A Universal Spiritual Path

New Year’s Sermon from Pir Zia, Sarafil Bawa:

Dear Friends,
Another year has run its course, and a new year, a new circuit around the sun, is upon us. 2016 is already a bygone age, its faded days now consigned to the vaults of memory. Ahead, 2017 looms large, bristling with hazards, brimming with opportunities, and wrapped in mystery. Do you feel the ground under your feet? This embodied moment is the threshold between the past and the future, the boundary between the known and the yet-to-be-known. This is what we are given. Here we take our stand.
What are we to make of the past? Should we shrug it off and keep shuffling along? Or, faced with the onslaught of an unwelcome future, are we justified in making a perfumed shrine of what once was, or seemed to be—a halcyon haven in which to retreat in a pique of defiant nostalgia?
We will all always do as we wish. But our wishes are best rewarded when guided by understanding, and understanding is the product of reflection. To penetratingly reflect on the past is to absorb its lessons in our bones.
Murshid says, “The Sufi learns not only by the study of books but by the study of life. The whole of life is like an open book to a Sufi and every experience is a step forward in one’s spiritual journey.”
In retrospect, the past year consists of a series of steps taken. Looking back, we may ask ourselves, which steps of ours were sure-footed, and which were maladroit? Which were the strides that sped us along the road to the Friend, and what sorts of stumbles sent us into the ditch? We can learn as much from our collapses as from our advances if our eyes are open.
Trial and error is part of the forward march of life. The real error is the error of repeating our errors time and again, refusing to learn. The sign of learning is repentance: having the humility to admit mistakes, having the insight to understand our mistakes, forming the resolution to make amends, and taking the initiative to ask God’s forgiveness. What is requested must be accepted when it is granted. We show that we have accepted God’s forgiveness when we move forward resolutely.
But it is not only in studying our own lives that we stand to gain understanding. Wisdom is the butter of life, and just as the child Krishna was known to steal butter whenever he could, we do well when we avail ourselves of the knowledge that is available from every person and every situation. The wise and the foolish may equally serve as our teachers. The virtues and vices of those we encounter day by day may prove equally illuminating as mirrors revealing the choices that are ours to make.
The past is a treasury of experience from which to learn. To learn well, however, we must also unlearn. This means shaking off the compulsive grip of all kinds of half-truths, complacent assumptions, and niggling fears—in short, the full sum of our unexamined prejudices about our selves, other people, the world, and reality in its totality. We’ve got to open our minds, expand our hearts, and look anew at the universe with fresh vision.
As Jesus said, only when the “planks” are removed from our eyes will we properly perceive the present moment. Otherwise, the here and now is merely the shadowy perpetuation of the then and there. The dross of the past endures and obscures the essence of the present. We see through a glass darkly.
In Arabic the heart is called qalb, which is related to the word qalab, meaning “mold.” The heart is a mold, a vessel that contains whatever fits within its contours. If the heart is narrow it will hold little; if it is wide it will hold more. If it is rigid it will accommodate only that which conforms to its predetermined shape. If it is malleable it will encompass whatever is bestowed.
Disclosures of God’s presence are constantly given to the world, but a disclosure is never repeated—each is unique, as God is unique. A narrow, brittle heart can contain little more than the flaking residue of an old disclosure. An expansive heart, by contrast, meets the vividness of each moment in its fullness. Such was the heart of Abraham, who prayed each morning, “O God, this is a new creation!”
Hence a Sufi is called a “child of the moment.” To be a child of the moment is to be born anew with each dawning instant of time. It is to witness everything perpetually dissolving into emptiness and reappearing, reanimated by the rhythmic pulse of the Divine fiat: “Be!”
This is what we are given. This moment, this now, this ground under our feet, this sky over our heads, this encounter with faces and forms, this awareness. Revealing the whole of what is shown is a light that is continuously renewed in our minds. That light, we may be sure, will never die.
The past has morphed into this moment, and the present will become the future. What our minds nurture will be grown in us; what we renounce will be composted. Good seeds and the elixir of well-churned decay are bound to produce a rich harvest if Providence is smiling.
There is nothing to be gained in brooding listlessly over dark dreads. Jesus said, “Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.” Muhammad said, “Even if you expect the world’s end tomorrow, plant a tree today.”
Let beauty lead. It will lead to a more beautiful tomorrow if we follow it. Follow the trace of what-may-be, the track of the shimmering ideal. Travel in the footsteps of those who leave marks of wisdom and kindness in their wake. Their path will surely lead us to the Friend.
Look to the past, look to present, look to the future—wherever you turn, if your eyes are open, there is God’s Face. Past, present, and future are in essence no different from each other. All that is has always been, and will always be, in the One. It is only our perspective that alters, like a searchlight flashing across the sky. “Time is God,” says Murshid, “and God is eternal.”
May our perception widen, deepen, refine, extend, and partake more and more of the light of the One whose glance, encompassing and harmonizing all of the myriad angles of vision streaming through creation, is reality itself.
Let us pray:
O Thou who abidest in our hearts,
most Merciful and Compassionate God,
Lord of Heaven and Earth,
we forgive others their trespasses and ask Thy forgiveness of our shortcomings.
We begin the New Year with pure heart and clear conscience, with courage and hope.
Help us to fulfil the purpose of our lives under Thy divine guidance.
Amen

