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THE RIDDLE OF BALKH - THE ELEVATED CANDLE

by LAURENCE GALIAN

THE RIDDLE OF BALKH “THE ELEVATED CANDLE”

By Laurence Galian

 

 

any religion,
any group,
any person,
each has a secret way
to be with the Mystery,
none to be judged.

 

~ Rumi

 

“All roads lead to Balkh,” uttered Gurdjieff, referring to the Sufic origin of all systems. Yesai Narai writes, “Balkh is the town often associated with Padmasambhava, and Rabia and Rumi as well. Although Padmasambhava is usually thought to be Indian, it is possible that he is from the Afghanistan region also associated with his name.”

Balk is the homeland of Baha ad-Din Naqshband, the greatest of the Khwjaghan Masters. Baha al-Din Walad of Balkh (d. 1230 CE), meaning "the splendor/glory of religion from Balkh" is the designation of the father of Jalal al-Din Balki, more commonly known as Jalal al-Rumi, famed author of the ‘Persian Qur'an/Bible’, the Mathnawi.

In Balkh, Bokhara and also in the Hindu Kush a new “inner circle” of initiates was established. These great initiates were known as the Khwajagan (Persian for "Masters"). The first visible  leader who appeared (during this cycle) was Yusuf Hamadani (1048-1140). This society is known for its remarkable telepathic powers. The Khwajaghan still exist today in order to transmit to segments of society a spiritual force known as baraka.

J.G. Bennet wrote a book entitled “The Masters of Wisdom,” which includes some very detailed information about the Khwajagan. Bennett received his information about the Khwajagan from Hasan Shushud (the teacher of the famous Rumi translator Dr. Nevit O. Ergin) so it is accurate. 

 

Dr. Nevit O. Ergin's Sufism is from the Khawajahgaan, also spelled Khwajagan. He is the Khawajah e Khawajahgaan. That tradition has a name in the current age. Today it is known as Itlak Yolu. Most of the Khwajagan’s public history can be gathered from J.G. Bennett’s book “Masters of Wisdom: An Esoteric History of the Spiritual Unfolding of Life on this Planet”, as well as the great work “Rashahat Ain al-Hayat” (Beads of Dew from the Source of Life: Histories of the Khwajagan: The Masters of Wisdom) by Mawlana Ali ibn Husain Safi, translated by Muhtar Holland.

Balkh was referred to as the “Mother of Cities” and the “Elevated Candle” (Sham-i-Bala) and it was in Balkh that the great Prophet Zoroaster was born. It is said he is also interred there, according to the Persian poet Firdousi. For many years, Balkh was the central hub of the Zoroastrian religion.

Farsi is a language spoken in Iran and Greater Khorasan. Greater Khorasan consisted of: Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and cities of Balkh, Samarqand and Bukhara. Of some interest is the fact that the ancestral homeland of Sayyid Idries Shah, namely the town of Paghman in Afghanistan, is less than two hundred miles from this very same area identified with Padmasambhava, Rabia and Rumi!

Jalaluddin Balkhi (more commonly known as Jalaluddin Rumi) was born to a Tajik family in Balkh in 1207. Tajik is synonymous to Persian, it refers to eastern Iranian people who live in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and the rest of central Asia. Balkh was the most prominent cities then in the Persian province of Khorasan, and it is now in northern Afghanistan.

Sayyid Idries Shah's traceable paternity places him within an obscure Afghan clan from Paghman, a resort fifty miles from Kabul. His great-great-grandfather Muhammad Shah was awarded the title 'Jan Fishan Khan' (The Zealot) in 1840. The specific Sufic link claimed by Sayyid Idries Shah first appears in the person of his grandfather Amjed Ali Shah, the self-styled 'Nawab of Sardhana' and 'Naqshbundi Pugmani.' The Naqshabandiyya were an important central Asian Sunni tariqat, associated with the name of Baha ad-Din Naqshband (CE 1318–1389).

Rabe'a Balkhi (Persians also called her Rabi'ah bint Kaab Quzdari or Ghozdary (in Persian), or just as Rabe'ah was most likely the first poetess in the history of Persian Poetry. She was born and died in Balkh. Sufis often name a saint by adding on to their first name the name of the town in which the saint was born. Therefore, Rabe’a Balkhi means “Rabe’a of Balkh”. And so Balkh was a nexus point, a world navel, in which the marvelous happened, and from which the marvelous became what we know as Sufism, Zoroastrianism and Tibetan Buddhism. They were all cooked in the oven of Balkh.

