Saturday, December 17, 2011

Inspiration from the Life of..

Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

In December of 2005, in the midst of a spiritual crisis, I made a phone call to a private residence on the west side of Knoxville, TN. At the time I was serving two small churches in the United Methodist Tennessee Conference. That phone call benchmarks my introduction to the Sufi Order International and encounter with the teaching and life of Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan. Since that time Inayat Khan, as teacher and companion, has given me inspiration and a spiritual vessel in which to hold and expand my spiritual practice and religious ritual and healing work with others.

On the fifth of July 1882 Inayat Khan was born into a family of renowned Indian musicians from Baroda, India. Inayat Khan’s father, Rahmet Khan, was also an accomplished musician and dhrupad singer. Many musicians, poets, and philosophers both Muslim and Hindu met in Khan’s house. In this atmosphere Inayat Khan’s childhood and early youth was inspired, universal, and open to all beyond distinctions and differences. Thus from the beginning he was open to all religions. (“The Inner Life”, Foreword PG vii)

The Universal aspect of Inayat Khan’s teaching has been the model of religious dialogue I have sought to practice in my work as a chaplain and spiritual companion. Applying this universality I have worked to meet all people on their own terms. I strive to relay outwardly my respect for their traditions and beliefs seeking all the while to hold sacred space and time. Inayat Khan’s life and teachings have served as a guide and ideal for me in those situations where the people I serve hold spiritual beliefs and religious practices different from my own.

In my studies of Inayat Khan’s life and spiritual path I have discovered a period in Murshid’s life of tremendous challenge and difficulty. Sometime around his fourteenth year Inayat Khan endured the deaths of three significant figures in his young life, a beloved grandfather, his mother, and his spiritual teacher and mentor. As a result of these losses and the emotional strain over a short period- Inayat resigned his post as the court musician and singer for the nazim in the Maharaj of Hyderabad. “More and more clearly he began to feel an inner call that had been expressed by his mentor, Murshid Abu Hashim Madani inspiring him to go to the West and bring a message of Sufism, harmonizing East and West with his music.” (The Inner Life, Foreword PG ix)

These events coupled with this emerging “inner call” inspired Inayat Khan to actively teach and communicate the Sufi principles and practices, which under girded his gift of music. Traveling over three continents he shared his learnings and music in the West. As he traveled he discovered a hunger among his audience for these teachings and practices that revealed themselves in his music and singing. In reflection on this experience, Inayat Khan writes, “To serve God one must sacrifice the dearest thing, and I sacrificed my music, the dearest thing to me. Now if I do anything, it is to tune souls instead of instruments, to harmonize people instead of notes. I played the Vena until my heart turned into the same instrument. Then I offered this instrument to the divine Musician, the only musician existing. Since then I have become his flute, and when he chooses He plays His music.” (The Inner Life, Foreword PG xi)

This early confession of Inayat Khan articulates the complete focus of his life’s work and teaching. A big part of his work in the west included the establishment of “summer schools” and “learning centers” where participants were introduced to his music and the simple teachings and practices encompassing the Message.

Having journeyed through the west including, America, Great Britain, and France spreading the Sufi message of Love, Harmony, and Beauty offering new learnings and healing- Murshid returned to India to recuperate and rest. Murshid died unexpectedly on the fifth of February 1927 at the age of 44.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mitakuye Oyasin, "We are all related."

     A box was delivered to my back porch not too long ago which- upon opening- was found to be full of books. I discovered that my mom had passed on to me her library of Native American history and literature that she has accumulated over the years. One book in particular drew my attention, Mitakuye Oyasin by Ehanamani (Dr. A.C. Ross). Ehanamani has compiled an in depth survey of Native American Oral history citing more than 30 tribal sources and their teachings and philosophy. The common thread which unites these tribal sources is characterized in the phrase, mitakuye oyasin - "We are all related".
     As I read Ehanamani's work I am drawn to reflect on the implications of a life lived with mitakuye oyasin  as a guiding principle. What would be different in my life as I encountered, my neighbors, my enemies, the stranger, my co-workers and supervisors? Holding relational ties  with my neighbor would I continue to have an insulating and distant exchange, waving absent minded, as I hop in my car or retreat into my house? Or upon seeing my neighbor would I engage them briefly demonstrating my interest and concern for their well-being? Communicating the value I celebrate in my neighbor with love, giving thanks for them as a child of the Beloved and member of my family. Holding relational ties with my enemies would I continue to cultivate and nurse resentments and retaliation for perceived or "real" wrongs? Or would I respond with compassion and forgiveness recognizing that each and everyone of us have from time to time said or done hurtful things to another. Would I be able to respond with the depth of clear vision seeing in my enemy- my sister and brother- choosing the bond of kinship over the schism of hatred and suspicion? Holding up relational ties to the strangers I encounter would I casually look away or refuse to hear or refuse to act because they are not like me? Or might I offer to them all that I am able to without expectation or condition- inviting them to my table to be refreshed and renewed? Would I be courageous enough to come to aid the stranger who is also my mother, father, and child? Holding relational ties with my co-workers and supervisors would I give them  of my talent and experience only the bare minimum, holding at bay those gifts which may strengthen and enrich teamwork? Or would I be thankful that I am a part of a larger family with shared goals and common hopes for the work we carry?
     Mitakuye Oyasin claims we are related- no exceptions. As a guiding principle I choose, mitakuye oyasin- May this truth find root in my life and in the lives of all my Family- You are all Loved!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Reply to "Bowl of Saki"