 

What is Sufism?

“He is a Sufi whose religion is God.”

Not Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, any “ism.” The religion itself is just God. God is the religion. A religion is an accommodation in which one can more and more orient to the divine presence as it transpires in the horizon and in oneself. The attainment of a state of mystical realization is one in which one’s religious obligation is directed to that reality. So one follows a religion whose forms are every form. Every revealed tradition is an element of this universal religion which is the divine religion that encompasses all of the human traditions that are reflecting its one light.

This is the universality of Sufism and the universality of every mystical tradition in its essence. A reality, not a ritual, not a form. The essence is always the reality behind the form. It is always illuminating to recall the words of Shaikh al-Akbar Ibn al-‘Arabi who says, “Beware confining yourself to a particular conception and denying all else, for much good would elude you. Indeed the knowledge of reality would elude you. Be in yourself a substance for all forms, for God is too vast and tremendous to be restricted to one form of belief rather than another.” That is a direct quote from Shaykh al-Akbar Ibn al-‘Arabi from his Fusus al-Hikam and one that speaks in a very relevant and timely way in our time when humanity is struggling to find a common spiritual language that transcends the boundaries of difference. Not merely a globalized market but a globalized spirit.

Pir Zia Inayat Khan, from a talk given at “The Power of Love” conference at Omega Institute, October 14, 2005

Life in the word today is challenging.  How do we find our way through it all?  There are ways to integrate spiritual principles in our everyday life and esoteric practices can help us cope with life’s challenges.  The Sufi Order of Rochester is a warm, friendly and supportive community dedicated to the unfoldment of each human being and welcomes all, regardless of labels and distinctions!

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On the spiritual path of awakening, we travel together as a group of friends.  Our emphasis is on universal spirituality, respecting all religions and paths without dogma or compulsion.  The Invocation below articulates the goals and values of this path.  The teachings are grounded in a historical lineage and continue in the present with a focus on the needs and demands of modern life.  We are open to all seekers wishing to explore the purpose of life, regardless of religion, including those with no specific affiliation.  One may be Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Nature lover, and resonate deeply with the practical teachings of Sufism.  There are many paths to Truth and the Sufi Order offers five Activities that respond to particular interests and attunements. Please explore our site for more information about the history of the Sufi Order and our activities and services.  We welcome your interest and participation.  Join us on our Facebook page, Sufi Order of Rochester.

INVOCATION

Toward the One,
The perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty,
The Only Being,
United with all the Illuminated Souls,
Who form the embodiment of the Master,
The Spirit of Guidance.

The Center for Sufi Studies at 494 East Avenue is located in the Carriage House behind the AAUW mansion (Carriage House is 492).  We have made this place our true home, dedicated to sharing the Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty. If you are interested in participating, please contact us.  Unless otherwise noted, all activities are held at our Center.  Look for our sandwich board sign out front!

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Visit the Spiritual Guidance page to learn more about our community leaders.

The official name of our parent organization has changed to The Inayati Order.  Below is a fact sheet detailing this change.

THE INAYATI ORDER NEW NAME FACT SHEET

OVERVIEW

What is the new name of the Order?

The Inayati Order: A Sufi Path of Spiritual Liberty

Informally, it is also appropriate to speak of ourselves as the Inayatiyya.

What does Inayati mean?

The name Inayat comes from the Arabic ‘inayah, referring to the kindness or grace of God. You may say that Inayati means “dedicated to loving-kindness.”

