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Sufi Conference 2008 - Iman Bilal Hyde - Zikr

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Let's start with a prayer, which are also seven lines that open up the whole process. If you don't know it say your own prayer. I'm just going to do traditional prayer. So I'm going to share with you, ah, bits and pieces, let's say. The beautiful rose garden that we call the zikr, remembrance of god. The first thing you notice about it is there's so many ways to do it. Isn't that wonderful. You know you can sort of pick and choose, like among beautiful roses in a garden. So zikr of the tongue, the vocal zikr. There's the silent zikr. There's a zikr of the foot you might be interested in, Sufi dancing. Zikr of the physical. Zikr of the heart. Zikr of the spirit. Really with every fiber of one's being, physical, mental, and spiritual. All the dimensions that make us human. One finds that the energy and time that one learns this skill is quite beneficial and is something for everyone. That's why it's all over the world. So some people, as we experimented with this morning. in Pir Zia's, or was that last night, the muraqaba, This is the vocal zikr with a little drum. Thank you Karim for that mid-west vibe you've got. I like it very much. There's something about the Nile and Missouri rivers we found out, that produces the same kind of rhythms. It's wonderful. The zikr of the hand. The zikr of the heart. The zikr of the blood, even. I knew an old Indian sufi who took his pulse and used that as a rhythm for zikr. It's fantastic and wonderful how many multi-various in its approaches to different kinds of zikrs. Let me give you some of the more classical and yet exotic varieties of zikr before I start to talk about what it is and what it does. So continuing with a theme of its multi-various and multi-dimensional activities, there is muraqaba, we've seen that. Muraqaba is what I call a kind of eyes closed meditation. One is very quiet in a very still position with the eyes closed and observes, literally, muraqaba the breath for instance. And that's exactly, a thousand years ago, how it was translated into classical Persian. Hush dar dam, which literally is observing the moment, observing the breath something like that, and that's kind of familiar to people I think in this culture. However, there are plenty of different other, sort of modes. There's what I call a sort of eyes open zikr which can be done walking around or hiking like I like to do or something like that. That's called tefekkür in classical Arabic. Tefekkür is kind of an active contemplation. Seeing what's around you like sight, hearing, touch, smell the usual outward senses of the physical world and contemplating those as different manifestations, or signs of God. It's kind of an active or an eyes open meditation. Many people when they're training in this kind of active, or eyes open meditation the trainer, the Murshid, the one who trains you in this puts you out in nature in a natural spot surrounded by the beauties of nature and asks you to contemplate or remember the names or the different aspects of God, usually called jamali divine beauty and that's the way you start in that type of practice Other types or modes, these are usually advanced practices are mohasaba, mohasaba. There's another way to do this, to remember God and it goes like this: usually every twenty four hours, but you begin usually in a treat situation It depends on who's training you. You sit down at the end of the day and you recollect the thoughts, words, and actions of that day. It comes from hesab, which means literally like an account book, you know. You make an account of yourself in what went on during the day. This is a wonderful practice, also advanced usually. And this is what you do when you take account of that day in thoughts, words, and deeds. See it's kinda like a diary version of zikr. What you do is you recollect, it's a win-win situation. You recollect all the things that reflect the divine in your everyday life thoughts, words, and deeds. And usually you say something like Alhamdulillah shuk'Ala which is just thank God in plain English. And then in this recollection exercise you might recollect all the things that didn't reflect, to put it delicately, the divine face of the Beloved. And you say, also a formula for that is Estaghfirullah or something like that and in plain English this means like God forgive me, more or less. One takes stock literally in mohasaba of one's daily or weekly or monthly activities, something like that and what happens is slowly but surely the remembrance, quote-unquote or the consciousness of God extends in to the fabric of one's daily life, if you see what I mean and isn't just a recollection or an accountant type of situation This is another way to remember God. It is not for beginners, they say. So, that's another way. Other sort of exotic examples of zikr is called, zikr mustamir or tefekkür These are technical terms for exotic or advanced forms of zikr And that is a long training basically Some of my students are very impatient with me One studies for years in order to remember one's breath, basically 24:7. when you're talking