New Courses starting January 2018
Disciplines of the Spirit: The Works of Howard Thurman &n Hazrat Inayat Khan with Gabriel Gurumukh Mark Harris, MA, CADCI, MAC.
Howard Thurman and Hazrat Inayat Khan, were two spiritual leaders of color, who inspired their students, followers, and activists to respond in a transformative way to American society. Using the metaphor of Star Wars, if Martin Luther King is Obi Wan Kenobi, then Howard Thurman is Yoda, the hidden teacher behind the public figure activist.
Hazrat Inayat Khan, a spiritual teacher and master musician from India, inspired one of the prominent Sufi movements in the United States and Europe. Like Howard Thurman, Inayat Khan directly experienced American racism, and formulated strategies to address that ongoing challenge to successfully live a spiritual life. We will contrast and compare the differences and the confluences of these great teachers.
I look forward to meeting you and I hope to see you soon in January. You can read my Biography under the drop down menu “Faculty”. The syllabus of the course will be sent directly to you after registration is completed.
The Art of Meditation by Shazadee Zoe Wild
In this course students will learn ancient meditation practices from the Sufi and Buddhist traditions. Students will be taught both popular meditation techniques and lesser known mystical Sufi methods. The focus of the course will be on how to apply the art of meditation not only to your personal formal practice, but to all the activities of daily life. Meditation is one of the essential tools for spiritual growth and insight; through the unique practices taught, each student will increase the qualities of love, harmony and beauty in every moment of life.
Please go to the drop down menu and see my Biography under “Faculty”. I look forward to being with you all. A syllabus will be sent out to all students who complete the registration form.
January 2018, Second Series of World Religious Study and Ministry taught by Rabia Ana Perez-Chisti, Ph.D.
The Sufi study of the World Religions leads to an expanded ability to serve many members in the community through ritual service such as found in the Universal Worship created by Hazrat Inayat Khan in 1922. His purpose was to establish a ceremony in which all the religions of the world were respected. In the design of a ritual, Sacred Scriptures were placed upon an altar and a candle was lit to honor the different prophets and the light of wisdom they have brought to the world. With his disciples such as Murshida Rabia Martin and Murshid Sophia Saintsbury Green, the service increased in scope while reaching many members in Europe and the United States.
Today Sufi ministry expands from the performance of the Sufi Universal Worship ritual to an activism that serves the different needs of people who are facing challenges. As a student expands in greater ethical, historical and cultural awareness they are encouraged to offer service in hospitals, hospice centers, prisons, clinics, adoption centers and in food distribution agencies that help those who are homeless. The Sufi minister serves others maintaining a tolerant and respectful acceptance of another’s belief system and cultural background. The goal of the World Religious study program is to develop ministers of deep spiritual direction and dedication who have a broad range of techniques and religious acumen to deal with the diverse belief systems of all people. The training goes for a period of two years after which an ordination is given.
There are three aspects to Sufi Ministry: 1) Spiritual Practice, 2) Required Study, 3) and an understanding of The First Moral of Sufism
- Spiritual Practice: The individual student’s spiritual practice is a requirement to the course. It is expected that a person remain involved in their dedicated path while learning the mystical path of Sufism. Ones practice should embrace levels of concentration, contemplation, meditation as well as some level of breath work. It is most important to have some understanding of psychological states of being as well. Some students might have to consider taking other courses that bring insight and understanding into the psychological process and the human psyche. These practices are meant to help expand a learners knowledge-base and prepare them to serve members of the extended community.
- The Required Study: The World Religious Scriptures will be required as primary texts. Questions will be assigned to each months lesson and will be for the deepening purpose of inquiry and understanding. It is from ones responses that the individual begins to perceive the value and depth of the Sacred text. All questions and readings will be examined through the mystical insight of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s great work published in the Sufi Message Volumes: The Unity of Spiritual Ideals.
- Understanding the First Moral of Sufism: If anyone asks what Sufism is, what kind of religion it is, the answer is that Sufism is the religion of the heart, the religion that shows a primary importance to seek God in the heart of humankind. The way is to recognize the Divine Source in all beings, the second is to be considerate toward every person with whom we come into contact, and the third is to be mindful of our thoughts, words and actions. “Human personality is very delicate,” indicates Hazrat Inayat Khan, “the more living the heart the more sensitive it is; but that which causes sensitivities is the love element existing and love is God. The person whose heart is not sensitive; his/her heart is not living, it is dead. In that case the divine spirit is buried in the heart. A person who is always concerned with his own feelings, is so absorbed in him/herself that they have no time to think of others. That person’s whole attention is taken up with their own feeling. They pity themselves they worry about their own pain, and they are never open to sympathize with others. The one who takes notice of the feelings of others with whom they come into contact, practices the one essential moral of Sufis, and that is the love which springs forth from self-denial and blooms in deeds of beneficence. “
Cheraga Adeeba Mary Meyer wrote a reflection on one of the contemplative exercises given in our Mysticism and World Religions Course online:
What in me lives? What in me dies? My body will turn back to ash, my thoughts will scatter, my emotions will settle back to earth, my words will only echo so long, my work will return to rest, my breath will be stilled, my soul does not belong to me, my spirit is the breath of God.
