Bismillahirrahmanirrahim In the Blessed Name of the All Compassionate and Loving One
Spiritual life is not singular, it is a communal reality. It unfolds through a sacred community.
What is sacred community?
We can understand sacred community as the innate, primordial and living bond of the hearts to their Source and the reflection of this bond to each other, within each other, for each other. It is the form and face of love. It is the recognition of the unity of all life.
We can think of sacred community as the essential structure of the cosmos as it radiates from the Divine Essence. It is the form of light and the form of grapes on a vine, stars whirling in the cosmos and of the particles within an atom. Sacred community is like sacred geometry but it is not fixed, so it is more like fractal geometry, constantly in motion. The human heart is called ‘qalb’ (‘fluctuating’) because is it is in continuous flux receiving the never-ending divine emanations from the Source Who ceaselessly reveals Itself in love without ever repeating. So how could a sacred community of hearts be something fixed or rigid? When it becomes rigid it is no longer true. And yet it is sustained with essential principles which do not fluctuate – truth, love, beautiful actions, kindness, sincerity, integrity, transparency. These are some of the principles we must strive to uphold as members of a mystic community
In everyday society the architecture of the sacred is hidden, it remains underneath or undisclosed to superficial consciousness. Conventional society is the place where a person can achieve their earthly goals, or at least materially survive. It is not bad as such, but if it is not infused with the light of sacred community it can become suffocating or harmful for the human spirit. Much of our limited self is projected into our societies whether these take the form of schools, businesses, or entertainments - the so named adult world.
Biological families are given the divine love that infuses mystic community but their purpose is slightly different. And they must be supported by conscious teaching of the Divine Who is love or they too can become distorted.
The central focus of the spiritual family, the mystic community, is to reveal to the souls their true identity and purpose, and to help guide them back to their Beloved, the One Reality, all Compassionate and Loving. It is the arena of truth where the soul might for the first time in its earthly career gaze into the mirror of truth and see its divine essence and origin. This gaze is revelation. It is the movement from dark to light, from sleep to waking, from death to life. It is the step into true life, the gift of paradise.
The mystic community is the experience of paradise unity on this earth. Yet it is a paradise with tests, it is the rose with the thorns. Some of us might have experienced the disappointment of encountering the thorn for the first time after the initial bliss of hand-taking. We thought we had entered paradise when suddenly we encounter the thorn, the limited self in another dervish. But what we really encounter, and what is truly disappointing, is our own limited self, for it is our limited self that wants everyone else to be perfect, overlooking the one person whom we can perfect – our self. So the mystic community is not just the paradise couch of ease, it is also the field of encountering our earthly limited self. This is a painful process, and that is why we usually project it onto another being. To be divine and limited at the same time is a paradox and conundrum that cannot be faced with normal consciousness in normal society. Only committed participation in a mystic community can resolve our ultimate paradox. The nature of this commitment is ardent devotion to the Beloved, fulfilling the spiritual practices of the lineage, serving the guide, and honoring and serving the members of the community. Through this degree of commitment we will die to our limited selves and be reborn into true life.
We have the great models of sacred community in the recorded lives of some of the Prophets and Founders of the sacred traditions – of Krishna and the Gopis, of Moses and the Bani Israel on their pilgrimage through the desert, of Buddha and his disciples, of Jesus, his holy mother Maryam, and his foremost disciples Magdalena, John and the ‘twelve’. May Allah’s loving peace shower upon all of these noble communities. And may Allah’s peace shower upon the sacred community of Muhammad. His blessed person in Medina formed the center of a mystic mandala of love, with his wives and family surrounding him, radiating and transmitting his light, and his intimate companions spiraling around him and branching from him, channeling the divine light flowing through him into the larger community. Attested to by his beloved wife Aisha, he was the living Quran. By spiritual extension his entire community was the living Quran. As are we in our communities! Every sacred community is a holy scripture of profound meanings and blessings for humanity.
How do we offer gratitude to be part of such holy companionship, to be living, no longer alone, within a mystic body of love, which connects the mystics of all eras, where our hearts can breathe, our breasts can expand, our imagination can soar and our love to the Source can sing and cry out together with sisters and brothers, all living the life of the heart, the life of the One Heart?
One of the ways we can give thanks to Allah for such elevated mystic community is to honor, love and pray for the individuals within it, even though they might be very different from our self. We envision their sacred reality rather than their worldly appearance. We uphold their rights both inwardly and outwardly. We treat each dervish with reverence and we do not entertain gossip, which is one of the most destructive of acts within a community. The wisdom of Quran likens gossip to eating the flesh of our companions. And we are asked if we would like to do that. Of course not! We would hate to eat human flesh, the flesh of our companions! But that is what we are entertaining on a spiritual level in talking behind the backs of others. Let us be very careful, as gossip is one of the most common of human errors, easy to slip into. We can check ourselves by asking if we would want the person to overhear what we are saying. Here I would like to make the distinction between gossip and reporting to your spiritual guide. If something troubles you please bring it to your spiritual guide rather than discuss it with each other, except if it is with a senior dervish who is acting as a mentor to you. The guide will know whether you are seeing your own limitation in the other dervish – and will help you to overcome that - or whether it is truly a situation which needs rectification. In our mystic community we must be intensely vigilant not to practice the conventions of the world, whether of actions or thought.
Thank you Prophet Muhammad and your holy family and companions, peace and blessings be upon your great souls, for illuminating sacred community with your love and your beautiful wisdom. Thank you to all the Prophets and Mothers who have over generations contributed to form this vessel and sustain it for humanity. Thank you Hazreti Pir Nureddin Jerrahi and his mother Amina Taslima, thank you Muzaffer Effendi and Nur al Anwar for adorning this sacred vessel with your love and your vision, and for tending to the souls who inhabit it. And all gratitude and praise flows to Allah the Beloved Who has shared life with us and shaped us in the most beautiful of forms and given us each other to be companions, lovers and mirrors of light!