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Sufi Conference 2008 Closing Talk - Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

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So friends, as we come to the... to the ending of this Sufi gathering, I wanted to tell you a little bit about it. First of all I want to say how grateful I am, for all of the presenters, and their wonderful contributions, and also all the participants, because there is as much an art to listening and being present, and being receptive as to talking. In fact I think it is a greater art, to being attentive with the heart, between really listening, rather then talking. There is a beautiful story actually, that comes from the Renaissance, about a lute player and his friend. And there is an icon in Renaissance paintings, of a lute with the strings of the lute cut, and in Renaissance iconography, this image, is a symbol of great and deep friendship. And it comes from the story of a lute player, who was an amazing lute player, and he had a friend who listened to him, and who really appreciated his music. And where ever the lute player went this friend went and heard his music. And one day the friend died, and the master lute player then cut the strings of his lute, and never played again. So that is a symbol, a deep image of the bond, between what is said and what is heard. So... as I mentioned at the beginning of this gathering in Sufism, in Mysticism most things are hidden and some are revealed when there is a need for it to be revealed. And when I was hoping to go to sleep last night, an aspect of this gathering began to reveal itself. So if I am a bit blurry eyed it is for that reason. And what I realized is that, as I mentioned, the first of these Sufi Conferences happened almost 8 years ago here. And I realized that in fact it has been one Sufi Conference. Eight years ago, if you like the dervish tent was erected. Here on the land and as I mentioned, we where welcomed by the spirit of the land, by the Native American tradition. And as in true dervish tradition, that tent has been taken from place to place. It has gone from here, to North Carolina, and back to here. It has been in upstate New York. But essentially it is the same tent that was erected. It has been the same conference, that has lasted for 8 years. And this seems to be very important. A few of you have been through all of those conferences, some of you are here for the first time. It doesn't matter because this is the true nature of a Sufi Gathering. I remember when Mrs. Tweedie was open in the afternoon and people would come and go, they would come, they would sit, they would meditate, they would share a cup of tea and then they would go and other people would come. And her place was open for the whole week like with her sheikh Bhai Sahib. His house was open, the courtyard was there for people and people come and go. And time and space are not a limitation. So this has has been an 8 year Sufi Gathering that is now coming to an end. And I will try to say a little bit about it, a little bit that I have been shown. As I say, most remains—for the Mystic, for the Sufi— most remains in the unseen world. But we are allowed, just as we are allowed occasionally to glimpse our true nature, as Peter Kingsley beautifully expressed, occasionally to glimpse that bigger dimension of our heart. So, sometimes the curtain lifts a little bit and the unseen world returns. Now, 8 years ago I gave my first public talk here in the Sufi Conference. It was my first public talk outside of just our Sufi tariqa. And I was prompted for the first time in my life to talk about the awiliya, the Friends of God. And I have a sense, it was actually the first time that a public talk had ever been given, in America about the awiliya. And I will explain a little bit about the awiliya, about the Friends of God. In Sufism there is the sheikh and the sheikh is to his tariqa, is to his group like a father is to his children. And the responsibility of the sheikh is to look after the spiritual well being, the spiritual evolution, the spiritual development of those who are drawn to that particular tariqa. Whatever tariqa you belong to, like with Pir Zia and the Chishti tariqa or with Shabda Khan or other people who are drawn to a particular tariqa, the purpose of the sheikh, of the Pir is to look after the individual spiritual well being of those who are drawn to the path. In fact, our sheikh Bhai Sahib said "It is the job of the teacher to give the disciple what he wants." It is a kind of awe inspiring statement. It is the job of the teacher to give the disciple what he wants. And I can just tell you a little bit, that in fact the commitment from the part of the sheikh is much greater then the commitment from the part of the disciple. When you come to the path, of course, all you realize, is your own desire and maybe the commitment or the level of commitment you are prepared to make. And it seems I spoke in one talk about surrender and submission. about those requirements that are made. And I would just like to share with you that from the other side there is an even deeper commitment. In fact, the commitment of the sheikh has to be unconditional. The student, the wayfarer is allowed to make a conditional commitment, at the beginning. "I come to the group