Jerry Katz
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Highlights #924

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Thursday, December 20


I see my moon right here on earth,
What would I do with the skies.
Rains of mercy pour down on me
From this ground where I fix my gaze.

Yunus Emre
13-14 century sufi poet



To know that there is nothing to know,
and to grieve that it is so difficult to
communicate this "nothing to know" to
others -- this is the life of Zen, this is the
deepest thing in the world.

Zen Saying


This is a very good saying. Thanks for sharing it.
I asked Mu how it would write a similar saying.

Mu paused (from what - who knows :-) for an eternal
moment and came out (from where - who knows :-)with this.

Nobody, nowhere likes a complete know nothing.
Why? Because it's always something, you know?
If it isn't this, it's that.
If it isn't that, it's this.
Hey! Don't pick that up!
It is pure concentrated nothing!



'Giving the Dervish a Whirl' by Peter Culshaw. The Guardian
Magazine 1st Dec 2001.

I was in a carpet shop deep in the Istanbul bazaar that I
first realised there was something of a phenomenon happening
around Jallaludin Rumi, the 13th-century Islamic mystic poet
and founder of the Mevlani Sufi order, better known as the
whirling dervishes. Perusing rugs one afternoon, I ran into
Omar Kaczmarczyk (pronounced very nearly like his nickname,
"Cash My Cheque"), an A-list Hollywood producer who makes
Superman sequels and the like, who told me that Rumi was the
bestselling poet in North America, that simply everyone was
reading him and that he intended to make an epic biopic about
him. The fact that Rumi was shifting in huge quantities in
the US - and continues to sell post-September ll - was
startling enough, but the notion of a big-budget Hollyood
movie of his life seemed surreal. I was in the carpet shop
owned by Ahmed, a well known dervish, because I'd been hugely
impressed by the sheer passion of Sufi music, much of which
is trance music, its aim being to heal, transform and connect
to the divine. It includes the Qawaals in Pakistan, whose
best known exponent, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, was, before his
untimely death at the age of 49, a kind of world music
Pavarotti. But I'd come across other forms of Sufi music,
too: wild Aissawa trance drummers in Fes; strange,
100-year-old recordings from central Asia; intense and
beautiful singers such as Abida Parveen in Pakistan; African
Sufi chanting in Senegal, and even avant garde experimental
Sufis in Indonesia. It was the richness of this music and
poetry that had drawn me to examine the philosophy behind
Sufism. Defining it is difficult. One dervish told me,
"That's like trying to describe the colour red." One version
is that the Sufis, or devishes, are simply the mystics of
Islam, but many practitioners feel Sufism approaches the core
of all religions. Its lack of dogma and inclusiveness has
always attracted poets, musicians and artists, and no doubt
is one reason for Rumi's appeal in the west. Many Sufis in
history were wild characters, such as the 8th- century saint
Rabia, a woman who went through the streets of Basra in Iraq
with a torch in one hand to set fire to heaven and a bucket
of water in the other to douse the fires ofhell, 'So no one
worships God for fear of hell or greed of heaven.'

Several Sufis said that the time was approaching when their
esoteric knowledge, their maps of the unconscious,
accumulated over centuries, would be spread to the west,
which was now a spiritual desert. While the west has been
developing its technological prowess, the denishes have
developed a sophisticated type of inner technology, their
practices a way of moving towards self-realisation.

I'd been told that some of the dervishes of Istanbul,
followers of Rumi, were among the most advanced Sufis.
Sufism's appeal to direct experience is often seen as
subversive, bxpassing man-made religious institutions,
reaching the divine through the help of a sheikh or Sufi
teacher. In one poem, Rumi says we should look for God in our
hearts rather than in a church, temple or mosque. What I was
looking for was access to a devish ceremony. Some are open to
the public, but others remain illegal and secretive, and
Kaczmarczyk and I were hoping Ahmed would take us to some of

