Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Blog - The Essence of Democracy

As we all know, there are many issues swirling about the idea of democracy. A new blog has been created entitled The Essence of Democracy which seeks to explore these issues and problems. However, this new blog seeks to creatively consider some possible solutions as well. It is a fairly lengthy first entry, but I believe if one reads the initial blog posting in its entirety, the reader may find it to be a rewarding experience and a source of hope for the future. I invite you to read the material and post your comments.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Gardens, both wild and cultivated, appear to have an attraction of near universal proportions for human beings. Different races, ethnic groups, nationalities, religious traditions, and eras all have been drawn to gardens.

One might wonder why this should be the case. Why do gardens appeal to us in such a deeply satisfying manner?To be sure, the flowers, shrubs, trees, grass and so on, have both individual, as well as collective, beauty. In addition, the diversity of shapes is intriguing, and the endless combination of flora arrangements is fascinating. Moreover, everything contributes to the wonderful bouquet of aromas which vary in character throughout the day and night.Toss in the mystery of the unfolding of life going on in the garden, and one might suppose all of the foregoing explains why most people are inclined to gardens.

The answer, however, may run deeper still.We find gardens peaceful and restful. Gardens seem to induce us to reflect on life. We find varying degrees of contentment and joy from gardens.We come away from gardens refreshed. There appears to be some kind of energy or source of renewal which we take away with us from gardens.There is almost a timeless quality to gardens. Things do change, but, somehow, time often seems to be suspended. The rest of the world recedes.Our senses are somewhat intoxicated from the effects of the garden. Our minds are massaged.
Gardens tug at our hearts and emotions. Every aspect of our being seems to be connected to, and affected by, gardens.We are captivated by the balance and harmony in gardens. Thoughts and remembrance of God tend to arise naturally in the context of gardens.Sufi masters indicate physical gardens are only one variety in a spectrum of infinite diversity.

In fact, the gardens of the physical world are but a distant reflection of the gardens associated with spiritual possibilities.Whatever contentment, peace, joy, happiness, rest, refreshment, wonder, beauty, fascination, intoxication and satisfaction we may receive from physical gardens is virtually nothing compared to what can be experienced in different kinds of spiritual garden.Indeed, on the basis of experience and not theoretical speculation, the Sufi masters note there is no way to describe the intensity, depth, richness, subtlety and diversity inherent in spiritual gardens. At best, one only can allude, in a very limited way, to a few superficial dimensions of the experiences involving non-physical gardens.

Our senses, mind , heart and soul are drawn to gardens because their many qualities strike a resonance deep within our being. For people of insight and understanding, such as the Sufi masters, the qualities of the gardens of the physical world are but a sign of the existence of other non-physical gardens which have garden-like qualities capable of reaching even further into the possibilities of our essential being.

The meaning of "garden-like qualities" in the foregoing refers to the capacity of non-physical gardens to generate, albeit on a much grander scale of both majesty and beauty, a sense of peace, joy, refreshment, contentment and so on, just as physical gardens do. However, the ultimate character of these non-physical gardens may not have anything in common with the structural forms given expression through physical gardens. In fact, some spiritual gardens are without any form, per se, whatsoever, yet induce in us extremely intense experiences which are somewhat analogous - in a distant sort of way - to those experiences engendered in us in physical gardens.

One does not necessarily have to leave the physical plane in order to get some semblance of taste of a non-physical garden. For example, in the garden of association with one's spiritual guide, one experiences garden-like qualities.When one is with one's shaykh or teacher, one feels at peace. One is happy, joyful, restful. One discovers a contentment in the presence of one's spiritual guide.Time almost seems to be suspended. The rest of the world becomes relatively unimportant.Life seems to have more balance and harmony while in the company of one's teacher. One finds thoughts of God and remembrance of God come more easily in the presence of the shaykh than when one is removed from the teacher. One is more given to spiritual reflection when associating with one's spiritual guide.One is drawn to the inner beauty of one's shaykh. One keeps discovering new facets of wonder and fascination in her or him.One can become extremely intoxicated or ecstatic in the presence of the teacher. One comes away from the spiritual guide refreshed and invigorated. One longs to return to the garden of spiritual association as quickly as possible.

Sufi masters refer to many other kinds of garden. There are, for instance, gardens of remembrance which are accessed through saying, and becoming absorbed in, the Names and Attributes of God.

When, by the grace of God, one is summoned into the reality of these Names and Attributes, as well as opened up to their infinite meanings of overwhelming beauty and majesty, one is transported to gardens unlike any in the physical realm. One is given entrance to gardens beyond all description.There are gardens of forgetfulness in which one is released from the veils of the false self. There are gardens of subsistence in God when one's true, essential self is realized.

There are gardens of gnosis. In these gardens, one has direct, certain, unmediated knowledge of God. In these gardens, God discloses different dimensions or facets of Divinity.There are gardens for every spiritual station. There are gardens of repentance and longing. There are gardens of dependence on God. There are gardens of gratitude, patience and sincerity.

One travels, if God wishes, from gardens of friendship to gardens of exclusive friendship. By the grace of Divinity, one is transported from gardens of passion to gardens of ardent affection.There are gardens of intense love in which the spirit soars in flights of intimacy with Divinity. During such flights, one becomes both enslaved and bewildered by the infinite beauty of the face of the Beloved manifested through these gardens.There are gardens of uniqueness. If God wishes, one is opened up to the mystery which is breathed into one's essential nature by Divinity at the advent of Self-realization.

