Tag Archives: Meher Baba

The Slow Path to Sainthood (and Beyond)

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My Painting of Meher Baba

I Have Invented a Theory

“It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the Enemy.”
–Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings)

Yeah but that’s probably safe from me the dilettante
And so I say (In spite of what Gandalf said)
There’s nothing wrong with studying the ego
Because I have invented a theory
In which the ego is not evil unless children can be

And yes so they can
(Another proof of reincarnation)
But it worked for this teacher of first grade:
It’s the carrot of love and attention
Against the stink-stick of detention

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards 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.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

An interestingly perennial issue among mystics is the question of reincarnation. First, I will give my off-the-cuff seat-of-my-pants speculation:

I look at it from a teacher point of view. Perhaps because I was in fact (for three years, 1997-2000) a first grade teacher.

And as such I thought a lot abut teaching, and what it entails.

I want to keep the focus on reincarnation, but it seems to me an education issue.

And I love education, for instance I loved geometry. Especially proving theorems.

Most especially the honesty involved: Geometry is a science whose practitioners admit right off that all these calculations and logic start with a basic premise, an a priori judgment (one requiring no proof) called an axiom.

The famous example:

Axiom A (which axiomatically is taken as provisional truth): the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

And so if you want to argue against this theorem you can’t say but maybe it’s an illusion being straight. Maybe in fact a crooked path is the shortest way home (don’t get me started on that interesting metaphysical issue). Because Axiom A above is an axiom (AKA an a priori judgement)

And so (again) I wish to (anent my belief in reincarnation) stipulate this axiom:

Axiom A: God is our teacher. So now is your time to deny that. But beware , if you don’t, soon looms a logical trap. Which is this. If God is a teacher, it’s very obvious that with even our three score and ten years we are proceeding Godwards at a glacial pace. (As in it took that river of ice a thousand years to advance a yard.)

And it would also explain the vast discrepancy between cruel narcissistic idiots and even the general run of the population. According to the co founder of my Sufi group, Meher Baba*, there is indeed reincarnation, and to the tune of over eight million lifetimes just as a human being. And that leaves a vast swath of sweet people on the slow path to sainthood. (and beyond)

Okay back to the teaching analogy. How would it be for a first grade teacher (yo!) to know that his pupils instead of graduating on to second grade and ultimately perhaps a doctorate, etc, instead graduated into the grave?

What a waste of a good start of basic education!

Or else you can embrace the alternate theory that this famous Almighty God couldn’t manage a system of reincarnation lessons in which we all matriculated in the same curriculum (albeit at different levels)

What say you? Too much like three dimensional chess for an omnipotent and omni-loving god to manage?

Okay that’s my two cents. Argument about reincarnation-wise.

But in Sufism we have recourse to experts. (As in how Buddhists had recourse to Gautama)

And what do the Sufi experts say?

Sorry, but it’s time for another axiom. I stipulate two experts, Hazrat Inayat Khan (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inayat_Khan), the founder of Sufism in the western world circa 1920. and Meher Baba, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meher_Baba) the silent avatar who lived (mostly) in India who in 1948 became the next Murshid (in effect).*

As I have already mentioned, Meher Baba explicitly explained that we are subject to millions of lifetimes.

And what about Inayat Khan?

This is a tricky issue because Sufism was founded by Islamic mystics more than a thousand years ago. And the Koran says nothing about reincarnation, and so Inayat Khan would have stirred up trouble if he talked explicitly about reincarnation. And an important Sufi practice is to sow peace and lack of controversy whenever possible (and there always seems to be a way) I could give you some interesting Inayat Khan stories showing this practice but that would digress–a dangerous habit I have, especially if I want to keep these posts under 2,000 words.**

But implicitly Inayat Khan supported reincarnation.

Here’s an example:

“There are some who are content with a belief taught at home or in church. They are contented, and they may just as well rest in that stage of realization where they are contented until another impulse is born in their hearts to rise higher. The Sufi does not force his belief or his thoughts upon such souls. In the East, there is a saying that it is a great sin to awaken anyone who is fast asleep. This saying can be symbolically understood. There are many in this world who work and do things and are yet asleep; they seem awake externally, but inwardly, they are asleep. The Sufi considers it a crime to awaken them, for some sleep is good for their health. The work of the Sufi is to give a helping hand to those who have had sufficient sleep and who now begin to stir in their sleep, to turn over. And it is that kind of help which is the real initiation.”