Kaczmarczyk told me his film would look at the intense
relationship between Rumi and his mentor, Shams of Tabriz,
who inspired most of his poetry and who disappeared in
mysterious circumstances. (There are those who think it was a
gay relationship, though this is fiercely denied by
Islamicists.) As for who would be writing the screenplay,
"It's gotta be Coleman Barks," Kaczmarczyk drawled. "It's
like Rumi flows through him. The guy is awesome." Coleman
Barks never used to be awesome, at least not so as many
people would notice. For years he was professor of poetry at
Georgia University. In the 1960s, his friend, the poet Robert
Bly, gave him some academic translations of Rumi and said,
"These poems need to be released from their cages." For seven
years, Barks worked on the translations, only then publishing
a couple of slim volumes with a small New England press. But
when Harper San Francisco published a selection, The
Essential Rumi, the book went like a rocket, selling more
than half a million copies, an astonishing amount for poetry,
making Rumi the bestselling poet in the US. The bandwagon was

Deepak Chopra, one-time endocrinologist and now NewAge guru
to the stars, roped in some showbiz pals, including Madonna
and Demi Moore, to record a Rumi CD, A Gift Of Love. Donna
Karan staged a fashion show at which Rumi was read as the
world's super-models sashayed down the catwalk. A greetings
card company contacted Barks to suggest a Rumi day, rideo
artist Bill Viola took to quoting Rumi as an inspiration, and
Philip Glass set to music Barks's translations of Rumi in a
stage shoiv entitled Monsters Of Grace. Barks, meanwhile,
released Poet OfThe Heart, a video of himself and Chopra
reading Rumi, with an introduction by Debra Winger, and has
his original idea for a movie. But he isn't the only Rumi
translator on a career high. Shahram Shiva can be seen
reading Rumi every Thursday at midnight on cable TV in New
York. He has also developed a Four-Step Method To Whirling
"based on the common gravitational laws of the universe",
which is perfect for cash-rich, time-poor Americans.

The Rumi bandwagon could be starting to roll in the UK too. A
new translation by Raficq Abdulla has appeared here, and a
bunch of Rumi enthusiasts called ArRum have just opened a
club in Clerkenwell, London, for a hip young Muslim crowd. It
has a juice bar, foun- tain and fireplace (but no alcohol, of
course) and Rumi readings are a regular feature. When Barks
performed his Rumi translations on a rare trip to London, at
a multi-faith eztravaganza called Music Village, held in
Islington, he received a rapturous response. This,
hebelieves, proves that there is a'great thirst for the
ecstatic and the gnostic in the west. Robert Bly suggested to
me that this is one main reason for the interest in Rumi. He
says that in our sacred texts such as the Bible, those
elements were cut out, at the council of Nicea in the third
century, for example, and we've been lonesome for this
ecstatic material ever since." But is this interest in Sufism
just a fad? "Maybe," Barks says, "but it doesn't feel that
way. It hasn't got that shiny, frivolous T-shirt thing. It's
more than Hula Hoops." So what does he make of the Madonna
and Donna Karan manifestations of Rumi? "It does feel like a
dilution. The attunement to Rumi isn't as deep as I'd like,
but maybe it's a way of introducing Rumi to a wider audience,
so it's good and bad. Maybe some 17-year-old in the midwest
will latch on to it, and his life will be changed." He
pauses. "And what I do may be a distortion of Rumi. As the
French say, all translation is betrayal."

If there is a controversial aspect of Barks's take on Rumi,
it's that he views him as a bridge between faiths rather than
as the specifically Islamic poet that Muslim scholars see.
"There's a lot of discussion about that right now," Barks
says. "Rumi is certainly important in many different
cultures, and had followers of different faiths in his
lifetime. I see him as someone who kicked free of doctrinal
confinement and got to the core from which we all worship. I
think he saw these God clubs as dirisive. Others may see him

