Abode Village View – Month of November
We have moved into the month of giving thanks, hurtling full speed towards the season of joy and light. The calendar says this progression of time is inevitable, despite many indications that could lead to a contrary conclusion.
We are at work here, in the increasing quietude and chill, in preparation for next season. We have much to be grateful for, both in reflection and in anticipation. Our rental/events calendar is nearly full for 2020, with both returning and new programs. We have more inquiries than dates available to fill. Our task is to find the appropriate balance of activities, and strengthening our container of sacred hospitality to hold all in grace.
We have come a long way since 2016, when we started on this new path together. It has not always been a smooth, obstacle free or well-defined route, but there has been fulfillment in our progress in shaping the Abode to the needs of a new generation.
We will have much more to share in our year end reporting, and I look forward to reviewing more on our accomplishments and plans for 2020 – our 45th year — and one of critical importance on many levels.
How do we approach an increasingly turbulent future? Pir Vilayat has some guidance, offered below. The past is prelude indeed.
With love and thanks to all.
How to Find Peace in the Cosmic Drama
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan
Whether more closely or more remotely involved in the present mess in which humanity has maneuvered itself, it would be insensitive on one’s part not to feel distressed, disturbed, dismayed, unsettled in our emotions. We may be angered and disgusted at the barbaric attrition which extremes of concupiscence in the human nature have inflicted upon so many innocent victims, on the other hand heartened by the courage and heroism of so many. Can one find equanimity and is it helpful to seek serenity amidst the thoughts rushing through one’s mind. Or would that be an escape? Alternatively we ask ourselves: what is it that we can do? Moreover, faced with the reality, we feel as though we are being challenged in our belief, in our faith.
If we could view things from the cosmic perspective rather than trying to reach beyond our personal perspective and middle range, we would see that willy-nilly, we are plunged into the drama on Planet Earth that was impending all the time. We have failed to see, wrapped as we have been all the while in the false security of our complacency, oblivious of the drama and misery around us which we dismiss as ‘bad news’ from the media. Seen in its wider context, the ‘Desert Storm’ on Planet Earth is simply a pale reflection of the soul-searchings and the birth and continued re-birthing pangs of the universe. Can we halt a moment and take stock of what it takes to make life at all possible, the issues behind the more immediate scenario on Planet Earth in the hope that it might help us to understand better what is happening globally? Seeing what we are involved in unawares, we might better grasp what our role is or could be.
At the cosmic scale, can we have the slightest idea of what could be the intention behind the whole process of existence – the issues, what is enacted in the process? Do we have any idea what the shift from thought to matter could mean at a cosmic scale? A good illustration of this would be a composer striving to give concrete expression to a powerful emotion that came upon him/her suddenly. What does it take for a motivation – whatsoever, whether at the cosmic scale or human – to be followed up and vehicled by a whole organization programmed as its infra-structure? How does thought structure itself into what we call matter at a sidereal dimension? Just imagine our privilege as humans over animals and plants in being part of what is happening in this regard!
Now imagine what would be the cost of introducing freedom – that is personal incentive – in the system! This would require that the pattern on which the universe is built would need to shift continually from simpler models of harmonious orderliness to models exhibiting more and more complex orderliness that allow for the intervention of the free resolution of its constituents. In the interval between these there would inevitably be a transit situation where chaos sets in, in which the existing pattern is dismantled and the new one has not yet gelled. Thus this very ‘divine intention’ would open up the risk of disruption, conceivably even the extreme hazard that the system runs amok and destroys itself. We are witnessing this in the decadence and corruption in the so called advanced civilizations we pride ourselves of. Doubtless this is also the reason for our fear in the present crisis that it should escalate ominously because the anger aroused by cruelty begets hatred and the ensuing exasperation keeps unleashing yet greater violence.
Yet paradoxically, for a system to evolve rather than being bogged into its own pattern by vain repetitiveness or recycling, it needs to ‘fluctuate beyond equilibrium’, to use a word of Dr. Ilya Prigogyne, until the previous order is sufficiently disrupted. Then it becomes obsolete and needs to be replaced by a new one. This is illustrated in nature or rather in the evolution of the chemistry of matter on Planet Earth, by the quantum leap from the inorganic to the organic. At the inorganic stage, atoms form a rather monotonous grid, rather like a repetitive wall paper. Suddenly in the evolutionary advance, some molecules shift into a more complex pattern whereby its atoms diversify. Each specializes in a different role in the overall architectony of the molecule. Thus they cooperate, and to cooperate, they become necessarily interdependent. An identical leap in the evolutionary advance takes place at the level of the chromosomes in the live cell which code for the variety of functions that make possible the advent of live organisms. Thus comes an ever more effective support system for the upsurge of intelligence in this corner of the universe.