Let me put it this way, if they only had 70 years to wake up and get cracking, well, good luck with that.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*A bit of history:
Inayat Khan founded my order circa 1920, when he died, And according to Sufi tradition before dying the Sufi murshid (guru, master, etc) names his or her successor. And Hazrat Inayat Khan chose (just before he died in 1927) a certain mureed (follower) to succeed him. She was Rabia Martin, a Jewish American woman. Now sad to say that there was in the high echelons of the Sufi movement a certain animus towards Jewish, toward American, and yes even toward woman. So they instead named as the next Murshid, Inayat Khan’s brother (Vilayat Khan as I recall) and Murshida Martin went her way with twenty or so who kept loyally following her.

This went on for twentish years until on her deathbed from cancer Murshida Martin told one of her followers, My Murshida, Ivy Duce, that she wanted her to succeed her as Murshida, And when Ms Duce (Mrs, actually) didn’t feel up to the responsibility, was prevailed upon to at least travel to India to consult with a certain mystic named Meher Baba, whom Murshida Martin (in Sufi lingo) declared to be the Qutub, or “pivot,” the highest spiritual authority on the planet at that time.

**Okay what the hell. Here’s an Inayat Khan example of spreading peaceful capitulation:

He tells of a time when on a train he made the mistake of saying he and the man he was talking to “were brothers.” The man took great offence at Inayat Khan assuming such an equality. The man had deemed himself higher socially than Inayat Khan (who wikipedia attests, was of noble blood in India).

But Inayat Khan smoothed it over, begging his pardon and saying, “I am your servant, Sir!” which Inayat Khan explained in an aside was true, because we are all each other’s servants . . .

Joy and Sorrow and Stuff

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My painting of Meher Baba

 

New Start–178

Subtle Sorrows Are Borrowing Our Hearts

“Joy and sorrow are the light and shade of life; without light and shade no picture is clear.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan

I’m thinking about life as a painting
As if I were an art critic
And even the painter

I’m also thinking about sadness
Yes because I am sad today but
It’s subtle this sadness

It won’t spoil my morning or the sun’s caress
It’s just an interesting object of investigation
(An objet d’art if you will)

Because I’m realizing different moods are
The colors of our life paintings and what
A strange painting it would be without dark contrasts!

Even the very dark ones–and the light grays?
Each day subtle sorrows
Are borrowing our hearts

They are the touches of gray
Which give our skin depth and volume
In the paintings of our lives

Clearly both sadness and joy
Breathe life and verisimilitude into our lives
(Not to mention artistic expression)

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards 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.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

“Joy and sorrow are each part of the other. If it were not for joy, sorrow would not exist; and if it were not for sorrow, joy would not be experienced.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan

Pardon my double (or is it triple?) dose of Hegelian philosophy. But Hegel and his dialectic (read thesis antithesis, then, synthesis) are integral to my brand of Sufism. In a nutshell, you start with an idea and then you get an opposite idea, and the two fight it out til you reach a synthesis, which then becomes (In an upward spiral) the next level’s new thesis. (Yes we advance by successive approximation)

I am fascinated by Hegel. Have been ever since my UC Berkeley days where I came across Hegel in my European Intellectual History class. Of course it didn’t hurt that Meher Baba and Inayat Khan spoke in such Hegelian concepts. (e. g. all that talk about opposites)

Also for the above, I found intensely interesting the rumor that my beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl, was the reincarnation of Hegel.

And, speaking of opposites, here’s a bit from my daily dose of Hazrat Inayat Khan:

“We generally confuse truth with fact, and we often use the word fact for truth. When we look at it from the mystic’s point of view we find that words are too intricate ever to explain what is truth*. … Truth is that which cannot be pointed out, because all things that can be compared have their opposite, but neither God nor truth has an opposite. Names are to point out forms, and words are to distinguish one thing from another, while definitions come from the pairs of opposites or at least from differences. That which is all-pervading and is in all things and beings, that which every word explains and yet no word can explain, is God and is truth.”

Which brings us to Meher Baba (who in 1948 inherited my erst Sufi order–1972-79–which had been founded by Inayat Khan in 1921 ish).

