The Nature of Self, Reality & Consciousness
Annual Sufism Symposium March 27 – 29, 2015
A full list of presenters is available here.
The Nature of Self, Reality & Consciousness
What a rich and fulfilling weekend, bringing together so many aspects of human life and the human quest for knowledge. There was teaching, dialogue, discussion, prayer, meditation, music, poetry, and movement, all focused on the goal of understanding the self. Sharing from the heart, sharing from direct experience, sharing wisdom gained from teachers. The weekend also featured the announcement of the recent publication of Caravan: Biographies from the Sufism Symposia 1994–2014 (now available via amazon.com; as well as the IAS Book Order here), a book which chronicles the participants and history of Sufism Symposium from 1994 through 2014, committing to written record the support and participation of those involved. It is a reminder for ourselves and future generations that the coming together of nations, cultures and traditions in the spirit of love and harmony is a possibility, and it can remove human-made obstacles.
In her opening statement Dr. Nahid Angha reminded us about the first Symposium: “It was March 26 and 27, 1994, here in Marin County that Sufi Masters from around the world gathered for the first time, for a dialogue. We came from South East Asia to West Africa, Middle East to Canada, Jerusalem to Argentina, and many lands in between. Perhaps this was the first time in the 1400 years history of Sufism, that so many Sufi Masters from many Sufi lineages, from around the globe gathered together. Sufism Symposia were glorified with the dazzling colorful robes and dresses of African Sufis with their beautiful voices, the black robes of middle-eastern and their whirling dervishes, white clothing of Bengalis and their devotional songs, the blue outfits of desert Moroccans Sufis, the beautiful chants of the Chishti of India. We gathered together, spring was in the air, spirit of love saturating our hearts, we honored and were mesmerized by our differences, presented in that delightful weekend of March 1994.
That was the beginning of the most beautiful journey, creating a global spiritual family, sisters and brothers from many nations, cultures, and Sufi lineages. In 1995 we also welcomed leaders from many different traditions, as well as psychologists, poets and musicians to this circle, and we celebrated our unity in the US, Spain, Egypt, Scotland, Australia. The Annual Sufism Symposium has been a wonderful journey of self discovery, of many colors, melodies, songs, languages, traditions, and cultures that have warmed our hearts and opened our minds, soothed our soul and enlightened our intellect, a mesmerizing road to self discovery.” (excerpts from Dr. Angha’s opening statement.)
Friday Evening March 27 Sufi Music and Poetry
The crowd eagerly waited for the doors to open on Friday night, to celebrate with Taneen and Musa Dieng Kala’s beautiful Sufi music and poetry. Dr. Heidi Gilpin welcomed everyone, honoring the long and remarkable history of Sufism Symposia and Festivals and the participants from around the world. With their beautiful energy, Taneen Sufi Music Ensemble opened with Fatiha and continued with inspiring Sufi music of love and wisdom, including songs based on the poetry of Omar Khayyam, Moulana Shah Maghsoud and Moulana Jallaleddin Rumi. They shared the stage with Musa Dieng Kala, whose sweet and powerful voice and commanding presence brought to life the teachings of Sheikh Amadou Bamba. He recited the poetry and explained the songs in a mixture of English and French. The program concluded with the entire audience singing the chant “Seyyedena Mohammadan” led by Taneen and Musa, along with Sheikh Ahmed Tijani who joined the group on stage to sing a duet with Musa. The blending of these different styles and traditions of sacred music was mesmerizing, drawing everyone into ecstasy and transforming the energy in preparation for the weekend program.
Saturday March 28, Opening
Nahid Angha, Ph. D., noted that at this Symposium there are 14 Sufi lineages from 11 countries and 8 states represented. Let us continue this journey of self-discovery for our minds, hearts and souls.
Hamaseh Kianfar, Ed.D. introduced our first panel and panelists:
Sonia Gilbert chose as her topic Transcendency, meaning to climb across or rise above. She reached transformation through her heart, and found that one key is to have courage that goes on and on, and never loses focus.
Dr. Arthur Buehler (Transformation of consciousness: Preliminary principles for the 21st Century). Consciousness is not a physical entity, and it cannot be explained by neuroscience – contemplatives may be best equipped to investigate consciousness as they all have a practice that stills the mind.
Dr. Ibrahim Jaffe (Spiritual Healing Through Transformation of Consciousness) spoke of the healing power of experiencing the 99 Names of Allah in one’s heart.
Arife Ellen Hammerle, Ph. D. introduced our concurrent first panelists:
Ahamed Muhaiyaddeen. The 99 Names of Allah can free you from the illusion of being separate and allows the mirror of the self to reflect the Divine, much as the mercury coating allows plain glass to be a mirror.
Dr. Shahid Athar introduced Sufi Poet Mohammad Iqbal and Mysteries of the Self Discovery in search of the Creator. Iqbal was a great scholar, poet, and philosopher who made a significant contribution to Muslims around the world, and the study of his works is a worthy endeavor.
John Fox’s talk, Seven Gifts: Poetry and Poem-Making as a Pathway to Spiritual Renewal, focused on poetry and healing. Writing poetry makes us stop and think, allows us to be present in the moment, vulnerable, or silent, and can also lead us to questions we might not otherwise ask.
