Words of Truth

On the path of Truth, all faiths and religions are one, race and color have no relevance, and there is no difference between men and women.[1]

This saying is from Words of Truth, the unique book of wisdom I am going to write about today. Compiled by Dr. Bahram Elahi, Words of Truth is a collection of sayings based on the teachings of his father Ostad Elahi (1895-1974). Having read it a few years ago, I go back to it whenever I am in need of an answer or looking for guidance. It is a handbook of wisdom, and of practical points on how to conduct a “good life” while becoming a true human being.

Ostad Elahi was a renowned Persian magistrate and musician who dedicated his life to the search of Truth, and to acquiring self-knowledge. Having spent first 25 years of his life in asceticism and traditional spirituality, he renounced traditional mysticism in order to join society. He undertook the judicial career to become a magistrate, and started to build his innovative approach to spirituality. Ostad Elahi’s approach is based on his personal experiences, observations, and research. The key features of his teachings are practical and adaptable to everyday life, regardless of religion or gender.

His lifetime quest for Truth resumes:

“Truth” is knowing what we are, where we have come from, what duties we have here and where our ultimate destination lies. To access the Truth, we must devote ourselves to the pursuit of this knowledge and seek to understand it through practice.[2]

 In this quest for Truth, the essential prerequisite is to become truly human.

A true human being’s natural inclination is to always strive to have a positive impact; his actions benefit society and he is well-liked by others. In other words, when a person becomes truly human, his nature dictates that his actions always be beneficent[3]…[he] rejoices in the happiness of others and shares in their sorrows. The other sign of a true human being is to feel an aversion toward vile deeds and all that is contrary to one’s conscience and dignity.[4]

 However, there is a major obstacle in the pursuit of Truth, which is the inevitable “confrontation with the imperious self”[5]. This confrontation entails an ongoing fight against the imperious self’s instincts and illegitimate desires that urge for immediate gratification. It also does not take into account reason or law, or the rights of the others. This fight thus accumulates “a strong negative psychic energy which is harmful for the soul and which prevents us to see the Truth”[6].

One should strive to strengthen the body, while at the same time fortifying the soul such that the body, with all its means, remains subservient to the soul. This approach to confronting the imperious self is analogous to a new science of medicine intended to purify the soul that I’ve come to realize through personal experience. The whole of the twelve years of asceticism that I endured prior to entering public service had less spiritual value than just a single year spent in a professional work environment.[7]

 The coherence of one’s actions, words and conduct in society is emphasized as an essential part of becoming human.

Words are one thing, for them to have an impact is another. By practicing that which we believe, our actions and words are endowed with impact. It is action alone that yields impact.[8]

Throughout the book, one can find answers to essential questions such as:

  • How to become a true human being and remain virtuous while living in society?
  • How to fight against the imperious self and advance in our quest for the Truth?
  • The immortality of the soul and what awaits us in the other world?

Words of Truth may be like a treatment for the soul. Every time I reopen this book and read even a few words, it cultivates an inner richness in me, and I see its noticeable impact on my everyday life. Its simple and sincere language provides me with the tools I need to enrich my self-knowledge and, who knows, to become one day a true human being.

If you want to discover Words of Truth for yourself, it’s published and available in the following languages:

D.Bruce

15 June 2018

[1] Saying 21

[2] Saying 1

[3] Saying 4

[4] Saying 277

[5] Introduction, French edition page 16 (translated by the author of this article) .

[6] Introduction, French edition page 16.

[7] Saying 322

[8] Saying 337

Alexander the Great and the Fountain of Eternal Life

In the Romances of Alexander, Alexander the Great seamlessly seeks the Fountain of Eternal Life in his long and famous quest from Macedonia to India.

Once he was travelling in a mysterious Land of Darkness where he was given a special companion called Khezr. The companion was carrying a basket of provisions to sustain the long journey across this unknown dark land. Khezr was walking ahead of Alexander on a rocky terrain when he stumbled upon a rock and spilled the basket. Two dry salted fish which he carried in the basket fell on the ground and instantly a fountain of water sprung from the ground. The fish became alive in this pond of water.

