Urs 2000
by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Here are brief random flashes of impressions that gripped me at the Urs of my father Hazrat Inayat Khan last February.

The overwhelming impression? That we were living a miracle; this historical event turned out to be magical; mureeds of the Sufi Order accruing from all parts of the world, some from the Sufi Movement, Sheikhs from different orders, the euphoria of mureeds from different continents meeting for the first time significantly in India at Murshid’s grave! There was an awesome sense that we were living an atmosphere reminiscent of the time when Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan was walking on the planet amongst us. Does the remnant in the dargah evoke this presence most particularly, while indeed it can also be felt in the oriental room in Fazal Manzil or Katwijk and in many known places?

One can experience this by feeling the atmosphere of different places. There is the atmosphere of Benares, and there are the vibrations of Ajmer where Khwaja Moin ud-Din Chishti lived, meditated and died. There is the tomb of the saint where a continual voice is going on, a vibration so strong that a person who is meditative would sit there and would like to sit there forever. It is in the midst of the city, and yet it has a feeling of wilderness, because in that place the saint sat and meditated on saut-e-sarmad, the cosmic symphony (Cosmic Language).

What is it that holds the atmosphere in space? It is capacity; space offers capacity. In other words, in space a capacity is formed of an element invisible to our eyes and yet solid enough to hold the vibrations within it (Mysticism of Sound).

Where a mystic sits, he sits; where he stands, he stands. There is a mystical outlook, there is a mystical significance, there is a mystical point of view, which is different from that which we call a practical point of view.

Impressions? So many!

The moment when Pir Zia known by some as a baby, then a a young boy, now mature at a young age, so wise and eloquent, talked to an attendance awestruck, moved in the core of their being by not just the rapt human emotion coming through him, but his appeal to the sacredness of prayer - the sortilege of faith that makes the impossible possible. At this extraordinary moment, everyone was with him in mind, heart and soul. This uncanny rapture culminated when Murshid Karimbakhsh Witteveen welcomed him with open arms like a rediscovered lost child.

Another unforgettable moment; when first I and then the Sheikhs were giving Pir Zia turban after turban so lovingly and respectfully. One felt how valuable it is that he has the heartfelt support of those representing the mainstay of the Sufi tradition from which we have proceeded, while many of us felt alienated for having neglected that spiritual ancestral contact. Pir Zia had reestablished this link, made during the last years as he went on a "pilgrimage to the sources", and moreover quickened these stalwart traditionalists with the universal spirit brought by Hazrat Inayat Khan to the West, now boomeranging back to the East.

More memorable events; Pir Zia so composed, unflustered when dealing with an uncooperative taper to light the candles at the Universal Worship and moreover a candle that went out. Incidentally, for this historic occasion where I was officiating with Murshid Karimbaksh, Pir Zia, and Walia, the theme was the very clue to the Message, already incubated in the sayings of our great Sufi predecessors but highlighted in a new way by Hazrat Inayat Khan; the shift from the traditional religious sense of God as 'other' to the liberated spirituality of the mystics discovering God as present.

The purpose of the Message is the awakening of the consciousness of humanity to the divinity of the human being.

Another; Pir Zia tuning the gathering to a deep sacred attunement when leading a meditation on an advanced form of Dhikr . It was the sacredness of the attunement rather than the practice, with which most were not familiar, that touched the mureeds’ souls.

So many more unforgettable impressions:

When the procession was approaching the dargah, the forthcoming Pir Zia being hugged when greeted by Taj and myself. Pir Zia who very rarely gives expression to his personal emotion, at least overtly (albeit one espies it thereby even more in its hiding), broke down twice (to my knowledge). Once while carrying the chaddar, that is the ornamental covering for the grave and again during Qawwali, in that special state of Sufi ecstasy called hal, which erupts in the dervish when his/her soul is moved by a divine realization at hearing a revelating pronouncement.

Of crucial importance, one more miracle: the reconciliation between the Sufi Movement and Sufi Order occurring right there during the actual ceremonies in the year 2000 Urs. It was simply a matter of listening to each other’s motivations and recognizing the need for mutual recognition instead of unilateral. It was significant that we were able to deal with a grievance right away on the spot rather than let it linger and worsen and carry recriminations indefinitely. The breakthrough came when the Sheiks were drafting the Shajara, that is the list of succession in the Silsila, the chain of transmission of the branch of the Sufi Chishti Order to which Hazrat Inayat Khan was connected. Murshid Karimbaksh objected that Murshid Ali Khan and his successors were not recognized. It occurred to me that in the jurisprudence of the Sufis, the Silsila has, in the course of experience averred itself, to be branches of what could be illustrated as a tree upside down, although the pioneers wished it to be a single line. Once acknowledged, the root of our disagreement is removed; all that remains is disparities in style and procedure, which can with care and respect be adjusted.

There were an unending plethora of meaningful impressions; some of India’s top classical musicians came to draw us into their ecstasy reminiscent of the musical legacy of our beloved Murshid (in contrast with the more buoyant, popular Qawwalis). Some of the talks of the honored guests were significant. Those of our leaders of the Sufi Movement and Sufi Order evidenced our dedication to the pioneering perspectives of the Message. Of particular significance was when sitting next to my wife Mary, we and the whole attendance were in admiration listening to the brilliant talk of Dr. Karan Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir, showing the parallels between Hinduism and Sufism which came to a head as he recited with his characteristic zest a wonderful poem of Aurobindo.

Throughout, the scene of poverty was breaking our hearts, reaching right into the depth of our conscience. It was painfully perceptible everywhere, contrasting with the Western-style comfort of the dargah. One did not like feeling embarrassed at living opulently (certainly in comparison, especially in some hotels) of buying the beautiful handiwork of underpaid artists and artisans, of hesitating in finding the right change for the beggars. We expressed appreciation for the dedication to Hazrat Inayat Khan of those who have offered donations to build this monumental mausoleum in a grand style. It calls for a reminder that it was, to a large extent, due to the generous legacy of Shah Jehan to build the beautiful dargah of Ajmer that Khwaja Moinuddin became known to the population.

But what are we doing to give a helping hand to the appalling misery? We need to start somewhere and this is the place to start: the dargah of a Sufi saint is traditionally always the provider of welfare to the needy. See the little children in the slums adjoining the Khanegah, the Hope Project: the ailing unable to cope or know how to obtain medical help, the social work. I know, it is so little in comparison with the need, but this was the saving grace. At least we are doing something basic, essential. And now it is snowballing thanks to more funds, more helpers, better organization and renewed interest and energy.

A little postscript:
No doubt the appearance of my limp that not only could not pass unnoticed, but rather obviously marked a transit in my bodily functions into the millennium: arthrosis of one knee: unmistakably a symptom of an inevitable wear and tear over the decades (of the body only!) It was a well-designed fana for my vanity, which calls upon me to live up to a baqa in my undaunted spirit. The crux of spiritual practice is the sublimation (not the crushing) of what is commonly called the ego and which Pir-o-Murshid calls the false notion of the self that needs to be replaced by the ego of God.

(From : Heart & Wings, Spring 2000)

India 2000 - Images from the Urs and Pir Zia's Investiture
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