Rev. Charles Gibbs (Poems of Awakening Light) shared poems from a recently-completed collection “Light Reading – Poems from a Pilgrim Journey,” many of them about life and death, living on the razor’s edge between hope and despair, working to choose hope, life, light.
Prof. Arthur Scott introduced our second panelists:
Musa Muhaiyaddeen (The Inner Dialogue) observed that each of us has a constant internal dialogue in our mind. Through the application of wisdom, the inner dialogue can change to one with Allah rather than one with the illusory world.
Murshida Rabia Ana Perez (The Sacred Meaning of Words) said that it is incumbent on people to care for all of Creation, including the wildlife, the air, and the physical planet that is our home, as all of Creation is made of stardust.
Tamam Khan (Fatima Az-Zahra, Daughter of the Prophet: The Blessing of Her Life) illustrated through poetry and prose the great respect of Prophet Mohammed, pbuh, for his daughter Fatima.
Safa Ali Michael Newman introduced:
Mystic Ayshegul Ashki (What Is Not Self?) spoke of three major zikrs in Sufi tariqats and demonstrated how in the practice of these zikrs it becomes clear that the self is not separate. One can experience connection with the Essence through zikr.
Mystic Kaan Erdal addressed the question: What Is Self? He observed that Tawhid is our birthright; the Creation steers us in this direction in every moment.
Dr. David Katz (The Weapons of Light and the Weapons of Death). We have the qualities of Allah as our birthright, in a light body each of us was given, and we can always call on them and protect ourselves from Satan.
Dr. Abdullahi El Okene (The Gift of God’s Signature to Mankind). To achieve what you want in this life, follow the conditions of Fatiha, which is a gift from Allah. Leave all your affairs to Allah, and say “Besmellah a Rahman y Rahim” before every action.
Leili First, Ph. D. introduced:
Dr. Mary Ann Fadae spoke on The Nature of the Self and Reality. The nature of reality is reflected in the Hadith: “I was a hidden treasure and I wished to be known so I created man.” Hence the goal of the spiritual path is the transformation of the soul so its awareness of God and its own origin increases.
Dr. Sharon Mijares (Changing Ideas of Self and Consciousness: Life is a Spiritual Manifestation) noted that in the world today, there is increased awareness of collective archetypal energies with Divine purpose to manifest in humanity. The more we connect with these energies, the greater our power to transform current human and environmental crises.
Mushida Khadija Goforth led a practice: Sifat-i Allah Sufi Walking Meditations, which brought everyone to their feet, moving together and chanting the Names of Allah.
Pir Shabda Khan continued the energy of movement with his practice: Sufi Zikr and Non-Dual and Dual Path of Sufism. Always a favorite of Symposium attendees, all were uplifted by the Names and qualities of Allah.
Avay-i-Janaan, Echoes of the Unseen, once again brought fresh energy in the shifting rhythms and voices – poetry,
music, songs, all from the heart. It closed with: “The story of love is not told in words. Hand of destiny is hidden from my eyes and yours. There is no loyalty in this world of colors that betrayed a thousand lovers. Take a chance in this moment of waiting.”
Whirling Dervishes of Mevlevi Order of America. The dervish tradition of whirling and devotional music provided the foundation of the Estaughfur’ul-Allah Zikr. Audience members were invited to join heart to heart, setting the intention of healing for ourselves, our families, our community, and for the world.
Sunday March 29
Morning began with a panel discussion presenting the 40 Days Alchemy of Tranquility group. Presenters included: Jamal Lawrence Granick, Ph.D., MFT, Arife Ellen Hammerle, P.hD., MFT, Jalal Brian Heery, Ph.D., Katherine Preston, MA, MFT, Amineh Amelia Pryor, Ph.D., MFT, Mary Toth Granick, M.Ed, LMFT, Sheikh Salman Baruti, MSW.Team members shared wisdom from the 40 Days program, developed under the guidance of Dr. Nahid Angha and Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali Kianfar. All we can know is our own self, which is a product of the Knowledge of the Universe, a gift we have each been given. This is not poetry or philosophy, but actual practice. The goal of the 40 Days program is to develop a practice to keep us stable in the right direction. We will only find Divine unity within our own self.
Final Discussion: Dr. Arthur Buehler led the final discussion of the Symposium. Presenters included Dr. Ali Kianfar, Ahamed Muhaiyaddeen, and Pir Shabda Khan. Dr. Buehler created a discussion space by asking questions of Ahamed Muhaiyaddeen, Dr. Ali Kianfar, and Pir Shabda Khan; he then opened the forum to questions from others. The questions and responses covered the experience of being teachers and students, the challenges of reaching out to the greater world as a Sufi teacher or practitioner, the element of music in personal and spiritual life, and the balance between acceptance and action in the world.
Sufism Symposium 20th anniversary ended with Meditation and Zikr led by Sheikh Ahmed Tijani Ben Omar. Sh. Tijani mused on the meaning of love – for spouse, friends, teacher, God, Prophet. He then led everyone in a powerful closing Zikr, holding the beautiful energy that had been gathered during the weekend celebration.