When Khezr saw his fish resurrect in these miraculous waters, he bathed therein and so received the gift of Eternal Life. Ever since that day, the immortal Khezr has guarded the Fountain of Life and the Mighty King Alexander had no option but to resign himself to inevitable death.”

It is since believed that spring arrives when Khezr walks on the earth and green grass spurs under his feet as he passes by, and wherever his stick touches, water springs from the ground in abundance.

In the illustrations of the book of Alexander, “ Khezr is wearing a brown outer robe –symbolizing the human ‘mortal coil’ – covering his inner green tunic –symbolizing his inner, immortal soul. In Sufi language, Khezr signifies human beings’ inner potential to attain spiritual immortality, even in the midst of this lower world of Death and Darkness.[i]

 

[i] Farîd-od-Dîn ‘Attâr (1146-1221). The Canticle of the Birds. Translated from the Persian by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis. Paris: Diane de Selliers, Éditeur, 2013. p.110.

Picture: Harvard University, Department of Islamic Studies
Illustration: Artist unknown, end of the 15th century. Folio from the Book of Nezâmi. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Canticle of the Birds

 

Late one moonless night

The Sîmorgh first appeared

She let a feather float down through the air,

And rumours of its fame spread everywhere (i)

The Canticle of the Birds written by the mystical poet Attar tells the story of all the birds in the world, who one day gather together to discuss who their Sovereign king is and where he could be found for they all have a yearning to meet the Sovereign Being. Among them, the little bird Hoopoe, chosen and sanctified by King Solomon knows that Sîmorgh is the Sovereign Being’s name and that she lives in Mount Qâf, the mythical mountain which is believed to connect heaven and earth.

According to the legend dating back to Zoroaster, Sîmorgh would blaze up within herself only to be reborn from its ashes.  A single feather of Sîmorgh fallen on earth was enough to give color to the whole world and to stir longing and love within the soul-birds. Though invisible to the naked eye, she is present in all shapes, colors and attributes. Having stirred up in the depth of their souls, thousands of longing birds decided to set on the journey to reach the Sovereign Sîmorgh with the guidance of Hoopoe. But the journey was long and full of danger. It took courage to continue as they had to cross the seven valleys before reaching the gates of Sîmorgh’s place: the valley of the Quest, the valley of Love, the valley of Insight into Mystery, the valley of Detachment and Serenity, the valley of Unity, the valley of Awe; and the valley of Poverty and Nothingness.

The journey is all about perfection of the soul on earth where each valley represented a stage in the process of perfection. The quest is the inner struggle to know oneself, to know the truth by overcoming the weaknesses of the self, by liberating oneself from the pressures of the ego, stripping oneself from vanity and the excessive attachments of the world. Only then as the veils of ignorance are lifted, one can gain a deeper understanding and love for the Supreme Being.

Yet due to the difficulties of the quest, most of the birds gave up on the way, some returned and the rest perished.

The nightingale made his excuses first. He said he already knows the secrets of love and cannot leave his beloved rose behind. Without the love of the rose, he would lose his reason and his song would fail.

The Nightingale’s Excuse (ii)

The sweet notes of the melancholy lute,
The plaintive wailing of the lovesick flute

When love speaks in the soul my voice replies
In accents plangent as the ocean’s sighs.

When winter comes, I see my love has gone –
I am silent then, and sing no lover’s song!

And when the springs return and she is there
Diffusing musky perfumes everywhere

I sing again, and tell the secrets of
My aching heart, dissolving them in love.

My love is for the rose; I bow to her;

From her dear presence I could never stir.

I am so drowned in love that I can find. 
No thought of my existence in my mind.

Her worship is sufficient life for me;
The quest for her is my reality

And nightingales are not robust or strong;
The path to find the Sîmorgh is too long.

My love is here; the journey you propose
Cannot beguile me from my life –the rose.

It is for me she flowers, what greater bliss
Could life provide me –anywhere – than this?

Her buds are mine; she blossoms in my sight –

How could I leave her for a single night?

 The Hoopoe Answers him

The hoopoe answered him: ‘Dear nightingale,
The superficial love which makes you quail

Is only for the outward show of things.
Renounce delusion and prepare your wings

For our great quest; sharp thorns defend the rose
And beauty such as hers too quickly goes.

