Sufi Seminar in Dominican Rep.
Santo Domingo/April/2003
This is the first part of the interview conducted by Miriam Lopez and Jose Reyes after the conclusion  of the Seminar "Entering the depth of Prayer" hosted by the Gurdjieff Dominican Group from April 10th to April 17th of 2003. (the second part will follow at a later date)
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Postneshin Jelaluddin Loras
Interview - Santo Domingo/Dominican Rep. - April 2003
Q: To begin with the interview we would like for you to place Sufism inside the Moslem religion, the role it plays and how it comes and the difference.
Jelaluddin:  There isn't any difference because Sufism is the mysticism of Islam. In every Sufi school in the world the source came from the Koran and the work of the Hadis, the Prophet Mohammed's explanation of the Koran's meaning.  That's the truth we depending on.
Q: Then within the Sufi tradition maybe you can give some explanation about when the Mevlevis come about and the origin and how they situated within the Sufi tradition.
Jelaluddin: In the Sufi tradition we have twelve schools. They are the main schools of Sufism, which means the mysticism of Islam.  Early Sufism began 200 years after Islam, which means for 1200 years Sufism has existed in the Islam religion.  The Mevlevis came almost 700 years after the first school of  Sufism began. The first Sufism began in the city of Baghdad with the fourth Halifa of Islam, whose name is Ali.   Ali, is the nephew of the Prophet Mohammed, the messenger of God.
Q: And then how does Rumi comes about?
Jelaluddin: Almost 700 years later, Rumi established his school which we call Mevlevi, or path of Mevlana.   My interpretation of Mevlevis is "Who Most Love God"   The Mevlevi School was established in Turkey.  There is Turkish Islam flavor in it, another way of saying it, Turkish school of  Islam.
Q: What is Rumi's contribution? Does he bring something new into the Sufi tradition? Does his contribution revolutionize the tradition? Did he change many things?
Jelaluddin: He didn't change anything, but he explained truly what is the meaning of the mysticism of Islam in the many poems of his.   One of them I recited last week in this gathering.   Rumi said: "I'm not Christian, I'm not Moslem, I'm not Sufi, I'm not Zen, and I'm not Buddhist. I am the founder of the religion of love. All religions came from love". That is his explanation of his view, his connection with God, his love, because the love is the force for the existence of the universe. That is what he expressed, and he brought the turnings, the meditations of turning into his school.  Also, he has a famous poem about his devotion and love for the prophet Mohammed.  He says in the poem: " I am the dust under Mohammed's foot".
Q: It is said that what differentiate Mevlevi from other schools is that the Mevlevi is open, because they believe that there are many roads towards God, so they are open to everybody that wants to reach God through them.
Jelaluddin: Right, because already it appears, it is mentioned in his writing, in his poems:  there are a million ways to kneel yourself to God.  God sent every nation one prophet.  All of them say the same thing:   there are no idols, there is only God.
Q: Is there a connection among the Sufi orders or a dialogue?
Jelaluddin: Yes, we do have connection not only between the Sufi orders, but with all the mystics in the world. As you know, every religion has mysticism from their religion and all mystics believe in one unity, which means that is no God except God.  This is how our unity is one. Every Sufi school has the same source.   We use the Koran, the book of God, and the Hadis, of the word of Mohammed.  That is the uniqueness of Sufism.  We read in the poems, the truth is love.  Each school has their own flavor, their own understanding of Islam; that is how they teach, each with their own flavor.
Q: Throughout history the more orthodox part of Islam is always been against the Sufis and rejected Sufism. What's the reason?
Jelaluddin: Yes, that's right. Many reasons.  One of them, they have claimed that music and dance is forbidden.  We believe that music and movements bring the station of remembrance of God in all of us everywhere, if the music and movement are for God.  The origin of Sufism is the truth, the root, of the root, of the root of the truth. That's how Sufism looks at it, their understanding is more liberal, more forgiveness.   We believe that God has so many ways to teach his inspiration to find the Divine Glory in us and come to be servant of God.
Q: In this moment in history, where they're talking about reaching higher levels of consciousness and there is so much in the world now, what would be the role of the Sufi under these circumstances?
