The Esoteric School

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. A Sufi would rather learn than teach. A Sufi begins one’s life by discipline and resignation, realizing that the path that leads to the goal of freedom is the path of self-control, patience, resignation and renunciation.

– Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Esoteric School is one of the five concentration activities of the Inayati Order. It includes the study of the Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, the teachings of Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan and other relevant teachings to develop our spiritual life, deepen our personality and fulfill the purpose of our life. The Sufi Order of Rochester Center for Sufi Studies offers a Core Curriculum reflected in Thursday night classes, Sunday morning Universal Worship Services and monthly Eat, Dance and Pray gatherings.


The Journey of the Soul is a gathering held on the first Thursday of the month. This class focuses on a theme or teaching of Inayat Khan and others, with a practical application to life’s problems. It may include readings, practices and discussion.  The class typically begins with a Ziraat Lodge.

The second Thursday of the month, we offer Foundation Class. This class is an opportunity to learn and practice the spiritual exercises and approaches as taught by Inayat Khan, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, Pir Zia Inayat Khan and other teachers. Please check our calendar each month, as we sometimes need to make changes in the schedule. For more detail click on ‘Ongoing Activities’ on the Home page.

We also sponsor visiting teachers offering occasional workshops and retreats. Classes are offered in surrounding communities, as well. Occasional introductory experiences are scheduled throughout the year.  All activities are held at the Sufi Order of Rochester Center for Sufi Studies, 494 East Ave., Rochester (Carriage House behind AAUW Mansion) unless otherwise noted.

What Is Initiation into the Inayati Order?

As you may be aware, the Inayati Order, of which the Sufi Order of Rochester is a local Center, offers initiation in an esoteric school of spiritual development. In the words of its founder, Murshid Inayat Khan:

The path of initiation is the training of the ego; it is self-discipline which is learned in the way of discipleship. Now there is a question, “What may be thought of the path of initiation? What must be our goal, what must we expect from it?” Is it that we must expect to be good or healthy, or magnetic, or powerful, or developed physically, or clairvoyant? Nothing of this need you be, although you will cultivate all those things naturally. Do not strive for these things. Suppose you develop power and you do not know its use, the outcome will be disastrous. Suppose you develop magnetism, and by this power you attract all, good and bad; then it will be difficult to get rid of what you have attracted by your power. Or you are very good, so good that everyone is bad to you, too good to live in the world; you will become a burden to yourself. These things are not to be sought by initiation. The aim is to find God within yourself: to dive deep within yourself, that you may be able to touch the unity of the Whole Being. By the power of initiation, towards this end you work, so that from within you may get all the inspiration and blessing in your life. For that two things are necessary: one thing is to do the exercises that are given to you regularly and with heart and soul; the second is that the studies that are given should not be considered only a little reading, but every word should be pondered. The more you think on it, the more it will have the effect of opening the heart. Reading is one thing, contemplating is another. The Gathas must be contemplated. Do not take even the simplest word or sentence as simple. Think of the Hindus, Chinese, and Parsis, who for thousands of years, for generations, have always contemplated the readings which they considered sacred and have never tired of them.

Gatheka 8: The Path of Initiation – Hazrat Inayat Khan

Initiation in the Inayati Order is available to those wishing to enter into the process of self-discovery and spiritual development through the teachings and practices of this lineage.  The teachings of universalism and spiritual liberty brought by Inayat Khan in the early 20th century form the basis of our work. These teachings are available in a series of publications referred to as the Message Volumes and in classes open to initiates and non-initiates. Initiation is not required; why, then, might one consider taking the step of initiation? Inayat Khan defines initiation as a step forward into the unknown. One may feel an inner call to connect with this lineage of masters and saints who form the chain of transmission leading from ancient times through Inayat Khan and to the present Pir (leader of the Order), Zia Inayat Khan. This call may arise in one’s heart as a resonance, a feeling that, “here is my spiritual home; this is my path.” Initiation is known as Bayat, taking hand with the spiritual guide and engaging oneself in the process of awakening. The duty of the spiritual guide is to connect the initiate (mureed) to the lineage of the Order (Silsila) by invoking the great beings, masters, saints and prophets, and to provide guidance in the form of spiritual practices in the best interests of the mureed’s spiritual growth. The Inayati Order authorizes Representatives and Guides for this purpose.

Initiation is offered in other areas of Inayati Order activities, such as Ziraat and the Healing Order. The Universal Worship offers a Reception Ceremony for those who are inspired to make a deeper commitment to the Universal Worship. These involvements are rich and deep. The connection with the initiator in these activities is distinct from that of the spiritual guide. The Sufi Order of Rochester currently has five Representatives able to offer initiation: Inayat Jim Leff, Wadud Henry Cretella, Zaynab Kathleen FitzPatrickAmina Linda Hall and Basira Maryanne Karpinski. You may speak to any one of us if you are interested in exploring initiation. You may send any one of us a message (click on any of the names).


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The Sufi Order of Rochester and the Inayati Order offer a variety of retreats, seminars and other activities in the region and nationally.

Esoteric Retreats

Spiritual retreat is an important part of spiritual development in this path.  The Inayati Order offers individual and group retreat experiences that can provide deep inner growth opportunities.  Retreat offers the retreatant the opportunity to leave the world of everyday responsibility and focus on the inner life.  One need not be an initiate of the Inayati Order to take a retreat in this tradition.  Retreat guides will customize the retreat experience to the needs and orientation of the retreatant.  There are a variety of opportunities available for one who wishes to make retreat, including retreat centers at the Abode of the Message (New Lebanon, NY) and at Light on the Hill (Van Etten, NY).  Locally, retreats are available at the Garden of Peace, guided by certified Esoteric Retreat Guides Wadud Cretella and zaynab FitzPatrick.  Other retreat guides are available in the community, as well.

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).