as long as it doesn' hurt too much, as long as I don't loose my friends, as long as my husband or my wife isn't too upset, as long as I keep my job." Later as you see from Peter's talk... you tend to loose your car, your health, your job but that's another story. But there is, or there has to be from the point of view of the sheik... an unconditional commitment to the spiritual well fare of the disciple. In a way the disciple is allowed to run away. The sheikh is not allowed to run away. The only time the sheikh is allowed to say "no" is when the disciple does something that is unethical, that goes against the ethics of the tradition. Otherwise the sheikh is duty bound to give those who come what they need to evolve spiritually. In fact I was sharing with Pir Zia at lunch, that it is an incredible responsibility to be given the grace to pass on because one is bound to the Grace. One is free but one is bound. And this is the normal understanding of the Sufi sheikh, of the Pir, that he is there to help the spiritual unfolding of the disciple. And the beauty is, as I have always found and particularly having these Sufi Conferences, where these different tariqas come together, I call them different threads of love, there is only one love but it has different threads, is to see and to honor how different souls are drawn to different tariqas. For example some souls need music in order to evolve spiritually. They need to be touched by music. whether the nay flute or other forms of music. And we had a beautiful concert last night, that embodied that ancient tradition of music that touches the soul, that turns the soul towards God. And there are other souls who are drawn by silence, for who music is a taboo almost. And so they will be attracted to the tariqa that nourishes their soul. You think it has to do with your personality but it doesn't. It has to do with the soul. And souls are drawn where they get the nourishment they need to go back to God. And the beauty of these gatherings is to see how these different threads of love, these different resonances of divine love, that manifest in different ways, how they come together and are the same, they come from the same source. We have the same extraordinary heritage, that we call in the West Sufism. And, as I say, in each tariqa the soul is nourished in individual ways, although it is still nourished by that same current of love because it is one love. My sheikh said "In the whole of the universe there are only two... lover and beloved". And later of course you realize it is only One. There is no duality between lover and beloved. So that primal love affair is played out in these different ways and honored. It is deeply important this primal Sufi quality of adab, of honoring of respecting. And we come together with that deep respect of the soul, both for your own tariqa and the tariqa of others. For that thread of love that has been woven into your heart... and into the hearts of others. We live in a world of tremendous discord and friction... and just to have a place, a few days... to go under the dervish tent. Where there is no difference, where it is all that primal Oneness... that yes of the soul to be loved by God. As the poet William Blake said "And we are put on earth a little space to learn to bear the beams of love". It is a lovely practice, to learn to bear the beams of love. So we are in the love business. We honor that in coming together. We honor these different aspects of divine love. But then there is this other tradition which has been called the awiliya, the Friends of God, this other aspect, that belongs to the Sufi heritage. And just as the individual sheikh looks after the spiritual well being of his disciples, of those who are drawn to that tariqa, the awiliya look after the spiritual well being of the world. This is a tradition that was known more in India. I have seen very, very little known in the West. Yes, in the West there is, particularly in South America, there is a shamanic tradition, in which the shaman looked after the spiritual well being of his tribe and the land on which his tribe lived. And then there are actual tribes, who feel they have a responsibility towards the whole world, for example the Kogi. I am sure some of you know this beautiful book and film called "The Heart of the World", in which this ancient tribe called the Kogi, they refer to themselves as the elder brothers, and they came out of seclusion a number of years ago, in order to tell the younger brothers, which is us, that we were ruining the world, that there was going to be climate change. And this was long before it became headline news. So there are, scattered around in some tribes, this more localized sense of the shaman who looks after the spiritual well being of the people and the land on which they are. But... the tradition of the awiliya, the Friends of God is slightly different, it is... When Mrs. Tweedie went to India and was with her sheikh, after a while she had an understanding of this. And she actually said to him... She said "Are you a member of the Hierarchy?" And he said "Yes, but it isn't spoken about." So there was an understanding in India that there is this spiritual hierarchy, there are these spiritual beings, who have a broader responsibility. A responsibility not just for the individual who is drawn