to people, or driving, or doing other activities You have to start out very slow with a pillow and a rug and nice Indian music. but after a while one trains in tefekkur to do the remembrance usually on a breath using a very complicated system of breathing in order to remember God, as I say standing, sitting, and lying down it means in all situations of life and that's quite a long training period and usually particularly difficult, I noticed, for most people but it can be done. It can be done. People are, you know, on a keyboard doing their daily activities and yet they're remembering God inside their own heart, and that's called zikr mustamir,or tefekkür; it's called various things. Let's see tefekkür, and mohasaba, what've I left out? That's a good, I think, few examples that people might not be familiar with in the different ways of remembering Allâh in the advanced practices. What's this for, as my daughter's used to say, what are we doing this for? There is a polish for every rust and the polish for the heart is the zikr Allâh, is remembrance of God That is a hadîth of Hala Salaam? and should be pointing the direction for anyone who wishes to being the path of zikr whether silent or vocal, physical or mental. It's all doing the same thing. Every avenue or mode of implementation is polishing the heart. When usually in Sufi manuals, they say this zikr or that zikr they're talking about ritual or technique. That's a good place to begin. However, the actual process of polishing the heart, is this, it is actually remembering God. It is actually remembering God, even for a moment. And the Sufis define this as forgetting about the self which is quite difficult if you haven't tried it yet. In other words, remembering the self is our usual mode of operation in this world. You always remember yourself. But to actually forget the self and remember God is quite a good working definition of zikr. It's simple. It's direct, and we're all trying to do it. No matter what techniques we use, it actually has the same goal. Remembering God, forgetting the self, that's the trick. So, we'll talk about who to remember and what to forget and then insha'Allah by whatever means or mode or technique you want to use we can try that for the rest of the weekend. I think remembering God is the problem - what's that like? Well it turns out that language really gets in the way and there's an inexplicable, overwhelming, and awesome experience that takes place when we remember God. In classical Sufi tradition, there's a few people They only lasted til the khwajagan period, so most of it's been lost for a thousand years. and I did a little project to dig it out, called the ninety-nine names. So, I want to decode the words a little bit. Who is it that we remember? Both Zalman Schachter, my old mentor, and a Cistercian monk reminded me that the word Allah is used in the church, synogogue, as well as the mosque. and existed way way before the mission of Mohammad Al Salaam So it's this ancient Semitic word that really means something. Another rabbi friend of mine wrote a wonderful book called, God is a verb. and the reason you can do that is cause the nature of this language to decode it. In other words, moderns who speak the language have forgotten it. And people make all kinds of assumptions about it, so it's universal and ancient. What does it mean? It turns out, just to bore you with a little semantics, that all these words come from verbs. In other words, there has to be a word that means, to God, if you will. It has to be an action, an active flow, something that's not static. So it's something you do. You know, it's something you do. In the verb itself...I'm just translating and it's - to God - that's not very elegant, is it? My God, You God, He/She and Its God. I don't know the way that works. But it is a verb and it means to do something, something happens when you say that word. What is it? Well this wonderful exotic language, it embraces two core concepts. The word Allâh embraces two core concepts: to do something and something else. One thing and Pir Zia reminded me of Pir Shibli, it's to go mad. It's to go insane. It's to go nuts. The other concept, core concept, is to fall in love. In other words not just to fall in love, but madly in love. It's to go nuts with passion. It's to go insane with desire. Somehow, that one word in ancient Semitic tied those two concepts together Well it's not such a stretch. You've all been fourteen and in love. Just think of Romeo & Juliet. Sort of to go, absolutely mad with passion and desire. To go crazy with love. Topsy turvey is one of my favorite definitions. But it's not just enough to say that God is Mashuk, the Beloved. There must be this element of madness, irrationality in there to really capture that word. It's a nice fat juicy word, that's a linguistic term you know. It has to encompass both those notions, or you just won't get it. So it's dynamic, it's verbal, and it's both passionate and insane. It's to go out of one's mind with desire. So it turns out, even in the dictionary, all those Sufis were right. All those Majnun and Layla stories, they just said Allâh originally and they got it. That really says it all. You know you can read