Why did we change the name of our organization to The Inayati Order?

We adopted the name “The Inayati Order” to help clarify and distinguish the identity of our lineage and organization within the larger world of Sufism. When Hazrat Inayat Khan came to the West in the early 20th-century there were no other Sufi orders here and it was most convenient to be known simply as “The Sufi Order.” Today, however, there are many Sufi orders in the West and our original name now comes across as confusing, and in the view of some, presumptuous, as if our Order claims be the only order of Sufism.

Historically, Sufi orders have taken the names of their founders in the years following the founder’s passing. Our Murshid passed away nearly a century ago, hence this decision is timely if not, indeed, overdue. Moreover, it has become clear that our Order is ready to take a next step, one that unifies message and purpose, and one that will provide a broader, more distinctive identity for communicating the Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan.

On January 1, 2016, Pir Zia announced the new name via a livestream video feed, and after through a letter to all mureeds. To view this video or read his letter, please visit: http://inayatiorder.org/our-new-name/.

Who was involved in the process of deciding on the new name?

Pir Zia first discussed the possibility of the change in name with the Worldwide Message Council, a collection of leaders of the various Activities of the Sufi Order, at their annual meeting in Suresnes, France, in January 2015. With this group’s support, Pir Zia reached out to the leadership of the other organizations and lineages based in the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, including Pir Shabda Kahn and Murshid Wali Ali Meyer of the Sufi Ruhaniat International, and Murshid Karimbakhsh Witteveen and Shaikh al-Mashaik Mahmood Khan of the Sufi Movement, all of whom gave their blessing to the new name.

At the same time, the International Coordinator reached out to the Boards of the various national Sufi Order organizations, informing them of the decision and obtaining feedback. The Sufi Order International – North America Board of Trustees was consulted throughout the process and served as the lead in overseeing related legal issues, including the trademark process and communications in preparation for the announcement of the new name.

In adopting the name The Inayati Order we make no claim of exclusivity in representing Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty. We affirm all lineages, communities, and organizations linked to Murshid through initiation and devotion as our esteemed friends and allies in the Sufi cause.

May we edit the new name in any way?

The new name was formally adopted after much discussion with many concerned parties, and with the agreement of the Worldwide Message Council. With input from many quarters, it was finally decided that the name and tagline that had most support and spiritual relevance was: The Inayati Order: A Sufi Path of Spiritual Liberty.

For this reason, we ask that all use the name exactly as given. Below are a few answers to questions that have already arisen:

  • Do we need to capitalize “The”? Trademark protection for The Inayati Order has been applied for in multiple countries. To support and defend our trademark applications, the definite article “The” at the beginning of the title needs to be used and capitalized in the logo and in any titles referencing the name from now on, as it is part of the trademark. In any paragraph text referencing the name mid-sentence, it is acceptable to use a small “t” and write “the Inayati Order.” As a matter of protocol, “Inayati Order” should never be used alone without the definite article “The.”
  • Do we need to use the tagline? The name, The Inayati Order, may be used separately from the tagline, A Sufi Path of Spiritual Liberty, and vice versa.
  • Why was the term “Universal” not included in the tagline? In the discussions with the Worldwide Message Council, incorporation of the word “universal” was considered for the tagline. In the end, there was a desire to avoid wordiness, and it was decided that “Spiritual Liberty” already conveyed the spirit of universality. In longer descriptions of our work, however, it is appropriate to continue to use the word “universal.”Additional details on how to use the name and related logo will be provided in “The Inayati Order Style Guide” to be made available early February.What are the specifics of the trademark?We have sought trademark protection for our new name under the Madrid Protocol, an international treaty that will give us broad international protection for use of the name, including in the European Union, India, Turkey and Australia. Questions regarding trademark protection for the new name should be directed to the North American Secretariat, which is coordinating all trademark registrations on behalf of our Order worldwide for purposes of consistency.

Can we still use the name “Sufi Order” for purposes of future donations, bequests and contracts to/with the North American Secretariat?

At the present time, the North American Secretariat can still accept donations and bequests made out to “The Sufi Order,” and all contracts with “The Sufi Order” will remain valid. Future donations, bequests and contracts involving the North American Secretariat should be made using “The Inayati Order.”

Where can I learn more about The Inayati Order?

Currently, most information about The Inayati Order can be found on the North American website, which also provides some details about international centers and projects. See www.inayatiorder.org.