to the path, but also for the spiritual well being of the Whole. And as I mentioned earlier, this was actually first written by al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, who wrote about the awiliya, about the Friends of God. And that the crops cannot grow, the earth's rains cannot come... except through the intersession of the Friends of God. Now sadly, we have an understanding in the West of hierarchy and power as something that is imposed, because that is our experience. As I said there was this split in the Catholic Church, when they consciously chose temporal power over spiritual power. And temporal power is imposed by force, and spiritual power belongs to service, belongs to servanthood. And the awiliya are really those who are in service to the whole. And so in these Sufi Conferences there was woven this thread, just as much as there were the individual tariqas, the individual paths, the individual celebrations of divine love, there was woven from the very beginning and it kind of surprised me... I remember sitting here 8 years ago and being prompted to talk about something which had really been an esoteric secret and hardly known of in the West. The idea of the qutb, of the pole, has been known about in the West through Sufi literature. But the image is actually that the pole is the center pole of the tent. And the pegs of the tent, that hold the tent into the ground, that hold this dervish tent into the ground, that hold this place of divine protection into the ground, they are the awiliya, the tent pegs. The pole, as I said, is the one human being who lives what it really means to be a human being. That's his purpose. The tent pegs, that hold this place, this arena, of transformation, of protection, of love, they are often known as the awiliya. And so I realized from the beginning, that this Sufi Gathering, this Sufi Conference, that began really in Sufi Books almost 10 years ago, had another purpose. And yes, there was a simple purpose of making conscious, of bringing into, if you like, American collective spirituality this idea of the Masters of Love, of these spiritual beings who look after the well being of the world. You could say "They are not doing a very good job" when you look at the world around us, but... I can tell you, they are doing the best they can in very difficult circumstances. So, actually to bring into consciousness, to say "We are in the Presence", or "We are connected", or "We have access to this dimension of spirituality", that has been there, they say, since the very beginning. Actually in Judaism they have a similar concept that is called the "Just Man", there are 36 "Just Man" in the Judaic esoteric tradition. And when one "Just Man" dies another replaces him. In Sufism it is often thought, there are 40 awiliya, scattered around the world, in different places. So, it is like honoring, excepting, bringing into consciousness, this bigger dimension of spirituality, that takes us out of our own individual self and says we are actually part of something greater, and we can participate in something greater. And as somebody asked me in the questions... there have been times when the awiliya were hidden, and times they became more known. And the most recent times in the 12th, 13th, 14th century in the Middle East, when they were known as the Khwājagān, the Masters of Wisdom. And there is a beautiful book, that some people got copies of here, called BEADS OF DEW, from the Source of Life, that only in the last few years has been translated into English. That is this text of the Khwājagān, of these great Masters. And then they became hidden... they went into the inner world. And, for example, my sheikh's sheikh's sheikh was a great, great master but he was just a village schoolmaster. Nobody knew he was a great spiritual master, he had two disciples. And he was a village schoolmaster and he did some odd jobs around the village. And he was a great, great spiritual master. And so that is an example of when it was hidden. And even my sheikh in India, called Bhai Sahib, elder brother... Mrs. Tweedie said: "The green grocer at the bottom of the street, didn't even know that he was a great spiritual master." And when she said to him... he send her back to the West to lecture... she said "Why should I lecture, you never had to lecture." He said "I do not come down." Because to make a public talk you come down. You come down to make something accessible. And he said "I never come down", That was not his work, his work was primarily on the inner planes. And then she was asked to go to the West and to lecture. And then she send me to America to lecture, to bring something out into the public. And part of it, as I say is, through this gathering, is to bring into consciousness this ancient heritage. And as I say, the purpose of the awiliya, or part of the work of the awiliya... I wouldn't say purpose, because again, most of their work is hidden... has to do with the spiritual evolution of the Whole. Just as the individual sheikh works with the spiritual evolution of the individual, so the awiliya work with the spiritual evolution of the Whole. Because there is this tradition that we are a microcosm of the Whole. And the earth itself is a spiritual being, that is looked after, that is nourished spiritually, just as much as we are looked