The call comes gradually, or so it seems. We must be called over and over until we hear its whisperings. Then we begin to notice, we begin to respond. Unconsciously, hesitantly, we start to listen. Incrementally, our response deepens. Finally, we realize that call and caller are one in life lived in obedience to the gift of the call; that we ourselves are the call. We come to recognize that we were called from the beginning, “from the foundation of the world,” as St. Paul says. Yet, looking back, we cannot remember a “first” call.
What if we have gotten Heaven all wrong? Many Christians, Muslims, and some Buddhists imagine a heavenly place as an eternal reward for the faithful. While this ‘place’ is often described as a garden of serenity and tranquility, we often see many faithful arguing about who can and cannot have access to this place in ways that are in no way serene and tranquil. Not only do we argue about the place, we also argue about who can get in, and who is locked out. What if we have it all wrong?
Seven Pillars’ founder and board member, Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, recently sent a letter to Adam Bucko and Zachary Markwith, two individuals with “a deep sense of the sacred, but…quite different approaches to religion and tradition,” inviting them to participate in a dialogue about the relationship between religion and spirituality. Pir Zia was inspired to send the invitation after reading the recently published manifesto, “New Monasticism,” written by Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko. Both Adam and Zachary embraced the opportunity to discuss this question and the first installment of their correspondence is published herein.
The execution of the Mughal crown prince Dara Shikuh by order of his brother Aurangzib was a crime that sent ripples down through the ages. A religious pluralist with a deep commitment to mystical hermeneutics, Dara Shikuh had the makings of a brilliant ‘philosopher king.’ His religious, cultural, and political outlook was profoundly imbued with the legacy of his great-grandfather Akbar, who elevated the Mughal Empire to the status of a premodern superpower by uniting Hindus and Muslims under the principle of sulh-i kull, ‘universal peace.’ As heir apparent, Dara Shikuh awaited the day when he would mount the Peacock Throne and revive Akbar’s syncretic vision.
If you had written a large opus about Sufism, its teachings, practices and history, and asked me to write an introduction, I would have shrunk back from such a task. But you intended to write a little book that should primarily be a testimony of your personal experience of Sufism, and a guide for those who feel drawn to follow the instructions of your meditations. For these pages you asked for my presence. How could I have denied my presence as a friend?