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The Mirror of Truth: Ostad Elahi

Guest Javanmard

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Guest Javanmard


here is a beautiful link to a multimedia file inspired by the teachings of an Iranian saint, Ostad Elahi!


about his life:

The Early Years

Ostad Elahi was raised in a special atmosphere permeated with spirituality. The village where he was born, one of Iran’s mystical havens, is isolated within the tranquil plains of western Iran and has given rise to many prominent spiritual figures over the centuries. His parents, Haj Ne’mat and Sakineh Khanoum, had married at a young age according to the local custom of the time and had nurtured a deep affection and respect for one another. Haj Ne’mat was a respected notable, highly regarded for his honesty, courage, and knowledge. A man of profound faith, he also played the tanbour, an eastern lute reserved for sacred music.

When Ostad was six, Haj Ne’mat had an overwhelming mystical experience that radically transformed him. Renouncing the world entirely, he transferred the management of his lands to a third party and began dressing in the white robes customarily worn by dervishes. His wife supported him fully in his vocation and renounced all forms of worldly activities. Little by little the reputation of Haj Ne’mat, the mystic, spread and thousands of followers gathered around him.

It is in this context that young Ostad began a new life marked by prayer and spiritual gatherings, in which sacred music played a central role.

At the age of six I began attending the spiritual gatherings. At the sound of the first notes, I would begin to spin around myself like a top. [Enraptured in ecstasy] I would continue to spin until the end of the gathering, which sometimes lasted several hours, without feeling the slightest fatigue… (Words of Truth, Vol. I, Saying 1855)

Although Ostad was the only child in his house for many years, “Kuchek Ali†(literally ‘little Ali’) knew no boredom. He kept himself busy doing odd jobs in the house and inventing all sorts of indoor and outdoor games that reflected his unique disposition. For example, he would take several goat tails and designate each of them as one of the seven archangels. He would then have them discuss theological issues in a very serious manner. He was especially passionate about the tanbour and spent long hours, sometimes entire nights, playing sacred music. The instrument in essence became a second language and a privileged intermediary with the Divine. Years later, when asked whether he missed having playmates, he answered, “No, not at all.â€

Parallel to his spiritual training, he received a classical education geared towards the study of philosophy, mysticism, and sacred texts. He was taught directly by a preceptor or at the religious school whenever possible (for a period of time, the family had moved to a larger township). But the individual who clearly instructed him the most and whom he honored more than anyone else throughout his life was undoubtedly his father. Haj Ne’mat was a man of God, but also a man of letters, a poet, and a musician. A devoted father and skilled educator, he would direct his son without forcing him to fully develop his talents. In reality, there was more than just filial love between the two—there was a special connection between father and son that would never waver.

He was not only my father and my guide, but we were also united by a unique spiritual bond. (Words of Truth, Vol. II, Saying 15)

When Ostad turned nine, Haj Ne’mat began to familiarize him with the regular practice of retreating, fasting, and contemplation. Ostad, along with his mother, father and several dervishes (the term used by his father’s disciples to refer to themselves) would retreat to one of the annexes of the house called the “hermitage,†which was reserved for isolated practices. It was here that for twelve long years, the child and adolescent spent his lucid days regularly fasting in forty-day increments, at times with ten to fifteen day intervals between fasts. During these intervals, he would sometimes go on long horseback rides, or accompany his father on pilgrimage to the tombs of the great spiritual figures of the region. He would later say of this period:

What times were those times, what an atmosphere indeed! We were constantly praying and singing sacred songs, and had no idea what was going on in the outside world. (Words of Truth, Vol. I, Saying 1798)

The Classical Mystic

At the age of twenty, Ostad was an accomplished sage, a spiritual guide, and an unparalleled musician. When his cycle of ascetic retreats came to an end, he began to travel around the country. Acknowledging he had thus far ignored how pure an environment he had been raised in, and that he had not even thought it was possible to lie, cheat, or act contrary to morality, his innocence would later make things somewhat difficult for him.

