By Amodini March 2005 Sufism, an offshoot of Islam, is concerned with the personal and mystical experience of god. conveyed through dance, music, poetry, and a passionate yearning for the beloved, this lyrical path is captivating the attention of new age gurus and seekers alike… ‘Sufism talks about love of God. It is poetry, music, dance and God as the Beloved. That is what makes me Sufi. Yes! I am Sufi,’ says Gurumaa Anandmurti. She’s the singing, swinging guru of the 21st century, and the people around her are enchanted by her rhythms, touched to the core of their being by what she says and the way she says it. She’s modern, conscious of herself as a woman; she’s universal. She talks and teaches with healing nuances, more and more, about Sufism! ‘One who is drunk in the divine love is a Sufi,’ she says, adding, ‘I was in Turkey for one month, last year. I was greeted with great love and accepted by the people, and they shared with me their secret methods from the sema. I was the first one, where no woman has ever entered…’. I too feel strongly drawn to the path of the Sufi, and so do many others I know, as we set the mind to rest and let the heart do the talking; or rather, let the mind dance to the tunes of the heart. Humanity responds to the healing touch of Sufi consciousness, torn asunder and bereft of simple human values by the sharp and divisive ideologies and violent struggles of the 20th century that have almost set up soul against soul. Human civilization lies battered and brutalized in the harsh glare of I against you, mine is bigger, better, more uplifting than yours…the warp and woof of the cosmic grab cuts to the bone as a major part of ‘civilization’ lies shriveled and curled up, while there’s some who ride the trip to bigger, faster, higher, better. More and more of us turn away from what we see out there; there’s no words to express the tears shed within. It’s gotten too hot out here, Maan, I wanna go home! the sea says something to me in the dark, waiting on the edges, blurring, its gentle rushing in my ear; it beckons, i want to crawl in a hole, sleep…salty sea, misty, warm, enveloping, giving… The fog rolls in, healing, with the haunting aroma of pine and cedar on the air, giving a respite from the glare and the nerve-sapping heat of the sun. It covers the shards. There’s a subtle shift, some movement upon the air. There’s something gentle flowing, and it is not animal or human blood. The sounds of the reed begin to play, almost inaudible at first. The spirit moves, it is a healing drift, a gentle blowing upon the air… a quiescence, at first, and then the lilt of the Turkish ney (flute). Someone’s saying a prayer, for all humanity, for mercy and compassion. Bodies and minds that appeared deadened, numb, incapable of life or love, begin to sway to the soft, gentle tune. There’s more movement as the fog moves, casting its misty aura that makes things look ethereal and somehow, more human. Heads turn, eyes look skywards in supplication, and then to the chest, inviting a descent into the heart… Arms begin to link, and the spirit of dance and music, of rapt engrossment, discipline and responsibility, and yet, of joy in togetherness, of the mind and body unity, of harmony and celebration of God consciousness begins to touch more and more, drawing and encompassing all together in a loving swirl. Shapes and hues are mystically dissolved in the one, pure and white. A whirlpool of longing and invocation, of hope and faith… round and round, imitating the great cosmic choreography, speeding up without respite, until the sky bends down to kiss the earth and all life itself seems to merge on the horizon in a single spiral of ecstasy. There is magic and enchantment, self-discovery and self-forgetting, to learn the lesson of oneness and compassion… the forgotten message of the prophet. This is how the dance happens… Sufi Dervish DanceDance, when you’re broken open.Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.Dance in the middle of the fighting.Dance in your blood.Dance, when you’re perfectly free.– Rumi The spirit of Shams and his disciple, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi lives on in the dance of the dervish, as cherished spiritual heritage preserved in its pure form in Turkey. Rumi is the spirit of the dance and Rumi’s is the breath upon the pines that calls the sufi upon the path, through poetry and love, expressing longing for the beloved, the one and only, who serves to give meaning to the path. Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali teaches Islamic Studies at St. Xavier’s, Mumbai, and serves on the committees of many important institutions in the city. Zeenat, who recently visited Turkey, went to a mausoleum in Istanbul to observe the ritual of the dance of dervishes, describing the scene to me in an evocative, visual manner. The dance is a very formal thing, to be performed in a strictly choreographed manner, as the shaykh of the religious order leads his shagirds (disciples) into the ritual of the sema. It is a dance that begins with a prayer, in the community setting. Paradoxically, as with all things spiritual, the dividing lines blur once the spirit begins to move, and discipline and responsibility give way to freedom and bliss. Voices rise in a crescendo in zikr, the holy name, until the prayer and chant merges and fuses with the spirit in motion, attuned to the motion of the spheres in universal rhythm. The dance itself begins to be expressed as a prayer of yearning for the mystic divine in fusion with the music of the ney. Index fingers of the right hand raised high twirl heavenwards around a circular axis, while those of the other hand point to the earth. The dancers seem to encompass within their beings the entire universe. Round and round they go… individual and the cosmic leading and following each other in an indistinguishable unity. Waves of divine passion and rhythm carry afloat the dancers and onlookers into a unity of being and essence towards purging, exaltation and unfoldment in a formal, disciplined and stylistic form of self-expression. Sounds and invocations merge into a single word, Allahu~Allahu~Allahu~ in what is a totally overwhelming experience. It embraces the community as prayer becomes dance and dance becomes spirit, rising upwards into the ether. The path of the sufi began with the Prophet, the young mystic who wore the rough, patched robe of the mendicant. He lost himself in the mountains, in solitude, in contemplation and meditation and bathed in the descent of light, until the spirit learnt to move with angels and the speaker, the messenger and the message, all merged together into a single, spiraling whole… But the message of the mystic faded away for a while, in the din of dogma and doctrine, until the times were changing, and others, moved by suffering and the ecstasy of union, made their voices felt. A Persian poet wrote,I am happy even before I have a reason.I am full of Light even before the skyCan greet the sun or the moon.Dear companions,We have been in love with GodFor so very, very long.What can Hafiz now do but ForeverDance! And there were many who heard the Call, raising their heads in the fog, following the One in spirit, in dance, music, prayer and healing, through troubled times. Ibn Arabi, Al Ghazzali, Saadi, Attar, Sanai, Umar Khayyam. So many of the wanderers, touched by the spirit of oneness, spread out like the gentle seas to give the message of the sufi silsila, its spiritual lineage continuing from master to disciple through many centuries and cultures. This is how the dance of oneness began… The Dance Began With RumiRumi (1207-1273 CE) founded the order of dervishes, in his later hometown of Konia in Turkey. Where the previous sufis were the seas of mysticism, love and compassion, Rumi was oceanic in the universal sweep and depth of his vision and inspiration. Like many other sufis, Rumi was destined to be a wanderer, from the diffuse boundaries of northwestern Ind in what is now Afghanistan, to Persia and Turkey, to escape the scythe of violence and hatred, traveling across many lands in the course of a remarkable life, speaking many languages. He declared that the whole world was his homeland. the sea plays upon the strings of my heart passionate music i want to give the sea all my love life body and soul He was dervish, scholar, philosopher, poet and mystic, and his genius fused body, mind and spirit together as the instrument of divine inspiration, bringing in the community in prayer. Rumi was the first in a long time, to speak of finding God through service to humanity. He also taught to love the saints, as Perfect Men. And the Sufi was to be recognized by the purity of heart! Rumi, who was modest and humble to the core, had suffered under intolerance and bigotry from the beginning, and he decried fanaticism, intolerance and zealotry. Like most sufis before and after, Rumi spoke the holy word of Quran, dedicated his life to zikr, repeating the holy name until it merged with the living breath, said the prayers and observed the fasts, following the faith of the One and none other! And yet, Rumi fashioned words that also spoke of advaita and the gospel, avesta, and the talmud, so that all the streams and rivers and seas merged into the vast ocean of human understanding, faith and experience of God, in a celebration of the spirit. Rumi also gave the world parables in Persian, and many of these had origins in the Panchatantra of ancient India, like the story of the elephant and the blind men. Rumi spoke straight from the heart, using the language of love, nature and the world around him in the mystical verse of Divan-i-Shams-i-Tabriz and the voluminous Mathnavi. His work was centered in love; to him, music
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