THE SUFIS

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Some time ago, while I was visiting the Church of St. Paul in Rome, I came across an extraordinary person that handed me a list of books.

It definitely was a chance meeting. I exchanged a few words with the stranger and then just before we parted he presented me with a piece of handwritten paper.

Once back home, I had a closer look at the gift. There were listed forty-four books that ranged from The Fourth Way by Ouspensky to Confessions by Saint Augustine, from the Holy Koran to the Song of Songs. There were also listed a few Sufi books, some by mystic poets like Rumi. Two essays about the Sufis were written by Idries Shah.

I read almost all the books in the list. As for the Sufis, my wish was to meet them in person instead of knowing them only through books.

The opportunity came during my stay in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. I went to that city to volunteer. As soon as I arrived, I tried to get information on how to find the Sufis. My host family told me that it would be impossible for a non-Muslim to enter a mosque, but perhaps the Sufis would make an exception for me. The mistress knew their meeting place and offered to accompany me.

We went to a zawiya, a Sufi lodge. I tried to cross the threshold with nonchalance, but a person at the front door stopped me. “You cannot enter the zawija!” he said.

As the lady insisted, he said that I had to talk with a certain person before being admitted. The lady called the man over the phone and arranged an appointment for the following day.

We met at a coffee bar not far from the Italian embassy. The Sufi was tall, dark and well-mannered. He was a professor at the University of Rabat.

“Why do you want to meet the Sufis?” the professor said.

“I want to know whether there is life after death. I heard that the Sufis are mystic. Maybe they know truths that ordinary human beings cannot know,” I said.

“To know the truth you must purify your heart. Everything turns on purifying your heart. Only then you can get the answer to your question; even in this life! If you invoke the name of God, little by little you will purify your heart. The core of Sufism is ‘La ilaha illa Allah’ (there is nothing to worship other than Allah). You hold too many gods inside your heart: money, success, fame and so on. You have to drop all these gods from your heart and worship only Allah.”

Then, he gave me a CD and asked me to call him one week later, after watching carefully it.

One week later I was admitted in the Zawija!

There were people that read books written in Arabic. As for me, a Sufi recommended that I say continuously the words La ilaha illa Allah.

You cannot know the truth without a master. For a Sufi the master is essential. Purify your heart more and more and then you’ll find your master inside you,” he said.

After a few hours we all sat on the floor to share and eat together their local dish, couscous.

I went to the zawija every Saturday for almost two months, then I left Morocco. Before leaving, one of the Sufis came close to me. “What is your name?” he asked.

“My name is Ettore.”

“My name is Torabi. Will you forget it?”

“I will not forget your name!” I answered.

“Well! Every now and then say my name in your heart and I’ll say yours in mine,” he said.

Now I am faraway from Morocco. A few months have elapsed. From time to time I think of Torabi and I am sure he is thinking of me as well.

Ettore Grillo, author of A Hidden Sicilian History

THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thought
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

The eightfold path is the heart of Buddhism, but it can be followed by everybody, even if they are atheists.

Once a friend of mine who was a non-believer couldn’t join an esoteric society, because it was necessary to swear on the Bible to be admitted. Despite he liked esotericism very much, he refused to swear on the Bible. In fact, he had no intention of giving up his atheistic ideas. Later, he said to me that he wouldn’t have raised difficulties if he had been asked to swear on Gautama Buddha’s Eightfold Path which was compatible with his ideas.

Actually, the Eightfold Path is a way of living; it can help everybody to live a better life.

  • Right Understanding means to understand things as they really are, not as they appear to our deluded mind. How many times we misunderstand people and situations, and mistake candles for lanterns!
  • Right Thought. Our thoughts are subject to the “Law of Attraction”; the more pure they are, the more they attract pureness.
  • Right Speech – Right Action – Right Livelihood are related to keeping good moral conduct.
  • Right Effort indicates that we have to put an effort in our spiritual life. A little effort is needed if we want to grow as spiritual beings. Without a proper effort we live a lazy life, which clouds the mind instead of elevating the spirit.
  • Right Mindfulness. This recommendation is particularly useful when a person is too sensitive to self-pride. As for me, in the past whenever somebody offended or made fun of me, my self-proud was so wounded that I easily lost my self-control and was unable to see things, people and situations as they real are. Nowadays I strive to be more mindful, without ever being clouded, whether good or bad, by life events.
  • Right Concentration is also called right meditation. Whenever we meditate, we should focus our attention on one single object, without being distracted by trivial worries.What about trying the Eightfold Path in your ordinary daily life? Is it difficult for you?
  • Ettore Grillo, author of A Hidden Sicilian Historybuddha-zen-26305147[1]

CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing, To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no human is worthy to mention Your name. Praise be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, who is the day and through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor; and bears a likeness of You, Most High One. Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful. Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather, through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures. Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste. Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night, and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong. Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs. Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation. Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned. Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.