At a higher level, we encounter an extraordinary complex and sophisticated infra-structure owing to the infinite diversity of functions in our civilized societies. There is the enhancement of the intelligence of the Planet with humanity at the prow. In fact the advent of the human on the Planet would not have been possible without this fluctuation beyond equilibrium from one order to another. But it must be understood that the gift of freedom needs to be supplemented by its imperative correlate: interdependence.
By dint of the application of the universal principle of economy, to avail itself of the fund of resourcefulness of the insights, incentives and initiatives of its constituents, the system would now need to concede some freedom to these in the determination of its program and decision-making, government and hence destiny. However to avoid that the differences of opinion, of perspective, the conflict of interest, should break loose in the inevitable surge of greed, ruthless exploitation of freedom to rob others of their free-will, cruelty, atrocities, all those appalling things that erupt already in peace and escalate in war conditions, freedom needs to be tempered by interdependence. The ideal would be where each and all of the participants find their respective place in cooperating in the interest of the whole, as we have witnessed in the organic molecules and in a healthy biological cell or cell formation where that cooperation makes the advent of more sophisticated forms of intelligence possible in the universe.
Here, more than ever this evolutionary leap forward calls for a step in our realization of the imperative of introducing interdependence if we are to avail ourselves of the gift of freedom. This principle of cooperation is beginning to emerge in the consciousness of our more advanced human societies in what is now coined: the new world order. J. S. Bach pointed out that this requires, not the despotic dominance of one theme on others, but that each should contribute towards the whole, but restrict his/her/its incentive in the interest of the whole.
Of course the marvel behind all of this is – far beyond the enhancing of intelligence – to be found in the advent of beauty. The splendor of the emotion behind the miracle of life manifests as beauty is first of all in natural structures, the perfect geometrical configuration of atomic, molecular and biological patterns, or the motions of the planets, stars, galaxies. It also manifests in cosmic structures filtered as it were through the human creative mind: the musical scales, harmony, the symphony, art, monuments. This is why when chaos sets in, and the forces of evil and corruption are let loose, one seeks refuge in beauty. In the very midst of ugliness, beauty confirms in us our shaken trust in the meaningfulness behind it all.
We need beauty! As a respite in stress and surrounded by defilement and violence and the attendant fear, our hearts resonate wherever there is beauty. But there is a yet subtler form of beauty: where the splendor behind existence manifests, not in a special form, not in esthetics, but in compassion, magnanimity, solidarity, dedication, sacrifice for an ideal, unconditional love. Ultimately, the very pinnacle of this motivation which we can read into the programming of the universe is attained in prayer – I would say non-sectarian or alternately in loyalty to one’s spiritual heritage, yet with openness to religions other than one’s own.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, the condition for the shift from one stage in the evolutionary advance to the next is a break-down of a sclerosed order – this is the meaning of chaos; or shall we say this is its role in the cosmic programming. In the midst of this ‘de-stabilization’, we are disoriented anxious, confused, afraid. This is where we are tested in our understanding of what is happening and what are the issues enacted – we are being tested in our faith in the inherent meaningfulness and well-meaningness behind phenomena. From our commonplace perspective, we cannot possibly expect to grasp this; consequently our faith runs the risk of wearing thin. What is more, just as the need for serenity and a sense of the sacredness is most needed, we find it more difficult to meditate or pray. It seems like opening one drawer after closing another, or burying one’s head in the sand, fleeing reality.
If indeed the issue behind existence is the surge and preservation of the freedom of the individual, albeit tempered by interdependence, it follows that the ‘Powers that be’ have to constrain their intervention, (His/Her’s intervention). Yet does that mean abdication of any control whatsoever? Perhaps this would be best illustrated by a car-driving monitor, or pilot coach, handing over the steering wheel or stick to the pupil, restraining himself from stopping a false move until it becomes too hazardous, and then taking over. That power which the Mazdeans ascribe to Ahura Mazda to maintain the ultimate control in the struggle between Spenta Mainu and Ahriman is the one to which Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan draws our attention: it is called Kaza by the Sufis. In tribulation if we invoke God or the prophets, masters and saints who form the spiritual hierarchies of the Government of the World, it is in the desperate hope that they will be able to stem the tide of evil and avert disaster. But if indeed their overall commitment is to preserve the principle of the freedom of incentive and decision of the individual, then their intervention needs to be limited to simply avoiding that the system should auto-destroy itself. Would this means that the intervention of the ‘kaza’ force is withheld until the eleventh hour, at the brink of disaster? No, not necessarily, ‘Kaza’ stands for inertia, in scientific terms ‘homeostasis’.
There is always a principle of stability, of balancing opposing forces written right into the programming of nature at all levels. This may be observed for example in politics or all human institutions where innovation is always countered and thereby balanced by a conservative force. In physics, it is called the “order out of disorder principle” for example in the Brownian movement within a liquid, the random movements of the individual molecules cancel each other out. Thus there is a safety mechanism programmed into nature that ensures that a system does not auto-destruct itself ultimately.
