist nuns, once overlooked, are gaining access to education, theological training and greater self-sufficiency. SUFI article contributors, photographer Olivier Adam and his partner Dominique Butet, who is a journalist, had been documenting the path of Buddhist nuns in the Himalaya region for more than 8 years at the time of our article. Their photographic work Daughters of Buddha began in five nunneries in North India, near Dharamsala, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans found refuge in 1959 after the Tibetan Uprising. The nuns’ level of education has been growing thanks to their project. In December 2016, for the first time in history, twenty nuns received the so-called Geshema degree, the equivalent to a Doctorate in Buddhist philosophy.

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July 2022

From SUFI Issue 91
Showing Love in Our Actions
An Interview with ALEX WILSON
Interviewed by Safoura Nourbakhsh

The summer 2016 SUFI edition focused on the topic of gender, one of today’s turbulent issues. A First Nation view of how spirituality and gender intersect was explored with Alex Wilson, Associate Professor and Academic Director of the Aboriginal Education Research Center at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Her Opaskwayak Cree Nation language doesn’t recognize the Western male/female, but instead incorporates a spiritual belief system of connectedness among animate and inanimate identities. A central way of being is showing love in your actions and “…everyone is equal within the circle so that each person has a gift that they bring….”

photo © John Erickson

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June 2022

From SUFI Issue 92
Spiritual Activism
Bridging Contemplative Life and Action
A Conversation with ADAM BUCKO
Interviewed by Safoura Nourbakhsh

SUFI issue 92 features a 2017 interview with Fr. Adam Bucko, episcopal priest, writer, and activist. His profound spiritual journey across continents, beginning at age 17 leaving communist Poland, led him to work with homeless youth in New York City. Fr. Bucko describes accompanying children and youth in the experience of their suffering, being with them in a state of prayerfulness, receptivity, listening, and healing. “And it’s all Grace. And that’s when action becomes contemplation….” Fr. Bucko is now a leading voice for contemplative spirituality and the New Monastic Movement.

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May 2022

From Sufi Issue 85
Our Skin is Not Our Body
Interviewed by Llewellyn Smith

Almost a decade ago, Issue #85 of SUFI journal shared a rich and provocative dialogue about embodiment, offering the perspectives of two spiritual luminaries. Robert Thurman, author and academic, offering a Buddhist perspective, distinguishes the “course” from the “subtle” body and mind, and the joy and freedom to be realized with detachment from the course body. Hyun Kyung Chung, as an eco-feminist and Christian theologian, emphasizes the reality that “we are sharing the body of God… my body is connected with Buddha body, Christ body, earth body, universe body.”

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April 2022

From Sufi Issue 98
Nomads of the Tibetan Plateau

Interviewed by Tracy Butnett and Tsering Dorje

Many yearn for times past when daily lives and cultural identity were more grounded in the natural world. Trachung Palsang, raised amidst the Tibetan grasslands and nomadic culture, fosters environmental and cultural discussions with visitors to his hometown. In a dialogue with Tracy Burnett and Tsering Dorje, he offers stimulating and poetic insights into the socio-ecological underpinnings of Tibetan nomadic life— how efforts to sustain the interdependence of the four livestock of the grasslands bind households’ prosperity and grassland ecosystems in support of one another. Palsang offers his simple yet profound insight about the meaning to be found in the daily tasks of caring for animals, environment and needs of the community — “wherever there is real life, there is beauty.”

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March 2022

From Sufi Issue 94
Change Yourself, Change the World
A Conversation with NIPUN MEHTA
Interviewed by Russell Leung and Rita Fabrizio

Amidst such a troubled world, how can we overcome despair, and make the world a better place?  Nipun Mehta, once a successful Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur, is now realizing a vision for generating change in the world through service. Channeling his tech expertise, creativity and heartfulness, ServiceSpace (www.servicespace.org) was launched in 1999 as an online global, humanitarian community. Focused on small acts of service that catalyze inner and outer transformation, ServiceSpace is an incubator of “labor-of-love projects” and volunteerism, leveraging technology and generosity to fuel a giving economy with “a shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, scarcity to abundance, and isolation to community.”  Nipun’s impact is well-recognized, including as a recipient of the Dalai Lama’s Unsung Hero of Compassion award.

In SUFI’s 2018 interview, Nipun Mehta talks about his spiritual source and journey, and the transformation that can be realized through combining head, heart and hands in everyday acts of kindness.  

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February 2022

From Sufi Issue 87
Soil, Soul Society
An Interview with SATISH KUMAR
Interviewed by LLewellyn Smith and Annie Stopford

Jain monk Satish Kumar is relentless champion of pacifism and environmental causes who walked an 8,000 mile peace walk to the capitals of the world’s nuclear-armed countries, and founded and directs the Schumacher College international center for ecological studies. In a remarkable interview, Kumar shares his views that justice cannot be achieved for our human societies until we are committed to justice for the earth, how capitalism is driving ecological disaster, and that an alternative spiritual paradigm to sustain our souls and society is a slow life at peace with nature.

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January 2022

From Sufi Issue 37
Songs of the Sufi Mystics – Part II
An Interview with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Interviewed by Jameela Siddiqi

Having explored the origins of Sufi Music at the
Nizāmuddīn Shrine in Delhi (see SUFI, issue 36),
we headed towards our next stop, Lahore, a historic
Moghul city in the north of Pakistan.

Lahore was home to the world famous Qawwāl
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who died in August 1997,
only a day before his exclusive interview was to be
broadcast as part of a BBC World Service series,
“Songs of the Sufi Mystics.”

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