about it, you know all the drama, in five acts if you want to. But it is a code. All these words are like codes. for this kind of drama, this kind of compassion, this degree, the vehemence, the heat of love is enough to drive you literally out of your mind. And I think that also Sheikh Llewellyn talked about that edge of madness, also. There's an edge of madness and there's much much passion and drama and the heat and fire and light of love. If you just understand that much about Allâh you might not just say Allâh. You might say Alll lllahh, you know get it in there. You were all fourteen and in love once, maybe her name was Julie or something but you know this is Sufism. Allll lllahhh That kind of says it all. You have to have the heat of passion and the insanity. The insanity is so important, and when they talk about Majnun, which means, he who is nuts. Let's face it you know they're saying something. This is a manifestation of that burning, burning, deep desire that we're all born with. We're all born with that. We come out of the womb with that degree of passion, craziness, and wonder. That is so important, and I think that's a very important place to start cause if you don't know who you're remembering or you're trying to remember You know what's the point? You see. I mean for me, and I'm a native English speaker obviously, G-O-D doesn't get it. Somehow the passion, the insanity, the..they talk about yearning We talked about yearning, that's a good place. Well of course yearning that's all we're trying to say. Yearning for Allah is kind of a tautology. Isn't it, I mean you yearn for the Beloved. That's what you..the Beloved, this passion, this crazy passion is that yearning. Now it turns out that yearning and we talked about yearning of the heart, yea? Qalb? Ok. Just to give you an idea of how really sexy this language is. I don't mind telling you that. I mean God bless those 19th century Scottish Presbyterians, who translated this stuff. I mean I know what they were probably trying to do but I'm gonna tell you the truth. You know, the word for himma... I always get in trouble when talking about this stuff but hey it's in the dictionary. It's scholastic, don't worry. Himma. Himma, that's the original word. You know that comes from a real life soap opera in the Quran, actually. The word the Sufis use for yearning, you know the stories about Joseph, Alyahis' Salaam. Now I don't know how you translate this, but if the lady of the house tricks the young servant and shuts the door and tries to tear his clothes off, I don't call that aspiration. You know I can find that in the dictionary; it kind of leaves me cold. I know what they mean. I don't know what they were trying to do. They were Scottish and German clerics, but you know I have a few other words I can think of to translate that. But that's exactly the word, that's the context of the verse that the Sufis use. It's Himma. Ok yearning, fine. Whatever it is. But yearning for god, you see where we're going with this, It's passionate. It's crazy. She had a lot to lose, right? Like her status and Potiphar's wife... You know the whole story. I won't go over that. But it's crazy. It's passionate, and drives you to do things you normally wouldn't do. So what we call yearning, or in the dictionary aspiration, is really really hot. It's a kind of burning and yearning. And it's that word that the Sufis specifically chose to describe desire for God Desire for God. Because I'll tell you. The older I get the more I realize, in spite of paperback books there's very few mystics in the world. I know, it's disappointing. You know in 1970 you thought everybody would be a mystic. But I was in Santa Cruz. Everybody was pretty mystical in those days. On some kind of substances, they were all magic mushroom types. And I thought Carlos Castaneda, I thought this was it. It'd be like a mystical age. But unfortunately, I find out that you know, that yearning for the Beloved, it kinda grows cold. I don't know how many of you are married or been in relationships but It kind of goes cold or kind of flat. It flattens out. But not so, it turns out, for mystics. That burning, that yearning, just doesn't last a moment or a year or through youth. It burns like a very hot blue flame through one's life, and that it turns out that yearning of the heart for the Beloved, for Allâh. Now you know what I mean, for All llah, really is the center of the heart. We remember the Beloved with that yearning of the heart. That burning, yearning, longing, desire itself. For the heart. If one is so lucky as to realize and stay in touch with this kind of desire, with this yearning then one remembers the Beloved. Then one remembers the Beloved, you see. It turns out that there are very few mystics who are so blessed as to be tortured by this degree of desire. They are called the lovers. They are called Sufis, the wanderers, the seekers There's all kinds of names for them, but they all have this in common: It just won't let you alone. And so to explain this rather unusual experience, poets and mystics have used the language of common experience, falling in love. That's a common human experience. To explain or to symbolize what remembering Allâh is something