  • St. Francis of Assisi

The Canticle of the Creatures was written by St. Francis more than eight hundred years ago, but it is still relevant. I consider St. Francis as a precious source of teachings.

In my opinion, The Canticle is an expression of gratitude for what we have, first of all life, health, sight, hearing, and so on.

In my life, I often got upset if things didn’t go well. I never considered that I already had many things to enjoy, but I wanted to have more money, more friends, more amusement. If I couldn’t achieve what I wanted, my mood became bad. But the more I was in bad mood, the more things went wrongly.

Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, says that our thoughts and feelings are subject to the “Law of Attraction”. I agree with her. If we feel sad for what we don’t have, for the missed achievements, for the moneys we have lost, and so on, we attract more sadness and we will never achieve what we want. But, if we express gratitude for what we have, we’ll attract more wealth and riches.

As for me, as soon as I get up in the morning, I express gratitude for being alive and still in good health. I express gratitude for having been able to overcome the many hindrances and predicaments that have marked my life. I express gratitude for being endowed with a mind and heart that look for God and the meaning of life. By expressing gratitude I can find more grateful things. Even if sometimes events take a different direction from that I expected, I continue to express gratitude to God, to everybody, and to myself.

Ettore Grillo, author of A Hidden Sicilian Historyillustration-kids-saint-francis-wood-wild-animals-wolf-rabbit-birds-cute-insects-29791631[1]

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Some time ago, a friend of mine told me about his travel through the Sahara. What enchanted him the most was the stillness of the desert, the absolute absence of sound.

When I had the opportunity of volunteering in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, I recalled my friend’s words. I wished to stay at least one day in utter silence, in the dunes.

Despite Rabat is quite far from the desert, I wanted to go to the Sahara at any cost. I got information and one Friday I took a train from Rabat to Meknes, and then a night bus to Merzouga, a town close to the desert.

I arrived in Merzouga when it was still dark. I was dozing when a man with a turban on his head awoke me. He showed me a picture of a hotel near the desert and offered to take me there.

The owner of the hotel proposed me to spend the night in a Bedouin tent in the desert. In the daytime I would remain in the hotel, which was just a few steps from the desert.

From the hotel I walked to the desert. Dune after dune I tried to find the absolute silence, but it was not possible because I was too near the town.

In the late afternoon, a camel-driver came with three camels to take a young Moroccan couple with their little child and me to the Bedouin tents.

The young lady wore a headscarf and looked like a nun. She was in an advanced state of pregnancy. The child was not more than two years old.

The camel-driver said something to the camels, which immediately crouched.

We all mounted our camels and set off towards the desert. The camel-driver led the camels on foot.

It was dusk. Our small caravan led by the camel-driver proceeded along the dunes. The lady was quite talkative and all the way turned back to me to talk about her religion. I had the impression that she tried to convert me to Islam.

When we arrived at the bivouac, it was already dark. It started raining and we remained in the camel-driver’s tent to eat. The young lady cooked a delicious food. Then we went to our tents to sleep.

The following day at daybreak we set off for our hotel.

The young couple was very kind to me, and invited me to travel in their car to Marrakesh, a very ancient and beautiful city, but I declined their invitation.

I thought I was a burden to them, furthermore I had to go back to Rabat to work on my book. The young couple seemed offended by my refusal.

After I left Morocco, for some reason I remembered that meeting. What a fool I was! I had the chance to know new people, and visit more places in Morocco, instead I refused their invitation.

If I consider the missed opportunities of my life, I see that they are much more than those I seized.

Perhaps the same goes for everybody. As for me, my missed opportunities are a good lesson to me. Next time I will not waste favorable chances. I will treasure the gifts that life gives me.

Ettore Grillo, author of A Hidden Sicilian History

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