Wednesday, December 02, 2009


“The great Self of the Universe is to be found within the human heart, and the task of the Sufi is to perceive that his own soul is identical with the Universal Soul. When the illusion of separateness, which is the cause of all trouble and pain, disappears, the soul, awaking from the dream of life, will know itself one with God.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan

I had this idea to write about tradition in a kind of condescending manner. I wrote a whole article in this vein, but I cannot publish it. The small ego wants to shout its disillusion but the greater ego says no, that is not the way. So, let us look at tradition as an aspect of what humans need. What do humans really need? They need love.

Everywhere one looks there is a calling to accept some form of traditional thought, behavior or faith. This seems to be how humans operate. We need to know that there is something that we can rely on to tell us what is true. It is so very difficult to know what is true without some kind of guidance.

Both of my parents were orphans and I had no extended family, which is where I believe tradition really originates, so I have little experience with a feeling of tradition. Additionally American culture is still confused about just what tradition we should follow since we are a mish mash of all traditions. So, growing up, I really had no sense of any kind of tradition sustaining me. I have come to see that this is not true for most people.

As I am coming to understand it, tradition is a kind of anchor that we have, that we may not know we have, that we rely upon to tell us who we are. Even if we say we reject the tradition that very rejection is an identity. How often for instance have you heard someone say, perhaps you have said it, I am a lapsed Catholic or I am a non practicing Jew or a non-observant Muslim. Apparently we truly need some form of identity, positive or negative, to give us shape and form. And, even if we reject it, we seem to need to know that there is some form of Divine Love there that gives us depth. We may say that the institution supporting whatever particular tradition we were brought up in is corrupt but the ideal itself is pure.

I freely admit that to me this is a strange idea that I have only recently begun to explore. As far as I am concerned tradition is Geo. Washington never telling a lie, which I later found to be a complete fabrication. Religions and their traditions simply do not resonate within me at all. What does resonate is what I have come to call the Intelligent Universe; a place where we exist and discover and create. For love I have my current wonderful family and my many beautiful friends .

I am beginning to believe that much of what we reach for in our spiritual quest relies very heavily on this idea of identity that formed us. It may even be that we demand that our quest take a particular shape so that we continue to feel that internal comfort and love that we felt in our very early years. Assuming of course that one's early years did have some form of comfort and love.

So tell me, what resonates within you. Do you even know it is there? I am very curious to understand this aspect of humanity and would appreciate any feedback that anyone may care to offer.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Za'ida said...

There are two big questions in life: who am I and where do I belong to? Such traditions give a sense of belonging to a group without being submitted to the group rules.

But can't we develop our own traditions? Wouldn't it make more sense?

Questions over questions...


Anonymous said...

and more questions...

let's bring it home...

what is this "sufi" tradition?


Musawwir said...

This comment came to me on my personal email. I have permission to repost here.

Perhaps you are truly a unique and sovereign soul if you have no affinity with tradition. And, it is said that the rebellious break with tradition.

For me tradition brings comfort, ritual, the warmth of coming together of family, for example singing together while lighting the Menora for Chanukah. Although, perhaps the Jews did not really escape from the Macabees and have oil for one day burning for eight, the idea , the myth is a nice thought, coming together in memory of light, miracles, sharing love around the idea.
I come from a Jewish tradition and part of this is to remember what our people went through, darkness, struggle, suffering.

It brings roots, family, ancestors. Perhaps it can be a trap, a stuck place, but I like the sense and feeling of belonging, it brings comfort, couched in a home to begin with and form where I can take off from. It gives a sense of security. My people, part of my identity, the awareness of those who suffered and prevailed, celebrated before me. Custom has its place, a place to start, learning certain courtesies, respect that works through form, something done that you learn, a way to meet others such as greeting a stranger with a handshake or a warm smile.

Tradition is a beautiful thing. Art, beauty, something one learns, but is a good start, a connection, familiar, universal. It can deepen spirit and one can commune with one’s ancestors. I may be repetitive , but tradition is a form, and through form, one can find spirit, one can find the sacred, one can connect from one generation to the next, and one can have passed down some good teachings and found one’s self. Without this grounding where would I take off from? Regarding the dark side of tradition, well there is superstition such sacrificing people to the Gods over a volcano. I guess there are probably some bad traditions. This is a form I would wonder about. But, looking at say, the act of giving rice to an icon representing a compassionate God, the symbolism, the metaphor, the act itself, the thought can deepen one’s spirit. Perhaps a question might be for me, does one develop ego and morals through tradition?
Sincerely, Nancy

Anonymous said...

Hi! I have not looked here in a while, but am happy that I did this evening.

I had an experience that I believe gave me an appreciation for tradition. Before this I was one who 'broke with tradition' where ever possible.

I was on retreat and nothing was happening in the phenomena department and so I was feeling discouraged. In my frustration and discouragement I got up at sunrise and walked the labyrinth.

During that still-memorable walk I had a sense that traditions are a tool to bring us closer to divinity and to help us harmonize or attune to our community, smaller or larger.

Love, Nur Qalbia

(I was given a new name this summer)

Susan D. said...

Traditions, for me, reel me in when I have strayed too far. They are the things and times I value most and have from childhood. They are the "chicken soup for my soul" moments. Can be as simple as following a certain practice year after year or gathering with family and friends, that are closer than family. I then have the time to recharge and face life anew. Without a sense of tradition I would be lost and yet I acknowledge that often I have started a tradition for my children and have watched them to go forward and retain it.

Sarala said...

Being in a time of adjustment to the loss of my heart-partner, I'm acutely aware of how people define our traditions.

So, what does a Friday evening look like without Matt?
A Sunday morning?
New Years Eve?
What will it be like to plan and build my garden this year without him?

I find myself, without having devised a master plan or anything, not trying to maintain those traditions we shared. Instead, I'm trying new ways to mark the days and events. For the first time since I can remember, I didn't make Tday dinner for a crowd - instead, I attended a covered dish supper with the volunteers and the residents of a local homeless shelter. For the first time in over a decade, I asked my family to come to my house on Christmas day. And I'm not throwing my annual New Year's Day brunch.

Only time will tell if these 'new' ways of marking and celebrating become tradition.