My first encounter with Sufism was in Pune on the banks of the Mula River, where I used to meditate at the tomb of Saidullbaba, a Sufi mystic. Sitting beside the white marble tomb, draped in green brocade and scattered with rose petals, I felt a wonderful energy of peace. At the time, in 1980, I had no idea that one day I too would be a Sufi practitioner.
A decade later I met Lex Hixon, also known as Sheikh Nur al Jerrahi, at a spaghetti dinner in Boulder, Colorado and took hand as a dervish in the Ashki Jerrahi Sufi order. Under Nur’s guidance, my practice of Dhikr began.
Remembrance makes people desire
Dhikr means remembrance, and is a process of remembering Allah through his ninety-nine beautiful names. There are two ways of practicing remembrance, the audible Dhikr which is done in community and the silent Dhikr which each dervish practices at home, using a tespe, Islamic prayer beads.
Communal Dhikr often involves movement in a circle, accompanied by drumming and song. It is a collective experience of ecstatic devotion.
Courageous dervish dancers whirl
Typically dervishes meet weekly for communal Dhikr, while silent remembrance is a daily practice. Formal silent Dhikr involves recitation of la ilaha illallah, ‘nothing exists apart from Allah.’ This recitation helps establish the dervish in unity consciousness. Along with this central divine name, each aspirant recites specific names as guided by their Sheikh. One pronounced effect of Dhikr practice that I experienced over several years was an outpouring of mystic dreams, as well as an enhanced ability to interpret the spiritual dreams of others. The Sheikh or Sheikha uses the dreams of the dervishes to guide them to the divine names that are most suitable for them to recite for their spiritual development.
Formal recitation is just the beginning of the path of remembrance. Gradually remembrance enters deeper levels of the seeker’s soul, heart and innermost heart. Divine remembrance becomes a permanent state, even when the aspirant is asleep. My eyes are asleep yet my heart is awake, never asleep, as the Prophet, peace upon him, said.
Gradually a dervish comes to see that love alone exists and is all in all. This is unity consciousness. The following poem expresses my experience of oneness in love through the path of remembrance.
To whom shall I prostrate?
Alakananda Ma is a mystic, teacher and Ayurvedic guide at Alandi Ashram in Boulder, Colorado. She is the author of The Rainbow Bridge: Prophetic encounters with the Mother’s path of unity, and From My Heart to Yours, among other books. http://www.alandiashram.org
William Chittick, The Sufi Path of Love: The spiritual teachings of Rumi
Lex Hixon, Atom from the Sun of Knowledge
Sheikh Muzaffer Ozark Al-Jerrahi, The Garden of Dervishes
Every being in the Three Worlds is Thy form,
Each face the dearest face
Each heart the most beloved one.
I am grateful to the smallest ant
For it has trod the wine
With which I am crazed,
Grateful to each fallen leaf
For I, too, have shed
The one I thought I was.
Lost in the Only Lover
I dance with each alone.
Alka says, “I am the Lover of the Lovers of Love.
My heart is on fire for every heart in creation.”
Around the central pole of existence
Learning to dispense with themselves
And love others completely…
Hands firmly linked
Voices intone with intensity
The beautiful Divine Names
Forming the primordial chorus.
May we set our hearts on fire
Filling them with radiance and power!
–– Lex Hixon
the journey. It makes them into travellers.
— William Chittick
By Alakananda Ma