Rumi used the language of romance, but was often outrageous -
many poems are (aparentley -ed) about sexual love or
drunkenness; and there's also a sense of ambiguity and
frisson of the forbidden, common to much Sufi poetry. Early
last century, some poems were translated only into Latin, to
protect delicate sensibilities. One is the story of an
effeminate looking man who, because of his looks, gets a job
in a female bath-house and spends all day in a permanent
state of excitement massaging women. Only when he is nearly
discovered is he forced to rethink the way he lives his life

"I think Rumi just loved the variety of people's desires and
the absurdity of them," Barks says. "There's a surrealist
poem about a fish wanting linen shirts. It certainly gives
him a Shakespearean variation of metaphor. He uses the
language of romance from the Provencal tradition, from India
and North Africa, and explodes those traditions into a new
type oflove poem, where there is no synapse between lover and
beloved. It may be that only now, 700 years later, are we
beginning to understand him."

Rumi has always been a major figure in the east. As Andrew
Harvey, novelist and author of The Way Of Passion: A
Celebration Of Rumi, points out: "His odes have been chanted
by crowds on pilgrimages for centuries and sung with the
highest reverence, from Tangier to Cairo, Lahore and
Sarajevo, into the humblest, most remote villages of
Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran and India. No other poet in
history, not even Shakespeare or Dante, has had so exalted
and comprehensive an impact." Harvey believes Rumi will help
lead the west out of its capitalist, consumerist nihilism. He
sees Rumi as "an essential guide to the new mystical
renaissance that is struggling to be born today. He is the
spiritual inspiration for the 21st century." But he warns
against seeing Rumi as "a Jerry Garcia of the Sacred Heart".

Rumi is acceptable to the liberal US establishment, even if
they have put him in exotic soft focus, down- playing his
radicalism. Many among Rumi's new audience are New Agers in
search of something alittle more "real". Rumi is part of a
tried and tested Sufi tradition, and Barks's version of him
as a bridge between religions appeals to those who see
themselves as "spiritual" but who are also critical of
established creeds and unmlling to sign up for any particular
orthodoxy. The Rumi cult is a further sign of a strong
appetite for culture that appears not to be commercialised
(witnessed in everything from million-selling books on
Tibetan Buddhism to the Buena Vista Social Club), even if
there is a sophisticated marketing push behind the poet.
According to Barks's lawyer, the archetypal Rumi buyer is a
34-year- old, college-educated woman - the spiritual end of
the Bridget Jones market. But there is no doubt that Rumi has
become a key figure in the States, a talisman of the
authentic - in dialectical opposition to the virtual, the
packaged, the karaoke, and an important figure for the
anti-globalisation generation.

But the west's fascination with Rumi and Sufi writing isn't
entirely new. The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam was a hit more
than 100 years ago in Edward Fitzgerald's translation. The
more mystical British poets have always been aware of Rumi
and other Sufi writers. Robert Graves wrote the introduction
to Idries Shah's book The Sufis, which was reviewed at length
by Ted Hughes, who said, "The Sufis are the most sensible
collection of people on earth." Richard Burton, Victorian
explorer and translator of erotic dassics the Kama Sutra and
The Perfumed Garden, was initiated as a dervish, while Doris
Lessing is the highest profile modern novelist who has
followed the Sufi path. In an essay on Idries Shah, she
explained its attraction: "Sufi truth is at the core of every
religion, its heart, and religions are only the outward
vestments of an inner reality" But merely reading about this
is not enough, according to many Sufis; it's the spiritual
equivalent of going to a restaurant and trying to eat the
menu. "The real essential Rumi," Barks told me, "is the Zikr,
a ritual of remembrance of Allah." It was this I felt I had
to see, this that had brought me to Ahmed's carpet shop.
Finding private denish ceremonies is not easy - officially
they are illegal, though they are tolerated as long as they
remain low profile. I had already witnessed the largest
dervish ceremony, the annual celebration of Rumi's death (his
"wedding night", when he said he was to be married to the
eternal). In subzero temperatures in a baseball stadium in
Konya, Anatolia, where Rumi had lived for decades before he
died in 1273, 50 dervishes whirled in front of a couple of
thousand people, including a busload of Japanese tourists.
After the ceremony, in private houses in Konya, wilder, more
amateur forms of dervish parties take place.

