Friday, July 2, 2010

Friend, this is the only way...

Here is a letter I received today:

Hi Hareem -

Yesterday, I was driving home from work, listening to BBC news on the radio, and was saddened to hear of a bombing at a shrine dedicated to another Sufi saint in Lahore, Pakistan. More than 40 people were killed and many more badly injured. I haven't heard a definite explanation for why the bombing occurred there, but people are speculating that it was a bombing by an extremist group who object to the inclusive nature of Sufi practice in the region.

Each culture, each tradition has its violent extremists. We have Christian extremists in the West, particularly in the US, where I live. We have Jewish extremists in Israel and other places. Islamic extremists have certainly grabbed headlines in recent years. There are Hindu extremists in India. Extremism is not a problem of a particular religion, it is a disruption in the human psyche in general.

Religious extremism has very little to do with religion, if you think about it. It's partly a reflexive response to the intensely fragmenting nature of the modern world. And it's partly a reaction against the unavoidable, sometimes unsettling encounters with different peoples and cultures and beliefs in our ever-more integrated and multi-layered world. But mostly-- mostly it is an act of desperation when the heart of true religion has been lost. People become violently obsessed with rules and traditions and texts only when they have lost the sense of what they really point to.

If you know where the Beloved lives, you are content, no need to argue with others over street names. Conflict only arises when you aren't so certain you know the way; that's when another person's map threatens your certainty. Fundamentalism and extremism are an admission of that spiritual uncertainty. Absolutism is not an expression of faith, it is a symptom of a lack of faith. It is a symptom of the lack of true spiritual experience and knowledge.

The real long-term solution to the problem of violent religious extremism in the world is to reawaken that sweet, secret, sacred bliss within ourselves, to gently and generously share it with others, to create environments conducive to that continuing quest. The more we fill the world's dry troughs with fresh water, the less likely it is that people will go insane with blind thirst.


So, in affirmation and solidarity with the Sufi community in Pakistan, I thought I'd send out a poem by another Sufi saint from the region today...

The name Sachal Sarmast can be translated as Ecstatic Saint of Truth. He is sometimes called Sachoo, The Truthful.

Sachal Sarmast was born in the Sindh region of what is today Pakistan, and is considered one of the great poets and Sufi mystics to emerge from the region.

Rather than blindly following tradition, Sachal urged people to seek the truth directly. And like ibn Arabi and others, Sachal Sarmast taught a vision of Unity called Wahdat al-Wujud, which others have compared to the great nondualist teachings of Advaita Vedanta within Hinduism and Zen/Chan within Buddhism.

Sachal Sarmast once said, "He (God) is everywhere and in each and every phenomenon. He has come here just to witness His own manifestation."

Sachal Sarmast was born Abdul Wahab in the village of Daraza in the Sindh region. His father died when he was a young child, and Abdul Wahab was raised by his uncle, who also became his spiritual master.

His soul was deeply moved by music. Listening to music, he was often enraptured, tears pouring down his face.

Sachal Sarmast married, but the young woman died two years later. He never remarried.

He took the name Sachal, Truth. Later people added Sarmast, Leader of the Ecstatics, to his name in appreciation of his spiritual poetry.

Sachal Sarmast lived a humble, ascetic life, preferring solitude, simple meals of daal and yogurt. It is said that he never left Daraza, the village of his birth. Yet he composed sacred poetry in seven different languages, poetry that is loved and sung to this day.


Sending much love!

(Poetry Chaikhana)

"Friends, this is the only way" by Sachal Sarmast (1739-1829) ~translated by Ivan Granger

Friend, this is the only way
to learn the secret way:

Ignore the paths of others,
even the saints' steep trails.

Don't follow.
Don't journey at all.

Rip the veil from your face.

No comments:

Post a Comment