Jelaluddin: As you know, everyone has a different character, and each one's character is suited to some form.   In every school of mysticism, they are working and they are teaching the same truth.   We choose the different circles because that is how we express which character we in. Some of us love to sit and meditate, some love to move with the name of God, like turning. Not everyone will go to sit hour after hour in joy to receive the Baraka or the grace of God or understanding clearness of God.   Some of us will stand up and do Zikr, remembering God with the movement and music and poems.  The different schools represent the different character and flavor of people.   That is the reason for the many schools we have serving humanity.
Q: The Baraka is so important. How do you make a connection with that? Is it an energy; is it a possibility; is it a help that you that you receive from the higher powers or from God?
Jelaluddin: Yes, this is how we always discuss it. We are looking for things that came from up above us, also things that are in us.   That's the reason almost every Sufi talks about the heart, because God is in you.   Even they said: "If you know yourself, you know your God". That's the reason we look in to the heart. In Sufism we don't use the head so much, because the head takes you to certain level then stops, but the heart of mankind is an endless ocean.  One of the Hadis says God spoke: "I could not fit in the entire universe I created, but I can fit the heart of the believer". That is the most important statement to the Sufi.  We have to go with the heart more than the mind. That does not mean to give up your mind, don't use any mind, that's not what Hadis says. The heart is connected with the mind.
Q: Yes, you know there is a poem,  of this lover that goes to the door of the beloved and he knocks at the door, and when the beloved answers, "Who's there?", he said," It is  me" and then he says, "Go away". And then he goes away and stays a long time in the world and then comes back and knocks at the door again and says,  "Who's there" and he says, "It is you" and he said, "Come in" .  This seems like a very big step because now we hear that in order to reach that stage we have to get rid of everything and so we hesitate because, it is said: "You have to die before you die", so we hesitate because we are attached to many things, and just the idea that you have to abandon everything, and sometimes not material but also spiritual, that you have to let go. Can you explain?
Jelaluddin: Right, but how you use the word "everything"  is not what we understand. We're not letting go of everything we're just letting go of the desires, worldly desire. In Islam, in Christianity and Judaism it is not forbidden to be rich, it means you don't need to let go, but only let go if the richness is drying your under waters. If the richness lifts you like a boat and you are on the boat, you are sailing on the ocean of the Lord.  This is the meaning of the "die before death".   Don't be100% attached and bring the worldly attachment to yourself.  That is what will hurt you.  You used the words "give up everything"  You're not giving up everything, if you are giving up everything you are worthless, you are penniless. You're not giving up; you are gaining. How you gain everything is when you become humble.   When you come to understand there is power above you, there is guidance around you; that is how you connect.  It's not giving up, even if you give up every worldly attachment, and you go into the forest, or the cave or mountain, but none of the prophets did and none of the prophets gave up everything.  If they did, how can it be that they became the messenger of God, the savior for us?  They didn't give up.  They went there for gain, to look for their inner heart.  They looked for the attunement of heart with God.
Q: So the freedom is internal. So you give up your attachment. You give up your suffering for those things and your craving and your desire for them.
Jelaluddin: Internal attachment. Right, right, right. For example, in the giving up, you give up eating too much, sleeping too much, playing games too much.  It's that kind of giving up, but not completely. You're not giving up anything completely just you're giving up some of the desires, your ego wish for it all the time.  They didn't ever give up a little bit eat, little bit sleep, little bit pray. You see, everything is little bit, just enough. This is simply, if you are hungry, you start eating.  If you fill up with five meals in one meal that will be hurting you, that will be you make ill, sick, because you put in more than what you need. That is how they explain about giving up.   You have to find a way to have just enough to be alive. That's how Mohammad did, Moses did, Jesus did, and Abraham did.   All the prophets, before they came to be the messenger of God, they did some kind of work, they did search for inner truth, inner light, because God is so close to all his creations, so close.   That's the reason that the mighty God disappeared in the human heart.   That's something that we're trying to bring about here. If you want water from the well, the water must come from within. That water is what you need inside of you. When you tune to your heart, you will find the taste of the glory of God.   If we're looking for God outside of us, it's a problem. Most of us have that problem.
Q: what's the role of the Zikr and the turning here? Is it to accelerate the way to enter our heart?
Jelaluddin: Right. The Zikr is mainly remembering God. Here God is speaking in the Holy Koran: "Remember me, I will remember you" a beautiful exchange, a beautiful business with God.  What the Mevlevis believe is that this is quick access, turning and remembering God quickens entering the heart.
Q: In the practice what is the final end of the turning?
