Viladat Day Lecture July 5th 2015
In Celebration of Spiritual Liberty and the Unity of Religious Ideals
Murad Hassil, Katwijk, Holland
Universal Worship Sermon
By Rabia Perez Chisti
Beloved Community of the Message,
Greeting with all blessings on this day in celebration of Viladat Day, the birthday of our Blessed Murshid Inayat Khan. May our gathering be filled with the Light of the Divine Creator. Through Murshid’s blessed atmosphere and presence even reaching to those who did not meet him in person, he inspired a sense of liberation from the doctrinal dictums of all religions. He rather focused on the wideness of spiritual liberty that exhudes a tremendous attraction to those numberless mureeds around the world who were purified by the sweet fragrance of Truth against the various religious interpretations that separated one from another and from the Divine Creator. Hazrat Inayat Khan says to be spiritual, “one first must be human, then to be selfless, and finally to be Godly, but never to be a slave of preconceived ideas imposed by others, and never to let oneself be dominated by those preconceived ideas which tend to be unconsciously created within one’s own mind.”
As I regard with great reverence the Universal Worship that emphasizes the Spirit of Unity, I am inspired by Murshid’s words to reconstitute the essence of the Divine Creator in all forms. All religions offer praxis that uplifts and inspires humanity to act with wisdom, compassion and reverence for all of life. But when religious doctrine moves away from a Panentheistic perspective we lose the essential message of the Prophets. While Pantheism says God and the Universe are coextensive Panentheism, “Pan meaning all,” “en meaning in,” and “theism meaning the Creator”. This term expresses that God is greater than the universe because everything in this universe is the Creator. This idea ties all living creation together. The human species then becomes a portion of the democratic and ecological ideal found in the meaning of unity not the sole leader. Panentheism connects us to the Divine essence in all that is living, reminding us how all things are beautiful and in mutual interdependence, called by the Buddha Shakyamuni, “Paticcasamupada,” (Genesis of Origination) forming this amazing tapestry of life.
From understanding of this terminology, an idea arises as to how all members from any spiritual path can become co-creators of a new historical vision that embraces Panentheism. As an early historical example of this idea, Bartolomé de las Casas, who worked on behalf of the native Indian community in South America during the 16th Century once said, “God is the one who always remembers those whom history has forgotten.” His teachings about the poor was a recognition that the Divine was truly with the poor which was a beginning of the Divine sense of Panentheism which opposed that of the “hierarchal theisms” that emphasized top-down glorification of a few over the many. De las Casas’ impulse attempted to bring in an expanded vision showing he was a forerunner of a greater inclusive ideal, not only an anthropocentric ideal that included all human beings regardless of their class condition, but he later expanded his spiritual embrace into the greater community of nature itself.
In Sufism the mystics and prophets seemed to have nurtured the same “One Being” represented in the individual and community such as Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi when he says, “Behind the beauty of the moon is the MoonMaker. There is intelligence inside the oceans feeding our love like an invisible water wheel.” Avicinenna (Ibn Sina-980-1037) the great Iranian theologian says, “The body has clarity through the nature of its component parts resulting from the soul’s glory.” The division that arises in doctrinal systems of belief that separates out nature from human beings is indeed a tragedy. No doctrinal system should take away from an individual the “Oneness” of gender equal humanity as it connects to natural creation and destroy the mystical legacy if unity of all the prophets. When any “hierarchal theism” separates human beings by gender, nature and the Creator, we lose the beauty, the harmony and the love we were called to uphold by our Beloved Murshid Inayat Khan. Our Sufi mission encourages us to maintain a sense of unity not only with gender equal human beings, but with all of the natural creation. Our Master, Hazrat Inayat Khan who entrusted us with the “Universal Worship” heals the division by saying, “O nature sublime, pregnant with divine spirit, thou speakest the prayer that rises from my heart...” (Gayan, p.135)
Yet... for us now, a process of co-creating for the needs of our time requires a re-visioning of our hierarchal history. What preceded us and made us who and what we are occurs when we are given the tools to recover the wisdom of the past and bring new impulses guided by the mystical journey of our intuition into the present.
From the omission of gender inequality existing in many of the religions of the world, it is time that the efforts we make to liberate not only the Panentheistic understanding that connects earth and stars, but also the feminine contribution of masters, saints, prophets and mystics must be a sustained and a continued effort. For as long as any part of the feminine is tied to negative bias in the greater religious and cultural collective thought, one single free impulse is not going to release the generations of biased abuse that proliferates into our habits from which our children learn.
Therefore the acknowledgement of the feminine voice in all religious doctrinal systems should be sourced and used in our Universal Worship Services today. These great women souls who have contributed to the living mysticism of Sufism and who encourage Panentheistic unity renders our relationship with other species mutual and sacred, reminding us that we are all beautiful, and all in connection within the interdependent existence.
