This year is the 100th wedding anniversary of Pir Vilayat, my life’s teacher. I use the term “wedding anniversary” in the sense that the death of a teacher is not a death–not for any of us–but a return to the arms of the Beloved, traditionally called God. Likewise, it is a birth. I am combining his earthly birthday and his Urs here, because it seems to me that both are a wedding and an initiation. Traditionally, however, the Urs is the anniversary of the death of a saint, while the birthday is, well…the anniversary of her or his death. The picture above is of the earthly wedding–celebrated in the heavens and earth–of my husband and I, when Pir Vilayat officiated at that joyful occasion. I was fortunate in having a dear friend, Greg Blann (find his wonderful paintings with a Google search), take photos unbeknownst to us, and so it is not perfect, but the four pictures he took mean a great deal to us. To understand a true wedding one must look behind the outer forms.
Pir Vilayat would have been 100 this year, and he “died” in 2004, 12 years ago. It amazes me that he has theoretically been gone from this planet for this many years, because to me he is as present as he ever was. He is, indeed, there whenever I need him, just as he was in this phase of life. He always came when he was called, whether in a dream or a letter or an actual visit, and he never failed, if one was paying attention.
People who have not experienced being the student of an authentic spiritual teacher don’t quite understand why such events mean so much to those who were, and they need not: it is not for everyone to come home in this way. We are all finding our way to return from whence we come, and it matters not how we get there. Yet for me, and for many like me, he was our best friend, our teacher, the one who went before us and yet stayed with us. The below is his “final” message:
A Final Message
to his Mureeds
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan
Pir Vilayat’s final message was given in Suresnes, France, on January 27, 2004, six months before his death. It was published in Heart and Wings, a publication of the Sufi Order International Secretariat, New Lebanon, New York.
I must say, it has been such a joy to share with you the encounter of our thoughts sparking each other. The mission— the meaning of the Message of the future, all of it has been exciting and overwhelming, and I am very grateful for your sharing with me. From the moment that one has broken bread at the same table, one is linked by a special link, and that’s the reason for the Mass. The Mass is the ritual of eating at the same table together, and we have been sharing this wonderful bread and wine at the same table, and that establishes a link between us that can never be broken, so that we can always find each other. So, I will just say that you can find yourself— you can find me in your heart; and I can say, I can find you in my heart. God bless you. – Khan, Pir Vilayat Inayat (2011-11-01). Life is a Pilgrimage . Omega Publications, Inc.
Traditionally, one has the ability to receive a boon from the teacher on such an occasion. I asked for and received one as always, and I cannot put it into words, which itself is appropriate, because Pir, as we called him, was always full of surprises. One never knew from one moment to the next what was coming, whether an inner or outer experience of growth. And any growth, however painful–perhaps the one that is especially painful–is useful to the sincere seeker, so I look forward to the gift he has given me this time, and I celebrate his wedding with joy and tears and a renewed sense of commitment. All blessings to you in this world of contrasts.
(Another personal picture taken of me at age 24 or so, in his summer camp at Chamonix-Mt. Blanc, in the French Alps. It is the perfect picture of the disciple at the feet of the Master, and in reality he was chewing me out for my stupidity, in his own fatherly, sometimes stern way.)