But I wanted to ezperience the real stuff, the Zikr of which
Barks talked, which is how I found myself among 80 dervshes
in a small, hidden tekke (religious house) off a side street
in Istanbul, its wooden interior like that of a ski lodge.
After about an hour of different songs, the dervishes began
to lean forward rhythmically and chant the name of Allah -
speeding up like an express train. A violin and zither sent
chills down my spine, and out of nowhere emerged a solo voice
full of heartbreaking longing, similar to the muezzin's call
from the minarets. This was serious blues music. I was given
permission to take photographs, but I couldn't get up, pinned
back by the numbers and by what seemed like the sheer energy
of the spiritual force field. Then 12 dervishes filed into
the back of the room, took off their black cloaks and started
spinning ~ith incredible lightness and grace, their angelic
whirling a perfect counterpoint to the earthy chanting.

Nothing had prepared me for the disorienting feeling that the
dernshes were defpng gravity. Like much of Rumi and Sufism in
general, the performance was heavy with sxmbolism - the
funereal black cloak is a tomb and in casting this off, the
dervishes discard all worldly ties. They spin with their
right arms extended to heaven and their left arms to the
floor. Grace is received from Allah and distributed to
humanity. The dancers themselves represent the heavenly
bodies circling the sun, who is their sheikh, the spiritual

Most followers of these sheikhs have stories about their
psychic powers, stories I treated with scepticism, until they
seemed to be confirmed when my translator went white at one
point in the discussion after the ceremony. The dervishes
often bring their dreams to be interpreted by the sheikh and
this man told me the sheikh had just read out the text of a
15th-century poem and explained it. The poem, he said, was in
detail what he had dreamt of the previous night. Others,
however, told me not to be distracted by such apparent
psychic powers: 'The real miracle is the joy."

Afterwards, I met the sheikh, who said his name was Sultan
Veled and I asked him what the Zikr meant. He said, "Zikr
means remembrance. The purpose of life is to remember Allah.
Every electron and proton is whirling around a nucleus, as
the planets whirl around the sun - and all of them are
chanting for Allah. Even your heartbeat" - and here he
thumped his chest - 'is chanting Al-lah, Al-lah." I went out
into the cold Istanbul air and walked by the Bosphorus. As
the city lights sparkled on the river, I felt I'd experienced
something of the power of Rumi, amazed that his presence
should seem so alive eight centuries and 20 generations after
his death. I'd been brought up to be wary of such passion,
but I still envied them their longing, their sense of
brotherhood, their faith. But right now, I needed a drink.



I got this from the net. I do not know who the author is,
however I felt that it could be of interest to this group.

Love You


"How can you recognize a real or true guru?" "You can't. You
can however come to see that there is no such thing as the
truth, there is only what is, as it is right now. Whoever you
meet along the way, that's how it's meant to be. If you sit
with someone who appears to be a great master, but speaks
from ignorance, that is the infinite expression. If you
listen to someone who is awakened and speaks with clarity,
that is also the infinite expression, but there's no
guarantee that you will hear. For some people they feel the
need to be with somebody who seems to be very special and
magical and important. I would say seek out a teacher who
gives you nothing at all, no hope, no method, no personal
offer to take you there, because of course there isn't
anywhere to go. Look for someone who destroys all of your
belief systems and who is always throwing you back onto what
is, right here. Any teaching that advises you that you need
to be serious or honest or purified or changed through some
process, is simply not relevant. I have met people who have
been with very powerful eastern teachers and who have had
many so-called spiritual experiences. These people have
considerable difficulty in accepting and living with the idea
of the divine being in the ordinary. They still seek the
excitement of these so-called spiritual experiences, and have
very little time for the idea that a single footstep could be
miraculous. As a consequence these people are often a bit
lost in the ordinary world, and still look for the
extraordinary wherever they can."

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Jerry Katz
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