True love will see such empty transience
For what it is –a fleeting turbulence

That fills your sleepless nights with grief and blame –
Forget the rose’s blush and blush for shame!

Each spring she laughs, not for you as you say,
But at you –and has faded in a day.

 The Duck’s Excuse (iii)

The coy duck waddled from her stream and quacked:
Now none of you can argue with the fact

That both in this world and the next I am
The purest bird that ever flew or swam;

I spread my prayer-mat out and all the time
I clean myself of every bit of grime

As god commands. There is no doubt in my mind
That purity like mine is hard to find;

Among the birds, I’m like an anchorite –
My soul and feathers are a spotless white.

I live in water and I cannot go
To places where no streams or rivers flow;

They wash away a world of discontent –
Why should I leave this perfect element?

Fresh water is my home, my sanctuary;
What use would arid deserts be to me?

I cannot leave water –think what water gives;
It is the source of everything that lives.

Water is the only home I’ve ever known;
Why should I care about this Sîmorgh’s throne?

  The Hoopoe Answers her

The hoopoe answered her: ‘Your life is passed
In vague, aquatic dreams which cannot last –

A sudden wave and they are swept away.
You value water’s purity, you say.
But is your life as pure as you declare?

The excuses of the other birds followed the duck. At the end of the journey only thirty birds (sî morgh- thirty birds in Persian) reached Mount Qâf, the ones who accepted to become nothing and ready to annihilate themselves in the valley of nothingness. Only then they could reach the gates and see the sight of Sîmorgh, the Sovereign One. What they saw was nothing but themselves as Sîmorgh reflected them like a pure mirror. They were united all in One, infinitely beautiful and eternal.

Though you have struggled, wandered, travelled far,

It is yourselves you see and what you are

Dispersed to nothingness until once more

You find in Me the selves you were before (iv)

 

Duygu Bruce

February 18, 2018

Farîd-od-Dîn ‘Attâr (1146-1221). The Canticle of the Birds. Translated from the Persian by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis. Paris: Diane de Selliers, Éditeur, 2013.

Forward – Spiritual Epic.
i Distiches 736-737
ii Distiches 750-773
iii Distiches 845-857
iv Distiches 4277, 4284

 

 

Homage to Hafez-e Shirazi

 

A flower- tinted cheek, the flowery close

Of the fair earth, these are enough for me –

Enough that in the meadow wanes and grows

The shadow of a graceful cypress tree.

I am no lover of hypocrisy;

Of all the treasures that the earth can boast,

A brimming cup of wine I prize the most –

This is enough for me!

 

To them that here renowned for virtue live,

A heavenly palace is the meet reward;

To me, the drunkard and the beggar, give

The temple of the grape with red wine stored!

Beside a river seat thee on the sward;

It floweth past –so flows thy life away,

So sweetly, swiftly, fleets our little day –

Swift, but enough for me!

 

Look upon all the gold in the world’s mart,

On all the tears the world hath shed in vain;

Shall they not satisfy thy craving heart?

I have enough of loss, enough of gain;

I have my Love, what more can I obtain?

Mine is the joy of her companionship

Whose healing lip is laid on my lip –

This is enough for me!

 

I pray thee send not forth my naked soul

From its poor house to seek for paradise;

Though heaven and earth before me God unroll,

Back to thy village still my spirit flies.

And, Hafız, at the door of Kısmet lies

No just complaint –a mind like water clear,

A song that swells and dies upon the ear,

This is enough for me!

 

Hafez-e Shirazi

Translated by Gertrude Bell

The Hafez Poems of Gertrude Bell. 2007. Maryland: Ibex Publishers, p.73.

 

The 5 characteristics of people who well take care of their mental health

For most people being mentally healthy means being up, alive and happy. For they know that mental health needs taking care equally as the body does. Going on being in the midst of thousands of thoughts crossing the mind every day and different shades of emotions coloring one’s mood, all the while being exposed to numerous stimuli from the external environment how can the human being keep his or her mind clear, healthy and in well order?