The life that breathes me continues to move. Breathing out now, will again breathe in. That life collects my parts, pulling them together, like gravity, for its purposes, playing with the possibilities, an artist living joyfully in Her creation.
That breath moves, and my soul is alive. the only proof, here, of its existence–the love it leaves behind in its stroke. The only way I know I exist–the only way I have life, breath, soul, body, mind, energy–the only thing that keeps me together, the only thing that gives me life, the only thing I AM, if I am anything, is Love–
Love–the movement of God, the life unending, the only being, the was, and is, and is to come.
I am love’s art. I have no other existence but in the mind of my creator, who sees my beauty as an extension of Her own and wishes for me to be, so I live, and move, and have my being in Her.
I am not my own, but Her’s. I die; She lives. She breathes me into existence and out again as She chooses. In all names, in all forms, in all beings, in all life. If there is a ‘me’ at all, it is the space between her ever-dancing, ever-loving lines.
Cheraga Sophia Katherine Jensen offered her perspective on The Study of World Religions Class
Three years ago, I began a two-year course of study in the world’s many religions and spiritual traditions. I have always been interested in diversity of spiritual paths and what feels like an innate calling amongst many of the human species to seek some form of divinity in their lives. I expected to learn much. I was surprised at how the class was as much about opening the heart of the student as it was a key to intellectual learning.
I studied “World Religions” during my college years. I have studied through life experiences and my own personal seeking. Never before was I given the opportunity to delve so deeply, not only into individual spiritual paths, but also into my connections and disconnections with each. In doing so, a bridge spontaneously spanned the abyss, suspended judgement and opened my heart in unexpected ways.
As a result, when I was then offered the opportunity to study World Religions again, this time online, rather than in a classroom, yet connected visually through Zoom, and with the same instructor I worked with in the class previously described, I welcomed the opportunity. I cannot recommend this class more highly.
The online format did not lessen the connection between Teacher and Student, nor between students, as we conversed, face-to-face during our classes. We were assigned three text books, two of which I would never have discovered on my own, and the insight offered by these authors and the discussion their works provoked, broke my mind and heart wide open.
Most of the class agreed that one of the texts, His Religion and Hers, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and published in 1923, should be required reading for all. Though The Battle For God, A History of Fundamentalism, by Karen Armstrong, which looks at Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is a more difficult read, the “Afterward,” is life-changing.The final text, Volume IX in the Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, speaks to the intent of the class in its very title, The Unity of Religious Ideals.
We are not often blessed with the opportunity this class offers. I would take it again. I would welcome the discussion and challenges in the presentation of differing points of view, heart and mind-expanding possibilities to know both yourself and the Paths we choose to follow with greater clarity.
The class was led by Murshida Rabia Perez-Chisti, Ph.D., President of SUFI and Senior teacher of Inter-religious study in America
Sister Laura Hammel offered her perspective on the World Religions Class
While surfing the web, I came across the International Sufi Website at: https://sufiuniversalfraternalinstitute.live. I became curious about the Sufi tradition and decided to take the on line course World Religions taught by Murshida Rabia Perez-Chisti, Ph.D., President of SUFI and senior teacher of inter-religious studies in America.
In our present world, religion can be a very contentious practice rather than a unifier. Sufism believes all religions have truths to reveal to humanity. I wanted to learn how Sufism saw the harmony and unity in all religions.
The class studied three books. In the first book, Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism, we read how and why fundamentalist groups came into existence in Judaism, Christianity and Isalm, and what these fundamentalists wanted to accomplish. What was particulary interesting to me was Armstrong’s analysis of the growth of fundamentalism as a resistance to modernity, innovation, and science. She points out that fundamentalism is still very strong with us today.
The second book we read is the classic, His Religion and Hers, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman published in 1923. In her book Gilman critiques organized religion and points out the effects and consequences that a male-constructed religion has on everyday life. She argues the ways a male driven ideology has produced a religion focused on death and discourages any attention to the improvement of life on earth.
The third book we read was Volume IX in the Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Unity of Religious Ideals. This volume is the focus of the class since it offers a spiritual path of unity to help us appreciate the rich treasures in each of the great religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For me, this approach to the world’s religions and hearing the great voices of each of these Abrahamic faiths give me hope and joy especially in our turbulent times when so often the differences between faiths rather than their similarities are emphasized.