Dear Companions on the Path,
Autumn greetings! Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Bay Area in California. It was a joy to see my mother Taj and brother Mirza, and to be with many fellow ashiqs and murids. The wonderful Hub Foundation in Pleasanton hosted me for a screening of Enemy of the Reich, followed by my reflections. I always find it excruciating and elevating at the same time to tell Pirzadi-Shahida Noor’s story: painful because of the intense darkness Noor endured in Pforzheim and Dachau, but moving on account of the brilliance of her awe-inspiring soul-light. Afterward we convened in Berkeley for a two-day retreat on the subject of Making One’s Own Nature, with special attention to the Practice of the Symbol.
A particularly memorable highlight of the weekend was meeting the Buddhist ecological philosopher Joanna Macy, whom my esteemed friend Shams Kairys brought to the retreat. Now in her nineties, Joanna Macy is a living treasure of earthy wisdom.
Back in Richmond, we have been frequently webcasting from the Astana. Approximately two Sundays a month we hold a Gatha class that is live streamed. This month, in addition, I have been giving commentaries on The Mysticism of Music and Sound on Thursdays. The extraordinary Ustad Sukhawat Ali Khan has joined me in these webcasts. Ustad Sahib’s singing, playing, and ecstatic mudras are pure ghiza-i ruh, food for the soul. If you haven’t tuned in yet, I invite you to sign up via this link.
Here in the U.S., over the last weeks the confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice accused of sexual assault has riveted the nation, sparking fierce debates about what fairness demands—toward the accuser and the accused alike. So intense at times was the contention that basic human empathy seemed almost completely eclipsed by sectarian zeal, bringing to mind George Washington’s prescient warnings about the dangers of partisanship. Underscoring our fraught national conversation is the dawning realization of the scale on which sexual harassment and assault exists in our society, and the pressing need to address it directly. There is growing recognition of the necessity of a collective ethical renewal rooted in what the heart knows.
The need to reimagine our individual and collective lives was recently brought home in a still more encompassing context by the new report of the International Panel on Climate Change. The report warns that Earth will become a drastically less hospitable planet, for ourselves and for innumerable species, as early as 2040—unless a civilizational shift is swiftly achieved.
A hundred years ago, Murshid and the Murshidas saw that sacred nature is the mother of all books, that Earth is a vital organic unity, and that humankind is an interconnected whole. Another century must not pass before these crucial realizations become the substance of the spirit of the age. May we be among those who are to bring about the transfiguration of the Earth.
P.S. When I last wrote I promised that, at my next chance, I would explain the meaning of the word ashiq. In Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, ashiq literally means “lover.” More generally, it means someone who is sincerely devoted to something. Anyone who formally or informally enters the broad fellowship of a Sufi path is traditionally known as an ashiq. What does this mean for us in the Inayati Order and its Activities? A full explanation is in preparation.
“My deep sigh rises above as a cry of the earth, and an answer comes from within as a message.”
The most vital questions are not those that drift on the breeze of airy speculation, but rather the ones that spring direct from the earth of immediate experience. When the handful of clay that is one’s life mingles with the rich sediment of life upon life upon life, powerful questions—and ardent cries—naturally arise.
So long as one lives and breathes, every exhalation is followed by an inhalation. In the same way, every question asked of the Spirit is answered.
If the mind, the heart, and the soul are distracted, no answer will be discernible. If the mind is awake but the heart and the soul are asleep, the answer will come in rational form. If the heart is awake but the soul is asleep, the answer will come in moral form.
If the soul is awake, the answer will come as a message intimating the Message of God. It will come as a never-to-be-repeated disclosure and enactment of the Love and Beauty that indwell forever in the One.
The Mysticism of Sound & Music Online Fall Series
Join Us for the Last Two Classes!
Join us for the last two Thursday evenings in October at the Astana in Richmond, Virginia, or online any time, and experience the Sufi teachings of the Indian musician and mystic, Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927) with Pir Zia Inayat-Khan and special guest musician-in-residence, Sukhawat Ali Khan.
When: Thursday, October 18 and 25
Where: The Astana & Online
Angelic Lights: A Weekend Seminar with Pir Zia Inayat-Khan
17-18 November in London, England
For info and booking email Karima at [email protected]
Making One’s Own Nature with Pir Zia Inayat-Khan
1-2 December in Cambridge, MA – Register Now