Here are the 5 things they do which bring them the “mental wellness”:

  • Attention and mindfulness: The typical practice is taking 3 minutes of pause every day to review their actions, choices and reactions.
  • Seeing the good: They spend effort to see the good in whatever happens and with whoever it happens to be such that it becomes a daily exercise for their mental wellness.
  • Self-compassion: They regard themselves with compassion, aware of their shortcomings they know they are not perfect and they are willing to forgive themselves.
  • Physical well-being: As one takes care of his body, it gives way to take care of the mind and the soul as well as reducing the stress and depression levels.
  • Altruism: They help others. Consequently, they become happier and such kind of happiness lasts longer. They live longer.

 

Duygu Bruce

April 25, 2017

Psychology Today, March 2017.

Journey of the Souls

One of the richest books I’ve read about the spiritual worlds and the life of the soul. Michael Newton, PhD, the renowned hypnotherapist is set out to write this phenomenal book based on the case reports of 29 patients that he worked with in his professional practice as a counselor and therapist. He reflects on his life, and becoming the author of this book in the following recollection:

My oldest friend is a Catholic priest today. As boys walking together in the hills and along the beaches of Los Angeles we had many philosophical discussions, but were miles apart in our spiritual beliefs. He once told me, “I think it must take courage for you to be an atheist and believe in nothing beyond this life.” I did not see it that way at the time, nor for many years afterward.

…Looking back, I suppose it was no accident in my own life that people would eventually come to me for hypnosis –a medium of truth I could believe in –to tell me about guides, heavenly gateways, spiritual study groups, and creation itself in a world of souls. Even now, I sometimes feel like an intruder in the minds of those who describe the spirit world and their place in it, but their knowledge has given me direction. Still I wonder why I am the messenger for the spiritual knowledge contained in this book, when someone with less original cynicism and doubt would surely have been much better suited. Actually, it is the people represented in these cases who are the real messengers of hope for the future, not the reporter.

In his lifelong work Michael Newton is seeking the answers to the universal questions:  Does the soul exist? Why are we here and where are we going?

It is a paradox that humans, alone of all creatures of the earth, must repress the fear of death in order to lead normal lives. Yet our biological instinct never lets us forget this ultimate danger to our being…Dying makes all our earthly goals futile. If death were the end of everything about us, then life indeed would be meaningless. However, some power within us enables humans to conceive of a hereafter and to sense a connection to a higher power, and even an eternal soul. If we do have a soul, then where does it go after death?

Newton works with each patient case by case for a range of treatments from psychosomatic disorders, to overcoming a chronic phobia, decoding a powerful dream, and finding a meaning and purpose in life.  As each case unfolds in the ladder of regression, the mystery of life after death gradually becomes unveiled and Newton’s originally skeptic approach gives way to another level of comprehension and sensing the truth.

Although each case is different, they reveal a common reality in their descriptions of life after death, the existence of the various spiritual realms, the experiences of the soul in the other world and the conditions of coming back to earth. The existence of the soul and life after death becomes all so natural and real as one reads further into the book. The first-person narratives as told by the patients, coupled with Newton’s scientific skills and method make it a truly special read.

Journey of the Souls is about our journey here on earth, about where we come from, what our purpose is, and what it takes to become a true human being on our way to our destination.

Journey of  Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives, Michael Newton. 1st ed 1994. 5th ed 2003. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The true story of a dutiful Russian soldier wrongly accused of treason and sentenced to ten years in a Siberian labor camp –the gulag –where there is no escape but death out in the cold, dark and bare tundras. The very existence of the gulag system was enough to keep the average person fearful and silent in Stalin’s Russia. The dictator’s spies were everywhere. He murdered dozens of his top military commanders fearful that they might turn against him. He,

later eliminated many members of his party as well as most of his inner circle assistants and friends. Millions of people were arrested and sent to Siberia to work as slaves to extract diamonds, gold and oil to contribute to the riches of Stalin’s reign.

The knock on the door could come at any time. The best insurance was to keep your mouth shut.”

In the heartfelt story of Sukhov who once was a conscientous soldier with a home and a family, is now a laborer at the camp where the cold hunger and pain rules, where even thoughts are not free. Yet how can it be possible for a human being to keep his dignity, courage and inner strength against all tyranny and dehumanization?