after and nourished spiritually. And the beauty of it individually is, when you step on the path, if you knew how you were looked after, if you knew how you were nourished, most of it is veiled, because the ego would otherwise get hold of it, because the mind would identify with it. But you are given so much. You are looked after so much. My sheikh used to say when somebody came to him, "they were tied up in a parcel and send back to God". And there we are held, we are held with such infinite love and infinite care. I was once told in a dream "He has a special tenderness for his own personal idiots". Because you give yourself to love and maybe the mind doesn't work, maybe you are not as successful in your profession as you might otherwise have been. So, there is this dimension to these Sufi Gatherings that belongs to the Whole. And, when I say Sufi Gatherings, I should remind you... this is just been one Sufi Gathering for 8 years. And it began and is concluding today, because a certain work has been done. And I should explore a little bit of what that work is. Again, most of it is hidden, most of it is in the unseen world. Now, central to Sufism are the opposites of forgetfulness and remembrance. They are, if you like, the two polar opposites of the Sufi Path. It is weather one forgets God or weather one remembers God. And one is, at the beginning, most of the time in a state of forgetfulness... you forget God. And then slowly through the practices, through the grace of the tradition, you are drawn into a state of remembrance. It is not a remembrance of the mind of course... because, as many of you know, who have been on the path for a certain length of time, the mind starts to becomes geriatric a little bit too quickly. Spiritual amnesia. Too much meditation. It is the remembrance of the heart. It is the heart that starts to remember God. In fact there is a saying. "One should pray continually, one should pray constantly." And when I was young I meditated on this saying and I was young and enthusiastic, so I was doing it 24 hours a day. And then I decided I had to actually sleep. Although I read some Sufi texts that the older Sufis like Abu Sa'id, they didn't sleep at all. In fact they used to dig pits in the middle of their little hut, so they could stand up and pray all night. But... I tried it for a while... not digging a pit but staying up all night and after a few days you get a bit tired. And then later I realized that there is a deeper mystery here... which is, when the heart is awakened it starts to pray. There comes this moment in the spiritual evolution, in which the heart is completely awake, and then it prays continually. Whether you are asleep or awake, whether you are shopping, washing the car, watching TV... your heart is in a state of prayer. It prays continually. It is always repeating his name. It is always looking towards God. And that prayer gets deeper and deeper and deeper. And that is when you are finally gone, from a state of forgetfulness to the state of remembrance. And you are always in remembrance, you are always bowed down before your Lord, bowed down before God. And in the deepest sense everything you do, however mundane, however trivial it seems, is an offering to God. Because that then is your purpose, as it is said "When God said to the not yet created humanity AM I NOT YOUR LORD? And they said YES WE WITNESS IT." And you are in a continual state of witnessing. The witnessing of the Heart. Because the heart is the organ of divine consciousness. The heart is what is awake in this world. So that is how it is in the individual journey. Now, as I said, the awiliya go beyond the individual journey, in which the individual journey is part of a bigger whole. And I don't think it takes a lot of spiritual awareness to realize in this country, we live in a state of forgetfulness. Our culture is completely absorbed... in a state of forgetfulness. It actually mass produces a state of forgetfulness. It has become more and more subtle, or you could say more and more gross in the mechanisms of forgetfulness. There is this saying "The weapons of mass distraction." And it is not difficult, when you leave here... and you go back to your everyday life... to see how you are bombarded by images that want you to forget. I remember when I was 17 and I traveled to the Far East, and I was there for a while... and I came back to Europe... and suddenly there were these advertising images, that would bombard consciousness, that hadn't been in the Far East. Now of course, they are in the Far East too. We are continually bombarded by images that want our attention. They are not sacred images. They are not minarets pointing to the sky. They are not the call to prayer. They are songs of forgetfulness. They are images to distract us to draw us into this web of consumerism. And they are now more and more subtly produced, more and more carefully designed. To draw your consciousness and of course to draw your money into this web that we call consumer society or materialistic society. Which interestingly, at the moment, is wobbling a little bit. So, this is the world in which we live. Now, for those of us, who are drawn instinctively towards God, those to whom he has put an ion in our hearts and branded our hearts with His Name, it doesn't matter what culture we are