BESHARA SE ASIA
Since its inception in 2000, Beshara SEA has had the pleasure of facilitating various activities pertaining to education in self-knowledge, such as foundation courses, monthly gatherings, and Fusus Al-Hikam reading sessions.
Courses are designed to help individuals explore their essential nature by working together in a small group with the help of key texts, open discussions and meditations in a contemplative environment. Students are invited to begin with a ‘Discovering Unity’, or ‘Weekend Foundation’ course to familiarise themselves with some of the key principles of the unity of existence and perfectibility of man. Those who wish to delve deeper are welcome to attend the 9-day courses, which offer an environment that allows a more intense journey into oneself to take place.
Although most people attending the courses in Java have come from Indonesia, others have come from Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Spain, the US and Mexico.
Beshara SEA aims to provide the proper space for the education of self-knowledge to take place within each person, individually and collectively. May this intention be joined up with the core intention embodied in Beshara, that He loves to be known as the singular reality of all mankind, that we are from Him and we will return to Him, all together, consciously waking up to the reality of who it is really appearing today in the form of six billion human beings.
Be like a river
Willingly accepting the course that’s revealed
At times smooth at times not
No judgment only bliss
Knowing the course is a return to the One Mother River
~ Yanti Pramudya, Beshara student
Report from a Nine-Day Introductory Course (Jakarta, March 2008)
The 9 days began with a common understanding of the reasons for attending the course. We were reminded that our purpose was not to seek anything other than the realization of who we are, where we come from and where are we going. The course built upon the ideas of Ibn ‘Arabi. “Reality is ultimately One, and Being (existence as a concept) is identical with the One Existing Reality which is the source of all that has existence.” (The Twenty-nine Pages, Chapter on Being).
However true this may be, and lying within the deepest recesses of our hearts, there still remains in our minds the deeply rooted belief and idea of our self, intertwined with beliefs about religion and the culture in which we reside. Our misconceptions and misunderstandings occur on both sides, in our ideas about Ibn ‘Arabi on the one hand and religion on the other. A lot of these beliefs and ideas have to be clarified and cannot just be swept away. Questions about good and evil, heaven and hell, sin, free will, and destiny are only some of the examples that need to be examined.
And so they were examined throughout the 29 pages. Each page was diligently read, each paragraph studied, every sentence scrutinized and the meanings of words uncovered. It was not always easy as tears flowed freely, patience was shown, a stance needing to be defended and submission a necessity. In the telling it sounds perhaps as though a battle took place, but actually it was peace that was being negotiated.
All of this was delivered and achieved in Love and Beauty. The inherent difficulty of the subject was made easier when patience assisted understanding, in a venue that was pleasant and a host most gracious.
The event ended with a heavy downpour, which not only added to the sadness that the course was ending but also the feeling of freshness and clarity shared among us. It was not 29 pages in 9 days, rather 9 days with the 29 pages. We were taken by a gentle hand and led through a journey.
"SEEING" MYSELF IN SCOTLAND by Eva Muchtar
In this article, Eva, from Indonesia, describes her experience of doing an intensive six-month retreat course at The Chisholme Institute in the Scottish Borders, UK. The article was published in the Indonesian magazine ‘Femina’. This is an English translation:
It is astounding if these legs are able to walk to wherever the heart desires.
THIS WAY OF WALKING has been guiding my path. Last year, I, who was so used to the busy life of metropolitan Jakarta, ‘had’ to spend six months in a remote area in Scotland. There, I enrolled myself to a course at Beshara School of Esoteric Education. The school discusses who we are, our potentials, and why we are here in the world.
I first knew Beshara when a friend invited me to a weekend course in Jakarta. Towards the end of the course, I chatted with a Beshara supervisor. I stated my interest to enrol to the course but I had some financial challenges. He advised me to email the principal.
The advice remained in my head. Ten days after I sent my email, I received a response: ‘OK!’
What? OK? Life is full of surprises.
I was actually not stranger to Scotland. About eleven years before I had been enrolled at a university there, at Stirling. Now I was returning to this land that is so peaceful and had left such a strong impression in me. It felt like returning to my homeland. I was ecstatic!
Edinburgh still greeted me with its characteristic style: grey clouds hanging over the sky and mild rain. That is OK. Rain seemed to emphasize the beautiful scenery before me even more.
It felt like a dream for me to be able to arrive at this country. I approached the school slowly, just about 20 minutes outside of (the nearest) town.
I was then shown the house and the surrounding area of Chisholme House. It felt like living in a classical period. The authentic feeling of the house is maintained and the environment was genuinely taken care of. My room had four beds, white walls with wooden door and windows as accents. The room was tidy and clean, complete with fresh flowers on the table in the middle of the room, along with some fresh fruit to warmly welcome me.
The next day, the course started. The course is a retreat program without any breaks and intensive daily activities. This year, our class (and there was only one class) consisted of eight people, assisted by two supervisors who have been with Beshara for years.
My days were filled with strict and tremendously consistent routines. The days were divided into two types: study day and work day. Two study days, two work days, two study days, etc. This went on without any break or holiday.
Once I commented on how intensive the program was. My friend responded: “Well, you have been warned. Pay attention to the name of the course: Intensive six month course.” The program had four aspects: study, work, meditation and devotional practice. All aspects supported one another in helping the students learn about themselves and develop their true potential. Hm, sounds rather tough, right?
This is a typical study day for me: wake up, shower, meditate, have breakfast, study, have coffee break, study, meditate, have lunch, work, have tea break, study, mediate, work, have dinner, shower, and do dynamic meditation. The day started at 6am and ended at 10.30pm. During work days, the schedule was more or less similar, but the study hours were replaced by work periods.