Great women masters, saints, prophets and mystics have emphasized Panentheism through their love of nature and brought feminine perspective that brings healing balance between male and female gender and class systems of separation in our culture. Hildegard of Bingen, a Christian Abbess from the 12th Century, emphasized in her religious writings and iconography how we are ALL (men and women) co-creators with the Divine and this is shown through every action we take when our actions are in conscious respect of creation. “We are greening, greening with life, (Wir sind erblĚhen, grĚnen mit Leben), we bear our fruit for all of creation, (um unsere FrĚchte den Schopfung zu geben), limitless love from the depth to the stars, flooding all, loving all, (Endlose Liebe, aus den Tiefen, bis zu den Sternen, flutet die Leibe) It is the royal (wie en erhabener) kiss of peace (Friedens gruss).” (Creation Dances from PeaceWorks Center for the Dances 1990, Fairfax, CA. p. 9-10.)
A great Native Iroquois Elder, José Hobday who I had the great privilege of studying with her for many years once said how choices of simplicity in our lifestyle brings us into greater unity with extended community of human beings and nature. “Simple living calls us to reverence for ALL that is. We walk with gratitude and wonder. We do not allow ourselves to become dulled and insensitive to the beauty of the world. We learn to worship. Our worshipful reverence then extends to people and all of Creation.” (Simple Living. Continuum International Publishing Group, New York, 1998. p. 89)
Ye-shés mTso-rgyal, the Mother of great knowledge distinguished in the 9th Century writings of Tibetan Buddhist Religion, connected the human body and mind to nature, which she instructed her disciples to contemplate by saying, “I learned that from the beginningless beginning of time, one’s body is of the nature of deity, one’s speech is the sound of mantras, and one’s mind is Being itself, because one can never pass from reality itself.” (Mother of Knowledge, The Enlightenment of Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal. Dharma Publishing, Berkeley, CA. 1983. p. 35)
In an early 19th Century publication of Sikh King, Rana Surat Singh, he writes about his Queen and mystic, Rani Raj Kaur. He tells of her experiences in a feminine and somatic manner as the “hand that heightens awakefulness.” He says, “For the most part, she experiences emotionally and sensually, the more she contemplates the more her intellect expands to all of Creation as the individual exists in accordance with the unity of body, senses, perceptions, intellect and consciousness (formed from the very substance of ALL that is composing Creation).” Throughout her condition, Rani Raj Kaur is like a bird flying in a subtle breeze and every stage of her experience becomes more refined within her consciousness. She says, “Glittering like a gem, I was becoming purer... our (all that is living) corporeal form is altered, we become lighter and brightly luminous, heightening manifold our understanding, intellect, energy and power.” (The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent. Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. Great Britain,1993. pgs. 228-229)
In the Japa sloka of Guru Nanak Dev, a crucial theme is carried forth for our benefit, “Air is the Guru, water the Father, The great earth, the Mother of all. Day and Night are the female and male nurses, with the entire creation playing in the lap.” (The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent, p.49)
During the early 19th Century, Mother Mirra Alfassa from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India warns humanity of coming dangers that arise from the lies of separation between earth and the Divine Source in her writings translated from French, on The Supreme Discovery by saying, “Harken yet. No state was ever more precarious than that of a (human being) when (they) were separated on earth from (their) Divine Source.” (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Publication, Pondicherry, India. 1994. p. 18)
The views that are expressed by great woman masters, saints, prophets and mystics restore feminine wisdom and balance to the great religious traditions of the world. The majority of religious traditions have been traditionally dominated by male voices throughout millennia. We remain impressed by this unreal imbalance. Our treasured Murshid Inayat Khan indicates, “We are impressed by it, we live in it, wrapped up in the unreal that covers our eyes from reality. If we do not look at it as unreal, we shall not have the desire to find what is real.” (Sufi Message Vol. #XI, p. 152)
The Universal Worship of the Sufi Movement can model the balance of both feminine and masculine contributions to wisdom literature and practice, bringing a renewed impulse for unity by refusing to merely imitate the prevailing secular models of religious training that separates wisdom contributions from those born mystics, saints and prophets that make God a reality and bring forth the moral of the mystical love of all Creation. To create a truly alternative model of religious thought that includes the gender equal, numinous and experiential sacredness of Panentheistic reality would send a hopeful message to the young and old alike, that brings a reclamation of the diverse expression of Divinity of women and men, the earth, the self, and all species that share life on this planet. I do believe I can see our Beloved Murshid smiling.
Thank you and may you be ever blessed to walk in beauty, and to walk in peace.