in. We could be in silence in the Himalayas, in the shopping moles of Los Angeles and we are still drawn into remembrance. Because he has said "You belong to me". It is like... You don't become a Sufi... you are born a Sufi. It is there in your heart when you come into the world. And yes, you can try to run away from it, you can try to avoid it but it calls to you secretly in the night. And he comes, like Rumi says, like a thief in the night, steeling your possessions... reminding you of this ancient promise you made... to remember God. So, for those of us who have that imprint, even in this world of forgetfulness... yes, it is hard some times, but where ever we are, we will be drawn into remembrance. But there are many souls and groups of souls, who have not been given this imprint, who have not been branded in this way. And without the call to prayer, without the song of remembrance, they will loose there way. And there is this tragedy of today which very few people see with the outer eye but you can see on the inner planes which is modern man in search of a soul because modern man or woman has lost their soul. And one can take it even further and say... there are many, many lost souls now. They can't find their way. And coupled with that, so much of what should be spirituality, has been corrupted, corrupted by money, corrupted by sex, corrupted by all the forms of corruption, which this Western culture proliferates. So there are even fewer sign posts, to help the soul to find its way in the darkness of this world. It is so easy to get lost. And there are so many mechanisms to help you get lost. And it is not just your personality that gets lost, it is your soul that gets lost. This is not understood so well. There are so many lost souls today. Their lifes are empty of meaning, because it is meaning that nourishes the soul. And they don't have excess to anything... because... What it there? What is there on the television screens, on the billboards of this culture but more distractions, more arguments, more divisiveness. Now Sufi's have always carried within their hearts, within their souls this single note of divine love. If Sufism is about anything it is about love. We are the guardians of the Gates of Love. We are the door keepers of the Heart. We don't know about much but we know about love. Not the love that is thrown about in personal relationships. But the love that belongs to this link of love within the heart of lover and beloved, of servant and Lord. This primal, what we experience as a primal call within the heart. And later when we are taken into the states of intoxication, when we are taken into the states of intimacy, and taken into the states of loves oneness. That is what Sufism is all about. That's why I say Sufism is at first heart ache. Only later it became something to talk about. That is the tradition we have been honored to be drawn into. Come into the arena of love, come out of the arena of time, come into the arena of love. This is the arena of the heart, which is both ones own individual heart and also the cosmic heart. It is all one because there is only one lover and one beloved, however it may appear in this world of multiplicity. And in this calling of love there is the note of love. And it is that, that draws us within ourselves. And in fact part of the work of the sheik is to keep that note of love alive, to resonate that within the heart of the wayfarer, within the heart of the disciple. And then it is like attraction, like magnetic attraction. The imprint of love within you is awoken by the note of love... is drawn like the moth to the flame... through this note of love. And there is also not just the individual note. There is also a note of love that belongs to the time and the place and the people. The Sufi says 3 things have to come together, the time and the place and the people. And part of the purpose of these Sufi Gatherings was to constellate this note of love under the protection of the awiliya, under the protection of the Friends of God. Not just for us because we have it, it is our birthright but for this country. And it is interesting, when I was told about making these Sufi Conferences I was told "It has to be just for America". It wasn't in Europe... I said "No, the instructions were clear, this is for America." America is a land of incredible forgetfulness, of a forgetfulness that has not just devastated the soul of this land, but has crept through its tentacles across the world... the "McDonaldlization" of the Soul of the World. And it is a place of forgetfulness... and we are a center of remembrance. Now my teacher Mrs. Tweedie had an esoteric name. Because every teacher has a personal name and an esoteric name... that has to do with their divine purpose. Normally it is hidden, normally it is not known. Her esoteric name was "The Bell Ringer". Because she rang the bells of peoples hearts. That was her purpose. She brought this particular tariqa from India to the West, and she rang the bells of peoples hearts. But at three in the morning, this morning when I was being taken to the core of these Sufi Gatherings, I saw again this image of a bell. And somehow over the last 8 years, together, just by being together, just by doing our practices, just by sharing meals together for a few days a year... bringing together