At the level of human affairs, it is embodied in the influence of the spiritual hierarchy, and more generally in the power of prayer and the propensity for peace inherent in people of good will throughout the world. The strength, range and reach of this power is enhanced by the number of its supporters, and the degree of their commitment. The bastion that we could build up by our prayers could, if backed by the uncountable billions of people of good will in the world, present a sizeable antidote to the forces of political dominance.
How does one maintain calm in tribulation? And more particularly, how does one maintain joy in suffering, despair? An apt illustration is given in the picture of Buddha sitting unperturbed in the middle of a storm. This must not be construed as failing to recognize the reality of the problem breaking loose as the storm – that the problem needs to be dealt with. Peace needs to be availed of as the spring-board for action – as a source of power, not as an escape. We know that the center of a hurricane is a vacuum: inertia balancing the turmoil and thereby staying it from running amok.
Where can we find this salutary principle of inertia in our psychological set-up in life? Obviously if one withdraws one’s attention from the environing drama, in splendid isolation, to meditate, oblivious of what is going on, which means unconcerned with human suffering, in a state of Samadhi, touching upon one’s eternal being, one will doubtless find peace. But this seems rather like the despicable legendary ostrich act. However, there is a way of capturing the attunement encountered as we snatch a taste of our own eternity but in the instant we call ‘now’ – the present without change; and of the infinity vested in our human nature in the existential ‘here’.
In the ordinary course of experience, the instant is continually being flooded by the past that continues to live in our psyche and by the future which we anticipate or apprehend. A good illustration of this would be a piece of music: while following the trend of the melodic or harmonic sequence, or rhythmic progression, one can often forestall the next step. The prior elements of the music flow into the oncoming ones, and the future ones are already anticipated, so that they overlap in the present. Thus the present is not limited to being a threshold, but is rather a moving transition that peters out in infinite regress on either side.
To understand what is meant by eternity, we could picture a pendulum. At one point, the point where it is suspended, it remains stationary, at the other end, it moves in time-space. The Samadhi state corresponds to the apex. However, there are two moments in the swing of the lower extremity of the pendulum where it also experiences a state of suspense: at the apogee of its orbit to the right and likewise to the left. One must be circumspect about imagining that time flows at a regular pace linearly; in fact it is landscaped. At those critical points (which could qualify as singularities) it is suspended; the process of becoming is arrested in a hiatus. Or could we posit that eternity is written right into the process of becoming, and what is more, we are endowed with the capacity of grasping it, not just in Samadhi, but in the ‘here and now’? In fact this is what Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan means by ‘awakening in life’.
How can we capture these moments in our lives, illustrated by the halt in the swing of the pendulum? We can learn from a Sufi technique of meditation which consists in evacuating the psyche of any memory of the past or any projects for the future in the instant where the arrow of time is arrested. We have for an instant emancipated ourselves from the constraint of the process of becoming in the ‘here and now’ rather than escaping the ‘here and now’. This corroborates clearly with Dr. David Bohm’s view regarding the ‘enfolding’ of the totality of the bounty of the universe at any point of the universe in what he calls the implicate state, and of the encounter of the past and the future in what he calls the holo-movement. Rather than being bogged into the ‘here and now’, one sees how the ‘everywhere and always’ conflues into the ‘here and now’.
It is in this instant, free of becoming – of homeostasis -illustrated by the Buddha, that we may find peace in the middle of the storm raging at present without escaping from it. The recipe is: wherever you can find an opportunity, put a screen upon your preoccupations with the past (remorse, recriminations, resentment) and stop worrying about the future, (the desire for acquisition, greed, covetousness), but realize the privilege offered to you by the universe of experiencing the miracle of life in a break-through of realization!
Like Henri Bergson, the Sufis distinguish the instant from duration. Hearken to the eleventh century Sufi Afghan Sufi Hujwiri whose tomb is in Lahore. Thanks to that sense of the timeless instant, one frees oneself from the way the future is conditioned by the past, so that one can determine it oneself as illustrated in Zen. In Herrigel’s Art of Archery, the teacher says: the target determined the path of the arrow, not my hand.
Becoming represents our destiny, eternity our freedom.
Upcoming This Week
Langar Lunch | November 13 | 12:30 PM
Wednesday lunches are a free service oriented gathering, community discussion, and chance for all to share what’s happening on about the campus and beyond.
Universal Worship is the inter-religious activity of the Inayati Order, promoting harmony between the world’s major religious traditions.
Forgiveness with Love |November 14 | 7:00 PM
We will use practices, talking, singing, and dancing to enable us to forgive, forget, and love. Shakur will lead us in this important Message Class.
We are still pushing our 45th Anniversary Fundraising.
We are so grateful to those who have already donated to the fund!
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