My life was entirely lived within these four familiar walls, and only words of truth had reached my ears. As I had no contact with society, I couldn’t even imagine that it was possible to lie or cheat, and I naturally believed that the whole world resembled our house (Words of Truth, Vol. I)

As an influential and respected figure within mystical circles, Ostad had established many contacts and soon began writing. His oldest manuscripts date back to his youth:

I am currently 29 years old and have come to the stage of ‘God in God.’ To this day, my thoughts have not strayed from the Divine for an instant, and I have continuously lived in His light, His love, and in the hope of His clemency. (Extract from manuscript entitled “Unveiling of the Truthsâ€)

For several years he maintained the lifestyle he had inherited from his youth, punctuated by periods of fasting, pilgrimages, and visits to mystic brotherhoods and religious centers in Kurdistan and Iraq. During this period, he continued to have long hair, which he had not cut since the age of six in keeping with his father’s tradition.

The photograph in which I am wearing a turban dates back to when I was entering my twenty-sixth year. I was immersed in an angelic world, constantly in a state of fasting and eating only a single light meal at dusk every twenty-four hours to break my fast. (Words of Truth, Vol. I, Saying 1894)

When I look at photographs of my youth, a special feeling overcomes me as I remember my state of mind and spiritual exaltation. The world and everything in it meant nothing to me. (Words of Truth, Vol. II, Saying 95)

His reputation preceded or followed him wherever he went. Not only was he the son of Haj Ne’mat, but his charisma also spoke for itself. According to custom, the dervishes added the title of “King†to his name, and he became known as “Nour Ali Shâh.†This same custom would have permitted him to live comfortably off the donations of his followers, but he would not allow material interests to interfere with his spiritual affairs. The income from his lands was sufficient so as not to have to practice a profession during this time.

Although his path appeared to be marked and he was venerated by a large number of people, and despite the fact that his material situation would have permitted him (as it did his father) to devote his life entirely to God and to retreat from the world, he swept all this aside to join in and blend with the masses.

The Renouncement of Renouncement

In 1930 Ostad decided to enter the Bureau of Land Registration and Public Acts, and subsequently embraced a career in the judiciary. This act of renouncement had profound symbolic and emotional value as he cut his long dervish’s hair and permanently exchanged his white mystic robes for a suit. While this change may appear to have been a consequence generated by the circumstances of the time—influential persons were suspicious in the eyes of the new government authorities—it was in fact the result of a long process of reflection and maturation. Ostad did not fear the difficulties and threats of the world, but rather saw the hand of God in this situation and a unique opportunity to test within the crucible of society a new form of spirituality whose principles were gradually manifesting within him. Indeed, he could not content himself with a spirituality reserved for the elite and practiced away from society. He had the presentiment that his mission would be to bring a pure spirituality, such as he had experienced for nearly thirty years, to a setting that had classically constituted its opposite. It was in such a world that he would pursue his quest, the seed of which had been planted within him by his father.

When he began his career as a judge, he had discarded the visible signs that manifested his spiritual rank to such an extent that besides the inhabitants of his birthplace who felt unconditional love and veneration, he was simply seen by others as an honest judge, a respectable father, a literary man and musician, and even a warm friend. In reality, the more he perfected his inner self, the more he hid his spiritual dimension during this period. Few people knew him for who he really was.

In each of his daily actions, Ostad cultivated and deepened his guiding spiritual principles. The precious ferment of his particular mysticism, when put into contact with the world, gave rise to a practical philosophy of a universal nature. He continued to simultaneously study theology, philosophy, gnosis, and mysticism. In Tehran, where he was on judicial assignment between 1953 and 1955, he attended daily courses and participated in discussions at the Marvi theological seminary. Ostad continued to conduct research and gather notes, which would later serve as the basis for his written works.

The Result

It was not until 1957 when he retired from the judiciary and settled permanently in Tehran that several people were able to gradually discover him. Ostad fully devoted himself to his writings, teachings, and sacred music. As his reputation as a sage and unparalleled musician slowly spread, people from all over the world began to visit him.

By the time he left this world, Ostad had attained a very high spiritual rank. Not a minute of his life had gone by that he had not devoted to realizing the inner alchemy that enabled him to attain divine proximity and become one with God.

I have no more attachments to this world and am ready to answer God’s call.

Several thousand people were present at his funeral. Today, his memorial is an international site of pilgrimage.

He was a Ahl e Haq, a religion that has originated out of Shia Islam.

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