different Sufi traditions, it cannot be done just by one Sufi path on its own, because it has to do with the larger Whole. It has to do with humanity coming together and honoring something that is at the core of humanity, not a particular group. This bell has been formed. This bell, to strike a note of love, a note of remembrance in this world, in this country. This is our offering to the Whole. We are not very good at solving problems. We are not very good at economic strategies. But we know about love. That is our contribution as lovers of God... is to ring that note of love, to ring that note of remembrance. If you strike a certain note on the inner planes and if it is done properly, under the guidance of those who know the esoteric science of love it will ring forever or as long as it is needed. It has taken 8 years under this dervish tent with the help of all those who have come and all those, who have made presentations and all the spirits on the inner planes that have also been present to fashion this bell. And in this gathering there was a very different quality. I was struck because normally in these Sufi Conferences... for those of you who have been to some before... we spend the first 2 days creating an atmosphere, almost rebuilding this tent. And when I first stepped onto this stage with Pir Zia it was already here. I didn't have to create anything, suddenly the grace was there. All the preparation had been done, that had been done silently, over 8 years, had come to fruition. And there was a sweetness for me, this whole weekend had a sweetness, an effortless sweetness that belongs to love. Yes, you could say it was well organized and people who helped, helped to create a container. But this is also an inner container formed over 8 years, that was already present, the bell was already formed. And this weekend it has been struck. Not for us. Because we know that song, we have been drawn to this note of love. Maybe from life time to life time. It is nothing new to us. You wouldn't be here if you hadn't already been drawn from forgetfulness back into remembrance. It wouldn't resonate within you. But it is now ringing for this country. It is our contribution. A small contribution at a time of global crisis, of global transformation. A small contribution to these waves of forgetfulness. But because it is done under the protection and guidance of the awiliya, of those who know what they are doing. They have been looking after the spiritual well being of this planet... for hundreds and hundreds of years. Sometimes visible, sometimes hidden. This thread of divine love... they know how to weave it into the hearts of individuals... and into the hearts of countries. And this is both our contribution and our responsibility. You don't have to do anything. I just wanted to share with you why you came. Because just like when you come to the path, at the beginning you don't know why you come to the path. But there is this deeper purpose of these gatherings that as I say, until two or three this morning, I didn't see with such clarity. I felt there was a possibility for something to come alive at this meeting. And that's all I knew until this morning. So, I am incredibly grateful to be able to share that with you, to be able to be present with you at this moment as these 8 years of Sufi work have been fulfilled, have come to completion. And that this note of love, which is silently ringing in this room now... it will remain. Nobody can interfere with it because it is under the protection of the grace of God. If certain instructions are given, by those who belong to God, not belong to this world, by those who belong to God, then nobody is allowed to interfere with it. It belongs to the will of God not to the comings and goings of humanity. And it is struck here but it belongs to the Whole of America. It belongs to the Heart of America. It belongs to the Soul of America. It belongs to the crisis of America. It belongs to the possibility for America to actually step up to its spiritual potential, to its spiritual responsibility. Not in some sectarian notion. Not in I have a better God than your God. But, in a deep knowing, a deep resonance, a deep respect, for everybody in their uniqueness, in their individuality, because as Lovers of God we know that everything, every human being expresses the Beloved in a unique way. This is the beauty of multiplicity and unity. Through the multiplicity, through the uniqueness, through the difference of color and creed and race and believe he expresses his uniqueness. Because we know there is nothing other then God. Even if we live in a culture that has forgotten there is nothing other then God. Even if we live in a culture that celebrates individuality and the ego at expense of everybody else. And we are striking a different note just when it is needed. And it will resonate for as long as it is needed. So I just wanted to share that with you, just to be present at this moment and... God bless.

Video Details

Duration: 42 minutes and 56 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 1,136
Posted by: oneness on Dec 23, 2009

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee introduces the work of the awliyâ, the masters of love who help in the spiritual evolution of the world.

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