The morning came as usual. The windows iced over and the white cobwebs of frost all along the huge barracks where the walls joined the ceiling! There would not be a warm corner for a whole month. And fires were of out question. There was nothing to build a fire with. Let your work warm you up, that was your only salvation.

 He did not get up. He lay there on his bunk on the top tier, his head buried in a blanket and a coat, both feet stuck in the felt sleeve of his jacket. Apart from sleep, the only time a prisoner lives for himself is ten minutes during breakfast and five minutes over dinner.

Sukhov ate his bread down to his very fingers, keeping only a little bit of crust. He wrapped the crust in his cloth again and slipped it inside his pocket for dinner, buttoned himself up against the cold and prepared for work.

He cared for his work, he even took pride in the way he trowled cement and laid the block wall with care and patience. In that way he could remain human. In the frozen cold when he could not even feel his feet nor the fingertips, he thought he survived through one more day at the camp.

 The question written in the afterword of the book : “What would I do if I were in his shoes?” is an essentially humane one. It is grounded in empathy. We either see ourselves as distinct individuals without much to do with one another or we see ourselves as essentially similar people who just happen to have landed in different sets of circumstances in our respective lives.”

What makes us human then in all circumstances?

 

Alexander Solzhenitsyn. One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich. 50th Anniversary edition. 1st ed 1963. New York: Penguin Group. Original published in Russian in 1962.

The Feathers of the Soul

One night a fool of God wept bitterly

And said: “The world, as far as I can see,

Is like a box, and we are locked inside,

Lost in the darkness of our sin and pride;

When death removes the lid we fly away–

If we have feathers –to eternal day,

But those who have no feathers must stay here,

Tormented in this box by pain and fear.”

Give wings to aspiration; love the mind;

And if at death you’d leave this box behind,

Grow wings and feathers for the soul; if not,

Burn all your hopes, for you will die and rot.

 

Attar, Conference of the Birds

Translated by Afkham Darbandi & Dick Davis

January 1, 2017

Story of Moses and the Sheperd

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One day, Moses heard a sheperd on the road praying,

“God, where are you? I want to help you tie your shoes and comb your hair. I want to wash your clothes and clean the lice off. I want to bring you milk , kiss your hands and feet when you go to bed. I want to sweep you room and keep it neat. Dear God, my sheep and goats are yours. When remembering you, all I can say is ayyyy and ahhhh.”

Moses could no longer stand it and he intervened: “Who are you talking to?”

“The one who made us, and made the earth and the sky.”

“Don’t talk about shoes and socks with God! What more –what is this this with little hands and feet? Such blasphemy, it sounds like you are chatting with your uncle. Only something that grows needs milk. Only someone with feet needs shoes. Not God!”

Then the sheperd sighed, repented and tore his clothes off and wandered into the desert.

A sudden revelation came to Moses and he heard God’s voice:

You have seperated me from one of my own. Did you come as a prophet to unite or to sever?  I have given each being a seperate and unique way of seeing and knowing and saying. What seems wrong to you is right for him. What is poison to one is honey to someone else. One way of worshipping is not better or worse than the other. It is not me that the devotion glorifies, it is the devotee.  I look at the heart not the words spoken. The “wrong “ way he talks is worth hundred times more than the “right” way of others. Inside the Kaaba, it doen’t matter which direction you point your prayer rug! Love has no code. Only God there is.

God spoke of deeper mysteries to Moses…

Moses ran after the sheperd, following his footprints.

When he finally found him, Moses said: “I was wrong. God revealed me there are no rules for worship. Say whatever comes from your loving heart, your sweet blasphemy is the truest devotion.”

Whenever you praise or thank God, like this dear sheperd’s simplicity, when you eventually see through the veils how things really are, you will say “This is certainly not we thought it was!”

Rumi, Masnavi

Photograph: Sinan Çaglayan

 

The Guest House

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“The words you speak become the house you live in” said  Hafez and  life in this fleeting house is beautifully described by Rumi :

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi  

translated by Coleman Barks

September 10, 2016

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