Zoroastrianism is the religion and philosophy based on the teachings ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra, Zartosht). Mazdaism is the religion that acknowledges the divine authority of Ahura Mazda, proclaimed by Zoroaster to be the one uncreated Creator of all (God). As demonstrated by Zoroastrian creed and articles of faith, the two terms are effectively synonymous. In a declaration of the creed - the Fravarānē - the adherent states: "I profess myself a devotee of Mazda, a follower of Zarathustra." (Yasna 12.2, 12.8)
 

Zoroastrianism was once the dominant religion of much of Greater Iran. As of 2007, the faith has dwindled to very small numbers; many sources suggest that it is practiced by fewer than 200,000 people worldwide.

 

Padmasambhava reawakened a particular fusion of Manichaeism and Buddhism in the 8th century in Tibet. This revived synthesis became known as Vajrayana or Thunderbolt. The highest vehicle of Buddhism, also known as the Third Vehicle, is Vajrayana.

 

Padmasambhava, was the great founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The Sanskrit meaning of the name Padmasambhava is “lotus-born.” In the 8th century, Padmasambhava brought Tantric Buddhism to the spiritual country of Tibet. Within Himalayan caves, lakes, forests, and fields, Padmasambhava secreted treasures, specifically religious treasures called termas. He did this so that the future spiritual treasure finders or tertöns would find them and interpret their meaning for a different world. One of those treasures, according to Tibetan tradition, the famous Tibetan Book of the Dead, or “Bardo Thodol,” is one of those treasures that was discovered by the Tibetan tertön Karma Lingpa.

 

Padmasambhava is regarded as the second Buddha in Bhutan and Tibet by followers of the Nyingma school, where he is better known as Guru Rinpoche ("Precious Master"). He has also been called Arunagiri Babaji. Like Khezr, Guru Rinpoche appears to each individual human being in a unique way, in the form that fits in with their spiritual world-view. Therefore, in one sense, Guru Rinpoche has as many biographies as there are people on Earth. Some have speculated that not only are these two myths of Khezr and Guru Rinpoche similar, they are in fact, one being.

 

It is believed by some that the Prophet Mani was the source of the Dzogchen teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Others are of the opinion that Padmasambhava is the source of the Buddhist Dzogchen teachings in Tibet. In either case, it is evident that Dzogchen was introduced to Tibet by way of Central Asia. The Dzogchen teachings are the heart of the Nyingma tradition of Buddhism, with which they are primarily associated.

There is also a tradition that Dzogchen, and Padmasambhava, come from a place called Oddiyana in Shamballa. Texts from the archeological site in Dunhuang identify Oddiyana as Shamis en Balkh in modern day Balkh, Afghanistan where many ruins, Buddhist stupas and monasteries exist. 

"According to Kuznetsov, Bön was introduced to Tibet in the fifth century BCE, when there occurred a mass migration of Iranians from Sogdhiana in north-east Iran to the northern parts of Tibet," writes June Campbell in "Traveller in Space".

 

“Bön was existent in Padmasambhava's time when he organized the Tibetan people and although Nyingma is said in later terma treasure times to have originated with Padmasambhava, it is more likely that such goes farther back to at least the time of the influx of Manichaeanism into the area. The similarities of Bön to Nyingma, once thought to have been borrowed after Padmasambhava's time, is now seen by the most astute scholars to be signs of their mutual antiquity in the pre-Padmasambhava landscape of central Asia,” writes Abba Yesai Nasrai.

 

He continues, “Manichaean elements are especially discernible in Buddhist schools such as the pure land sect and continued to influence the unique development of Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet.”

 

The reader may well ask, “What is the relationship of Sufism to Buddhism,” or for that matter to the Bön religion or to Dzogchen. The author asks that the reader notices that we are tracing the path of the True Light, and the Living Waters of Life. Of course, the True Light may be found shining in many places on the planet Earth, but it requires careful discrimination and a spiritually refined nature to recognize the True Light of Life when it appears.

 

The Waters of Life will at sometimes flow through one form of spirituality and sometimes through another form, at times moving back and forth. The reason for this is that spiritual movements oftentimes becomes so codified, so ossified with dogma, so encrusted with cultural accretions, that the flow of the Waters of Life are choked off. Then the Waters of Life appear in some other place and time. Therefore, we must carefully wend our way through various times and places, in order to discover that presently the Waters of Life may be clearly found, and drunk from, in what is known as Western Sufism. It is not simply a matter of saying which religion or path is best. The matter lies in discovering where the Waters of Life are flowing at this particular moment in time.