There are countless other gardens. No two gardens are the same.No two spiritual gardens give the same kind of joy and happiness. No two gardens give the same modality of contentment, peace and satisfaction.No two gardens disclose the same Divine colors. No two gardens share the same wonder and beauty.No two spiritual gardens bring the same flavor of ecstasy. No two gardens show the same kind of breathtaking balance, symmetry and harmony.

The point of embarkation for the possibility of journeying to any and all of the aforementioned gardens is, God willing, in the garden of spiritual association with the shaykh. Without this association and the grace and barakah, or blessings, of Divinity to which it gives expression, the nearest one will come to a first-hand experience of any of these other gardens is a spiritual travelogue such as the one being itemized in this essay.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Detachment from a Sufi Perspective

Indifference is not a synonym for mystical detachment. The individual who, by the grace of God, has acquired the quality of detachment is not above it all, but very much in it all.The secret lies not just in how one is in it all. The secret also concerns the nature of that which one is all in.

One cannot be detached, in the Sufi sense of the word, without submitting to the will of God. Detachment means to become disengaged from one's own will and to become a locus of manifestation for the will of God. In fact, the process of becoming detached from one's own will is an expression of becoming attached to the will of God.

As long as we prefer our own perspective to God's will, we cannot achieve detachment. As long as we persist in being entangled in our desires, moods, and attitudes, we are not free to align ourselves with the will of God. To the extent we insist on pursuing the gratifications generated by the dialectic of ego, body, and the world, we will be separated from the condition of detachment.

Upon hearing about the idea of mystical detachment, many people react negatively and wonder how, for instance, a detached person can be loving and compassionate. Detachment sounds so cold and uncaring.

In reality, we cannot be truly loving and compassionate until we are oriented toward everything by means of detachment. The attachments, preoccupations and entanglements of our egos prevent us from being loving and compassionate human beings. Like the destructive form of cholesterol, ego and worldly attachments cling to the walls of our spiritual arteries and block the passage of the flow of love and compassion.

In ways reminiscent of medical practitioners, Sufi masters tell us to refrain, as much as we can, from a steady diet of the attachments of the ego because of their injurious effects on our spiritual system. Nonetheless, we continue to consume all the worldly things which are harmful to us.

One cannot be suffering from the spiritual counterpart to arteriosclerosis and, yet, be free from the symptoms of the disease. One experiences a pain and discomfort in the heart which spreads to other parts of one's being. The heart becomes dysfunctional in a variety of ways. One has difficulty breathing in the joy and beauty of life. There is a general lassitude and drop in spiritual energy levels. One becomes more sensitive to, and less able to constructively deal with, stress and strain. One feels a sense of existential malaise.

Someone who is caught up in the throes of the disease process tends to withdraw, to varying degrees, from the activities going on around one. One might like to show compassion for, or help, others, but due to one's disabled condition, one is not in a spiritual position to do so.

When the heart has been cleansed of attachment to other than God, the heart becomes a fountain of love and compassion which is offered freely to all of creation. The love and compassion of the heart of detachment is inherently generous and active and dynamic. The heart of detachment gives expression to part of the spiritual legacy of the human being. Such a heart is operating in accordance with the specifications called for by the Divine blueprints. The heart of detachment is charismatic and magnetic. It has an appeal which is extremely attractive to almost everyone coming into proximity with its radiating sphere of influence. Consequently, we tend to want to attach ourselves to the people of mystical detachment.

Detachment is like an inertial guidance system. No matter what the nature of the potentially disruptive forces are which are acting on the individual, the person of detachment always stays on course. Whatever adjustments need to be made to counter the effects of such forces are implemented.The person of detachment locks on to the will of God and does not permit any other kind of guidance to take priority in his or her journey.

However, this process of locking-on does not imply rigidity, inflexibility, or fanaticism of any kind.

All too frequently, when we believe we are locking-on to the will of God, we are merely tuning into the noise of our own likes and dislikes. In our confusion we sometimes become unyielding in our approach to things as we operate under the mistaken belief we are doing God's will when, in fact, we only are doing our own will.

Although the will of God permits many things to transpire in the affairs of human beings, some of our intentions and motivations are more consonant with the spirit and essence of Divine will than are other instances of our intentions and motivations. Compassion, love, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, co-operation, peace, justice, tolerance, mercy, nobility, fairness, and patience are but a few of the qualities close to the heart, so to speak, of God's will.

An individual who, by the grace of God, is cloaked in the above mentioned attributes, is someone through whom the will of God can be manifested in a way which is capable of benefiting humanity and all of creation. Someone who is cloaked in such qualities tends not to be inflexible or rigid or fanatical. Instead, this individual tends to operate creatively and aesthetically through a set of permissible degrees of freedom which allow accommodations to be made without compromising the person's submission to the will of God.

The gateway to becoming adorned in these kinds of quality is detachment. Until one has cast off the garments of the ego, one will not be allowed into the Divine fitting room.

Detachment permits one to focus on the essential in all circumstances. Detachment removes one from the distractions of the ego and the world. Detachment fortifies one against the onslaught of forces seeking to corrupt intention and motivation. Detachment allows one to distinguish between the true self and the false self. Detachment provides the understanding and freedom through which to recognize, and do, the will of God in a way that is pleasing to God.