Jelaluddin: The turning is the unity with the movement of the universe. We know that all blood is turning inside us, all atoms in this body are turning in their own orbit; every thing is turning.  What is very important is that where they began they will sooner or later return.  That is how in the Mevlevi tradition we believe we came from God and we are returning to God.  That is the focus of Mevlevi tradition. We belong to God.
Q: Are the Mevlevis the only ones that turn?
Jelaluddin: Right. The turning is only the Mevlevi's practice, but many orders also love that practice because it's one part of the praying.   They let the Mevlevi turners turn in their zikrs too, but this is established, this practice belongs to Mevlevi.
Q: Does this turning come with Rumi?
Jelaluddin: No, no, no.  Turning is the oldest, oldest maybe earliest practice of humans.
The Mevlevi Order and their practice of turning come from Rumi. 
Q: It would be interesting for you to talk, not for the people that have been involved in the Zikr, but people who never been involved and they don't know what is Zikr or what is a remembrance of God, if you can explain what it consists of, for the layman
Jelaluddin: Right. This is the practice we are sharing with friends and I recommend to them they must understand this is one form of praying, trying to be close to God. They don't need the experiences of the turners we call semasen.  The first key that the person who does not know about this tradition or have experiences with it, is an open heart and love, and to see that every precious heart is just like them.  The second key is, if they come with open mind, open heart, and respect and gratitude they will see that every heart of human is the most priceless diamond of God.  Zikr polishes the diamond, which the human heart is.
Q: What's the role of music in all this?
Jelaluddin: The whole universe has its own music, every planet, every sun, every star has its own notes, and they sing their own notes, and they are praising with their own notes. If we have the ear, mind and heart, we can hear that all those notes will make a huge orchestra, very harmonized with behavior and love. That's how the universe stands with the knowledge of God, full of love.
Q: We would like to hear about your father, and the role he played, also that you had, according to tradition the oldest son is supposed to be he Sheik but you are the youngest, so how come you become the Sheik?
Jelaluddin: I think it involved that I was born near the tomb of my Pir, my master, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, and my name came from him. I think my father knows better but I can speak of my guess.   He knew when I was born that I would follow his footsteps, and he knew I would devote my life to my Pir's teaching. That's what I can explain about it. I don't have that question why he picked me or he didn't choose one of my brothers.  My brothers don't have problems about that decision of my father.  They respect and accept that decision, and they know I trained more than they did with the desire of mine, love of mine, involved I guess with his decision.
Q: Was it then from childhood you were taught by your father for this position?
Jelaluddin: Right. He is my first teacher, Master. He is also my father. He chose me. Definitely every one of us is chosen to complete our mission.  We cannot say, "He chose". He must have had some sign of God.   That is how they work.   They don't work with mind, they don't choose anything except with God's help because they are pure heart, pure mind, and they can see very easily and clearly the message of God.
Q: Your father in an interview he talks about how many years he spent in the kitchen and just working at the kitchen day by day, and serving the Sheik until he became himself Sheik. Is that a tradition that first you go through the kitchen; why is the kitchen so important?
Jelaluddin: In the Mevlevi tradition, the kitchen is very important because life began in the kitchen everywhere, even in your home.  Also, the kitchen represents the cook and cooking, and we need to cook, like in the story in the Mesnevi about the chickpea, like every fruit in the trees cook under the heat of sun.  That's how, for almost every Sufi, the kitchen is very important.  In the Mevlevis tradition, the training for newcomers begins in the kitchen.  He comes.  He sits three days at the kitchen in a special corner for newcomers.  He watches all the activities of the kitchen: no talk, no move, just watch.  After three days the teacher asks:  "Would you like to continue?" If he says yes, eighteen days more he will sit and watch and also be part of the kitchen activities.  He will help setting up tables, cleaning dishes, cleaning kitchen, whatever he is asked to do, simple work. After eighteen days they will ask again: "Would you like continue?"  If he says yes, that will be twenty-one days that he's already in the training and we start from twenty-one days to one thousand and one days that he will have to go through with the training.
In the one thousand-one day training, there are eighteen jobs to do to complete his training. It takes almost three years.  Three years is the time to get personality understanding.   That's why three years is very important in the Sufism. The number three is important in many religions.   During the one thousand and one day training, the teachers find the student's capabilities and hidden gift.  That will be in the school, music, handcrafts, and so on.  At the end of the training, the student has something in his hand to help him in his life.
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