The study was done in group. We read classical texts that relate to what it means to be human, including the work of Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, the Tao Te Ching, the Baghavad Gita, and Rumi poems. The emphasis of the study session was to provide us with an opportunity to ask questions and look into ourselves, to understand what the text was trying to tell us.
Various questions and feelings that were emerging were discussed together as a group. There were no such things as stupid questions. All questions were considered valid and were treated as collective questions.
The meditation and devotional pratice were inseparable (part of the course). These aspects helped us to journey within ourselves and develop a sentiment or taste that would fortify our knowledge of self.
Meanwhile, as far as the work aspect was concerned, do not think of it as what Jakartanian professionals do at their offices. The work here referred to everyday housework, such as cooking in the kitchen (including baking bread and making yoghurt), gardening, cleaning rooms, cleaning a chicken hut, digging a trench, and building a new wooden house. Wow, when else can I do these things?
EVEN WORK WAS CONTEMPLATED UPON
I really enjoyed the work periods, whatever tasks I was given. I was a beginner in taking care of the house, in the kitchen or in the garden. So every task was a new thing to me and was a learning opportunity. Interesting. The situations made me an open-minded person who simply followed whatever instruction has been given to me. These tasks have opened my mind to learn about things that I did not imagine I could learn from such simple tasks.
Once I was asked to make a bonfire. The wind was blowing rather fiercely. I felt like the smoke from the bonfire was following my move. Then I realized that I needed to pay attention to where the wind was blowing from, and to move to the opposite direction to avoid the smoke. Move with the wind.
When I worked in the garden, I watched the leaves fall from the trees. We might think that it was the end of the leaf. But no. We gathered the leaves, buried them for a couple of years, they turned into fertilizer. We then use it in the same garden to fertilze the future plant generations.
I often was given the task of mending china. It was an enjoyable practice of concentration, patience, and paying meticulous attention.
The times of preparing the dinner table for meals were one of the most interesting ones for me. Preparing the dinner table was always a collective effort. There was no explicit work distribution, but everything seemed to flow. One person was palcing forks and knieves, another cutting the bread, yet another preparing the fruit, other people were serving the food. It all happened without any specific command from anyone. Everybody was doing what was not being done by others, filling in the void. One single natural movement.
Funnily enough, there was one task that people, including I, seemed to pick when he/she was upset and wanted to be left alone: washing the kitchen utensils in the main kitchen. Perhaps the heavy and often black pots helped us channel our emotions. Simply speaking, when I took that position and I did not talk much [sic].
A JOURNEY INSIDE MYSELF
Out of all the aspects of this course, the most interesting one for me was the journey within myself. To watch my emotions going up and down and my thoughts that often travelled here and there. The biggest challenge for me was to understand and except myself as I am.
One day early this year, I was digging a trench. The snow was quite thick. I stepped into a trench and slipped. I injured my knee. I was taken to the hospital and my knee was stabilized to ensure that it would not move. I – who was very active – had to use the crutches for over a month and accept this limitation.
I tried to be positive. I viewed the incident as an advice to stop for a while, and allow myself to receive helping hands from the people around me. Until my supervisor said, “You are being too positive.” Ouch.
At that time she reminded me that a human being was not expected to be positive all the time. A person is expected to be honest to and about herself. It would be good if we could accept and love ourselves as we are in any circumstances. “Just like God has accepted and loved you as you are.” The tears then could not help but fall from my eyes…
What was even more interesting, my school appreciates the unique process and journey of each individual. Even though we were one group, our (spiritual) journey remained personal, different according to our own needs.
There were times when I felt sad, angry and like crying. Those feelings were respected. I was given a bit of room, a bit of distance, to be with myself. During those alone times, answers or explanations of how this feeling came about often arose. My supervisor said, “The question is whether you yourself have respected those feelings within you and granted them the opportunity to express themselves?” Geez, another tear fell.
This individual journey was even stronger during a silent day. For 24 hours we stayed silent, did not talk to one another and looked within. That day I realized how private the relationship between human and God was. Each person has her own way of facing God and conducted her role in this world as a form of worship to Him. That day I also realized how I have fallen in love with God.
Time flew very fast. Day after day, week after week passed by. Without realizing, six months were almost over. During the last days, an old student from Beshara asked, “What will change upon my return from this course?” I stayed silent for a while. I then told him a theme that had been recurring over the last month: Fix thy mind on Him and be still.
Maintain my gazing towards Him. At that time I understood another meaning of the term “lillaahi ta’ala”, to allow God or these supreme force to govern and guide our steps.
On the last night, an end of course feast was conducted. Beshara students, old and new, gathered, sharing happiness. It was very touching to see how hapy and proud the older students were to see us finish this course. A special feast was served that night.
One by one the students left the school. What was one group of people who have been together for practically 24 hours for a full six month period went their separate ways, ‘just like that’. I had mixed feelings within me. I was happy to know that I would meet my family and friends soon. I was said to feel that I was about to leave something so beautiful.
I remember the last time I went up the hill to sit by myself. At that time I asked whoever was listening: How should I be now? What should I do next? The answer that was whispered in my heart: Dive deeper. Fly higher. And Love. Just Love. I smiled and shed another tear yet again. An old eternal lesson to learn.
“During a Beshara 9-days course in Indonesia, I found ‘He is me, I am no other than Him, but I am not Him’ has answered my basic questions that arise in my mind for years: who we are, where we came from, what are we doing here, where we are going, etc. The course became a turning point in my life.”
“It was not always easy as tears flowed freely, patience was shown, a stance needing to be defended and submission a necessity. In the telling it sounds perhaps as though a battle took place, but actually it was peace that was being negotiated. All of this was delivered and achieved in Love and Beauty.”