like what you've all experienced. So let's go back to love. Sing teenagers in love after this. It's not too traditional a Sufi song, but we can sing teenager in love. You know what you think about, the first thing when you wake up, when you're in love. Remember that? Pretty hot, huh? That's right, even before you open your eyes, you're a teenager in love now. Who do you think about? Other people are thinking about their stock market report, or the weather or their latest ailment or something like that. Not a lover. You know that. You know a lover has other problems, but love is just so great. I mean it's burning, yearning, the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning... is Allah. That's the honest to God truth. That's how you know. That's remembrance right there. That's how you know. That's a real zikr, by the way. That's not some kind of technique that you have to do for hours and hours of beads. You're just in love. You see what I mean, you get up.. It's really annoying being around these, people by the way, if you're not in love. You know what I mean, it's like do you want some toast? Yes, she loves toast. She's not there. She loves rye bread with picked herring. That's an old Arabian recipe, rye bread with pickled herring by the way. You know what I mean, that's remembrance. Honestly, the bread reminds you of Allâh. It's just like that. It's a common experience but this last for a lifetime like that. You go outside, and every street is named Juliet Avenue. We walked there, I remember when we walked there. Ahhh, you know you're nuts! You're in love. Every street is like Divine Avenue, Holy Alley, you know it's like that. It's great. You're in love. Remembrance takes hold of you and the yearning is so hard. You are reminded..everything in your life... Rûmî and Shamsi Tabriz must've been great, God bless them both, did this little thing called a retreat, a halwat and instead of saying, I don't know the Turks always say paneer, paneer... You know the cheese seller in the street says cheese cheese for sale. All of a sudden he said they were saying Allâh. The birds are saying tweet-tweet, whatever the classical Persian for tweet tweet is. I haven't looked it up yet. They said Allâh-Allâh all the birds. You see? You are in this vast ocean of love, every drop of which... Every drop of which reminds you of the Beloved. Junayd said he couldn't sleep at night. I think it was Junayd or Hâfiz. Because all the crickets were saying Allâh, Allâh, and he couldn't get to sleep. He said Allâh thank you so much for opening my heart, now would you close it a little bit. I'd like to get a little rest, but not so for lovers. Remember? Tears on my pillow. I can sing that song. We were talking about Rock -n-Roll. Yes, tears on my pillow. That's a Sufi song. You know, couldn't get to sleep at all last night. You know that burns you, that keeps you awake at night. That occupies your heart. That's a zikr. The zikr is to forget about the self, even for a moment, and remember the Beloved. Because you are in love. I hate to say this but I've been an Iman for almost forty years. I sound like one of those old guys, you know. And I've seen a lot of weird stuff in my lifetime. But you know that's the religion biz. I worked in San Quentin Prison for decades. One thing I noticed is that people go to sleep. They become passionate. The passion wakes up in their heart and they're raring to go and their burning with compassion and they start all kinds of projects But slowly, slowly, slowly they fall back to sleep. You start out with a lot of steam but slowly but surely you start to remember the self, the self, the self, the self instead of Allâh. That is a very important and I must say necessary place to be in. Believe it or not, it's part of the journey. It's called Sufi burnout. That's not a technical term, that's just something we made up in Berkeley. Sufi burnout, it happens I know. I know about it. But the real physicians of the heart, they're called tabib al-qalb The physicians of the heart have many many ways. They understand this malady burnout And to revive or to rekindle that burning desire, just like a teenager in love is so so important. To keep that spark, to keep that burning alive, is really most of what these techniques are for. They really are. They're artificial. They're a bit ritualistic and repetitive, I know, but they work. Most of the books are written in either Arabic or classical Persian so they come out that way. But, if you can do this or any other practice in your own language and it means something to you, then do it. One of the dangers, I would say, as a westerner I would say, of a non-western tradition is exoticism used mainly for escape purposes. I know it happens. This is a danger, actually. When you're starting out you can do all kinds of things like that. But what happens is, in Catholic theology is called acculturation. There's a tension between the culture and the exotic spiritual path My point is you have to make this stuff your own. You know what I mean? I can tell you this. You have to make it not only familiar. You have to take it on your own terms If it's a borrowing and it feels uncomfortable and weird or terroristic or whatever