Readings for the Universal Worship Scriptures:
Hindu: Transcendent, the original supreme Shakti, she stands above the worlds and links the creation to the ever manifest mystery of the Supreme. Universal, the cosmic Mahashakti, she creates all these being and contains and enter, supports and conducts all these million processes and forces. Individual, she embodies the power of these two vaster ways of her existence, makes them living and near to us and mediates between the human personality and the divine Nature. (The Mother. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India, 1960. p. 37)
Buddhist: I learned that from the beginningless beginning of time, one’s body is of the nature of deity, one’s speech is the sound of mantras, and one’s mind is Being itself, because one can never pass from reality itself. (Mother of Knowledge- Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal. p.35)
Zoroastrian: Ahura Mazda, Lord, you benefactor of humanity and of all the races of humankind, and of the other Kingdoms of nature, you ideal of existence for the righteous, grant us, all believers in the good faith of Mazda worship and understanding of it, unshaken fidelity toward it and the goodness of it. So may it be. (Teachings of Zarathushtra-Prophet of Iran. T.R. Sethna, Pakistan, 1975. p.15)
Jewish: “I learned of Faith by touching earth, I learned of faith by listening to breath move through me…The faith I found was in my own body as spiritual truth and my felt “thought” or symbol creation has me imaging my own body as goddess, as earth, as shekinah” (Franchon Shur, “My Dance Work as a Reflection of a Jewish Women’s Spirituality,” Four Centuries, 1992, p. 99)
Christian: We are greening, greening with life. We bear our fruit for all of creation. Limitless love from the depth to the stars. Flooding all, loving all, it is the royal kiss of peace. (Hildegard von Bingen, Creation Dances from PeaceWorks Center for the Dances 1990, Fairfax, CA. p. 9-10.)
Islam: Believing men and women are those who walk on earth with humility. (Qur’an, 25:63). And it is Allah who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firms and flowing rivers, and fruit of every kind. Allah made in pairs, two and two; Allah draweth the night as a veil over the Day. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who consider. (Qur’an, 13:3)
Sufi: Woman is the stepping stone to God’s sacred altar. The Manuscript of God is written in Nature. (Gayan, Vadan, Nirtan. p. 174)
The time when the Cherag comes in the room where the Universal Worship
is going to be performed, he must bear in mind that he is coming with
the Sufi Message to give in the form of the Universal Worship.
from Cherag's Paper July 18, 1926
Dear siraj(a)s, cherag(a)s and candidate-cherag(a)s,
[Below you'll] find a part of Cherag's Paper from July 18, 1926.
In this paper our beloved Murshid speaks about the concentration that the cherag must hold while doing the Universal Worship.
He explains that we are united with God, the Messengers and Prophets. If we are conscious of that, we will have the right attitude to officiate in the Universal Worship. The ordination inspires us to be the channels through which the Message will flow.
Let us be aware of the connection we have with the first Siraj-un-Munir; he will guide us in our work for the Cause.
May his words inspire you and I wish you all, dear siraj(a)s, cherag(a)s and candidate-cherag(a)s, Murshid’s nearness in your heart.
With most loving greetings,
Cherag's Paper – July 18, 1926
Today I would like to speak on the concentration that the Cherag must hold while doing the service. The time when the Cherag comes in the room where the Universal Worship is going to be performed, he must bear in mind that he is coming with the Sufi Message to give in the form of the Universal Worship. At that time he must think that he is the vehicle at that particular moment to give the Message to those who are waiting to receive it. He must absolutely forget his own personality in the thought of the Message, in the spirit of the Message.
And when the Cherag says: "Towards the One, the Perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty . . . " to think that he is united with God, that he is working for God, and all that he says and does is towards God. And when he says: "united," then he must know that he is united with all the Prophets and Messengers whose names are mentioned in the service, also those whose names are unknown, and those who are not mentioned. That he is united with them all, that he is the Representative of all the spiritual souls, Prophets and Masters and Messengers.
And when he raises the taper to kindle the lights, he must think in his mind that the light that was given by that particular religion, which by the lapse of time has become dim, needs to be kindled, and here I am kindling it.
And when he is kindling the candle of those known and unknown Messengers, he must think that: the Divine wisdom as the one underlying current in all religions, which has become dim, now I am kindling it. Never think that: I am a limited being, a Cherag, a personality, how could I think of this. At that time never think that: I am a certain individual, or even a Cherag. Think that: I am the representative this time, that this is my sacred mission to do it. Destiny has meant that at this time I must do it for the whole world, for the whole universe. That must be the spirit. And there is a great magic hidden behind it.
And when the Cherag reads the passage he must read with appreciation, he must read with devotion, and he must read with understanding, and he must read with the thought at the back of it that it goes and enlightens the listeners.
And when he raises the book and says: "We offer to the omniscient God our reverence, our homage and our gratitude for the Light of the Divine . . . " to think at that time of the Messenger who brought that Message and to feel and realize, that he is at onement with that Messenger.
And when the Cherag says his first prayer, he must think and feel every word of the prayer. And with Saum he must realize the birth of the Message, with Salat he must realize the continuity, the life of the Message. And with Khatum, the last prayer, he must realize the fulfillment of the Message.
To perform the service has a spiritual magic in it. And if it is performed with that magic its effect is thousand times greater.
When the Cherag gives blessings and raises his hands he must not think that these are his own hands. He must think that these are the hands of the Message itself blessing humanity. Then the effect will manifest.
And when he leaves gently the room he has performed, he must think that he is leaving there in that place and in the heart of those who are present an everlasting impression of the sacred word of God.