2005 – The World University Games Opening Ceremony, Izmir Turkey
Mercan Dede, A Turkish composer plays for the whirling dervishes
Mercan Dede is a Turkish-born Montreal-based producer and DJ and his album is Seyahatname, loosely translates as Book of Travels. He’s a master of the reed flute, the ney and the frame drum, or bendir. The sema is the whirling ceremony of the Mevlevi dervishes. According to Mercan, the combination of electronic beats and Sufi philosophy goes right back to Rumi.
‘Rumi has a beautiful saying. He says that we are like cross-eyed people who see everything separate, but then when you see right, nothing is really separate. Everything is one and the essence of Sufism is unifying everything.’
The Whirling Dervishes
The Mevlevi Order, or the Mevlevilik or Mevleviye (Persian: مولويه – Molavīyeh) are a Sufi order founded in Konya (in present-day Turkey) by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian. They are also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of God). Dervish is a common term for an initiate of the Sufi path; the whirling is part of the formal Sama ceremony and the participants are properly known as semazen-s. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed the “The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony” of Turkey as amongst the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. ~ T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets
Richard Shelquist, spiritual writer and musician, says:
Gradually the teacher works with each of the dervishes and guides them to discover a still place within, and to revolve around that still point, dance around that still point, and radiate outward from that still point.
“Grounding ourselves…, we repeatedly reestablish the still point, the clean slate from which we can encounter ourselves and the world afresh.” ~ John Daido Loori, Riding the Ox Home, p40
This all sounds like utter nonsense until one finally discovers that still place…and then the whole game changes. From that still place, everything is seen, almost in slow motion, with a calm and inner-knowing that is nothing less than miraculous. The doer disappears, and only the doing remains.
“If you are quiet and in a state of prayer when you Turn, offering everything of yourself to God, then when your body is spinning there is a completely still point in the center. ” ~ Sheikh Suleyman Loras, Lovers of Mevlana, vol. 2, no. 4
So, even when there are ten or twenty or thirty dervishes doing the great whirling dance, there is one center that all are radiating from, and the entire dance radiates an utter calm, even in the presence of all this motion. And such is our challenge in everyday life, to stay centered in the place of peace, even in the midst of turmoil and activity.
For those in the audience, the whirling experience can be captivating… the utter calm of that still point is directly experienced and many in the audience are mesmerized. They may not understand what has happened, but many in the audience will have a direct experience of the calm beauty out of which the motion and movement arise. That is to say, the audience is watching motion and movement, yet the loving calm and peace of that magnificent still point, the center of being, is the predominant experience.
“We do not Turn for ourselves. We turn around in the way we do so that the Light of God may descend upon the earth. As you act as a conduit in the Turn, the light comes through the right hand, and the left hand brings it into this world. … We turn for God and for the world and it is the most beautiful thing you can imagine.” ~Sheikh Suleyman Loras, Lovers of Mevlana, vol. 2, no. 4
And so it is that the great whirling dance has been a step toward learning to remain centered in the stillness, the inner calm, a place of perfect peace, which exists even in the presence of chaos, turmoil and change.
In our everyday world, one often feels that profound peace can only be found in the complete lack of violence and hatred… but fortunately that is not true. In every moment there is a place of perfect inner peace that is completely independent of any outer turmoil.
Peace is not merely the absence of hostility, but rather peace is an essential quality of being that arrives new and fresh in every moment… a quality that is all too often overlooked by anyone who is excessively focused on the outer turmoil.When one discovers that still point, and lives a life centered on that still point, the world is transformed; diversity is overshadowed by Unity, and the qualities of Love, Harmony and Beauty everywhere abound in a stillness where there is only the doing… the doer has vanished. Read more
Beautifully said Richard!