I'm threatening now - just don't do it. That zikr means zikr of the Beloved. The Beloved isn't a priest or a rabbi or an iman. You see what I mean. It can't be that way. It has to be transcendental. It must necessarily transcend all of those formal aspects. or it won't work. You'll just put it in a box and forget about it. In the mysticism of sound and breath, however, there are certain- I don't know how detailed to get about this. There are certain mystical dynamics that work. For instance, the in breath and the out breath, that's normal. The in breath and the out breath work like this... But see in my kind of dialect, I'm gonna translate it into something I'm familiar with. You can hopefully, the creative part will be you'll be able to do this is whatever tradition you're in. And that's what's so wonderful about the freedom of the Sufi tradition, you can just take it and use it. But in the classical tradition, for instance, I'll just give you a couple of examples. If you break up Al and Lah, into two parts, in your in breath or out breath or lâ ilâha is one part and illâ allâh is the other part, so you have an in breath and an out breath So the dynamic is the same. This is what happens. There is a kind of mystical balance and harmony and wholeness and healing that happens and healing that happens in the breath practice or the chanting. For instance, Al is positive and Lah is negative, it means no. Lâ ilâha is called nafi which means negative and illâ allâh is positive. So in the dynamics, using the classical terms in this tradition, you balance all the negatives with all the positives. You can do this with thoughts, negatives - positives, cause you're breathing right. We know you're breathing. You can do this with emotions, say anger and compassion and forgiveness Every time, in other words, a negative emotion comes up you say La' Ilaha. You match it. It's negative. Now we know you have to breath out. We know this. You breathe out, illâ allâh compassion and forgiveness. See what I mean, so the specifics of the mantra, it probably works out, I think they re-did it in Hebrew in Israel. They balance each other in the specifics. So we use that part of the language to achieve what's called Al-mizan, It means balance and harmony and we do that on many many levels. I covered the word Allâh right. It consists of two parts, Al, it's positive. Lah is negative. Now I'm cheating, because I left off one little letter at the end, "h". It's not Alla it's Allâh. Huh, it's a very nice sound. That's the transcendental or third element. The h of Hu in Sufi codes. H stands for Hu the transcendental element. that is what is beyond all positive and negative. and also embraces all positive and negative. It's called Camul, it means not a camel. It means perfection. It's a syllable of perfection. Somehow the h of Hu, it transcends all opposites, into a kind of mystical unity. It's called ahadiyya. It's quite exquisite, and it's contained in that single syllable hu. Sufis usually give away secrets. You know it's a secret that that: "h" stands for Hu Most people say Allâh, the cool Sufis say Allâ. They don't want to give away the secret. The qawwalis and stuff go Allâh-hu Allâh-hu, you know they blab it. It's alright. It's alright. We like popular Sufism. Quit saying that, you know quit telling everybody it's Allâ-hu. Yea, it really is- that's the transcendental syllable. So, this is just to give you an idea that although it can be translated out into other sacred languages, Sanskrit or so forth and so on, and it has been. This is the way classical Sufism has used it, but if you can't use it don't. And just to sort of summarize, you may feel that rekindling of desire in song. You may feel it in breath. You may feel it in meditation. There's no really wrong or right way to do it. My suggestion is find the one that's right for you. Pursue that one. One thing that I'm absolutely delighted with about, particularly this gathering, I think is so important is that we visit each other in the different practices, the different strands are woven together and coming out of this knowing that we're all really doing the same thing in different ways is so refreshing, isn't it? It's so refreshing. rather than saying my group is better than yours, or something like that. There's something that works for everybody. Sufism has been around for you know thousands and thousands of years. I've met Cambodian Sufis from San Jose, Vietnamese Sufis and really Chinese Sufis, you know where it's against the law. And that really people are doing this practice all over the world, not just in California. You may be shocked to know that people do that elsewhere. But it's so refreshing to know that there's something for everyone in this vast vast garden of zikr. Thank you very much. Thank you so much.

Video Details

Duration: 1 hour, 29 minutes and 36 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 1,624
Posted by: oneness on Dec 31, 2009

Iman Bilal Hyde introduces the Zikr. The Zikr is the repetition of a sacred word or phrase. To be present at a meeting of lovers who in unison profess the name of their Beloved transports one into the arena of love.

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