By loving, forgiving, and serving, it is possible for your whole life to become one single vision of the sublime beauty of God.

Bowl of Saki, October 16, by Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

     Murshid teaches about loving, forgiving, and serving. As we live each day we navigate through a series of "engagements" some positive, challenging, and expected. Some of these "engagements" are quiet unexpected, frightening, aggravating, and negative. As we navigate these waters-We add on expectations about our interactions with others, our success in life, family, and career. In the midst of this reality we search for meaning, fairness, and hope.
     Witnessing this reality, about human nature, Murshid sought to model and teach the Way of the heart. This was not a "new" way but it was a way of living and relating that is easily forgotten.For Murshid the only way to navigate the known and unknown waters of daily life was to live fully the practices of loving, forgiving, and serving.
     (more on Loving, Forgiving, Serving to follow)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Law of Reciprocity

Murshid Inayat Khan and his son Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan- through living and teaching the Sufi message-   
     authored 10 Sufi thoughts. Murshid taught, "There are 10 principle Sufi thoughts, which comprise all the
     important subjects with which the inner life of man is concerned."
One of the 10 thoughts states, "There is One Law, the law of reciprocity, which can be observed by
     a selfless conscience, together with a sense of awakened justice."
The law of reciprocity describes how two individuals, groups even countries may respond in relationship.
     To the point- Reciprocity is, "a mutual exchange to give, do, feel (something similar) in return". We
      initiate and participate in mutual exchanges everyday. As we walk down the street we may greet or wave
      to a familiar face. And often a mutual exchange is shared between the two in the form of a returned wave
      or friendly embrace or blessing. These are examples of positive mutual exchanges.
      On the other hand we may be driving in rush hour traffic or find ourselves queuing at a slow register at the
      supermarket. If we encounter an agressive and rude driver the mutual exchange involves rude gestures
      or reckless behavior. In the supermarket queue this mutual exchange might involve impatience leading
      to harsh words or accusations being exchanged. It is fair to say that these are obvious even simple
      observations. The point is that all encounters we have everyday- often throughout the day -will be
      either positive or negative mutual exchanges. What determines the negative or positive character of
      these exchanges? We have the capacity and the opportunity to ensure positive mutual exchanges through
      out our day. This is true even if the genesis of a mutual encounter is negative.
Murshid points first to the necessity of one to possess a Selfless Conscience for positive mutual exchanges
     to be possible. Selfless may be understood as, "behaving without regard for one's own interest;
     unselfish". Conscience could suggest, "a knowledge or feeling of right and wrong". Taken together
     a Selfless Conscience  is -a conscience turned "outward" -or an unselfish knowledge or feeling of right
     and wrong. However, a Selfless Conscience alone may not be sufficient to turn all mutual exchanges to
     positive. A Selfless Conscience must work together with a sense of Awakened Justice. Awakened
    Justice implies that too often our sense of rightfullness, fairness, and correctness is latent or asleep in
    everyday mutual exchanges leaving the door closed to positive or enriching exchanges. Therefore
    Awakened Justice along side the Selfless Conscious sees one fully engaged and actively pursuing fairness,
    correctness and rightness that is mutual in character and outcome.
We have the opportunity to apply this law everyday in our minute by minute conversations or encounters with
     our neighbors and co-workers, friends and  loved ones. May the Law of Reciprocity be observed by a selfless conscience, together with a sense of awakened justice in all our encounters everyday!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Time on my hands

I am kneeling with my spine straight and legs in a half lotus position, breathing in and out, deep even breaths. Time is a gift and a mystery as I release my thoughts and give my Self to my heart center. In this center- in the core of my being- I meet my Ideal my Divine Beloved. Sitting in the presence of my Beloved I have time on my hands. Time is a gift and a mystery as the light and essence of the Beloved penetrates my Self and transforms my being. Time is a gift and a mystery as I commune with my Beloved. Deep within my heart center I am known and I KNOW the Light and Essence of my Beloved. I have time on my hands breathing in and breathing out deep even breaths. I am kneeling in a half lotus position with my spine straight. I have time on my hands to live and to act and to give to others. What gift can I offer ? What mystery do I reveal? The Light and Essence of my Beloved.