As in this:

FREEDOM FROM OPPOSITES
Meher Baba

Every man is subject to agreeable and disagreeable experiences — of pleasure and pain, success and failure, good and evil, wealth and poverty, power and helplessness, honor and dishonor, gain and loss, fulfillment and frustration.

Each of these opposites invites a suitable response in emotion or in action. Mind is moved by these opposites, and is continually losing its equilibrium and continually trying to restore it while constantly meeting the impacts of environmental changes.

During its various lives as a human being the ego-mind can oscillate endlessly between the opposites, viz., indulgence and repression, secularism and religion, superiority complex and inferiority complex, self-aggrandizement and self-humiliation, introversion and extroversion, virtue and vice, pain and pleasure, “I” and “you” or “mine” and “thine,” without arriving at true poise.

True poise comes when the ego-mind, with all its accumulated inclinations, melts away through divine love, thus unveiling the supramental Truth in which there is a realization that one is — oneself — one with all life. Here there is no duality or division of life and therefore the soul is free from the opposite attitudes.

Having become one with the eternal and infinite divinity which sustains from within, the soul gains unending bliss, understanding, love and power, for the soul is free from duality.”

Sounds a lot like what Buddha said (and reportedly, experienced), nicht wahr?**

But back to Inayat Khan:

There is going forward and there is going backwards, there is success and there is failure, there is light and there is darkness, there is joy and there is sadness, there is birth and there is death. All things that we can know, feel and perceive have their opposites. It is the opposite quality which brings about balance. The world would not exist if there were not water and earth. Every thing and every being needs these two qualities in order to exist, to act, and to fulfill the purpose of life; for each quality is incomplete without the other. … by a deep insight into nature we discover that the creation is the same as the Creator, that the source is the same as the goal, and that the two only mean one. There are two ends to a line but the line is one, and this oneness is manifest in all things, though man seldom gives any thought to this subject. This amazing manifestation, this world of variety, keeps us so puzzled, so confused, and so absorbed in it that we hardly give ourselves any time to see this wonderful phenomenon: how the one and only Being shows Himself even in the world of variety.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Which reminds me of I forget who said, “Poetry is the art of the attempt to express the inexpressible.” Which would be a fool’s errand if it weren’t for the reader’s imagination coming to the rescue. Indeed, it’s an oft stated thing, (Inayat Khan-wise): the vital importance of the imagination.

**Coincidentally or not, I just finished rereading (after thirty years) a great Buddhist book, “Footprints of Gautama the Buddha, by Marie Beuzeville Byles, which I think is out of print, but which is still orderable online. In it is the life of Buddha (at least onwards from the episode under the Banyon tree). It tells it as a story but with extensive source notes after each chapter (in case you want to verify the incidents).

It portrays an interesting Buddha, whose gentle wit also shows through.

Finally the Cat Is Out of the Bag!

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Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi class (circa 1973)

I am the dark guy in the back row just in front of the left door jamb.

 

 

Lud Dimpfl with Meher Baba

 

New Start—419
Let Hell Go To Its Favorite Abyss

What if you were a writer when
(You had an imagination)
You imagined a new way backwards

(For a new way towards)
To examine the apparently soulless behavior
Of someone who couldn’t budge

Because who had kept dammed his heart and if
Then instead of damning him for his lack of savior
What if instead of that you understood better

Who he really was or at least you understood that
To judge is to fetter
(Yourself as well and to them too)

And so then you stepped toward this bliss:
You let hell go (to its favorite abyss)
You let flow your tear-salted water

From your oceanic heart and then
(It’s a start)
You wept?

 

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards 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.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Note to Gentle Readers:

The company that administers this website blind-sided me with a new format for posting stuff which I didn’t understand. For that, this post is very much behindtime. (but all is better now. (Ojala and inshallah)

Apologies.

Gentle Readers,
Perhaps you haven’t been following my blog “religiously.” (There’s that nasty word again) And so perhaps a brief bit about my background is in order. In order that is to better understand where I am coming from, and better put my musings in the context of a useful framework.

So here’s why this is a “Sufi” website:

I was an initiate in a Sufi order in northern California, from 1972 to 1979. (If you aren’t familiar with “Sufism,” if it helps to place this in context, Rumi was a Sufi). This order was co-founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan, sent to the west (England, The United States, etc.) in 1914, by his murshid, Madani, as I recall, in Hyderabad, India. The mission was to establish a Sufism beachhead in the west.*

In Sufism, the “guru” is called a murshid. Or, in the case of a woman, a murshida.

