Monday, May 24, 2010

THE INVITATION

"You have been invited to the banquet, why are you eating the scraps under the table?"
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan


The above quote from Pir Vilayat is one I frequently repeat to people. It is often a surprise when I quote it to someone and they realize that they have been doing the very thing, avoiding the banquet. I also realize that I am as guilty as anyone. Why do we do this?

There seems to be a cultural imperative in our society that says that we are not really allowed to be honestly spiritual. I suspect that this is partially because the priest class, of whatever religion, including Islam (which is not supposed to have a priest class but does anyway) tends to need to maintain an air of superiority as if they somehow have an intercessory role with God. This leaves the rest of us more or less out in the cold not really allowed to be truly spiritual since we must go through an intercessor. That's part of it. Another part is the aura of disappointment that pervades our whole culture. I have spoken about this before and intend to keep speaking of it. Basically it says that you are not worthy unless you have things, expensive things. Conversely, you can rail against things and feel superior to the materialists while at the same time secretly suspecting that you are not worthy. That may be an even worse position. Another aspect is probably feeling that the banquet is a hustle. It's not really real. We have so very many stories of people being duped by various invitations, Scientology and Krishna Consciousness come to mind immediately but they are certainly not the only ones. The invitations from various groups totally assured of the rightness of their positions is huge. The means of discovering their legitimacy is limited.

A fourth aspect is a general sense that the men and women who sit in caves for 20 or more years, isolated from the world, in a constant state of meditation and prayer, are worthy. We must live in the world and are therefore, by definition, not as worthy. Ultimately you know that you are not allowed at the banquet, even though invited.

Whew, that's a lot. And I can probably come up with more but you get the idea, you can make your own list. By now you should be seeing that all of the above is an illusion. It is various aspects of the world desperately needing to convince you that you need an intercessor or that you are simply not up to it. The simple truth is that the invitation exists and it speaks directly to your heart.

There is a place in each of us that knows we belong. Whatever baggage we happen to be lugging around will want to deny this knowledge but it is there. I do not know about other esoteric groups but when a person is initiated into the Sufi Order International, the very last thing we say to them is, "Welcome to your spiritual family." I have seen people break down and cry at hearing these words; these simple words of welcome. To be told very sincerely that you are welcome can seem amazingly profound to the person, so common in our culture, who has felt isolated their whole life. It seems to be that a person can decide to stay isolated and alone and separate if they like, that is free will. Or they can decide to become part of a loving family if they so choose. And then what happens is that their psychology will change the group as they insist that their version of reality have some form of validity within the group. Still the invitation is there. What it really means is surrendering to that inner knowledge that you personally are a part of the being of God or part of the Intelligent Universe or however you would like to state it. And, as a part of the whole, you have the right to the banquet. What you do not have a right to do is to demand that the menu be exactly what you think it ought to be. That is the rub and causes more problems then just about anything else.

So, join the party, sit down at the table, sip the wine of ecstasy, sample the delicacies of forgiveness and detachment; but be aware that though your task is to relax, observe, learn, and decide for yourself; it is not to demand that others conform to your idea of what should be on the table. That is a no no.

The very first spiritual instruction I ever received was, "There are no rules!" This means to me that not only are the rules others state not valid but also any rules I might make up are also not valid. So? What is valid? The banquet; the communion with other souls, all souls. If there is a rule it would be to treat every single person, including yourself, as a friend. To do otherwise would be to deny the basic nature of God, which is that we are all in this together. Our only solid evidence of anything at all is that we all exist here, now. All the rest is speculation, interpretation and assumption that our spiritual experiences have any validity beyond our own selves.

Crawl out from underneath the table, sit with the other kind souls and dine. Once you do this all the rest of the things that seemed so very important will fade away and the simple joy of being with others who welcome you into their midst will be yours.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


7 comments:

Maggie said...

I remember "taking hands" and how deeply I was touched by those words of welcome. Even now, the memory of those words brings great comfort.

Wonderful blog, Musawwir!

Much love, many blessings....

Wahida

molly said...

Great blog. i'll have to read it again..there are several really good points to remember.
love,
muhasaba

Anonymous said...

Halfway through a read of The Call of the Dervish I felt the need to begin a read through of the Heart of Sufism...Both Murshid and Pir Vilayat reminded me, as does the title of your site and the content of your current blog, that we are indeed sovereign beings, worthy of all the Universe has to offer...Hugs and Smiles

Linda said...

I too was touched deeply by my initiation. I was actually embarrassed by the tears that welled up unbidden, even though you told me that happens to some. Although I grew up in a big "Family", I was not invited to the banquet until I was found by the family of my heart. Thank you for everything.
With deep love and great respect,I use my sufi name here for the first time.
Azima Noor

Maggie said...

Welcome, Azima Noor! Much love, many blessings....

Wahida

helen said...

There isn't true joy than working on your own spirituality... then being with those people who have found true happiness with one true GOD.
Literally, our culture influenced us why we sometimes consider ourselves second class and staying behind, instead of joining the banquet. In the past, I thought only those who have worked on their spirituality are qualified to join the banquet. Why did I say this? It's hard to mingle with people who displays the opposite of your traits. One thing more, some people would look at material possession as their basis of accepting you.

you are right.. sometimes others felt the 'banquet in not real".

But after reading yur blog, It gave me new insights.

amazing...

Sarala said...

Dear M,

Since seeing you in May, ( for other readers FYI, a 10 day retreat - fabulous - I highly recommend Mussawir's new retreat offering!) I have felt like a child who doesn't want to go to sleep at night because I'm afraid I'll miss something! I am filled with excitement (yes, realizing the weight of it, too) and looking forward to the next banquet. Just remember I don't like okra :-)
Love, Sarala