Over the course of the next year, we will be providing support to local centers worldwide as they adapt their websites and print materials to reflect the new name of the Order.

PRACTICAL NEXT STEPS

Over the coming year, there will be a series of communications, conversations and meetings about transitioning to the new name, The Inayati Order. We do not expect this transition to happen overnight. Using a collaborative approach, as much as possible, we hope to map out the best way to proceed, taking into account all the intricacies and contingencies included in such a major change.

Deepa Gulrukh Patel, the International Coordinator, and Jennifer Alia Wittman, Executive Director of The Inayati Order – North America, are in charge of implementing The Inayati Order name worldwide.

Please know that we are in the process of determining which aspects of the name change will be managed at an international level, i.e., through the International Office, and what will be through the North American Secretariat. Working together, this is what we have planned for now:

Logo – The Inayati Order logo is almost complete, and is scheduled for release soon. The logo will come with a Style Guide that will give specific instructions for its use.

Media Kit – Satya Inayat Khan, Communications Director for the North American Secretariat, is creating “The Inayati Order Media Kit” for local centers, including a website template, e-newsletter template, letterhead, business cards, a brochure, information collection cards, press kit, etc.

This media kit will first be tested by dues-paying centers in North America, and then adapted for international use in various languages. We expect the kit to be available by July 1, 2016, in time for introduction at the French and U.S. Sufi Summer Schools.

Please let us know what you would like to see in a media kit by e-mailing Satya at communications@inayatiorder.org. Please note that the plans for a website template are tentative and will require testing before release.

Existing Websites – If you have an existing website that you would like to keep, this is fine.

Our goal is only to provide a unified organizational image, and thus we are happy to provide you with the logo, font selection, images (of Pir Zia, Pir Vilayat, or Hazrat Inayat Khan), and selected text, that we hope to see featured on all websites and print materials in time.

See the sections, “What is Sufism?” “The Inayati Order,” “Our Lineage,” and all the writing under “Teachings” on www.inayatiorder.org to view the text we would like to see featured on websites and materials worldwide. These are initial versions; there will be a comment and editing period before any language is officially adopted for worldwide use.

The Map – The Inayati Order website includes a map that is currently being adjusted and updated for ease of navigation, and to include every center and contact worldwide. Any center may request the map code to drop into their website by emailing Satya at satya@inayatiorder.org.

Localized Name Changes – We are encouraging all local centers to consider changing their name to The Inayati Order – <Location>, such as The Inayati Order – Munich, The Inayati Order – Sydney, The Inayati Order – Asheville, etc. This can apply to nation names as well, such as The Inayati Order – Chile.

Currently, local centers have a variety of names. It may add collective strength for local centers to share an organizational name. This would help increase name recognition and allow inquirers and mureeds to more easily find the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan. While adapting to The Inayati Order name is recommended, it will remain optional for local centers.

Legal Issues

If you are currently a Sufi Order Center anywhere in the world other than the United States, please contact the legal authority under which your center is organized to determine the appropriate process for changing the name of your organization.

If you currently operate a center in the United States that is covered by the Sufi Order’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit group tax exemption, please contact the local Secretary of State or other applicable legal authority in the jurisdiction in which your center is organized to arrange to have the name of your local center changed as described above. Once that has been accomplished, please provide the North American Secretariat with a copy of the documents evidencing the name change of your center. Later this year, we will update the list of organizations covered by the Sufi Order’s group tax exemption to take into account name changes of local centers.

Due to the number of centers in existence across the U.S. and the legal complexities involved, which vary widely from state to state, the North American Secretariat does not have the capacity to provide legal assistance with local center name changes. If you need assistance to process a name change for your center, we suggest using a legal service company, such as incorporate.com, which can guide you through the name change process in exchange for a nominal service fee. Visit this link for more information: https://www.incorporate.com/name_changes.html

CONTACTS

If you are in any country other than Canada and the United States and have questions about the new name, please contact Deepa Gulrukh Patel. If you are under the umbrella of the North American Secretariat, please contact Jennifer Alia Wittman.

Worldwide: – Deepa Gulrukh Patel, International Coordinator (gulrukh@inayatiorder.org) North America: – Jennifer Alia Wittman, Executive Director (alia@inayatiorder.org)


The Sufi Order of Rochester Center for Sufi Studies, 494 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607, the Carriage House behind the AAUW mansion (Carriage House is 492).