Inayat Khan died in 1927 and in 1948 the then murshida, Rabia Martin, (Inayat Khan’s chosen successor), when dying of cancer directed that the order be put under the aegis of Meher Baba (which means, compassionate father) in India. She was convinced he was “The Qutub,” which means in Sufism, the highest spiritual authority on the planet at the time. He was of the large Parsi community in India. They had centuries earlier fled from their native Persia where they were ostracized by the Islamic influences that took over Persia, and as is frequent worldwide in these cases of differing religions, did not show tolerance to the “infidel” Parsis, who didn’t wish to renounce their ancient devotion to the prophet Zoroaster, not even in favor of Mohammed..

Meher Baba conducted then the order from a physical distance, (its headquarters being in San Francisco) naming Ivy Duce as the new murshida. When I joined, Ivy Duce was about seventy five years old. Basically we followed the practices which had been set forth by Hazrat Inayat Khan, with some changes–mostly additions prompted by Meher Baba (I can’t think of any subtractions).  Oops. Yes I can. One thing. Meher Baba wanted omitted some of the arcane practises which if taught to people not spiritually advanced enough to use them safely, could abuse them, both to their and others’ detriment.

And so we revered Inayat Khan (Hazrat is a title bestowed in the east upon one who is respected as a holy person). We studied his writings, and sang his Zikr to start each meeting. It was a round–or canon (like the famous canon in D by Pachelbel, or more familiarly (and aptly, the last line) “Row Row, Row Your Boat.” And we said his invocation also at the start of a meeting. This was, “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.”

As you may notice these are pantheistic in tone, and the invocation I do believe ranks as the most ecumenical of invocations. As such it is often the case that fundamentalists in their respective religions, take objection. As do others who imagine that “religion” inherently is imposed upon one from without, whether by a person such as Christ or Buddha, or usually, by mere priests of one sort or another who purport to speak for God.

Inayat Khan neatly sidesteps this (as do most Sufis I have come across in my readings) by the expedient of declaring that God has a way of adapting to the belief of the individual, who is encouraged to use the full range of her imagination to conceive of God as the embodiment of whatever most moves her heart. Since as Inayat Khan repeatedly emphasizes, the temple of God is the heart of man. Along these lines, he often quotes the Prophet Mohammed who said “Every man has his own religion.”

One of the practices prescribed by Inayat Khan is daily to say to oneself, “My thoughtful self, reproach no one, hold a grudge against no one, bear malice toward no one; Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

And this brings us to today’s theme, that of judgment. (Ha! Finally the cat is out of the bag!) Of course some religions or philosophies emphasize the concept of reincarnation (e. g. Jainism, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, some subsects of Islam, and others. Most recently–to my knowledge–also, Meher Baba.) Indeed, though Inayat Khan never explicitly references such a doctrine, in my opinion, his philosophy connotes this. He often refers to the human being’s gradual development in terms that simply haven’t a possible timeline without reincarnation. I suspect this stemmed from the fact of Sufism being born of Islam, and steeped in a tradition of obfuscation. So as to avoid fundamentalist persecution—an example being poetry ostensibly written to an opposite sex beloved, or reference to “wine” when the cognoscenti knew what was meant was to a reference to God or divine intoxication. And had Inayat Khan spoken directly of reincarnation, it would have aroused controversy and Sufis are noted for keeping a low profile.

And again sticking to the no no of judgment, once one is hip to reincarnation there obtain obvious corollaries, such as the concept of “young souls” or “old souls.” The older souls, for their greater experience, are wiser. And a corollary to that is the injustice of judging a “young soul” by the standards of an older one. It would be like demanding calculus from a kindergartner. Because we are all on different rungs of the ladder, as it were. And God knows (as opposed to we) who is higher and who is lower or by how much. There can then be no absolute standards of even good and evil. Inayat Khan says the virtue of a regular person would likely be a sin for a saint. And Meher Baba has said, “There is no such thing as evil. Only relative degrees of good.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*By an interesting coincidence, Inayat Khan’s wife was either the cousin or sister (I forget which) to Mary Baker Eddy who founded Christian Science.